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Three legged race…

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Laxey Wheel

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One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…

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Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin

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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!

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Top 10… Travel TV programmes

America Unchained

Dave Gorman and companions buy a car and all go to look for America.

Around The World In Eighty Days

Michael Palin may not have been the first choice to present this, but it works and is still an enjoyable series to watch so many years later.

Coast

Still prefer the original format rather than the new programmes or Coast AustraliaCoast New Zealand due soon apparently.

Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage

Francesco Da Mosto sailing around to visit Croatia, Greece and Turkey.

The Hairy Bikers

Baking, cooking and motorcycles in the UK, Europe and elsewhere too.

Inspector Montalbano

Sicily looking good in the Young/Classic versions of the detective series…

Italy From Top To Toe

Francesco da Mosto leaves Venice behind and drives in search of Italy.

Rick Stein’s Weekend In…

Rick’s an affable host as he hits Lisbon or Cadiz and more before recreating dishes in his kitchen. I usually make a cup of tea when he’s cooking seafood.

Time Team

An unusual choice? Think about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen along the way as they dig up the countryside, islands and city spaces.

World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides

Henry Cole explores the world on a variety of classic motorbikes.

Cumbrian circuit II

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Wheybrigg Hall Hotel

Well, we got to our destination, even though we had a flat tyre to contend with near the end of the journey between Patterdale Youth Hostel and Wheybrigg Hall Hotel.

Was I going to change the tyre when we’d just got there? Was I heck as like!

Coffee, freshening up and fodder were the respective orders of the day once we’d checked in, found our room and flopped for a few minutes.

After a good meal, cider or beer and a shared sweet, we retreated to our room to flop some more and unwound with Yesterday channel’s latest in a re-run of guitar players in action at the studios of the BBC.

Sunday morning came around a bit too soon, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to try a bit of haggis as part of my breakfast platter!

Quick enquiries at the hotel regarding a tyre supplier came to nothing, so it was time to pack, put the bags on the back seat and then try to get the wheel changed.

Which was easier said than done. The wheel nuts wouldn’t even budge as I tried to ease them before putting the jack under the car to raise it up to facilitate changing the wheel.

So it was time to call out the road rescue service. “Someone will be with you in about an hour” was the verdict when I made the call, but a van pulled into the car park just twenty minutes later and did the deed – although the chap that came to do said deed had a fair bit of trouble in getting those darn wheel nuts shifted too…

As expected, there wasn’t a tyre place open in Wigton on a Sunday, so it was time to head over to Workington in search of the local Kwik-Fit.

I hadn’t been to Workington for about 27 years (to Cumbria Rock Festival to be precise), so finding Kwik-Fit was always going to be a case of winging it. Or was it?

Caroline’s phone gizmo came into action once more and Kwik-Fit was found, entered and the problem explained.

The wait was an hour, so we wandered into the town centre in search of coffee and a Sunday paper. Finding a copy of The Observer and a couple of cups of Greggs coffee was easy, but what I didn’t expect to find in Greggs was a guilty pleasure that was last tasted about fifteen years ago when I lived in the North East.

Peach melbas. A cake that has to be tried at least once – fondant icing on the outside, cream on the inside and a piece of peach inside the bottom crust. Naughty, but nice!

Polishing off the coffee in Kwik-Fit’s waiting area happened at the same time as the car was ready, so our stuff was taken off the back seat and packed into the boot in readiness for setting off to do the rest of the planned route.

Which is when it started to rain. And then some. I’d thought about having lunch in St. Bees, but the combination of rain and lack of parking put paid to that idea. We kept on going and tried in vain to find the airfield that was signposted with a brown tourist sign.

No dice there, so we kept on going and headed into Broughton-in-Furness to try our luck there. No dice again there as all of the parking places surrounding the cafe we’d spotted were full.

We kept on going though and then I had an idea. Have a late lunch at Wilf’s Cafe, an old haunt over in Staveley. It took a while to get there, but the big breakfast roll I had at 3pm went down well, as did the big bowl of veggie chilli that Caroline ordered. And the coffee? Probably some of the best coffee we’ve had in a cafe for years!

As I’d done so much driving, an on foot diversion into Wheelbase cycle emporium was always going to be on the cards once we’d decided on heading to Staveley. Caroline took a look at a few mountain bikes and then bought some socks (decidedly cheaper!) whilst I looked at and handed over a copy of Stephen Frear’s film about one Lance Armstrong.

And that was about it as we pointed the car in a homeward direction. Plans on visiting our local farm shop to get something for tea though went out of the window as we hit a five mile or so tailback of stationary traffic near Long PrestonCaroline’s gizmo came in useful once more as it got us around the accident blockage and back home.

The eventual evening meal? A good old Yorkshire favourite – a curry out!

Next week’s posts – some all-time top tens!

North Norfolk II

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Ready to roll – Caroline on a pretty good hire bike

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Just part of the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea

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The tide is low – and then some…

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Wash and go. Or wash and boldly go?

It’s Tuesday on a hot week in June and Caroline and I are heading off in different directions. Although Caroline had taken her cycling kit, she hadn’t brought a bike.

Fortunately we knew that there was bike hire available at Deepdale Backpackers and that the bikes in question were all very much on the new side. After making her choice of steeds and gearing up, we arranged to meet at the beach cafe at Wells-next-the-Sea.

One plus point of having visited Wells so often is that I’ve sussed out where the free car parking is. Yes, it’s a few minutes to get into the centre, but it’s also the difference between giving the local council money or local traders.

Which is what we do when we’re in the area – at Whin Hill Cider, a couple of preferred coffee stops, local fruit & veg shops or bakers or the locally owned mini-market.

After a couple of stops to make small purchases, I made my way down to the harbour and then along the footpath that follows the road down to the beach. The last time I was down here there were some serious television vans down there making a commercial for Lloyds Bank.

Not today though. The car park was filling up and there was a stream of people heading to the beach and in some cases coming back again because of the restrictions placed on walking dogs on that nearby stretch of beach.

It wasn’t long before Caroline appeared, a good move on her part because it wasn’t long after that a cycling club turned up and filled the rest of the bike racks outside the cafe.

This had had a makeover since out last visit and was now apparently being run by the Holkham Estate. Although tidied up, it hadn’t gone all hipster beardie on us and the prices were still quite affordable, hence the numbers sheltering from the sun in the cafe and the greater numbers sitting outside and slapping on SPF 30.

Once lunch was over, we hit the beach. Well I did for a few minutes and Caroline did for a lot longer. I still have problems walking on soft sand following that stroke a few years ago, but I was also conscious that there were a heck of a lot of people around, so the beach wasn’t as quiet as the ones I’d been walking on in Northumberland a few weeks beforehand.

Ice cream was the order of the day when Caroline returned and we were both rather intrigued by the Wash ‘n’ Wag device pictured above.

Wet and sandy dogs go in, very wet and clean dogs come out, much to amusement of those gathered around, especially when the dogs came out and start the usual rigmarole associated with shaking themselves dry.

With Caroline heading back to Deepdale on the bike, I was put in charge of finding food for the evening meal. Well two evening meals actually as I ended up buying stuff for both  Tuesday and Wednesday night’s cooking sessions.

When it came to Wednesday, Caroline was back on the hire bike, heading this time in the direction of Holkham Hall. As I’d had a sleepless night because of the heat (despite the fan in the room being on all night), I drove down, bought some coffee and started to read a couple of short books on the iPad’s Kindle app.

Not only does the cafe do good coffee, they also do a very good sausage baguette. Coffee and one of those came and went for lunch whilst Caroline chose something with a rather more healthy attitude to go with her coffee.

Once done, we made arrangements to meet up for coffee and cake at the cafe near Creake Abbey. This has also had a makeover, but the coffee and cake were first class and not out of the way expensive either.

With time running out on the bike hire, it was time to head back to Deepdale. Whilst there were thoughts of staying on another night, we decided not to.

Which was a good move as we awoke to find that it was throwing it down. A brief respite gave us the chance to make a dash to Deepdale Cafe for breakfast and then head back to pack our bags and head for home.

We’d enjoyed the break and the changes at Deepdale will ensure that we’ll return for more of the same… And to take photos of the revamp!

http://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk

Next up  – Two days, hostel and hotel, a new tyre and lots of rain!

Ryanair make changes

The BBC have just posted this news item on their website concerning Ryanair making changes to their hand luggage and hold luggage policies.

Should be interesting to see how this pans out when implemented in the not-too-distant future.

That link…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41171871

Spainpacking on Rohantime!

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Down the avenues and alleyways in Cordoba..

As you may have gathered, Caroline and I have bought a few bits and pieces from Rohan over the years and regularly use their clothing along with items from other brands when we’re off travelling or even when we’re just mooching around Yorkshire.

My recent Spainpacking post from wisepacking has been posted on Rohantime this morning along with a trio of photos that you may recognise…

Thanks again Sarah!

The links to Rohantime and Rohan’s sites…

http://rohantime.com/74812/spainpacking%E2%80%A8-so-how-did-we-stick-to-around-7-5kg-each-in-the-hand-luggage/

rohan.co.uk

Northumberland

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Alnmouth

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Tractor on a very sunny day

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Druridge Bay

Northumberland is a place that Caroline and I keep returning to.

We’ve spent weeks up there before and made fleeting unsuccessful visits to try and see those pesky Northern Lights too.

This time was a little different though as we were staying about a mile away from each other – Caroline in a caravan with her son, daughter, son-in-law and her two grandsons while I was occupying a bunk in Calico Barn, an independent hostel a smidgen nearer the Northumberland coast.

The original plan was for Caroline to head up there on her own to spend time with her family whilst I stayed home to sort out some bits and pieces. That plan was soon ditched when Caroline tried to book herself and her bike onto the trains needed to get her there and back again.

Booking the tickets for herself was easy, but for the bike? Er, no…

A phone call was made to the railway company to find out what the actual procedure was. Despite Caroline specifying a very Yorkshire point of departure, the chap on the other end of the line insisted that she had to get the train from there and then change at Vauxhall Bridge station.

When she pointed out that she was departing from Yorkshire and that Vauxhall Bridge is in London, the guy didn’t budge, so she thanked him politely, put the phone down, saw my face and we both burst into fits of laughter at the same time.

Which is why I was in Northumberland. Plan B was for me to take Caroline up to Cresswell, head back home and then go back for her.

We then went for Plan C – I would take her up there, find somewhere to stay, do the stuff I needed to do and then pick her up and head home…

Our paths did cross a couple of times during the week. I spent most mornings doing what I had to do in the way of paperwork and research using books and iPad and then headed off with my camera to explore and take some shots along the way.

The first foray out saw me trying to get into and park up in Amble – no chance as it was half term with fine weather and the car parks were full.

So I headed up to Alnmouth instead. Now I’ve been heading going up to Alnmouth for over forty years and know my way around the place well. Or so I thought, because someone, somewhere has decided to implement a one way system around the village.

With no parking there either, I headed off in the direction of Seahouses and Bamburgh. As I was about to head towards North Sunderland, I spotted familiar figures on bikes heading in a different direction.

Caroline and Luke were also heading to Seahouses to meet up with the other family members who were using Mazda power rather than bikes. After a quick chat, Caroline and Luke headed off one way and me in another.

Seahouses was packed, so I wasn’t even going to try and find a parking space. Bamburgh beckoned and as I headed up to where I thought I could get parked, Caroline and Luke came down the road I was heading up…

Parking turned out to be dead easy as it was on the road near the hotel Caroline and I had used on our last visit to the village. And it was free too, handy as it was lunchtime and I was getting hungry.

Pub and hotel food in Bamburgh is rather good, but that wasn’t the food I was looking for. A couple of Scotch pies hit the spot, as did an unexpected find – pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) – and good ones too!

With most of the village taken up by fellow day trippers, there was a place to go in one of the quieter parts of Bambugh. The Grace Darling Museum, which has a very good RNLI shop on the ground floor level.

The RNLI’s 2018 diary wasn’t available as it was still May, but five bags of the RNLI fudge did leap off the display and were duly purchased. It’s good stuff, but it gets rationed now to having a few pieces at a time rather than downing a whole bag in one go (been there, done that!).

Once back in the car, there was more food shopping to be done, but of the supermarket kind as I needed to get some milk, bread, butter and something to go with rice for an evening meal.

Alnwick beckoned…