Cruising about

For the next couple of weeks I am on a cruise around the Caribbean. This is a joint celebration with both my 40th birthday and Christmas falling within that time.

So far I have been to Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica on the journey with more destinations to come. I keep having to remind myself that I am not on the Woodchurch heading the long way round to Birkenhead. Nor am I on the Prince of Brittany chuffing across to Le Havre. I’m most certainly not on the Lady of Mann or the Mannananananananannanananan. I am on the luxury P&O liner Azura.

You can tell it is luxury. Internet usage is charged per minute with 200 minutes costing a horrific £65. A can of lemonade the size of one you might put in a dolls house is 90p. Sure signs. But the biggest give away that you are on a luxury cruise is the amount of moaning and complaining from the passengers. Just what you want to hear every dinner time. First world problems.

They’re not even things worth complaining or moaning about. Mostly I would have just shrugged and gone “Ah well, its not their fault, it happens” but it seems everyone else on the ship apart from Zoe and me are intent on nitpicking every slight slip up.

“Oh they’re not as good as Fred Olson Cruises”
“Peter wanted a strawberry ice cream and they gave him double strawberry icecream”
“The ice in this lemonade is too cold”

and other similar gripes.

To me, this cruise has been bang on. OK if you’d said I was going on a holiday on a floating Butlins Holiday Camp complete with red coats, Sunday Night at the London Paladium level of entertainment and force fed shopping I probably would have thanked you and opted for a weekend in Wales instead. But no, the dodgy entertainment and frightful co-passengers apart, this is, so far, a really enjoyable experience and I’m glad I came.

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Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day 4 Wall of Corn

 

Launceston CastleFollowing the mad tour of the east coast of Devon we decided to take a trip inland. Our guide books told us of the wonders of Cornwall and our brief trip across the Taymar on Tuesday showed us that Cornwall was closer than we thought.

But where to go were either of us hadn’t been before? Our first thought was “Oooh where does FJ Warren live? She’s Cornish. But the thought of a another long drive was not appealing. Instead we peeked at the maps and guidebooks and settled on Launceston.

Launceston Castle

According to the guidebooks, Launceston was the ancient Cornish capital. It had a castle, a steam train and other interesting things like cider farms on route. So it seemed like the natural choice. So once more across the Taymar we went noting for the second time that week that people are charged to leave Cornwall and not go in.

Launceston is…boring. Tatty around the edges. Pretty. But boring. After a brief 10 minute walk it appeared we had done Launceston. So we tootled up to the castle to have mooch there. But at £7 each to go and look around some crumbling ruins we thought £14 would be better spent on cake or fun. So way ahead of planned schedule we buggered off back to the car and went to see where else we could get to.

The Bodmin Moor of my childhood was not the Bodmin Moor of my middle age. Either there has been a new road built across the moor in the 30 or so years since my last visit or my dad took us across Bodmin Moor along some weird unmarked B road. So much so, by the time we had reached Bodmin I was like “Oh, we’re here already”.

Bodmin Steam Railway @ Bodmin GeneralBodmin was interesting. Well what we saw through the car windows. But with only shops and more money wanting to be spent we thought another stop mooching round a provincial town was not on the cards. So when the only place to park for free was up a side street alongside Bodmin General, part of the Bodmin Steam Railway, we thought “But a steam train ride might be fun!”

So that’s what we did. We bought 2 tickets to Boscarne and boarded the chuffing chuffer.

It was fun!

IMG_0550Badger enjoyed it too!

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When we returned we stopped for a cream tea.

Full of cake and after a bit of geocaching, we hopped back into the car and headed toward Polperro via Lostwithiel. Lostwithiel is described as the Medieval Capital of Cornwall. Again, it was quaint, children were playing in the river and shops seemed open.

One thing we had noticed during our time in the Southwest was that everyone seemed to be so miserable. Shop keepers and ice cream van men were no exception. I can only imagine that the misery was down to the lack of boobs on display. Cornwall needs more boobs. Or cake. Or maybe just a tickle.

PolperroAnyway, before misery got a grip, we headed off again, this time to Polperro. My nan and granddad visited Polperro when they were alive. I remember leafing through their photograph album at the pretty houses and narrow streets. Indeed it was. Narrow, quaint, overpriced and packed with tourists. Having been fleeced £4 for parking we wandered into the village to try and find somewhere to eat. We were a bit early and all the restaurants seemed to do nice fish dishes. Sadly none were open until half an hour after our parking expired and I didn’t feel like paying a further £4-£8 just to stuff my face. Our minds were made up by the time we had reached the quayside that we would head off to Looe and see if there was any other nice places to eat instead.

But before we could turn round and make our way back, a woman offered us a boat ride along the coast. How could we refuse?

So that’s what we did.

looeOn our return we made our way back through the tourists to the car and drove off to Looe. Looe reminded me of Skegness without the wind amusement arcades or Victoriana. It was heaving with tourists of the lower orders. Police men, our first since leaving the midlands, were talking to shouty drunk youths. Haggard teen mothers were dragging their screeching urchins. Young girls with more tattoos and piercings than a freak show jostled with loud shouty short haired scallies for chips from the harbour chippy. But our guidebooks insisted that there was good eating to be had somewhere in Looe.

And yes. They were right. We stopped for dinner at the Smuggler’s Cot in Looe where I had the biggest Lemon Sole (and bones) I’ve ever seen. It was delicious! Meanwhile Zoe struggled with her mammoth 20oz D cut rump steak. She assured me that was delicious too.

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day3 Touring Torquay

After the rather soggy Tuesday I was three quarter expecting the Wednesday to be a wash out as well. It started off overcast so I wasn’t entirely optimistic about the weather.

We had decided to have a trip over the Dart Moor and visit Widecome in the Moor where there is a haunted inn. I had this romantic image of Dartmoor. Rolling plains with Tors and rocks and ponies and goblins and ruined crofts and weirdness and Kate Bush and floaty types and a scary gothic foreboding Victorian prison and a sign saying “Abandon ye hope” and a solitary pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

I guess I spent too much time in Yorkshire.

Sure we saw some ponies and some stones and some tors, but the lack of crofts, pubs and prisons almost outweighed the lack of Kate Bush prancing about in a floaty dress.

Anyway, we made our way across the moor and into the sleepy Yorkshiresque village of Widecome in the Moor. You might know Widecome from the folk song Widecome Fayre or you might not. Or you might know Widecome from the Great Storm of some time long ago where the Devil blew up the church. Or you might know Widecome in the Moor from page 7 of your 1976 AA Road Atlas. Either way it is a lovely place. It was there we had breakfast. Our second and last, Full English breakfast of the week. All that meat blocks your insides you know.

Widecome has loads of interesting things like the old church and ancient wells. The Old Inn in Widecome is a haunted inn from Marc Alexander’s Haunted Inns (1973).  The story goes that you can hear the cries of a child and possibly even see the spectre of a man. Bollocks or not? Who knows.

 

From Widecome we headed back into civilization and into Torquay.

I’m sorry but my next statement might upset some people.

Torquay is a dump.

There I’ve said it.

My mental image of Torquay is sandy beaches and long sweeping promenades lined with palm trees, cafés and a harbour full of luxury yachts.  Instead it was streets full of chavs, tattooed Tommys and indiscreet Escorts. Sure there were some palm trees and yes there were some yachts but the streets had handy information notices warning the residents that their excessive drinking threatens the safety of their children and their development. Not “It’s so Bracing” or “Buy our Rock” more like “Drinking makes your children into awful people like you” and “Chavviness is born through nurture not nature”.

IMAG0723We walked to the breakwater and bawked at the cost of entrance fee to the Sea Life centre – £11.75. So £23.50 better off in pocket, we decided to try and find some geocaches. Our searching took us to a little stony beach behind the Sea Life Centre which, incidentally, we could see inside from the outside. It was on the beach we were shortly joined by a dark haired woman in her late 40s walking her dogs. She was talking on her telephone giving the caller assurances that she was good looking and that he wouldn’t be disappointed and that she lived in a discrete house and discretion was her watchword for the price he would be paying.

We left.

Made our way back to the car via an amusement arcade where Zoe won me a gold £ on the tuppenny pushnshoves followed by a direct run to the car and a continuation of our journey southward.

The roads took us towards the misnamed Slapton Sands. Misnamed because Slapton Gravels doesn’t have the same ring to it. The weather had brightened and there were lots of people there enjoying the sun and sea. In such situations I crave ice cream so joy lightened my life when I was able to buy a 99 from the ice cream van there.

Now I was always of the opinion that the top five of miserable people doing jobs went something like this:

81 bus driver
Post office counter clerk
Surveyor
Surly Pot man in a dodgy pub
Mortician

But I now have to move Ice Cream Van Man at Slapton Bits of Stone Sands to the top. I actually felt like apologising for wanting to give him my money for his overpriced wares.

From there we went via Start Point (another overpriced place; £4 parking and another £5 for a look round the lighthouse) to Salcombe.

 

IMAG0731Salcombe is a bit like Torquay should have been only without all the posh wazzaks poncing about at the Regatta that was taking place there. It was a complete polar opposite to Torquay only with awful children instead of awful parents.

Hunger got the better of us so we made our way back to Plymouth searching for a Chinese restaurant that wasn’t full.

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day2 Plymouth

 

Ah Plymouth.

So when I was a kid I had a healthy interest in lighthouses. This was piqued by stories in a school book regarding the Eddystone Lighthouse on Eddystone rocks just off the coast of Plymouth.

In case you were unaware the Eddystone Lighthouse has been built four (arguably five) times. The first was made of wood and got washed away during a storm. The second caught fire and melted onto the people trying to put it out, the third developed cracks, the fourth still stands (with modifications such as helipad). The whole romance of the sea, mystery and adventure surrounding lighthouses just fuelled my desire to become a lighthouse keeper. The third lighthouse, Smeaton’s tower, was dismantled and rebuilt on the Hoe for shits and giggles  as a kind of public monument to those lost at sea and a museum of lighthouseololology. Or summat.

Smeaton's tower

Anyway because the tower had been rebuilt on the Hoe, it had always been a place I’d wanted to visit. So when the weather turned for the grot on the Tuesday we decided to continue our previous nights walk along the Hoe after we had found somewhere to eat for breakfast.

Our choice for breakfast was Little Chef. My map of Little Chefs (well…the map on their website) was a bit crap. The two identified on the map had either gone, as in the case of the one at Saltash, Cornwall  or it had the wrong address (as in the one supposedly to the east of Plymouth). So we thought stuff it, and went for breakfast in a quaint cafe in the Barbican district as long as we walked it off.

Our next intention was to go to the National Aquarium. But because of the crap weather the queues to get in were round the block. So the walk to the Hoe took priority.

Plymouth Hoe

Walking round the back of the Royal Citadel we made our way towards the Wheel. I wanted to see the Smeaton tower but I wasn’t prepared to pay £3 each just to go up some stairs and down again. Instead we looked at the other monuments and Zoe offered to pay for a ride on the Wheel.

 

 

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Despite the rain and the clouds there were some good views from up there. I never knew Plymouth was bombed like Coventry during the Blitz. It was interesting listening to the commentary though. I liked how the avenue was designed to be a pathway from the station to the Hoe. It’s a shame that the architects who redesigned Coventry didn’t have similar artistic skills instead of a passion for concrete.

So after that we went into the town centre where I bought a new bag, a nice shirt and some new trousers. I had intended on wearing the trousers that evening but Zoe suggested I waited because the wet pavements would have made them mucky.

 

That evening we dined on fine fish at Platters. We both had white bait for starters and the seafood mixed grill for mains – Five types of fish, grilled and served with a mountain of chips. Ace biscuits!

 

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Devon & Cornwall

 

On the Monday we got up, packed, grabbed our bags and headed down the M5 towards Plymouth.

I didn’t really know what to expect with Plymouth. It has been on my list of “Places to Visit” since I was about 8 or 9. Mostly because of the Smeaton Tower on Plymouth Hoe and my love of lighthouses. But more of that later.

We had booked a five night stay at the Elfordleigh Golf and Country Club in Plymouth which, looking at the website, seemed to tick all our boxes. Those being:- Spa, Pool, Comfortable, Quiet and Affordable. So after a three or four hour drive we arrived in the vicinity of the Hotel. At first we thought we had been given the wrong directions or something. Reason being that the sat-nav had us going through what appeared to be a residential estate of the social kind. But within a few minutes the estate gave way to rural lanes, farms and country manses before we arrived at the bright pink rendered gateway of the Elfordleigh Golf and Country Club.

View from the window

The room was lovely and cosy with two windows and a small canopy over the bed. The bathroom long. The shower powerful and hot.

View from window

As usual we perused the room literature, no, not the Gideon Bible; the leaflets hotels like to leave with the bar and restaurant menus and suggestions of places to visit. In this case they had left a magazine detailing the local eateries. Having settled on possible contenders for dinner we headed out to Plymouth’s Barbican district for a bit of an explore and a look around.

Plymouth’s Barbican district is a proper touristy area. Think Albert Dock in Liverpool only not as enclosed and lots more interesting buildings. There are many nice looking bars and restaurants there. So many, we had difficulty deciding which restaurant was going to be our definitive choice of the evening.

We settled on Rocky’s Grill for our first night. I had the 16oz T Bone Steak, Zoe had the mammoth mixed grill. Following dinner we went for a walk around the Royal Citadel towards the Hoe and did a small bit of Geocaching on the way. Unfortunately, Zoe’s food may have been closer to dairy products than she had hoped and so we cut our walk short and headed back to the hotel.


Smeaton’s Tower


Plymouth Wheel and Memorial

Coming soon-> Day 2: Rain Rain Go Away

There and back again and There and back again–Pt 3

251421_179327182133749_100001694063812_434487_2068345_nThe first day of walking was most enjoyable. Tired by evening we dined on barbequed steak and salad. Not as straight forward as it should be. Partly because the crappy Tesco Instant Barbeque was impossible to light in the light breeze that had picked up during the day but after an hour of cooking later the still rare steaks were ready.

Wednesday’s plan was simple. Turn out of the campsite, left along Lon Uwchmynydd and turn right along the coast before heading north towards Porth Oer. Now we were entering completely virgin territory for me. The lack of accessible roads and paths in this part of the country meant that I was unfamiliar with the scenery on this part of the route.

However the mist was rolling in from the sea.

Haunting BleatsFor those of you unfamiliar with this area of North Wales, the weather here is bizarre. You could be stood in blazing heat in one field and then in the neighbouring field shrouded by an eerie cloud of cool sea mist. So while walking through dramatic scenery here the bizarre mists shrouded the views of the sea. Occasionally we would enter into sloping valleys with babbling streams and haunting bleats from hidden sheep only to hear the gentle lap of waves from the sea against the shore.

224446_179331928799941_100001694063812_434496_116962_nEventually we rose above the clouds by climbing Mynydd Anelog. Blazing heat seared our souls as we strode across Welsh coastal moorland. Views over to Porth Orion and Mynydd Carreg enhanced by gorse and heather covered terrain complimented by hazy blue skies.

216990_179333132133154_100001694063812_434503_4110605_nAn hour or so later, limbs aching and skin tingling with sunburn we reached Porth Oer where we dined in the beach cafe and discussed plans for the remaining day of the holiday. By evening we were both very tired and following a slightly disappointing meal at the local seafood restaurant Pen Bryn Bach opted to walk the 2.5 miles into Aberdaron for a pint returning to the campsite by walking dark lanes.

The next day was hat hunting day. Scouring the local towns and villages for a shop that sold suitable hats. Pwllheli and Abersoch provided no bounty except for beer, money and cider. A new hat seemed an impossible dream.

Friday arrived and we decamped. We drove to Porthmadoc wherein, following the successful attainment of a new hat, we gorged ourselves on a mighty cooked breakfast. Fully sated we parted our ways Nick heading back to Crosby and I returning the long way back to Leamington Spa.

6 hours drive later…I arrived. And so began the second leg of my holiday.

There and back again and there and back again Part 1

Picture if you will a pub in Liverpool about 4 weeks ago.

**wibbly visual effect used to signify reflection on past events**

 

Stegzy:- You’re on holiday next month. I’m on holiday next month…let’s go camping!

Nick:- Yes that sounds like fun.

Stegzy:- Look I’ve put it in my shiny new HTC FLYER on the CALENDAR. AUGUST. 20th

Nick:- Ace! Can’t wait.

**Cue calendar flipping sequence signifying moving forward through time**

So I’m set. Set for a walking and camping trip to North Wales. At the end of August.

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Blissful….

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However……

 

**Calendar flipping sequence ceases 24th July**

Stegzy:- Bloody hell. Nick’s a bit keen. He’s been texting me all week asking about what we will be doing during our holiday in August.

Zoefruitcake:- Maybe he is excited.

Stegzy:- Hmm…this text is worrying. It seems to hint that there may be an issue with the month…..

Capture3Capture4

Oh cocking hell!

So I called him. Was he winding me up? No. He wasn’t. While talking I made up a list of items to chuck into the car for an impromptu camping trip. Problem was…I didn’t have a tent anymore. Well I did. Just it was in Yorkshire. With the wife. Fortunately everything else, the table, the chair, the stoves, pans and ancillary camping equipment were safely in a pre-packed crate in Zoe’s Craft Hut. The tent….that was in Yorkshire.

As you can see from the screenshots, this was about half past six on the Sunday evening. A call to Clair received the thumbs up for a tent collection while Nick booked the camp site and prepared for a late night visit from me.

I sped up the M69 and M1 to Yorkshire and collected the tent then after a quick bite to eat and a catch-up, I sped along the M62 to Crosby near Liverpool arriving at an ungodly hour of 1am.

Day 2 – Saturday

Went to sleep to the sounds of dogs barking and woke to the sounds of a murder of crows attacking, what I later discovered was, binbags.

5am – Nobody about. Dense fog across the land. How is it that the most beautiful place in the world can hide itself under a blanket of cloud? How can I possibly show off the picturesque vistas to a Llyn virgin when visibility is so low?

By 10am I was bored having walked as far as I dare without worrying that my imminent visitor would be unable to find me. The fog had lifted and the clouds were breaking overhead. I thought walking to the end of the lane to meet zoefruitcake would be a nice surprise.

The surprise, however, was for me. My parents. They too had chosen to visit the area this weekend and had just visited the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by my campsite and had run into me less than half a mile into my walk to the end of the lane. They invited me to join them on their day out but I declined, explaining about my imminent visitors arrival.

No sooner had their car rounded the bend on the crest of the hill and vanished out of sight but the familiar red of Zoe’s Smart car appeared.

As regular readers will know; I can’t do anything right. Zoe’s car is a 2 seater with no boot. I’d forgotten about that. So after saying hello and providing unneeded directions to the camp-site, I retraced my steps back along the road past Pen Bryn Bach to my base for the week.

As the day progressed I became wary of how boring it might be for someone not sharing the “Love of the Llyn” – sitting in the passenger side being driven through rolling countryside to remote destinations. None-the-less, the days itinerary included:-

  • The view of Porth Neigwl from Rhiw
  • The cairn on Rhiw
  • The Ty Coch on Porthdinllaen
  • The Parents
  • Abersoch
  • Pwllheli (in an attempt to locate a Chinese restaurant)
  • Aberdaron

Stick it

It is a well known fact that the second page missing from the bible (the first being the copyright and disclaimer bit at the front which hints at it all being a work of fiction) is the page that goes something like this:-

And yea it came to pass on the eighth day didst Yahweh look upon what he hadst created and proclaimed “Oh woe, for there are bits that do not join up right” and so Yahweh didst createth Duct tape and saw that it was good. And so the heavens rejoiced, as did the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the fish in the sea…

I will definitely take some with me when I go camping at the weekend. I managed to reattach the bumper on the car with a good skillfully placed strip of duct tape. Closer inspection in daylight revealed that any attempt to affix a new bumper will cause rust to crumble and the car to fall apart. Meh….not my car really is it….

I will also be taking my tent and ancillary camping equipmentz which I fished out of the shed today. Mice had made nests in most of the soft things in the camping box and it seems that a family of bees have moved into the false ceiling in the shed too. The camping crockery has seen better days (mostly plastic which has dishwasher odour) and the stove might just pull through one last trip.

So with me, as well as duct tape, I shall be taking my wallet so that I can stop off at the camping shop in Caernafon and get myself

a new plate
a new mug
a new chair
a new hat
a new memory foam matress.

I can also stop off at the Testicles on the way and get meself some factor 90 zinc sunblock.

Of course that is all if I don’t end up getting tied up in duct tape and forced into a life of gimpdom tomorrow night…….

Holiday pt 5: conclusion

My god! Will it never end!

The car all packed

Where was I? Oh yeah…Conway.
So we did Conway. The weather there was stonkingly splendid but our return to Anglesey brought disheartening thoughts. For over the Menai Straits sat a big nasty black cloud. It was raining. Still. The winds hadn’t abated much. The promise of further bad weather on the Sunday just made us more miserable. Never the less after a slap up meal in the “Steak House” (They did one type of steak, mine was ok but jimrock sent his back for a refund because it was over done). The Maelog Hotel was pap.

The next morning we bade farewell to Sarah and Steve and journeyed out to the mainland once more. This time to observe the old people in Llandudno. jimrock sat and listened to the Grand Prix in the car was feeling a bit off colour so chose to stay in his car. Llandudno, despite how much praise billzy piles on the place, is like waiting room for death row. The place is littered with charity shops and residential hotels. A good deal of Liverpool’s elderly population go there to die. And rightly so. It’s a nice place to die. Much nicer than Rhyl or Talacre. Or Rhos-on-Sea.

Give it 10 years and it’ll be exactly like Rhyl and Talacre 😉

Anyway…utterly depressed Becky and jimrock decided that the risk of further bad weather was too much and that the comfort of home was too tempting. So they, and Ricky & Ashley, chose to depart on the Monday.

Monday came. Glorious weather. Thus further fishing adventures were called for. Mrs Gnomepants caught a further 5 mackerel, jimrock just caught the sun and the sea. After what seemed like half an hour but what was infact several hours, we returned to the beach for a quick dip before heading back to camp to say farewell after a delicious mackerel dinner. Mrs Gnomepants and I, Big Steve & Rach elected to stay. And so our relaxed Tuesday morning was spent cleaning up the camp, packing up and heading back to Liverpool.

After camp party

That afternoon I popped into CSD at the University where I used to work (which is where billzy now works) met up with billzy and everybody else. It was delightful seeing everybody. I just wish I had longer to stick around and catch up with everybody’s gossip. That evening we headed out to Chez jimrock where copious drinks and chilli was had for the last time in their little flat in Lark Lane.

Our return to Yorkshire on the Wednesday was accompanied by a visit from Scott; back from the ships briefly.The rest of the holiday? Well I squandered that playing internet games and loafing about. But I tell you what, I had a bloody good time doing so!

The M1 home!