Month: May 2013

2 holidays and BHW

This month I’ve been away on 2 overseas trips and had a fab bank holiday weekend.

I won’t go into the overseas trips in many details, as I’m going to write them up under the travel section.

Main reason for this, is Henrik is mad busy putting the new front end together creating 3.0 (loads of new features) seems only appropriate that some new content is in place to go with it, and motivates me to catch up with the destination pages (I’m presently 8 countries behind).


First off, a quick thanks.

Although I get to do loads of adventure things, it wouldn’t be possible without the help of other people, who keep things ticking over while I’m away.

Usually, it’s Dan and Adam at work, but just wanted to say a quick thanks to Steve, who fed my fish while I was away.


The month began with a trip to Macedonia.

In case you didn’t know, Macedonia’s most famous son is Alexander the Great and this enormous statue is featured in the main square of their capital city Skopje (which I found out, is pronounced skopier).

As a country it’s not very advanced, but has relatively few visitors, so feels pretty “new”.


The capital is overlook by a mountain called Vodno. Its possible to drive to the halfway point, then get a cable car to the top. We decided to walk up through this forest, then took the cable car to the top.

It was a beautiful day, so we trekked for another 14 miles around the national park, with spectacular views of Skopje.


We discovered some hidden bunkers on the mountain that had been abandoned.

There were small rooms for people, but these 2 were obviously built to house tanks.


After 2 days, we took the bus to Ohrid, a lakeside town halfway down the country, which borders Albania.

Just to show that things don’t always work out as they should, when we arrived, it poured with rain.

Other slight problem, is that my electric razor was in the hold and became switched on. When I arrived it had lost all its charge. It would be 4 days before I found a charging lead at Ohrid market and stopped looking scruffy.


Around the lake was beautiful. We went on an all day boat tour (I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t visit Albania, but was told it hasn’t done that for many years).

As we sailed around the lake, we found this Island village that had been constructed by Archaeologists. The bay of bones.


The next leg of our journey involved a bus ride to Bitola. We had arranged to stay at a mountain hotel near the top of the Pelister Mountain.

The place was quite roomy and comfortable, but he staff there seemed have been there since the communist era and customer service wasn’t what I’d expected (especially since staff outnumbered guests !).

No matter, the mountain walking made up for it. We found the Kopanki mountain hut, which had burned down in Jan 13.

There was a monument nearby. I couldn’t help thinking that he looked like Steve Austin !.


Heading for home, we return to the airport at Skopje.

I mentioned earlier that Macedonia isn’t very advanced, and this ATM at the airport illustrates the point nicely.


Back for 1 day, I washed some clothes, attended a meeting of the Globetrotters, had a few pints with friends, then it was off on my 2nd trip.

Cyprus is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Its a bit more expensive to fly to than many of my budget destinations, but I’ve been told it worth it.

One thing I hadn’t factored, was how far away it is. Tripoli is closer to the UK than Cyprus, so its nearly 5 hours flying time.


I arrive with Dan and Glenn and we make our way to our hotel. Some confusion about rooms, but Glenn took charge and organised things.

We got a complimentary drink and then had a discussion. I had intended to jump on buses and see as much of the Island as possible.

On this occasion it was put to me that since we only had 2 days, had all endured a stressful couple of weeks and were technically on holiday, that we should just visit the beach, sit by the pool and stuff like that.

I’m the guy who bleats about trying new things, and this sounded new to me. So, that’s exactly what we did.


I told everyone that Cyprus was 2 hrs difference. I explained that if we got up at 7am, our body clock would think it was 9am and we’d get more out of the day.

I woke and felt quite hazy. We found a sun lounger on the beach and just relaxed. Its then that I realised it was 2 hrs the other way, and I’d got everyone up at 5am !.

Lying on the beach listening to the waves. A special time.


I’ve said it many times, I’d be nothing without my friends.

Some people don’t realise the lengths a good friend will go to, to help you.

As I stagger across the baking beach, with a tray full of drinks, I realise I have left my camera by the sun lounger.

The flattering picture above, may never have been possible without the initiative of Dan and Glenn, compounded by the irony, that they used my own camera to take it.

Fab trip. Don’t mind that I didn’t see much. I saw enough to know, that I’ll be back there again soon.


Back home, 2 days at work and then its bank holiday weekend.

Takes off with a bang as we head to Blackstocks for fish and chips.

My old boss Philip used to ask why people were determined to make everything cheaper. Why not just make something properly and charge what it’s really worth ?.

That’s what they do at Blackstocks. It’s more expensive than a normal chippy, but this is fish and chips made as god intended and you can taste the difference.

Afterwards went to a new pub called The Church for a drink. Was really nice there, and superb the way they’ve made it look so modern, without fundamentally altering the building.

Unfortunately, the bar staff were all over the place, and with 10 of them, it still took 15 minutes to get a pint of lager.


Brief meet up with Glenn in the Mill (I didn’t take a picture that evening, so here’s a “library” photo of Glenn at a BBQ he hosted).

We discuss the boot camp well be attending this coming Thursday. Hopefully it won’t kill me.


While there, he gave me my birthday present, a rack for my bike.

I’m intending to do a 2nd ultra lightweight trip to Llangollen and this will be essential.

Just to prove I’m not a complete novice, here’s a picture of the rack on my bike, which I fitted myself (I also noticed that the paint in my kitchen is an awful colour and needs changing !).


Next day I’m up early, as I head for Liverpool.

It’s a celebration commemorating The Battle of the Atlantic and Brian from the walking group has organised a day out.

Our first stop is Panoramic 34. We have a drink with spectacular views across the city.

The building in the middle of the window is the Liver building, which gives some idea of the height were at.

It’s only the 4th time I’ve been to Liverpool, you can read about a previous trip here and here.


The Euro fighter wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, since it was just some wings and a cockpit on top of a trailer, rather than the real thing.


There were ships from 17 countries there, and the Royal navy were running manoeuvres on the Mersey, to show how they assist international shipping/stop the spread of drugs, and stuff like that (to basically emphasise that they do a lot more than just fight wars every few years).

One of the ships was Russian and there were loads of sailors wandering around shopping, going to MacDonalds and stuff like that.

Made me think. When I was 15, the “Russians” were bad people who were going to murder us all in our beds. I thought it quite ironic, that in those days, they probably did have plans to doc ships in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, but under an entirely different set of circumstances !.

Nice to see that times have changed.

Shortly after, there was a fly by, by a Spitfire and a Hurricane. They were high overhead, but you could feel the roar of the engines.

Cheryl recommended a vegetarian restaurant. I don’t normally go for that stuff, and normally find places like that to be a bit pretentious and filled with scruffy people with inverse snobbery.

But not so. As its name implied, Mellow Mellow, was rather Mellow. The food and drink were really good, the place had a great vibe, and the staff there were very friendly and helpful. Next time I’m in Liverpool I’ll be going there.


On Sunday morning, I wake to the sound of that most British of activities, lawns being mowed. The sun is beaming in through the windows and it’s going to be a beautiful day.

We head to Brook Street near my house, where there is a festival.

Loads of people had said they were going, but apart from my companions, the only person I recognised was the guy on the far left of the picture above (in a shirt and trousers).

He actually owns a shop on Brook Street. Famous for his Bernard Manning humour, he cuts my hair.


Had a quick look around, then decided to get some lunch nearby.

I have lunch in the Lock Keeper (the first time I’ve eaten there in 5 years). The Sunday lunch was fantastic. Our friend Dave arrives, and we go for a few drinks in the Church.

Heading back to the festival, there’s a band playing on the stage. The Akalites quite good and certainly got the crowd going.

I have to say I don’t go for the whole “Brook Street is Chester’s Notting Hill” idea. To my mind, it has some pretty good shops with 2nd hand stuff and clothes, 2 good curry houses, and numerous other food outlets from around the world.

After several hours, were hungry again. We sit down in India Flava (in my view, the best curry house in Chester) for some food. Through the window I can see some entertainment that isn’t mentioned on the program…

Some drunken loons decide to have a “fight”. I’m amused when somebody puts their “dukes” up and starts revolving their fists ready to start boxing.

That might have been the way to fight in the 1800’s, according to Queensbury rules, but today, is both utterly impractical and makes the “combatant” look ridiculous.

I spend Monday relaxing at home and catch up with TV. In the evening, I go to see Star Trek (which is excellent).


The Stone Bridge in Skopje, Macedonia

Update 14/05/2013

Well, we leave lake Ohrid tomorrow after spending 2 days here. Its been superb (well, the first day it was raining, but today we went out on the lake and it was awesome.

Trip has had the odd disapointment. I realise how long the buses around here take. Since its a 3 stop trip, I didnt end up going to Kosovo, as it would have taken 6 hrs of our trip, and there just wasnt time.

Worse, when I got to lake Ohrid, I tried to charter a boat to the other side of the lake, so I could visit Albania. Turns out, its a big no-no, and practicaly as dangerious as trying to charter a boat from Maimi to Cuba.

Still, loads of great things to see, cheap beer, quality food, which Ill write about when I get home.


Well, I’ll write more about it when I get back, but in the meantime, just a quick post to say that I’ve arrived in Skopje, Macedonia in once piece.

I’ve visited the old town, the museum of Macedonian independance and eaten and drunk the local food (which is excellent).

Yesterday, we went hiking to mount Vodno, which overlooks the city, then walked about 10 miles, exploring the national park.

We’re leaving for lake Ohrid tomorrow for 2 nights, then 2 nights in a mountain hut near Bitola.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…


Birthday & other adventures

Me out walking on the hottest day of the year

Ok, this blog entry is pretty big, and there’s a lot to take in, in 1 hit.

Main reason for this, is I’m about to leave on a week long trip to Macedonia (taking in Kosovo and Albania) I get back for 1 day, then its off to Cyprus with Dan & Glenn.

With commitments at work, cataloguing my Rohan clothes and providing for the fish, there’s not much time, but I’m determined to update before I go.

Firstly, I saw this article on bbc about the coffee preferences of younger/older people.

Personally, I think people who claim to now only settle for fresh coffee (and all that rubbish) are talking out of their backsides.

Truth is, there’s not much wrong with a cup of Nescafe. Except where exactly can you go to get a cup of “normal” coffee now.

Seems to me that coffee used to cost 50p, now it costs about £2.50 and its “better” (according to somebody !).

Finaly, Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring this year. The internet is alive with people saying he’s the best manager in the world and we’ll never see his like again. To add balance, I just thought I’d say that I hate football and just don’t care.

Walking near the coast

Other Sunday I went on a mystery train journey.

No, I dont mean I got on the wrong train by accident and ended up in the middle of nowhere. No, this was a planned event.

A group I joined called Chester IVC organised it. They organise all sorts of activities, but the adventure ones like caving, weekend walking and mystery trains are the ones I’m most interested in.

They also organise nights out and meals and stuff like that. I don’t attend many of these. Thing is, I can usually get some friends to go to the pub, go for a curry and visit Cyprus, but my main need, is a group of people prepared to organise and fill a caving trip, or a weekend in a rural building. I’ve even signed up for a reading group, so I’m busy reading Mr Pip.

As it was, the mystery train took us to the Red Squirrel sanctuary in Formby.

At the beach

The area was a mix of forest and coastline environments.

Its always great to be next to the ocean, but this wasn’t California.

The weather throughout the day was pretty bad, but the group seemed oblivious (and I’m from Manchester, so rain to me is like snow to an Eskimo).

Forest walk

I’m always happiest when I’m in the woods and wandering around exploring was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Our main task was to seek out the mysterious Red Squirrel, which proved a real challenge, despite many bush-craft courses and tracking skills.

A Squirrel we discover

Success, we find one !.

The red squirrel is becoming increasingly rare in the UK.

Instantly recognised by its bushy tail and red colouring. Its increasingly under threat from the introduced American grey squirrel.

It was quite far away and I had to use my camera on maximum zoom. Behind the Squirrel are some roots, which because of the angle make the squirrel look like it has some kind of “scorpion back”.

Another Squirrel we discover

Another rare creature (and honestly, its a blessing) is the British costumed man.

Instantly recognised by its nylon fir and an utter lack of embarrassment or shame. Its increasingly under threat from youths with water pistols.

I gave him £2 towards the National Trust.

Another Place. An art installation in formby

After a couple of hours, its back to the train (we got a really good day saver ticket thing, so we got to travel all day for around a fiver).

We find shelter at the train station and eat our packed lunches and were off to another place says Aidan. And that’s its actual name.

An art installation of 100 cast iron “men” looking out to see. Its called another place and runs for a mile along Formby beach.

We walk along the beach, but the tide is in, so it was hard to see and we were battered by the weather from the coast.

The adventure continues with a bus ride to the Wirral

Our adventure complete (so we think) and we head back to Liverpool to get the train home.

Ends up that the trains are cancelled. We are shepherded from one train station to another. Eventually, its clear that well have to get to the other side of the water.

A free trip on the world famous Mersey Ferry looks cool, but there isn’t one for another 45 mins.

Instead, we get the bus through the tunnel and once there, got the train back to Chester.

I found it all really exciting, but a friend who works in Liverpool tells me that this kind of thing is a weekly occurrence so if you HAVE to make that journey, its not much fun at all.

Half the world would have been sat in a dull pub or watching EastEnders on the Sunday afternoon. I’m that glad I’m not one of them.

Alison on the left and Sue on the right

After a day of adventure, it was a trip into town (and since I live in town, wasn’t much of a trip at all) to celebrate my friend Alison’s birthday (on the left).

A brilliant evening, Alison is a friendly, straight talking organised sort of person, of the kind I love spending time with.

I don’t normally go to Telford’s warehouse, but on this occasion it was really good and Alison had a smart time with all her other friends.

After I’d finished dinner, I wandered downstairs to listen to the music.

Someone in a very questionable hat, was banging out some truly awful music. Not uncommon on open mike nights, its usually a mixed bag of enthusiasm, rare bits of talent and people who don’t have a recording contract, for a very good reason.

In this case, technology had provided a problem of its own making. Silly-hat announced from the stage that he would be coming around the audience to sell his CD’s (which he’d “home produced” on a laptop).

I don’t know about £5 each, but 30 mins earlier I’d have happily paid him £100 to get of the stage and stop ruining Coldplay !.

My memories box, which I open each year on my birthday

On the subject of birthdays, it was only a week later and it was my birthday.

I did my usual ritual of looking through my memories box.

It was the usual flood of memories and emotions going back across my life. The 2nd thing I normally do is look at my mind map, and review my goals for the year. Opening the box, sets the scene for the planning and illustrates to me, all the great things that I’ve been lucky enough to do in my life.

This year though, one other thing occurred to me, and its for this reason that I’m writing about it.

I found a ticket to the National Mountain Exhibition at The Regged Center in Keswick and a program from the James Bond museum.

They both opened for a relatively short time, and neither of these things exist any-more.

The mountain exhibition was meant to run indefinitely, featured priceless exhibits like the tent used by Mallery and Irving and even Bronco Lanes toe’s, lost due to frostbite. Sponsored by Helly Hansen, it ran out of money due to the recession.

The Bond museum had the original Aston Martin, the Q Jetboat and both Lotus Esprit cars. It was owned by a private collector (a dentist interestingly enough). As I understand it, the collection had to be broken up for financial reasons and the museum closed.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is move fast and do it now. The thing you keep saying you’ll do might disappear from the world without a lot of notice and in the case of these things, you’ll never get to see them again.

Dan at the bar we've drunk at for more than 10 years.

Well, before I know it, its Saturday the 4th of May.

My actually birthday is the 7th of May, but I always organise a day out in Chester for me and my friends on the closest Saturday.

One of the first pubs I frequented in Chester was the Fortress and Firkin, later renamed the Frog and Nightingale (and taken over by the famous Tony) its transition completed about 2 years ago, when it was completely re-fitted and re-named the lock keeper.

We had a few pints in the Mill Hotel next to my house, but since I’ve drunk there for over 10 years, the Lock Keeper seemed like the place to celebrate my birthday.

Here, my old friend Dan gets the pints in. You can see from his attire, that the weather was pretty smart.

Friends from the walking group

I’ve got quite a lot of friends that attend now. Some are from different groups I’m involved in.

Dave and Yuk were some of the people who visited from the Chester and District Walking Group (Yuk actually bought me 12 bottles of beer as a birthday gift).

Andy from IVC

I also invited a couple of people from Chester IVC.

My mate Andy is a cracking guy, but blotted his copybook, when he later suggested a visit to a bar called Kash. I cant describe how awful it is in there, but since all my friends were around it was at least tolerable.

Mike and Kris Bourne (aka Bone), with Jon M and Lee & Susan

In the centre of this picture is Mike Delafield and Kris Bourne. Mike lives in Liverpool, so I catch up with him when I can, but Kris (who we all used to call bone) lives in Nottingham, and it must be 8 years since I’d seen him.

When we met he was 19 and helped us out with office moves. Now he’s got 2 children and expecting a 3rd. The world moves on I guess.

On the lelft of the photo is Jon Mallet, who travelled up all the way from London. A great mate, we last met on a trip to the lakes last year.

On the right of the picture, Lee Sawbridge, a guy I met at Fairbridge Drake 25 years ago, and a companion on my first ever adventure interailing. Across from him, his wife Susan (I introduced them) as they chat to Nikki from the walking group.

A fantastic day, with friends from work and every area of my life. Ended up being out from 12 lunchtime until 12 midnight. I dont do that kind of thing often now. Thanks to everyone who came, it really was a fantastic day and I’m greatfull to every 1 of you.

The Sontaran buttler

The day after, and its a relax at home day (or a recovery from alcohol poisoning day, whichever works for you.

Setup my Raspberry Pi computer and my train set. Caught up with a lot of tv and reading, and just basically relaxed.

Dr Who has been a bit off this series, but returned to form. A farce, chase around adventure, with the people from the Christmas special, and the superb Sontaran buttler, Strax (and even a tongue-in-cheek Sat Nav reference with a lad called Thomas Thomas).

I also watched Person of Interest, Game of Thrones and a new series called Banshee which is growing on me.

Only thing I cant understand, is how amazing series like Chicago Code get cancelled, but utter rubbish like Warehouse 13 gets renewed and renewed.

Out walking near Bala lake

I often say, if I won £50,000,000 I don’t know what I’d be doing tomorrow. But the day after I know I’d be out walking !.

Bank holiday on the 6th, gave me sort of 2 personal days to enjoy my birthday. With the weather looking exceptional, I decided to head out walking.

After I’d walked for 3 hours, I was really enjoying myself. At his point, there was some dangerous talk about going up mountains and stuff like that.

I would have been happy walking back, and as look would have it, one of our group was feeling really ill. I volunteered to take her back, thereby dodging the mountain nonsense.

Six hours walking. A good number.

We leave the path and head for the hills

Once the injured party had been loaded into the “Huey” (in this case, a  Ford Fiesta, owned by Mandy) back to Chester, I had a couple of hours to kill.

I wandered around the village of Llanuwchllyn. I realised its a place I’d been before with Brian and Sue on my first hostelling trip (feel like a long time ago now, but I realise it was only about a year ago).

The village has a steam railway, so I went there for some coffee, then wandered around some more. It really was amazing weather as the picture above shows.

Had a pint and some food in the Eagles pub, then off home, another amazing day over.

The Red House gastro pub next to the river

After everything I’d done, my actual birthday came around.

What could possibly follow the previous few days.

In the end, I decided not to even try. I would just relax.

I had a lie in bed, then wandered to a really nice pub called the Red House. It’s by the river and does excellent food. Couple of drinks and a steak sandwich, watching people in boats sail and row past.

I walk back home in a contemplative mood. A lot of people seem to worry on birthdays, concious that their getting older. Just reminds me, of the great life I’ve already had and that it can only get better.

Dinner at the Hoole curry house

Its been a baking hot day, so I get back and jump in the bath.

I’ve treated myself to some special birthday clothes (not to be confused with a birthday suit !), so I put on my Rohan fusion trousers and my new desert boots (I absolutely love desert boots) and head out.

Last year I made a list of every curry house in the centre of Chester. I visited all 18 of them by September that year.

One place not on the list, but everyone kept mentioning was the Hoole Curry house. I decided I’d go there for dinner.

Hoole is a small area just outside Chester and isn’t a place I visit often. Dan and I used to go up there, but it was full of people who claimed to be in “music” or in the “media”.

Would later turn out I was talking to a hospital porter who owned a guitar.

Let me say straight away, I’ve no problems with people doing ordinary jobs to make ends meet while having bold aspirations for other area’s of their life (how could I criticise them, its exactly what I do !).

Anyway, enough moaning and back to the curry event. Who else could I take but the excellent Glenn. We had a couple of drinks in the Stuteley bar in the Devonia lodge hotel on Hoole road, then headed for the curry house.

Quite small, but well run, I ordered various stuff and my usual Korai chicken. Food was very nice, but I still prefer India Flava on Brook Street. Still, a brill evening and lively conversation (mostly mine, with poor Glenn having to sit through it 🙂  )

With the curry eaten, we stop for a quick drink on the way back (Kash again, but once again, good company rescues me from this appalling establishments tedium). We run into Alex and he recommends a hostel he thinks I’d like (Grinton Lodge YHA).

I finish my drink and head home. Another birthday over, its a walk back to my house and prepare for work.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to an amazing couple of days, your input and friendship are appreciated.

Well, that wraps things up, I better go and finish packing for Macedonia. The search for adventure continues…