Author Archives: Richard

About Richard

Blogged since retirement at "thereadrovers" & "morereadrovers" but now on our 3rd blog, "morereadtravels". Our "Gap Year" (or nearly 5) has seen visits to over 50 countries since retirement. Travel definitely broadens the mind - I hope at least some of my postings inspire others to go to the places I have been to even if my log is really more of a diary.

Christmas troubles

Saturday 23 December

Back in April, we spent so many hours trying to find somewhere to stay to be near our daughter, Flic, with her young son and eventually settled on a house in Maidenhead advertised through HomeAway, a company we have rented through before and at a cost of over £1500 were hoping for a good property.

 

Crappy house

Christmas Property

 

The two reviews on HomeAway were good albeit a year old and whilst we knew parking could be problematic, we were not prepared at all for what we found when we gained access to the property. The parking was the least of our troubles – in fact we had no issues with the on street parking.

Mismatched furniture, some of it dating from probably the 1950s, three different styles of settees in the living area, one of which has a door underneath the cushion which whilst providing some support, is loose and had to be pulled up to stop the cushions sagging.

This is a potential hazard for fingers, especially those of youngsters. Would question whether two of the settees have fire retardant certificates, I would doubt if a charity shop would accept them.

The property has not been renovated or maintained for many years, the decor is worn and dated, especially in the kitchen

There were many other issues:-

  1. Loose tiles in the dining area by the fireplace, again a potential for injury
  2. One other settee  ( a bed settee ) in the living room has been bolstered by a spare settee cushion
  3. Ill fitting kitchen units dating from probably the 1970s. The whole kitchen is in need of refurbishment. The kitchen units are de-laminating resulting in bits falling into food.
  4. Absolutely filthy cooking pans/dishes and a not particularly clean oven
  5. No washing up bowl and no matching crockery, very thin cutlery and inappropriate cooking utensils which are not suitable for using whilst cooking as they are too thin.
  6. Handwritten Instructions written on the inside of the kitchen cupboards as to where to put crockery and glasses that was overwriting other written instructions is not the sign of a homely environment.
  7. Mismatching drinking glasses, only one egg cup
  8. Cleaning liquids in a cupboard that does not have a child protection lock on it. If unsupervised, it could cause serious illness to children.
  9. Dangerous and loose floorboards on the ground floor especially outside the kitchen, to the extent that shoes need to be worn throughout to prevent trapped toes.
  10. Very steep and thin stairs to the first floor with a loose banister
  11. Dirty carpets on the stairs and landing
  12. No banister on the stairs from the 1st floor to the Attic.
  13. No working radiator in either the Attic bedroom or it’s en-suite bathroom (temperatures 3 degrees C some days!) which has no stand up shower ability, just a shower unit over the bath but no curtain or screen.
  14. Bath waste water leaks on the floor at a join in the pipe behind the sink.
  15. A stained sanitary pad left in a cupboard in the Attic bathroom
  16. Hair left in the bath plug in the Attic bathroom
  17. 3 lights in the Attic not working and no clothes hanging space.
  18. The main “pink” bathroom has two showers over the bath, one of which appears not to function well whilst the other is supposed to be the back up.
  19. The main “pink” bathroom has a translucent door allowing other guests to be able to see you in the bathroom.
  20. The 5 page house instructions provided to us after we had paid the final amount of rent indicated that the house has a car parking space outside the house. This is a joke as all the road is available for anyone to park in, there is no reserved car parking space.  In fact from arrival to 27 December, the same red car was parked Directly outside the house, it didn’t move.
  21. We were supposed to have a food waste recycling bin: nothing was provided and for general waste, just a bucket was provided
  22. The “high chair” provided is an old, wheeled office chair with straps which is totally unsuitable.
  23. We had specifically asked if a Christmas tree would be left for us, we were told “no” so Sarah brought one from Jersey, we brought the decorations from home and: you guessed it; a decorated Christmas tree had been left!
  24. It is only when you pay the final balance are you told that no visitors are allowed: not very Christian like for Christmas!

 

Anyway, some photos from inside the property wouldn’t go amiss here just so that you can get the feeling of it.

 

So, understandably we were not impressed and apart from all the family being with us, it spoilt Christmas.

We had sent an immediate message on arrival to say that we were not happy and were later that evening advised that the caretaker would call between 10 & 11 tomorrow morning, in fact it was virtually 11 am when he turned up.

He seemed to appreciate the poor quality of the kitchen cooking pans and the water leak from the bathroom, and got on the phone and went away saying he would be back having also taken with him the sanitary pad left by the previous occupiers.

When he did return, he brought new cooking pans, cleaned the cooker, tried to mend the bathroom leak but could do nothing about the non working radiator in the attic bedroom.

On Christmas Day, the bath still leaked but obviously nothing could be done about that so a message advising the continued leak was only sent late at night.

Somehow, the Christmas meal was cooked (thank you Sarah), served and consumed before the ritual of present giving got under way, toys played with, TV watched before we retired to (for us in the attic) a freezing cold bedroom.

Boxing Day and the rest of the week was spent away as much as we could from this house and we left the following Saturday somewhat pleased that we had left – Sarah, Ali, Harry and Mel having left the previous day to go to Jersey and we had spent Friday with Viv in Fleet.

We were eventually able to extract a payment from the owner for the “inconvenience” but this in no way compensated for such an appalling excuse for a rental property. My review on Trip Advisor was eventually published and, somewhat surprising, the review on Home Away was also eventually published but probably because I said to them that I doubted it would get published in view of the appalling nature of the comments.

However, it has now disappeared (as of mid Feb 2018).  Surprising that (not).

Fortunately, our visits on the way home to John & Dierdre (for New Year) and Sally’s cousin Alan partially made up for it.  Sarah’s crossing home on the ferry was very rough, she was glad of a cabin.

Nothing specific planned for 2018 which is unusual for us, but no doubt our diary will soon fill up.

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Santa rides

IMG_5661Friday 15 December

Last year, Flic visited us about this time with her friend, Laura and paid a surprise visit to Mel at the Peel Pantoloons annual Panto. This year, however, a visit to the Panto by Flic could not be arranged due to Gary’s work commitments, so a visit the following week to the Santa Steam trains organised by the Isle of Man Steam Railway was the only option.

After some debate, a ferry crossing from Heysham was the selected mode of transport and, for once in December, the weather was kind.

Saturday 16 December

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Morning at The Shed, Laxey

A morning out by the sea – yes the weather is still mild and wind free – and time for a coffee on Laxey sea front with blankets supplied by the wonderful new little cafe, The Shed.  (http://www.creativejuices.im/splash/)

An afternoon train ride from Douglas to Santon had been organised and our train on this occasion was double headed by two of the small gauge resident steam engines.

Double heading was unusual especially as it wasn’t a particularly heavy train but more about this later.

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Santa’s helpers at Santon

Cody is obviously too young to appreciate the train ride but Gary certainly did especially as he could stand in front of the engine whilst it was being watered when we reached Santon.

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Taking on water at Santon

Talking about watering, at Santon we disembarked with some of the train’s passengers going to see Santa first before consuming some well prepared food whilst others in the front of the train did the visiting to Santa after the food and mulled wine.

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Who are you?

Cody was absolutely mesmerised by Santa, he just didn’t know what to make of him, again understandable in the circumstances.

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Douglas Station, end of the day

The return was behind one engine, the other being used to bring Santa’s grotto back to Douglas later in the day as this was the last Santa ride of the season.

Hopefully next year we can get Sarah, Ali and Harry over for a visit at this time?

Sunday 17 December

A first stage production for Cody as he becomes Baby Jesus for Mel’s Sensations Group at a church service in Peel.

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Cody at the Sound

He slept for a lot of the time, woke up for the important part and spent the time looking around, not a murmur.

Lunch at The Sound Cafe

Monday 18 December

Flic, Gary and Cody off for an early ferry and we have to pack as we are following them on the same ferry 24 hours later.

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Ferry into the Sunrise

Flic and Gary had a bit of a tortuous journey, Cody being fed up, the journey taking well over 5 hours due to yet another accident on the M6.

Tuesday 19 December

A smooth crossing for us and we head for Liverpool for an Andre Rieu concert, staying at the Crowne Plaza on the dockside.

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Liverpool waterfront

An upgrade meant we had access to the club lounge in the hotel which provides snacks at tea time and a continental breakfast as well as a waterfront view.

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Exchange Flags

A walk out to the shops revealed a square I had not been to before, Exchange Flags which was also featured in an excellent BBC programme recently, A House through Time.

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Getting the Reindeer ready

Wednesday 20 December

Horrible drizzle today so not worth going to anywhere outdoors. The garden centre at Bebbington serves up some very nice snacks for lunch before we return to the hotel to get ready for the concert.

But before that, I couldn’t resist a brief visit to the waterfront fair and the reindeer being prepared for the night’s activities.

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Colourful Andre Rieu concert

We have seen an Andre Rieu recording both on TV and at a local cinema but there is nothing like seeing a live concert.

With their flamboyant and colourful costumes, the musicians played, danced, sung and entertained us for nearly 2 and a half hours which included at least half an hour of encores and a festive rendition from a Scottish pipe band from the Wirrall.

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Artificial snow

Artificial snow falling on the audience was something special to watch from high up as we were.

Meet up afterwards for drinks with Laura & Jim from Jersey who are also over for the concert, staying with a friend locally.

They got covered in the artificial snow which was very minute plastic particles.

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Andre Rieu concert

Thursday 21 December

Drive down to our house in Clearwell just to check all is well and to inspect the new doors.

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Making Croissants at The forest Bakehouse

A bit of Christmas food shopping in Gloucester followed by a lovely lunch at The Forest Bakehouse in Longhope (Gloucestershire) which we never knew existed despite us driving past the area for the past 13 years. (http://www.forestbakehouse.co.uk)

The Forest Bakehouse at Longhope has a small seating area and a thriving orders/collection business judging by the various bags full of various types of bread awaiting collection.

Preparing the croissants for future baking were two members of staff one of whom had cut the dough with an ingenious looking hand held device that created the triangle prior to them being rolled into shape before baking.

Back to Clearwell, visit to Rob, wrap presents for Christmas but we are not here for Christmas this year, our 3rd non Clearwell Christmas in 14 years.

Friday 22 December

Drive to Didcot Railway Centre to meet up with Sarah, Ali & Harry as well as Flic & Cody for another Santa train ride.

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Festive hats at Didcot

Santa does get around and is exceptionally busy, so to get to see him twice is quite an achievement!!

Sadly, Gary has to be on call and Mel is to meet up with us later as her flight from the IoM and the trains from Gatwick to Didcot couldn’t get her to us until half an hour before the ride – she makes it though.

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Harry with Santa on the Santa train

Before the Santa train ride we amble around the shed with an assortment of vintage steam engines and other railway artefacts all of which are available for touching and some for clambering on, much to the enjoyment of the kids of all ages.

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Ali the ticket collector

The Santa ride was not as good as the one in the Isle of Man the previous Saturday according to Flic, especially as the organisers had run out of presents for kids of Cody’s age.  Harry enjoyed his present though.

Meanwhile, our usual haunt for Christmas and the Perrygrove Santa Trains were doing a roaring trade.

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Santa trips at Perrygrove (picture from Heritage Railway Magazine)

Sarah, Ali & Harry go off to get some more Christmas food and we go off to find our house for the next week in Maidenhead.

All I shall say about the house we rented for the week in Maidenhead is that it was “interesting” but if I then said we would definitely not recommend it and would not be going again, I hope you get the gist.

My words on this are not going to be minced.

Ruby Falls and Rock City

 

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Ruby Falls

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Rock City

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 20 November

It was cold last night, below 40F, even colder than it would be at home! Traffic noise on the road outside wakes us early; best to get even numbered rooms, not odd numbers in this hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Chattanooga).

Another sunny morning and after breakfast we manage to get onto Lookout Mountain early for some photos but sadly, much of the foliage had now dropped after a couple of days of wind but smatterings of red were still visible.

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Colours on Lookout Mountain

 

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Gate to nowhere

Pass the site of a now demolished dwelling although for some reason, someone forgot to undo the gate!

Our first visit today is Ruby Falls, the third of the Combo ticket and we are so glad we got there shortly after it opened as there were numerous school type parties later in the morning despite it being Thanksgiving week when, we understand, schools are out so a bit perplexed as to why there should be school parties.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

To access the falls we are taken in small groups down in a lift about 600ft, met by our guide, and join up with others already down there.

We are now lead about 2/5ths of a mile along tunnels which are well lit and scattered with stalactites and stalagmites some of which had interesting names such as Donkey, Steak & Potatoes and Elephant’s foot and you can see why.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

We eventually reach the falls which are well worth the walk.

Lighting on the rocks is timed so we have to get photos in quick before we have to make our way back along the same route to the lift back up to ground level and the observation platforms.

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The Ruby Falls

There is some building work to extend the “reception” area but this did not detract from the experience.

Whilst the guide was good at keeping us all together on the way to the falls, he failed miserably to see if we had all followed him back – we could have stayed with another group had we so wished and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Most of the other groups were of school children though so not sure we would have fitted in.

Drive now to Rock City, park up and join a very long and slow queue at the adjacent Starbucks for a piece of cake and a drink.

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Civil War relic on Incline Mountain

 

Get chatting to a family from Clermont, Florida whose children have some allergies (I overheard what they had ordered), like Harry. They have found it difficult to source dairy free food but the situation has got better in the last few years.

They very kindly provide us with a couple of restaurant names and outlets that are good for allergies including Walmart in Clermont which is good for dairy free items.

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Water wheel in Rock City

Rock City itself is set high up on Look out mountain with lots of boulders that create passageways that all lead to an outcrop with a waterfall and some magnificent views over, it is claimed, 7 States.

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The plaque says it all!

The Rock City complex, it seemed to us, was easy to get into without a ticket but perhaps it was just a bit lapse at the time we were there, as when we left, the entrance was manned.

Once in, we followed one of the three routes available to us which are well signposted, towards the rock outcrop and overhang which I suppose is the main attraction.

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Narrow passages and lots of stairs

Before you get there however there is a maze of passage ways, tunnels and walkways to navigate which would take a long time to walk.

One or two very narrow squeezes between rocks but a lot of stairs which Sal wasn’t too keen on so we missed some of the passageways out.

We go over the stone bridge first for a magnificent view of the 7 states and some great foliage on the slopes below us.

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Rock City Swinging Bridge

Coming back however we do venture on the swinging bridge.

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View of the Viewing platform

We get to the entrance of the crystal cavern but decline to go all the way down – what goes down has to come up again which is not good in Sally’s world.

Christmas is coming and they have a night time light spectacular already in place which takes a bit of an edge off what we are seeing as they are not lit up.

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Ubiquitous Rock City sign

The Rock City very distinctive sign dates back to 1936 when a certain Garnet Carter commissioned a painter to paint an advertising message on the roofs of barns along major roads in the area to entice people to the area as Rock City was “off the beaten track”.

The advertising worked and adorned over 800 locations from Michigan to Texas to Florida and is now a much loved pieces of Americana.

Back to the hotel for a rest and gather together all our belongings – we leave tomorrow – before heading out at rush hour in even worse traffic than yesterday to Hamilton Square for a browse in a couple of shops and a meal in Bonefish. Had we joined their “frequent users” club we could have got tonight’s meal for 50% having been to Bonefish twice already on this trip.

Mental note to join before we come to the US again!

Tuesday 21 November

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39F this morning!

Another cold night but not as windy as it has been.

After breakfast we set off back south to Atlanta airport, arriving somewhat early but thankful for access to the Business class lounge as we have been upgraded to Business on the way back.

Our holiday is nearly over.

Wednesday 22 November

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View from the Delta Lounge at Atlanta

Despite the flat seat, limited sleep is had on the overnight flight and to cap it all, I am awoken by a bang on my knee by the breakfast trolley and Sal’s breakfast order has to be relayed to the stewardess more than once, she was useless. Also, not really impressed with the choice of films; nothing to get excited about.

Wiz through immigration at Heathrow, luggage (3 bags) off quickly and we are landslide at within 30 minutes of landing so head for the arrivals lounge for a freshen up and then bus to meet Flic & Cody at Reading.

Tip: Don’t buy your RailAir bus ticket to Reading at the National Express counter, buy it from the driver it is £3 cheaper, AND, they accept Railcards.

Offload extras at Flic’s, mainly presents and summer clothing and head for Gatwick where we have only a 20kg allowance per bag and have only booked two bags in. One of our bags ends up exactly 20kg, quite an achievement I thought.

Arrival back home in torrential rain, Mel picks us up: it has been like this all day apparently- some roads are flooded.

We missed lots of things that we could have gone to and really didn’t do justice to some of those we did go to during our two days in Chattanooga but it was very enjoyable and to think that in 2 and a half days we:

  1. Had a meal on a train
  2. Visited Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and station
  3. Went up Incline Railway
  4. Learnt about the Civil War battle for Chattanooga and took in some of the places
  5. Went down into caves to see Ruby Falls
  6. Clambered along narrow passageways to reach a viewing platform at Rock City
  7. Saw many wonderful houses on Lookout Mountain

Well, another holiday is over and we have packed so much into this one, Artists studio in Asheville, Waterfront in Savannah, Lovely houses in Florida, Animals at Animal Kingdom, Segway at Mt Dora, a Helicopter ride over part of Disney, all the things in Chattanooga and of course meeting up with our friends, Laura & Jim, so, here’s to the next holiday.

Our next booked holiday, apart from Christmas in Maidenhead is a cruise in 2019 but I am sure we will manage something next year, we just haven’t booked anything yet.

 

Chattanooga (Pt 1)

IMG_5465Friday 17 November

We are off up North from Kissimmee through the undulating countryside of Central and  Northern Florida and into Georgia again.

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Raw Cotton

Pass some cotton fields on the way, by the side of the I-75, just what we were looking for two years ago with Phillip & Sylvia, as well as big bales of picked cotton.

Just for a change, we stop at a Cracker Barrel for lunch which is a first, we had never been in one before and I must admit probably won’t be rushing back, it wasn’t the best experience.

Get message from Jim & Laura who have checked out: apparently I have to ring my bank as they won’t accept the refund from Westgate for the deposit. That’s funny, I had thought it was only a hold for the amount! These things are sent to try us.

We had opted tonight for a night at Wingate by Wyndham in Macon rather than a hotel in the Holiday Inn chain.

About 8 years ago we stayed at a lovely one in St George in Utah but this was nowhere as good although it did have a waffle machine to use at breakfast. Meal tonight in Applebee’s.

Saturday 18 November

Head north for the drive through the outskirts of Atlanta stopping for a coffee at Highlands of West Village and into Chattanooga.

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Condos at Highlands of West Village, Atlanta

The roads are crowded and with lots of road works in Chattanooga itself, and am surprised we find the hotel (Holiday Inn Express) with our ancient Sat Nav.

After a brief relax we drive to look at the Choo Choo hotel, the incline railway and Rock City on Lookout Mountain, just to get our bearings.

Some absolutely fabulous houses up here on the mountain with some wonderful Autumn colours still in evidence and many residents sweeping up the fallen leaves, of which there are many, for possible collection later by the authorities.

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Autumn colours

Our dinner tonight had been pre arranged, a “Dinner on a Diner” experience on the Tennessee Valley Railroad which is to the East of the centre of the City.

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Diners on the Diner

An old station from a long since closed public line  along with loads of coaches and a few engines, both diesel and steam, have been restored by volunteers some of whom were there to greet us, sell souvenirs and see us onto the train.

Once aboard, our diesel hauled train, when it left, trundled very slowly along the tracks so as to not spill the Tomato Bisque soup and the copious amounts of free non alcoholic drink being served by the very diligent and polite staff.

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Static display locomotive at the Tennessee Valley Railroad

Once at the end of our journey, now in pouring rain, the Diesel engine was detached and passes us on the adjacent line to hook up at the other end and pull us back.

We had opted for a table for four hoping that we could get into conversation with some locals, however this was not to be as the two women opposite us were more content on taking selfies and obviously did not want to talk, unlike those at most of the other sets of tables.

By the time we had returned to the station – the train went much quicker on the return journey – it had virtually stopped raining and we set off back to the hotel.

If it had not been for the others on our table of four, this would have been a good experience and very reasonably priced as well for what we had.

Sunday 19 November

The wind overnight has blown in cold air and a lot of the leaves off the trees. We set off after breakfast at temperatures around the upper 30s for The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel after first having a daytime view of the railway museum at the Tennessee Valley Railroad where we were the previous night.

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All aboard!

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4501 powers away

There is something about hearing and seeing a steam engine pull away from a standing start and we were lucky enough to see one whilst we were there – very evocative from so close by although sadly not with an engine whistle. See my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7dtVORzwzg.

We depart for the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel as of course this was the hotel about which many people have sung.

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Gents toilet in Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel

It’s sign stands out as a landmark for miles but when there you can see that whilst it had character some time ago, the place is lacking the “wow factor”.

Now I don’t want to sound “pervy” but I just had to take a picture of the wonderful gents toilet in the hotel and I understand the ladies was just as grand. Not sure when it had been refurbished but for a public toilet, it had a “wow” factor!

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Choo Choo station tree & ceiling

The Christmas tree in the foyer is grand, the ceiling good, but in all honesty, the Isle of Man Bank’s Athol Street branch has a ceiling that is certainly more colourful.

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Chattanooga Station exhibit

What you have to appreciate though is that this was a grand terminus station from a bygone era which has over the years suffered from a lack of investment by the hotel that now owns the building.

Outside on the tracks, there is evidence of preparations for Christmas with one loco in particular decked out for children to be photographed by but of course that includes “older” children as well!

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Boys and their toys

It of course had to be engine No. 29 after the track number in the song.

Spending an hour there including the gift shop was probably about long enough especially in the cold biting wind so we leave for a lovely hot Chocolate in the cafe opposite, The Hot Chocolatier who for a very reasonable cost provided two sumptuous hot chocolates.

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Hot Chocolate anyone?

Chattanooga has a free electric shuttle bus from one end of the business centre of town to the other and although it was a Sunday it was still operating so we jumped on this for a round trip ride of about 25 minutes just to see some of the buildings.

No commentary although some of the locals were interesting in themselves.

There are four main tourist attractions on nearby Lookout Mountain (Incline Railway, Rock City, Battle for Chattonooga film and Ruby Falls) and a combo ticket for about $60 each bought at the base of the Incline Railway is good vale for money. Two to use today and two for tomorrow.

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Incline Railway

The incline Railway, not the first up this particular mountain, is supposed to be in one place, the steepest passenger railway in the world, surpassing all those in Switzerland at the time we visited. (However, since our visit, Switzerland has opened an even steeper one.)

It certainly lived up to it’s name near the top, the views from the railway and at the observation deck at the top were wonderful, today is now a bright sunny but cool day.

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Chattanooga from the top of the Incline Railway

A couple of blocks away from the summit of the Incline Railway and passed a few houses with views to die for over the city and beyond, is the 2nd of the attractions, a film of the events of the Campaign for control of Chattonooga that occurred in the US’s Civil War.

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Lookout Mountain dwelling

The film itself is embellished with some spotlights on a relief map to show you where they are talking about which is probably the best thing about the film as some of it was a bit disjointed referring too many times to the same thing by different words.

We however got the gist.IMG_5846

The free leaflet on Chickamauga and Chattanooga supplied by the US National Park Service is however very informative and well worth the read.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get into Point Park, it was getting cold so back down the Incline Railway to see if we can get some good photos but by now the sun has gone behind the hill so it will have to be tomorrow morning.

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Craven’s House

 

Instead, we venture in the beginning of dusk to The Craven’s House where the confederates had an HQ and where there are memorials to some of the fallen including Hooker’s Column.

 

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Hooker’s column

The whole area surrounding Craven’s House is scattered with tablets that describe the action that occured in the vicinity during the Civil War. It certainly was a significant area of the conflict and in many ways a turning point for the outcome of the civil war.

 

Dinner tonight at PF Chang’s in Hamilton Square which is about a 6 mile drive away but the traffic even for a Sunday evening is horrendous.

 

Last few days in Florida

20171116_122626Wednesday 15 November

A quiet day with final presents bought for those at home and a brief time sitting by the poolside and in the warm pool.

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Old Town Kissimmee

We did have time for a walk around Kissimmee old town which hasn’t changed much since we were first there over 20 years go although the fairground rides seem to have been enlarged.

Manage to find a shop that sells beads, rather like the shop that our then 12 year old daughter managed to mis-spell her name!

Sally has soldiered on though throughout this holiday not feeling particularly well but we decided to see if a Doctor could provide something to alieviate the trouble before we get home (next Wednesday) as she has some at home but not with her.

Did you know that as a non US resident, the cost of a doctor’s visit would be  US$326 which somewhat left us speechless; the NHS in the UK and similar schemes in the Isle of Man and Jersey have a lot going for them. She decides to soldier on without

Thursday 16 November

Visit Tohopekaliga lake near Downtown Kissimmee, a place we had not been to before.
A very tranquil place with lots of bird life and a few baby alligators as well as one big one and a few turtles all basking in the hot sun.

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Lighthouse on Tohopekaliga Lake

We did a bit of basking in the sun as well on some chairs conveniently placed by the side of the lake wall.

Lunch at Savion’s Place in Kissimmee with a brief walk past the hardware store and mural and followed this up with a Helicopter ride over part of the Disney properties.

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Disney Springs from the air

The $15 ride advertised by International Heli-Tours on the US192 is just up and along the 192 for a couple of minutes so to get a view of Disney from the air, you have to pay more, which we opt for.

Nice view of Disney Springs, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon but the others were in the distance. Unfortunately, the camera was on the wrong setting for some of the time so limited pictures and videos.

Dinner tonight in Red Lobster, and the waiter was knowledgeable about Jersey and IoM; probably not too surprising in these parts.

Finished Canasta with a series win for Laura & Richard and finish packing – we are off up north tomorrow.

Friday 17 November

Check out by phone and leave Laura & Jim for another hour as they are flying back from Tampa later today and have a late check out and a long wait. We however are off up north and into Georgia staying one night in Macon before heading further north for three nights in Chattanooga so today is all about travelling.

 

Segway at Mt Dora

20171114_145250Tuesday 14 November

I have now read the judge’s sentencing remarks for that trial I was a witness in back in April and I do get a mention: “Mr. Read emerges with credit, because he knew nothing about the case at all when he attended the meeting of 18th May (2005) and reacted with obvious probity to the Tenon requests for information in Summer 2006.”

Certain parts of the judge’s ruling do not cast a favourable light on others so if I was still wanting to work this would be good for my CV! I think today is going to be a good day.

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Segway’s for sale

We are off to Mt Dora for a Segway tour around the city. After a coffee at the Cuban restaurant (Palm Tree Grille & Bar) at one of the town’s crossroads listening to live music, we wander a bit past a lovely little shop “Piece of Mine” before arriving at our allotted time at the Segway centre ( Segwayofcentralflorida.com ) where they not only will take you on a tour, they will also sell you a Segway.

After a pre tour video and practice, we are joined by another lady and the 5 of us plus leader are off in single file with me being designated as the back marker with the yellow vest as we will be for some of the time, on the normal public roads.

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Segway @ Mt Dora Lighthouse

I never knew that there was so much to Mt Dora as not only do we ride around the city’s roads and pavements (sidewalks) we head off for the lake front and a stop by the lighthouse for a photo opportunity and then through a wooded area, not as rough as the Isle of Man Segway but certainly rougher than others we have been on in Charleston (USA), Queenstown (NZ) and Bedford (UK), towards a boardwalk along the coast.

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Mt Dora main street

After another brief stop to rest our legs, we are off again at higher speed now with a free for all around a car park and up into a residential area before returning back into the town.

On the way we pass over the main crossroads – it does feel funny being in the middle of the road on a Segway with moving traffic all around you – before dipping down to another part of the waterfront to a former timber merchants area where boats were built before the railway and roads reached Mt Dora.

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Waterfront home @ Mt Dora

Finally, we are back in the main centre of the town and passing Cody’s on 4th, a cafe whose name has of course significant meaning for us as our grandson of the same name is virtually 6 months old.

Want to watch more?  Try this: (https://youtu.be/-F5iUo8CVSE)

If only we could buy one and use it at home – a fantastic way to travel. The tour was great and again, a different experience as we were on busy public roads and as a bonus, no one fell off or got injured!

Afternoon drinks and Key lime pound cake just had to be had in Cody’s on 4th and a good choice it was.

We had time for a drive back along scenic country roads following a route found on the Internet and dinner tonight in Bonefish again as it has a special Tuesday menu.

Only a few days rest before we are off again.

 

Florida (almost) without Mickey (Part 2)

20171112_121638Wednesday 8 November

Another shopping day planned, this time to the shops at the end of international Drive where at about 11 am it was already crowded and very hot. A few presents bought but nothing much took our fancy and the Bose shop didn’t have the headphone covers I wanted.

Thursday 9 November

Laura & Jim go off to some shops around Beuna Vista whilst we head off to Davenport down the side roads and stop at Books-a-million for some reading material, JC Penney and Big Lots.

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Fireworks from our window

For some reason, the fireworks were an hour later than previous nights and with a lot more spectacular finale.

Friday 10 November

It is cold today, not shorts weather at all. A day out to Winter Park (negotiating the horrendous traffic on the I-4) as it is changeover day and we are having a full service of the two apartments.

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Winter Park lunchtime

The Main Street of Winter Park has improved vastly over the years with loads of cafes and restaurants, all full with probably locals as there wasn’t much evidence of tourists.

Lunch in Panera Bread, after Jim had a haircut in a place he has been to before. I don’t recall there being a Pottery Barn there before, I just wish we could take some of it home with us.

Since we were in Winter Park last (2 years ago)there is a Commuter train to Orlando that now is extended throughout the day (Suntrain) and very noisy it is too as it leaves on it’s journey northwards.

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Florida’s “Venice” canals

Although we have taken the lake tour before, it is an enjoyable hour or so being driven from one lake to another through the canals, managing to avoid the fallen tree trunks along the way.

You learn something every time you go and this was no exception – this time it is that a house was recently moved from one side of the lake to the other side by boat!

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Lakeside housing, Winter Park

Our drive back to Westgate is through downtown Orlando for a change.

Laura & I are now 6,4 up on Canasta after being 4 one down. More extra special fireworks tonight.

Saturday 11 November

Lunch with Laura & Jim’s friends, Alice and Sharon at Columbia in Celebration with everyone dodging heavy showers to get into the restaurant.

Afterwards, Laura & Jim decide to head off to Florida Mall for some retail therapy and by all accounts found it very crowded and difficult to park.

Sunday 12 Nov

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Floridian Hotel foyer

Our only real Disney activity, and it is just a walk through Disney Springs, but with the weather somewhat cloudy and rainy, thousands of others have decided to do the same.

We had hoped to book an afternoon tea at The Floridian Hotel (a Disney hotel) but you have to book up almost 6 months in advance to get in; a walk through the hotel lobby is well worth it though.

Rather than walk around in the rain, we opt for a cinema visit to see Victoria & Abdul; an interesting take on society at the turn of the 20th Century. Again, a wonderful performance by Dame Judi Dench.

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Cirque building at Dusk

By the time the film has finished the rains had cleared although as it was still cloudy, the crowds hadn’t. A slow walk around the lake afterwards with a ride back by boat.

Monday 13 Nov

At last, the court case I was a witness in has finished back in April and even though one accused was neither found guilty or not guilty (hung jury) there is to be no retrial so I can dispose of my papers when I get home.

A long judgment from the judge needs reading though just for my information. (My Blog 7 July – “Courts” mentioned this) Most of the accused were found guilty and are now serving sentences in jail of up to 11 years each – a long time bearing in mind their ages.

Laura & Jim have a free ticket that expires today to the Kennedy Space centre so they are off to try and get a lunch with an astronaut as well; they succeeded.

We do some retail therapy and visit Bealls before heading ourselves to Florida Mall (very empty today!) for the bits of shopping we need including some replacement covers for my headphones that I couldn’t get earlier.

By some seating virtually outside the Bose store, we find a wallet on the ground which is stuffed with new $bills, possibly about $1000 depending on denominations, a number of cards and 2 UK driving licences.  For some reason they were very grateful that it was us who had found it – can’t think why!

Establish the name of the individuals – a couple from the UK off a cruise ship – and whilst Sal waits on the seats, I get my headphones repaired by which time 2 very anxious people are talking to Sal – it was the people who dropped the wallet; a very lucky couple, who had all their Credit cards and cash in one wallet.

They might not be doing that again in a hurry!

Dinner tonight in Texas de Brazil, not the cheapest meal but very filling, we all have eaten too much.