Bathgate

I visited Bathgate, West Lothian on Tuesday with a friend who had business there. So that’s ticked off my bucket list. Not that it was ever on it.

The journey there was uneventful. We had decided to travel by train and despite the extensive renovations going on at Queen Street station, we were able to find our way to the lower level trains without any problem, thanks to clear signs.

At Bathgate we left the station and started walking into the town centre. It’s not a long walk for anyone fit and young. And it was doable even for our elderly selves. It helped that we stopped at the Cosy Corner Cafe for lunch. The food was plain but tasty, the prices very reasonable and the staff were all lovely.

The town centre had all the usual shops with the surprising difference to Kilmarnock in that they were almost all occupied. Possibly something to do with the free parking in Bathgate. As opposed to the limited and pricey parking in Kilmarnock.

We visited the little Museum. It was free and since we were the only customers we had a guided tour of the museum by the curator who was friendly and knowledgeable.

We didn’t get any fbathgateurther than the town centre but while my friend did her business, I did a little shopping and spent some time on a bench in the pedestrianised street. I was curious at two terraced buildings which each had a date in the stone work, but despite being attached to each other, were built a year apart.  I guess workmen weren’t any quicker in those days.

 

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Nice morning sky

After two days of snow, it was nice to see a clear sky this morning. The moon was clearly visible with Venus and Jupiter close by.themoonvenusjupiter

It’s still cold.

 

The journey home

Day 5 – the journey back home.

My husband had his usual massive breakfast which would probably keep him going until we got home. I ate what I could and made sure the cereal bars I’d bought were available for the flight.

The bus picking us up for the airport was about 10 minutes early which was a surprise. We were ready but not expecting it to be early. That seemed promising for getting to the airport in plenty of time. Then at the next hotel he picked two people up and the driver then spent over 10 minutes trying to find someone else. He eventually gave up and left.

Further down the road he arrived at Puerto Rico. That is the nightmare of a town (from day 1) where hotels are built right up mountainsides with narrow twisty roads I wasn’t keen on the idea of picking up a load of people. I envisaged us still being in Puerto Rico when our plane took off.pr

The driver went down a narrow heavily parked road – the norm in Gran Canaria – got to the mini roundabout at the bottom where he should have turned and couldn’t get round it because of a lorry parked there. He ended up having to reverse all the way up, stopping halfway up to shout down to someone at a hotel. Again, we didn’t pick anyone up. By this time, I was beginning to think he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.

Fortunately, we then left Puerto Rico and headed (literally) for the hills where after driving full pelt along some seriously scary roads he picked up a young couple at a golf resort. Then thankfully we headed to the airport and despite his best efforts got there in plenty of time.

The plane and passengers were loaded in plenty of time but this time despite this, it sat for about half an hour before it moved. We presumed it was just waiting for its slot but looking back I wonder.

Taking off from Gran Canaria was lovely. We flew out over the sea and this time the land was on my side of the plane.

Just off the coast we flew up into the cloud and passed a mountain top poking up above the cloud level. It was amazing to see.abovetheclouds

When we got over Scotland the pilot announced we should be landing ten minutes early. Then the stewardess did the usual ‘fasten your seat belts, stop using the loo’ bit. But she also said to have another look at the safety card. Now in all the times I’ve flown I have never known them to mention it at the end of a journey but thought it was a new routine. Then we flew into a cloud and it seemed we were never going to come out. Usually I’ve found a plane will head into the cloud on the way down and be out again very quickly. It was by now 5 minutes after they said we would land. I saw a plane taking off so we had to be near the airport. Yet we were still flying in the cloud and I was beginning to wonder what was going on.

Then there was a break in the cloud and I could see we were much higher than I expected. The break didn’t last long and we were back in more cloud and it seemed we must be circling round the airport. I started thinking about films where there is a problem and planes circle round to use up fuel in case of crash landing. I presumed I was being paranoid. Finally, 35 minutes after they expected to land, we finally bumped and bumped down on the runway and the brakes were jammed on. The pilot said the problem had been caused by weather which had suddenly got worse in the last half hour and they had to use the auto-pilot to land the plane.

I accepted what he said because the cloud was low, and it was a bit foggy. But he had forgotten the power of the internet. Because my son, who was picking us up, had been tracking the plane and not only did we circle around half the central belt, we had climbed back up again after going down towards the airport. The weather was bad but other planes were landing and taking off on time. I’m not sure we were told the truth but I don’t suppose I will ever know.

A lazy day

Day 4 – By the pool

Back home tomorrow so today was a lazy day by the pool (yes another). We went down around 10.30 but the sun wasn’t quite round to the sunbeds and it was chilly for sitting with summer clothes on. So, we popped into one of the bars for a cup of coffee.

Once the sun had appeared over the top of the mountain at the back of the hotel, we went out and sat by the pool. There was some cloud about but once it heated up, it actually felt warmer than the day before and we both braved the pool.

At lunchtime the hotel had a rather pathetic barbeque. Little potato balls, mushrooms, sausages and pork chops. I opted for the normal lunch indoors. John tried their barbeque and got a free straw panama hat with a ribbon advertising the hotel.

I forgot to mention the small bottles of wine in my previous posts. When we went to dinner on the first night I asked for a white wine.

‘Small or large bottle?’ the waiter asked.

‘Small,’ I said, expecting the size we get at home with one glass of wine in them.

The ‘small’ bottle of wine was 500ml. 2/3 of a full bottle. The second night they had small, small bottles at 375ml but by the Tuesday we were back to 500ml. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t offer glasses of wine. They must have so much waste. Admittedly some of the holiday makers did not let any of it go to waste, but I find as I get older that I can’t face too much alcohol.

After dinner we sat on the balcony watching the start of the sunset.

last sunset2I had hoped to wait until the proper sunset to get a photo, but it was taking ages, so we decided to go down for a cocktail.cocktail I had discovered a cocktail unique to the hotel that I liked. Not the most elegant of glasses but it tasted good.

When the sun finally set, I was glad I hadn’t bothered waiting because that part of the sky was clouded over so there was no nice photo to be had.

We weren’t sure whether to go to the professional entertainment as it appeared to be a juggler and a woman who used hula hoops. But we went along, and the show was worth seeing. The juggler stumbled a bit in the easier routines, but his more complicated routines were spectacular. The woman with the hula hoops was also very impressive at one point spinning around 20 (or more) hoops at the one time.

Puerto de Mogán

Day 3 – a visit to Puerto de Mogán

After breakfast we got ready to take the complimentary hotel bus to Puerto de Mogán, the resort we could see from our balcony. The bus runs once a day and then comes back 2 hours later. We’d asked the day before about tickets for it but were told they weren’t necessary during the week. Only on a Friday because that was market day.

As we waited inside the front door we wondered if they had been over optimistic because there was a large crowd gathered. But when the bus arrived everyone got on and there were still seats empty. The driver did not attempt to count numbers which I noted for coming back. We would have to be there in plenty of time.

Because the small local road to Puerto de Mogán had previously collapsed, the only way for the bus to get there was to travel on the dual carriageway for some considerable distance in the opposite direction. Then it turned and came back along the other side until we eventually did get there.

The bus dropped us nearly a mile away from the shops and harbour. The walk was pretty with colourful trees and bushes.

 

Because my husband and I both have mobility problems it took us quite a while to the outskirts of the little shopping centre. Even if we had been interested in the shops, we had no time for shopping, so we headed in the direction of the beach/harbour. We hoped.

Luckily, we picked the right direction.

 

The beach was small and packed and the harbour pretty as harbours are. At a pier round from the harbour a boat waited to take holiday makers out to see the dolphins and whales. These must be very obliging in that area as passengers were guaranteed to see them.

It was nice to see our hotel from the other side of the bay. It’s the one on the beach.suite princess from mogan

Before long, it was time to make the long hike back to the bus. By this time, it was very hot and we were tired and in pain so we left plenty of time and allowed ourselves several rest breaks on the many benches supplied. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to have a swim.

The bus was early and as I had predicted the driver left at the allotted time without worrying if all the passengers were there.

With hindsight we should have taken a taxi to go to the resort. It would have dropped us off right in town and we could have spent as long as we liked.

Back at the hotel we had some lunch and then went to sit out at the pool. Although it was sunnier than the day before there was a cool breeze and I no longer had any urge to try the pool.

The professional entertainment that night consisted of a trio. One played an electric violin and was good. The other two, a man and woman, had very powerful operatic type voices. They sang slow depressing songs. I am not fond of in your face type voices even at the opera and they were overwhelming in a relatively small room. So, we not the only people to leave after a short time.

Instead we went to the piano bar. We did not expect much from the pianist as previous experience had been of pianists who played lift type music, but this one sang and had a good repertoire of catchy songs. We enjoyed the rest of the evening but not as much as the many people who were up dancing.

 

 

 

Taurito

Taurito Gran Canaria

Day 2

After travelling yesterday, today was to be a lazy day.

I woke up to a lovely view of the moon reflecting on the sea.

moon set from balcony

At breakfast I managed to have a very brief conversation with one of the waitresses in a mix of simple Spanish and French. No English. I was pretty pleased with myself as I am hopeless at languages, even if we both did laugh at our efforts.

The food was amazing again. My husband loaded plate after plate with a variety of food and I ate much more than I would at home. Luckily, we don’t take scales on holiday.

After breakfast we walked along the road at the front of the hotel. At our side there was a long steep path down to the water park and beach, nestled among bushes and trees. On the other side of the path/park was a road leading to the other beach hotels and beyond that one of the very steep mountain roads that Gran Canaria seems to specialise in.

Further up we could see a shell of another hotel. We discovered later it had been started, the shell had been built and then the owners ran out of money. What a shame as they must have put so much money into it to get it that far and it doesn’t exactly improve the appearance of the area.

Rounding the corner, we walked back towards the beach. I was relieved that because of the length of the road we didn’t have much of a slope to walk down. Some of the vegetation was new to me including this curious cactus.

 

At the foot of the path we came across the local shops. These had all the usual tourist type tat and the inevitable touts trying to get us to sign up for boat trips etc. local shopsWe had decided not to do any trips. Most were not suitable for our elderly bones because they required climbing down ladders into boats or sitting on a coach for a considerable time.

Back at the room we discovered that there was already a resident on the balcony.

resident

Lunch and dinner were excellent again and although there was quite a bit of cloud, we were still able to sit at the pool during the day.

The professional entertainer that night was another singer with a repertoire similar to the night before.

I had another good night’s sleep lulled by the sound of the waves.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria

In January 2019 it was time to dust off my one word of Spanish (ola courtesy of Dora the Explorer) because we were heading back to the Canary Islands. This time to Gran Canaria.

Day 1

We boarded the Jet 2 flight at Glasgow airport, and it was all very efficient. Passengers were seated and the plane ready well before the take-off time.

We had ordered the all day breakfast because we were leaving early in the morning and wouldn’t be at our hotel until late afternoon. This was served soon after take-off and was surprisingly good. The coffee came in a full size Starbucks take away cup which surprised us. Last time we had coffee on a plane it was in a tiny cup.

The flight went smoothly and we landed slightly early at Gran Canaria airport.

We had booked transport on a coach and once we checked in at the company desk in the airport we were directed to our coach which we found easily. Half an hour later we were on our way south.

All along the coast there were a lot of wind farms making use of the sea breezes.  The turbines seemed to be closer together than in Scotland.

The journey went smoothly until we reached Puerto Rico on the south west coast and not far from our destination. Puerto Rico is filled with hotels built up, into and on top of the surrounding mountains.

 

The bus would spend ages travelling up narrow steep twisty roads to deliver people to a hotel. Then it would turn with some difficulty to go back and find another narrow road to climb. And another. It took longer going round Puerto Rico than getting there. I was happy when we left the resort and headed to Taurito, where we were staying.

We arrived at the Suite Princess in Taurito pretty much at the predicted time (an hour and a half from the airport). Reception staff were excellent. I noticed throughout our stay that if a receptionist was busy another one would suddenly appear to help. We were quickly signed in, given a fortifying glass of cava and then shown to our room by a pleasant porter.

The view was perfect. We overlooked the sea and in the not too far distance the little resort of Mogan. sea view

We abandoned our cases and headed down to the pool area for a snack to keep us going until dinner and something to drink.

The hotel is built into rocks with the result that the front door and reception were on level 6, rooms were on level 2 to 9 and we went down to level 1 for the pool/beach area. At first, we thought we were on the wrong floor but were directed by some other holiday makers. One slight niggle was we felt the pool could have been better signposted.

The weather was sunny and warm so after our snack we wandered round the pool area and later heading along the front to the sister hotel the Taurito Princess. 2nd small niggle is that to get to the beach/front we had to go down two steep flights of stairs or ramps to get to the door. The hotel is adults only and many of those adults are older or with mobility problems so going out of the hotel that way was a struggle.

By this time, it was nearly 6pm and still warm but the sun started to set as we walked back.sunset at torito

Dinner was a buffet and had an amazing selection of dishes. I’m quite a fussy eater but even I found plenty to eat.

Later we headed to the ‘theatre’ area for the professional entertainment. This consisted of two brothers singing songs mainly from an era that appealed to the more mature audience.

A couple of nightcaps later and I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves on the shore.

Groundhog-day in Inverkip

Day three – heading home

On Sunday we headed home after breakfast.

Sunrise from a window Argyll HotelThe day started with a beautiful sunrise but soon changed to rain. We were grateful that we’d had our one day of summer on the Saturday.

Getting to the ferry was straightforward. It was simply a case of ‘follow that car in front’ which thankfully was going to the ferry as well. At the ferry, we had a slight confusion about lanes to queue in. Well let’s just say we left the ferry employees looking bemused.

The short journey on the ferry was dull because the windows steamed up and we couldn’t see anything. But soon we were heading down the coast towards Irvine. I texted my husband to say we were on the way back.

We passed through Inverkip and came to road works and diversions signs.  We followed the diversion signs and minutes later entered Inverkip.

Inverkip

‘We must have taken the wrong road at the road works,’ I said. ‘Just turn round and we’ll go back.’

Margaret turned into a side street looking for somewhere to turn. It was short and soon came to a T junction. She turned left heading into a built-up street.

‘Where are you going? We just want to go back the way.’

Along a fairly long street and we turned left again which found us back at the main road.

‘Hah! See. You said I should turn back,’ said Margaret triumphantly.

We headed back towards the diversion signs. Passing a sign that showed the way to Irvine down the street we had just left. ‘The sign must have been turned round. That can’t be right.’ We again avoided the left turn which seemed to be a local farm road, and soon we came to the part of the roundabout where we thought we must have taken the wrong road. But it turned out that of the three choices one was closed, one was a short dead end and the other was the road back to Inverkip.

Shortly after, we entered Inverkip again. So, we decided to follow the sign pointing to Irvine, but it led, just like last time, to houses in Inverkip.

Back at the road works we decided we would head up the road to the left to see where, if anywhere it led. Shortly after we passed a sign saying Welcome to Inverkip.

Ahead it looked like a housing scheme so, when we spotted the one other person out in Inverkip at that time on a Sunday morning, a dog walker, we stopped to ask for directions.

‘We’re looking for a road to Irvine,’ said Margaret.

‘Irvine!’ he said incredulously, ‘Irvine! That’s miles away.’

‘Yes, we know but we still want to get there.’

It turned out the road closed signs had not meant, as we townies presumed, that there would be another road to take instead. When they said road closed they meant just that. We were not going anywhere down the coast. The only way to get home was to go back and head through Greenock and Glasgow. At least we could head straight for Kilmarnock and avoid having to head for Irvine.

So, some time later after Margaret told the dog walker all about her speeding fine, we headed back to the diversion signs.

Then we entered Inverkip.

This time we kept heading straight towards Glasgow.Glasgow

I texted my husband, ‘We may be some time.’

I opened Google maps on my phone and stuck in directions to Kilmarnock.

 

Going through Greenock we discovered more diversions signs and Google confirmed we should follow them. It was only when my phone started talking to me I realised that Google maps has a satnav facility. I have no idea how I got into it. Between it and the frequent diversion signs, some of which applied to us, we miraculously found ourselves on the road home to Kilmarnock.

At least it being motorway almost all the way home, we didn’t have to worry about speeding.

Saturday Evening

For the evening we were instructed to wait in the lounge and to be there at 7pm sharp. I’d read reviews from previous shows and several people mentioned that most of the audience dressed up.  Which is why Margaret had spent most of the afternoon searching for an apron (or pinny to be exact). She was dressing as one of the waitresses and had a white blouse and black skirt.costumes

‘Should I fasten my blouse up or leave the top button undone?’ she asked.

‘It’s Allo Allo,’ I said, ‘leave it undone.’

I had decided to model myself on Madame Edith and had managed to get a suitable dress and auburn wig.

We were down promptly to find a room full of people in normal dress. About five minutes later four younger people came in dressed as two waitresses, an onion seller (who had a string of garlic not onions) and René.

‘Boy are we glad to see you,’ I said.

‘And we were glad to see you,’ they replied. ‘What happened to everyone dressing up?’

For tonight Rebecca became Yvette and René who had only been a voice the night before put in an appearance. Michelle of the resistance went undercover as Helga and Robert Howat became, among other characters, Herr Flick.

The food was much better than the night before and all the more enjoyable for having to share our table with Robert who retained his character as Herr Flick throughout each part of the meal.

I had orange juice for starters because it was a four course meal and there was no way I could eat 4 courses. The second course was haggis, neeps and tatties. Margaret had the sense to give this a miss so she could eat more of her main course. But I confidently predicted it would just be a wee taste. I was wrong. It wasn’t a full sized course, but enough to fill me up.

For the main course I picked mushroom stroganoff. It’s one of my favourites when it’s cooked well but very few place provide it on the menu and those that do seem to think all they have to do is bung a few out of date mushrooms into a dish of rice. Not this time. The stronganoff was delicious. I just wished I had missed out the haggis so I could eat more of the stroganoff.

For pudding I picked apple crumble and custard. Not the height of sophistication, but very tasty.

Again, the audience were drafted in to take part, adding to the fun.

On Friday night, our table had escaped contributing,  but tonight I was chosen to be Madam Fanny La Fan.

There was the inevitable joke from René who on seeing my less than five-foot height said, ‘Oh you are standing.’

My line was, ‘Zee Germans, I spit on them.’

I was thrilled to bits to hear someone say after my first attempt that I was good.

Shortly after that, René told me to stand up again. ‘If we have to work so do you,’ he told me. So, this time I really hammed up my line and enjoyed it greatly. I was involved several other times when I was asked if I could fit all the audience into my ‘boudoir’ and then led out of the room to arrange it.

We were enjoying ourselves so much, I forgot it was supposed to be a murder mystery and totally failed to pick up on any clues.

All too soon it seemed we had to solve the murders (Friday night’s German and Herr Flick had both been killed by this time). Our first attempt was met by a lot of head shaking on the part of the cast and a suggestion we try again. In the end it was no surprise when every group got the right answer and the winner was drawn from the ‘correct’ entries. A large table at the other side of the room won and got a bottle of wine as a prize.

Then it was time to draw the winner from the treasure trail entries. I got to pick the winner and rather hoped it was not us as that would have been embarrassing. It wasn’t.

The last bottle of wine was for an individual winner and I was thrilled to be picked for it ‘…just for being great all evening.’

A fantastic end to a fun night.

Margaret was in bed before me that night, so we were both sound asleep before eleven.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Morning

Argyll hotel DunoonSaturday dawned bright and sunny. Breakfast at the Argyll Hotel was tasty with a respectable selection of breakfast dishes. We could help ourselves to the usual fruit juices, cereals and yogurt. And of course, there was one of those odd toasters that always look scary to me. Warm food included porridge, a full Scottish breakfast and a full vegetarian breakfast. Eggs could be cooked to taste, and they would accommodate any reasonable requests.

After breakfast we picked up a treasure trail booklet from reception. Argyll Street DunoonThis had twenty clues to be solved. Each clue was in a box and in between were instructions on how to get to the clue. We started by turned right into Argyll Street.

The answers to the first few clues were found in shop and business windows. Some were obvious, but others less so and we had to pay attention. Some considerable time later we were still walking down Argyll Street and I was wishing I’d remembered to take a pain killer. The ‘date above the Commercial Bar’ almost beat us until we looked high enough up.

Further down the street we turned into a park and passed by a doctor’s surgery stopping only to check the name of one of the GPs. Not too far after, we crossed the Milton Burn and checked the colours on the wall of a nursery.

As we walked on, we kept expecting and really hoping, that we would start heading back towards the Hotel. But it was some time later when we reached the seafront and started making our way back.

The first bench we came to was one of the clues but I’m afraid that did not stop us sitting on it. We sat for quite a while enjoying the sun and the view over the Clyde. To be fair we admitted to any other treasure hunters who passed by, that we were sitting in front of the clue. Our honesty was repaid later when we were helped with the last few clues.

Dunoon

After we left the bench we walked along Alexandra Parade looking for the Seasons Coffee House.

‘Coffee House?’ I said hopefully.

‘Sounds good.’

So, some time later we collapsed on a sofa in the Seasons Coffee House where the lovely  staff helped us with the next clue.

‘It’s not cheating,’ said Margaret. ‘It’s using our initiative.’

Round the corner we realised we were back at the hotel.

Rather naively our sojourn at the coffee house had convinced us to carry on with the rest of the clues, despite the warning on the next clue that we were to climb a steep hill to the church. Steep! It was more like perpendicular and just when we thought we were getting close to the end it would turn a corner and carry on. By half way up, Dorothy bounded away from us and Margaret and I crawled up on hands and knees. Well not quite but you get the idea.

After the church yard we headed back downhill towards the castle area.

‘The clue says we have to climb back up another hill next,’ I said cheerfully.

A car passed.

‘We should have hitched a ride,’ said Margaret.

It wouldn’t have done any good because it stopped a few yards down at the end of the road.

At the castle we stood looking despairingly at the mound.

Castle Hill Dunoon

‘At least we are still half way up,’ I said, not even convincing myself as I used my phone to desperately try and find the answer online.

‘At least there are stairs,’ Margaret said.

‘Oh, that makes it so much better,’ I said unconvincingly. ‘We have to go all the way up to the flagpole.’

Dunoon pier

Dorothy kindly offered to go up for us, so Margaret and I contributed to the treasure trail by sitting looking over the Clyde and trying to work out where the next few clues were. OK we sat and chilled out enjoying the sun and the view.

Some time later we agreed we’d have to move. The next few clues were set in the gardens at the front of the castle. Unrealistically, we hoped they meant the small bit right outside the castle where we had been sitting. But no, they were all over the large gardens down the rest of the hill.

By this time even Dorothy was wilting so when some of our fellow hunters offered to help us with a couple of the clues, we jumped at the chance. We had great fun trying to read the war memorial for a clue as it was surrounded by the ubiquitous fences. It seemed the whole of the front at Dunoon was a building site.

The last clue was inside the hotel, so I went to find it while Margaret searched for an apron to complete her waitress outfit for the evening. Dorothy opted to go shopping with Margaret. I completed the entry form for the treasure hunt and thankfully headed to our room.

Margaret searched every shop in Dunoon but failed to get an apron to complete her outfit.

We agreed that the treasure hunt had been an excellent idea. Not only did it pass several hours, but it took us round parts of Dunoon we wouldn’t have seen if left to our own devices. Of course, the weather was ideal. Bright and sunny without being too hot. I don’t think we’d have done all that trailing about in the rain.