Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Road Trip Part Four: The Rock.

Unfortunately the Hotel Alexandra did not live up to its own hype. It was very nicely decorated and the staff were very friendly and all but it was a little bit style over substance in my opinion, and for £167 per night, was not particularly good value.

View from Hotel grounds.

Hotel Lounge.

Breakfast room.

After spending 2 nights in the 'wild' we were looking forward to a nice scrub down, a fluffy dressing gown (as specified on their website) and a night in front of the shit box in our room. However it was not to be . . .

Ring Ring.
Reception: Hello Reception, how can I help?
Me: Hello, your welcome pack says you do room service, but there's no menu.
Reception: No menu?
Me: No. It only has the restaurant menu, can you tell us what you do for room service?
Reception: I don't know. I'll find out and call you back.
Me: Ok, thanks.

Ten minutes later

Ring Ring.
Me: Hello?
Reception: Hello, I just spoke to the chef and we can do room service.
Me: Yes, it says that in the welcome pack but what food is it?
Reception: I'll bring a menu up.
Me: Thank you.

4 minutes later.

Knock knock.
Wig: Hello?
Young Girl: Here's the menu for the restaurant.
Wig: We have that already, we were after the room service menu.
Young Girl: Oh, sorry. I don't have one of those.
Wig: Could you try and find one.
Young Girl: Ok.
Wig: Thanks. And can you also find out why we don't have any dressing gowns.
Young Girl: Yes, ok.

A very long time later.

Ring Ring.
Me: Hello?!
Reception: Hello, we have a shortage of dressing gowns today so we don't have any for you, I'm sorry.
Me: Oh, ok. Did you manage to find out about the room service menu though?
Reception: Yes, you can various salads, mussels, fishcakes or a sandwich.
Me: Right then. Can you tell me what the fish cakes come with?
Reception: I don't know.
Me: Can you find out? . . .
Reception: Yes, I'll call the chef and call you back.
Me: Fine.

God knows when.

Ring Ring.
Me: Hello . . .
Reception: Hello, the fish cakes come on their own.
Me: I'll just have a salad then. Thanks.

What a bloody palava . . . . .

However, the less than impressive night at the hotel was followed by a most spectacular day. The Wig and I booked onto a Fossil tour organised by the Mary Anning Fossil Museum which I was desperate to do before we left Lyme Regis. It cost £10 for 3 hours and all we knew was that we had to meet at the museum by midday. Obviously we stuck out like sore thumbs amongst the group being totally underdressed for 3 hours raking though sludge on a beach, white plimsol's are not good fossiling footwear, and we were the only people not to have our own fossil hammers. Very rookie . . .

Prime Fossil Hunting ground

Awesome Fossil Guide. Amazing hair.


After a fairly detailed talk about the fossils in the area and a description of what to look out for, we were all set loose along the shoreline. I don't consider myself a particularly competitive person but I really, REALLY wanted to find something. The Guide had told us that we would be quite lucky if we did find anything though as the sunny weather was not good fossiling weather (rain is better as it uncovers the fossils) and also that it was just after the school holiday so most of the surface fossils would have already been found and taken. Undeterred, I strayed slightly from the group to look amongst the wetter sand and lo and behold, there it was. Sitting all alone with a strange marking down the side, similar to what we had been told to look out for, the rock. I picked up the rock and sheepishly showed the guide to see if he thought there might be something in it. He thought there might be so gave the rock a few taps with his hammer and the rock opened up, revealing ammonite fossils that have not been seen by anyone else in the whole planet for over a 100 million years. This thought makes my brain want to explode. But also made me feel very special, not to mention very excited, that I found it.

The two halves of my rock.

Wig's booty.

So Lyme Regis really was a great place to stop off, I can honestly say that finding that rock was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone and everyone as it was completely fascinating and well worth the money. Hopefully finding the rock is sign of good luck for the future, I love all that sort of stuff. We'd had such a good day that we were no way ready for the holiday to end quite yet, so a quick sniff around on the iPad led us to the little village of Wedmore where we booked a room for the night at The George Inn.

Cheerio Lyme Regis, hello Wedmore.

To be continued . . . . 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Road Trip Part Three: The big secret

After another cold, slightly damp night sleep on the Airstream kitchen table The Wig and I departed Happy Days with no plan other than NOT to go back to Hackney. We needed at least one night in luxury, it was a holiday after all, but in order to do this we needed some modern technology. So we set off in search of Wi-Fi and ended up in Poole.

Adios Wimborne.

Poole was another place I had never been too and another place with, sadly, not much to see, thankfully though our old friend Hotel Du Vin saved the day with a delicious Mocha and free Wi-Fi so we soon had an idea of what we wanted to do. We would drive to Lyme Regis via Bridport and stay in the Hotel Alexandra. At £160 per night this would be our most expensive night of the holiday so far but The Hotel Alexandra has won a lot of awards and also made a point of mentioning the dressing gowns in each room. I would have paid £160 for the dressing gown alone at this point. Sleeping in a cold Daddy Long Leg nest will do this to a person

We arrived in Bridport at around 1pm and this ended up being one of my favorite places of the trip. It's essentially a pretty little area of shops (not too many big chains I'm glad to say) but with the most amazing beach and coastline I've ever seen in the UK. Apparently posh cook Hugh Fearnly-Whittigstall comes here a lot and who can blame him. On a sunny day, it really is a beautiful place and well worth a visit. Bridport also had a couple of juicy antique shops, the first of the trip, which made me extremely happy. One more vase for the wedding hoard, what a great (and sunny) day this was turning out to be!

After some very delicious scampi and chips we set back off on the road to Lyme Regis. Another stunning seaside town, again seeming to comprise of one main street, and like Bridport, with interesting independent shops along it, it was a real treat. I think it was at this moment The Wig declared his anger about missing out on a lot of lovely places in England and was really annoyed with the people who knew about these places and had been keeping them a secret for him all these years. Poor Wig. Although he did have a point. Why had we never been to these places before?!

The most exciting thing about being in Lyme Regis was the chance that we may find fossils. I've never gone fossil hunting before but have been wanting to do it for a long time. I have no idea why. On arrival to Lyme Regis we soon realised this was basically Fossil Town. Mary Anning, one of the first and most prolific fossil collectors, made the majority of her discoveries along the coastline here well over 100 years ago. There were fossil's for sale, a fossil shop, a fossil museum, fossil logos EVERYWHERE and a fossil tour that we booked onto for the following morning. The Wig didn't seem particularly keen to be doing the fossil tour as he was more interested in going to Hix's  fish restaurant, but little did he know, the next day would turn out to be the highlight of the whole trip.

To be continued . . . 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Road Trip Part Two: Wet welly

One of my earliest memories is of staying in a hired caravan on a farm in Scotland with my parents (prior to my mother disappearing off with the village petrol station attendant on his Goldwing) and my elder brother. I remember it being very cold, very wet and very grey. I also remember waking up early one morning and being desperate for the toilet. The caravan did not have a latrine so we were invited to use the bathroom in the nearby farmhouse. Being a small and somewhat lazy child there was no way I was going to get dressed, trudge all the way to the farmhouse though the field in the freezing cold drizzle, so instead I improvised with what I could find inside the caravan. On the floor by the door was the perfect receptacle for a 5 year old's early morning number 1. So I dropped my jersey pyjama bottoms, squatted over one of my fathers Wellington boots, then swiftly went back to bed. It was a short while later that I awoke to the sound of my father shrieking at the discovery of my morning gift to him. In retrospect I really should have done it in my mothers wellington but hind sight is a wonderful thing. The only good thing to come out of our Scottish Caravan holiday was that we never stayed in  a caravan again. The following year Dad took us to Florida. What a relief.

So to say I had not had a very good experience with staying in a field would be an understatement, however I was willing to have another go, hence the decision to book 2 nights in an Airstream. Needless to say as soon as we arrived at the site, the old memory of being freezing and not being able to go to the toilet properly flooded back.

The thing about Happy Days is that I have taken quite a flattering picture of our accommodation. There were 2 other Airstream's directly next to us and apparently throughout the summer the field we were in had been apparently been full of mobile caravans. Shudder. It was fairly cosy inside but quite dated, very cold at night and full of daddy Long Legs. Another child hood nemesis. You were also not advised to use the toilet at the back as Big Kev was not keen on emptying it, you had to make sure you turned the gas canisters off that fueled the oven in case they exploded (crumbs) and you had to make the bed up at night which was like sleeping on a kitchen table. Sorry, it WAS sleeping on a kitchen table. A very ingenious use of space I'm sure, but not really my idea of a holiday. A night in an Airstream will set you back £80 per night plus £10 for the use of a mobile fire pit which wont produce any heat but makes a great smoke screen if you don't want to see the neighbours.

After a fairly bad night sleep and prison like shower the next day in the communal shower, we jumped in the car and headed off to Corfe Castle, home not only to a massive juicy caterpillar but also to some rather remarkable sights.

Corfe Castle is another place which doesn't look like a real village. The main focal point is some rather impressive ruins on top of a hill, over 1000 years old,  which are surrounded by some very quaint houses and shops. Its quite touristy but well worth a visit particularly if you are a National Trust member as its free to go to the castle. Sweet.

After a quick Ploughmans and Ginger Beer, we then jumped onto the steam train at Corfe and went out to Swanage. 

The station and trains that run along this line are all restored by train enthusiasts that volunteer their time and expertise for free. Its like being in a giant train set. The journey to Swanage took about 15 minutes through some really lovely countryside and when you get to Swanage, you can see the sea!

After a cream tea and the short ride back to Corfe to collect the car we then popped our noses into Studland Bay, one of the UK's most beautiful beaches. I had been here before a few years ago but it was even more amazing than I had remembered. You just have to watch out for the nudists.

By the time we got back to 'Dee Dee' we were pretty worn out but still found time to start work on the Airfix kits we had bought at Beaulieu and have a swifty by the fire pit under the full moon. Maybe this camping lark isn't so bad after all. Or maybe it is.

To be continued . . .

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Road Trip Part One: The Unbloggage

I'd been feeling a bit 'blogged' up so to speak during the last few weeks, and have not had the energy or inclination to write much on my blog. I didn't really know why, but it turned out all I needed was a little time away from home and change of scene to loosen the old blog shaft.

The Wig and I had taken two weeks off work for a holiday, although neither of us had managed to find anywhere we particularly wanted to go, so last Monday with 14 free days on our hands we opted for a  few nights away in the bottom of England. We booked 3 nights away, which eventually turned into 9 and had a really smashing time. The essential factors in making the trip possible were:

1 x Suzuki 'Auntie' Ignis Car including The Wig for driving.
1 x Tom Tom Sat Nav.
1 x iPad for planning the next days destination.
2 x Bag Haribo Fangtastic's.
1 x National Trust Membership.

The entire trip ended up costing £90 in fuel (good old / cheap Auntie) and approx £1400 in hotels, breakfasts, drinks and dinners. Between two people I really don't think this is too bad for a 9 day holiday and I'm really happy we decided to spend our hard earn pennies in Blighty this time round.  I think it's very important in these tough times to try and help out our poor flaccid economy once and a while.

Since The Wig was Driving Boss, I was Music Boss, and my top 4 driving CD's were:

Glen Campbell - 'Ghost on a Canvas'. His latest and apparently last album (due to Alzheimer's).
Duran Duran - 'Greatest Hits'. An oldie but a goodie.
Turin Brakes - 'Outbursts'. Marvellous.
Jane Eyre - 'Original Motion Soundtrack'. Ideal for driving through the New Forest.

Our first stopover of the trip was at a place called The Kings Head in Hursley at £90 per night. We reached it at around 6pm after taking what seemed like centuries getting out of London. We live totally in the wrong postcode for a trip down to England's Bottom. Before we got to the Kings Head however, we made a quick stop off into Winchester, apparently one of England's most beautiful cities. To say we were underwhelmed would be a fair comment to make I think. It looked like any other Cathedral City to me and believe me, I've seen a few. Winchester's only saving grace is that it is the home to Arthur's Round Table and is claimed by some to actually be Camelot. I know, amazing.

After the slight disappointment of Winchester things did not immediately improve on our arrival at The Kings Head. On being shown our Twin bedded room (?) we soon discovered there were no towels, not the kind of service The Wig and I would expect from a 4 star AA establishment, but since we later discovered it was the Landlords first night as the new owner we let him off.

We didn't eat at the Kings Head that night, instead opting for several drinks in the beer garden then rather a lot of Haribo's and a pack of Pickled Onion Monster Munch in our room that night, but the English Breakfast the next morning was delicious. 

Before we set off after breakfast we did a quick tour of Hursley on foot which took approximately 4 minutes. Hursley is essentially one road. There is a church, a butchers, a fancy chimney and a nice bus stop that was donated to the village / road by someone to mark the Queens 50th Jubilee. God Save the Queen.

After strapping in to Auntie and popping on a CD we soon realised we didn't really have a plan for the day. All we knew was that we had to be in Wimborne, Dorset at 6pm as we had a date with an Airsteam!

The Kings Head staff had not been too forthcoming with suggestions for our day, Monkey World being the hot spot of choice for Hersley residents. I love monkey's as much as the next person, maybe even a little bit more than the next person, however it's not what I go to the Hampshire / Dorset border for. So we set off on the road and decided just to see where we ended up. And I'm so glad we did. (Soz Monkey World...).

Our journey took us through the beautiful village of Beaulieu, which is the most perfect example of a chocolate box village I've ever seen. In fact it was so perfect that I'm not sure it wasn't a film set.

But apart from the beautiful village Beaulieu is home to the Beaulieu National Motor Museum, House and Gardens. I can't believe Monkey World knocked this place off the top of the list!

If you like cars, old houses, gardens, spy's and knocked down Abbey's then you really should take a trip to Beaulieu. It is astonishing, and I don't bandy that word around often. At first I thought the £17 entrance fee was a bit steep but it really is great value for money and there is such a lot to see. Considering this is  still owned and run by the Beaulieu family and hasn't had to be sold off or the collection split up it really is something worth supporting by visiting. The family are clearly very forward thinking as not only do they have a monorail to take you around the House and grounds, they also have James Bond and Top Gear exhibition's on at the moment which were definitely worth seeing. It really isn't some stuffy old house and museum, its amazing and everyone should go for a jolly good day out. Rah!

James Bond Underwater Car

Top Gear Robin Reliant Space Shuttle


Fast (huge) cars.

Beautiful Beaulieu House which you can go into.

The site of Britain's largest Abbey until horrid old Henry VIII smashed it down and stole all the booty. What a rotter!

Once we were totally full up on old cars and history we jumped back in the car and carried on the journey to Dorset via a Honeycomb Ice cream in Lymington. 

I don't mean to be rude to the people of Lymington, but I'm afraid, this is another place which I don't see what the fuss is about. Much like I had heard how great Winchester was, I have heard a lot about Lymington and I was a bit disappointed. Thank God for the Honeycomb Ice cream.

After driving though some stunning scenery, we finally arrived at Wimborne at around 7pm. 

The New Forest

Somewhere in Dorset.

The Wig and I had booked 2 nights in 'Dee Dee' an old American Airstream at the Happy Days Camp Site run by the very friendly Big Kev, Jenny and Small Kev. Big Kev met us on arrival and showed us to our temporary home.

To be continued . . 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Items I didn't know I needed until I got them.

Another weekend, another Eggs Benedict. And another reason why I should get my mouth sewn up quick smart. I'm a real sucker for an 'Eggy Benny' and not much is more of a let down in the world than a bad one. This morning, The Wig and I fancied sampling the wares of a new restaurant, The Bishopsgate Kitchen, which has finally opened in Bishopsgate opposite Liverpool Street Station. It has been under construction for months and I think few people were more excited about it opening than me. Its owned and run by the people that own Benugo's and the restaurant is built within the Bishopsgate Institute. I have well and truly exhausted the pretty much all food options in this area so the chance of trying somewhere new was a very thrilling prospect indeed.

However, as far as food is concerned, it was a bit of a wet flannel in the face. Or rather a  raw egg in the mouth. Gag.

Clearly a lot of thought and consideration has gone into the design of the place. A lot of attention to detail seems to have gone into the choice of crockery used, the tables and chairs, linen, there are Dualit toasters everywhere for you to make your own toast, and big old fancy hams dangling down etc etc. Also, the staff were super friendly and amenable, however, the food was really not very good. At all. Its a classic case of style over substance. I've eaten a lot of Egg's Benedict's, lets be honest, you don't get a 'figure' like mine by choosing the Granola from the menu, so I like to think I'm a bit of an expert on them. And unfortunately the Bishopsgate Kitchens offering was the worst I've ever had. The main 3 problem areas were:

Hollandaise Sauce - Way too much.
Ham - Parma Ham. Unbelievable.
Egg- RAW.

As I said, the staff were very good and did replace the raw breakfast with a cooked one but by the time my cooked one arrived, The Wig had eaten his. This meant we were totally out of breakfast sync which is a terrible start to the day. Not to make too big a deal out of it, it pretty much ruined the whole day as an out of sync meal is almost as bad as a bowl of Granola. And it's for this reason, I am going to score The Bishopsgate Kitchen 4 bouts of salmonella out of a possible 10.

We had planned to go to Kew Gardens for the day but since the runny egg threw such a spanner in the works, we decided not to go and pootled around Brick Lane for a bit instead. Probably the most un-Kew Garden like place we could have chosen. However, the day did manage to get saved by some quite odd purchases of various items I didn't know I needed until I got them. It's almost impossible for me not to pick up some item or another whilst I'm out and about. I pretty much love buying stuff and at the moment, I'm really really loving buying stuff and justifying it that it might be used for the wedding. Todays haul consisted of:

1. Some old lace. A bit annoying actually as last week I paid a stupid amount in an eBay bidding war for some Antique lace. This piece was £1.75. I'm going to use it to tie around the old bottles I've been collecting to put flowers in.

2. Some old doilies. £50 p each - Bargain. I'll just sprinkle these around somewhere. Doilies at a wedding are as essential as a drunken abusive relative at a wedding apparently.

3. Gold Coloured Oak leaf broach. £4.50. Not exactly wedding related, but I liked it anyway.

4. A Portugese Broom. £12 from Labour and Wait. At first glance one might not see the relationship between this broom and the most special day of my life so I shall explain. I have amassed so much detritus in the last few weeks (china planters, glass bottles, cake stands, birds nests, small white birds etc etc) that one of the few cupboards I own is now bursting at the seams. This has meant the broom has been relegated to temporarily leaning against the kitchen wall. Therefore, if I'm going to have to look at a broom for the next 363 days, I may as well look at a nice one. Make sense? Good.

5. An iPad2. C/o The Wig. This is really the biggest surprise of all the items I didn't know I needed etc etc. Totes Amazeballs. Well done The Wig.