This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mallorca - Day 5-11

Sorry, there's more.........

Days 5, 6 & 7 (ish) – Port De Pollenca

Absolutely Stunning!

No, not me in my new Speedos (far from it), but the view as we opened the doors onto the balcony....

The drive from Palma was straightforward – at least it was once we found, or should I say stumbled on the right road. Trev was driving as per usual, which suits me fine. I find it complicated enough at home without everything being arse about tit when you're on the road abroad.
Anyway, he said it was an impromptu tour of the city, but to be honest I wasn't entirely convinced!

So, where were we? Yes. Absolutely stunning. It will take a better qualifications than my O-Level in English (grade C – just) to accurately describe the beauty of this place but I'll have a go:

The hotel itself is situated roughly in the middle of what they call the 'Pine Walk' – a stretch of crazy paving lined with pine trees running around about a third of the Bay of Pollenca. To the right, the walk is lined with various hotels, restaurants, bars & shops. To our left the pine walk continues but the shops & restaurants are replaced by low level apartments and private residencies. A narrow strip of sand running the length of the walk down to the sea completes the picture. The mountains surrounding it seem to shield the bay from the more inclement weather. It really is beautiful.

It is clearly a popular place for families and the retired. You will see a number of buggies and motorised contraptions catering for both ends of the age range negotiating the paving.

Whilst contributing to a very pleasant ambience, the downside of the popularity of this place with said age groups is the distinct lack of toned & tanned torsos glistening on the beach. To be honest, its less washboard abs & proud pecs and more sagging bellies and man boobs! Still as Trev said, at least he doesn't feel out of place!

Food has been terrific. There is a wide choice at the hotel breakfast buffet, from the usual continental bread, ham & cheese, to fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt's and for the Brits, good old sausages, eggs bacon & beans! I keep on about the view but honestly it makes the breakfast taste even better.

For our evening dining, so far we've done Tex Mex, Italian, traditional British and Mallorcan. All has been good, even that most basic of meals; burger and chips has been exceptional. None of your Birds Eye Quarter Pound rubbish here – proper ground beef always with a unique salad and hand cut chips. The Tex Mex was good – only done Fajitas there this time but their menu promises Argentinian steaks so we may well be back before the week is out. It was washed down with a couple of jars of Amstell – a Dutch beer that quite frankly knocks the spots off this San Miguel stuff. The following night the pizza was good (and the cheesecake to follow was to die for) but the highlight was no doubt last nights meal. We made a conscious decision to avoid chips, and ended up in this little eatery in one of the back streets away from the strip. Melon & Serrano ham to start followed by (for me) meatballs and for Trev, beef stew. Very tasty, and very different too. (The waiter was also very 'pleasant' but that had absolutely no bearing on our decision to eat here - honest!)

There is not a late night scene here, understandable given the prevailing age groups. This is fine as neither of us are ones to stand clutching an overpriced warm beer in some trendy late night bar. Less still are you likely to catch us in an even later nightclub necking dodgy pills and sipping overpriced bottled water. Most nights after the meal and a walk, we'll grab some beer, wine, or gin and sit on the balcony of the hotel indulging in that endlessly entertaining pastime of people watching!

Day 7 – continued

Well, we slipped back into 'Brits abroad' mode somewhat this evening when we stumbled (not literally, it was too early for that, even for us) across another 'Traditional British Pub' in the shape of “The Nags Head”.

Fans of British comedy will know that this is the pub featured in the TV series “Only Fools & Horses” starring David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. The pub was decorated in the same way as the one on the TV show but the walls were adorned with hundreds of prints of classic scenes from the show. We wolfed down a cheap & cheerful sausage, chips & peas and a couple of pints of Worthingtons that was almost as expensive as the food.

Day 8

Having had the brains, and to a great extent the bodies, in Neutral more or less since we got here, we decided to fire up the Kia and explore a little of this corner of the island.

Our drive took us first to the very north-eastern tip of the island at the Formentor Peninsula which afforded us a very high cliff top view of the Mediterranean sea on one side and the bay of Pollenca, and further away, the Bay of Alcudia on the other. The drive up however was equally as dramatic as the view – a narrow steep road that winds us way around the mountain ledges made for an interesting trip.

Cycling is popular here. Not only the casual tourist but the 'lycrists' as well. I personally believe that cycling is just an excuse for wearing lycra – just take the bloody car – it's a lot less effort! (and you can still wear lycra if you wish anyway!)

On the way back we turned off to check out Formentor Beach – there is no settlement as such here, the beautiful pine lined beach serves mainly the guests of the nearby sea front hotel. Really picturesque and a wonderful place to lie and relax. At least it was until, first a bus load of school kids appeared, then the boats bringing the day trippers from Pollenca and Alcudia started arriving. Bloody tourists!

Back at Pollenca we had walk around the marina before enjoying a wonderfully relaxing Shiatsu foot massage on the beach under the shade of a pine tree this afternoon by a Japanese chap visiting Europe from Tokyo. Might be back again before the end of the week.

Dined off the strip tonight, again successfully avoiding chips – Shoulder of lamb and Mallorcan beef stew were the dishes of choice this evening.

More drinks and people watching from the balcony this evening.

Day 9

After the exertions of yesterday it was back to the balcony today for some serious relaxation. In truth we may have overdone the 'people watching' last night – nothing to do with the accompanying gin of course!

Have had the news on and hear about more resignations from the cabinet and the gradual implosion of the government – try and take an interest but to be honest where and what we going to eat tonight is far more important at the moment!

See the Jap chap again this afternoon for an absolutely divine shoulder and neck massage. This is taking chilled out to a new level – with no chemical assistance either! (Thinks back to Fiji)

Back to the Tex Mex tonight for another delicious meal, beers on the balcony then bed.

Day 10

Our last day & night in Mallorca. Took a lunchtime drive into the quaint little town of Pollenca just a little inland from the Port settlement where we were staying. Then it was on to Port de Alcudia just in the next bay for the all important booze purchases – brandy, gin and some Scotch & Irish. Then back to the beach for some last minute sun and another massage from the Jap chap.

The last supper was somewhat disappointing. Had planned to finish in style, with the full works but ended up at a small eatery with a menu that promised little and delivered less.

Spent our last night as we have the others, quiet drinkypoos on the balcony watching the people and the sun set.

Day 11

Time to pack our bags. Our flight wasn’t until late so still had a full day to do anything we wanted to do.

We decided to drive back towards Palma along the north coast. There are not many beach resorts along this coast as the mountains plunge straight into the sea. The drive though and the views were fantastic. Clearly a popular route for the ‘Lycrists’, they were overtaking the cars at some points on the downward stretches.

Our first stop was Port De Soller, a beautiful little harbour town with a horse shoe shaped bay encompassing a small beach and the inevitable marina with its more modest array of yachts and launches. We delighted to arrive here not only for it’s beauty, and to discover another possible holiday destination, but because the fuel light in the car had been on for about 20 minutes and we were getting a bit nervous!

We continued on west passing through the delightful mountain town of Deia. In fact we would have stopped here as we were both getting peckish, but as is so often the case these days, there was nowhere to park.

We considered to time and left off the western corner of the island cutting across through the hills and back towards Palma. The road itself came out just to the west of the city and we found ourselves back in Palma Nova where we wolfed down a very late lunch.

With the credit cards heaving a sigh of relief we eschewed the chance of more shopping in Palma and headed along the seafront to Palmas’ main beach, just to the east of the city. The beach stretches for approximately three miles and is very visually appealing – as are the beaches’ inhabitants! Never mind people watching, check out the bodies.

We took one of those little road trains to have a better look, but the laid back atmosphere evaporates as you head east to L’Arenal, where the promenade bars are in full swing and there is some serious drinking going on. This end is dominated, no, not by the British lager louts, but by the Germans and the Dutch. The atmosphere certainly wasn’t as pleasant and we fully expected the local bobbies to be busy later on.

It was time to head for the airport and a short while later we’d deposited the little Kia in the returns bay and made our way to the departure terminal.

I’d checked in online first thing in the morning and secured our preferred seats – the exit row as there’s much more leg room. Then it was just a matter of dropping our bags and getting a boarding card. The ‘Fast Bag Drop’ though turned out to be anything but. First, there was no-one staffing the desk, then when someone did arrive, the computer was clearly playing up. Much coming and going of bods with note-pads and screwdrivers ensued until they eventually gave up and opened up the desk next door. The chap on the desk had clearly been on the valium as it took an age to do what should have taken only a couple of minutes!

Eventually we were called for the flight. It seems B.A (hereinafter renamed Budget Airways for reasons very soon to be revealed) have been making more cutbacks as we did not have a proper gate, but we would instead be bussed to the plane (unlike on arrival).

I say plane, but to be honest, oven would have been a better description. I had spent all day on shorts but had changed into jeans and shirt at the airport to freshen up for the journey home. This was a waste of time though as soon the shirt was clinging to my back. As the doors closed the Captain came on the radio and wished us a warm welcome. The irony!

The flight was uneventful, the dodgy sandwiches putting in another appearance and we were soon landing at Gatwick.

With the usual cheery welcome (detect the sarcasm!) from the happy faces on passport control we headed to the baggage hall and awaited the arrival of the bags.

Mine turned up reasonably quickly, so we waited for Trev’s to make an appearance. And waited.

And Waited. Yes, they’d lost it! We reported it to the Baggage desk, and having re-christened B.A. to ‘Bodge It Airways’ we headed to the car park and home.

So, the baggage apart, a fabulous holiday, Mallorca is a beautiful island and offers something for everyone. If you go, don’t stick in one place – get out and about – you wont regret it – honest!

Until the next time…..

P.S. At time of writing the baggage online tracking system tells us that the bag is now on its way to Gatwick – from Dublin!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Mallorca - Day 1-4

Day 1

Ouch! The lower left hand area of the back was telling me this holiday was well overdue. Either that or the kidney was complaining about the weekends excesses. Whatever, the parcels took slightly longer to deliver this morning, but thanks to a couple of paracetamol and the thought of all the sun, sea and sand to come we were soon finished.

We debated the dubious delights of airport food and settled for a pint and a toastie at the Rottingdean Club on the way.

The journey to the airport was so uneventful that it doesn't warrant a mention and it wasn't long before, with bags 'fast dropped' we were through security and in amongst all the shops, bars and other establishments vying to separate you from your money whilst awaiting your flight.

However, a new pair of sunnies were needed so we headed in the general direction of Next knowing that if nothing else, I wouldn't need a mortgage to buy a pair from them. Trying on all those sunnies had worked up quite a thirst so it wasn't long before we in the bar enjoying a pint of Ruddles (and more paracetamol) – purely medicinal of course.

Soon our flight was called and it was onto the plane. We were flying with BA this time mainly because when we booked the flight, sleazyjet weren't offering fares. It was nice not having to worry about rushing to get a decent seat but with BA, to be honest, that's about were the advantages ended.

The meal 'service' consisted of well, a sandwich and er, that's it. Half was a sheet of yellow plastic doing a very poor impression of cheese, the other, a diced pencil rubber masquerading as chicken. Also in the meal pack was a 'waste bag' with specific instructions printed on the side telling you to fill the bag with your waste and hand to the flight attendant at the end of the meal 'service'. Thankfully nobody took the instructions literally, but honestly they'll have us cleaning out the bloody loos next. Seriously though, BA have got to do better than this if they consider themselves to be “The Worlds' Favourite Airline”. My mood was improved considerably though by the arrival of the (complimentary) drinks trolley.

The rest of the flight was spent complaining about screaming kids on planes, and slagging off Ryanair – always good fun.
Our first four nights were in Palma and we had pre-booked a hire car on the 'net so with baggage claimed we headed for the car hire counter, done the paperwork, pick up the keys made our way to the compound. Needless to say we booked the cheapest grade but were pleasantly surprised by the sight of a gleaming black little Kia Picanto in the designated parking bay.

The journey to the hotel was fairly smooth requiring only two u-turns and a fair bit of luck considering it was now dark. About half an hour after leaving the airport we arrived at the hotel.

Average is probably the best description for the hotel, which proudly displayed it's one star status through a plaque on the wall in reception. It appeared clean and tidy though with a nice courtyard bar downstairs. The room had a balcony overlooking this which was nice. The bathroom had a number of odours emanating from it which wasn't.


It was getting quite late now and the hunger pangs had started so we headed out to find some grub – which was not that easy as many of the cafes and restaurants were now closing up. Found one though that was still serving and ordered a couple of peppered steaks and beers. Thankfully the steak tasted a lot better than it looked, so with appetites sated we headed back to the hotel.

For convenience, when we had first arrived at the hotel we had deposited the car in the underground car park opposite. Aware that the meter was ticking and the car parks' charges were accumulating by the hour we had been on the look out for some available (and free) street parking. As luck would have it, a space had become vacant right by the hotel, so, I planted my backside in the middle of said space whilst Trev went to rescue the car.

Whilst awaiting the appearance of the little black Kia, a couple of drivers idled slowly past glaring at me. It's probably worth pointing out at this point that this area is in the supposed 'gay' part of town. Anyway, I'm not sure whether these guys were just looking for something as innocent as a parking space or maybe something else, but either way they didn't like what they saw and drove off!

Anyway, feeling pleased with ourselves for saving a few quid we headed to the courtyard bar for a couple of beers before turning in. The first – San Miguel – has a similar texture to what I'd imagine drinking rusty razor blades would be like. The second – Estrella – was much more pleasant.

It was getting seriously late now, and we were both knackered so decided it was time for bed.

Our date with the duvet was delayed slightly however as the sound of serious mattress bashing could be heard from the next door room. Put it this way, the paintwork behind the headboard will need touching up tomorrow....

Day 2

Not a great nights kip last night but woke to a fantastic warm sunny morning – the partial view of the bay from the balcony was fantastic.

No 'complimentary tray' in the room so after a quick shower it was downstairs to the bar for some much needed caffeine and breakfast. The usual continental offerings of cheese, ham and breads were all present, along with some reasonable coffee and very nice orange juice.

We decided to stay local today and – not wishing to relinquish our valuable parking space – have a walk around the town, so it was back to the room in the lift to collect the camera, sunnies etc.

At this point it's worth mentioning the lift. I swear I'm going leave this hotel a few inches shorter. This lift doesn't travel smoothly between floors but lurches violently from one level to another painfully compressing your spine as it comes to a jarring halt at approximately the right level. Much more of this and some serious surgery will soon be needed.

We headed out of the hotel, through and down a pleasant little park to the seafront. This end of the harbour/marina accommodates not only cruise ships and island hopping ferries, but a very large number of the biggest gin palaces I have ever seen. You can smell the money here – anything less than the seriously wealthy can forget it.


We continued our walk along the main promenade east towards the centre of town. The marina continued but the boats were getting gradually smaller.

I wouldn't be British without mentioning the weather, which was perfect for today's activities – warm and sunny but with a gentle breeze and occasional thin cloud to cool things a little.

Nothing had been planned route or activity wise but we always seem to end up near an 'El Cortes Ingles' – Spain's main department store. A good stop for a reasonably priced coffee if nothing else takes your fancy – which it didn't.

Caffeine levels restored we headed back out onto the street and in the general direction of the hotel, grabbing a burger on the way.

Back at the hotel it was time to catch up with (well, start really) the holiday diary. I had been tapping away, alternatively swearing at, then blessing, the spell checker for half an hour or so when the USS Bataan eased its way into the harbour carrying a large number of helicopters on deck (and no doubt more below).

1 (3)P5273693

All that tapping had made me thirsty – and the back was playing up again, so we headed downstairs to the courtyard bar for some medication, then it was back to the room for a much needed siesta.

Tonight was Champions League Final night – contested this year by Manchester United and Barcelona. We fancied watching the match so after getting washed and changed headed out to find some food and a bar with a decent TV. Mallorca, like Barcelona is mainly Catalonian so there was a lot of interest and a lot of support for the boys from the Nou camp. The only British bar within walking distant was packed to the rafters with no chance of a seat, or more importantly, a drink for the foreseeable future. Thinking that we could easily live without Andy Grays’ dulcet tones on Sky Sports we went round the corner and found a little café with a big screen and cold beer.

Beers ordered, we plonked our backsides down just as Barcelona's first goal went in. Despite my obvious adeptness at “Dos cerveza por favor” the rest of the occupants of the café still seemed to know we were British and cheered just that little bit louder. It was all good natured though. Half time beers ordered we settled down for the second half which was interesting enough until Barcelona scored again and it was effectively all over.

Two memories will stay with us from that match. The Spanish match commentator who I swear did not take a breath for the whole of each 45 minutes – honestly he sounded like he was conducting an auction. The other was the sight of the Italian Premier – Silvio Berlusconi - occupying one of the prime seats in the VIP area at the stadium, who kept nodding off al the way through the match. Obviously his (alleged) extra curricular activities (shagging, embezzling and swindling) are taking their toll on the old boy.

Anyway, soon the match was over, hands were shook and we headed back to the hotel bar for a couple of quiet ales before bed.

Day 3

Started the day off, as yesterday with another continental breakfast in the bar courtyard downstairs. Clearly the recession is biting as the ham has now been replaced with some greasy looking spam. Yesterdays left-over bread rolls seem to have made a reappearance too.

Anyway, moaning over (yeah right!) it was off to fetch the Kia for a drive up the coast in the general direction of the caves of Drach. I say general, because the stingy car rental company didn't even put the most basic of maps in the car. Even so we managed to find the caves without too much drama.

Only thing was, they weren't the same caves! Still they were impressive enough, looking fantastic under clever lighting and accompanying music. Sadly some people still didn't understand the meaning of 'No Flash Photography' even when it's repeated in at least three different languages!


Then we called in at Porto Cristo, a pleasant little seaside town with a fantastic beach and harbour. The boats here are a little more affordable than those in the marina at Palma but still a long way out of reach!

Next stop was Cala Millor - which first became a popular holiday destination in the late sixties and visited by Trev over thirty years ago. It was well past food o'clock so we found a nice little quaint 'Traditional British Bar' and took advantage of their 'Two meals for a Tenner' offer. There is a recession on you know!

The back was playing up again but resisted the lure of a few liquid painkillers (at a very reasonable €2 a pint it must be said) settling instead for more ibuprofen.

Bellies filled, it was back in the Kia for a further drive up the coast, stopping briefly at Cala Bona – another pleasant if forgettable beach resort before heading up into the hills on the small peninsula. There were some really grand houses up here all hiding before very foreboding (and very locked) gates. Again, the smell of serious money was in evident.


Having now 'done' this corner of Mallorca, albeit briefly we drove back through Palma to the towns of Palma Nova and Magaluf. The brief was 'Afternoon Tea' so located another 'Traditional Britsh Bar' and enjoyed a fantastic cuppa – it even turned up in china cups! Decided to order same scones as well to complete the experience.P5280046

Tannins absorbed we headed west again around Magaluf and soon found ourselves on a dirt track. Not ideal for a little car at the best of times but when you've got a dodgy back it's bloody murder. However our patience (and my pain) was soon rewarded when we come to the end of the track and found an idyllic little bay with a fantastic distance view of Palma. I took advantage of the peace and tranquillity to complete the previous days diary every so often looking and taking in the wondrous view below.

With time marching on we decided to grab an evening meal in Palma Nova. We nabbed the first parking space we found agreeing to try whatever eatery was nearest – however we didn't expect to stumble on Steptoe & Son! The old fella took the order and informed us that Trev's choice of dish (Shepherds Pie) was his own creation and as a result had been selling really well. I ordered the curry and when it was delivered to the table, this time by the son, I was informed that he had created the curry, this being it's third incarnation - the other two being either too weak or too spicy. This one was definitely the best without any shadow of doubt whatsoever – according to him anyway! We had a couple of tarts for desert (insert own jokes here) whilst enjoying a second pint of very reasonably priced anaesthetic, sorry, San Miguel. Overall, the meal was ok, no more, the best part being the price and the father and son double act!

Bellies once again full (you can see a pattern developing here!) we headed back to the hotel and the inevitable trawl around for a parking space.

The USS Bataan was still in dock, but had been joined be three cruise ships – The Thomson Desitny, The Costa Splendida and a brand new MSC ship: the Fantasaia and a couple of ferries too.

A bit of a drama emailing the diary this evening. It seems that the mail server I use – GMX – have decided that sending some notes on a holiday to a dozen or so friends constitutes spam. Hence the reason some of you have received the diary via Tesconet. Will try and find a way round it tomorrow.

A couple of beers in the bar, as per usual, and then bed.

Day 4

Oh! Yes! Ah! Yes! Oh God! Yes!

We woke to the sounds of the rabbits next door who were doing yet more damage to the headboard. However, the tone of the final Yes! Suggested that it might go quiet for a while!

It was another beautiful morning – our last full day in Palma and we planned to do one of those hop-on, hop off bus tours. Culture and history aside it will be nice way to see the city and the open top deck should be perfect for a few photos.

The bus was packed when it arrived but there was a couple of seats downstairs. The next stop on the route was Palma's impressive Cathedral and guessing that the bus would empty out there, we sat tight.

Now, this bus, like other modern buses all over the world has been designed to cater for the elderly and infirm by providing wide, low opening doors allowing easy access to the lower deck of the bus without having to worry about stairs. So you would expect the lower deck of the bus to be occupied by the elderly and less mobile holiday makers wouldn't you? No.

So, when the bus stopped we waited patiently while the top deck emptied. I kid you not, no-one under sixty came down the stairs. It was a long, tiresome and clearly painful effort for some – Christ only knows how they got up there in the first place!

Anyway, a short while later, we were on the top deck, in the sun and enjoying some great views of the city.

A glance out to the harbour told us that the USS Bataan was still in dock, so we could resume our pastime that we will call (affectionately) 'Yank Watch'! Let me explain, firstly this applies to men only, for reasons obvious, and secondly only to those serving on said ship. Knowing what to look for is key, so here goes:

They always walk in threes, something from years ago to do with not wishing to look like a gay couple apparently.
Chinos or baggy jeans. It appears that young American men have not yet adopted the current European trend for nice fitted jeans
Baggy or loose shirts of whatever style. No nice figure hugging tops here either.
Obligatory short smart haircuts. (understandable)
Snow white perfect teeth . (Ok, I'm just envious here!)

So there you have it, look out for the above and you wont go wrong, honest!

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, the bus tour. We done a complete circuit covering all corners of the city in about an hour and a half, before getting off at the Cathedral for our first sightseeing stop of the day.

The cathedral itself was wonderful,the stain glass windows delightful and the carvings and statues absolutely stunning. What preceded our entering the cathedral though was just as memorable. As we approached the entrance we could hear the tune of 'Cavatina' – theme tune of the film 'Deer Hunter'. We turned the corner and found the source of the music. There was this chap, sat hunched over his guitar intently playing one of the most captivating pieces of guitar music you are ever likely to here. He played it really well too. We listened while he played several more tunes, which whilst instantly recognised, I admit I cannot name.

Entranced and becalmed we left the gathering crowd to go into the cathedral.

It was that time of day again so we took what turned out to be a long short cut round the back of the cathedral to Palma's other 'El Corte Ingles' and headed straight for the top floor and to the restaurant. You could be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a five star restaurant instead of a department store eatery as dinner jacketed waiters hover from table to table and the restaurant manager constantly prowls the floor keeping a keen eye on his staff.

Food devoured and bill paid, we were soon back on the bus and en route to our next stop of choice; Bellver Castle.

The castle sits up in the hills somewhere above our hotel and provides stunning views of the harbour and city. Spent a really pleasant hour or so up here taking lots of pics and enjoying the peace and tranquillity. The only thing missing was a cafe – a cup of tea or a cold drink would have gone down a treat.


The next stop was less cultural and more material – namely a shopping centre. We weren't far away from the hotel so it was a good chance to get a few bits and bobs and grab a bite to eat as well before heading back.

We had eaten well lunchtime so decided a burger or similar would be sufficient and promptly stumbled across a Mcdonalds. The food was cheap and instantly forgettable but we did have a chat with some Americans from the ship (who where obviously as adventurous as us when it came to food) and yes you've guessed it, there were three of them, all in chinos, big shirts and with Simon Cowell teeth. The chatty one - who was with the infantry - informed us that he was on his way to Afghanistan. We wished him all the best.

Back it the hotel it was beer than diary time. The bloody email server was still being over-zealous but hopefully everyone got the email eventually.

So, we are off up north to Port de Pollenca tomorrow. Have enjoyed Palma, the hotel was fine given what we paid, the positives being the great courtyard bar and good views from the balcony. If we were to come back to Mallorca (and there is nothing that has made us discount it so far) we would probably stay out at Palma Nova and bus into the city when we want. There is simply more choice and better value food wise out there.

Looking forward to the new place tomorrow – hopefully where the relaxing part of the holiday begins. Anything more strenuous than turning the pages of a book or lifting a glass will be frowned upon so there will not be a daily diary! Will send a update towards the end of the week though if there is anything of note to report.
Hope you've enjoyed it.

Cheers & Beers

Friday, 1 May 2009

Down (Memory Lane) to Margate

Or, to be more accurate, Cliftonville - allegedly the posh end, much as Lytham St. Anne’s is to Blackpool, or Hove to Brighton (yeah, right!), but Chas ‘n’ Dave didn’t sing “Down to Cliftonville” did they?

Day 1

Getting away early was important so that meant we needed an early arrival of the Purple Peril (The Parcelnet delivery van for the uninitiated) and not too many deliveries to do. Both parameters were in our favour so shortly before midday we were on the road.

Since several people have asked “Why Margate for Christ’s sake?” it’s probably worth explaining that as a child the annual holiday was nearly always in Cliftonville – fourteen years on the run by my reckoning - my parents weren’t very adventurous people (perhaps that’s why I’m an only child?) Anyway the thinking was that it would be nice to go back down memory lane and explore some more of the Kent coastline at the same time.

We eschewed the dubious delights of the M25, preferring instead to take the coast road to Hastings then headed up inland through Canterbury reaching Margate mid afternoon.

The first thing to notice was the absence of the old pier gantry.

Margate pier fell into disrepair and disuse many years ago - I can never recall going on it – however the gantry to the main part of the pier remained stubbornly embedded in the sand for a long while – in fact it was still there on my last visit some twenty plus years ago, despite a number of attempts to literally blow it up! Obviously at some point in the intervening years they succeeded.

We chose a hotel overlooking Walpole Bay at ‘the posh end’ in Cliftonville, close to were I stayed as a kid all those years ago. It advertised itself as a Hotel & Living Museum and boy, what a place. It was like stepping back in time to the twenties. One of the main features was the original Otis trellis gated lift installed in 1927 and still in fine working order. The hotel also boasted a snooker room and a ballroom with the original maple sprung dance floor. The theme continued in the bedrooms and certainly made a change from the clinical characterlessness (try that for size spellchecker!) you see so much of in hotels these days.

Resisting the lure of an afternoon pint or two in the bar we headed out and down the steps to the beach. Walpole bay has a tidal pool and many a hot summer’s day was spent crab fishing from the sea wall when the tide was out – insert your own jokes about catching crabs here!

The undercliff walk is split level and extends all the way into Margate and beyond. During our times here the upper level would be crammed with beach huts, once of which we had always rented for our stay. Sadly they are all gone now and the area has somewhat of a neglected and forgotten air about it. Had some really good times here as a kid too.

We walked along the undercliff walk into Margate and up to the main promenade overlooking Margate Main Sands. Here could be found the old ‘Dreamland’ fun fair park. Currently closed it boasts one of the oldest wooden framed rollercoasters in the country and yes, you’ve guessed it, I visited this place many times as a kid too. Most of the original rides were sold off when it was bought and asset stripped a few years ago, however the rollercoaster had to remain as it was a classed as a Grade II listed structure. In 2008 arsonists attempted to destroy the rollercoaster – if it had been badly damaged the listed status would have been removed and the whole site could have been redeveloped – suspiciously a similar thing happened to the fun park at nearby Ramsgate owned at the time by the same person! Fortunately enough of the rollercoaster survived, other classic rides have been acquired and plans are afoot to re-open it in the near future.

Sadly, the theme of disrepair and neglect continued throughout the town. Not often do we pass up the chance of a pint but we didn’t come across a single pub that we fancied a drink in. There are signs of regeneration in places but a lot more needs to be done to encourage holiday makers and day trippers back. For those in the UK or with access to BBC1 take a look at ‘The Apprentice’ on Wednesday May 13th at 9.00pm. This week’s task is to ‘rebrand’ Margate and attract more tourists.

Not wishing to see anymore we headed back to Cliftonville via the main shopping thoroughfare Northdown Road and down past the old hotel I stayed at all those years ago. Most properties in this and the surrounding roads were guest houses or hotels but the majority have now become care homes, temporary accommodation for asylum seekers or have been converted into flats. The sense of decay continues but fortunately is not quite as prevalent here.

The evenings’ excursion was a drive just around the coast to Broadstairs, a quaint fishing town with a delightful harbour and some great pubs that are certainly worth visiting. We had a very nice meal in one then headed back to the Walpole for a few nightcaps. There was a function on with most of the guests in traditional evening dress. Watching the procession from the dining room, via the bar (our chosen vantage point funnily enough!) to the downstairs ballroom was quite fascinating. Some found the route a little trickier than others!

Day 2

Readers of previous diaries will know that I rate the overall quality of anywhere we stay by the quality of its breakfast offerings. The Walpole certainly did not disappoint. Presented buffet style the big meaty sausages and succulent thick cut bacon headlined the fayre but the scrambled eggs were fine too. No need to go hungry here as there were plenty of healthier options too.

Soon after we were back on the road, bypassing Broadstairs this time but calling in briefly on Ramsgate, Sandwich and Deal before stumbling on a delightful little place called St Margaret’s at Cliffe. A beautiful little bay nestled at the base of the cliffs via a narrow winding road complete with a seafront pub though it was a bit too early even for us. Enjoyed a mug of tea though watching the ferries come and go from nearby Dover. Definitely worth a visit if your ever in this part of the world.

We skirted Dover and Folkestone and passed through Hythe on our way to our last stop – at Dungeness. Famous in part for its two nuclear power stations (one is currently being decommissioned, the other is still producing electricity) it is also apparently one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world sheltering the nearby Romney Marshes. You will not find conventional houses here but a scattered selection of wooden huts and converted railway carriages. It really is one of the most unique places in Britain.