Posted in Travel

End of an Era

So in the very week that I was gearing up to write about all my previous travels, the company I have travelled most through has gone into administration. Farewell my beloved Caledonian Travel.

Specialist Leisure Group LTD

Apparently this company owned Caledonian Travel and its sister company based in England, National Holidays. I was not aware of all the other companies and I’m very sad and sorry for all the shop workers, hotel staff, and behind-the-scenes staff who’ll now be out of work. The shop front for Caledonian Travel was a wee local post where you could go in and book your holiday in person. Bare in mind that I’ve travelled with them for so long that back in the day there wasn’t a facility to book online, in person was the only way to do it. To be fair, I always went in anyway. It was great to chat with the staff and just have that personal customer service experience to make the holiday process that bit more exciting. At one point I was booking and going on so many holidays that some of the staff remembered me!

The times they are a-changing

I promise I am going to cover all the holidays one at a time but to set the scene, the very first Caledonian Travel trip we took was in 2008 and it was a 14-day coach tour to Italy. Then I did it again in 2009 and 2010 alone. I also did a mini cruise to Bruges with them in 2009 prior to going to Italy, it was only 3 days but just to make sure I could travel myself at 20. There was a gap for a bit when I got a flat and was perpetually skint, but a quick cheap weekend in Liverpool in 2011 helped. Pater treated me to a mini cruise to Amsterdam in 2012 as a wee treat for getting into university. Then the unholy trinity (Mater, Pater and I) did the whole Italy trip in 2013 (first time for mama) which was insane and great. Since then I’ve not been back to Italy with them but I’ve done Belgium and the Netherlands, and a fairly disappointing trip to York (the hotel was hellish). And now I’m sad that I won’t get to do these trips anymore, I never got to Paris nor Ghent or Antwerp. I know flying is faster but I love the whole ritual to coach travel; stopping in Gretna for a pit stop, arriving in Hull and boarding the ferry, getting the meal deal and eating until I’m bursting at the buffet and hanging out in one of the three bars on the boat, or going to the cinema. Unless another bus company starts running these trips then no way is it cost effective for me to travel to Hull and do it as a foot passenger.

Like I’ve said, coach tours are pretty much the reason I saw so much so young and on a tight budget. I met so many wonderful, crazy, interesting people on the tours that I wouldn’t have if I’d flown. We all became a tight-knit group, especially on the 2009 trip but given that I was about 30 years younger than most of the others I didn’t really manage to keep in touch with them, but I’m sure they remember me as the baby. I do hope there is a way to continue the coach trip tradition… that can survive Corona and Brexit.

Anybody ever travelled with Caledonian Travel or another company? Who prefers coaches to planes? I didn’t fly until I was 24 and I’m still freaked out by it!

e x

Advertisements
Posted in Day Trip, Travel

Rosslyn Chapel

I’m sure everyone has at least heard of Rosslyn Chapel, mostly thanks to the spotlight given by Dan Brown in the Da Vinci code it helped bring even more tourists and conspiracy theorists to the church located on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Day-Trippin’

Back in March, I’d planned to visit Rosslyn Chapel with the family in April but obviously the tour company cancelled it when it was announced that churches across the country had to close for the foreseeable future. I was miffed to say the least, April is prime day-trip season in Scotland and I’d blew through most of my holiday allowance at work so doing something on my days off was a perfect idea. It started as a random conversation of somewhere different we could go to, love Arran so much but Scotland has a lot to offer and I still feel I’ve barely seen anything. Given that none of us have a car, it looked a bit awkward to travel from Glasgow to Rosslyn. The website does suggest trains and busses from Edinburgh… but then, a chance advert in a newspaper Pater found Strathmore Travel running day trips to Rosslyn chapel of all places! It included pick up from Glasgow, travel there and back and a wee lunch/tea in the cafeteria for £49 a head. Freaking bargain.

The New Normal: Virtual Tour

Alas, it’s as tragic as everything else we’re missing out on. Scotland has had some of its best ever weather in the couple of months since lockdown started and it’s grating on us all – especially considering how rotten the winter was and it lasted until the second week in March. But the kind folks who look after Rosslyn Chapel also know how to look after their fans and disheartened would-be visitors and have released an online virtual tour of the chapel. Please see here. (I would recommend viewing it on a laptop or computer, my Chromebook froze trying to view it!)

It’s lovely that we can view it while safe at home, and I think it really plays into how lucky most of us are to have access to technology and be online during this crisis. The fact that we can virtually visit the places we can’t physically go to right now is comforting. Remember google street view exists! You can walk down the main street of your favourite city and pretend you are there.

Not the review I wanted

I wanted to have a series of great pictures and to detail the whole day on here, which I can’t do. Obviously there’s a great deal that we can learn online about it, like now I know you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the church, so thankfully there is the virtual tour. It looks quite small, but given how old it is and the detail in the carvings it more than makes up for it. While researching this, I found a great post on the Rabbie’s website about Rosslyn Chapel. Rabbie’s are a travel company that do tours around Scotland including to the chapel. This post isn’t sponsored, I’m just trying to throw some good karma in the way of local companies that they’ll survive Corona.

Featured Image Credit: RCT/Vic Sharp Via Rabbie’s Website.

Let me know if anyone has already visited Rosslyn and what you thought of it? Anyone planning to go (want to road trip)? Do you do day trips in your home country?

e x

Advertisements
Posted in Books, TV

The Stand Remake

I love Stephen King. Whether you know me or not, you’ll quickly learn how much he’s impacted me as a writer and a reader. I love his tireless ability to just keep going and I can only hope to one day feel a little of what that would feel like. But then he’d tell me to stop saying feel and describe it instead, show, don’t tell.

When worlds collide

Early last year I downloaded The Stand on Audible, mostly because it was around 45 hours long and I figured it was a great use of my one monthly audible credit. I was also still doing my masters in Creative Writing and there was a different assessment coming up. I had to write an actual essay comparing writers or various works of a writer (you can tell the assignment itself had little impact on me) however, I knew The Stand would be a great book to dissect. I ranted and raved about the book to anyone who would listen, and even some who wouldn’t and I felt vindicated that someone else recognised just how easily civilisation could crumble, and how rampant a virus could spread. This was also confirmed with the film Contagion which I saw around the same time. Chilling, isn’t it? I can remember quite clearly conversations I had with others who insisted that none of it was possible, that no virus could have that effect and there’s no such thing as zombies, the T-Virus or Captain Tripps. So now all those naysayers are quiet a year later when we’re all living in it! I will concede though, that Mr King himself, did state that Covid-19 is nowhere near as bad as Captain Tripps in The Stand as that killed 99.999% of the population, whereas Covid-19 is ’eminently survivable’.

In spite of everything people are still idiots

The Remake

Back in 1994 there was a mini-series adaptation of The Stand, which has pretty good reviews online and I spoke to a few people who’ve watched it since. I’ve been tempted to buy it, but then we started living a very slow opening scene of it. Then, a couple of days ago I received a notification online that there was already a remake in the works prior to lockdown but it’ll still be going ahead once we’re all back up and running again. There’s an insanely A-list cast involved, Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail, Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg plus rumours of Marilyn Manson as Trashcan Man (and he’s recorded a cover of ‘The End’ by The Doors, with Shooter Jennings of all people!).

Who else is excited for this?

e x

Advertisements
Posted in Books

Book Ban Update

Way back at the start of this hell year, I made myself a challenge that I wouldn’t buy any new books for 2020. The only exceptions were my Kindle Subscriptions, Audible and the new Dresden Files book.

Temptation is everywhere

I hadn’t realised on the one hand how freaking easy it would be because I’ve not been in a bookshop since… November? Obviously Amazon keep tempting me with their Kindle Daily Deals with amazing books for only 99p, but I’m resisting! I have also cancelled my Kindle Unlimited sub because I’m not reading the books I have in real life, never mind those on my online shelf. I got through a few of them before it cancelled. I have also put Audible on pause for a few months since I’ve quite a collection of lecture series to listen to. Plus, I’m skint.

I like Big Books and I cannot lie

Being home so much has got me looking at the books which I want to read but are too big and awkward to take out to read. One is Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. I’m very much into the Shadowhunters books, but felt the departure from Jace and Clary with the new trilogy, The Dark Artifices – Lady Midnight quite strongly and it took me a bit to warm up to Emma and Julian. Needless to say I was quickly hooked and rushed out to buy the blue edged paperback of Lord of Shadows when it came out… then it sat on my shelf for years. And I’m sorry it did. It was great. I won’t go into a full review here, but I’m pissed as hell at the ending, if you can call it an ending and not a total ploy into making you buy the next book: Queen of Air and Darkness. Which of course, I priced on Amazon – but book ban! I didn’t buy it. My birthday is in November, perhaps the book fairy might visit.

Damn you, Butcher!

While taking a wee break from reading last week, I noticed Prime added the old Dresden Files TV show. I’ve heard so many bad things about it but Paul Blackthorne is a good actor and I watched the Shadowhunters movie twice. Needless to say the show was cancelled after only one season, and I imagine because the fans couldn’t get behind it. They changed so many little things that make no sense why they would need to be changed. The casting was odd for Murphy and the actress who played Susan gave it a good shot, but she was not Susan. I won’t say much more other than, where’s the damn Beetle (car)?, Why is Bob a person? and a drumstick?!?!

Alas, it got me thinking about the new book and that I should probably read back over the summaries and maybe read the last few books to refresh my memory since it’s been six years since the last book. So I jumped onto Jim Butcher’s website and saw the artwork has been released for Peace Talks.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Isn’t it beautiful?

Then I noticed on the upcoming works… a very interesting sentence:

THIS JUST IN: TWO DRESDEN BOOKS WILL BE RELEASED IN 2020! PEACE TALKS HITS STORES JULY 14TH, AND BATTLE GROUND COMES OUT SEPTEMBER 29TH!

Jim-Butcher.com

OMG! That crazy freaking wonderful man has decided to treat us to two books this year! After all it is the 20th Anniversary of The Dresden Files (how wild is that?) I’ve only been around for the last ten years of it and it’s such a big part of my literary life.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Finally some good news during this hell year! I’m holding off pre-ordering just now, maybe I’m hoping against hope but I’d imagine if bookshops are open again by July that they might do a midnight launch of Peace Talks… I guess we’ll see.

Anyway, I’m off to stir myself into further hysteria with all the YA and Urban Fantasy books I have.

Have any of you read the Dresden Files? Might you be inclined to try it now? Would you go to a midnight launch if there was one?

Stay safe and keep reading!

e x

Posted in The Quarantine Diaries, Writing

Coming Up

I’m in organisation mode right now, at home and online. So while I’m taking a quick break from cleaning my house I wanted to let you all know what I’ve got planned for evallone.com in the coming weeks.

Armchair Traveller

Since quarantine is still ongoing, it doesn’t look like we’re travelling anywhere new anytime soon – the next best option? Memories! I’m trawling through my archives; photos and journals, and I’ll be writing up posts of my favourite places, things to do, and best experiences. I’ll also be giving advice on sites in and around Glasgow like museums and great days out.

52- Week Challenge

The last 30-day blogging challenge was fun but a bit hefty trying to post everyday. I found a good year long weekly challenge that’ll allow me to share a little more stuff with everyone but without being so spammy. Here’s a copy of the challenge if you want to join in.

52-week challenge. Credit: Adventures with Amanda

Diversions

Obviously, I’ve still being crocheting nearly every day. Though I did lose my crojo for a bit, more that I couldn’t get any patterns to work for me. Damn v-shaped scarves! I guess sometimes watching videos instead of reading patterns can cause a little difficulty… and trying to work on multiple projects at the same time isn’t a great idea. One ball at a time!

Giant round granny blanket

I finished watching all 12 seasons of Bones a few weeks ago! It was epic and sad, I won’t spoil it but the ending was not what I expected, but for once a show had a decent ending! Naturally that spawned a ‘watching’ slump, I have Ally McBeal for my lawyer show, Grey’s Anatomy and New Amsterdam for medical shows, The Walking Dead for zombies, Winona Earp, Vanessa Van Helsing and Grimm for weirdo shows… so I had no normal crime shows. I dabbled a bit in NCIS a few times and it’s good but I’m not hooked yet… I am however addicted now to Criminal Minds, criminally so. Sorry. I’m nearly on season 3, in a matter of days… How have I never seen this show before? Led by the delightful Mandy Patinkin (also known as Saul in Homeland – I’m also catching up with that) the team is the BAU, Behavioural Analysis Unit within the FBI who profile and catch killers. It’s not Bones but the story lines are compelling and the dialogue is quick-fire and witty.

Books

I just finished reading Lonely Planet’s How to be a Travel Writer by Don George and Janine Eberle, while detailed and insightful, it was also dreadfully negative and off-putting. Perhaps some would say it’s realist but after reaching the last page, I feel far less-inclined now to pursue any kind of travel writing. The suggestions seem to be that if you’re lucky enough to already be loaded then go fly off somewhere and experience the life and culture then come home and write a bunch of articles with different slants and send them off to magazines and newspapers and hope you make a few hundred quid off them. Otherwise, the game is already over for you. Maybe I’m more of a dreamer, I’d like to believe that sometimes things can just work out. In the mean time, I’ll be writing all my travel stuff on here and attempt some other publications soon.

I’ve also ended my Kindle Unlimited subscription because I already have a ton of books in the house and purchased on my kindle (and audible) that I need to get through. Plus I realised that I’ve had most of the same books in my KU library for years so I’m paying £7.99 a month for nothing. I’ve put Audible on pause for a few months, I have a decent stack of books to get through and some are lectures so are 20+ hours and I have IT by Stephen King which clocks in close to 50 hours.

And I’m working on my novel, I promise. I’m feeling very inspired right now, especially since the new Dresden Files book, Peace Talks, is launching in July (likely the only good thing to happen in 2020) so I want to plough through as much of mine as I can before then.

Anyone started a new show? Or enjoying a new book? Let me know!

e x

Posted in The Quarantine Diaries

I am Procrastinator…

Hear me… get back to you later with that one.

Nothing really matters

I’ve done nothing but avoid things for the last couple of days. And why not? It’s not like anyone’s really doing anything now. Except I have a to-do list a mile long of all the things I wanted to progress with when I had the time. Even this post has been sitting in my drafts for four days.. But what even is a day anymore?

Shopping’s not as fun as it was

I haven’t left the house in nearly a week, apart from taking out the bins. I’ll go to Lidl tomorrow but it’s all fairly dramatic these days. Last time a guy smooshed himself against the shelves of cereal as he walked passed me as if I was marching around with open sores, and a woman tutted when I turned my trolly round and headed back up the aisle.

To-do or not to-do?

Alas, I have re-investigated my to-do list and broken it down into the more urgent, pressing tasks and the things that aren’t immediate or take a bit more time to work through – i.e. writing the next chapter of my book. I’m also using this time for personal development, continuing to study Italian (I went back to the beginning again) using an awesome course on Edx through Wellesley College (they have a fantastic range of free courses covering almost everything you could imagine). Plus I am seriously trying to self-teach Dutch, I’d gotten into quite a good rhythm with it last year, but then the tonsils happened. It’s a delightful language and I spend over €60 on Dutch Grammar books from a cracking wee bookshop in the Hague three years ago. It’s the first language I’ve tried to self-teach as is very difficult to find Dutch classes in Glasgow, and not ones that fit my schedule. I did, however, purchase a course on Udemy that focuses on Dutch and Flemish variants so my goal right now is to use that course to get more of an ear for the sounds and practice repeating words and sentences and then return to the grammar books.

It’s a progression from playing the Sims all day, right? (Though there’s nothing really wrong with it.)

What things are you starting to do to stay sane?

e x

Posted in The Quarantine Diaries

The Quarantine Diaries: Wins

As much as I want to cry myself into oblivion for all the things I’m not getting to do, I figured a better use of my time would be to look for the positives, no matter how small. I have a home with a study and lots of books, I have no children, I have wine, I have food and I have internet.

Bringing Italy Home

I resurrected my old espresso machine. I’ve had it for maybe a decade and never really used it; it was long before I was a barista so I wasn’t too sure how to use it properly. It was a happy prop. I dug it out of the shed at mother’s house and brought it home and I finally got round to ordering a milk jug from Amazon. I already have a few different coffee syrups so it was time to set up my home coffee shop!

Espresso machine
My wee espresso machine

I can start my morning in true Italian style with a milky soya cappuccino before switching to espresso or black americano for the rest of the day.

Foamy Cappuccino
A very foamy cappuccino

Or when it’s late and I’m feeling chilly I can have my winter speciality of a Cinnamon steamer: steamed soya milk over cinnamon syrup and topped with a generous dash of cinnamon powder.

Ha! Just saved myself £3 a drink. I’m having fun getting to play barista again, and once it’s all over I can serve my guests proper hot drinks. I used to get compliments on my hot chocolates and mochas, not that I could drink them… But that’s something to investigate post-Corona, vegan hot chocolate powder!

What’s the cost to you?

Now that I’m master of my own coffee again, and that I haven’t overpaid for coffee in about 9 weeks, I’m honestly doubting whether I could ever go back to that. In the olden days when we actually left the house in the morning and took public transport to work, I used to make a large coffee in my reusable coffee cup and chug dark perfection awkwardly while I read about the destruction of Carthage. If said black magic hadn’t woken me sufficiently by the time I got off the bus, I would be tempted as I passed Caffè Nero en route to work. Really it depended on just how exhausted I felt and at what point in the pay cycle I was at. On the times when I did purchase said coffee, it was rarely worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Caffè Nero for the most part, however considering they charge £2.70 for an Americano it only seems right to pay the extra 50p or so to make it a latte instead. But then I ask for soya milk and they groan, and find the old yellow stickered jug and steam whatever is left in it and after a good long while of waiting, they pass me a scalding, burnt-tasting, toffee-coloured drink and I feel instant regret.

Filter for life

Say what you will about Starbucks but every store has a filter coffee machine, plus it’s only around £1.55 for a small, sorry, Tall filter coffee. They’re always very sweet about it, especially if they say it might be a wee wait because they’ll brew me a fresh pot, or if they’re out for the day they’ll make me an Americano for the same price. (The filter truly tastes better though). And if you get the drink to sit in, refills are free for filter coffee, which is perfect for a day of studying.

Some of the larger Costa stores have a filter machine, but I’ve never actually been in when it’s worked or when they can be bothered using it. My own local Costa is a moderate size and I can see they really don’t have space to put in a filter machine, but I’m probably going to be suggesting this when everything goes back to ‘normal’.

If I can make fancy coffees at home, can I ever go back to paying nearly £4 for one? Filter coffee is cheap to make and if even Starbucks can give free refills then I think every chain can recognise the benefits of offering a cheaper, equally tasty, alternative to people who’ve learned they can survive without the unnecessary expense, though who may miss the atmosphere and social aspects of being around people.

I’m curious to see how we will go back, we’re all creatures of habit. I miss hanging in Waterstones and going to the pub for a drink and a chat, but it’s not clear yet how we can return to jam-packed bars, suffocating concerts and busy rush-hour public transport. But I’ll be drinking cappuccino until then. (And I wholeheartedly advise anyone who can and is interested into purchasing a wee espresso machine.)

And on that happy note, coffee hours are now over; it’s wine o’clock.

Moscato Bianco

e x