Category Archives: Travel

Posts related to travel, USA Travel, UK Travel, Holidays and Vacations

Model Railway Enthusiasts Will Think They Have Died And Gone To Heaven

You have to give it to the Germans, when they do something they do it well and with style.  This is exactly true of the Miniatur Wunderland exhibition in Hamburg in Germany.

This amazing computer controlled exhibition is located in a historic warehouse district in the centre of Hamburg, and features dozens of working trains, a full working airport with planes taking off and landing, fire engines attending a fire, a cruise ship sailing up the river, a football stadium, and so many other features that are too many to list.

Currently the layouts, which span 3 floors and 6,400 sq.metres have over 950 trains alone.  The statistics on this place and it’s features are unbelievable, and countless hours of work have gone into it.  Take a look HERE at what this exhibition includes.

Any lover of model railways and miniature layouts on seeing this must think that they have died and gone to heaven.  It’s definitely worth making a trip to Hamburg for don’t you think?

Below is a 5 minute short video of some of the items that are in this exhibition.  It must be even more amazing to see first hand.  I know it’s on my bucket list.

A Day Out In The Purbeck Hills

If you have never been to The Purbeck Hills in Dorset on the south coast of England, it’s hard to describe the wonderful scenery that you are going to find here.

The Purbeck Hills are an impressive chalk ridge that runs from Studland in the east, through the village of Corfe Castle, then continuing west, providing a natural defence for the rest of the county of Dorset from invasion for thousands of years.

Corfe CastleThere are only two gaps in the hills, the Ulwell gap in the east that allows traffic to pass from the seaside town of Swanage north to Studland, and further west the gap at Corfe, with the ruins of Corfe Castle set on a high mound in the middle of the gap.

It was here that we decided to take a day out over the weekend, since we hadn’t been for a few years, and it’s a wonderfully picturesque part of Britain, close to where I grew up.

Corfe Castle itself must have been truly impressive in it’s prime, but it was destroyed during the English Civil War, and even though many buildings in the surrounding village of Corfe Castle have been built with stones that were cannibalised from the castle, it still stands tall on top of it’s mound, and is one of the most scenic castles in the south of England.

The castle is operated by the National Trust, who have done an excellent job of preserving the ruins, without adding any of the trashy elements that you all too often find at other historic sites.

Goats and sheep roam the castle grounds, and provide another opportunity for amateur photographers like myself to snap away and hopefully get a classic shot.  They are also funny to watch as they scamper over the ruins, trying to find vegetation to munch on.

The view from the top of the mound and the Keep is impressive, with not only views over the castle and the village, but of the steam railway that runs from Swanage through the gap alongside the castle to Wareham.

The weather on Saturday was practically perfect, and we enjoyed walking around the castle, and looking inside one of the largest National Trust gift shops, which has a lot of nice local items for sale.

There was another reason for visiting Corfe Castle this past weekend though, and that was to visit The Ginger Pop Shop, an Enid Blyton themed shop.  Enid Blyton was a well known author of children’s books, who holidayed on The Purbeck Hills and who found inspiration from Corfe Castle and many other locations in the area for her books, and she published over 800 of them during her 40 years of writing.

I have recently completed a page on Squidoo about Enid Blyton, whose books I read when I was growing up, and I went on many wonderful adventures with The Famous Five, one of the series that she wrote.

Having visited the shops and toured the castle, we had a Ploughman’s Lunch in one of the old inns in the village, then drove to the town of Swanage on the coast, where we sat by the beach, had an ice cream, and walked around the shops there.

After we headed to Studland and the ferry at Sandbanks, on our way back home, but stopped off at Studland and walked the half a mile or so across the sand dunes to the famous nudist beach there.

Yes it’s a nudist beach, and it’s been there for a number of years, but there are two wonderful things that it has – aside from naked people!  Firstly it’s a lovely spot, quiet and peaceful, not filled with hordes of families with screaming kids.  Secondly the view across the bay to Old Harry Rocks and on a clear day like Saturday to The Needles on the Isle Of Wight is just great.

We sat there for a good half hour, then wandered our way back home. 

We highly recommend visiting Dorset, and especially The Purbeck Hills.  There is so much to see there, especially if you enjoy walking along the cliff paths, collecting fossils, visiting old castles, riding on steam trains etc.  You can also visit the nearby Tank Museum at Bovington, go to the beach at Sandbanks and mix with the Jet Set, or get an all over tan at Studland on the nudist beach. 

The Purbecks has it all.

 More Information Can Be Found Here:

The Purbeck Hills (Wikipedia)

The Isle Of Purbeck

The Purbecks

 

Tony And Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Six

Part 6 of our holiday in Florida sees me injured while Ice Skating, doing a Belly Flop on the ice, and then continuing with a stormy week in Hollywood.  If you haven’t read the previous articles in this series, you might enjoy starting at the beginning HERE.

A Belly Flop On The Ice

On Tuesday of the second week I took the girls to Pines Ice Arena in Pembroke Pines, since they enjoy learning to skate, and hadn’t been there since I last took them 18 months ago.

We had a good time, until my eldest challenged me to a race, and seconds later I was headed flat on the ice in what can only be described as a belly flop!   Being in my 50’s and overweight, putting my arms out did little to soften my fall, and as a result 2 weeks later I am still very sore with bruised ribs and pulled stomach muscles. 

It’s hard to sleep at night because I can only lie on my side, and so I get woken up by a sore/numb shoulder and arm, which causes me to struggle to sit up, twist around and lie on the other side.   I still cannot pie on my front or back even after 2 weeks, it’s that painful.

I guess next time I take them skating I will have learned my lesson, and therefore absolutely no racing.  If they are skating better on their own too by then, I might just let them do more while I sit and watch.

Dragonflies

Swarms of Dragonflies over Hollywood Beach in FloridaWe took the next few days quietly, since I was hurting, and the girls spent lots of time in the pool while I tried to walk around in it, but found lifting my arms up too painful to allow me to swim unfortunately.

It stormed a lot the next couple of days as well, and before the rain on several days the sky was filled with thousands of dragonflies.  It was quite amazing to watch, and if you click on the picture here and look at the sky, those are not specks of dirt that you can see, it’s dragonflies.

A beautiful Dragonfly that posed for me at Hollywood Beach in FloridaFortunately they rarely came close to us, and we aren’t scared of them either, but if you were then it might not be too pleasant.  I did manage to capture one that was perched on a wall, which I posted to Fine Art America.  I wonder if I will get any sales?

Thunder And The Smurfs

One day we took the girls to one of our favourite places to eat, Sweet Tomatoes, and then since it was set to rain again, to see the Smurfs movie.

We opted to not see the 3D version, since neither of them really enjoy that, but managed to get good seats at the back of the theatre and settled down to watch the film.

About halfway through we could hear what sounded like thunder, and although I thought at first it was sound coming through from one of the other 17 theatres in the location, we soon found out that it wasn’t, as we began to hear the rain pounding on the roof.

Then, as so often happens in Florida, the power went out, and we all sat in virtual darkness for about 20 minutes until they could get everything back to normal.  During this time we were making noises, sound effects, singing the Smurf song, and others in the audience were repeating it, so it was quite funny really, and the time passed quickly.

I wouldn’t say the movie was great, but it wasn’t awful either, kind of cute really.

The Last Night And A Full Moon

Full Moon over Hollywood Beach in FloridaIt’s funny isn’t it how the first part of a holiday goes slowly, and then as time goes on the days just whiz past.  So before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to the girls and to fly home to the UK.

My youngest decided to go home to her Mom on Friday night, as she was feeling homesick, but my eldest stayed with us and helped us to pack on the Saturday morning.

Friday night there was a full moon, and we went for a walk along the broadwalk at Hollywood Beach as the sun was setting to catch a glimpse, but there were thick clouds along the horizon and it was clear that the moon would have to rise quite a lot before anyone could see it.

However, about an hour later I was able to catch some good pictures of the full moon as it rose through the palm trees.

Goodbye Hollywood Beach

Debbie and the girls at Hollywood Beach in FloridaAll too soon it came time for my ex to pick up my eldest, and for us to give the girls hugs and kisses and say goodbye. 

Then time to complete the packing, loading of the car, and to leisurely drive to the airport in Miami, return the car, and wait for the flight home.

With my ribs being sore, having to try and lift the bags in and out of the condo, the car, and a shuttle bus, then into the overhead bins on the plane, I was really hurting.

It was actually for once not so bad trying to spend the night sitting half upright instead of trying to lie down, but after landing at Heathrow airport, and lugging the bags on and off another shuttle and into the car, I was about all in.

I had to grip the steering wheel all the way home to try and take some pressure off my ribs, but fortunately with it being Sunday morning the traffic was light, and the journey took just over an hour.

Once home, a quick check to make sure everything was ok, then off to bed for a couple of hours, to try and catch up on a bit of sleep, and to prepare for the reality of going back to work the following morning.

Well that is the story of our trip to Florida.  I hope you enjoyed it, and if so any Shares/Tweets or a Google|+1 would be much appreciated.

 

Tony and Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Five

This is the 5th part of our holiday in Florida, and covers a trip to the Miami Metro Zoo.  If you would like to read about our trip from the beginning, you can start HERE.

A Day At Miami Metro Zoo

Miami Metro Zoo LogoAlthough I had lived in South Florida for 4 years before returning to the UK, I had never been to Miami Metro Zoo, and despite living in Hollywood all their lives, neither had my daughters, so this seemed to be a good choice of location for a day out as a treat for their upcoming birthdays.

Much of southern Miami Dade County has been rebuilt since Hurricane Andrew hit the area in August 1992, the zoo being just one of the locations that suffered enormous damage.

Miami Metro Zoo lies well south and west of downtown Miami, over 40 miles from Hollywood, and if driving by car you do need to be aware that the toll sections of the Florida Turnpike in South Florida no longer accept cash, so you either have to have a Sunpass transponder, or face hefty fines.  We opted to take the old road, US1 from where I95 ends just south of downtown, and despite having to go through a number of red light intersections, the journey wasn’t too bad.

The first thing that is noticeable about the zoo is the sheer space that it occupies and the open layout.  The parking lot is enormous, and we were thankful that on the day we went there were few other visitors, since trying to walk around the zoo on a hot sticky day with 20,000 others is not my idea of a fun day out.

The other thing is that all the pathways and trails through the zoo are very wide, allowing for lots of visitors on foot, as well as for the 4-wheeled cycles that you can rent, albeit at a hefty price.  As well as walking around the zoo, you can take the road train, or the air-conditioned monorail.

On arriving at the zoo we could already see the dark storm clouds looming in the distance, and we knew that the storms had arrived early that day, and soon after going into the zoo we were almost certainly going to have to find shelter.

Reading a book at Miami Metro ZooWe were not wrong, as within 15 minutes of beginning out walk around the zoo, the rain began to fall, and it came down in torrents for a good hour, during which we sheltered at an excellent exhibit hall, which had a lot of hands-on items, as well as a children’s library that my youngest daughter took an interest in, reading several books while we waited in there for over an hour for the rain to stop.

Hands On Exhibits at Miami Metro ZooWell the rain kept on coming down in torrents, and fortunately there was enough in the building to keep the girls occupied, my eldest spending time doing some puzzles, while my youngest sat and read, and Debbie sat and waited.

Finally the rain slowed to a light drizzle, and we decided to venture forth into the outside, which by this time was very wet, but we managed ok, being optimistic and upbeat, while the drizzle just continued.

Siamang Gibbons at Miami Metro ZooBy the time we got around what I estimate to be about 1/3 of the zoo, we decided that it would be a good idea to try and find somewhere to eat lunch, since we were now soaked through, having neither rain wear or an umbrella with us.  However, the main restaurant was closed for remodelling, a second grill was not cooking anything because the grill was in the open and therefore exposed to the rain.  There was a third facility by the children’s zoo, which just sold well overpriced burgers, so we decided to make the best of it, to wander around what we could, and then made our way back to the car.

It must have rained for most of the 4 ½ hours that we were there at the zoo, and looking at the guide just now there is a lot that we missed, so maybe next time we are in Florida we will return to Miami Metro Zoo.

It would have been nice to just have a rain shower, since it kept many of the visitors away, and it was actually nice not being surrounded by hordes of screaming kids, however not being able to see everything and with so many sections closed, it was a bad choice for us to go there on the day that we did.

Miami Metro Zoo Tiger EnclosureThe zoo is highly rated though, and with the animals having for the most part a lot of space and no cages, it would make a good family day out provided that the weather co-operated.   In the event that it’s extremely hot, the zoo does have places where you can get misted with a fine spray of water, which does help to cool you down.  Nobody seems to mind getting wet on a hot day in Florida, however there are limits, and walking around the zoo in a downpour is never any fun.

Miami Metro Zoo The End

CLICK HERE for the Sixth and final part of our trip to Florida.

Tony and Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Four

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy reading about our vacation in Florida.  This is the 4th post about our trip.  If you would like to start at the beginning, just click HERE.

A Trip To The Nature Center

Anne Kolb Nature Reserve Broward County FloridaThe Anne Kolb Nature Center is situated just across the intra-coastal waterway from Hollywood Beach, and although it’s close to the beach and where I used to live, I had never been there.  We thought this might be a good place to take the girls as a change from the pool and the beach, and educational at the same time.

The center is located in the middle of a mangrove swamp, with walkways that allow visitors to walk out into the swamp and to explore the wildlife close up, which includes various species of mangroves, and land crabs that can be seen climbing trees as well.

As well as the walks, the center does have organised boat rides through the swamp and evening excursions to see the turtles hatching in the summer months, but the latter are fully booked about a year in advance.

Steamy Day at the Anne Kolb Nature Center Broward County FloridaThe only problem was that on the morning that we decided to visit, it was 95 degrees and extremely humid, in other words a typical summer day in South Florida, so by the time we had taken a walk we were all ready to cool off.

We followed up with a refreshing dip in the pool, dinner, and then in the evening a nice walk along the broadwalk, which was fairly quiet for a change.  Sometimes the beach area gets really busy, especially at the weekends, and where they rent cycles and carriages that you pedal, it can be a bit of a nightmare, since many of the users don’t keep to the lane that is set out for them.

Hollywood Beach Boardwalk FloridaWith the girls having been with us a few days now, time began to pass quicker, as it always does, and before we knew it, it was Thursday evening, and their Mom came to pick them up, as they had an Irish Dancing competition in Georgia at the weekend.

So while the girls spent the weekend being driven all the way to Georgia and back, Debbie and I prepared to see friends of ours in Deerfield Beach and to do some planned shopping, since many items are much cheaper to buy in the USA than in the UK, as well as there being a lot more choice.

Visiting Friends In Deerfield Beach

Before I moved back to the UK I spent 2 years living in Deer Creek, which is a development in Deerfield Beach, between Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.  We went back to see some friends there, and if you would like to see what it’s like, you can take a Walk Around Deer Creek on a Squidoo lens that I created before I moved.

It was good to see my landlord again, as well as some of the other people that we had become friendly with, including an elderly couple who had made sure that Debbie was ok when she came over to visit and I had to go to work.

We spent several hours by the pool, then had dinner with my landlord, and got an invitation to go out to dinner on Sunday at a typical Jewish New York Style Diner in Boca Raton to experience traditional Jewish food from New York.

A Day Of Shopping

With the girls away in Georgia, that left us free on Saturday to go shopping.  We usually stock up on things which are cheaper in the USA, or that we just can’t get in the UK.

The day began with a trip to one of our favourite breakfast places, Golden Corral.  It may not be everyone’s choice, and does attract the “Wal-Mart crowd” if you know what I mean, but the food is good and it’s excellent value.

Then a trip to Ross Dress For Less to see what they had in the way of bargains, and after that Kohls, a store that I have always liked, not only for their choice of items but their prices and special offers.  Kohls had special discounts this weekend for their store card holders, so we both purchased some items, including gifts for the kids.

Next off to Wal-Mart again to stock up on food etc, and back to the condo as the heavens decided to open.   It’s rather sad that we spent a nice day shopping and then when we would have liked to go in the pool it rained, but that’s summer in Florida for you.

Sunday we relaxed by the pool and then headed up to Deerfield Beach, firstly to see my landlord who has a shop at the Festival Flea Market and to get some cosmetics for Debbie as there are some discount stores there.

Dinner At A New York Style Jewish Restaurant

Our friends from Deerfield took us to Ben’s Kosher Deli in Boca Raton so that Debbie and I could experience some traditional New York Jewish food, and the place was buzzing, despite it raining.

Service was excellent, and as well as munching on pickles and trying pickled green tomatoes for the first time, we got to try Matzo Ball Soup and some real corned beef.

The meal was good, as was the company, and the atmosphere was wonderful too.  The walls of the restaurant are covered with humorous quotes, for example this one:

Moses led us through the desert for 40 years until we came to the only place in the Middle East without any oil.

It was good to see our friends again, and with them being in their 80’s, you never know what the next year may bring as far as health, so it was good to spend some time with them.

Exhausted after a long dayThen after dinner we rushed back to the beach condo, in time for the girls to be dropped off to us after their long trip to Georgia.   They didn’t get back until after 9:30pm, and I had promised them ice cream before bed, so of course having driven down from Georgia and had a late night, both were ready for a good sleep.

Coming Up Next Time

CLICK HERE for Part Five and join us next time for a trip to the Miami Metro Zoo.