Overnight Trips

A road trip to Durham

Dates: 20 – 22 November 2015
Modes of Travel: A Mini and a Qashqui
Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Carol & Iain
Hotel: Travelodge

We planned this trip after our move to Scotland as one of our “We are still gonna see each other no matter how far apart we are” trips together.

As I was in London finishing up work for the third time I drove up with Iain and Carol and we met Bruce there.

It was an interesting car ride up for the three of us. First we left late because of me and hit all of the traffic you could possibly hit between London and Durham. The drive up was also filled with car trip fun like an exploding Lucozade up front, a services with very little open at 7pm, a pair of jeans and underwear ripping at the crotch as I got back into the car, road works causing a 1 hour diversion that was not signposted and when we arrived 3 hours later then we expected nothing was open for dinner so we called it a night.

Whilst we were enjoying our drive up, Bruce was chilling next door at Sambuca enjoying wine and food and texting us regular updates. Which was gaining him many points with all of us in the car.

We got up the next day to a very light covering of snow but a very nice temperature. We headed to town and our first stop, after breakfast from Cooplands bakery (where the boys had bacon rolls that had super crunchy bacon and even though she warned us it was crunchy none of us expected it to be that crunchy) , was Durham Cathedral.

The Cathedral was a really nice visit and if you are in the area you should pop in. It has some really nice stained glass (including one section that tells a story) and has areas that tell the story of Durham. There is a an open court yard area with some art work and a café and visitors centre with a replica of the cathedral being built in Lego.

After the Cathedral we decided to walk around town (the long way), which took us by the university area, through the woods and by a river. It was such a nice walk and we ended up back at the top side of the old town.

Now that we had “seen” the sites it was time for the obligatory pub crawl so we hit a few pubs and it was time for lunch.

After looking at Tripadvisor we settled on a a place called Lebaneat which had something all of us would eat. It was a nice place with good service and Lebanese wine that was enjoyed by all (I had some beer too).

After lunch we were back on it but as some different games were being televised we struggled to find places after the sun went down but did find several pubs we liked and got to see a little bit more of the city.

We weren’t really ready to call it a night, but as we were struggling to get in places we popped into Tesco for some room drinks and headed back to the hotel for a bit and enjoyed our drinks in Carol and Iains room whilst watching Carol’s favorite shows like Strictly and Xfactor.

We were all a little hungry and popped into Sambuca for some decent Italian food that was super cheap and plentiful. After dinner it was time for bed.

As we all had long drives ahead of us we decided to have lunch and head on out. We chose a pub just south of town called the Green Tree 1727 as they had Sunday Roast, which included veggie options we were not disappointed.

After lunch we headed our separate ways. We made it home pretty easy but poor Carol and Iain had some struggles and had a repeat of the trip to Durham with road works and traffic.


Cruises, Overnight Trips

36 hours in Miami

Dates: 9 – 10 November 2015
Modes of Travel: British Airways
Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah & Brett
Hotel: Pullman Miami (originally booked as the Sofitel Miami)

So we arrived in Miami after our cruise on the  Norwegian Escape and picked up our car. We headed tto the hotel to drop our stuff of and get our bearings. We spent a little bit of time at the hotel as Bruce needed to catch up on some work. This allowed me to figure out where the malls were and what our game plan was.

Our main shopping goals were: Old Navy, Target and the Converse Outlet (well at least for me) and any other place we could find.

The first mall we visited was Mall of the Americas, which I thought was the mall Hannah was talking about. This place did have an Old Navy but quite frankly it was a dump.

We needed to eat and decided to give Wendy’s a try as it had been many years since we last had it. Just have to say we could have given it a miss, was not as we remembered it.

We then headed over to the Dolphin Mall which is “the” mall in Miami. It had everything but Target and much much more. We got several pairs of Converse at the outlet for super cheap, clothes rom Nautica as they were having a massive sale and then taking even more off at the register. Once we filled our boot it was time to leave

Whilst we were driving around we saw the target and headed over. It did not disappoint and we came out with everything we were looking for and more.

We headed back to the hotel and packed our bags with our haul and made sure we were within the weight limits.

Now it was dinner time and we wanted real Mexican so we found the best place we could in Miami based on reviews and ease of getting there and in the end I chose a place called Mi Rincosito Mexicano. By far some of the best Mexican food I have ever had and I really can’t wait to go to next time I am in Miami.

It was time to call it a night as it was quite late. The next day we left our bags at the hotel and headed out to pick up Hannah and Brett who had just finished their cruise. We spent the day with them before their flight home (They were on the early and we were on the late)

First stop was IHOP for a real American breakfast complete with Bacon, Sausage, Pancakes, Hash Browns and Chicken Fried Steak! Once we had our fill.

Next stop was a random mall so Brett could pick something up at the Apple store. Whilst we were there I saw our flight was delayed and it meant we would miss our connection to Edinburgh, so I called BA and 10 min later it was all sorted and we were moved to a later with no charge or hassle.

As this was their only day in Miami, we visited Old Navy again and a few other shops and just saw the city whilst we did it. As we were out and about I felt like a slurpee so dragged us to a 7-11 which Hannah and Brett had never been to and we stocked up on our 7-11 goodies like Slurpee’s, big gulps, crisps and hostess products. Sadly they had not corn dogs but I really wasn’t hungry so that was ok.

Next stop was the Publix to get some food items we had not found like Velveta. Supermarkets are so different in the US and we were spoiled for choice on everything.

It was almost time for Hannah and Brett to head back to the airport so before we dropped them off we introduced them to Panda Express. It was good, but sadly not as good as I remembered…… Have I really been gone that long?

So we dropped Hannah and Brett off and had a few hours to kill so we headed to South Beach and it was by far our favorite area in Miami.

Sadly our time to Miami came to an end and we headed to the airport. We were delayed after dropping the car as there was some type of security incident which closed down the car rental centre and the D/E terminals. It wasn’t a long delay but annoying.

After that we got checked in and were headed home. The flights were uneventful and we made it home (albeit without one of our bags, don’t worry it showed up the next day and was only dirty clothes anyways) a few hours later than planned due to the delay, but overall it was a good trip!

Overnight Trips

Jodi’s Birthday Rail Ale Trail – Derby Edition

Date: 22 – 23 Aug

Modes of Travel: East Midland Trains

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Ashley, Alyssa, Rowan, Vince and Jodi

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express – Pride Park

Well this trip was a few months ago and so much has been going on that we never got around to writing up our visit. We have a few today so they will be shorter than usual but with all of the info you would expect!

After a successful Rail Ale Trail in Exeter a few years ago, Jodi decided it would be fun to do one again. There were a few we could do from Derby and as it is not that far on the train, we decided on there.

We were all due to meet at St. Pancras before the trains departed, but due to circumstances it did not quite work that way, Bruce, Ashley and myself met up and made it on the train.

However, East Midland Trains, in their infinite wisdom had two trains departing at roughly the same time on the same platform (2A and 2B). The signage was not really helpful and whilst our train was pulling out of the station, Bruce was on the phone with Alyssa who said don’t worry we are on the train see you in a second.

They were on “a” train just not the train they needed to be. After some “discussions” with platform staff and hearing this happens all of the time…. They were able to board a different train and in the end were only about 20 min behind us.

Once we all made it to Derby we met up and headed off for the trail.

We visited 5 pubs and due to weather and energy we called it a day after the 4th stop.

The trail run from Derby to Matlock and the pub we made it to were:

The White Hart – Duffield – Don’t try to order food. Gave up on the chips I ordered after 45 min

The Lion Hotel – Belper – Great food and very quick service!

The Hurt Arms – Ambergate

The Boat Inn – Cromford

The Greyhound – Cromford

Cromford train station is located about a mile from the pubs and if the weather held out it would have been a nice walk. However, about 750 feet from the station it started raining and as we got to town it started pouring like in Forest Gump and we just broke into a sprint to get to The Boat Inn.

We decided to call it a day after this pub but due to the train timings had an hour to kill so we visited the other pub in town.

We headed back to Derby for dinner. Jodi decided on a place called Moonsha, which is a Teppanyaki place. Whilst slightly overpriced and a non standard setup we enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed dinner.

We called it a night after this and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, I met an old friend for coffee. Kirstie and I had not seen each other for years, but it was like we had just seen each other a few days before. We had a nice catch up that sadly was too short, but I needed to get back as I had a train to catch.

The train journey home was uneventful.

Once home we packed up the car as the next day we were off to Scotland for our big move.

For those of you that did not know, Bruce got a promotion a work, which meant a big move to Scotland for us. I am sure we will do a blog post or two about our experiences in Scotland.

Overnight Trips

Overnight to Brussels

Date: 24/25 January 2015

Modes of Travel: Southwest Trains, London Underground, Eurostar, Brussels Metro

Hotel: ibis Brussels Centre St Catherine

Day 1 –

So we booked this trip for Eurostar’s 20th Birthday. Bruce can’t pass up a good deal so when he got the email of special fares (I got it too but just deleted it) he sent it to me with instructions to book a trip to Brussels and a hotel for this weekend.

We booked the Eurostar for an 0858 departure which arrived into Brussels for 1208 which gave us most of the day to enjoy the city.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to St Pancras from Twickenham and I am a bit of a crazy traveller in that I need to be there early and I stress if we cut it too close. So that meant we needed to leave our house by 0655 to make sure we made the “faster” train to Vauxhall where we could switch the tube and onward to St Pancras.

We arrived at Eurostar check in just after 8 and it was a little chaotic compared to our trip a few weeks ago. There 3 departures in the next 90 minutes which included one of the Ski Trains, which seems to have there own alcohol rules.

The check-in gates are always a little temperamental with the print at home tickets so getting through them can be interesting as they can take a few try’s. Once through you have the normal formalities of security, French immigration and you wind up in a smallish waiting area. The reason I say smallish is that you can have over 2000 people in this area with 3 full departures and there is only seating for maybe 500. Additional facilities are a café, a poorly laid out and compact WH Smith, and a Nero!

Our journey on Eurostar was pretty normal. Once of the nice things about Eurostar is you can bring your own food and drink on board including alcohol (within reason, they do have limits for alcohol) and once we left the station we enjoyed a nice bottle of Codorníu (a bottle of bubbles has become a bit of a tradition) once that was finished, we then moved on to a Duvel from the bar the bar car. We arrived in Brussels right on time. We decided we would take the metro to our hotel and other than the ticket machine only took coins and not the notes we just took out it was a short and easy trip to Bourse station.

We normally stay at Ibis as we travel a lot and need to be economical, but we will at least know what we are getting. Also, it helps me keep my status with Accor.

Once we arrived, checked in and got settled, we decided to use the free drink I get as being a Accor Hotels silver member (they gave us two free drinks which is unusual). So after two Leffe Blonde’s it was off to explore the city.

First stop was lunch. I talked Bruce into Quick as we had not had it in awhile. Have to say I always forget I always forget how much I am really not a fan, but it fills the gap. Once we got lunch out of the way we went on a search for the Delirium Taproom. Bruce had found it online and really wanted to give it a try.

We walked around the city on our way there as it had been awhile since we were last in Brussels, after a short walk through the shopping areas and some of the alleyways, we found the Delirium Village which has 4 bars in it. We stopped off and had a few beverages that included a Delirium Red (awesome) and a pink killer (not so awesome) for me and a La Chouffe IPA and a Campus (served in a litre boot) for Bruce. We also tried some Delirium cheese, which was ok, but not the best beer cheese we have had.

We decided to wander around the city a bit and on the way to Mannequin Pis, I saw a place called Los Churros & Waffle so stopped off for a waffle, which was pretty good! The Mannequin was dressed up in a little costume that included a bow and arrow.

After more walking around we found a bar called Windsurf. After a beer we popped over to Homoerectus Clasicus, which Bruce remembers as this cool little bar that had a tunnel that went between it and a bar across the street. Turns out they had no secret tunnel, but had cheap beer so we had a few beers and decided to go for dinner.

I found a place called Amadeo which is a sister restaurant to Amadeus which we went to in Antwerp last year. Bruce said we should make a booking, and I was like no I am sure its fine, they only open in a few minutes. We found it after a short walk (turns out just by our hotel) The place was empty (like 10 people) and when I asked for a table for two, was told it was at least a two hour wait as they had a ton of bookings. I am sure they still could have seated us, but in the end we decided not to wait and of course Bruce reminded me he said we should have booked. So perhaps he was right.

We ended up at a place called Chi Chi’s. They serve overpriced Tex Mex. The plusses of the meal were the chicken nachos and the frozen strawberry margarita for 5 that we shared between the two of us. The minuses were the fajitas and chips and salsa and even though they were free the salsa was not too nice.

After dinner we were both quite full and tired so called it a night!

Day 2 –

I got us a Mcd’s for breakfast and was surprised they did not offer any of the breakfast sandwiches as a meal and only as separate items. Once we got ourselves ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and left our stuff in the lockers and ventured out to see more of the city. Whilst waking around we ventured past la Maison du Savon de Marseille, which is a soap shop that we first found in Marseille many years ago. They have by far my favourite soap and as we are not due back to Marseille until 2016, I stocked up at a price that was possibly the cheapest we have ever found it.

After we got the soap we headed back to the hotel picked up our bag and walked to the station which was about a 30 minute walk away.

We had Sbarro’s for lunch and made our way to the Eurostar terminal for check in. After all of he formalities we chilled for about 20 minutes for boarding and then got on the train. The journey back was ok, except we got delayed in the tunnel for a bit and we ended up getting back to London 30 minutes late.

Overall it was a great trip and we want to spend some more time in Brussels.

We hope you enjoyed reading it and If you want to know more just ask… 🙂

Upcoming Trips:

2015 – 

  • Bruges
  • NCL Spirit – 10 night cruise – Canaries Cruise (Malaga – Barcelona – Casablanca – Funchal – Tenerife – Lanzarote – Malaga)
  • Vienna / Bratislava
  • Munich
  • Budapest
  • Copenhagen
  • Aberdeen
  • Lyon
  • Stuttgart
  • Paris / Disneyland Paris
  • NCL Cruise to Miami (Southampton to Miami)
  • Xmas Markets – TBC (Prague?)

2016 –

  • NCL Epic – 12 night – Med Cruise (Barcelona – Valencia – Cagliari – Palermo – Naples – Rome (Civitavecchia) – Florence/Pisa – Palma – Barcelona)
  • NCL Spirit – 12 night – Grand Med Cruise (Venice – Athens – Ephesus/Kusadasi – Istanbul – Mykonos – Naples – Rome (Civitavecchia) – Florence/Pisa – Toulon – Barcelona)
    • Thinking about:
      • Cuba
      • NYC
      • San Diego

2017 –

  • NCL Sun – 14 night cruise around South America (Santiago – Puerto Montt – Puerto Chacabuco – Cruising Patagonic Channels/Chilean Fjords/Strait of Magellan – Punta Arenas – Cruising Beagle Channel (Glaciers) / Cape Horn – Falkand Islands – Puerto Madryn – Montevideo – Buenos Aires