Tag Archives: food

Numb bums & not counting the number of cakes

Bags strapped on & legs akimbo we triumphantly set off on the various long and winding roads to the land of free range haggis & whiskey.

Waiting with bated breath in case Nicola Sturgeon put a spanner in the works by changing any of the covid rules we cautiously packed, including the dog eared looking hotel voucher purchased over two years ago. Living in a state of sequential lockdowns has meant that booking anything with certainty is still challenging even with the promise of restrictions lifting.

Ayr at sunset

Numb bums aside we made it fairly uneventfully to Ayr where the air was clear and the sky was a bright shade of blue. Yes I did say blue as all previous visits to Scotland have involved a sky that was various shades of grey (possibly 50 but I didn’t count!) & full of cloud. It was astonishingly warm & the sun glowed upon us making it rather warm in the thick layers of bike gear we had set off in. 

A fab curry at a local restaurant with one of hubby’s former work mates was lovely & we woke to a chorus of seagulls who broadcast the arrival of dawn. I had signed up to take part in a literary experiment in conjunction with Bristol University to test memory & recall of Shakesperian sonnets. I have a memory like a sieve on the best of days but I think it was unfair of the universe to expect me to try memorising a poem while a dozen vintage scooters revved their engines before departing in a cloud of two stroke fumes whilst operating Zoom on a mobile.

From Ayr we headed north to through some truly awesome countryside that included the dice with death along a single track road along the side of Loch Awe to reach Portsonachan Hotel our base for a few days. Thanks to hubby’s excellent bike riding skills & quick reactions the attempts by the various lorries & vans pulling trailers travelling at immense speed towards us failed to dislodge us but only just. This is a plea from the heart for all drivers to please ‘think bike’ at all times as even at slow speed we most undoubtably would have come second.

Undeterred we checked into the lakeside venue & were rewarded with the most spectacular views of the mountains and lake. It amazed me how the light changing over the static view could alter it so dramatically. No wonder artists flock to such places as the source of inspiration would be potentially endless.

The next day we set out to roam around stopping for lunch in Fort William before heading out to Glenfinnan. The monument on the beach marks its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie & start of the Jacobite rising in 1745. A little further back is the viaduct that is featured in various films including the Harry Potter movies in which the Hogwarts Express thunders across it. Just as we were marvelling at the number of visitors standing in awe of the impressive stone edifice an actual steam train rumbled across. Couldn’t have planned it better I thought recalling level of intricate planning that I’d had to do to catch a ride on the elusive Ghost Train, Ely, Nevada on a different road trip. Sometimes lady luck is on your side.

Best Victoria Sponge Ever

Inveraray turned out to have a tea shop that served the best Victoria sponge ever & we got to visit the goal & find out that you cant buy alcohol before 10am in Scotland!Thankfully I wasn’t the only one so we formed the ‘naughty queue’ in the corner for ten minutes until we could be served.

We had a great morning catching up with some more lovely people, before I indulged in some unashamed camper van & travel sized guitar envy before heading back to the hotel via Oban. We arrived at this quaint sea side town at a time that was too late for lunch & too early for dinner so fish & chips out of a packet on a bench was the obvious solution. It was fantastic to munch hot crispy battered fish & thick chips while watching the world go by. Again the weather was super warm and dry making for a very relaxing trip indeed.

Arriving in Coldstream ( yes where the Coldstream Guards originate from) a small border town that sits on the River Tweed we walked, took some snaps & feasted in the pub we were staying at. The next day found us heading to Berwick which was bathed in glorious sunshine that we soaked up while promenading along the waterfront. After a super lunch with more old friends we returned to walk about to create room to scoff more cake!

Biscoff Cup Cake

Travelling by bike on a hot day at the start of Scottish school holidays has its advantages because the carpark was full but we were allowed to squeeze in. A welcome break to admire the awesome Kelpies that involved a quick photo shoot & an ice cream which enabled us to be back on our ‘metal horse’ & heading for home.

Initial temptations to detour around the Lake District were thwarted by the weather forecast showing more than a 50% chance of rain. Waterproofs getting soaked twice came as no surprise but at least the wind dried us after the first downpour and we were near enough home by the second. Torrential rain aside the week away was really good and for moments you could almost forget the pandemic and associated trials & tribulations. 

As we move closer to the 19th July it will be interesting to see how things progress & if more of the restrictions will be rescinded. In meantime take care & stay safe.

Clapped out clutches & wet weather

As the end of lockdown loomed in England the urge to flee the confines of home grew and the chance to grab coffee with a friend too great an opportunity to miss. So despite the atrocious weather forecast & some other constraints we plotted a quick trip to Wales.

Checking the forecast the night before departure hubby decided the safer option was to take the car so we packed accordingly & set off the next morning. We only got to Chepstow when the aroma in the car turned from ‘fresh linen’ to ‘burning clutch’ which left only one option – turn back rather than risk a total breakdown of both us & the car! Undeterred I repacked in a flurry while the bike was being got ready & we set off once again. Scary probably doesn’t cover the sensation we felt recrossing the Old Severn Bridge in gale force winds but we didn’t get blown off. Relentless rain dogged us which meant we were more than a little damp when we stopped for a cup of tea & chat with a friend before remounting for our final destination. By the time we reached Portmadog it was several hours later than scheduled & we resembled drowned rats. Thankfully the staff at the Royal Sportsman were on the case getting us checked in quickly and hot meals organised.

All thoughts of ‘whose mad idea was this’ were pushed aside the next day as we rode to Portmerion for a look around. Whilst the ground was wet underfoot the sky was blue & by mid morning the sun was blazing. One of the small upsides of the restrictions was that there were not many others at the venue so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. Wandering down through the village with the eclectic mix of architecture was relaxing & interesting. Plenty of times to snap instagram worthy shots without having to wait for a vista to clear!

A couple of hot drinks & some sticky buns later we had seen the sights, walked the grounds & bought a picture so were ready to venture on. Collecting the helmets from the storage we hopped back on for a ride around the area soaking up the beautiful scenery & feeling lucky to have escaped the rain. Stopping for another brew ( yes we are truly British & consume way too much tea) we did get caught in a local shower but it was nothing compared to the previous day.

The following day we opted for a ride on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways which winds its way up to the unique spiral at Dduallt where fantastic mountain scenery can be had. The covid restrictions meant that we pretty much had the carriage to ourselves and didn’t have much a queue at the Tan-y-Bwlch Team Room.

The forecast for the return journey home was grim but we set off in the dry with our fingers crossed. As we headed through the spectacular scenery it felt that we were being chased by the rather dark & angry looking clouds but miraculously it didn’t rain.

Earl Grey & Lemon Cake

If you ever are passing through Rhayader then the Swan Tea Room is definitely worth a visit the coffee & cake are lush but you do need cash they don’t take cards. Suitably refreshed we continued onwards and managed to dodge the rain until we reached the outskirts of Gloucester where we got soaked but we were so close to home it wasn’t so bad.

Meanwhile the restrictions in England seem to have lifted a little but we still are by no means back to ‘normal’ what ever that might mean now. Second jab next week means I should be good to go for some of the music events that for the moment still seem to be viable but what last year taught me was ‘nothing is certain’. I remain sad that international travel still seems largely ‘off the table’ at the moment due to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any parity between countries over what is a consistent policy for managing length of quarantine or acceptable paperwork. The traffic light system the UK is a list of ‘countries ok to visit’ but seems ill conceived & likely to change as quickly as you can utter ‘new variant’. Literally you could quite legitimately leave to visit a ‘green country’ to find its turned ‘red’ which would risk you being stranded (as happened to my brother in law) or trying to source a premature return journey with all the nightmarish scenarios that might lead to. So frustratingly for me it seems that the tent will be getting some use if the festivals get the go ahead & UK based accommodation will be the thing. Our next planned visit should be to Scotland to use a voucher purchased nearly two years ago! However its by no means certain we can go at this point as Scotland are still running on a completely different set of rules. It will make travel plans a challenge what ever your destination.

Meanwhile trying to make up for lost time by eating out & catching up with friends and family. The relaxation of some restrictions means its been possible to catch up with some friends & family so in order to support local business we have been eating out more than normal. Out being the operative word as literally most has been in some drafty cold places but largely its been worth it.

So until next time stay safe but hopefully have some fun & lets see where this crazy roller coaster takes us next time.

Las Vegas, Marmite & Me

First night

For the most parts generally people I have come across either love or loath Marmite (a savoury spread you generally put on buttered toast). However if forced to confess that I really love marmite but only in small amounts & not particularly often & I think this is probably how I feel about Las Vegas.

Having visited once with my daughter on a previous trip I had been slightly overwhelmed by the noise & bustle yet somehow compelled to explore the place. We had fun & the place sort of leaves a mark on you but I was generally in no hurry to return.

So when it transpired that the only place it seemed in the whole of the USA we could pick up a C19 for the dates we wanted was Las Vegas I was of mixed feelings. My road trip buddy had never been nor it seemed was very keen either but I felt it was somewhere that everyone should try to visit at least once.

Feeling peckish

Which is how we came to find ourselves booked in to a Hotel with a Casino & 72 lane bowling alley. An overnight stop is a requirement of the hire firm before picking up the van so we made our way on a gloriously hot day to spend some time by the hotel pool. I was still suffering from a ‘post festival virus’ so sadly didn’t venture in despite it looking very tempting.

We then decided to give the 10 pin bowling a go & had great fun slinging brightly coloured balls down the slippery tracks to knock over the little white pins. After winning a game each we retreated to sleep in preparation for collecting ‘Martha’ the next day.

Trouble with the mobile phone meant we couldn’t call & consequently flummoxed the staff by turning up earlier than they expected. In their rush to get the van ready they nearly managed to leave a few vital items out so we were glad our previous experience meant that in the pre leave checks we were able to alert them to this! 

Still once aboard we set the sat nav for the short drive to Sams Town KoA where I had booked us in. I had stayed here before & knew it was close to a supermarket for stocking up & was near a shuttle bus service that we could take down to The Strip. I am brave but I didn’t fancy driving the van in the crazy city traffic. 

What a venue

Part of the joy of our trips is going to do very American things that we have only seen or heard about in films or tv. So when the opportunity to ‘go to a ball game ‘ presented itself we found ourselves in an Uber going across town to watch the Las Vegas Aviators at home to Tacoma Rainiers. I admit to knowing nothing about the game other than it involved whacking a ball & running to various posts akin to the game of rounders I had played as a kid. In the UK the only sport I had watched in a stadium was rugby that involves sitting in the cold for what seems like hours while two teams run about getting muddy so I was not convinced I was in for a good time.

Watching the game
Hot dogs

However it turned out to be a brilliant evening. For one it was warm and balmy & the atmosphere was very welcoming. We discovered that our ticket meant we could wander & sit pretty much were we felt like & you could get refreshments easily. The grounds were well lit, clean & the service great & despite our non existent knowledge of the game I loved the relaxed family atmosphere. I have made a mental note to try & brush up on the rules incase I am lucky enough to get to go again.

For Felix if you are reading

The next day we ventured to the heart of Vegas which was pretty much the same busy mad place I had been to last time. My buddy I think was truly relieved to leave after a pretty full day roaming around exposed all manner of bewildering things designed to tempt you into parting with your cash.

Go Martha

The next day we fired up Martha & headed for the first of the National Parks we intended to try & visit.