Thirty years ago this year 1st January 1985 the first mobile telephone call was made. It
was from the son of the boss of Vodafone, to his dad, Sir Ernest
Harrison. Story here, interesting I think! Do remember the
first one that I saw, it was carried by our Vet, and was the size of a
small brick. Now these items are an essential part of our daily lives.
I've had a "smartphone" for a couple of years now - a Samsung S3, this
will be passed to Muriel, and mine is being replaced with a S4 model.
Must say I obtain great value from this technology, hardly an hour
passes without looking at it - I no longer wear a watch, and the "apps"
are to me a marvel. Three favourites being "RTT" which gives train
times at local stations. My Nationwide app which keeps me in touch with
my finances, and "Maps me Pro", this being a massive help to locate
ourselves in towns we've not previously visited.
trips away in January. Three nights in Brighton in the middle of the
month, then a fortnight later, we travelled to Waterloo then onto one
of our favourite hotels at Custom House, in the east London district. Brighton
was interesting. We were really intrigued by the number of Jewellery
shops concentrated in what is termed "the lanes", a group of narrow
streets, just to the east of the street that leads down from the rail
station to the sea. We had booked a 'Travelodge' in the street, just
back from the sea. We where told that a count had indicated there to be
well over forty of these shops, just in this tight area. Exceptionally
expensive items on display - thousands of pounds for some.
Main purpose of our visit to London, was to see the play "King Charles
3rd". This the shows final week in the 'Whyndham's Theatre', which we
found was right next door to Leicester Square underground station. I
inquired if the play was likely to go on 'tour', but the answer came
that they had already made a massive amount of money from the show, so
no need! Once inside I could understand why, the theatre was utterly
packed, I have never ever seen a theatre so full. Audience wonderfully
behaved too, compete silence during parts of the dialogue. Not surprised
that it was in its final week. The play had run its course.
As we had one clear day, we thought we would use it by taking a visit
to Bletchley Park - the war time base of the "code breakers". This I
had found out to be really close to the rail station, and was too. Such
a massive amount to see, and much walking, also standing - which does
not suit me, we reckon another visit is called for. Next time we
envisage a stay locally.
decided to sell "Sylvania", we need to clear our belongings out of it.
So, last week of February we booked for three nights in the Paignton
'Premier', while we did so. After we decided we'd take a trip across to
the "South Hams", and worked our way through the really narrow roads
here to East Prawle. Really 'atmospheric' pub here, called the "Pigs Nose", run by a rota of locals. Really good indeed.
we drove back to Kingsbridge, and after a bite to eat we decided to
look up a couple we knew who lived there, not sure of the house, but
rang the bell of the property we thought it was - and they were in!
Really enjoyable meeting.
week of March, we spent three nights in Cheltenham. Main purpose being
to meet up with our elderly friend Mimi Benn, who will soon be leaving
her house in Oxford Street. While there we where able to meet up with
her daughter-in-law, and little grandson. We also took a drive out to
the small town of Stow-on-the-Wold.
Final two days in March, another stay in the 'Premier' at Paignton, this to finish cleaning and clearing out our boat.
since my last visit to Paignton the problem I've been troubled with for
the past three years - anaemia has been
causing me 'difficulties'. Try not to dwell on that however, considered
another visit down to Brixham, might be beneficial. So the 'Premier'
again for a couple of nights from Sunday 17th May. Anyway we did manage
the walk to Berry Head in a 'test' of fitness, followed be a darn good
meal in the 'Prince William', finished the day tired but satisfied. Returning
home, as we pass Stourhead, decided to 'call in', good time of year for the visit.
Tuesday 26th May, we took a quick trip across to Ireland,
driving to Fishguard, where we caught the 14.30 ferry over to Roscoff,
here we'd booked a room in the relatively new Maldron Hotel. Next
morning we drove westward via Newross and Waterford, then more or less
straight across to Limerick, rounding here we managed to find the road
to Listowel, then down to Tralee. Here we were lucky enough to find a
really good hotel which we booked for the following two nights. Next morning over the mountain road to Dingle, from where we took the 'anti-clockwise' route round the Slea Head drive.
Not the best way round - though this I had not known, but realized so
when I pulled close to the side of the narrow road, to cater for
traffic from the opposit direction. I was driving close to rocky
cliffs, we hit a rock which "blew" an almost brand new tyre!
This on narrowroads, so impossable to stop and change wheel, anyway we
found a "viewpoint" lay by a bit furthur on, here we were lucky, among
those stopped there was a "real gentleman" who came forward, and
changed the wheel for me - who was this 'good samaritan' ? A
German who held a top position in Deutsche Bank. Wonderful chap. Back
to Tralee where we quickly found a tyre specialist who was able to
supply and fit the fresh tyre required. Lucky.
left, we were really pleased to stay in this hotel, next two views of
this scenic area, finally a view from the mountain road.
day, we drove north, crossing the shannon by ferry. Keeping close to
the Atlantic coast, passing between the 'Cliffs of Moher' and the
'Burren' but not stopping at either, having viewed both on previous
tours. I have to remark though, that the bareness of the Burren did
'stand out' much more than I'd previously remembered. Our only halt on
the drive was at Doonbeg. I had decided to head for Carrick-on-Shannon
where we were aware of a couple of hotel, and was our local town, when
we had a holiday cottage in county Leitrim. By good fortune the Bush
Hotel, did let us a room, though the area was far busier than I'd
anticipated, and we had to leave the next morning. We were pleased to
note that this town centre, family owned hotel, had been 'revamped' to
really modern standards, and was obviously doing well.
day was interesting: We both knew this area really well, but had not
visited for over ten years. First halt was at Drumnshanbo. Here we
found the market open and active, This was handy because we could
update ourselves with local life, from the folk we spoke to.
Amazingly, after leaving this market, we came across another one in
full activity, only ten miles north at Dowra. Leaving here, we drove
through 'country' roads towards Sligo. From here on, we could travel on
excellent roads to Donegal town. Two town centre hotels, first one we
tried was full, but they rang next door to their associate hotel, and
by luck, they could help us, though we had to change rooms the
following morning, we'd requested two nights because we wished to 'take
a look at' Killybegs, a fishing port we'd visited several times. We
where really surprised by the size of the boats that were tied
alongside, much larger than those we are used to viewing at Brixham.
Driving on again westward, we reached the Atlantic coast at Glencolumbkile, pot of tean in the cafe at Malin Beg and return to Donegal. very pleasent day.
Next morning, long but good drive on main' roads, plus motorways down
to Wexford. I'd not viewed any maps prior to starting, but envisaged
down to Sligo, then perhaps N4 to Dublin, and M50 round it, or a 'cut'
across Irelands midlands with a night on the way. In the event, I
spotted a sign "Dublin" just outside Ballyshannon. This eventually
routed us via Enniskillen to the N3 and M3 down to Wexford for our last
night in Ireland our one and only visit in ten years. Glancing at our
cars trip meter, while on the ferry showed 250 miles exactly. It was
zeroed on leaving Donegal.
We drove down to Paignton again on Sunday 14June,
I'd been a bit woried regarding certain aspects of the boat, so had
booked for three nights. However, as it turned out, the boat appeared
perfect. We took it out for a 'run' and were really pleased at just how
well it behaved. Took a drive up through the middle of the "South Hams to start our drive home, commencing up through Slapton village.
as mentioned on the 'front page', we commenced a massively enjoyable
cruise on Saturday 11th July, this starting from Southampton. This was
to last fourteen days,
over that length of time not easy to record so much of all that
occurred! So I shall rely on the 'official' itinerary: 11th depart late
PM, 12th cruising (just off Dutch coast) On the 13th in the very early
morning, we had entered the river Elbe, and we got ourselves out of bed
in time to go up on deck to witness our entry into the Kiel Canal. This
to me, was one of the most valuable parts of the cruise, it had this that enticed
me to go in the first place, might be recalled that in a previous year
2010 we had passed above this waterway during a rail journey from Germany
into Denmark. Our massive ship cruised beneath this rail bridge quite
early on. Worth mentioning that we were informed that our ship had to
take on extra ballast in order to lower us sufficiently to get
underneath these bridges! One of our fellow passengers also told us,
that the Captain had volunteered the cost of taking our 43,000 tonne
vessel through this waterway was fifty thousand pounds! Worth it I
reckon. Far as I recall we took most of the day to do this.
two 'photo's illustrate width of canal, and the one on the right shows
one of the two swimming pools - both have associated warm jacuzzis,
that are on the "Balmoral". Amazing that our huge vessel managed to
pass beneath these bridges. Must be interesting to live at a property
next to this waterway.
the next day was spent cruising north towards Finland, the first town
we berthed at was Turku, reached in the late morning, after cruising
between a group of islands. We were provided with a coach to take us
into town, and worth mentioning this was the first land we'd stepped
on since leaving Southampton, the market was interesting here, but not
much else. Entirely different the next city - Helsinki, which we
reached early the following morning, 16th July. I was a bit
'discomforted' by the warmth here, I had not expected it to be so hot
at this latitude. Assume this so due to the longer hours of daylight at
this time of year.
really is a lovely city, as the above buildings well illustrate.
it was so warm here, managed to cool ourselves with a harbour
next 'port of call' was St Petersburg, Russia. Quite interesting
getting in the country here, as well could be imagined! An experience
in fact. As someone remarked to me once we were back on board, "he'd
never seen so many coaches". Reason being of course, that as individual
travel not encouraged nor advised, these were our main means of
transport, required also because our ship was berthed a long way
outside the city - second city in Russia so we
were told. We did actually take two separate trips into town, first
being to view main sites of interest, fact well worth doing as the
following pictures will show.
Top left is the "Church of our Savior on the spilled blood", difficult to take in full view, being we could not stand back far enough.
The three others would be of the Cathedral, both utterly fantastic
buildings - quite amazing workmanship carried out in years past! We
were lucky enough to travel back in the evening to visit a Russian folk
evening, this I really thoroughly enjoyed, specially the music, the
players of whom I would have preferred to be 'more "centre stage"', to
me they where the stars.
Long 'cruise' to our next port, another 'capital' city - Stockholm. Reached
by 'gliding by' a lovely group of islands, called the Stockholm
archipelago, we had of course already spent a day or so in this lovely
city. but we enjoyed another visit. We could not "berth" in the next
place we called at, this the island of Gotland, and its main town
Visby. We had to anchor offshore, and be ferried ashore on the ships
boats, a little 'rough' here too, so not easy. Have to say though, the
crew managed this difficult exercise really well, specially so, in
view of the fact that some passengers where not fully ambulant. Our own
trip was on a coach round the northern part of the island.
Next day we were traveling round the south coast of Sweden, and on our
way to Copenhagen. This allowed me a good view of the "Oresund
Crossing", this being a road and rail connection, between Denmark and
Sweden, this being what we used in 2010, duiring our tour of these two
countries. Being that we'd already visited these two capitals, we
partook in a coach trip out to small fishing village of Dragor,
around 15 miles south of the city. Full of hollyhocks as can be seen
12th August, we took a very quick trip up to Scotland - bit quicker
than perhaps intended, as I'd thought of staying in Inverness, but when
we found even a travelodge room would cost over a hundred pounds -
returned south again! Worth reporting that our trip north started at 0610 AM and reached Perth early evening. Here we'd booked for three nights,
our two days were spent exploring the country south of the Tay. We had
of course been up in Perthshire in the previous October, when I'd been
really impressed by the rich farmland, so wished to visit in the full
growing season. Interesting to find so many fields of polytunnels,
these we found out where to extend the soft fruit growing season, it
being claimed that strawberries can be picked from April to October.
Obviously rich land, plus the longer daylight hours up here, helping in
At the weekend we travelled up to Aberdeen, and stayed the two nights, exploring north as far as Peterhead on the Sunday.
So we stayed again in Perth Monday
evening, and left the next morning at around 0650 reaching home just
before 1700, this after driving 436 miles.
a trip to south west Wales on 14th October, staying three nights in
Swansea, main purpose to travel the rail lines to the west of that
city. Best place to stay for this would have been Carmarthern, but
could not find a hotel that would have been convenient to the station.
For our first day we chose to go to Fishguard,
and Milford Haven, time restraints made us return on same train.
Different for the next day however, when our ride was to Pembroke Dock,
as we had enough time to stay over two hours. This is not the first
time we have travelled those lines, but have to admit these trips
seemed entirely different from what I previously recall. A line that we
have ridden over more often is the one known as the "heart of Wales"
line. We did this again on the Saturday. That was worth doing,
specially the ride back from Shrewsbury down to Cardiff.
Next trip was to the other side of the country - Canterbury, commencing 3rd November, where we'd booked four nights
day we spent exploring the Cathedral, must say i found this really
interesting. There were really good guides helping here, an amazing
fact about the building being that the stone by which it had been
constructed, had been quarried in France, fact outside Caen in
Normandy. It was explained that this had been most convenient as
water was better than overland for transport in those days. Gather
repairs are still being made with Caen stone. Next day we visited
Whitstable, striking interest being the narrow alleyways leading off
some of the streets. We also visited Margate that day.
The nicest town explored we considered to be Sandwich, well worth the visit. Last place we 'took a look at' being Ramsgate.
Little trip we really enjoyed, was to Bath's Theatre Royal, this to see the play "Handbagged".
Something we've never, ever done before, was to get seats in the front
row of the stalls - actually second row, front row being empty.
morning we journeyed down to Paignton, this by rail, we consider the
route via Salisbury enjoyable with its rural scenery. Pleased to find
our boat in good order, good idea to check it out and run the engine