February – A Review

February had been a momentous month for the blog. As you may be aware I had purchased the domain name and I am now blogging as midifewanderlust1965.com. With this I also introduced a brand new look. So far I have received positive feedback.

With the new look there will be some changes. Gone is the monthly stats post. To be honest who is really interested in reading about the number of visitors I receive. Moving foward I will use the first post of the month to review the previous month.

My main travel in February was to visit London to attend “The Times Destination and Holiday Show.” I also had to amend my travel plans for 2014. Given that I had to replace my washing machine, my planned trip to Lisbon in March has been cancelled. Instead, I will be visiting Portugal in June. Also, I have revised my Baltics trip. Sadly, logistics mean that I will have to drop Helsinki from the itinerary. This problems of having to mix work and travel.

Confirmation of the flight to Porto

My plans for March are to travel some more in the UK. So I will be travelling to Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and London. Also I will be further planning my Baltics trip in September.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

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Photo Essay – London

These are some photos from my visits to London in 2013.

Statue of John Wesley
Liverpool Street Station

Brick Lane
Outside Buckingham Palace

As you can tell some of the photos are not of the obvious places you would see. I look forward to visiting London more in 2014.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

The Royal Baby and the World

Well, this has been an extraordinary week by the standards of the UK. Sporting success in the form of the England cricket team trashing the Aussies and Chris Froom winning the Tour de France. However, it is fair to say the only story in the UK has been the birth of the royal baby. You would have thought that nobody else had given birth given the news coverage.

I come to this post as somebody who is really not too bothered about the Royal Family. After all, I suspect they are not too bothered about me. It is the reaction of the rest of the world that interests me.

I received the news of the royal birth while on my way home from work. When I switched on the TV I would have expected that the BBC, ITV and Sky to be over the story like a rash. It was when I started to watch the other news networks that I got the biggest surprise.

CNN were broadcasting from outside Buckingham Palace. It seemed surreal to see Christiane Amanpour conducting interviews as though it was gossip. She was born in London so I could forgive her for that. I switched to France 24 and they had wall to wall coverage. Talk about forgotten history. We have always had a love hate relationship. Turning over to the next channel Japan's NHK World and it had the royal baby, the same with Euronews. It was only when I switched to Al Jazeera that I found a station that was broadcasting other news.

I feel this says a lot about the UK and how it is seen by the rest of the world. London is a hub for visitors from around the world and the royal family with all its history, glamour and tradition is the magnet that draws them over. Those visitors who were in London last week will have had an experience never to be forgotten. This is why the birth of Prince George of Cambridge made news around the world and mattered to a lot of people.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

When Things Do Not Go To Plan

During my travels I have been lucky not to experience many problems.  Sure, there have been some narrow escapes but nothing that could have been catastrophic.  This was until my last trip to Budapest.  The scenario being I was going to return to Vienna by coach on Friday 12 March.  Ticket had been booked for some time so there should not be any problem.

Reality however, proved to be different.  Snow had fallen during the night and with the day being a national holiday in Hungary the police made the decision to close the roads in and out of Budapest.  This meant my coach was cancelled.  While a little shocked I was not unduly worried.  I did not need to be in Vienna until Saturday for my coach back to London. My coach ticket was changed free of charge and I could book another night at the hostel.  I saw this as a bonus.

Saturday came and the snow was thawing.  Surely no problem.  However, I was proved wrong.  Without an explanation why all coaches to Vienna were cancelled.  I was told my best bet would to take a train instead.  The only problem I had, was where was the train station.  Nobody at the coach seemed to know which I found to be odd.  Eventually somebody told me which stop I should head for.

My heart was in my mouth as I was hoping I had enough money for a train ticket.  Fortunately cost of rail travel on mainland Europe is a lot cheaper than the UK and I managed to board a train to Vienna and caught my coach back to London.  For an hour though I was travelling by the seat of my pants.  I was not in control of the situation.  This was the first time something like this had happened to me.  Though I suspect it will happen again on my travels.

So what will I learn from this situation:-

  1. Do not lose your temper at the staff.  They delivered the news and are not the cause of the problem.
  2. Take 5 minutes to assess the situation and weigh up your options.  They might be staring in front of your face.
  3. Research your destination.  Find out where all the transport hubs are located.  The more options, the better chance you have finding a positive outcome.
  4. Ensure you have access to emergency funds for this type of situation.
  5. Chalk it down to experience.  You have something to tell your family and friends about.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 1, 6 March 2013

Well the day has finally arrived, I am about to leave for my trip. Since Christmas this has been the only thing on my mind. I am so ready for it to begin. I managed to get some sleep the night before. It meant missing the Man. U and Real Madrid game but I was not that bothered. I heard that United had lost and Fergie was not happy. Nothing new there.

The taxi came and dropped me to the coach station. So far, so good. While I was waiting for my coach I could see the departure getting later and later. This was beginning to concern me. After all I had a connection to catch. After a few more minutes I asked the information desk if they knew what the problem was with the coach. I was told the coach was held up in traffic congestion. At 2am I found that hard to believe. Then the coach suddenly appeared.

The journey to London went smoothly enough. I had enough time before check-in to buy a sandwich. Again check-in was not a problem and soon we were on the road. While on the coach I sensed that something was not right but I could put my finger on it right away.

Soon the coach was going through France and Belgium then it hit me. The coach does not have any seat belts. I was amazed as surely it would not legal to be on the road without them, especially in the UK.

The rest of the day went smoothly enough. Apart from getting stuck in the traffic in Antwerp. I thought a one-way traffic system allowed traffic to run smoothly. The coach found itself stuck between two trams.

Anyway tomorrow I will be in Vienna so I should try and get some sleep.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Photo of the Week – Pall Mall, London

This week’s photo is of one of my favourite spots in London, Pall Mall.

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The road leading up to Buckingham Palace is very popular during the summer.  On Sunday’s the road is closed to traffic allowing pedestrians to be able walk down the Mall.  It is a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep on smiling.

Steve

Checklist – Vienna & Budapest

It is now 10 days to go before my trip to Vienna and Budapest.  Now is the time to start preparing so not to leave anything to the last-minute.  So this is my checklist.

  1. Get my rucksack out of the cupboard.  I am sure that it will need airing before I use it.  I can also check for any holes that may have appeared.  I have had my rucksack for 13 years.  It has served me well. 
    Old Faithful Rucksack.
    Old Faithful Rucksack.

     

  2. Check the contents of my first aid kit to make sure that everything is still in date and replace where necessary.
  3. Transfer money to my travel cards.  This will be done during the week to ensure there are funds for the trip.
  4. Purchase some Euro’s.  I will be travelling to Vienna by coach.  I will need some refreshments along the journey.
  5. Pack the rucksack.  I am aiming to do this the weekend before I travel.  I do not want to leave this to the last-minute.  It is going to be an early start on the day of travel and I do not want to spend the time last-minute packing.  You always end up forgetting something.
  6. Get some sleep before I set off.  As I have already mentioned I will be setting off early.  I finish work at 17:00 and it takes me about 90 minutes to get home.  The aim is to have two or three hours sleep.  Must remember to set the alarm.
  7. Ensure all gadgets are fully charged.  This includes back-up batteries.  It is going to be a long journey so I need to keep myself amused.
  8. Ensure all tickets, passports and other documentation is packed.  I tend to double-check, even triple check.  The last thing I want to notice at Birmingham Coach Station is I have forgotten my passport.
  9. Arrange taxi to coach station.  Being a Wednesday morning this should not be a problem but I will have to book it early to be on the safe side.
  10. Finally, if the above has been ticked off then sit back relax and enjoy the trip.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Happy Birthday to ‘The Tube’

January 10 saw the 150th anniversary of the opening to the public of the first section on what was to become known as ‘The London Underground.’  Operating as the Metropolitan Railway the line ran from Paddington to Farringdon Street via King’s Cross.  From this humble beginning the network also known as ‘The Tube’ has grown into the network that we all know and sometimes love.

london-underground

I would say that the Underground is the lungs of London.  It allows the city to breathe and function as the global capital city.  The Underground model has now been copied by other major cities around the world.  Nearly all capital cities in the developed world has some sort of underground rail network.

Throughout its history the London Underground has been the scene of some of the major events in London’s history.  During both world wars tube stations were used to shelter the public from the bombing that rained down on the city.  It has also been the scene of several tragedies.  The two that come to mind are firstly the King’s Cross fire in 1987.  The fire was ignited by a discarded cigarette under the wooden escalator.  This led to the death of 31 people.  The other one was the 7/7 bombings in 2005.  Suicide bombers detonated three bombs on the network.  The first one happened between Liverpool Street and Aldgate on the Circle line.  The second explosion happened again on the Circle line between Edgware Road and Paddington.  The third device was detonated on the Piccadilly line between King’s Cross-St. Pancras and Russell Square.  39 of the 52 victims were killed in these explosions.

mind_the_gap__london_underground_mini_poster_raw

There are advantages and disadvantages of using the London Underground.  The advantages are that it is a fast method of travelling across London.  It is also an efficient way of transporting passengers.  As the rolling stock is electrically operated it is also a green option.  Imagine the number of people who would be travelling by cars if there were no underground service.  Of course there are disadvantages.  During peak times the trains always become overcrowded.  Also during the summer the lack of air conditioning can make if feel too hot during the summer.  You also need to keep your wits about you as crowded trains attract pickpockets.

Having said that I enjoy travelling on the Underground.  It gets me across London quickly.  With an Oyster card it can be cheap.  Sharing a train with visitors from around the world I feel that I am part of the global village.  In short I love it and I wish it another 150 years service.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy, keep smiling and mind the gap.

Steve

Cutty Sark

This post is a follow up to a previous photo of the week.

The Cutty Sark can be found in Greenwich.  It is one of the most popular attractions in London.

IMG_0465

 

Built as a clipper ship it was the fastest ship of its type operating during the late 19th century.  Primarily its cargo was tea which was carried between Britain and Australia.  For ten years it was the fastest ship operating between these two countries.  The Cutty Sark ended up being sold to a Portuguese shipping company.  The Cutty Sark also served as a training ship based in Falmouth, Cornwall.  It became a tourist attraction when moved to its present location in 1954.

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Disaster struck the ship in 2007 when it was badly damaged by a fire.  It was fully restored and reopened in 2012.  So far there have been over 13 million visitors to the Cutty Sark.

What a visit to Cutty Sark allows you to do is to experience what life would have been like on board the ship.  There are various collections to be found on board.  These include an archive of publications that have featured the Cutty Sark.  There are also collections dedicated to the construction and working life of the Cutty Sark,  Figureheads, memorabilia, Navigational Instruments, Paintings and objects used during the working life of the ship.  Surprisingly, there is a collection dedicated to the Scottish poet Robert Burns.  It was from his poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ where the Cutty Sark got its name.

 

 

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Entrance fee is £12.00 and that could be considered as expensive.  However, given what you get to see I feel it is value for money.  There are concessions available to seniors and students.  You do have book to your ticket online and select the time you are going to visit.  If you miss your slot you will not be allowed in.

The Cutty Sark is located at King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HT

Nearest DLR stop is Cutty Sark station.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Review of 2012

As 2012 is drawing to a close it is always customary to look back.  For myself the year has brought so many positives into my life.

Bratislava Castle at Night.
Bratislava Castle at Night.

First positive is that I have sat down and set up the blog.  There have been numerous attempts at blogging but none of them had amounted to much and I soon gave up.  It helped that I chose travel as the topic.  It has given me something to focus on.  I am happy with the way it has turned out.  Now this blog has over 1,000 views.  This is very encouraging and it is going to give me more focus to keep it going into 2013.

Mosaic of Dr. Samuel Johnson
Mosaic of Dr. Samuel Johnson

Of course no travel blog work without content.  So 2012 was the year where I took travel more seriously.  The highlights were the time I spent in Madrid during the summer.  Also the trip to Prague and Bratislava in September.  2012 was the year that I felt I became a backpacker of sorts.  Also I started to enjoy the delights of staying in hostels.  While I was in Madrid I witnessed the joy of the Spanish celebrating their victory in Euro 2012.  The beauty of Prague was a sight to behold.  The relaxed atmosphere of Bratislava was something that would stay with me too.  I also rediscovered my love of London.  All this has inspired me for 2013.  I cannot wait.

DSC01434

Also 2012 saw the London Olympics.  I admitted to being a sceptic worrying it would be a success.  To be proved wrong was a joyful moment.  I was on jury service during the games so I spent a lot of time watching the events on the TV in between cases.  This brought people together and you could see the response to the successes and how everybody joined together to celebrate.  For the first time in a long while I felt proud to be British.  I still feel proud today.

Overall I feel grateful to have the support of my family and friends.  Also the support and encouragement of the blogging community.  Be it with views and comments or the thank you messages for retweets.

Moving forward 2013 is going to be a good year.  Be it with more travel adventures or just connecting with new people.  I look forward to sharing it with you.

All I need to say now is to wish every one of you a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Happy Christmas Everybody from midlifewanderlust1965
Happy Christmas Everybody from midlifewanderlust1965

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve