A Travellerspoint blog

January 2018

Yorkshire

all seasons in one day 10 °C
View Eagles on IainT's travel map.

Team Romania

Team Romania

January is a planning month here at Bread and Tea World Headquarters.

Most months are, if truth be told, but during the other months I’ll usually be putting the plans into effect as well as making new ones. January is usually a stay-at-home month.

The first plan for 2018 was laid a while ago and is now all set to roll. I’m off to Yorkshire for the first weekend in February. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it. Moors and hills and historic places.

Reality check! It’s Bradford and Sheffield.

Sheffield - Millennium Square

Sheffield - Millennium Square

Junior’s ice hockey team is off for a “double header” road trip. Leeds Universities on Saturday night (they play in Bradford) and then Sheffield Universities on Sunday.

Sheffield - Victoria Quays

Sheffield - Victoria Quays

As one of the stalwart supporters I decided to tag along - by train and not on the team bus.

I’ve been to Bradford before, but only saw the rugby league stadium. Leeds will be completely new - I change trains twice there, so a bit of sightseeing is part of the plan.

I’ve been to Sheffield several times before, so I’ve been in no rush to go back. It’s a big ice hockey city, so I suppose it was inevitable. At least I know where not to eat and sleep. Last time I visited I did find a good place to eat, and I’m trying out the Novotel for size this time. Hopefully it will be quiet on a Sunday night.

Riga '15

Riga '15

I do find myself questioning my judgement about a trip like this. I suppose it’s a good time to be getting away from the house for a few days and have a long weekend away from work. December and January are often tough months at work with a VAT return to sort out as well as year end accounts and tax returns. The returns have to be lodged by 31 January.

Ice Sheffield

Ice Sheffield

It’s an important trip for his team as well. They’re on top of the North section of the British Universities Ice Hockey League. If they can win both these games, they have 2 home games to finish off the league fixtures. Based on their games against Leeds and Sheffield in Edinburgh, they’ll be optimistic about the first and more nervous of the second.

Eagles Huddle

Eagles Huddle

They don’t get many travelling fans. Many of the players are overseas students so they have no family in Scotland. Many of their friends are also students and can’t fork out cash for a jaunt to England. It's a good reason for folk like me to go if they can

Posted by IainT 13:08 Archived in England Tagged sport leeds sheffield bradford Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (5)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

2 Minutes

2 Minutes

Sports travel is my last category.

2017 wasn’t a big year for sports travel. I’d given up my involvement with ice hockey’s governing body, so that cut out the trips to Newcastle.
I did go to Belfast for ice hockey in April to see a Team GB game in an IIHF World Championship tournament there. I’d been party to the decision - a bit controversial - to bid to take the tournament to Belfast. I was curious to see how it turned out.

Team GB v Lithuania

Team GB v Lithuania

Team GB won it and were promoted, so it was a real success on the ice. I’d love to know how the financial side worked out, but I don’t have access to the information any more.

In October I went as far as Glasgow (aye “wow!”) to watch rugby - Warriors against Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Again I was driven partly by curiosity. It’s the first season in the Pro 14 competition for the two South African teams. Glasgow won a slightly one sided game on a very cold evening. I was glad I’d gone for a curry at Mother India’s before the game. Inner heat.

Mother India's

Mother India's

I tried to set up horse racing trips occasionally, but life seemed to get in the way. I’ll have to try harder in 2018. Paris and Dublin are definitely on the wish list.

I had a several days trips around Scotland to go hiking and hill walking, mostly in Perthshire which is easily accessible for me by train. I enjoyed them all.

Ben y Vrackie

Ben y Vrackie

Probably the most memorable (not in Perthshire, of course) was hiking up Coire Ardair to view the magnificent cliffs of Creag Meagaidh. It was spectacular in late March with plenty snow still lying.

Coire Ardair

Coire Ardair

I also tackled Goat Fell on Arran, but had to turn back close to the summit. My rickety old knees were causing me problems and I didn’t want to be phoning for mountain rescue to get me down. A day out on Arran is always wonderful however, even if it’s just for the ferry trips.

Goat Fell

Goat Fell

Time to choose a winner. I’m going to go for the hike to Coire Ardair. I was so lucky with the weather.

Coire Ardair

Coire Ardair

Between that, the spectacular scenery, the hard exercise and the clear mountain air, it’s a winning combination!

Reward!

Reward!

Posted by IainT 13:26 Archived in Scotland Tagged landscapes mountains lakes snow boats scotland ferries hockey belfast calmac islandlife best_of_2017 Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (4)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

Restaurants this time...

My eating out habits changed in 2017 as well as lots of other things - being single I’m looking for a different kind of restaurant experience as compared with being in company.

The good news is I had plenty of highlights to choose from again! As usual, I’m only choosing from places where I’ve eaten while travelling.

Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre/ Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mor. I loved relaxing there, especially when the weather allowed me to eat outside. The staff are friendly (they’re islanders, after all) and the food is good. Best of all is the serenity of sitting there surrounded by nature and wonderful scenery on a quiet island where nothing is ever busy and traffic is close to non-existent.

Local Lamb

Local Lamb


Palmi Börek Sarayı
in Girne (Kıbrıs). It’s a pastry/bakery place, as you’d find in Turkey. I bought my breakfast simit there most mornings - to take away. One day I had lunch there - börek and ayran. Just delicious. It’s a tourist free environment, so don’t expect the staff to speak anything other than Turkish.

Börek

Börek

Mado in Istanbul. Did you ever just go into a place you like the look of and it turns out to be a brilliant move? Then afterwards you hear from friends that it has a “top” reputation? That was me in Istanbul. I had a lovely (but basic) dinner in Can, and Mado is almost next door. It’s a bakery and pastry type of place. My baklava with Turkish ice cream and Turkish tea was fabulous. Add to that the location across the street from the Blue Mosque... anyway, a real highlight of the gastronomic year.

Baklava & Dondurma

Baklava & Dondurma

The Colonsay Hotel. The dinner I had there was memorable for sure. The first reason is that I had to cycle there - about 3 miles. The wind and rain started about halfway. I walked into the (quite elegant) restaurant looking as if I’d been through a hedge backwards. The main reason is how good the food was. I had oysters grown on the island as a starter, and beef raised on the island as a main course. Both were just wonderful. The service was good too - they were kind enough to give me a table in a corner beside a heater so that I could dry out gently and with a little privacy.

Local Oysters

Local Oysters

Little Wing in Belfast. My brief visit to Belfast and Derry in April seemed to involve very little to remember as far as food is concerned - unless I think of how mediocre the breakfast was at the Ibis. So, my pizza at Little Wing was a real highlight. Nice place, friendly service and very good pizza. I’ll be back next time I’m in the city.

Pizza Lunch!

Pizza Lunch!

Le Petit Riad in Ouarzatate. I’d chosen the half board option and it was a huge success. The dinners were superb - Berber cuisine and always a tagine, but varied and delicious. The service was great too - friendly and attentive. The dining area is a real joy to the eye as well.

Aubergine Starter

Aubergine Starter

Habous in Ouarzazate. Habous is top of the list in my Lonely Planet guide book, so I tried it for lunch on my first day in town. It happened to be 24 December. It also happened to be 18⁰c and feeling warmer than that in the sun - so I sat outside. It was excellent and I came back to eat there twice. Being on your own and a long way from home at that time of year has the potential to make life a little lonely. It’s experiences like enjoying a lovely lunch outside in the sun which reminded me I was the lucky one and to be grateful for it all.

Habous

Habous

Afriquia Gaz, Bouzeroual. A roadside service station in the Drâa Valley, in the Moroccan Sahara. I stopped to use the toilet and saw they have a cafe. I asked the man behind the counter what was available (knowing what the answer would be). Yes... “tagine”! “What’s in the tagine?” I was bold enough to ask. “Meat” was the answer. I was bold a second time and ordered it. Then I went outside to sit and wait for my food. Now, having spent quite a while that morning driving through the Drâa Valley - rugged desert mountains flanking a forest of palm trees on either side of the river - I should have been ready. But looking up after I sat down was the first time I noticed the view which would accompany my service station lunch. In front of me was Djebel bou Zeroual (1,594m - 5,229 ft), the ksar/village of Bouzeroual and the palm forest of the valley. Stunning. The tagine was good too, but it’s not always just about the food.

Afriquia

Afriquia

This year’s winner? It has been a tough choice. Any of the places I’ve chosen for the short list would be a worthy winner.

In the end the award goes to that service station - not for the food, but for the view!

Lunch View

Lunch View

Posted by IainT 12:14 Archived in Scotland Tagged food scotland ireland istanbul morocco cyprus belfast kibris ouarzazate lismore islandlife colonsay girne best_of_2017 Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (3)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

Hotels now...

I think I only stayed in three hotels during 2017. When I visited Belfast in April I stayed in an Ibis, but it was a nightmare - noise from other (drunk) residents at 3am. I also stayed in the Ibis Ouarzazate. Quiet. Comfortable. Great value (£22 including breakfast - which wasn’t available when I left at 5am, oddly enough).

Ibis Ouarzazate

Ibis Ouarzazate

Then I stayed in the Casablanca Novotel... twice. It was delightful. I’d stayed there for a couple of nights in 2009, so as well as being a lovely place in a good location, I enjoyed that sense of familiarity.

I stayed in apartments a few times - in Oslo and Girne, and on Colonsay. The one in Oslo was particularly memorable.

Airbnb

Airbnb

Bed and breakfasts - I had a lovely one on Islay and a quirky (in an enjoyable way) one on Lismore. I stayed in another one in Roy Bridge on my way to Eigg - it was very good but nothing unusual or memorable.

Eigg... Yes... That was an unusual place. I loved it. No frills and the toilet was 10 yards away across the field, but an experience.

Eigg

Eigg

Then there was the Terrace Guesthouse in Istanbul - an officially designated Special Place which I hadn’t visited since 2008. It was fantastic to go back.

Ayia Sofia from the Terrace - Istanbul

Ayia Sofia from the Terrace - Istanbul

My previous experience of riads (Marrakech and Fes in 2009) is very positive. Le Petit Riad in Ouarzazate didn’t let me down. I spent 5 nights there - plenty time for something to go wrong, but it didn’t.

Room 1 - Berber Thunderbox

Room 1 - Berber Thunderbox

The same can be said of the Riad Lamane in Zagora - a 3 night stay.

I find myself trying to decide between the “caravan” on Eigg and the Terrace Guesthouse. Breakfast with a view of the Bosphorus, or with a view of Ardnamurchan.

The View

The View

The Blue Mosque on your doorstep, or a herd of cows.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

And the winner - in a photo finish - is the Terrace Guesthouse.

Posted by IainT 12:51 Archived in Scotland Tagged oslo scotland ireland istanbul morocco norway cyprus belfast casablanca kibris ouarzazate zagora lismore islay eigg islandlife colonsay nesodden girne best_of_2017 Comments (1)

Best of 2017 (2)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

This category is for transport other than flights - the Edinburgh Airport buses and the occasional taxi don’t count!

I had my share of Calmac ferry trips - again... this has become a trend! Eigg, Islay, Colonsay and Arran were on my island hopping adventure list. I always enjoy them. The one from Mallaig to Eigg was memorable for the perfect weather, but so too were the Port Askaig (Islay) to Kennacraig and Colonsay to Oban mini cruises.

Bliss

Bliss

I also used the cute wee ferry to Lismore from Port Appin. 5 minutes each way. I even used the Western Ferries service from Dunoon to Gourock.

Firth of Clyde

Firth of Clyde

On a more exotic note I used a couple of ferry services when I visited Oslo. Scottish ferry trips are usually accompanied by dramatic scenery, but crossing Oslofjord between Nesodden and the city was spectacular in a different way. I loved it.

B10 from Akers brygge

B10 from Akers brygge

I used the train services in Oslo and Casablanca - but just the airport services. I took the train in Bavaria in January - Munich Airport to Ingolstadt. German train journeys seldom disappoint, but I’ve had many in the last 6 years so they aren’t especially memorable!

I took the Scotrail train from Fort William to Mallaig to get the Eigg ferry - the line made famous by the Harry Potter books. It is spectacular. I had a number of good awaydays by train around Scotland over the summer as well.

Scotrail's 8:30 to Mallaig

Scotrail's 8:30 to Mallaig

On business I took the Transpennine Express train to Lockerbie - you see some good scenery on that journey, plus it’s fast and comfortable. Last but not least (as far as trains go) is my day out in Derry courtesy of NI Railways.

I had a rented car (Renault Clio) in Ouarzazate and rented bikes on Colonsay and Lismore (makes unknown). The Clio became a friend. She kept me safe from other Moroccan road users.

Road Home

Road Home

The bike on Lismore was fun - in a way. It was the first time I’ve cycled with a full rucksack (20kg) on my back. Tough going.

I took a dolmuṣ (twice) on Kıbrıs. A new experience and a fun one. Ultra cheap too.

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

I’m really spoiled for choice in this category. The decision came down to a choice between that warm, dusty trip by dolmuṣ between Girne and Gazimaǧusa and the cool, sophisticated commute in Oslo.

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo’s the winner.

Posted by IainT 13:19 Archived in Scotland Tagged boats trains oslo scotland paris france germany ferries ireland transport morocco norway cyprus bavaria belfast casablanca kibris derry eigg calmac lockerbie ingolstadt islandlife colonsay famagusta nesodden gazimaǧusa girne best_of_2017 Comments (0)

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