Category Archives: Royal Garden Party

Top Five Posts

Always, at this time of the year I spend some time looking at my statistics. This year I have been looking back over eleven years to find my Top Five most visited posts…

Number 5 – Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

First posted – August 2013
Total visits – 16,792
Best Year – 2015, 8,717 visits
Consistently recording hundreds of visits each year
2020 – 194 visits

Number 4 – Sorrento – Vesuvius, Living on the Edge of Danger

First posted – April 2010 in a series about a holiday to Sorrento
Total visits – 18,183
Best Year – 2013, 4,213 visits
A very steady performer and always in my annual Top 10
2020 – 376 visits

Number 3 – Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted – April 2010
Total visits – 18,287
Best Year – 2013, 5,016 visits
Did well for 4 years followed by a steady decline
2020 – 18 visits
I feel a repost coming on.

Number 2 – Royal Garden Party

First posted – June 2009
Total visits – 23.010
Best Year – 2015, 5,871 visits
Year after year, has always done well, especially in May when Palace invites go out.
2020 – 212 visits

Number 1 – Haugesund and The Vikings

First posted – March 2011
Total visits – 24,710
Best Year – 2012, 14,773 visits
It took me a while to understand this but then I found out that people in USA were searching for Minnesota Vikings Football and being directed to my post. Google put that right and the visits bombed immediately.
2020 – 9 visits

Thanks everyone for reading and Have a Happy New Year.

In The June Garden

Garden 02Garden 01Garden 03Garden 04

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (9)

  

About this time of the year I start to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

One of my most successful posts is about the day I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and I get lots of odd Google referrals about this one.  This year my favourite just has to be – do I get expenses to attend royal garden party?”

Cakes at Royal Garden Party

Let me take a moment here to explain.  Just to be invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party is a bit special in itself and believe me there is going to be a lot of expense involved – new suit, new outfit, overnight stay in London, taxi fares etc. and most people would gladly deal with this just to be part of the occasion so I have to say that expecting the Queen to pick up the bill sounds rather republican to me and whoever asked this should not have had an invite in the first place.

Next up, I really like this one –what did the captain wear on the Titanic?”

Titanic Experience Belfast

Edward SmithI visited Belfast recently and went to see the Titanic Exhibition and Museum.  It was a super place and I recommend anyone to go there and I think what I learned on that visit may just well help here.

Around the exhibition there are lots of pictures of Captain Smith in his White Star Line uniform so I am forced to conclude that except when he went to bed and most likely put on a pair of pyjamas that this was his favourite form of dress.  Another thing that I can be certain of is that Captain Smith didn’t wear a lifebelt because after the Titanic struck the iceberg he went down with his ship and drowned!

This being a Travel Blog I often get advice requests and this year I have picked out these two related topics –What to do in Croatia if it rains?” and  “Will I need my umbrella in Burgos?”  I am not a weather expert of course but then neither are most of the people who claim to be – has anyone ever seen an accurate TV weather forecast?  Bearing this in mind my answer to both these questions is find somewhere to shelter and then let me remind everyone – it doesn’t rain in bars. 

When I travel to Europe I rather like hiring cars but what I don’t like is the hassle of arranging car insurance.  I have had a lot of trouble getting past the car rental clerk and taking possession of the keys so I am well able to answer this next one – how much is gravel protection and sand and ash protection in Iceland” and the answer is quite a lot, probably more than the daily hire rate for the vehicle.

 Iceland Volcano

Sixt in Iceland have come up with a brilliant wheeze.  I thought that I had purchased fully comprehensive insurance but the desk clerk told me that cars suffered so many stone chips because of the gravel roads in Iceland that this had now been excluded and could be purchased at an additional cost of €9 a day under the description ‘gravel damage’ and just to be safe I agreed to buy it.

Then it became almost surreal when he explained that further cover was available at €10 a day for volcano damage.  Volcano damage – WTF?

Upon enquiry he told me that if a volcano explodes it can generate enough heat to strip the paint off the car and that this was not covered either.  Well, I considered this for a moment and came to the conclusion that if I was close enough to an exploding volcano for it to strip the paint off the car then it was almost certain that I was likely to be in a lot of trouble and great personal danger and the last thing that I was going to be worried about as my flesh melted into a puddle of grease was the condition of the paintwork on the hire car (gravel chipped or not) so I sensibly declined the offer to purchase the additional cover and quickly paid up just in case he next tried to sell me snow or rain insurance in case the car got wet!

Ryanair Cabin

I can always guarantee something cropping up about Ryanair and cheap flights.

I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again. – Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines.

My favourite this year isRyanair seat 08f”  which, to be honest is way to specific a request for me to be able to deal with and provide a satisfactory response.

Human Penis Museum Iceland Reykjavik

Sex always crops up of course because it is estimated that well over half of all web searches are about this subject.  This is an odd one though – penis shaped door knob”, who for goodness sake is likely to type that enquiry into a search engine? Interestingly however I once worked with someone who used the office internet to make the enquiry ‘knobs and knockers’.  She was restoring an old Welsh Dresser at the time and although her enquiry was completely innocent she had some explaining to do to the IT section when she received the unexpected results of her search.

Not being an anatomist I am not an authority on penises and not being a manager of a Home Depot I am not an expert on  door furniture of any shape but I did visit the Penis Museum in Reykjavik and this is probably close enough to have recorded the visit to the blog.

I am going to finish with this one and because I simply do not have the answer I am going to ask you all out there if you can help – Does a dog die if it doesn’t have sex?”  

Here are the previous posts in this series of weird internet searches…

It’s Nice to feel Useful (1)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (2)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (3)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (4)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (5)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (6)

It’s Nice to feel useful (7)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (8)

Scotland – Edinburgh, Old and New

Edinburgh Castle

Take a look at a map of Edinburgh and you will see that it is conveniently divided into three separate areas.  To the south is the old town, to the west is West End and to the north is the New Town.  Our hotel was on Princess Street so we started with the neoclassical New Town where the roads are broad and grand and symmetrical and we looked for somewhere for lunch.

Edinburgh can be expensive which is explained by the fact that it enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the UK, after Bristol it is voted the happiest city in the country, unemployment is low and it often appears in lists of the best places to live.  Earlier this year, it was said to be the happiest city in the UK in a survey by the Office for National Statistics.  These facts seem to have conspired to drive up prices in this, the commercial centre of the city so we looked for a Wetherspoons* pub where we could be certain of prices more consistent with our holiday budget.

Edinburgh Map

After a quick lunch we made our way out of the New Town to the Old and made towards the castle by what looked to be the most direct route along a path up Castle Rock, ignoring signs along the way that there was no access along this route on account of preparations for the Edinburgh Tattoo in a few days time.

This was a foolish thing to do because after an energy sapping climb there was indeed no access on this route and we had to turn around and go back to the road.  The most annoying thing about this was that lots of people had made the same mistake and not one of these tipped us off as they walked back down the hill as we were going up.

Anyway, we eventually made it to the road and entered the sinuous labyrinth of the Old Town which in layout is in total contrast to the orderly New Town with a general appearance and character that remains firmly medieval.  Here are tortuous alleys, twisting steps that knock the breath out of the unfit and tightly packed streets. We climbed a particularly steep set of steps through a narrow alley with overhanging buildings so tight we had to breath in to pass through and finally emerged at the Castle Esplanade.

Edinburgh Royal Mile

Now we had a decision to make – to visit the castle or not?  Kim wasn’t keen, she has been before quite recently, it was rather expensive (£16.50), there was an almighty long line of people queuing for tickets and it was starting to rain.

So Kim won this particular debate and we made our way out of the castle and back to the top of the Royal Mile, a tourist trap street with whisky stores, wailing bagpipes and street entertainers on every street corner and a succession of shops selling everything tartan.

Well, everything tartan is not strictly true.  Later this year I am going back to Scotland to play golf with a group of pals and I had set my heart on a loud tartan polo shirt for making a fashion statement on the links.  Do you think I could find one? Absolutely not! There was tartan everything from baggy underpants to kinky suspender belts, from socks to bobble hats, from sporrans to contraceptives but never a polo shirt so I had to make do with a golf cap and a nylon kagool that I spotted on a sale rack at the back of a shop.  Now I hope that it rains so that I can wear it.

My shopping over and done with and Kim in a state of shock we continued to walk down the Royal Mile but the rain suddenly got heavier so we dashed for cover and a visit to St Giles’ Cathedral which is called a cathedral but really isn’t because Edinburgh falls within the Diocese of St Andrew’s a few miles away.  The interior is quite interesting with some stained glass windows and memorials but once again photography was forbidden and so our visit only lasted as long as the rain shower outside.

And so we left the old town and back on Princess Street the lure of the department stores was too much for Kim to resist so while she went off to the shops I walked east to Calton Hill.

There is a lot to see at Calton Hill because based at St Andrew’s House it is the headquarters of the Scottish Government with the Scottish Parliament and other notable buildings including Holyrood Palace near the foot of the hill.  The hill is also the location of several iconic monuments and buildings – the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument (which is almost always used in photographs and postcards of the city), the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory.  That is a lot of sightseeing!

On the way back down I visited the graveyard to see the tomb of the philosopher David Hume and a memorial to American Scottish soldiers and then returned to the hotel where we just sat in the window of our hotel room and enjoyed the views along Princess Street and across the road all the way along to the castle.

Well, believe it or believe it not, Kim had spotted a small restaurant that she thought looked promising for evening meal and so, not being inclined to argue with her on the matter of restaurant selection we later made our way back into the New Town and enjoyed wonderful food and a great bistro atmosphere at the Café Marlayne that was good enough to make us make the instant decision that we would be returning there for our second meal tomorrow.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill

*Wetherspoons is a UK chain of pub/restaurants which champions cask ale, low prices, long opening hours, and no music. It has become famous for converting large, unconventional premises into pubs. This one used to be a bank.

Scotland – Edinburgh, First Impressions

Edinburgh Scotland

We caught the train to Edinburgh from Newcastle Central and I just knew that there was going to be a problem when a group of misbehaving middle aged women joined us in our carriage with tee shirts announcing that they were celebrating ‘Marie’s 50th Birthday’.

There were signs in the carriage saying keep the noise down but I don’t think any of them could read so they cracked the cans and topped the bottles and made an almighty racket all the way to Edinburgh. I actually prayed to God that they weren’t staying in our hotel.

We found a seat at the other end of the carriage and ignored them as best we could and enjoyed the ride. Trains used to chatter but now they hum and the journey took us along the Northumbrian coast past Alnwick and Lindisfarne, Holy Island and Berwick and then followed the Firth of Forth towards our destination.  It was like a vivid reminder of our two day mini bus excursion in Turkey  with the Dagenham Womens’ Darts Team.

There is surely no finer city to arrive by train than Edinburgh! If there is, then please let me know?

In most cities the railway terminus is out of town, somewhere in the scruffy district with the graffiti and the dirt, somewhere well past its best but not so in Edinburgh because Waverley Station (the only station in the world named after a novel) is right in the beating heart of the city and once ascended from the subterranean platforms a visitor is deposited immediately into Edinburgh’s principal thoroughfare – Princess Street. The A1, the road that links Edinburgh to London, four hundred miles away and a road on which Scottish Nationalists would construct a border crossing at Berwick upon Tweed if they had their way.

And so it was that we emerged from the underground chambers of the railway station and arrived blinking and unsure into the centre of the capital city of Scotland, the seventh largest city in the UK, but only the second in Scotland after Glasgow. The largest UK city is of course London with a population over seven million and the smallest is St David’s in Wales with a tiny population of only two thousand.

Immediately we were met by the unpleasant reception of dozens of beggars hanging around the station concourse and we picked our careful way though the dirty sleeping bags and on to the wailing siren of bagpipes on every street corner. There was no mistaking that we were in Scotland!

Adjacent to the station there are a number of fine old hotels, The Caledonian, The Scotsman, The Royal British and the Old Waverley where we were staying. It was only a five minute walk from the station and we presented ourselves at reception and were booked in and handed our key and we made our way to the fifth floor. Edinburgh hotels are expensive and I was not expecting anything special but when we opened the door we were delighted to have a suite at the front of the hotel directly opposite the Scott monument and with a fine view of the castle.

From the tall windows there was a grandstand view of the city. There were soaring towers of granite with green copper domes standing straight backed and proud like soldiers of a Highland regiment, high pitched roofs to deal with winter snow, salt and pepper coloured buildings with symmetrical windows that would please a mathematician, terracotta chimney pots in orderly rows and flagpoles with waving Saltires but also quite surprisingly an equal number of Union flags. The 2015 vote on independence split the country down the middle and the evidence was here to see.

The buildings here rise imperiously above a narrow gorge where railway lines squeeze themselves into the city in between gardens of rain soaked velvet green and above it all stands the castle, a magnificent structure rising from the ground as though announcing the beginning of a volcanic eruption.

And opposite, almost within touching distance was the soaring Gothic memorial to the novelist and poet Walter Scott. Some people don’t like the memorial but I think it looks just fine.

On account of the view I could have stayed in the room all afternoon but that wouldn’t have got a lot of sightseeing done so as soon as we had unpacked and could tear ourselves away we went back to Princess Street with a plan to see the city.

Scott Monument Edinburgh

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (8)

Queen Elizabeth

An Invite to a Royal Garden Party…

Around about this time of year a lot of people are receiving invitations to attend a Royal Garden Party at either Buckingham Palace in London or Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and this always leads to renewed interest in my post about the time I was lucky enough to be invited.

After  Vikings and the Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine  the post is my third most visited with fifteen thousand hits  Most people reading the post arrive there by way of Google with simple search questions like ‘Royal Garden Party’, ‘how to get an invite to a Royal Garden Party’, ‘Dress code at a Royal Garden Party’, etc. etc.

Some of them however really make me giggle!  This one for example: ‘Buckingham Palace Garden Party, where to get changed?’  I think it is good enough of the Queen to invite people to trample all over her back lawn without expecting her to provide changing facilities as well, can you imagine the queue of people trying to get into Her Majesty’s en-suite!  And then there is this one – “do people travel in the clothes they wear to royal garden party?”

The answer is simple, if you are staying in a hotel overnight then get changed around about midday and then get a taxi to the Palace but if you are travelling there on the day then I am afraid you will have to go in your finery and take appropriate abuse from teenagers and beggars on the Underground!

I rather liked this one recently – “how can I go to her majeztrys garden party” and I can only guess that this is from somebody from Poland where they don’t have a Royal family any more.

I also found this one amusing – “is there somewhere for guests to sit down at royal garden parties?” .  Well, there is the throne room of course but it is unlikely that any one will get that opportunity –  but of course there is somewhere to sit down, the Queen as more garden furniture than Home Depot, the Home Hardware Stores or B&Q.

What about this one – “bakingham palace London garden party invite” – presumably the enquirer thinks this is where they film the TV series – “The Great British Bake Off”!

If it Rains at a Royal Garden Party…

Just as last year I have spotted a couple of search questions relating to the weather.  The first is “what do people wear for the royal garden party when it is raining”  which is a question that if you have to ask means that you shouldn’t really be going but I will continue to try and be helpful and suggest a smart raincoat or mackintosh, a sensible hat and appropriate shoes but however bad the weather is don’t expect to be allowed inside in a North Face kagool or a sou’wester and a pair of wellington boots!

Queen Elizabeth with Umbrella

My favourite still remains: ‘If raining does Royal Garden Party move indoors?’ which has to be one of the dumbest search questions that I have ever fallen off my chair laughing at.

There are 8,000 guests at a Royal Garden Party and although the Palace is huge (77,000 square metres) I am fairly certain that the Queen wouldn’t want 8,000 damp people in muddy shoes and wet clothes wandering around over the royal carpets, pilfering the treasures and helping themselves to the gin!  I cannot get this vision out of my head of the Queen making an announcement from the back door, ‘oh do please come inside all of you, you’ll catch your death of cold out there’ or perhaps the more direct Prince PhilipDon’t stand out there getting wet you silly buggers, bloody well come inside!’

Bad weather at a Royal Garden Party isn’t unusual however and there have been washouts in 1931, 1937, 1944, 2000 and 2009.  In 1996 a bolt of lightning hit the garden and two people were burnt and injured.  And it isn’t just rain that can spoil the day because in 1958 there was a heat wave and it was so hot that several guests collapsed with heat stroke and had to be treated in hospital.  There was no such thing as sun protection cream in 1958!

Read the full story…

heavy rain at the garden party

Malta, Mosta and the Miracle of the Bomb

Mdina Street

Mdina, Malta…

Leaving the unfortunate Fontanella Tea Rooms we were pleased to see that the weather was back to its spectacular best so we walked around the streets some more and made our way to the biggest building in Mdina, St Paul’s Cathedral standing erect and proud next to a section of the old city ramparts.

It was an interesting if not especially memorable Cathedral and after a short while we returned to the honey coloured streets and resumed our search for an alternative refreshment stop.  This didn’t take long and we found a tea room in a secluded courtyard which was no way near as busy as Fontanella but we soon found out that this was on account of the cakes not being anywhere near as good.

Mdina is quite small and we soon found ourselves going down the same streets as just an hour or so ago so we headed for the main gate exit and returned to the bus stop.  It was ten to three and the bus was scheduled for five past.  Ten past came and went, twenty past, half past, I found an inspector who suggested that it might be stuck in traffic (bus inspector’s first excuse every time I expect) and then when one did turn up it turned its destination light off and replaced it with ‘not in service’.  Malta now has a seriously bad bus service so we broke a golden holiday rule and together with another equally frustrated couple reluctantly agreed to take a taxi.

Mosta Malta

Mosta Church and the Miracle of the Bomb…

The next stop was at Mosta, for no better reason than to visit the Cathedral which was built in the nineteenth century and has a dome that is among the largest in the World – in fact (and you do have to be careful about these sort of facts of course) it is the third largest in Europe and the ninth largest in the World.  You can believe that or believe it not but the most remarkable thing about the Mosta Dome is the miracle of the unexploded bomb.

During the Second-World-War it is claimed that Malta was the most heavily bombed place in the World and on April 9th 1942, during an afternoon air-raid, a Luftwaffe bomb pierced the dome (two others bounced off) and fell among a congregation of more than three hundred people attending early evening mass. It did not explode. Apparently it rolled down the aisle and into the street outside so it was a good job that the doors were open!

I suspect that that part of the story may not be completely accurate and has been embellished and corrupted by the passing of time but this is the way they like to tell it.  I am sceptical if only for the reason that with a bomb crashing through the roof I imagine that there would have been quite a lot of panic and congestion in the aisle as people rushed for the door.  There would have been a mad dash and a tangle of bodies that would make modern day bus stop queues look like a Royal Garden Party and the bomb would be most unlikely to get through.

One version of this event states that when a bomb disposal squad opened the device it was found to be filled with sand instead of explosives and contained a note saying “greetings from Plzeň” from the workers at Škoda Works in the German-occupied Czechoslovakia who had allegedly sabotaged its production.

A nice story but not necessarily true.

Mosta The Miracle of the Bomb

To be frank there is nothing else to see in Mosta so we made our way to the bus stop and prepared for another fight to get onto the bus.  Sure enough there were far more people waiting than there could possibly be available seats but eventually it arrived and somehow the driver managed to squeeze us all on board.

This was a very uncomfortable journey and it was about now that I thought that it might be appropriate to make alternative arrangements for the journey back to the airport the next day.  I might be adventurous but I am not completely reckless and was not prepared to take the risk that the bus wouldn’t turn up or if it did that it would be full and wouldn’t stop or that I might lose my luggage on a chaotic journey.  Back at the hotel I booked a taxi which was expensive at €30 (ten times as expensive as the bus) but was worth it for peace of mind.

It was the last evening so we took a walk to the beach, sat on the balcony and played cards and then just for a change went to our favourite restaurant in Malta.  Later we went to the Limelight Lounge again to snigger at the entertainment and then we returned to the room to pack.

I had enjoyed the stay in Malta.  Kim had enjoyed the stay in Malta.  She said that she loved Malta and would gladly return.  More Malta stories coming up then…

Limelight Lounge Mellieha Bay Hotel