Archive for the 'Retrospective' Category

A Place in the Sun

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

[note: this is retrospective, posted after the event. It’s also had a title change, and some of the more ranty bits removed, for a possible future post]

We’ve been away. Lanzarote, more specifically, Costa Teguise. A resort we’ve been to before, and it largely caters for British tourists (Germans too, but there’s a strong bias to UK tourism).

Very nice it was too, but I have to say the sheer amount of loud televised football and the near-total ubiquity of lager became a bit frustrating after a while; the upside being that you can get a full English and a pint for very little money, and enjoy it in the sunshine. The majority of the bars are run by English ex-pats using that handy freedom of movement thing.

What’s more, for perhaps the last time, we got to do this via a totally frictionless (and by frictionless, I totally mean that- step off plane, wave passport in general direction of border control, collect luggage, step into sunshine) border (crossed with our newly renewed not-fucking-blue passports), enjoying cheap, easy travel to the sun with no queuing. We paid for things with cards like we were at home. For the first, and maybe the last time, we used our mobile phones just like at home, roaming charge-free onto the local telco’s network and not giving a single fuck about charges per megabyte, so we didn’t even have to search out bars with wifi (though they were plentiful). Of course, we got a shit rate for our Euro currency, but low prices over there helped reduce the impact of that: Euro/Sterling rates were as close as makes no odds to 1:1 (actually 1.1 Euro to 1 GBP), so at least the exchange rate was easier than when we first visited when it was around 1.4-1, and a (400ml, typically) beer varied from 1 Euro to about 3, depending on location and time of day. Eurofizz lager, of course, but in the sun…

Compared to our last visit I’m a little less mobile (especially as I twisted my knee the night before we went), so there was less walking up and down the prom, though we did manage a few shorter strolls, only resorting to a taxi once (which was also amazingly cheap).

Not the most adventurous or exciting of holidays, I’ll grant you, but low stress, warmth, sunshine, and (relatively) low cost.

Broughty Ferry

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Again, I’m posting after the event, but I’ve fudged the post date to suit. We went to Broughty Ferry, effectively a suburb of Dundee. N,ot a bad journey, considering: the furthest I’ve driven in one stretch for a good while, and not too tricky either; M6, M74, M73, M80, A9, A90.

The A9 had gained average speed cameras since our last trip on the “road of death”. I don’t know if it’s lowered the casualty rate, but reportedly speeding has reduced; thankfully they’ve had the good sense to raise the 40 mph limit for HGVs on the single carriageway bits to 50. Fortunately, we only had DC bits to deal with.

A little bit of getting lost in Dundee itself saw us at our cottage by around 4:30pm, so after a short rest we went out to the first pub, then find out what Broughty Ferry is like on a Saturday night (the answer is: busy). It’s a suburb that likes to pretend it isn’t, and it’s a little bit affluent: not as many Range Rovers as Sutton, perhaps, but plenty. It feels smaller though, and public transport to central Dundee was good.

We went to have a look at the new V&A, which had opened the day we arrived: a magnificent building, for one so modern. It’s a shame that one view of it will be blocked by what seemed to be another office or hotel being built near it. Near the V&A was the rebuilt station- Dundee has excellent rail connections, at least until Storm Ali came along when we’d gone to Perth (but then we found the bus service is good too).

Dundee is a fine city: the city centre is quite compact and easy to navigate, there’s good pubs and restaurants. It’s also home to D C Thomson, home of the Beano, and the school that inspired The Bash St kids is still there, right in the middle, near the McManus Gallery, which had a Beano-themed exhibition on, which was a nice surprise.

We wandered about, visited some fine pubs, and had some good food. Even our return journey was decent, at less than 6 hours of driving time.


Monday, July 2nd, 2018

I’m just catching up. Typing this a clear month late, we went to Largs. just over 30 miles west of Glasgow; so it’s where lots of Glaswegians head on a sunny day, as we found when we arrived after a gratifyingly easy journey north, through the city, and back out the other side. The seafront and the pubs were packed with people.

It was quieter later in the week, though still busyish; with Glasgow so close (under an hour on the train) there’s lots of day trippers.

So then, Largs: so many churches. A couple of impresssive churches, but so many. I’m a great fan of churches, less so of what goes on in them, but here they spent a metric fuckload of cash on them, with two Church of Scotland chruches with impressive towers looming over the town.
Besides that, the town is largely traditional seaside; a big, wide prom, a small seafront collection of funfair rides, a kiddie’s play area at one end, a park and boating lake at another.

There’s plenty of pubs too, which you’ll find over at PubBlog, though real ale, and especially good real ale, was a bit scarce, though we fared better for that on a trip into Glasgow.

Talking of trips, the proximity to Glasgow ensured good public transport: a station in the town on one railway line, another line (with the wonderful Wemyss Bay station) just a short bus ride away, ferries to Bute and Great Cumbrae. We even managed to get Dunoon (lovely, but in need of more TLC) and Rothesay (underwhelming) piers in, and all of this without using the car apart from actually getting there. We also managed a trip on PS Waverley on a gloriously sunny day, in a week of sunny days and returned suntanned 🙂 .

3 Nights in Bangkok

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

[Note: this post sat in drafts for almost 2 years!)

It’s been a while since we did the far east, so my dear better half booked us a holiday to Thailand. Starting with not one, but 3 nights in Bangkok.

I’m not a good traveler these days. Sitting in a plane seat for hours isn’t comfortable and “spending hours in a flying matal tube with bastards” as I refer to flying didn’t seem like a good thing. Thankfully, my better half took this in to account. Flying other than economy was sadly out of the question, but we did at least fly with a good airline (who give enough space for my tall, fat body, decent entertainment and even tolerable food, and we were mostly in A380 aircraft, which is a seriously large, and surprisingly quiet plane. Knowing me well, she also took out the other stress points: we were met at the airports, and driven to our hotels, so while the traveling was tiring, it was as low-stress as possible, given our budget constraints.

So then. Bangkok. Hot, humid, hectic, so not unlike KL all those years ago. We wandered about, though less and slower than in KL due to being older and at least as fat. We went up the Baiyoke Sky Tower, and to the Grand Palace, we had street food, had a river cruise, and took in the madness of it all, then off to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is heavy on temples. Beautiful, grand temples everywhere. It’s cool compared to Bangkok, but of course, this is only relative. It’s still hot. We stayed pretty much in the middle of the night market.

Next was Hua Hin: Thai seaside, and popular with the royal family (to the degree that the railway station has a royal waiting room.

Sadly, holiday stomach bugs had got a hold of me at this point, so one night here was spent in a Thai hospital, with a suitably large bill for antibiotics and fluids, but recovery was fast. We got to see tigers close up, and spent a day at the excellent Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.

Returning to the UK was a bit the worse: Bangkok airport, going outwards, places the gates miles from anywhwere you can get food. Dubai was a bit hectic, and Birmingham was just cold 🙂

A Tale of Two Crap Towns

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

We’ve been away, and as I still didn’t fancy the long drive required for Scotland that we often take at this time of year, we went a bit closer- Morecambe. Morecambe has something in common with Walsall: Public ridicule by up-themselves arseholes.

Morecambe faomusly gained 3rd place in the original Crap Towns book in 2003, but by 2013’s “crap Towns 3” it has gained “not so crap” status. Walsall, was once famously described by Theodore Dalrymple as “Ceaucescu’s Romania with fast food outlets”, which brought forth one of the few times I found myself agreeing with Mike Bird, and is rumoured to have appeared in one of the books, but I couldn’t find it.

Scotland: The way south

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

All too soon it was time to start our journey back home. Unlike our welsh excursion, where we were glad to leave, we’d have liked a bit longer, but with around 12 hours drive, the journey has to be split. We took a different route south, which is quicker, as it happens, and less single-track- across to Inverness, a short burst on the A9, blowing past the dawdlers in a plume of particulates, and a detour to see some friends just off a the wonderful A939 to hear the tales of not being able to go out for 4 months and having the washing line as your only visible garden feature (putting the snow here in perspective somewhat), then continuing down the back way of the A93 rather than the A9 “Road of Death”, and finding that either a) Citroen C4 VTRs don’t handle, or the guy driving one was a wuss: The Leon goes *very* well over the twisties- far too quick for an ‘automatic’ diesel hatch, even if you get shaken about a bit as the suspension isn’t exactly soft.

We’d stayed a bit too long at the friend’s place, and got stuck in traffic around Perth. That and one wrong turn (signage in Perth is shite) meant we reached our (very nice) overnight stop after 5pm, though we still made the pub before 6pm…

A nice meal and a few drinks folowed by a good night’s sleep & breakfast saw us back on the road at 9:20am. From there it’s mostly motorway until sunny Brownhills. We’ve covered around 1400 miles, averaging in the region of 48mpg, and the cat was pleased to see us.

Scotland: Part2: While we were there

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Aultbea proved to be a good base: there’s two hotels nearby, a very well stocked shop, and views across Loch Ewe from our very comfortable cottage. There were a few walks from the door (Laide Woods, Mellon Charles, some small Lochs), and a few nice bits of driving: The Applecross Pass was entertaining, as was the drive towards Ullapool on the A832. Any road in this corner of the country provides a bit of fun, and usually several fantastic views.

Other nearby attractions included Inverewe Garden, and the country’s smallest distillery at the Drumchork Lodge Hotel just up the road- you can witness whiskey-making on a very small scale.

There’s photos at the gallery.

Scotland: Part one: Heading North.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

We’ve been away in Scotland, starting on Fri 17th with a trip up the M6, M74, M73, M8, A82 and A83 to Arrochar for an overnight stop and a few drinks (it’s nice to be outside a lochside pub at 2:30pm, rather than at work):

A lochside pub in Arrochar, Sept 17 2010, 14:31.

Arrochar isn’t far from Loch Lomond, but the B&B prices are a lot lower.

The next morning saw us striking out north up the A82: a fuel stop at Fort William, a brief pause after a local lands his car on it’s roof behind the Armco a few miles north (and he escaped without a scratch, via the tailgate), then it’s pretty much uneventful for mile after mile: the roads get smaller, but they’re an interesting drive. We stop at Lochcarron, have some lunch, look at the cottage we should have been staying in, which suffered a nasty fire:

Damaged Cottage

Fire Damaged: The place we didn't stay.

and then hit the (often) single-track road north, reaching Aultbea at around 4pm.

Out and About in Brum

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

(catching up…)
After working over Easter, we went out for some R&R around Birmingham. First off, a visit to Aston Hall. This place is unbelievable- a Jacobean mansion just yards from the Aston Expressway, and free to get in to as well.

We followed that with a walk through Aston, avoiding any drive-by shootings, and a small pub crawl.

The Beer & The Bar

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

[partly written offline on the zaurus, as I was unable to leech Internet Johnny Foreigner. Beer in hand, shades on]

While enjoying the sun, I got to musing about both the beer we drink, the serving of it, and the attitudes of other nations. For beer, you can mostly substitute ‘alcohol’.
In the uk, we serve crap lager, unless it’s imported, where it becomes ‘acceptable’, and decent ale, but often both badly served. We have the best idea for service (approach bar, get beer, pay), and the worst attitude (get blind drunk, fight), IMO caused by our previously restrictive licencing.

Out here in Mallorca, like much of Europe, the lager is good, and cold, and the ale hard to find 🙁 , and you get served your beer by a waitress, which may involve a wait (this bit sucks at times, but is nice sometimes too). The only badly-behaved drunks are (surprise) the British with football shirts & baseball caps. Fortunately they’re just up the coast in the 7th level of hell.