Sunday, 1 May 2016

2016 - Day Out 02: Llandudno

Due to being made redundant in January (I have now got further employment at another company), the trips have been a bit light for the start of 2016. It's time to fix that and we are going back on the coaches and to the North Wales coast. Today we visit Llandudno courtesy of Greenline Coaches.

Llandudno Transport Festival
It is 7.15am and Mr UKBuses gets a lift and on the way to the coach pick up point, I grab a lift with him and after getting in the car, we make our way to Birmingham Street in Stourbridge (opposite the tip) where we alight and wait for our coach to turn up. A quick breath of "fresh air" is had whilst waiting and a number of passengers are already turning up for our Greenline coach of today which turns up on time at 7.45am. We board and take our seats which are directly behind the driver, who introduces himself as John and we set off for a tour of the Black Country. As John is a new driver, he is following the coach company owner in his Mercedes which Mr UKBuses as christened "The Safety Car" so we have to hurry around the pickup points so the "Safety Car" can take its spot on the grid for the Russian Grand Prix later today.

Telford Services
We follow the "Safety Car" and head towards pickup points, firstly at Netherton, then Old Hill, Blackheath, Lapal and then we have a break as we wait for passengers before leaving and finding out that they decided to go the next pickup point with out informing the coach company. We then make our way to Oldbury, Langley before getting to our final pick up point outside Dudley Zoo (a bit late thanks to our "lost" passengers), where Mr UKBuses hides so he doesn't get mistaken for a loose monkey. The "Safety Car" has now pitted and after the final passengers are aboard and the safety notices have been given by John, it is time to hit the road and make our way through Coseley to get onto the motorway. We finally get onto the M6 motorway, where we shortly head onto the M54 motorway. Because of the times of the pickups, the driver legally needs to have a break, so approximately half hour after leaving Dudley and after approximately twenty-seven miles, we leave the M54 at Junction 4 and stop at Telford Services, see picture right.

We have about forty-five minutes break here, so decide to have breakfast. After some "fresh air", we make our way indoors and decide to use the facilities of Burger King. After our slow member of staff decides to make an appearance, I opt for a Bacon Butty (basically bacon on a burger bun!) and Hash Browns whilst Mr UKBuses is glad that he can order a Chicken Royale meal complete with fries (the Burger King employee was not so happy as he had to cook some fresh fries!). My order is done, so I take a seat and start my breakfast, which I have nearly consumed by the time Mr UKBuses gets his order and freshly cooked fries. After breakfast is consumed, we get some "fresh air" and take a couple of pictures of the coaches parked up but Mr UKBuses has a problem with his camera as the battery seems to be dead. After changing to his spare battery, he starts snapping away. After the photograph opportunities, we still have a bit of time to kill, so we decide to get some supplies for the rest of the journey. I opt for some "Fish and Chips" and a twirl. The staff at W H Smiths decide to overcharge me as the "Fish and Chips" were on offer and decided to charge me the full price. With the discrepancy sorted out, we make our way back to the coach.

The Shuttle bus to the showground.
We board our coach and take our seats where our supplies are consumed and I wish that I never purchased the "Pickled Onion" variety of "Fish and Chips" as the taste was very strong. We make our way back onto the M54 and head towards our destination, passing by Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Prestatyn and Rhyl before arriving at Llandudno just before 1.00pm. We alight the coach and I grab some "fresh air" whilst Mr UKBuses is roaming the coach park taking some photographs. We make our way around the corner to Vaughan Street, which is where we can catch the free shuttle buses (operated by preserved buses) to the Llandudno Transport FestivalSee picture left. After boarding, we head down the seafront to the showground alighting at Bodafon Fields.

The WMPTE bus at the Llandudno Transport Festival.
We make our way onto the fields and having paid the admission fee, we are "stamped" to show that we have paid. I can understand this as it saves producing paper tickets, but if you follow the advice shown to wash your hands before eating, how are you supposed to get back in if you wash off your admission stamp? We make our way to the classic buses section across muddy fields. Time is spent looking at the vehicles, such as an old WMPTE Fleetline, see picture right and taking photographs of them before meeting up again. After perusing the stalls we make our way to the entrance and find out that the beer tent is at the other end of the field where we have just come from. We do venture to the far end of the field and enter the beer tent to rest our legs, so a pint of ale is had (and I somehow manage to get the expensive first round!) and have a break before finishing our drinks and leaving. We find a tarmac path so we decide to head out of the showground via that, so after getting all the mud off our shoes, Mr UKBuses decides that he needs to pay a visit to the facilities which we have to venture back onto the mud. After his visit, we head back out of the showground and get rid of even more mud before taking a final few photographs and boarding the shuttle bus back into the town.

Local Arriva Buses.
We arrive back and alight at Vaughan Street and decide to walk past the wrestling ring and take a couple of pictures of the Arriva Sapphire's operating on Route 12 and other Arriva buses, see picture left, before making our way past the railway station and into Albert Street, where we decide to have a pit stop at "The Albert", with Mr UKBuses getting the round in this time. I find a seat and rest my legs whilst Mr UKBuses is at the bar. We still have time left before we have to get back to the coach, so we decide to get something to eat and we make our way around to one of the best J D Wetherspoons we have ever visited and head into "The Palladium". There is no sign of Bradley Walsh, so whilst Mr UKBuses finds a seat, it is time for me to head to the bar and we opt for a pint of "Orme", a local brew celebrating the nearby Great Orme. This was a nice drink and after choosing our food, I go back to the bar to order again and am disappointed as the "Orme" runs out.

Mr UKBuses decides to use the free Wi-Fi to watch the Snooker on the BBC and surprisingly quicker than we thought, our food arrives even though the waitress decides to go to the wrong table first and once the waitress gets the correct table, Mr UKBuses decides to tuck into his BBQ Chicken Melt without the "Melt" and I tuck into my Chicken Burger and chips. Whilst eating and Mr UKBuses watching his snooker, he starts moaning as the snooker starts buffering and tells me to stop looking at my phone even though I was replying to a post of a Hansons driver who was sitting elsewhere in The Palladium. We finish our food and the snooker has stopped for an interval, so we leave our drinks (the replacement for the sold out "Orme") as it didn't taste very nice and make our way back to the coach. We walk through the crowds of the closed main street in Llandudno and make our way back to the coach park. We decide we need to make a visit before we board, but as we get near the toilet on the coach park, there is a long queue which we wont be able to wait in before we leave. After a little walk around the area, we cannot find alternative toilets so board our coach, but before we take our seats, Mr UKBuses  makes use of the on-board facilities.

Just after 5.00pm, we start our return journey and we go a slightly different route this time and follow the North Welsh coast and join the M6, where after a while on the Motorway, we have our service station break at Sandbach Services. We have a quick look around and after the returning Leicester City fans return from Manchester start to get a bit noisy, we make our way back to the coach for a rest whilst waiting for the rest of the passengers, we make our way back onto the M6 and at approximately 8.30pm we arrive back in Dudley for the first drop off. We then spend just over an hour having another tour of The Black Country, before arriving back in Stourbridge where we alight. After some "fresh air", we make our way back to Stourbridge Interchange and having just missed a bus, we decide to catch a taxi back home. Mr UKBuses is dropped off first, so I decide to get out of the taxi after in Wollaston, where a nightcap is had in The Unicorn before heading home to rest my legs.

A good day out was had and after the barren of trips, it was a welcome change. Despite what we thought would be a wet day, the rain stopped falling as we arrived at Llandudno and stayed dry until we left. Thanks to Greenline Coaches and our driver John and also to Mr UKBuses, speaking of Mr UKBuses, did you know that he transports a bald spot around with him:

Bald Spot 1
Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot is having battery trouble at Telford Services.

Bald Spot 2
Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot at The Llandudno Transport Festival.

Bald Spot 3
Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot is trying to hide behind a Leyland National.

Bald Spot 4
Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot is trying to take a picture of that other blokes bald spot!

Bald Spot 5
Bald Spot 5: The Bald Spot may have been caught!

Bald Spot 6
Bald Spot 6: The Bald Spot before leaving the Llandudno Transport Festival.

Bald Spot 7
Bald Spot 7: The Bald Spot seen in Llandundo town.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

2016 - Day Out 01: London

Its a new year and for our first trip of 2016, we are back on the coaches again, our first operator being Whittles and our first location is London.

Trafalgar Square, London
Its an early start and Mr UKBuses makes his way to Wollaston, with myself meeting him halfway, after meeting up, we make our way on the frost covered pavements up to Wollaston village where we quickly pop into the Spar to get some liquid refreshments for the coach journey ahead. After paying five pence for a carrier bag, we make our way to the bus stop situated on the main Wollaston Island and wait for our coach to turn up. As we get nearer to pickup time, a few more people appear to catch our coach and the coach is running late. I decide to get some "fresh air" and as soon as I light up, yes, the coach arrives and pulls up at 07.50am. We board our Whittles Coach with coach driver, Pete, greeting us as we board, we take our seats, getting comfortable and warming up as we make our way to the last pick up point at Stourbridge Ring Road, before doing another tour of the ring road and making our way to Hagley and then onto the M5 briefly before going onto the M42 and then onto the M40.

Our Whittles Coach at Oxford Services
We make our way along the M40 and as we reach Junction 8a, we leave the motorway and have a break at the Welcome Break Oxford Services, so we alight the coach and after some "fresh air", we make our way indoors. We decide to have a bite to eat and breakfast is still being served, so we visit Burger King and have a "Bacon Buttie" and I also opt for a hash brown. When our meal is served we are asked if we want any sauces, we ask for brown sauce and get offered BBQ sauce, so we decline and tuck in and our bacon buttie is basically a couple of slices of bacon on a burger bun which already had tomato sauce on it and the hash brown is a load of small mini hash browns. With the breakfast not being as expected, it did go down well and certainly hit the spot. We walk back around to the coach and some "fresh air" is had whilst we wait for the driver to return, see picture right. We board our coach and Mr UKBuses decides to take a couple of fingers off his hand by firstly getting one trapped in the overhead locker and then he decides to take another one out by getting it trapped when he raises the arm rest. Just after 10.30am we make our way back onto the M40 and get to London, leaving the M40 and onto the A40 passing RAF Northolt and passing through White City, just getting a glimpse of the old BBC TV Centre and passing Kensington Palace before alighting at Park Lane.

A New Bus For London on service 38 at Victoria Bus Station
We are dropped off just by the bus stop where we have to catch our first bus of the day, so after some "fresh air" whilst Mr UKBuses takes a few photographs, our Arriva London service 73 arrives and we tap in for the first time today and also this year, using our Oystercards. We go through the "Streets of London" and after about fifteen minutes, we arrive at Victoria Bus Station where a few minutes are had taking some photographs, see picture left. We make our way through Victoria Railway Station, to get to our bus stop and we catch Metroline's Service 24 from Victoria, which takes about 10 minutes to go round in a circle, and we arrive at Trafalgar Square about 20 minutes later, where we alight. After a few more photographs are taken, we decide to have a drink and some food, so we head to J D Wetherspoon's "The Lord Moon of the Mall", where Mr UKBuses gets the first round in. Whilst he is at the bar waiting to get served, I look around the pub for a table and cannot find one, so food may be have to taken elsewhere. I do wait around the front of the pub and luckily a few people leave and I swoop in for the kill and lay claim to the table. We decide to have some food despite a half hour wait and Mr UKBuses decides to opt for the BBQ Chicken Melt "without the melt", I opt for the Chicken Burger with a free pint. Another round is purchased as I ordered the food.

After a "fresh air" break, I make my way back inside and re-join Mr UKBuses and just after half an hour later, our food eventually arrives so we tuck in. The chips we had were slightly limp and then I went to eat my chicken burger which half of it was rock solid and must have been left on the griddle far too long. After eating what I could, I put my plate to one side and when a member of staff came round to collect our plates he decided to ask the question, "Was everything alight with our meals?", I then demonstrated with a fork, that the fork couldn't even penetrate my burger and after about five minutes away he comes back to the table, he comes back with a full refund for both our meals. Whilst it was not the member of staff's fault about the food, I must congratulate him on the way he dealt with the complaint and how quickly he responded. We finish our drinks off and then make our way around to the Charing Cross Underground Station, where we make our first journey of the day and year, on The Tube.

The Carpenters Arms, Bethnal Green
We make our way onto the Bakerloo Line and go a couple of stops to Oxford Circus, where we alight and make our way onto the Central Line and we make our way to the East End and just after ten minutes we arrive and alight at Bethnal Green Underground Station. We make our way to ground level, and we make our way to the bus stop opposite the station and we catch Stagecoach London service 8 to Barnet Grove, where we alight and make our way down St Matthews Row and into a public house which was once owned by The Kray Brothers, so we enter into "The Carpenters Arms", see picture right, where Mr UKBuses decides to make a dash for the toilet, leaving me to get the round in (which means that I have purchased two rounds in a go as I purchased the second drink at the Lord Moon of The Mall!!), which came to a staggering £8.80 for two pints. We eventually find somewhere to sit, in the hallway next to the carpenter's tool's hanging on the wall (or were they a reference to tool used by The Krays?). We think Ronnie and Reggie were haunting the place as when we both took a "cheers photograph", both came out not in focus, see picture below left.

Cheers from The Carpenters Arms!
We finish our drinks and after passing a public house close by on the bus earlier, we decide to go off the plan and walk down Cheshire Street and onto Vallance Road, where upon on research we found out that we were standing in front of the building that now occupies what would have been The Krays family home, we walk to the end of Vallance Road and enter The Krays local pub, "The Marquis Of Cornwallis". We have a quick drink here, before we make our way out onto the East End streets and we again catch Stagecoach London service 8, where we alight at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station, looking at The Dominion Theatre for the first time without the giant statue of Freddie Mercury standing outside. We decide to pop into McDonald's opposite for a quick bite to eat and then we get onto our final tube journey of the day tapping in at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station and onto the Central Line alighting at Marble Arch Underground Station.

We make our way back to ground level and we still have half an hour left before the coach arrives, luckily in the area we know that there is a J D Wetherspoons pub just around the corner from our pickup point in Park Lane, so we decide to get in the warmth and visit "The Tyburn" and it is my turn for the round, even though I got an extra round in at The Carpenters Arms, and we rest our feet for a while before making our way back around the corner to Park Lane, where on time, our Whittles Coach arrives and we all board and take our seats ready for the journey back up the motorway. We start our journey back and it is not too long before snoring is heard when Mr UKBuses decides to have a nap. Luckily for the other passengers it is less than hour of hearing the noise as we arrive at Welcome Break Oxford Services where we have a brief break and time for some "fresh air" before we board again.

We leave the services and it is back up the M40, M42 and M5 with Mr UKBuses having another nap, before leaving the motorway and making our way back through Hagley, before arriving in Stourbridge, the first drop off point at around 08.15pm. Mr UKBuses makes sure that people get off quickly so that we can carry onto Wollaston where at about 08.20pm we arrive and alight. Luckily for Mr UKBuses, National Express West Midlands service 276 is running a few minutes late, but it does arrive and he boards for his short journey back home. I bid goodbye and have a quick nightcap in Graham's Place and The Unicorn before retiring back home and getting a well deserved sleep.

Despite the cold chill, the weather was kind to us and a good first day out of 2016 was had, thanks to Pete, our coach driver and Mr UKBuses for the plan, speaking of Mr UKBuses, his bald spot did make an appearance in the cold weather:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot lurking at London Victoria Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot nearly getting run over by a Borismaster at London Victoria Bus Station.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The winter sunshine is reflected by the Bald Spot at Trafalgar Square.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 17: Liverpool

Following on from our weekend break in London, it is time to go back on the coaches and this time Greenline Coaches will be taking Mr UKBuses and myself to Liverpool on what will be our last coach trip of 2015.

The Albert Docks
Time to go and catch the coach, so I make my way to Wollaston, where just after 07.30am, I board National Express West Midlands service 276 leaving on time, so I send a text to Mr UKBuses to tell him that we are on the way. Mr UKBuses boards at Norton and we make our way to Stourbridge, alighting at Stourbridge Interchange. A quick visit is had by Mr UKBuses to the cash point to top up his ever bulging wallet and we make our way to the pick up point in Birmingham Street where "fresh air" is had while waiting. It is getting cold as there is a sharp wind blowing so to hurry up the coach, I have some more "fresh air" and as I finish my break, the Greenline mini coach "Herbie" arrives. We board and take our seats and get ourselves warm. We are waiting for a few people still and after waiting ten minutes extra and the coach driver trying to contact the missing passengers, the coach driver is about to pull off until he sees a group of people running towards the coach (they waited at the ring road bus stop, the other side of Stourbridge). With all our passengers on board, we make our way to Colley Gate, where a few more passengers board, before making our way to Dudley, where we change onto the main coach.

Bram, Our Coach
We depart from Dudley just after 09.00am and we make our way through Bilston and onto the M6 motorway heading north, bypassing Stafford and Stoke on Trent. As we head further north, the coach driver pulls of the motorway at Sandbach Services, where after a comfort break, Mr UKBuses decides to wait in the queue for his McDonald's, whilst I pop next door where I have a BLT sandwich, which I have almost eaten by the time Mr UKBuses gets served and joins me. A "fresh air" break is had before we board the coach to complete our journey, once we take our seats and wait again for the same missing passengers earlier, we head back onto the M6 motorway and after passing Warrington, we turn off onto the M62 motorway which gets us to Liverpool, arriving at our drop off point, The Albert Docks, just before 11.30am, see picture above left. We alight our coach "Bram",see picture right, before we make our way into the city, a "fresh air" break is had.

We don't have far to walk and we make our way out of the docks and virtually opposite is Liverpool One, one of the main bus stations in Liverpool. After a few photographs are taken, we make our way to the travel centre situated in the bus station, where we purchase our Savaway All Areas day ticket. After asking for our day ticket, we are presented with a smartcard, The Walrus, which Merseytravel have recently introduced, so instead of showing the bus drivers our paper ticket, we just simply scan our card upon boarding our buses.

The Roscoe Head
Our first destination in Liverpool (and to get out of the cold), we catch a Stagecoach Merseyside service 86 bus which takes us from Liverpool One, through the city centre streets, where, as we reach Renshaw Street, we alight, and have a short walk into a side street and have a little warm in "The Roscoe Head", see picture left. This pub is under threat of closure with a campaign from the regulars to try and keep it open. After sampling the Roscoe Head, I can understand why they want to save it from closure, the bar staff are pleasant and friendly, it is an old fashioned pub with different rooms, if it wasn't for visiting other places in Liverpool, I could have stayed in The Roscoe Head for a few hours. After we finish our drinks we do have to go back out into the cold and make our way around the corner again into Renshaw Street, where as we arrive at the bus stop another Stagecoach Merseyside service 86 pull sup, so we board and we make our way back to Liverpool One.

Arriva Birkenhead Bus Depot
We alight at Liverpool One, where we decide to get a few more photographs. Our next destination is Birkenhead, the other side of the River Mersey. Looking at the time, we wouldn't be able to get to Pier Head to catch the famous ferry, so we have a walk through the main city centre streets, which are quite busy in the run up to Christmas. We arrive at Whitechapel, and get confused when we see a destination of Tower Hill on the buses going past, thinking that we are in London, rather than Liverpool. We have a few minutes wait and we board another Stagecoach Merseyside bus, Service 1 which takes us from Liverpool to Birkenhead bus station going underneath the River Mersey through the Queensway Tunnel. We alight at Birkenhead Bus Station and just miss our next bus, so have about twenty minutes to wait for our next bus. Whilst Mr UKBuses is taking a few photographs, I go in search of a toilet as the pint in The Roscoe Head has taken it's toll. I do find one which is out of order, so make my way back into the bus station after being pestered by a TalkTalk broadband man and take our place in the queue for our next bus. Our Arriva North West Bus pulls up and we board service 407, where after ten minutes we alight just past Mallaby Street and cross the road to take some photographs of the Arriva North Birkenhead Bus Depot, see picture right. After taking some photographs, we make our way to the bus stop where we see a Arriva North West Service 437 bus pull out of Mallaby Street, so a quick dash to the bus stop is taken, which we need not have done as their was a driver change about to take place. We take our seats and shortly arrive back at Birkenhead Bus Station.

The MacKenzie
Time for a warm again, so we decide to have a walk from the bus station past the J D Wetherpsoons (yes, Mr UKBuses did walk past!) and up Claughton Road, where after about five minutes we arrive at "The Mackenzie", see picture left, a pub we have been in before and after a few years away, the place hasn't changed. There are no real ales on, so a John Smith's Smoothpour is chosen and Mr UKBuses has a Guinness. Whilst Mr UKBuses is ordering I go for a long overdue comfort break, which was made worse between the depot and The Mackenzie with the now freezing winds. After watching a bit of football and resting our legs, we make our way back out into the cold and back to Birkenhead Bus Station, via the Pyramids Shopping Centre and being pestered again by a different TalkTalk Broadband person and also where Mr UKBuses makes another visit to the cash machine (twice in one day!). Instead of catching the bus to the ferry terminal at Seacombe, we decide to miss out the ferry due to the cold wind and get the bus back to Liverpool. We board a Stagecoach Gold Service 2 and head back under the River Mersey and back into Liverpool, alighting at Sir Thomas Street. We are getting a bit peckish now, so we make our way around the corner and into Queens Square, passing through the bus station and into the main shopping centre, where we decide to rest our feet and have something to eat at J D Wetherspoons "The Fall Well". Before we go to the bar, we decide to have a look around first to see if there are any tables available as the pub is quite full, we do luckily get a table towards the back after we spot someone leaving. We have a look at the menu and Mr UKBuses goes for the BBQ Chicken melt "without the melt" and a pint of Guinness and myself, I opt for the Gammon and a pint of real ale. I head towards the bar where it is taking ages to get served, but I eventually get served and somehow I end up with two pints of ale and a pint of Guinness, even though I have only ordered one real ale. As my pint was a porter and looks the same as Guinness, Mr UKBuses thinks he has an extra pint!! We wait about fifteen minutes and there is confusion and our meals are offered to someone else, as close by is another table with the same number as ours. We do eventually get our food and tuck in. With us fed and watered, we decide to make our way back outside.

We leave the Fall Well behind and make our way back through the busy shopping centre and back to Liverpool One, it is now too dark to take any photographs, so we head straight towards The Albert Docks and have about forty-five minutes to wait for our coach to pick us up. Mr UKBuses wants to go to "The Beatles Story" shop so he may be able to pick up a Christmas present, so we make our way around to the shop and after having a little look around, Mr UKBuses decides not to get a present after seeing the prices and nearly fainting. We leave the shop behind and still have a while to wait, so we head into the warmth and a few doors away there is a pub / restaurant which we decide to rest our feet. We head into the "Circo" Bar and Restaurant and I decide to nearly faint when it is my round and despite only having a pint and a soft drink, the round comes to over £6. We take a seat overlooking the Albert Docks and before leaving I make sure that every drop is drunk out of the glass. We head back out and around the corner where our coach is waiting. A "fresh air" break is had before we board and we take our seats and get warm again. There are a few people left to board and a few minutes after we are supposed to have departed, the missing passengers (guess who?) turn up and we are on our way.

We head back out of Liverpool and back onto the M62 motorway and eventually back onto the M6 motorway, bound for the West Midlands. There has been an accident further ahead along the motorway, so as we battle our way through the traffic, Mark, our coach driver decides to quickly pull into Knutsford Services so anyone could have a quick comfort break. I opt for a "fresh air" break and board the coach and we are waiting for our favourite passengers again before we head back out onto the M6 motorway, where the traffic is moving more quickly now. We head back towards the West Midlands and are nearing Stoke On Trent where the coach driver decides to have a proper break now and we pull into Keele Services where we have about twenty minutes to stretch our legs. "Fresh air" is had and we board our coach again, where our favourite passengers are yet again late coming back to the coach. We head back onto the motorway and alight at Junction 10, where we head to Dudley arriving at 07.50pm. We change back onto the mini coach, "Herbie" again and yet again even though we are just changing coaches, our favourite passengers take there time. After they board we make our way through to Colley Gate and back to Stourbridge where we alight in Birmingham Street. Luckily this time we have plenty of time to walk up to Stourbridge Interchange and also some more "fresh air" is had along the way. We board the National Express West Midlands service 276 at 08.35pm, saying goodbye to Mr UKBuses when he alights at Norton and I carry on to Wollaston where I alight and have a nightcap or two at "Grahams Place" and "The Unicorn" before getting back home to rest my legs. 

Despite a freezing cold wind, another great day out was had in Merseyside, with thanks to Greenline Coaches, our coach driver Mark and the company of Mr UKBuses, speaking of Mr UKBuses, his bald spot made an appearance in the cold weather:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot causes glaring issues at The Albert Docks.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot tries to hide at Arriva Birkenhead Bus Depot

Monday, 9 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 16: Return from London

Its our final morning in London and we wake up for the last time this year at Travelodge Docklands hotel and enjoy our last breakfast before making our way back to the West Midlands.

Travelodge Docklands Hotel
After making sure everything is packed, I make my way downstairs for some "fresh air" before Mr UKBuses surfaces and we make our way into the Bar Cafe where we fill up with a large breakfast to ensure we are full until we get back to the West Midlands. With a table chosen it is time to get our food and Mr UKBuses spends a few minutes again at the coffee machine and I think today he has got the hang of it. Whilst he is messing about with the coffee machine, I make my way to the food and load my plate up with bacon, sausage, beans and hash browns and make my way to the table. Mr UKBuses gets his plate filled up and we eat our breakfast. With my main breakfast out of the way, it is time to wash it down with some more apple juice and a few yoghurt's. Whilst Mr UKBuses finishes his breakfast off, I go outside for some "fresh air" before making my way back in. It is nearly time to leave and we make our way back to the rooms and make sure that everything is packed. I say goodbye to my room and make my way down to reception and check out. Time for a quick break of "fresh air" whilst waiting for Mr UKBuses and he checks out and we make our way to East India DLR station saying goodbye to Travelodge Docklands, see picture left.

We climb the stairs for the last time this year and tap in and make our way to the platform where after a few minutes we catch our DLR train to Canning Town, where we change onto The Underground and onto the Jubilee Line where we board a packed train. Luckily we do get chance to sit down for a few stops before we alight at Green Park, where we change onto the Victoria Line and catch our final tube this year to Victoria station where we alight and tap out. We make our way to ground, where Mr UKBuses asks if I want some "fresh air", only because he wants me to look after his bag whilst he goes around Victoria bus station to get a few photographs. Mr UKBuses has been gone for a while and expecting him to come around the corner, he pops up behind me as he has been in the station to get an extra OysterCard for when he comes down with family. Its time to say goodbye to London and we make our way to Buckingham Palace Road, where after a few minutes waiting at the bus stop, we board a London General service 11 bus. We don't have to go to far before we arrive at our stop and we alight at the same stop that we caught our first bus from on Friday, so you could say that we have come full circle and now is the time to leave London.

Victoria Coach Station
We are at Victoria Coach Station, see picture right, it is a bit different this time as we have to go in the main departure building and after getting some liquid refreshment for the journey back, we find out where we have to depart from. Once we find out, we make our way to Gate 14 and have a rest before our journey. With the coach due to arrive soon, I decide to get some "fresh air" leaving Mr UKBuses looking after the luggage this time. I make my way back to gate 14 and we still have about fifteen minutes to wait. A young girl comes running around the corner trying to get out but as the doors are locked she starts to panic but eventually she does get the attention a member of staff and luckily she does get to board her coach, a few seconds before it was about to drive off. It is nearly 11:00am and our coach is ready to board, we show our tickets to the driver who loads our luggage and we board our National Express Coach, this time taking the back seat as the front seat was unavailable due to a passenger deciding to leave his luggage there and using the seat opposite!

Just after 11:00am, we depart Victoria Coach Station and make our way through the streets of London and I follow suit as a fellow passenger takes his shoes off, so I take my boots off. After about 40 minutes we make a stop at Golders Green Underground Station, where a few more passengers board and then we make our way out of London and onto the M1 Motorway. Mr UKBuses decides to have a nap so he misses out on passing through Milton Keynes and Coventry and just before Birmingham, he wakes up just in time to alight when we arrive at Birmingham Coach Station at 13:50pm. With our luggage, we make our way to the bus stop and this time catch a National Express West Midlands service 60 bus from Digbeth to the Bull Ring where upon arrival, I forget we are not in London anymore and try to make my way to the non-existent central doors. After finally getting off our bus, we make our way around to Birmingham Moor Street Railway Station, where a late running train means we are able to board and get to Stourbridge a bit quicker.

We make our way through Birmingham Snow Hill, Jewellery Quarter, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Rowley Regis and Cradley Heath before arriving at Stourbridge Junction just shy of 14:30pm. Mr UKBuses has a lift, but I decide to pop into Stourbridge so I can visit the bank and also have a post-trip pint at JD Wetherspoons, "The Chequers Inn", so after saying goodbye to Mr UKBuses, I make my way to Platform 1 where I don't have to wait long for the Stourbridge Shuttle, where upon arrival at Stourbridge Interchange, I make my way to Stourbridge High Street and have a relaxing pint. On my way back to Stourbridge Interchange, I spot a Hanson's Service 250 coming down the High Street, so quickly make my way to the bus stop where I board and catch the bus into Wollaston, where after another quick pint of Batham's at "The Unicorn", I make my way home where I give my legs a well deserved rest.

Another great break was had in the Capital and a big thankyou to Mr UKBuses, as the break wouldn't have been possible without the planning by Mr UKBuses. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, his bald spot made an appearance over the weekend:
Bald Spot 1
Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot makes an appearance at Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 2
Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot makes another appearance at Canning Town Bus Station.

Bald Spot 3
Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot pays tribute to "George" outside the Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington.

Bald Spot 4
Bald Spot 4: The Bald Spot ready to catch the coach at Victoria Coach Station.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 15: London "Remembrance Sunday"

It is time to go to Whitehall and pay our respects for all the fallen on Remembrance Sunday, so with poppies at the ready, we make our way through London.

Cenotaph, Whitehall
We are up early and get down to breakfast just before serving starts. The same thing happens as yesterday, drinks, table, loads of bacon and then yogurt. After a few minutes of letting our food go down, we are ready to leave and we make our way from Travelodge Docklands and catch the Docklands Light Railway at East India DLR Station, changing at Canning Town onto the London Underground and onto the Jubilee Line. We arrive at Westminster Underground Station at 09.00am and after tapping out with our Oystercards, we make our way onto Bridge Street, which is closed to traffic and make our way down to Parliament Street, where it is fenced off and we have to make our way through security. Luckily the police are nearby as Mr UKBuses is nervous as he has to takes his wallet out and pass it over to the security team. I head through the metal detector first and do not set it off and have my belongings passed back to me. It is now Mr UKBuses turn and he is visibly shaking as he does not have his wallet on his person, but he is keeping an eye on it as he passes through the metal detector, which does not go off and he is relieved when the wallet and other belongings are passed back to him, the wallet is quickly put back into its right place.

Its the same cameraman!
Security check over, we make our way towards Whitehall, where as we are slightly earlier than last year, we have no problems with getting stuck in the crowds on the way and we easily get to a spot that is a bit closer to the Cenotaph than we did last year, see picture above left. We do have a bit of time to wait before the proceedings start and as we get to 10.00am, the crowds are getting busier and we are getting enclosed in, so it was good that we actually timed it right to get here this year. The cameramen take their places, with a static one and a boom camera situated in front of us, see picture right, with the boom cameraman being the same person that was in front of us last year at The Lords Mayor Show and Remembrance Sunday, is it a case of him following us about or us following him about? Luckily we got some liquid refreshment before we entered the secured area, so we keep our throats lubricated, especially in my case with my cold, ready to sing when the service starts. The bands start making their way to the Cenotaph and start playing Rule Britannia and other songs including the solemn "Nimrod".

The Red Lion, Whitehall
It is just before 11.00am and the dignitaries, politicians and the Royal Family, including Her Majesty The Queen, take their places. Big Ben strikes which starts the service with a two minute silence, followed by the last post, laying of the wreaths, prayers and the National Anthem, which I do attempt to sing with what voice I have left. With the service over and my back seizing up, we decide to have a rest in the nearby "Red Lion", see picture right, so we take a few steps and luckily there are a couple of seats available. With Mr UKBuses being sympathetic about my back, he sends me to the bar to get drinks, which are only soft ones as beer is not yet being served. It is just before 12.00pm and the bar starts serving so a London Pride is purchased and we rest our feet (and my back) for a while so the crowds can get out of Whitehall. After another pint, and just after 01.00pm, we decide to make our way and surprisingly we don't get held up in a middle of a blockage and get straight out of Whitehall and into Parliament Square with no problems. 

The Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington
At 01.05pm, we make our way onto the Underground once again, checking in at Westminster Underground Station and onto the Jubilee Line, alighting at Bond Street and with no James in sight we change onto the Central Line where we go to Notting Hill Gate and onto the District Line where we alight and go back to ground level at High Street Kensington. The drinks at the Red Lion take their toll on us so we have to make a quick dash to the McDonald's opposite the Underground Station. After our unplanned break, we make our way to another filming location and we head to the Copthorne Tara Hotel, see picture right, which was used in the "George and Mildred" film. I have never seen the film but Mr UKBuses says there is no difference to the scene and I confirm this after seeing a clip on Youtube. After a photograph is taken, we make our way back to Kensington High Street, where after a few minutes wait, we board a London United service 9, which is a Borismaster but according to the plan should have been a Routemaster Heritage bus. We arrive at Charing Cross and decide to go off plan and instead of busing it back to the hotel, we decide to go Underground once more and tap in at Charing Cross Underground Station and board a Northern Line train to Waterloo, changing onto the Jubilee Line back to Canning Town and then back onto the DLR to East India, arriving back at the hotel just after 03.30pm, where we decide to freshen up and have a rest, well I try to as when I come out of the shower, I didn't hear that the cleaner had come into freshen my room.

Cheers! From The Blind Beggar!
With my shock (mine or the cleaners?) over, I make my way down to the hotel bar to have a quick drink before meeting back up with Mr UKBuses, after meeting up we walk around the corner to get a bus that we have seen parked up at the terminus in Nutmeg Lane many times on all our visits to Travelodge Docklands and have never caught, so we board a Stagecoach London service 277 which takes us to Mile End, where we head past the Mile End Underground Station and wait for our next bus which is a Tower Transit service 25, where we alight at Whitechapel and have a pre-meal pint at our London Regular, "The Blind Beggar", see picture left. With the drink finished, we make our way back outside and catch another Tower Transit Service 25 bus, which takes us to Bank, where Mr UKBuses makes us alight a stop early and we have to discover our eating place, we do eventually find our J D Wetherspoon's "The Crosse Keys" and upon entering, the door is locked and discover that the pub closes at 06.30pm on Sundays! With us feeling hungry we decide to have a look for the nearest Underground Station, where we can make our way to another Wetherspoons which we know would be open.

We find Monument Underground Station and tap in and board a District Line Train to Victoria where we tap out and make our way to J D Wetherspoon's "The Willow Walk" and after finding a table, we order food. Mr UKBuses decides to opt for a Chicken Tikka Masala for a change and after a rather disappointing menu choice, I choose a Chicken Burger. Luckily it doesn't take long before the food arrives and whilst Mr UKBuses enjoys his curry, I find my burger very dry and have to leave half of it. Disappointed with the food, we drink up and make our way to Victoria Bus Station where we board a Metroline service 24 bus to Westminster. We go back Underground for the final time today and jump on the Jubilee Line taking us back to Canning Town, where we change onto the DLR to East India, arriving back at the hotel for 09.30pm. I say goodnight to Mr UKBuses, who retires to his room, I have a couple of nightcaps in the hotel bar before going back to my room and pack my case ready for the journey back tomorrow.

Another good day was had, with another good service being held for Remembrance Day at The Cenotaph in Whitehall. Despite the change of plan, the evening was a success also.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 - Day Out 14: London "On The Buses"

Our second day in London and today, we will be "On The Buses", visiting a few filming locations used in the Elstree Area.

Canning Town Bus Station
Its our first full day in London, normally we would be going to the Lord Mayor's Show, but due to the falling of Remembrance Day Sunday on different weekends, we will not be attending the parade this year. This means that this morning we have a little lie-in, so at 08.30am, I head downstairs and meet up with Mr UKBuses for breakfast. With us checked in to the breakfast room, we make our way to get some apple juice before getting a table and then the best bit, getting loads of unlimited food. With my plate stacked up of bacon, sausage, baked beans and hash browns, I dive in, Mr UKBuses is still working out the coffee machine and the toaster, so I'm about a quarter of a way down my breakfast. With breakfast finished, I have found out where they have moved the yoghurt's to, and eventually get through four of them to fill me up for most of the day. With breakfast over, it's time for a quick freshen up before leaving the hotel and as is tradition on the Saturday of our London breaks, it has started to pour with rain.

We make our way to East India DLR Station where we just go one stop to Canning Town, where we tap out and I hear a click of a camera on the escalator, which I'm sure it wasn't the girl behind who did not enjoy the fact that someone was taking a photograph right behind her by the look of her face when I turned around. Out of the DLR / Underground Station and into the bus station where we get a good opportunity to take a few photographs, see picture above left, before we board a Stagecoach London service 323 bus at 09:48am which takes us through an industrial estate and also pass a Stagecoach London bus depot at West Ham, which isn't too far from the hotel. We arrive at Mile End, where a walk around the corner to Mile End Underground Station, we board a Tower Transit service 25 bus at 10:12am which takes us to Aldgate, where we alight so that we can take some more photographs at Aldgate Bus Station. When we arrive the bus station is closed looking like it is for refurbishments and this once busy plot of land is now eerie as it is so quiet, we do have a walk around the outside of the bus station where it was once a bustling place.

Inside a Metropolitan Train
We cross the road and enter Aldgate Underground Station, where we board a Metropolitan Line train which is quite freaky when you first get on as you can see all the way down the train, see picture right, we only have a couple of stops to go before we change onto the Northern Line at King's Cross where we travel to Edgeware, tapping out at 11.31am. When we leave the station, the rain is falling down quite heavy now, so I decline to take any photographs, but Mr UKBuses attempts a couple and he does catch a perfect bad weather shot. We are on the hunt for Stand B, so we head over to the entrance of a shopping centre and after some "fresh air", we can't find our stop, so we make a dash and go on the hunt for the stop. We eventually find out that the stop is a couple of minutes around the corner in Station Road. It looks as if we miss our planned bus, but four minutes late, it turns up at our stop and at 11.49am, we catch our London Sovereign Service 292, after about 10 minutes, luckily the rain has stopped and we alight at our first filming location from the "On The Buses" film and at Ripon Park, Manor Way, we make our way down the street.

On The Buses Launderette Location
After a couple of minutes walk, we stop outside of the launderette, see picture left, where in the film, Blakie is accused of pinching someones washing - "Oi, he's got my knickers!" - and nearly getting arrested for it. With a photograph taken to mark our visit, we make our way back up to the bus stop and on time at 12:15pm another London Sovereign Service 292 bus turns up, so we board and go past the launderette once more, after a few minutes, we arrive in the main Elstree / Borehamwood centre and alight just past the Elstree Studios where we see signs for the audiences of Celebrity Juice and Strictly Come Dancing to go to when they come to watch the shows being recorded. It is starting to rain again so we make our way to Shenley Road and decide to keep undercover at J D Wetherspoons "The Hart and Spool", where we partake in a couple of Doombar's. Mr UKBuses has only had a few sips when he thinks he has seen Trevor, out of "Trevor and Simon". We do get quite cosy and do not realise what the time is, we have gone off the plan as we drink up and still have to visit a couple of "On The Buses" filming locations to visit.

On The Buses - Stans House and Green Street (Eastenders)
We make our way down Shenley Road and on our first corner we have visited one filming location as when the bus turns into Whitehouse Avenue, this is shown on the opening credits to the "On The Buses" Film. We have only a little walk to make back up Shenley Avenue, where we cross the road and turn into Clarendon Road and straight away, we can see the next location which was used as Stan's House in "On The Buses", see picture right, we make our way up to the end of Clarendon Road, and we also pass an entrance to the BBC Elstree Studios, which means that the Queen Vic and Albert Square are close by. We make our way closer and I take a picture of Stan's house and as I'm also preparing the shot, I got accused by Mr UKBuses of taking a bald spot picture, I'm not being sneaky, I notice a green bridge behind "Stan's House" and realise that another building that is not in the picture just right of the bridge is a building used in Eastenders, so we have found two filing locations in one place! We need to catch up on the plan, so we decide to head back to Shenley Avenue, where we wait for a bus to the railway station. When our bus turns up, we are only about twenty minutes behind schedule, at 13:57 we board Metroline's service 107 and are only on the bus for a couple of minutes as the station is around the corner.

We alight at Elstree and Borehamwood Railway Station and tap in, making a quick visit to the facilities and we can catch the 2:08pm Thameslink train until it is cancelled and we have to wait fifteen minutes for the next journey, which also turns up a further 5 minutes late. We do eventually get the train and it is good timing as the rain is starting to fall down quite fast again. We arrive at Kentish Town where we change back onto the Northern Line Underground and get off at the next stop and come back to Ground Level at Camden Town. We tap out and go round in circles before we find our stop and wait a few minutes before our Metroline Service 24 turns up and we make our way to Trafalgar Square having to stop a couple of times for a few minutes as the bus was running early as "the traffic is dead". We decide to give Trafalgar Square a miss and travel straight down to Whitehall, alighting by the Cenotaph, where we will be tomorrow. Mr UKBuses decides he desperately needs to use the facilities at The Red Lion, so I wait outside whilst having some "fresh air". By the time Mr UKBuses returns, he had time for a crafty pint, we make our way to Westminster Underground Station where we tap in and jump on the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and then onto the DLR to East India, where we head back to the hotel, a little bit earlier than planned and we go to our rooms for a bit of rest and freshen up.

The River Thames from Tower Bridge
We meet up in the hotel bar in the evening and Mr UKBuses is not feeling very well, so we decide to have a meal at the hotel, Mr UKBuses opts for fish and chips and myself Lasagne. Considering that a few residents were in the bar and were also having food, the service was quick and we didn't have to wait long, I only popped out for "fresh air" and the food was ready. This was our first time trying food at Travelodge Docklands,  considering it is about four years we have been using this hotel, we have missed out. With food over, I finish my drink and Mr UKBuses retires to his room, I decide to pop out into London for a while and just after 7.00pm, I make my way to East India DLR Station and make my way to Tower Gateway. Tapping out at Tower Gateway, I have a walk to Tower Bridge and it is lit up in the London darkness and so were the many buildings lining the River Thames, see picture left. I carry on with my walk across Tower Bridge and have a rest at the appropriately named J D Wetherspoon "The Pommelers Rest" and I did get a rest whilst waiting to be served as it took a while even though there were not a lot of people at the bar. I do manage to drink my beer, but considering there was a cask marque on the wall, the beer wasn't that well kept. After finishing my drink, I decide to leave as I didn't want another long wait.

I make my way to the bus stop opposite when I see a bus coming and decide to catch Arriva London's service 78 bus across Tower Bridge and alight at Tower Gateway and make my way past the Tower of London to another nearby J D Wetherspoon, "The Liberty Bounds". At least in this Wetherspoon's, the service was loads better and so was the beer. With the pub getting a bit more busy, I decide to finish my pint and make my way back to Tower Gateway DLR Station, where I catch my DLR and alight at East India and I make my way back to the hotel, arriving back just before 9.15pm. I decide to have a couple of nightcaps in the hotel bar and seeing as we have an early start tomorrow morning, after some "fresh air", I make my way to bed just after 10.30pm and watch a bit of television before dropping off.

Another good day was had, especially learning that Stan's House used in "On The Buses" is actually in front of another TV Programme set, Eastenders. Early start tomorrow, so an early night was had.