Posts Tagged ‘Driving’


September 16th, 2010 No comments

The view from our hotel in Montreux, Switzerland

.This is the penultimate blog post for the driving part of our European road trip. Tomorrow night we stay in Monte Carlo, Monaco then we head to France for a week of chillaxing on the Atlantic coast.

The drive through Switzerland today was a tale of two halves. The first was a twisty turny drive through central Switzerland followed by a rush through the motorways of the south western region of the country.

We set off from St Gallen at around 11.30 after a brief wander around the old part of the city and the monastery buildings (which make up a world heritage sight). We arrived in Montreux at a little after 5pm. Following the Alpine scenery of yesterday was always going to a be a tough job, but Lake Geneva has managed to do a darned good job!

My Blackberry didn't capture the actual sunset particularly well, but this is the best one I got just before the sun started to sink.

The lake is really beautiful, and the mountainous backdrop adds a real sense of drama. Montreux sits on the ‘Swiss Riviera’ and enjoys a much milder climate than the surrounding region.

We watched the sun set behind the mountains whilse enjoying some fantastic French/Italian fusion cuisine. Kieran had mussel pizza! I enjoyed a great (in both taste and size) bowl of moules marieniere et frites.

I am writing this post sat on the lake terrace of the hotel enjoying a cold beer; and whilst I have enjoyed every second of the trip so far, I am really looking forward to some well earned rest and relaxation in La Rochelle.

I will be posting a few times in France, but it won’t be every day. Please keep commenting on my posts and following my Twitter feed


September 13th, 2010 1 comment

View from the water bus through Venice, Italy

We made it across the Alps! Moreover, we made it one piece, which is especially surprising as pretty much every Italian that owns a motor vehicle seems out to kill us! Between the crazy overtaking bus and the manic tractor drivers I am pretty sure that my remaining hair is now all grey. Luckily I had the pleasure of driving through Austrian Alpine passes and lanes before hitting the main roads to the South, rather than the Italian leg.

The drive through Austria was simply stunning, even the inclement weather didn’t dampen (excuse the pun, but George has infected us all) the experience. We had one hairy moment when about half way up a 3km climb (1 in 7 or 15% gradient) we got stuck behind a coach. There is something very scary about doing 30mph in 2nd gear at 4000rpm.

Boats instead of cars is the order of the day!

The technical driving didn’t finish there either. I needed to get back down the hill too!

After all the shenanigans en route, it was with a great relief that we crossed the causeway into Venice and parked up for the night. Following a 40min water bus ride along the grand canal we stepped onto Venice at the Piazza di San Marco. We then promptly got lost!

I blame Kieran, but getting lost in Venice is so easy to do. There is no obvious frame of reference for a start, followed by the labrynthine nature of the city, which means that everywhere looks the same.

A quick call to the hotel ended our walkabout, as we managed to find our way following their directions.

Norm in Venice, baby!

At this stage it’s probably worth mentioning that I am blogging from my Blackberry as I had a minor mishap with my hand luggage, i.e. I spilled a drink all over it, or rather my drink burst all over the inside. This has made all my electronic gear, including my laptop, very soggy. It also destroyed most of my postcards and presents too!

I am currently trying to dry most of it out, so hopefully it will all be fine for tomorrow. So sorry about the lack of pics and links.

Venice itself is amazing. My favourite stop so far. The city is just so enchanting it’s unbelievable. We saw quite a lot from the water bus along the grand canal, but I really like the city in the evening. Wandering about the shops and alleyways is pure magic. Definitely made up for the fact that Italians all sleep from 12-3 everyday!!

If my laptop works tomorrow I will add some pics to today’s post and yesterday’s post for your viewing pleasure. Please keep your comments coming as it really is great to know that people are sharing in the trip.


September 10th, 2010 4 comments

Rack of ribs I ate in Amsterdam, Holland

Following the relative peace and calm of day one of our trip to Europe, where I had time to blog about my day, have a nap and change my shirt before going out for dinner, today has been rather more busy. After consuming a rather charming full English breakfast for a modest fee, we left the sights and sounds of Amsterdam behind us and hit the road for day two of out trip.

It is probably worth mentioning here that I was the designated driver to kick start today’s proceedings, which meant navigating us through the streets of inner city Amsterdam and getting us safe and sound onto the motorway heading for Eindhoven. I have never driven in Europe in my life, never mind city centre driving, so it was all a bit of an experience. Luckily, Kieran has a VW Golf which is very similar to my old polo so I picked up the driving mechanics pretty quickly. The difficult bit wasn’t the driving on the right, or the fact the car was pretty much dead weight with all the gear we had packed in, but the fact I just couldn’t get my lane positioning right due to the driving position relative to the other road users. It took me the few kilometres of Amsterdam’s arterial routes to really get to grips with and then perhaps the next twenty or so kilometres of the motorway to put that into practice. However, after a little over an hour after setting off, I reckon I have the hang of this whole driving thing again. Although, we won’t mention the few near misses we encountered when negotiating a roundabout in Luxembourg!

Bar Cat, found on a bar on a coffee shop in Amsterdam, Holland

The drive to Eindhoven was pretty unremarkable in all fairness, although we knew that from the outset as we had consciously decided to try and make it pretty much to Belgium on the motorway then head off the beaten track for the rest of the day.

My driving stint ended a few kilometres north of Eindhoven when I swapped with Chris after filling the tank. Chris then took us into Belgium (where we posed for the obligatory photo) and through the Flemish region, again fairly uneventfully, until we hit the French region around Huy. We lunched at a Belgian supermarket before setting off again towards Luxembourg.

Arty picture I took in Luxembourg, Luxembourg

It was my turn again to drive when we set the sat-nav to Bastogne and headed for the national park. We had a few navigational hiccups involving filter lanes, 4-leaf clover junctions and an off piste search for a bathroom, but we made it to the Belgian/Luxembourg border pretty much unscathed. t was here that I decided to not see the car coming from our left when I pulled out onto a mini-roundabout. Luckily nothing happened apart from maybe turning a few of all our hairs grey and we could chalk it down to a experience and a few tweets at my expense.

The last stage of the journey was through mountainous north Luxembourg, which Kieran piloted without incident, where we took one of the most scenic routes I have had the pleasure of driving along. Definitely one of the high points of the trip so far.

We made it into Luxembourg a little after seven and by the time we were all checked in and had quaffed a beer or two the city was starting to be cloaked in darkness. I managed to get aa couple of snaps in of Notre Dame Cathedral and of the road leading up to the cathedral from our hotel, but the light was pretty bad by then and my Blackberry’s camera isn’t that great at night anyway.

The part of the city that overlooks the canal and leads down the rather steep cliff faces towards the canal itself is really rather something. Irt was beautifully eerie and romantic. The atmosphere, architecture and road layouts really made it something to behold. Definitely somewhere I would visit again with a special some one. Very, very romantic indeed! Pity I had to share the moment with Chris, George and Kieran!

Chris, George anf Kieran all trying to take a photo of a dark bridge at night. Luxembourg, Luxembourg

By 9pm we were all starving so started to look for somewhere to eat. it seems that Luxembourg is not a weekend city as almost every restaurant was shut or shutting. We eventually found a nice little Chinese place still serving where we ate heartily before heading back to the hotel.

Driving is tiring work, so we are all pretty shattered right now. It is after midnight local time at the moment and everyone else hit the sack a while ago. I am determined to try and get a post up every night of the trip, so please read and comment as it means I am more motivated to burn the candles at both ends to bring you my thoughts and experiences from the trip.

Tomorrow we are making the 500km trip to Munich via the Black Forest and we are planning to have left Luxembourg by around 9am, so not long for me to sleep now!

As always you can follow my thought and progress via my homepage or Twitter account, or the live tracking of our trip at Kieran’s site.

V Fest

August 19th, 2008 No comments

I’ve never been to one of the mainstream festivals before – Leeds/Reading, V Fest, Glastonbury etc. This is for several reasons, firstly the cost – £150 for a festival is too expensive, secondly there is the fact that they are massively ovwercrowded – 30000 people is just too many, finally there is the stigma. I usually don’t see myself as a music snob, but it seems that the sort of music fans that attend the mainstream festivals are the sort of music fan that pisses people off.

Having said all that, Muse were playing V Fest this year and, for those of you that don’t know, my girlfriend Liz is obsessed with them. The moment she heard they were playing she booked two tickets for the day they were headlining at the Staffordshire version of the festival. This mean attending one of the festivals I never thought I would, especially since the escapades of last summer!

We got up early on the Sunday, leaving about 9am to drive the 130 miles from Leeds to Weston Park, near Cannock, Staffordshire. The drive was pretty uneventful and there were no jams getting into the venue. The queueing wasn’t too bad to get into the actual arena either – maybe 20 minutes. Once in the arena we headed over to the main stage area to try and camp out for the headliners so we would be near(ish) the front. We managed to get to the first few rows right in the middle for the first few acts – The Futureheads, Alannis Morrisette, Lostprophets and Maximo Park. Unfortuantely, as mentioned above the sort of music fans that attend these festivals are prats, so after about 5 hours of getting squashed, beaten, crushed, kicked and being generally uncomfortable (and the fact that I had managed to lose my mobile telephone for the first time in nearly 10 years) we abandoned our position and fled the main stage area. We rustled ourselves up ome food – which considering the fact we were at a festival was not too over priced. We managed to find a place that did a giant Yorkshire pudding filled with sausage, mash, onions and gravy for a fiver! We also managed to find somewhere to sit amongst all the mud.

After queueing for a while to use the “toilets” and having missed The Kooks’ set. We headed back for the headliners. We didn’t go so deep into the crowd, but found ourselves a nice little spot not too far back where we could enjoy the music and see the stage without fear for our lives. The first headline act were the Stereophonics. They were absolutely awesome live. Kelly Jones really knows how to work the crowd and their back catelogue is impressive. I know it’s a festival and bands play their singles but I really had hoped they would play a few of the album tracks! Muse were the second headline act and they know how to put ona show. I am not the world’s biggest Muse fan – most of it is just noise – but they are good live, if only for their light and special effects show! Six giant satellites mounted with lasers and spotlights aodrned or surrounded the stage!! All in all a fun day, except for the hour or so queue in the mud to get out of the car park – but even that wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Pleasently surprised is probably the right phrase. I wouldn’t pay to go back again, but if the chance arose to attend for the day again for free then I would probably think about and it would depend on who was playing.

Keep an eye out for more detailed reviews of the sets people played.

Car Broke Down

August 4th, 2007 3 comments

Yesterday saw my car’s first break down since I bought it. I had just left the petrol station in Greenhalgh when I noticed my temperature light was flashing, I pulled over as soon as was safe and was somewhat shocked by the quantity of steam pouring from under my bonnet. On closer inspection I found that the coolant filler bottle was leaking under pressure and that was the source of the steam. I decided that this needed professional attention, so slowly made my way home (a journey that normally would take ten minutes or so under normal circumstances, but it took over 30 mins this time). I am still waiting to hear back from my mum’s mechanic, so I still don’t know exactly what is wrong or how much it is going to cost me.

It is just my luck that this would happen at home in Kirkham so I can’t get back to Leeds until it is fixed, which also means that Liz can’t get home either and she has to be at work on Monday! It also means I am without transport in the rural Fylde for the first time since I passed my test. It is horrible to have to be so reliant on my mother for getting around, especially when your girlfriend is visiting!

Meeting the Mother

June 12th, 2007 8 comments

Having arrived back from Sunrise on Monday, I had a day or so to recover before going to meet Liz in Lincoln and then us driving across to Kirkham to visit my mother, the first time that Liz and her will meet. This is quite a scary prospect as I have not introduced my mum to any of my girlfriends since Becky (not that I have had any serious ones, but I introduced Becky to my mum over eight years ago) so I was a bit apprehensive and Liz was actually scared.

Liz was supposed to be working until 9pm on Wednesday, so I had planned to head over about 7ish to avoid the worse of the traffic and take my time, before heading the 200 miles home. In the end Liz managed to wangle her shifts around so that she finished at 4 instead. This meant I could drive over during the afternoon grab some food with liz’s grandparents then amble back to Kirkham, getting in for 9ish rather than after midnight!

On arrival in Kirkham I introduced my mum to Liz and we sat down and had a cup of tea. Liz was really shy and didn’t really speak much which was totally understandable. Mum was really nice to Liz too, not really going OTT, which was one of my worst fears. We ended up crashing fairly early as I had driven 300 miles, Liz had been at work since 7am and my mum had had a long day too. Mum had put us in separate rooms, Liz in mine and me in my borther’s room. When I had been arranging the weekend with my mum we had never really discussed sleeping arrangements – just a difficult subject to broach really – but I wasn’t going to push the issue anyway. For as long as I can remember my mother has had a fairly static policy on the subject and I decided that this wasn’t the time to circumvent it.

Thursday was a really nice day, didn’t really do that much – got up, had lunch, went to pub to watch the cricket then headed out to dinner with my mum. We ended up at an “eat as much as you like” Chinese restaurant in Preston, which I really like as they do unlimited Peking duck and BBQ spare ribs to die for! Liz was a bit overwhelmed with the experience I think, she isn’t a great eater at the best of times, especially when she is a little nervous or self-conscious.

On our return from the restaurant we sat down and watched a film, Jack and Sarah, which is a really nice couple film. Unfortunately I had developed a really bad headache so had to go to bed fairly early again. Liz was amazing and looked after me and basically made me feel better. She is good like that.

Friday was a busy day. We headed over to St. Anne’s to visit Lindsey who has recently given birth to a little girl. I am not usually a baby person but when I was sat there with Lucinda Faith in my arms I could actually see myself with a family one day. That was a mild reaction compared to Liz’s. I think she actually considered getting pregnant there and then!

We left Lindsey’s after an hour or so and headed to Freeport in Fleetwood as I needed some bits and bats and I wanted to drive the length of the Fylde Coast from St. Anne’s to Fleetwood to show Liz Blackpool and my old haunts. I am not sure she was overly excited about the whole thing, but at least she has an idea of my past now.

I cooked dinner on Friday and then my mum sat Liz down and spent the evening (over four hours) showing her photographs of me, David and a few other things – ranging from baby photos to holiday snaps to school shots. I think even my mum got bored by the end!

Liz and I headed back to Leeds on Saturday morning as it was Kirkham Club Day so had to move my car before 9am. We drove back along the A59 as we were not in a rush, we had nothing to do until kieran’s BBQ at 3pm.

I think it was an amazingly successful few days. I think my mum and Liz get on quite well and I really hope they approve of each other. It was nice actually spending time with Liz in a domestic setting too. As much as I love my house in Leeds it isn’t very homely, or private!


June 5th, 2007 3 comments

Well the first one is out of the way. Sunrise, the first festival on my summer tour, was a good introduction to the world of festivals and the advantages/disadvantages of working them.

Kat, Sarann and I ventured down to Somerset on Wednesday last week ith a full car and full of expectations and apprehension. Well the apprehension was more on Sarann and my part as Kat is somewhat of a festival veteran. After a fairly uneventful trip down the motorways of England, we arrived at the festival site after a mere five hours. We soon pitched the tents and set ourselves up in the rain and went over to meet our new boss and co-workers for the very first time.

Sarann and I had agreed to work for Rakesh in his catering van without ever really meeting him and both we and him were taking quite a risk on this joint venture. Rakesh is a lovely guy, one of the nicest you will meet. His partner, Frances, was also one of the sweetest, kindest, most caring ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I decided that Wednesday evening that I was going to enjoy my summer.

With Kat heading off to do her own thing, Sarann and I ended up drinking wine in the tent having quite a long, meaningful chat. I already feel that we have developed a much stronger, closer relationship than before. Bed soon called us as we were starting our first shift/training session at 9am the next morning.

Thursday was a good day, not only did I really enjoy working with Rakesh, I also found that Sarann and I make a really good team. Rakesh was selling the usual selection of hot drinks, vegetarian hotdogs, his famed chickpea curry and home made, organic chips! The work was hard yet enjoyable, the only issue being the difficulty in preparing and chopping the chips on a campsite with limited equipment. Our first day drew to a close with a meander round some of the stages, a boogie in the dance tent and a chill out in ID Spiral with chocolate brownie and chai.

Friday saw business pick up a bit, whoch meant me and Sarann were working harder. The work was still really good fun, I enjoyed the banter with the customers and the staff and Sarann and I were really starting to gel as a team. As an aside, why is it so ridiculous that Sarann and I are a couple. People understandably assumed we were due to the fact we were working, camping and spent most of the festival with each other. Now I realise that we are not a couple and never will be and that is fine and in fact just the way I like it, but I still took offence and the speed and ferocity of Sarann’s denial.

Saturday was a day of catastrophe. Chipping the potatoes for Rakesh on his tiny little table had been causing me a some lower back pain all weekend; I had ignored it and carried on, taking some painkillers to get me through the day. However, Saturday lunchtime saw me lie down to grab a nap and then be unable to get up again. After a visit to the local medical centre I was diagnosed with a crushed disc in my lower back and ordered to take at least 48 hours to recover, rest and recuperate. This meant I had to let Rakesh and the team down and also meant I was going to miss that last two days of the festival! Things went from bad to worse for Rakesh from then on, losing another member of staff to a bereavement and generally bad luck on all fronts. Sarann, however, was a shining light. Not only did she play nursemaid to me and made sure I was always looked after, she workied like a Trojan for Rakesh, covering shifts and doing overtime. Basically Sarann was a star!

Saturday afternoon and Sunday passed with me lying flat on my back, drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers and a herbal remdy which worked surprisingly well.

Monday saw us come home.

Potterhanworth, the centre of the known universe?

May 18th, 2007 1 comment

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have recently embarked on a new relationship with a lovely young lady called Liz. Well, for the past week I have been staying with her at her Nan’s house whilst her grandparents are away on holiday for a couple of weeks. The reasons for me staying are two fold, a) it gave me an opportunity to spend some real and quality time with Liz away from the pressures of Leeds, friends and family and b) it gave me an opportunity to recharge my batteries and take stock of my life in a relaxed atmosphere.

I think both reasons have worked out for the very best. Liz and I have really gotten to know each other this week in the way you only achieve through spending time together. Having the house to ourselves was a real bonus, it has led to our relationship really developing into a beautiful adult relationship. Liz is a pretty good host too, she brings me cups of tea in the morning! Although, to be fair, I have actually done most of the work in terms of cooking, cleaning, washing etc and I have decided that Liz only really wants me for my car – it seems my chauffering skills are second to none, literally as there is no one else!

The second reason has almost been as amazing. I have really gotten to know myself through letting Liz get to know me. I think I am now in a position to move forward with my life, to start again as it were. The future holds many challenges for me and until recently I would have shied away from them and stuck my head in the sand. Now it is different. I am up for the challenge, I am relishing the challenge and most importantly I am willing to fight for what I want and fight to win.

The week in Potter’ has been relaxed although not entirely without action. Liz and I arrived from Leeds on Sunday afternoon and chilled out for most of the afternoon, we had take away – which wasn’t really up the high stabdards of Milano’s but not entirely inedible, after watching some telly we ended up going to bed relatively early. Monday was fairly standard too, didn’t really do all that much apart from a bit of shopping and some work. Tuesday saw me head back to Leeds for the morning, I picked up some quality newvinyl which gives m an excuse to update my hi-fi system, which is in the process of coming to fruition. We ended up going out into Lincoln with Liz, Edd and some of Edd’s friends to a club called Sugarcubes. It was a dive. Your standard student rock based night. Cheap drinks though at £1 for a bottle of lager/soft drink. Liz got very very drunk and I took her home. We were both quite ill on our return and as I hadn’t been drinking I wasn’t convinced it was the alcohol.

Liz returned to work on Wednesday after a few days off due to stress. Whilst she was there I did some reading and caught up with some work. A few problems occurred during the evening, none of which are really suitable for discussion here. Thursday was a faily quiet day, we watched the Lincoln City vs Bristol Rovers play off semi-final 2nd leg and I was a little dismayed to see Lincoln lose. Lincoln are not my team, but as I have several connections to the city, I have a certain affection for the club. A couple of films and a late night later we arrive at today, Friday. Liz is at work from 4-9pm this evening and then I imagine we will be heading back to Leeds.

Our plans for the weekend include watching he Blackpool game on Saturday, followed by the FA Cup final then Wendy House. Sunday will be a chilled out day then liz will head home whilst I get on with some chores and errands. Finally, I thought I would mention the fact that I have tickets to see The Who!!

Day 1

April 16th, 2007 1 comment

Today was the fisrt day of Rationalist Week. It is also the second day of my end of holidays binge. It is nearly 6.30pm and I have just sat down in my own home for the first time since 10.30am yesterday!

I set out to pick up a kettle and some other bits ond bobs for Rationalist Week from Tesco, then spent the whole of Sunday afternoon helping set the tents and stuff up ready for opening today. It was hard work in the baking heat, but the six of us made relatively short work of what was basically a massive job. We put two 6m X 3m tents up, fetched the generator and tested it with the PA system and the cooking equipment, we put up all the displays and set out the 4 tables and 20 chairs. We ended up in the Old Bar for some liquid refreshment. I left at 12.30am with B!! I was very, very drunk.

My alarm went off at 8.30am this morning, I threw it across the room! At 9.45 I eventually rolled out of bed and down to the petrol station to get fuel for the generator. I then met Chris to start hauling the kit from Ellerslie down to outside the Union. This is not an easy task and has to be done twice every day, once in the morning to set up and once in the evening to pack away!

I spent the day helping out in the tent, sorting drinks, chatting to the various guests – including a Rabbi and a vicar!

I think the day went really well, apart from the minor mishap with the generator – which broke – we enjoyed a fairly decent turn out and got some good feedback as well as lively debate. I reckon we got about 30 people through the door, about half of which sat down and got involved in the speeches, talks and debates. We even ended up getting three new members! All in all, it was definitely a success. Even if it doesn’t get any busier we will have made enough of an impact to justify the expense and time. People are talking about us now.

Saturday @ Syndicate

April 11th, 2007 1 comment

Saturday was the raison d’etre for me heading home for Easter. With Jon back from the Falklands and Dom and Beki up from London it was the ideal opportunity to relive some our youth.

Lunchtime saw us shake off our hangovers from the night before and fire up the barbeque for some lunch. The four of us were joined by Izzy and Nikki for some light refreshments and a few sausages and burgers. It was a glorious afternoon, good food and drink coupled with some lively company. We tend to get together a few times a year, but these BBQ’s tend to be well worth the effort. As the afternoon rolled on we headed our separate ways to get changed etc ready for our big night out.

I used the chance to go into Preston and pick up a new car stereo, one with a CD player and RDS – review to follow. Ended up at Izzy’s getting some CDs burned and came up with a plan to head over to Chester Zoo on Monday. Having got changed and ready I drove back over to Dom’s for the pre-party.

Joining Jon, Dom, Bekki and myself for this night of fun were Ash (Dom’s brother) and his girlfriend Jemma, Anja and Kirsty. We started off at Dom’s with a few drinks. The few drinks turned into many drinks and by 9pm we were getting ready to go into Blackpool. We have not been out in Blackpool as a crowd since we were at sixth form so we were all up for this night.

The taxi dropped us off at Schofield’s and we set off with the night. Drinks have definitely gone up since last I was in Blackpool – £20 for a round of 6 drinks! The tequilas were cheap though, so I got a round of them in! Walked up to Syndicate at about 11ish and after paying the princely sum of £10 to get in, we set about partying.

The rest of the night was somewhat of a blur, Jon and I were on the quadruple vodka and redbull’s! The music was funky house and the lights flashed a lot. It was a really good night, clubbing the likes of which I have not experienced for a good 5 years! Leeds has some good clubs but it just cannot compete with the size and atmospehere of the Syndicate. It may have been one of those nights that the fact I was with excellent company mean more than that quality of the environment, but still an excellent night.

Taxi and a kebab at 3am and we were back to Dom’s for some post-party drinks. Next thing I remember was waking up in Dom’s spare room. We fired the BBQ back up and had ourselves some BBQ bacon butties!