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jammaker49

jammaker49
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Member since: 03.11.2001

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    • Buses and coaches / Archive Service / 2 Readings / 10 Ratings
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      13.04.2004 05:35
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      When I announced to hubby last year, that I had found a 6-night break for us to celebrate our Pearl (30th) wedding anniversary, and described the hotel we would be staying in, he initially said that it sounded perfect. Then I told him that it was in the Shearings Coach holiday brochure, and his immediate reaction was, ?But only old fogies go with Shearings!!? I showed him the brochure, pointed out all that was on offer, and after considering it for a while, he agreed to give it a go. It means we can leave the car at home (and he can have a rest from driving as I don?t drive at all) and can sit back and enjoy the scenery for once. It is possible to book Shearings Coach Holidays online, but on this occasion I used a travel agent. We went down to Travel Choice in Romford, and in a very short time the holiday of our choice was booked. As we were pretty early in booking (last August, for an April holiday) we even got our choice of seats on the coach: right at the front just behind the driver. The efficient young lady who made our reservation also noted on the booking form that it was our 30th anniversary on the 6th April (we travel on 4th). The total cost of our particular holiday was £480. We had to pay a £100 deposit, with the balance payable by 15th January this year. This has been duly done, and we now await our tickets and itinerary. OUR HOLIDAY ACCORDING TO THE BROCHURE In the Shearings Brochure, the holiday we chose was billed as ?North Wales Little Trains holiday? The reason for this will become apparent further on. We will be staying in the Marine Hotel, on the sea front at Llandudno in North Wales on a dinner,
      bed and breakfast basis. The hotel boasts an indoor swimming pool, and nightly entertainment. It is owned as well as run by Shearings, and although officially 3 stars, it seems to have many extra facilities you would expect from a higher classification of hotel. I am not going to go into the hotel itself for the purpose of this op, as I am writing another one, just on the hotel. As previously stated, our final bill was £480 for the 2 of us. Working out at £40 per night each, this includes travel from Romford to Llandudno and back, 6 nights half board, and three inclusive coach trips whilst we are there. There will, apparently, be further optional coach trips, which will be charged for if taken. The inclusive trips are 1)A full day travelling in Snowdonia National Park, including a ride on the Festiniog Railway. 2)A full day trip to some of the villages in Snowdonia, culminating in a rail trip around the lake at Lanberis, and a visit to a hydro- electric mountain. 3)A half-day trip to Caernarfon. I expect we will do these three excursions, and spend the other three days exploring Llandudno and the local area, as we have never visited that part of the country before. It will probably depend on the weather, and what the optional trips are. I also aim to make good use of that indoor pool! Once again, as you can probably now tell, I have prepared this half of the op before the event and will complete it on return. I seem to do that quite often these days! However, it seems to work for me, so why change the habit of a Dooyoo lifetime? OUR TRIP Firstly, our travel documents and itinerary were picked up from the travel agents just about 10 days before the trip. Included in the pack were suitcase labels for both directions
      of the journey, and a leaflet laying out the travel arrangements, including baggage weight, times of departure and where to pick up the feeder coach etc. Everything seemed to be straightforward enough, so we booked a taxi for the Sunday morning, and got ready to rumble! Our feeder coach was timetabled to depart from central Romford at 9.28 a.m. It arrived very punctually, and the driver, Chris, took our luggage from us and that was the last we saw of it until we reached our destination! Picking up a few other people en-route, we travelled, very comfortably, for the hour or so that it takes to reach London Gateway, via the North Circular ring road. London Gateway is situated at a service station on the M1, not far from the junction with the M25. Here, Shearings deal with all their transfers from feeder coaches all over the south of England, and I must say that the set-up was pretty impressive. As we entered the transfer station, Chris told us that we would have about 30-60 minutes to wait whilst all the cases were transferred to their respective destination coaches, and to listen out for the announcements which would be given when a coach was ready for departure. We already knew which bay number we would be departing from, so used the time for a much needed cuppa etc. In the event, we waited about 40 minutes until our coach bay was announced, and then made our way to where our driver, Bill, was waiting to greet us, and show us to our seats. As stated previously, we were directly behind his driving seat. All the seats are fitted with seat belts, but I was rather taken aback that not many of the passengers appeared to use them. I would have thought common sense would tell people that they are not there just for decoration! Bill was our driver for the entire duration of our holiday, and he told us a little
      about himself as we set off up the M1. He lived in Conwy, not far from Llandudno, so knew the area very well, and had been doing the Llandudno run for about 3 years. He informed us that we would be stopping at Exhall, not far from Coventry, where Shearings had yet another transfer depot for feeder coaches from the more northern parts of England, and that we would be taking on some more passengers there. That would also be our first ?comfort stop?. We duly arrived in Exhall, after travelling for about an hour and a half. This was a much smaller, and less impressive depot than London Gateway, but nevertheless, baggage transfer for the new arrivals was swiftly and efficiently carried out, and we were on our way in just over half an hour. During this leg of the journey, Bill gave us the week?s itinerary, where we would be travelling to, and times etc. As well as the three included excursions, there were 2 other half-day trips, costing just £7.00 per person, so we decided to book both of those, as we would still have 3 free afternoons to do any other things around Llandudno that we fancied. It did mean that we had to be down to breakfast every morning by 8.am in order to be ready to pick up the coach at 9.15 a.m., but that was not really a problem. After another ?comfort stop? at Sandbach on the M6, we continued on our way, and reached the Hotel shortly after 4.30 pm. Bill informed us that the earliest he had ever got there before was 4.45, and that usually it was closer to 5.30 when he pulled in, so we were well ahead of schedule. After registering in the hotel and finding our room, our luggage was delivered safe and sound to our doors. As far as I am aware, not one passenger arrived without their luggage, so the efficiency of the baggage handlers at both transfer depots was spot on. THE T&#
      82;IPS Every morning, at bang on 9.15, we left the hotel for whatever trip was planned for that day. To be honest, we visited so many places, and saw so many wonderful sights, that I could probably make this op into a book! I was going to do a day-by-day diary, but that could take so long that I am going to amalgamate and summarise the main parts of each trip. Needless to say, the scenery in and around Snowdonia is breathtaking in places. One day, it was raining, and the cascades of waterfalls down the sides of the mountains were awesome. We would not have seen many of those had the weather been dry. The low clouds, hiding the tops of the mountains made things look slightly eerie at times. We visited charming little villages, like Betws y coed, Lanberis and Portmadog, and travelled along the Conwy Valley, where just a few weeks ago, the fields and villages were flooded when the River Conwy burst its banks. The railway running through this valley is still out of action due to this flooding causing structural damage and subsidence. We travelled on 2 separate railways: The Ffestiniog steam railway, from Portmadog to Blaineau-Ffestiniog, where there is one of only 2 working slate mines left in Wales, and the Lanberis Lake Railway. Both of these are narrow gauge railways, and both began life as working railways for the slate mining industry, but are now primarily tourist attractions. The price of both these trips was included in our holiday. We also visited Caernarfon for half a day. Bill informed us that in the Welsh language there is no ?v? so the ?f? has the ?v? sound and the ?ff? has the ?f? sound. There is also no ?x? in Welsh. TAXI is spelt TACSI. Honestly! The highlight of the trip, for me anyway, was the
      visit to ?Electric Mountain? near Lanberis. This is a complete electricity generating plant, buried deep inside a mountain that used to be used for slate mining. From the outside, nothing is visible. Even electricity cables are buried underground rather than on pylons. Yet inside the mountain, there are miles of tunnels, and an absolutely enormous cavern, longer than 2 football pitches, and as tall as an 8 storey building, where electricity is generated using the power of the water that occurs naturally in the mountains. It was simply awesome. On all the trips, Bill would point out different landmarks, and at no time were we sitting on the coach for more than about an hour and a half. Sometimes he would veer off the designated route in order to show us something more spectacular, and finally, on our last day there, we got a good view of Mt. Snowdon itself, still snow covered, and for once, not hidden behind cloud. On the day of our anniversary, we visited Caernarfon, and Bill announced the event to all those on the coach, so the booking agents must have passed on that information. On our journey back to London, 6 days after we had set off, the trip was reversed, and we arrived home, tired, but very happy, and an hour ahead of the scheduled time. THE COACHES Shearings coaches are all very comfortable. Most of them seat 50, and all are fitted with seatbelts as standard. All those travelling to the continent have air conditioning as standard, and those used in this country are being replaced gradually, so that they will all be air conditioned in time. There are also adjustable footrests, which are good because they take the pressure off the backs of your legs, which is vital on a long journey. There is room under the seats for small holdalls, and some space above the seats to store coats e
      tc. The windows are double glazed, and made with darkened glass. There are also curtains which you can draw closed should the sun be especially bright or hot. All the seats do recline, but only a few inches. This is easy to do, with a small lever on the side of the seat. The armrests are also adjustable. Some coaches, mainly those on long journey routes, are also equipped with an on-board toilet. Ours was not, but as I have already said, at no time were we more than about an hour and a half on board without a break. Passengers with limited mobility may have found it a little difficult to get on board, as there did not seem to be any sort of lifting device, or wheelchair access, although there was space under the coach for transporting wheelchairs. We had a couple of passengers on board who used wheelchairs, but also had some walking ability, and were able to get on and off with a little assistance. I have to say, that I found the journey too and from North Wales very pleasant indeed, and it did not seem to take very long at all in either direction. WOULD I RECOMMEND SHEARINGS? In one word YES I most certainly would. This was the first time we have done a coach holiday, and although we were probably the youngest ones on board, that did not seem to matter in the slightest. We were taken to places we probably would never have gone to had we travelled by car, and hubby certainly wouldn?t have enjoyed the scenery as much had he been driving. From start to finish, we found all the Shearings staff to be polite, efficient, and only too willing to do all they could to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. If the coach felt a bit warm, a quick word with Bill and the heating would be turned down and th
      e coolers turned on, and vice verse. So please don?t think that ONLY old fogies go on Shearings Holidays! Granted, there were a number of retired couples on our coach, but to be honest, people of all ages would have enjoyed our holiday. If you want a holiday where you can cram in lots of sightseeing, but don?t particularly want to be driving, then consider Shearings. They have coach holidays all over the UK, Ireland and Europe, and are expanding even further afield, bringing in holidays where you fly to your destination, and then begin the coach part of your trip. I have compared their prices to those of one of their largest competitors, and Shearings come out on top. Many of the hotels they use are actually owned by the company too, which also helps to keep overheads down. Go on. Give them a try. I know we?re glad that we did, and will definitely be using them again. www.shearingsholidays.com

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        12.04.2004 06:01
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        Once again we are on the move! Looking back over my ops in the last 2 years, I?m amazed to see just how many places we have indeed visited. And there?s me claiming to be a poor traveller! This April, Mr and Mrs Jammaker will have been married for 30 years! Daughter reckoned we should have a big ?do? to celebrate, but we thought 2 weddings in 9 months were enough ?dos? for any one family, so we have decided to get away from it all, and take off for a 6 night break on our own, and leave them to have a ?do? if they want one! Our destination this time is the Marine Hotel in Llandudno, Wales. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THIS HOTEL? There were several reasons governing our final choice. Firstly, we have never actually visited this area, so it means we will be seeing something different. Secondly, having been to Australia just before Christmas, we decided we did not want to go too far afield this time. I don?t drive, and hubby decided he would like to leave the car behind on this occasion, so we decided to go with Shearings Coaches, and this hotel was in one of their brochures. As it will only be the first week in April when we go, we are not expecting heatwaves, and the Marine has an indoor swimming pool, which was a great plus! I have also heard that hotels owned and run by Shearings are often exceptionally good, and although officially classed as a 3 star hotel, they have many facilities one would expect to find in a hotel of higher classification. The final lure was the fact that travel could be arranged for the weekend just prior to our anniversary, it is possible to go for more than a couple of nights as it is the start of the Easter Holidays, and basically, we just fancied going there! Does one need any further
        reason? IMPRESSIONS OF THE HOTEL BEFORE WE GO I have seen pictures of the hotel on the Shearings website, and I must say it looks very imposing. It is three or four storeys high and stands on the seafront at the seaside town of Llandudno, in North Wales. According to the website, ?it offers comfortable furnishings, friendly service and a swimming pool perfect for active moments, but also an ideal setting in the centre of the promenade, just over the road from North Shore. Llandudno, enjoys a superb setting and tranquil ambience, combining up-to-date amenities whilst retaining its Victorian elegance.? Hmmmm. Sounds good to me so far! We have booked a double, en-suite room with a sea view for which we paid a small supplement (£3 per room per night). We are on a bed, breakfast and dinner tariff, and included in our price is coach travel to and from the resort, plus 3 trips whilst we are there. For that, we are paying £480 for the 2 of us, for 6 nights stay, which works out to approximately £40.00 each per night, including the supplement. Not bad at all! You can also book with the hotel direct, and drive yourself there, which would set you back approximately the same per night, but of course, would not include travel and excursions. Is it really worth taking the car? The hotel also runs short breaks of different kinds on selected weekends, with special offers of between £63-£73 per person for a two night stay, and a special Easter 3 night break, costing £99 per person. There are no single room supplements, which is unusual in this day and age, and there is evening entertainment on most nights. Looking at their information, this can include Ceilidh Nights, with Traditional
        Scottish entertainments from visiting bands. Now that sounds right up my street! As you can see, I am once again writing this part of my op prior to our visit. All the information above was taken from the Shearings Holiday website: http://www.shearingsholidays.com. Hereafter will be the second half of the op, including our experience of the hotel and surroundings, and my comparison with the information we have already gleaned. MARINE HOTEL AS WE FOUND IT Well the first thing I can do is to answer my own question of two paragraphs ago. No, it is most definitely NOT worth taking the car! To begin with, there was very limited car parking space, and what little there was, was on a pay and display basis. To be perfectly honest, even if you did not want to do the tours with the Hotel company, it would pay you to use their transport to and from the resort. As previously stated, the nightly tariff for self-booking and driving was exactly the same as we paid, which included all our transport costs. The Marine Hotel is situated in the centre of the promenade between Great Orme and Little Orme, and about 2 minutes walk from the centre of town. In fact, it was in an ideal situation, being far enough away from all the nightspots (I only counted 2 of these!) and the pier, yet still close to all necessary amenities. The hotel has recently been expanded by the acquisition of two adjacent hotels, which have all been knocked together to create one large hotel. It is still undergoing some refurbishment, although approximately three million pounds have been spent on it since it was enlarged. Our room was on the second floor, and was reached through a rabbit warren of corridors, up in a lift, and then more corridors! We soon
        got used to the route though, although it might be a bit off-putting for more elderly guests who can often lose their sense of direction! The room itself was fairly spacious, with a very comfortable double bed. One of the pillows was feather, to which I am somewhat allergic, but it was quickly replaced with a foam one on request. We had an en-suite bathroom, with a toilet, basin and a simply huge bath! Hubby was a little disappointed that there was no shower, even over the bath, as he prefers taking a shower. Bath towels and hand towels were provided, although they were not particularly large (maybe it?s because we tend to have bath sheets at home and have become used to that size. Guest sized bars of soap were also provided, but shampoo was not. Neither was there a hairdryer, which is unusual in a 3 star hotel. I believe you could ask for one from reception, but as we had packed our own travel drier anyway, we did not have to bother. We had 2 bedside tables, a desk containing the kettle and cups etc., which also had three roomy drawers down one side of it, a wardrobe (we could have done with a few more hangers) and 2 chairs and a dressing table stool. There was also a sort of open fronted cupboard thing, and we tended to keep the towels and stuff in that. We were also very touched to find a lovely floral display awaiting us, and a little card from the management, wishing us a happy anniversary. Towels could be changed as and when you wanted, simply by leaving the dirty ones in the bath, and the tea, coffee and milk was replenished daily. Our room directly faced the sea, and we had a wonderful view right along the entire promenade, and out across to the pier. The windows in our room were the old sash type, and opened from the bottom. ?Friendly? seagulls used to visit us on the window ledge, so we didn?t keep the windows very widely opened
        ! In spite of the old-fashioned type of window, those in our room did not rattle at all in the wind, which was quite strong at times, and that quite surprised me! Each couple (or group) were assigned a particular table in the dining room, which you kept for the duration of your stay. There are three restaurants, all roughly the same size. We were allocated to the Victoria Restaurant, and our table was nicely situated in a window alcove, adjoining one other table for two. The breakfast menu was what one can expect in a hotel of this size. You helped yourself to cereals and fruit juice, and grapefruit segments, prunes or porridge were also available to order. A normal fried breakfast was available, as was a cheese and ham platter, or grilled kippers. Eggs could be ordered in a variety of ways: fried, poached, scrambled or boiled. There was plenty of toast (white or brown bread) and as much tea or coffee as you wanted. If required, a packed lunch could be purchased, which was handy if you were going to be out all day. This consisted of a sandwich (ham, cheese, tuna or corned beef), a piece of fruit, a packet of crisps, a packet of biscuits and a carton of drink, at a cost of £3.20 per person. At dinner time there was always soup, fruit juice or a ?special? as a starter. The main courses included a roast, a fish dish, a vegetarian dish, a cold salad platter and a ?chef?s dish of the day.? Vegetables were served on a separate platter, to which you helped yourself, and there were always at least 2 varieties of potato, and two other vegetables. From experience, I can fully recommend the cold platter! I like a fair amount of meat, but even I had a job wading through the amount on my plate! Dessert included a hot pudding and custard, a selection of ice creams, cheese and biscuits, or fresh fruit, including strawberries and kiwi fruit. This was selec
        ted from a large fruit basket, which was left at your table until you had fully made your choice, and sometimes even longer. Those strawberries were delicious Tea or coffee was not served at the table, but in the ballroom/lounge. After dinner, there was a bingo session, which started at 8.15p.m. As we are not particularly big bingo fans, we usually went up to our room, or sat in the T.V. lounge for this part of the evening. This was usually followed by either sequence or line dancing, which was enjoyed by many, but once again, is not our cup of tea! At 9.30 each evening there was a visiting cabaret artist, or entertainment from the hotel?s resident musicians/entertainers. There was a country and western evening, a comedian and a very good female vocalist during our time there. From about 10.30, there was dancing to CD music for those who wanted it, but as we had to be up and ready for breakfast at 8.a.m. in order to catch the coach at 9 a.m., we tended to call it a night after the cabaret. On the night of our anniversary, we had a table to ourselves, and a lovely bottle of champagne to accompany our meal (we actually finished it off in the lounge watching Chelsea beat Arsenal in the European Cup!) We felt rather good about reaching 30 years married, until we met the other couple at out table. They celebrated their 62nd anniversary the day we arrived! GULP! We twice made use of the hotel?s swimming pool, which is one of the nicest I have come across in a hotel. For a start, children were not allowed in the water without an adult. You had to go to reception to get a code to punch in to access the pool, and they simply didn?t give that code to minors. During our stay, there weren?t many children in the hotel anyway, but I can see that during the summer months, it could be a problem. The pool itself was
        quite small, but not one of those really tiny ones where you can touch both sides at once. I usually managed about 40 lengths (yes, I counted them) in a half hour session. Towels could be hired for £1.00, but we had taken our own anyway. Various items of merchandise could be purchased, including postcards depicting the hotel from its corner angle, boxes of fudge etc, showing the same picture, pens and key-rings and such like with the hotel?s name engraved on them, and several original pieces of unusual jewellery. There was also a post box in the entrance foyer for the inevitable postcards. RECOMMENDATIONS I have to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our 6 day stay at the Marine. There were one or two little irritations, but nothing that could not be dealt with, such as the feather pillow. It would be nice to see them install a shower above the bath (from glimpses we got of s ome of the other rooms, I believe they are beginning to do that as part of the refurbishments). I also feel that it would not be too much to expect a hair drier in the room, even it is one of those that are fixed into the bathrooms. Also, we would have liked our champagne served in proper champagne flutes, rather than ordinary wine glasses. A minor niggle maybe, but one that could easily be rectified. Apart from that, I can honestly say we were very comfortable, well fed, and looked after very well indeed. Our waiter, Brian, really made sure every one of his guests had exactly what they wanted, even if it was not on the menu! We really missed him on his day off! As previously stated, we paid approximately £40.00 per night for bed, breakfast and evening meal, and that included travel to and from home by coach, and 3 excursions whilst there. I looked at their list of tariffs whilst I was there, and for th
        e same accommodation, but driving your car there, it was £38.00 per person, but then you would have to add on the cost of petrol and parking. The price rises to £48.00 in high season, but even that, for the quality and facilities, is not extortionate. Hubby and I fully intend to return to North Wales again, we enjoyed it so much. And I would most certainly look at staying at the Marine again when we decide when we will be going. You would look a long way to finding something of the same quality at the same price. But if you DO decide to visit the Marine, or indeed, Llandudno, take my advice and leave the car at home! Especially in high season. Take the coach instead. (See my next op on Shearings!) I have had to place this op in the Colwyn Bay section as there does not appear to be a category for hotels in Llandudno, and Colwyn Bay is the closest geographically! Website: www.shearingsholidays.com Address: Marine Hotel, The Promenade, Llandudno. Gwynedd. LL301AN Telephone: 01492 877521

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          22.01.2004 01:17
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          Never one to shirk a Challenge! I wonder how many pages this will cover before I am finished! Ah well, here goes! q: when did you join Dooyoo? a: I joined Dooyoo on 3rd November 2001, which means I have been a member for just over 2 years. q: how did you discover Dooyoo? a: My daughter, Amanda, writes on the site as Leolover, and she introduced me to the site. I visited the site a number of times before I took the plunge and actually wrote something! q: Why did you join? a: I guess at heart I am a frustrated writer. I just love writing. Most of the writing I had done up to that time was poetry, but I have always been able to write at some length, and I saw Dooyoo as a way of writing somewhere to get feedback on my scribblings. At least, that?s how it was at first. After the first 10 or so ops, I think I can safely say it was addiction that drove me to write! q: what was your very first opinion on? a: My very first opinion was about St Mary?s the largest island in the Scilly Isles. I posted it in entirely the wrong place, wrote it all in one block, which made reading it difficult, and altogether botched it up completely! I have since revamped it, but looking back on it, I think I can safely say that my writing has improved considerably since those days! q. did you find it easy to get the hang of Dooyoo? a: After the initial wrong posting, I found it reasonably easy to negotiate the site. But that was the OLD Dooyoo site. It took a lot more time to negotiate this ?new ? site. In fact, I think I am still finding my way round it! The old Dooyoo site was, in my opinion, much easier to negotiate, but I guess we all have to update from time to time. q. Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? a: I did read a few other opinions first, probably those written by my daughter first. Then I think I went to look at some of the writings of those
          who had commented on her writing. To be perfectly honest, I can?t really remember what I read. q: do you write no/some/many comments? a: I am guilty of not reading and commenting on as many as I should. I often read ops and leave no comment. I think I probably read and commented more in the beginning than I do now. Time is a factor with me, but I shouldn?t make that an excuse. If I want to get more reads, then I ought to read and comment on more myself. Q: When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? A: I tend to go to the opinions on subjects that interest me. I rarely look at opinions, say, about electronics etc, because I wouldn?t have a clue what they were on about. I?m the sort of person who would lose interest quickly if I had little or no comprehension about the subject being covered. On the other hand, travel ops interest me greatly, as do ops associated with gardening and growing things.Although I have quite an extensive list of ?friends? I don?t necessarily go straight to their work. Sometimes, if I have enjoyed an op by an unfamiliar member, then I will revisit them. The ops I refuse to even read, are those posted ?en bloc?, eg 10 at a time. I don?t care who the writer is, if their name appears more than a couple of times on the ?newest ops? page, I will not read them, whatever the subject. I find this tiresome and selfish, as it pushes other people?s work down the list, which results in them getting less reads. Q: Do you write your opinions in one sitting? A: Sometimes I write at one sitting. Mostly though, I think it fair to say that it will take me a day or so to comprehensively complete an opinion. Indeed, I have been known to write the first part of a travel op prior to going away, and finishing it when I return. I find this works
          for me.When I am really in full flow, I can write 3 or even 4 ops in one day, but rarely post more than 2. I would rather post the others at a later date than flood the screen with stuff. Q: How often do you post a new opinion? A: This is a tricky one. When I had more time, like in the school holidays, I have posted one a day for a couple of weeks at a time. As I said previously, Dooyoo becomes addictive! On the other hand, I have had gaps of three months or more between postings. At the moment I am trying to keep to about one a week. Sometimes it will be more, sometimes less. Life gets in the way of writing at times! Q. Do you use a spell check? A: I always write my opinions in Word, and do a spell and grammar check when I have finished. I type quickly, and don?t stop to correct as I am typing. When I learned to type, back when dinosaurs roamed, you had to erase and repair every spelling mistake, which was a nightmare. I also do a visual spelling check, as I hate to see spelling mistakes (I guess that?s the teacher in me!) but the occasional one gets through the net. If I spot it, I will ?change my opinion? in order to eliminate it. Having said that, I know some of my ops contain minor spelling mistakes. Q: Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? A: No. I think you are more likely to get a crown if your op is generally well written, and nominated by more than one person who reads it. To be honest, with some of my crowned ops, I?ve known before I?ve posted them that they are going to get crowned. I think most people know their own writing, and when a piece is perhaps not quite up to their usual standard. On the other hand, I?ve received crowns totally unexpectedly too. I have to say, several guides have helped me on occasions, mainly if I?ve been unsure where to place an op, or if I?ve been unable to get any response from Dooyoo regarding new items that I?ve wante
          d them to add. But honestly, how would one suck up to a guide? Q: Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? A: I?m still a member of Tooyoo, but it doesn?t seem to have been used much recently. I did belong to a Teacher of children with Special Needs forum for a time, but really wasn?t getting much from it, so dropped out. I go into PalTalk sometimes, mainly to play and listen to music. I tend to communicate with people online via MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and AOL Messenger. I did have ICQ but ditched it because it kept making me illegal! Q: Does it get to you when members praise or condemn you? A: It did at first. I got quite indignant at some of the comments I received, but on reflection, they were made to help me, not to criticise. Now, I would rather see constructive criticism than unwarranted praise, although I do still get annoyed when people make comments that show that they haven?t really read the opinion at all. Q: What did you do in your spare time before you joined Dooyoo? A: Oh gosh! Now you really are making me think! I used to read a lot more. However, the old eyesight isn?t what it used to be, so I don?t think I would read as much now any way! I had a dog pre-Dooyoo, so we used to go for long walks. Sadly she is no longer with us, so the reason for walking is no longer there. Neither is the enthusiasm! I?m an avid theatregoer, but that hasn?t changed. I also used to watch a lot more on that other square box that lives downstairs. Now what was it called? Oh yes. A television! Q: What do you wish for the future? A: For the future of Dooyoo, I would like them to sort out that mess at the beginning of every op, where it turns upper case letters into lower case ones! I also wish to ban the use of apostrophes that become question marks when I submit, but can be changed back into apostrophes if I go to change opinion. It just takes up so much time to redo what you?ve already
          done once! I hope you enjoyed reading my responses to the questions. If you want to participate, please add. :-) Please don't take this challenge to ciao without asking MALU, she'd rather decide herself what to do with a text she's written, when to take it there or if at all. Thank you.

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          • Rocky Horror Picture Show (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 10 Ratings
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            21.01.2004 05:16
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            It?s astounding. Time is fleeting?..madness takes its toll. But listen closely?..oooops. I forgot where I was for a while there! Well anybody who knows me knows that I?m already crazy, so it will come as no surprise to them that I absolutely adore this DVD. Although numerically old enough to have discovered Rocky Horror when it first came out, I did not truly ?discover? it until it began its new circuit in the mid nineties. From the first time I saw the film on TV, I was hooked. Totally and utterly! I have had the video for at least 10 years, and have lost count of the number of live shows I have attended. However, the DVD version beats all the previous filmed versions into submission. There are so many functions and extra bits, that I really think I have only just touched the surface so far. If anybody hasn?t yet seen the film, which planet do you live on?? On this digitally remastered DVD, you can watch either the original film, as it was released in 1975, or with the addition of the previously omitted ?For once in your life?. Apparently it was originally recorded, and then omitted as they had to cut down very slightly on the length of the film, and this got the short straw! As it is always included in the stage show, personally, I would want to see it in the film, but it is quite acceptable to see the film minus this one track, and not even know it is missing. Is there anybody out there who does not know the storyline of Rocky Horror? Or the cast of the original film? Suffice to say, I am not going to go into great detail about the story. You only have to use a search engine to find Rocky Horror picture show, and there are countless sites that will do that bit for me! The Rocky Horror show was the brainchild of Richard O?Brien, of Crystal Maze fame, way back in the early 70?s. It is at root, a musical spoof on all the B rated horror movies of the time. It is something you either love or hate. Somehow, there are no in-betweens.
            After a couple of years in theatres, the film was finally brought together, starring Tim Curry as Frank N? Furter, Susan Sarendon as the straight-laced Janet and Barry Bostwick as the drippy Brad. Richard O?Brien himself played the hunchbacked servant, Riff Raff, Patricia Quinn was Magenta and Little Nell played the red-headed groupie, Columbia. Meatloaf (looking very much younger) portrayed the half-brained Eddie, and was, apparently, the only singer to have played the part, and managed to fit in all the words to ?Hot Patootie?. I am digressing here, from the purpose of this op: the DVD. I make no apologies. I love all things ?Rocky? and find my mind as well as my fingers going off at tangents, as I recall the numerous times I have viewed this thing! However, I will do my very best to keep to the point! When you go to the cinema to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show, or indeed, to one of the live shows, the thing that stands out above everything else is the audience participation. There is a ?come-back? line for virtually every line of dialogue on screen. One of the ways you can view the film on the DVD is with the accompanying audience participation dialogue. It does mean that parts of the ?official? script can be somewhat lost in the background, but as I probably know the film almost word perfectly, this was not a problem at all. If it is your first viewing (in other words, if you are a Rocky Virgin) then this is probably not the best way to view it! Once you become more au fait with the film then this is indeed a fun way of learning the very necessary ?heckle? lines, that over the years have become part and parcel of the Rocky experience. There is yet another option where you can have the film running in the background, whilst Richard O?Brien and Patricia Quinn discuss various aspects of the making of the film. For a serious Rocky fan, this gives a valuable insight to the different characters, and indeed, their opinions of
            the script at the time. For instance, Meatloaf nearly walked off the set the first time he saw Tim Curry in suspenders and fishnets, wondering what an earth he had got himself into! Apparently, until that moment, he had only the sketchiest idea of what it was all about, and had taken the role simply because he loved the Hot Patootie number! Yet another option to view, is with sub-titles, giving you the places where actions, rather than words are the order of the day for the audience. For instance, at the beginning, in the wedding scene, and indeed, at the ?marriage? of Frank and Rocky, traditionally the audience throws rice. You are prompted on screen when to do this on the DVD. Similarly, when Brad and Janet approach Frank?s castle, there is a terrific thunderstorm and in the cinema, out come the water pistols (don?t forget your newspaper for over your head. This part can mean a real drenching for those in front!) On the DVD you are prompted when to do this. Also on the DVD, Richard O?Brien visits the locations of some of the places where the film was shot. For example, the old, broken down manor that served as Frank?s castle in the film, is now a 5 star luxury hotel in the Elstree area. Thank goodness that my daughter (Leolover on Dooyoo) already had her wedding reception venue booked before we watched the DVD, because I?m pretty sure she would have been VERY interested in this, as she is as much a Rocky nut as I am! One of the best parts on the DVD (which, incidentally, comes on 2 discs) is the interview section with the stars of the film. It?s very interesting to see them as they were back in 1975, and how they are now. For many of them, it was almost their first time on a cinema screen, but from that start, they went on to bigger (I can?t say better!) things. Others, like Peter Hinwood, who played Rocky, vanished out of the limelight almost immediately. All in all, if you are a Rocky fan, then this DVD is an absolute must hav
            e. It can never take the place of being amongst a whole army of dressed up Rocky nuts at a live show, or even a midnight cinema showing of the film. There IS nothing that can compare to the atmosphere and electricity generated at such an event. But it is the next best thing, and it does mean you can watch, and even participate, in the action, in the comfort of your own home. I?ve seen numerous stars play Frank on-stage (Robin Cousins, Darren Day, Jonathan Wilkes and Jason Donovan to name but a few) but no-one lays claim that part as much as Tim Curry. Indeed, Tim Curry IS Frank, and always will be. If you want to watch Rocky, then go get this DVD. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. In Richard O?Brien?s own words, "I think I invested it with my psyche and that subliminally it feeds the audience psyche. It has a hypnotic hold, like a fairy tale invested with psychological tremors 'Daddy, won't you tell me the story again?'. You never tire of hearing the fairy story as a child and that's why you never tire of ROCKY." http://www.rockyhorror.com/profobrn.html Incidentally, our local theatre, the Queens in Hornchurch, is planning a ?Sing-a-long-a Rocky in March. No prizes for guessing who already has tickets! PS. If you visit http://www.rockyhorror.co.uk/fanpics/london.html and scroll down to the second picture, you will see my daughter with Jonathan Wilkes, on the night of the 30th birthday party Rocky bash in London last June! We were lucky enough to have tickets not only to the show, but to the after show party too. What a night that was. But that is a completely different story!

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            • More +
              06.01.2004 03:24
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              Melbourne. The capital city of Victoria, way down south in Australia. I never would have gone there had it not been for my son choosing to marry a Melbourne girl, and us having to fly over 15,000 miles for the wedding! Having tasted it, and the surrounding area just a little, I will definitely be going back, although not for a while yet! We spent just 2 weeks in and around Melbourne. I wish it could have been more, as we really only scratched the surface, but as I teach, and was already playing hooky for those 2 weeks, we couldn't push our luck too much! Next time though, it will be for much longer. To go all that way for just 2 weeks is not exactly a waste of time, but you are just getting into the swing of things when it is time to come home! MELBOURNE ITSELF Melbourne is situated in the South East of Australia, along the banks of the River Yarra, and close to the various beaches situated around Port Philip Bay. It is close to mountains, and an hour's drive brings you to some of the most spectacular coastal scenery you could ever wish to see. There are many forest areas close by, including Eucalyptus forests, where, if you are lucky, you may get to see Koalas in the wild. Melbourne has a population of an estimated 3.5 million. Melbourne claims to be of the safest, healthiest, and cleanest cities in the world, and having just been there, I can well believe that claim. Although the very centre of the city is like most other city centres, much of it is pedestrianised, making it safer for those on foot, and the whole area is surrounded by huge parks, and open land. Melbourne is laid out in a symmetrical, rectangular grid, with wide streets, making it easy to travel form one part to another, and making following a map very easy. It's a bit like Milton Keynes in layout, but without those infernal roundabouts! The only problem we found with this grid system was the sudden one-way systems that don't always seem
              to have much rhyme or reason. We soon got used to it though, and travelling around the area was plain sailing. The Melburnian lifestyle has been greatly influenced by people from more than 140 nations who have made this city their home, creating a rich multicultural society. TRAVEL Leave the car at home and use the trams! At least in the centre of Melbourne, and in outlying areas during the rush hour. Parking is at a premium, and difficult to come by. Even outside our apartment block there was disc parking, which meant that if we were unable to get into the very small car park, we had to move the car every hour after 7 a.m. And they are very strict on the parking laws. Melbourne has a brilliant tram network, and as the roads are built on the grid system, it is very easy to work out where you need to change, and where you need to get on and off the trams. The tram rails run in the centre of the roads, and trams have right of way in the city centre. A one day ticket, giving unlimited travel within zone one (city centre and up to 4 miles out depending on where you were) cost around 7 Aus dollars. There were also tickets available for zones 2 and 3, but we never actually got out that far! The zone one tickets covered more than enough ground. Around the very centre of Melbourne, the City Circle Tram was completely free. If shopping was your order of the day, then this was the one to use. Once again, furnished with a decent road map, it was easy to establish where to get on and off. One word of warning though. Don't be tempted to use this on a hot day! It gets very packed, goes quite slowly, and is not air-conditioned! Needless to say, we chose a hot day! Flinders Street Station is well worth a visit. This is located next to Federation Square, and is the central point for all train journeys to and from the suburbs, and even further afield. The station itself is a beautiful landmark, and worth going to see, even
              if you have no intention of catching a train! We did have the use of a car for our second week, and once out of Melbourne, the roads are generally good, not too crowded, and well sign posted. A speed restriction of 80 km is in force on most main roads, and this is strictly enforced, with cameras etc. Because of this, most cars are equipped with cruise control, and it is advisable to use this, even on the freeways. A toll charge, similar to London?s congestion charge, is applicable on all roads in and out of Melbourne. Top up cards are available in a number of outlets, and you get an audible beep in the car as you pass under one of the toll control machines. Most people buy the cards in advance, but you do have up to 5 days to purchase one after going through the controls. I have no idea what the cost is, as the car we used was already equipped with a prepaid toll card. Skateboards also abound in Melbourne, but, sorry to say, we did not avail ourselves of this method of transport! ACCOMODATION All sorts of accommodation can be found in and around Melbourne, ranging from very basic youth hostels, to 5 star hotels, with prices to match. Much of the accommodation available is in serviced apartments, again in varying degrees of luxury! The serviced apartments that we were in for the duration of our stay were on the east side of the city, just near Fitzroy Park, and almost opposite the Melbourne Cricket Ground. They were classed as 3 star, and were situated in a 3 storey block, with a small car park (about 6 cars could fit in) in a small side street, away from the noise of the main road. We had 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, small fitted kitchen, television, telephone etc, and we were very comfortable there. The beds especially, were enormous (at least 6 ft wide) and extremely comfortable. We had no intentions of cooking, so the small kitchen was no hardship. The bathroom had a toilet, and a very small bath (it was
              OK for me as I'm only 4 ft 11, but my future son-in-law at over 6 ft could barely get in it!) with a shower over the bath. Sheets were changed every 3 days, and towels were replenished whenever we left the used ones in the bath (every day in our case!) Fresh soap, shampoo and conditioner was placed in the bathroom every day too. We also had a patio door leading to a small veranda, which had a table and 4 chairs in it, and which caught the sun nicely at around lunchtime. My daughter booked the apartment (Knightsbridge Apartments) on the Internet, and it worked out at about £250 each for the 2 weeks that we were there, which I don't think was bad at all. That included all the electricity, daily servicing, and they would even order your shopping in for you if you wanted. The only thing we had to pay for at the end of the holiday was for phone calls, which amounted to around 30 Aus dollars (about £12). I would definitely use this type of accommodation again, as it gave us the freedom to come and go as we pleased, eat as and when we wanted (or didn't want, as the case might be) and worked out pretty reasonable for 4 of us. Ours was a medium priced apartment block, outside the centre of town, but within easy access of many of the town's facilities. EATING OUT Where does one start? Melbourne is a totally cosmopolitan city, and this is reflected in an enormous variety of culinary delights. If you can't find it in Melbourne, it probably doesn't exist! As well as the vast choice of restaurants from all parts of the world, there are the usual McDonalds, KFC, Burger King (called Hungry Jacks in Australia) but who wants to use those when you can have virtually any dish imaginable? We found a little back street café just down the road from our apartments that did us beautifully for breakfast each day, offering everything from cornflakes to smoked salmon, and a good choice of teas
              to wash it down with! The same café offered afternoon teas, with homemade scones etc in the afternoons. Many of the restaurants and cafes had tables and chairs outside as well as inside, and this was very pleasant on a warm late spring evening. A great many restaurants are not licensed, but you can take your own drinks in, including soft drinks, and no charge is made for corkage. The Australians also do not expect a tip, which we find strange. The serving staff are always (or were in our experience anyway!) very friendly. Indeed, we have a picture of our friendly Chinese lady sitting down with us at our table on our last night there! Most of the hotels and apartment blocks also have a delivery service, where you can phone a central number, a courier will go to a number of different outlets, should you so desire, and bring you your order all in one fell swoop! This was particularly helpful for us, as I eat very plainly, and daughter loves spicy! One night we had an order for pizza, Mexican and Chinese, which would have been a pain for one of us to go and buy, but was simply a phone call way! And it always arrived piping hot. THINGS TO DO IN MELBOURNE Shop until you drop! The only place I have seen so many shops in around the same sized area, was Dublin in Ireland. In Melbourne there are so many roads to shop in that you lose yourself! Literally! We spent ages looking for this one shop that we had found the day before, and in the end had to go into another shop and ask them to phone the first one and ask them where they were! On our last day there, I bought 2 pairs of trousers, a cotton cambric embroidered blouse, and a full lined dress for 75 Aus dollars, which was about £35. Also much of the jewellery is excellent value for overseas customers, as you can claim the tax back. My daughter and her fiancé bought their wedding rings while they were there, and hubby bought me some beautiful opals for Christmas (but I chose the
              m of course!) A must visit, is the Aquarium, situated on the banks of the Yarra River. This is an incredible experience, with fish, sharks and all manner of marine life seemingly swimming above and around you. It is a perfect place to go when it gets very hot outside! Don't forget to take your picture standing inside the shark's mouth! Melbourne Museum is where my son had his wedding reception, and is well worth a visit. We had the pre-reception drinks in a rain forest, situated within the museum, which was absolutely incredible! We ate our meal just around the corner from Pharlap the horse made famous in the film! The museum itself is housed in quite a modern building, but you don?t really notice this when you are in there. Federation Square is one of the focal and central points, where you can watch the world and his brother pass by. You can wine and dine in the open air, catch a ball game on the giant screen, visit the exceptionally good Visitor Information centre. There are numerous parks all over Melbourne, each one offering different scenery and attractions. Fitzroy Park was our nearest park and here we visited Captain Cook's cottage, which had been transported to Melbourne from England some time in the 1930s and rebuilt in its current position. The rooms are so tiny, it seems almost impossible to think that someone once lived in them. The Botanical Gardens, over on the South side of the River Yarra, house a tremendous number of tropical plants from all over the world, and reminded me very much of the tropical gardens on Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Each park has its own special character, but one thing remains the same in all of them. Many of the trees are protected by thick plastic sleeves, to stop them being destroyed by the possums! And it is wonderful to be walking through one of the parks, with parakeets flying down from the trees and landing in the grass in front of you. Nobody should visit Melbourne
              without spending at least a full day wandering along the South Bank of the river Yarra. Here can be found all sorts of retail outlets, bars, a multitude of eateries, and some of the best amateur entertainment you will encounter. On a warm, sunny day, we watched native Aborigines in full regalia making incredible music with their didgeridoos, there were people dressed and made up to look like statues suddenly stepping out and scaring the life out of you, and all manner of musical ensembles. Here too, can be found the Plaza Casino, with breathtaking views from the highest building in Melbourne, and with timed fireworks every night lighting the sky above. Here too, can be found one of the many undercover markets, selling all kinds of unusual items at a fraction of the prices in the shops. The above attractions are just a small fraction of the many diverse sights and activities that can be found just in the centre of Melbourne. Venture an hour away from the centre, and the choices are even greater. THINGS TO DO WITHIN A SHORT DRIVE FROM THE CITY My very favourite trip that we took was along the Great Ocean Road, which takes in some of the most spectacular coastal scenery I have ever seen. You can take a trip in a coach, but we decided to go by car, and we went in the opposite direction to the organised trips. Well, you've got to be different somewhere haven't you? We travelled to the west of Melbourne, and reached the coast at Port Campbell, about 150 km away, then turned east onto the Great Ocean Road. This was built after the 2nd world war to create employment for the many service men returning from the fighting. Until that time, communication along this coast was very difficult, but the result now is a wonderful scenic road that seems to stretch and wind for miles and miles. Indeed, the next time we go to Australia, I would love to spend a whole week just on the Ocean Road, visiting the many waterfalls and forest
              ed areas. We only had time to purely drive along, stopping now and then to take photos of the extraordinary rock formations. On the day we went, the mist had rolled in from the sea, and shrouded the bases of these rocks, yet the peaks were out in the sunshine, creating a very eerie scene. I'm sure many of you will have seen the film "Picnic at Hanging Rock". We had just that. A picnic at Hanging Rock. Yes, it really does exist in the Macedon Mountain Range, about 80 km north of Melbourne. It's quite a climb up, but well worth the view when you get there. Barbecues are available in the picnic areas, and crimson Rosellas fly all around you. There is even a "tame" wild kangaroo on site, although he didn't put in an appearance while we were there. Philip Island Wildlife Sanctuary, about 100 km south east of Melbourne is also another must-see place. Here you can roam among the kangaroos, watch the koalas in the trees, spot a possum up a gum tree, and at dusk, watch the little penguins make their nightly trip up the beach from the sea, back to the safety of their nests. Magic. There are so many more attractions that I could include here, such as the Puffing Billy Steam train, Healesville Nature reserve, the Blue mountains, Mount Macedon, and the Yarra Valley wineries, all within easy reach of Melbourne, and all worth visits. But you can only fit so much into 2 weeks, so I have tended to concentrate on the places that I actually saw. The only regret I have is not being able to stand in Federation Square, watching the Rugby World Cup Final, surrounded by a load of Australians! Where was I? Up in the air on my way home! I'd have given my last dollar to have been coming home a day or 2 later so that I could have watched that! Next time, Amanda, I'll be doing the flight bookings, and I will make darned sure that we don't clash with any sporting event! Still, we WON and that makes al
              l the difference!

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              • Singapore Airlines / Airline / 3 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                03.01.2004 03:35
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                Well, we are booked! Myself, hubby, daughter (Leolover) and her fiancé fly out to Australia on November 8th to attend my son's wedding the following Saturday. We chose Singapore Airlines for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my son used Singapore Airlines when he first flew out to Australia two years ago. He used a different airline when he returned, and yet another when he went back there for good. In his opinion, Singapore Airlines had the edge on the others. Secondly, we are travelling during Rugby World Cup time. Everyone is well aware that flights suddenly go up in price around these times. We first started looking for flights back in May, when son and future wife finally decided on the date of the wedding, and Singapore Airlines were most competitive. As we wanted to ensure that we could travel on our preferred date, we booked up in plenty of time. Now anyone who has read my numerous travel ops will already be aware that I am not the world's best traveller. Indeed, for many years I would not fly at all. I'm not scared of flying in the least, but I do have a tendency towards travel sickness. Anyone who has never been travelsick is totally unable to understand how fearful that can make you feel. Indeed, more than one person has told me to my face that the fear of being travelsick is totally irrational. Maybe. But it is still a very real fear, and as the time for us flying looms ever nearer, I am afraid my apprehension increases. Nevertheless, I'm going. At present, I am trying to ignore the thought of the number of hours we will be airborne, and I'm sure that once on the plane, having taken my trusty travel tablets, I will be fine. As you can see, I am writing this part of the op prior to the journey. Somehow I find it works for me to do that. So in this part, I will concentrate on what we have done and found so far, and then when we return, I will concentrate on how we found the Airline, and compare expect
                ations with reality. BOOKING My daughter did the bulk of the booking, via the Internet and telephone. She assures me that it was done speedily, courteously and efficiently. Apparently they also take care of any visas that are required, and these are included on the e-mail type tickets that we have received. It seems that gone are the days when tickets are sent by snail mail, and that everything is done electronically. All we needed to supply were our passport numbers and expiry date, and computers did the rest. Subsequently, my daughter has phoned the airline on a number of occasions, just to verify some details, and has always been dealt with efficiently. She has a long standing back problem, and has requested seats with extra leg room: her request has been noted. She aims to take medical documents to verify her problem, and we should, if all goes well, secure 4 seats near the rear of the plane, where there will be a bit extra room to move around. We are sort of hoping that we may even get a free upgrade to Business Class if there is sufficient room there, but are not banking on it. We can but hope! We were hoping to deposit our luggage with the Airline at Heathrow the night before we travel, as we are staying in a nearby hotel that night. However, we were told that Singapore Airlines do not operate this facility, but that we can book our luggage in up to 6 hours before the flight. Another alternative is to book our baggage in over the Internet between 48 and 2 hours prior to flying, by joining their "KRIS" frequent traveller scheme. I have no idea how this works, but I've joined anyway, so we may give it a try. Our flight is at 11 am, and I have no intention of being there at 5 am, so we aim to get there around 7-8 ish. At least, that is the plan! SINGAPORE AIRLINES ONLINE INFORMATION I have done quite a bit of surfing, and much of this section is taken from Singapore Airline's own webs
                ite https://www.singaporeair.com. I have also added comments regarding my own interpretations of some of their info! "Over the last two decades, Singapore Airlines has grown from a regional airline into one of the world's leading passenger and cargo carriers. Today, they have a modern and young fleet of aircraft. Their home base, Changi Airport, is regularly voted the world's best, and serves as the gateway to Asia and beyond. As at 1 August 2003, SIA has 98 passenger aircraft with 26 more on order and another 51 on option. The average age of our passenger fleet is 5 years 6 months." I take this to mean that the aircraft used are all newish, modern planes rather than clapped out recycled ones! In this section on the aircraft themselves, there are detailed descriptions of the various types of craft used, with diagrams of the various cabin layouts. Unfortunately, these were not sufficiently large or detailed enough to be of very much use. Also on the website were sections where you could pre-book your in-flight meals etc. This, however, was for Business (Raffles) class, and first class passengers. Ah well, onwards and upwards! Much of the site is given over to a very detailed description of Changi Airport in Singapore. All well and good if you have a long change-over period, but not particularly useful if you are 'just passing through'. SINGAPORE AIRLINES AS WE FOUND THEM It has taken me from when we returned (22nd November) until now (2nd January) to actually get round to finishing this op! Well, better late than never, so they say! To be honest, I've been trying to forget the flight home, but that really wasn't down to Singapore Airlines. It was more to do with the sheer fatigue brought on by flying from Melbourne at 1.a.m., landing in Singapore at 5 a.m. (local time) after seven hours flying, kicking our heels at the airport for more than 3 hours, and then a fur
                ther 13 hours flight back to Heathrow. FLYING OUT We arrived at Heathrow at around 8 a.m. and joined the queues of people checking in. Bearing in mind these planes carry over 300 passengers, you can imagine the amount of baggage and numbers of people milling around! However, this part was surprisingly quickly dealt with, our seats were allocated (at the rear, where promised) and we parted from our luggage, praying that we would once more be reunited with it in Melbourne. (We were!) Once in the departure lounge, we did a little Duty Free shopping, grabbed a quick pot of tea, and were called to the departure gate on time. I'm going to digress a little here, and tell you the story of Barnaby Bear. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. I teach in a local primary school, and as part of their geography lessons, the 6 year olds watch a television programme called Barnaby Bear. He travels all over the world. The Year 1 teacher at my school has recently purchased a "Barnaby Bear" who also travels all over the world. Can you guess what is coming next? Correct. Barnaby Bear went to Australia. On the outside of my backpack, there are elasticated strings, and Barnaby travelled all the way secured by these strings. Now Barnaby has his own passport (honestly!) and already has stamps in it from Dublin, and Ghana in Africa. My family thought I was absolutely crackers for taking him anyway, but when I produced his passport at immigration control and asked for it to be stamped, they disowned me! However, the nice lady immigration officer just laughed, and duly stamped his passport for me! Barnaby also acquired a kangaroo skin bush hat (to keep the sun off him) and a Bear sized boomerang to remind him of his visit! OK. Enough of Barnaby, and back to Singapore Airlines. We boarded the plane, and found our seats after a mile trek through the entire length of the plane! We found that they did have
                a little extra leg room, and some room at the window side of the seats, but in all hone sty, there wasn't that much extra room to warrant the safari we had to make to reach them! However, we all had a blanket and small pillow, which could be used during the flight. In front of each seat was an individual screen, which could be utilised in a number of ways. You could play games, using the handset, which was attached to your seat. There were a number of films that you could select from, again using the handset. I think the list of films could have been somewhat better, as unless you were a fan of blood and guts (Terminator 3 and such like) there wasn't a great deal to choose from. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't watch a complete film on the entire journey! You could also programme the screen to plot your position en route, and watch the little airplane wend its way across continents. Boring as it may seem to some people, this is what I chose to do for most of the trip! Several music stations could also be accessed, and each person was furnished with a pair of earphones for this purpose. My first pair was broken (as were my daughter's) but they were quickly replaced by the cabin crew. Being Heathrow on a Saturday, needless to say, we were slightly late in taking off. We were due to fly at 11 a.m. and finally took to the skies at around 12.15. At first, everything was fine. The cabin crew came round regularly with drinks (mainly non-alcoholic), the lunch time meal was very acceptable (chicken with vegetables and many accompaniments, although daughter would have preferred the noodle option they had run out of that). However, we had only been airborn for about 4 hours when we sort of caught up with the night-time, and all the lights were dimmed! It was as though we were all expected to close our eyes and sleep! During this time, the drinks became fewer and farther between. They tell you to drink plenty on
                long-haul flights and yet the airline was not providing even water. A couple of times we rang the stewardess bell and asked for some water, but could really have done with much more than was provided. We did try to sleep, but found it impossible. In this first plane, the footrests were not adjustable, and with my short legs, were worse than useless. I was very aware of my legs pressing into the seat, and even though I was wearing my sexy DVT stockings, I must admit this was constantly on my mind. About 3 hours before we landed, we were served breakfast, and information came onto the screen regarding the formalities at Singapore. As we had taken off late, we would be landing late, and instead of being able to stretch our legs for a while, we were to go straight round to Gate whatever, and immediately board the flight for Melbourne. Actually, the transfer went very smoothly, and we watched the luggage being driven across the concourse and reloaded onto the new plane. Once again we were late in taking off, so they could have let us have a little stretch!! This second plane, whilst having no more leg room than the last, did have adjustable foot rests, which made them (for me anyway) much more comfortable. Breakfast was served (again!) and I got down to watching the little plane on the screen and comparing it to what I could see out of the window! We had more snacky things on this leg of the flight: fresh fruit, biscuits, pretzels and chocolate bars: but I still think they could have been a little more generous with the water. Still no sleep, but by now we were getting excited about reaching Australia. We watched an absolutely amazing sunset from the window as we flew along the south coast, and finally landed in Melbourne at about 9 .00 pm local time...........just about as England kicked off the rugby quarter final with Wales! Luckily (and this was the same with all 4 legs of the flight, both there and back) we disembarked quickly a
                nd efficiently so were able (after getting Barnaby?s passport stamped) to watch the match..........in Costa Coffee at Melbourne airport! I jest not! Our son met us."Hello Mum and Dad, look they're showing the match over there. I know you're dying for a cup of tea (I was actually) so shall we have a quick one before I run you to your apartment?" Anyway, to cut a long story short, we had a wonderful time at his wedding (Australia v New Zealand semi final day) and all too soon it was time to come home. THE FLIGHT HOME Now here was the big mistake we made. The first leg of the return flight began at 1 a.m. We had been up all day, doing last minute shopping, saying goodbye to son's new in-laws, so were already tired. Never, ever begin a long haul flight at that time of day if at all possible. I wanted so desperately to sleep, but just could not drop off. I had earplugs, eye mask, the lot, but found it completely impossible to sleep. To cap that, I don't eat eggs in any shape or form, but when the stewardess got to us, guess what the only thing she had left was? Yep. Egg mayonnaise rolls. She was very apologetic, but that wasn?t much good to me! She did finally come back with some cheese and biscuits, but then, cheese is not the best thing to eat when you just want to sleep. Once again, I felt that we were all expected to sleep, and the drinks were not forthcoming as frequently as we would have liked. The seats were comfortable though, with the adjustable foot rests. This time we had a 3 hour wait in Singapore, and took the opportunity of stocking up on our own bottled water for the next (13 hour) leg of the journey. We must have had 10 bottles between the 4 of us, and still managed to drink the lot, as well as that provided by the airline. This final leg was, for me, an absolute nightmare. I was so tired yet just could not sleep. This in turn made me feel sick, so although I felt hu
                ngry, I didn?t want to eat. Then to top it all, it happened again. This time they ran out of chicken, and were only left with the fish. I HATE fish! By this time we were somewhere over India, and I would have gladly paid the pilot to stop and let me off! Especially as England were just about kicking off against Australia in the Rugby cup final! Talk about bad timing! Once again, even though it was daylight outside, the lights were dimmed, and for ages nobody came round with anything. I'm just thankful we took plenty of fluid with us. At least being at the rear of the plane meant we had a little bit of space behind us where we could get up and do a few stretches and knee bends. I'm afraid that the foot rests were once again non-adjustable, and totally useless. This is one thing Singapore Airlines needs to improve. There is no point in having them at all if shorter people can't adjust them. About an hour before we landed, the crew came round with fruit, biscuits, rolls, and all sorts of snack type stuff, but by now, hardly anyone wanted them. The pilot had given us the half time score (5-14 to England) about 5 hours previously, but had maintained an ominous silence ever since! Half the plane was dressed in England shirts, but we did notice a couple of Aussis further forward. We touched down at Heathrow in what must have been the best landing ever. It was perfect, especially as the English weather was awful! Then we realised the pilot was Australian, as he reluctantly gave us the final score to delighted cheering and clapping! Once again the disembarkment went smoothly, we retrieved our luggage and finally made it home around 6 p.m. By 7 we were in bed and asleep! RECOMMENDATIONS? I suppose any long haul flight, like London to Melbourne, is not going to be the most comfortable in the world. 13 hours, and then 7 hours, is a very long time to be cooped up in a small area. Maybe if we had gone with anothe
                r airline, it would have been just the same. Singapore Airlines has a good reputation, but if this was the best, I would hate to fly with the worst. I felt we were "led" to when we should be asleep. I know you can put your individual light on when the cabin lights go down, but I don't feel it is fair to expect you to be going to sleep when it is essentially 3 p.m. where you have just left from. I most certainly feel they could improve comfort, simply by installing adjustable footrests on ALL long haul flights. I can't comment on what other airlines provide, but I do know that the shorter leg of both flights was so much more comfortable, simply because I could raise the footrest. Also, more fluid needs to be provided on all flights. Yes, you could call the stewardess if you wanted a drink, but if I'd called her every time I felt thirsty, my bell would never have been silent. I'm only glad we took plenty of our own on that final leg. WOULD I USE THEM AGAIN? Again, I have nothing to compare them with, although my daughter went with Cathay Pacific last time she went to Australia. She was in business class then though, but says that Cathay was vastly superior to Singapore. I suppose if the cost is the main consideration, then I might be tempted to use them again. I would, however, NOT do the whole journey in one fell swoop. I would have to have a stopover en route, whichever airline I used. I guess I've recovered somewhat from the dreadful jet-lag I experienced on return, but I also think it will be quite some time before I even consider such a long flight, let alone make one! Next holiday? North Wales! Terra Firma.

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                • More +
                  27.08.2003 05:28
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                  Once again, the Jammaker family (well, Mr and Mrs Jammaker and Mr. Jammaker’s dad!) are on the move! I guess we get about quite a bit really! This time, our destination is Bonnie Scotland, and in particular, the Crags Hotel in Callander, Perthshire. We hadn’t really intended going anywhere this summer, as we are off to Australia in November for our son’s wedding. However, all the best laid plans came to nothing, when my father in law suddenly announced that he had been stationed at Callander during the war, and would like to go back and visit the area again. Hubby has two weeks leave from work in August (I’m off for 6 weeks, as I teach) so we decided to go for it. I first looked for the Dreadnought Hotel, which was where George (father in law) had been billeted. It still exists, but at £99 per person per night for Bed and breakfast, was a little out of our price range! I searched on Smoothhound and sent off a few emails, and then found another site, http://www.incallander.co.uk/, and sent off another load of emails. I was looking for a double (or twin) and a single room, en-suite, for 5 nights, from 10th – 15th August, offering bed and breakfast. Probably due to the lateness of our booking, very few of the hotels and B&B’s that I emailed could do the full 5 nights. Some offered alternative dates, some just apologised for not having accommodation available. We were left with the choice of about 5 hotels and B&B’s, and from those, chose the Crags. Everything was booked by email, and I duly sent off the £75 deposit requested. I received an email when the deposit was received, and a letter of confirmation in the post. So far so good. THE CRAGS ACCORDING TO ON-LINE INFORMATION I have taken the following information from the web site above, and am writing this part of my op prior to our visit, so I will compare the information and our findings when I return. The Crags
                  is categorised as an inn offering Bed and Breakfast, in the centre of Callander, in Perthshire, Scotland. It is described as a “small and comfortable family run hotel ideally situated in Callander Town Centre, the Gateway to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.” There is a handy map printed at the bottom of the page, showing exactly where it is, and how to get to the car park (which appears to be at the rear of the hotel), and a photograph showing the front of it. From the photo, I can fully understand why it is called the Crags! There is also a description of the rooms, and facilities in those rooms. They are described as “cosy” so I quite expect them to be smallish! All the rooms are en-suite and equipped with Colour TV, Clock Radio Alarm, Trouser Press, Hair Drier, and Tea & Coffee Making Facilities. The hotel is fully licensed and the Lounge Bar stocks a wide range of Bottled and Canned Beers, Cider. Malt & Blended Whisky, most popular Spirits, Sherry, Port, Alco pops and House Wine by the glass. etc. (That will suit hubby and father in law then!!) The site states that although evening meals can be arranged, there are a number of good restaurants and pubs close by, which we will probably use for our evening meals, and just take breakfast at the hotel itself. A breakfast menu is included, and I can see us all putting on weight if we wade through it each day! Your choice of Fruit Juice, Grapefruit Segments, Porridge or Cereals *** Traditional Scottish Oatcakes *** grilled Bacon, Pork sausage, Black Pudding, Tomato, Mushrooms and Potato scone Egg - fried, scrambled or poached Boiled Eggs Smoked Haddock with Poached Egg Grilled Summer Isles Oak Smoked Kippers Cold Ham or Orkney Cheese Platter *** Toasted Brown or White Bread with Preserves Their tariff is very easy to follow, although on the site, it does not state that there is
                  a sin gle supplement, which I feel should be there, as father in law was charged extra for single occupancy. We were, however, told this in the original email, and decided to book there anyway. Hubby and I were charged £50.00 per room per night, including breakfast, father in law was charged £35.00 per night. For three nights or less, in high season, the tariff increases to £55.00 per night for a couple. In low season, it goes down to £42.00 per night per couple. So much for the information we had before we went. Now all we have to do is wait for 10th August, and the 420 mile journey. I have the AA route printed out in readiness, and now all that remains to do is pack! THE CRAGS HOTEL FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE 1) THE JOURNEY We set off at 6.45 am on the hottest day ever recorded! Thank goodness the car has air conditioning! Following the AA preferred route, we joined the M25, turned right onto the M11, continued on the A14 to join up with the A1 and continued northwards. When Leolover, my daughter, was at York University, this was the route we used when visiting her, so we are pretty much acquainted with this road. In our old car, we would take around 5 hours to do the trip. In the current “Golden Chariot” (Champagne gold coloured Ford Focus) we could barely believe it when we arrived at Markham Moor services, which was where we had planned to stop for breakfast, within 2 hours! Replete with the Early Breakfast, and a refreshing pot of tea, and with the temperatures beginning to rise rapidly, we set off once again on the A1, branching off on to the A66 At Scotch Corner. It was beginning to become obvious that the clouds gathering above the Pennines held more than a little rain, but luckily we missed the worst of it. We did catch the aftermath of a few downpours though, in evidence as lakes across the road in places, which slowed us down considerably on this stretch of our journey. We pulled o
                  ver into a lay-by for a quick coffee from the flask and a few minutes shut-eye for the driver, and reached the M6 at Penrith at around noon. We had already decided to stop at the Gretna services, just over the Scottish border, in order to refill the car with petrol, and off-load those cups of tea! Here, you are greeted with a Scottish Bagpipe player, and can have your photo taken with him if you want to. Unfortunately, we were also greeted with swarms of storm ants, so we kept our visit to a minimum. The final part of the journey through Southern Scotland along the M73 and M74, circuiting Glasgow, and then continuing along the A80 and A9, branching off towards Callander at Dunblane, took about 2 hours, and we finally arrived at about 3 pm. We drove along the main Callander to Stirling road as directed, and the Crags was easy to find on the right hand side of the road. Thereafter we took our directions from the hardware shop on the corner. Screw-its. One could hardly forget that name could one? THE HOTEL The car park was at the rear of the hotel, so we turned right at Screw-its, then right again, and into the grounds. You could probably park about 6 cars in there at most, but there was on-street parking at both the front and rear of the building. During our stay we always managed to get into the car park, although it was a bit of a squeeze sometimes. We were greeted by Avril Nieto, completed all the formalities with a minimum of fuss, and then shown by Peter Nieto to our rooms. They were both on the second floor, and there was no lift, so the accommodation would not be suitable for those unable to climb! As expected, the rooms were quite small, but nevertheless, comfortable. Hubby and I had a double room, which also housed a 2-drawer dressing table, 2 bedside tables, an armchair, tea and coffee making equipment, and a trouser press. We had an en-suite shower room and toilet with washbasin. Towels were also provi
                  ded, and here I must say that I have never been provided with such big, soft, white, fluffy towels! I have bath sheets at home, but these towels were something else. They were also replenished every other day, which was great. The toilet………….now how can I describe the toilet? It worked, that is for sure. It was one of those electrically shredding toilets (don’t ask me what I mean, I’ve never seen one before.) You know the vibrations you get on an aircraft about to take off? Well this was something similar! It scared the life out of me at first, and I’m pretty sure it must have woken the dead when we flushed, but it did work. And as I never heard any of the other guests flushing, I can only hope that they couldn’t hear me! We didn’t have a wardrobe, instead we had a walk-in cupboard type thing built under the eaves. I say walk-in very loosely. I am only 4 ft 11 tall, and I had to duck to get in! Most people would have to crawl in I reckon! However, it housed all our hanging clothes, all our shoes, both suitcases, and any other odds and ends we accumulated! So all in all, so long as you remembered about the low entrance when coming out, it was perfectly adequate. The bed was extremely comfortable, and I really didn’t need to have taken my own pillow, but I always do when staying somewhere in this country anyway! The one thing missing was a remote control for the TV, but we managed manually! I expect the duvet was comfy too, but considering the heat all week, the most we used was a top sheet anyway! The duvet was relegated to the armchair each night. The window in our room was a bit on the small side, but we had the benefit of not getting the sun after mid-day. It was opened to its maximum for the entire stay, but we did not really get much of a breeze in our room at all. Father in law’s room was a twin bedded room, with all the same facilities that we
                  had. His window looked out onto the main road at the front of the hotel. A lot of traffic passed along that road, and I think, for me, that room would have been too noisy. Luckily, George is a little on the deaf side! Avril and Peter have only recently taken on the Crags, and are in the process of refurbishing. At present there are only 6 guest bedrooms, but when finished, they plan to have 4 more. The guest lounge is also being re-done, so, although the bar was opened during the evening, you had to sit in an alcove in the corner of the breakfast restaurant, so we tended to go out instead. When it is finished, it would be nice to sit downstairs in the lounge. They have also decided to concentrate on just bed and breakfast, so evening meals were not available, but this was not a problem, as there were a number of eating places close by. Breakfasts were great. You could go down at any time between 8.30 and 10.30, and the food was as good as the menu suggests. Hubby had the smoked haddock most days, and the portions were very generous indeed. I’m a sausage, bacon and tomato person myself, and always had more than enough on my plate. There were several different cereals, grapefruit segments, fruit juices etc to serve yourself with first, and plenty of toast afterwards, which was replenished if required. There was a good variety of jams and marmalades, and a choice of butter or Flora spread. Tea and coffee was topped up as required. Most days, we only needed a scone and cuppa during the afternoon after having such a good breakfast. THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA We crammed a lot into our 4-day stay there. Callander itself is interesting, housing the Rob Roy museum among other things. There are also a number of unusual shops in Callander, and once again, I did a fair amount of Christmas shopping! As the whole area is surrounded by mountains, we could not get a good signal for the mobile from our room, but that didn't bother us undul
                  y. There was a payphone in the entrance hall had we been desperate to contact someone. Our evening meal was usually taken at the Riverside Inn, a couple of hundred yards down the main street. They had a good variety on the menu, at very reasonable prices. We took the Sir Walter Scott Steam boat trip on Loch Katrine, which lasted nearly 2 hours, and passed stunning scenery. We visited the Queen Elizabeth Park, wandering through the forests down to spectacular waterfalls. We visited the Ancient Priory on an island in the middle of Lake Monteith, the only “Lake” in Scotland. All the rest are called Lochs. We drove through the Trossachs area, circling Loch Earn and Loch Tay, sat on the banks of the Tay River at the site of the Blackwatch Memorial, and wandered through the Hermitage Site near Dunkeld. On our final day, we made it to the northern shores of Loch Lomond. The three fold up deckchairs came out of the boot on numerous occasions! As we had Father in law with us, we didn’t get to do as much walking as we would have liked, although we did leave him with his newspaper a couple of times whilst we wandered off to explore a little. We will definitely go back to the area again, this time on our own, so that we can do a lot more on-foot exploration, rather than the “sit in the car” variety. WOULD I RECOMMEND THE CRAGS? In spite of the fact that the hotel was in the middle of refurbishment, yes, I would recommend it. We were comfortable, well fed, and happy. The Crags is a good base from which to explore this part of Scotland, and offered good value for what we paid. Next door to the hotel is a cottage which is also owned by the Nietos, which houses up to 6 people, and costs £300 a week at peak time. You can view this cottage on the website, and I think this looks extremely good value for money. There were several other B&Bs and small hotels in Callander, all roughly the same size,
                  some cheaper and some much more expensive than the Crags. For a comfortable, centrally positioned, reasonably priced hotel, I think the Crags was well worth what we paid. I would have no hesitation in going there again. Next holiday……Australia, here we come! Address: Crags Hotel, 101 Main St, Callander, FK17 8BQ E-mail: nieto@btinternet.com Phone : +44 (0)330257 Fax: +44 (0)339997 Website: http://www.incallander.co.uk/cragsbb.htm

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                  • Travel Tips in General / Discussion / 0 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                    19.07.2003 05:06
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                    Travel tips. Hmmmm. I’ve just been looking back over the reviews I have written since arriving at Dooyoo, and I would estimate that almost 50% of them are something to do with travelling in some way or another. Holiday, hotels, car hire, theatre. They all seem to come in the UK/Ireland, or the Travel and City sections. So I therefore assume that I am pretty much qualified to be writing in this section too! Actually, it is really only in the last few years, with the children off hand, and a little more money to call our own, that we have had the wherewithal to travel much at all! We always had our annual holiday at one of the holiday camps on the coast when the kids were growing up, and a fear of travel sickness kept me firmly on the ground! I’m not scared of flying. At least, I don’t think so. But I do have an almost irrational fear of being travel sick. Stupid, I know, and to date I have never been physically sick whilst flying, but some of the sensations experienced in the air do make my stomach (literally) turn over. But now I fly. I can’t say I thoroughly enjoy the experience, and probably never will, but I can do it now. To date, the furthest I’ve flown is Malta, but that will be rectified in November, when we fly out to Australia for our son’s wedding. If I can manage that, I can manage anything! So how did I manage to conquer the fear enough to allow me to fly? Well about 6 years ago, I really wanted to go to the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, and there is absolutely no way I am going to spend nearly 3 hours on a ferry! Just the thought of that makes me feel sick! The flight from Land’s End to St Mary’s on Scilly takes about 15 minutes, on an 8 seater Skybus, so I decided to be brave, and go for it. Admittedly, I had my eyes closed, and gripped the seat hard, but I did it! In fact, we went there for 4 years running, and by the end of it, I could even keep my e
                    yes open on take-off. I also admit to resorting to travel tablets. I use Avomine, which I find suit me best, having gone through about every other brand available. My hubby reckons that travel sickness is all in the mind, but then, he’s never been travel sick. I would rather take my trusty tablet, and know I’m not going to be sick, than not take it and have that worry at the back of my mind. I also try and drink plenty of water, and have something light to eat prior to flying. Anyway, since the initial flight to Scilly, I have flown to Scotland, Jersey, Luxembourg (very bumpy ride!) Malta, and Ireland 4 times. Admittedly, none have been long haul flights, and with the exception of the trip to Luxembourg, they have all been pretty smooth sailing, but with each one, I have become less and less nervous. So if you, like me, really don’t like flying, or have never flown, my tip would be to take it slowly, with short flights to begin with, and gradually build up to the longer ones. Also, experiment with different travel tablets to find one that really works for you. I tend to take a whole tablet the night before a journey, and then half a tablet about an hour and a half before we are due to fly. Some tablets can cause drowsiness, and by doing it this way, I can alleviate some of this drowsiness. There are also some general things that I do before travelling, that may be of help. These would be useful whether travelling by car or by plane, or indeed any other mode of transport! * Have a checklist ready for those last minute things, and tick them off as you pack them. That way, you won’t get half way there and suddenly remember something you’ve forgotten. * Even if you, like me, tend to do all the packing, insist that hubby packs his own personal things, like wallet, diary, keys etc. That way, if HE forgets them, he can’t blame you! * Try not to leave in a rush, or
                    even worse, late! If you are already apprehensive about the journey, this will only add to the anxiety. I would rather be at an airport an hour early than 10 minutes late. * If you are travelling by car, take time before the journey, to check the atlas, and write down your intended route. That way, you will always know the next place you are making for. Also, have the atlas in the car, so that you can make any detours necessary en route. * Whenever possible, try not to travel on a Saturday in peak season. If you really have to use Saturdays, maybe it is possible to travel overnight. There is nothing worse than sitting in a long traffic jam, with fractious kids, in a heat wave! Been there. Done that! These days, if we are travelling in this country, we will either travel down on a Sunday, or Monday, and either leave very late on the Saturday to come home, or leave it until the Sunday. It really is much better. · Always take enough bottled water in case of emergencies. You can drink it if you get stuck in traffic, use it to wash hands and face should you get dirty or if the weather is really hot, and you can top the radiator up should you need to. If the kids will only drink squash, take that in a separate small bottle and make it up as you need it. You can’t put orange squash in a radiator, or wipe it round your face! · Think about what you are packing for the journey. Do you really need all those shoes? We’ve really cut back on the amount we take, and we still manage to come home with quite a bit of it unused. Invest in a slightly smaller suitcase so you physically can’t take any more than it will hold. We have two reasonably sized holdalls, which between them, when packed to capacity, weigh around the 25-27 kilos in total. That way we know we are within the 15-kilo allowance that most airlines stipulate. If we are allowed extra, we use 2 backpacks as well, plus a little hand luggage. So there
                    you have some Jammaker tips for travelling. I suppose I’d better read my own op just before going to Australia! I have to say I have some trepidation about the trip, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it is for a special occasion, I doubt very much that I would have made this trip from choice. But at least I feel able to face it without absolute dread. Oh, and by the way, my mum (aged 77) made her first flight ever to Jersey, just 2 years ago, having vowed she would never fly! So you’re never too old to start!

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                      10.07.2003 17:43
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                      If you have read many of my previous ops, you will already know that my daughter and I are somewhat a couple of theatre addicts. We go together at every opportunity. It doesn’t really matter what is showing, we love to go anyway. It just happens that we both enjoy Shakespeare plays. Last year, we were fortunate enough to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Midsummer Night at Midnight, at the Globe theatre in London (see my op on same). Now that really was a magical night. We were, however, dismayed to find, that although there was to be a midnight performance at the Globe on Midsummer’s night this year, it wasn’t even going to be a Shakespeare play! Now how sacrilegious is that? In fact, we weren’t even inspired to attend the Globe at all this summer, as neither of us fancied the plays that are being produced there this year. We were, however, delighted to find that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of the productions being included at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre this summer, so I decided to book seats for her birthday. In fact, the seats are for 3 weeks before her birthday, as fitting in anything right now takes a full scale conference! Anyway, to cut a long story short (who me???) I very easily booked 3 seats (hubby came too) for the July 8th (Tuesday) performance through Ticketmaster, in row F of the front stalls, received my tickets with time to spare, and waited patiently (who me again??) to see what the weather would be doing. Knowing what the weather will be doing is important for these open air theatres. Our first experience was some years ago at the Porthcurno open air theatre in Cornwall. It chucked it down! Usually, if it has been raining heavily for some time before a performance, and shows no sign of abating, then that performance will be called off and you can rebook your seats for another night. If, however, it begins to rain after the start of a performance, then
                      tough luck! You get jolly wet! Having learned this to my cost, I now have a couple of oversized pac-a-macs from the Globe (they only cost £2.00 each) which sit in a handy pocket in my backpack, just in case! As yet, they haven’t been utilised, but you can bet your life, if I leave them out, then I will need them! Anyway, I digress. (Who me?? Perish the thought!) BOOKING I am writing this section of my op prior to the performance date, so the information given here is taken from the official website for the theatre: http://openairtheatre.org/ This season, there are two Shakespeare plays being produced: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Booking can be done in a variety of methods, including those below. In some cases, a booking fee may be charged on top of ticket prices. a) By telephoning the Box office: 0207 486 2431 This can be done Monday to Saturday, 10am – 8pm b) 24 hour telephone booking with Ticketselect on 0207 494 5375. A £1.50 booking fee per ticket is added c) Online at www.tickets.com Again, a £1.20 booking fee per ticket is added, and they do not deal with any discounts that may apply to certain performances. d) By post or in person at The Box Office Open Air Theatre Inner Circle, Regent’s Park London NW1 4NP The website includes a seating plan, prices, performance schedule, and information about the inclement weather! Apparently very few performances are actually cancelled outright, and the decision about whether a performance will take place or not is never made until scheduled performance time! Oh well, I might need those macs after all! Travel information is included. It is hardly worth taking the car and paying Ken’s congestion charge on top of parking, so we will take the tube to Baker Street and then walk. A handy map is also included, showing exactly where the theatre is in
                      relation to the tube stations. PRICES I paid £26 each for our seats, which were amongst the best in the house. This is about average for seats at any theatre in London, indoors or out, although you can pay much more for some of the really popular shows, like Les Miserables. There are 2 tiers in the Regents Park Theatre: the lower circle and the upper circle. To be honest, wherever you sat you would get a good view, although I’m not sure the sound would have been as good if you were further back. Prices ranged from £26 down to £9.50, with a £2 discount on all preview nights. Groups of 10 or more receive a 10% discount. With each adult ticket purchased, you can get up to 3 half price children’s tickets. Standby tickets are available on the day of the performance for £9.00 each with a senior citizen or student ID. Wheelchair users and one carer can purchase tickets for all performances for £9.00 each. Half price tickets are available for all sign supported performances for hearing impaired personel. A HISTORY OF THE THEATRE The theatre on its present site has been a permanent feature in Regent's Park since 1932, when three performances of Twelfth Night were staged to great acclaim. Ever since, summertime Shakespeare has become an established and much-loved highlight of Park life and of London's theatrical calendar. Between 1932 and 1960, Robert Atkins and Sydney Carroll produced almost all of Shakespeare's works here, as well as specially commissioned plays by authors including George Bernard Shaw. Audiences sat on deck-chairs for 6/- apiece, with those in the back row needing binoculars to watch the action! In 1962, David Conville, the present Chairman, took over the running of the theatre and founded the resident New Shakespeare Company. The fully raked auditorium was built in 1975, incorporating 1187 seats as well as bar and restaurant facilities to replace the old 'supper tent'.
                      2000 saw the theatre re-open with wonderful improvements to the front of house areas - an extended picnic lawn, a new dedicated sponsors' building and replanting to enhance the magic of this beautiful venue. There are now better amenities for audiences, sponsors, performers and staff, and in 2001 the renovation of the seating in the auditorium was completed. While Shakespeare’s plays were entertaining audiences at the original Globe Theatre in Southwark, the land that is now Regent’s Park was in the throes of a makeover from forest to small farms, the latter providing hay for London! Today Regent’s Park has its own much-loved Open Air Theatre, set in the Inner Circle and surrounded by Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE It is tradition to begin the evening at the open air theatre with a picnic! Now anybody who has read my op on the Last Night of the Proms in the Park, will know that I like to do this in style! Not just your old cheese and tomato sarnies and an apple type thing! I like to go the whole hog (well, not literally!) So we will be feasting on roasted chicken breasts, French bread (with proper butter) freshly prepared salad, strawberries and cream, and of course, the Champagne, sipped from the very up-market plastic champagne flutes purchased from the very up-market Tesco store round the corner! We will also be taking a flask of coffee (just in case it’s a bit chilly!) and no doubt some other goodies. All will be packed in a cold bag and transported across London via the tube! I might even dig out the lace tablecloth and silver candelabra! (Here is where I now begin praying that the sun shines! Can you imagine carting all that lot, only to have to eat it on the journey home?) Here ends the first part of this op, as I can hardly talk about what happened until I’ve been there, can I? ON THE DAY The day before we were due to go was glorious. It was hot
                      and sunny with wall to wall sunshine. Great! Then we awoke on the Tuesday. Still warm and muggy, but overcast and dull. All day long, whilst at work, I kept glancing out at the skies. Would it or wouldn’t it? Four O’clock arrived, and it still hadn’t rained, and, wonder of wonders, the sun even began to shine! Best to be safe than sorry though, so the pac a macs were packed, just in case! Hubby picked me up from work having already been to buy the French bread (well you can’t have yesterday’s French Stick can you? We got home, and I had just about an hour to get all the food packed, and myself ready. The chicken was already cooked and sliced, so really all I had to do was pack the cool bag. It’s amazing just how much one of those will hold. I even got the Champagne in it, complete with freezer pack inside one of those little freezer bags they sometimes supply you with in the supermarket when you get a pick and mix ice cream selection! We left home (20 minutes late) and headed for the station. For once, our connections were good, and we arrived at Baker Street shortly after 6.30 pm. Daughter was already there, sitting outside a coffee shop with a huge Cappuccino, and off we set for the short walk to the theatre. We arrived at 7, and went straight in. There was a huge bar and food outlet just inside the entrance, but as we had taken our own, we ignored this, and made our way to the picnic table area. There were still quite a few empty tables, so we chose a level looking one, and proceeded to unpack. First came the tablecloth. Well, in actual fact it was a tea towel, but it did the job admirably. I don’t as yet have a Shakespeare tea towel, so Oscar Wilde had to suffice! We dined on cold chicken, sausage kebabs, mixed salad, and French bread, served on silver (coloured) platters, and eaten with plastic knives and forks, all washed down with a bottle of Tesco’s demi-sec Champagne
                      (and very nice it was too) sipped out of those wonderful plastic champagne flutes! Then we finished off with fresh raspberries (picked lovingly the day before) topped with fresh cream! Just before 8 pm we made our way to our seats. We had a wonderful view, and because the stage is circular, it wasn’t even noticeable that we were slightly to one side. The seats already had cushions on them, so the ones we had taken with us weren’t utilised. THE PLAY ITSELF The setting of this open-air theatre lends itself perfectly to this play, with its backdrop of trees and foliage. The grassy slopes that ran up the sides of the seating areas were utilised in the scenes where the lovers are running from each other (or chasing each other, depending on your point of view. Birds occasionally fluttered in the nearby trees, adding to the atmosphere, and as the evening grew darker, large moths could be seen fluttering around the lighting. I don’t intend giving a run down on the play itself, as that would take all day! Instead, I will just pick out some of the memorable scenes and moments from the evening. It was obvious from the start that this was going to be an interesting version of the play. Hyppolyta was displayed as a somewhat bored lush, who gave the impression that she would rather be somewhere other than where she found herself, and Theseus was portrayed as a somewhat overbearing, long-suffering sort of fellow. It was completely different from the last two versions of this play that I have seen, but it worked. Bottom, played by Peter Forbes, looked wonderful in his ass’s head. This is the only production I have seen where the mouth of the ass’s mask actually moved, rather like a puppet. It reminded me very much of the donkey in the film Shrek, there it seemed to take on the personality of Eddie Murphy, who was providing the voice-over. The expressions Peter Forbes managed to bring to life wit
                      h a few tilts of the head and a couple of moth movements really added to these scenes. There was an amazing backdrop at the rear of the stage. Blending in with the natural background of trees and bushes was a curtain which was made to look like ivy, through which the fairies melted in and out as if by magic. From where we were sitting, we weren’t even aware that it was a curtain until somebody suddenly appeared through it! The highlight of the play was, as usual, the Pyramus and Thisbe scene, acted out by the townsfolk. This ended with a Zorba the Greek type dance, with the whole audience clapping along in time. If there was a weak point, it was with the character who played Puck. I always imagine Puck as a mischievous, playful, almost boyish figure. This Puck seemed somewhat too manly, especially in the first half of the play. I have to say, however, that he seemed to improve dramatically after the interval, and although he was still quite manly, he did manage to convey the mischievous element much better in the second half. We also had a short scare at about 10 pm when a few drops of rain spattered down on us, but as it was still very warm, they were refreshing rather than an intrusion. There were only a few large spots, and they only lasted a couple of minutes, so the macs weren’t needed. I had taken along a cushion, a fleece jacket and the macs, but luckily, didn’t need any of them. I’m glad I took them though, because you can bet your life if I’d left them at home I would have needed at least one of them! All in all, including the train journey there and back, we had a jolly good night out. The weather was kind, the picnic and Champagne delicious, and the play was both enjoyable and entertaining. This is the first time I have been to this particular theatre, but it certainly won’t be the last. There is something very special about watching a play like this in an outsid
                      e setting, and it differs vastly from the atmosphere you get in an indoor theatre. If you enjoy Shakespeare, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in particular, then I would thoroughly recommend this production and location. For a birthday treat, or just to pamper yourself, why not get a small party together, have a jolly good picnic, and then sit back and enjoy some good entertainment. Of course you may have to pray that the rain stays away. We were fortunate. I’m not so sure I would have enjoyed it quite so much if the heavens had opened, even with the mac! Website used for info on the theatre www.openairtheatre.org

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                        03.07.2003 03:59
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                        Once again, the Jammaker family have been on the move, this time back to Ireland. We only decided on the spur of the moment, and unfortunately, our regular B&B, Glenaire Lodge, could not accommodate us this time, so the Net was utilised to find us somewhere to stay whilst we were there. We wanted to be in the Greater Dublin area, on the south side, so that we would be relatively close to some friends of ours who live in that area. I asked Google to find me some accommodation in the Dun Laoghaire area, and then duly sent off a dozen or more emails to likely looking places, including one or two self-catering establishments. Several replied, some unable to offer us accommodation for the dates we required, some which could offer us B&B terms, plus this one which really caught my eye. Mr. Michael Walsh, the owner of several self-catering apartments, emailed me back, saying that he did not have a one bedroomed apartment available for the dates we requested, but could offer us a two bedroomed one for the cost of a one bedroomed flat! There was also a web site which I could visit, and he gave me his office phone number, and his mobile number. Obviously the next thing was to check out the website! INFORMATION FROM THE WEB SITE First of all the site was very clear, and easy to follow, with all the information you would need to make a quick decision. It gave the locations of the various establishments where properties were available for rent, of which there were several, all in the general Dun-Laoghaire vicinity. The one we had been offered was at Shandon Hall, Monkstown, so obviously that was the one I was most interested in, although I did take a peek at the others too. Maps were included on the site, which anyone unfamiliar with the area would definitely need. We have been in the area before, so had a good general idea where to find the block we were being offered. There were photographs included of both interi
                        or and exteriors of all the different apartments, although personally I don’t think the photographs did the place we finally stayed in justice. Also included was a whole host of facts about the facilities provided at each location, including local shops, facilities within each apartment, secure booking and many more. Finally came the price list for the various apartments which I reproduce in full from the site itself. Apartment Weekly Rate Per Extra Night S4 € 580 € 83 S5 € 480 € 69 S6 € 580 € 83 M18 € 580 € 83 M1 € 450 € 65 H12 € 580 € 83 B37 € 580 € 83 C26 € 580 € 83 We were being offered the S6 apartment at the S5 rate, which worked out at approximately £360 for the week. We could easily pay that for B&B for the two of us for a week’s stay in a basic B&B room. Here we would be getting a complete apartment with 2 bedrooms. Even at the full rate of 580 Euros, for a family of 4 it would still be pretty good value. BOOKING My husband and I discussed at length whether or not to do the self-catering bit rather than our usual B&B, and finally decided to go for it. I telephoned Mr. Walsh at about 9.00 p.m. one night, and within a few minutes the apartment was booked. We were given a reference number to quote on the secure deposit booking site, and ten minutes later I had submitted the 100 Euros deposit required. The following day an email was received, including a receipt for the amount deposited, and detailed explanations of where to pi
                        ck up the keys. Now all that remained to do was book the flights with Ryanair, reserve a hire car with Hertz, and we were all set. One week before going, I emailed the flight details and probable time of arrival, and received a reply giving us detailed information of the route to the apartments. In the event, we used our own tried and trusted route, avoiding the centre of Dublin, and a very detailed road map of Dun Laoghaire which we had picked up on a previous visit. GETTING THERE Let me begin with our journey. We took the train for once to Gatwick, and our flight was only 5 minutes late. Wonders will never cease, especially as this was a Bank Holiday Saturday! We arrived in Dublin in the rain (nothing new there) and went straight to the Hertz Car Hire place, to pick up our car. Hubby was delighted to find it was a Rover MG, with only 8 miles on the clock! Once the luggage was stowed away we set off, out of the airport, on to the M1, to pick up the M50. This is the Dublin equivalent of the M25 around London. Mileage wise, it is further than driving straight through Dublin, but time wise, most definitely quicker! If you have ever tried negotiating the roads through the centre of Dublin, you will completely understand that last comment! How the Mad Cabbie can stand driving there beats me! (Sorry Ken! ) One thing about taking this route, is to be sure to have 1 Euro 30 cents handy for the toll across the river Liffey. They aren’t too keen on sorting out change for the Euro notes which most of us arrive there with! At the end of the M50, which is scheduled to go right round Dublin to meet up with the N11, but as yet is unfinished, we picked up the R113 which took us almost to the end of Monkstown Road. If you miss the R113 (which it is easy to do as the road signs are not always where you think they should be), you can make for Stillorgan and then Blackrock, and pick up the N11 there. Once i
                        n Monkstown Road, Shandon Park was the second turning on the right, and Shandon Hall was there in front of us. There was more than ample parking in the grounds, and parking in the road outside the residence was no problem if the grounds became full. We entered the premises, climbed the one flight of stairs and entered our home for the next week. WHAT WAS THE APARTMENT LIKE? The first word that came to mind when we entered was SPACE! Being used to having one room in a B&B, we had so much space here! The first stop for us was the kitchen to get the kettle on, so I’ll start my tour of the apartment there. In the kitchen, there was a full sized electric cooker and hob with a fan hood to remove the steam. A fridge freezer stood in one corner, whilst a washing machine/tumble dryer nestled underneath the work surface. There was a microwave, electric kettle and toaster, all the pots and pans you could possibly need, good quality crockery and cutlery and more than ample glasses of various sizes. In one of the drawers I found boxes of cling film and aluminium foil, and a roll of small bags which could be used in the small rubbish bins that were found in each room, or as sandwich bags. Underneath the sink was a full box of washing powder, washing up liquid, floor cleaner etc., and washing up sponges and brushes were in a box behind the sink. There was a round table in one corner, and four chairs to go round it. The swing bin already had a black bin liner in it. In fact, apart from a few groceries, everything was provided, including various staple items, like salt, pepper, sugar and Ketchup. On then to the lounge. We had a comfortable settee, which could seat 3 with relative ease, plus a matching armchair. A coffee table sat in the centre of the room, and there was a television with cable channels, and a video machine. Both of these worked perfectly. Centre stage was a beautiful Conemara Marble fireplace with polished wood s
                        urround. Leading out from the lounge was a balcony containing a small table and 4 garden chairs. The sun was full on this in the mornings, (yes, even in Ireland!) and we sat out there in privacy to drink our breakfast cuppas to soak up the sunshine. The balcony was not overlooked, and faced out onto a very nice garden. There was also a telephone, which could be used, attached to a meter, which showed the cost of each call made. As previously stated, we had 2 bedrooms. One of these had twin beds and an en-suite toilet and shower. The other contained a double bed. In both bedrooms there was more than enough storage space, and I have to say that all the beds were very comfortable: a necessity in my view! Both bedrooms looked out to the front of the building, but the noise of the passing traffic along Monkstown Road was far enough away so as to be unintrusive. As well as the en-suite shower room, we also had another bathroom with toilet and bath, with a shower over the bath. Obviously, with only the 2 of us, this was luxury indeed! Nobody knocking on the door just as you get in the bath, asking to use the loo! As it happens, I prefer a bath and hubby prefers a shower, so we had one each! In the airing cupboard, there were 4 bath towels and 4 hand towels, all beautifully clean. The water heater utilised night heating, and there was a 2 hour booster button if you needed extra hot water during the day. There was also a cupboard containing a vacuum cleaner, ironing board and iron, brooms, buckets and mops, an airer, dustpan and brush, (apart from a quick dive round with the vacuum cleaner we didn’t utilise most of these!) and a couple of extra chairs should they be needed. Throughout the apartment there were many radiators and night storage heaters, so the place would not be cold even if you were to stay there in the dead of winter. We had no use of them thankfully! Above the door of the bathroom was an electric me
                        ter, which clearly showed the amount of electricity you had used, and also the cost, both of daytime and night-time electricity used. SO DID WE ENJOY OUR STAY? Emphatically YES. Mr. Walsh phoned us on the Monday morning to see if we had settled in, and to see if there was anything else we needed. His office was just down the road at another apartment complex, and if we had needed anything, such as replacement black bags, we could pop in at any time and get them. He also had a library of books and videos should we have wanted them. Most of the time we either ate out, or went round to our friends’ house, although I did cook one dinner during our stay. If I’m on holiday I don’t intend cooking and washing up! Just down the road there was a convenient Spar shop for any essentials, (although we did our one shop of the week at the main shopping complex in Dun-Laoghaire) and a video hire shop, as well as numerous restaurants of all persuasions in Monkstown Village itself, which was a delightful little place. Just 200 yards away was the seafront and Seaport DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) station, but I can’t say I ever heard the trains from where we were. On the final morning, Mr. Walsh asked us what time we would be leaving, and arrived shortly before 11 a.m. to read the meters. We paid 15 Euros for the week’s electricity and phone usage. WOULD I RECOMMEND IT? I suppose the best recommendation is to ask the question would I go back there. In this case, I would most certainly go back to Shandon Hall. It worked out no more expensive than B&B for the 2 of us for a week’s stay, and just having the amount of space we had would persuade me to go back. The proprietor was friendly, courteous, and nothing was too much trouble. It is far enough outside Dublin for those who don’t particularly want to party day and night, yet near enough to be easily accessible. And it was a gr
                        eat base from which to explore the wonderful countryside in that part of the world. I do know that the next time we go to the Dublin area, Shandon Hall would be my first choice of accommodation. I was only sorry we had to come home! Contact: Michael J. Walsh, 6 Lower Mounttown Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Telephone: + 353 (1) 280 7797 Mobile: + 353 (87) 270 76 78 .E-mail info@self-cater.com Website: http://www.self-cater.com/

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                          31.03.2003 05:32
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                          I have just returned from a very civilised afternoon at the Athenaeum Hotel, in Piccadilly, London. Some of you may have read my previous ops on Afternoon tea in general in London, and on Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel at Hyde Park, and will already know that I have had great trouble in finding many venues where one can take tea in a civilised manner, as in days of yore. This one is a gem in a city where it is becoming almost impossible to find a traditional teashop.(see my op on "The Disappearing Teashop") ABOUT THE ATHENAEUM The Athenaeum can be found in Piccadilly, right opposite Green Park, and within a short distance of Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. The nearest tube station is Green Park, and many buses run past the Hotel. Originally built in 1925 as a luxury apartment building and run on the lines of a private club called the Athenaeum Court, the building became a hostel for air crews on leave during the war. In 1971, it was bought by Rank Hotels and underwent a two year refurbishment before re-opening as the Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments in 1973 The property was purchased from Rank Hotels by Ralph Trustees Ltd, in September 1992 and underwent a £10 million refurbishment programme, completed in September 1994. The Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments is owned by Ralph Trustees Ltd, a private company controlled by two brothers. The Hotel boasts guest rooms, guest suites, and has a Presidential Guest suite which is on the 10th floor, and has stunning panoramic views over Green Park. All rooms and suites have the following facilities:- TV, CD and video with a wide choice of music and films from the complimentary library Two-line telephone Voice mail Fax and modem link facilities USA voltage sockets Power showers Personal room safe 24hr room service Complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities Minibar Free direct access to
                          telephone charge card operators - AT&T, MCI, Sprint Iron and ironing board The Hotel also offers a pick up service from both Gatwick and Heathrow Airports at a charge of up to £70. Located in a row of Edwardian townhouses immediately adjacent to the Hotel, the Athenaeum Apartments combine the very best of staying in a luxury hotel with the added benefit of your own apartment. These one and two bedroom, fully serviced apartments are ideal for long stay guests, for families, and for business travellers requiring suite-style accommodation. The Apartments have their own separate and private street entrances with video entry phone system. They boast large spacious sitting rooms with fully equipped kitchens. To help, a grocery shopping service is provided. The Executive Apartments also have a clothes washer/dryer and a sofa bed for visitors. The adjoining deluxe bedrooms with king size beds have large closet space, trouser press, iron/ironing board and a personal safe. The marble bathrooms have power showers and luxury bathrobes, and the apartments are fully air-conditioned. The Apartments also benefit from all the services and facilities of the hotel. Staying at the Athenaeum does not come cheap, but then, it is a 5 star hotel in the centre of London! Standard Room £265.00 £285.00 Executive Room £295.00 £315.00 Park View Room £315.00 £340.00 Studio Suite £415.00 £415.00 Park View Suite £445.00 £445.00 Deluxe Town House Suite £445.00 £445.00 Penthouse Suite £750.00 £750.00 Executive One Bedroom Apartment £415.00 £415.00 Standard Two Bedroom Apartment £520.00 £520.00 Executive Two Bedroom Apartment £600.00 £600.00 There are some special offers available, which can be checked out online. These include a special spring offer of £135 per night in an executive double room, or a suite at £199 per night.
                          The Athenaeum has a variety of venues for both dining and drinking, and offers a pre-theatre 2 or 3 course meal for £16 or £21 respectively. DINING OPTIONS 1) Bullochs at 116 The Restaurant's light, magnificent design, featuring a conservatory roof and a Jerusalem stone floor bordered in antique mosaics, helps create a wonderful atmosphere. Award winning chef, David Marshall has created an imaginative and innovative menu with a Mediterranean feel. The restaurant has already won critical acclaim both for its cuisine and decor, and has become a favourite haunt for celebrities whose names adorn the backs of the dining chairs. The menus change regularly, and below you will find just a sample of what is on offer. All starters cost £8.45, and all main courses cost £19.45. Side dishes are £3.50, and deserts are £7.45. Starters Roasted Tiger Prawns, Malay Spices, Light Curried Sauce Fresh Crab Salad, Assorted Leaves, Olive Dressing Wild Mushrooms, Melted Brie with Pine Nuts on Toasted Ciabatta with Truffle Oil Smoked Scottish Salmon, Lemon, Onions and Capers Caesar Salad served Plain, with Anchovies or Corn-Fed Chicken Plum Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and Avocado Salad with Fresh Basil and Olive Dressing Spicy Beef Salad with Spicy Chinese Vegetables served with Soya Dressing Main Courses Seared Medallions of Monkfish with a Warm Gaspacho Sauce, Truffle oil and Parmesan Shavings Tom Yam Ta Lay (Salmon, Tiger Prawns, Monkfish and Lobster Chilli Sauce) Char-Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables, Herbes De Provence with Pesto and Balsamic Dressing Whole Grilled Dover Sole with Béarnaise Sauce and French Beans (Supplement £8.00) Grilled Rack of Lamb marinated with Mint, Soya Sauce and Madagascan Green Peppercorns, served with Soya-Wilted Spinach, Spring Onions and Mushrooms Char-Grilled Ri
                          b Eye Stea k with Cor n, French Fries Char-Grilled Corn-Fed Chicken with Balsamic Jus Side dishes Potatoes: -Sautéed, French Fries, Crushed New Potatoes with Olive Oil and Rock Salt Vegetables: - Leaf Spinach, French Beans, Mixed Seasonal Vegetables, Stir Fried Vegetables Salads: - Tomato and Basil, Mixed, Chicory, Plain Caesar Cheese and Desserts A Selection of International Cheeses with Walnut and Raisin Bread with Celery and Grapes Chocolate Pecan Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce Trio of Melon, Plum and Orange Sauce with a Vanilla Parfait Banana and Almond Parfait with a Spiced Passion Fruit Sauce Flan de Pina Y Lima (Pineapple Juice, Dark Rum and Lime) served with Crème Fraiche and Pineapple-Lime Compote 2) The Windsor Lodge. This is the perfect place to relax with afternoon tea in blissful seclusion, or conduct an informal meeting. It consists of several groups of settees and armchairs positioned around low tables, or, if you prefer, there are also a number of tables and chairs around which you can sit up to 6 people for afternoon tea. 3)The Malt Whisky Bar The Malt Whisky Bar at the Athenaeum has long been a favourite meeting place for guests and Mayfair residents. Well known amongst malt whisky aficionados, the bar offers a unique selection of 157 malt whiskies. TAKING AFTERNOON TEA AT THE ATHENAEUM The tradition of taking afternoon tea continues in most of the big London Hotels, although it seems to have almost died out at other venues, to be replaced by coffee shop chains, and other fast food outlets. Having experienced "taking tea" in a couple of the other up-market hotels (with the prices to match!) I was pleasantly surprised when my 2 children booked us in for afternoon tea at the Athenaeum as a Mother's Day treat. The day began with us
                          taking the trai n up to London (it isn't worth taking the car, even on a Sunday, as there is precious little parking space to be found.) We arrived about an hour early, so went and sat in Green Park on a beautifully warm spring day. At just before 3.pm we crossed Piccadilly, and a top-hatted concierge opened the door of the Athenaeum, and in we went. We were given a full choice of seating arrangements, ranging from window seats, to alcoves, tables and chairs or settees and comfort! After a little discussion we chose a group of 2 settees and an armchair, with a low table in front, already set with crockery and cutlery, and menus. There were a number of alternative afternoon teas to choose from. These ranged from a simple pastry or patisserie selection (£3.95) right up to the full works of finger sandwiches (smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, ham, and cucumber), 2 scones, cream and choice of jams, a selection from the pastry trolley, choice of tea, and a glass of Champagne (£19.50). There was a bell on each table with which to summon the waitress when you were ready to order. In the event, we ordered 2 Athenaeum teas (the full works) and 2 Windsor teas (scones and tea), with our choices of tea being 2 Breakfast teas, a Darjeeling and an Earl Grey. We were also given the option of having our Champagne first or last. We chose to have it at the end. The tea arrived first, with each order being in a separate pot, with a further pot of hot water for topping up, and 2 large jugs of milk. It was made with proper loose leafed tea, and silver tea strainers, and we were told if we wanted any more, we could just ring the bell and ask. We did! The food arrived on a tall stand, with the sandwiches at the bottom, 8 warm scones on the next level, and a humungous pot of clotted cream at the top! There were individual jars of jam already on the table. I didn't have any sandwiches, but I have to say they looked d
                          elicious, and I was assured by daughter and hubby that they were as delicious as they looked. I began on the scones. They were light, well browned on top and full of fruit. We had mainly raspberry jam on our table, so we rang the bell and asked for strawberry, which was quickly brought to our table with a minimum of fuss. There was also butter if you didn't want the cream, but that remained unused! The chocolate cake I chose was rich and light, and hubby's chocolate raspberry cake was out of this world. It really was the bee's knees, and we all sampled a forkful! Our tea was replenished as requested, and we must have each had at least 4 cups. The glass of Champagne was chilled nicely, and rounded the meal off perfectly. Altogether, we took nearly 3 hours, just sitting chatting, eating and drinking, and had a thoroughly pleasant and civilised afternoon. At no time were we rushed, or felt that we needed to hurry up. It was comfortable and a good afternoon was had by all. The bill for the 4 of us came to exactly £60, or £15 each, which is half what we paid at the Lanesborough, for a very similar tea last year. CONCLUSION I would thoroughly recommend the Athenaeum for afternoon tea in comfortable, informal surroundings. The Hotel may be 5 stars, but the ambiance was not stuffy or overpowering. Although smart dress is obviously the order of the day , there was no stipulation that ties had to be worn by the men. You could easily pay much more than £15 for a meal out, and taking afternoon tea is a different and enjoyable way of celebrating. Tea at the Athenaeum is affordable, and, unlike the Savoy or Dorchester, you don't necessarily have to book in advance. Indeed, even though it was Mother's Day, the room was not packed, and at no time did we feel we had to vacate to let another party in. I would certainly go back for afternoon tea there, either for a speci
                          al occasion, or even for a non-special occasion! Thanks Amanda and Ian for my Mother’s Day treat. Details of hotel taken from http://www.athenaeumhotel.com

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                          • Apples / Plant / 0 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                            16.03.2003 02:45
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                            Many of you who were Dooyooing last year will have read my ops on various fruits. I grow many varieties of fruit organically, as we have 2 allotments just at the back of our garden, and to date we have 5 different varieties of apple bushes (trees grafted onto dwarf root stock to produce smaller plants than great orchard apple trees.) As well as giving advice and stuff about how to grow apples etc, I thought I would add a bit more detail to this op, so sit back and take a tour round the life and history of apples. DIARY OF AN APPLE TREE SPRING The year can be thought of as a cycle. We will start the year in the orchard with Spring, the season of rebirth. When Spring arrives it seems as though dozens of tasks need to be done at once to get ready for the growing season. Pruning which has been going on all winter needs to be finished. We depend upon bees to carry pollen from one flower to the next so that apples will develop. With most varieties pollen must come from a different variety in order to get a good fruit set. If you plant a seed from a McIntosh apple, it will not produce a McIntosh tree because the pollen that fertilized the flower was probably not from a McIntosh flower. . In addition to an adequate number of bees, good pollination weather is necessary to have a good fruit set. The honeybee is particular, and does not like to fly if the temperature is below 60 degrees or if it is very windy. Cold, rainy, or windy weather has kept many a good bloom from living up to its potential to produce a good crop. Each bud opens to reveal a flower cluster of five blossoms. There is one large central blossom called the king, with four somewhat smaller ones around it. The king will make a larger apple than the other blossoms. Apples should be spaced every four or five inches along a branch. It is more desirable to have the strength of the tree go into growing a moderate amount of large apples than a large amount of small apples
                            . A bushel of large apples may be worth twice what a bushel of small apples is worth, so that it matters a lot that too good a fruit set not be allowed to remain. Thinning is the solution. The difficult part of this process is the decision concerning how much to thin. There will be a natural drop of immature apples around June time anyway, so if you thin too much, you could end up with hardly any crop at all. We tend to pick out the very smallest apples around the end of May (it coincides with half term holidays from school!) and then let nature do the rest! SUMMER A summer prune can be useful if the branches have become close together. This lets in the light, which in turn, sets the colour on apple skins to a certain extent. In late July and August some varieties of apples ripen and are ready to harvest. The early varieties are often very tasty but are not good long-term keepers so they are picked to be eaten almost at once. AUTUMN (Harvest time) This starts in late August or early September. The earliest picked apples can be picked slightly unripened, and stored in a cool, dark place to slow down the ripening process, and give you apples which will still be more than edible 3 months after picking. Those picked later will be riper, and therefore will not have as long a “shelf life”. After harvesting the fruit, there is still work to be done. Tree limbs broken by too heavy a fruit load need to be sawn off. Excess grass at the base of trees needs to be removed to prevent too much cover for rodents. Some of these creatures will gnaw the bark from the bottoms of trees, and by removing any grass cover, you remove their hiding places. Old wood will need to be pruned out, and any branches growing where you don’t want them to grow can be removed. WINTER The major job done in the winter and early spring is pruning. Major cuts are made when the trees are dormant.
                            Ever y tree should be pruned every year. Trees are pruned to renew fruiting wood, to let light into as much of the tree as possible, to encourage moderate vigour, and to maintain the tree at a convenient height and shape. We also tie insect strips around the trunks of our trees in winter to discourage the larvae of various insects from climbing the limbs when they hatch in spring. VARIETIES There are numerous varieties of apple plants which can be grown in this country, so I will limit this to the ones I actually grow. 1) Gala. It is heart-shaped with distinctive yellow-orange skin with red striping. Gala is just the right size for snacking and is great in salads, good for baking and very good in applesauce. Our tree produces an abundance of relatively small fruits. Unlike many desert apples, Galas will mush down quite nicely if stewed, so I tend to freeze quite a lot of mine. 2) Cox’s Orange Pippin. The fruit is of medium size or above medium, red and yellow. When highly coloured it is attractive, with the red predominant. The tree is a moderate grower and productive. It is well adapted for growing on dwarf stock. It is a desirable variety for the home orchard. This is my favourite flavoured apple, so I made sure we had one of these when we bought our stock! It is a late fruit, and can be harvested well into November. 3) Gloucester. This is a red skinned, white-fleshed apple, quite firm in texture. It has a slightly elongated shape, and the apples are quite tart in flavour. It is a medium term apple, being ripe in late September, early October. 4) Jonagold. This is a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, offering a unique tangy-sweet flavour with firm flesh. Jonagold is excellent both for eating fresh and for cooking. 5) Bramley. The ultimate in cooking apples. Large, round, green hard apples, excellent for stewing, baking, in fact anywhere a cooked apple is needed. S
                            o far we h ave only picked 3 of this sort, as we only planted the tree 2 seasons ago! HISTORY AND LEGENDS CONNECTED WITH APPLES The Apple is a fruit of the temperate zones and only reaches perfection in their cooler regions. It is a fruit of long descent and in the Swiss lake dwellings, small apples have been found, completely charred but still showing the seed-valves and the grain of the flesh. It exists in its wild state in most countries of Europe and also in the region of the Caucasus: in Norway, it is found in the lowlands as far north as Drontheim. Apples of some sort were abundant before the Norman Conquest and were probably introduced into Britain by the Romans. Twenty-two varieties were mentioned by Pliny: there are now about 2,000 kinds cultivated. In the Old Saxon manuscripts there are numerous mentions of apples and cider. Cider Apples may be considered as a step in development from the Wild Apple to the Dessert Apple. Formerly every farmhouse made its cider. The apples every autumn were tipped in heaps on the straw-strewn floor of the pound house, a building of cob, covered with thatch, in which stood the pounder and the press and vats and all hands were busy for days preparing the golden beverage. This was the yearly process - still carried out on many farms of the west of England, though cider-making is becoming more and more a product of the factories. In Shakespeare's time, apples when served at dessert were usually accompanied by caraway, as we may read in Henry IV, where Shallow invites Falstaff to 'a pippin and a dish of caraway,' In a still earlier Booke of Nurture, it is directed 'After mete pepyns, caraway in comfyts.' The custom of serving roast apples with a little saucerful of Carraways is still kept up at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at some of the old-fashioned London Livery dinners, just as in Shakespeare's days. The chief dietetic value of apples lies i
                            n the malic and tartaric acids. These acids are of signal benefit to persons of sedentary habits, who are liable to liver derangements, and they neutralize the acid products of gout and indigestion. 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away' is a respectable old rhyme that has some reason in it. The acids of the Apple not only make the fruit itself digestible, but even make it helpful in digesting other foods. Popular instinct long ago led to the association of apple sauce with such rich foods as pork and goose, and the old English fancy for eating apple pie with cheese, an obsolete taste, nowadays, is another example of instinctive inclination, which science has approved The sugar of a sweet apple, like most fruit sugars, is practically a predigested food, and is soon ready to pass into the blood to provide energy and warmth for the body. A ripe raw apple is one of the easiest vegetable substances for the stomach to deal with, the whole process of its digestion being completed in eighty-five minutes. It is stated on medical authority that in countries where unsweetened cider is used as a common beverage, stone or calculus is unknown, and a series of inquiries made of doctors in Normandy, where cider is the principal drink, brought to light the fact that not a single case of stone had been met with during forty years. Ripe, juicy apples eaten at bedtime every night will cure some of the worst forms of constipation. Sour apples are the best for this purpose. Some cases of sleeplessness have been cured in this manner. People much inclined to biliousness will find this practice very valuable. In some cases stewed apples will agree perfectly well, while raw ones prove disagreeable. There is a very old saying: 'To eat an apple going to bed Will make the doctor beg his bread.' The Apple will also act as an excellent dentifrice, being a food that is not only cleansing to the teeth on account of i
                            ts juices, but just hard enough to mechanically push back the gums so that the borders are cleared of deposits. ADAM'S APPLE is a variety of the Lime (Citrus limetta). Superstition relates that a piece of the forbidden apple stuck in Adam's throat, and his descendants ever after had the lump in the front of the neck which is so named. APPLE FACTS ·7500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world. ·Apples are fat, sodium, and cholesterol free. ·A medium apple is about 80 calories. ·The science of apple growing is called pomology. ·Apples were the favourite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans. ·Apples are a member of the rose family. ·25 percent of an apple's volume is air. That is why they float. ·Apples have 5 seeds. There are five seed pockets, each with a seed, in an apple. ·It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider. ·Archaeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since lat least 6500 B.C. ·It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple. ·Charred apples have been found in prehistoric dwellings in Switzerland. ·The largest apple picked weighed three pounds. RECIPES I’m not going to do recipes like apple pie and crumble. We all know how to do those (nip down the local supermarket of course! Instead, I have picked out a few more unusual recipes, including drinks. 1) The Frosty Apple Ingredients. 1 pint vanilla ice cream 1 quart naturally sweet apple cider 4-6 scoops vanilla ice cream (optional) Freshly ground nutmeg Method: Let a pint of vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature or microwave for 20 seconds. Put ice cream and cider into a blender or food processor and blend until frothy and well mixed. Stir in nutmeg. Pour into tall glasses and top with a scoop of ice cream, if desired. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Yield 6 one-cup servings.
                            2) Apple Pancakes with Sp icy Yogurt and Cider Syrup Ingredients 6 cups apple cider 1 cup plain yoghurt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 6 tablespoons chunky applesauce 2 cup wholewheat pancake mix 2 cup skim milk 2 egg, slightly beaten (or 1 whole egg plus one egg white) 6 tablespoons applesauce Canola oil Extra cinnamon for Garnish Method Start by making the syrup; pour the cider in a pot that is large enough to be no more than half filled. Place the pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, very slow boil, and cook for about 30 minutes. Cook until the cider is reduced to one cup. Set aside. (Syrup can be made in advance. Keeps for about one week in the refrigerator. Warm or bring to room temperature before serving.) Next, in a small bowl, combine yoghurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 6 tablespoons applesauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve. In a large bowl, combine milk, eggs, and 6 tablespoons applesauce. Stir in pancake mix. Mix well enough to moisten, do not over mix. If the batter is too thick add a little water. Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. When skillet is hot, lightly grease. Add batter, making medium pancakes, about 1/2 cup batter per pancake. Cook until tiny bubbles form on top, peek under the edge, turn when pancake is golden brown and continue to cook. Place on a platter and keep pancakes and 4 serving plates warm in a heated oven. To serve; fan (slightly overlap) 5 pancakes on a warm plate. Drizzle Cider Syrup over the pancakes (about 1/2 cup) and top with a dollop of spiced Yoghurt, garnish with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon. Yield 4 servings. 3) Apple Chicken Salad Ingredients 1/2 cup fat-free yoghurt 1/4 cup orange juice 1/2 cup apple jelly, melted 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional) 1 Tablespoon lemon juice 3 cups coo
                            ked chicken, diced 2 cups finely sliced celery 3 apples, unpeeled and diced 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans Method In a large bowl, mix yoghurt, orange juice, melted apple jelly and lemon juice. Add chicken, celery and apples. Toss gently to coat all pieces. Season with salt and chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle with pecans and serve on a bed of romaine lettuce. Yield 8 3/4 cup servings. IN CONCLUSION There is obviously a lot more to apples than simply a healthy addition to junior’s lunchbox! I hope I have given you some insight into the world of apples. Contrary to popular opinion, the apple was NOT the fruit, which Eve picked from the tree in the Garden of Eden. In the Bible it is simply referred to as “the forbidden fruit”. In this day and age, with refrigeration and transportation, apples are certainly not forbidden at any time of the year. Long live the apple!

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                            • Animal Welfare in general / Discussion / 0 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                              15.03.2003 04:02
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                              I can't confess to being an animal lover. I'm not one to enjoy having little furry creatures running around (although I have put up with them being in the house so long as I'm not expected to look after them or handle them) At present, I neither have or want, any animals (or does hubby count as an animal?.....hmmmmm). However, I have, in the past, had one or two pets that have caused us some enjoyment. So let me share one or two little anecdotes with you. First there was the Kamikazi fish that lived in a bowl in my son's room. He had one of those cabin bed things with the wardrobe etc. built in under the bed, and the fish resided beneath his bed. I think the fish's name was Flitter, ot Jitterbug or something equally obscure, and he arrived to live with us via one of those fairground plastic bags. At first, he was simply....a fish! Usually those sorts of fish only live for a few weeks, but this one was a survivor. In more ways than one! One morning, Ian climbed out of bed to find the fish on the floor, gasping for breath. he picked it up and put it back in the water, and it was soon swimming around with no ill effects, and we soon forgot about the incident. Some time later, this was happening at regular intervals, always just as Ian was getting up. I even wondered whether Ian was doing it on purpose, and putting the fish on the floor. Anyway, we took the bowl downstairs to see what would happen. We were amazed to see the fish leap out of the bowl, sail through the air, and land with a plop on the floor! To combat its Kamikazi tendencies, we put one of those frying pan splatter lid thingies over the top of the bowl. It didn't seem to get the message however, because at regular intervals it would attempt to leap out again, giving itself one almighty headache! It may sound funny, but I bet it wasn't funny for the poor fish! In the end, we took the poor thing over to my father in
                              law's to put it into his very large fish tank, where it lived happily for several months before finally going to that big fish bowl in the sky. To my knowledge it didn't try to escape from the tank whilst there! Then there was Fluffy, the hamster. My daughter went through a stage of breeding hamsters, and at one point, virtually every class at school had a Jammaker hamster installed in its classroom. Fluffy, re-named Thomas by the children, went to the Reception class. Only a day or two after taking up residence, Fluffy escaped. To this day we don't know how he got out of the cage, but anyway, he disappeared. Then during the same afternoon, one of the little children came running up to me to tell me they could hear scratching from behind the cupboard in the corner. This cupboard was built into the wall. If it had been a free standing cupboard, life would have been a lot easier. There was absolutely no way we could get to the source of the scratching noise. So the caretaker was called in. He had to virtually dismantle the entire side of the classroom, watched by 30 eager pairs of eyes, in order to retrieve a somewhat dusty Fluffy! Needless to say, steps were taken to ensure he never escaped again. Of course we cannot forget Houdini, yet another hamster. He didn't start life with that name. In fact, as he was purchased, he was named Homer. However, by the time we reached the safety of home, his new name was given, and remained with him for the rest of his life. Houdini was put into a small cardboard box for the relatively short journey from the pet shop to his new home. We hadn't got very far down the road when a small hole appeared in the corner of the box. The hole got bigger. I think we ran the last 200 metres, or I'm sure the thing would have made its getaway! Happy to say, Houdini lived a long and happy life in spite of his precarious beginnings! Last but by no means least, was my b
                              eloved dog, Ziggy. She is the only pet that we've had that was truly mine. She wasn't meant to be mine, she was brought for all the family, but no-one told her that. In her mind, I belonged to her, and she belonged to me. Ziggy was a rescue dog from an RSPCA kennel. She had lived with an old man who had died the previous week. As he was old, I don't think she had been for many walks, or got much exercise. She was like a little barrel when we first got her. We went to the kennels with the intention of just looking. I made it clear before we went that I had no intention of buying a dog, but we could go and visit them. Needless to say, all the best laid plans and all that! As we wandered along the rows of kennels, there was just something about this one dog that caught us all. She wasn't the cutest. She certainly wasn't the nicest looking one there. She didn't come to the cage door, or bark and wag her tail as we passed. In fact, she stood there looking so mournfully at the cage door, not moving, just staring with a hang dog expression (no pun intended). One by one we all went back to her cage. She was as fat as butter, nervous as anything and yet........there was just that something. The something that meant we ended up driving home with a new dog. From the start, Ziggy made her Intentions very clear. She made up her mind that I was hers, and was very jealous if the rest of the family showed me any attention. Indeed, she used to try and get between us if I sat next to hubby on the settee. If I was out, it didn’t matter if the rest of the family was in, she would simply plonk herself on the mat behind the front door, just waiting for me to return. In fact, the only times she played up to the rest of the family was when we got back from holidays, having put her in kennels for a week or two. Then, she would pointedly ignore me for several days, as if to pay me back. Sadly, Ziggy is no longer with
                              us, having blessed our lives for almost 10 years. I can now look back with fondness on the time that we had her, but when we had to make the decision to put her out of pain, I was devastated. Maybe some day, I will have another pet. At the moment, with us being out all day, it wouldn’t be fair to have one. I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about some of the lighter moments that having pets has given me. I know enjoyed reliving them in writing this op. Lesley

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                              • More +
                                15.03.2003 00:21
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                                The Jammaker family has recently returned from yet another short break in Bournemouth, so naturally I had to write an op on the hotel we stayed in! We had fully intended to return to the Ullswater Hotel (see op on same), but when I tried to book last November, it was already fully booked for the week we required in February, so it was back to jolly old Smoothhound to come up with another suitable place! This time, we were taking my parents with us. As they are 76 and 78, we wanted somewhere fairly central to Bournemouth town and all the facilities it has to offer. We weren’t looking for cheap and cheerful, although we obviously didn’t want to pay through the nose for our accommodation either. I narrowed the choice down to five or six, and then let my dad make the final choice. I’m pleased to say that he decided on the one I hoped he would, so the Winterbourne it was! WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE WINTERBOURNE? Apart from its locality, adjacent to the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), there were a number of things that seemed to make this one stand out from the crowd. Firstly, it had its own website, so we had a fair amount of information on which to base our choice. Secondly, my emails requesting availability and dates were answered promptly, and in a friendly, polite manner, with little bits of additional information to help us make our choice. Another reason was because friends of my parents had been there, and said that they had been very comfortable, and the food was good. That was good enough recommendation for me! Give me a comfy bed and good food and I’m happy! THE WINTERBOURNE WEBSITE The site is clear, uncluttered and easy to negotiate. It gives plenty of clear pictures, and the information is presented in an easy to read way. There are several different sections, dealing with the accommodation, restaurant, facilities, tariffs and special offers There are also s
                                ections on conference facilities (which I wasn’t really interested in) and special golfing breaks (which I was even more disinterested in!) Below, I will outline how the Hotel sells itself on its own website, and have taken the information from that site. THE HOTEL The Winterbourne is superbly situated on the West Cliff, overlooking the sea yet right in the heart of Bournemouth. From the garden, lounge and restaurant there are spectacular views of the Bay from the Isle of Wight to the Purbeck Hills The Winterbourne is adjacent to the Bournemouth International Centre and 400 metres from the pier, beaches and the town centre with its extensive shops, theatres and the award winning gardens. The Winterbourne's conference facilities include a fully equipped computer suite with 10 ISDN access computers and video conferencing facilities (This bit appealed to me!! The computer bit anyway! Can’t think why!) The hotel dates from 1860 and retains much of the character and warmth of the original building whilst offering the standards and comfort that today's visitor requires. The Winterbourne has been owned and managed by the same family for over 40 years. The resident directors, Michael and Pamela Stebbings work hard to ensure the hotel retains the welcome and standards that guests have come to expect. ACCOMMODATION All the bedrooms are comfortably furnished and have private en-suite facilities. Many of the bedrooms offer wonderful sea views and there are family rooms for 2 adults and up to 4 children. They are fully equipped with colour television, radio, tea and coffee tray, hairdryer and direct dial telephones. RESTAURANT The Restaurant has a long established reputation for its Table d'hote menu, which changes daily, offering a wide choice of dishes including a vegetarian choice. We also have an A La Carte selection and extensive wine list to complement your m
                                eal. sample menu Table D'Hoté Menu Starters Chefs Cream of Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup Consommé Italienne Cauliflower Cheese Chilled Melon & Prawn Platter Fruit or Tomato Juice ************************** Main Course Roast Loin of Dorset Lamb with Redcurrant Jelly & Peaches Beef Bourguignon on a bed of Long Grain Rice Whole Grilled Lemon Sole with Lemon Garnish Vegetarian Dish Courgette Provencal with a Spicy Nut Topping ****************************** Cold Buffet York Ham Salad Dressed Poole Bay Crab Salad Brussels Sprouts and Garden Peas Roast and New Potatoes ************************** Desserts Hot Black Cherries in a Brandy Sauce A selection of Deserts from the Buffet Table Assorted Ice Creams and Sorbets English and Continental Cheeseboard ************************************* Fresh Filter Coffee Tea FACILITIES AT THE HOTEL · Free Car Park · Central Heating Throughout · Lift To All Floors · Cocktail Bar · Heated Outdoor 30' Swimming Pool · Free Winter Swimming At BIC Pool · Free Golf At Queens Park · Pool Room And Table Tennis · Dancing And Entertainment In Season During the winter months when the pool is closed the hotel offers free swimming at the leisure pool with its wave machine in the Bournemouth International Centre adjacent to the hotel. During the summer months there is live music and dancing after dinner and there is a pool room and table tennis. There is also a large screen TV in the conference room for sporting events etc. Children are welcome and the hotel provides highchairs, cots, and high teas to make family holidays enjoyable. A baby listening service is also available. There also other links, gi
                                ving tarif fs, conference facilities, golfing weeks and weekends and places to visit around the area. EASE OF BOOKING As stated previously, I initially found the Hotel listed on the Smoothhound site (www.smoothhound.co.uk) which is the site I always use when searching for holiday accommodation in this country. I emailed several hotels, and The Winterbourne was one of the first to reply, giving me details of availability and tariff. They also assured me that the hotel was perfectly accessible for my parents. Once we decided on our venue, one simple phone call provisionally booked our 2 rooms, and I received a very charming, personal letter within a week, confirming the booking, and enclosing a brochure all about the hotel. Once that was done, it was simply a matter of waiting with impatience for February to arrive! SO WHAT WAS IT REALLY LIKE? Finding the hotel was no problem as we simply followed the signs for the BIC, and there it was before us! I was a little dismayed to see the steepness of the approach road to the car park, but then figured that in February we would be driving up it more often than walking up it! However, I can see problems for less mobile people, in the height of summer, negotiating what would be a daunting slope. My mother told me that because of the steepness of the frontage, she actually found it difficult to open their car door in order to get out, as gravity was immediately closing it again. That blip aside, there was ample parking space in the hotel grounds in an area where parking is at a premium. In February, there would have been no parking problems anyway, but in summer, this part of the coast is notoriously short on parking space, so to have plenty in the hotel grounds is most certainly a plus! Registering into the hotel was efficiently carried out, and we were very soon going up to the second floor to find our room. Mum and Dad had arrived before us, and had seen us arr
                                ive, so Dad had come downstairs to meet us. Our rooms were adjacent to one another, tucked away in a corner. I had booked 2 twin rooms, as we find that twin rooms tend to be slightly larger than doubles. In the event, both rooms had both a single and a double bed, and were more than ample in size. Our room was longer and narrower than my parents’ one, which was almost square in shape. Both were tastefully decorated, with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space. Our bathroom was somewhat larger than my parents’, and both consisted of a bath with a shower over it, a loo and a basin. Towels were provided, as was soap, shampoo, shower gel and shower hat. Tea and coffee making equipment was replenished daily, and if you needed more, you could ask at reception. I always take plenty with me anyway, so this wouldn’t have been a problem if we had run low, but there was always enough in the room anyway! There were 2 radiators in our room, with individual thermostats, which was handy, as I can’t bear heat in the room at night. There was also a portable heater in the room, which could be used if it got bitterly cold, but we never needed to turn that on, even though it was very frosty whilst we were there. We did find however, that having a bath or shower in the morning was much more of a luke-warm affair than having one in the evening! Whether it was simply because we were some way from the boilers and it took time for the hot water to come through in the mornings, or whether the water heaters were turned off at night, I don’t know. I do know that after the first day we showered or bathed in the evenings! I have to say that we found the restaurant rather chilly. Our table was at the far end of the room, overlooking the pool, and out to the bay, but as it was in close proximity to 2 windows, we certainly felt the chill. A couple of strategically placed radiators would have mad life a little mo
                                re comfortable. As i t was, we abandoned the posh frocks for dinner, and stuck to the sweaters! The food, both at dinner and breakfast, was as you would expect from a 3 star hotel. It was all nicely cooked, beautifully presented, and there was plenty of it. The menu changed daily, there was ample choice, and if you preferred to choose from the a la carte menu instead, an allowance of £8.00 was made towards the cost. We stuck to the Table d’Hote for the 4 nights that we were there. One morning, we did make use of the tickets to the swimming pool in the BIC, just a couple of hundred yards down the road. I use the word “down” literally….it was the “up” on the way back that could have been awkward for anyone who finds climbing a hill tough going. It was very steep, and I feel that the hotel did not really make it clear in their information that the terrain around the hotel was, to say the least, on the steep side. However, we managed it without too much bother, and enjoyed a good swim to boot. I wasn’t keen on the wave machine, but I suppose I could have got out when they announced that they were turning it on! Most evenings we had a drink in the lounge after dinner, or watched the European Cup football on the big screen in the conference room. My parents tend to go to bed at a much more reasonable time that I usually do, so most nights we said our goodnights at around 10.15. The beds were lovely and comfortable, so after being out most of the day, we were pretty glad to close our eyes! We passed the computer suite on our way to the restaurant, and I have to admit I was very tempted to make use of it! During the day it was used for adult training, and for conference delegates to use if required, but after 6 pm, guests could log on for a small fee (about £2.50 an hour I think.) However, I took myself in hand, and resisted the temptation. Oh how difficult that was, knowing that I
                                could be writing my op wh ilst actually in residence in the place! I think Hubby might have had murder in mind if I’d given into the temptation though! THINGS TO DO IN WINTER AROUND BOURNEMOUTH! To begin with, Bournemouth shopping centre is vast, and a day’s shopping is a must! I think I surpassed myself this time though, as within 2 hours of arriving, I had bought a winter coat, 2 blouses, a couple of CD’s and a few other things that have slipped my memory! We spent one day in and around Poole. We had intended walking around the harbour area, but it was so cold the day we went that we ended up in the town centre and Poole Pottery. I now have most of my Christmas shopping done for next Christmas! We also saw a beautiful opal and garnet ring in a shop window. It was second hand but looked brand new, and the shop said they could resize it for me by the Thursday, and all for £35.00. Hubby treated me, as he’d bought me a garnet cross for Christmas, and this really complimented it. On the Wednesday, we drove out into the New Forest, and visited my favourite Spanish Lace Tablecloth shop in Lyndhurst. I love this part of the country, with the New Forest ponies roaming wild. There are deer in the forest too, but in all the years I’ve been going there, I’ve only ever seen one! From Lyndhurst, we drove towards the coast, and stopped briefly at Lymington, and then at Mudeford. We spent a couple of good holidays with the children at a caravan site at Mudeford, many years ago. The site is still there, but under different management now. We would have taken a walk along the front, but the wind was lashing the waves over the promenade, so we stayed put in the warmth of the car! Another place worth visiting is the Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest, about 40 minutes drive away. The world famous gardens of Compton Acres are nearby whilst in Poole Bay lies Brownsea Island with its
                                nature reserve and open air t heatre. Paulton's Park near Romsey and Tower Park in Poole provide all round family enjoyment and the historical cities of Winchester and Salisbury are within easy reach. Corfe Castle and Swanage are all easily accessible via the very good network of roads around the area. WHAT DID WE PAY? The tariffs obviously depend on the time of year you visit. We paid £144 each for dinner, bed and breakfast, for 4 nights in February. This rises to just over £200 for the same in July and August. The Hotel also caters for Bed and Breakfast, but the cost is not that much less than for half board. Children sharing a room with two adults will be accommodated free, with meals charged as taken. The costs are below. Children’s' Meals Breakfast Dinner or High Tea Under 4 years £3 £4.50/£6 5 - 14 5ears £5 £4.50/£9 Over 14 years £7.50 £14.50 In July and August, over fives are charged at half the adult rate, whilst under fives are accommodated free of charge apart from the cost of meals. There is a £3.00 daily supplement for a single room, or “a room with a view” (overlooking the sea!) During most weeks of the winter, the hotel does a “4 nights for the price of 3” midweek deal, but of course, not at half term.which is the only week I could go! Such is life. WOULD I RECOMMEND THE WINTERBOURNE? For a few days break, such as we were on, then you could do far worse than the Winterbourne. We were warm, comfortable, well fed, and relaxed. I’m not sure I would relish going there in midsummer, as it is very close to the BIC, and one of the busiest roundabouts in Bournemouth. Things could get mighty noisy at times. In spite of its claims of accessibility, the roads around the hotel are on the hilly side, so unless you propose to leave and return by car everytime, it may not be the best place to choose for the very elderly o
                                r infirm. Pushing a wheelchair up the steep appraoch road would be a mighty daunting task! However, if you want to get away from it all out of season, and aren’t too phased by steepish hills, then it could be just the place you are looking for. We paid £36 each per night for dinner, bed and breakfast, which you could pay simply for bed and breakfast in a lot of places. I think we got good value for our money. I’m not sure I would want to pay £50 or more for the same thing in summer. And as a parting remark..as good value as it was, and as nice as the food was, I still prefer the Ullswater! The rooms in the Winterbourne were certainly more comfortable and larger, and I would have no qualms about going back there again, but only if I can’t get the Ullswater. I found a real jewel in that one! Address: Winterbourne Hotel, Priory Road, Bournemouth, BH2 5DJ Email address: reservations@winterbourne.co.uk Website: http://www.winterbourne.co.uk Phone 01202 296366 Fax: 01202 780073

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                                  The Isles of Scilly comprise some 144 islands and rocks lying in the Atlantic Ocean some 28 miles south-west from Land's End on the Cornish mainland. The name 'Scilly' comes from SULLY meaning the Sun Isles which describe its climate with an excellent sunshine record. The temperature is remarkably constant throughout the year with only a 9° variation between the average of the hottest and coldest months. There are five inhabited islands: St Mary's, St Martin's, St Agnes', Tresco and Bryher, and about 50 others which could be classed as islands, as well as hundreds of rocks. The islands are comprised of granite, which has broken down to form a stony, sandy or gritty soil, as well as bright sandy beaches. In places the granite forms block cliffs and tors, rounded boulders or tilted slabs. The rocks around the islands became a graveyard for numerous shipping over the years, although many lighhouses were built towards the end of the 19th century, including the Bishop Rock which is the most westerly in the UK. The islands were inhabited during the Bronze age, and this is marked by a number of standing stones and burial chambers. During the Roman occupation trade was conducted on the islands as roman coins have been recovered. In later centuries, early Christian hermits were attracted to the islands, as were pirates. It appears to have passed unnoticed in the Domesday survey of 1087. A Benedictine priory was founded on Tresco in the 12th century and Henry I granted the islands to Tavistock Abbey. By the 14th century the islands formed part of the Duchy of Cornwall, and Edward III gave them to the Black Prince who was made Duke of Cornwall. In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I granted the lease of the islands to Francis Godolphin. Godolphin built the eight-pointed Star Castle over the harbour of St Mary's, and Prince Charles (later Charles II) stayed there for a period during the English Civil War. The islan
                                  d of Tresco is the second largest of the Isles of Scilly, and only one of the five inhabited islands in the group. Tresco, has often been described as “Europe’s best kept secret”. It is the only privately owned island amongst the Scillies, the remainder of the group belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall. HOW TO GET THERE The only direct way of reaching Tresco is via the Helicopter service from Penzance. There is a helipad in the grounds of the old abbey (now the Tropical Gardens), and regular flights by Zikorsky helicopters, carrying around 30 passengers at a time, fly over the islands and land directly on the island. The only other ways of reaching the island is by boat from St Mary’s, the main island in the group. This can be reached by helicopter, by 8 seater Skybus airplanes from Land's End, or by the islands’ own ferry, The Scillonian III, which sails from Penzance, once a day during the summer months, and twice a day on Saturdays. Having reached St. Mary’s, you then take a local ferry across the straits to Tresco. No flights, either by helicopter or plane, and no ferries run on a Sunday! During the winter months, the ferry does not run at all. WHERE TO STAY There are two main hotels on Tresco, a time-share complex, and a few guest houses. It is also possible to rent a holiday cottage. The Island Hotel is a spacious, low-slung hotel, with comfort that matches its location. King-size beds in suite-sized rooms, most with their own balconies or patios, look through large picture-window eyes towards an ivory beach or past a shoal of desert islets to neighbouring St Martins. Lunch on the terrace, and dinner in the restaurant are events, showcases for fresh West Country ingredients that have won accolades like the RAC Gold Ribbon. They are served by staff who offer a personal level of service that reaches far beyond bar and restaurant, to find a buggy for an elderly couple, f
                                  or example, or a video for a bunch of teenagers. It has been a winner of the Southwest Hotel of the Year Crown in the Excellence in England awards. Prices are not cheap, but then, prices on all the islands are somewhat more expensive than on the mainland, bearing in mind that all supplies have to be shipped in. The New Inn is the island's social centre, a natural interface between islanders and guests. Upstairs are 15 en-suite double bedrooms, with ample space for children. Guests can relax in the laid-back atmosphere of the main, pavilion, or private resident's bars, then in the evening, enjoy a more formal menu in the award-winning restaurant. The New Inn stays open all year, giving guests the opportunity to see migrant birds and fields of narcissi flowering while the mainland shivers - or share the warmth of an island Christmas and the experience of the community coming together to see in the New Year. Again, not cheap, although not quite as expensive as the Island Hotel. There are several timeshare cottages, situated in an estate near the beach at Old Grimsby. These, although relatively small, are fitted out luxuriously. At present, however, there are no timeshare properties left, and there is a long waiting list of would-be purchasers. There are also several holiday cottages, which are not part of the timeshare estate, which can be rented for the duration of your stay. The holiday cottages are part of old Tresco - traditionally built years ago of granite and slate and brought comfortably up to date. Every one is different; some are in rural positions, others are on the beach. They sleep from two to 12 people. All have a well-maintained sub-tropical garden in which to relax. The few guest houses on Tresco are often booked years in advance, and waiting lists are long. To be honest, it would be easier to book accommodation on nearby St. Mary’s and take the boat across to Tresco daily. INFORMATION ABO
                                  UT TRESCO The island of Tresco is one of five inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly, found 29 miles south west of Lands End. Due to the prevailing effects of the Gulf Stream, climate is mild, with sunshine hours generally greater than the UK average, rainfall less, and winter frost and snow unexpected. A wealthy merchant banker, Augustus Smith purchased the islands from the Duchy of Cornwall in the mid-1830’s, the other islands have subsequently been ceded back to the Duchy, but Tresco remains in the ownership of the family, with the present owners being Robert and Lucy Dorrien Smith. Augustus Smith is reputed to have been the first person in Britain to introduce compulsory schooling for the children of the islands. When he was in ownership, he charged parents one penny a week for their children’s education, but two pence if they failed to send them to school! Needless to say, the vast majority of children attended school! Augustus Smith was a plant collector and botanist, who recognised the climatic advantages of the island, and began the creation of now world-famous Tresco Abbey Garden, based on sub-tropical and temperate climate plants collected from around the world. Subsequent generations have continued the development of the Garden, which is today a major attraction of the islands. Tresco has evolved as a small community of just over 150 residents, who largely work for the holiday industry, either for the Island Hotel, New Inn, or holiday cottages. This is based on the natural beauty of the islands, supported by the Abbey Garden, the farm and woodlands. Once each year the island hosts the Tresco Marathon, in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, run on the same date as the London Marathon, and particularly each spring and autumn, the island is a bird-watchers mecca, when migration is active. THE ABBEY GARDEN Set aside your preconceptions about what can and cannot be
                                  grown in frost-cursed, rain-soaked Britain. These Abbey Gardens are a glorious exception - a perennial Kew without the glass - shrugging off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host 20,000 exotic plants. Many would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter equinox more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa By building tall wind-breaks, Augustus Smith channelled the weather up and over the network of walled enclosures he built around the Priory ruins, and the three terraces he carved from the rocky, south facing slope looking towards St Mary's. The hotter, drier terraces at the top suit South African and Australian plants; those at the bottom provide the humidity that favours flora from New Zealand and South America. The diversity is greater even than the Southern Mediterranean. Fringing the lush grid of paths criss-crossing the gardens are cacti, date-palms and giant, lipstick-red flame trees; rarities like Lobster Claw; great white spires of Echia; brilliant Furcraea, Strelitzia and shocking-pink drifts of Pelargonium. Statues, symbolic of natural forces punctuate the gardens. The shipwrecked figureheads in Valhalla museum remind you of the storms they have survived. Fittingly, the layout begins with the original plantings around the Priory and ends with the new, terraced Mediterranean Garden, a horticultural world tour condensed into just 17 acres. LET US TOUR TRESCO We will begin our tour of Tresco at the quay at Carne Near, the point where the boat from St. Mary’s lands at high tide. When the tide is out, it is not possible to land here, and the boat continues along the island for a further 10 minutes, to land at Old Grimsby. From the quay, we can take the 10 minute walk, mostly uphill, towards the Abbey Gardens, stopping on the wa
                                  y at the level crossing guarding the helipad! Take a break at Valhalla. This is an eminently interesting museum, housing a collection of figureheads and other wreckage, most of which has been either salvaged from the numerous wrecks around these coasts, or washed up on shore. Many of these can be identified and dated, but there are also a number, which have come from unknown wrecks. After visiting Valhalla, if we continue along the pathway, we will arrive at the Abbey Gardens. By now, we will probably be ready for a cuppa and cake in the Abbey café, a mooch around the gift shop, and of course, a wander in the gardens themselves. The sheer size of some of the tropical plants will amaze you, and you can easily forget that you are still in England! There are a number of places where you can sit and enjoy the quiet peacefulness of the gardens, and plenty of shade on a hot day! After leaving the Abbey, depending on weather conditions, it is a short step to Pentle Beach. This is a stretch of the most beautiful white, soft sand that stretches along the coast for about 400 yards. If there are 20 people on this beach at any one time, it is considered crowded! At one end of this beach, you will be able to find the Tresco Sailing Club, but apart from this, there is absolutely nothing on this beach. If you want a drink or the loo, then it’s back to the Gardens! Swimming is safe from this beach, but be warned, the water is mighty cold! Hubby will only go in if he is wearing a wet suit! Wimp! Leaving the beach behind, a 15 minute walk along the avenue, past the Great Pool, will take us past the Timeshare properties, to the Port of New Grimsby. Bear in mind that motorised traffic, apart from tractors, is not allowed on the island, and apart from walking, the only mode of transport is cycling! This avenue is long and straight, and you will need to keep an eye out for the odd mad devil on a bike who can sneak up on you unawares!
                                  From New Grimsby, we now have the option of cutting across the centre of the island towards New Grimsby, taking in the island’s art gallery, post office and Island Stores (the only store on the island!) If we take this option, we can call in for refreshments at the New Inn, and also spend some time browsing around St Nicholas’ Church and its graveyard. The graveyards on the islands are fascinating, containing whole generations of Scillonians as well as many plots dedicated to those who lost their lives in shipwrecks around the coastlines. If we take this option, we will arrive at Old Grimsby, close to the Island Hotel, which is open to the public for meals and refreshments, as well as for residents. The other option from New Grimsby, is to continue along the coast to the furthest points on the northern parts of the island. One thing to bear in mind is that there are absolutely no facilities once we have left the harbour. The last loo and watering place is on the quayside at New Grimsby, so we will need to carry water at least, as there is a fair amount of strenuous walking and climbing to do. So let us take this option. From this point on, there are no roads, just grassy pathways, well worn down with the tread of hundreds of ramblers. The path is narrow, but the views are worth the sore feet! As we make our way northwards, the Island of Bryher can be seen to our left. Bryher is much smaller than Tresco, and has a rugged charm about it, compared to the somewhat sheltered Tresco. After walking for about 15 minutes, we will notice a small island, just off the coast of Bryher. This is Hangman’s Island, and a wooden scaffold sits proudly on its peak, marking the place where, in years gone by, those sentenced to hang for crimes committed, would be taken and hung. Continue along the coast, and we will soon catch sight of a stone tower, built right on the edge of the cliff. This is Cromwell’s Cast
                                  le, or what is left of it. When we reach it, we can still climb up to the top, where we will soon see the strategic significance of its position. It overlooks the whole bay between Bryher and Tresco, and could be used for both defence and offence. Rumour has it that it has also been used for smuggling, but the locals keep quiet about that! By now, we will be feeling somewhat weary, but despair not. We will be turning homeward soon, and hoping that the tide is out so that we only have to return as far as New Grimsby to catch the boat back to St. Mary’s! Before we turn however, it is well worth the climb up to the ruins that we can see above us from Cromwell’s Castle. Take the “quick” route up, which is somewhat steep and requires much puff, or continue to the most northerly point of the island and take the gentler route. (No guesses for which route I took!) These are the ruins of King Charles' Castle, and you can take a respite here, resting against the thick stone walls that remain standing, and enjoy the view in all directions. This castle was built as defence, but after it was built, it was found to be in a position that was not really useful, and allowed to fall into disrepair, until it was finally ousted completely by Cromwell’s Castle. Having rested, we are now faced with a dilemma. Do we cross the few hundred yards to the other side of the island and make the return hike down the opposite coast, or do we take the easier stroll right down the middle of the island on the soft moorland grass? The former takes us past a Piper’s Hole, where water can be seen squirting at very high tides, and an old blockhouse, which has been used as a jail. The latter takes us along the top of the island, from where we can see across the archipelago, and is very peaceful. Whichever way we choose, we will need to be back at the quayside before the last boat leaves at 5.30pm. And if it is high tide, bea
                                  r in mind that we have to get right back to the extreme south to Carne Near. MY FEELINGS I have been to the Isles of Scilly four times now, so I guess you could say that I love them! I’d go back every year if Hubby would! I have written this report as though you would do the whole island of Tresco in a day. Of course, you could do that, but not only would you be exhausted, but you really wouldn’t have time to do anything properly. We have visited Tresco at least half a dozen times, and still haven’t quite made it to Piper’s Hole. We also made sure that on the occasion that we visited the castles, we only had to return to New Grimsby, which halved our return ramble! All the islands of Scilly have their own distinct charm, and Tresco is no exception. Its beaches especially, are among the best in the group, and are more sheltered than some of the outlying beaches. Tresco is very green too, due to the Abbey Gardens and the plants found there. I think it’s the sheer peacefulness of no traffic, and the way you can completely isolate yourself on these islands that appeals to me. After the hurry-scurry of life in the fast lane, being on an island like Tresco is like being in an oasis in the middle of a desert. Time stands still, and apart from the boat timetable, time really doesn’t seem to matter here. It is indeed a tropical paradise that is so close to home.

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