Welcome back my dear readers, I hope your 2021 is off to as best a start as can be in the current circumstances.
It’s back to the “big 3-0” trip on the blog today with us entering in to the second half of the story! Those of you not familiar with the trip (get caught up!), it was August 2018 and I’d turned 30 years old. As a means of celebrating I planned a 30 day trip in the USA which coincided with two friends getting married in Washington State just days before my birthday!
Anyway, in the last blog post of this trip I’d been enjoying family traditions and specifically the big annual BBQ that Haleigh’s family host every year. It had been a great success with lots of food, wonderful company and plenty of fun throughout our Saturday.
Sunday ended up really being the slow farewell as the stragglers that hadn’t yet left town could get together for one last hurrah before heading home and in their separate directions.
Myself and Haleigh woke up at a decent time in order to go and join the breakfast festivities at the grandparents who’d served up the American favourite – “biscuits and gravy”. This may seem a peculiar combination for any British readers out here but don’t worry, it’s not what you think! They aren’t actual biscuits.. so no digestives required here!
Ironically Wikipedia suggests that ‘biscuits and gravy’ emerged just after the American Revolutionary War. Now I don’t want to suggest that war started over the meaning of the word biscuit and that the subsequent tea-spilling was caused due to disagreements on whether a biscuit should be tea-dunked but can the timing be purely coincidental? I’ll leave you to be the judge.
Anyway, back to breakfast. It was nice and a good way to round off the weekend together, this would likely be my last visit to Walla Walla for some time so I appreciated the opportunity to have somewhat of a ‘farewell’.
We moved away from breakfast and on to the living room where we relaxed ahead of the weekend’s big climax! Much of Saturday’s entertainment had revolved around tournament play of a game called ‘Vegas’.
Five players, five rounds, five winners. Each winner would qualify for the “grand final” in the hope of claiming family bragging rights for the weekend. Unfortunately one of our finalists was long gone, resulting in one of the hosts of the weekend – Haleigh’s grandpa! – taking up an honorary seat at the final table.
With four finalists ready and raring to go, the race was on for finalist number five (Haleigh’s brother, Ben) to retain his place in the grand final! Threats of forfeiting due to late arrival were banded about but luckily Ben arrived shortly after the scheduled 12pm start time! It was gametime!
Sadly I’d failed to qualify for the big finale and could only look on as an intrigued spectator, seeing who could hold their nerve in this high-pressure tournament and take home the family bragging rights.
Perhaps the long wait had caused some nerves among the other finalists because the late arrival, Ben, was crowned champion! Controversial perhaps given a delayed start but there was no question it was a deserved victory in a truly impressive final performance.
After the game fellow finalist Gina went shopping with Haleigh, leaving me in the company of her family. More importantly it meant a seat at the table had been vacated, another seat opened up quickly after and allowed myself and Rob to swoop in on one last game of Vegas this weekend.
With the actual final over with, the pressure was now off and all that there was left to play for was personal pride. Perhaps I’d benefited from a spectator’s role in the final to really hone in on each player’s weaknesses but I really came in to my own in this game. I ruthlessly blew away the opposition and finished with a weekend high-score, showing little mercy to the family I was supposed to be impressing this weekend!
Some light-hearted threats followed with Haleigh’s great Aunt in particular suggesting that perhaps a phonecall to immigration was in order? I’d overstayed my welcome and it was about time I left the country!
All jokes aside, I felt that I’d mingled with Haleigh’s family pretty well and hadn’t made a terrible impression. It was satisfying to end the family-filled weekend on a high and with a win under my belt too.
The afternoon wound down pretty quickly. Everyone began saying their goodbyes and heading off in their own direction, hopeful that it wouldn’t be too long until the next family gathering.
Myself and Haleigh had already made our own plans with another member of the family, Casey, who we’d yet to see this weekend.
We picked up Casey and drove over to this bar across town to grab a late lunch at. I’d already met Casey back in February when we’d gone to lunch with her and fiance (now husband!) Daniel. Sadly Daniel wasn’t in town this time around so it was just the three of us but it was still a nice afternoon and good to catch up with Casey before leaving Washington.
The food itself was good and the service was decent too, the waiter seemed enthused to have a Brit in town and as ever left me feeling like somewhat of a celebrity when visiting the smaller towns and cities of the USA.
After dropping Casey back off at home we returned to Haleigh’s home and just relaxed for a few hours before one final outing on this Walla Walla adventure. Myself, Haleigh, Ben and Haleigh’s mum went out for dinner. It was a nice way to end what was a really lovely weekend.
It ended another chapter on this trip. I was really excited for what was coming next – me and Haleigh would be making our way down to what was a dream bucketlist destination for me personally – San Francisco!!
That said, despite that excitement I was also sad to be leaving Walla Walla so soon. I wasn’t sure when I’d next be back but knew it’d be 2019 at the earliest which felt like a long time without seeing my second family and second home. It was a bittersweet feeling.
Nevertheless, the adventure had to go on! On day 17 we were hitting the road! Stay tuned for that!
Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you’ve had an enjoyable festive period despite the difficulties that 2020 has offered.
It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to do a little round up of the travels throughout the year. Of course 2019’s effort looked much busier than this post will be with trips to seven different countries in 2019, however I still managed to travel enough this year that I can squeeze a post out of it. Here goes..
January – Durham!
Doesn’t the start of 2020 seem so long ago now? I went in to this year knowing that there would be life-changing circumstances and consequently that I probably wouldn’t be traveling much this year.
Before you start asking – no, I’m not psychic! Haha. Nobody could quite predict this kind of year was coming but I’d quit my job and made plans to live in the US for a few months so I figured with, at least, three months of unemployment and a lot of uncertainty in 2020 that I’d probably have to cut back on travel this year.
“but one more trip?”
That’s the ever-present urge isn’t it? I could feel my adventures slipping away and pondered if I could squeeze in just one more trip before flying to Washington in February? Another New Years Eve getaway? A short weekender somewhere? Anywhere? Please?
Well, the football was enough to tempt me (surprise!). One of the highlights of the footballing calendar is the first weekend of the year – the third round of the “magical” FA Cup. The big names of football enter the competition and if the minnows, amateurs and part-timers are lucky they get a chance to test themselves against the very best.
It’s one of those weekends that football fans look forward to and my beloved Tottenham were playing “up North” in Middlesbrough and having successfully acquired a ticket I figured why not?
The train times weren’t particularly co-operative so I decided to make the most of it and have one final “hurrah” before the big trip of the year. Although I had little desire to visit Middlesbrough itself so settled on booking a stay in the nearby city of Durham – somewhere I’d been wanting to visit for a while and never really got around to.
It was a wise decision, I’d been to Middlesbrough before anyway but Durham is a lovely and charming little city. I also managed to arrange a catch up with my friend Sarah, which in hindsight was wonderful because I’ve not been able to see much of anyone this year haha.
Other than the football it was a pretty relaxed trip. It’s not the biggest city and I think two nights was sufficient enough to have seen the bulk of it but it was nice to kick off the year with a bit of travel and explore a city well worth visiting.
February – Washington!
Of course this trip needs little introduction. Long time readers will know I’d planned this months in advance. I’d made the decision to leave my job and go and ‘live’ in Washington with my girlfriend for three months.
Three months in small-town Washington, a city called Moses Lake to be precise. January was a bit of a slog, particularly as far as work was concerned because I knew the end was imminent. I was counting down the days and after one final weekend in London of football, beers and pizza I was on my way to Seattle for a very different way of living.
I’m a London boy at heart but now live in the “small” city of Peterborough with its 200,000ish inhabitants. Yet here I was spending three months in Moses Lake with its population of 24,000 people! 24,000! If I find Peterborough small at times, how am I going to cope in Moses Lake for three months!?
Oddly I adapted and settled pretty quickly. I’ve already written about my time in Washington on the blog but it was lovely. Admittedly I think being unemployed helped, I had absolutely nothing to worry about and was living the easy life!
I grew to appreciate the simplicities of life without a job – taking a book with me to the coffee shop downtown and sitting in with a cup of tea for a couple of hours, wandering by the lake on a nice afternoon, date nights and all the other nicer things in life that you don’t have to worry about when you have a job.
Ignoring the necessity to finance this way of life, I could do this forever – who needs to work!? This is the “new normal” and long may it continue!
and then the “new normal” struck – supermarkets deprived of toilet rolls and that dreaded C word!
“The new normal..” – I’d only just escaped the old normal! What is this nonsense? Stay at home orders and closed businesses and a lockdown in small town America!
I tried to wait it out, hoping Trump’s optimism of re-opening by Easter would prove accurate but it wasn’t to be. On the 30th of March he advised lockdown measures would be extended throughout April and as I was due to fly home on May 1st it was time to find plan B.
Ultimately I had to cut my time in Washington short, not ideal and still no inkling on when I’ll be able to return but I still got the best part of 8-9 weeks in Washington, 6 of those before going in to lockdown so a good chunk of time in a place I’ve grown particularly fond of.
Sadly I don’t know if I’ll actually get back to Moses Lake – I hope I do because I feel like I owe it and myself a proper goodbye but the reality is the next time I’m in Washington Haleigh may no longer be in Moses Lake. It’s a shame my love-affair with Moses Lake ended the way it did but perhaps our paths will cross again someday.
April – Utah! (Cancelled)
Sadly not every travel story this year had a happy ending. Haleigh’s a teacher and had a few days off in April for her spring break which we were keen to make the most of and have an adventure together.
We’d been toying with a couple of ideas – namely Oregon and Utah but in February one of Haleigh’s cousins (Michelle) who lives in Utah came up to Washington with her boyfriend (David) which was enough to steer us towards planning a trip down to Salt Lake City.
We pencilled in the dates but as Covid emerged and as April neared it was apparent our plans would have to be postponed. It was a shame because we’d considered visiting Salt Lake City on my “big 3-0” trip too and it didn’t pan out then either. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky?
Fortunately the only booking we’d made was one night in a hotel in Boise, Idaho which was fully refundable but Covid robbed us of a trip to what would have been two new states for me.
As it was, my change of plans meant I spent the bulk of April at home in England instead.
August – the Norfolk coast!
After getting back to England in early April I made the decision to self-isolate and stay at home for two weeks – not that anyone actually advised me to do this. At this moment in time the UK were still welcoming people with open arms without any fuss – bonkers!
Towards the end of that second week I switched my focus back to the real world – time to find a job! To my surprise I actually got a job interview really quickly! Sadly I didn’t get that particular job but then my former employers approached me about returning in a new job role so by early May I was employed again. Even before going to Washington, completely unaware of the imminent pandemic, I hadn’t anticipated that I’d be employed that quickly.
I’d very much landed on my feet! I’d planned and budgeted for a spell of unemployment so I’ve been luckier than most this year in that I’ve not really felt the financial strain of Covid. Better yet, I’d found a new challenge and was doing something far more enjoyable than the previous year – hurrah!
By August I was ready for a break and thought I’d treat myself to a few days away for my birthday. I wasn’t quite ready to hop on a plane just yet so limited myself to staying within the UK and was intending for something a little more outdoorsy and less of a city break which I often favour.
I looked at a few options but in the end stayed pretty local and only went as far as Norfolk. I really fancied a few days by the coast and although I’ve seen a little of Norfolk, there’s still lots of it I haven’t seen so I booked myself a hotel for 4 nights in Cromer – Monday to Friday as I was keen to avoid the weekend crowds!
My second UK break of the year! It was nice to get away for a few days and it was a nice reminder of how much I love being by the sea.
It was busy in parts, which is a little inevitable in the summer months, but overall it was pretty easy to keep distanced from other people and even with the UK running its “Eat out to help out” scheme throughout August places were taking social distancing seriously with various measures in place.
Overall it was a lovely few days away and the perfect trip to refresh and re-energise before getting back to work.
October – Gibraltar!
All work and no play? I’ve long held the belief that work isn’t that important. This wasn’t some lesson I learnt in 2020 but it was probably a year that helped emphasise it.
In 2019 I was on my last legs with work and 3 months without working, particularly the first 6 weeks without lockdown was bliss. If I was financially secure enough that I didn’t have to work, I don’t think that I would.
You might ponder what relevance that has to Gibraltar but a change in working environment was a factor. There was a mixed feeling in August in not feeling quite ready enough to get on a plane and also a question over whether I was right to get on to a plane?
I was working from home, I wasn’t seeing friends, I was very much in my own little bubble and expanding my horizons seemed irresponsible perhaps. So I ended up visiting Norfolk which required little travel and being by the sea and outdoors made it much easier to minimise my social contact.
Fast forward two months and the advice and guidance had vastly changed and work wanted me to return to an office-environment with the UK government at the forefront of that advice.
That change of environment changed my mindset a little. The reality was that this change of circumstance meant that the place I was most likely to catch Covid would be at work.
So I’ll leave you to be judge and executioner as to whether it was right for me to travel abroad but it felt right for me. If I could go to work in an office with 100 odd other people, why should I feel guilty about traveling?
Ultimately it was still another solo trip so still pretty easy to keep to myself, after looking at a number of different options I narrowed down my choices to two countries with low Covid cases and countries that seemingly had a better handle of Covid than the UK (who doesn’t, right?): Turkey and Gibraltar!
I’d been itching to visit Turkey for a while but something swayed me towards Gibraltar. I didn’t want to get stung by a last minute cancellation and I just couldn’t see the UK halting travel to a British overseas territory. It didn’t look like there was any reason for the UK to halt travel to Turkey either but that, the fact Gibraltar had yet to register any Covid deaths (that sadly isn’t the case any more) and a couple of other things pushed me towards visiting Gibraltar.
As it was, Turkey went on to the UK’s naughty list a matter of days after I’d booked my flights so I got pretty lucky.
I was excited to visit a new country and having had no huge desire to visit Gibraltar previously, it was a pleasant surprise. I already wrote about my time in Gibraltar here but it was the perfect mix of British and European culture – the best of both really.
Overall it felt much safer than the UK too, I felt a little vindicated in picking Gibraltar over taking a break within the UK. Gibraltar seemingly had a good handle on things whilst the UK was spiralling. Maybe I could just buy a boat and stay in Gibraltar?
I think I would have liked Gibraltar regardless but visiting in Covid times, making comparisons to back home, made it so much easier to love. I forgot all about work and was mentally back to sipping tea in Moses Lake, the only difference being this time it was beer in sunny Gibraltar.
I’d go back in a heartbeat and it didn’t take long to see why so many Brits visit and retire here. It’s that South of France or Spanish retirement dream without the language barrier – perfect!
November – “where to?”
I’d optimistically booked off Thanksgiving week months in advance, on the off chance travel might have recovered by then and I’d be able to get back to Washington.
As it got closer to November it was clear that wouldn’t be happening and I was pondering what to do with my week off of work? I figured I’d probably not actually do much and maybe squeeze in a couple of nights down in London before the end of the year.
Then the UK went in to lockdown for pretty much the entirety of November which scuppered any hope of going anywhere. In the end I don’t think I even left the house in that particular week – not the most exciting of breaks and the first time I’ve ‘wasted’ annual leave in probably six or seven years. I had to use it before the end of the year though so it was unavoidable, still better than spending a week working.
December – London!
I had three more days to use up before the end of the year and having coming out of lockdown I was keeping an eye on where I could potentially visit.
Options by this point were even more limited than they had been for my trip in October. I was determined to book a trip as late as possible, hoping that the weekly Thursday travel updates might offer somewhere but it wasn’t to be.
So I reverted back to my November plans, I really wanted to get to London before the end of the year. December / Christmas is such a magical time to visit London and I hadn’t spent any time in the capital since February!
Ordinarily I’d visit London at least twice a month I reckon so ten months without a visit left me feeling like I was long overdue a trip. I was particularly keen to visit some of the museums in the capital, I haven’t really been to any of them since I was a kid living in London. My only real opportunities to visit are at weekends or public holidays too and they’re just hell-ish to visit when the kids are off school – no thanks!
Keeping in mind my plans, I decided I’d book myself a couple of nights in a part of London I rarely stay in – Kensington! The National History Museum was towards the top of my list to visit and it was just an ideal location to base myself in and I was surprised to find London so ‘cheap’ for this time of year and this location – clearly feeling the wrath of the pandemic!
So with Peterborough and London both in ‘tier 2’ I hopped on a train and enjoyed a couple of nights in the capital, again by myself.
It was the best and worst time to be in London. The best because London was so quiet by usual standards, a lot of central London was dead – two weeks before Christmas and no crowds or people anywhere. I had Westminster and the likes all to myself!
So why was it the worst time to be in London? Call me crazy but.. London was dead. I love London so much. I love the hustle and bustle, I love how much life London has and it broke my heart a little to see London so.. un-London-like.
I shouldn’t be able to walk around Westminster without cursing dawdling tourists. Either move quicker or have the awareness to get out of the way!
There were a few things I really got to appreciate and gave me a small taste of London, I managed to enjoy a couple of people busking in a couple of locations and London still feels so magical at this time of the year but it was a very different London to the one that I’m used to.
Nevertheless it was a nice trip to end the year and given the circumstances still not a terrible travel year. I got to have a taste of living in another country, took four flights and managed to visit one new country. I also managed to visit a couple of new places in the UK so all in all, I probably still did better than most.
However I’m hoping 2021 is a much better year for travel. I’ve got no travel plans at the minute and it doesn’t feel good haha!
I hope you managed to squeeze in some travels this year too! Up next on the blog? I continue with the “big 3-0” trip. Stay tuned!
There’s a lot that could be said about 2020 but I’m going to focus purely on the blogging side and say that for the most part, I was a bad blogger in 2020!
Not that this is really anything more than a hobby but still, after coming back from Washington in April I was pretty inconsistent in my blogging and pretty inconsistent in my blog-reading too.
Regardless of that I really do appreciate this community and the many of you that make this a much more enjoyable experience. Thanks for sticking around in 2020 and continuing to make this as fun as it is!
I’m optimistic I’ll be much better on both fronts this year but this post is short and sweet and I just wanted to wish you a Happy New Year! Happy blogging and I hope all your blogging dreams come true this year! Haha!
Alright, it’s time to get back to the big 3-0 trip! As you should know by now, back in the summer of 2018 I embarked upon a 30 day trip in the USA to celebrate my 30th birthday!
So far on this trip I’d done some pretty cool things from firework displays on Navy Pier in Chicago to watching two friends get married on the West coast and much, much more but today felt like a big day on the month-long itinerary!
Every year Haleigh’s (my fiance!) family host an annual summer BBQ and get the whole gang together in the lovely city of Walla Walla in Washington State.
For someone with a pretty introverted personality I’d be lying if I was to say huge social gatherings are an environment I’m particularly comfortable in. Throw in the fact I’d be spending it with the significant other’s family, some of which I’d only be meeting for the first time, and it perhaps wouldn’t surprise you if I said I was dreading this day of the trip.
Yet oddly it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I was excited, honoured even, to be invited in to this precious family tradition as an outsider. I had some nerves too of course because it was still early enough in our relationship that I wanted to make a good impression upon Haleigh’s family but it was mostly excitement.
Whilst I don’t particularly excel in social situations, that’s not to say I dislike them. I was really looking forward to a day of good weather, good food and good company. Fortunately I’d visited in February already so I hadn’t been thrown completely in to the deep end and I’d already visited Walla Walla and met a few members of Haleigh’s family previously.
Anyway on to the events of the day! I can’t quite remember what time we left but before heading over to Haleigh’s grandparents, hosts of the big day, we quickly went shopping to pick up a few bits and pieces for the BBQ. We then made our way over and were soon parked up outside the grandparents home.
Inside were a few people scattered around helping prepare the mountain of food required for such a large gathering, outside people were mingling and getting ready to kick off the fun and games.
The game of the weekend appeared to be some tactical dice game called Vegas, requiring a little luck with the objective of the game to be the one with the most money at the end of it.
It was a five player game and I was quick to jump in on the action and make sure I was in the first round of the competition. Partway through the first game it had been decided that there would be five rounds with the winner of each round qualifying for the grand final and an opportunity to take home the family bragging rights!
Sadly I fell just short in game number one, losing by $10,000 which is the smallest margin you could lose a game by – so close! The winner, Gina on this occasion, vacated her seat in order to allow a new challenger in to the ring.
Two games later we had three finalists before there was a break in play – it was time for the feast! Out came all of the food from the kitchen and it was spread out across this long table in the “yard”. Guests were then split between the “adults” and the “kids” of which me and Haleigh fell in to the latter – all but one of the kids table were genuinely children but it was a large party and too many people to fit to one table.
There was a happy mood in the air, everyone was in good spirits and enjoying themselves. For my first American family get-together it was a great experience and one I hope to enjoy many, many more times in the future. Good food and good company, what more could you possibly want?
It was nice getting to know Haleigh’s family a little better. After stuffing ourselves on food most of “the kids” moved back inside and were quickly playing some fun group games that you played on your phones.
At some point the games switched to a drawing / pictionary-like game which was my time to bow out – not my forte. I have no artistic talent so I was happy to sit this one out.
As it was Rob was keen to get some more games of Vegas going so tournament play resumed with two spots in the final up for grabs! I was keen to make the final cut but frustratingly lost another game by just 10,000. I think the competitive spirit and sabotage-tactics cost both me and Rob a place in Sunday’s grand final. The nature of the game means you can reap the rewards of others battling it out, swooping in and claiming the money for yourself.
Our wonderful hosts were keen to get a family photo to mark the occasion before the sun went down, so we made our way outside and obliged and that really signalled the winding down of the evening. People slowly started saying their goodbyes and were all heading off in various directions.
I haven’t seen any photos from the day and personally didn’t get any of my own, hence this is a post severely lacking any photos. I was just content to enjoy the day and appreciate the opportunity to partake in this special annual family tradition.
Sadly we missed it in 2019 as Haleigh was visiting England and obviously no plans really panned out this year but fingers crossed there’ll be an opportunity to get together for another family BBQ in 2021. I guess we’ll see.
Anyway, that rounds up the big family BBQ. Whilst the main event had come and gone, there was still one more day of family fun in Walla Walla to come before the big roadtrip could commence.
Welcome back folks! I’ll get back to the “big 3-0” trip asap but thought I’d share a bonus post with you this week and another little dedication to a country far away from England!
I don’t pay huge amounts of attention to my blogging stats, ultimately because this is just a bit of fun for me, but some of you will remember of course that I posted a while ago about the mystery of my fame in China.
As China’s biggest (unofficial) influencer it’s perhaps of no surprise that visitors from search engine Baidu keep streaming in but the full extent of my “influencing” came to light recently as I was curious as to how well traveled my blog actually was.
I took a look in mid November and those of you following me on Twitter will have noted that the tally of countries to have visited my blog stood at 99 countries!
Admittedly, some of those countries are a little questionable (The European Union is not a country!) but who am I to argue with the WordPress Gods? I sent out a pleaful tweet for someone, somewhere to help me reach the 3 digit landmark!
Well I’m pleased to say it finally happened. On December 6th a reader in Libya cemented themselves as the individual to tick off that milestone! So thank you, whoever you are! Jason Likes To Travel is now truly global, the reach of my “influencing” has no limits! I am firmly on the worldwide blogging map and my blog has been viewed in 100 (WordPress) countries!
Now I have to say Libya isn’t a country I’m particularly well educated on. I suspect that is the case for many of you reading this too so I thought I’d share a few fun facts in celebration of the occasion and perhaps boost my African following too! Haha.
So here we go!
Libya’s population is roughly 6.5 million people and the capital of Libya is Tripoli. Those of you familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s hit show ‘Parts Unknown’ might have seen the episode which covered his trip to Libya – as per the notes here
The most famous Libyan is undoubtedly that of Muammar Gaddafi, however Libya also produced Africa’s first Pope for ten years from 189 to 199AD. Who knew!?
That last fact is a sign of Libya’s long history, which even had its own Ancient Greek city of Cyrene! Historically Libya was divided in to three areas known as Fezzan, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania!
Libya’s national language is Arabic but people also widely speak English and Italian! Lunch is considered the big meal of the day and Libyan tea is thick and supposedly like black syrup! I can’t say that sounds particularly appealing to me as an English tea drinker but I’m willing to try it! Haha.
Anyway, I won’t ramble on. This was just meant as a little light-hearted post in celebration of my 100th country here on WordPress!
To my favourite Libyan reader, I say شكرا لك or shukraan lak! Hopefully Google Translate has not failed me in the translation of that! Haha.
To the rest of you, it’s back to business next time on the blog as I march on with “the big 3-0” adventure. Stay tuned for more on that!
Welcome back to another chapter of the “big 3-0” story! Those of you who haven’t been reading along (shame on you!) you’ll not know the significance of this trip. I’ll put links to previous posts at the bottom so you can catch up but in summary, I was spending 30 days in the USA celebrating my 30th birthday!
So now everyone is caught up, last time out on the blog we’d left Portland and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington on Thursday afternoon ahead of a weekend family get-together!
I hadn’t specifically planned the trip for this to be the case but a few factors meant that this was a really convenient halfway point of the trip. I’m not going to say it was a quiet weekend by any means but we had fewer plans and fewer places to be. It was more relaxed and less go-go-go, keeping in mind I’d already spent time in five different states on this trip. It felt nice to know that this was a weekend where I could refresh and re-energise ahead of more adventures coming.
My relaxed mood however was a little short-lived. After a decent sleep I woke up to news from England. My bank were desperately trying to reach me regarding a suspicious £190 payment that had come out of my account.
I didn’t have enough information to confirm the charge was or wasn’t something I’d purchased. I’d had a night here or a couple of nights there.. once exchanged in to the correct currency it could easily have been a hotel charge so I kicked off my morning by spending 30 minutes on the phone to my bank. I eventually got through and discovered somebody in Brazil had somehow made a purchase with my card details, leading to the suggestion they deactivate and replace my card.
I had some cash with me but not enough to support myself for the next 16 days. I couldn’t have my bank cancelling my card, I anticipated that I’d still need to use it at some point. Fortunately my bank found a compromise and placed a restriction on it instead which meant my fraudster in Brazil couldn’t use my card and that my account could only be used with the presence of the card and by pin-transaction only. That was perfect! Sort of..
Any of you that have been to the US will know that they’re allergic to pin-transactions. You almost never have to input a pin number in to a machine, you just sign for everything..
Not that anyone ever checks the signature. Scribble this, leave a nice doodle here.. people are none-the-wiser. The signature process is effectively redundant, I don’t get why they even bother with the signature part – all they do is swipe your card details really.
Having been to the US plenty of times by now I was fully aware of this of course. Only being able to use the card for pin-transactions was going to really limit where and when I could use my bank card. The important thing was that I could use my card but I knew that going forward I’d probably be reliant on finding ATM machines and withdrawing cash to use.
I didn’t foresee that being a problem so heads up for anyone thinking this is a good plan for a trip to the US. Free-to-use ATM machines are almost non-existent – even if you’re American, even if its YOUR bank. You will be charged every time you want to withdraw cash! At least $3 I reckon, sometimes more. I find that incredible coming from the UK or even Europe where free-to-use ATM’s are everywhere! I was grateful to be able to use my card in a “pin-only” capacity as I’d have been screwed without it but the charges racked up.
I guess moral of the story is either make sure you have enough cash to cover your trip or ensure you have multiple cards you can use. I’ve never owned a credit card, I’m quite “good with money” and consequently I got stung by my only card being compromised.
Anyway, long story short: I got it sorted and meant I had money for the rest of the morning. After half an hour on the phone I was free to enjoy the rest of my morning. We had a pretty lazy morning and didn’t do too much really. The big family BBQ wasn’t until tomorrow and I’d been to Walla Walla six months earlier so I’d seen much of what was in town.
After relaxing for a bit myself, Haleigh and Ben (Haleigh’s brother) went out for lunch. We went to this cool pizza place in town called Sweet Basil. I hadn’t been here before but it was really good, albeit a little messy. I don’t know how but I’d seemingly managed to get some tomato sauce on my nose (seriously, how?) which amused the other two.
Moving on from lunch we strolled along the main street in the downtown area. It’s largely made up of wineries because Walla Walla seemingly does really good wine. We ended up popping in to sweet-tooth favourite Brights which is home to a whole host of candy and dessert options. We grabbed some ice cream which rounded off our lunch quite nicely.
After browsing a few places downtown we headed back to the house and got some video games going, although I mostly watched. Ben and Haleigh kicked off by playing some Minecraft, a game that I’ve never really seen the appeal in, before Ben switched to some newly-released zombie game which was pretty fun to watch.
The added bonus to being in Walla Walla was that it allowed the opportunity to catch up on some of the more mundane things. For instance I hadn’t packed a month’s worth of clothing so this was a good afternoon to get some washing done. Between doing that and hanging out the afternoon flew by pretty quickly. It wasn’t long until Ben had to switch his focus to getting ready for work.
By this point in the weekend a few other out-of-towners had arrived in Walla Walla so we headed over to the second set of grandparents for a BBQ-eve get-together. It was a chance for me to meet a few new faces and enjoy an evening of good company, good food and playing a few more games.
Whilst it hadn’t been the most eventful day of the trip so far, it was a nice enough start to the weekend and good to be back in a city that I’ve quickly adopted as my second home. Surrounded by good people and mountain views, what more could you want?
I was excited for the rest of the weekend. More on that to come soon! Stay tuned!
Welcome back dear folks! For those of you who haven’t been following along with the “big 3-0” trip, I’ll leave links to all of the previous posts at the bottom of the post. However for those of you who have been reading, you’ll recall last time out I was rounding up mine and Haleigh’s time in Portland.
We woke up on the Thursday morning, gathered our bits and pieces together and were saying our temporary goodbye’s to Haleigh’s Aunt Gina and Uncle Rob who’d kindly put us up for a few days. It had been great having somewhere to stay whilst in Portland and it was also lovely meeting more of the family ahead of the weekend shenanigans.
On Saturday would be the “famous” annual family BBQ in Walla Walla so whilst we were heading ‘home’ on Thursday, Gina and Rob would be driving over on Friday after work to join us in Walla Walla.
So we said our temporary goodbyes and then began our journey to Walla Walla. Walla Walla is over on the East side of Washington State so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us. We wanted to make an early start as we were keen to stop off at Multnomah Falls along the way. I’d seen a few photos online and it looked breathtaking so we were both hoping to see it.
Multnomah isn’t too far from Portland so it’s easy to link in with a trip to Portland. Unfortunately the car park for it was closed / full and we’d already passed the earlier exits where you can get a shuttle. It didn’t seem worthwhile turning back and we knew we’d be back in Oregon later in the trip so were hopeful we’d get another opportunity to visit.
We were still keen to stop somewhere and a little further along we started seeing signs for Bonneville Dam which seemed like a good alternative to our original plans. The Bonneville Dam was a huge project on the Colombia River that seperates Washington and Oregon. It not only helped flood-control in the area but it created a huge number of jobs in America through the ‘Great Depression’.
It was a cool place to stop at and the visitor centre had plenty of information on how it had shaped American history, plus the benefits for the cities and states that sit along the river. One of the cooler things you can witness is the ‘fish ladder’ that was built that allows various fish to pass on through the dam.
After a little time at the dam and a few photos we got back on the road. We were feeling a little bit peckish so started thinking about grabbing lunch somewhere. We stumbled upon a town called ‘Cascade Locks’. We stopped at the first road-side restaurant we came to. However it wasn’t really what we were looking for and had more of a cafeteria / buffet type feel to it where you picked up a tray and queued so we passed on this place and moved onwards.
Before getting back in the car I couldn’t help but grab a quick photo of this cool bridge. I didn’t know this at the time but a Google search tells me that this is called ‘The Bridge of the Gods’. I’m not sure what the significance of the name is but it looked cool.
We hopped back in the car and quickly found another restaurant which looked to be linked to some hotel and thought we’d take a look. It had an absolutely awful stench as we walked in and unsurprisingly the place was empty. There were also no staff to greet us as we entered which wasn’t too encouraging. Even on a relatively busy highway they clearly weren’t anticipating any custom so we skipped out on eating here too.
Deciding this town was a bit of a dud we just hit the road and decided lunch would wait until we arrived in ‘The Dalles’. We ended up visiting a place called ‘Cousins’ which Haleigh had visited on previous family trips to the Oregon Coast. It was a nice little family-friendly place offering the typical American favourites and the food was decent too.
The weather was scorching though and a sign of things to come in Eastern Washington. We stepped out of this nicely air-conditioned restaurant and the heat hit me instantly smack in the face. Temperatures were in to the low 40’s (celsius obviously) so it was just ridiculously warm. Fortunately we were quickly back on the road and in a lovely air-conditioned car. I remember checking the temperature at one point and well, see for yourself! Welcome to a summer in the Pacific North West!
The rest of the drive back to Walla Walla was pretty uneventful. We got stuck behind some slow-moving vehicles, typically on single-lane roads, that slowed us down a little bit but soon enough we were crossing the Colombia River and heading back to the familiarity of Washington State.
I’d only been to Walla Walla once at this point, for a few days back in February, and the one thing that had blown me away on the approach was seeing the mountains as you drive in to the city.
“Oh.. we’re THIS close to the mountains?” – on that February trip we were staying with Haleigh’s grandparents and you could see the mountains from their yard or kitchen window or whatever.
I was looking forward to the weekend as a whole but I was also looking forward to that approach back in to Walla Walla. It never gets old seeing that view and it is the one that makes you think.. yeah, I’m home now. I do have a real soft spot for this piece of Washington.
Sadly on this particular trip nature had other ideas and denied me the luxury of that view. I’d been daydreaming about that view for weeks, if not months, but Washington, Oregon and California had spent much of the summer on fire. I hadn’t really experienced the effect of that so far on my trip but from here on out I was going to have to get used to hazy skies.
Disappointingly there was no sign of the mountains as we arrived in to Walla Walla. It was still warm but the views were lacking, haze was the only word on the weather report. The sun was somewhere up there but who knew where.
Anyway, Halegh had soon parked up the car outside of her family home where we dropped off our things and swiftly headed back out of the door. We went and paid a visit to the first set of grandparents we’d be seeing over the next few days. It was nice to see them again and hear how’d they been.
A little while later me and Haleigh headed out for dinner with Haleigh’s mum and brother. We returned to what is a popular restaurant in town called ‘Clarettes’ which I’d visited previously. Again, it was a nice family-friendly place with good American dining options on the menu.
The rest of the evening was pretty relaxed. We didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy and just crawled in to bed ahead of another day in the familiarity of Walla Walla. More on that next time!
Welcome back to another post in the “big 3-0” series. Last time out on the blog I talked about the start to my time in Oregon. Myself and Haleigh had had the opportunity to see a little of Portland but were looking forward to exploring properly on day 12.
I promised that day 12 would be a little more eventful, so much so that we actually split our time in two different cities! We’d spent day 11 with Haleigh’s aunt and uncle but with working life resumed, me and Haleigh were left to explore by ourselves. Rather than head in to Portland we actually decided to kick off our Wednesday morning by making the short drive over to Oregon City.
Oregon City’s only around 10-15 miles away from Portland so it wasn’t too far for us to go. Oregon City was the first city in the state of Oregon and subsequently was the capital of the territory of Oregon at one point.
It’s a little hard to believe when you get there because it’s a pretty small city – not much larger than your average town if I’m being honest. The population is less than 40,000 and it felt very compact, particularly coming from the Portland area.
We parked up on one of the streets in the downtown area and thought we’d go find somewhere for some breakfast. However not much seemed to be happening in this sleepy little city, we walked along Main Street and there didn’t seem to be many options for breakfast and the few that were hadn’t opened their doors yet.
In the end we settled for grabbing something from a Dutch Bros whilst walking along the Willamette River which runs through the heart of the city and alongside Main Street.
One of the cooler landmarks, if you can call it that, in Oregon City is the ‘Municipal Elevator’ which connects Main Street and the downtown area with the higher areas of the city. The elevator is free to ride so we took a journey up. It’s mostly a residential area but there’s a pathway that you can walk along that offers some pretty cool views of the city and Willamette Falls in the distance.
The pathway stretches for a few blocks so we decided to walk along and take in the views, plus get a few photos. However it’s a narrow pathway and we weren’t quite prepared for the unavoidable sprinklers. We ended up getting a little wet whilst walking along. The path goes so far but is essentially a dead end so we had to turn back for round two of a sprinkler-soaking but fortunately it was a warm day and didn’t take long for us to dry off. It was worth it for the views.
We took the elevator back down to street level and had a wander through the small downtown area of Oregon City. Haleigh suggested we popped in to some Christmas shop, oddly enough this was the second Christmas store I’d visited on this summer trip – having had Crystal take me in to one in New Orleans too!
Oregon seem to have timed parking zones so although we were able to park for free, we were only allowed to park where we were for two hours. Feeling a little time-conscious and having seen much of the downtown area we decided to move the car and find somewhere to get some lunch.
Oddly enough there was a Scottish pub in town which caught our eye and offered the usual British pub favourites along with some American classics. It seemed like a good place to grab food and I was instantly drawn towards the meat pies – craving a good steak and ale pie which are severely lacking stateside.
Haleigh opted for the Mac and Cheese but I made sure she sampled a bit of my pie (which she enjoyed) and also introduced her to the concept of “chips and gravy” – the only thing missing were some mushy peas!
In addition to the food I was intrigued to see what beers they had on the menu and was initially delighted to see Scottish craft-beer favourites ‘Brewdog’ were on the menu. The $13 dollar price tag on a bottle of their Punk IPA quickly put me off though!
Brewdog have quickly grown throughout the UK and are seemingly trying to break in to the international market with branches opening across the world and even a beer hotel on the horizon (it might be open by now) but I’m not sure how they’ll ever conquer the US if they’re charging $13 a bottle in a country that has no shortage of good craft beers available. Admittedly in this instance I’m aware the pub itself have priced it up and probably have the added novelty of proclaiming themselves a Scottish pub to try and justify it but it was a little mind-blowing – $13!! Hopefully that’s a one off and not a price you’ll find for Brewdog beers elsewhere in the US.
As it was I don’t think I opted for a beer anyway, I was just curious about the menu. We enjoyed a good lunch and then Haleigh started looking at dessert options, I asked if “Sticky Toffee Pudding” was a common dessert in the US before pointing her in that direction. It went down well so in addition to the pie tasting the British food was leaving a good impression on Haleigh!
Opposite the pub was another viewpoint of the Willamette Falls and river so we took a quick look. Also here was a statue of John McLoughlin (the “Father of Oregon”) and also a sign of Oregon City detailing the history of the area. We grabbed some photos and then pondered where next? We’d seen most of Oregon City already but thought we’d make one final stop at the Museum of Oregon Territory.
Unfortunately there were roadworks and seemingly nowhere to actually park within the vicinity of the museum. Our only option was to park miles away so we cut our losses and made our way out of this small little piece of Oregon and made our way in to Portland for the afternoon.
We really wanted to visit ‘OMSI’, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is home to various exhibits, a planetarium and even a submarine that sits on the river!
You have to buy tickets to enter and have a choice of a variety of package options ranging from single-attraction options to an “all in-one” ticket. We wanted to visit both the planetarium and the submarine so bought ourselves a ticket that covered those two options.
We started with the guided tour of the ‘USS Blueback Submarine’. Like many people I suppose, it was my first time on a submarine so I found it really interesting and tried to imagine how difficult it must be spending so much time confined to the limited space in a submarine. You learn quite a bit about the history of this specific submarine and I thought it was definitely a worthwhile tour doing. We both left with it being a highlight of our time in Portland.
Next up was the planetarium show which was also something I’d never done before. Our particular show focused on seeing the various stars and planets over the Portland area which was really cool. It went by really quickly though, I think it was around 30 minutes in length but I think myself and Haleigh both would have been happy sat there for much longer. It’s definitely something I’d do again and ‘OMSI’ had a number of different shows on that you could pick between so you could easily squeeze in a couple in to one day at ‘OMSI’.
We didn’t see everything at ‘OMSI’, there was definitely stuff left to check out on a future visit but I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. Having spent our morning in Oregon City and our afternoon at OMSI our attention switched to evening plans!
A friend of mine (Ryan) lives in Portland and I knew whenever I finally got around to visiting we’d have to try and meet up. Ideally I figured it’d be for a Portland Timbers (men’s football) or Thorns (women’s football) match but neither schedule overlapped with my time in the city so instead we arranged to grab dinner and some drinks with Ryan and his husband (David).
I think we left OMSI at around 4-4:30 and were meeting up at 6 so we had a bit of time to kill but not enough to really go and do too much. I think there was a feeling that with the drive over and rush-hour that it’d take us a bit longer to get across town but that wasn’t the case at all. We left OMSI and were in what felt like this relatively hip neighbourhood not much later.
There was definitely a buzz about the place with a number of independent shops, restaurants and bars lining this long street (SE Division). Our only real problem was trying to find somewhere to park, it probably took us a good 10 minutes going up and down the street and circling blocks before finally pinching a parking spot. We lucked out as it just happened to be right outside of where we were eating.
We were still far too early so decided we’d take a bit of a wander and popped our heads in to a couple of shops. Next to our restaurant was a shop called ‘Citizen Ruth’ which felt reflective of the area (and Portland as a whole really) and had a number of liberal and feminist-inspired products on sale. The guy manning the store was really friendly and Haleigh picked up a book and a couple of bits to make it a worthwhile visit.
Further up the street I’d noticed we’d driven past an ice-cream stop that I’d heard plenty of buzz about and was seemingly pretty popular in Portland amongst the Instagrammers, bloggers and travelers of the world. I hadn’t actually intended to visit on this trip at all so this really came about by chance more than anything. However as it was within walking distance of where we were we decided to check out ‘Salt and Straw’ and see what all the fuss was about.
They had a good range of unusual flavoured ice creams on the menu so we were pondering which flavours we should try. The woman behind the counter piped up and seemed content in handing us a number of free tasters which were delicious and was sufficient in offering us our fix of ice cream. Had it not been right before dinner we’d definitely have bought something but as they were open pretty late we suggested we’d return after dinner (we didn’t!).
Soon enough it was time to meet up with Ryan. Unfortunately David was running a little late so was going to skip out on dinner and catch up with us for some beers but managed to catch up with us whilst we were still eating our tacos before ordering his own.
It was really cool to finally meet Ryan in person after a number of years chatting online. It was also nice having both of our significant others to keep the conversation flowing nicely – a fun little double date!
Following on from dinner we moved over to a bar down the street, Haleigh wasn’t drinking but they had some good beer options which kept me happy and we spent the next hour or two just chatting away. It was a really nice evening. We’d all had a good time and it was definitely a highlight of my time in Portland and indeed the trip.
It didn’t end up being too late a night, we called it quits after 2-3 beers as the guys had work the next day and this was our last night in Oregon so we wanted to make an early enough getaway in the morning.
It had been a great way to end our time in Portland, tomorrow we’d be heading back to Washington! Stay tuned for more on that!
Hello my dear readers! I am well and truly back in to the swing of things now so I thought I’d get back to “the big 3-0” series. For those of you that missed the start of the series I’ll leave links at the bottom for you to go back and read but I’ll quickly catch you up!
In August 2018 I was invited to a wedding out in Washington State, two days before my 30th birthday. A wedding in another country and a big birthday left me with a huge temptation to celebrate BIG. So I planned a 30 day trip exploring various parts of the US.
Day 10 had seen me and my girlfriend (now fiance!) Haleigh arrive in Portland after a drive down from Washington. We hadn’t really done much other than settle in for the evening. We were staying with Haleigh’s Uncle Rob and Aunt Gina so it had just been a night of good food, good company and playing some games.
So day 11 was going to give us our first proper glimpse of the Portland area. As it was, day 11 happened to be the actual day of the big 3-0! In all honesty I felt like the trip as a whole all just blurred in to one celebration. I didn’t feel like today was any more special than any of the other 29 days in the US. I’m not really one to make a huge fuss about my birthday but nevertheless, I’d arrived in Portland a 29 year old and woken up as a 30 year old.
It ended up being a relatively chilled start to the day in truth. Rob and Gina both had the day off work so we’d agreed to spend the day together. However they’d got up early to pop out and look at buying a new RV which left me and Haleigh to have a slow start to the day which was nice.
I’d say it was a quiet start to the day but we were keeping one eye on our four-legged company, or perhaps it was the other way around as they were still pretty bark-happy. Particular Buster who’d set off again any time I moved, almost as if he’d temporarily forget I was in his company and indeed his home.
“Wait.. you’re still here!?”
A little while later Rob and Gina had returned, unfortunately following an unsuccessful purchase, and quickly freshened up before the four of us headed out together. We kicked things off by finding a place for lunch. We ended up visiting some local Hawaiian place which was really nice. They had some cool artwork up on the walls that I think we’d all have been happy taking home with us but we settled for just enjoying the food haha. Haleigh kindly treated me to lunch by way of celebrating the birthday which was also nice!
As I said above, I’m not one to make a huge fuss about my birthday but continuing with the theme of the day we thought we’d go do something a little more fun that all four of us could enjoy. Within close vicinity of the restaurant was a bowling alley so we decided to have a couple of rounds of bowling.
The bowling ended up being perhaps the part I remember most from this day. With bowling balls and shoes at the ready, the local (Rob) was far better prepared than Haleigh or myself for this little outing and gave the impression that this was “serious business”.
With that in mind I was keen to give a good account of myself on the lanes and see how I could fare against the pro! I was expecting Rob to cruise to victory but things didn’t quite go to script!
Employees of the bowling alley had recently oiled the lane in an effort to sabotage Rob’s game and disrupt his bowling rhythm! Those of you less inclined to believe in conspiracy theories might suggest it was coincidental rather than personal. Additionally some may argue that we were all subject to the same bowling conditions but the slippery lanes took its toll on Rob as he shared his frustration with anyone willing to hear it.
I have to say, I found it quite hysterical. Rob was NOT happy and I was struggling to contain how amusing I found the situation. I grew up watching my parents participate in a weekly bowling league so I appreciate the technique and routine that goes in to bowling but Rob was struggling to adapt to the conditions and his competitive nature meant he was pretty miserable. From a personal viewpoint, I think watching someone so competitive have such a miserable game is inevitably uplifting haha.
The conditions had leveled the playing field and culminated in a birthday victory in the first game! Rob’s fortunes picked up in the second game and as a result he ended up cruising to a pretty comfortable win in the end but I was content to have won one game at least.
The win perked Rob up a little bit but we didn’t stick around for a third game and decided to head in to the downtown area of Portland. One place that has to be visited in Portland, particularly for someone as book-obsessed as Haleigh, is the famous Powell’s Books! It’s a huge bookstore in Portland and was somewhere we were both keen to visit whilst in town.
Powell’s Books lived up to its reputation as a dream for any book-lover. There are an endless number of books to browse through and I’ve no doubt it’s somewhere you could spend hours in if you wanted to. We split up in to two pairs and wandered around for a while – Haleigh trying to resist the urge to buy every book in the store! She did a pretty good job and made it out without bruising the bank balance too badly. We did stop off at the in-store cafe though and all had something to drink – tea for myself obviously.
We didn’t do too much else after leaving Powell’s Books, we had a little browse through Portland before turning our attention to dinner. We ended up visiting some quirky bar which I think was part of the McMenamins chain. It was a nice way to round off the day, I tried a couple of beers and then just enjoyed the good food and good company.
We headed back to the house and finished the evening by watching a movie – The Big Lebowski. Whilst bowling it had been mentioned and had caused shock that neither myself nor Haleigh had seen this “classic” movie.
It’s an odd film. I don’t know how myself and Haleigh found ourselves watching it alone but we stuck with it until the end. Not that I could really tell you what the plot of it is, to the point that the film largely revolves around a bowling tournament that they don’t even reveal if they won it or not!
It was a bizarre end to the day but rounded off a nice birthday which was pretty relaxed and spent with good company. We hadn’t done a huge amount thus far in Portland but we packed plenty in to day 12 so stay tuned for that!
Hello my dear readers, welcome back to another post! Can you believe it? I’m posting twice within a week – incredible!
After a little hiatus, last time out on the blog I provided a little update and promised that I’d post about my recent trip to Gibraltar! Here’s that post!
I’d never been to Gibraltar before, nor had I really had that much interest in going to Gibraltar. Of course I want to visit everywhere in the world but I definitely feel like it ended up being a Covid-influenced decision. As I explained in my last post, with so many travel restrictions currently I found myself torn between staying in the UK, visiting Turkey or visiting Gibraltar with my few days of annual leave.
I’ve been itching to visit Turkey for a little while now but something swayed me towards Gibraltar instead. A few days after booking my trip Turkey went on the quarantine list so that was a big relief.
As for the UK.. well, the less said about the Covid situation in the UK at the moment the better. Ironically a trip to Gibraltar seemed safer than visiting anywhere within my own country – ridiculous!
Once everything was booked my excitement did start to build. It had been six months since I’d been abroad and indeed six months since I’d been to Heathrow. I opted to stay in an airport hotel on the Wednesday night and then fly out of terminal 5 at around midday on Thursday – not too early so I got a bit of a lay in on Thursday morning.
Heathrow was inevitably a bit busier than my arrival back in April but was still far from normal capacity. I passed through security pretty quickly and went on the hunt for breakfast. My usual pre-flight spot is at Huxley’s with some pancakes and a pot of tea but they were seemingly closed – I’m hoping this is just temporary but in the meantime I had to settle for breakfast at ‘Spoons’. They had a few screens up between tables and table service so adhering to the Covid measures in place. In fairness to Wetherspoons, they’ve actually encouraged ordering via an app for a long time so have been a little “ahead of the game” on that front.
Anyway, a short while later it was time to fly. Boarding was pretty smooth and done from the back of the plane by row order, I lucked out on the way to Gibraltar with an aisle seat and nobody sat in the middle. However it was generally a full-capacity flight and most rows had every seat full, just worth keeping in mind for anybody pondering how busy flights are at the moment – masks were mandatory and there seemed to be no fuss on that part at least.
I landed in Gibraltar a few hours later. Before you’re allowed to enter Gibraltar you have to complete a passenger-locator form. You can do this online once you’ve checked in for your flight, it surprised me how many hadn’t done this before arrival. They check every single passenger so you’re better off doing it beforehand rather than stood huddled together filling out a form in the arrival hall.
Anyway, I’d finally arrived in a very warm and sunny Gibraltar. You can get a taxi to your accommodation or there’s a bus stop not too far from the airport that will take you in to the centre of the country but with glorious weather I decided to walk to my hotel.
The very Northern point of Gibraltar to the very Southern point of Gibraltar is about 6 kilometers in length so it’s a really walkable country. The airport is in the very North of the country so you want to head South, in direction of that big ol’ rock, to get in to Gibraltar. You’ll know which way you need to go because the border crossing in to Spain is right in front of you when you come out of the airport and the rock is behind you and unmissable haha.
Interestingly to get in to the main part of Gibraltar you have to cross the runway which you’ve just flown in on. It’s quite unique and they’ll stop crossings when a plane is due to land or depart.
I walked in direction of the rock and even getting a little lost I’d soon arrived in what I considered to be the heart and soul of the country – Casemates Square. The square had a bit of a buzz and life to it. Additionally it’s in a really picturesque location so my first impressions of Gibraltar were good. I already felt like I was going to enjoy Gibraltar.
I think it was about 4-4:30 when I landed so by the time I’d walked in to Gibraltar I was ready to check in to my hotel and drop my things off. A friend had recommended a couple of places and I opted to stay at the Elliott Hotel which proved to be a good decision as it was a lovely hotel and in a really good location in relation to everywhere else in Gibraltar. I dropped my things off, relaxed for a little bit and then freshened up to head out and find some dinner.
I decided I’d stay pretty local. A friend over on Instagram lives in Gibraltar at the moment and had kindly sent a bunch of recommendations over to me – one of those was ‘The Skull’ which was just around the corner from my hotel so seemed particularly ideal on my first night given I’d yet to get my bearings with where things were.
True to its name, everything at this little bar was Skull themed! Skull designed flooring, skulls lining the bar, skull-shaped lightbulbs, skull-inspired artwork and even skull-themed dishes. My chips turned up in a skull-designed glass, as did my cocktail that followed dinner haha. It was a nice little place and a good spot for my first evening. It was pretty empty though which surprised me a bit given England and Wales were playing eachother in the football and this particular bar were televising the game – admittedly another incentive for me to visit on my first night.
There’s no curfew in Gibraltar, unlike the UK currently, but because there were so few customers they didn’t stay open late. I was assured it’d be a bit more lively on Friday evening but with an early kicking-out time I had a little wander through Gibraltar to see what else was local to where I was staying.
In all honesty I was aiming for the waterfront but after little success finding it I admitted defeat. I didn’t really see anything else of particular interest on my wander so just headed back to my hotel and called it a night, ready to explore and get a proper glimpse of Gibraltar in the morning.
I woke up on Friday morning to darkness which was quite confusing. I thought it must still be early in the morning but even at 7, 7:30 in the morning it’s dark outside. The sun didn’t rise until about 8:30 in the morning which I found a little unsettling and also a little demotivating to get myself up and raring to go. I reckon I’d have been up and raring to go a bit earlier but instead I rolled over and went back to sleep, I wasn’t heading out to explore whilst it was still so dark.
Unfortunately this became a bit of a ‘bad habit’ if there’s such a thing on holiday. As much as I’d want to get my day going I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed before the sun was up. It was probably closer to 10 or 11am by the time I’d left my hotel and it felt like such a waste of my morning. I went and found a place to grab some breakfast but the slow start had set the tone for the rest of the day.
It ended up being a really relaxed day. There were a few things I wanted to do whilst in Gibraltar but none set for any particular day, I was largely winging it and just seeing where things took me.
Ultimately Friday just became a familiarisation day that allowed me to get my bearings with where things are in Gibraltar. I’d not had much chance to do so yet but I kind of used it to earmark where I’d spend the next few days. By the afternoon I’d wound up at the popular ‘Ocean Village’.
I wouldn’t call it a village as such but it’s where you’ll find a lot of the nightlife in Gibraltar. There’s a host of restaurants and bars floating above the water, joined by a variety of boats and yachts including the impressive ‘Sunborn’ which you can stay on and is also home to a casino.
I liked Ocean Village but it probably does cater more towards the tourists. That said, I was a tourist so found myself an outside seat at one of the bars and refreshed myself with a beer or two. Keen not to stay in one spot all day I did drag myself away from the temptation to just sit in the sun all afternoon and wandered back through the streets of Gibraltar before making my way back to Casemates Square.
As I said above, it really is the heart and soul of Gibraltar in my mind. You’ve got tourists and the locals intertwined and it makes for a really nice atmosphere and is also perfect for people-watching!
I must have arrived sometime between 3pm – 4pm because there was a huge collection of school children running around enjoying themselves whilst the cafes, pubs and restaurants were slowly filling up for the evening.
Due to a late breakfast I’d skipped lunch and found myself in that peckish dilemma of “is it too late for lunch / too early for dinner?” before eventually deciding I was too hungry to wait. I took a seat at the Italian restaurant ‘Tramonte Ristorante’ and treated myself to a pizza which ended up being pretty good!
The rest of my day was pretty uneventful, I didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy but I felt a lot more comfortable with where things were and the quickest ways to get around. I ended up getting a rather early night, particularly for a Friday, keen to make a better go of exploring on Saturday.
A few people knowing I was in Gibraltar had asked if I’d “seen the monkeys yet” and I’d decided going to the top of the rock was my plan for Saturday. However I sensibly took a look at the forecast and whilst warm, it looked like it was going to be a cloudy day and I thought better of it so instead I decided I’d head on down to ‘Europa Point’ at the Southern tip of Gibraltar.
With a bit of a walk ahead of me I kicked off my morning at this little cafe down the street from my hotel. Having missed out at Heathrow I ended up getting some pancakes which was the perfect way to start the day. I was then off on my journey “down South”.
The walk was a little over 2 miles, nothing too strenuous and most of it is coastal too so I’d definitely recommend walking it rather than hopping on a bus. There isn’t too much traffic so it’s a decent walk and offers some really pretty views of the coast and Spain to the West.
Along the way I stumbled upon public outdoor pool areas, some interesting historic buildings and structures and even a little waterfall which I really wasn’t expecting. It’s not a particularly long walk but it’s definitely easy to get distracted along the way which might slow you down a bit haha.
Eventually I reached this long dark tunnel which you have to pass through (coming this route anyway..) which seemed to go on for a bit longer than I was expecting.
As soon as you come out of the tunnel you’ll see a gorgeous mosque on your left. Unfortunately it seemed to be closed so there wasn’t an opportunity to take a look inside but I made sure to grab a couple of photos from the outside.
By this point you’re pretty much at Europa Point and the lighthouse on the Southern coast of Gibraltar.
Europa Point was probably my favourite part of Gibraltar. I think it just really resonated with the traveler within me. Just across the water was the North African coast and it just left me mesmerised!
On a clearer day it’d be so much more visible, my photos don’t do it any justice but Africa was right there! It’s one thing crossing state lines or country borders but to be stood in Gibraltar with Spain on my right and Africa in front of me – wow!
It was mindblowing in some ways. I came here fully aware of that fact so it’s not like it was a surprise but I couldn’t help but transport myself to historic times and put myself in that mindset. I just pictured being stood in Gibraltar with the curiosity and mystery of “hey.. what’s over there?” – “that’s Africa..”
Even now, with the world so accessible and with so much knowledge of other places Africa has that mystery. It was my hope to get to Morocco this year and it obviously didn’t pan out, much like Turkey, so this is the closest I’ve come to stepping on African soil. You can get a little closer in parts of Spain but realistically I knew this was as close as I’m ever likely to get to Africa without stepping in Africa.
I have a habit of romanticising travel, perhaps too much at times, but I was stood there looking across the water and definitely had that “pinch me” moment. There’s so much I don’t know about Africa and I think those of us from the Western world in general are guilty of that.
I found myself completely swept up in the lure of Africa. There’s not a huge amount in the vicinity of Europa Point but I think I could have just sat there all day day-dreaming. It’s a sight and experience you have to make time for in Gibraltar.
Also at Europa Point you’ll find a lighthouse and then a university. The university seemed very sports focused and it’s probably of little shock that I found myself drawn to the Europa Point stadium. It’s in such a stunning location with the rock and its surroundings providing a gorgeous background. Again, I think if I was ever playing on that pitch I’d just get lost within the scenery.
“Jason.. what are you doing? You’ve just let them score!”
Dragging myself away from Europa Point I embarked on a coastal walk. The sun was beginning to make an appearance and it’s just a beautiful place to go for a wander. I stopped every so often to take photos of the views but my intended destination was Gorham’s Cave Complex – a World Heritage site.
This was a bit of a last minute decision. I’d only considered it once I realised how close it was to Europa Point. My lack of preparation meant I didn’t know that it was closed at the weekend so I arrived to find locked gates and subsequently no opportunity to see the cave complex on this particular trip. I turned back and took a slow walk back in to the heart of Gibraltar, via Europa Point again of course.
With the sun finally shining I did ponder whether I could squeeze in a trip up to the top of the rock and tick off both landmarks in one day. However in the end I took a more relaxed approach and decided I’d leave the Rock until tomorrow.
Thinking that it might be time to find somewhere for some food I made my way over to ‘Queensway Quay’ which is a gorgeous little harbour-like area with a handful of restaurants overlooking the water with numerous yachts and pretty boats parked on the docks.
This was somewhere that you’d probably be less inclined to just stumble upon unless you were actively looking for it so it felt a little less touristy than somewhere like Ocean Village. I found myself a table sat outside, ordered some beer and grabbed myself a late lunch whilst overlooking the harbour.
By this point I was pretty smitten with Gibraltar and I’d returned to day-dreaming, this time as a boat owner living the dream life in the sun. Sod going back to Corona-land, I was staying here.
Essentially this was the “South of France..” or “retire in Spain..” lifestyle but with the added boost of a common language. I sat people-watching and this cute couple were sat just infront of me seemingly making the best of their honeymoon. The, socially-distanced, table to the right was an older couple and it wasn’t long before the four of them had become acquainted and friendly and spent the next hour or so chatting.
There’s only one way I’d know that so no need to guess how I spent the next couple of hours. People-watching, sunshine, beers, pretty views, no responsibilities.. what more could you want? It felt almost like living in an alternative reality – “this is what life looks like in a country tackling Covid effectively..”. I was equally bliss and resentful. I was in no rush to leave Gibraltar and just wanted to soak up this feeling.
Eventually I opted to have a wander elsewhere and just get lost within the old town. Despite the huge rock that towers over Gibraltar, it’s such a walkable country and it’s nice to just wander aimlessly and see what you stumble upon. After a while I returned to the hotel to freshen up and relax for a bit before pondering where to spend the evening.
I decided I’d go and grab dinner around Casemates Square and find myself a nice spot to soak up the atmosphere. It’s a lovely spot to watch the sun go down and do some more people-watching. For a Saturday evening it wasn’t overly busy which surprised me a little but there was enough of a buzz that it kept me entertained.
I wasn’t in a rush to call it a night but fancied a change of scenery so thought I’d take a better glimpse at Ocean Village’s own nightlife. Again it wasn’t swarming with people but a little busier than it had been when I passed through on Wednesday. There’s a number of restaurants / bars that you can grab a drink at.
I started off at one bar that had been recommended to me and also had cheap cocktails. I was only going to grab the one cocktail but with a 2-for-1 offer it seemed silly not to have two. I was a little disappointed however that you couldn’t mix-and-match which would have allowed me to try two different cocktails. The bar in general wasn’t really my kind of place either, not solo anyway and it just wasn’t the vibe I was after.
I finished off my cocktails and swiftly moved on. Unlike in the UK currently, there’s no curfew in Gibraltar so I wasn’t having to glance at the clock for a 10pm close. I wandered over to another bar in the Ocean Village which I’d heard were really good for craft beers / ales.
That’s the one possible disappointment and, dare I say, gap in the market as far as Gibraltar is concerned. I decided early on in the trip that I was buying a boat and opening a brewery in Gibraltar because it stuns me that there are no breweries in Gibraltar – not one!
You won’t find locally-made beers in Gibraltar, they’re all imported and generally your options are San Miguel or Heineken in most places you visit – I generally opted for San Miguel but with how popular craft beers are right now it really surprises me. With the weather and dining-out style culture it is the perfect country for better beers and Gibraltar is seriously lacking in that department.
So I was looking forward to finishing off my evening by visiting somewhere that prided themselves on their craft beer selection. Sadly it doesn’t matter how good your menu is if none of the beers are in stock! I was bitterly disappointed. In the end I took my chance on a fruity gin. I’ve never really drunk gin but when better to try it than on holiday? It went down alright and I’m probably more pro-gin than I was before the trip. It was a beautifully decorated bar too so was a nice way to end the evening.
Sunday morning started like the two before it – pitch black! I’d continually wake up raring to go and the lack of sunlight ends up being so demotivating – back to sleep! I woke up a little while later and got myself ready to go up the rock.
I repeatedly debated whether I should climb it by foot or cheat and take the cablecar up. I unsurprisingly opted for the latter and I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s just so much more convenient haha.
At the top you’ve got 360 degree views overlooking the entire country and beyond. It’s definitely the ‘must-do’ of any trip to Gibraltar. It’s also where you’ll find the only wild monkeys in Europe!
I’ll be honest, I thought there’d be much more of them based on stuff I’d read. There were a handful fooling around but not that many. I was one of the earliest people to go up though so perhaps they’re more prominent later in the day when there are more tourists to steal goodies from. Not that I minded too much, I was happy they kept a good distance from me haha.
The views are spectacular and there’s a few other attractions dotted around such as the ‘Skywalk’ or the Windsor suspension bridge. Rather than take the cablecar back down I decided I’d walk down and tick off a few of the points of interest.
The area I probably spent the most time exploring was the ‘great siege tunnels’ in the lower part of the Rock area. It went in to a bit more of the history of Gibraltar which was interesting to read about. It was still pretty early so I had it pretty much all to myself so I could take a bit more time and get some fun photos too!
Outside of the tunnels there’s a couple more cool viewpoints but it was pretty much all downhill from there. I’d definitely recommend going early in the day, it was slowly getting busier on my way down than it had been when I’d first gone up.
By the time I’d made my way down the steps in to the old town I was feeling a bit peckish and I was really hoping to find a decent Sunday roast somewhere. I ended up going to ‘The Clipper’ and it was really, really good. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Gibraltar on a Sunday, it was really good value too for the quality and quantity of food they served up.
After stuffing myself with food I wandered back over to where I’d started the day. Right by where you ride the cablecar is the botanical gardens and I was keen to have a wander through the gardens, I probably should have done so before I’d rode the cablecar up but I hadn’t really anticipated walking back down haha.
The botanical gardens are free to visit and definitely worthwhile visiting for that reason alone. I was expecting it to be a little busier given it was a Sunday afternoon by this point but it was still pretty quiet. Again, I wasn’t going to complain. It just meant I could enjoy a peaceful wander through and admire how pretty it is. I’m sure if I was a local I’d spend many an afternoon here and it wasn’t long before I’d found a bench to sit back, relax and admire the surroundings.
The gardens aren’t particularly huge so eventually I’d covered pretty much all of it and went back to wandering the streets of Gibraltar. By this point I’d pretty much seen all of Gibraltar that I’d wanted to, it’s worth remembering it’s a pretty small country and I’d ticked off the two big things I wanted to see in terms of the Rock and Europa Point. The rest of my Sunday was pretty chilled.
Sunday was my last night in Gibraltar so I wanted to end it by enjoying what felt like my “last taste of freedom”. I think Gibraltar is the kind of destination that I’d enjoy in normal circumstances. I think it had the perfect balance and feel of being a European destination but with a nice dusting of British influence on it that made it really appealing to me. Boat jokes aside, it’s somewhere I could easily see myself living.
That’s in normal circumstances of course. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I was lucky enough to have been able to escape for a few days but perhaps unfortunate enough that it had given me a taste of normality. Gibraltar had been perfect but left me feeling more resentful of what I was going home to.
I really liked Gibraltar but there was definitely a part of me that pondered how could you not in a pandemic? This was as normal as life had felt in a long time and I was desperate to cling on to that feeling of normality.
I treated myself to a steak on the last night in a restaurant over in Ocean Village. It proved to be a perfect spot to watch the sun go down accompanied with a beer. It was a world away from life back in England. I moved on to another bar, had another couple of cocktails and was trying to enjoy this final night for as long as possible. I even stayed out beyond 10pm – wild!
Sadly, it eventually it had to come to an end and was time to call it a night. Monday morning was really a struggle. The only part of Gibraltar I hadn’t really explored was its East coast and I had contemplated going over to Catalan Bay beach which the barman on my first night had said I’d have to visit.
However I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Luckily I didn’t have to check out until midday but I just wasn’t ready to go, to leave this false life and return to the normality of a pandemic. My slump wasn’t helped by the fact I knew the UK government were implementing new lockdown measures today and I was fearing the worst.
That’s not to say I didn’t think those measures were needed but to be in a relatively Covid-secure country and returning to a country that was spiraling out of control was difficult to accept on this particular occasion.
Regardless of how gloomy I felt about returning to the UK, what was the alternative? I checked out as close to noon as possible and figured I’d just go grab some lunch somewhere. Catalan Bay would have to wait until a future visit to Gibraltar, I only had a couple of hours left and didn’t want to go too far out my way.
Ocean Village’s proximity to the airport made it an ideal lunch spot and location to soak in the last few rays of sunshine before I had to say goodbye. Ordinarily I’m a “get-to-the-airport-early” kind of traveler but I did hold back a bit on this occasion.
Admittedly I knew Gibraltar’s airport was pretty small and that only one flight was departing Gibraltar so there wasn’t going to be a huge rush at the airport but the reality is I was still clinging on – just one more beer..
I slowly made my way back to the airport, again opting to walk. It’s only about 10-15 minutes from Ocean Village on foot. My later departure meant I got stopped at the runway crossing as we had to wait for a flight to land before they opened up the road to traffic and pedestrians – a nice little novelty experience to round off the trip.
The flight home was full on this occasion and soon enough I’d landed back in a wet London, Gibraltar’s sunshine was a distant memory.
As for those UK measures I’d been concerned about? The good news is they were much more lenient than I’d anticipated. I’d really feared the worst and I was surprised to discover that as far as my area of the UK was concerned it was “business as usual” and the measures in place were unchanged. It perked me up a little bit from my mood that morning.
The bad news? Well.. the measures were much more lenient than I’d anticipated. It was in equal part good and bad news. There was an air of inevitability about what had to happen to get this virus under control again in the UK and unbelievably it seemed that memo didn’t quite get as far as Downing Street.
As much as I loved Gibraltar I’m left pondering when we’re ever going to reach that point in the UK where life can resemble some form of reality again. Gibraltar was a wonderful trip but also a difficult one as it took me back to happier times and I wasn’t quite ready to give that up.
Anyway, I’ve rambled plenty so time to wrap up this post! I’m sure Gibraltar is a place I’ll return to but next time on the blog I’ll be continuing on with the “big 3-0” trip.