Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Lake District: A review

Sunday, October 11th, 2020 | Travel

Last month, I completed EpicMan Windermere triathlon and as COVID had cancelled all of our holiday plans, we decided to make a long weekend of it and spend some time in the Lake District.

It was my first time spending any time there because I live in Yorkshire and so why would I need to go to other places?

The roads are not great for driving or cycling. One of the nice things about Yorkshire is that the roads tend to be pretty wide and once you get off the main roads, quiet. Perfect for cycling. Driving around the Lake District was unpleasant because the roads are super-narrow and there is little visibility. Add cars everywhere to that and it doesn’t feel like a great place for cycling (even if you really love hills).

That said, we were around the south end of Windermere, so maybe that is just a traffic hotspot. But the triathlon bike course took us away from Windermere and the traffic did not get any quieter for at least the first half.

It’s a pretty hilly, which makes it great for walking up and down hills, but less good if you like the flat.

We went to Bowness and that was unpleasant. It was like a run-down seaside arcade with nobody wearing masks indoors. We stopped at an outside cafe and had fish and chips. Which is awful. I’m not even sure they had a fryer it was so bad, but I’m not sure how you could get fish so dry and stale in a microwave. And it was cash only. Even in a rundown seaside town in Yorkshire, you would get good fish and chips. This was almost inedible.

Kendall was lovely. Everyone was wearing masks in Asda.

The scenery around Windermere was very pretty.

Conclusion

The Lake District is a beautiful area of the country and has some good walks. But it is not a patch on Yorkshire.

Weymouth

Sunday, September 29th, 2019 | Friends, Travel

It has been a few years since our last group trip. Venla did come to Anglesey, but only in utero. As such, we were long overdue for a getaway. I fancied doing IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth, so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to combine the two.

Our accommodation was a The Bakehouse, ideally situated near the pavilion with the beach one hundred metres away on one side and the quay even closer on the other.

The weather was sunny for the first few days, and we hit the beach several times. We walked up to Nothe Fort and explored the museum.

Saturday included Weymouth parkrun, and a BBQ and Sunday was taken up by IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. The second half of the week was rather wetter. It rained throughout the race.
As a result, on Sunday, we headed to the Sealife Centre. This seemed like a nice, dry, inside activity. But not in Weymouth. Most of their exhibits were outside, including the penguins, seals and Venla’s personal favourite: the scary duck. We were rather glad to get home and dry.

Most of all, though, we just hung out. It was a great opportunity to spend a week with friends.

AA travel essentials first aid kit

Friday, May 25th, 2018 | Life

I’m not sure how many people actually carry a first aid kit around in their car. But, being tediously well-prepared for most things, I do. It’s not something you really test, you just buy one, put it in the car and assume that when it comes to it, it will do its job.

In the case the AA kit I ordered from Amazon, this turned out to be a less than stellar performance. The first time I tried to use the scissors, they snapped.

I tried to duct tape them back together to get a bit of leverage but it was no use. First time I have ever needed the kit and it failed me. It’s a good job it wasn’t an emergency of things could have gone south quickly.

The Beast from the East

Saturday, March 10th, 2018 | Life

When the Finnish military does operations, the enemy always comes from the east. Nobody is saying that a specific country is that enemy, it just happens to come from that direction. Just like now, when nobody is saying that the horrible weather is a punishment by god for the way Russia treats gay people. Even though we all know it is.

It’s been pretty heavy. Although I’m not sure I agree that it’s been heavier than anyone can remember. Take a look at the snow in 2013, 2009 and 2008, for example.

And, as usual, the country grinds to a halt because that’s more cost-effective than paying for all of the things we would need to carry on.

Does the snow really stop us?

Whether we really need such as grind is questionable, though. Schools across Yorkshire closed. Venla’s daycare closed. Many offices, including Univar and Sky closed.

But why?

University remained open. I went to all of my lectures and lab sessions. The Edge remained open, too, and all of my exercises classes were still on. I even went swimming thinking I would have a quiet pool and found it just as busy as normal. It feels like an odd parallel world where half the people are panicking and the other half are just getting on with life with absolutely no disruption.

How about travelling

Travelling is one area where the snow can get in the way. But it doesn’t always have to stop you.

I had booked a night away for Elina and me to celebrate her birthday. A lovely country hotel in the Yorkshire Moors. Of course, then this happened.

It should have been an hour and a half’s drive. We set off up the A1, got all the way to the A170, up Sutton Bank and then, just 14 miles from our destination, found the police had closed the road. So, we had to come back down the A19, across to the A64, up the A169 and over the A170 in the other direction.

This turned the entire journey into three and a half hours of driving.

A massive pain in the ass. But we made it, in a little two-wheel drive Astra with regular tyres on.

A dip in the pool

And if there was any remaining doubt that normal activities can be accomplished during snow, here is Elina and me taking a swim in the outdoor pool.

To be fair, it was a heated pool. The heating wasn’t working properly, so it was colder than it should have been, but still not the frozen block it would have been without the heating.

What is the fastest route across Leeds Dock?

Sunday, August 21st, 2016 | Science

leeds-dock

If you work at Sky’s Leeds Dock offices, chances are you will walk in from the city centre. Once you get past the traffic lights on Crown Point bridge you can choose to go left, taking the steps down by the waterside, or go right and take the road round the back of Mumtaz. But which way is fatest?

To find out, I set about recording my walk time from the traffic lights to the post outside of Sky 2. I did six runs in total, trying to mix up the days randomly to get a representative average. Here are the raw times I recorded.

Run Steps Road
1 3:33 3:24
2 3:44 3:33
3 3:44 3:36

Here is the same data, in seconds, with averages.

Run Steps Road
1 213 204
2 224 213
3 224 216
Average time 220.33 211
Total variation 26.89 26
Mean variation 8.96 8.67

Based on the table, we can see that the road seems to be around 9 seconds faster than the steps (211 seconds compared with 220 seconds). However, the typical variation, 8.82 seconds, is almost as high as the difference. Therefore we can only have so much confidence the results are accurate. It also suggests that other factors such as weather and fatigue have as much impact as route selection.

Conclusion

On average, the road route seems to be slightly faster than the steps route. However the difference is small and so it seems a sensible choice to choose the steps instead if you prefer the more scenic route.

Anglesey

Saturday, August 13th, 2016 | Friends, Travel

anglesey-panorama

For this year’s group trip, we headed to the north coast of Anglesey where we had a villa booked in Cemaes Bay. As you can see from the photo above it is a beautiful location and the villa was situated right on the coastal path. A short walk down from there and you could find the nuclear power plant.

power-plant

Unfortunately, they did not have a visitor’s cafe. Local attractions were not that important though: we were mostly interested in the hot tub. The weather was good for us and after an entire day of drinking in said hot tub, pretty much everyone except Elina and I were horribly sunburnt.

beer-bottles

Not a bad effort for the first 24 hours we were there. The rest of the week consisted of barbecuing, more hot tub time, and occasionally going to the pub.

bbq-lunch

We also had a look round Beaumaris Castle.

Beaumaris-Castle

As ever, it was a super chance to catch up with friends that we see too infrequently. Roll on 2017…

group-photo

Icelandair

Monday, June 27th, 2016 | Reviews, Travel

icelandair

We flew to Iceland with Icelandair. How original. It was the most expensive airline we have ever flown with. It was a little over £600 for return tickets for the both of us.

Seat reservations

This was a disaster. We pre-booked our seats so that we could sit together. However, when it came to checking in online, our seats were changed so that we were no longer together. I spoke to both the baggage drop-off people and the people at the gate, but none of them could help. In the end, the woman sat next to me was kind enough to swap with Elina so we could sit together.

However, what is the point of having a seat reservation system that you do not honour. It is actually worse than having no seat reservation system as at least in that case you would know to check in straight away.

Ryanair have a brilliant seat reservation system. It costs you some cash, but we had a whole stewardess whose entire job seemed to be guarding our seats so that nobody else sat there. When Ryanair blow you out of the water for customer service, maybe you should take a look at what you are doing.

We had no problems on the return flight and received the seats we had booked.

Delays

On the outgoing flight, we boarded on time. However, we then sat on the tarmac for an additional forty minutes before going anywhere as the luggage was loaded, then unloaded, then loaded into a different part of the plane.

On the way back, our flight time was pushed back by one hour fifty minutes. This worked out well for us, as we were notified beforehand and meant we could sleep in a little bit longer, but the fact that it was changed was still annoying. Even after this, it took off twenty minutes late.

Entertainment system

Every seat comes with a built-in touch-screen entertainment system. This was pretty annoying. Before the flight takes off it shows adverts for the whole time. Elina finds flickering screens irritating but there was no way to turn it off.

Once the flight started it turned off automatically. You then had to turn it back on and watch another two minutes of adverts before it let you do anything. It then had a limited range of media available. There were maybe a dozen TV shows to pick from, including three episodes of Friends and three episodes of Family Guy. There were also films, a flick tracker, some games for the kids and a few other features.

Economy comfort

Our outgoing flight was economy comfort rather than economy as by some bizarre twist, this worked out to be the cheapest option. I think it was a mistake to do this because it was much nicer than flying coach and now that I have experienced it, I do not want to go back.

On Icelandair you get a bigger, nicer seat. It is only two seats each side (coach is three) with a generous armrest in the middle that you can put things on. You also get a blanket, a bottle of water, a pair of headphones and hot food and drink included, including alcohol.

Economy

On the way back, we were back in coach. This was fine, the leg room was pretty standard for a plane and having nobody in the seat next to us provided us with a great place to put our coats. You still get the entertainment system and free soft drinks.

Airport security fast track

Monday, June 13th, 2016 | Travel

airport

We used Manchester Airport fast track for the first time last week. We received a discount on it with our car parking, though it is only about £4 anyway. Is it worth it? I would say that it probably is.

It’s pot luck of course. You might end up going through on a day when the regular line has no queue. Or you might find that there are long queues in both regular and fast track. In fact, it reminded me of the speedy boarding passes in Come Fly With Me.

However, on the day we went through there was a queue at the regular line, which from what I remember seems fairly standard for Manchester, whereas we got straight through. Given the cost is fairly small in relation to the wider cost of the travel, it seems like it is worth the gamble to speed the process up and reduce my stress levels.

Airport lounge access

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 | Thoughts, Travel

view-of-airport

We had lounge access included in our outboard flights to Iceland. This was my first experience with an airport lounge, so I was keen to see what it was like.

We had access to the Aspire lounge at Manchester. It was easy to find but there was some confusion on arrival. Everyone else had lounge passes, but as we had electronic tickets, we had not received any. It wasn’t clear on their system that our ticket included lounge access, but this was eventually cleared up by a senior member of staff.

The area itself was reasonably comfortable, with a variety of seats and tables. There were power sockets embedded in our table, but no view of any flight boards. The view was reasonable.

Food and drink

The food and drink is included. We ate our way through a pastry, two bowls of soup, four bags of crisps and a slice of cake. They also brought out a few sandwiches as we were leaving.

Alcohol is included, so if you are a heavy drinker you can probably reclaim your £20-30 entry fee in that.

lounge-breakfast
What healthier way to start the day than with a pastry and a vodka-cranberry for breakfast?

Downsides

The wifi was awful.

The lounge has no toilets of its own, but shares communal ones. These were tiny. One of the things I like about airports is that they usually have large and airy toilets, but these were not.

The lounge was not too busy, but then neither was the airport. Assuming it scales up proportionally, I think you would find that at busy times, escaping the bustle of the airport would only bring you into the bustle of the lounge. Online reviews seem to agree.

Conclusion

If it’s included in your ticket, then it is worth taking advantage of lounge access. If not, I’m not sure. I need a bigger dataset before I can really make a recommendation.

chris-and-elina

The 4-Hour Work Week

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Books

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is a book by Tim Ferriss. It it he lays out his history of how we reduced his commitments and built a living from outsourcing everything to free up his time to live a fulfilling live.

He starts by laying out his vision for how everyone can do it. I was skeptical given how much of a classic self-help scam it sounded like it. I was full of promises about how great my life would be and case studies of people transforming their lives. I stuck with it because if nothing else, it was interesting.

Having finished it, I’m now sold though. This is a great book.

Ferriss makes some key points. Nobody really wants to be rich. What you want is a rich person’s lifestyle. Therefore having loads of money may not be required. Secondly, once you accept this, the aim is not to make loads of money. You just need to make enough money to cover what you want to do. Therefore the aim is to cover your costs with the minimum amount of time, thereby freeing up the maximum time for living.

He suggests doing this in a number of ways. Remote working for example. If you can get a remote working agreement, you can work anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. This is most of the world these days. Once you are out of the office you can focus on being productive and probably do your work in half the time (avoiding the half where you spend answering emails, sitting in pointless meetings and procrastinating).

Muse products are even better. These are small online retail businesses. You import a product in a tiny niche and sell it on for a large markup. You don’t compete on price because you are not bothered about building a huge business, you just want a revenue stream. Then you outsource everything – manufacturing, distribution, customer services. It then runs with very little input.

Finally, he talks about outsourcing your personal life. Get a virtual assistant, either in the UK or a cheaper one in India. Have them do your boring and repetitive tasks such as filtering emails, managing your diary, doing background research, paying bills and a million other small tasks.

He recommends not reading the news. I agree, and wrote about this last summer. He also advocates speed reading, which probably isn’t a thing. He reminds you of great strategies like reversal trials: it makes everything more palatable even though it is hardly ever switched back.

Of course just being able to think of a high-mark-up product in a forgotten niche is no easy thing. It reminds me a lot of the draw an owl meme:

draw-an-owl

The step is essentially “find the magic product” and that is never going to be easy. However, what impressed me about the book was its comprehensive advice as to how to do everything else. Want to know how to find suppliers, test the market with advertising then outsource distribution? It’s all in the book.

Ferriss gives details of all the companies, services and websites he uses. A bold thing to do in a world that moves so fast as your book will be out-of-date quickly. There are no abstract details here, it is all about exactly how he did it and practical strategies to implement.

How much of the stuff in this book I will actually be able to implement remains to be seen. Ferriss is clearly an intelligent guy with business smarts, and so replicating his success is a tough challenge. However, I was impressed and inspired by the message that it is possible to escape the 9-5. It is not the hollow book you might expect.

4-hour-work-week