Tag Archives: travel

A Glamping Experience

To camp or glamp? If like us, we like the idea of camping much more than reality. Shared bathrooms, noisy, damp, cramped, and generally a pain in the backside carrying and storing all that camping stuff. I don’t know how you do it. Having to throw some clothes on, walk past your fellow campers, toilet paper in hand…! If you are an avid camper, kudos to you, but for us, we do like to walk two steps in our PJ’s and pop the kettle on.

We both love the outdoors, taking long walks with our boy (dog!), Strudel, and cycling with the obligatory pub lunch. Well, this year, 11th July to be precise, was our 1st wedding anniversary. We decided to spend it with Strudel and go glamping.

We needed something local(ish) as Strudel becomes a pain travelling in the car but more importantly needed somewhere where dogs are welcome. We stumbled across a perfect little place called West Stow Pods in Suffolk. They have a wonderful woodland with four well appointed mega pods. Yes, mega pods! These pods have a double bed, sofa bed (which converts in to a double bed also), bathroom come shower, running hot and cold water, kitchenette, dining table and TV. Oh the bliss. So long campers!!

Glamping
Glamping with the family

The area, coupled with the fantastic weather (yes, even in the UK it stops raining every now and then!), provided a perfect base in which to explore the local area and beyond. Walks were plentiful, with some good pubs to stop and grab a bite and drink and continue on our way. After a long day strolling through the forest, it was an absolute pleasure to be back at the pod. Within 5 minutes on our return, Strudel was snoozing and we was on our deck, with a glass of wine in absolute bliss.

Approximately 45 miles away is a beautiful seaside town called Southwold. Home to Adnams, producers of some absolutely fine ales and to my bemusement, some cracking looking spirits. The town is described as one that time forgot. Not surprising as 45 miles in this part of the world takes forever! (we drove by the way!!)

The town didn’t disappoint, it really is a beautiful place. A gorgeous highstreet with some fantastic looking boutique shops and of course a handful of pubs with Adnams ales flowing. Its safe to say that I had a couple…!

Southwold Beach

Strudel Southwold Beach
Strudel having fun in the sun on Southwold beach

Time was ticking and we had to make our way back ready for an evening feast, hopefully to be dished up with a pint of Suffolks finest.

So, did we enjoy our glamping experience? YES. Would we do it again? YES. Why? because of the following reasons:

  1. Comfort – much more pleasant sleeping on a mattress with a duvet
  2. Privacy – better soundproofing than a tent (you mucky lot, I know what you are thinking!) I mean its much more pleasant chatting in your pod knowing you can’t hear others and they can’t hear you
  3. Convenience – want a cup of tea? sure, pop the kettle on. Want to watch the morning news? sure, turn the TV on. Want to read at night? definitely, flick the light switch on
  4. Security – If you want to go anywhere, just lock the door. Would you seriously head off for a day (hours, whatever) and leave your tent unattended?

The whole packing up thing as well….seriously, we packed a few bags and within 10 mins the car was loaded and we was on our way. If we was camping, we would have been there ages, and be honest, how long does it take you to square everything away?

Glamping turned out to be a wonderful experience and wouldn’t hesitate but to encourage others to get out and try it. Strudel loved it!

Strudel Glamping

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Taking the Plunge

Whilst working on some images from our recent trip to Indonesia (posts to come), I recalled videos taken when Emma took the plunge and went diving with me. As I have mentioned on our Twitter feed, Emma has a huge fear of the open water. Here are a couple of video’s that made me smile. Well done, Em, Ill make a diver out of you yet!

What went wrong in Iceland

A recount of our trip to Iceland in March 2013.

Emma and I decided Iceland would be our next weekend break. Its within a few hours flight from the UK and was a destination guaranteed to see the northern lights. In fact, we was told 2013 would be one of the better years for seeing this natural phenomenon.

Iceland isn’t a cheap weekend break (but where is these days!), its a place we was both looking forward to seeing something different. We booked this break through Iceland Air, which included a good quality hotel and more importantly secured our seats for our northern lights visual extravaganza.

We was staying in Iceland for 3 nights. The first night was essentially ours, where we would head in to Reykjavik centre for food and wine (my god! Alcohol was so expensive). The second night was our northern lights excursion and the third day was to be spent whale watching. There are so many other activities to do and we decided to fit them in and around these two main activities which had been pre-booked.

Day/Night One
Reykjavik is, simply, a cool place. Vibrant, energetic, artistic, adventurous, almost hippy-like (Scandinavian style!). We didn’t land until mid-afternoon so by the time we sorted ourselves out at the hotel, it was getting late so we headed straight in to town to check out the restaurants.

There definitely isn’t a shortage or places to eat but be warned they do get busy. If visiting for the first time, use your first day to look around and check out the restaurant menus. Its then worth trying to book a table otherwise you will run the risk of not being able to get a seat.

Iceland is famed for its menu of Puffin and Whale (amongst other oddities). If you want to try these then by all means. Look around first, as not every place serves these dishes. In fact, there is actually a high concentration of Icelandic people that disagree with the hunting of these animals. Anyway, choice is yours.

I won’t go in to too much detail, but our evening was lovely, great food, great wine, good restaurant (can’t remember the name of the place) and actually not so bad price.

We went back to the hotel for a nightcap and hit the sack ready for a day of exploring and deciding what to do.

Day/Night Two
As we sorted ourselves out for the day, we picked up some brochures and grabbed our phones and did a little research on fun things to do in Iceland. We had settled on exploring the inner City, get our bearings whilst there was light. Have some lunch then head back to the hotel, grab our swimming gear and head off to the blue lagoon for an afternoon of relaxation ahead of our evening pickup to chase the northern lights.

All was going well up to the point of trying to locate the bus station. The map pointed us up the road and was told we couldn’t miss it. Well, we did. Becoming frustrated and narky with one another, the heavens opened and absolutely p*ssed it down. There was only so long our water proofs held out. We turned around and went straight back to the hotel. Everything in my daypack was wet through. Everything from wallet, passport, camera…everything!

We grabbed a hot shower, got changed and sat in the hotel bar with a drink and had a little laugh about generally how inept and unlucky we are!

Time was fast approaching for our pickup and before we knew it, a reception staff member came over and advised us that the tour company have had to cancel the northern lights tour for the evening due to cloud cover. But (as if we should be highly thankful), they will try again the following evening.

Seeing as we paid upfront for this we thought we would scrap our plans for the last evening and try again.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day and whale watching here we come.

Day/Night Three
After several more drinks the previous night we woke with somewhat of heavy head. We sank a couple of cups of coffee, had some breakfast and grabbed our kit and made our way down to the docks to see some whales.

We kitted ourselves up and along with the many other eager visitors, went up on deck with our cameras ready to catch sight of these monsters of the sea.

Not Whale Watching
Not Whale Watching

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Three hours later, shivering, feeling a little queasy (Ill put it down to sea-sickness rather the previous nights alcohol!!), we had managed to see……NOTHING, nada, zilch!

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We really was getting the impression that Iceland was not meant for us.

We got back to dock, feeling a little dejected, hit the nearest bar for a beer! But, we still had the northern lights tour and fingers crossed tonight will be the night!

NOPE. Same thing as last time. Too cloudy. Oh, but they could fit us in the following evening. Unfortunately, this evening was our last so we’ll just have a refund and be on our “merry” way.

“Sorry Sir, there are no refunds!”

I won’t go in to what I then went on to say but in a nutshell, the fine print did state this. Crazy.

But hey, we did pick up a cheap bottle of vodka at the airport!!!

For the Love of…

It wasn’t all too long ago that Emma and I would browse the pages of the usual holiday booking sites, looking for our next summer break. The decision came down to price and guaranteed sun. Also having no children meant that we must avoid the kids summer holidays or watch the price of the holiday double and be the “weird ones” without kids.

These holidays usually took us to Turkey, Cyprus, Spain etc. The typical sun drenched spots that was within a few hours flight time (from UK) with unquestionable opportunity to get sun burn.

I don’t quite recall what the turning point was for us, but a few years back, as we was browsing the holiday web sites, we concluded that there was a lot of thought going in to what can only be described as the same holiday, year on year. The resort hotels are all basically the same, providing the same kind of service, nestled in to a beach, have a pool and one or two bars to grab your late morning beer! We both just wasn’t as excited about of our next holiday as we had been in previous years.

We decided we needed something more.

We headed to a travel specialist company that could help figure out, based on our very vague requirements, where we should holiday next. We decided it was to be the USA and with a lot of help we headed off on our mini-adventure to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Memphis and finishing in New York. Sure it cost us a lot more money than it would have done if we went back to Turkey but what a life changing experience.

It meant that as 9 to 5’ers we didn’t need to squeeze in a guaranteed suntan, we could actually get out and explore the world just that little bit more. We could experience something that many unfortunately never have the opportunity to do. Ultimately it meant doing something that had perspective for us, having no regrets and smiling, recounting the amazing journeys we have been on together.

Since our trip to the USA, we have been back several times and travelled to many other destinations around the world. Our stories have inspired friends to ditch the typical holiday package and challenge themselves during their limited time off work.

What has this all meant for us?

Well, it means we don’t have quite as much disposable income!! It means we get to experience many new things; cultures, cuisines, people, places every time we go away. It means we have something different to talk about with friends, it means we have life-experiences that challenge the norm, it means we do something we love with the ones we love – it helps if your partner has an interest in travel!

I suppose the point to this ramble is that if you have an interest in travel (or other things) try not let routine get in your way. Get out and challenge yourself and you will never have to tell the story of “I almost…..”.

Since our moment of life and travel contemplation, we have travelled to many countries and destinations. Some in our very own country and others many thousands of miles away. I can also say that since truly escaping the 9 to 5 (temporarily!) I have rekindled my love for photography, developed a keen interest in culture and history and spend more money on techie geeky stuff than I ever have! As Emma would say “2 out of 3 isn’t bad”.

As I say to my friends, its more interesting to listen when someone has something to say!

…..or maybe not if your are reading this blog!! 🙂

Whats next on the travel cards for us? We are glamping in July (our first wedding anniversary), coastal walks in September and looking to teach Emma (who has a terrible fear of the sea) to scuba dive!

External Battery Charger

Im sure you have seen plenty of reviews on external battery chargers, how they are essential to ones travels etc…. yep, YAWN! There are so many out there and are now so cheap that they are kinda disposable. Ok, ok, overdoing it somewhat! A good external battery charger is not so cheap and to some extent you get what you pay for. For most persons like me, I will use it once in a while to top up my iPad on a long haul flight, or keep my iPhone charged during those heavy photo snapping sessions. I have owned several external battery chargers and would love to say how they have got me out of sticky situations, survived a drop from the Empire State and is the must have item in my travel kit list. Nope. For me, they are just handy to have, not essential. However…

Having a good external battery charger is worth it. They come in different shapes and sizes so knowing what you want out of it is key. For me, my requirements was that it must be durable (Im a clumsy git), have two ports, be able to get a couple full charges out of it and not be too expensive.

I settled on the Zendure A3. Its durable, looks pretty cool and I got it at a great price from Amazon.

Zendure A3 Zendure A3

Ive used this several times and it does exactly what it should. What makes this different from others? Well, its shiny…

The Zendure A series is a great product, it is durable (survived a number of my clumsy moments) and its not a bad price. Would I chose this over my Mophie? Yes, because the Mophie is a battery wrapped in a pretty bow. One scratch and it just doesn’t look cool anymore. The Zendure is designed to be beaten up, scuffed, dented. Its ruggedness exudes a willingness to travel in hardship [although Im not…but its not about me!].

If you are in the market for an external battery to accompany you on your travels then I highly recommend the Zendure A-Series.

Im writing about a bloody battery….!!

Reflections

Its always interesting (to me anyway!) to have something visual to represent your (in this case) travels. Below is a map of countries I have visited these last few years. Looking through my Tripit log I can see in excess of 100 seperate trips and 50+ different cities. If only I captured something on these trips…some I can hardly remember!

Andrew’s Travel Map

Andrew has been to: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Cuba, Cyprus, Germany, Egypt, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Guernsey, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vatican.
Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Moving forward and now travelling for OUR own enjoyment, we are looking for something tangible, something we can enjoy sharing with guests. I have been looking for a World Map Pinboard. Something like this from notonthehighstreet.com. We are yet to find something that we would be happy hanging on a wall in our home. Any suggestions welcome.

The reason I set this site up was to capture our travels and have something to look back on. For our own enjoyment and benefit above anything else. But despite me being a tech geek, I do like to have something physical to look at, to touch, to interact with. May be Im not such a geek after all? [as I say aloud, the wife looks up and laughs. Bless, she says!]

The other side of Pisa?

Italy is one of our favourite countries that we have ever been to….

Pisa was the last leg of our Italian honeymoon and I don’t know what to have expected but I certainly wasn’t wowed and will never be returning. Unlike other cities we have travelled to in Italy, I struggled to take a photo! There was nothing I wanted to really capture. Suppose the only reason we went to Pisa (other than flying home from Pisa airport!) was that we wanted to tick off the leaning tower. Once that was ticked…well…not sure there was anything else to really look at.

So, I decided to take some shots of what I didn’t expect Pisa to look like…not that I want to put you off or anything!

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This post may be a little unjust? After all I was only in Pisa for a day and night. My issue was that Pisa just seemed to be lazy. A little like a rebellious child refusing to tidy his room. Considering the region its in, just came across as though the city was happy to exist on handouts from its gorgeous neighbours.

The city is serviced by an international airport. My advice is to disembark, jump on a train and within an hour you will be somewhere else…

Sorry, Pisa, you have let us down.