Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A cheap day-trip to Ayr

After booking our day-trip to Glasgow, a promotion for a day-trip to Ayr popped up: £16 for the four of us instead of the usual “cheap-rate” of £40 (or £30 if you book in the Stenaline offices). I’ve passed through Ayr a number of times over the years but never stopped to look around so I hadn’t a clue what there was to see there but at £16 you can’t really go wrong, so we booked it.

As with all day-trips involving any kind of boat or plane, there’s an early start. In this case, you’ve to be there no later than 7am and, of course, allowing for parking and whatnot that really means more like 6.45am. The ship doesn’t depart ’til 7.30 but the cheap trips over the holiday period are very popular so there was quite a line to checkin and it was quite a crowded trip. Arrival in Cairnryan is a little before 10am.

The ship was the quite nice Superfast, although with the trip taking almost 2.5 hours, it didn’t seem that fast. Food in the restaurant isn’t cheap but the prices aren’t too over the top. It’s best to grab a seat as soon as you get on as the available seats are taken up really quickly on the more crowded crossings. There’s the usual arcade games and small cinema (aimed mainly at the kids) with a spa along with assorted treatments for the adults. They’ve a small number of suites (for up to five people) which, at £20, might be worth it after a tiring day though, of course, you’ll only have use of it for a couple of hours.

The two coaches should have been setting off not much after 10 with arrival in Ayr scheduled for 11.15am. However, in practice, the coaches waited around for no apparent reason so we didn’t get into Ayr until more like 11.45 which, together with an earlier than scheduled departure shortened our time there by quite a bit. The coaches are listed as dropping off at the Burns statue but actually drop off near the Stagecoach bus station. That doesn’t really make a lot of difference if you’re only walking around the town but if you want to take a side-trip it is handier to be beside the bus station.

What’s to see? It’s a fairly pretty seaside town with lots of Georgian architecture, quite a number of bridges and a reasonable number of fairly historic buildings (mostly converted to new uses). The narrow streets are quite pleasant to stroll around. On the beach there’s a large childrens’ playground (which could do with a fair bit of maintenance) with an adjoining indoor children’s entertainment centre (about £5 for two hours, depending on age, weekday/weekend/holiday).

Slightly outside the town there are:

  1. The Robert Burns museum,  which you can get to easily enough by bus. It costs about £20 for a family and seems to include quite a bit to interest for a couple of hours.
  2. The Heads of Ayr Farm Park, seems to have something for everyone and seems easy enough to get to by bus. You’d need to allow a fair chunk of the day to get best value (about £40 for a family).

Catering-wise, the town is well served with lots of decent quality but fairly cheap restaurants all around the town.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The Somme parade

Every year in Northern Ireland, there’s a Somme commemoration parade on the evening of the first of July.

It’s not such a major production as the parades on the 12th and, since it’s not on a public holiday, it has to be in the evening. Net effect of all that is that it’s a simple round-trip parade with none of the speeches that you get on the 12th day in the “field” and because of that it’s quite a bit shorter. That said, every year it seems to throw a number of people who aren’t expecting roads to be closed along the route with the loop format tending to strand a number of cars in the middle for 20-30 minutes.

In Belfast, the parade starts and finishes around Templemore Avenue, moving along Beersbridge Road, turning up the Bloomfield Road (with the road-works stopped for the day for the second year in a row), then on the North Road, taking a diversion along Kirkliston before heading down the Newtownards Road to the starting point.Since it’s a Somme commemoration, a number of those in the bands or lodges taking part dress in period costume.

The one earlier in the week was surprisingly short. In years gone by, it’s run for over an hour but it seemed to be more like 40 minutes this time around. That wasn’t particularly due to there being fewer bands or lodges but that they seemed much more organised this year and there were none of the regular stops due to other bands or lodges grinding to a halt. It was also a relatively late start and it was starting to get dark towards the half-way mark.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Cheap daytrips to Glasgow

Stenaline have been running £10 daytrips to Glasgow on Wednesdays for the last couple of months which would have been rather handy except that it didn’t run over any holiday periods so I guess the numbers would have been relatively low.

However, they’ve taken the plunge and extended it right through to the end of November. Still only on Wednesdays mind you but at least we’ll get a chance to go sometime over the summer without needing to take the kids out of school for it.

It’s a bit of a long day as daytrips generally are. The boat leaves Belfast at 07.30 and gets back at 21.45 which is a fairly long day as you need to get to the dock before 7am. However, the actual time in Glasgow is only from 12.00 to 16.45. That makes it a bit of a whirlwind trip if you want to see some of the sites so you’d need to be quite selective and have your time planned out before you go.

For our first quick look, we’re having a skim through the Greater Glasgow guide put out by the tourist office. The Lonely Planet chapter from their Scotland guide probably has more information but for four hours, you don’t need a whole lot of information.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Catching up with old friends

There’s been a bit of a run of retirement do’s to go to over the last year or two and one a few months ago prompted the thoughts of a reunion of our team from around the 1990s which ended up being held a week ago.

Despite almost everyone having moved on over that time, we ended up with around 40 people turning up. My first thought was that I’d not recognise any of them or that it would be a crowd of doddery old men and women on their way to zimmer frame territory. However, it was nothing like that at all and in fact not only did most people change relatively little over what’s been anything up to 25 years or so but one even managed to look years younger than she did 20-odd years ago!

As usual with these things it was mix of reminiscing over the good old days and pumping people for information about job prospects (the grass always being greener elsewhere, of course). Although set around lunch, most people stayed on ’til into the evening and the last stragglers only heading home around 10pm.

Coincidently, I ran across and even older friend at the family fun day on Saturday and it looks like there’ll be a reunion of our merry band from the 1980s in the not too distant future too.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Quite a full Easter

With starting the new job the week before Easter, this is my first week of work holidays in over eight years!

As we normally do, it was off to Portrush on Easter Monday. Usually, there’s a mass of traffic along the way, a traffic jam a mile or two long going into the town, pretty much nowhere to park, wall to wall crowds everywhere regardless of the weather and no money in the cash machines. This year the traffic seemed a bit light on the way up, there was no traffic jam at all, loads of parking spots even quite close into the town, hardly any crowds and money in the cash machines even in the late afternoon as we were leaving. We didn’t even have to queue in the café and there was next to no queuing in Barry’s either. Methinks that Portrush is going to have a tough time financially if they can’t fill up even on Easter Monday.

Ongoing throughout the holiday has been the assignment for SD329 a biology cum psychology course that runs through to October. Although it was very much a last minute thing, it was a much easier assignment than the chemistry one which I’ve been ruminating over for weeks. I wasn’t too keen on the breakdown of every section of every question into a specific word count but it did prompt me to write a little more on some questions than I otherwise would have done which, hopefully, will improve the marks. Anyway, it’s off so it’s just the final chemistry question to complete tomorrow.

I came across a neat site which converts any website into an Android application so I’ve put on four trial ones. They look fine on the ASUS tablet but I’ll need to rejig the style sheet a bit to tidy up their appearance on Android phones. I may need to get myself an Android phone to really try them out too. No downloads as yet but then they’ve only been on a couple of days.

The materials for the Infectious Disease course arrived yesterday. No big surprises there as I picked up a copy of the pre-course briefing last year. I’ll have to get going on reading it properly soon as I want to get that well underway before I need to start the chemistry revision and indeed the pre-course work for the chemistry summer school for that matter. Oh, and the two assignments that’ll fall due in the midst of that revision time too. It’s going to be a hectic time for me in May and June.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.