Caenarfon, Wales

I love my day trips and have been loyal to one or two coaches companies in the past. I decided last weekend to branch out and try a new one and go to tourist village Port Meirion. Sadly the coach company had other ideas. It took over two hours to go to all the passenger pick up stops before we could finally set off. It’s quite a distance from my home town but according to Google maps we should’ve been there about 2pm. At 2.30 we were still driving along a motorway. Then the driver pulled over in a layby and started messing on his phone. Never spoke to anyone beyond the first row of seats but I managed to catch that he’s missed his junction. Ok I thought he’s working out how to get back on track and when he set off again everything was ok. Afterall he didn’t say anything to us (paying) customers. Except half an hour later we pulled up in the small town of Caernarfon and he got off the bus expecting everyone else to do so. Still not actually telling anyone what had happened unless they asked. And you would when you’ve paid money to go somewhere and suddenly you’re somewhere else. Turns out we were too far away to go to our stop so he’d made the decision without consultation to take us to the nearest town. Caernarfon was a nice little town with nothing much more than a castle. It was pleasant but ultimately not where I’d expected to be going when I set off at 7.30 that morning. Even worse were the stories that getting lost is apparently standard fair for this travel company. I’ll save you the ranting my friends were subjected to and the subsequent complaints to the company and give you some photos of Caernarfon instead. Enjoy 🙂

Edinburgh (Scotland)

The other week I went to Edinburgh for my birthday. Despite living in the north of England I’ve only been to Scotland once before and that was thirty years ago. I had the most wonderful time. There is so much to do there. We went for 3 nights but could easily stay for the week.

First stop was the Elephant Cafe – the cafe where JK Rowling spent time when writing the Harry Potter stories. For me who loves Indian colours and mysticism the cafe had twice the appeal. One thing that amazed me was the loos! Yep the loos. Harry Potter fans have graffiti’d every single space in there. Apparently the cafe owners got fed up of painting over the scribbles and have left the marks as they are.

We spent many hours in the castle that overlooks the city. And at least half a day on the Royal Mile wandering all the cool shops. Before leaving we got to have a quick look around the art galleries. There’s a lot more we didn’t get chance to see so I’ll definitely be going back. Here are a few pictures:

Stokesley and Helmsley, North Yorkshire

I sometimes wonder how coach companies make up their trips. The other month I did a trip to Richmond and Durham. The Richmond stop was 90 minutes to take in the market. As the market comprised of about 5 stalls and the town was tiny I chose instead to spend it wandering around an old castle. Much more fun. Stokesley was similar but sadly without the castle. This time we were given 2 hours to spend there on market day. The thingI’m beginning to realise is that unless it’s a special kind of market (xmas, craft fair etc) they are all pretty much the same. Stokesley is a beautiful town but there’s nothing there to see. The centre comprises two streets of shops mostly tea shops and charity shops. It passed the time but not sure I’d want to go back.

We had three hours in Helmsley on the other hand and yet I could easily have stayed there two days! Again the idea was market day and shopping but the town also has a castle, abbey ruins, a bird of prey sanctuary, Duncombe Park house and the walled gardens all for visiting. I’d never heard of the town until I saw it on the brochure yet its only an hours drive. I wish I could drive so I could go back. It doesn’t have a train station and very limited buses from York. I may have to work out for myself a long weekend there.

I loved the shops – here there was a variety. Lovely gift shops, art shops, antiques and so many tea shops (this is not actually  a bad thing). I ended up spending an hour and half wandering the castle ruins (quite a lot for something 1000 years old) and the shops and had a pleasant afternoon. Again though this was sold as a market trip. I wonder if it’s me that’s unusual and all people are interested in is markets and shopping? I’d personally rather have a mix of things. If you are able I’d highly recommend this town.

An afternoon in Leicester

My friend recently moved back to Leicester after being away for many years. I decided to have a coach trip down for the afternoon. But what do we do when we need to fit in a good catch up, entertain a 3 year old and it’s the day before payday??? Hmm maybe we didn’t choose the best day.

A quick look around Tripadviser showed there were actually lots of things to do when you’re at the right side of payday but we settled on looking at the Jewry Wall and going to see the new King Richard III exhibit (and bones)

Jewry wall museum is a lovely (and free!) little place on the outskirts of the city centre. Inside there are some original mosaic Roman flooring that has been found as well as original Roman wall murals. And outside the wall itself is part of a discovered Roman baths – the outlines of which can be seen in the photos below. It’s tiny and doesn’t take a huge amount of time to wander around but it is very informative and there’s a good little spot for children to play, build their own mosaics and colour. A good way to pass an hour.

With promises to see if we could find more castles and princesses for our young friend we wandered towards the Richard III visitor centre. While dithering over whether our funds would stretch that far our own little explorer decided she was going to visit the Cathedral instead. Her instincts proved great for us as it turns out that’s where the actual remains of Richard are buried (on his own sheepskin blanket according to the guide). The visitors centre is divided into one floor documenting the War of the Roses and the other floor the history of the dig as well as the original grave site. But as we only really wanted to see the bones we decided to leave it for another day.

Things we didn’t get chance to see – lots of other museums, botanical gardens and the one I want to see when I have actual cash – the Space Centre

Cologne and Dusseldorf Germany

I haven’t been able to get out and about much recently but at the end of last month I managed to finally get away with a National Holidays Xmas markets trip to Germany.

The trip involves a days travel each way and two days of sightseeing and Xmas shopping. In light of recent terrorist events security was at a maximum crossing the Channel but the coach operators handled it well and in the end depsite an extra wait that part of the jorney was smooth. Coming back not so fun as we got caught up in the storms that had been raveging England and moved onto the Continent. Our return ferry crossed on some of the worst choppy seas I’ve encountered. We had actually missed our designated ferry due to border control. A blessing as it turned out as the original one got blown of course and eventually landed two hours after our later one!

Dusseldorf we found to be nice and pleasant but quite small. We probably didn’t need to spend as long as was planned there. Cologne has much more to see and do as it’s quite a big city. We were told that many of the buildings were bombed during the war which was probably why everything looked like it had been built in the 1970’s.

Our end conclusion was that as nice as the towns were once you’ve been to one Xmas market you’ve probably seen them all. Each one sold pretty much the same things as you could get back home in Leeds (although possibly a bit cheaper). Overall though we had a fab time and would highly recommend it

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