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A trip to…London Zoo & British Museum

So another away day!

I promised myself that I would come and visit the British Museum in London and I thought that I should be able to combine this with a trip to London Zoo. Now I love Zoos and I particularly love the work they do to breed endangered species. The last time I visited London Zoo though was over 30 years ago so I was looking forward to seeing the changes.

So I managed to find a great return deal on GWR (£30 Paignton – Paddington return – can you believe it??) and a good deal on a Travelodge in Kings Cross and off I went.

I decided to walk to the museum from the station as it was a beautiful day – I think you get to see more when you walk!

It was uncomfortably hot in the museum and filled with foreign students and so I cut my visit short and walked on to Kings Cross to the hotel.

Despite some of the reviews, I was pleasantly surprised and had a coffee after checking in.

I had decided to eat out as there was so much choice and walked across the road to this place.

The following day I had breakfast in a local McDonalds and caught a train to Camden Town and wandered up to the Zoo.

Later in the afternoon, I was thinking about catching a train back to Paddington when I came across a sign for the London Waterbus. You can catch it from the zoo and it goes either on to Camden Lock or back to Little Venice. The one I caught went back to Little Venice (which is very close to Paddington!) idyllic!

A gentle stroll back to Paddington for a bite to eat and watch the commuters rushing around to catch their trains and I wandered in to the station in time to catch my return train back to Devon – Lovely!

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Eden Project, Cornwall 2018

So, another away day, this time to Cornwall. Both hotel and first class rail fare (both ways!) for less than £50 – bargain!

Went on one of the new trains, first class isn’t as comfortable as the old ones, but for the price and the complimentary coffee and cake? #stillgreatvalue

 

I stayed at the Travelodge where I stayed the last time which is ok and the staff are really nice.

I got given a disabled room for some reason so it was close to the bar (but not too close!) with a wet room, nice!

Cheap drinks between 4 & 6 too.

 

I took advantage of the cheap drinks and the food promotion and enjoyed a long sleep before heading up to Eden the next day.

Now it has to be said – The Eden Project is simply amazing – if you like finding out what grows where in the world, and the autumn colours……. There are three main areas – the outdoor gardens, the Mediterranean biome and the rainforest biome. Rather than go on too long, I’ve let the pictures do the talking!

 

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I took hundreds of photos and I will change the images in the slideshow from time to time so check back to see if there are new ones!

First class train home and an early night!

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Scarborough, York & Whitby 2018

This trip was a bit different! I went on a coach holiday and I REALLY enjoyed it!

Part of the fun for me is the planning. What is there to see and do, what to take with me etc. and as I was going in May and the weather forecast was good for the week, I didn’t need lots of clothing. By the time I left, I had loads of leaflets and catalogues from the Scarborough and York tourist offices, and so I was ready to go!

I met the coach at the coach park about 5 minutes from where I live at 6:15 AM!!!

By the time we had collected others from Newton Abbot, Exeter, Taunton and Bridgewater, it was a little after 9:00. We headed up to Gloucester Services for a comfort break and a coffee. The services were really nice with a farm shop as well.

The next stop was Corley Services, which is the regional hub for the coach company. There were probably 10 or 12 coaches there when we arrived. There was enough time to have a leisurely lunch and everyone was called for the coach. The driver was brilliant (just as well as we had him until we got back to Corley on Friday afternoon!). The next comfort break was at Doncaster Services. We arrived at the hotel at around 5:00pm and checked in. Someone brought the cases to the rooms and I went for a walk to stretch my legs before dinner.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of decent food considering the price I paid ( around £60 per night with full English breakfast and a 3 course meal each night and all transport), however, I was very pleasantly surprised. Plenty of choices and well cooked!

The following day we had a day in York – if you haven’t been, trust me, you should go! Lovely city with loads to see and several museums. I wanted to get to the Jorvik museum, the Castle museum and the Railway museum, but in the end, I settled on the Castle and Jorvik.

I didn’t bother with York Minster as I’m not interested in religion and I stayed next door to it 35 years ago when I last came! Apparently though it’s very nice if it’s your thing.

A really lovely trip and one that I’ll repeat as I’ve got to see the railway museum!

A trip to Whitby came the next day

A quick check to remind myself of what Whitby is famous for – Bram Stoker, fish, annual folk festival and Whitby Jet are the main things.

It’s a typical seaside tourist town and as I live in one of those, it didn’t do a lot for me. I did have a fish and chip lunch though – delicious!

fish and chips

The following day we were free to spend in Scarborough and as I had spent a lot of time sitting on a coach, I decided a good long walk was in order. I spent the day walking and taking the odd photo. I was ready for dinner by the time I got back to the hotel.

Early breakfast and travelling home the next day – so day 1 in reverse! I got home at about 6:30pm and decided there and then that I would come to Yorkshire again.

London Museums

So in Early November 2015, I started having my ‘away days’ as I like to call them, and this was the first.

Planning them at least 3 months ahead to get the best rail fares and hotel deals. This one was slightly different – I set myself a maximum budget of £125.00 which had to include the rail fares AND the hotel!

I went on a Tuesday and came back on the Wednesday. A reasonably early start and I was at the Natural History Museum by about 2:00pm and I spent the afternoon there.

I stayed at a supposed 3* hotel in Earls Court, I would mention the name but I’ve forgotten it. Boy was it bad. The only thing that was any good at all was the shower so at least I didn’t smell!

It was about 30mins to the Museums from the hotel and following breakfast (not in the hotel!) I walked up to the Science Museum. Fascinating place, you can even experience (safely!) an earthquake. I then crossed the road to the V&A Museum and spent a really interesting few hours in there before heading back to the NHM for the rest of the afternoon.

I headed back to the station before it got too busy and had a wander around Paddington and a meal before catching my train home. A very busy couple of days but really enjoyable – I promised myself I would come back one day and visit the British Museum!

This ConservativeGovernment

I’m old enough to have lived through all the recent Conservative governments from Winston Churchill in 1951 onwards.

I cannot remember any that are as extreme and the ones in government at the moment.

What normal people would bring in a policy which actively hurts disabled people, to the point that, they commit suicide, and then spend more in the courts fighting to avoid it becoming public than what they saved in the first place? That is not the way normal human beings treat each other.

Apparently, around 90 people per month are dying after being declared fit for work – The work capability assessments, currently administered by private outsourcing firm Maximus, (having for most of the last government been run by Atos), have been widely criticised, often causing harm to the sick and disabled claimants who are obliged to undergo it. It has been dogged by administrative delays, which have often left claimants stressed and penniless, and there have been hundreds of thousands of appeals against fit-for-work decisions in recent years, about four in 10 of which have succeeded.

The DWP defended the accuracy of the assessments and said the statistics proved no causal effect between benefits and mortality. It said: “These isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis, and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgment as to the effects or impacts of the WCA.”

It is “shameful” and “unsubstantiated” to claim benefit cuts have caused suicides, a Tory minister declared – Sarah Newton accused critics of “deliberately misusing data” to say Tory welfare reforms are driving people to death.

Activists such as the Black Triangle Campaign have spent years amassing dozens of individual reports of benefit claimants’ suicides since the Tories took power in 2010.

Disability campaigners also marched with a banner listing names of people who “died due to sanctions and benefit cuts”.

From the Guardian– The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found.

The UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the government’s progress in fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people’s rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007.

Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.

In November 2017 the same UN committee issued a scathing report on austerity policies pursued by the UK government in welfare and social care, which it described as “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. The government dismissed the report as patronising and offensive.

It doesn’t just stop with the DWP, no, the home office are as bad.

“The Conservatives seem hellbent on creating a hostile environment for anyone not from the UK,” said the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Ed Davey back in 2017. “These scare tactics should be beneath any civilised government.”

The tactics, however, are multiplying: landlords are now required to carry out checks on tenants’ immigration status. Hospitals, community interest companies and charities receiving NHS funds must conduct ID checks on patients before treatment in order to bill them if they are found not eligible for NHS care. From January, banks and building societies have been compelled to carry out immigration checks on the owners of 70m current accounts.

In a post-Brexit Britain, the picture is set to get even harsher. The right under which EU nationals can bring family members, including spouses, to live with them in the UK is already a flashpoint in the Brexit talks on citizens’ rights. But in October 2017, a leaked Home Office document suggested the government wants to go further in weakening family reunion rights for EU nationals in Britain, turning thousands more into so-called “Skype families”.

Back in 2012 when Teresa May was home secretary she said “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants,”  when she was challenged on why annual net immigration, then running at about 250,000, was stubbornly above the Conservatives’ controversial “tens of thousands” target.

Since the EU referendum, detentions and enforced removals of all foreign nationals, including EU citizens, have risen sharply. Analysis of government data shows deportations of EU citizens are at their highest since records began, with 5,301 EU nationals removed during the year ending June 2017, an increase of 20% on the previous 12 months. More broadly, the number of EU citizens detained has increased six fold since 2009. Critics believe that Brexit has, in effect, given the Home Office the green light to target Europeans in the UK.

This, courtesy of the Independent newspaper– In 2015, the last full year for which Home Office data is available, 3,699 EU citizens were detained under immigration powers – 11.4 per cent of all detainees – while in 2009 just 768 were detained, 2.7 per cent of the total.harmondsworth2

What I’m describing above are not the actions of a centre right government – a government that treats it’s citizens in this way is a far right government – bordering on fascist in my view.

Now I understand that not everyone will share my views, however whilst free speech is still allowed in this country please accept my right to use it.

Swindon June 2017

After my success with Birmingham, I thought I would try something similar, that’s how I ended up going to Swindon.

It involved a 5:00am start as the train left at 6:15am! The bonus was that I got to Swindon by 9:30am

One of the main reasons for going to Swindon was the amazing railway museum. In it’s heyday, Swindon produced around 3 steam trains each week and the size of the original factory  was mind blowing.

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The original GWR factory

These days a lot of the old factory is a large shopping centre, which is next to the HQ of the National Trust. The railway museum is brilliant and covers all the old workshops, machine shop, foundry and loads more. If ever you find yourself in Swindon with a couple of hours to spare I would highly recommend it.

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National Trust HQ

I only stayed in Swindon for one night and I stayed at the Travelodge. Much more basic than the Premier Inn, but in this instance marginally cheaper too.

I ate in the hotel as the town centre looked a bit dodgy and the food was ok. Not up to the standard of the Premier Inn but quite acceptable nonetheless.

 

The following day, I had breakfast in a café and then wandered out to the big shopping centre out of town. Lots of big factory shops selling expensive branded stuff basically, and after lunch, I wandered back to the station to find that the train I was booked on had been cancelled. A quick rearrange and I got on a train to Bristol and changed at Temple Meads for a train home. Another nice weekend!

 

Birmingham June 2017

I do love the centre of Birmingham! Great food, great shopping and great views in a smallish area.

So I was playing around on t’internet and I thought I would see if I could get a decent deal on a train trip, and I found that if you booked three months ahead and weren’t too fussy about timings then yes you could! So I priced up a return to Birmingham New Street (about 30 quid return!!!) and set about finding a hotel. Now I have to admit, my favourite hotels are Premier Inn – the rooms are always comfortable and there is none of the pretentiousness of the fancy hotel chains. You can usually get a half decent meal too.

So I ended up staying at a Premier Inn in Waterloo Street Birmingham (about 20 minutes stroll from New Street station) for two nights.

Other than the Bullring there are a number of shopping centres in the centre of Birmingham, some are really nice, others, not so, but with a couple of hours before the shops shut, I had a wander around some of the lesser known ones – The Square, Martineau Place and the Piccadilly Arcade. I didn’t go to Birmingham to shop, but I like the buildings and the atmosphere. I did seem to spend most of my time in shopping areas though. The next day I went to the museum and Chinatown. I was disappointed with the museum (I prefer the RAMM at Exeter if I’m honest), I think I expected it to be like the big museums in London, but sadly it wasn’t.

Lunch in Chinatown was amazing. I noticed a number of Chinese going into one place so I thought I would join them. I had roast duck, roast pork and roast chicken with vegetables on a bed of fried rice, all for £7.00. I can honestly say, it was one of the biggest meals I’ve ever eaten! I had to go back to the hotel and sleep it off!

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That meant I didn’t want to eat anything in the evening, so I walked to the nearest Wetherspoons –  The Briar Rose (about 50yds away) for a couple of pints of Guinness and very nice it was too! Wetherspoons are great for people watching.

I had 1 day left (my train was leaving at 6:45pm), so I chose to go to the Bullring and the markets.

I had lunch at Izza Pizza in Selfridges, it was probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I watched it being made – gorgeous! I went to explore the markets after lunch, there are three markets open to the public, the rag market, the bullring open market and St Martins market. I saw things I’ve never seen before – the rag market is brilliant, mainly clothing but loads of material. As I wandered back into the Bullring, I went in a different direction and found myself in yet another shopping centre, this one built above New Street Station! It had a massive John Lewis store and loads of others. Thankfully there was somewhere to relax and enjoy a glass or two of wine before I went downstairs to catch my train. In all, a really lovely couple of days.