Three legged race…

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Laxey Wheel

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One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…

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Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin

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And the last day in Douglas

The term Three Legged Race was our name for the basic plan for our recent visit to Isle Of Man.

The decision to head there was made at relatively short notice as Caroline and I had a two week break coming up, but hadn’t planned anything.

I’d held up a road book with a circle indicating four hours driving time from Wisepacking Towers, but wasn’t expecting Caroline picking out Isle Of Man as a destination for this upcoming trip.

By close of play two days later, we’d got return train travel booked to Liverpool, a night in Liverpool before the outward ferry trip, two return seats on the fast cat running between Liverpool and Douglas, , seven nights in Douglas, found out about smart cards for use on our travels and made sure that travel insurance was also in place.

With no motor sport or other festivals taking place over our visit, we did have to amuse ourselves, but we’d got a few things sussed.

Some came from the only guidebook we could find, some of it came from the Tourist Board’s brochure and website, but there was also some prior knowledge coming into play too as Caroline had made two visits to Isle Of Man about thirty five years ago.

More to come over the next month or so!

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Top 10… travel hates!

Accomodation

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. have been to a few places that were rated by guidebooks or websites that were not as good as described.

Now tend to lump descriptions such asArt Deco’, ‘Cosy’ and ‘Quaint’ into other categories – In need of renovation’ or ‘Requires redecoration’.

Chuggers, lavender/selfie stick/sunglasses sellers, timeshare touts 

Usually have an avoidance mechanism that’s more nimble than a rugby player heading for the touchline in order to score a try.

Always amuses me when sunglasses sellers approach those already wearing sunglasses – either specs that have Transitions lenses (i.e. mine) or those wearing Ray Bans

Coffee

How hard is it for accomodation to provide good coffee at breakfast time?

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had bad coffee at guest houses, hostels and hotels – even at U.S. based name chain hotels or five stars!

Mind you, a few cafes that have had business from us following bad coffee mornings, usually just after we’ve left our accommodation.

Duff information

Or when guidebooks get it wrong. We’d checked two guidebooks about the opening times  for a leading museum earlier in the year and both said that it was closed on a Monday.

It wasn’t, as we found out when we walked past it and found an open door and a full set of opening times that looked like it had been there for a while…

Fast track

We’ve found that this usually means you go a shorter way around into security to find that there’s a long queue at security because other passengers haven’t bothered to read the does and don’ts of what they can or can’t take in their hand luggage.

Note to self – stop booking Fast Track and use the money to get a coffee or a meal deal at either WH Smith or Boots when airside and in need of something to eat that doesn’t cost the earth at airport bars/cafes/restaurants or cost twice as much as it does on the plane.

Officialdom

Yes, it’s those jobsworths who are determined to put a spanner in the works when it comes to shopping, visiting a museum or wanting to put your bags in left luggage lockers.

Step forward that supermarket in Paphos and the museum in Belem who wanted me to deposit my day bag and the bloke who didn’t know what had happened to the luggage lockers, even when we were at the office that a sign on the wall had pointed us to!

Phone users

Yes, those irritating people who walk along the street glued to their phones who are oblivious to everything else that’s going on around them.

Blocking the pavement or other walkway is one irritation, trying to sent a text whilst pulling a wheelie bag along is another and then there’s those who insist on taking selfies or photograph their food before eating it.

One phone user did come unstuck earlier in the year whilst visiting the Alhambra in Granada. She was so intent on taking a photo whilst walking forward that she didn’t notice the step down.

Cue scream and a badly damaged/potentially broken ankle… Ouch!

Rain

It rained four days out of seven whilst on Isle of Man last week.

We’d gone prepared as we’d taken decent rain jackets, but it did put a dampener on proceedings. Had the same problem in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Portugal and Spain too!

Restaurant rip offs

Step forward the place in Cordoba that tried to charge us for bread, even though we hadn’t asked for a bread basket and hadn’t eaten anything from it.

Same place claimed that they weren’t doing tapas, even though there was a rather well done set of tiles outside with the word tapas at the centre.

Restaurant or tour touts

Those who try standing in front of you as a means of getting you into their cafe, restaurant or onto a tuk-tuk.

Answer is always ‘No’ and if they don’t take the hint then it’s ‘No, no, no, no, no and no!’.

Which really brassed off one bloke in Malaga in March this year.

We walked passed that establishment later on and there weren’t many in it.

Wonder why?

Top 10… films

Casablanca

This 1940s classic has it all – Bogart and Bergman, a script full of quotable quotes and As Time Goes By.

Seen it many times now both at home and in cinemas on Valentine’s Day at art house cinemas in both Glasgow and Bradford, but missed out on seeing it in Lisbon by four days back in 2015…

Cinema Paradiso

Sicily, film, love and the Catholic Church’s local censorship of feature films all play their part in this DVD and occasionally TV screened delight.

There’s fun, pathos and social commentary, all in the same movie. My DVD copy came free with a weekend newspaper. My iPad copy cost a bit more…

Con Air

Want an over the top action film to watch while you eat pizza and sink beers?

Well Con Air has it all once the initial few minutes are out of the way and Nicholas Cage’s character ends up in jail.

Is it loud? Certainly was when I saw it on the big screen on Saturday night in Middlesbrough a few years ago.

I’d gone to see Pulp Fiction, but the wrong film had been delivered – and that wrong film was Con Air.

A good night out, even though it took a couple of days before the hearing returned to normal. Someone had turned the volume up to eleven!

Die Hard

Yippee Kai Aye!

I’d passed up the chance to see this in Geilo, Norway when it was first released back in the 1980s, but finally caught up with it at the National Media Museum in Bradford on Christmas Eve a few years ago.

Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, more action than you could shake a stick at and some great one liners too.

It may have been Christmas Eve, but the cinema was packed!

High Fidelity

Chicago takes over from Islington as the setting for the film of Nick Hrnby’s book with John Cusack in the lead and a scene stealing Jack Black as one of the workers in Championship Vinyl record shop.

It’s pretty faithful to the book, has a great soundtrack and a cameo appearance from one Bruce Spingsteen.

Hot Fuzz

The second of the Cornetto Trilogy sees Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as police officers in the sleepy town of Sandford where strange things happen in the name of “The Greater Good“…

Nothing is quite what it seems in what appears to be the perfect example of Small Town England, and you’ve never heard a former James Bond swear so much, especially in the blooper reel!

Paul

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two comic book guys heading out on a road trip around alleged sites of close encounters.

A car accident sees them having their own close encounter with Paul (a Seth Rogen voiced CGI alien) and it isn’t long before they’re being chased by men in black suits, The Big Guy and a bible-toting father with a shotgun who wants his daughter back.

Pulp Fiction

I still haven’t seen this on the big screen, but there’s more than enough going on via the small screen to keep you glued to it.

Royale with cheese, Dusty Springfield on the soundtrack, Harvey Keitel in the role that he riffs on in the current batch of Direct Line adverts and Big Kahuna burgers too.

Shakespeare In Love

Yes, it’s that award winning film with a strong cast, witty script and Gwyneth Paltrow’s closing walk on Holkham Beach.

It’s a classic, and rightly so!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is a film I can watch over and over again and one of the few that I will still watch if I happen to chance upon it once it’s already begun.

The strong cast and script deliver the goods and whilst I was surprised that there was a follow up, I’m pleased that they didn’t go the whole hog and make a second sequel.

Stop Press!

And one for a potential film list later in the year is Victoria And Abdul. Seen yesterday at Broadway Cinema in Douglas, Isle of Man, Stephen Frear’s film is sad, funny and engaging. Judy Dench plays Queen Victoria for the second time on the big screen.

A very good way to spend a very wet afternoon just off the Promenade in Douglas. Back home tonight!

Top 10… albums for the car

Abba Gold

One of the most successful acts of all time and this CD/DVD collection has all of the hits that you either heard at the time or reminded of the last time you watched Mamma Mia the movie or had a night at the stage show…

Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd

One of the best selling albums of all time that still sounds innovative more than forty years after it was first released.

One suspects that there’s a few successful albums from the last decade that won’t be held in such high regard in forty years time!

Hits Collection – Dusty Springfield

There’s a documentary that keeps reappearing on BBC4 that tells the story of Dusty Springfield and it makes for interesting viewing.

Almost all of Dusty’s hits are on this CD (the ones with Pet Shop Boys are missing), but it makes for a fine reminder of a singer that didn’t need Autotune or other modern recording techniques to commit a great song to analogue tape.

Hotel California – The Eagles

Yes, it’s that 1970’s classic album – the one you either like or hate (one of my University house mates hated it with a vengeance).

Can go a couple of years without playing it and then put it in the CD player and sing along with it all over again.

Live And Dangerous – Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy in fine fettle a few years before I blagged my way in to photograph the band.

I have both the CD and DVD versions of this album and it’s interesting to hear the stories regarding the finished album that are related by band members in interviews on the DVD.

No Sleep ‘Till Hamersmith – Motorhead

One of heavy metal’s heaviest bands caught live with the bomber lighting rig on the cover and their best tracks on the CD.

We Are The Road Crew was recorded at Newcastle City Hall – I know, because I was there!

I also know what the dedication was for the song No Class on that night….

Real To Real – Marillion

This is the Fish era live album from the 1980’s that sounds good thirty years on from its original release.

Garden Party and Market Square Heroes still hit the spot, especially when the car stereo is turned up to eleven!

The Essential Nina Simone

Name checked at least once in an episode of CSI Vegas and featured and mentioned in the Bridget Fonda film The Assassin, Nina Simone has one of those voices that pre-dated modern recording techniques.

The Collection is a three CD box set that mixes studio and live recordings that showcase one of the best singing voices of all time.

Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors – Fish

This was the former Marillion singer’s first solo album and I’d still rate it as his best so far.

All of the songs were heard first live in a mix of club, town hall, village halls and small cinemas in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland a couple of weeks before Vigil was released and there’s still memories of that rather hectic week lingering years later.

(What’s The Story) Morning Glory – Oasis

One of the few albums that really caught my attention when I was a student writing for a student newspaper back in the mid-1990s.

Others may disagree, but it is still Oasis’ finest album to date…

Top 10… books

DK Eyewitness

Colourful illustrated guidebooks that hit the spot to give the reader an excellent overview of towns, cities and the local attractions along with brief details of where to eat and where to stay.

Favourites are the guidebooks relating to Portugal and Spain.

Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain – Quentin Letts

Journalist Quentin Letts aims carefully and highlights fifty targets. Some may surprise you whilst others may well be regarded as very suitable for inclusion in such a work!

Greece On My Wheels – Edward Enfield

Yes, that’s Harry Enfield’s dad.

Edward Enfield has written several books on his cycling exploits around Europe, but this was the first that I’d read by him and it’s on the list of books to read once more.

Hamish’s Mountain Walk – Hamish Brown

A classic book on hillwalking and backpacking around Scotland. One of those books that I read years ago and took lessons from, especially when it came to choosing and using lightweight camping and walking equipment.

An excellent read too!

Lonely Planet

Use paper versions when planning a trip, usually in conjunction with the equivalent Rough Guide (the latter’s city guides beat the LP versions hands down IMHO!).

There have been times when I’ve cursed their layouts (maps pages away from area info in two editions of the Portugal guide for example) and there have been one or three places that we won’t be returning to – allegedly!

My Dining Hell – Jay Rayner

The Observer’s restaurant critic’s collection of past reviews is a joy to read – unless you own one of the places visited!

Rough Guides

I don’t always agree with what’s written, but the appropriate Rough Guide is bought in paper format and used in conjunction with the same area’s Lonely Planet when planning a trip.

I regularly use paper area, city and country guides plus eBook only city or island guides.

The Descent Of Man – Grayson Perry

This is the newest book on the list and one of the few books in my collection that I have in both hardback and Kindle editions.

Not my usual type of reading by any means, but a book that has a lot to say about modern life and is engaging enough to read in one sitting.

The Moon’s A Ballon – David Niven

I first read this back in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again a couple of years ago. A classic autobiography with loads of anecdotes about Niven himself and his life in Hollywood.

Another book from this list that’s going to get another reading soon.

These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach

You may not recognise the title, but you may well have heard of the film that was largely based on this novel – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..

A few changes were made along the way from the printed page to digital screens, but it still hits the spot…

Top 10… Travel TV programmes

America Unchained

Dave Gorman and companions buy a car and all go to look for America.

Around The World In Eighty Days

Michael Palin may not have been the first choice to present this, but it works and is still an enjoyable series to watch so many years later.

Coast

Still prefer the original format rather than the new programmes or Coast AustraliaCoast New Zealand due soon apparently.

Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage

Francesco Da Mosto sailing around to visit Croatia, Greece and Turkey.

The Hairy Bikers

Baking, cooking and motorcycles in the UK, Europe and elsewhere too.

Inspector Montalbano

Sicily looking good in the Young/Classic versions of the detective series…

Italy From Top To Toe

Francesco da Mosto leaves Venice behind and drives in search of Italy.

Rick Stein’s Weekend In…

Rick’s an affable host as he hits Lisbon or Cadiz and more before recreating dishes in his kitchen. I usually make a cup of tea when he’s cooking seafood.

Time Team

An unusual choice? Think about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen along the way as they dig up the countryside, islands and city spaces.

World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides

Henry Cole explores the world on a variety of classic motorbikes.

Cumbrian circuit II

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Wheybrigg Hall Hotel

Well, we got to our destination, even though we had a flat tyre to contend with near the end of the journey between Patterdale Youth Hostel and Wheybrigg Hall Hotel.

Was I going to change the tyre when we’d just got there? Was I heck as like!

Coffee, freshening up and fodder were the respective orders of the day once we’d checked in, found our room and flopped for a few minutes.

After a good meal, cider or beer and a shared sweet, we retreated to our room to flop some more and unwound with Yesterday channel’s latest in a re-run of guitar players in action at the studios of the BBC.

Sunday morning came around a bit too soon, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to try a bit of haggis as part of my breakfast platter!

Quick enquiries at the hotel regarding a tyre supplier came to nothing, so it was time to pack, put the bags on the back seat and then try to get the wheel changed.

Which was easier said than done. The wheel nuts wouldn’t even budge as I tried to ease them before putting the jack under the car to raise it up to facilitate changing the wheel.

So it was time to call out the road rescue service. “Someone will be with you in about an hour” was the verdict when I made the call, but a van pulled into the car park just twenty minutes later and did the deed – although the chap that came to do said deed had a fair bit of trouble in getting those darn wheel nuts shifted too…

As expected, there wasn’t a tyre place open in Wigton on a Sunday, so it was time to head over to Workington in search of the local Kwik-Fit.

I hadn’t been to Workington for about 27 years (to Cumbria Rock Festival to be precise), so finding Kwik-Fit was always going to be a case of winging it. Or was it?

Caroline’s phone gizmo came into action once more and Kwik-Fit was found, entered and the problem explained.

The wait was an hour, so we wandered into the town centre in search of coffee and a Sunday paper. Finding a copy of The Observer and a couple of cups of Greggs coffee was easy, but what I didn’t expect to find in Greggs was a guilty pleasure that was last tasted about fifteen years ago when I lived in the North East.

Peach melbas. A cake that has to be tried at least once – fondant icing on the outside, cream on the inside and a piece of peach inside the bottom crust. Naughty, but nice!

Polishing off the coffee in Kwik-Fit’s waiting area happened at the same time as the car was ready, so our stuff was taken off the back seat and packed into the boot in readiness for setting off to do the rest of the planned route.

Which is when it started to rain. And then some. I’d thought about having lunch in St. Bees, but the combination of rain and lack of parking put paid to that idea. We kept on going and tried in vain to find the airfield that was signposted with a brown tourist sign.

No dice there, so we kept on going and headed into Broughton-in-Furness to try our luck there. No dice again there as all of the parking places surrounding the cafe we’d spotted were full.

We kept on going though and then I had an idea. Have a late lunch at Wilf’s Cafe, an old haunt over in Staveley. It took a while to get there, but the big breakfast roll I had at 3pm went down well, as did the big bowl of veggie chilli that Caroline ordered. And the coffee? Probably some of the best coffee we’ve had in a cafe for years!

As I’d done so much driving, an on foot diversion into Wheelbase cycle emporium was always going to be on the cards once we’d decided on heading to Staveley. Caroline took a look at a few mountain bikes and then bought some socks (decidedly cheaper!) whilst I looked at and handed over a copy of Stephen Frear’s film about one Lance Armstrong.

And that was about it as we pointed the car in a homeward direction. Plans on visiting our local farm shop to get something for tea though went out of the window as we hit a five mile or so tailback of stationary traffic near Long PrestonCaroline’s gizmo came in useful once more as it got us around the accident blockage and back home.

The eventual evening meal? A good old Yorkshire favourite – a curry out!

Next week’s posts – some all-time top tens!