Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Jet lag

June 21, 2009

Wednesday morning continued very pleasantly, with a trip to the  beach cafe at The Knoll for a ginger beer (this is Enid Blyton country after all) and a Dandelion and Burdock fizzy drink, and then along to the South Beach for a coffee. On the way back to the hotel we went to the local church, which is Norman, but with parts of it going back even further. Lovely old place, and discovered a link between Whitby (NZ) and Studland! Joseph Banks the botanist on Cook’s voyages, was a member of the Bankes family that owned much of Dorset. There is a street in Whitby named for him.

Back at the hotel we rested for an hour or so before making our way out to the bus stop to catch the 1:34 bus to Bournemouth. Andrew was coming with us to help carry our bags. However, the bus was 20 minutes late arriving, and 30 minutes late arriving at Bournemouth, so we missed our first choice of train, the 14:59 changing at Woking for Heathrow. So we got the 15:45 to Manchester Picaddilly and changed at Reading for Heathrow. What I hadn’t researched properly when I looked at these two train journeys was that neither the Woking connection or the Reading connection were onto normal trains. The Woking connection was onto the underground rail system, and the Reading connection was on to the Rail-Air bus link. Our Britrail pass covered nether of these. At Reading we had the alternative of taking the  train to Paddington and then the Heathrow Express back out, but we had no idea of the times and stations involved, so we spent 30 pounds on bus tickets to Heathrow. The bus got us to Heathrow with 15 mins to spare, so while it was stressful at first, in the end we got straight to the correct terminal in plenty of time, so it worked quite well.

Heathrow is an unpleasant place when you are hot and tired as we were, so we spent an uncomfortable couple of hours having a light meal and a drink, and trying to get rid of all our loose change before we boarded the flight to Singapore .

The flight to Singapore was on an A380 Airbus, which are quite roomy and quiet, even in cattle class, and we both managed to sleep for a few hours during the 12h40m  flight. I also watched Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin, a bit of harmless slapstick, nothing like as good as the original with Sellers.

At Singapore, we grabbed a quick shower (they let us use the same shower room at the same time, being able to scrub each others backs was a real luxury!) and a hot chocolate, as well as buying a new case for my netbook. Then straight on to a 777 for the flight to New Zealand. Compared to a 747, these are nice planes, compared to the airbus, they are cramped and noisy! As I was unlikely to sleep much on this flight, I watched a couple of films (Coraline with the voices of Teri Hatcher and Dakota Fanning, and a dark French film called La Barrage Contre La Pacifique, or The Seawall – very strange even for a french film).  9h 15 mins later we were in Auckland.

Auckland to Wellingtom was the usual, and a shuttle took us home to Whitby. The weather was quite nice, cold but fine when we arrived, but has been pretty awful up to then, and since.

Not sure whether  we have jet lag, or are just very tired, or have a cold of somesort, but the last two days have been quite hard, and while Lynn went work today, I am not sure she was really up to it.

Having rested for two days, I am now getting down to sorting out all the stuff that is outstanding, WOF for the car, insurance claim for the burst hot water cylinder while we were away, applying for jobs etc. It may take a while!

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What a week!

May 31, 2009

We have had quite a week so far, starting on Monday 24th May, which was a public holiday in Britain, catching  us out a little as our planned bus legs were not available. So we got my mum to drop us off at Flint station at 8:00 am, rather than catching the buses to Mold and Chester.

From Flint we took a train to Chester, then to Warrington Bank Quay, changed onto the train to Lancaster, and then on to another to Barrow in Furness, and finally to Ravenglass on the Cumbrian Coast. Interesting train journeys, and relatively quick.

We then transferred onto the Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow gauge railway for the trip to Dalegarth in Eskdale (about 7 miles and 40 mins away). This was great fun, and the second time we have used a narrow gauge railway on this trip!

Raven Glass and Eskdale Railway

Raven Glass and Eskdale Railway

At Dalegarth, we buckled on our rather heavy packs (19kg and 14kg for me and Lynn respectively) and hiked over the fells from Eskdale to Wasdale Head, via Burntmoor Tarn. It was a lovely day, topping up our sun tans nicely, and dropping us off at the national Trust campsite in Wasdale, at the foot of Scafell Pike (highest mountain in England).

Lynn at Burntmoor tarn above Eskdale

Lynn at Burntmoor tarn above Eskdale

We camped over night, feasting on Beans and Creamed Rice for our evening meal! Our new VangoAlpha 200 tent worked quite well, but is very small for me (1.83 metres), especially as both  Lynn and I have broad shoulders, so it is quite narrow for us too! Kept us dry and warm though.

 

Dave and tent as Wasdale Head

Dave and tent as Wasdale Head

Day 2, Tuesday 25th dawned a bit grey and changeable, but looked good enough for a walk, so we used the HollowStones route to climb ScafellPike. The walk up was mostly nice, with good views until near the top. It’s a bit steep and rocky on the path, but quite easy going. Near the top, the weather closed in in, and it was cloudy, windy and very cold. The wind chill must have taken it to sub zero.

Dave approaching Scafell Pike trig

Dave approaching Scafell Pike trig

So we set off down the mountain down the Corridor Route, where it quickly warmed up again, and we enjoyed quite an exciting walk down, as this route has some quite exposed ‘scambles’ along it. We didn’t bother going all the way to Sty Head tarn, turning straight down to Wasdalehead and back to the tent. John and Debbie, withRachel and David (their kids) were camped nearby, so we had a cup of tea with them while we caught up, and the dined on beans and sausage and more creamed rice.

A friendly robin in the tree above our tent

A friendly robin in the tree above our tent

Camping recipe number 1 – put a square of Lindt 70% dark chocolate into each serving of creamed rice and allow to melt and mix in. This is a superb variation on creamed rice.

Overnight it rained very heavily, and the tent performed very well again. It was still raining in the morning, so rather than hang around and go for a day walk and get a lift out, we decided to walk out from Wasdale, so set off about 10:45 from the camp shop, back up to Burntmoor Tarn, where we stopped at the abandoned lodge for some Irish stew. We had a couple of navigational issues on the way over, as the cloud was well down, and the paths were all running streams, so it was very easy to miss path junctions etc. But common sense and experience got us back on track. However, our packs are just not water proof, and a lot of our gear was not in dry bags, so our packs slowly filled up with water, and by the time we were starting down from the tops, they both weighed 3-4 kilos more than when we started. Next purchase – dry bags!

At Dalegarth station I enjoyed some Cumberland Sausage in a bun, and Lynn some soup to warm us up, and some hot chocolate, before enduring a very cold ride back to Ravenglass in the outdoor coaches  of the R&ER. Fortunately, when we got to Ravenglass, the campsite turned out to be quite comfortable, and the weather wamed up, so we managed to get most of our clothes mostly dry, using spin driers, tumble driers and radiators before going to sleep.

Day 4, Thursday, was a bit grey and overcast when we set off, but the journey up the Cumbrian Coast on the 7:42 train to Carlisle was a magnificent couple of hours, including passing the Nuclear Waste Disposal plant at Sellafield. The train was full of plant workers, who really are just a bunch of normal people commuting to an ordinary job, and were nice people to talk too!

 The ride to Glasgow central through the Scottish lowlands was a bit ordinary, but very pleasant, and the walk from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street gave us a glimpse of what Glasgow is like (at least in the centre!).

The 3.5 hour ride from Glasgow to Fort William was spectacular in parts, but was a bit grey and drizzly all the way. Incredible stations in the middle of nowhere, where grizzled trampers with huge packs got off and disappeared into the mist! Fort William was also grey and dark feeling when we got there, so we bought some supplies in case the camp shop was shut, then trudged the 3 km to Glen Nevis campsite, where the camp shop was fully stocked with everything! The campsite was wet but we found a spot and piched our tent, and managed to feed ourselves with pasta salad without getting too wet. the weather seemed to keep on improving all evening.

Tent  at Glen Nevis below Ben Nevis

Tent at Glen Nevis below Ben Nevis

Day 5, Friday 29th, dawned bright and clear, with a forecast of more of the same all day! So we got our gear together, an extra 1.5 litres of water and a huge amount of food, and set off for the summit of Ben Nevis. BN is 1344 metres high, but has a major path all the way to the top, making it a strenuous but easy walk, so we were joined by about 500 day trippers (not an exaggeration, may have actually been more) climbing in tee shirts with an anorak and sneakers and a bottle of spring water in their hands!

Pilgramage from Glen Nevis to summit of Ben Nevis!

Pilgramage from Glen Nevis to summit of Ben Nevis!

The walk up was so beautiful, the views breathtaking, but unfortunately our camera packed up at about 1000 metres, so we have very few photos, but many memories.

As high as our camera got!

As high as our camera got!

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe from Ben Nevis path

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe from Ben Nevis path

There was about 1-2 metres of snow on the top 50 metres of the mountain, so as we were poorly equipped (by our standards) we didn’t linger, just a quick kiss to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary, then off again to walk down. The nice easy walk on ‘paved’ paths on the way up, became a hobble on uneven rocks on the way down, as the ‘pavers’ were just stones embedded into soil, so were not the easiest to negotiate. I actually got a blister on my toe near the bottom. Anyway, 8 hours after setting off, we arrived back at our starting point, very satisfied but absolutely knackered! 4 hours up, 4 hours down, not bad for a combined age of 104 years!

It remained a beautiful day until we went to bed at 22:30, and we managed to get all our gear properly dry in the sun, ready for the trip out.

Day 6, Saturday, started with a taxi ride to the station in Fort William, to catch the 7:42 to Glasgow. The weather was a lot better, so the scenery was even more spectacular. At Glasgow we caught the train to Aberdeen, where we were picked up by June and Alan, Lynn’s aunt and uncle, who are looking after us for a day or so before we go to Wales on Monday. A day of R&R sounds like a good idea!

Off for a week…

May 24, 2009

Our last day at Knoll House was spent visiting the Dolphin Shopping centre in Poole, where we bought Andrew a fridge for his room from Argos, and had one of the best coffees we have found in Britain! I am seriously thinking of giving up coffee for the duration. In compensation, the tea is very good EVERYWHERE we go. In the afternoon we walked with Andrew over Old Harry’s Rocks (that sounds rude, but it was something like that) and down into Swanage where we had a late lunch and another reasonable coffee. Then we walked back over Ballard Down, to Studland.

Andrew ate with us for his two days off, which seemed a little uncomfortable for him and his colleagues, but it was good for him and us.

We left Knoll House on Saturday morning after paying the bill – 908 pounds for 5 days for 3 people. May sound a lot, but I actually think it was worth it. Thanks to all the staff at The Knoll House for making the stay so enjoyable. The trip home to North Wales was a nightmare. Every route we chose was either deadly slow, following caravans, tractors, idiots etc, or almost stationary for 20 miles at a time on the M5 and M6 and M54 because of accidents and holiday traffic (this weekend is Whit Monday bank holiday, which is very confusing because Whit Sunday is next weekend!). It took us 8 hours to do 260 miles, which is really appalling. We made the mistake of stopping for a drink at a motorway services (Welcome Break at Telford), but walked out after spotting the coffee stains in the cups we were about to be served tea in! 

This weekend we have spent preparing for the next 7 days, buying some extra camping gear etc. Tomorrow (Whit Monday) we are taking the train to Ravenglass in the Lake District, and from there we will walk into Wasdale Head and camp for a couple of nights, and where we will meet up with Debbie and John again. We hope to climb Scafell and Scafell Pike while there. We are then taking the train to Fort William in Scotland (9 hours!) and where we will  camp for two nights, and try to climb Ben Nevis. Then we will take the train to Aberdeen, where we will hire a car for a couple days, and visit June and Alan, Lynn’s aunt and uncle. Finally, we will take the train back to Chester and return to Mold.

So, just like the heading says, we will probably be off line for most of the  next 7 days, as the computer is not coming with us! See you in a week.

Out and about.

May 20, 2009

We are having a great time here at Knoll House, the food is superb, and the accomodation is very comfortable. I am getting a bit behind on this blogging thing, with being so busy. I tried to do a post last night, but lost it somehow.

Anyway, today we went to Stonehenge (Mum, Andrew, Lynn and me). It was a bit of a trek, but well worth it. Six pounds each to get in, but there was a free audio guide which even mum enjoyed. It was a glorious day, if a little windy at times.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

We then went on to the Weyhill Hawk Conservancy, which rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey, as well as breeding them, training them and showing them. We saw an amazing show where six vultures flew over the audience, iterally brushing our hair with their wings, and which were hoined by about 8 black kites,  all wheeling and flying over our heads. The finale where two bald eagles flew in from about 3km away, visible most of the way, to land on the falconers arms was incredible.

A vulture dive bombing Lynn!

A vulture dive bombing Lynn!

Andrew flying a hawk

Andrew flying a hawk

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Yesterday we had a trip to Lullworth cove in the morning, where it was very cold and windy to start off with, but was an enjoyable excursion. In the afternoon we visited the Tank museum at Wool in Dorset – literally hundreds of tanks from the earliest to the latest, including examples of German tanks. Well worth a visit, but it was a bit expensive!

On monday we visited Corfe Castle in the morning, an excellent ruin, apparently it was blown up by the parliamentarians during the civil war, but enough remains to show how great a castle it was.

A piece of Corfe Castle

A piece of Corfe Castle

In the afternoon wed took mum to the model village in Corfe, which has a scale mdel of how the castle looked in its prime. The model is about 10 feet tall, and was beautifully detailed.

It's a model!

It's a model!

Knoll House

May 18, 2009

It’s been a few days since I last posted, during which we have either relaxed or been very busy. On Thursday we bought a tent (Vango Alpha 200 for GBP30.00) and the Vodaphone mobile modem we are now using. The 3G network in the UK is patchy, and my mum’s house only gets the lesser network (badly), so using the net is a pain!

On Friday, we walked down to Mold, where we did some shopping, including the legendary Hulson’s pork pies, which we have travelled 20,000 km to enjoy. Worth every one of them! We also spent a couple of hours at the Theatre Clwyd cafe, having a horrible coffee, but using the 3G network to plan some of the rest of the trip. Next week we are going to the Lake District for a few days, where we will camp with John and Debbie for a few days at Wasdale Head, and hopefully climb Scafell Pike – highest peak in England. At the end of the week we will travel to Aberdeen to see Lynn’s Aunty June and Uncle Alan, who live about 40 miles inland. We will hire a car up there, and hopefully see some of Scotland, including a possible climb of Ben Nevis.

On Saturday we went for a walk on Hoylake beach, and saw the windmills just offshore. Very impressive. In the afternoon we packed, and that evening we watched the Eurovision Song Contst for the first time in 20 odd years! It hasn’t changed much!

 

Yesterday, we travelled down to Knoll House in Dorset in my mum’s Nissan Micra – 3 of us plus luggage! On the way we stopped off at St. Athans near Cardiff, where Richard is stationed, and took him out for a lovely meal in Llantwit Major(Illtuds 216 restaurant)  just down the road. He is fit and well, and seems very happy with his career etc, so all’s well there!

The drive down took 4.5 hours to Cardifff, then another4 hours to Knoll House, and we had a fair amount of rain on the way down. But it was fine by the timed we got to Dorset. Knoll house is a beautiful hotel, from the brochres etc you can’t help worrying that it will be  a version of Fawlty Towers, but it really is a wonderful place. The bedrooms are very comfortable, and the dinner was delicious. Andrew met us before lunch, then helped wait on our table. He seems well, but hopefully we will see more of him today. Breakfast is in 30 mins, after that we may go somewhere local to see a bit of the area.

The Knoll House Hotel

The Knoll House Hotel

More later!

In the Knoll House gardens

In the Knoll House gardens

Our trip to Wales

May 14, 2009

I have always wanted to do this rail trip, and as we have the Britrail passes, it was an excellent opportunity. Having planned it all out, this was our itinerary

Sychdyn to Mold – Bus 6:54 to 7:00

Mold to  Chester – Bus 7:10 to 8:03

Chester to Shrewsbury, Train 8:22 to 9:17

Shrewsbury to Machynlleth, Train 9:27 to 10:49

Machynlleth to Porthmadog, Train 11:00 to 12:47

Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Narrow Gauge train, 13:35 to 14:45

Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno Junction, 14:52 to 15:51

Llandudno Junction to Flint, Train 16:17 to 16:53

Flint to Sychdyn, Bus 17:45 to 18:01

Lleyn Peninsular from Barmouth railway bridge

Lleyn Peninsular from Barmouth railway bridgeFfestiniog RailwayFfestiniog Railway

So six trains and 3 buses, and about 11 hours of travelling, and the only delay was the narrow gauge train was 2 minutes late arriving in Blaenau Ffestiniog!

An excellent trip though, comfortable trains, beautiful scenery, a great day.

During the wait in Flint for the final bus, we went to visit Flint castle for the first time ever. Considering we used to live less than 10km away, it was a bit strange visiting it now!

Back online

May 14, 2009

If anyone is reading this, sorry for the lack of posts, but since leaving Debbie and John’s we have not had internet access. This morning I went out and bought a Vodaphone Mobile broadband connection, and after a bit of fiddling it appears to  work!

It’s very slow from here in Wales, as there is no 3G coverage, and windows decided to take it over and is downloadingthe latest updates.  

Anyway, on Tuesday we went into Chester to have a look round, and picked up copies of train and bus timetables (no internet!) and had a terrible coffee.  Tuesday night we planned our first expedition using our Britrail passes, a sort of shake down trip. We managed to stay up until 9:00pm.

Jet lag…

May 11, 2009

or lack of it. Managed to stay awake until about 9pm on our first night, and slept right through until 5am-ish, so we are feeling really good at the moment. Second night is usually the worst, but here’s hoping!

Off to Wales this morning to my mum’s house, so thanks to Debbie and John in Nantwich for looking after us.

Time to start the diet and exercise again, I put on two kilos on the trip – airline food (really rather good) and fluid retention hopefully, and it should soon come off! Lynn has about the same to lose.

This morning is absolutely gorgeous, clear blue skies and already quite warm, so the travel gods shine on us!

The joys of spring

May 10, 2009

One of the things we were looking forward to was seeing a British spring, but were worried that we would get here too late to see it. This afternoon we went for a walk around Nantwich where we are staying briefly. Walking alongside the River  Weaver, the Nantwich canal, and footpaths connecting them together, and spring is very much in evidence. The  May (Hawthorn) is in blossom and smells wonderful, and the Chestnut trees with their candles of flowers. In the garden outside the window I have just seen a robin and a rook, and there were ducklings and goslings on the ponds and canals. It was nice to see different butterflies again, and the odd squirrel!

It’s good to be back!

Manchester or thereabouts

May 10, 2009

14 hours on an aircraft is not an experience I want to repeat too often. Uneventful flight, but a bit bumpy with 200kph headwinds! Arrived in Manchester 40 minutes late, and spent 30 minutes getting through formalities. Brother-in-law John picked us up at the airport, and we are now sitting drinking coffee and eating toast and proper marmite. Will post more later when we are sorted.