Wednesday, 27 May 2020

COVID CHRONICLES

LOCK DOWN


I am leaving my house for the first time in over a month. My wife and I have been self isolating, dependant on spasmodic home deliveries for essential shopping, searching online daily for a delivery slot with one of the many online supermarkets. It will be some time before we feel confident that it is safe enough to shop in the real world again.

I've decided to take the car for a run as it's been sitting idle on my driveway for over a month and I worry that the battery will go flat, and the car will not start when it is needed.

I slide into the drivers seat and turn the key, the engine starts first time, I put the car into gear, ease off the clutch and press down on the accelerator and there's a jolt as the brakes, which have been in the applied position for all these weeks, reluctantly loosen their grip on the wheels and the car moves forward. The car seems none the worse for its idleness as I edge out onto the open road.

The sense of freedom is incredible. Who would have thought that something as simple as driving a car could bring such pleasure. My route is a round trip of 22 miles, through villages and towns, and will take 50 minutes, enough time, I hope, to charge the battery and ensure the car will be ready if needed.

I'm surprised at how many vehicles are on the roads, I wasn't expecting it to be so busy. There are more pedestrians out as well, many of them with dogs. People appear to be trying to distance themselves from other walkers, although I do see some not adhering to the 2 metre rule. Driving through the town, I notice many shuttered shops. However, at some of the shops that are open, shoppers are not always adhering to social distancing, with shoppers passing each other in the doorways as they enter or leave the premises. The queue snaking along the pavement outside the bank is a pretty mixed bag, with some adhering to the rules whilst others are blatantly flouting them.

Returning home, I am glad I've taken the car for a run, for the car's and my own well-being, but I have no desire to venture out again anytime soon. Although I miss my social life, I feel safer at home.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

COVID 19 AND TRAVEL

A note from the author:
Since writing the article on Oberammergau Passion Play 2020, I have found out that the passion play has now been postponed until 2022, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I have not yet been informed by Leger, the tour operator who organised the trip, what they intend to do about it, or if I will get a refund!

OBERAMMERGAU PASSION PLAY 2020


Nestling against the banks of the Ammer River in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Southern Bavaria, is the beautiful German town of Oberammergau. Famed for its woodcarvers and woodcarvings, this small town of around 5,000 inhabitants has also found worldwide fame for another reason.

During the early part of the 17th century, this part of Europe was gripped in the clutches of a deathly epidemic, Bubonic plague was ravaging the area. Untreated, this devastating disease can kill anywhere between 30% and 90% of those infected, even with treatment it can claim approximately 10% of sufferers.

Facing these horrendous odds of survival, the townsfolk of Oberammergau prayed to God, pleading with him to spare them from this terrifying illness. They made a vow to God that if their town was spared from the plague, they would perform a passion play once every ten years as a means of thanks.

The story goes, that having made their vow, there were no more deaths in the town, and no more new cases of the plague. The townsfolk, being true to their word, staged the first passion play in 1634, and then every ten years thereafter, in years ending in a zero. The only exceptions to this rule was in 1920, when it was postponed until 1922 due to postwar economic conditions, and 1940 when the play was cancelled due to the second world war. There have also been additional plays in 1934 and 1984 to commemorate the 300th and 350th anniversaries.

The play involves over 2,000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all of whom must be residents of the town. For a year prior to the performance, the male actors grow their hair and beards in order that it will look authentic. Rehearsals are also performed during this period, and most of the town is involved in one way or another. The play is performed from mid May to early October, with around half a million visitors from all over the world descending on this tiny Bavarian town to witness these spectacular performances every decade.

How ironic that the 2020 performance should be overshadowed by the global pandemic that is Covid 19. This devastating new Corona virus, which is fast sweeping the world, has the ability to cause immense economic damage and lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. This brings me to a personal note, having wished to attend the passion play for many years, my wife and I finally made the decision, last August, to book our seats for the final play of 2020. At that time no-one had even heard of Covid 19, it didn't exist, and nobody could have predicted the events of 2020.

So what happens now? Will the passion play go ahead? If it does, is it safe to go? So many questions and so few answers. We are in unprecedented times, the future is uncertain and not even the experts have all the answers. However, as a race we will get through this, we always do.

I am sure the townsfolk of Oberammergau are once again praying to God to be spared from this latest plague, let us all pray that their prayers are answered, for us all.


Friday, 24 January 2020

NATIONAL TRUST


National Trust Properties 2019

I can't believe that it's that time of year again when I look back at the National Trust properties that I have visited in the previous year. Where has that year gone?

I started 2019 with a trip to the south coast of England and as usual I looked for National Trust properties that I could visit during my travels. It was a cold, wet and windy February when I made the trip, but thankfully on the days that I visited two of the National Trust's wonderful properties, the wind and rain held off long enough for me to enjoy two very pleasant visits.

NYMANS



My first stop was at Nymans, one of the National Trust's premier gardens. These are beautiful and extensive late 19th century gardens, located just east of the village of Handcross in West Sussex. I could very happily have spent much longer here than I did, and would have done so, had it not been for the inclement weather. The house, which was sadly destroyed by fire in 1947, and gardens were owned by the Messel family until the National Trust took over in 1953. Although in ruins, the house still dominates the garden and is a prominent and imposing feature in its own right.

WAKEHURST PLACE



My second visit on this trip was to Wakehurst Place, close to Haywards Heath, and not a million miles away from Nymans. Wakehurst is the country Estate of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. There are very interesting gardens to be found here and delightful wetland, woodland and nature reserve. But what sets Wakehurst apart from other country estates is the amazing seed collection housed in The Millennium Seed Bank, the largest seed collection in the world. There is some very impressive and important work being carried out here, and the displays are fascinating and very informative.

March turned out to be somewhat disappointing. Whilst in the Barking area of London, I had hoped to visit at least one National Trust property. However, on the designated day of my visit, none were open, which just illustrates the importance of forward planning! I did, however, get to look around the gardens of Eastbury Manor, although officially closed for a private function, the gentleman in charge very kindly allowed my wife and I to view the gardens, but not the Manor on this occasion. Eastbury Manor is an Elizabethan Gentry house built by Clement Sysley and is a magnificent building. The gardens, although small, are delightful and very peaceful. I look forward to returning to explore Eastbury Manor more fully in the near future.

SHAW'S CORNER



May saw me visiting the Luton and Bedford area. Just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of a vibrant Luton, sits the modest and pleasingly tranquil Shaw's Corner. Situated in Ayot St Lawrence, Shaw's Corner was the rural home of George Bernard Shaw. A very evocative place to visit, with much of interest, particularly to readers of Shaw's works. The house remains very much as it was in Shaw's day, and the small but very interesting garden still houses Shaw's writing hut, which can be found in a delightful, peaceful, secluded and thought provoking spot among the trees at the bottom of the garden.

WILLINGTON DOVECOTE & STABLES



My second visit on this trip was to Willington Dovecote and Stables, close to Bedford. These are perfectly preserved examples of 16th century workmanship, with the Dovecote very much still in use. John Gostwick had these built, along with the nearby church, as part of his large Tudor estate. It is likely that some of the building materials came from old monastic sites. There is ample parking on the site, and it is a lovely, quiet, picturesque setting for a picnic.

The National Trust is a fantastic organisation, looking after these historic buildings and gardens and ensuring they are there for future generations to enjoy. I urge readers of this blog to join if they can, or at least try to visit one or two of these wonderful properties. They make for a wonderful day out and you won't be disappointed.
For more details, visit the National Trust website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk


I can't wait to see what other National Trust delights 2020 will have in store for me.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

LONDON HOTELS

THISTLE TRAFALGAR SQUARE




Conveniently located just off Trafalgar Square in Whitcomb street, Thistle Trafalgar Square is a wise choice for anyone visiting the cosmopolitan city of London, either on business or for pleasure. This unassuming hotel offers four room grades, ranging from the comfortable Standard and Deluxe Double rooms, to Executive rooms, through to the very generously proportioned Junior Suites. With 108 non-smoking en-suite rooms to choose from, there is sure to be a room to suit all needs.




Although there is ample car parking for 100 cars, just a 100 metres from the hotel, at a reduced price for hotel guests, on this occasion I had travelled to London by train. I arrived mid morning at Liverpool Street station and made my way by foot to the hotel, taking approximately an hour. Of course, guests could use the many taxis that ply the streets of London, or make use of the excellent underground system. However, it was a nice, sunny day and I wanted to take in a few of the sights along the way.

On arrival at the hotel, I was greeted by a very friendly and efficient member of the reception team. The young lady in question informed me that she would need to check if my room was ready, I was then directed to the small but comfortable lounge area where I could wait to be called, I was also offered a complimentary drink whilst I waited. A second member of the reception team came to take my drinks order, and returned a short time later to inform me that my room was ready.






For security reasons, the lifts to all floors above ground level are operated by scanning the guests room card, this ensures that only staff and hotel guests can access these floors. I was given my room card and instructed to take the lift to the third floor where my Junior Suite, room number 317, was located, conveniently close to the lifts.

On reaching room 317 I scanned my card over the door lock and entered, as I did so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover a large (32 square metres), well planned and comfortable room, with a large king sized bed, sofa, easy chair and office chair, writing desk and coffee table, and everything else I would need for a comfortable overnight stay.






The bathroom, also, was of a good size, with a full sized bath and a separate shower cubicle. Along with the necessary towels and flannels, all guest rooms feature complimentary toiletries. And, for Junior Suite guests, use of dressing gowns and free slippers are provided.

With plenty of wardrobe and drawer space on offer, I would have little difficulty stowing away the contents of my overnight bag! Valuables can be securely locked away in the safe, located within the wardrobe. Also to be found in the wardrobe, was an iron, ironing board and a hair dryer.

My Junior Suite was located on the corner of the building, allowing windows on both external walls which gave the room a welcome light and airy feel. The windows offered me views of the London skyline, complete with an interesting array of assorted rooftops.






Opposite my King Sized bed was a large TV, under which was located a free mini bar, stocked with an assortment of soft and alcoholic beverages, a nice little touch for guests in the Junior Suites, as was the Espresso coffee machine. All guest rooms, however, do come complete with a kettle and complimentary tea and coffee.

After checking in and familiarising myself with the hotel, I then made the very short walk to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, just 5 minutes away. There, inside this famous gallery, I spent the next couple of hours visually absorbing the magnificent collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, Turner, Constable, and so many more great artists. Prior to returning to the hotel, I also took a short walk to Chinatown, a brightly coloured and decorated area that was busy with locals and tourists mingling together.




Back at the hotel, I was starting to feel a bit peckish, so I decided to go to Squares Restaurant for my evening meal. Squares Restaurant can accommodate 65 diners, although on my visit, a Sunday night, it was very quiet, with only two other guests in the restaurant whilst I was there. The menu, although not fine dining, offers a good selection of hot and cold food at very reasonable prices. The choice ranges from soups and salads, to burgers and stone baked pizzas, and a selection of steaks. I opted for Caesar Salad with Grilled Salmon, which proved to be very tasty and, at just under £15, good value for money. Between the restaurant and the reception and lobby area, there is a small bar where all manor of drinks can be purchased, including some very interesting cocktails. I tried a Pedrino Cherry Bakewell Spritz, which I enjoyed and found very refreshing.







Returning to my room for the evening, I made use of the excellent shower facilities then rested in the comfortable, spacious surroundings of the suite, whilst enjoying one of the complimentary drinks from the mini-bar. I used the time to plan my itinerary for the following day. With so many of London's famous sights within easy walking distance of the hotel, I was really spoilt for choice as to where to visit. I started to wish that I had booked an extra night as there was so much to see and do within the area. As it was, this was my one and only night in this area, so having made good use of the hotel's facilities, and having planed my route for the following day's excursion, I retired to a very comfortable bed.

Breakfast the next morning was in Squares restaurant, where the young lady at the entrance to the restaurant took my room number, showed me to a table, and took my drinks order. The self service breakfast offered a good assortment of hot and cold food and beverages, and was more than sufficient to set me up for the day.

I returned to my room to pack my overnight bag and then check out at reception. Again, I found the reception staff very friendly, cheerful and efficient, as have all the hotel staff been during my stay. I was soon on my way, having enjoyed a most comfortable stay at Thistle Trafalgar Square.




For more information On Thistle Trafalgar, and for room prices, please visit Thistle's own website at: www.thistle.com


Saturday, 6 April 2019

HAVE YOUR BUSINESS REVIEWED ON THIS BLOG

 


Competition within the leisure industry has always been fierce, but these days it is even more important for companies to gain good publicity. Travel companies, hoteliers, restaurant owners and the like need to be ever more imaginative in the ways they advertise and publicise their business. Consider the following questions:

 
What makes your business stand out from the rest?
Why should a guest choose your hotel or restaurant over one just a few yards down the road?

 
There are many on-line sites where customers can leave reviews and feedback on their experience of certain businesses, but these can often simply be a platform for disgruntled customers to let off steam and complain about the most minor of annoyances. These type of reviews will often do little to inform potential customers of the benefits or not of booking with a particular company, and can do a lot of damage to a struggling business.


Here at World Travel Reviews, we try to give a balanced account of the hotel, restaurant, leisure facility or area that we are visiting. If we find fault we will say so, but we will not complain for the sake of complaining.


If you are in the leisure business and you would like us to visit your business with a view to reviewing the service that you provide and publishing that review on this blog, then please email your details to robertlidster@ymail.com  Please make the subject World Travel Reviews.

 
Depending on the type of business and review we may be able to gain further exposure in other leisure publications. We can also offer links from this blog to your own website.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

LONDON HOTELS


RAMADA LONDON FINCHLEY



It's often said that you shouldn't mix business with pleasure, but that's hard to do when your business is the leisure industry! I often find myself visiting wonderful places in order to carry out reviews, and even when I'm on holiday, and not officially there to review the accommodation or destination, I find myself looking around with the critical eye of a writer. And sometimes, it is just very convenient to mix the two.


So it proved to be recently, when my wife and I attended a travel show in North London. It just so happened that the travel show was on the day before our 41st wedding anniversary, so I thought why not have a hotel stay and combine visiting the travel show with celebrating our anniversary? Having carried out a thorough search of hotels in the area of Allianz Park, where the travel show was to be held, I decided upon the 3 star Ramada Hotel Finchley London, for a one night stay to rest after the show and to celebrate our anniversary.


Allianz Park is in Hendon North London, approximately ninety miles from where I live, and less than five miles from Finchley. We arrived at the show around midday and left at 4pm, which meant we arrived at the Ramada Hotel Finchley in good time to settle into our room before dinner.


The hotel was easy to find and is within easy access to the A406 London North Circular route. There is also quick and easy access to London city, by means of the underground network or bus route, allowing guests at the hotel the opportunity to be in the heart of London within thirty minutes. There are numerous shops and restaurants in the area, many within walking distance, which is ideal as the hotel has its own free car park for guests.


On viewing the hotel for the first time, I was aware that it has three very distinct areas. There is of course the main hotel entrance, clearly marked 'RAMADA', and adjacent to that is a large deck area, aptly named 'THE DECK', this is a fully heated area ideal for al fresco eating. Then there is 'FLAMES', a Greek restaurant serving Greek and Mediterranean style food, this is where we had booked our 6.30pm anniversary dinner.

 


 

 















 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On check-in at the hotel, the reception staff, on the 24 hour front desk, were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and made sure we had all the information we needed to make our stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible. We were then given directions to our room which was situated on the second floor overlooking the car park. The room was accessible by either lift or stairs.




The Ramada Hotel London Finchley offers 88 spacious and well equipped en-suite guest rooms, located over three floors. There are four room types, Standard, Standard Triple, Deluxe and Executive. Accessible rooms are available in either Standard, Deluxe or Executive.


Our room, an Executive Room, was designed with the business traveller in mind. The room comes with all the features of a Standard Room, shower, work desk, tea/coffee making facilities, LCD TV with freeview channels, free wi fi, double or single beds, but also features Temple Spa Bath products, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottled water, and complimentary snacks. At 22 square metres, the Executive Rooms are also 2 square metres larger than the Standard Room. I found the room to be well designed, bright, and nicely decorated, with all the comforts we would need for our overnight stay.



 


 

 





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Once we had settled into our room and freshened up, we then made our way to Flames restaurant for our anniversary dinner. I had made the reservation for dinner by emailing the hotel with my request prior to arriving, a quick, easy and efficient means of booking.

As with the check-in staff, all the restaurant staff were very pleasant and helpful, we were immediately shown to our table by the window, handed a menu and our drinks order was taken. The menu provided a very good choice of food and drinks, all at very reasonable prices. We were both tempted by the Swordfish and Greek Salad, accompanied by Pitta Bread and Hummus. My wife chose a soft drink, whilst I chose a glass of very palatable red wine. The restaurant was fairly busy, with a number of tables occupied by party groups, with a group of youngsters at one table celebrating a birthday. There was a good atmosphere in the restaurant and the staff were attentive at all times. Having enjoyed a very good meal, we retired to our room for the night.



 








Breakfast the next morning was served in Flames restaurant. At check-in we had been given, along with our room key, two coupons for redemption at breakfast time. As we entered the restaurant a member of staff greeted us, took our coupons and invited us to sit where we wished, and informed us that breakfast was self service. We sat, once again, at a table by the window, and helped ourselves from the array of breakfast cereal, fruit, bread and yoghurt etc. A selection of hot food was on offer, which was served at a serving station, but tea and coffee was self service.


 
 



 


Check-out was as quick and easy as check-in had been on our arrival, and we were soon on our way, having had a most enjoyable stay. The hotel is extremely well placed for visiting London and surrounding area, and was perfect for our needs. The Ramada Hotel London Finchley is a budget priced hotel that certainly doesn't skimp on hospitality, and I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel, or indeed staying here again. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay and found it an ideal place to celebrate our anniversary, as well as meeting our business needs perfectly. Now, what was I saying about mixing business with pleasure?

For more information on The Ramada London Finchley, please visit.


Telephone: 0208 446 6644.


Post Code for Sat Nav: N12 0QZ.








Wednesday, 23 January 2019

NATIONAL TRUST


NATIONAL TRUST VISITS 2018

Every year at about this time, I write a summary of my visits to National Trust properties during the previous year. I have been a member of the National Trust for four years now, and in that time I have had the pleasure of visiting some truly wonderful places, and 2018 was no exception. I am happy to say that I also managed to fulfil two of my lifetime ambitions in the process. Here is a summary of four of the properties visited in 2018. For more in-depth information and for charges and membership details, please visit: www.nationaltrust.co.uk


FELBRIGG HALL & BLICKLING ESTATE

Whenever I am travelling within the UK, I will always look out to see what National Trust properties are in the area I am visiting. It was no different when in April I found myself spending a few days on a road trip which took in the beautiful county of Norfolk. I was very happy to find that there were two very substantial National Trust properties for me to visit within a short distance of where I was staying.
 
FELBRIGG HALL

 

 
The first of these was Felbrigg Hall, a magnificent house with some beautiful stained glass windows dating back to the 15th century. Set in 520 acres of wonderful parkland and woods, Felbrigg Hall is an absolute delight, and even comes complete with a herd of very friendly, inquisitive cows which came to greet me and pose for some photos. Close to the famous seaside town of Cromer, Felbrigg Hall is easily accessible and provides ample parking along with a garden shop, gift shop, cafe and toilet facilities. The parkland is open from dawn to dusk, but as opening times for the house vary, please check the National Trust website prior to your visit.


 

Post code for Sat Navs: NR11 8PR


BLICKLING ESTATE
 
 
 
 
The second property visited on this trip was Blickling Estate, an incredibly well preserved Jacobean mansion with a very impressive 18th century long gallery. Visitors, with an interest in books, will be extremely impressed with the marvellous, inspiring library, housing over 12,500 volumes.




Surrounded by a formal garden, the house is a joy to visit, and with the gardens leading onto undulating parkland, the opportunity to wander free is there for all. There is the obligatory gift shop for all those delightful little purchases, 3 very tempting cafes to tend to your culinary requirements, a garden shop and a very interesting second hand book shop.

For entrance charges and opening times please refer to the National Trust website.
Located in Aylsham, the post code for Sat Nav directions is: NR11 6NF

HADRIAN'S WALL & HOUSESTEADS FORT


One of the lifetime ambitions that I mentioned in my foreword, was to visit Hadrian's Wall. I have travelled to the north of England on many occasions, even venturing over the border into Scotland at least half a dozen times. However, for whatever reasons, I have never managed to find the time to visit Hadrian's Wall or any of the many forts and towers that are scattered along the way. The scale of the wall is very impressive, and it is both the scale and the amazing history that has always appealed to me, and fired up my imagination. So, in July I found myself setting off on yet another road trip, this time taking in all four corners of the UK. I was determined, on this occasion, to finally take the time to visit this very famous and historic wall.



I was heading to the Dumfries area of Scotland and had planned a route that would allow me to view both the wall and an old Roman fort, with a diversion of approximately sixty miles. The part of the wall that I had selected for my visit was near Housesteads Fort, a remarkably well maintained Roman fort, cared for by the National Trust. Close to the town of Hexham in Northumberland, the site was easy to locate using the NE47 6NN postcode provided by the National Trust on their website.




There is a charge to use the car park as it is not run by the National trust, but this is only a few pounds, and the car park provides ample parking. There is a small visitor centre with a gift shop, toilet facilities and a cafe area. From the visitor centre it is a ten minute walk to the site of the fort, and just a little further beyond the fort is Hadrian's Wall.
 


Unfortunately, due to time restraints, my time at Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads fort was shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, my visit was most enjoyable and I even managed a short walk along the top of the wall. The views were amazing, and even though the weather was somewhat inclement (typical British summer!), it did not dampen my enthusiasm, or, evidently, that of other visitors, with many people walking along the wall and visiting the fort.

I left Houseteads fort very pleased that I had made that sixty mile diversion. Both the wall and the fort far surpassed my expectations, and I would urge anybody with an interest in history, or even just a love of the beautiful British countryside, to pay this historically rich and extremely interesting site a visit, you won't be sorry you did.



THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY





Following on from my visit to Hadrian's Wall, I spent a few days in Scotland before travelling by ferry across the Irish Sea to Belfast. It was to be in Northern Ireland that I would fulfil another of my lifelong ambitions, to visit The Giant's Causeway!

The Giant's Causeway is located just a few miles north east of the town of Bushmill in County Antrim. Bushmill is famous for its whiskey as well as being the gateway to the causeway. Having seen countless documentaries over the years about these incredible Basalt columns, and having heard the stories surrounding their formation, I was excited and intrigued to finally get to see and touch them, for myself.



Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions between 50 and 60 million years ago, the causeway is made up of some 40,000 interlocking columns. Unesco declared it a world heritage site in 1986, and in 2005 it was named as the 4th greatest natural wonder in the UK by a Radio Times poll.

The columns form stepping stones leading from the cliff out to sea, and it is these stepping stones which led to the stories of two battling giants. Most of the columns are hexagonal and the tallest of these is a very impressive 12 metres high!

On arrival at the site, visitors will find ample car parking close to the visitor centre. It is then a downhill walk of approximately 20 minutes from the visitor centre to the causeway. However, a shuttle bus is provided, at a small charge, for both disabled visitors and those preferring not to walk. There is a coffee shop, gift shop, bureau de change, and toilet facilities within the visitor centre.


 
Although a very popular tourist destination, the site did not appear overcrowded on my visit, and as the coast and the coast path is open from dawn to dusk, there is ample time and opportunity for all to view and even stand on this historic site. I spent some time exploring the fascinating columns and sitting amongst them, gazing out to sea, and understanding perfectly just how the mythical tale of the brawling giants came about. The sun was setting as I left to continue my journey, and this stunning, picturesque scene made the moment seem even more magical. It was an experience that I will never forget!






Tuesday, 18 September 2018

TEN THINGS TO DO IN SALISBURY WILTSHIRE UK

MUCH MORE THAN JUST A CATHEDRAL

 
With Salisbury having been very much in the news lately, I got to thinking "What is there to do in Salisbury"? I have never actually visited Salisbury itself, although I have been in the area and visited Stonehenge on several occasions.
 
Just a quick glance at www.visitwiltshire.co.uk  gave me a number of options for places to visit and things to do, here is a random list of ten:
 
1/    Old Sarum, originally an Iron Age hill fort, it was re-used by the Romans, Saxons, and the Normans.
 
2/    Saint Thomas' Church with its medieval "Doom" painting.
 
3/    The Market Place where regular markets have been held since 1227.
 
4/    The Salisbury Museum.
 
5/    Salisbury Cathedral.
 
6/    The Salisbury Playhouse, great for theatre buffs.
 
7/    Many parks including the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, with views of the Cathedral.
 
8/    Wonderful walks along the River Avon.
 
9/    The Avon Valley Nature Reserve.
 
10/   Oh! and of course there's that little known gem called Stonehenge, just a mere 8 miles away. 
 
Well I hope this helps to whet the appetite of any potential visitor to Salisbury, seems to me that there is a lot to do there, sounds like a great place to visit.


Friday, 24 August 2018

MINI-CRUISE WITH CMV


MARCO POLO


Marco Polo is a mid sized cruise ship owned and operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV). With a passenger capacity of around 800, accommodated in 425 cabins, the ship has a very homely, almost country house feel. Sporting a dark blue hull, this cruise ship looks every inch your classic ocean liner.

CMV are Britain's newest privately owned cruise line, specialising in small ship, no fly cruises from the UK. Home based in Tilbury London, CMV operate out of 11 UK ports. With a fleet of 5 ships to their name, CMV have a high guest satisfaction record of 95%, and 40% repeat passengers. To read my review of Astoria and its fascinating history, another of Cruise Maritime Voyages cruise ships, please click on the following link:
 https://independentworldtravelreviews.blogspot.com/2017/04/cruise-maritime-voyages.html
 

Originally built in 1966, Marco Polo benefited from a £3 million refit in 2009. This is evident in the stylish and comfortable public areas that await guests to this ship. Most public areas are conveniently located on the same deck, making navigating the ships facilities an easy task. There is everything that one would expect from a ship of this size, from bars and lounges, to Library, card room, and the obligatory photo shop, and shopping arcade. There is also a reception desk, information desk and booking desk for future cruises. Entertainment is altogether a much more subtle, but none the less entertaining, affair than on a lot of the bigger cruise ships, with a show lounge for live performances as well as live music in the ship's bar areas.












There is a spa which includes a sauna and provides various massages and treatments, along with a reasonably equipped gym. There is one outdoor swimming pool and three hot tubs. For anyone wishing to jog or walk away their cruise, the deck above the Promenade deck does allow for a complete circumnavigation of the ship.





There are two large forward facing viewing areas, as well as a fair amount of seating around the pool. The ship is equipped with ten zodiac landing craft which are used for shore excursions in eco-sensitive areas. Although, now some 42 years old, Marco Polo has all the latest navigational aids and benefits from biological waste treatment.

There are 425 cabins, of which 292 have a porthole or window. There are no cabins with balconies, and only 2 cabins are wheelchair accessible. There are 4 lifts onboard, although if you are able, it is usually quicker to use the stairs. With some 15 cabin price grades there should be one to suit all budgets, from a standard inside cabin all the way up to the 2 junior suites or the 2 large suites. The largest of these suites (Dynasty and Mandarin) are spacious, well equipped cabins with a separate living area, large bedroom and marble bathroom with full size bath tub.










All your culinary needs are taken care of in The Waldorf Restaurant, where waiter service is the norm and smart attire is required, here they operate a two sitting dinner service. Alternatively, you may choose to dine in Marco's Restaurant where the atmosphere is less formal and all meals are self service.






 




Having never cruised with CMV before, although no stranger to cruising, I booked a one night mini-cruise for my wife and myself on Marco Polo. The cruise would take us from the Essex port of Harwich to the London port of Tilbury. These short weekend mini-cruises are a great way to try out new cruise lines and ships, and is also a perfect introduction to cruising for those who have never cruised before. Usually very keenly priced, this one night mini-cruise had prices starting from just £59 per person.

My wife and I were booked into a Premier Outside cabin and had been given an embarkation time of 3pm, embarkation and disembarkation times are based on your cabin grade and deck position. We arrived at the port of Harwich at approximately 2:30pm and parked in the designated car park, we had pre-booked the car park at a cost of £11. Along with other passengers, we were then taken by bus to the cruise terminal. Check-in was very quick and we were onboard by our allocated time of 3pm.



As we stepped onboard we were greeted by a member of staff who then showed us the way to our cabin, carrying our overnight bag for us. The cabin was of a reasonable size with two large windows which afforded us good views of the port. The shower room was very small, with very little space to put your toiletries etc. There were two single beds which had been pushed together, with a bedside cabinet either side, there was a dressing table and a reasonably sized wardrobe. It was nice to see that there were power points to enable us to charge our phones, and also tea and coffee making facilities.





 
Once our luggage was stowed away we made our way to Marco's Restaurant where a good range of hot and cold food was being served. After having something light to eat and drink, we returned to our cabin in order to get our life jackets as it was time for the compulsory safety drill.





Having been briefed in what to do in an emergency, we set about exploring the ship. For a small ship there is a surprisingly good amount of public areas, and nowhere seemed crowded at anytime. We were due to depart Harwich at 6:30pm but an announcement informed passengers this had been put back to 9:30pm, so our plans to watch the sail away prior to dinner at 8pm were dashed!

Dinner in the Waldorf Restaurant was a very pleasant, stylish affair, we shared a table with another couple, and, as you tend to do, swapped cruise stories whilst enjoying a five course meal. After dinner we strolled around the ship and took in some of the live entertainment in the Captain's Club, a very relaxing bar lounge area.
 

 
 
We then retired for the evening, first having set the alarm for an early call. Cabins had to be vacated early, by 7am the next morning and disembarkation would commence at 8am, breakfast would be served from 6:30am.

The next morning, as instructed, we vacated our cabin by 7am and had breakfast in the Waldorf Restaurant, breakfast can also be taken in Marco's Restaurant. We kept our small overnight bags with us, although passengers were allowed to store baggage in the show lounge prior to disembarkation. We disembarked at 8:30am and made our way to the car park to take up our places on the coach for the return trip to Harwich, this had been pre-booked at a cost of £20 per person. We arrived back in Harwich just after 10am.

For more information on CMV and Marco Polo, please visit the cruise lines own website at: www.cruiseandmaritime.com