One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…
Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin
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!
Mezquita on the right, and a few potential visitors too
Yes, you’ve guessed it, another queue!
The outer walls of Mezquita – and a couple of horse drawn carriages too.
Puente Romano with Torre de la Calahorra over the bridge
Down the alley
And into the main square
After the Alcazar and a spot of lunch, it was time to head in the direction of Mezquita to have a seat, relax, buy some tickets and head inside.
With the ticket machines out of order when we looked, it was join the queue time again as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. The ticket seller was grumpier than one of the Seven Dwarves, but we thanked him anyway and headed in the direction of the Mezquita’s main entrance.
Whilst there’s photos on here of scenes around the Mezquita, there are no shots of the interior, largely because of the No Photography sign that I’d seen on the way in.
Caroline and I adhered to this, unlike quite a few others who were using cameras and phones to take shots inside the building. Not only that, but there were also those who were sending and receiving texts or even calls inside Cordoba’s Mosque/Cathedral.
Now you may have realised by now that I’m not a fan of visiting churches etc and it’s usually Caroline who heads inside whilst I take a wander around the local area either taking photos or reading/chilling out with a coffee or beer as the case may be.
I was intrigued by Mezquita though, especially as it’s a former mosque that’s been expanded since becoming a cathedral.
Yes, it was busy, but we decided to look around Mezquita in an organised way rather than heading off in the haphazard manner that some were heading off in. We were surprised by the amount of noise and vacuous conversations that some were indulging in as they wandered around looking at their mobile screens rather than at the building’s historic surroundings.
Although there were many aspects of Mezquita that I found fascinating, there were others that I just couldn’t relate to at all, even though there were plenty of people looking at these Christian elements of the interior.
As it turned out when we swapped thoughts later on, Caroline hadn’t really related to these elements either, just as she hadn’t with some aspects of the Cathedral in Seville when she’d visited that building a few days earlier.
I decided to take a seat while Caroline wandered back to an area that she hadn’t been able to look at a few minutes before and I could’t help noticing how many were glued to their phones or making/taking calls inside the building rather than waiting until they got outside.
As a non-believer, even I know that there is a time and a place for using a phone and that a Sunday afternoon inside of Mezquita was neither the time nor the place…
When Caroline arrived back, we decided to have a seat somewhere and relax for a while before heading back to the hotel for a siesta, shower, change and evening meal.
We ended up in a bar/restaurant that I’d been into a couple of hours before and I was rather surprised to find that the barman was already pumping up a glass of beer for me. A second was ordered and paid for so Caroline and I swapped notes on Mezquita and did a spot of people watching too.
One thing that Caroline and I both agreed on was that if we do go back to Cordoba, a night visit to Mezquita is definitely the way to go as a means of having a quieter, less intrusive experience.
Although we headed out for an evening meal, everywhere was busy with it being Father’s Day, so we ended up in once of the few places with room to spare at the tables in their courtyards.
It wasn’t the best meal we’d had on the trip so far and it was a good job we’d got a large bottle of water with our first drinks as service for both food and drinks was a little on the slow side.
Desserts didn’t come into play that night and neither did a drink at the Irish bar just around the corner from our hotel. Although there was a rather large display in one of the windows of the bar, it wasn’t possible to get one of my favourite Irish beers or one of Caroline’s favoured whiskeys, despite their brands being heavily promoted in that display!
So it was to be an early night rather than the one that we’d planned. Bags and clothes were prepped instead for the next day’s bus ride to Granada…
More on Monday!
Giralda, Seville Catherdral
Ah, yes, we were talking about Seville.
After a spot of mooching around the city centre and stumbling across the Metropol Parasol on our first day in Seville, the second had some loose organisation about it.
The stroll to Taberna Papelon ensured that we were ready for breakfast. We managed to make ourselves understood once more as we ordered coffee, croissants and orange juice and then more coffee before we headed off to join the queue of those visiting the Cathedral.
Rough Guide Andalucia uses this quote about the Cathedral – “a building on so magnificent a scale that posterity will believe we were mad”.
In other words it’s huge. Bigly huge…
Although we joined the queue around 10am, the opening time isn’t until 11am, so we waited, drank water, talked and then shuffled forward as those at the front bought their tickets and entered.
Once at the front, Caroline and I went our separate ways. Caroline into the cathedral and I for a wander around to try and find a tapas bar and a flamenco club that the owner of the pension recommended. And more coffee.
Finding coffee and tapas bar – easy. Finding that flamenco club wasn’t.
My mooch around gave me the chance to take a few photos, but also ensured a few close encounters with those selling bunches of heather or the drivers of the horse drawn carriages that were doing steady business in taking other tourists around the city centre.
After a while, it was time to head back to the square that Caroline and I had arranged to meet in. I wasn’t surprised that the monument in the middle of the square had been taken over by a couple of school parties, but I found somewhere to sit, wait and have more water as it was the middle of the day and the temperatures were rising.
Finding lunch and swapping comments about what we’d seen so far that day was a good idea, so a snack lunch plus a small beer at a street cafe (of which there are many in Seville) was sought, bought and consumed.
Caroline confirmed the scale of the Cathedral, and commented on the Giralda Tower, one of the minarets of the mosque that occupied the site before the Cathedral was built.
Caroline also commented on the intense nature of various parts of the Cathedral and the art or sculptures on display. Not my cup of tea at all, and one of the reasons why I wasn’t really bothered about heading through those large doors at the entrance…
With lunch out of the way, it was time for more leg stretching, this time in a small market in a park before an unscheduled wander across the street into the El Cortes Ingles department store.
My camera’s SD card was full, and the one in the camera pouch wasn’t a new one – it was also full. The store’s photographic section was easily found and a 16gb SD card sourced, paid for and installed.
It was only when we got back to the pension that I found that new empty SD card – in the pouch used to store my power & plug adaptors. D’oh!!!
After a fairly full day of wandering around, a short siesta beckoned, but as we wandered back to the pension from El Cortes Ingles, guess what we found?
A laminated card indicating where that flamenco club was. As it was 5pm and the club didn’t open until around 9pm, there was time for a siesta, wash & change and tapas before we had a good night out at the flamenco club.
A night in a live music club at a total cost of €8 for the two of us including beer money?
You’d better believe it – more tomorrow!
More from Spain…
Five days in Northumberland
Five days in North Norfolk
More thoughts on packing
Bits of news
Some silly stuff
Books, films and television programmes
And links such as the one below…
We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.
They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…
We knew there would be rain in Spain one day… Just not this much!
The planning for our trip to Andalucia started a while ago.
The initial thinking was to head over there in October 2016, but thoughts changed and we ended up visiting Herefordshire and Somerset.
The thinking started again back in November 2016 and a simple plan was drawn up – fly in and out of Malaga from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports and take a look at the Picasso and other art connections in Malaga before heading to Seville, Cordoba and Granada and then head back to Malaga for the flight home.
This was expanded upon by getting hold of both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide paper guidebooks to Andalucia. Although I’d already taken a read through the LP and RG books on Spain, the area specific guides provided more insights to the cities we were intent on visiting and useful snippets regarding travelling times between cities by bus or train, eating out, flamenco and a few tips on speaking Spanish.
Flights and our hotel in Malaga were booked via Expedia whilst digs in Seville, Cordoba and Granada were booked via booking.com.
All of this happened back in November 2016, as did upgrades to the basic flights as we chose to pre-book seats on the plane in both directions and opt for priority boarding.
Yes, this put the price of the flights up, but we reckoned it was worth it as a means of getting settled in to our seats and as a means of ensuring that our hand luggage wasn’t stashed in the hold instead…
The decision to use buses rather than trains in Spain came down to two factors – cost and journey times (which in one or two cases quoted in the guidebooks were shorter on the bus rather than the train…).
Booking the buses was left until January and it has to be said that booking buses between Malaga and Seville, Seville and Cordoba along with Cordoba to Granada was pretty easy via the http://www.alsa.es website.
A problem did arise when it came to book the journey between Granada and Malaga. My UK bank card had been used for the first three transactions, but wasn’t being accepted for the one that would take us back to Malaga in readiness for the flight home.
Technology being what it is, a web chat was established with Alsa and it transpired that I should have used a Spanish bank card or PayPal for all of my ticket buying transactions!
As the first three sales had gone through without any difficulties and I had both printed off the online tickets and the ones sent to my email address, I decided to press on for the fourth transaction and book it via PayPal.
The problem being that I hadn’t used PayPal for years and couldn’t remember what my password was. That took a bit of time to resolve, but hey presto! That last set of tickets was bought, paid for and printed off…
With all of the flight, accommodation and almost all of the internal travel sorted out, there was a couple of things left to do – book tickets for our visit to The Alhambra in Granada and sort out transport to Manchester Airport.
Tickets were easily booked and paid for via The Alhambra’s website and that was almost it.
Next up was the booking of rail tickets and we almost came unstuck.
We were travelling on a weekend when there was planned maintenance on the railway line. Although the website showed this, it didn’t tell us the full nature of the replacement bus service operating on our day of travel.
After three attempts at finding out, it was time to jump in the car, head to a mainline station and ask questions. Once answered and the printouts handed over, the tickets were bought and paid for and that was it for two months.
When March came around, all we had to do was get some € notes, check the mid-range weather forecast and go…
There was however one small problem left – neither of us speak Spanish!
- Your camera – digital compact, DLSR, smartphone, tablet or even film!
- Travel towel – to dry self or roll laundry in when washing on the road…
- Wet wipes – to clean up after spare ribs, fixing a bike or on a hot day!
- Body spray – high temperatures and it’s sweaty when you’re in a crowd!
- Bottle of water – handy at any time (sparkling rather than still).
- Trousers with zipped pockets – to keep thieves at bay
- Bags that can be locked or have pull-tight openings – see number 6!
- Copies of passport, travel docs & insurance (and phone numbers).
- Comfortable shoes, sandals or boots suitable for what you’re up to
- Loose change – for purchases in shops that don’t want €20 notes…
It was a long way down from this spot!
One thing that’s surprised me over the last few months is how many people are logging onto forums or asking questions on newspaper websites as to whether they should take travel insurance or not.
To me, it’s a no-brainer. Yes, you should is always my answer as I have pre-existing conditions that have to be declared in the wake of having had a stroke, but I’m also aware that the EHIC card doesn’t cover you for all eventualities or things like repatriation in the event of a biggie occurence.
Yes, specialist cover should be sought for dangerous sports etc, but even if you aren’t going paragliding or doing free-fall, there’s always the possibility that something unexpected might happen.
My stroke happened three days after a medical at a new GP practice and a few months after a nasty infection occurred following a small graze on my left leg (open leg wound for 3 months and an abcess inside open leg wound too).
There’s always the effects of liquor mortis to consider – either down to your consumption or a visiting meathead intent of drinking themselves into oblivion. Or inattentive drivers, unknown allergies or stumbles in the street…
Yes, the insurance premium will add more pounds or whatever to the cost of the trip, but it may be a lot less than the medical bills or those for repatriation to a hospital in say the UK after a crash or medical problem, especially if it’s happened on the other side of the world or in the US of A…
Treat ’em and street ’em may not be possible!
UK or not UK? That is the question…
Plans and bookings have been made for 2017 and there are ideas in the melting pot for others in the UK and Europe.
Airlines, holiday companies and hotel chains are already sending me emails regarding their offers for next year whilst Expedia have just awarded me + Silver status on their rankings, something that goes alongside the Genius status awarded by Booking.com earlier this year.
[I will hasten to add at this point that I personally don’t regard myself as a genius in any way, shape or form – I know what my school results were and that my degree from University Of Sunderland is a Desmond (a 2:2).]
But I digress. I suspect that there will be a few more emails over the coming months giving me more details of what their promotions are.
Yes, I’ve unsubscribed from one accommodation provider’s email list as I was getting so many emails alerting me to deals going on in places I’ve already been to over the last twelve months and to deals in places that I’ve already booked for in early 2017.
I already know what Rohan’s sale items are though as a catalogue arrived via snail mail earlier in the week and this has been backed up by an email a few minutes ago.
Items of interest have been identified and that’s to my advantage as I decided not to take up the offer on a 20% off full price stock voucher for use in the Leeds store a couple of Saturdays ago.
Have the prices gone down? Yes, and by more than 20% – one will have a 30% reduction whist the other has a 50% reduction.
They’re both fleeces, but they will come in useful as a couple of existing fleeces have seen better days.
A couple of t-shirts have also caught my eye too as selected colours in the Element T and Merino Union 200 T ranges are also being given the 30% off treatment come Tuesday 27th…
The above will come in useful as Caroline and I head off to either European destinations or those here in the UK.
We haven’t been up to Scotland for a while now and whilst Caroline has been to both Northern Ireland and Isle of Man, I haven’t – yet!
I’ve not been up to the Borders for a while and it’s a few years since we spent time in the Lake District. Our North Norfolk hideaway has changed management recently, so a few days may be spent in one of the hostel’s en-suite rooms or on one of their campsite pitches.
A return visit to Suffolk could be on the cards, as could London or Brighton and Hastings. My last visit to Brighton was way back in the 1960s and whilst Caroline and King Harold have seen Hastings, I haven’t…
Anything else? Have a good holiday season, wherever you are in the world!
And that pic?* Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, Wales
You don’t always need Heathrow to get to places like this…
The decision has been made to allow a third runway at Heathrow Airport and there’s already conjecture that it might never happen if last night’s TV news reports are anything to go by.
I have flown out of Heathrow on several occasions, but if memory serves me right, the last couple of times were in 1999 and 2000. I was living in the North East at the time and access to Heathrow was usually by taking an overnight coach to the airport.
Fast forward sixteen years and I’m now living in Yorkshire so it’s easy to use either Leeds Bradford or Manchester to access international destinations by either direct flights from Leeds Bradford or Manchester or by flying via Schiphol or even via Heathrow.
Travel forums are already buzzing with comments as to what might happen, Boris Johnson has stated his thoughts on the matter and we’ve already had one MP resign his seat in the House Of Commons in protest at the decision and this is leading to a by-election.
Given that the legal niceties, planning and building processes are going to take year to implement, who knows how long it will be before the runway is actually up and running and whether it is the answer to the questions that have been asked over goodness knows how many years?
In which case I’ll stick to flying from and to airports closer to home here in the Northern Powerhouse!
Sometimes you just have to roll the dice to see this…
One of the ‘joys’ of looking at travel forums on a regular basis is spotting the number of posters who have done their research using guidebooks, Google, Yahoo, Bing or even travelogues to plan, loosely plan or even not plan their break, holiday or journey.
There are some who want fellow forum users to suggest where they should go or even plan out their trip for them.
Others want so much validation for their plans that by the time they’ve made multiple posts on a similar theme that forum members either ignore them or become sarcastic after offering the same advice again and again and again.
Those who haven’t done their research are easy to spot because they’re so vague in their requests for places to go or for someone to do their planning for them that they can’t even be bothered to include basic information such as their budget, their time frame, their interests or passions or whether they have specific dietary needs or accommodation preferences.
And the usual answer to this lot?
Suggestions to buy at least one guidebook for where they’re going – my response is normally to get hold of both a Lonely Planet guidebook AND a Rough Guide book to whatever country or area they’re visiting or to point them in the direction of either the forum’s own search function or the search engines mentioned above.
There isn’t any excuse for such laziness when you’re heading off somewhere. It’s your trip and I take the view that it’s up to you to do due diligence and do your own research into where you’re going.
Do the research and you have a good idea about what to expect.
Don’t do the research or let others point you towards sights, places, areas or countries and there’s a fairly good probability that the brown stuff could hit the fan, leaving you to scream and scream and scream when in fact there’s only one person to blame…
At the other end of the scale are those who plan everything to the nth degree and want so much validation that they become a pain in the butt…
Even when they’ve been told by several posters that the weather may not be in their favour, that their choice of clothing for walking is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, or that they should loosen up, relax and go with the flow rather than ticking off every box on their long list of things to see and do.
Then there’s the lot who want to see as much of an area, country or even Europe in a few days rather than taking time to immerse oneself in one area or just one country as a means of exploring what’s on offer.
To those posters, I’ll invoke memories of a popular 1980’s t-shirt slogan:
“Frankie says RELAX!”
Don’t do it…