Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Airing My Views -- Airbnb

     Having never tried Airbnb, I was a little leery of the experience but circumstances made it sound like a good idea.  Jack and I were traveling with our daughter so instead of the usual one hotel room, we were going to need more space.  Money was definitely an object.  She lives in Penzance in Cornwall in a small flat so we had to arrange accommodations for us there.  Lodging is not inexpensive there and the exchange rate makes it worse. 
     Looking on the Airbnb web site, I found a listing for a room on a main shopping street.  The listing was totally honest about the fact that it might be noisy but the price was really right and the location good.  We had the upstairs room on the left and shared a bathroom with the flat owner who was a delightful young woman.
     I loved the view out of the window and the only disconcerting street noise was when a truck unloaded at 4 a.m. 
     I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Here's a close-up of our little "kitchen."
     Rachel supplied coffee, tea, milk home-made granola, fantastic bread from the bakery downstairs, Cornish butter and jam.  We had a small table and chairs under the window and could not have asked for more!
     Our next stop was Cardiff where we stayed upstairs in this home.  Our rooms had obviously been kids' rooms -- and, like our grown kids, they'd left a lot of things behind!  The beds were comfortable and our hosts couldn't have been more accommodating.  Again, we had a little fridge, and this time, a microwave, with breads, cereal, etc.  The microwave came in handy for leftovers from the night's dinner!  We were actually in the village of Llandaff -- on the west side of Cardiff. This was a great location for walking -- handy to an excellent Thai restaurant, Bay Leaf.  We walked to Cardiff Castle -- but it was a "fur piece;" fortunately the bus stop was handy!
     This was one of the nicest places we stayed -- we had the whole house!  It was a few miles north of Aberystwyth.  It had been completely renovated -- everything was sparkly and new.  We had a complete kitchen, however, our host provided no food.  Warning: when a Welsh person tells you something is a short walk, take it with a grain of salt!  Zoe and Jack decided to leave the car and walk to the nearest grocery.  They were exhausted when they got back!  We were here two nights so we made a grocery run when we were sightseeing in Aberystwyth.  We had a cooler in the car and packed lunches most days -- another cost-cutting tactic!
     This was our living room.  Notice we have a TV!  Most places didn't.
     And a lovely kitchen!
     We spent several nights in northern Wales and again we had a whole house -- not as fancy as our Aberystwyth house, but certainly adequate -- and breakfast items were supplied.  The only drawback was that it was in a very nondescript village.  It was handy for the day trips, though.
     The kitchen table was nice and large -- good, since the owners had stocked the house with games and puzzles.  Zoe and I had a jigsaw on the table most of the time we were here -- finished it before we left.
We enjoyed the back patio -- especially since we had found a store with Diet Dr. Pepper -- Zoe's and my drink of choice!
     After we toured north Wales, we crossed the border into England and spent the night in Telford, home of the world's first cast iron arch bridge.  We were back to sharing a bathroom but our rooms were great and our host super.  Parking is at a premium in Telford so he drove me into the historic district so I could take photos without having to find a place to park.  It didn't hurt that he looked a bit like Colin Firth!  And he cooked us breakfast!
     Our next stop was our only not-so-great experience.  I have a feeling that in future, this place may be dropped from Airbnb.  Again, shared bathroom, but there was only one guest besides the three of us.  The scary thing is that there were a number of other rooms and the write-up said that up to 20 people could be hosted.  I didn't see another bathroom so I found that unbelievably scary!  I didn't even take a picture!
     Our last stop was in Weston-super-mare; what a wonderful way to end our trip!  Our rooms were so cozy and although we shared a bathroom, we had it to ourselves. 
     This is the closest we came to what we would consider a traditional B and B.  Our hostess was charming and she fixed us a lovely breakfast.  The house was full of antiques and interesting pieces.  We were tired and anxious to get back to Penzance so we didn't spend any time in the town.  It's a popular seaside resort and I'd love to go back and spend more time.
     All in all, our Airbnb experience was overwhelmingly positive.  I'd certainly do it again.  From start to finish, all our exchanges were satisfactory.  Online prices were quoted in dollars and we could sort options by price.  I was shooting for $100 a night for the three of us -- and most of our stays met that criterion.  The Airbnb people were extremely helpful in getting us set up and we had plenty of correspondence with our hosts before our stays.  Next time we'll know to ask if food items are supplied.  After our stays, we were asked to rate our experiences -- and our hosts were asked to rate us, too.  I know there are questions here in the U.S. about bed taxes, etc. and I understand the concern of more conventional accommodations -- but it really worked well for us. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Heart Doc Martin

Apparently a lot of other people do, too.  When we were in Cornwall visiting our daughter Zoe we HAD to make a pilgrimage to Port Isaac -- Port Wenn in the series. When I asked our guide, County and Parish Councillor Andy Penny for figures on tourists, he couldn't give me precise information. He did tell me that there were 800 people in the village and, last August, the public toilets in the middle of the town were flushed an average of 1000 times a day. Unknown factors: who used their own toilets --  or toilets in local restaurants or hostelries -- and whether some visitors needed the facilities more than once!  The influx of tourists based on the popularity of the TV show "Doc Martin" was, however, probably responsible for the necessity of creating another parking area outside of the historic district.
This shot, taken from the west side of the harbor looks across to Fern Cottage, the building used for Doc Martin's surgery in the show. It's the smaller of the two gray buildings between the white ones.

Here's a close-up -- thanks to my telephoto lens. We didn't walk to it -- it's on a steep hill and my legs were about to give out by the time we got to the other side of the harbor. Wish I had!

The school house where Louisa (supposedly) teaches is on the cliffs on the west side of the harbor. It served as the village school until 1976. Now it's a hotel and restaurant and is used in exterior school shots in "Doc Martin."
They weren't filming while we were there -- they only film every other year -- so the closest we came to seeing one of the actors was this van!
Now that we're back home, we love the program even more having been to the filming location. And I have great respect for the actors, particularly Martin Clunes, when I see them striding rapidly up and down the hills!

After an initial look around, we climbed the steep street back to the top of town to Fresh from the Sea, an absolutely delightful little family-owned, family-run eatery.

The late September day was overcast, but the weather pleasant enough to sit outside. Tracy Greenhalgh and her mom Enid run the tiny restaurant and fish market while Tracy's husband Calum catches the merchandise! While we were eating, Calum came in with the day's catch and visited with me as he put bands on the lobster claws.

You can see why that's a good idea!

Calum catches lobsters and crabs -- and the Greenhalgh ladies turn them in to attractive and tasty entrees like this crab salad served in its own shell.

Later, overlooking the harbor, Andy pointed out Calum's boat -- it's the small one on the far right.

Andy showed us a number of other sites in the village -- there are lots of interesting little nooks and corners you don't see on TV. He also told us the local boys, his son included, love to hide around corners and stick their hands out during filming. I think they get points if the camera-people don't catch them at it!
Councillor Penny is talking to Zoe and both are standing in front of one of the oldest structures in Port Isaac.
I don't have an exact date for the building but there's a good chance it dates back to the 1700s. One of the places Andy showed us was Squeeze-ee-belly Alley, said to be the narrowest public thoroughfare in England.
The harbor is a working harbor, complete with crab and lobster traps
but is also a prime attraction for tourists and artists.
There are a number of shops and galleries in the town but Port Isaac Pottery on the far side of the harbor was one of our very favorites. The designs were unique and beautifully done.
As is so typical in England, we'd spent hours in Port Isaac under a gray sky. Of course, when we walked to the car park, the clouds lifted. This is the view from the coastal path looking toward Tintagel.Ah, well, I guarantee this won't be our last visit and maybe we'll catch the sun the next time.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Welcome back, me!

I can't believe it!  After being locked out of my blog for over a year.....I'm back.  And now I don't have time to catch up.  So here are some  teaser photos that will show up in the future when I start filling in my adventures.  I chose one from each of the nine trips out of state that I've taken so far this year.  Can you match the photos to the locations?  Your choices are:  Louisville, KY; Galveston, TX; Healdsburg, CA; Cornwall, UK; Door County, WI: Dallas, TX; Shreveport, LA; Adairsville, GA; and St. Louis, MO -- that's an easy one!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Little Rock Through My Lens

When the Central States Chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers met in Little Rock in June, several of us competed  in a photo shoot-out.  We began at about 5 in the afternoon and went until after dark.  We started out early the next morning and shot until late afternoon.  We then had to pick ten photos for competition.  The categories were: Bridges, People, Architecture, Action and Sense of Place.

I'm having difficulty moving these around on the page, so they'll show up rather haphazardly but these are my ten entries.  The top picture was taken in a beautiful sculpture garden along the Arkansas River.  The sunset shots were all taken of and from Little Rock's Big Dam Bridge.  Yes, that's its name.  It's a marvelous pedestrian bridge over a dam on the Arkansas.  Little kids (and I) enjoy talking about the bridge because it sounds naughty!

How quickly the light changes!  This shot, of another bridge was taken the same day.

This shot was taken shortly before the last bridge shot.  You can see the clouds gathering.

More of that Big Dam Bridge!

The farmers' market provided colorful subjects -- and they tasted good, too.

I loved this shot of this beautiful mother and daughter at the market.  It was the winner in the "People" category.

I caught this gorilla at the zoo -- animals were entered under "Adventure" -- and I think this could have been an action shot if I hadn't been on the other side of a wall.  I believe if you click on the picture, you can make it bigger.  If you do, you'll see the whites of his eyes.

There were a lot of obvious shots in Little Rock, particularly in architecture -- the Old State House, the Clinton Center, the state capitol -- so we all tried to get different pictures.  This is a detail of the little Victorian home which was used as the exterior of the Sugerbaker sisters' house in "Designing Women."

Another sunset on the Big Dam Bridge.  You can see how the ramp on the left leads up to the major portion of the bridge.  This is the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the world -- and that's damn big!