Archive | Travel RSS for this section

Cotswold bound

Small and frugal – Skoda Citigo Monte Carlo

When the UK lockdown ended in April, it was all hands on deck to take advantage of some freedom to do things.

First up was my first haircut in six months – my hair was never that long in the days when I was managing bands and reviewing three to four gigs a week in the early 1990s! There was also Caroline’s birthday to take into account and then the packing for three nights in a Cotswolds cottage.

Sunset at Hook Hill Farm

As we were going to be using the car to get to, from and around the area, the Skoda was tanked up before we left, but once packed with our bags, space was also left to accommodate the food we would be buying as sustenance over the time we were self catering in the farm cottage at Hook Hill Farm near Royal Wooton Bassett.

Packing for the trip was easy as we’d looked at the weather forecast and packed accordingly. We had a bag each and also a waterproof, hooded soft shell and a fleece as just in case items.

My own bag contained a couple of fleece crew necks, two tees with a silver content, two pairs of trousers with loads of pockets to take care of my phone, digital compact camera, wallet, change, keys and reading glasses.

All of my stuff mentioned above was by Rohan, but a pair of shorts by The North Face and a couple of Uber Moose cotton tees were also packed as lounging around items. Undies were from M&S and Rohan whilst socks came via M&S & Bamboo Clothing. And footwear? Merrell Jungle Mocs and a pair of the same brand’s sports boots.

Wash kit was in the usual see through bag that I use for most trips with a Gillette razor, Via Sonic battery toothbrush, shaving foam, after shave balm and cinnamon flavour toothpaste in a handy size that was picked up at Yorkshire Soap Company.

The contents of Caroline’s bag were roughly the same with Rohan long sleeved tops, jeans, tech trousers, her padded gilet and Bamboo Clothing vest tops & loose fitting pants that she could longe around in or do yoga sessions. Her footwear items were by Ecco and Merrell.

Burford

With a cottage and a well equipped kitchen at our disposal, our food and drink choices were simple, largely because we were on holiday and didn’t relish the thought of spending hours prepping and cooking meals.

So we kept it simple by visiting a Tesco shop on the outskirts of Swindon.

A dine in for £10 deal took care of the first night whilst a ready meal variation on a pub meal theme ensured that the two of us could each eat when we wanted to rather than make compromises.

As some of the other ready meals were on a two for £6 deal, they ensured that we could eat what we wanted to without breaking the budget, especially as the food bill ended up being a lot lower than three nights of bar meals.

With food choices made, drinks choices were easy – three beers for me, three bottles of cider for Caroline and a pack of Pepsi Max Cherry all ended up in the cottage fridge along with milk & a few bottles of sparkling water.

Breakfast choices were easy – granola for Caroline and bacon or sausage butties for me, along with a bit of toast too.

Coffee was our usual choice of Taylor’s Italian blend and a bit of milk and whilst we had a brace of Alladin flask style mugs with us, these weren’t used as we decided to keep caffeine levels down and stick with sparkling water.

A taste of things to come…

Did we make good choices? Everything worked both packing and food wise.

The tech choices also worked well – my items all did their stuff in keeping me in touch with the world and getting some camera practice in and my iPad’s Kindle software also behaved itself!

And Caroline’s Android phone and tablet? Again, no problems.

How did the trip go – the answer to that starts soon!

Taking off

Catalina – a seaplane on the ground

Leaving Bury St. Edmunds behind wasn’t hard – we’d been there three nights and it was time to move on.

Our next destination was The Red Lion in Duxford in readiness for a day at IWM Duxford Air Museum.

We’d chosen The Red Lion over the nearby Holiday Inn Express as the thought of staying at a coaching inn appealed, especially as we were due to stay at a Holiday Inn Express whilst in Cambridge later in the week.

What we didn’t realise that the two Duxford hotels were so close to each other and were linked. The car was parked outside the Holiday Inn Express and that’s where we had to check into for The Red Lion.

Given the previous three days, the remains of the day were spent relaxing, reading, snoozing before our evening meal and then a brief indulgence courtesy of watching a fully functioning television to catch up on news and the weather prospects for later in the week.

Breakfast was taken in the Holiday Inn Express the following morning – porridge and coffee for Caroline and a bacon roll and coffee for me. We’d already indulged in coffee in our room though as we had a bag of decent coffee with us to use in conjunction with the stainless steel cafetières that are usually packed on our UK ventures.

Yes, we have tried coffee bags to make brews, but the cafetières definitely make a better brew as a wake up call.

With tickets already booked and a guidebook paid for in advance, all we needed to do at IWM Duxford was to mask up, use the hand gel and show the hard copies of the booking confirmations.

The visit had been on the cards for a while as we’d missed it out for various reasons when we’d made a couple of visits to nearby Suffolk.

Whilst there’s numerous famous warplanes around Duxford, the must sees in AirSpace were the Lancaster and the TSR2. Thousands were made of the former, but only two flying examples exist at the moment – one with The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby in Lincolnshire and the other over in Canada. There are plans for a third to fly once more, but as far as I’m aware, that is still a work in progress…

The TRS2 is a different animal though. Only two exist after the project was cancelled in the 1960s – the other is at RAF Cosford (pictured below), but other examples were placed as targets on RAF firing ranges.

TSR2 – at RAF Cosford

The other aircraft of interest in AirSpace were civilian ones – Concorde and the De Haviland Comet airliners, both planes that I’ve always admired and ones that are among those that I’d wished I’d had the chance to fly in.

Spitfires were starting up and taking to the skies as we investigated other hangers, but the aircraft I really wanted to see where in the line-up of commercial aircraft that are kept outside further down this working airfield.

Bristol Britannia in Monarch livery

The likes of the BAC 1-11, Bristol Britannia, Trident, Vickers VC10 and Vickers Viscount all played their part as the popularity of air travel increased. I have flown in a BAC 1-11 on a few occasions, but the last time was the memorable one – a Dan Air (aka Dan Dare – allegedly) – from Bergen to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We’d arrived at the airport early, checked in and then waited for the flight to be called. A member of the check in crew found us as we waited to head into the departure lounge to tell us that the plane had been delayed due to a fault and a replacement aircraft was being sent out.

The plane touched down, people disembarked and then we boarded and the engines fired up for the flight home.

We commented on how quick the replacement aircraft arrived and got the reply “It’s not a replacement – they fixed the fault at Newcastle”.

Such reassurance wasn’t the first thing in our mind when the plane hit turbulence halfway across the North Sea…

We did get to Newcastle, but one thing was for certain – we never flew on a Dan Air BAC 1-11 again – the HS 148 was much, much better on the other trips we made to Bergen using Dan Air!!

Trident in BEA livery
Vickers VC10 in BOAC livery

Last up after this visit to the airline memory area was to the American Air Museum. I thought that this was going to be more interesting than I thought, but I suspect that that is down to being more interested in UK aircraft.

The only personal standouts were the SR-71 Blackbird, the F1-11 and B52 bomber. Some of that was down to the layout of the display area and personal thoughts regarding how space could be created as a means of getting a better look at the planes themselves by moving the static display section to another part of the museum.

After the amount of wandering around we’d done, food beckoned and ended up being a sandwich deal and this was followed by some serious shopping as Caroline needed to sort out pressies for her grandsons and her son-in-law’s imminent birthday date. And me? A new watch at a not unreasonable £40 and a Spitfire themed face mask.

Once back at The Red Lion, a decision had to be made. We were due to move on to Cambridge the following morning, but we’d seen the weather forecast for the next couple of days and it did not look good…

Although we’d booked tickets to visit King’s College Chapel the following day, we had a message to say that it was going to be be closed on the day of our proposed visit and that a refund was being processed. So cancellation it was and the Cambridge leg of the trip was postponed until we head back down to the area at some point.

Hotel hobbies…

A better class of buskers…

So, where were we?

Oh, yes, Bury St. Edmunds, but there was a slight problem.

The hotel (which shall remain nameless) didn’t have any bookings in our name and I had to fight our corner as a means to get around the problem as the hotel was denying that they’d had a booking from booking.com.

It’s a good job then that I had ample evidence in my hand to say that I had a booking as I’d not only got the original emails from booking.com on my phone, but had hard copies too to back up our case.

After a while, a room was found and the hotel agreed to honour the prices stated on the paperwork.

Our room was in the annex are – sizeable enough with everything we needed for our stay, apart from china cups to drink tea or coffee from – only disposable ones were available, but these lasted just two brews, so necessity was the mother of invention when it came to coffee time…

As it was getting late, we opted to eat in the hotel rather than walk into town on a rainy night in search of eats.

We ended up ordering food and drink, but then realised we were placed between two sets of loud diners who were intent on ensuring that every one in the room knew what there thoughts were – especially about wearing masks indoors when they weren’t sitting at their table eating or drinking.

Breakfast was much better the following morning as we followed the rules regarding getting our breakfast choices.

Once fed, it was time to walk into the centre of Bury St. Edmunds to do some exploring. It was drizzling and overcast as we wandered in, but we managed to get a couple of free coffees from Greggs as I had two full coffee cards in my wallet from the time before lockdown one, so it seemed like a good idea to use them and warm up.

As it was so cool, keeping ourselves drier by indulging in some retail therapy seemed like a good idea and whilst Caroline tried a couple of dresses on in one shop, the only purchases came from WH Smiths and Body Shop.

With lunch at Bill’s taking care of food and drink out for the day, more fodder came along from the food section at Marks & Spencer. As we’d spent more than anticipated at Bill’s, we were quite happy to hit M&S as they were doing the daily round of food markdowns, so our respective evening meals were easily sorted, as was a supply of beer and cider to wash it down with.

With the TV set at the hotel playing up, I ploughed through the magazines I’d bought earlier whilst Caroline fired up her Kindle to do some reading

One better day…

Fortunately Monday morning was looking good, so we wandered back into the centre and whilst Caroline hit the museums and Cathedral, I took the opportunity to get a few shots on the camera before going for a coffee.

What we had noticed as we’d been away was the different approaches used to stick to track and trace requirements – some were being rather pedantic about scanning QR codes whilst others were more laid-back and simply took our names and telephone numbers as a means of recording our presence in their establishments.

The visit to B-S-E was an odd mix between the two methodologies with some places getting narked at the fact we’d never ever done any QR code scanning for anything whilst others just asked for our details or handed us a clipboard to do the deed ourselves.

After lunch at the Cathedral cafe, Caroline went off for another wander whilst I took a seat to do some reading and take some more photos.

Abbey Gardens
And a cheeky squirrel

After meeting back up again, we took a wander down to the area around Greene King Brewery.

It wasn’t open to visitors, but a nearby pub was, so liquid refreshment was ordered and quaffed – slowly but surely.

As it was getting on by now, it was time to hit M&S again for food bargains and non-alcoholic drinks before heading back to the hotel to sort out the washing we’d done the night before and then pack the bags once more in readiness for our move towards our next destination – The Red Lion Hotel in Duxford – and our visit to IWM Duxford Air Museum.

Back east…

Woodbridge…

Yes, it’s back into the breech after job searches, my first ever video interview and more job searches after the ‘No’ came through the following morning.

There’s also been a bit of taking things easy too plus the planning & taking of a city break along with research for a three destination Autumn break.

But now it’s time to rewind and head back in an easterly direction…

After a restful stay at Hotel Katherine in Lowestoft (01502 567858) it was time to move on to Bury St. Edmunds.

Now the initial thought was to go to Woodbridge, do some shopping and have lunch before aiming for Orford.

Then we saw the afternoon’s weather forecast and changed our minds…

So we just hit Woodbridge. Shopping was on the agenda as we had £10 Rohan gift cards to use up and as tech t-shirts never come in wrong, that was my choice of the day…

Woodbridge II – the lunch cafe was further up this street…

As it was approaching lunchtime, a place to eat was sought and after much mooching around, we ended up at a small traditional cafe that was rather busy, but fortunately had a table available for the two of us to have food and a couple of drinks each – one hot, the other not…

Closed doors at The Angel…
More shopping opportunities

Once fed, it was time to do some more mooching around before heading back to the car and pointing it in the direction of Bury St. Edmunds and our hotel for the next few nights.

It took a little while to find the place and Caroline stayed in the car whilst I went in to do the check in deed.

A small, but infuriating detail cropped up when I entered the hotel’s reception are and tried to check in.

Although I’d book the room a few weeks before via booking.com, the hotel had no trace of my booking…

More on Wednesday!

After the rain

Sun over Southwold

After leaving North Norfollk, Deepdale Backpackers and Sea Palling behind, we headed towards Lowestoft.

Where it rained – a little at first that ensured we wore jackets for the walk to the pub on our first night there, but then the heavens opened overnight, a move that meant that we went nowhere during the first day in the town and ended up reading books on our respective tablets and having tea, coffee and snacks in our room and the lounge of Hotel Katherine.

After another walk to the pub for our evening meal, we checked out the forecast for the next day – no rain, so we ventured to Southwold, a town we’ve visited a few times and a one which provides good photo opportunities.

Southwold’s inland lighthouse

There’s quite a bit to see and do in Southwold, but I won’t spoil it as deserves to be visited and explored in order to get a feel for the place and what’s on offer. Yes, we couldn’t get served in one of the pubs, but that was down to the Covid restrictions at the time and how busy the pub’s outdoor seating was on a nice sunny day.

There’s plenty of places to shop that will appeal to the hipster, but also places that are more down to earth. We make a habit of visiting RNLI shops when we see them as it’s a charity worth supporting and one that doesn’t generally go for high prices for diaries, calendars, t-shirts and bags of fudge.

Further east…

Sea Palling…

When we were planning this trip, we had two options to get from Burnham Deepdale to our next stop Lowestoft.

One was cross country and the other was to follow the coastline as much as possible, so that was the choice.

Why did we pick Sea Palling as a stopping off point for lunch/leg stretch?

Largely because I’d seen a newspaper article extolling the virtues of the area, so Sea Palling was entered into the route planner as a stopping off point rather than Cromer, a place that we’d been to on several occasions.

Lunch was a pure and simple affair for us at the cafe pictured above after which we headed up to the Lifeboat station and onto the beach.

It was a grey day, so fleeces/soft shells were more suitable than t-shirts.

As I’m not much good walking on soft sand, Caroline went off for a longer walk on the beach whilst I stuck to more supportive areas to take photos.

Although a tractor was working on the beach, it hadn’t removed the dead seal pup that was lying on the sand – I did warn one or two people about this, but that was largely because the adults had small children in tow (an image of said seal is on this post, but one from a distance rather than a close-up).

Would we go back to Sea Palling? I’m not sure as there’s more places on the Norfolk coastline that we haven’t explored as yet along with a few around the Norfolk Broads – time will tell!

Another grey day..

More on Wednesday!

Still looking east

As seen on Michael Portillo’s railway programme last week!

Today’s post is a quick one, as there’s things to do and people to talk to…

After leaving Normous Newark behind, we headed to our usual bolt-hole in North Norfolk, Deepdale Backpackers at Burnham Deepdale. We’d booked an ensuite room, but the communal areas – kitchen, lounge – were closed due to Covid restrictions, so we were eating outside at meal times.

We’d booked a rail trip on The Poppy Line between Holt and Sheringham for our first day down there and whilst I would normally post pics about that day on here, guess who forgot to take both cameras with him! D’oh!!!

I didn’t forget them on our second day out though – a short ride on the Wells & Walsingham narrow gauge route followed by an afternoon in Wells and on and around the beach…

Back on Monday!

Look East…

Normous Newark, but no Cole or Lovegrove
Wells & Walshingham Railway
A grey day at Sea Palling
Southwold Pier
Sixties travel classic at IWM Duxford

The above pics are a taster for what’s to come over the next couple of weeks

We spent time exploring the east of England last year heading off towards North Norfolk, Lowestoft, Southwold, Woodbridge and IWM Duxford.

It would have been a full two weeks, but the forecast for the last days was not good, especially as we were supposed to be exploring Cambridge on foot. Thankfully we’d booked a chain hotel on booking.com, so I hit the cancel button on the iPad and cancelled the two night stay.

We will head back there, it’s just a case of when…

Carpacking…

Small, but perfectly formed…

When our car was written off by a supermarket delivery van in April last year, the choice of replacement vehicle came down to a shortlist of two – the Kia Picanto and the Skoda Citigo.

The dealer selling the Picanto screwed up big time when I was trying to see it when the first UK lockdown finished and the car showrooms reopened for viewing, so I got the bus down to the local Skoda dealer and took a look at the Citigo Monte Carlo that I’d seen online.

To say that I’d done some research would be an understatement. Not only had I looked at reviews for the Monte Carlo version and the standard model, I’d also looked at reviews of the VW Up! and the Seat Mii as well.

It’s the first time I’ve bought a car without taking it out on a test drive, but with with sound understandings in place, the car was bought, insured and taxed before driving it off the forecourt and heading back home the long way round.

The Citigo may be small, but it goes well thanks to the gutsy engine and aerodynamics and has been known to see off a few white vans at traffic lights since June last year.

The one thing we were worried about at first was the size of the boot/trunk. We knew that we couldn’t get a road bike in, but we could get the folding Dahon in and our bags if the back seats were down.

Osprey Farpoint 40 – 2013 model still doesn’t disappoint!

What we did find however was that it swallowed both of our Osprey packs, a bag of shopping and the usual gubbins that are kept in the car most of the time – foot pump, tyre repair aerosol, window wash/water bottle, hand gel, baby wipes/paper towel (both handy when checking the engine oil) and cleaning stuff for the interior surfaces.

Now this wasn’t to cope with two or three days away, this was also good for the two weeks we spent in East Anglia in late September last year. Yes, the camera bag was placed on the back seat when we were travelling, but it was handy for when I needed to use my DSLR at planned or unplanned stops.

With good mpg (@50+), low insurance costs and Vehicle Excise Duty of £20 a year at June 2020 rates, the Citigo is a good low, cost pre-owned option (new ones are now electric only whereas ours is petrol only).

That visit to East Anglia confirmed the decision to buy was a wise one!

Southwold lighthouse…

Next up, Packing days are here again, then East Anglia, here we come!

Familiar territory

A nice & sunny day in the Lakes

If it’s Saturday, then it’s our last full day in the Lakes and it’s a walking one.

The route was very familiar as I’ve been using it for years, but we chose to walk under half of the usual distance and take it at a leisurely pace too.

The full route is from Ambleside to Rydal Hall then to Grasmere via the Coffin Path. After that It’s out on the road for a while before heading upwards over Red Bank before hitting the village of Elterwater.

From there it’s onward to Elter Water, Skelwith Bridge and skirt Tarn Foot Farm before going up over the back part of Loughrigg and then dropping back into Ambleside via Rothay Park.

The full route is around thirteen miles and it’s the one I used often back in my days as a gear tester as it’s a) familiar and b) has just about every surface you’re likely to encounter if you’re assessing & reviewing new boots.

Our choice, and we chose to accept it, was to wander through Ambleside, walk towards Rydal Hall, have some coffee and cake then head upwards towards Rydal Mount (former home to the Wordsworths) and then along the Coffin Path to How Top before taking the road down to Dove Cottage (the other home of the Wordworths) before walking into Grasmere itself.

The way through to Rydal Hall was the quietest I’d seen it for years and the campsite I’ve used on many occasions was quiet.

At Rydal Hall (both pics)

After taking some shots of the waterfalls, coffee and cake was ordered and paid for by card for a change as there was a no cash policy in operation. 

Then it was up to Rydal Mount and time to hit the more rugged part of the track leading to Grasmere. This was also quiet and surprisingly so considering how many people had been wandering around Ambleside on Friday and first thing on this Saturday morning. 

Dove Cottage was reached in no time, but there was no chance of heading inside as it was closed to the general public at that time. 

We did get the chance to pay homage to the Wordsworths, because one place was open as a means of paying respects…

Lunch beckoned, but it wasn’t to be at the first place we sat down in. We were shown to a table, given a couple of menus and that was it. Staff came and went with food or taking orders at other tables, but not ours, so we legged it in search of another café.

And found one – Heidi’s (heidisgrasmere.co.uk). It’s a café and there’s rooms available too, but we were there for lunch and yes, it was warm enough to sit outside to eat.

Once fed, we took a look inside Sam Read Booksellers (samreadbooks.co.uk) and came away with a couple of paperbacks that I’d taken a shine to. Caroline and I had the place to ourselves as only two mask wearers at a time were being allowed in to browse and buy. 

We also took a look inside a couple of art gallery shops too, but didn’t buy anything as we are running out of wall space at home due to the calendars, photos from previous travel trips and the pieces of art work that Caroline has made over the years.

Another coffee beckoned, as did a soft drink, but the soft drink may well have been one of the worst I’ve ever tasted so it was time for another double espresso to take the taste away!

We did take the easy way back to Ambleside – by bus, so we got back, had time to wash & brush up before heading out for our evening meal.

Which was at The Priest Hole once more – they were as good as their word and rang me after a table came up, so it was back there for another evening of good, unpretentious food and a bottle or two of fine local ales.

The Priest Hole – one more time!

The next stop was back to Wanslea to prep for the next day, which turned out to be a quiet one. The museum we drove to turned out to be advance bookings only, so we ended up going to Booth supermarket in Kirkby Lonsdale for sandwiches, soft drinks and the chance to stock up on some unfamiliar ales and cider for home consumption.

Then it was time to head home, sort the washing out and use the phone to order a couple of curries for delivery as we didn’t feel like heading out again. 

A good few days? Oh yes…