Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Going out on a whim

I normally plan my trips away quite carefully.

Researching where to go, looking at various accommodation options, making sure I’m getting the best deal.

So I took myself by surprise this afternoon when on the spur of the moment I booked a holiday in Shropshire.

To be fair, I’ve wanted to go to Ironbridge for some time, and with everything being closed because of the weather it really did require me to come back.

The winning factor though, was the stunning food in the pub I had lunch in.

They had rooms, they had rooms free when I wanted to stay, I think that counts as fate dictating the decision.

At 2pm I’d had a brief look around the town. At 3pm I’d booked a holiday there.

Probably best if I don’t make a habit of this.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

It isn’t Gluttony, its medicine

This is a long shot at trying to cover myself

The main reason for going back to Cadbury World, barely 10 months after last visiting was the free chocolate, and to stock up for Christmas.

So it’s entirely co-incidental, but exceptionally (cough, cough) convenient that (cough) this should (cough, cough) appear on the (coughing fit) BBC News (cough, hack, cough, cough) website today:

'Chocolate cough remedy' in sight:

Well, that visit to Bourneville appears to have cleared up my cough quite nicely.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The new exercise regime

I think I may have discovered a great new way to get fit, build muscle tone in your arms, and lose weight.

Unfortunately, it’s quite a specific plan and it does require nature to intervene.

To follow the fitness plan you need:

  • 1 heavy suitcase on wheels, but with very low clearance between the wheels and the base of the suitcase

  • 1 heavy fall of snow either having just taken place, taking place, or best of all both.

  • A short walk

I’ve walked for miles before with a suitcase and it’s not been anywhere near as exhausting.

I dragged a very heavy suitcase the three miles from Hammerfest airport to the town centre without feeling the need to stop for water, though that was over heavily compacted snow so the wheels were able to turn easily.

However, both the walk from New Street to the Novotel on Saturday, and this evening’s walk from the Novotel to the Travelodge, were exhausting.

Partly not helped by the design of my bag acting more like a snow gathering device than a piece of luggage on wheels, but also not helped by it being “the wrong kind of snow”, or more importantly the wrong kind of re-frozen slushy stuff with a fresh heavy fall of snow over the top.

By the time I got to the hotel I felt like my arms were ready to come out of their sockets.

I’ll just have to hope that by Wednesday morning when I come to check out the snow has hardened into a compacted surface over which the wheels will run, otherwise I might have to be a lazy git and get a cab round to the station.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

New Eyes

Today was a weird experience.

I was wandering around the city I’m visiting taking in the sights.

Nothing new in that, it’s what I’ve done in virtually every place I’ve been to.

Some places I’ve been to so often (Berlin, Cologne, Edinburgh, Glasgow) that I know the city centre pretty well.

But Birmingham is different. All those other places I’ve been to as a tourist and found my way round the city as a tourist. Birmingham though, I already know.

I’ve been to Birmingham for meetings on so many occasions that I’ve lost track of the number times I’ve wandered along New Street going between the station and a hotel or the hotel and a meeting or a meeting and the station or any other variation on that theme. There’s been periods when I’ve spent more time in a month in the city centre of Birmingham than I have in the city centre of London.

So none of the streets were new, none of the shortcuts a discovery no sudden squares opening up in unlikely places to reveal a cathedral.

But I was amazed by how much more of the city I’ve seen today, actually taken in through wandering slowly through looking at the buildings and the streets.

Of course I’ve probably really annoyed quite a lot of Brummies by walking slowly down the middle of the main shopping street on the last weekend shopping day before Christmas.

The main thing that was obvious was the number of really nice Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the city centre. Yes there are a few pretty awful buildings, it’s kind of what the West Midlands are famous for these days, but, Birmingham is still a really attractive city, particularly around the Canals.

It makes me wonder what I’d discover if I went for a holiday in Croydon…

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Never Give Up

Well, I didn’t make it to Frankfurt.

But, undeterred I have adapted my plans and am now, less than 24 hours later, sitting on a train heading towards Birmingham.

It’s not what was in the original plan, but as the weather forecast deteriorates, and virtually every airport in the south closes its runway, I’m starting to think that I’ve had a lucky escape.

I could have gotten away yesterday, but I could, by now, be stranded in Germany.

There is still every chance that I could come a cropper in Birmingham, but the options for being able to get back are much greater when all that separates you is 150-odd miles of relatively flat land, rather than over 500 miles of land, three borders and the English Channel.

On the plus side, the weather in Birmingham is looking pretty good for the next couple of day, cold but very sunny.

And just to make things that little bit sweeter, I’ve booked myself for a revisit to Cadbury’s World on Tuesday. Mmmm! Chocolate (wipe drool here)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Well it looks pretty

I’d admit that the snow looks pretty, but unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult to see the beauty of the snow when it’s completely ruined your travel plans.

15 minutes after it was due to depart BA officially cancelled my flight, though with the cunning use of the internet I’d found this out 10 minutes earlier, and as I was leaving the terminal they had only just started the announcements that the flight was cancelled.

So, instead of enjoying a Bratwurst and some Glühwein in the Christmas market in the Römer, I’m having an Indian takeaway and some Orange juice at home.

Still, I’m not going to be defeated.

Part two of the trip was Birmingham, so I’m heading there in the morning (assuming that Southern can be bothered to run a train service to get me into London), I’ve got a really good deal on a last minute hotel room in the city centre

I’m suspecting the deal may be because someone who should have been spending the weekend in Birmingham but is trapped in Germany because we can’t handle the snow. In which case, can I recommend the All Seasons Hotel in Frankfurt. Not actually been there, but the staff were really helpful and friendly when I had to cancel my booking!

So, it’s less a tale of two Christmas markets, and more a tale of slightly longer in one than I was planning.

Still, it could be worse. I could have gotten stranded in Germany for Christmas if the weather had continued this badly

I could still get stranded in Birmingham…

When carol singers go bad

On the way up to the station I had to pass the Carol singers who have been standing outside East Croydon for the last fortnight or so collecting for charity.

They were singing the same part of a carol over and over again

“Let it snow, let it snow”

Well they got their wish

Within a couple of minutes of going past them it was merrily snowing.

And City Airport where I was flying from was merrily closing its runway.

Remind me not to give to Carol singers again…

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Refunding the Toast

Subsequent to my recent “Interesting” stay with the Mercure in Salisbury, I’ve had a very apologetic email from the manager of the hotel and the full cost of the breakfast refunded back to me.