Saturday, 11 April 2015

2015 - Day Out 03 - Chester

Date: Saturday 04 April 2015

Following on from a couple of successful coach trips last year it was decided to try a couple more this year, our first coach trip of 2015 takes us to the beautiful town of Chester.

Our transport for the day.
I make my way from home on the long walk up to Wollaston (took 5 minutes!) village where Mr UKBuses gets dropped off at 08.25am and we wait by the bus stop on Wollaston Island for our Whittles Coach which is due to arrive and pick us up at 08.40am. At 08.50am the coach still hasn't turned up and we look up Bridgnorth Road to keep an eye out for our coach. At 09.00 the coach arrives from the opposite direction and must have picked up passengers from Stourbridge Ring Road before coming to us. We dash across the road to the other bus stop and we board and are greeted by our driver today, Graham. Graham puts us at ease when he says he has never driven to Chester before so we could end up anywhere apart from our original destination. We make our way from Wollaston, through Stourton, Enville and Bridgnorth before speeding through Telford and Whitchurch and arriving in Chester just before 11.00am, see picture left. Mr UKBuses decides he is going to stay on the coach all day and visit Chester Zoo with some of the other passengers as he cant undo his seat belt. We arrive at Chester Bus Exchange and Mr UKBuses frees himself and we alight and straight away the cameras are out at our drop off point.

Arriva Wales Chester Depot.
The drinks we had to keep us hydrated on the coach have started to work their way through so we go in search of public toilets and after Mr UKBuses mistakes a electricity sub-station for the public loos, we have a walk around the block and eventually find some located in the Chester Market Hall but as we make our way to the Gents, they are locked as they are being refurbished, so we make our way out to the bus exchange again and notice that there are a few portaloo's situated opposite, so I make use of them whilst Mr UKBuses takes great delight in taking a photograph of the loo! Toilet break over, we have time for another break, a "Fresh air break" and Mr UKBuses consults the information board at the bus exchange and gets confused. We do find out which stand that Service 12 departs from which is the bus we have to catch, service 12 goes to Connah's Quay (or Quarry as Mr UKBuses kept referring it to!) and we make our way to the stand. At 11.34am our Arriva Wales bus arrives and we board and get our Deeside Day Ticket. The bus will take approximately 19 minutes to get us to our destination with Mr UKBuses informing me to keep a look out Gardners as this is where we will have to get off. We know we are nearby as we spot the Airbus factory and as we come to a traffic island, I still cant see any men with spades doing any gardening and we have to get up quickly as we pass the "Gardners" factory and arrive in the opposite direction. We alight and have a few steps to take, to take some photographs of Arriva's depot at Broughton, see picture right. After photographs are taken of the depot and nearby Airbus factory we make our way back to the bus stop (with Mr UKBuses taking a picture of the welsh "Safle Bws") where we don't have to wait long as our returning Service 12 bus arrives at 11.35am and takes us back towards Chester. We know when we are near Chester as we can see the Chester Racecourse, which is quite busy as there is a music festival taking place.

Cheers from The Forest House!
After a bit of a wait close to the bus exchange due to traffic building up trying to get onto the car park, we arrive back at the bus exchange and alight and we are getting hungry now, so we make our way to J D Wetherspoons. We pass the Cathedral and arrive by the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. Mr UKBuses must invest in a compass, as we head in the opposite direction. We are lost now and there are some "Romans" re-enacting something at Chester Cross, so it would be rude to interrupt them and ask for directions, so we head off down another street. With no sign of the Wetherspoons we head into the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and as we are getting lost indoors, Mr UKBuses comes up with a plan, he uses the map on his phone and we head back outdoors where we come back to where we started from and head in the proper direction this time and after a few minutes walk we find our Wetherspoons. Due to the lack of chips on our last visit to Chester, we visit the second J D Wetherspoons, "The Forest House", see picture left. I nearly faint when Mr UKBuses says he will get the first round in and whilst he waits at the bar I do a couple of circuits of the pub to find a table. Luckily someone leaves their table and we quickly grab it and have a look at the menu. Mr UKBuses opts for his usual BBQ Chicken Melt (without the cheese!) with an extra portion of chips! I opt for the Chicken Burger and it only costs me a pound seeing as Mr UKBuses still owes me the money for his day ticket.

Dinner over and pints supped, we make our way out into Chester and we don't have to far to walk as Mr UKBuses takes us in the right direction this time and virtually opposite the pub is our bus stop for our next destination. We wait about 5 minutes and our Arriva Sapphire Service 1 arrives and takes us past Chester racecourse once again in the direction of Wrexham. As we enter the Chester Business Park, the bus pulls over and then the driver gets out of her cab. She comes up the stairs and informs us that we have to get off or buy another ticket as our day ticket was only valid until this bus stop. We make our way downstairs and purchase a Arriva North West Day Ticket so that we can carry on our journey. We leave Chester Business Park behind and after a journey time of approximately 40 minutes, we arrive at our destination and pull into Wrexham Bus Station, where we alight and photographs are taken, the scene in this bus station is different to Chester's as there is more of a variety of bus operators including D Jones and Son and GHA Coaches. With the photographs taken, we decide that a refreshment is in order so we leave Wrexham Bus Station behind.

Cheers From The Elihu Yale!
We head into Wrexham Town Centre and go in search of our second J D Wetherspoons of the day. Mr UKBuses decides to re-enact the proceedings from Chester and takes us in the wrong direction again before doing a U-turn and going back in the right direction. We find the J D Wetherspoons and head inside "The Elihu Yale", see picture right. Its my turn to get this round in so I head to the bar and Mr UKBuses finds us a table to rest our feet and have a chat about our upcoming coach trip to Tenby in June. Mr UKBuses had better start saving as he is stunned that there are no Wetherspoons in the area. With our drinks supped and feet rested we head back into the streets of Wrexham where I get hassled for a light as soon as I have lit up myself. We head towards Wrexham Bus Station which is only a couple of minutes walk away and the Wetherspoons we have just been in is virtually around the corner! As we make our way inside it looks like we have only just missed a bus so we head outside to take some more photographs and luckily I spot that our bus hasn't left and is just boarding, so we make a quick sprint down to the other side of the bus station and we board our Arriva Sapphire Service 1 bus which will take us back to Chester.

Cheers from The Coach House!
We pass the racecourse again and after 45 minutes we arrive back in Chester town centre. The drinks we had at Wrexham have caught up with us and we recognise the street where we alight and remember that there are toilets close by. After our unplanned visit, we walk back through Grosvenor Shopping Centre and back past the cathedral where we spot a McDonald's. Mr UKBuses makes use of the offer printed on the back of his day ticket which means he saves more money. We take a seat outside of McDonald's to eat our food and the pigeons seemed to want to grab some as they came around us and started to pester us. With our food finished, we still have half an hour before our coach picks us back up from the Chester bus exchange. We spot a pub close by and we enter the appropriately named  "The Coach House" and somehow I ended up buying the round and nearly fainted when I was told that it would cost me £7.20. Mr UKBuses had found a table in the sunshine outside so we relax and sup our drinks in the cool spring breeze and it also meant I could have a "fresh air" break, see picture left. We have about ten minutes left so we make our way around the corner and back to the bus exchange where some final photographs and "fresh air" is had before our coach arrives and picks us up. We board and take our seats and Mr UKBuses belts up ready for the journey ahead. As soon as we sit down the coach departs and Graham tells us we are going to go a different way back.

We leave Chester behind and travel back via Whitchurch and Wolverhampton, with Mr UKBuses having a nap along the way and as we pass Wordsley a passenger who boarded in Stourbridge in the morning asks the driver if he can be dropped off by the Glass Cone. As he alights he says goodbye to us all and shows us where he lives, at least we know where to go to for a cup of tea when in Wordsley next. Our stop is next and we head up Wollaston High Street and alight in the village, arriving at 07.00pm. Mr UKBuses has a while to wait for his next bus, so we pop into "The Unicorn" for a cheeky quick pint before making our way to the bus stop where Mr UKBuses boards his National Express West Midlands service 276 back to Norton, I wave goodbye as he departs and head into "Grahams Place" for a cheeky pint before visiting the Chinese to get my supper.

Another good coach trip was had with excellent sunny weather and there are already two further coach trips planned to Llandudno and Tenby in the next couple of months. A big thanks goes to "Graham" our coach driver for a pleasant journey and also Mr UKBuses for his company, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are the bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot makes his first appearance straight off the coach at Chester Bus Exchange.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The bald spot is on its way to Arriva Wales Chester Depot.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The bald spot tries to hide itself by making itself blurred!

Bald Spot 4

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot gets an airing at Wrexham Bus Station.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

2015 - Day Out 02: Kingswinford and Wordsley

Date: Saturday 14 March 2015

It has been nearly a year since I last met up with Mr WME. After a long gap we finally met up again to visit a few hostelries in Wordsley, or so we thought.

It was arranged that we would meet at the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley and visit a few of the public houses around that area, so I make my way up to Wollaston to catch National Express West Midlands Service X96 into Stourbridge before interchanging onto Hanson's Service 267 bus which dropped me off at the bus stop virtually opposite the previously mentioned Wordsley's Red House Glass Cone, a local landmark. I arrive with a few minutes ahead of the prearranged time and wait at the Glass Cone. Mr WME seems to be running late and after a couple of Stourbridge bound buses go past, I send a text to Mr WME, a couple of minutes after I receive a phone call (with a lot of hyperactive sounding children in the background) and Mr WME says he is just getting off a bus in Kingswinford as the Service 256 he originally planned to catch had been taken out of service. Luckily I spot a Kingswinford bound National Express West Midlands service 257 bus coming along from Stourbridge and I make a mad dash across the road and sprint towards the next bus stop and luckily with a second to spare board the bus and catch my breath back as the bus makes its way to Kingswinford.

Nearly recovered I arrive in Kingswinford and alight just opposite The Cross where Mr WME is waiting and after saying our hello's and me still a little bit out of breath we make our way for some much need refreshment. We walk along Summer Hill and make a left turn along Cot Lane, where we arrive at "The Park Tavern", a pub that I have visited on several occasions before, its here that we have a catch up and a look ahead to this seasons Formula One over a pint of Enville Ale.

A pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole!

A pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole!

After leaving The Park Tavern a short walk was taken Barnett Lane and then Barnett Street to "The Glass Cutters Arms" where a pint of Ma Pardoes Bumblehole was sampled, see picture above. After sampling this pub we left and came back out on Barnett Street, I was lost and as we literally around the corner, I knew where we were, up until now, I didn't realise that The Glassmakers Arms was there, I'm pretty sure I have heard about it over the years, so know I know where it is situated.

As we turn the corner from The Glassmakers, we are at the back of "The Queens Head" in High Street Wordsley, which is now part of the Black Country Ales Brewery Portfolio. We enter via the tradesman's entrance and Mr WME had a pork pie, with loads of mustard, he calmed his taste buds down with a pint of Lancashire Stout. I went all strange whilst sampling a pint of Voodoo Dawn. After snacks and drinks were finished, we went past The New Inn, somehow resisting the urge of a pint of Bathams and then it was all downhill literally as we walk past the church to sample our next public house.

Cheers from The Rose and Crown!

Cheers from The Rose and Crown!

We stop by the traffic lights and turn left into the bar area of "The Rose and Crown" and whilst watching a bit of Six Nations Rugby Mr WME samples another Enville Ale, see picture above. I decide to watch something else instead, the barmaid who served me my pint of Holden's Golden Glow, I'm sure she could look after me, see picture below. After drinks are finished, we reluctantly leave and have a short walk up Brierley Hill Road and sample another pub that I have never been in before and visit Marston's "The Samson and Lion", both of us sampling a good old fashioned pint of Banks's Mild. We gatecrash a party before it has even started, we were allowed to stay though as they were only setting up the room for the festivities later that evening.

The Rose and Crown offer a crèche service!

The Rose and Crown offer a crèche service!

After The Samson and Lion we retrace our steps and head back down Brierley Hill Road and head towards Stourbridge along the main road. We are getting a bit peckish now, so we decide to pop into "The Vine", or what was once The Vine, but is now Ocean Basket, a Chip Shop / Fish and Chip Restaurant where we sample a cone of chips. I opt for the good old fashioned style whilst Mr WME decides to have a battering with the battered chips. We carry on our walk to Amblecote eating our chips along the way and up Brettell Lane to a newly refurbished "Red Lion".

I have been in since the refurbishment and this is Mr WME's first visit since the refurbishment. From what was once a run down dark public house with not too many customers, it was nice to see the pub regenerated into a bright airy and actually full public house. Here we have to stand to drink our pints as there are no tables left, we both opt for the Salopian Brewery's Lemon Dream and after finishing them we have time for one more public house to visit. We make our way back down the short distance down Brettell Lane.

Our last pub and drink of the day is an old favourite, "The Maverick", now early evening, the pub, as The Red Lion is starting to get busy and we get a spot in the Wild West Saloon where Mr WME decides to go all Mexican, even though we are having a typically British named pint of "Dodgy Banker" to round off our day. After we finish our pints we leave the pub and say our goodbyes, with Mr WME heading in one direction for his National Express West Midlands service 256 and myself back up Brettell Lane to catch my National Express West Midlands service 246 buses back home.
 
A good afternoon was had and a couple of new hostelries were visited, a meeting should not have as long a gap next time.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

2015 - Day Out 01: Worcestershire

Date: Saturday 28 February 2015

Its our first outing of the year and we are staying relatively local to the Midlands and having a tour of Worcestershire.

First Worcesteshire bus in Midland Red Livery
I make my way up to Norton to meet up with Mr UKBuses and it must be a New Years Resolution as he turns up ahead of the planned time. We walk from the Broadway shops, our meeting point, to Norton Road stopping at the bus stop just up the road from what was once Brewers General Store. We do get offered a lift but we wait for the bus as it would be cheaper for a return fare. At 9:18am, Central Buses service 125 turns up on time and we board and purchase our return ticket to Kidderminster. Central Buses have recently took over operation of this service after the collapse of Whittle's buses and upon arrival at Kidderminster we alight outside the Kidderminster Railway Station where I have time to have a "fresh air" break before our next bus arrives which is Diamond's service X3 and we board purchasing our day tickets, the County Connecta.

First Worcestershire bus in Midland Red Livery
We head in the direction of Bromsgrove, with an hour upon arrival so that photo's of First's two heritage liveried buses can be spotted, but before arriving we go past Chaddersley Corbett with Mr UKBuses saying hello to his turkeys as we pass. Twenty minutes after leaving Kidderminster, we arrive in Bromsgrove and upon arrival, Mr UKBuses sprints down to the last stand of the bus station (another New Year's Resolution?), where he has spotted one of the heritage liveried buses on service 147, see picture right, that we are after. It is not on the route that it was supposed to be as the buses have been painted into Retro Midland Red Livery to celebrate 100 years of operation of Route 144. Not long after the 147 departs, a bus on route 144 pulls into the bus station, see picture top left, at Bromsgrove so within a matter of minutes of arrival pictures of both buses have been taken. We have time to spare so we have a walk down Bromsgrove High Street and have our first drink of the day at J D Wetherspoons, "The Golden Cross" with Mr UKBuses purchasing the first round (another New Year's Resolution?). After finishing our drinks we make our way back to the bus station and I make a visit to use the facilities where a lady cleaner just waltzes in without a care in the world and carries on doing her job whilst a load of gentleman carry on with their business.

At The Bar in The Westcroft
We have a while to wait for our next bus so we hang around the bus station for some photo taking opportunities, the before mentioned cleaner does a bin emptying around the bus station and gives me a smile as she passes me, I don't know if that is a good thing or bad thing. I have some "fresh air" and stand close to our next departure point, Mr UKBuses joins me and whilst waiting we spot a certain Mr Phil Tonks (with no bacon roll / sandwich in hand), he is travelling up and down along the route today as part of research for an article he is writing on the history of Route 144. We decide to go off plan and catch the earlier journey and have a catch up with Mr Tonks on the journey. Along the way we pass through and stop at Webbs of Wychbold Garden Centre and after another 20 minutes on the bus we arrive at our next destination ahead of schedule, Droitwich Spa. As we are ahead of schedule we decide to have a rest and after alighting and saying our goodbyes to Mr Tonks, we walk a few yards to "The Westcroft", see picture left, I can remember the last time we visited this establishment, on a cold dark wintry evening, it was virtually the same today apart from being dark. After having a little warm and rest, we sup up and make our way to Victoria Square, where we have a short wait and I have some more "fresh air", before our next bus arrives.

Cheers from the Boat and Railway!
At 11.45am, iGo's service 145 pulls up so we board showing our Connecta tickets and it takes just under fifteen minutes before we arrive and alight at our next destination of Stoke Prior. We don't have a lot of time here so we head straight into "The Boat and Railway", see picture right, a nice pub situated alongside the canal, this would be a nice little rest in the middle of summer under the blazing sun. Its Mr UKBuses turn to purchase the drinks and whilst he is being served I take the opportunity to use the facilities (It's either because it is icy cold or Mr D9 has lent me his bladder for the day). We have a warm and a rest again and ready ourselves to go back into the cold and make our way to the bus stop to catch our next bus from. Luckily it is only a few steps as it is situated right outside of the pub and we don't have to wait long before our iGo service 145 arrives to take us on our return journey back to Droitwich Spa. The return journey only takes ten minutes to get back to Droitwich Spa, which means that we have just under ten minutes wait and time for some "Fresh air" before our next journey to our next destination.

It's 12:49pm and we board First's 147, not the heritage liveried bus unfortunately and after twenty-five minutes we alight in Worcester by Worcester Foregate Street Railway Station and decide it is time for lunch, so we visit J D Wetherspoon's "The Postal Order". Mr UKBuses finds a table and after an agonising long wait (looks like the locals / regulars get preferential treatment) I finally get served and join Mr UKBuses at the table and peruse the menu. I have a change and opt for the gammon and chips whilst Mr UKBuses sticks with tradition and opts for his usual BBQ Chicken Melt (without the melt) but as my legs are aching from my wait at the bar previously, Mr UKBuses is forced to order the meals. The food eventually arrives and we tuck in. Even though the service was poor the food was good and we rest for a few minutes to let our stomachs settle before making our way back into Worcester. As we were delayed at lunch we have to go off the plan and miss out the First Depot in Padmore Street, Worcester, so we head straight back to Worcester Bus Station, with a bit of time to take some photographs and also a visit to "Andy's News" to get some supplies for our journey ahead.

Mr UKBuses has a nap!
We wait for our next bus and at the time of arrival due to be 2:53pm the bus is running late and we are worried that we may have to go onto the emergency plan, but Diamond's service 295 does eventually turn up at Worcester Bus Station and we promptly board and depart, there is a screaming child sitting on the bus which thwarts Mr UKBuses plans, but as soon as the bus carries on along its journey, there seems to be a vibrating sound coming from the engine, but upon closer inspection, Mr UKBuses is in fact having a nap, see picture right. We are not too far from our destination as we pass through Stourport, the driver is back on time and we arrive back at our planned time of 15:53 at Kidderminster Bus Station. After a few photographs are taken we decide to get out of the cold and have a warmth and a rest by walking around to J D Wetherspoons "The Penny Black" where we enjoy a pint, or in Mr UKBuses case, a double whiskey and we take our seats looking out onto The Bull Ring which was once a hive of activity and full of Midland Red buses and clay bus stops. It is nearly time to return back to the West Midlands, so we walk back around to the bus station to wait for our final journey of the day.

We plan to catch the 4:52pm Central Buses service 125 back to Norton, this is the last journey back to Norton of the day and we wait and wait and think we may have to walk to the railway station to get the train back. Just under half an hour later Central Buses service 125 towards Stourbridge finally arrives and we have to undergo a driver change which delays us a bit more, luckily it is Geoff who was driving to Kidderminster so we cant have a go at him especially when he informs us he was late because of football match day parking at Bridgnorth was holding him up. We do board and take our seats and get warm passing through the Broadwaters and on to the main Stourbridge / Norton Road towards Stourbridge. We are nearing Marston's "The Greyhound" in Norton and after politely asking the driver he lets us alight just outside of The Greyhound, where we have a warm and a final pint before saying our goodbyes and making our way back home.

A good day out was had with Mr UKbuses devising a good plan yet again and here are his bald spots:


Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot is seen in Bromsgrove Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The bald spot is seen trying to hide as it enters Worcester Bus Station.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The bald spot can clearly be seen at Worcester Bus Station.

Monday, 10 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 12: The Return from London

Date: Monday 10 November 2014

Our last few hours in London, before we have to begrudgingly make our way back to the West Midlands.

A Heritage RouteMaster
I wake up quite earlier than planned of meeting up with Mr UKBuses, so I make my way outside to the front of the hotel for some "fresh air" before going back to my room to have a shower and make sure that everything is packed before we have to check out of the hotel. With everything packed and me ready for breakfast, I make my way down to reception and wait for Mr UKBuses to appear and he appears on time, so he must have purchased a watch before he came to London. We make our way for our final breakfast in London and after a mountainous supply of bacon and a few pots of yogurt, we have five minutes to let our food (and Mr UKBuses to have a last cup of coffee) go down before making our way back to our rooms for the final time. Luckily for me, it is just a case of entering the room and picking up my bags and making my way down to reception to check out. Whilst I'm waiting for Mr UKBuses, I have time for some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses makes an appearance. We bid farewell to the Travelodge Docklands hotel and make our way to East India DLR station, where at 09:25 we board our first mode of transport for the day and we are already off the plan.

Mr UKBuses should have gone to SpecSavers as instead of going to Bank, which was planned, we are on the wrong DLR train and end up at Tower Gateway. Not to worry, we make our way to the bus stop at the back of the Tower Of London and we catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster Service 15 to Charing Cross, similar to the one pictured above left. We don't get too far whilst on the route before we are stuck in a traffic jam due to high volumes of traffic caused by roadworks along the route, we decide to alight, but with Mr UKBuses being in charge of the map allowance, we have no idea where we are and after a nice hike around the streets of London (Mr UKBuses is the old man!), we finally come across an underground station so we get our OysterCards ready and board the underground at Chancery Lane and get the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road where we change onto the Northern Line and arrive at our final destination of the day in London at Euston.

We have a bit of time to spare, so we head to The Doric Arch situated at the bus station, but find out that the pub isn't open and we wouldn't have time to have a final pint in London, so we head inside the station to have a final pint in The Britannia, but this is also closed whilst the station is undergoing redevelopment works. Luckily we know about another pub situated opposite the station and luckily we do get a final pint in London and we rest our legs for a while at "The Royal George". With the final pint supped, we make our way back across the road to London Euston Station, having a last "fresh air" break in London and as soon as we discover which platform we are departing from, we board our train and at 12:03 our Virgin Train takes us from London Euston to Birmingham New Street, stopping at Rugby and Coventry along the way.

We arrive at Birmingham New Street and we only have a couple of minutes to get to Platform 5b, where we board the London Midland train to Smethwick Galton Bridge, there is no time for a "fresh air" break as we have to rush up two flights of stairs to get to the platform where another London Midland train turns up to take us to Stourbridge Junction. This is where I say my goodbyes as I have to go into Stourbridge Town to visit the bank (Mr UKBuses wiped me out when it came to the rounds!!!) and also seeing as we have arrived back home to Stourbridge I do have a commiseration pint at J D Wetherspoons "The Chequers Inn" before getting National Express West Midlands Service 276 back home.

Another cracking weekend was had in London, big thanks goes to Mr UKBuses who made the plans for a superb weekend away. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, here is his bald spot:


Bald Spot 1!

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot is seen lurking around Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2!

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is seen lurking around another bus station, this time at Aldgate.

Bald Spot 3!

Bald Spot 3: What a black horse, The Bald Spot makes an appearance at The Lords Mayor Show.

Bald Spot 4!

Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot is trying to make an appearance on the BBC at The Lords Mayor Show.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 11: Remembrance Sunday Parade

Date: Sunday 9 November 2014

Out last full day in the capital, which will see us attend the Remembrance Sunday Parade taking place at Whitehall.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall
Its our third day in London and we have an early wake up call this morning as we decide to have breakfast early, I meet up with Mr UKBuses in reception and he is on time again, and we make our way to the breakfast room (otherwise known as the bar) where after a problem where the hotel staff were thinking we were trying to get a free breakfast, we fill up with loads of bacon, washed down with a load of yogurt (and coffee in Mr UKBuses case), giving five minutes to let the food go down before I go back to my room to get my scout uniform on ready for the Remembrance service at Whitehall. With me suited and booted, we meet up at reception with Mr UKBuses on time again and take the short walk to the East India DLR Station where we catch the DLR one stop to Canning Town, where we change the mode of transport and go underground onto the Jubilee Line to Westminster, where we alight and make our way to ground level and are opposite Big Ben.

The bands paradaing before the Remembrance Sunday Service
We make our way to Whitehall and the queue seems quite long, this is because this service commemorates 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, we soon get past security with no problems (Mr UKBuses did have a problem lifting his wallet back into his coat pocket) and we make our way to a good viewpoint close to the Cenotaph, see picture above left, or so we thought. We get near to the corner opposite The Red Lion in Whitehall and there seems to be a blockage due to some people not wanting to let people get past so they don't lose their place in the crowd. Mr UKBuses soon advances to his spot outside The Red Lion by following a policewoman getting through the crowds, I'm not so lucky and am stuck in the crowds being pushed and shoved from behind by other people trying to get past, eventually nearly 30 minutes later I do get to join Mr UKBuses, that is after some "fresh air", in which a policewoman asked if "I needed that?", my response was a resounding "Yes". Luckily, I get to our spot just before the bands come out and take their place, see picture right, and the music starts just before the service takes place. Where we are standing, we can see the cameraman in front of us, who we were standing behind yesterday at the Lords Mayor Show, I bet he was thinking that we were stalking him!

The Red Lion, Whitehall
The service is started by a two minute silence with the cannon being fired and the chimes of Big Ben starting it off, followed by another cannon shot being fired to mark the end of the two minute silence, the service takes place with the Queen and Heads of State and political party leader's laying down wreaths on the Cenotaph, the service is finished with "God Save The Queen" being sung. After the service is finished, we take a couple of steps and head into "The Red Lion", see picture left, where we rest our legs for a bit, we have half an hour to wait before we can have a pint, so a coke is purchased to sup whilst we wait until 12pm. Luckily we get a seat as the pub is now becoming near full as other people have the same idea. At 12pm, we are at the bar and have a pint of "Sea Farers", and after that one is supped we know we have no chance of escape yet as the veterans march is still taking place which is weird as we are watching it on TV even though they are directly outside, so we decide to have another pint with Mr UKBuses shouting at me to get him another pint of "Seaman", in which he gets a few funny looks from the other patrons in the pub. It is just before 13:00 and after a wait outside the pub, we are finally released and we make our way as fast as we can before the crowds to Westminster Tube Station and onto the Circle and District Line to Tower Hill where we alight to a big crowd.

The Poppies at The Tower Of London


The Poppies on display at The Tower Of London.

Cheers from The Blind Beggar
After getting close we decide not to wait in the queue to see the porcelain poppies that have been planted around the tower, we do get a glimpse of them over a hedge just about, so we decide to leave the crowds behind and catch a Stagecoach operated Heritage Routemaster on Service 15 from Tower Hill to Charing Cross. We alight at Charing Cross and head straight underground onto the Bakerloo Line for one stop, alighting at Embankment to change to the Circle and District Line from Embankment to Whitechapel for our first joint visit to our London regular (second visit of 2014 for me!) "The Blind Beggar", see picture right, where we give our legs a rest for a while whilst supping a pint. With the drinks finished we cross the road and catch Stagecoach London Service 25 to Aldgate Bus Station where we take a few photographs in the fading light and then board Stagecoach London Service 115 back to the Travelodge Docklands Hotel for a rest.

After just over an hours rest, we meet back down in reception and head to the East India DLR Station where we catch the 17:45 DLR journey one stop to Canning Town interchanging onto the Jubilee Line and catching the underground to Green Park, where upon arrival we alight and change on to the Victoria Line to catch the underground to Victoria. Hunger is starting to kick in now and we decide to go to a J D Wetherspoons that we use quite often at Victoria, "The Willow Walk", where drinks are ordered and eventually we find a table to sit at so that we can order food. Food is ordered but we have waited a long time, so when the waiter passes by I state that we have been waiting nearly 30 minutes for our food, fair play to the waiter who was on his own in a packed pub with everyone ordering food, he soon came out with our meals. With our meals finally eaten and washed down by a pint, we head back to Victoria Bus Station where we catch a BorisMaster Service 38 to Green Park, where we alight so we can catch a bus to Trafalgar Square, the one we thought of does not turn up so we instead catch London Generals Service 19 to Picadilly Circus.

When we alight at Picadilly Circus, the extra pint we had at The Willow Walk has caught up on us so we go on a search for a toilet. After passing Planet Hollywood and Her Majesty's Theatre, we come across a sports bar called "Riley's", we decide to make use of the facilities first before ordering and after using the toilet, Mr UKBuses turned down the opportunity to have his nails done in the loo, we decide not to stay and we head back out onto the streets and we head towards Trafalgar Square and decide to pop into Fullers "The Admiralty" where we have a pint of Fullers "Sea Farer", Mr UKBuses gets the name right this time. We take a seat and rest our legs for a bit and am surprised that the place is so quiet considering it is right opposite Nelson's Column.

We decide to make our way back to the hotel so we have a little walk to Charing Cross where we get on the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus, but Mr UKBuses still needs his eyes tested as we discover that we are going in the wrong direction. A quick change and we end up back at East India DLR Station at 21:15 and head straight to the hotel bar for a nightcap.  The day has taken its toll on Mr UKBuses so he decides to retire whilst I stay up a little longer and have a couple more pints of Budweiser (on draught!) before I retire to bed.

Another superb day was had especially with the serene service at Whitehall and our visit to The Blind Beggar which has changed hands since we last visited in 2014!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 10: Lords Mayor Show

Date: Saturday 8 November 2014

Out first full day in the capital, with a visit to The Lords Mayor Show and the Phantom Of The Opera musical in the evening.

The Lords Mayor Show
We get a bit of a lie in this morning, but at about 08:30, we meet up in reception, with Mr UKBuses being on time! We enter the bar, sorry breakfast room, and after getting past security we make our way to the food, that is after getting the apple juice / coffee for Mr UKBuses and a table sorted. The plate is loaded up with lashings of bacon and sausages and after that is consumed, I hit a new record by having four yogurts. After a few minutes to let our stomachs settle, we return back to our rooms to get ready before meeting back down in reception (Mr UKBuses was down there early!) and making our way around the corner to the East India DLR Station where we catch a 09:29 DLR train to Canning Town. We have quite a bit of time so as we are in the bus station, we take a few photographs before our bus turns up. Getting some liquid refreshment before the bus arrives, we catch a Stagecoach London Service 115 bus which takes us back past the Travelodge Docklands hotel and terminates at Aldgate Bus Station, where we alight, leaving us a few minutes to take a few photographs.

After the photographs have been taken, we cross the road to Aldgate Underground Station and onto the Metropolitan Line to Liverpool Street where, after alighting, we change onto the Central Line to take us to Bank, where after alighting we make our way to ground level where we mingle with the crowds before taking a spot to see the main parade at The Lords Mayor Show. We go for a different spot this year as there is no Helen Skelton on presenting duties. We are stuck behind one of the cameramen, see picture below top, and apart from seeing the main parade live, we can also see what he is filming and what is also going out live on BBC One. Quite a few buses are taking part in the parade and the parade must be a couple of miles at least in length to say that you are standing there for an hour before the parade even finishes, see picture below bottom (That is not Mr UKBuses!), at least we were lucky this year as the rain held off, hopefully it is not waiting to make an appearance tomorrow. With the parade over it is time to make a visit to a new destination in London or you can say the outskirts of London, so we head back into Bank Underground Station and back onto the Central Line.

The Cameraman at The Lords Mayor Show

Part of the procession at The Lords Mayor Show

Elstree Studios
Arrival at Liverpool Street, we change onto the Circle Line where we alight at Blackfriars and make our way to the train station, which is situated above the Thames so we had a nice view to look at whilst we waited for our Govia Thameslink train which we board and have a journey of just under 30 minutes where we alight at Elstree and Borehamwood, the railway station was nothing to write home about, but dotted about the bus station outside are rather revealing displays about celebrities and films that have been recorded at the nearby Elstree Studios. We wait and wait for our bus to turn up, but finally at 13:36 a Transdev London Sovereign service 292 bus turns up to take us to Elstree Studios, well the stop at Tesco situated next door. We have a look at the main Elstree Film Studios, see picture right, before taking a short walk to the BBC owned studios, unfortunately the main buildings hide Albert Square, so we couldn't catch a glimpse of The Queen Vic. After our little tour around Elstree, we decide to rest our legs at the nearby J D Wetherspoons "The Hart and Spool" where we have a couple of pints. I also make use of the free WI-FI and look up a website (http://www.reelstreets.com/) where we find out that a couple of On The Buses films have been filmed in the area and we deduct that one of the streets we walked down was a location of the film as well as the main high street outside the pub was also used as a location.

With the drinks supped we say goodbye to the couple next to us who are on standby and awaiting to see if they are going to view Strictly Come Dancing a bit later on. We make our way around the corner to Tesco and eventually board a Metroline service 107 service back to the Elstree and Borehamwood railway station. Upon arrival we both feel the effect of the second pint and the toilets are currently in use, Mr UKBuses does get the first visit though as the station manager opens up the disabled toilet for him, whilst he is in their the main public toilet becomes free. After our unplanned visit, we make our way to the platform and at 15:08 our Govia Thameslink train arrives, which we board and catch to Kentish Town and onto the Northern Line back to Bank, where we change again and onto the DLR which we catch back to East India DLR Station, where we alight and return back to the hotel to rest for just over an hour.

The Phantom Of The Opera Stage
We meet up back in reception at 17:45 and Mr UKBuses is on time again. As we leave the heavens open and the rain does indeed pour down, we do have to catch the DLR so it is a quick run to the East India DLR station and board a DLR train slightly damp. Just one stop to Canning Town, where we change onto the Jubilee Line to Westminster, which gives us time to dry off. We alight at Westminster and make our way to ground and it is still raining, but not as bad. We walk around the corner where we catch a Go-Ahead London service 453 bus to Trafalgar Square just in time for tea. We make our way around the corner, where Mr UKBuses wallet makes an appearance and gets topped up before we go into J D Wetherspoons "The Lord Moon on The Mall", which after a quick walk round and no tables available, we quickly exit and have to settle for food opposite in McDonalds. With our fast food eaten, we walk around to Her Majesty's Theatre to go and see "The Phantom Of The Opera", see picture left. We are located upstairs and decide to have a drink in what seems to be a very small bar. As our drinks our ordered we decide to take the barman up on his offer and order and pay for interval drinks and true to his word, the barman had put our drinks where he said they would be, it was a shame that both bottles had my name on. I did think when this show was chosen that it wouldn't be any good, but I must admit that I enjoyed the show from start to finish and the end was superb especially how the Phantom seemed to vanish into thin air. I would thoroughly recommend seeing this show.

Show over, we make our way back to Trafalgar Square and catch a Abellio service 3 bus back to Parliament Square, but Mr UKBuses map allowance fails again and we have to alight past the Houses of Parliament and have a few minutes walk back around the corner to Westminster Tube Station. Back onto the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and then the short hop on the DLR back to East India DLR Station, where we arrive back at the Travelodge Docklands Hotel just shy of 23:00. The events of the day have taken its toll on Mr UKBuses so he retires to bed whilst I am still awake so decide to have a couple of pints of Budweiser on draught as a nightcap before retiring myself.

A good day was had with the Lords Mayor Show up to its usual good standard and also did enjoy The Phantom Of The Opera, I thought it may have been boring but in the end it was a joy to watch especially the ending when The Phantom disappeared.

Friday, 7 November 2014

2014 - Day Out 9: London

Date: Friday 7 November 2014

It is time for our annual weekend away in London, this year we will see The Lord Mayor Show followed by a musical on the evening and the Remembrance Day Parade at Whitehall.

I have to make a visit to the town before meeting Mr UKBuses to get some last minute things for the weekend, so even before the weekend starts I am already off the plan. I text Mr UKBuses to let him know and to meet me at Stourbridge Interchange. After my last minute shopping is done, I wait at the stand for Mr UKBuses to turn up on his service 276 from Norton and realise that it is running late. I do get a phone call off him asking me where I was, which I reply that I am waiting at the stand and that you will be late arriving. He then informs me that he is waiting at the railway station as he had a lift (so Mr UKBuses is already off the plan too!), I make my way towards the railway station and meet up with Mr UKBuses and we board the Stourbridge Shuttle and make our way to Stourbridge Junction, where we alight and don't have to wait very long before we catch our London Midland train to Birmingham Snow Hill at 17:50.

Bottle Of Tilting Ale
After passing through Cradley Heath, where redevelopment works are well under way, and Rowley Regis we arrive at Birmingham Snow Hill, where we alight and have a bit of time to get some food and drink before we have to board our train to London, we decide to go to J D Wetherspoons "The Briar Rose" and sample a couple of pints of Doombar, but after a few circuits of the pub, there are no available tables so we have to leave the food. After our rest and refreshments, we make our way to Birmingham New Street, with me having some "fresh air" before we enter the station. Before we board our train, we purchase some sandwiches and crisps to eat on our journey. We board our Virgin Train which will depart from Birmingham New Street at 19:30, or so we thought, due to a trespasser on the line, we have to wait at Birmingham New Street and at 19:55 we finally depart Birmingham New Street and we our on our way to London Euston having some Tilting Ale, see picture left, along the way.

Travelodge Docklands Hotel
The driver of the train makes up time and after passing through Coventry and Rugby, we finally arrive at London Euston at 21:15. The first port of call is outside for some "fresh air", after the break is over we head back into the station and with our OysterCards at hand, we make our way underground and onto the Northern Line to Bank. Arrival at Bank and we are still underground and after a brisk walk through the underground alleyways we board the DLR (still underground) and make our way to the final destination. A few minutes after leaving Bank, we make our way back into normal level tracks and back outside and arrive at our destination and base for the weekend, East India at 21:58. We have a few minutes walk before we arrive at Travelodge Docklands hotel, see picture right, where after checking in and dropping the stuff off at our rooms (I'm on the ground floor again whilst Mr UKBuses has to climb stairs), we meet back up in the hotel bar where we have a couple of pints (and as always here I have Budweiser as it is on draught) before retiring for the night.

A good start to the weekend, even though we haven't done any sightseeing today, it means we can wake up in London and make an early start tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

2014 - Day Out 8: Blackpool

Date: Saturday 27 September 2014

Following on from our coach trip to Weston-Super-Mare in August, it was decided that we would undertake another one. Tickets were soon booked for a day trip with Whittles to the Vegas of UK, Blackpool.


Welcome to Blackpool!
We have a lie-in today as the coach is not picking us up until 10am, I have a little errand to run in Norton before meeting up with Mr UKBuses, but when I text him so that he can have a lift up to Wollaston, he responds saying he is already on the bus on the way there, so I rush to make my way to Wollaston where I finally meet up with Mr UKBuses just before 9.45am which means I have time for some "fresh air" before having to board. Right on cue at 10am, our Whittles coach turns up and we board and we have to choose different seats as the people on board have decided to use their own seating plan. With the seats finally taken we head off for our day trip ahead. We head towards Stourbridge and then down to Hagley so that we can get straight on the M5 and eventually onto the M6 to head up north. We do hit a little bit of a traffic jam as a build up of traffic is caused by roadworks along the way. Halfway through the journey and the coach stops at the Charnock Richard Services, so we alight for some "fresh air" and also an expensive sandwich from W H Smiths after we see the size of the queue at Burger King. We take a seat and eat our sandwich before heading back to the coach, after some "fresh air" of course, and also another change of seats as someone behind us could talk to their friends properly who were seated in front of us.

We head back towards the north after re-joining the M6 and Mr UKBuses decides to have a nap, whilst he is napping the girl sitting opposite us asks if I have a pen handy so that she could draw a moustache on the sleeping Mr UKBuses, wish I did, it was so tempting, but as this was mentioned Mr UKBuses woke up anyway. We were getting close to Blackpool and there was no further chance of a nap for Mr UKBuses as towards the front of a coach a group started to have a good old fashioned sing-along, of course I have to join in and also the group behind us did, Mr UKBuses declined to take part. After the singing stops we arrive in a sunny Blackpool, but we are held up at the coach park as another coach has pinched our parking space for the day, we do finally get onto the coach park and we make our way past the Pleasure Beach and onto the sea front. We don't have long to wait for our transport and we board Blackpool Transport's Service 1, buying our £4.50 Daysaver ticket (I thought I was back in the Midlands!) which allows us to catch unlimited buses and trams throughout the day. We make our way along the seafront, but we are passed by a few horse and carriages along the way, before arriving at our bus stop right outside the world famous Blackpool Tower.

Cheers from The Albert and Lion.
After taking a few photographs, we sample the J D Wetherspoons "The Albert and Lion", see picture right, which is situated right next door to the Tower. Mr UKBuses decides to buy the first round (that is a first!) while I look for a table and whilst Mr UKBuses is queuing (yes there was a proper queue to get served), it takes me a couple of laps around the pub before I spot someone leaving a table and soon swoop in for the kill. Mr UKBuses is finally served and he comes to the table and texts his work colleague who is also on holiday in Blackpool to see if he wants to pop in for a drink. We drink slowly just in case Mr UKBuses work colleague does turn up, but he does reply to say that he is at the Pleasure Beach with his family, so we finish our drinks and make our way back outside. Just opposite the pub is a tram stop, so we cross the road and wait to try out the new generation of Blackpool Trams. We don't have to wait too long before a tram arrives, we board and luckily spot a couple of empty seats, so we sit down and enjoy the ride.

Rigby Road Depot
We decide to go a long distance, all the way to the terminus at Fleetwood Ferry, approximately 8 miles sway from the main Blackpool Town. Along the way the tram passes the illuminations located on the seafront, and stops such as Bispham, Norbreck and Cleveleys before stopping at Fleetwood Ferry, the terminus where we alight. As we get off we start to feel the effects of the pint we had in Blackpool, so as we look around Fleetwood Ferry, we also keep an eye out for toilets. We cannot see any so we decide to have a walk further into Fleetwood town, which, as we walked down the main street seemed to be deserted, but we do spot Fleetwood's J D Wetherspoons "The Thomas Drummond". As we enter Mr UKBuses decides to run straight to the toilet which leaves me standing at the bar waiting to get served (no surprise there!), making his appearance again just as I have been served and paid (coincidence!). Mr UKBuses finds a table and I make use of the amenities, where upon my return, Mr UKBuses has virtually finished his drink, so I gulp mine down and we make our way back out onto the streets of Fleetwood. We find the closest bus stop and wait a while for Blackpool Transport's Service 14 to turn up and we board the bus and head back towards Blackpool.

Cheers from The Castle!
We arrive back in Blackpool, alighting at Talbot Road so that we can catch a bus to our next destination. Whilst at the bus stop we discover that we are actually standing outside the location of what was the old bus station, as soon as we discover this our next bus turns up so we board Blackpool Transport's Service 11, where it doesn't take us long to get to our next destination, Rigby Road Depot, see picture above left. We do have to have a little walk from the bus stop and we realise that we are by the football ground and a load of supporters are coming our way, so the club must have been playing at home during our visit, luckily Mr UKBuses does not upset any of the supporters and we arrive at Rigby Road depot where we take a few pictures of some of the heritage trams parked up and also chat to a fellow tram enthusiast. Nearby is a pub that I visited several years ago so I request a liquid refreshment break and we walk along the seafront for about ten minutes with Mr UKBuses moaning about the walk along the way. We arrive at "The Castle" and we make our way to the sports bar part upstairs as a quite loud disco was taking place in the bar downstairs, we make our way to the bar and as I turn around to ask Mr UKBuses what he desires, he has made another visit to the toilets, so I end up buying the round again (cannot believe that I have fallen for this trick twice in one day!). We find a table and Mr UKBuses has a chance to rest his tiring feet, see picture right. We are feeling hungry so we decide to finish our drinks and find somewhere to fill our stomachs before we have to get our coach back.

Back aboard the coach
We have a walk to the seafront and spot a queue outside a chip shop, so we decide that if there is a queue, the food must be good and opt for old fashioned Fish and Chips, we cross the road and sit on the sea wall and eat our chips whilst looking out to sea. We were not disappointed and it is a shame that we didn't have time to go back for seconds. We have to make our way back to the coach now, so we decide to go to the tram stop and sample the trams for our last journey of the day. We board and alight not long after at the tram stop outside the Pleasure Beach where Mr UKBuses and myself get some refreshments for the journey back, as we walk through the Pleasure Beach back to the car park, we have a bit of time to kill so luckily I spot a bar and decide to sample one last pint in Blackpool, and with the last pint supped, we make our way back around the corner to the coach park. Before we board, some "fresh air" is had and as we board a vicar, Japanese dressed girl, gangster and punks decide to board our coach and also an extra passenger boards as a woman who was on the coach earlier decides to bring on board a full blown inflatable penis. With everybody on board, we make our way to the seafront to start our tour of the famous Blackpool Illuminations, see picture left.

As we make our way along the seafront our coach driver informs us that we are going to have the abort the tour of the illuminations as the road ahead is closed off after someone has been run over and killed. Our thoughts went out to the family who would have to be told of this bad news and after several members of our coach party moaning about it, I could not help myself to tell them that someone would have to be told of the bad news, which is a bit more important than a tour of the illuminations. Luckily the driver did a diversion along the back streets of Blackpool and eventually joined the sea front again so that we could see the rest of the illuminations, which put a smile back on the faces of members of our coach party. With the illuminations over, we head back onto the motorway to start our journey back and as there was singing in the morning, we thought that the singing would be louder on the way back, especially after the coach driver put a Mamma Mia musical CD on, but the singers from earlier decided to just listen to the music instead, putting a smile back on the face of Mr UKBuses.

We are on the halfway point of our return journey now and we stop off at the services on the way back. I decide to make a visit to Waitrose on the other side of the motorway, saying hello to the vicar on the way and get a bottle of "Old Speckled Hen", it was a good idea at the time, but after I had paid for it I realised that I didn't have a bottle opener on me, and Waitrose did not sell them. We make our way back to the right side of the motorway and thanks to a metal railing, I get the top off my bottle and consume the contents whilst having some "fresh air" before we board our coach to complete our journey and with a change of music the coach was now playing Queen. After three hours of leaving Blackpool, we arrive back in Wollaston (and the first passengers off!) where we say our goodbyes to our fellow passengers and at 12.15am we alight. Mr UKBuses orders a taxi and I wait with him until it arrives before walking back down the road to home and bed after a glorious day out.

Perfect weather, perfect day, perfect company which means more coach trips next year. I haven't forgot this time, here are the bald spot pictures:


Bald Spot 1
Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot is seen going to The Albert and Lion!

Bald Spot 2
Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is seen under Blackpool Tower!

Bald Spot 3
Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot is seen at Rigby Road Depot!