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since 18/07/2003


Salina Turda, Turda 13/08/2017

A Unique Attraction in Transylvania

Salina Turda, Turda Introduction February in northern Romania can be very cold but when we visited earlier this year there was very little snow, except for on the mountains but it was very cold, with temperatures plunging to an eye watering -25 degrees. We had planned to cram quite a lot into a 4 day trip (weather permitting) and one of the attractions on our list was Salina Turda, a salt mine in Transylvania that is now a museum. It was only a few miles from our base in Cluj-Napoca (Romania’s second largest city after Bucharest) and there were several excursions advertised. However as we were with a local friend he assure us that we could visit this place very cheaply if we did it on our own rather than as an organised excursion and on reflection this was definitely the best way. The cheapest method of getting to Turda turned out to be on a Fany bus. These are small minibuses that you flag down and book as a group. Since the salt mine is a popular destination we were advised to hang around the market area where the Fany buses gather. After finding a bus the driver then wrote the destination on a piece of paper and displayed it it in his window and we then waited just a few minutes for some other groups of people to join us. The total cost of the 20 minute journey cost us less than £2 each in local currency as the total fare was split equally between us all (around 10 people). As you leave Cluj-Napoca the road to Turda takes you through the foothills of the Carpathian mountains and it’s a ...

Riviera Hotel, Weymouth 17/07/2017

The once grand Riviera Hotel in Weymouth

Riviera Hotel, Weymouth Introduction The Riviera Hotel is a very prominent hotel in Weymouth, situated at the far eastern end of the resort known as Bowleaze Cove. It’s large size, distinctive shape and bright white exterior ensures that it it can be seen from many miles away. I stayed here for 3 nights over the Easter weekend in 2017 (Friday 14th April - Sunday 16th April). paying a total of £210 for a double room for the 3 nights. Why the Riviera? We wanted to book a short break over the Easter period but initially were not too fussy where we wanted to go although Weymouth was on the list of possibilities as my partner had been there previously but I hadn’t. The Riviera regularly came up on the booking sites I checked and looked ideal for a short stay but we kept changing our minds. Then a few weeks before Easter some friends relocated to Devon so we decided we could visit them from a base in Weymouth so I checked the booking sites again and found little else other than the Riviera was now available for those dates so panicked into thinking we needed to book it there and then or risk finding nothing it was booked. First Impressions The Riviera hotel was very easy to find, my sat nav more or less took me straight into the car park but our immediate concern was that it seemed to be much further away from the town centre than we realised. From the outside the hotel looked lovely and enjoyed a very nice location overlooking the curved bay with the sandy beach of Bowleaze Cove immediately ...

Frampton Marsh, Boston 11/06/2017

Fabulous Frampton Marsh

Frampton Marsh, Boston The RSPB Nature Reserve at Frampton Marsh in South East Lincolnshire has become my favourite RSPB reserve in the last couple of years although I first visited here long before the land was acquired by the RSPB back in 2009. Where is it? Frampton Marsh is situated about 4 miles from the town of Boston in Lincolnshire on The Wash. It enjoys a very rural location surrounded by farmland and pretty villages with distant views across The Wash to the North Norfolk Coast. The Reserve Frampton Marsh is primarily a wetland nature reserve created by managing the water levels to form a suitable habitat for breeding, migrant and wintering birds. The Wash is an internationally important area for birds and this reserve provides a safe haven and an easy place to watch wildlife. It has a visitor centre where friendly staff are available to advise on the day’s highlights as well as offering practical advice on bird identification. The visitor centre displays a board listing the bird species seen on the reserve along with information on mammals and some of the more unusual insect sightings. There are floor to ceiling glass windows which overlook the water and this is an excellent place to watch the ducks from. There are even telescopes and binoculars available to look through if you don’t have your own and there are bird tables allowing close up views of feeding birds. The visitor centre also has toilets, including one with disabled access and provides hot drinks (tea, ...

Britannia Leeds - Millgreen View Ring Road, Leeds 05/06/2017

Cheap but not very cheerful

Britannia Leeds - Millgreen View Ring Road, Leeds It was back in February, earlier this year when I had a one night stay at the Britannia hotel in Leeds. I was attending a 60th birthday party, which fell the day after we returned from a holiday abroad *flying back to East Midlands) and we had made no arrangements, more or less deciding we would just drive to the party and back from our home in Sheffield. It is only 40 miles away and would have been an option but on the morning of the event I had a quick look around at the hotel booking sites to see if there was a room available anywhere in Leeds. Why Britannia? There was no loyalty involved in booking this hotel at all. My only recollection of a Britannia hotel was one I once stayed in near Manchester Airport many years ago. I recall it was a bit run down and nothing special but like this one it was cheap. So basically, the decision was made purely on availability, price and location. The only other options that came up were highly priced city centre hotels with no parking available, which would have potentially meant a train journey and more expenses but these were then dismissed as not practical once we had realised we wouldn’t be able to make the last train home unless we left the event very early. The Britannia stood out because it was a ridiculously cheap at £40 for the night for a double room, had free parking and it was located right on the ring road not too far from the venue and within a taxi ride there and back. Furthermore being on the ring road and on ...

Ibis Liverpool City Centre, Liverpool 02/07/2016

An ideal location in Liverpool

Ibis Liverpool City Centre, Liverpool Introduction We booked a 2 night stay at the Ibis Liverpool Centre Albert Dock in Liverpool over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. It was a friend’s 50th birthday and she’d decided to spend it in Liverpool so several of us booked hotels in the Albert Dock area. Friends were coming for the weekend from all over the country so the Albert Dock was a good option as there are many different hotels in this area to suit different tastes and budgets. We booked the Ibis early in the year and got a decent price on paying around £120 for a double room for 2 nights on a room only basis (no breakfast). The weekend was right in between 2 holidays so we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on accommodation. First impressions We arrived in Liverpool by train and walked from Lime Street station to the hotel. The Albert Dock is well sign posted but it’s a good 10 minute walk from the station. The Ibis is a modern, red brick built building that is set just back from the Docks, which are on the opposite side of the main road that runs along its front, so don’t expect a water view from any of its rooms. It is more or less opposite the Jury’s Inn where several of our friends were staying (including the birthday girl) and also close to the Mercure and Hilton were other friends were staying. It has a car park, controlled by a barrier and chargeable as an extra but the car park looked a bit on the small side and seemed to be very full, but not a problem for us as we were ...

The Wheel of Liverpool, Liverpool 01/06/2016

A bird's eye view of Liverpool

The Wheel of Liverpool, Liverpool Introduction I’ve always quite fancied going on the London Eye but have so far have never had the chance. I’ve been on a similar big wheel in York and one that was in my hometown of Sheffield for a few months, which actually turned out to be the same one from York, that went on tour and I know that there are (or have been) several others around the UK. One such resident big wheel is in Liverpool, situated at the Albert Dock and whilst in the city for a long weekend recently I had the opportunity to experience it. What is it? Most people will be familiar with these large ferris wheels and will have probably seen the London Eye. The Wheel of Liverpool is a 60 metre high wheel, which is exactly half the size of the 120metre high London Eye, but nonetheless it still looks pretty huge. It is owned by Freij Wheels, a Dubai based company that has had similar wheels and attractions throughout the world, but they do not own or operate the London Eye. It was one of four giant wheels in the UK, the others being based in York, Plymouth and Manchester, but the Liverpool one seems to be the sole survivor of their cash strapped UK operations. The Liverpool Wheel is situated at the Albert Docks, directly outside the Echo Arena. It is often referred to the Echo Wheel, who have sponsored it for many years. The wheel has 42 glass capsules, which includes one luxury VIP capsule and promises to offer you a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Prices and booking Whilst tickets ...

The Deep, Hull 24/05/2016

A journey into The Deep

The Deep, Hull Introduction The Deep is an aquarium in Hull, which opened in March 2002. It’s only about 60 miles from where I live and I remember there was quite a bit of hype surrounding its opening on the local news and in the years that followed many of our friends have visited yet it is something that I never got round to doing until a few weeks ago. I finally visited The Deep on Saturday 23rd April this year with my partner and two of the grandkids. Prices and opening hours We booked a family ticket online at a cost of £39.50, which admitted two adults and two children under 16 years of age, but there are many different ticket options available including family tickets for 2 adults plus 3 children, individual tickets and discounted tickets for students and senior citizens. Full details of all current prices are available via their website. The Deep is open daily except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It opens at 10am and closes at 6pm with last admissions at 5pm. Tickets are valid for a full 12 months providing you ask for a Day Plus Pass when you arrive. This means that you can return free of charge as many times as you like within the next year. Arriving The grandkids were pretty excited when we surprised them with the news of their trip just the evening before. We had already planned on arriving for around 10am to make the most of the day. In the event an accident had blocked the motorway close to home so the journey turned into a bit of a nightmare and by the ...

Craigvrack Hotel, Pitlochry 17/05/2016

Craigvrack Hotel, Pitlochry

Craigvrack Hotel, Pitlochry Introduction The Craigvrack Hotel was the final hotel that I stayed in during my Easter trip to Scotland this year. I stayed here for a single night at the beginning of April 2016. Why Craigvrack? The Craigvrack is located in Pitlochry in Perthshire. Pitlochry is a picturesque little town just off the A9, which is the main road from Edinburgh to Inverness and therefore it was an ideal stopover point on the journey southwards back home. Pitlochry is a 325 miles from my house but as its main roads (manly dual carriageways) from this point onwards it is easily driveable within a day. Pitlochry has many hotels and guest houses available but it’s a popular place for tourists and accommodation gets booked up quickly. I’d booked all of my other hotels well in advance at the beginning of the year, with the exception of somewhere to stop off on our final night so by the time I started looking for something suitable my choice was limited. Eventually I found the Craigvrack on for £85 for a single night for a double room with breakfast. The standard rate if booked direct with the hotel was £125 so this seemed like a bit of a bit of a bargain. First impressions I’d printed off the hotel booking receipt but didn’t realise that it didn’t contain any directions until we arrived in Pitlochry. The street address was West Moulin Road, we quickly found East Moulin Road, running just off the main road through the town but despite driving the full length of the main road ...

Manfrotto MM290A4 03/05/2016

My Manfrotto Monopod

Manfrotto MM290A4 INTRODUCTION I am a keen birdwatcher and general wildlife enthusiast and I have owned a telescope and tripod for almost 30 years, but recently I have taken up wildlife photography, which involved purchasing some rather expensive equipment. Amongst my many recent purchases, one of the less expensive items was a Manfrotto 290 Carbon Monopod which I paid about £40 for. WHAT IS A MONOPOD? Most people will have seen a tripod which is a 3 legged stand that attaches to a camera (or telescope) to make sure that it is stable and therefore correctly focussed. A monopod differs from a tripod in that it is basically just a single pole. The top end of the pole is threaded and screws into the underside of the camera in exactly the same way that a tripod does. THE PURCHASING DECISION As I previously mentioned I already have a tripod but due to it’s age it is quite heavy and although it folds down to a third of its extended length it is still quite bulky in comparison to the products that are around now. I assumed that I needed a new tripod but when I saw these monopods I realised that it was much more practical due to it being so lightweight and also because it folded down to a quarter of its fully extended length. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF MY MONOPOD The monopod came sealed in a plastic sleeve, which was then packaged inside a long rectangular cardboard box. Obviously when packaged it is folded down to its shortest length which is 49cm long. It is very easy to assemble with ...

Craigard House, Invergarry 20/04/2016

Craigard Guest House, Invergarry

Craigard House, Invergarry INTRODUCTION I booked a three night stay at the Craigard Guest House via their website at the beginning of the year. We stayed here between 30th March and 1st April 2016 at a total cost of £205.20. A 10% deposit was required at the time of booking so I paid £20.52 upfront and the outstanding balance during our stay. WHERE IS IT? Craigard is situated on the edge of the village of Invergarry in the Scottish Highlands. Invergarry lies on the main A82 Fort William to Inverness road, which runs along Loch Ness in the Great Glen. It is 7 miles south of Fort Augustus. Fort William is 24 miles to the south and Inverness is 40 miles to the north. Invergarry is also the point where the A87 turns off the A82. This is known as “the road to the isles” as it leads to the Kyle of Lochalsh and the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Craigard is actually situated on the A82 about a mile from the A87 junction. WHY DID I BOOK CRAIGARD GUEST HOUSE? I have stayed at Invergarry several times over the years and it is a place that I pass through frequently. It is ideally located for exploring all of the attractions around Loch Ness and it lies in a lovely setting where the River Garry flows into Loch Oich. I was looking for a reasonably inexpensive B&B in this area and I had previously seen this guest house when passing by, so I knew exactly where it was, with lovely mountain views and directly across the road from the River Garry. I also knew that it was within a short walking distance of ...

Member Advice on Wills and Legal Issues 18/04/2016

Where there's a will

Member Advice on Wills and Legal Issues Why I’ve made a will I’ve just turned 46 so fingers crossed I’ll be on this planet for a good few more years, but it is never too early to make a will. Making a will is easy and yet it is something that so many people don’t bother to do until they reach their 60’s (and some people don’t bother at all). In the last couple of years I’ve lost a few friends and relatives who were around my age and one of them died without a will so I’ve seen how complicated dying without a will is for those left behind. Many people think they don’t need to make a will because they don’t have anything to leave behind but in reality that is seldom true You might be worth more dead than you think Prior to sorting out a will I thought about my own personal circumstances. I am not married but have a long term partner who has grown up kids kids and there are also grandkids. I own my own house and car and have some money in the bank. I knew that should I die before my partner I would want everything to go them and naively assumed that if I outlived my partner then the will would be void and or it would just need to be updated. When I had my initial meeting with the solicitor he suggested that I made a list of where any important assets were. This information would be kept with their copy of the will and should also include passwords to email accounts etc. He also mentioned life insurance, pensions etc. I went home and started to draft a list… I realised that in addition to my current bank ...

Morven B & B, Durness 14/04/2016

A lovely little B&B with fantastic views

Morven B & B, Durness It was way back on the 4th January this year when I booked my 4 night stay at the Morven Guest House in Durness. Our booking was for the Easter period, which is traditionally when most people start thinking about getting away for a few days in the UK and as accommodation in this remote part of the Scottish Highlands is limited I wanted to book early so as to not be disappointed. I’ve visited Durness more times than I can remember, either as day trips from staying a little further south or staying on the only camp site in the village, Sango Sands, which holds the title as “Britain’s most northerly campsite”. Since Easter 2016 fell in March this year, camping wasn’t really an option, even though the Sango Sands Campsite is open all year round. Durness has only one hotel, The Smoo Cave Hotel, which is really just a pub with a few rooms so initially I tried to book a holiday cottage for my partner and myself only to discover that none of them had any vacancies. By the fourth rejection I was starting to panic that we wouldn’t find anything in Durness at all, which we had set our hearts on, but still determined I rang the Morven Guest House and discovered that all 3 of their rooms were still free for my dates. The Morven is situated on a narrow dead end road almost next door to the Smoo Cave Hotel so I knew exactly where it was and that the location was perfect for our requirements. The cost was £30 per person per night so a total of £240 for our 4 night stay, including ...

West End Hotel, Fort William 10/04/2016

Ideal for a one night stay

West End Hotel, Fort William Introduction I booked a single night stay at the West End Hotel in Fort William for the night of 25th March 2016, which happened to be Good Friday. This was the start of a 10 day trip to the Scotland Highlands. Why did I book this hotel? Fort William is approximately 350 miles from my home in Sheffield. We were heading to Durness, right in the far North West but as this is more than a 500 mile journey we wanted somewhere that we could comfortably reach within a long day’s drive. Having booked the Easter week off work I started searching for hotels early in the New Year, carefully comparing the prices on various booking sites against those on the hotel’s webpages. We had decided that Fort William was an ideal stop off point as it is a lovely town that we have visited many times, but it is also very popular with tourists so I quickly found that even in early January most of the hotels were already fully booked for that night but amongst the few that still had remaining rooms was The West End Hotel. I had seen the West End Hotel many times and knew exactly whereabouts it was, very close to the town centre with a seafront position. I also knew that it had it’s own car cark. We managed to book a double room on Laterooms for £75 for the night, which seemed a real bargain against the standard rate of £120. This was for a room plus breakfast the following morning. First impressions The West End enjoys a lovely position, set just back from the coastal road but ...

Cosmo Pan Asian Restaurant, Sheffield 23/03/2016

COSMOpolitan food and lots of it

Cosmo Pan Asian Restaurant, Sheffield Introduction There are a number of different places to eat in Sheffield City Centre that have appeared in the last few years but one of the most popular is called Cosmo, all to give it its full name - Cosmo Pan Asian Restaurant - which is located on St Paul’s Place, right in the heart of the city centre. What is Cosmo? Cosmo is a buffet style restaurant and the Sheffield restaurant is one of 19 Cosmo restaurants in the UK, with their 20th restaurant set to open shortly in Dublin. Established in 2003 it claims to offer a high end buffet style experience similar to that found in 5 star hotels. I have only visited the Sheffield location so it is on this branch that this review is based. First impressions From the outside Cosmo looks very modern with large tinted glass windows. It’s occupies the lower floor of a modern apartment block directly adjacent to the Mercure St Pauls Hotel. It is also close to the 3 main theatres (The Crucible, Montgomery and The Lyceum). Immediately inside the doorway you find a reception to the right, a small bar immediately in front of you and a waiting area with seats. It is advisable to pre book a table but if even if you have pre booked you are still directed to the waiting area where you have to wait to be called to your table. You can of course get a drink from the bar whilst you wait for your table and when your table is ready you can take your drink through to the restaurant. If you are only drinking soft drinks it is worth noting ...

Filey Brigg, Filey 17/03/2016

Filey Brigg, East Yorkshire

Filey Brigg, Filey I have fond memories of Filey Brigg from my childhood and early teens and as an adult it is a place that I like to re-visit often. Situated just above the East Yorkshire seaside town of Filey, the Brigg is a small stretch of land that projects right out into the North Sea. This stretch of coastline is one of the fastest eroding landscapes in Europe with several metres of land lost to the sea every year, yet somehow the Brigg has survived. These days it is Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and also marks the starting or finishing point of two different long distance walks. Archeologists have found the remains of a 4th century wooden watch tower here as well as Roman pottery and other artefacts confirming that the area was inhabited by humans for several centuries but nowadays the initial view is of green fields and sea cliffs and there is not a dwelling in site. The first part of land that you reach if you follow the road signs out of Filey towards the Country Park is known as Carr Naze, which lies adjacent to the Country Park. There is a pay and display car park here and a cafe but you can only reach the Brigg on foot. As you leave the car parking area you have a wonderful view of Filey bay to the south, which sweeps round in almost perfect crescent, lined by a fine sandy beach. Immediately ahead of you you have the Brigg stretching right out into the sea and to the north you can see Bridlington and the steep cliffs of Bempton and Flamborough Head. Following ...
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