Tuesday, 14 October 2014

2014 - Day Out 8: Blackpool

Date: Saturday 27 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 12 October 2014

2014 - Day Out 7: Cats and Birmingham

Date: Saturday 20 September 2014

We couldn't wait for our annual trip to London to see a show, so we decided to have a local trip around the Black Country before making our way to Birmingham to see a musical.

The previous night was a late one for me, so I drearily make my way up to Wollaston and catch the 09:20am National Express West Midlands 276 into Stourbridge, along the way picking up Mr UKBuses, soon after we arrive at Stourbridge Interchange. Our next bus was due to arrive late, so I grab a bit of "fresh air" whilst waiting before making our way back inside the interchange where are late arriving WMSNT Service 240 arrives and we board. We make our way to our next destination and as we pass through Lye and Colley Gate, the driver has caught up his late running and we arrive on time at Cradley Heath Interchange. I have time for some "fresh air" whilst Mr UKBuses decides what bus to catch next on our "unplanned" day out around the Black Country, a Hanson's bus pulls into the interchange and we decide that this is the next bus to catch.

We make our way to the stand and board Service 208 which then takes us on a tour before getting to our final destination, we pass through Dudley Wood, Old Hill, Brickhouse Farm and Oakham before finally arriving and alighting at Dudley, at least we were kept warm on the bus. After alighting at Dudley, it is time to ensure that the coats are zipped up as the usual Dudley wind makes it really cold, I decide to take Mr UKBuses on a tour this time, with us going around Dudley via The Courthouse, The Three Crowns and The Griffin Inn, but we didn't get to sample anything as they were all closed, so we had a short walk around the corner and visited J D Wetherspoons "The Full Moon" to have a drink, a break and a warm. Doombars purchased, Mr UKBuses finds a table close to the front so we can watch the world go by, but Mr UKBuses only spots and keeps an eye on a female police officer who is standing outside, if only she turned around, she would have arrested him, meaning that the rest of my day would be full of peace and quiet!! We do have to make a move and also the police officer moved, so we make our way back into the Dudley cold and back to the bus station for our next journey.

Cheers from The Kings Head
Upon arrival at the bus station, we spot our next bus and board National Express West Midlands service 126 which will take us to Birmingham, or so we thought. As we are nearing Bearwood, we both need to make an urgent visit, the cold weather and pint we had in Dudley does not mix well, so we decide to alight the bus as it arrives at Bearwood bus station and make use of the public toilets at the station, but then disaster strikes as we find out that the toilets are closed, so I come up with a plan and we decide to cross the road and make use of the toilets in "The Kings Head", somehow it turns into my round again, as soon as we enter through the door Mr UKBuses makes his way to the toilets (well I think that is where he went, one minute he was there, the next he had gone!) leaving me at the bar. The drinks are purchased and table found with Mr UKBuses making his way back in time. Which leaves me to finally make a visit eventually finding the toilets after a tour of the pub (and loads of steps) to find them. After our visits, we quickly finish our drinks and make our way across the road back to Bearwood bus station, where we resume our journey (and Mr UKBuses getting run over by a pram before boarding), catching National Express West Midlands service 126 again to Birmingham.

We arrive in Birmingham and alight close to the Bull Ring where as we pass what was once the Bull Ring bus station, we spot a hole that we can look into and as we look we can see that nothing has been changed with the platforms where the stops situated still in-situ, bringing back memories of when we used to visit their years ago to purchase our Midland Red timetable booklets. With our trip down memory lane over we make our way towards the Birmingham Hippodrome, with me leading the way seeing as I know how to get to it. It is also time for lunch and also know that there is a J D Wetherspoons nearby, so we head for a warmth and lunch at "The Dragon Inn" which is quite busy, but we I do eventually find a table even though there was no sign of Mr D9 as I searched, whilst Mr UKBuses gets the round in. We rest our legs and warm up before ordering our food, with Mr UKBuses opting for a Tikka Masala, and I opt for something soft as I have a problem with my tooth, so opt for a bacon and cheese panini. The food doesn't take long to arrive and we devour it quickly giving it a few minutes to let it go down before we have to leave.

Inside the Birmingham Hippodrome.
We now make our way to the theatre to see our show, "Cats", and we only have a short walk until we arrive at the Birmingham Hippodrome, with the front of the cinema completely changed since we last came. Mr UKBuses hands me my ticket and we make our way inside, but before we make our way to our seats we do decide to take precautions and make a visit. We then take our seats and at 2.30pm prompt, the show kicks off, but must admit that the late night before had caught up with me and dozed off for the first ten-fifteen minutes of the show. The first half is finished and we make our way outside for some "fresh air" and a quick drink at the bar during the break, but after paying £4 for a pint, it should be drunk more slowly! With the bitter tasting pint finished we make our way back inside and take our seats for the second half and can confirm that I was awake for the whole of the second half and what a good show it was, but with the show finished we do have to make our way outside.

We make our way through Birmingham and past the bull ring to arrive at Birmingham Moor Street station where at just before 6.00pm, we board our London Midland train which takes us back to Stourbridge Junction where we change onto "The Dodger" to takes us back to Stourbridge Town, which is where I say goodnight to Mr UKBuses, who gets his National Express West Midlands service 276, whilst I have a nightcap at the third and final J D Wetherspoons of the day, "The Chequers Inn" before finally making my way back home after catching National Express West Midlands service X96 back to Wollaston arriving back home to get back and have a warmth.

Even though the temperatures weren't high, a good day was had and it was also nice to visit the Hippodrome for the first time since I was at primary school.