Tag Archives: travel

Watch this video tour of the British Airways A380 Super Jumbo

Have you flown on the new British Airways A380 Super Jumbo yet?

I have. I was lucky enough to bag some Avios (BA’s air miles) seats to LAX two days after the inaugural flight. What an amazing plane; so huge but so quiet.

I’ll be posting a trip report and video very shortly and that will complete my occasional look at the build and launch of BA’s first A380 which I started over a year ago.

In this next to the last post – here is BA’s own video tour of this remarkable aircraft.

Or if you prefer the longer 10 minute tour click here.

If you want to read the earlier posts here are the links.

Now it’s your turn: What did you think of this video tour of the British Airways A380 Super Jumbo? Have you flown on the BA A380? I would love to hear your stories. Please post a comment below or share a link to your own reviews. And look out my video trip report coming very soon.

Taking a trip through Unspoilt Mallorca

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions Mallorca?

Could it be high-rise hotels and packed beaches teeming with sun burned Brits. Stag and hen week parties? Noisy techno dance music playing in nightclubs, pubs serving Tetley bitter and drunken hoards of youngsters staggering from one to the other?

Certainly Magaluf and some other Mallorcan resorts fit this stereotype. But most of Mallorca is unspoilt, beautiful, quiet and magnificent. You can find deserted beaches at the end of windy roads, hidden restaurants serving real Spanish tapas, and scenery that is breathtaking.

Unspoilt Mallorca
Port de Soller seen from the mountains

As I travelled to Mallorca this year I saw some of the the Magaluf crowd. Sharing the Jet2 flight with us was a gang of guys all sporting “Fat Grant’s Stag” T-shirts, individualised on the back with their nick names. “Chopper” was the loud one constantly out of his aeroplane seat and tormenting his fellow passengers and crew. “Murdo” was the good-looking one trying unsuccessfully to flirt with the cabin crew. “Fat Grant” himself sat quietly in the back row. Was he already regretting the drunken blur that was about to begin?

Fortunately Fat Grant’s crew were whisked away by bus into the concrete jungles west of Palma whilst we drove north through orange groves towards Pollenca. Here the countryside is quiet save for the sounds of dogs barking, birds singing and donkeys braying. Sometimes the sound of a strimmer or a power saw tries to ruin the peace but rarely succeeds.

Unspoilt Mallorca
Beach at Port de Pollenca

The foothills of the stunning Tramontana mountains frame the Pollenca countryside . Villas here all have private pools, outdoor barbecues, palm trees and flowers of all colours. The busy but very pretty Puerto De Pollenca is five minutes drive away. Close enough for when you run out of food and beer or fancy a meal in a restaurant, but far enough away to convince you that you live in your own private paradise.

When night falls there is no light pollution. Lie back and watch the stars light up across the sky. Look for shooting stars. You might miss some of them. Those you do see are like fireworks burning across the blackness.

This is unspoilt Mallorca. And there’s so much of it to see.

We took a trip to Soller, a quaint Spanish village nestling in a hollow valley surrounded by towering mountains studded with green pine trees. The drive to this oasis is both scary and beautiful. Perhaps only the Grand Canyon can beat the slopes around Soller for sheer breathtaking magnificence.

Unspoilt Mallorca
The Soller Trams

Sit in the main square in Soller and have a glass of fresh orange juice and watch the tram clank by on its way down to the port. Soller is one of the smallest towns in the world with a tram system. They built it in 1913. It’s still a popular form of transport and now a tourist attraction in its own right. Have tea at the five-star Gran Hotel Soller or pop into the cake shop next door and sample one of their multi-coloured macaroons.

Unspoint Mallorca
Port de Soller

Four kilometres at the other end of the tram’s route is the Port De Soller a huge horse shoe bay of sand, yachts, restaurants, bars and hotels. We really are a million miles away from the plastic pubs and pounding base riffs of Magaluf. I wonder whether Fat Grant is enjoying his hangover.

Unspoilt Mallorca
Sunny Spanish Streets

In the centre of Mallorca is Inca, one of the bigger towns. Thursday is market day and every street boasts a line of stalls and tables. Fresh fruit, green vegetables, meat, fish even live chickens and ducks, sit side by side with clothes, leather goods and household utensils. It’s like a department store on the streets. You have to haggle and obviously sift through some tourist tat, but you can find bargains in this maze of narrow streets.

Back to the Pollenca countryside for a few more days of good food and great wine.

Unspoilt Mallorca
Pollenca Countryside

When someone mentions Mallorca to me I think of these sun-baked days in the Pollenca countryside, the cafe culture of Soller and the market at Inca rather the concrete sun soaked replica of Blackpool where Fat Grant drunkenly celebrated his last days as a single man.

Your turn: What are your favourite hidden gems in unspoilt Mallorca? Please post your links or comments below and share your experiences.

The Secret of the Grand National Roller Coaster Blackpool

If you’ve ever been on The Grand National roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you may have noticed that it performs a very clever magic trick.

The ride tries to replicate the thrills of the Grand National horse race by having two roller coaster trains race each other round a twin track circuit.

But if you board the “blue” train on the right hand side of the station, when you have enjoyed your thrilling journey you will find yourself back on the left side of the station. The other “green” train has swapped sides with you.

Secret of the Grand National Roller Coaster Blackpool
The full figure eight layout.
But nowhere on the ride do the tracks actually cross over. So what is the secret behind this switching?

This mystery puzzled my grandfather for many years.

Every week he would collect my sister and I from school and take us to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. We would watch the Grand National from many vantage points and listen to the screams of the passengers and the roaring clatter of the trains as the rickety wooden structure vibrated and shook.

But even from high up on the Cable Car Ride, or from the observation window overlooking the “chain lift hill”, he could see no evidence to suggest that the tracks actually crossed over. And yet no matter how many times we watched the trains would always return to the station having changed sides.

Sadly the secret of the Grand National roller coaster eluded my grand father. He never found out the answer before he sadly died.

Secret of the Grand National Roller Coaster Blackpool
The trains at Beecher’s Brooke.
And then one day, many years later, whilst surfing the internet, a childhood memory flashed back into my mind. Could I solve the secret of the Grand National roller coaster? Of course, Google was my friend. Within minutes I had solved the mystery.

The Grand National is a wooden twin track racing roller coaster by category. Known affectionately as “The Nash” by people who grew up in Blackpool, the ride offers many moments of “airtime” that stomach churning moment of weightlessness at the top of each drop.

They built it in 1935 to the plans of respected roller coaster designer, Charles Paige. And they incorporated into the track the special feature that was to befuddle my grand father and many others for years until the internet revealed the answer.

And what is the answer? Well the Grand National is not a twin track at all. It’s only one track. The station is actually at the half way point. So after giving passengers one ride, each train has only completed half a circuit and has ended up back at the station on the other side of the boarding platform. The illusion is that they have swapped sides.

It’s called a Mobius loop.

There are only two other roller coasters in the world that do this illusion. The Racer at Kennywood in the USA, and Montaña Rusa at La Feria Chapultepec Magico in Mexico City, Mexico.

The sad thing however is that I never got to tell my grand father the secret of the Grand National roller coaster.

But I suspect he knows it by now too. And on the day I worked it out, he’ll have looked down from where ever he is, lit his pipe, and smiled.

Take a ride on the Grand National with this YouTube video from the Theme Park Review.

Your turn: Have you ever been on the Grand National roller coaster? Did you notice the magic trick of changing sides. Did you know the Secret of the Grand National Roller Coaster Blackpool? I’d love to hear your roller coaster stories. Please leave a comment or share a link to your own articles.

A hidden Caribbean gem – Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent

I have had my eye on Buccament Bay Resort in St. Vincent for a year or so and recently managed to get a great deal through BA Holidays.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Beach at Buccament Bay

We arrived at St. Vincent airport after a long delay waiting for LIAT to fix a problem with their Dash 100 plane for the short hop across from Barbados.

The airport has a little terminal with two immigration desks and one customs lady. The paper work took an hour and a half to get through and the customs lady was being particularly thorough and riffled through almost everyone’s bags. I have no idea what she was looking for in among all those clothes and swimming costumes, but none of the collection of middle-aged people who arrived with us looked like drugs or contraband smugglers to me. Consequently, arriving into St.Vincent counts as one of the most unpleasant immigration experiences in over 20 years of travelling.

Outside we met Creese who looked very smart in his cream and burgundy Buccament Bay Resort uniform. He apologised for the customs people and verbalised my earlier thoughts about what on earth it could be that they were being so diligent in looking for.

Creese drove us up and down hills, round many tight bends, the busy streets of Kingstown and through the dark countryside to our destination.

On arrival at Buccament Bay Resort we met Deanna from guest relations who greeted us and then led us across the impressive wooden bridge into the resort. At the foot of the bridge a lady handed us an ice-cold towel and as you would expect there was another lady at other side of the bridge to collect it after we had used it to cool down. As we stepped off the bridge the head barman from the Bay Beach Club introduced himself and handed us cocktails that were both refreshing, cold and laced with strong rum. He invited us to come to the bar later to try his signature cocktail.

Everyone knew and used our names right from the start. It is such a nice touch and smacks of superb service.

Deanna took us to our villa. Now this was the most pleasant surprise. I had booked what I thought was a two bed roomed room. I wasn’t quite expecting the quite frankly huge villa Deanna led us into.

It was vast with a high roof and the front door opened immediately into a comfortable seating area. To the left and right were two huge bedrooms each with bathrooms containing “rainforest showers”, a bath, basins and a walk in closet. I loved the detail in the shower – a wooden platform to stand on surrounded by pebbles.

On each bed they had scattered rose petals and folded the towels to resemble swans. Cushions and throws added to the tasteful colour scheme and feeling of comfort.

Outside was a deck area with its own plunge pool overlooking a small lake. This became a lovely place to spend the early evening after the sun went down.

Although exhausted from nearly 18 hours of travelling we had a late dinner at the Bay Beach Club. As we took our seats and scanned the menu a few guests were finishing their evening and drifting off to their villas.

We enjoyed starters of chicken satay, and crispy squid. Main courses of boneless beef rib and jerk turkey burger completed our welcome to this great place. We retired to bed and fell asleep quickly, to the sound of tree frogs singing, impatient to see what the light of day would show us about the Buccament Bay Resort.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Villa Sun Deck with Plunge Pool

In the morning we learned more about our home for the next 10 days. Buccament Bay Resort nestles in a long valley created by the Buccament River which of course flows into the Caribbean at the front of the resort. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains covered in green foliage. Apart from one three-story building which they use for staff accommodation all the rooms are single storey villas set among an extensive garden with sandy walkways, lakes, flowers and bushes.

Most of these villas are painted a pastel shade of either cream or orange. Some contain a single bedroom others have two. All have balconies overlooking either the gardens, lakes, river or beach and each has a plunge pool. The two bedroom villas have larger pools. Each has several mini bars containing soft drinks, fruit juices, water and beers which the staff refilled daily. The resort has a vaguely oriental feel to it.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The resort has an oriental feel

The sun above Buccament Bay Resort was already fiercely hot as we went to breakfast, across the bridge, in the open air Bamboo Restaurant. We found an extensive hot buffet of bacon, French toast, sausages, fried potatoes and baked beans.

At the egg station a smiling gentleman happily cooked fried eggs sunny side up and an omelette with tomatoes and onions. At the fruit station another craftsman cut up slices of fresh fruit to order, including the sour tasting but delicious wax apple. He also whizzed up an ice-cold smoothie of fresh banana and orange and ice.

Time to explore the resort. Back across the bridge we paused to watch a flock of white geese, or were they ducks, begging for scraps from the guests. Squalking and honking they pursued us across the bridge obviously thinking that we had a pocket full of bread.

We then wandered to the beach, a thick wedge of brilliant white powdery sand washed by the crystal clear blue Caribbean Sea. There are several random sets of sun loungers waiting for sun seekers, but I saw no sign of any books, magazines or shoes laying claim to their ownership.Two wooden huts contain a beach bar, and a grill offering delicious burgers and chicken for lunch.

Try this beach grill. The food is delicious but it is never crowded. For lunch one day I enjoyed freshly barbecued ribs served with salad and some Caribbean hot pepper sauce. This stuff is almost painful to eat but it tastes delicious. It makes the endorphins flow into your body which creates a feeling of pleasure like the after effects of an orgasm. I had two portions.

Finally we decided to settle in front one of the two huge horseshoe-shaped infinity pools. I’d later discover that the water was as warm as a bath. We picked sun loungers directly on the edge of the sea and these were comfortable and adorned with Buccament Bay branded towels and mattresses.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Beach from The Pools

A barman from the nearby Bay Beach Club materialised to offer a drink. Was it too early for a cocktail right after breakfast. Probably. But we didn’t hold out for long.

For lunch the Bay Beach Club offers a detailed but light menu. Sometimes simple is best. And with the hot Caribbean sun blazing above us surely the most sensible thing to do would have been to enjoy a crisp light salad for lunch.

But my eyes were dawn to the linguine – a simple dish of pasta, tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes and white wine. Delicious but fiery the chillies ignited a fire in my mouth that only another beer could extinguish.

One day they brought out a giant Mongolian circular grill. A line of eager diners soon appeared as everyone selected their mix of meat and vegetables which the chef cooked to order, tossing the ingredients with spicy sauces and garnishes.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Mongolian giant stir fry

Buccament Bay boasts a Diving School, a Tennis Academy, Football Academy and a Performing Arts Academy as well as a Spa and Fitness centre. I went to a very calming restorative yoga class one evening.

On the first afternoon I noticed a very tanned gentleman with a shiny bald head cooling off in the pool and sipping from a glass of beer balanced on the pool edge. I swam over for a chat and discovered that he was in charge of the resort’s Performing Arts Academy. But he had no customers that day.

He told me his name was Phil Cavill. He’s quite a famous name in London Theatre land and on Broadway. Back in the 1990s he had a lead role in Miss Saigon and the went on to star as Jean Valjeane in Les Miserables in the West End.

As well as running the academy, Phil also sings in the restaurants at night. Obviously he specialises in musicals and as a tenor, wants to treat the guests to some really loud renditions of famous songs. Unfortunately some guests have delicate ears and often ask for him to be turned down (because he is loud not because he can’t sing). I really wanted to hear Phil really let rip.

For dinner the resort offers four restaurants but check the schedule as only the Bay Beach Club is open every night.

Bamboo: Offers a delicious Caribbean buffet.

The Bay Beach Club: Described earlier, this is the focal point for the evening. Sip cocktails at the bar, go to your table for an international three course meal and then head back for more cocktails after.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Fabulous spicy stir fry at The Bay Beach Club

Jack’s: This impressive restaurant specialises in Steaks and Seafood cooked to your liking. A simple menu that changes daily accompanied by tasty side dishes. Try the garlic mash, sautéed spinach and mushrooms.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Jack’s – Steak and Seafood Restaurant

Safran’s is an Indian Restaurant serving an impressive array of curries. You won’t find many of these dishes on the menu in a typical UK curry house but if you do fancy a chicken tikka, have a word with the chef and he will rustle one up for you.

Open all day is HQ, a coffee, ice cream, smoothie and cake shop. A mango smoothie, banana bread and pistachio macaroons made a tasty change for breakfast on more than one occasion.

Buccament Bay Resort is teeming with staff all of whom seem to know your name and are pleased to help. Some drive around in silent golf buggies and will happily stop and pick you up and take you where you want to go.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Dolphins playing

On the last evening we went on a sunset cruise on a huge catamaran. The sky was blue as we left the beach and we enjoyed a light swell of waves on the ocean as schools of dolphins leaped around the boat showing off their acrobatic skills. We were even treated to a tropical downpour which lasted long enough to soak us all to the skin. We had to dance all the way back to dry ourselves out.

Any negatives? The resort is plagued by mosquitoes as are many in the Caribbean. But the resort use a fogging machine each evening to drive most of them away but don’t forget to put on your insect repellant. The swimming pools became quite cloudy one day but were cleaned and vacuumed by the following morning.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Sunset at Buccament Bay Resort

We were sad to leave Buccament Bay Resort. A stunning place, beautiful beach and facilities and lovely staff. Creese drove us to the airport but not before, Guido, the General Manager had stopped by to wish us farewell.

I’d also like to mention: Brod from Bamboo and The Bay for looking after us at breakfast and at lunch. Keon who mixes awesome cocktails at The Bay. Carlson who kept the drinks flowing during the day by the pool. Abby who was almost dancing as she served at The Bay and at Safran’s. And finally Lionel the gentleman by the pool for whom no request was too much trouble. And thank you for those bottles of hot sauce which will keep our memories of St Vincent alive for many meals to come.

Your turn: Did you enjoy my review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent? I would love to hear more stories about this great place. Please post your comments and links to your own experiences below where it says, “Leave a reply”.