Archive | June 2016

One year – July 2015

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Praca dos Restaradores, Lisbon

Our trip to Lisbon in July 2015 was organised at short notice and there were a couple of things we had to take into account.

Caroline was due to attend a family wedding on Saturday 4th July and the second was the early morning check-in and flight departure on Sunday 5th July – from Liverpool John Lennon Airport as that’s where our out and back point was.

Fortunately we got a bit of a deal on the hotel, car parking and fast-tracking at the airport.

The hotel was the Hampton by Hilton and this plus said car park were across the road from the terminal. Caroline had however left the reception early to get home, change and get in the car for our drive to the airport. Arrival time? 11.15pm…

We decided not to go for the very early breakfast option, but it was still 5am when the alarm went off. Shower, breakfast and check out were completed by 6.45 and the stroll across the road to the terminal took two minutes.

Fast-tracking through security wasn’t a problem – we’d already checked in online, had hand luggage only and had already checked that our bags fitted inside the easyJet hand luggage measuring devices.

Second breakfast wasn’t an option as we had noticed the prices at various cafes, but another coffee to wake us up didn’t break the bank so that option was chosen instead.

This was the first time that we’d flown with easyJet and it has to be said that we didn’t have any problems with the airline or the flight on either our journey to or from Lisbon.

Unlike the family seated behind us. The youngest hadn’t let his mum know that he needed the loo before the seatbelt light went on as the plane started its descent and he ended up peeing himself. His father ‘fessed up to the crew about what had happened whilst his mum went slightly balistic about what had happened.

The crew were fine about it, but one question remained – would the seat be a dry one for the potential occupant on the flight home, given the rapid turnaround times on budget airlines?

Once we reached the land side of the terminal, it was time to hit the Metro to get into Lisbon. We’d used a cab on our first visit in 2013 and then we discovered Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards.

Yes, there was queue at the machines to the left of the Metro entrance, but the wait was worth it and it wasn’t long before we were on a train and heading into Lisbon in search of Rato Metro Station.

With a few hours to kill before we could check into our digs, it was lunch time.

Our salads and cold drinks came with a friendly warning from the cafe owner about pickpockets, something that we’d read up about before our 2013 visit.

We had taken our own precautions as we were both wearing Rohan travel clothing with plenty of zipped pockets and our respective Osprey Farpoint 40 travel bags were both padlocked as a means of keeping thieving barstools at bay. Others we met during the week weren’t so lucky…

Farpoint 40 Lagoon Blue

The trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack…

Lisbon Dreams Guest House was our home for the week. It’s not on the beaten track, but it ensured that there would be plenty of exercise over the next seven days as we walked into the centre of Lisbon in search of places to visit or fodder for evening meals.

Our minimalist room had a comfy bed, dressing table, a supply of snacks and drinks on an honesty box system plus a very welcome cool air fan, slippers and a rather luxurious bath robe each, handy as the room wasn’t ensuite and accessing the communal bathrooms meant walking through the TV room/lounge area.

Wine or other snacks were available in the hotel reception area or in the mini market at ground level below Lisbon Dreams and there was 24 hour coffee (instant or fresh depending on time of day) available in the breakfast room/resident’s kitchen area.

As it we were pushing the boat out on this trip and letting others do the catering rather than making meals ourselves, the time came to make a decision as to where to go for the first of those evening meals.

The decision wasn’t hard one we’d visited a good vegetarian place on our first visit to Lisbon. Terra is a few minutes walk away from Lisbon Dreams in Principe Real and it offers a good choice of both vegetarian and vegan food in its buffet spread.

You can sit inside or out in the garden area and choose from starters, mains and sweets plus alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. Caroline went for fruit juice with her meal and I went for the beer option whilst post-meal drinks were Port and um bica (espresso) respectively.

It would have been quite easy to stay in the garden at Terra and linger over more port or coffee, but as it was now  9.30pm and we still had to walk back to Lisbon Dreams, discretion was the better part of valour so we wandered back to our beds and slept relatively soundly, despite the early morning delivery to the mini-market on the ground floor…

In part II tomorrow – Alafama, Belem and why you should always have some small change on you!

One year – June 2015

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Deepdale Backpackers, Burnham Deepdale, North Norfolk

There are times when we just pack a bag and head off at short notice for a few days r & r to a place where there’s almost no mobile phone reception.

Which is exactly what we did in early June last year. Caroline had a few days between shifts and once a couple of things were rearranged, we headed pointed the car towards one of our favourite haunts – North Norfolk.

Our place of choice on all bar one of our visits to the area has been Deepdale Backpackers, a hostel with both dorms and en-suites plus a campsite, tipis, yurts and shepherd’s huts. There’s a supermarket and petrol station next door, a cafe, a few retail outlets and a couple of decent pubs in walking distance.

Holkham Hall is just down the road, as is Holkham Beach (as seen at the end of Shakespeare in Love) along with Burnham Market (if you can find a parking space and successfully negotiate other road users who make you remember a memorable Bruce Willis line from Die Hard (“Who’s driving this car? Stevie Wonder?”).

National Trust has several properties in the area and whilst we’ve been to Fellbrigg Hall and Blickling Estate before, Oxburgh Hall was a new one on us and visited as we’d just renewed our National Trust membership just before our visit.

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Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham – a National Trust property

Also in the area is Holt. Bakers and Larners department store. It’s always worth a visit as it has a food hall that caters for all tastes, especially if you’re a foodie.

We’re not, but we can usually find something in the food hall for a snack, evening meal or a top up on sweet stuff such as nougat or Turkish Delight.

The kitchen department has also had some trade from us too as we had some difficulty a couple of years ago in finding decent potato peelers.

Did we stock up on three of these? Yes, even though they were flagged up as Lancashire Potato Peelers (we’re from Yorkshire!).

On the outskirts of Holt is one of the end stations on North Norfolk Railway, the other being Sheringham on the coast. Steam and classic diesel trains run between the two, giving passengers a hint at what rail travel used to be like before before Beeching’s axe fell on so many rail lines around the UK.

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The beach at Sheringham, plus granite blocks to prevent erosion..

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Guess why there’s rope near the slipway in Sheringham

Sheringham is another place we try to visit when we’re down there, either to wander along the promenade or do the odd bit of shopping for bags of fudge at the RNLI shop in the town.

Thankfully this was a sunny day so we could wander around without wearing two down garments (one down jacket, one down vest) each or ponder what steps to take when we spotted the Amy Bomb Disposal Team taping off the beach (the answer to the steps question was easy – bloody big ones!).

Yes, both of these had happened during a past visit – on the same day!

Caroline also likes to get out and do some cycling when we’re in North Norfolk, either on her own charger or on a hire bike. Coffee stop is usually at Holkham Hall or Wells-Next-The-Sea and lunch is wherever we find that’s worth stopping off at.

On this occasion it was a pub we’d driven past, but had never visited. It was pleasant enough place, but there were a couple of perceived problems with my meal…

When did it become almost compulsory to serve decent burgers in Brioche Buns? And when it did it become almost compulsory to slather salad with a salad dressing?

After this experience, it’s now compulsory for ask for a standard bun on a decent burger and for any salad to not be coated in salad dressing. Any that don’t comply get sent back, no messing!

Just don’t get me started on places serving roast beef or lamb which is pink, bloody or both. You wouldn’t like it when I’m angry!

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Wells-Next-The-Sea

Next stop? Liverpool John Lennon Airport & Lisbon!

http://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk

http://www.bakersandlarners.co.uk

http://www.nnrailway.co.uk

One year – May 2015 III

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Glastonbury – before the festival crowds arrive…

As we were in Somerset, we deemed it appropriate that we should visit Glastonbury to see what all the fuss was about. The town, not the festival as that had sold out months ago.

With Caroline heading off on Betty Bike, I pointed the car in the right direction to ensure that the Skoda version of Thunderbird 2 could be used for a rescue job if my mobile rang.

Caroline and I are used to heading into towns with reputations as being favourable with those seeking alternative lifestyles. We’ve visited Totness in Devon and we could see where people were coming from when they argued that Totness had been twinned with Narnia.

Closer to home though is Hebden Bridge, a town with several strings to its bow, although most will normally associate the town with the damage caused to shops, housing and infrastructure by flooding in recent years.

Getting to Glastonbury was easy, but it was interesting to note that several big name outlets are clustered together in a development on the edge of the town, leaving the centre almost free from the usual suspects found on the average UK high street.

Caroline and I had reached Glastonbury at virtually the same time, but we’d parked up about half a mile apart so it was I that had the first stroll around the streets as a means of getting our bearings.

Gift shops were tasteful, New Age shops interesting and cafes were spot on with coffee and food that didn’t rely on the meat factor. Our wander around took us into a well-stocked green supermarket with good lines in food, alternative cleaning products, competitively priced tea tree & lavender oils and a fine selection of chocolate and snacks.

One toy shop had a sale – for the gold/black/sparkly dragon that now sits on the top of the bookshelf in the lounge and The Lazy Gecko Cafe came up with a fine line in non-alcholic drinks, food and coffee plus a small piece of artwork for display on the landing at home.

Now we were aware of the Glastonbury associations with hippies and a few of the cafe’s clientele appeared to back that up. So much so that we reckoned that they were original models who had found their niche back in the day and had stayed there!

Another customer though was of a more recent time – a former MP who made a name for himself whilst in Westminster. He’s not been seen or heard of for a while, but somehow I guess that he will be back in the limelight eventually. The name? That would be telling!

Once the lazy Lazy Gecko lunch was out of the way, Caroline wandered around Glastonbury Abbey whilst I hit the shop (no purchases made) and took in some more of the book I was reading on my Kindle.

Once back, Caroline took to the saddley thing once more and we both headed back to Dragonfly for coffee, showers, food and sleep – in that order. Although we had both come to the conclusion that Glastonbury was like Hebden Bridge on steroids!

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The Haynes Motor Museum near Brookhampton

Friday was a lazy day as we knew that we had an early exit and a long drive on Saturday. I’d been keen to visit The Haynes Motor Museum on our previous visit to the area, but it wasn’t to be as we ran out of time and some development work was taking place at the museum.

It’s big, it’s well stocked and the cars on display are kept in immaculate condition. It’s like a history of motoring in there with classic cars from well before I was even born to more modern cars that I either recognised from fleeting glances as they passed my dad’s car on the motorway or from photos in papers or magazines in my schooldays.

Although I’ve had cars such as the Mini, VW Golf Mk 1, Ford Fiesta and others, it was more exotic machinery that caught my eye – the Jensen Interceptor, Aston Martin Lagonda plus cars by Alfa-Romeo, Lotus, M.G. and others.

Schoolboy dreams of owning at least one of the above – the Jensen Interceptor – never materialised, but hey, was it wrong to dream? Forty years later, I’ve learned that practicality in a car is worth a lot more than the potential to pose and pose and pose…

A good museum is always worth a visit (if only to revisit Amnesia Alley) and there’s a fine and reasonably priced cafe plus a gift shop to appeal to petrolheads and those of a more sensible nature.

By Saturday morning, home was beckoning and more travel plans were formulated and distilled as we made our way back up to Yorkshire

The first two destinations will be highlighted on here next week!

One year – May 2015 II

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Wells Cathedral

If it’s Tuesday then it must be Wells

We’d joked about visiting Wells, largely because Caroline and I are both fans of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz can be regularly caught on ITV, but we have it on DVD for those nights when Caroline comes back in from a 14 hour nursing shift and needs a little bit of light relief.

Spotting the locations used in Hot Fuzz is fairly easy (although the National Trust shop seen in the film has closed down), but even so, taking a look around Wells doesn’t take too long unless you’re having a meal or taking a wander around the Cathedral.

I chased coffee, went to the bank and had a look in a camera shop whilst Caroline visited the Cathedral (it’s a long, long time since I went to church for anything other than a wedding).

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As seen in Hot Fuzz…

With the Wells visit taking just a few hours, we headed back to Dragonfly, parked up and then went for a wander along the canal as far as the cafe at Maunsel Lock where a coffee and cake stop was declared.

Now this may have been a Tuesday, but the cafe was quite busy with people stopping off as they were taking advantage of a rather fine day. Some were walking, some were walking their dogs whilst others were cycling or taking a look at the planetary sculptures placed by the side of the canal.

After what was now a full day out, an executive decision was made not to do much cooking on the night so the car was fired up in search of food.

No, we didn’t go to the pub, but we did hit the service area just off the M5 near Bridgwater. Yes, there’s an M&S Food outlet there so it was salad time for Caroline whilst I indulged in a pack of chicken portions.

The latter may be snack food, but by ‘eck it tasted good once heated through in accordance with the instructions on the pack (I have had food poisoning before after eating chicken, one reason why I’m not rather picky when it comes to food being cooked properly – losing a stone and a half in a matter of days isn’t my idea of fun!).

And so to Wednesday.

As Caroline had Betty Bike with her, it was time to take Betty out for a ride to Taunton via the canal tow path. I took the car down to Taunton and got my bearings in a town that I know reasonably well from visiting friends in the town during the late 1980’s and a work trip in Y2K.

Although I remembered my way around town, it didn’t appear to have the same appeal as it did all of those years ago. Maybe that’s down to most towns and cities having the same shops in them which have sounded either the death knell of local traders or marginalised them to secondary locations where the rents and business rates are more affordable.

But I digress. Caroline arrived in Taunton and a light lunch in a nearby pub was declared. Once consumed, we had a wander around and Caroline got back on the bike and headed back to Dragonfly whilst I tried to leave Taunton.

With both of us back at the same destination, there was a problem. Betty had a flat and there appeared to be something up with the other tyre too. I knew of a bike shop in Bridgwater, but they weren’t able to help, so it was time to hit Halfords.

So Halfords was found, the problems explained and fixed whilst we went to top up our caffeine levels in the centre of Bridgwater. Once back, it was time to pay for two new tyres and a couple of spare inner tubes and we were on our way once more.

Whilst we prefer to deal with smaller concerns when it comes to food, bikes, photography, computers etc, on this occasion it was ironic that a large trader had come to Caroline‘s rescue.

There may have been question marks over using a big shop, but Halfords did the job and did it well, just as they have in the past with the couple of bikes I’ve bought from them in the last thirty years.

And in Part III…

A town before a festival, a motor museum and home – that’s tomorrow’s posting folks!

One year – May 2015 I

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The weather was warmer than the photo suggests – then came Monday!

May 2015 saw the start of twelve months of heading off and having fun and our first port of call was Somerset for a week.

We stayed at Dragonfly 1 apartment, one of three units at Dragonfly Barn in North Newton near Bridgwater. I’d spotted the apartment on booking sites a couple of years beforehand whilst researching another trip to the South West and when it came up twice during the research for this trip, Caroline and I looked at the website, discussed it and then booked.

Our plans for the week were loose ones. Yes, there was a kind of a list of places we wanted to visit, but as Caroline had taken her trusty road bike down and we’d seen the weather forecast, we decided to play it by ear.

Dragonfly 1 was a comfortable place – ideal for the two us with an ensuite bathroom, well equipped kitchen and a lounging area where you could read, watch TV or just sit and relax.

After the long drive down to Somerset, Saturday night was a chill-out night once the car was unpacked and Caroline‘s bike was locked away in the secure bike storage. Semi-fast food was the order of the day as we microwaved a meal deal from Sainsbury’s in Bridgwater and enjoyed the bottle of wine that was part of said deal.

Sunday saw a chilled out morning with breakfast, coffee and newspapers being the order of the day. As was a visit to The Harvest Moon, a short walk away from Dragonfly 1 and a place that had a good reputation for its Sunday lunches.

We may have entered The Harvest Moon around 12.30, but the pub was already rather busy and we were lucky to get a table. Plates and glasses were filled and then emptied and whilst another pint of Guinness and a half of Thatcher’s Gold were ordered, we held back on ordering coffee and desserts because the Sunday lunch was more substantial than we realised and besides, we had a bag of our favourite coffee back at Dragonfly.

Once the recovery process kicked in, Caroline took Betty Bike out for a spin on the Bridgwater-Taunton Canal towpath for an hour or so, leaving me to have more coffee and to do the washing up.

Grey clouds were gathering later though once Caroline got back from her ride and we ended up having our own wander along the canal towpath. After this spot of wandering around it was time to head back to our temporary home in search of coffee, cake and a light evening meal and an early night.

Monday morning saw the grey clouds delivering the threatened rain so we went shopping.

Not to a mall you understand, but to Clark’s Shopping Village in nearby Street. The town is home to the Clark’s shoe brand, but the Shopping Village is a brand extension and home to small shopping units from the likes of Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, Cadburys, Lindt and others.

Shelter from the rain was sought as we wandered between shops and a few judicious purchases made. Body Shop and M&S got some business, but did we buy chocolate from both the Cadburys and Lindt outlets?

You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment…

After lunch in a nearby cafe, the sun came out so our rain jackets were stashed in the car along with our purchases, allowing us to wander unhindered around the rest of Street.

Bike route guides were bought from the Tourist Information Centre and visits made to the Clarks Museum, an excursion into Amnesia Alley if ever there was one as both Caroline and I spotted shoes that we’d been bought as school kids by our respective parents or had bought for ourselves once we had the cash to do our own thing.

With a day of driving and two days of relative relaxation behind us, we decided that the next few days were going to be rather busier.

Once the latest weather forecast had been seen and digested, a slightly tighter plan was hatched that involved a visit to one of the locations used in Hot Fuzz, a destination marked out by a famous Tor and several bright yellow festival related signs plus a haven for all fans of classic cars of all shapes, sizes and horsepowers…

And where would these places be?

Some of them will be revealed tomorrow in May 2015 Part II

http://www.dragonflybarn.com

Avoiding sport!

Yes, the Isle Of Man TT Races are almost over and it’s football time again on TV as European national teams do their best to win the trophy and keep their respective sponsor’s names to the fore.

For the fans it’s a chance to eat, drink and be merry in a friendly manner or (as in the case of an incident in Marseilles last night) start causing problems that the French police have to deal with…

It’s all part of what’s sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Summer Of Sport‘, especially as we also have Wimbledon, cricket and the Olympics (along with Formula 1 and the start of the next football season…).

Not that much (if any) of it will be watched around here, especially as I find that watching paint dry is more exciting than the stuff I’ve already mentioned – apart from the Isle Of Man TT Races.

Prep work began months ago as box sets were identified to watch on evenings when sport is being shown on TV here in the UK and there’s sod all in the way of alternatives to watch on the rest of the Freeview channels that are available to us…

So rather than watch sport, it’s highly likely that archive stuff such as The West Wing, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Our Friends In The North, The Bridge, Italy From Top To Toe, classic Thunderbirds and the rest of the latest Young Montalbano series will be hitting the DVD player over the next few months.

Some may need the subtitles on (and no, I’m not talking about Our Friends In The North here – I lived and worked in the North East for 46 years!), but it’s all good stuff and definitely more entertaining than football or last night’s live Referendum debate on ITV!

Just wondering…

I’ve just taken advantage of an offer of a book for 99p on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s about an illegal immigrant to the UK, but don’t let that put you off in the wake of the news coverage of last night’s TV debate about the forthcoming referendum here in the UK.

This particular illegal immigrant travels light, comes from Darkest Peru and has developed a taste for marmalade sandwiches.

The name’s Paddington Bear… and may we recommend him to the house.

Even Nigel’s… allegedly!