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Home thoughts…

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Wells-next-the-sea, North Norfolk

One prediction from those in the know is that there’s likely to be a rise in staycations here in the UK as travellers shun foreign holidays in the wake of Brexit, exchange rates and various events around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Will it happen? Quite possibly, even though holiday companies are running TV advertising regarding seven day breaks in Turkey with starting prices at £199 per person – a figure that’s less than one or two night’s stay here in the UK if the test searches I’ve run on various accommodation websites over the last couple of days are anything to go by.

We’ve seen footage of how quiet various beach resorts in were before the recent coup attempt, but if media reports are anything to go by, the beach resorts in Turkey for example weren’t really affected by events in Istanbul or Ankara (both places we’d still like to visit).

Whilst there are still places that travellers are avoiding, there are also those which have been affected by widely reported events that are very much open for business and tourism.

People are still heading to Paris, Madrid, London, Nice and Oslo after they’ve seen or at least heard about the various events that took place in those cities in recent years.

Caroline and I still head to London and we’d go back to Oslo tomorrow, even after the events that brought chaos to Norway in July 2011.

If it had happened a week earlier, we’d have been caught up in that chaos as we were staying just a few hundred metres away from the Parliament buildings in central Oslo and had walked past the end of the road a few times on that Friday…

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All the signs are there – and on a sunny day too!

Will UK staycations numbers rise? Yes, but a few things need to be examined.

The weather for one. Yes, we’ve had some high temperatures over the last month and it looks like they’re going to hover around the 20C/72F mark for the next ten days or so, but rain came with it and whilst we’ve missed most of it here in Yorkshire, there are no guarantees as to whether it will miss us again over the next month!

We may not have to deal with exchange rates, but there are matters relating to pricing, service levels and ambience in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, guest houses or shops.

It’s not really a problem in places such as Blackpool for instance as there’s Greggs, Wetherspoons and even Marks & Spencer in the centre that help keep costs down.

There are places though where some businesses really take the p*ss with their pricing. Fortunately we’re not foodies, and that works for us as a foodie and their money are soon parted…

Our local baker charges 75p for a decent sausage roll, but two shops in Norfolk were charging around £3 a couple of years ago, a price that I’ve only seen matched on my only visit to Fortnum & Masons in London.

We also try to avoid places where the name of a ‘celebrity’ chef is prominent or where the establishment has been starred for anything more than their hygiene standards (although we did see one place back in May that proudly displayed their one star hygiene rating sticker in their front window…).

There’s also places that overcharge for accommodation. It’s a problem that will never go away because some have more money than sense (see the earlier comment re; foodies).

Yes, we’ve stayed in a couple of good hotels here in the UK or in Portugal, but we’ve never paid the full rate as we’ve either booked in advance or taken advantage of discounts from booking site loyalty programmes.

Caroline and I have discussed taking a last minute UK break this week. Now we’re never going to go for Claridges (we saw the BBC4 documentary about that establishment a couple of nights ago and it is definitely way out our price range), but the places we thought were affordable at various places in UK on booking sites had reviews that included the  words ‘Avoid’ or ‘Don’t do it!’.

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Langdale, Cumbria

We could go camping, but it’s high season, school holidays and everything else that goes with those eventualities.

The last time I stayed in the Lake District in August I had two very sleepless nights, even though I’d changed campsites when I heard my new neighbours on the first one discussing the number of bottles of Jack and other spirits they were going to buy from the local offie… The second campsite ended up being just as bad…

Something will turn up. It always does… and yes, the fingers are crossed!

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Hail Blackpool!

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Don’t get me wrong, but I do like to be beside the sea…

But I’m not particularly fond of rain, hail and high winds when I’m trying to walk on a beach. I thought it was bad whilst trying to do so at Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast a couple of years ago, but that was nowt compared to tackling the beach at Blackpool just last week.

We had seen the weather forecasts and had dressed and packed accordingly, even though our respective bags had capacities of 10 litres (mine) or 15 litres (Caroline’s).

Despite a mix of soft shell trousers and jacket (me) and windproof fleece and tech jeans (Caroline) plus an effective use of tech t-shirts and micro fleeces (both of us), the wind and rain still presented problems once we got to Blackpool North Station and started to walk down to the town centre.

When it got really bad, there was only one thing for it – get into Marks & Spencers and head into their cafe for a hot drink, food and the chance to dry out. Once this was accomplished, it was time to head back out and see what was out there…

Caroline had already decided to try and find some thermal leggings to help combat the elements and as she hadn’t seen anything in M&S, we sought out the local branch of Millets.

Which had moved and had everything but thermal leggings as they’d been recalled back to the warehouse in order to make space for summer stock. Fair enough I suppose given that it was the end of April and it should have been fine and sunny…

After a quick side trip into Sports Direct in search of leggings, it was Primark that saved the day. One set of black leggings in Caroline’s size at the princely sum of £4 – bargain!

Once that was sorted, we tracked down the venue for Status Quo’s show and then headed to our resting place for the night – The Ascot Guest House in nearby Hornby Road.

Although we were the only ones booked in for the night, the sign in the window said No Vacancies – after all, it was going to be the calm before the storm that is the Great British Bank Holiday Weekend…and the Hotel Inspector was due to take a look at the premises at 6pm on the day we arrived.

Once settled in, we freshened up, headed out and then went in search of fodder. The first port of call was full and didn’t have any tables free for about an hour or so. The next one was busy, but had tables, so that’s where we ate.

Good pizza, good beer, but we’re still waiting for our coffees to turn up. They’d been prepared, but as the place was busy and hadn’t enough staff, the coffees had been made and placed on a tray, never to be served.

After asking for the bill, the coffee error was realised and whilst an offer was made of fresh coffee at no charge, we had to go, so the bill was handed over and paid, but not before I witnessed the £5 or so being taken off the bill for the coffees that never were.

 

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And so to The Empress Ballroom. Posh? Yes, Pricey? Yes – £4 for two jackets in the cloak room and £4.50 for a half of bitter and a half of cider and £15 for a tour programme (from Quo’s merchandising stand and well worth the cost after looking at it a few times now).

The following day saw a reasonably early breakfast and a good chinwag at The Ascot, one of the friendliest places either of us have stayed in over the years.

By the time we left at 11am (an hour after the time to go listed on the back of our room door), we decided to hit the seafront and see what was out there.

Wind, and  plenty of it. A brief respite came about through heading into the RNLI shop at the lifeboat station to stock up on bags of fudge and a new ‘coin’ substitute for use in supermarket shopping trollies, but the weather had to be faced once more. And it was.

Blackpool beach was almost deserted and stayed that was as we quickly went back on the promenade in search of shelter and coffee. Both came about in The Albert And Lion pub – coffee, shelter and warmth for half an hour.

The wind had dropped a bit, but not enough to tempt us along the beach once more, so we headed up the seafront and passed Harry Ramsden’s and a few pubs. One Irish bar had a bloke with a radio mike dressed up as a leprechaun as a potential means of pulling people into the pub.

We gave it a miss, but were rather amused a few minutes later when we headed back past the pub and heard said leprachaun broadcasting an interesting comment from inside the pub – he’d forgotten to turn the radio mike off before making said comment to another member of the pub’s staff! Oops…

As a late afternoon train had been booked for the journey home, there was a whole lot of mooching around going on after a fish and chip lunch at Harry Ramsden’s.

Now I don’t normally spend much when I’m away for a couple of days, but one shop window display caught my eye – an array of Corgi die cast models including FAB1 and a joint set of Thunderbird 2 & 4. Not cheap at £20 per box, so a decision had to be made.

So it’s Thunderbird 2 & 4 that’s on the shelf to my right as I type this up and FAB1 will arrive at a later date, as will Thunderbirds 1 & 3 when they’re sighted in a shop.

Apparently this latest batch of Thunderbirds related items aren’t being sold to the same potential customers as the ones relating to the ITV animated activities of International Rescue.

The Corgi models are being sold to nostalgic fifty somethings! Like me…

http://www.theascotbandb.co.uk