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!
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!
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!
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…
So, day two in Aylesbury and breakfast time at Holiday Inn.
Which was okay, apart from the fact that we weren’t offered coffee tops ups as we were expected to find the unmarked filling station and the couple of vacuum jugs on a tray.
Caroline headed off whilst I tried to find out what was up with the car as a light had made it’s presence known on the dashboard, had gone off and then illuminated itself once more when I headed off on Friday night.
I didn’t sort it, but it was fixed later in the day by someone who did know what they were doing and had the gizmo to rectify the problem…
So after that and more coffee, I headed out for a bus that would take me into Aylesbury town centre. I missed one, but caught the next and was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the return bus fare was.
I’d only visited Aylesbury once before, to attend a show at Aylesbury Civic Centre by former Marillion singer Fish. It was an interesting way to spend Independence Day 1990, but another good night out was had by all, despite getting a bit flummoxed by Fish’s announcement that he was going to sing a song inspired by Aylesbury’s Market Square.
I wasn’t the only one expecting him to sing fan favourite Market Square Heroes, but that wasn’t the song he was looking for. The song that was sung was one by David Bowie – Five Years – a version of which eventually appeared on Fish’s Songs From The Mirror covers album.
But I digress. Wandering aimlessly around Aylesbury without a plan seemed like a good idea and that’s what happened. It didn’t take too long either as retail’s usual suspects were all present and correct and didn’t need exploring.
A couple of magazines and a paper were bought for research purposes at WH Smith and that was almost about it as far as non-food purchases went. Lunch came courtesy of Greggs, but the prospect of a lunchtime pint on a sunny day wasn’t going to be passed up, especially as I wasn’t planning on driving for a few hours.
And that was about it for Aylesbury. Three hours including lunch and beer stops. The bus station was nearby and there was a bus in, so it was back to Holiday Inn to read the paper and magazines and to do some internet surfing on the iPad.
Once Caroline arrived back, we headed off to The Five Bells for an evening meal before having drinks at the hotel and calling it a night.
Breakfast came and went on Sunday morning, but yours truly was starting to feel rather rough. No, it wasn’t down to the affluence of incohol, but a gum pain of the throbbing kind – three or four days after a dental check-up.
We hadn’t any paracetemol in the car or our respective bags, but we managed to acquire some in the hotel, so I took these and then applied a liberal coating of Bonjela over the gum area.
With Caroline heading off once more, I stayed put for the day, took more painkillers, used more Bonjela and managed to get to solve the problem a few hours latter by applying some pressure on the gum which popped the offending item, got rid of the goo and brought almost instant relief.
By breakfast the following morning, everything was almost back to normal. The emergency we’d travelled down about was over, I was feeling a lot better and we had to vacate our room anyway.
So it was time to go home, but not without a small side trip – to the wilds of Milton Keynes.
Why Milton Keynes? There’s a Rohan shop there with a clearance department. It took a little bit of finding, but find it we did with a little help from an app on Caroline’s phone.
Some delving around saw us leave the shop with a bag of clothing – a jacket and a dress for Caroline and a couple of pairs of socks for me. Next stop was the nearby Shell filling station for petrol before we aimed the car in the direction of the motorway and home.
So, what did we learn from this?
Keep some paracetemol in the car for potential use, remember to pack the couple of travel coffee presses we have plus some decent ground coffee and some biscuits (the Holiday Inn coffee in the room wasn’t wonderful and guess what? No biscuits either!).
And that there are times when you have to forget about planning stuff and just go with the flow…. and have the phone number handy for the local curry house so you can order a meal to be delivered when you do get back home!
Next week – Northumberland!
Our weekend in Aylesbury wasn’t planned – the phone rang at 8am and we were on the road just after 10.30am.
We’d got up, had breakfast, found a hotel for three nights on booking.com, got the route cards off the AA’s Classic Route Planner, packed, filled the petrol tank and hit the road.
Yes, it was a last minute thing, but when emergencies come along, you just have to do it, no matter what was already planned.
We’d booked into a Holiday Inn, so there were some things we didn’t take (big bottles of shower gel, towels, coffee press, ground coffee etc), but clothes were packed along with wash kits, footwear and Kindles/iPads with the Kindle app and that was about it.
Although it was a Friday morning, the motorways weren’t busy and neither were those roads leading to the hotel. A stop at a motorway services saw lunch bought and demolished thanks to M&S and we were on our way again.
The Holiday Inn at Aylesbury is an out of towner, but easily found. Check in wasn’t problematical and we found our room in a quiet part of the hotel.
Caroline did freshen up before organising a taxi to where she was off too. I crashed out for a while, did some reading and then thought that it could be a good idea to find some food.
Although we had a B&B deal at Holiday Inn, the dining prices put me off, so I got in the car and headed into the town centre. I found Tesco, but their cafe had closed, so a pack of sparkling water was bought and I moved on.
Yes, I did get fed up with driving around, but after drawing a blank, I started looking for the nearest takeaway. One was spotted, but there was no parking place outside, so I ended up driving on and found an inn further up the road.
The name sounded familiar and it didn’t take long to realised why. It was one of the places that I’d spotted and discounted on booking,com as it was too far out of Aylesbury.
The decor was also rather familiar, but the reason for that was because it was part of the same small chain as the pub Caroline and I frequent which does good food and is a short walk away from wisepacking towers…
No drinks for me as I was driving, but water went well with the pretty good pizza that made its way to the table at The Five Bells in Weston Turville. I decided against a dessert, but made a mental note to head back there on Saturday night.
With Caroline and I getting back to the hotel within a few minutes of each other, we had a catch up session and decided to have an early night, a wise move considering the day we’d had…
The Alcazar of Seville
The Alcazar of Seville was one of those places that sprang out from the pages of the guidebooks as we planned this particular road trip.
We’d put off visiting for a couple of days, largely because every time we passed the entrance, there were queues.
As Friday was our last full day in Seville, we couldn’t put off visiting any longer, so it was up early, shower, dress and head for breakfast before joining the queue to get in.
When we reached the front, we realised why there was a queue to get into this World Heritage Site – airport style security with both walk-through body scanners and x-ray machines to examine the contents of day bags, hand bags and camera pouches.
There’s plenty of buildings to wander around, but there are also some impressive gardens to walk around. I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but even I was impressed but the way in which the gardens were planted, laid out and kept spick and span as people entered and gradually dispersed themselves around the numerous arrays of plants, lawns, ornaments and fountains.
Words can’t really do justice to what we saw during our time in the Alcazar (Lonely Planet’s Andalusia guide devotes almost two pages to describing the complex), so here’s a few pictures selected at random from those taken as we wandered around…
After a few hours in the Alcazar, it was time for refreshment and a chance to rest our feet. The cafe was rather busy and customers were being treated to grand displays of feathers from an obliging local peacock. Who stopped when I got my camera ready….
If you are every in Seville, you really must bite the bullet and join that queue at the Alcazar. Words can’t really describe it as there is so much to take in as you wander around the buildings and the grounds.
Although the complex is right in the centre of Seville and is bordered by main roads, it’s very peaceful and the only audible intrusions came from the sounds of sirens on a couple of emergency service vehicles as they headed off to do their stuff.
Yes, there were quite a few people visiting the Alcazar on the day of our visit, but once we’d left the buildings and the start of the garden area behind, we had sections of the gardens to ourselves and weren’t being bothered by selfie stick toting phone owners.
We’ve already said that we are going to go back to Seville for another visit and that will be including return visits to the Alcazar because this was one enjoyable way of spending a day just wandering around on our own and exploring the site without a guide or a guidebook.
And without a tour guide marching us around in record breaking time in order to get the party back on the bus to get to the next stop along the way!
Next up – Cordoba!
If it’s Thursday, then it’s time to get thee to a flamenco club.
Now we’d seen what the admission charges were for some of the flamenco shows, but we’d heard about a club in one of the back streets when reading a Kindle book on Seville (Seville for Free 2016 by Lynne Knightly) before we headed off.
The same club – La Carboneria – was also recommended to us by the owner of the pension we were staying in as being one of the best places to go – and he was right.
My earlier confusion in trying to find the club was understandable as we’d found out after seeing that notice near the original entrance on Calle Levies which pointed in the direction of the new entrance a few hundred metres away on Cespedes.
As we’d taken our time over the tapas, we arrived at La Carboneria around 9.30pm and wandered in.
The club was already busy, and there weren’t any seats to be had. So beer beckoned and a couple of camas of Alhambra ordered in my best Spanish (I was getting the hang of it, honest!).
At €2 per glass, it wasn’t going to break the bank, but one guy standing next to me came rather unstuck when he came to pay as he presented a card to pay for his drinks. The problem he faced? No cards, so he was given directions to the nearest ATM…
There was a sense of deja vu as I looked around La Carboneria as it brought back memories of heading out to clubs to see bands in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Unlike Riverside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, La Carboneria wasn’t a standing venue as there were long tables and benches on the lower and upper levels of the club.
The audience was a good mix though – old, young and of different ethnic backgrounds too (very reminiscent of those attending gigs at the Harambe Africa festival). You could spot the tour parties though – students with one eye on their friends and the other on the screens of their respective mobile phones.
The music started around 10pm though. Guitars first and then the essential combination of guitars and dancer.
Whilst there were two musicians, there was only one dancer, but was there passion in the dancing? Oh yes…
From where we were standing, we could only see the hand movements and the facial expressions, but there was so much intensity in those movements and expressions that seeing the feet moving wasn’t necessary.
As the intensity rose, the dancer’s hair started to move too and it wasn’t long before hair was falling into the dancer’s face.
Fortunately that happened on the last song/dance of that particular set. That passion contented as the night wore on in the other two sets we witnessed from the same players and dancer.
As the night wore on though, we became conscious that we’d been up for a long time and that as good as the night was, we really did need some sleep, especially as we had a long, good Friday planned.
It was to be our last full day in Seville and there was a lot to do, especially as we had planned on an early start to get in the queue to take a look around Seville’s Alcazar.
More on Monday!
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…