Sunday, October 12, 2003

We were all happy, I think, that the Manchester airport was relatively small and the airport had a fixed rate cab service. We couldnt get to the Crowne Plaza hotel fast enough for me....Now here, we would expect a Crowne Plaza to look pretty much like any other Crowne Plaza, but in Europe and the UK..The US chains often just take over an older establishment- like the Radisson Marlborough...and back in Amsterdam- our apartment was part of the Best Western chain- don’t be afraid to book at a familiar chain, at least you have an idea of what the standards are like ..This Crowne Plaza was once known as The Midlands Hotel. The building was about 100 years old and beautiful..lots of fru-fru on the exterior and a big grand hotel feeling in the lobby .Here we had the best room and biggest bed of our travels...not that we had time to sleep much.

After settling in, ironing my evening stuff and whatever, we set out to find the Life Cafe- Keir (he gets GRANDE HUGS for cluing us in on the Crowne Plaza) had said it was close by..Sure enough, about a block from the hotel entrance was the Big blue Ratdog bus..Camera had about 100 pictures to go so SNAP! We approached the Life Cafe-SNAP! We saw yet another outtadate Ratdog poster in the window- SNAP! A door opened and SNAP! out popped Jeff Chimenti! We spent a moment or two telling him how much fun we were having and how great the music was...then out popped Jay, Blonde AJ and Chuck (c’mon doesnt he remind you of the Ben Kingsley charactor from the film “sexy beast”?).....Scott and I felt it was time to get out of the way and moved back down the street to where we were sposed to be meeting up at St Peter’s Square with our tour navigator,Robin....Don’t know where she ended up, but Scott and I took a table at an outdoor cafe because, as you know by now, the munching never stops....
While hanging out in the Square, we got to chat with WDP Allison and later on with Taper Leslie from Scotland...Getting late-ish it was time to return to the hotel and begin primping..Scotto went out to find some VAT forms....Value Added Tax is a kick back for tourists for spending $$$ in their country- the cash is reimbursed to you right at the airport- that’s IF you have your receipts and also your expenditures written on a special form...the trick is finding stores and hotels that havent run out of these rare the end, we couldnt find a single VAT form in all of Manchester-and no, they don’t have them at the airport where you cash em tour, we’ll stay on top of that, for sure!