Sunday, 30 March 2014

A weekend in Weymouth

The Swan Whisperer renewed his annual Gold Card (season ticket, basically) at Clapham Junction station this year instead of, as he normally does, at Redhill.  And, to his delight, South West Trains sent him a reward of 6 free train tickets, each of which could be used for a day's travel at weekends (including Fridays) on South West Trains.

So as we have a major wedding anniversary on Monday, we thought we would treat ourselves to a weekend away.  And settled on Weymouth, as neither of us had ever been there, and I booked us into the Riviera Hotel.  I thought it would either be delightful or disastrous....

It's a long train journey down to Weymouth, nearly 3 hours, so we set off early afternoon, and arrived shortly after 6:00 pm.  The room absolutely stank of damp and mildew, and the door didn't fit very well.  I hadn't worked out how to use the key by the time it was time to leave!  And it was either too cold or too hot until we found the radiator thermostat (which helped get rid of the smell by the second day).  No toiletries were provided, although they did give us a handful to take back to the room when we complained. And quite the worst is that there were no individual switches for the reading-lights - really, why do they think people are going to want to snuggle down at the same time?  One switch controlled both, and is why I've given the hotel such a scathing review on TripAdvisor.

We had decided to eat in the hotel restaurant because the hotel itself is quite a long way out of town, but we wished we hadn't bothered - the food was mediocre and the service appalling.  I was quite ready to go back to London next morning!

However, after a bad night's sleep because I was so cold, we discovered that the towels they provided were huge and luxurious, which is always nice, and the breakfast was delicious, copious, and adequately staffed!  So we felt different.

We went out after breakfast and walked along the beach into Weymouth, which was a lovely walk on a very windy day.  Usually nothing is sadder than a seaside resort out of season, but the sea was actually full of kite-surfers, which were great fun to watch.  There were a couple of sailboarders, too, by midday, but most people were doing kite-surfing and having enormous fun.  We stopped in a random café for a cup of surprisingly good (slightly weak!) coffee and a sit out of the wind.  Then we walked on, and found the shopping drag (I needed tissues after all that wind!), and pottered around for a bit, until we found a café to have lunch, which was a crab and salad sandwich which would have been nicer if thicker, and if the bread hadn't sat out for half an hour too long!  But it was good.

Then we found a bus back to the hotel, which, improbably, turned out to be free!  And then we explored the swimming-pool and sauna/steam room complex, which was very good.  To have been perfect, they should have provided shampoo, but they did provide more of those lovely big towels.

There was no way we were going to eat in the restaurant again, so we walked half-way back into town, up a huge hill and down again, to a pub we'd noticed en route that advertised a carvery, which was very popular and deservedly so.  Very good food!  But I was exhausted by then and insisted on a taxi back to the hotel!  They had changed the towels when they did the room, despite our having hung them up, so I used the clean bath-sheet as an extra blanket and was warmer.

This morning, after another delicious breakfast, we decided not to linger as there was a possibility of seeing my parents (which didn't happen as the party they'd come to Town for finished late), and we knew there were engineering works.  So we caught the 9.15 bus into town, marvelling at how different the sea looked now the wind had dropped, and there was just time to buy a paper before the train arrived.  We had to change at Bournemouth on to a rail replacement bus for a rather pleasant drive through the New Forest to Southampton Airport Parkway, where we caught a train to London, and thus home.  I slept most of the way on the trains and then again when we got home.... An early night tonight and I might just have caught up with myself!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Unexpected Aeroplanes

It was a lovely day today.  The Swan Whisperer and I went skating first thing, and then he went off to work, and I did a bit of shopping.  It was too nice to go home. But while I was in Argos waiting for my item to be brought up, I checked my phone, and there was a text from the Daughter to say they were going to watch aeroplanes, and would I like to come too? 

So I texted back "Yes, please", and as soon as my shopping came, I went straight home, threw the makings of some stock into the slow cooker, and went out again.

To watch aeroplanes, you go to Cyprus DLR station, which is way out near Beckton.  Then you walk through the UEL campus and there are loads of benches facing the dock, just across from the London City Airport runway. 

What wind there was was from the east today, meaning that the planes took off from directly in front of us, but they landed nearer the terminal, and came half-way up the runway to turn round, so you did get a good view of them. 

The airport is much busier than it used to be, and planes were taking off or landing every few minutes.  You seemed to get a batch of planes taking off, and then a batch landing to fill the slots at the gates, and then another batch taking off. 

We bought rather disappointing filled baguettes in a local coffee shop - two between the four of us.  Boy Too seems much keener on food than his brother was at that age, and enjoyed the bread, although he wasn't given much, if any, of the filling.  The Boy and I shared a strawberry-banana smoothie, too.

After that, we went on watching planes for a bit, although the Boy was more interested in playing trains, and found the very loud engines of taking-off planes rather scary.  Then we went and found a loo, and took the DLR back to Canary Wharf to have a potter around there. 

It's a long, long time since the Daughter and I used to go there for a wander when she was little, and it's very easy to get lost there - I wanted to go to the big fountains, but we couldn't find them.  We did, however, find a M&S and bought ourselves ice-lollies - sadly, the Boy's fell off its stick before he'd finished "And I wanted to eat it all!" he sobbed.  Boy Too, who had been napping while we were travelling, enjoyed some of his mother's lolly, and we decided we might have to buy some fruit juice and make some lollies.

The Boy said he wanted to go home on the Underground - dull, but faster than the DLR, although he does love the DLR - and I decided I would do likewise.  And then I realised that there is a new way of going home from the days when I used to work in the area, and so I changed at Canada Water.  Luckily, there was a Clapham Junction-bound Overground due in 2 minutes when I got to the appropriate platform, and I am sure I got home faster than I would have done had I done the very long and stair-ridden change at London Bridge.  I must remember that next time I want to go to Stratford!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spring Walk

It was the first real Spring day of the year, far too nice to stay indoors, so the Swan Whisperer and I decided we would do the "other" leg of the canal walk we had been planning ever since we walked up the Limehouse Cut about 18 months ago.  So we took the Northern Line to Bank, and then the DLR to Limehouse, and then we took the first branch of the canal, which is, of course, the Regents' Canal at that stage.  There was a place hiring canoes, and we made enquiries - not that we planned to do that today, but we thought we might like to at some stage.  Actually, I'm not too sure I do want to - there was an awful lot of rubbish in the canals,  yuck.

So we walked up the Regents' Canal, overtaking some walkers, being overtaken by others, and having to climb the banks for passing cyclists.  The route was rather interesting, actually, as it goes along the side of Mile End Park, which we hadn't met before.  And of course Mile End Park finishes at Victoria Park, where the Hertford Union Canal turns right - and so did we. 

We walked along the canal - there are houses on the first bit, but eventually you see Victoria Park, which was seriously standing-room only, we thought!  Not too surprising on such a lovely afternoon.

The canal joins the River Lee opposite the Olympic Park - the stadium and the Orbit are to one's right, and the Copper Box to one's left.  I am not sure how much of the park, even now, is open to the public, although I know some of it is - the swimming pool is now a public baths, and watch this space as there may well be a visit sometime in the next few weeks. 

Anyway, that was more-or-less the end of our walk.  We would have liked to have had a beer at a recommended brewery and pizzeria just there, but we were running out of time, so we went straight to Hackney Wick station, a few hundred metres away (and a very splendid zig-zag path leading up to the platforms, much nicer than stairs!), from which we were able to catch an Overground to Highbury and Islington, and then the Victoria Line back to Brixton.