Saturday, 19 September 2015

2015 - Day Out 09: Portmeirion

Date: Saturday 12 September 2015

We are on the coach yet again for the fourth time in four weeks, this week sees us stay in the country of Wales, but we head up to North Wales and our destination today is the lovely village of Portmeirion, home to The Prisoner.

Jan, Our Coach for the day!
I make my way to Wollaston, where at 07.35am the National Express West Midlands Service 276 bus pulls up and I board and take a seat, sending Mr UKBuses the normal text to tell him that we are on our way. The bus goes through Norton, where Mr UKBuses duly boards and then we make our way into Stourbridge, alighting at Stourbridge Interchange and taking a short walk down to the coach shelter opposite Stourbridge Tip. We wait about ten minutes wondering if we were told the right time, our worry lessens when another couple turn up and "Herbie" the Greenline minicoach turns up and we board, luckily we only have a couple of pick ups in Lye and Halesowen to do before we make our way to Dudley. We arrive in Dudley and pull up outside of the entrance to Dudley Zoo, we have a few minutes to wait before our main coach pulls up, so I get off and have some "fresh air" whilst waiting. "Jan" turns up and Mr UKBuses gets off "Herbie" and we make our way to the main coach with our regular driver, Mike sorting out the seats. As we are waiting the rain starts to pour down on us and we cannot yet board the coach due to other passengers blocking the aisle, so we get slightly damp, but we find out we have the same seats as last week and get a drivers view of the journey to and from Portmeirion.

Breakfast Number 7!
We make our way towards Wolverhampton, me slightly damp as my bottle of pop for the journey decides to explode over me as I open it and get onto the M6 Motorway, just for a short while before we join the M54 Motorway. We are on the coach for less than an hour, where Mike informs us that we are going to have a quick convenience stop at Telford Services as some of the passengers have been on the coach far longer than those who joined at Dudley. We duly pull into Welcome Break Telford Service Station where we have time to make use of the facilities and also a quick breath of "fresh air" before boarding again and making our way back out onto the M54 motorway. We then head onto the A5 and head towards Wrexham, where we have a longer stop at Moreton Park Garden Centre, see picture top left, where we decide to have some breakfast in the restaurant. Mr UKBuses is a number (Number 11 to be exact) after ordering his traditional breakfast (no egg or beans, but mushrooms and black pudding as a replacement), I order mine (I am Number 7), asking for no egg and black pudding as a replacement. After about 10 minutes our breakfasts arrive, see picture right, Mr UKBuses is first and without his beans and egg, a lot of plate can be seen. Mine then arrives, with egg on, which I duly put to one side, but I also get my extra black pudding as well, with my plate looking fuller than Mr UKBuses. Food eaten, we have a quick look around the garden centre and decide to have another pit stop, with Mr UKBuses getting confused as he nearly goes into the ladies. We make our way back to the coach with some "fresh air" had along the way back to the coach and Mike returns after having his breakfast and we duly board our coach "Jan" again and take our seats to get us to Portmeirion.

Welcome to Portmeirion!
We make our way from Moreton Park and Mike takes us on a scenic route as we bypass Oswestry and Chirk and go through Llangollen, spotting the canal and steam railway as we pass through. We then pass through Corwen and Bethel before driving past the glorious looking Bala lake. We are not too far from our destination now, but we get stuck behind a "Sunday Driver", which adds time to our journey as we cannot get past the driver who doesn't know what an accelerator is for. The driver finally pulls off and we pick up speed again and after passing signs for Ffestiniog, we only have to go through the little village of Minffordd and I keep an eye out for the steam railway station at Minffordd as about twenty years ago I stayed in the Ffestiniog railway hostel when I was in the Venture Scouts, I do spot it and memories come flooding back, right opposite, we turn down a road which is the entrance to Portmeirion, if only I had known that all them years ago, I could have made a visit then. We go down a small road and we are at the entrance to "The Village", Mike gives a toot on his horn and the gates are open so that we are allowed into the coach park, arriving just before 1.30pm. Mike pulls up and as we alight another coach drivers rudely asks Mike to move as he wants to leave, why he couldn't have waited a few minutes, Mike would have dropped off all the passengers and would have got out of his way. "Fresh air" is had before we make our way to the village, see picture left. A trip to Porthmadog is abandoned as we would have had to walk about a mile and a half to the nearest bus stop.

Cheers! From Portmeirion
We make our way down towards "The Village", so far so good, there are no big white balloons following me around, Mr UKBuses refers to them as "Rovers", just a person who looks like Stan Ogden with a camera clicking away behind me is the only thing following me around. We have a walk around "The Village" and with Mr UKBuses clicking away, I move further into "The Village". A woman is taking a picture behind Mr UKBuses and as he hears the camera click, he turns around and tells her to "P*** Off!", I think he may have been a bit paranoid about his bald spot. We carry on around the main part of Portmeirion, where we arrive at The Town Hall and we decide to rest our legs for a bit, see picture right. We make our way inside, and Mr UKBuses leaves me at the bar whilst he goes to find a table (good excuse again!) and a pint of cider and lager is ordered. I wake up once the barmaid gives me the change, with the round coming to a staggering £8.55, with Mr UKBuses pint being the more expensive at £4.75 a pint. I take my seat and drink my pint slowly to ensure I get the best out of it and my monies worth. There are a few drops left and I make sure that the glass is left very dry and we make our way back into "The Village".

After visiting the toilet (this building will be used a lot today), we make our way down to the hotel and Mr UKBuses plays about on the Stone boat located next to it. With Mr UKBuses back ashore, I feel ill when Mr UKBuses decides to go on a walk through the woods (yes, I did say a walk!), so we make our way past the lighthouse and onto the forest trail. Luckily, for Mr UKBuses, about three-quarters of the way around there is a bench available which Mr UKBuses decides to have a seat for about ten minutes to recover, which also meant I could get some "fresh air", before making our way back into "The Village". We have another quick look around and we arrive just in time for The Forest Train, we climb aboard and after everybody is on, we set off taking us around a different part of the forest situated in the grounds. We could have walked the route about three times as the train was quite slow, we do eventually get back into "The Village" and alight by The Town Hall. Mr UKBuses spots the ice cream shop, so we head in and decide to have a single scoop cone, with Mr UKBuses opting for Strawberry and myself Cranberrie Cream flavour. Mr UKBuses gets his first and heads out of the shop and then I get mine, but it looks as if I have had an extra scoop judging by the difference in size. I may have had more, but seeing as my ice cream was soft to begin with, it doesn't take long before it starts running all down my hands and by the time I've  finished, my hands are entirely covered in ice cream. Luckily for me, we are right by the toilets, so another visit is made to give them a wash.

Goodbye to The Village!
We have a further look around "The Village" and then we head to "Number 6" house, which is now home to The Prisoner gift shop. Mr UKBuses wants to get a mouse mat, but after looking around the shop a couple of times and enquiring, he is out of luck and comes away from the shop empty handed. We have a bit of time left and decide to have a look around the other shops just in case there are any floating around in the other shops. We decide to take another break and it is back to The Town Hall where we decide to have a seat outside and Mr UKBuses does go to the bar and pays the same amount. After drinks we decide to make our way back to the coach a bit early just in case we can leave early, we make our way via the pottery shop, see picture left, just in case there is an elusive mouse mat hanging around in there. Unfortunatley for Mr UKBuses there isn't so we board the coach after I have had some "fresh air" and with the coach two-thirds full, we get comfortable and wait for the stragglers. At least we haven't been chased around by a "Rover", but we did get followed by a couple off our coach a few times today, were they "Rovers" in disguise? The last few stragglers board and we leave Portmeirion twenty minutes before planned departure. We escape "The Village" and make our way down to Minffordd, where I say goodbye to my once hostel from years ago and we hit the road.

A few miles into the journey and it looks as if we have come across the same driver as we did this morning, in a different car, as we are stuck behind him for quite a while and he seems to be doing only half of the speed limit. He eventually turns off with a loud cheer from everyone in the coach as he turns off. We eventually get close to our comfort break and have ten minutes in Welshpool, where luckily the toilets are still open, time for some "fresh air" before we set off along the rabbit run and back into Dudley, where we say goodbye to Mike and swap onto "Herbie" again which takes us straight back into Stourbridge, arriving at 9.04pm, which gives us a minute to run from the drop off point to Stourbridge Interchange, where luckily, our National Express West Midlands Service 276 is still on the stand. We board and as we reach Norton, its time to say goodbye to Mr UKBuses and upon arriving in Wollaston a quick nightcap is had at Graham's Place and The Unicorn before heading back home for a well deserved rest.

Another brilliant day was had thanks to our coach driver Mike and to Mr UKBuses for the company, luckily, the weather improved upon arrival at Portmeirion. Speaking of Mr UKBuses, he came away without a mouse mat, but he did have a bald spot, all but one spotted in Portmeirion:

Bald Spot 1

The Bald Spot is seen on its way to the Coach at Moreton Park Garden Centre, all below are in and around Portmeirion.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 4

Bald Spot 5

Bald Spot 6

Saturday, 12 September 2015

2015 - Day Out 08: Cardiff

Date: Saturday 05 September 2015

Yet another coach trip is undertaken, today we visit South Wales and the glorious Capital City of Wales, Cardiff.

Cardiff Castle
It is the third trip on our month long coach excursions and today it is the turn of Greenline Coaches and a visit to Wales. I make my way to Norton to get some supplies for the coach before meeting with Mr UKBuses where he has provided transport and has got his dad out of bed to drop us off to the pick up point. Arrival in Stourbridge and we get chance to jump out of the car and only have a few steps to get to our destination and there are quite a few people joining us on the trip from Stourbridge. The coach arrives just after 09:00am and we are the last but one pick up point so we do not have to do a tour of the Black Country first. With everyone aboard, we take our seats, this time right at the front of the coach, so we do have the drivers view and we make our way to the last pick up point.

We don't have far to go as we pull up outside The Foley Arms in Pedmore to pick up our last two passengers and once they are sorted, our coach driver off the day gives his safety information speech. Rita has given our coach driver Norris the day off (see Coronation Street post), sorry Mike, who tells us where we will be stopping along the way and roughly what time we will be arriving in Cardiff. With the safety information passed on, I tell Mr UKBuses to belt up and we are safely on our way. We pass through Hagley and Bell End to make our way onto the M5. We are on the coach for just under an hour where we arrive at our pit stop, Strensham Services. After some "fresh air" is had, we make our way indoors and decide to visit McDonald's as they are still serving breakfast, there is a queue so we take our place and as Mr UKBuses waits to be served, I sneak into the next queue where I get served virtually straight away. A few minutes wait and I have my bacon roll, Mr UKBuses is still waiting to be served let alone get his food. Whilst he is waiting, I find a table and start tucking in. I may have been laughing at Mr UKBuses having to wait, but instead of brown sauce which I asked for, tomato ketchup has been applied to my bacon roll. I finish off my food just as Mr UKBuses arrives and starts eating his.

With our breakfasts finished, Mr UKBuses pops into W H Smiths to get a drink and also some Pick-And-Mix (£3+ worth of sweets) and then we make our way back to the coach having some "fresh air" along the way, once boarded, we have a banksman to guide us out of the parking space and we make our way back onto the motorway, we entered via the M5, but we are leaving on the M50 which takes us about twenty miles before we come off the motorway at Ross-On-Wye, with our coach driver Mike informing us that Noele Gordon used to live here, which starts everybody on the coach humming the theme to "Crossroads". We then make our way through Monmouth and as we approach Newport, we go back onto the M4 Motorway for a short time before arriving in Cardiff at approximately 11.45am. We are dropped off just opposite the entrance to Cardiff Castle, see picture above left, which is good as I know this part of Cardiff  seeing as it is just down the road from the hotel I stop in when down this way on works business. We are told that we are being picked up opposite at 05.30pm so we just have over five hours to spend in Cardiff.

On the way down here, we find out that there is a bus strike on and also that a International Rugby match is taking place in Cardiff. This is emphasised as we make our way round to the main pedestrianised High Street, where there are a lot of people trying to sell Wales scarves. As we make our way further down the High Street and onto St Mary Street, we here a lot of shouting ahead and we think it maybe the Rugby supporters starting to kick off. As we get nearer, we realise that there is a demonstration taking place by the striking Cardiff Bus staff. As they pass, we make our way into Brewery Quarter and Mr UKBuses starts to moan as he can't see a pub, that is until we get to the corner and find a J D Wetherspoons. With the Rugby taking place, there are bouncers on the door, but Mr UKBuses is allowed in and we enter J D Wetherspoons "The Prince Of Wales". Mr UKBuses conveniently goes to find a table leaving me at the bar to get the round in. He finds a table reserved for "Diners Only" and after getting served I grab the pints without realising that they were flimsy plastic glasses and nearly spill half of the contents. I make my way to the table and inform Mr UKBuses that there is about a 45 minute wait for food so we decide to skip the food and we drink up as quick as we can.

Cardiff Sight Seeing Bus
We leave in search of food, but take a few minutes to take a few photographs of buses that are running before making our way down to Cardiff Central Railway Station, where another JD Wetherspoons, "The Great Western" is situated. We make our way in and see that the drinks are being served in the same flimsy glasses so we decide not to stay here. We are getting hungry and we have a walk through the main City Centre and close to the Castle we find yet another J D Wetherspoons (There are five in Cardiff), "The Central Bar", which is quieter than the previous two and also looks like proper glasses are being used. We decide that this is the place where food is going to be taken and we head to the bar upstairs. Its Mr UKBuses round and whilst I find a table he goes to the bar and orders a pint of "Doombar" each. He comes back with two pints in what looks like a proper glass, but they are in fact durable plastic glasses, looks can look deceptive, but at least they don't spill half the contents when picked up. Time for food and I opted for the Chicken Burger and Mr UKBuses makes me faint as he didn't go for the usual BBQ Chicken Melt, without the melt, he opted for the Chicken Burger, probably as he got a free pint in a plastic glass!!

Dinner over and we make our way back through the City, we decide to go on the open top tour bus, which costs £12 each, see picture above right, as we board the driver says that they will only be doing half a tour with upcoming road closures but still wanted the full price, we politely decline and carry on through Cardiff going past the now busier Millennium Stadium (capacity is 74,500 people) to Cardiff Central Railway Station. We spot a train that we need to catch and only have a few minutes before it departs so we hurry to the ticket hall and purchase a return ticket and make our way to Platform 7. Our train arrives and we board and after four minutes we alight at the next station, Ninian Park. We have a slow walk round the corner where we are greeted by another sporting ground, Cardiff City Football Ground, and by the looks of shuttle buses operating and a full car park, it looks like a game will be played here today. Situated right in front of the football ground is Cardiff Buses depot so a few photographs are taken here and situated right opposite is a huge covered garage, which is also home to Cardiff Bus so a few more photographs are taken, see picture below left, We don't go too far as the striking drivers are picketing a bit further down the road, so after photographs are taken, we make our way back to Ninian Park Railway Station where we only have a few minutes to wait for a train which takes us back to Cardiff Central, where we alight and staff are on hand to guide us to the exit.

Cadriff Bus Depot
After leaving the railway station, we go in search of a public house to have a rest. There are a couple that I have visited before on earlier visits to Cardiff but they are both situated opposite the Millennium Stadium and upon entering and also looking through the windows, they are packed to the rafters and serving in plastic glasses (the flimsy kind) only, so we head further towards the Castle. To have a rest we go to the Holiday Inn Hotel situated opposite the Castle grounds and we sample a beverage from the hotel bar. People must have had the same idea as the bar seems to be a bit busy on this visit, but at least we can rest our legs and sup out of a proper glass!! After watching the end of the England Rugby match on BBC (not being played in Cardiff), we finish our drinks and make our way back up towards "The Central Bar", where we spot a McDonald's and decide to grab some food before having to get our coach back. Before we get there though I ask a couple of policemen what time the road is reopening and we are told it will be closed until 08.00pm. Our coach has no way of getting to the pickup point so I decide to get in touch with Greenline, but after a couple of attempts I have to leave a voice mail hoping that someone may pick it up before the coach is due. We enter McDonald's and I do the same trick and get served before Mr UKBuses. Our orders are taken and after paying ten pence more than what is advertised in the window, we are told to go to a collection point. So we wait there and our receipt number is called out and food is collected. I take my Argos, sorry McDonald's purchase and we dine alfresco and choose a table outside.

After our food is eaten, we have a bit of time to kill before our coach picks us up, so we head to a public house opposite the pick up point and a couple of our fellow coach passengers stop us to ask about being picked up, we just tell them to go to where they said we would be picked up. We enter the Dempsey's Bar and have a last drink in Cardiff and Mr UKBuses asks the question "Where's Makepeace?"  making reference to a bygone television programme. We drink outside of the pub keeping an eye out for fellow passengers and hopefully our driver. We finish our drinks and cross the road and join our fellow passengers, which by now is half of the coach. Our pickup time has passed and we are still none the wiser and about 05.45pm, a fellow passenger comes round the corner and tells us to follow him and on the way I have some "fresh air" and when we round the corner we can see our coach parked up. We board and as we take our seats we can see an irate passenger complaining and before we leave, Mike apologises (even though it was 100 per cent not his fault) and Mr UKBuses belts up and we make our way out of Cardiff towards the M4.

We make our way back along the route we came, via the M4 to Newport and then main roads to Monmouth before getting back onto the Motorway, The M50, and stopping for a short break at Strensham Services again. As we make our way back to the coach, I spot the McDonald's advert by the coach and cotton on that this is the same services that we stopped at on the way back from Weymouth last week. With everybody back on board, Mike makes his way back onto the M5 and its only an hour before we leave the Motorway and make our way back through Hagley, dropping off our first two passengers at Pedmore opposite The Foley Arms and then onto our stop in Stourbridge. We say a quick goodbye to driver Mike and find out he is driving us again next week and make our way towards Stourbridge Interchange where hopefully we may just make our National Express West Midlands Service 276. As we get near, our service 276 bus pulls away, but Mr UKBuses uses his power and hails the bus down and luckily the driver lets us board. We get to Norton and its time to say goodbye to Mr UKBuses and I carry onto Wollaston where a quick nightcap or two is had at Graham's Place and The Unicorn.

Despite the road closures, bus strikes and plastic glasses, a good day was had, thanks to our coach driver Mike and also Mr UKBuses for the company on the day. Speaking of Mr UKBuses he has a bald spot:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot is enjoying the view of Cardiff Castle.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot at the overfill depot of Cardiff Bus.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot outside the main Cardiff Bus Depot.

Friday, 4 September 2015

2015 - Day Out 07: Weymouth

Date: Sunday 30 August 2015

Following on from last week's coach trip and with there being no Weymouth Vintage Bus Running Day this year, we decide to still visit glorious Weymouth for a day trip on this August Bank Holiday Weekend, this week courtesy of Whittles.

The Kings Statue, Weymouth
Its dark and gloomy as I make my way to Wollaston where we are going to be picked up. Mr UKBuses said he would get a lift to Wollaston, so I wait at the bus stop on the island and just before 07.00am, a taxi pulls up and Mr UKBuses falls out of it, which doesn't do much for his already bruised and battered knees. We cross the road to our pick up point and we are second to be picked up and at 07.10am our Whittles coach pulls up and we board. We have a few more pickups to do along the way before setting sail onto the motorway. We make our way through Wolverley, Kidderminster, Bewdley where we have a bit of a problem with the coach door closing, after a few attempts, the door finally closes and we make our way to the Whittles Depot for our final pickup. Our driver of the day, Graham, boards and some of the passengers make use of the depot toilets before we are given our safety talk and set off to the M5 Motorway. As we make our way a long distance down the motorway we pass Michaelwoods services (avoiding the huge prices - it must run in the family), and stop off at Sedgemoor services, where after "fresh air" is had we head inside to W H Smiths to get some nibbles for the rest of the journey, with Mr UKBuses splashing out on a Pic-N-Mix which cost him a few quid!!

Our Whittles Coach and Driver Graham!
We make our way back to the coach where one of the passengers seems to be having a disagreement with our driver and after some "fresh air", we board and take our seats for the rest of the journey, see picture left. We eventually leave the M5 at Taunton and have just over 50 miles to reach our destination. We pass through Yeovil and then we reach Dorchester where an alarm goes off on the coach, so Graham gets off the coach and walks around to the engine bay, after looking he boards the coach and says that the coach is overheating and with just over five miles to go, he limps into Weymouth and along The Esplanade to our drop off point just outside one of hotels we have stayed in, on previous breaks to Weymouth, The Fairhaven Hotel. Graham lets us alight after telling us that he has asked for a replacement coach to be sent down for our return journey and that we would be picked up from outside The Fairhaven Hotel at 5.00pm. Some "fresh air" is had and we walk along The Esplanade towards The Kings Statue, with the sun now shining down on us, where Mr UKBuses starts to take some photographs and I tell him that I will be going to the Londis Store on the corner. I come back to The Kings Statue and Mr UKBuses is standing there as if he is looking for me and asks where I have been.

First Depot in Weymouth
Its time for food, so we take a few steps and head to J D Wetherspoons "The William Henry", Mr UKBuses makes his way to the bar and I start to feel faint as he purchases the first round! I find a table and even though the pub is busy I do get one even though it needs a wipe. Mr UKBuses comes back with the drinks and the menu is perused and Mr UKBuses asks a passing waitress if she could wipe the table down, she carries on walking towards the kitchen. We both decide to opt for some different from the normal food that we feats on, with Mr UKBuses having his Chicken Tikka Masala and me, Scampi and Chips. I go to the bar to order and after being served I ask the barman if someone could clean the table, his response was "Yes, if somebody is free", so I walk back to the table in disgust, forgetting our pints. The table is eventually wiped over just in time for our food to be placed down. We eat our food and finish off our drinks and make our way back to The Esplanade and having a walk along the seafront.

Portland Bill Lighthouse
We decide to walk past Weymouth Railway Station and pay a visit to the First Hampshire and Dorset depot situated in Commercial Road and take a few photographs, see picture above left. After photographs are taken, we have a little walk along the back streets, emerging back out by The Kings Statue, where after a visit to the underground toilets is had and Mr UKBuses buying an ice cream, we make our way to the bus stops and decide to have a little ride on the open topper to Portland Bill. Our bus arrives and there is a driver change, with our driver being a lady driver with a very short skirt on. Mr UKBuses resists temptation and climbs the stairs to have a seat at the back in the open air. The traffic is quite bad today and we get round by the railway station where our bus seems to be having trouble moving, after a few revs, the bus does eventually get on its way and we go over the Weymouth Town Bridge and we stop at traffic lights, where we have the same problem with getting away, would this be our second break down of the day? We do again get moving and we make our way along Chesil Beach towards Portland and after going through the Olympics Sailing buildings used in 2012, we make our way up the hill towards Portland village, with beautiful views of the beach we have just come across. We make our way through Portland and along the country road to Portland Bill, see picture left. Mr UKBuses decides not to alight and have a pint in The Pulpit (it would have been his turn for the round this time!) and soon we are on our way back. We get another good look at the glorious view of Chesil Beach and Mr UKBuses nearly gets knocked out by low hanging branches.

We arrive back in Weymouth and get back to The Kings Statue, where we have a few minutes wait on the bus, as due to the traffic we cannot get to our bus stop. I notice that Mr UKBuses is looking in the rear view mirror a lot and upon closer inspection I can see why when there is a very revealing view of the lady bus drivers skirt. The bus pulls up at the stop and Mr UKBuses tears himself away from the view. We have a walk through the town and through the back streets, passing behind The Fairhaven Hotel which Mr UKBuses looks up at his old room and remembers being woken up at 1.30am in the morning by some noisy yobs when he stayed there (I have no idea who they were!) and we round the corner and enter one of our favourite pubs in Weymouth, "The Globe". It is quite busy in the pub considering it is mid Sunday afternoon, but there is a quiz on, and having taken a seat by the pool table, we do eventually get to answer a couple of questions that we know, with me blurting out the first answer without realising (I was excited that I knew one!). With our drinks finished we make our way back out to Weymouth and take a wrong turning, so decide to have a sneaky pint in "The Duke Of Cornwall". We do get to sit down for a few minutes and also see a bit of the Superbikes action taking place at Silverstone, before heading back to the seafront, via "The Cutter", which is still its vibrant self and at least the gents toilets were fixed this year. A pint of bitter was had by me in The Cutter, but at first I thought it was Cider as it was being poured out of a box from under the bar. It did turn out to be bitter and it was a fine brew which we supped up and finally made our way around the corner to the seafront and outside The Fairhaven Hotel.

We see our Whittles coach and driver Graham parked up where we were dropped off and it looks like it is the same coach that we travelled down on, as we stand opposite an old looking South Dorset Coaches coach pulls up and we think we have to travel back on this, luckily other people board it and we realise that we will get back in one piece. We board our coach and after enquiring, Graham said that the coach had been fixed and should get us back home alright. With still a few people left to board the coach, I take this opportunity for some final "fresh air" in Weymouth and after everyone has boarded we set off back down The Esplanade and back towards the West Midlands. Heading back through Dorchester and Yeovil, we arrive back at Taunton where we enter onto the M5 Northbound. After ninety miles on the M5 we stop off for a much needed break at Strensham Services, where upon alighting, I have some "fresh air" and Mr UKBuses spots an advertisement for McDonald's Mayo Chicken Burger, so we head inside and Mr UKBuses heads for McDonald's, after being served he complains  that he has been charged nearly double the price than what was on the advertisement, that is until I point out to him that he has actually ordered a more expensive McChicken Sandwich. We make our way outside where Mr UKBuses eats his food and I grab some "fresh air" before boarding the coach again ready for our final leg of our journey.

We leave Strensham Services behind and have about thirty-five miles to go before we reach our drop off point in Wollaston, Mr UKBuses knees are really hurting him so he has about an hour to rest them before we have to alight, and luckily we are the second drop off, as we were the second lot to be picked up on the morning. So we make our way through Gloucestershire and Worcestershire before leaving the M5 and heading through Bell End and Hagley and stopping on Stourbridge Ring Road to drop off the first lot of passengers. Mr UKBuses hopes to catch a bus from Wollaston back home so he can rest his injured knees, but as we leave Stourbridge it looks a bit tight on time before his bus departs. We arrive in Wollaston and do spot that National Express West Midlands Service 276 is still at the stop and as our coach pulls up behind it, Mr UKBuses makes a miraculous recovery when he jumps off our coach and sprints straight onto his bus. Time for a quick goodbye before I have a rest, firstly at Graham's Place and then for a nightcap at The Unicorn, before returning home for a well deserved rest.

A brilliant day was had, the sun may not have been shining, but it was dry and still warm. A big thanks to Graham who managed to limp down to Weymouth and for getting us back with no problems and to Mr UKBuses for his company. Oh, there was a bit of sunlight shining as can be seen from the glare of the bald spot:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot is caught at the side of the First Depot in Weymouth!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot is trying to hide outside the main entrance to the First Depot in Weymouth!

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot is cannot hide this time outside the main entrance to the First Depot in Weymouth!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

2015 - Day Out 06: Coronation Street

Date: Sunday 23 August 2015

With the main summer period over and after Mr UKBuses and myself having a break with our families, it is time to continue with the year of the coach trips, so we go back to Greenline Coaches and head off on a tour of Coronation Street at the old Granada TV Studios in Manchester, and perhaps sample a pint in The Rovers Return.

The famous cobbles.
With the pick up point closest to us being in Stourbridge (Birmingham Street, opposite the tip) and no buses available on a Sunday morning, we meet up at half distance between ourselves and Stourbridge, so after an early alarm call, I make my way to Mary Stevens Park, but I do divert along the way to pick up some "fresh air" and a lottery ticket, which results in me being late as the shop have trouble logging into Camelot! After it is sorted, a quick walk is taken towards Mary Stevens Park, and I as I finally enter the park, I get a text from Mr UKBuses asking me where I am, I reply with a pantomime text and say that "I'm behind you" as I can see him in front of me - now that's a first that Mr UKBuses is at the checking in point before me! After saying hello to Stan Ogden, sorry Mr UKBuses, we make our way along Worcester Street towards Stourbridge and finally arrive at the pickup point at 07.45am  (with our Greenline coach already there - even though they contacted me in the week to say we don't need to be there until 8am). After a fresh air break before setting off we greet the driver, Mike, who looks like Norris Cole from The Kabin, we board.

So just before 08.00am (everyone turned up early), we make our way to the rest of the pick ups, we make our way through Lye and pass Hanson's depot before arriving in Cradley Heath for our first pickup, followed by Old Hill, Quinton, Rowley Regis and Dudley. With everyone on board we make our way to Manchester making our way towards Wolverhampton so we can get onto the M6 and pick up speed to get us to our destination. After an hour we have a pit stop, having a rest at the motorway services where, after a "fresh air" break we head inside and have time to grab some food. We go to Burger King and are unsure if they are still serving breakfast, luckily they have finished and order a Chicken Royale meal and take a seat to consume our food. After food is taken a quick visit to the bladder stop before some "fresh air" and we board our coach again and head back onto the M6 to continue our journey.

The Granada TV Studios
We are nearing Manchester and we leave the motorway and are on the outskirts of the city centre. As we make our way to the City Centre, we pass Old Trafford so we are near the new set of Coronation Street now based at MediaCity UK. We are now in the main City Centre and we get dropped off on Quay Street, just a normal looking City Centre Street, we are told by our coach driver "Norris" where we are going to be picked up and are told after alighting to walk around the next corner and up the street. We alight the coach and "Norris" drives away (he has to cover the lunchtime shift for Rita in The Kabin), and make our way around the corner and up Atherton Street, where we display our tickets upon entering the old Granada TV Studios, see picture right, and get handed a lanyard. We have just over 30 minutes before we get to go on our guided tour, so we head inside the café on site and enjoy a beer before looking at history of an iconic television programme.

Cheers! From The Granada TV Studios
Drinks finished, see picture left, we head back out and after a quick bladder break, we wait in the queue for our tour. We are handed our backstage pass to put on our lanyard and we move forward to the starting point of our tour, the entrance to Studio 1 at the Granada Studios, which also doubles up as the old entrance to Carla Connor's flats at "The Drapers Mill" Apartments. After the introduction, we enter "Carla's flat" and our first stop is in the Green Room. After our green room visit, we make our way down past the old dressing rooms passing a few pictures of Mr UKBuses, sorry Stan Ogden, along the way. After the dressing rooms, we head into the wardrobe apartment where we see the characters costumes and learn that Roy Croppers bag is actually his own, he takes it home with him and is his own late mother's bag. Once the wardrobe department is over we head towards the main studios, first of all we stop to see a video of story lines past and then it's onto then main studio sets.

The sexiest barman in Wetherfield!
The first set we come across is Carla's old flat at The Drapers Mill, and then we head towards the set of The Platt's, where we discover that the actors have to hide away at the top of the stairs when filming as there is nowhere else to go once they reach the top! Our next set is The Rovers Return, exterior is just a wooden wall and then we head through the famous doors and actually stand on the set of the famous public house. This is the only part of the interior studios tour where we can have a photograph taken, see picture right, and whilst everybody hangs off the beer pump, I actually recreate the correct pose pretending to hold a glass under the pump! We sadly have to leave The Rovers, and we head out via the toilet door excepting to pop out into the front room of Ken Barlow, sadly we don't and we come out onto a props display where we see Hayley and Fred Elliot's coffins and other props such as Deirdre's glasses. We carry on the interior set tour stopping off at the knickers factory, Underworld (where Mike Baldwin's voice can be heard) and come across the set of what was once The Duckworth's house, now owned by Tyrone and Fiz. We carry on past the barge that was once used as a setting for one of Ken's affairs before arriving at our last set, which is The Kabin. With no sign of our coach driver or Rita, we are about to leave the Studios. I must admit I was shocked at how small the sets are, especially The Rovers Return. We make our way through the Post Production rooms and the tour is nearly over and as we stand by a doorway, our tour guide opens the door and with the theme tune blasting away, we are then led out onto the famous cobbles and we leave "Nick's Bistro" and set foot onto the street.

We are now left to our own devices and we can spend as much time and go where we like on the exterior set. First stop is The Kabin and after looking at the sweets in the window which are mouldy I go to complain, but cannot find our coach driver! We then carry on our tour having a look at Kevin's Garage and Underworld and then we have a look at The Platt's back garden. We head back out onto The Street and stay on the same side, going past Audrey's hair salon, we are directly opposite The Rovers Return, but as there is still a lot of activity we decide to carry on our tour and come back later. We head into Rosamund Street and we don't see Steve hanging outside the Streetcars Taxi Office, so we head to Dev's Kebab Shop, "Prima Doner". This is one of the sets that was actually used for filming using the interior, so we are allowed to have a look indoors. The Doner Meat looked a bit rubbery, so we decided to go next door for grub, but Roy's Rolls was closed, we then walked past what was Fred Elliot's butcher shop and then Carla's new flats, Victoria Court, also home to Nick Tilsley. We now head onto the main street again and to get their we have to go past The Builders Yard and Barlow's Buys.

Time to visit The Rovers!
With the interior tour still going on, The Rovers Return has quietened down, so whilst we have the chance a picture is taken of the famous pub and also a picture of me is taken outside the door, see picture left, but I can not get in as the doors are locked. We decide to have a look around the back of the houses, so we head back onto Rosamund Street to enter the "Ginnel", we have to walk by the viaduct and because of the backdrop being held up against a wall, the picture is so overpowering that it does make your eyes go funny, so we head straight to The Ginnel and we are behind The Rovers. I decide it is time to take a "Fresh Air" break, so I might as well sit in The Rovers smoking shelter as used previously by Steve and Lloyd. Before we leave The Rovers Backyard, I can see that the key lock has been taken out of the pub door and can see right into The Rovers, which is just an empty shell! The tour along the Ginnel restarts and we try and guess which backyard is whose, and we finally get to the last one which was once home to Mr UKBuses, sorry, Stan and Hilda Ogden. We make our way to the front passing alongside the Corner Shop Flat entrance and Dev's shop itself.

We are feeling a bit peckish now and notice that there is a little catering van, so decide to have a portion of chips. The chips were lovely and some of them still had the potato skins on which added to the taste. Once food is consumed, we decide to walk back up to the street and visit the souvenir shop, which was also home to The Medical Centre as could be told when we entered, with the internal set still the same. We decide to get our pictures from behind the bar at The Rovers from the shop, which can be seen on the screens, so all we had to do was tell the staff our ID number. Mr UKBuses gets his first and the staff must have realised we were together and charged us for the special 2-For-1 price (even though they were different pictures!) and Mr UKBuses is happy as he has saved his wallet from having to pay out an extra £2.50. I also see that a tour guide is available at £10 and as this is a one in a lifetime chance of being on the street, I do decide to get one. With the tour over, we have a bit of time to spare, so we head back down Coronation Street for a final time and out back into the streets of Manchester, before we leave the studios, we do spot a replica frontage of The Rovers Return, which was used as the staff bar when ITV ran the studios before moving to MediaCity UK, we couldn't get close to it as it was barriered off, but a picture of it can be seen here.

We leave the studios behind and head through St John's Gardens and back onto Quay Street, where we see a stop for the Manchester Free Shuttle, which will take us into the main Manchester City Centre, or so we thought as we see a bus coming which then turns left before the stop. We decide to walk down the street to see if we have the right stop and as we do, another bus heads towards us, so a mad dash back up to the bus stop is required. We board and as we make our way into the City Centre, we keep a look out for what could have been the building in which another 80's Granada soap, "Albion Market", but as we arrive at Manchester Piccadilly Station, we can't see anything that resembles the "Market" and we alight and decide to have a walk into the railway station. We still have a bit of time to kill, so we decide to rest our feet and Mr UKBuses finds a bar, "The Hourglass", he decides on what to drink and then finds a table which must have meant that I had to get the round and it was an expensive one too, the total being £8.70, no wonder he made a quick search for a table! We decide to drink slowly to make sure we have a good taste of the expensive drinks and as we are looking over the station, a storm is brewing outside as we can hear the teeming rain bouncing off the roof. Luckily the rain dies down and after Mr UKBuses makes a visit to the toilet, costing him 30p, we make our way to the bus stop outside the station and make our way back to Quay Street.

We board our free shuttle bus and it soon gets to full status and we make our way back through the city centre, trying to peek out onto the streets to see if we can see the "Albion Market". We are concentrating too much as Mr UKBuses realises we are at our stop and we luckily squeeze past all of the standees and alight at Quay Street. We can see that Norris has finished covering for Rita and is back and parked up ready to pick up the passengers, even though there is just over half an hour before departure time, we decide to board and rest our feet waiting for the other passengers. It is nearly time for departure, so I use the remaining time to alight and have some "fresh air" and spot the Marriott "Victoria and Albert" Hotel. Upon research following our trip, if we had walked around the back of this hotel, we would have seen "Albion Market", so after searching the city, we were sitting literally a few minutes away from the filming location! Just shy of 4.30pm and our coach is ready to go, so we head out of the city, where we pass a cortege of historic vehicles coming in the opposite direction and as we leave the City, we head back onto the M6.

We are halfway back to the West Midlands, and we stop off at the motorway services and feeling peckish again, Mr UKBuses sniffs out to have a meal from KFC. I'm not too hungry so I settle for a small portion of popcorn chicken and it was a tiny portion! Food over a quick "fresh air" break is had before we head back onto the coach and back to the Midlands. We arrive back at Dudley and after our first drop off we find out that we are going to be the last drop off after another mini tour of the Black Country. We arrive back in Stourbridge just after 8.30pm and have just missed our National Express West Midlands 276, so we decide to grab a taxi, Mr UKBuses asks to be dropped off first, but our taxi driver drops me off first at Graham's Place where I decide to have a pint, before heading up to The Unicorn for a nightcap before heading home and resting my feet after a fantastic day out up North and on the cobbles.

Today was a brilliant day, apart from the bed weather, even though we was undercover, totally enjoyed being a part of television history, I will never be able to see a television show properly again, let alone Coronation Street now that I know some inside secrets, talking about inside secrets, did you know that Mr UKBuses has a bald spot, here is one and a half of them today: 

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot tries to hide outside The Platts!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The sight of knickers makes the bald spot make an appearance!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

2015 - Day Out 05: Tenby

Date: Saturday 06 June 2015

We are back on the coach again and with us returning to Whittles, we decide to visit Tenby and Saundersfoot, a place that I love and after 7 years since I was on holiday in this area, I am looking forward to the day ahead.

Tenby Harbour
We are the first pick up and I make my way to Wollaston, just as Mr UKBuses arrives on the first National Express West Midlands Service 276 of the day. We make a beeline to the Post office where we purchase liquid refreshments for the journey ahead and make our way back to the bus stop, our pick up point, with other passengers waiting, where at 07:10am, our Whittles coach makes it way from Stourbridge and pulls up at our stop, where we board. We make ourselves comfortable ready to pick up the other passengers before heading to our final destination, we make our way to Franche, Kidderminster, Bewdley, The Whittles Depot and Stourport and just before 08.00am we make our way to Tenby, but before that our coach drivers of the day, Gary and Cecilia read out the mandatory health and safety information before Gary puts his foot down.

We make our way onto the M5 and onto the M50, stopping off for a refreshment break at Cardiff Gate services, making our way into the services via the tradesman's entrance, after a "fresh air" break of course. We do go to purchase breakfast from Burger King, but with the slow service and queue ahead of us, we decide to get a sandwich from Waitrose, both of us opting for the Chicken and Bacon. We take our seats and start eating and find out that there is no bacon on our pre-made sandwiches! We head back to the coach having some more "fresh air" before boarding, See picture below.

Our Whittles Coach
It's Cecilia's turn to take the wheel and we leave the services and head towards Tenby, along the way we pass through Port Talbot, Llanelli and Swansea, on the M4, before heading into Carmarthen. We make our way through Carmarthen, with Cecilia trying to get past a horse box before heading into St Clears. From Carmarthen, I'm back on known territory as I know the route that will be taken, so we head along the dual carriageway and arrive at St Clears heading straight over the island and then I get confused as, since my last visit 7 years ago, they have constructed a new road, which actually improves the journey by chopping some mileage off the route and will enable us to get us to Tenby quicker. After our brief journey along the new road, we are back on familiar roads and we are not too far away from Tenby and as we pass the Stepaside and Kilgetty turn off, a place where I stay when coming on holiday in these parts and where I will also be staying again in a couple of months, we head along the main road to Tenby, with Gary telling us some facts about Tenby, half of them which I already knew and a welcoming view is seen when I see the Tenby viaduct, which we pass under and head up to the hill, where just after 12 midday we arrive at our destination of Tenby and alight our coach on South Parade.

Cheers! From The Three Mariners
"Fresh Air" is had before entering the town via the Five Arches entrance in the town's medieval walls and we decide to have some liquid refreshment in "The Three Mariners", see picture left. After getting our breath back and recovering from the journey down we look at the plan and notice we can get an extra hour in Saundersfoot, so we drink up and make our way to Upper Park Road, where our bus can be seen at the stop, luckily we make it on time and we board our Silcox Coaches Service 352, and we make our way out of Tenby and towards Saundersfoot, passing New Hedges along the way. We arrive in Saundersfoot and before having a look around, we are after food and decide to make a visit to my favourite chip shop in Saundersfoot, "The Argosy" - fish and chips are purchased and we take the short walk to the harbour front where, luckily, a bench becomes available just as we arrive and we sit down overlooking the sea eating our fish and chips, which I nearly drop when a low flying seagull decides to annoy us. It is a clear day and Mr UKBuses points out some land in the distance which I tell him that it is Devon, Ilfracombe to be exact. I feel disappointed at The Argosy, even though the chips were to the normal, beautiful standard, they let us down with the fish as it was full of bones.

The new Coppet Hall carpark and Coast Restaurant

Mr UKBuses leaves The Hean Castle
Dinner finished, I want to make a visit to Coppet Hall, so Mr UKBuses decides to stay on the bench whilst I investigate. I make my way half a mile up The Strand and through the little old railway tunnel where upon leaving, I arrive at Coppet Hall and am shocked of the difference. I heard that they had redeveloped the area, which was once just a sandy car park, but it has been transformed into a landscaped, tarmac covered car park and also a brand new building has been constructed which plays host to the "Coast" restaurant, see picture above. A few photographs are taken and I make my way back through the tunnel and back along The Strand to the seafront, passing what was once the "Coal" office building, which was later converted into a Fish and Chip shop and latterly played host to the Tourist Information Centre. The Tourist Information Centre has been moved to The Regency Hall and this once grand building has now been deserted and is sad to see what it looks like now, compared to what it once was. I meet up with Mr UKBuses and we decide to pay a visit to "The Hean Castle" where a pint of "Doombar" is purchased, see picture left (with Mr UKBuses leaving The Hean Castle last!). Mr UKBuses spots the pool table so we decide to have a game. Mr UKBuses wins the first round after I pocketed the black in the wrong pocket, I take the second round, so a decider needs to be played which I take the victory after a surprising comeback. After my victory, we finish our drinks and decide to make our way back to Tenby to take a boat ride to Caldey Island, as we pass the old hotel, we turn the corner and see a Silcox Coaches Service 351 at the bus stop, so we board the "Coach" which has come from Pendine, Amroth and Wiseman's Bridge and take our seats for the return journey to Tenby.

We arrive back in Tenby and alight at South Parade and I take a short cut though an entrance in the town wall, which brings us out by the church in the town and make our way towards the harbour. We make our way down a narrow road where I point out to Mr UKBuses where the harbour webcam is located and carry on down to the harbour where we can book our boat trip, as we arrive there are no boat trips today as there is a sign saying "Sea Not Nice!", so we decide to have a short walk to the South Beach, after a quick look at the old and new lifeboat stations,  where Mr UKBuses has an ice-cream and takes a seat looking out towards St Catherine's Island, an old fort and also we can see Caldey Island where we planned to visit and the sea looks nice! Ice cream finished we make our way back to the harbour and into the town. Along the way we decide to have a pit stop and head into "The Hope and Anchor" where we have a pint of Felinfoel Brewery's "Double Dragon" with Mr UKBuses upsetting a fellow coach passenger by grabbing the only free table outside. After we finish our drinks we make our way further into the town, where we make a visit to "Dales", an old fashioned music shop owned by the older brother of Actor Charles Dale, with my knowledge confirmed by showing Mr UKBuses a signed picture of him on display in the shop. On previous holidays I always enter this shop and always come out with a T-Shirt and this visit is no difference with a Metallica "And Justice For All" T-Shirt purchased.

Cheers! From The Cove Inn
After my impulse purchase, we still have time in Tenby before catching the coach back, so we decide to sample a couple of more hostelries, the first being  "The Cove Inn", see picture right, which looks like it has recently undergone a refurbishment, it is Mr UKBuses turn to get this round and out of all of the rounds purchased today, he has had the two lowest priced ones, must be a "Doombar" thing as they were both pints of "Doombar". With the pints finished we head out and go down the passageway by the church again, where upon spotting a fish and chip shop, we decide to sample a portion of chips from The Ocean Fish and Chip Shop, filling us up for the journey back home. We carry on down one of the old town streets eating our chips and whilst Mr UKBuses finishes his, I take the opportunity to visit the nearby sweet shop so that I can get some sticks of rock for people back home. Mr UKBuses finishes his chips, so we have time for a final pint in Tenby before catching the coach, so we head opposite and enter "The Five Arches Tavern" and ordered the "Brains SA". This was a nice traditional pub and must be an old building in the town as the walls were made of stone.

Drinks finished we leave the Five Arches Tavern and walk through the Five Arches in the town wall bringing us out on South Parade where we have only a few minutes to wait for our coach to turn up. Due to a couple of buses being at the bus stop, our coach had to drive around the corner and onto Upper Park Road to pick us up, so all the passengers made their way to the coach and we all boarded promptly and took our seats for the journey back. Bang on time at 5.00pm we depart and say goodbye to Tenby (only for a couple of months for me), and make our way back through New Hedges and onto the main road towards St Clears and Carmarthen. We get back onto the motorway and pass Swansea and Cardiff and we take a slightly different route seeing as we don't have to pay on the return journey, we go across the Severn Bridge and leave Wales behind and enter England. Not long after being in England, we stop off at Michael Wood's Services for a break and some "Fresh Air" and everyone boards promptly ready for the final leg of the journey, with Cecilia taking over the driving duties and Gary acting as DJ by putting some cryptic music on.

We head up the M5 and just after Worcester we leave the motorway and make our way to Stourport for the first drop off point and then it is a return trip to the depot, but unless I didn't say anything, Cecilia would have missed it out and gone to Bewdley. After we visit the depot, we head into Bewdley, Kidderminster and then Franche. Upon leaving Franche, Cecilia takes a different route and heads onto the Norton Road and Mr UKBuses sees an opportunity and asks to be dropped off at the bus stop in Norton Road, so we bid goodbye to Mr UKBuses. I stay on board and we head into Stourbridge first and the final drop off is my stop at Wollaston arriving at 09.50pm, where I bid farewell and say thanks to Cecilia and Gary. Before I head home I do decide have a nightcap at "The Unicorn" and a pint of Bathams before going home and resting my legs.

Yet another good trip was had with Whittles, with memories flooding back of my past holidays in the area and also a big thanks must go to our Drivers, Cecilia and Gary and also to Mr UKBuses for choosing Tenby as one of our coaching destinations, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are his bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot looks out to sea towards Amroth and Pendine Sands.

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot outside The Hean Castle, Saundersfoot.

Bald Spot 3

Bald Spot 3: The Bald Spot decides to hide at Tenby Harbour.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

2015 - Day Out 04: Llandudno

Date: Saturday 23 May 2015

Its time for another coach trip, but instead of our usual operator, we are giving Greenline Coaches, based in Stourbridge a trial and book a trip back to Wales and to the seaside resort of Llandudno.

I make my way into Wollaston, so that I can catch National Express West Midlands service 276 into Stourbridge, picking up Mr UKBuses along the way. The bus arrives at 07.05am and makes it way into Stourbridge where we arrive at Stourbridge Interchange at 07.19am, which means we have about twenty minutes before we have to catch our coach. We make the short walk from the Interchange to the bus stop in Birmingham Street, where just after 07.30am, a Greenline coach pulls up. Mr UKBuses tries to board, but it is not our coach and the one he was trying to catch was going on a mystery tour. Not long after, our coach turns up and we board and make ourselves comfortable for the journey ahead. We do have some pick ups first before going on the motorway and after nearly an hour and a half and picking up in Halesowen, Blackheath, Bilston and Dudley (plus a few more inbetween!), we finally make our way on the open road, where our coach driver Mark informs us that there is an air show taking place in Llandudno today.

Our Greenline Coach
After travelling through Wolverhampton, we make our way onto the M6 heading north to our destination. Along the way we do stop off at the Sandbach Services (along with the Mystery Coach Tour vehicle), so we have chance to get a bite to eat. Mr UKBuses decides on a McDonalds breakfast, but seeing the queue, I decide to get a sandwich from next door, which was a nice Chicken, Bacon and stuffing affair. Mr UKBuses finally joins me as I'm halfway through my food. With our bellies filled, we head outside where I get a "Fresh Air" break before we board our coach (not the mystery tour one again!) and continue on our journey to Llandudno. We do get off to a good start from the services and after we pass Chester, disaster strikes, there is a traffic jam on the road ahead. We put this down to Bank Holiday Weekend traffic, but I do think the air show at Llandudno has something to do with it. After a couple of hours in the traffic jam, we finally arrive in Llandudno just shy of 01.30pm, see picture right. The driver does give us an extra half an hour in Llandudno to make up for our late arrival, but due to driving laws, he couldn't give us any more time after that. We alight the coach at the coach park and whilst Mr UKBuses gets a few photographs, I opt for an overdue "Fresh Air" break.

JD Wetherspoons - The Paladium
We take to the streets of Llandudno now, and due to the Air Show taking place, the streets are very very busy. We make our way down Moyston Street, passing Gerrard's The Bakers which impressed Mr UKBuses and turn left into Market Street, where we decide to get some refreshments at J D Wetherspoons, "The Palladium", see picture left,. Mr UKBuses decides to get the first round in (Ah yes, it's a Wetherspoons!), so whilst he was waiting to get served at the bar, I try to find a table. Because the Air Show is on the pub is jam packed and after doing a couple of laps, I do eventually find a table. Mr UKBuses returns with the drinks and he must have been thirsty as it only takes one big gulp and about 5 - 10 seconds for him to finish. Before I get a sip of mine I have to go back to the bar to get another round in and whilst waiting at the bar, the couple next to me were ordering food and the barman informed them that there is a 45 minute wait for food to be served. Once I return to the table and inform Mr UKBuses about the wait we decide to look for food elsewhere. With drinks finished we make our way back into the main street of Llandudno and we look for a Fish and Chip Shop.

The Red Arrows

Mr UKBuses enjoys his ice cream!
After passing a few with big queues, we do find the "Pebbles" Fish and Chip Shop and decide to wait in the queue, that is until we find out that they do a restaurant service and we take a seat and get served straight away and tuck into our food whilst the people in the queue are still waiting. We tuck in and the fish and chips were beautiful. Once consumed, we decide to stay a while to let our dinners go down properly, that is until we look at the time and find out that the Red Arrows are coming on in a couple of minutes. We quickly jump out of our seats and make our way out of the restaurant and onto the sea front, just in time to see the aerial display being put on by the pilots of The Red Arrows, see picture above. With the display over, Mr UKBuses fancies a trip to The Great Orme. Considering that the crowds are making there way towards us, we decide not to go with the flow and walk in the opposite direction, so after about ten minutes of jostling with the oncoming crowds, we reach the North Parade and The Grand Hotel, where we have a walk up the hill to where the cable cars are. We make our way to the back of the queue, and seeing how slow the cable car queue is moving and realise that when we get to The Great Orme, we will have to wait roughly the same time when we want to get back down. We decide not to pursue the cable cars, so we head back down by the cliff, where Mr UKBuses has an ice cream, see picture right, and we take a seat and admire the views.

After having a break and overlooking the pier, we decide to make our way back downhill and we get by The Grand Hotel and Mr UKBuses decides to use his map allowance (well it his phone), and we decide to look for a pub that was recommended by Phil Tonks. With the phone giving us orders about where to go, we do eventually end up in Madoc Street and arrive at our destination, "The Albert". Mr UKBuses dodges the round, even though it is his turn and takes a seat outside. Whilst I wait inside at the bar, I do eventually get served and once the drinks have been poured, I join Mr UKBuses outside and soak up the sun and sea air and enjoy a rest whilst having a sup. With the pints finished, we still have a bit of time to kill before we have to get our coach back, so we decide to have a walk a few streets away and head back into "The Palladium".

Inside The Paladium
We arrive back and "The Palladium" , see picture left, is still as busy as it was when we first arrived. Mr UKBuses says he will get this round (Now I know why he skipped that last round!), and I do a couple of circuits of the pub again and spot someone leaving their table so quickly go in for the kill and grab the seats. Mr UKBuses does eventually return and we have a slow drink to pass the time, and it is nearly our pick up time, so we make our way out of "The Palladium" and back onto the main street of Llandudno, where after ten minutes we arrive back at the Coach Park. We still have a few minutes left so I grab some "Fresh Air", whilst Mr UKBuses takes the opportunity to take some more photographs of the coaches parked up. We board and with everyone on board we set off back to the Midlands. About five minutes into the journey, Mr UKBuses does have to make use of the facilities on board after realising that he must have loaned the use of Mr D9's bladder that day!

The traffic isn't so bad now and we are moving along at more than a snails pace. We head back along the same route as we came and we do get a break again at Sandbach Services before carrying on along our way and Mr UKBuses having a snooze. We do arrive back in the Midlands and as we are heading towards Dudley we realise that we will have to go on a tour of the Black Country to drop every one else off first. That is until we arrive back in Dudley when a few of us are told to alight and get on the Greenline coach in front of us, which enabled those who were picked up first thing this morning to be dropped off quicker. So we are greeted by our driver Andy, who takes us to back to Stourbridge and we are dropped off in Birmingham Street. We walk back up to Stourbridge Interchange, where upon discovering that we have just missed a National Express West Midlands Service 276, we decide to pop over the road and get a taxi back home. I get dropped off at "The Gigmill" where I say my goodbyes to Mr UKBuses as he decides to stay aboard and get a lift straight to his door. I do have a nightcap in "The Gigmill" before heading home and resting my feet.

Another good day out was had with thanks to Mark, Andy and Greenline Coaches (especially splitting the drop offs on the return journey) and also Mr UKBuses for the company, speaking of Mr UKBuses, here are his bald spots:

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The Bald Spot enjoys the Red Arrows!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The Bald Spot makes his way back to The Paladium.