Month: April 2017

2 Youth Hostels, Soup & Magnificent 7.


Just after Nikki returned from Ski-ing, we headed for Liverpool to see Jimmy Carr live at the Liverpool Philharmonic.

It was a bit of a faf, as we had to get a replacement bus.

I was really looking forward to it, but he wasnt that good (it wasnt helped by the fact that many of the audiance appeared to have spent the afternoon in the pub).

We left in the interval and had a couple of drinks in Liverpool before returning home.


The following weekend, Nikki and I headed to a Youth Hostel called Ravenstore. I quite like Youth Hostels as they are usualy informal, pretty cheap and located in the best parts of the countryside.

We love the Peak District and it was a chance to catch up with an old friend called Cheryle, who moved down to Birmingham and who we dont see as often as we’d like.

Driving straight from work, we had dinner in a country pub on the way, then met up with everyone in the hostel and had a few drinks.

We met a group (3 generations of a family with some freinds). They were planning their own walk the next day. When we asked where they were going, they were a bit vague.

No matter, we respected their privacy and wished them a good day on the hill the next day.


We met Cheryl through the walking group and loads of other members of the group had come along.

So it was logical, that we’d spend the days out walking (and the evenings drinking good bear and wine and eating pie and mash).

We wander along a section of the Monsal trail.


I’ve walked the Monsal trail previously with my friend Frank and a few times since (they’ve actually opened up the tunnels now, so you can do the original route the railway line would have taken rather than the twisty around one which I personally prefer).


The view from the to of a one time railway bridge.


Brian has chosen a “hybrid” route, and we quickly find ourselves on a section of the Limestone way.


We come to a hill overlooking this Quarry.

There is actually right of way, and we follow a path which goes right through it.

By now it was late afternoon, so we stopped by the Quarry and had lunch.


As we continue along, I see this old air raid shelter. I tried exploring inside it, but it wasn’t very big.


The trail carried on for a few more hours.

We came to a pub.

We’d normally have a drink to finish the walk, then go back to the hostel to get cleaned up before heading out for dinner.

The pub was very busy, so we opted for a early dinner with a couple of pints.

Once back at the hostel, we got cleaned up and it was a chance to catch up with old friends.

I was delighted to find that YHA establishments now stock Moretti beer.


In the morning, we have breakfast.

Chatting with the 3 generation group we’d previously spoken too, it turned out they had gone on a walk led by the “son” who had no map and used a phone.

Suffice to say they’d got lost and spent a lot of time walking along the road. They were using the trip as “prep” for a charity walking along the great wall of China.

We invited them to join us on our walk.

The 2nd day is normally a shorter walk, designed to finish around 2pm. Brian had designed an amazing walk to take in all of the countryside in the vicinity around the hostel.



Another mingle of the Limestone way and the Monsal trail with some steep hills and spectacular views.

By 2pm, we’d finished. One of my lasting memories of the trip, was our guests thanking Brian and saying how much they’d enjoyed the walk (and they genuinely looked enthralled).

That’s pretty much how I feel whenever I go walking, and I’m delighted they’ve chosen to join the walking family.


A bit of random stuff now.

With my new “super-kitchen” I’ve started cooking again.

One of the things I love to make is soup.

I think after hillwalking, soup is my favourite way to relax.


On another weekend, we head off to summit Moel Siabod.

Unfortunately, there’s driving rain.

I own waterproofs and if your a walker, you cant be fickle about the weather .

That being said, I refuse to walk for hours in driving rain, so I politely stepped back from the walk (I’d hope the weather would improve on the way there).

Normally, I’d have sat in the car until the 3 other walkers returned, but luckily I was able to relax in the famous Moel Siabod cafe.

I had some lunch and coffee, and later a bottle of wine.

In the 4 hours I was there, I was able to read numerous copies of trail and other outdoor magazines and put plans together for 20 trips over the next 3 years.

So not a complete wast of time. My walking “companions” didn’t get to the top, as with altitude, the rain turned to snow.


Another interesting talk at the Chester Globetrotters the other week.

One I found fascinating, was about Swaziland (the worlds only remaining full Monarchy).

It also featured a Brilliant talk by Kevin (one of the organisers) about a trip around the middle east.

He’d given the talk previously, but I’d missed it, so I was made up to finally see it.


I’ve recently taken over the management of the Globetrotters mailing list.

If you aren’t on it, and want to be, please get in touch and I’ll sort it out (thanks so much to Reggie for recommending mail-chimp which we use to run it).


On the subject of things on at Chester Museum, the Chester Film Society have started to put performances on there.

Additionally, I got a call the other morning from my friend Dave at the walking group. Turns out that evening (also at the Grosvenor Museum) there was a travel talk, put on by the Society of 13.

The Soc13 as I call them (it makes them sound like some sort of black ops outfit, which they clearly aren’t) put on talks and events.

That evening, they were hosting John Pilkington in partnership with the Royal Geographical society. It was the first time I’d been to one of their events. It was very well organised and I even ran into Nikki’s parents who were also there.

The talk, Russia and Europe: what next was absolutely fascinating. He had stood on the hillside from the charge of the light brigade, taken photo’s in Chernobyl and drank Tea in a bombed building.

It’s showing throughout the year at different places, if you get the chance go and see it.


My cycling to work is proceeding well.

I now cycle 3 miles to work from Capenhurst.

On the way back, I now cycle all the way home. At 13 miles per day, I’m coming up on my 300th mile.


My bike locked up at my office in Ellesmere Port.

It still amazes me, that some people just lean their bike against the rack.

I think differently. I grew up in Newton Heath after all. If something isnt locked and you leave it, it might as well be gone already.


When I was 7, mum was taking David and I to school. During the drive there, she said there would be a suprise for us when we get home.

We did everything we could to get mum to tell us, but she was tight lipped.

When she picked us up from school, she made us wait until we got home, and then, there it was. Our black and white tv had gone and in its place was an amazing colour tv.

I cant describe the elation as we flicked through the channels and all the programs I normaly watch seemed to jump into life in colour.

We washed our hands and faces and then had tea (dinner if your from the South) and then we sat together and watched my first colour film, The Magnificent Seven.

Chez Jules in Chester have an event on upstairs in their restaurant, where you have dinner and watch a classic film

So there, all those years later, Nikki and I went to see Mag7 once again. What a fantastic experience, which I’d definitely recommend.


Our 2nd weekend away in March was to Snowdonia.

Picked up at 5pm from work and we set off.

Since the clocks had gone back, it was nice to be driving in daylight.


We returned to my favourite place in Snowdonia, Llanberis, once again staying at the Youth Hostel there.

We cooked some dinner, opened a bottle of wine and settled in for the evening.


In the morning, we head into the town to meet our friends from the Chester and District Walking Group.

Our meeting point was the legendary Pete’s Eat’s where they sell food in large portions and pint mugs of tea.


Our goal for the day, was a circuit over and back around a mountain called Moel Elio, which we’d nicknamed the Elephants back (more about that later).

We’d walked it previously, which is always the preferred way to lead a walk.

You can see the hill was quite steep.


After a couple of hours walking, were at the top, and you can see all the way to the top.

It was quite windy, so we found a spot behind a wall and had lunch.


Dropping back and circling around, you can see Moel Elio from the side and why we call it the Elephants back.

Back into town for a drink and a chat with our friends. From here, they all head home and Nikki and I return to the Youth Hostel.


A sit down and a bottle of Moretti beer, then off for a shower and get cleaned up.


We had a dinner booking at the Peak Restaurant.

I really like it there, as they sell “normal” food like beef and ale pie, but in a fine dining style (and Nikki really likes the wine there).

Some chocolate cake to wash it down, a few more drinks and then off to bed (it had been a long day, but we had more adventures planned for the following day).


Up early and we drive out of Llanberis, towards Snowdon.

Parking near the Vaynol arms pub, we set off with Nikki taking the lead.


Elidir Fawr was our goal.

But this wasn’t a hill walk in the normal sense.

It’s one of the Snowdon 3000’s and its a brutal 1:2 gradient over heath (there’s no path to speak off, and frequently involves scrambling).


After an agonising walk, we get to the top.

Therese a sort of “birds” nest of rocks which is appreciated as its very windy.

The spot is said to feature the best overall view of Snowdon.


Looking towards Snowdonia.

We met up with a fell runner who had jogged over from Llanberis (it had only taken him an hour).


The view in the other direction was incredible.


As we head back down the hill, we pass the reservoir that feeds Snowdonia’s famous power station “hidden” inside a mountain.


At the bottom we have a drink the Vaynol Arms before heading home.


Traffic is terrible on way home, so we stop in Llandudno and have fish and chips.

While there, I see the Grand hotel on the sea front, a place a used to see frequently on caravan holidays in my youth.

Just like the Snake Pass Inn, I’ve always promised myself that I’d go back there and so I’ve added it to my mind-map for this year (along with completing all the Snowdon 3000’s).

Adventures in London.


I’m pretty switched on about stuff, and I’m on a lot of mailing lists for deals on travel, hotels, theatre and stuff like that.

One of my key information tools on my adventure journey is that I work in an office with some Millennials.

They literally know everything that’s going on. My friend Matt mentioned that Virgin were doing a seat sale and why didn’t I have a look and see if there was anything that suited me.

As usual, it was cheap going there one day, and expensive coming back the next. But, I found I could travel from Chester to London at 7:30am and come home again 6:10pm for £20 return trip.

I booked it 10 mins later and Nikki and I began planning our fast track trip to London.


We prepared our own breakfast and made our way to the train (Chester station is only 5 minutes from my house).

Just to the left of this picture, you can see a lone head. Its Nikki, this was our Jeremy Corbyn moment…

We had an entire carriage to ourselves, and I took this shot as I was returning after getting coffee’s


We used the 3 star system that has served me well in trip all over the world and made a list of place to see.

I knew all too well that things can end up taking longer than you intend and this can have a knock on effect for the next and subsequent places you want to visit.

So, strict discipline to the clock throughout the day.



Other important thing was getting around. I much prefer to wander on foot while exploring, but to see everything we’d need to travel almost exclusively on the London Underground.

We emerge from the Tower of London tube-station.


It was a lot cheaper to book things online and print your own tickets.

It also meant you could just walk straight in, without queuing which was ace.

Once inside, we see a talk by one of the Beefeater’s.

A beefeater must have served in her Majesty’s forces for 22 years before applying to work at the Tower. It must be pretty cool, as they get to live there as well.

With limited time, head off on our own.


The Crown Jewels are obviously a must see sight, and known for their enormous queue’s.

We’d factored this into our plans and put it first on our list.

No photographs can be taken inside, but I thought they were quite splendid, regardless on your thoughts about the Monarchy.


Unsure of the protocol when speaking to the Guards, I asked if it would be ok to photograph him. He remained completely motionless.

I said “I’m going to presume its ok” then took the shot and said “Thank you”.

I can only imagine the 10’s of thousands of pictures he appears in, in photo albums all around the world.


Another section of Tower, is the fusiliers museum, a regiment who are based here (there were video’s of men training for the 2nd world war in the grounds).

Inside, it had 2 Victoria Crosses, and this Napoleonic Eagle, captured in the Peninsula war (which I heard was the inspiration for similar events in the book/tv series Sharp).

There was some stuff about a steel boot and how it had helped to stop desent in the regiment.

I couldn’t imagine what they meant, until a read it. Basicaly a shirker had an injury to his leg, which he claimed would not heal.

They made a steal boot that was locked and would completely enclose the leg. And sure enough a week later, it had healed (and he got 50 lashes).


The white tower is an incredibly beautiful building.

It has has stood in the grounds of the Tower of London for 900 years.

Inside it had loads of old suits of armour and swords, which frankly I found a bit dull.


It’s said that if the Ravens ever leave the tower, it will crumble and fall.

There are always 6 Ravens, and they have a spare just in case.

I had read that their wings are clipped so they cant fly away. I was surprised to find that they were in cages anyway, I presume this was to protect the general public as they can be quite viscous.


We got up onto the battlements and walked all the way around.

There was an interesting sign about the Duke of Wellington.

I hadn’t realised, that for a period of time, Wellington had actually been Prime Minister.

On one occasion in the house, during a debate, he took issue at something his debating opponent had said, and challenged him to a duel !.


But this is tourism after all.

As we wander along I offer to buy Nikki a gift and crown her as my Queen.

She comments that she would like to “crown” me, but in an entirely different way.

She eventually declines my kind offer and says she wants to be sick !.


Tower bridge, frequently confused with London Bridge is somewhere very special.

Its an iconic symbol of my country and so you might be surprised to hear that I’ve never walked across it.


We could see enormous queues for the Tower bridge tour (originally built by the Victorians it was steam powered until 1987).

Everything is running to schedule, so when we reach the opposite bank, we take some time to wander along the bank of the Thames.


Its getting on for 1pm, so we stop for dinner at a traditional London pub called the Mudlark.

Nikki has fish and chips and I have Pie and mash.

Washed down with a few drinks, we are suitably re-energised and continue on our way.


I took this picture back across the river (it reminded me of the sort of think you see in Lucky Man).

It features famous London buildings like the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin.

I can only imagine how much extra it costs to make a building that isn’t the normal square shape.


Only 10 days earlier a terrorist atrocity had resulted in 5 deaths, including a Police officer.

We were passing by on our way to see another popular attraction.

A sobering moment, but democracy and freedom come at a cost.


The classic statue of Winston Churchill gives a hint of where were going next.


Outside, people are queuing for upto 2 hours, to get inside and see the Cabinet rooms.

If they’d just taken 5 minutes to book online, they could have walked straight in as we did.


The cabinet war rooms, has many rooms setup roughly as they would have been during the 2nd world war, when the war effort was co-ordinated from here.

In many ways similar to Bletchley park. This room, was Churchill’s telephone room, which gave him a secure, direct line to Roosevelt, the American president.


The venue also has a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill.

To be honest, I’m quite well read on Churchill, so I’d seen/read most of it before and there wasn’t anything in the museum that really jumped out at me.

Instead, this replica of 10 Downing streets door, which features some comments he made on becoming prime minister.


The thing I really came to see.

OK, a minor moan. Just like Bletchley park and similar venues, they have rooms with some old wallpaper, and old desk and some other stuff, and say its a re-creation of Alan Turings desk, re-creation of Churchill’s bedroom etc.

But its not really is it ?

However, at the end of the 2nd world war, the door to the Map Room was locked and it remained exactly as it was until it was re-opened decades later.

It was here, that war was fought. Completely authentic and you could feel history as you looked at it.


It didn’t take long for me to see everything I wanted to at the Cabinet rooms, and we were once again above ground.

As I said earlier, freedom and democracy aren’t free.

After wandering through St James Park, I made a point of visiting the National Police Memorial, to pay my respects to PC Palmer who had been killed in the recent attack.

This isn’t a political site, and I wont get into the one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter thing.

What I will say, is that a man got up that morning, kissed his wife, hugged his son and then went out to work, not knowing he’d never return.


It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen much, but its getting towards the end of the day.

As we walk towards Trafalgar square, you can see the sky. The weather was amazing, all day.


Our final trip is the National Gallery.

Some of the most amazing paintings in the world hang here, and its free to visit.

But its also quite modern and contemporary, apparently there’s a picture of the Smith’s in here somewhere.

Knowing we had limited time, I looked on their website, and they said if you only have an hour, these are the 30 must see pictures.

Nikki and I managed to see 20 + of them.


And then, the best bit.

The Fighting Temeraire as featured in the James Bond film Skyfall where Bond and the new ‘Q’ meet for the first time.

Well, a fab day complete, we head back to Euston station (I wasn’t looking forward to it, they have an awful pub and Macdonalds and not much else…).


But I was wrong. The pub has closed down and a load of new places have opened.

We get a beer and a glass of wine at Gino’s Italian. Quiet and relaxing, the perfect end to an amazing day.

A bottle of wine on the train home and then dinner at Artichoke in Chester.

Can’t wait for the next £10 deal, I’ll keep “monitoring” the millennials, stay tuned.