08 Nov 2012
Yet another trip up to the cold barren landscape of Scotland for us. We plumped for another caravan park with heated swimming pool for the wee ones. The last one was pretty good (Hunter’s Quay near Dunoon) and we hoped that the one nearby at Wemyss Bay would be equally so.
The drive up was uneventful with only a couple of stops for wees and food. R phoned ahead and upgraded us to a 3 bed caravan. There was one notable incident en-route where the motorway was empty save for a car in front of us travelling at 1mph slower than us and a range rover in the middle lane behind us travelling at 1mph faster than us. As we got close enough to think about passing I indicated. I kept on indicating. And I kept on indicating. The range rover driver had clearly decided that the middle lane was his. At the risk of cutting him up a bit I moved over only for him to brake unnecessarily sharply and flash his lights at me. He stayed behind me until I’d passed the other car and moved back into the left lane. As he passed there ensued the traditional mutual rude sign exchange. All could have been avoided if he’d known how to drive on motorways and simply moved to the fast lane as I indicated. Ah well.
We arrived at around half six and headed straight to reception. It was closed. Open ’til 8 according to the door. Ah well. A small walk away was “The Venue”. A bouncer type bloke was standing there and he gave me the keys we needed. The caravan was nice and new with 3 bedrooms. Kitchen was well appointed, heating was on (low but easily tweaked to be too hot for us), washer-dryer also there, 2 shower rooms, nice.
Day 2 was spent mainly on site. It wasn’t yet Halloween but there was Halloween stuff ongoing all day for the kiddies. We took J to a dressing-up do where he immediately headed for the “post person” outfit. Just recently he’s become a big fan Postman Pat. Then we all went to the pool.
Now then here’s a thing. The pool was open but it wasn’t “open swimming”. What happened is that they have “sessions” of about 45 mins. I assume this is to stop the place getting over-crowded when busy. It wasn’t busy so I’m not sure why they stuck to the system. It meant we couldn’t just “go swimming” which is surely the point of going somewhere with a blinking pool.
First impression of the pool: it’s a bit small. Into the changing rooms. Next impression? It smells really very strongly of wee. The lockers appear to be all broken too. Sigh. Oh and the pool is really quite cold for a supposedly “heated” pool. Once in and busy it was ok but the session finished sooner than we’d have wished and we were all ushered out back into the “smelling of wee” changing area. J and L then howled miserably for the next twenty minutes. J instantly loathed his hooded, green, frog towel. Henceforth the merest glance would send poor J into convulsions. Most unsatisfactory.
Day 3 Was a day out. A little south is the town of Largs where there is a Viking museum called Vikingar. N was keen to view so that was our first port of call. Turns out it’s a leisure centre with a bit tacked on containing the museum. It also turned out that, rather like the swimming pool, you couldn’t just go round it, you had to wait for a tour. The first was about 15 minutes away and was already booked up by a school group. N and R joined in with this whilst I took J and L to the soft play area in the centre. Twas the smallest and meanest soft play I’ve ever seen. J got stuck on a bridge, stuck at the wrong end of said bridge and then refused to enter the ball pit. Great value.
Once out of the place we walked a little on the beach and introduced the smalls to the pleasure of hurling rocks into the sea. J very interested in this, N desperate to manage to skip a rock.
Lunch time loomed so we found a nice looking cafe. Once in and settled I made the mistake of looking it up on Trip Advisor, bad reviews abounded not least due to their apparent dislike of very small children and the almost guaranteed mess they make. It did seem to be so. Food was good tho.
Koala is missing! Nooooo! Retrace steps now.
Turns out he’s back at Vikingar. That’s where we’re parked so we picked him up on the way back.
After more beach action we were all back in the car and the smalls fell asleep almost immediately. Perfect time for a scenic drive. We drove up hills, around little lakes. At one point we even went off the beaten track down a lane that had a sign post pointing to somewhere. The lane had loads of gates we had to undo to get down there and the road was rough. And it ended in a dead end. Well worth the effort.
Day 4 in the Big family caravan
We wanted to get walking today and looked for somewhere to stretch our legs. We’re right next to a ferry terminal and the local ferry heads across to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
The site is on a hill so it was a walk down in the rain to get to the ferry. N quite animated as there was a ferry approaching as we were just heading in to the terminal. She hadn’t quite understood that there was some time needed to disembark, get ferry ready, embark again, finish checks and then set sail.
The terminal was actually in the same building as the train station. And what a lovely old Victorian building it is. There are still vestiges of the grand holiday destination of that era. It’s a little faded now but must have been quite opulent at the time.
Once in Rothesay we looked for anything that was indoors. Rain was on and off and it was cold and windy. The first place visited was the discovery centre which is housed in the old winter gardens. Rothesay seems to have been quite the fashionable place to holiday.
Anyway we saw a little about the area and its history. Then we needed to change a nappy. Luckily it was L’s rather than J’s. There wasn’t a baby change facility but they did offer us the floor of the disabled loo. R not keen on that idea so she cracked on with it on a bench in the main gallery. All went well until the end where R decided to hurry a little to get it finished. Just pop the nappy in a bag? No. Zoom it there and manage to get some of the contents on her hand. On the bench. A big dollop on L’s bear outfit. Oh and a tiny splodge on my face. Yes, my blinking face. Oh the humour. Tears rolled down R’s cheeks as she just convulsed with laughter.
And then a walk down the prom. J loved the big puddles and splashed around in them for what seemed like ages.
N’s gloves are lost. Then she remembered she’d left them in the discovery centre. Yay. Koala yesterday and gloves today. What else tomorrow?
To the museum (more indoors stuff). Highpoint for me was a shield remembering locals in the second world war. Specifically those men who’d worked in mini submarines and “human torpedoes”. Wow. never heard of those before but I bet it was something horrendous to do.
Earlier in the day R had been told about a soft-play place that had opened this week. N had asked about it so we headed there. Well it wasn’t the nicest place. The guy running it was a nice chap but there were a good few issues with the place. It wasn’t a soft-play place it was just an ex-nightclub with a load of toys in it. The kids enjoyed it. R didn’t, too cold, smelly and the facilities were very very low-rent from the inflatables around the pillars instead of proper padding to the bust locks on the loo doors.
After noticing that the time for a ferry was fast approaching we ran down the hill as fast as possible to make it to the boat. And then back to the caravan.
Steak for dinner that night. Nyom.
Day 5 After the frankly appalling experience at the site’s swimming pool we went back to Largs for swimming at the Vikingar centre. This was much better, clean showers, no smell of wee, warm water. The guards were very over-bearing though and kept a grumpy, over-close eye on us at all times. Yes L managed to poo in the pool but it was only a tiny bit. We left quickly.
We ate lunch at the one restaurant in the village of Wemyss Bay. Was good food.
Being Halloween N made a scary witch face out of leaves and other flotsam on the path to our caravan. It was very good especially considering all she had to work with were leaves and sticks and stones.
We’d missed some of the kids halloween stuff (making costumes etc) but we were there for the kids’ disco. Lots of good costumes even for the weeest of ones (except ours ‘cos we’d failed to plan ‘owt). N was runner-up in best costume, witch with spider web hair (complete with spiders). We left before the bingo.
Day 6 N started the day by playing with the kiddies in the next door caravan. She’d met them at the disco yesterday and was very brave in going to their door to ask if they could play. The day was planned as a day out on the train. We headed up to Glasgow and the science centre. For some reason the centre had decided to run on “winter hours” which meant that it closed at 3. Not only that but the IMAX wasn’t running today, nor was there any show in the science theatre, and one whole floor was closed. So for shorter hours and fewer facilities they charged us full whack. Not impressed with that.
There was an awfy lot of walking as well. Seemed like miles from station to the centre, around the place, back to the station and then up the hill at the caravan park. Some nice industrial heritage to look at tho.
The return train trip was marred somewhat by the smell of poo (again). This time it was from J’s general direction. But what’s this? No loo on the train? Train too busy to manage to change him subtly. Grr. Once back at Wemyss Bay train station I went to the loo to change him. Poo everywhere! On his clothes, down his leg, up his back. Sigh. I could have done with a hand to keep his hands out of the mess so called for R to help. “But it’s a gents”. And other replies that I couldn’t hear ‘cos of J’s very loud crying. Apparently I was very grumpy about this.
That evening we ended up back in The Venue as N and J danced in the junior disco with the kids from next door. There were team games and N joined in with gusto. No wins sadly but there would always be tomorrow’s disco to try and garner a win.
Day 7 Gorgeous weather and we’d not been out much due to rotten rain all the time so this gave us a window to get up to Loch Lomond. Ended up at a place called Loch Lomond Shores. Very nice views including snow capped hills, N very insistent that she’d never seen snow-capped hills “not even on tv”. As photos were being taken N popped L on her feet after forgetting that she can’t yet stand up. There was a very unhappy L very shortly afterwards.
That evening N was back at the disco. The next door kids had left by now so she didn’t know anyone. The team she was on had previously been bigger than the other. Now, however, she was in a team on her own against all the other children. This was war! She needed some support so both me and R joined in as vocal supporters. At one point I got told off for “booing a little girl”. I bloomin didn’t, I was booing the other team. yes the other team was all little girls but that’s not the point. And then I had to do some dancing. The less said the better. But N did win a game tonight and single-handedly beat the other team in terms of points won over the evening. Star.
And home via the usual diversion to visit an old friend of mine in Dumfries.
30 Sep 2012
I’ve not put up many posts about family trips this year. This is mainly to do with time issues and lack of trips out. However we did get out today for some hours. A family trip to Carsington Water. Was fun.
And only 4 weeks until we finally get our holiday. Scotland beckons again!
30 Jan 2012
We went on a little jaunt last weekend. The four of us in a car up into the Peaks to a place called Cressbrook.
The ominous weather didn’t stop us. Didn’t even cause us pause. We parked up near’t mill and got ourselves ready in a howling gale. The walk started well with a small hill and tarmac. Eventually we ended up near some old lead mining houses and passed onwards into a dark wood.
The main issue seemed to be that it was muddy. Then J started howling.
He was sat in a kiddie backpack thing behind me. Turns out I was passing under tree branches but he wasn’t managing to avoid the odd snagging. Poor thing got very upset.
Then we headed upwards to a ridge and exposure to the wind (which had been nicely minimal under the cover of the woods). The gusts nearly blew N off a ledge at one point and then J just kept howling every time a heavy gust came his way.
Would you believe that we picked now to have our lovingly prepared picnic? Well we did. Exposed to the wind and rain. Was great fun.
But should we return and carry on. Carrying on meant miles further in the exposed wind and rain. Returning meant getting J through the thorney trees. We went back in the end but it wasn’t without incident involving mud and loss of balance. But we all got back in one piece.
Might do it again on a better day.
03 Oct 2011
We watched “Of Gods and Men” the other night. Well what a lovelily made fillum. It’s a slow paced one though so if Transformers is your sort of thing then I wouldn’t bother.
It’s a case in what happens when the outside world intrudes into a cloistered life. We have a bunch of monks (I think that’s the correct collective noun) living in Algeria doing their helping the community stuff and living in complete harmony with the locals. The difference in religions mean little to either party and they all mingle happily. At one point the monks are invited to someone’s son’s party (sort of a religious coming of age thing) and are welcomed warmly and they, in turn, are happy to be there. In other words the monks are locals just like anyone else.
But then the civil war kicks off and foreigners are being killed and girls without veils are stabbed on buses etc. All very unpleasant.
The monks themselves are a mixed bunch and very well drawn characters. Some are old and fatalistic but happy with whatever happens, the youngest monk is terrified more than any. The trials of the group form the second half of the fillum. Tis lovely.
A wonderfully warm and poignant study of faith, brotherhood, neighbourliness and duty. I shan’t divulge the ending though.
Yesterday we went to a monkey place. We were expecting a bunch of different monkeys but instead there were lots of 1 particular type. In fact they were from North Africa, indeed the same place as the fillum was set. Barbary Macaques they were.
J wasn’t too impressed but everyone else was. Nice place.
12 Sep 2011
They said it couldn’t be done. Some said it shouldn’t be done. Hah! We went and showed them.
Camping on Skye at the fag end of summer was always going to be a bit of a rough trip but the rewards of the place seemed to compensate handsomely.
We took 2 days to get here after a brief diversion to Rebecca and Matt’s wedding in London (most inconsiderately 100-odd miles in the wrong direction I might add). We split the drive so we didn’t have to do 10 hours plus of driving and then have to pitch a large tent.
Our chosen overnight spot was Fort William where we kipped over at a lovely B&B run by a mad old bat who never so much asked for a deposit. Nicer and cheaper than a Travelodge type place (not that they’re particularly abundant once you get north of the M8 anyhoo). The next day was a dash to Mallaig to get the ferry and then further to the campsite at Glen Brittle.
I’d never been to Skye before but ooh what a lovely place!
The campsite is situated at the end of a 7 mile single track road, between the black and grey beach and the Cuillan mountains. Tame birds flit around the tents picking up scraps and local rabbits hoppity around too. Didn’t see any eagles though. Most of the tents there were of the 2 man variety. Our 6 man job was amongst the bigger ones there. No matter, on arrival the weather was benign and calm. Set-up was easy and then the holiday can begin. After signing in at the campsite shop (“You can’t get refunds on camping but you can pay night by night if you want to” said the about 12 year old boy who seemed to be in charge) I needed the loo. We’d been given the code when we paid but it didn’t seem to work on the men’s loos. This was a problemfor a couple of days. At first it was a pain but eventually the air of cameraderie it engendered was excellent. Standing with a bunch of men outside the door figuring something out, commonly ways to block the door closing, became a regular event for me. After about 4 days the campsite buckled and took the lock away to be mended.
Our first full day was one of walking. We’d decided to head along the peninsula walk. Again the weather held but on the way back the clouds gathered over the Cuillans and it looked like there’d be some storms heading our way.
Well it rained that night but not for long. We spent the next day driving around and finding nice places to eat and do the tourist thing at. Top most was The Old Inn at Carbost. Very welcoming place with excellent food and local beer. Not only that but a high chair and a children’s menu too. Highly recommended.
That evening we did have to break out some of my anti-midge arsenal as I got bitten quite a lot (as per usual wherever there are bitey flying things) but it wasn’t too bad.
Next day was another walk day. This time up the hills to a natural bowl nestling between a couple of Cuillans. I couldn’t get J up (and more to the point, down) safely at the top end of the walk so I sat and waited in what was gloriously hot and sunny weather. I was wondering whether I should have packed the suncream at this point. As it happened the midges came out and I was bitten quite badly having rather stupidly left my weaponry back at the tent. I managed to keep J reasonably clear of bites though. By the time the girls had come back my legs had taken on the appearance of a smallpox sufferer’s. Once back at the tent the full arsenal came out and we suffered little more hassle from the bitey wotsits that night.
It should be pointed out that the campsite folk had told us that this day was going to be rough weather. There was hardly any wind, and no rain, and it was quite warm. Hmm hardly rough unless you were particularly sun-averse.
The next day started with higher winds but hardly anything to write home about. We spent it out and about in Portree, the only town of note on the island, eating in nice restaurants and poking around shops and that. We did try and get N some new school shoes only to discover that there’s no shoe shop on the island. Madness! Schools are back up here and we were at the bus station area when there were pupils waiting for buses back to wherever they lived on the island (Portree has the only secondary school here). Risking being put on some sort of a register I asked a group of schoolgirls where they got their school shoes. The answer was “On the internet or in Inverness”. Madness again!
Apparently there hasn’t been a shoe shop here for ages. Business op for someone? Oh yes there’s no private physio here neither. Hmmm…
Back to the camp to find that the wind was picking up somewhat. Still normal levels but at the higher end. One family from Manchester arrived at that point and struggled to pitch their tunnel tent for a while before sorting themselves out.
Later that night our tent started bending somewhat with us in it. And the wind really picked up. Blimey it was noisy inside the tent. We didn’t sleep at all for that night. Well me nor R did. The kids slept on, oblivious. I was up a couple of times making sure that guyropes and pegs were holding. One peg bent quite a lot and we heard one rope slacken suddenly as its peg gave up the ghost. Oh well it’ll be over by morning.
It wasn’t. The next day was just as bad. I bought more pegs from the camp shop and doubled up on pegs to the windward side. We decided not to bother cooking breakfast and headed to the Old Inn for brekkie. They stopped serving breakfast at 9.30. We got there at 9.33 and they wouldn’t even serve us toast and a slice of bacon. Major blot on our positive view of the place that was.
That night the wind was as bad at times as the night before. We were happy that our tent could cope now so actually got some sleep. The Manc family told us later that they’d given up and gone to sleep in their car instead worried that the tent would collapse.
They were a lovely family and they had a couple of young daughters one of whom is now officially N’s pen pal. They got on famously for a couple of days before they gave up and shipped out elsewhere.
We still stayed. The wind slackened and it looked brighter. Yay! Got up to make breakfast only to be confronted with what could only be described as a cloud of midges. As I battled to dose myself with whichever anti-midge stuff came to hand, whilst flailing pathetically, I managed to spray 50% DEET straight into my left eye. Bad day.
Not long after this we decided to de-camp whenever the weather was good enough. Then we’d move around via B&B’s. We had dinner at the local (local=15 miles round trip) pub again and got chatting with a pair of outdoorsy types. They gave us kudos for camping (IE they expressed astonishment) as they were in lodges. Then when we told them which site we were on they said “Oh are you in the green tent?” Yes, yes we are. Wow, our tent was noted by other walkers and remembered as a point of interest. Slightly startling.
Once decamped we moved further round the island. We’d had a good evening at a place called The Edinbane Inn. Excellent local pub with musicians playing. Very good guitarist and singer, very good percussionist (despite clear inebriation) and a superb fiddle player. Guy looked like an extra from Trainspotting but good heavens can that man play a mean fiddle! I’m almost certain he’ll have serious shoulder problems at some point (if he hasn’t already) but frankly I wouldn’t want to change how he plays at all.
We went back a couple of nights later and there were more musicians including a total of 4 other fiddlers. One was nearly up with him but the others were clearly not in his league and they knew it. I felt a bit sorry for a flautist there as her instrument wasn’t audible over the fiddles. And there was a woman with a guitar which just seemed out of place. Oh yes and a man turned up with a set of pipes with which he performed a couple of numbers unaccompanied by the others (mainly as his sound totally drowned out the others). He was good but it was a bit out of kilter with the rest of the evening’s bring and share (or in super-fiddle bloke’s mind – come and beat the skills of everyone else).
Our first B&B was a bit out of the way near Edinbane, nice enough but we were happy enough to move on the following day. After a day’s scenic driving we ended up at Seabound B&B in Flodigarry. This was excellent, particularly clean for any hardcore OCD types around. We ended up staying for 3 nights.
And then a shocking long drive home.
Skye – highly recommended.
16 Jul 2011
I bought a lovely tent last year which worked rather well but managed to find itself a trio of minor niggles with a bit of use. The main issue was the breakage of a pole. The shop couldn’t get a replacement pole so offered a full refund if I could present proof of purchase. I managed this and got me a full refund. Nice.
So looking for a better family tent now. We zoomed off down to Go Outdoors to have a look.
We’re now torn between 2 of their tents. Any opinions or alternatives?
Number 1: “The Sahara“. Positives: huge, separate bedrooms, basic dome so stable. Negatives: heavy, longish pitch time.
Number 2: “The Athena“. Huge and v large “living” area for bad weather days, quick pitch time. But not sure re tunnel tents and high winds.
06 Jun 2011
We had 8 nights this May starting with the rest of the family’s first BBU.
The drive was a complete mare. Something like 5 hours with many stops involved. Once there though a few lovely people helped with baby-sitting and/or tent upping. We did only have one request along the lines of “How many days have you packed for?” as we dumped a house worth’s of stuff into the tent. Mildly surprised at that.
Bloomin’ cold it was at first. That first night was a bit of a nippy one. But we all survived that one well enough and the next 3 days were just relaxed and happy. Very nice people, lovely location and decent weather. Oh and the friendliest juggling convention took place around us too.
On the Monday we had to decamp, re-pack the car, drive north, unpack the car and re-camp. That was a long day.
The new site was just outside of Cromer. We’d packed up in 22 degree sunshine and were dressed for summer. As we got nearer Cromer the weather turned; we lost 8 degrees and gained rain and wind a plenty. It heaved it down with rain that night which gave us a rather rough view of Cromer as we went out for fish and chips. Not the best first impression.
After that though the weather was pretty darn nice and so was Cromer. At least it wasn’t bad for an English seaside town. Proper pier with theatre too.
We zoomed over to Hunstanton for a day with my folks and niece and nephews which was fun despite Hunstanton being a dump and losing 2 children at one point. The following day my folks came to Cromer for a rather lovely day of lazing and walking and beach sitting. And that was about it.
Things of note were that the businessmen of Norfolk seem to be untrustworthy dodgy types. There was a children’s fair thing on the seafront at Cromer where you had to buy tickets from a central place and signs up all around to insist that you don’t give cash to the staff! Nice way to treat your staff – “hi thanks for working for us, we don’t trust you.” In Hunstanton too the refrain “No refunds” was apparent on a goodly number of signs.
We went at one point to a crazy golf course only to find another “no refunds” sign, a price of a fiver each and another sign that said “No followers”. The group in front of us were debating this as they had a very young member of their family but the rather dodgy looking people in the hut were not shifting on their no follower rule. This kid was no way old enough to play the game so they were being total arses. We decided not to spend that much money when it involved giving it these shysters.
Oh the town should be renamed “Hunstanto’n” as no-one there seems able to use apostrophes correctly.
After Cromer we packed up and headed to Manchester as R had rather sweetly bought us tickets to see The Fall live in their home town that Friday. Hellish journey! Getting northwest from Cromer isn’t easy. In the end it took us 6 hours of slow and tedious roads. The show was fun whilst it lasted but it didn’t last very long at all so a long day’s drive for about 60 minutes of entertainment (including support poet “a low rent John Cooper Clarke” and band). Officious bouncer helped to annoy many, R couldn’t see anything and it was awfy hot. Luckily R’s sister is lovely and looked after the young folk for us (with the excellent help of her daughter) whilst we were out. And finally home on the Saturday.
All in all a lovely week. I think we need less stuff and a wilder trip next time. Maybe Glen Brittle?
07 Mar 2011
We just got back from Scotland. Yes that’s right Scotland in February. Perfect place for a bit of winter sun.
When I was a little person my folks used to use one particular company to book a week or two’s holiday. I booked this week with that very same company. Cheap half term deal n’all. The site we picked was really cheap and had 2 indoor heated swimming pools and free gym and etc etc etc…
It is a caravan park but the accom was surprisingly good quality. An occasional niggle (bedroom door needed shaving to avoid sticking on the carpet, one bit of bust sofa) aside it was grand.
Yet again the food in Scotland left something to be desired (only had great food in Scotland on 1 trip, to Edinburgh a couple of years ago). Over our week there we had some spectacular meals. The faux Italian place we ate at was passable for me. R was far from impressed though. I did have the most-overfilled Calzone in history. I could hardly waddle out of the building. However no meals were quite as spectacular as the deep-fried battered pizza with chips, salt, vinegar AND gravy that some lad got from a a chippy we used. And that was the “children’s special”! Good work up there for a cardiac surgeon I’m sure.
Away from the site the area is a gorgeous place for walking. The local forestry dept has implemented a stack of different walks of a decent length for both adults and children. Over the week we walked about 10 miles (which I’m allowed to double as I was carrying J for pretty much all of that). One walk didn’t live up to much but the rest were excellent. Highlights were the waterfall walk at Glenbranter (starting at the most unfriendly forestry commission office ever), and the High Gorge Walk at Puck’s Glen (very Lord of the Rings).
Considering it was February in Scotland the weather wasn’t too bad. It snowed on our first day and there was snow on the hills. The mist was a pain though and blocked some of the nicer views for most of the week. On our last day we parked up at the site’s reception to have an unbroken view across the firth topped with a complete rainbow. Very nice.
Away from the site we made it across to the mainland once to go to see the Science Centre in Glasgow, not incidentally meeting up with Az and teh Biskups too.
The way home was broken up by a lovely visit to an old friend of mine in Dumfries. I last met up with her a couple of years ago. At that time neither of us had children but at this visit we both seemed to have acquired 6 year olds. Quite unexpected.
And yet again I go somewhere nice and am left wondering just why I live in quite such an unattractive bit of the country. Itchy feet time.
12 Sep 2010
We headed out for a sunny week of doing nothing. It was needed after a few weeks of lots of work and such. We’d picked Crete and a little village called Sissi.
Our flight in was cramped beyond comfort. They kept us passengers stuck in our seats for ages despite a number of folk desperate for the loo. So we couldn’t use the loos but the staff were happy enough to be serving us over-priced snacks and trinkets. Not sure that is quite within the spirit of aircraft safety rules. The flight ended badly with us landing so hard some oxygen masks came down.
The return flight wasn’t much better as it seemed to nearly land sideways, but at least we got some more room.
Once in Crete the coach transfer was equally spectacular. My word! Tight squeezes galore, Crete roads not really designed for full size coaches, and even at one point a spontaneous round of applause from me for a particularly fine piece of fitting the coach somewhere I didn’t think was possible.
There some superb human specimens on the coach. One group comprised 4 men, 2 adults, 2 young teens. They were very clearly of the same family. They all had tiny heads. Really tiny heads.
We got to Sissi late and were dumped by the side of the road. The apartments were just up a side road. Nice enough and we were met by a man who would come to be known as “BILLY!” (as yelled by most of the guests).
Our days were mainly spent between pool and eating. N loved it all and swam like a trouper, didn’t stop smiling even through the near drownings that seem to crop up regularly. Only stopped smiling when time to leave the pool.
The people were generally lovely. The locals anyway. Unfortunately they were rather outnumbered. Many of the rest were pissed up brits. Lovely indeed.
“BILLY!” and Manos ran the place. “BILLY!” was notable for his tight, very tight, swimming shorts and laid-back demeanour. Clearly playing the part of love-interest to the female guests. I did see one about 13 year old girl spending ages ogling him. Manos I guessed was his dad. They didn’t seem to do a huge amount. Maria, on the other hand, did the lion’s share of the work. As a chambermaid she worked herself all day probably for a fraction of the money that Manos was raking in.
Tourists of note included “Mr Yabberman” a guy who sounded very Essex and took great pleasure in befriending everyone and anyone. You’ve rarely seen someone talk about so little with so many. His daughter was also notable – “DAIS!” was a 6yr old who looked like a good playmate for N but turned out to be a bit too precocious and clearly felt playing with a 5 yr old was beneath her. At a barbecue they were playing a game of tag which ended with N going flying as she was bodily shoved instead of merely tagged.
The local fooderies were rather good. No chain places as far as we could see so good local food done well in the main. The menus were all in English before Greek tho and everywhere did full English breakfasts as their standard morning fare. How wonderful to be a citizen of a country whose tourists go places to experience the same things as they do at home.
We only headed out from the town for 1 trip. The port had loads of boat trips, we picked a short one on a glass-bottomed boat. It wasn’t the nicest trip. We were pretty tight for time as we’d stupidly ordered food at the apartments late and they seemed to take an age supplying it. We ended up rushing down to the port to make sure we got the boat. Luckily the skipper was running on “GMT” or “Greek Maybe Time” so we were there in ample time. Then we discovered that we were the only people from this port getting on but there were loads of folk from down the way having their “Day trip to Sissi”. Once they shuffled on and we zoomed off at top speed down the coast it felt like we were on a bus just ferrying between stops. First stop was some hideous hole filled to the brim with tourist-hole horrors like “fun pubs” and cheap booze offers galore. There was a sizeable crowd waiting for us. But we were allowed 20 whole minutes to go and explore. R took N to the loo and I stayed on board keeping our seats (much to the chagrin of one of the boat’s staff). The thing filled up to bursting with folk. Off we zoomed again to just off a dirty beach. Here we could swim for a bit. That was ok but N was a bit unsure of sea water compared with the safety and non-saltiness of the pool though so the swim was a little shorter than it could have been.
Getting back on the boat was a bit harder than expected. The swell had the ladder pitching up and down, R noticed that the ladder was hinged and both me and N nearly had our fingers taken off by the thing snapping closed. Once out we had to zoom all the way back to Sissi. The boat was full of people getting slowly greener. No talking, no banter, no joy; just barely held back vomit. A major waste of money. The only time the glass-bottom bit was available (because we travelled too fast the rest of the time) we could see seaweed and rocks. Can you say “ripped off”?
Eventually it was time to leave so back to the airport via the “45 minute transfer bus”. It took 2 hours! But it was during the day so we saw some more of the tourist hell from the coach, much had been hidden by night on the way first time: a prime sight was MaccyD’s with fat and burned stupid people stuffing their faces on familiar shite instead of cheaper and lovelier “actual food” from local places.
Once back in Manchester we’re in the familiar again. Rain, plane’s jetty not working, moving walkways not working, cold. The first sight past passport control was an ad for free Chlamydia testing – they know the types of folk coming back off charter flights that’s for sure.
It was a rather nice week. I’d have liked to climb the local hills but it was far too hot to do so. Might just have to get back there again in cooler months.
11 Aug 2010
We went on holiday not so long back. We’d bought loads of camping gear which only just managed to fit in the car – a roof box or trailer (or both) needed next time I reckon.
We’d done a run-through of using the stuff in Derbyshire but this time we headed into the depths of the New Forest in Hampshire. Campsite was called Hollands Wood. Nice place with clear rules and decent facilities (in the main).
We arrived and were told the rules. The main one of note was “no camping closer than 6m from other campers”. Now groups could obviously all gather together but they wanted to give strangers some space. We spent a good while driving around trying to live within the rule. Eventually we found ourselves a pretty nice spot at the furthest end of the site. It was away from the main road, near a huge field and had unfeasibly hard ground.
After setting up and scouting around a bit we headed out to the local village. We were probably away for an hour or 2. On our return there was a tent being put up about 2m away from us. We decided to be nice and let them get on with it.
Later we looked again and their tent had grown immensely. It was huge. And the nearest bit pretty much was up to our guy ropes. Never mind they might still be pleasant enough and it was at the back of us rather than in our face.
Well the night was fun. Woken by fireworks and a “scared of fireworks” child at 9pm (it’d been a long day with an early start ok!) The rest of the late evening was spent listening to the woman in the next tent struggling with her 3 boys and dog. The conversation was the sort you always love to overhear.
“Stop doing that, he doesn’t like it…I said stop doing it…STOP IT NOW OR I’LL %*%&ING SMACK YA!”
Repeat ad absurdum.
The management were on the case sharp enough though and they asked them to shift. They did but only to their 6m limit. I wasn’t expecting a massive change but the extra distance improved things loads.
The field was a godsend for N. Loads of kids around all playing together. Friends were made and lost as people left on different days. Logs crossing ditches were crossed and occasionally fallen off. Generally there were plenty of smiles with occasional tears. Fantastic fun all round. And days were long.
In the week we went to a few places and did the tourist thing.
Highlights were “Bucklers Hard” (snigger) where the ice-cream was gorgeous and I got a free sample which was as large as the ice-cream I eventually bought. A local kids’ theme park was rather good too. Not many scary rides and it cost a lot but did give me a chance to go on some rides with N including her first proper roller-coaster. So scared but yet so determined to stick it out. Grand. And there were horses and cows on site. Wild New Forest (and Shetland) ponies just coming and going as they pleased. And lots of people with dogs but no piles of dog poo anywhere that we saw.
Lowlight was Bournemouth. Actually Boscombe as we failed to get to Bournemouth because of the frankly ludicrous amounts of traffic. Anyway Dorset county council please sort out your road signing.
At one point we saw a sign to somewhere called “Qinetiq”. No idea what it is (and I can’t be bothered to google it neither) but it was an obvious sign. Later we saw a sign to Boscombe beach. 20 mins later after driving for ages we saw a sign to “Qinetiq”. We’d gone in a huge circle with no sign of the sea, no directions to get us there and no hint that they wanted anyone to spend any time out of their cars. Once we ended up there we weren’t in the best of moods so it didn’t end up as a day to celebrate.
We tried again later in the week in the vain hope of finding decent fish and chips. More misery this time as we arrived late after more avoiding traffic jams. There is no fish and chip place in Boscombe (at least not on the beach). This is ludicrous!
There was a kiosk. They do fish and chips! Woo! Actually they heated us up a “cod portion” and some fast food fries. Was horrible food. Made all the worse by the stress of getting there to “enjoy” it.
Oh and part of my plastic fork came off. I think I ate it.
And the weather was excellent. We had about 20mins of rain one day, but it was very light. In fact we thought we’d get through the lot without much disruption. Unfortunately on our last morning we woke to heavy rain. It slackened a bit but then tipped it down more as we neared fully decamped. So we had a sodden tent to cart home. Any other time the rain wouldn’t have been an issue. Ah well.
Photos may well be along at some point.
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