The Quirky Traveller flies up, up & away :-)

The following blog was written by Zoë Dawes about her very recent trip to The Isle of Man.  It’s a perfect example of why she won the Britain’s Best Travel Blogger award from Travel Titbits.  Zoë’s choice of title was :-

The Isle of Man – another country

PART 1: Flying on the little Manx2 plane from Blackpool, with its toy propellers, was like something from a 1940s movie. The stewardess gave the safety demo and then was multi-tasking as co-pilot a few feet ahead in the open cockpit.  The smooth flight took just 25 minutes and then …  we’d arrived in another country.

Suddenly I was back in my childhood; driving along the coast road the air had that distinctive seaside aroma that took me back so many years; a combination of seaweed, fish and ‘ozone’, as Dad used to say.  Seagulls were swirling about in the strong breeze and there were scuds of white on the waves as the sea tried to make its mind whether it was worth creating a wave.  I was heading into Port St Mary on the Isle Of Man, making a return visit after 30 years.

This trip was my prize for winning a competition run by Travel Titbits and I could choose a short break anywhere in the UK.  I chose the Isle of Man for 3 reasons:

*I hadn’t been since I was a child and had always wanted to come back and explore properly

* It wasn’t too far from where I live which meant less time travelling & more time exploring

* It appreared to have lots of quirky potential which I was hoping to explore during my trip

Collecting the hire car on arrival was my first sense that I was in a ‘another country’; the hire company is called Mylchreests – well, definitely not an English name!  Yet the road signs are the same, they drive on the left and there’s a strange familiarity in the scenery, with an air of the Cornish coast mixed with parts of southern Ireland.

“Reg, take Zoë’s bags up to Bonnie,” instructed Kath, landlady at Aaron House B&B.  Who was Bonnie –and why would she want my bags?  It turned out Bonnie was the name of the fireplace in my bedroom.  The house is done out in a Victorian theme; it reminded me of Aunty Nellie’s house – sepia photos, ornate lamps, floral wallpaper and lots of knick-knackery.  Very quirky.  On arrival I was shown to the Bonnie Room, so called because the fireplace was called Bonnie … There was  a welcoming drink in the lounge overlooking the big bay of Port St Mary and outstanding blueberry scones; Aaron House is famous for the afternoon teas.

The highlight of this first day was a drive out to Calf Sound, with its spectacular view of the Calf of Man, a rocky outcrop surrounded by crashing waves and a safe haven for a colony of shiny seals.  I met up with Andrew White, Walks Around Britain, who was filming for Visit Isle of Man, who’d been so helpful arranging my itinerary. We had a hearty meal at The Sound café which is part of the excellent Story of Mann, the Manx National Heritage sites and Andrew gave me some tips on travelling around the island.  He recommended getting a good map and said the road signage was at times a bit hit and miss!  He seemed to have fallen in love with the island and assured me I’d have a really good time.

Ending that first day with a walk across the springy flower-covered grass for a last look at the Calf of Man, I was really looking forward to the next stage of this very quirky journey …

Thanks to Mylchreest Car Hire for great customer service and a very reliable vehicle and Manx2 Airline for the excellent flights from Blackpool and use of the fab Executive lounge.  Everyone at Visit Isle of Man was so very helpful – you made the trip extra-special and I loved quirky Aaron House.  Finally, a big thank-you to Alan and everyone at Travel Titbits for giving me this trip and making a dream come true!

You really can go there alongside Zoë ~ she has a way with words that can transport you to where she is. If you want to see the wonderful pics that accompany this post, please have a look at Zoë’s site.  And keep a look out for the next instalment!

And Zoë’s quirkilicious adventures continue ~ on Thursday morning she goes to Southampton to travel on Cunard’s latest luxury ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth. It’s setting off for Norway and the cruise is called, Fjords and Waterfalls, how wonderful is that?

Britain’s Best Travel Blogger!

Travel writers and bloggers play an important part in today’s on-line information highway.  Travellers can get first hand information on what to see & do in virtually every country on this wonderful planet of ours and their cultural experiences.  Travel companies, organisations and tourist boards are looking to these people to share their experiences of new destinations, hotels and other travel related activities; hopefully in a positive way.  This allows them to engage with a new audience of savvy on-line travellers and holidaymakers in new and exciting ways.

Earlier this year, Travel Titbits ran the inaugural, annual competition to find ‘Britain’s Best Travel Blogger’. The mission, should you have chosen to accept it, was to answer the question, briefly; ‘Can you have a Great British weekend on a budget?’

The competition brought in many entries from the British travel writers & bloggers and the winning entry was from Zoë Dawes : .  Zoë’s entry was about where she knows and loves, Cumbria.

Discover ‘a very fecund witch’ at England’s 3rd biggest Stone Circle, Long Meg … Savour a delicious organic lunch at truly quirkilious Little Salkeld Mill … Meander alongside the sinuous Eden River and explore eccentric Captain Lacey’s 18th century sandstone caves … and marvel at what the Romans did to stop the Scots coming oe’r the border at atmospheric Hadrian’s Wall …. All this, and so much more, off-the-beaten track in the Eden Valley in gloriously quirky Cumbria.

Zoë loves ‘Quirky’!  She explains it as about seeing life from a different angle, looking at things from all sides, finding the unusual, the interesting, the fascinating. It’s about quality combined with reality, it’s about being curious about everything and wanting to know more…  Zoë gives talks and radio chats, run workshops and writes on a wide range of travel topics, she is also an official Visit Britain Super Blogger, but this was the first time she had ever entered a writing competition!

Zoë was thrilled to win the prize of £250 to create your own blog trip, anywhere in the UK. She has decided to revisit a favourite holiday destination from childhood – the Isle of Man.  The Blog Trip starts tomorrow, on 8th May 2011. Follow the hashtag #TTblogtrip on Twitter to share any tips or ideas with Zoë whilst she is on her adventure.

What is Travel Titbits?  By definition Travel Titbits is “A pleasing scrap of anything travel inspired”.  Travel Titbits was dreamt up over a couple of glasses of sangria in the Mallorcan mountains in 2009. It started from a love of travel and the thirst to inspire others to explore new and exciting destinations. The aim is to list the best travel deals for holidays, hotels, flights and cruises and send a weekly email of the Top 15 best travel deals around, to subscribers.

We’ll be following Zoë on her travels and will keep you posted :-)

Greenwich, the beginning of time!

Two weeks ago, I went to Greenwich for the day.  It was a glorious sunny day; I was with Anna Pollock and we had gone to see her lovely daughter & hubby, Kat & Jon.  We drove down from the shire of Bedford and went through some wonderful parts of London; such a vibrant and fascinating city.

After a delicious Sunday Roast lunch and a suitable digesting period, we went for a long walk; it was a gorgeous, sunny day.  Kat and Jon know the area well so took us through the roads to Greenwich Park. What a treat, this oasis of green, decorated with nature’s colours of the rainbow, so near to the centre of London.  Greenwich Park covers over 182 acres and is beautifully cared for.  There were many people there enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  Lovely to see so many families playing and laughing.

Near the centre of the park is the Observatory, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.  It was commissioned by King Charles II, who was exceptionally interested in science. The meridian line, which separates the eastern and western hemispheres, and which is where Greenwich Meantime starts from, runs through the centre of the Observatory.  We are so lucky in this country, the history we have and the heritage we can look to. I wonder how many people who live here can say they have visited each and every shire in the land.

At London 2012, Greenwich Park will host the Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian competitions, plus the combined running and shooting event of the Modern Pentathlon. It’s not particularly popular with the locals and you can understand why really.  They will lose this precious resource for quite a time and Greenwich will be heaving. However, for the Olympics, Greenwich Park is just perfect ~ what better than the horses being in a Royal Park which was created when the equine beauty was the only horse power!

Go to the top of the hill and look over the majestic landmarks of London ~ the magnificent dome of St Paul’s, Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous building; the Gherkin; the Shard and many more.  The past, the present and the future.