Weekend Getaway

Trois jours à Lyon

Date: 24 – 26 July 2015

Modes of Travel: Eurostar, British Airways

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Carol and Iain

Hotel: Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu Hotel

Day 1 –

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!

We booked this trip as Eurostar sent us an email saying we are now going all the way to Marseille and you should join us. Well you know us, we (Bruce and I) are suckers for an email offer. We invited Carol and Iain along and we booked it back in December.

Well the day finally came and I think of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song when he said “ I yelled to the cabbie yo homes smell you later” the nice man who got us there in one piece was a very smelly man. Saying that our only other issue with the trip was the flight home.

Whilst St Pancras was busy, they had a special area for the South of France train and we were through pretty quick with a special luggage tag and South of France guide.

We decided due to the almost 5 hour travel time to spring for the Leisure Select tickets which at £50 more per person ended up being a really good value. Not only did we get fed twice, but bigger more comfortable seats and less people in the carriage, which makes all of the difference on a longer trip.

We arrived and found the hotel right next to the train station dropped our bags and headed to the city centre, which was about a 20 min walk. Other than the heat (it was 30+) it was a lovely walk.

We decided to see what we could see and walked around the city centre a bit before finding an open top bus tour. Needless to say due to the early start and the fact I was in a moving vehicle, I fell asleep almost instantly, but the parts I remember I thought it was pretty good esp the tour of the bus station!

We decided on dinner at the best Mexican place in town (El Sombrero) and we were not disappointed!

It was a long day and we decided to call it a night after dinner, but we did have a nice walk back to the hotel.

Day 2 –

After a great nights sleep, we started our day at a small patisserie and then walked into to old town where we enjoyed a bottle of wine on the banks Rhone. As you know all of us love a good boat trip so we found the local river boat and took an hour tour and saw the sights. After a lunch at an Italian place, we walked around a local farmers market then headed up a funicular to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere which provided an amazing view of the city from the outside and I’m told (everyone else went in) was amazing inside and worth a look.

After taking the funicular back down we went for a few drinks around the city and then tried to find a Lebanese place we read about. All was well until we actually found the place and it was closed for the month 😦 .

So at this point we were starving and decided to walk back to the hotel and see what we could find. It was slim pickings… Chinese or Indian. We chose Indian (Rose Indien) as it had been awhile and it was not a good choice. We looked it up before going in and it was ranked 7 in all of Lyon so we thought why not. First, they didn’t serve/allow alcohol 😦 and then the food was just not good. The did sell some authentic Indian sauces from India to take home with you.. Patak’s which whilst not a bad product is not authentic and I don’t think from India in my opinion. After the disappointing dinner we called it a night.

Day 3 –

Our time in Lyon was coming to a close and the hotel chucked us out, well not really we checked out on our own and crossed the road to the overpriced tram to the airport. The journey was comfortable and once we made it to the airport, it was a long walk from one of the nicest tram/train station we have been to.

Check in was not open yet and it was chaos! It was the end of the Tour De France and even the speedy line was packed with people. Once we started moving it was almost 45 minutes as each person in front of us had bikes they were taking back. Once checked in we made our way to the most shambolic security and immigration area I have ever been to.

Once we got through to departures, there was one little café, one small store and about 50 vending machines. The nice thing about the machines is the drinks were cheaper than the café or the store and it had the waffles I love!

Overall it was a great trip and the Eurostar was a lovely way to start the trip and if the return would not have been so late it would have been a nicer way to travel home as well.

Weekend Getaway

Wizyta w Warszawie

Date: 26 -28 June 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways Heathrow Express

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah and Brett

Hotel: Novotel Warszawa Centrum

Here we go another BA holiday inspired by price.    When our friend Hannah suggested going to Warsaw we were initially hesitant.  We had been to Warsaw in 2011 and it didn’t wow us as much as the other Polish cities we had visited.   However once she told us it was £125 per person including flights and hotel for two nights we were sold!

As a group we like to maximise our weekends so we all took a half day off work and met at Heathrow around 12:30pm on the Friday.   Check-in and security was uneventful and once through security we headed directly to the pub for our traditional pre-flight drink and some lunch.  The pub in Terminal 3 is nothing to rave about but it got the job done and we headed to the gate.   Once at the gate it was evident that it was “training day” because they had 13 people attempting to check passports and boarding passes before entering the seating area.   We had managed to time it just right so once we were through they started pre-boarding which we were all able to take advantage of due to Dan’s Silver status on BA.

Once on the plane it was very clear it was an extremely packed flight.  As always Dan had pre-booked our group the exit row and a window and aisle for us.   As luck would have it no one sat between us which gave us the opportunity to stretch out a little bit.   Unfortunately a man in the row behind us has the most horrendous body odor and that was all I could think about for the two hour flight.    Other than that the flight was uneventful.

Once we arrived in Warsaw we quickly made it through passport control and baggage claim.    Dan had pre-booked an airport transfer with MKG Travel (www.warsawshuttle.com) a company we used previously in Gdansk for 90 Zloty each way.   The distance between the airport and the city centre was amazingly short and even during rush hour on a Friday we were at the hotel within 20 min.    We chose to stay at the Novotel Centrum which is an Accor hotel.  We typically stay with them when we are traveling in Eastern Europe because you know what you are getting and we usually get points.    Just as we finished checking in it decided to start pouring.    We agreed to drop our bags off and meet back in the lobby in 10 min.


Sadly no Minion view for us, but we could see it whilst waiting for the lift.

Fortunately for us during that 10 min break the rain had stopped.   We left the hotel in the direction of the old town with a mission of finding a place for a beverage to plan our night.    We didn’t have to go far before finding Kufle I Kapsle which was a Polish craft beer bar.   The beers were decent but it was a bit busy and we couldn’t find a comfortable place to sit so we quickly finished our beers and headed to the old town.   The walk to the old town took us about 45 min, due to a slight detour (ed note: and a hill, but who is complaining right), but we got there in the end.

When Dan and I had been to Warsaw before the old town was our favourite bit although it isn’t exactly old.   Warsaw was completely leveled during World War II so the old town was completely rebuilt in the 1950/60’s by the soviets.    While it isn’t necessarily the most authentic old town in Poland or in Europe it is still a pretty place to wander around and have drinks and dinner.

Once in the old town we quickly wandered from Castle Square to the Market Square where we went to Pub Leżaki for a drink while we decided what to do for dinner.     Dan and I had been to this pub on our first trip to Warsaw and while it isn’t the greatest place in the world it has a nice seating area in the market square.    While sipping our beverages in the market square we decided to go to a restaurant called The Mexican which is a Polish Mexican restaurant chain.   Dan and I had been to the ones in Poznan, Kraków, and Sopot previously.   The margaritas have always been great but after our last experience in Sopot we were a bit worried about the food.   Luckily The Mexican in Warsaw redeemed itself.   The portions were huge and more importantly the food was great.   After dinner we decided to get a lody (Polish soft serve ice cream) on the way back to the hotel. Due to lessons learned on the way to the old town we were able to cut the journey down to about 25 min by walking straight down Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street.

On Saturday morning we met in the hotel lobby at 10am so we could make the free walking tour put on by Orange Umbrella Tours at 11am.    We left the hotel and stopped by Carrefour for a quick snack and some water.   We were now experts and quickly made our way the Castle Square for the tour.   On the way we notice that several stages were being setup and banners for “Fashion Street” had appeared overnight on Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street.    The tour started promptly and the tour guide gave a very informative and insightful tour of the old town which ended with a shot of vodka and a traditional Polish drinking snack of bread covered in pork fat and a pickle.   As with all free tours the guide makes their money on tips so as a group we tipped 50 Zloty.

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After the tour we had already decided to go to the Warsaw Tortilla Factory for lunch.   Dan and I had discovered the restaurant on our first trip and wanted to go back.  We were a bit unsure of its location and received conflicting information from Google Maps and Apple Maps so it was decided that we would take a taxi there and then just wander back.    We found a taxi with little difficulty and he took us quite quickly to our destination, which turned out to be right by the hotel.   We had expected the journey to cost 50-60 Zloty but he wanted 210 Zloty.   However in the confusion of Polish to English we ended up paying the amount, instantly realising that it was way too much.

The restaurant is more of a bar/music venue so it wasn’t a tremendous surprise to find it pretty much empty.   We sat down and ordered our food as we were all starving after the walking tour. The server was friendly but the food took ages and was disappointingly average at best.

Once we finished our meal we decided it was best to head back to the hotel to freshen up.  Once at the hotel we agreed to meet back in the lobby at 6pm.

Well 6pm came quite quickly and we met in the lobby.  We decided to walk towards the river and then walk to the old town for dinner.    The walk to the river wasn’t a pretty affair and apart from the old town Warsaw isn’t a pretty city.   Once at the river we walked through a park and then along the river.   One thing that was nice to see was that across the river there were several beaches and bars that the locals were taking advantage of.     Our walk took us near the university library where Red Bull was hosting a basketball competition.   We watched the warm ups and had a few Red Bulls (summer edition was awesome and did not even taste like Rd Bull) while listening to the music.    Once the tournament started we continued our walk to the old town.

Our walk ended at the bottle of the Castle Square, which unfortunately meant we had about 100 meters of stairs to climb to the top.   Once at the top it was an interesting sight.    There had been a colour run earlier in the day so there were quite a few colourful people looking worse for wear as well as 20-30 dressed up military gear and another 20-30 dressed as zombies.    We decided to head to a craft beer bar Hannah had read about on Trip Advisor and that we had seen the day before called Same Fusy.   We walked along the old (new) city wall to our destination.  The bar was fairly busy but we managed to find a place near the bar.   The beer selection was immense and seemed to cater to almost any taste.     While enjoying our first beer we had the opportunity to see the food coming out of the kitchen.    The burgers and pizzas looked amazing. Fortunately for us a table opened up at the front of the bar so we decided to get a pizza and eat dinner there rather than heading out.


The pizza was AMAZING and possibly one of the best pizzas I/we have ever had.
After dinner we walked down the street to another local ice cream shop where Hannah and Brett got waffles with whipped cream and Dan and I got ice cream.   We decided on a leisurely walk back to the hotel down the “Fashion Street” to see what they had done.    During the day they had managed to install several tents and a stage with a catwalk.   Overall it was quite impressive how much they had done in such a short space of time.    As many of you know we collect Starbucks mugs when we travel.   However on our last trip to Warsaw I don’t believe Starbucks had opened yet so we stopped off in the way and purchased a Poland and a Warsaw mug for the collection.   As we approached the hotel the Palace of Culture and Science was illuminated in rainbow colours for Pride   I was able to take an obstructed photo with my phone but before I was able to take another they had turned off the lights.

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We met in the hotel lobby at 10:30am on the Sunday since this was our last day and we wanted to leave our bags.  Once we had checked out we walked over towards the central station to the adjacent shopping mall.   The mall is quite nice by anyone’s standards and was virtually empty. We made our rounds and discovered a Bath and Bodyworks!  I know this may not seem like much to our friends in the U.S. but they don’t have them in the U.K. and I love their hand sanitizer.      So after spending just over 100 Zloty on hand sanitizer we continue our wander around the mall.     As it turned out my purchase of hand sanitizer ended up being the only purchase for the group.

IMG_2243An old friend!

We left the mall and headed to lunch but since our flight didn’t leave until 6:15pm we were not in a huge rush so we took the long way around the Palace of Culture and Science on our way to Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street for lunch.    The “Fashion Street” event was just staring to get underway and many of the cafes near the catwalk were packed.    We decided to continue our journey further down the street and settled on an Italian place called Pizza Eataliano.   From the moment we sat down it was clear our servers English wasn’t that great (ed note, to be fair our polish is non existent) but we muddled thorough ordering and we all felt pretty confident.   That was until the mains came except one.  In the end we worked it out and the remaining main dish came out after everyone else had finished eating.  Overall the food was decent and hit the spot but nothing to rave about.

On our first night Hannah had spotted a cafe called Cheesecake Corner and we had planned on going back since.   Since lunch didn’t take that long even with the issues we had the opportunity to try this place out.  It had a nice seating area on the street and several varieties of cheesecake as well as other desserts.    Each of the desserts looked absolutely stunning.  We had a raspberry pavlova, New York cheesecake, a mini forest fruits cheesecake as well as a mini mango cheese cake.   Brett of course had to be difficult and get chocolate ice cream.   Overall the desserts were not the best I have had but given the price I wouldn’t complain and would recommend stopping by if you were around.

After the cheesecake we decided to walk in a different direction to kill some time as we still had two hours before the taxi was suppose to pick us up.    We ended up walking south past the road our hotel was on in the area with all the embassies.  After a few rounds of “name that country” we decided to head back to our hotel early and chill out in the lobby.

As luck would have it our taxi driver arrived about 20 min early and was the same driver that picked us up (same thing in Gdansk as well).   The journey to airport took about 10 min which meant we arrived at the airport about 45 min before check-in opened.   Once check-in opened we went through security.   It was a refreshing experience for there to be no line but it was clear they still took security very seriously.

Once on the other side of security we had the mission of spending our remaining Zloty and what is better thing to buy in Poland than vodka.   Dan took Brett into the lounge as his guest while Hannah and I waited by the gate and wrote our Trip Advisor reviews and discussed our upcoming trip to Stuttgart in August.

Boarding was fairly smooth again by taking advantage of Dan’s silver status.   Once on the plane I wrapped up my posting of Bilbao and wrote this lovely posting all before leaving continental Europe’s airspace!

In closing while Dan and I were not that impressed with Warsaw on our last trip it has certainly moved up in our estimation after this trip and I would recommend a short visit.     Poland is a great country with amazing cities, long history, good beer, great vodka and it is cheap.   Visit Poland!

Weekend Getaway

Bustling Bilbao

Date: 19 – 21 June 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways

Cast of Characters: Bruce, Jodi, Alyssa & Rowan

Hotel:  Sercotel Coliseo Hotel, Bilbao
So this trip was a rare trip without Dan. The trip was again one of those random trips that was planned after about 3 bottles of wine.    Our friend Alyssa travels quite a bit around Europe for work.   Her schedule combined with our schedule pretty much means we never seem to be able to meet up.  As such during one of the rare occasions we were able to meet up Jodi and myself decided to meet Alyssa in Bilbao on the back of one of her work trips.

Jodi and I booked our flights and hotel through British Airways on a BA holiday.   Return flights and 4 Star hotel for two nights came to about £220 per person so overall a pretty cheap deal plus I got bonus Avios and £20 cash back from Quidco.    I am generally not that fussed about hotels other than location so I left the decision up to Jodi and she picked the Sercotel Colissio.

The day finally arrived for us to meet Alyssa in Bilbao.    Heathrow Airport is in the process of decommissioning Terminal 1 by the end of June so our flight was one of 7 that afternoon.    I checked a bag and went through security into an area that was eerily empty.    By this point most of the shops, bars, and restaurants had been closed.   I waited on a bench for someone in our party to arrive.   Rowan (Alyssa’s fiancé) was the first arrive.   The two of us went into Giraffe which was the only remaining restaurant for some food and beverages.    Shortly after sitting down Jodi joined us.   It does however appear that Dan has brainwashed me.   The moment the screen said that we needed to go to the gate I became instantly paranoid that we were going to miss our flight.   Jodi and Rowan of course were taking a more casual approach to boarding the plane and were working on their beverages and we did not leave the restaurant until it said Final Call Gate Closing.   We of course made it with us being the last 3 people to enter the gate area. Clearly if Dan were there his head would have probably exploded.

The flight was fairly uneventful and we arrived about 15 min early.  We quickly made our way to the baggage area, much to everyone’s dismay since I checked a bag.   After about 15 min of waiting my bag finally came and we met Alyssa outside the secure area and hopped into a taxi to the hotel.    The taxi journey was exceptionally easy and took about 20 min and went by the Guggenheim on the way.   As it turned out our hotel was also a casino and more importantly just across the river from the old town.     Check-in was simple and the rooms were very well appointed and modern.   Jodi and I quickly dropped our stuff off in our room and met Alyssa and Rowan in theirs and waited while Alyssa wrapped up a few work bits.   We then headed to the hotel bar and terrace to enjoy our first bottle of rioja in Spain for the amazingly low price of €13.

It was about 9pm when we decided to head out from the hotel for dinner.   We headed to a place a few streets away that was recommended by the front desk called Restaurante Beraia.  We walked into the bar area of the restaurant and it was heaving with activity but the restaurant area was completely empty.   There were no issues in getting a table since we were at least an hour ahead of the locals.   The wine was great and cheap and the starters were amazing.    The main courses in my opinion were good but nothing too amazing.     After dinner we decided to find a place to have a couple drinks before going to bed.    Around the corner from the restaurant there was a bar called Basque Bar.   It was definitely more of a locals bar with the obligatory overly friendly chatty old man out front.     Rowan decided to stay with the wine while Myself, Alyssa and Jodi moved on to pint size gin and tonics.  We ended up sitting outside for a few hours drinking and talking and finally just after 2am it was clear that the bar was winding down so we took this as our cue to head back to the hotel.

Saturday morning Jodi and I woke up around 10am.   We texted our Bilbao Whatsapp group but there was no response from Alyssa and Rowan so Jodi and I decided to take a walk around the city ourselves.   It became quickly evident that a majority of the city was still asleep.    We finally found a bar that was open and was serving coffee.    After a quick coffee we then walked to the Guggenheim took a few pictures and then walked along the river to the old town.

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The old town was overall very typical with several bars, restaurants and shops.    Jodi spotted some tables in the sun and quickly made a beeline.  However despite our efforts to go someplace with a bit of local flavour the sunny tables belonged to the Liverpool Cafe.     We sat and enjoyed a beer while waiting for Alyssa and Rowan to wake up.   Just as we finished our beers Rowan texted that they were awake and were hungry.    Jodi and I then began our search for a lunch location in the sun.    As you might expect in Spain we didn’t have to search very far and found this pintxos (Basque tapas) place called La Ribera Bilbao bar just underneath the city market with plenty of out door seating.   Jodi and I ordered assorted pintxos and a bottle of Rioja that was chilled as is customary in Spain.    Shortly after sitting down Rowan and Alyssa joined us and we enjoyed our beverages and pintxos in the sun.

After finishing up our drinks we headed up into the market, which was just staring to close up.   Fortunately for us there were still a few meat, veg, and fish stalls open.   We made our way to a meat stall in the opposite corner of where we entered where Rowan sampled a few items and both Jodi and Rowan bought some chorizo to take back.   After the market we headed back into the heat of old town.   During our wandering we came across a rundown street crowded with people and chanting and laughing (apparently there was a football game on).    We continued down this street that was jam packed with little student bars and managed to find a table at one of the bars where he sun made it through he tall buildings.   There we had yet another bottle of wine and some papas bravas.   After finishing that beverage we continued walking down the street until we hit a main road near a Carrefour Express.  We went into the supermarket looking for water and after much searching we found it on the top floor near the largest milk section I have ever seen in a supermarket.

Once we exited the store we noticed there were some outdoor escalators heading up a hill.    Of course we had to see where these went.  After two sets of escalators and a moving conveyor we reach the top of the hill, which had nothing more than flats and a good view of the old town.   After a few pictures and a moment to reapply sunscreen we headed down the hill in the opposite direction.    At the bottom of the hill there was another street of cafe/bars but slightly more upmarket than the previous street.   We of course stopped for wine and some deep fried potatoes at the first place we could find with a table in the sun called 300 Montaditos and had a discussion about where we wanted to head next.    It was decided that we would head back across the river and head to one of Bilbao’s oldest bars, which was coincidentally near our hotel.

After finishing another bottle of wine we headed down the road towards the river.     As luck would have it we made it about 100 meters before ending up in a square bathed in sun and surrounded by restaurants and bars so of course we stopped at a place called Beatles Bar and found the sunniest table in the square.  This was my round so I went in to purchase the bottle of wine.   In all my years of travels I have to say this was one of the more frustrating language experiences I have had in ages.    I will admit my Basque is nonexistent and my Spanish is rusty but the word for bottle in both languages is pretty similar to English so I have no idea why they struggled so much but in the end I got a bottle and a separate glass of wine.   While enjoying the first bottle of wine in the sun we were approached by a woman in her 50/60’s that was sitting in the table next to us.   She came over speaking Spanish pointing at our bags.  I initially thought she was being nice and attempting to warn us of thieves.    The first clue that I was wrong was when she picked up Alyssa’s purse and turned it upside down spilling the contents to the ground.  She then started talking to Rowan while telling the rest of us to shut up in Spanish.    At this point Alyssa went inside to inform them of the “loco” lady and from their reaction it appears it was a common occurrence and they quickly came out and ushered her away.   Of course by this time the bottle of wine was empty and we were not quite ready to part with our seat in the sun so another bottle of wine was in order.

It was after this bottle we were then on a mission to cross the river and head to the bar we originally had intended on heading too.   However as luck would have it there was yet another amazing square along the way and yet another wine bar.  However we decided to be responsible and have 4 glasses of wine instead of a bottle.    Unlike the previous place we picked a table in the shade in a side street and didn’t linger after the one glass.   We crossed the river and headed to the intended bar near our hotel to find it packed.   As it was nearly 6pm we decided to go back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.

Once at the hotel Jodi and Alyssa decided to take a nap and Rowan and I decided to head to the hotel terrace and have another bottle of wine.     While the girls slept Rowan and I discussed real estate and of course the instability in the Middle East over a bottle of rioja.   Around 9pm we decided it was time to eat and we woke the girls.   Alyssa by text message and Jodi by me banging on the window since it faced the terrace.    After the success of last nights dinner recommendation by the note we decided to take them up in their other suggestion.   When we walked in you could tell it was a slightly nicer dinning establishment.   However, as with our previous nights meal we were well before the local rush.   We sat down and the menu was brought over.  It was quickly evident that the menu really didn’t call out to any of us and very few things on the menu that I would even want to eat.   In the end we all decided to get the €50 tasting menu which had the following:  white asparagus and tomatoes, black mushrooms and bacon, ox steak with a side of French fries, and ice cream for dessert.      In the end all I can say about the meal was that the wine was good.

We finished dinner just after 11pm.  We were all a bit tired but we’re not quite ready to give up on the night so we decided to go back to the Basque Bar and have a gin & tonic before heading back to the hotel.   End the end we were back at the hotel just after midnight and agreed to meet in the lobby at 10:30 the following morning.

The next morning came way too quick.   We all met in the hotel lobby to check out.   The checkout process was far from speedy but we got there in the end.    Fortunately due to the hotel having a casino there were always taxis down stairs and this morning was no different.    It was a quick 15 min journey to the airport and check in went fairly smooth.   Security was a breeze and once on the other side of security we quickly got some food at a local fast food restaurant and did some duty free shopping before boarding the plane.

I must say that the trip to Bilbao was an amazing success.   I had fairly low expectations at the start but Bilbao exceeded them at almost every turn.  I was so impressed that Dan and I have cancelled our trip next March to Marseille and we are going to Bilbao instead.  In short go to Bilbao for the weekend if you can.




Date: 5-7 June 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways, Heathrow Connect and Various Taxis

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Kristen and Alyssa

Hotel: Holiday Inn City Centre, Aberdeen

Day 1 –

So we knew we were headed back to the AGM last year after our first one. Once the dates were known we booked it and invited Kristen to join us as well.

The day started at work for all of us at work as we booked the last flight of the night. So after work I made my way to Heathrow via Paddington Station and the Heathrow Connect.  After taking the Heathrow Express previously I expected a similar experience, boy was I wrong, it was hot stuffy and packed. I would have been better off taking the tube, the journey would have been more pleasant on the tube!

Once I arrived, I met Bruce at security and we went through to the lounge. Kristen joined us shortly after and we enjoyed some bubbles to celebrate her Birthday. Alyssa joined us and we settled in until our flight was called which surprise surprise was delayed.

We finally got on-board about 45 minutes late and were on our way to Aberdeen. After an uneventful flight we collected our bag and got in the taxi rank. We arrived to find 25 people in front of us with no taxis, after about 20 min waiting Bruce and Alyssa got impatient and Bruce ordered a taxi using an app and then a second taxi from a different app as there was no confirmation. We continued to wait and about the time the taxi from the first app arrived a taxi at the rank arrived too, so we hopped in the one we had ordered and Bruce cancelled the other one and off we were to the hotel.

After check-in we still wanted a drink so we agreed to meet at the Justice Mill as the end of the street.  Turns out it was a Wetherspoons complete with DJ. It really wasn’t our scene but we decided on one drink and then popped to a kebab shop for a late night snack.

We all went back to our rooms so we could get good nights sleep  (this was a bit difficult as the bed was the size of a postage stamp) as tomorrow was the PUNK AGM!

Day 2 –


We met Alyssa at her hotel around the corner and caught a taxi to the AECC. Even on arrival we knew this was going to be better than last years as there were no queues to get in. Once we were in it was already starting to get busy so we popped to one of the 6 bars and got a beer to start the day. After this we secured a table and settled in for the business talk I visited the merch table for a few necessities and our yearly beer stock up from the online shop. Just before the business talk started, Alyssa’s future Sister and Brother in Law joined us and we all watched the Business talk before heading in the to the Mikkeller tasting we had booked.   We were especially excited about this as we were just at Mikkeller the week before in Copenhagen.

Sadly Mikkeller himself couldn’t make it due to a delayed flight or something so one of the Brewdog and Beavertown brewers led the tasting.  They really could have spent a few minutes before the tasting to read the tasting notes before leading the tasting as quite frankly it sucked. The beer was good however.

We had a few more beers and listened to some of the live bands before headed back into town. Once again, Bruce booked a taxi on the app and we went outside to wait. A taxi pulled up and dropped someone off and Bruce and Alyssa decided we would just take that one as ours was 2 minutes away and we had already been waiting 5 minutes. They both seem to have forgotten we weren’t in London……

We had the driver drop us at the Brewdog in town and we had many more beers and played a game called Linkee.

After Brewdog we decided we should eat and walked towards our hotel. On the way we saw a pub called the Illicit Still, which we did not go in but are defo going to be popping into next year, with a name like that why wouldn’t we. We didn’t stop this time as we knew we needed some food so headed back towards our hotel as right around the corner was a place called Rustico. Rustico was recommended by our friend Jordan who is from Aberdeen. They were quite busy when we walked in, but they were able to seat us very quickly. After a short wait for our order to be taken the service was very quick and the food and wine very enjoyable.

We finished up dinner and I was past the point I should have been out the day of drinking took its toll and Bruce and Kristen felt the same so we parted ways and headed back to the hotel.

Day 3 –

We had a mid day flight so I aimed to get us to the airport for 90 minutes before departure. We met at Alyssa’s hotel for the journey back. I tried two separate taxi companies and was unable to get a taxi on the phone or via the app, but luckily the hotel could get us one and we were on our way.

We made it through check in and security pretty easy. Saying that the Security Staff could be friendlier.

We chilled in the lounge until our flight was called about 30 min before departure. We made our way to the gate and at 20 minutes before departure we were one of the last people on the plane and the doors were closed and we were off 15 minutes early.

It was an uneventful flight and even early they were ready for us and we pulled right up to gate and then sat for 10 minutes. Turns out the gate was broken so we had to walk down some steps over to some stairs and them up to the jetway as normal.

Overall it was a great trip and we are looking forward to the next PUNK AGM next year.

If you want to go all you have to do is invest in Brewdog. Check out https://www.brewdog.com/equityforpunks and use our code as your referrer: R433223


27 Hours in Copenhagen

Dates: 30 – 31 May 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Chris, Jeremy, Lucas, Curtis, Liesbeth, Paul, Bigg Al and Tall Jim

Hotel: Copenhagen Crown

Day 1 –

We booked this trip quite sometime ago when our friends Chris and Jeremy told us they would be finishing their Disney Cruise there. We met them back in 2011 on a Disney Cruise and have kept in touch since then. This has been the first time we could meet up and it was far too long.

We woke up at 4 am so we could get ready and get to the airport for a 7am flight. We got checked in and headed to the lounge and enjoyed our usual BA lounge breakfast and associated Bloody Mary (Bruce) and TGL15 & Ginger Ale (for me as they had no Jameson). Bruce was looking around Facebook and saw our friends Tall Jim and Bigg Al had just checked in at LAX on their way to Copenhagen. So he commented that we were going to be there and we should meet up.

I always choose an exit row for our seats and today was no different, however I was hoping a free middle seat and had no luck in our exit row, but the nice lady in the lounge found us an empty row and we could spread out a little.

After an uneventful flight we arrived in Copenhagen a little early, got our bag and made it on the train to the city.  It was packed and we had to stand for the 20 minute journey. I would like to say it was horrible, but I ride the tube daily.

We walked to the hotel and were able to check in at 10:30 so was a nice bonus. After we checked in we walked over to the hotel Chris and Jeremy were staying in and found them chilling in the lobby with their new cruise friends Curtis and Lucas (they will also be joining us on the Penguin cruise in 2017). We all hung out for a bit waiting for Paul and Liesbeth to join us. We met them on the 2011 Cruise as well.

Once we were all together we headed across the road to Tivoli Gardens.

I went a few years ago and wanted to take Bruce when we were in Copenhagen in September, but it closed for the season he day before we arrived.

We paid our entrance fee and we walked around for a bit. I wanted to try a few rides and everyone was else was game so off we went. First stop “The Roller Coaster” built in 1914 it is one of the oldest running wooden coasters in the world. It is also quite cool as the brakes are operated by a guy who sits/stands in the middle of the train. After this we toured the park more and Lucas took a ride on Aquila, which I am sure I would have died on. It is shaped like a bird and it spins every which way.  The Demon was up next for Chris and Lucas. It’s a big looping coaster and once they got off it was time to say bye to Paul and Liesbeth as they had a flight to catch.

When I was at Tivoli last I went on The Flying Trunk and I thought it was pretty good. It is basically a dark ride through Hans Christian Anderson fairytale scenes. I talked everyone else in to going on it with me and quite frankly it was cool but kinda boring. Bruce told me I talked the ride up too much and hosed everyone. So I then bought 12 tickets and took everyone on The Mine. It’s a water ride meets buzz lightyear.

We all enjoyed ourselves at Tivoli, we popped back to the various hotels and the guys checked in and it was food time so we roamed the streets and ended up at MAD. Bruce had dinner there is September and it was ok, but this time it did not really impress either of us. For those of you that know me, I love onion rings. Real Onion Rings and it really pisses me off when people serve onion rings made with chipped onion instead of real full onion rings. Yes I am picky like that!

After lunch Curtis and Lucas went off to take a nap and get ready for their night. So we took Chris and Jeremy to Mikkeller. I had been a few times and they have some great beers so we spent some time there and enjoyed a few.

It was time to walk around and see what we could see and as luck would have it there is a locals bar just up the street that Bruce and I found last time and thought lets take Chris and Jeremy. So there we were standing in front SPUNK!


We had a beer (outside) as inside it was pretty scary and very very smoky (didn’t know you could still smoke in pubs anywhere in Europe)

Curtis and Lucas joined us and we were off to find a beer.  Mikkeller it was again as Lucas had heard about them, so a few more beers and they parted ways for their dinner plans. We all wanted one more beer before dinner so headed to Vesterbro Brewery across from Tivoli. Bruce and I went in September and it was nice, not so much this time, none of us enjoyed our beers. So once done we packed up and found dinner.

On the way to dinner we got a text from Bigg Al who said they had arrived and wanted to meetup. So we arranged to catch up after dinner.

Dinner we headed to Wagamama, Chris and Jeremy had heard of it but never been and as they say when in Copenhagen you should at least dine there once for authentic Danish Asian cuisine!

We had a nice dinner and walked them back to their hotel with a detour to Dunkin Donuts as I needed something sweet. We said our good byes to Chris and Jeremy as they had an early flight back to the states.

Bigg Al and Tall Jim met us at the hotel and we were off for drinks. I bet you can’t guess where…… Yep Mikkeller again! This time as it was around the corner from our hotel. We said we could meet them for a drink and a few beers and a few hours later (and a phone call to Alex and Cathy back in the states) we were being pushed inside and it was time for us to call it a night.

So we said our goodbyes and we turned in for the night.

Day 2 –

We woke up after a few tries but still managed to make it to Breakfast. It was a decent cold spread. We decided to take a short walk around and then it was time to head back to the airport. We queued to buy our tickets for the train. I thought the machines here sucked but the machines in Denmark are possibly the slowest machines I have ever seen my in life. We finally about 20 min later got the tickets and made it on the train. It ended up being a fast train so 10 minutes later we were at the airport. We made the trek to check in which was quick and easy. We popped up to security and the queue was possibly the longest I have ever seen. Amazingly about 10 min later we were through and just a few min later chilling in the lounge. Just like that our 27 hours in Copenhagen was over.

Next Up the Aberdeen and the Brewdog AGM!


The Land of HufflePuffs

Date: 22 – 25 May 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Brett, Hannah and Jon (for lunch)

Hotel: Mercure Korona

Day 1 – 

So Dan is insistent that I write one of these blog posts myself since apparently this entire thing was my idea.

Budapest is an amazing city. Before this trip I had been twice before (2007 & 2013) and Dan had been once before in 2013. Despite having been before when our friend Hannah pointed out that British Airways was doing a cheap package holiday for the bank holiday weekend we jumped at the chance. Due to our many holidays we decided to forgo taking the Friday off and take the 20:45 flight from Heathrow on the Friday night so that we would have the entire Saturday.  On this particular occasion we chose to stay in the Mercure Korona on the Pest side near the city market.

We booked this trip in Nov 2014 so we had months of anticipation. Finally Friday the 22nd of May arrived.  Dan was going to go straight to the airport from work and I was going to meet him, Hannah and Brett at the airport.  I had plans of trying to wrap up work a bit early that day but as usual that didn’t quite happen.  I managed to meet Dan in front of terminal 3 at about 18:30, Hannah and Brett were already through security and at the pub. We quickly checked in and headed to fast track security but as luck would have it they re-routed us into the normal security line due to a queue of 3 people in fast track. Despite this change we made it through security quick and met Hannah and Brett at the Bridge pub for a few drinks and some food before boarding the flight.  The food was decent but the service had much to be desired since they forgot one of the meals and had to be chased down to get it corrected. After eating Hannah and Brett went off to do some shopping and Dan and I headed off to the lounge to have a quick drink.

We boarded the flight and overall the flight was uneventful. There was a group of 20 something’s on the plane headed celebrate someone’s birthday in Budapest and they were doing their best to drink the plane dry but they were more or less harmless. We arrived just after midnight in Budapest.  We quickly headed to the baggage claim and the ATM where we took out 80,000 Fortnys or as we like to call it the”hufflepuff” a phrase that was coined on the prior trip since the common abbreviation is HUF.

At this point Bruce gave up writing the blog and it’s now up to me to finish it…

I offered to finish it (Bruce) – No he didn’t (Dan)

We met our driver and did the quick transfer to the hotel. Once we checked in we tried to go to the pub across the road, but it shut as we were checking in so instead we headed to the Kebab shop around the corner and had a quick bite. The cost of a 2 kebab’s and 4 sodas was 3200 hufflepuffs (7quid). I only point this out not only to show how cheap it is but also because when we got back to the room, I had 80,500 so we made money!

Day 2 – 

We started out the day at the local market called Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok). We enjoyed a few pastries for Breakfast then it was time for some beer. We headed up to the main shopping street and it started pissing it down and I mean we should have been looking for an ark it was so bad, so we decided to get that beer so we found a nice little outdoor cafe. Whilst waiting out the rain, Hannah’s brother Jon arrived at the airport. He was coming for a stag but everyone else was arriving later. We had decided on Hooters for lunch so we told him to meet us there and as the rain let up we made our way there quickly.

I would like to say Hooters was better than last time, whilst the food was ok and as expected (boneless wings were a great value) the service was absolutely the worst. I won’t dwell on the negative aspects of the meal. We enjoyed our time together, but then it was time to part ways as we had a wine tasting and he had a stag.

We walked around the city a bit more then headed across the Chain Bridge and to the funicular for our journey up the hill to Faust Wine Cellar in the Hilton hotel on the Buda side. We had been here on our last trip and had an awesome tasting and wanted to give it a try again.


We arrived and were greeted as old friends. Gabor and Barbara remembered us from our previous visit (I looked I never mentioned in my booking emails) They took us through the entire tutored tasting and for Bruce and I compared the current vintage to what we would have tasted during our last tasting. They work with a number of small wineries in Hungary and buy, in some cases, the full production or close to it, which means most of what you are tasting is only available there or the winery.

After a three hour tasting we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We took the funicular down again and walked back to the hotel. It had been a long day so we called it a night.

Day 3 –

Once again we walked the streets of the city. We were headed to a place that Hannah’s friend suggested that was near where Hooters was, but sadly it was closed so we ended up on the same street as Hooters at a place across the way called Café Vian. It has some good local food and was a good price even with our tower of beer.

After lunch we walked to the river and took a river sightseeing cruise. It was much better than the one we took previously and it included two drinks which was a nice touch. It was a nice day albeit a little windy, so we enjoyed sitting outside. The temp the whole trip was warm which was nice.

We walked around the city a bit more and the headed to Divino for some wine. We decided on a local sparkling that was pretty nice and just sat out side and enjoyed the wine and the weather.

It was time for dinner. I booked us into Trófea Grill Étterem Király. This is a buffet restaurant we went to on the last visit. Basically one price about £14 a person includes everything in the place. Decent selection of food including a grill area, pizza, desserts and the best part it also includes all you can drink wine, sparkling wine, beer and soft drinks. They allow you to have 3 hours for dinner we took 2 ½ 🙂

It was getting late so we took a long walk back to hotel stopped off at a few gift shops and I didn’t need it but I got some Facebook ice cream that tasted remarkably like bubble gum ice cream.

Day 4 –

It was our final day so pretty boring, just a trip to the airport and an easy flight home.

Overall a good trip and we wanna go back!

Next up is 27 hours in Copenhagen.

Bier Festival, Weekend Getaway

München in May

Date: 1 – 4 May 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways, S/U-Bahn

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah and Brett

Hotel: Pullman Munich

Day 1 –

We have been to Munich in the past, but we were not able to see it fully as we had been in Bratislava just before on that trip and Bruce had hurt his ankle, so we decided to go back and give it another shot.

We enjoy a BA holiday as you guys know and this was not different. Got a great deal and a really nice hotel to boot.

We started off in the lounge and whilst it was crowded and the food had run out, there was plenty of booze at 7 to kick the trip off!

It was a quick uneventful flight and we were in Munich.

After arrival we made our way to the S-Bahn station and once I figured out how to use the ticket machine (If you are travelling with others, the group day ticket is an awesome value), we were off to the city and 45 minutes and one change later we arrived at the NordFriedHof station where our hotel was located. Turns out it was right above the station which was good as it started raining.

We checked in and headed up to our room. It was a really nice room with everything you need including a private bathroom (see our Bratislava blog to know what I mean) an a big bed.


We decided to go to the hotel bar as due to my Accor status, they gave each of us a free drink.

So we headed in to the city and stopped off at Marienplatz where we needed some food and ended up at a place called Ruff Burger. They had great burgers and awesome chilli cheese fries! I should point out it was one of the few places open. It was a bank Holiday and everything but food places were shut!

After our awesome burgers, we decided to find HofBrauHaus and as it was raining we put the ol’ Apple watch to the test. Overall it worked pretty well and a few minutes later we arrived.

It was packed and there was not seat to be had and we couldn’t sit outside due to the rain so we did one more walk through and popped into the Dubliner Irish Pub. We had a beer and chilled whilst the place was over run by a stag do of Irishmen, we had a quick drink and left as they were a bit OTT for us. We then decided to pop over to the Sendlinger Tor area, just to see what was on the way. We walked through the completely shut Viktualienmarkt and found a beer hall called Der Pschorr, they were packed, but able to squeeze us in and we enjoyed a few beers and then continued moving on to Sendlinger Tor where we found  M.C. Mueller. We had a beer and then I needed to pop out to take a work call and Bruce had another beer whilst he waited for me. After I came back I tried to pay for his beer and they served me another beer. (it had a €30 min for card and we were out of cash at this point) so I popped to the bank and tried to pay for our beers again and we got two more. After this I was very clear in what I was trying to do and in the end we paid for 4 extra beers and had a great time. They looked to have some really good burgers so may have to try it next time I am in Munich.


We decided to walk around a bit more but as it started to get dark we decided to head back to the hotel so starting at Sendlinger Tor we headed back. It started to rain again, so again the Apple Watch helped direct us. We made it to Giselastraße before giving up. We had been to this area before and it was a nice area. We tried to get into a few of the restaurants, but they were full so we ended up at the new McDonalds (not by choice this time) across the road and after dinner and due to being soaked we took the U-Bahn back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 2 –

Hannah and Brett were joining us on this trip, but had no more days to take off work so they flew over on the Saturday to join us. Their room wasn’t ready yet, so we chilled in the bar to come up with our plan for the day and have a few beers and by the time we were done the room was ready and we were off to experience the city together.

We went back to Der Pschorr as the food looked good and we enjoyed some lunch and beers. As part of lunch we tried Obatzda which was pretty good and possibly the best Spatzle I have ever had.

After lunch we walked around the city for a while and then made our way to the HauptbahnHof where were meeting for a Munich Beer and Food Tour. The tour took us for a walk around the city and then a trip on the S-Bahn to the Bier- und Oktoberfestmuseum where we learned more about beer, sampled some beer and had a pretzel before taking a tour of the Museum.

After the Museum we hopped the tram to the HofBrauKeller for some traditional Bavarian Cuisine and of course more beer. It is a nice beer hall and once we had all had our fill of beer and food, we made the trip back to HofBrauHaus for the final part of the tour.


Once again it was packed and we couldn’t get in, so we decided to try to walk back to the hotel, but due to the beer consumed, we only made it to Universitat, before taking the U-Bahn back to the hotel and calling it a night.

Day 3 –

We decided to put our all network group ticket to work and headed out to Starnberger See. It is a small town on a lake and it looked like it could be interesting. Its about 45 min journey and the S-Bahn is comfortable. We had a nice journey out, but the weather took a bit of a turn on the way and it was misty once we arrived. The S-Bahn runs every 20 minutes. We made it exactly 20 minutes and sat in the same seats on the same train on the way back.

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The area was nice, but due to the weather we couldn’t hang for long and headed back on the next train.

On the tour last night the guide told us that a mini Oktoberfest was on at the grounds so we headed there. It is called the Munich Spring Festival. There were two beer hall tents and a fun fair. We went into one, ordered litres of beers and a massive pretzel.


It was pretty cool and not too crowded, so in my mind we got a mini Oktoberfest experience without the crowds or cost 🙂

We headed to the Deutsches Museum, and whilst it was cool, would have been better if it was more hands on, but I think we all enjoyed (especially Brett and I with all of the travel exhibits) ourselves.

For Dinner we went to Block House at Giselastraße. It could have been any of the restaurants in the area, but it was the first one we saw.

After dinner we thought the Olympiapark would be nice to visit and headed over. It was built for the 1972 Olympic Games and it is still in great shape. As expected not too much was going on, but the Wings for Life World Run, so we watched the final bits on the big screen. We popped into the BMW Welt for a quick look and then we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.

Day 4 –

Sadly this was our final day and it was time for the Glockenspiel. So we checked out of the hotel and headed over to watch the famous clock.

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We introduced Hannah and Brett to Ruff Burger and once we were all done went for a walk towards the HBF stopping at every shoe store I saw as I wanted a new pair of Converse. In the end we stopped at a store we were all at the day before and I found a pair that fit and that I liked. We parted ways with Hannah and Brett as they were on a later flight and went back to the hotel the long way to get out bag and then headed to the Flughafen for our flight home.

We spent a little bit of time in the Lounge (Berlin’s is better) and then board the plane for the flight home.


Easter in Bratislava

Date: 3 – 6 April 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, and Shannon

Hotel: Mercure Bratislava Centrum

Day 1 –

This trip was originally supposed to be to Ljubljana, however we had some issues with flights (there were none) so instead we talked Shannon in to Bratislava, as we were there a few years a go and wanted to give it another go.

BA had a great holiday deal (via Vienna, they seemed to have learned a few things from Ryanair), even over Easter, so we booked it!

We ended up meeting Shannon in security as Bruce was waiting for his shoes as he beeped going through Security. Thanks to his shoes getting scanned we got to meet possibly one of the rudest most unprofessional woman we have ever run across. The quick story is there were several (5) people waiting to get their items that had been pulled for secondary screening. There were two people being searched I mean there bags being dumped upside down and searched. Whilst everyone else was waiting for small items. I asked the Security Team Leader if she could possibly grab the small items so people could get on their way. She said that was not possible and we would have to wait. The guy behind us asked the same thing and said the wait was a joke.

This set her off and she went into a tirade that Airport Security is not a joke and is very serious. How we are lucky to be waiting and going through Heathrow, as it is the safest airport in the world. She continued on about how Airport Security was not a joke as she walked away. After that one of the security guys took pity on all of those who were waiting for small items and after a quick passport swab handed back the items and sent them on their way.

We then popped into Oriel for a quick breakfast and made our way to the plane. Overall the flight was uneventful and we arrived on time. Immigration was ok, but the bags took forever. Once out of baggage claim our transfer was waiting with a sign and off we went on the scenic route to Bratislava

We made it to the hotel a little early and the rooms we had booked were not ready, however they were able to find us both rooms. Bruce and I were upgraded to a Privilege Room, which also included access to the Privilege Lounge (Shannon got it too so it became our meeting place). The room was great and a bit bigger than Shannon’s, but had one massive issue.


Yep that’s right no curtain or anything to give you a little privacy in the bathroom. Apparently it was part of the design and even the staff did not understand it.

So we wondered into town to see what we can see, as it was Good Friday, almost none of the shops were open, but the bars were so it was ok.

Our first stop was a little Mexican fusion place called El Diablo for some food. It was as expected… not too good, but the guacamole was decent.

Next door was a Scottish Pub called the “Lochness Scottish Pub” they had a few Brew Dog’s on tap and several different ones in bottles plus some cider for Shannon. They were a bit overpriced and no real atmosphere or Wi-Fi, but we could get the Wi-Fi from El Diablo so it was ok.

As we were walking around we saw the Beer Pub Kristián, It’s a bit of a scary place with not much choice so we didn’t hang out for too long. They didn’t have ay Wi-Fi either.

Next up we decided to go Cuban… There used to be a La Bodeguita del Medio just across the street from El Diablo, I was hoping to visit, but it has closed. In its place, apparently for a very long time, and just up the road is Casa del Havana, it is definitely worth a visit. They had great mojitos and daiquiris and we visited a few times!

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After an afternoon of drinking we needed some food, so we walked around and nothing really called to us esp. as Bruce did not feel we were dressed appropriately (jeans and a t-shirt) for any of the places so we ended up at a place called Primi just across from Casa del Havana.

The food was pretty good and the prices were reasonable, but a word of warning the local Slovakian wine is not all that good.

After this it was getting late and we headed back to the hotel for a nightcap and some sleep.

Day 2 –

As we were near the station and Bruce and I have fond memories. So before hitting the town for the day we popped over to see what we could see. It appears to be a bit nicer than it was during our last visit and the shops were open so we could get some provisions for the room.

We settled on All Stars Café for lunch. The wings were great and the burgers were ok (liked mine, Bruce and Shannon were not as happy with theirs.) The service on the other hand, if you take out the language difficulties was great and they could not do enough for us.

We decided to take the road train city tour; they offered two routes Old Town and Castle so we took both. It was a good way to kill a few hours (and take a nap if your name is Dan or Shannon) even though the music was not as good as Riga.


After the tour we visited Slodvna for a beer as we read they had fruit beer, they didn’t but they did have some Belgian beers so we had a quick one and moved on. The next on the list was a place called 17’s who once again according to review had fruit beer.

On the way we found the ice cream mouse where Bruce took this fine photo on our first trip:


So of course we all had to take a picture as well

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17’s was a winner and it made Shannon very happy. We also realised we were across from the monstrosity that is the US embassy. It is sad does not matter what country we have visited the US Consulate or Embassy is always heavily fortified and does not fit in with any of their surroundings.

We decided to visit one more place before dinner and decided on Narnia. The whole thing could use some work, not the best selection of beers and the theming could use some work, as I had to explain it to both Bruce and Shannon.

After a few drinks we headed over to the Green Buddha for dinner. Whilst Thai sounded good, their interpretation of it left a bit to be desired but we enjoyed ourselves none the less and the service was great!

After dinner we called it a night.

Day 3 (Easter Sunday) –

We started the day a bit later and decided to start the day at the KGB pub, which sadly was closed. We needed to eat so we went to Mc Donald’s needless to say it was the same as it always is.

After the disappointing experience, we needed some cheering up so off to Casa del Havana for a few Mojitos.

After this we walked to one of the biggest tour traps in the city also known as the UFO.


The one thing it does offer is great views of the city.


After this we popped back into 17’s and enjoyed a few beers before seeking some place new. What place better than the Camel Pub. We enjoyed a drink whilst planning our next trip (still planning so who knows) where we ran in to a Danish guy travelling with his young boys. The conversation was just weird as we talked about US taxation, his ex wife’s new boyfriend and the Danish “NSA”.

We still had some time before our dinner reservations, so we headed over to the Irish pub I have been trying to go to since we arrived and not only did the Dubliner have cider it was a just a good atmosphere and music.

It was finally time for dinner, which we booked to be sure we had some place to eat instead of the hotel.

For dinner we chose possibly the most expensive restaurant in the city called El Gaucho. We were not disappointed, but possibly we did not need to book. Our server who we have nicknamed “Shammy” due to Shamrock being tattooed on his knuckles. We also learned he loves his Mom and Dad due to the tattoo on his forearm. Shammy provided us with awesome service and made sure we were happy the entire time we were there. The food and wine was amazing and we really enjoyed our Easter meal.

Once dinner was over it was time for bed, yes we are getting old, and we decided instead of walking back we should take the scary tram. We went to the tram stop and saw it was a 5 min until the next one. We waited 30 minutes and none came, we saw them going the other way, but they never came back so in the end we took the bus. We only wanted to take the tram to say we took the tram but sadly it was not meant to be.

Day 4 –

It’s a sad day our trip is over. We had breakfast at the hotel (it was ok but over priced) and then packed and waited for our transfer back to the airport. We were picked up right on time and made it to the airport in no time.

We were able to check in quickly and made our way through the initial boarding pass check and walked around the shops. After passport control, we left Shannon for a little bit and headed to the smallest most over crowded lounge we have been to, but it had a nice tarmac view so I made Bruce a Bloody Mary and we relaxed for a bit before joining Shannon for security and boarding the plane home.

The e-passport gates were operational and Shannon got to break in her the “e” in  her UK passport on them.

Sadly the trip was over and we parted ways, but we will get to see Shannon again in Manchester when we visit her later this year.

Our next trip will be to Munich and we will tell you all about it. But in the mean time we need some feedback from you. Does this format work for you, what would you like to see more / less of?

Thanks for reading and I leave you with a clip from Eurotrip about Bratislava:


NCL Spirit Cruise

Date: 13-24 March 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways, Norwegian Spirit, and Gatwick Express

Cities/Ports Visited – Malaga, Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Arrecife (Lanzarote),

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, and Cruise Mates

Hotel: ibis Gatwick Airport

So this will not be a day by day blog as it was a long trip, but I will cover all I can and share some pictures along the way.

We booked this trip in Jan 2014, you know we are planners, originally it was booked as an outside cabin, but after final payment date the prices dropped and the amazing Ricky at Vacations to Go scored us an upgrade at no charge to a Balcony on deck 9.

Our original flight was due to leave at 6am from Gatwick so we booked the ibis at Gatwick so we would not have to get up as early. Our flight was later changed (both ways thanks BA) to 7 but as we prepaid we said would still head down the night before.

I took Gatwick express and met Bruce. The journey was ok, but not really sure how express it was.

We headed to the hotel and about half way there Bruce felt that we had in his words been “f’ing Ryanair’ed” as the hotel was miles from Gatwick. After a short journey we arrived checked in and had an ok (for a budgetish hotel) dinner in the bar. As Accor Silver, I get a free drink and on check-in they gave us both one so it was a nice surprise.

So we had a decent night sleep and headed over to Gatwick. Check-in was very easy but even though we were directed to Fast Track Security, it hadn’t opened yet so we had to chill in a massive queue with people who did not fully understand how airport security works. We made it through after about 20 min and we were off to the lounge. The BA lounge at Gatwick is more like an outstation lounge and has no hot offerings. Our time in the lounge was ok, but I miss my bacon roll with my Jameson and Ginger at 6am.

Our flight to Malaga was uneventful. We did however have a Bus Gate, which brought Bruce great joy, as he loves the free bus tour provided from bus gates. We did however leave 10 min early, and arrived 25 min early and our bags took 45 min from the time we left the plane to arrive on the belt, I am pretty sure they were the last ones off.

We hopped in a taxi and headed to the pier and were on board within 20 minutes of arrival.

First Impressions of the NCL Spirit were good, we liked the layout and the ship seemed pretty nice. We enjoyed our glass of welcome aboard Prosecco and some food at the Blue Lagoon. The menu at the blue Lagoon is limited and we really did not like the location, but it is always good for a snack.

For this cruise, we purchased the Ultimate Beverage Package, which was $1200usd for the both of us. It covers all drinks under $11 except Red Bull, Speciality Coffees and Bottled Water. We made good use of the package, we kept track of all that we purchased and our total purchased under the plan was over $1900usd so we defo made out.

After the Prosecco we headed to our cabin and were very happy with it, the cabin was bigger than we are used to and the balcony was really nice. My only complaint(s) about the cabin were the shower pressure was not good as we are used too and the cabin door had a whistle if we left the balcony open and it was windy out. However it did not ruin our experience at all. It was really nice to leave our balcony door open as much as we could and was nice to wake up to the sound of the sea.

For the rest of the trip we did our normal cruise stuff, lots of drink, lots of eating and lots of chilling. On the Barcelona night, which was the first night for most people on the cruise we met up with the Friends of Dorothy group. Mark was the first we met and the rest of the nights we met the rest of the group that we spent most of our time with. So Mark is from Near Gatwick and was on his own (no one wanted to come with him on this one), Wouter and Harro from Amsterdam, and Peter and Joe from Scotland. We ended up meeting every night and had a great time!

If you want to see what was available to do on the NCL Spirit each day, click here.

I have decided to include some more pictures in this update, so each day in port I took a panoramic from our balcony.

Our first stop was Barcelona. We have been before and decided to keep it low key.


We took the local bus to Las Ramblas and just walked around. We did a little bit of shopping and a little bit of drinking.

Next up was Casablanca. We have been here before and were not impressed. I did get up early for the docking as it was supposed to be super rough as we came into port, but it really was not too bad.


We decided our goal for this port was to go to Starbucks and get the Morocco mug because we felt we had seen it all last time. We took the free shuttle to town as we did not realise how close the train station was to the port. The bus dropped us off in UN Square and other than the people trying to sell us stuff and harassing us it seemed better than last time.

We walked back to the train station, which was about a 5 min walk and went to the Starbucks (thanks Krusty for the final directions). We had a coffee and bought a few mugs and then it was time to hit up Mc Donalds so I could have my Moroccan double cheese burger (I cheated had a Big Mac) We were all ready to head back to the ship and it started chucking it down not just outside but also inside.

So we waited the rain out in he Mc Café as they gave us a free coffee with our purchase. After about 20 min it was all clear and we headed back to the ship.

We left Casablanca for our next port of Funchal. Not really sure why but the journey was NOT smooth and the boat was a rocking for 36 hours until we arrived at Funchal. It did not really affect me, but Bruce, Wouter and Mark were feeling it.


We have been to Funchal many times and whilst it was nice the firs few times, we are kinda over it. So for this trip we decided we would do a tasting and tour at Blandy’s. We invited Mark to join us and he accepted so the three of us headed to Blandy’s for a tour and a tasting which was very nice and then to a little bar for some beers. Since we were in Funchal last a Mc Donalds opened so again I needed a Double Cheese Burger to see if it was different. Other than Israel all have tasted the same.


Our next stop was Tenerife.


We had booked a wine tasting, but it was cancelled so we were on our own here. We waked off the ship and walked around and I found a shop that had some shirts in the window I liked and they had my size so I went home with a few.

We wanted some Tapas so stopped off for Tapas and Wifi. We chose very poorly (the place whilst nice looking the Tapas were disgusting). If you are in Tenerife I suggest you stay away from Lizarran.

After that we stopped off at a place by the port called Manhattan for some Sangria and then headed back to the ship.

After a night at sea we made it to Lanzarote where we had a wine tasting booked through NCL.


We stopped off at 3 places.

La Geria – Nice small winery. Provided a tasting of two wines that were typical of the area.

El Grifo – They have a great museum and did a full tutored tasting of four different wines.

Monumento al Campesino – Had a beer not quite sure why we stopped here.

Lanzarote marked our final port on this cruise and after this was a day at sea and then the end of the cruise in Malaga.

Lanzarote night we met up with all of the guys and Wouter brought his selfie stick so we could try to get a group shot. Now all of us are not the selfie stick types but as he had one (he got for free) we put it to good use:


A brief summary of our onboard experience:

Dining –

La Trattoria – Nice Italian food with a good menu to choose from.

Cagney’s – This is NCL’s steak house had some great steaks but the sides could be improved.

Shogun – We went for lunch. It’s a good value noodle bar at lunch

The Garden Room – We had dinner here all but two nights. Staff was hit or miss, but Nivea was a great server and Lilbeth                        always made sure we never waited for a table.

Raffles Buffet – Pretty good buffet with great omelettes in the morning and goof Chinese and Indian at lunch.

Blue Lagoon – Poor Location but same quality that we are used to. However, NCL could use a better hot wing sauce.

Bars –

Shanghai Bar – Nice Location and Jocelyn made sure our Prosecco was always cold and never empty!

Maharani’s – FOD was here a few of the nights. Great lounge and the bar staff took great care of us.

Champagne Charlie’s – My least favourite due to location, but enjoyed Ian who was the Pianist.

Casino Bar – Not too sure if anyone actually worked there as we always had to wait for drinks.

Casino –

Was not the best at sea, but the staff were friendly especially a guy called Danilo. We have the same surname and his son and I share the same first and last name.

Towel Animals of note…



So that was the cruise…..

Thanks to a schedule change on our flight home we had many hours to kill in Malaga. We got off the ship and headed to the train station and left our bags. We had planned to visit the Wine Museum. We made it there after about a 15 min walk to find it was not fully open. So we visited the ground floor and had a tasting of the local wines, which were pretty good.

The guys had said they may meet us in town if the weather was nice and it was so we had a text from Mark that he Wouter and Harro were chilling at a coffee shop near by. We headed their way and hung out the rest of the day stopping off for some tapas and sangria at a place called La Taberna Gallega, which was inexpensive and tasty.

It was time for us to head to the Airport, so we said our good byes and headed back to the train station with a lil detour a Taco Bell. It was just as I remembered it except they serve beer 🙂

We took the train back to the airport for an amazing €1.80 per person and the journey took roughly 10 minutes. We found the check in counter and found a massive queue waiting to check in. Luckily they opened a priority queue and as soon as check-in opened we were checked in and through security in under 10 min. We chilled in the lounge until boarding time and that was our hols over.

So over all we really enjoyed the cruise and are looking forward to our next one!

Bier Festival, Weekend Getaway

Bierfestival Bruges

Dates: 6 – 8 February 2015

Modes of Travel: Southwest Trains, London Underground, Eurostar, Belgian Rail

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Carol, Iain, Kristin, Dan, Gareth, Shannon and Ollie

Hotel: ibis Brugge Centrum

Day 1 –

We booked this trip to go to the Bierfestival Brugs. We went last year on our own and loved so this year we invited a whole group to go with us. In the end there were nine of us who went.

This trip started at the Champagne bar at St. Pancras for a nice glass of bubbles before getting on the Eurostar to Brussels.

Eurostar check-in can be hit or miss sometimes and today it was crowded as they had three trains leaving close to each other. Once we made it through all of the formalities, we realised that two of our group were in a different carriage and after working with the Eurostar staff, there was nothing we could do as the train was full! We resigned ourselves to the fact we would be separated until Brussels, and whilst that was sad, that meant we had four bottles of bubbles to share amongst the five of us who were near each other. After quick change in Brussels we were all reunited on what Carol referred to as a “Retro” train to Bruges and enjoyed another bottle of bubbles.

We arrived in Bruges and made it to our hotels. In the end our group stayed at five different hotels.

As per usual for Bruges, Bruce and I stayed at the ibis. We normally know what we are going to get when we stay at an ibis and sadly this one in Bruges did not live up to our normal expectations, the only thing that was normal was the smell you get when you walk in. In all other regards, our room sucked! It was small, there was mould on one of the ceilings joists and the shower drained slowly so your feet got a bath!

After check in we popped over one of our favourite bar, Don Quichotte aka the Rice Bar for a few beers and then over to the old Cool Cat (has a new name but no clue what it is) for a few more. By this point we all called it a night as the next day was the bier festival.

Day 2 –

Today is the day we all came for the 8ste Brugs Bierfestival. Bruce and I met Kristin for brunch at Cambrinus. I choose this place for the Spaghetti Bolognaise and the beer cheese, I don’t choose this place for the service as the staff is always a bit rude.

After this we headed to the square met up with everyone for the short walk to the bier festival. After a quick visit to the Delirium booth, I saw a hat I had to have, but Bruce said no as I already have a ton of hats. However, Shannon saw it a different way and when we went back from some Delirium Red, she bought me the hat for no other reason than Bruce said I could not buy it. She said it was the best €10 she has ever spent.

After many many samples, I think the clear favourite of at least Shannon, Carol and myself was the Lindeman’s Pêcheresse.


The Bier Festival got a little crowded so we left and headed to Staminee de Garre. They offer a beer that is only available there. It is called Garre, its ok certainly not mine or Bruce’s favourite, but we take people here as unless you know where it is you would never find it.

It was getting late in the day and I had booked us all in for dinner at a Thai place that we have enjoyed in the past called Sivalai Thai which is just up from our hotel. We have been a few times and always enjoyed the food and the service. It is run by a nice husband and wife team. The wife does all of the cooking and the husband does all of the serving. As usual we were not disappointed and it seemed everyone enjoyed themselves and their food.

After dinner we popped over to a “wine” bar we found last year called One. They were able to seat all of us in a cosy and I do mean cosy booth and we enjoyed five bottles of the house dry white. We chose it as the waitress assured us it was the better of the two white wines available. We realised afterwards it may have changed away from a wine bar since we were last in there and the white wine not as dry as we would have liked, but as we were all enjoying each others company, we dealt with the wine and it was reasonably priced so who can complain.

After the wine we weren’t done just yet so we headed over to the square and were going to go back to the Rice bar but sadly the whole area was packed so we stopped off at the Druids Cellar for a final beer of the night/trip. The place was packed and they were low on draft beer so I got stuck with a Juplier which is one of my least favourite beers, but Ollie assures me if sold in the UK it would be very popular.

After a drink fuelled day we turned in for some sleep.

Day 3 –

Woke up feeling pretty good and headed to Daya Chocolate for some chocolate to take home. This is my favourite chocolate shop, for two reasons, the staff are super friendly and normally remember me plus they are reasonably priced.

I headed to the slowest McDonalds ever for our Breakfast. It’s a new one (wasn’t there in December when we were there) so I hope that is why the service was so slow!

I took it all back to the room and we ate and finished packing. We met everyone at the train station and enjoyed a nice journey back on one of the new Belgian Rail trains to Brussels for our trip back to London. As we passed through Ghent we decided we want to go back and booked a trip for the summer and think for next years bier festival, we may stay in Ghent and just go to Bruges for a day trip.

We really enjoyed spending time with everyone and hope they enjoyed it too!