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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Edinburgh Tattoo Tour - Days 3 & 4

I've been a little bit lazy and got a bit behind so I have 2 days to tell you about.

Day 3

I tried to take advantage this morning of our late start by trying for a lie in but I was rudely awoken by the house maid just after 8am because she wanted to make my bed. I got rid of her but I was awake now so I got up and went for a lazy breakfast and drank too much coffee resulting in a caffeine buzz.

We left the hotel at 11 and set sail for the centre of Edinburgh City where we were meeting our guide Bill, who took us on a tour of the city on board the coach. I've worked with Bill many times before and the last time I saw him he was all excited about going to spend a few months in Virginia with a woman he met on the Internet, so I was keen to hear the gossip! Bill is over 70 and I think it's nice he still has the get up and go for more excitement in his life!

So after the hugs and kisses and Lorraine getting jealous because she didn't get any, we set off on our tour of the city. We've been very lucky this week with all the guides we've had. They are so enthusiastic about their subject and so full of information that sometimes you get bombarded with dates and facts and figures and it becomes very heavy going and boring. We've had none of that this week and I knew we wouldn't be having that problem with Bill. He has a good sense of humour and a lot of quirky stories to tell. Everybody enjoyed the tour with him.

We all had a free afternoon to explore Edinburgh, and with the Edinburgh Fringe still going on there was a lot to see and do. I'd like to come for a few days to Edinburgh on my own. Over these festival weeks its always so busy here and I don't like crowds of people. In fact, I don't like people! I'm in the wrong job really! But I'd like to visit Edinburgh when it's a little quieter and when I can take the time to do what I want to do. I think it's a lovely city and it has so much to offer.

The whole group had early dinner booked in a city centre hotel before I had to pick them up and transfer them over the road to where I would be parked for the evening at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The highlight of our week, and I have a ticket! We arrived early for the best parking spot for the shortest walk possible up the hill to the castle. 3rd in line wasn't bad. I was quite surprised when we parked up and everyone just sat on the coach for 20 mins before heading off. Had I been in their position, I'd have headed straight for the pub to soak up the atmosphere of this huge annual event. Anyway, they all left us and we were just about to leave when the driver parked in front of us came to ask me for help because his door had been playing him up and he'd run out of ideas how to fix it. It's not very often I come across a driver who isn't too proud to ask for a woman's help! I had a couple more ideas for him to try, none of which worked! So off we went up the hill. I was so surprised how few people were about. It's usually a shuffle up the hill, lost in the sea of people. The crowds appeared when we joined onto the Royal Mile, we got through the security, hired a foam cushion for our uncomfortable seats and went to find our place. They have new seating in the last couple of years which gives quite a lot more space than before and is more comfortable, although it is still cosy and I wouldn't like to be sat next to a fatty.

I love any live show, regardless of what it is, and I loved the Tattoo. I have seen the Tattoo before and to be honest I was a little bit disappointed this year, as were several of our passengers who had seen it before. In recent years, the Tattoo has had a new director who is quite arty farty and the general opinion was that the Tattoo has 'lost it's way'. Too much dancing and not enough of the military element which, after all, is what we've all come to see.

Give us more pipes and drums and more men in uniform! The opening and closing sequences, as always, were just brilliant.

It was relatively painless getting everyone back after the performance. Two ladies appeared from a taxi because they had followed the wrong crowd and ended up who knows where, but they found us. We arrived back at the hotel at about midnight. 

There had been a wedding here tonight. I had just parked the coach when about 30 men in kilts came over asking if I was their lift back to Dundee. No chance! I need my bed!

I was too tired to think about putting the mattress on the floor and I slept very well until.........

Day 4

Someone burnt the toast and set off the fire alarm! Is it really too much to ask for a lie in just one day? Obviously it is. We had another lazy start this morning and a much quieter day planned. We left at 11, our destination St. Andrews. Lorraine has a book, 'Britain's crappest towns'. St. Andrews is listed as no. 7.

The place is full of arrogant, toffee nosed golfers driving Chelsea Tractors, Audis and Saabs. If your not interested in golf there is not really any interest here. The abbey ruins is just a few remaining stones, as is the castle. Boring place full of horrible people. We were only here for 3 hours. We drove the North Fife Tourist Route to get there and some of the Fife Coastal Route to return. In my opinion, the driving was the best part of the day!

The bar was quiet when we got back so we had a sneaky glass of wine before getting ready for dinner. I enjoyed my food again tonight and the staff have all been nothing but helpful. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning when Jamie is back on duty. We'll have to wait and see what damage he can do. I'm hoping tonight to get a full undisturbed nights sleep but with the music pounding from tonight's wedding, I don't think it will happen.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Edinburgh Tattoo Tour - Day 2

I had a lousy nights sleep last night in my pokey little single bed and I struggled to get up this morning, but a good strong cup of coffee or two and a cooked breakfast soon perked me up.

Today, the only thing in our itinerary is a visit to Scone Palace in Perthshire with a guided tour. The gate from the road at the end of the drive doesn't allow any room for misjudgement and the passengers were impressed with the way I had swung the coach in without hesitation. So I was starting the day with a big head! We'd arrived a few minutes early for the guided tour so we sent everyone off for a wee in the woods. Not literally, that's where the toilets were! Then we headed up to meet the guide.

Our guide was brilliant. Very informative without bombarding us with dates and told the story of the palace and its residents and guests with good humour. Unfortunately, photography was forbidden. 

The end of the tour led into the shop and onto the coffee shop. One of our lady's had left her walking stick at home when we left yesterday and we found her in the shop with a sales assistant, looking at walking sticks and asking prices. When she saw us she explained that she was struggling more and more without her stick but she wasn't prepared to pay the extortionate prices in the gift shop when she had 2 perfectly good sticks at home. Everyone has had tough times in their lives but this lady has had it particularly hard and so she values money and doesn't believe in extravagance, which she considered a walking stick, at this price, to be. We had already asked the hotel if they had one in lost property which they hadn't. Scone Palace had given Lorraine and I shopping vouchers each to be spent today only, in the shop which, in my opinion, was full of tat and rubbish. So our good deed for the day was to let our lovely little lady have our vouchers so she only had to add a few pounds to them and it would end her struggling. As soon as we offered her the vouchers we had tears. Initially she wouldn't take them, until I said they would end up in the bin because there was nothing we wanted. Finally she agreed to take the vouchers and got her walking stick, still crying, so appreciative. She said she couldn't believe such an act of kindness, it really meant so much to her. Lorraine and I weren't out of pocket and we would have ended up with some junk we didn't want just to spend them! I felt good about what we had done. We went for our free cup of coffee before going for a walk around the grounds and attempting the maze.

We started off in the maze and I quite quickly got ahead of Lorraine because she was trying to dodge the puddles and the mud while I just hopped over them. I rounded a corner to find a little hole in the hedge which I squeezed through before Lorraine caught up. I knew she wouldn't attempt the same in her tights and heels and she'd be worried about her hair! I got out quite quickly, went to stand on the viewing platform, and watched for 20 mins while Lorraine struggled to find her way out! I was laughing, she was cursing me! After that we just had time for another free coffee before it was time to leave.

On the return to the hotel we took a scenic drive around Loch Leven and stopped for coffee at the RSPB Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre. Another good idea of mine!

The coffee shop overlooked the reserve and the loch and there were telescopes and binoculars for anyone to use to watch the birds. I saw a lot of Swans, a lot of Seagulls and a Heron. There have been Osprey sighted here every day for several weeks, who come to eat the Brown Trout from the loch. No sign of them in the short time we were there though. Only a week ago, the largest Brown Trout was caught here weighing in at 14lb8, the largest for a hundred years. A few people went for a walk along the nature trail at the side of the loch and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

We returned to the hotel just before 5pm and I felt exhausted. After parking up I spent a few minutes trying to find out about another brilliant idea I've had which we can fit in on Saturday, if I can get what I want without paying an entrance fee. 

When I eventually got to my room I had to have half an hour kip before dinner. Our little lady with the new stick insisted on buying us both a glass of wine at dinner which went down very nicely. When we went to her to say thank you we had more tears. I'll kill her if she loses that stick! We had another pleasant, sociable evening. The restaurant manager is one of the best I have come across. And this group of passengers have been probably the easiest, friendliest, most sociable strangers thrown together on a coach, I have every come across. Both Lorraine and I are having a great time with them all. One of our passengers had seemed to make an effort to dress for dinner this evening with his shirt and tie, socks and sandals. That tickled me!

So now I'm going to put my mattress on the floor and hope for a better nights sleep. We have a late start tomorrow because its the big night at the tattoo. And I have a ticket! :-) Goodnight x

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Edinburgh Tattoo Tour 2013 - Day 1

We were due to leave the yard at 7am so when I rolled up at 6am to find our 2 park and ride passengers were already there, I wasn't best pleased! I found my coach and hid out of the way while I loaded and sorted myself out. We have 46 passengers this week so there isn't a lot of space anywhere, and I seem to have more kit to carry this week than normal with the hot and cold drinks, 'survival' packs for the tattoo and the all important deck chairs! My courier with me is my good friend Lorraine and if nothing else, I know it will be a fun week with her. So we were nearly straight and ready for our public when our park and ride passengers found us, with Lorraine very tactfully telling them to 'do one' until we were in position! The silly little man riled me slightly by telling me which route I should be taking and where we should be stopping, to which my reply to all was "NO"!

We had a relatively smooth start to the day after that, with no major hiccups and we set off up the M6. There was a lot of chatting amongst the passengers and very quickly there was a lovely buzz on the coach. We had a couple of comfort stops before arriving at Gretna Green for our scheduled lunch stop. We drove through some heavy rain and fog to get here, but thankfully the sun came out when time came to get off the coach. There was a bride and groom just married when we arrived, who were having their photographs taken.

There have recently been new shops added here and the restaurant had been refurbished and the whole place was looking a lot cleaner and tidier but it is all very commercialised and well geared up for coaches which makes this an easy stop for me, but it is sooo boring seeing this is the place we always stop on our way to Scotland.

Lorraine and I were scratching our heads about what we could do this afternoon to kill a bit more time before arriving at the hotel. After getting everyone up at the crack of sparrow we didn't want to be arriving mid afternoon, so the decision was made to call into the Falkirk Wheel for coffee and if the wheel was in action, that would be an added bonus. So I checked the map and off we went, telling everyone we had a nice surprise in store. 

We were only about 1 1/2 miles from the wheel when I was flagged down by the driver of a local school bus saying, "you're not going to the wheel are you? You'll never fit under the bridge!" So after him giving me directions we turned around and tried again! A low bridge sign at the end of the road would have been a good idea but I suppose that is too sensible!

So eventually we arrived just minutes before the wheel was put into action. The Falkirk wheel is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, based on the theory of Archimedes  screw and is a fantastic piece of engineering.

  • The Falkirk Wheel is 35 metres tall, the equivalent of 8 double deckers buses stacked on top of each other
  • Cost £17.5 million to build
  • 1,200 tonnes of steel was used to create The Wheel
  • The structure contains over 14,000 bolts and 45,000 bolt holes
  • Over 1,000 construction staff helped to build it
  • The gondolas hold 500,000 litres of water, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool
  • The Wheel only uses 1.5KWh of energy to turn, the same amount as it would take to boil 8 household kettles
Can anyone tell me why there are only 14,000 bolts for 45,000 bolt holes? Seems odd to me! I suppose that's why I'm a coach driver and not an engineer.

Anyway, there were several passengers who made a point of letting us know what a good visit this was and how much they enjoyed it. I got a big head because it was my idea!

So off we went to our hotel. The Best Western Plus Keavil House Hotel, just west of Dunfermline. We were greeted by a weedy little man with a limp handshake who introduced himself as Jamie, the duty manager. When the first of the passengers had collected their keys and walked past him and the line of luggage he said, "oh! Do some people need help with their bags?"
"No Jamie. All people! You will have read it in our contract that the coach requires porterage!"
"Sorry, I must have missed that bit! No problem."

That's just great, what other bits have you missed? Time will tell! And it didn't take long to tell that he had missed the bit about tables for 2's, 4's & 6's at dinner when Lorraine walked into the restaurant to find only tables for 12! So Jamie was sent into a panic when he was told it had to be changed! Luckily for him, the little waitress Rebecca overheard and stepped in very cool and calm saying, "it's no problem, show me exactly how you want it and I will do it. It won't take a minute." So while Jamie was trying to place blame elsewhere for the mistake, Rebecca saved his bacon. We had a pleasant evening finished by peppermint tea on the terrace. The end of a very successful day with a lot of very happy people and I am really pleased with the little extras we've decided to add in through the week. I hope the passengers like them too.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hampshire Tour - Day 3

I got up for breakfast early again this morning. So early that breakfast hadn't started, but they did let me sit and brought an extra strong pot of coffee while I waited. There were no dramas this morning until it came time to leave. I'd counted everyone on the coach and was missing one person. Mrs 'neck'! I'd seen her at breakfast so I knew she hadn't died in the night, but I couldn't find her in any of the public areas and she wasn't answering the phone in her room. She eventually turned up, only 5 mins late, saying, 'I'm ever so sorry dear, there was someone I had to say goodbye to'! I didn't know what to say so I kept quiet! After the duty manager handing out a bottle of water to everyone and ruining my water sales, we got on our way.

Our destination today was the New Forest and our first stop was at Burley. It's a pretty little village but there must be something strange going on, judging by the amount of witchcraft and fairy shops and the fairy festival being advertised alongside the witches coven! We stayed long enough for a coffee and a good old nosey round. From there we drove out across the new forest firstly through Sway, then Brockenhurst and finishing in Lyndhurst for our lunch stop. Another nice little town but not enough to do.

On our drive over to Lyndhurst, on the road across the open common land, I was approaching a narrow bridge on the road and just before the bridge were 4 ridden ponies looking like they were waiting to cross the road. I think it was an escorted ride from a riding school with a young girl who looked no older than about 14 leading the way. I stopped in the road to let them cross in front of me and get out of my way, the girl thanked me, stepped out onto the road and instead of crossing she continued along the road ahead of me. How stupid! Surely she wanted me out of the way as much as I wanted them out of the way. There had been a big open space on the opposite side of the road where they would have been much safer while I passed. Instead, I now had to try and creep past them, which isn't particularly easy with a 13 litre engine, one of the ponies spooked, ran sideways down the bank and the young lad fell off! He did bounce well though and got straight back in the saddle! I used to work with ponies myself so I am probably more tolerant than most when passing them on the road, but come on! Do a bit to help yourself!

We were in Lyndhurst for just over 2hrs. I stayed on the coach, had my biscuits I'd taken from the hotel room and rested my eyes for a while. I've been to Lyndhurst many times and it was far too busy today for me to want to bother with it.

From there we headed home. We stopped at services where I was presented with a paper bag and a "thank you from your passengers". They had passed 'the hat' around which I never do so well from as if they all individually thank me when they get off. Obviously it had been organised by somebody who is used to travelling with a downmarket company where this is appreciated. Well you can keep your change, paper money only!! So we arrived back at base where a lot of passengers did 'thank' me personally after all enjoying their short break. I now can't wait to get to the pub and the start of my 10 days off work. Lazy times ahead! :-)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hampshire Tour - Day 2

I had my first shock of the day whilst at breakfast this morning. I had gone to breakfast early to try to avoid sitting with anybody! The next person to come in was the little lady I had been chatting to not long after checking in to the hotel yesterday. She's travelling on her own and must be knocking on 80 if she's not there already. She had been telling me what a nice room she had with a four poster bed and how it was just a shame she didn't have a man to share it! So when she appeared in the dining room this morning with what looked very suspiciously like a love bite on her neck, I nearly fell off my chair! After I had composed myself I asked her if she'd had a restful night. Well that was definitely the wrong question to ask! She replied, 'oh no, not at all dear, but I'm feeling great!' And she had the look of a love struck teenager. Very quickly, I changed the subject! Surely, I must have got this completely wrong? I don't really want to find out!

So today we were heading for Portsmouth. I had a lady chatting to me yesterday who was concerned that she wouldn't cope with the length of day, but she didn't want to miss out by not going at all. I suggested hiring a mobility scooter and if she let me know quickly, I would do my best to sort it out. So 10mins before we were due to leave this morning she said to me, "I think I would like a scooter, can you arrange it?" Of course I can magic one out of thin air! No problem! Some people think I'm a miracle worker! After making a few phone calls, with no luck, we left on time for Portsmouth and my little lady had to use the local buses and her pins.

The majority of people headed for the historic docks, some got the bus to Southsea and a couple even got on the foot ferry to the Isle of White. I parked up and headed off with my camera, firstly toward Portsmouth cathedral.

I've only been to Portsmouth on a day trip once before and it poured with rain so I didn't got out! The only other times I've been here is to and from the ferry terminals, so I was looking forward to having a day out somewhere new. I knew there was a lot to do here and people have always said what a nice place this is now, but I was still impressed! I walked down to the seafront. There was a lot of activity going on. Sailing, fishing, kids playing in the sea. I just sat people watching for a while and watched the Brittany ferry come in, dwarfing all the sailing boats she passed.

From there I walked on top of the wall around to the working port. There were some lovely little pubs by the waters edge and the really nice thing was, there was no horrible fishy smell that you usually get at working ports!

I liked it here. Not too many people about and lots of photo opportunities. I walked on further to the canal side  and then the spinnaker, which led me into gunwharf quay shopping centre. Far too many people! Let me out! I walked straight through as quickly as my legs could walk and aimed for the historic dock area. My camera has been so busy today, I'm quite excited to see my shots on the computer screen when I get home. Sad, I know! (These photos have been taken with iPad). I walked through the dockyard where there were lots of signs saying 'heightened security against terrorism' and even armed guards. Is this another instance of things happening in the world with me in my bubble? Anyway, I didn't see any terrorists. So by now I was starting to feel weary. I'd been walking for about 4hrs, not had a drink and my legs weren't used to this! So after picking up a frappe I headed back to the coach, thinking I may just fit in a 20min kip after I'd eaten the biscuits I'd taken from the hotel room!

I'd like to come to Portsmouth with friends for a weekend. It really is a lovely place and a day is not enough time here, there is so much to do. 

I picked everyone up, they'd all had a great day, and we went back to the hotel. The evening meal was served a lot quicker this evening with just a couple of minor hiccups and the restaurant manager appreciated my thank you. 

So now I need to pack my case, ready to go home tomorrow. Goodnight x

Hampshire Tour - Day 1

I'm off again on another short break, this time to Hampshire. 

As always, my first passengers arrived at the yard an hour early so they were sent to wait in the office while I had my all important cup of coffee! Once the caffeine had hit I was ready to face my audience! So once the luggage was loaded and we were all on board I got on the microphone and introduced myself. I had a very cheery response from them all and I was thinking I was in for a good few days with them. We set off for our first stop of the day in Winchester.

Winchester is a lovely city to spend a couple of hours, but even so I had people asking, "why are we stopping here? I want to go to Southampton." Never mind that it was printed in the itinerary when they booked on the holiday, I'm sure half of these people can't read! 

So from there we moved on to Southampton for 3hrs free time, and I was getting very similar questions. "Why are we here for so long?" Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with these people! I mean, I know Southampton is a funny place and not the most desirable but it's what they've booked and paid for! Give me a break! Having said that, the majority thoroughly enjoyed their day and it would have been an easy one for me had it not been for the ear bending!

While I was in position waiting to pick up to transfer everyone to the hotel, I had a phone call from my office to say that 2 ladies have checked into the hotel already and not to wait for them. Our hotel is just outside of Fareham, about 30mins away in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, so that wouldn't have been a cheap taxi! Anyhow, once I had a full compliment we set off for the hotel.

When we arrived at the hotel the duty manager came on board to welcome us while the porters dealt with the luggage. The first trolley was nearly loaded when another 'suit' came rushing out saying, "no, no, they need stickers on first!" So the boys unloaded the trolley to put stickers on with room numbers, and started to load again. Meanwhile, the duty manager had invited everyone off the coach to collect their room keys from him on their way into the hotel, to find he had the wrong room keys! Now there was a queue of my passengers at the reception. Once they had their room keys they were stopped by the restaurant manager who wanted to take a pre-order for this evenings dinner, so everyone was queuing again, and the boys with the stickers weren't doing much better! What an absolute shambles! Couldn't organise..........!

I recognised the duty manager and so once everyone was safely sent off to their rooms, I asked him where I knew him from. He had been transferred from the sister hotel in Bristol which I have stayed in and I remember it being equally shambolic there! I was starting to dread dinner when he told me the restaurant manager had also moved to this hotel with him, and I should think he was dreading the next two days now I had reminded him of who I was! Don't get me wrong, the rooms are of a very high standard with the majority of my people having four poster beds! The staff are over the top helpful and the food is good, when it comes! They just have no idea of how to efficiently manage a large group of people. I can see the next two nights being hard work!

I parked the coach and went to collect my key to be told I hadn't been booked in and they were trying to find me a room. Here we go, the trouble has started! Eventually, I was given a key. I have a disabled room with the biggest bed I have ever seen and a wet room with a chair so I can sit and rest in the shower!

Once I was settled in my room I got in touch with the ladies who had arrived at the hotel early. One of them had not been feeling well and wanted to arrive there quite quickly, but she is ok now and at least she had the thoughtfulness to get in touch with my office to let me know the situation.

We went for dinner and as expected, service was very slow although the food which was delivered was good. After dinner the restaurant manager asked me how I thought things had gone. I said the food was good but I wasn't going to mention the speed of service because no one had complained about it to me and we only had one more evening meal here, but he asked, so I told him! Hopefully, they may be a bit quicker tomorrow.

I'm now going to bed. Sleep well everyone!x

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hexham Tour - Day 3

Final day today and seeing as we are on holidays there is no need to leave before 10. Another leisurely morning...... Or that was the plan!

I was rudely awoken at 7am by the phone ringing. I jumped in a panic that I had overslept and checked the time before answering the phone. 7am. "Good morning, it's reception here. I'm just letting you know the coach door is wide open!" WHAT! I rushed to get dressed and raced down to the coach, not knowing what I would find. Luckily, nothing had been touched inside but the door was wide open. Mystery to me.... So after securing the doors again, I headed back to my room thinking it may be a bad idea to crawl back into bed and to just hit the caffeine! Bath not shower, then breakfast accompanied by extra strong filter coffee. The stuff works wonders!

So after loading luggage and herding passengers on board we set off for Carlisle following the route of Hadrian's Wall. The countryside out here is just breathtaking. 

We stopped for a brief photo opportunity at the Roman Fortress Homesteads, which I didn't realise was N.T. and had an entrance fee. Everyone ignored the fact that they had to pay, walked straight through the barriers, took their photos from afar and came back! I was waiting for a good talking to but none of the staff batted an eyelid! Everyone was back on the coach and we had gone before anyone even noticed!

We arrived in Carlisle where we had 3 hrs to get lunch and explore. There are 3 main 'attractions'. The Castle, the Cathedral and Tullies House Museum and Art Gallery, as well as a large, pedestrianised centre and shopping centre. I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice this city was. For some reason I had it in my head that it was a grotty place, but I was so wrong.

I picked everyone up at 1430hrs and handed out the feedback forms, giving my usual spiel, "if you think I've done a good job, my name is Nina. If you think I've been terrible and you've hated every minute, it's Louise!" Big laughs, and we went off to face 200 miles on the M6 over rush hour. Oh joy!

I don't think I have ever had such a good journey down the M6. We arrived back in the depot bang on time. My head started to grow again as soon as everyone applauded as I pulled into the yard. I hadn't even done my goodbye bit yet. After I had said my goodbye bit, there was more applause and cheers. People telling me how wonderful I am as they collect their luggage and 'show their appreciation!' All this praise is starting to get embarrassing and it is certainly making me cocky! But I am really really really good! So there is the end of another good trip. Now 2 days off before another 3 days away. I can't even remember where I'm going! I'll leave the planning of that until Thursday. All day tomorrow is mine! :-)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Hexham Tour - Day 2

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. It was hammering down. I got up and jumped in the shower. I had a head of shampoo when the kitchen below must have turned on the tap and the water became scorching hot. I burnt the soles of my feet because I couldn't get out the shower quick enough. Must remember, bath only, no more showers!

This morning we had a free morning to explore Hexham. Most people have visited the abbey but not done an awful lot else. This afternoon will be a complete flop if this weather keeps up. We are going to Kielder Water and Forest. The boat trip on the lake is out of service today because it has broken down and the forest road is only suitable for 4x4, so I will have to point out some other trees to be Kielder forest! It's all unclassified roads in that area and the majority is advertised as unsuitable for coaches so I'll have to be careful! From there we are supposed to drive the route of Hadrians Wall but I will do that tomorrow on our way to Carlisle.

Before we set off, I explained to the passengers how this could be an interesting ride and if I choose the wrong road we may be camping for the night because the coach will be stuck! Had I not taken the wrong turning for Kielder Water, the roads would have been fine! But instead, I found myself on a single track country lane with low trees and no passing places. It was ok until we were 1/2 mile from joining the road we should have been on and I was faced with a narrow humped back bridge with a right angled bend at either end! There wasn't much room around the first bend but I'd done worse and it wasn't until I was at the top of the hump that I realised just what a hump it was! We sat for a moment waiting for the ferry lift to rise before crawling over with eyes shut waiting to hear if it would scrape! Eek! I felt the back wheels come over the rise and there hadn't been a sound! I knew I was safe! So long as I could fit round this next bend! Eek! Phew! We were out! I was definitely not going to make that mistake on the way back. Although I didn't let on to anyone it was a mistake!

We arrived at Kielder visitor centre and it was still raining, but nowhere near as heavily as it was this morning. There was a good exhibition of the history of the reservoir and how it was built and a nice cafe overlooking the lake where I was given free tea and cake. :-) 

I watched the windsurfers struggling because there wasn't enough wind and some people walked out to the dam. After staying here for an hour and a half I drove everyone up the side of the lake to Kielder Castle. 

I needed to turn around so i put my nose into what very soon became a dirt track through the forest and the lady sat behind me said, "I dont think we'll fit down there Nina!" She was quite relieved when she realised i was just turning around! No one wanted to get off for photos so we headed straight back to the hotel using the road we should have used on the way out. 

There were no problems on the journey back other than the timber trucks playing games of 'let's knock the coach mirrors off'. Well boys, I'm wise to your games and you'll have to do better than that to get me!

Today has turned out to be far more successful than I thought it would be. I didn't know what I was going to do with a coach full of mostly pensioners in a place geared up for outdoor activities and watersports. But it seems they have all loved it despite everything being against us. No boat, no birds of prey display and endless rain. It's been great! Everyone has enjoyed another superb meal in the hotel this evening and most are now in the bar. Final day tomorrow but I don't want to go home yet :-(

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Hexham Tour - Day 1

Just a short trip this time, 2 nights in Northumbria. 

The alarm went off this morning at 0545hrs and I did not want to get out of bed. I dragged myself to the shower and woke myself up. Packed the last little bits in my case and went off to work. I really wasn't in the mood for this this morning, I was feeling irritated before I'd seen any people to irritate me! I sat with a coffee for 10 mins trying to change my frame of mind and failing. I packed the coach and did my checks and parked it up in position 40 mins before departure thinking I had time for another coffee but my passengers were already arriving. 'You needn't be so early, that's my 5 min caffeine break out the window'! That irritated me even more! So I loaded all the cases, checked everyone on, and went to get a coffee to take with me. 

We set off 10 mins early and all I could think about while driving up the M1 was a bacon sandwich. The 2 hr drive to our comfort stop seemed the longest drive ever while I was sat craving bacon! Finally we got there and I said to the pax "we're making good time, no need to rush, we'll have 30mins". Roughly translated, we're not going anywhere until I've had my breakfast! And having breakfast did just the trick. I soon returned to my relaxed, happy, smiley self and was now ready to deliver a good tour.

When everyone was loading back onto the coach I realised just how many people were with me who had travelled with me before. I was definitely back in tour mode and putting on a show. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be a showman leading a tour, I never would have believed it. But now, don't you steal my limelight!

We stopped for lunch in the Georgian market town of Richmond. I'd not been here before. It was a very pretty little town with a market on today, a couple of museums and the castle. A large selection of pubs, it would be a place I'd visit if I'm not driving! All the passengers agreed that it was a very lovely little place and everyone enjoyed their time here.

After I had walked around and got back to the coach I realised I'd forgotten to pack my toothbrush, my hairbrush, my iPad charger and my windscreen brush and blade so I walked back into town for supplies. I really wasn't with it this morning. I'll put it down to being overworked!

We left there and rejoined the A1 North heading for our hotel. I pulled in for a photo opportunity at the Angel of the North which the pax were pleasantly surprised about. 

It was even better that the ice cream van was parked up there as well! So we all got off, took a photo and bought an ice cream and stood in the sunshine eating them. I made sure I was at the back of the queue for ice cream and 'yes!' I got a freebie! So we headed off for our hotel. The Best Western Beaumont Hotel, Hexham. It's only a small hotel and with 41 pax, we pretty much fill it. It is situated right in the middle of town, just up from the Abbey and the Market Place, and overlooking the park. 

The food here is really good, the staff can't do enough for you and the manager/owner always makes it known how he appreciates you staying in his hotel and is the perfect host. Everybody was settled very quickly and most went to explore the town before having dinner at leisure.

We have a free morning tomorrow so I am looking forward to a lie in and a lazy breakfast. Goodnight x