Saturday 8 October 2022

Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, 2022

A look back to the Commonwealth Games

Following the pandemic, we tentatively booked a few tickets to the Commonwealth Games to take advantage of them being on home soil once again. We secured all the tickets we asked for over consecutive days, and therefore could travel to the area and stay. They were Beach Volleyball (a new event for us), swimming (we have applied for this before but have never been successful), lawn bowls (we watched this in Glasgow 2014 and it was very pleasant, also it is out of the main city at Leamington Spa) and men’s gymnastics (again an event we have previously had no success in gaining tickets for).

We booked an Airbnb in Bourneheath near Bromsgrove which was a suitable distance from both Birmingham and Royal Leamington Spa. This turned out to be excellent accommodation, with very friendly hosts. We arrived from two parts of the country and enjoyed a cup of tea in the back area of the little one bedroomed cottage, situated behind the house of the hosts. 

Homemade sourdough loaf and a bottle of local wine greeted us, together with many other little treats and basics such as a little milk, butter and honey. The cottage is well equipped for cooking and even has a small dishwasher and a washer/dryer. It would be a good base for cycling or walking in the area.

There is a lovely view of the main garden from the eating area Saturday 30 th July. Our first event was beach volleyball and actually turned out to be more interesting than Lyn was expecting! The festival area itself was not too interesting, but has decent, if expensive food. However, we only bought very expensive coffee in the area as we had just eaten a tasty lunch in Wagamama. We were disappointed with the merchandise stall as the clothes looked a bit dull. We saw two whole men’s matches, with one in particular between South Africa and Ruwanda that was good, with Ruwanda winning to the delight of the crowd. We only had time to see the start of the women’s match before needing to head off to the swimming.

We arrived in the car park at 5.30pm so only had to pay 40p to park the car for the evening (free after 6pm). As we were early, we decided to take advantage of one of the local takeaways and devoured a vegetable pizza between us in the car. It was a decent walk to the Sandwell Aquatics Centre and mainly up hill – although we later discovered that we could miss out part of this. We managed to escape the entrance queue as Lyn was using her wheelchair due to the long walking distances and we were ushered through the ‘accessible entrance’.

This venue proved to be the worst for access to facilities as there were just too many people and not enough space. Once inside the swimming centre it was okay – but as we were seated right in the middle of the row, we didn’t move for the next few hours. The swimming was interesting, as were the medal ceremonies! Plenty of standing was necessary for national anthems. The walk to the car seemed a lot faster on the way back, but we got back to the cottage quite late so made do with beans on toastfor supper!

Sunday 31 st July. We were thankful that we didn’t have to have an early start today, due to our late night on Saturday. We headed to Royal Leamington Spa, parked in a multi storey car park and went to The Aviary café in Jepson Park. Delicious wholemeal vegetable pasties were eaten, washed down with coffee. A short walk took us to the Lawn Bowls area which turned out to be the nicest venue due to it’s size, the fact it was grassy, and the laid back atmosphere. 

There were two sessions and we watched matches that included England, Jersey, Scotland and Wales in the first session. In the second session we watched matches involving visually impaired players. On the way back to the cottage, we bought a Chinese takeaway to eat for our evening meal.

Monday 1 st August. Time to leave our accommodation and set off to the final event – the gymnastics in Birmingham Arena. We took one car and left Lyn’s on the drive of the accommodation. We had time to have lunch in a Mexican restaurant by the canal which was not the best, and ended up being a bit rushed. Once in the venue, we were treated to a variety of final events. The men’s floor, men’s rings and pummel horse. Also, two women’s events, the vault and the uneven bars. 

Quite interesting and entertaining, with yet more medal ceremonies. It took us a while to leave the city, but once back in Bourneheath we collected Lyn’s car and reconvened at a local pub for our tea prior to both returning home in different directions. All in all, a good weekend and worth the effort.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Drive to Europort and Morning Coffee in Hull

 After another good breakfast the car was packed. The back seats were put down so we would have more room for German beer.

We left the Gasthof just after 10:00 and drove into Buren and Google Maps directed us towards a beer cellar Lyn had found. Beers and wine were selected and an empty crate taken to pack them in. We will need another visit to Germany to get our deposit back. The lady on the till was very helpful especially when I tried to return our Dutch beer bottles rather than the German ones. *1. The correct empties were retrieved, and the bill paid.

The car was repacked, and we set off around 11:40 driving to the EuroPort ferry terminal. Kate selected a route via Arnhem and Rotterdam. 

There was a slight delay in some road works, but we arrived in Holland without incident. We stopped in Tiel to visit a Dutch Jumbo supermarket. The one we found on the way into town had restricted parking outside and a car park underneath which would not be ideal with the bikes on the back of the car. We continued to a second Jumbo supermarket on the outskirts of the town. That had free parking but some viscous speed bumps which caught the bottom of the towbar. Food for our evening meal and breakfast was purchased and empty Dutch beer bottles returned. It was now after 4:00pm and we had not had any lunch. The café outside the Jumbo did not look inviting so we decided to drive towards the port to see what we could find. A McDonalds was spotted just before we re-joined the motorway. A last resort.  An expensive Fillet-O-Fish and fries were purchased. A medium fries costing 3 euros.

We continued to the port, arriving just before 18:00 to join a very slow-moving queue of cars. When we finally got the desk they wanted us to check in in the terminal but that changed when we explained Lyn could not walk very far. We drove onto the boat and were helped with our luggage to the cabin when they saw how much we had to carry. The largest items being the Brexton set and cool box.

We had booked a four berth cabin to get a little more room. The upper beds were stored in the ceiling and the blog and diary was updated and tea eaten.

We wandered up to the Sun Lounge before retiring to bed. We awoke by the usual early morning call to tell passengers breakfast was now being served. We had ours in the cabin about an hour later. We docked before 8:00 am but were the last level to be called down to the car. When we finally go off the ferry we joined a long queue of car waiting to clear UK customs. We were one of the last cars though. We departed the port and stopped in Hull for a bacon sandwich and a coffee at “Next Door by Nibble”. An excellent find and popular with locals and dog walkers.

We had our coffee and roll watched over by the "security guard" from the building site next door.

We then continued to drive back and completing a round trip of 1626 miles.

*1 - The lady on the till was helpful but it was only when we got back to England and checked the receipt, we found we had been charged for 2 crates of 6 bottles of wine instead of 2 bottles. Something we are in the process of trying to rectify.

Day 15 - A ride to Mohnesee

 We went down for breakfast at 8:00am. The breakfast was not included in the room rate, we knew that when we booked the accommodation but had decided to have it.  

The previous evening we had to choose what we wanted to eat and our host seemed surprised we did select any meat. The breakfast turned out to be excellent value for £6 per person. The fruit included fresh plums from their garden. We were also presented with a large selection of cheese including fresh mozzarella, a couple of hard cheeses and a cream cheese and a large basket of warm bread rolls. That would have been more than enough but we had also asked for scrambled eggs and a large plate of which duly appeared.

 We were fueled for the day. The ride we had selected was a selection of the Old railway radweg along the Mohne valley cycle path. The start of which was a Round 5 miles from the accommodation but it did involve a long climb up the hill from the Gasthof. At breakfast our host lent us a book of rides describing a ride along the valley and Robert was able to improve the planned route by taking a track through the woods rather than going on the minor road he had planned to take. Just before setting off our host lent us a detailed map of the area which we took as a backup to the Garmin.  We climbed on the road out of the village then we turned onto a gravel track.

It climbed gently through the woods. Reaching the top gave good views of the surrounding area .

We had joined a minor road and had a fast descent to the route.  There were a couple of minor bumps but the path was mainly a gradual descent to Lake  Mohnesee. 

We started in open countryside but the route did go through a couple of towns. It was well signed and the route easy to follow and Garmin not required for navigation. It was around 20 miles of cycling before we reached the lake.

We kept on the radweg and decided to continue to the first crossing point which turned out to be temporarily closed to cycles so we continued to round to the next cross in point. 

An Italian restaurant with good views of the lake provided a tasty snack for lunch before we continued, crossed to the opposite bank and started to return.

When we got back to the first bridge the road was closed but we continued up it for a short distance following another cyclist before he stopped and we could see the road works were still in progress with a lorry tipping stone.

We returned and followed the cyclist across the first bridge ignoring the no cycling sign.

We then retraced our steps, stopping to take some photos and try out the exercise equipment.

And looking at "hanging stone "weather station.

The route had several bike cycle repair stations which fortunately we did not need to use.

Part of and old engine near a small museum located in a couple of railway carriages which was closed on the day we past.

When we were a couple of miles from Ruthen we decided to follow a marked trail to Buren.

It should have been a straightforward diversion. We climbed the hill to Ruthen and followed the signs in the main square. We then dropped down the hill following the bike path signs and we found ourselves heading towards the route we had followed in the morning in the opposite direction to the one we wanted to take.

The hill was reclimbed and the Garmin successfully navigated to Hemmern and back onto the route we wanted to take. It was then a long decent before riding up the valley to the Gasthof. A round trip of 53 miles.

We eat the Gasthov, vegetable pancake for a starter and pork schnitzel for a main. We shared one with mushrooms and one with a red pepper sauce. Both were excellent. They were eaten with  spätzle noddles and a side salad. A dark Duple beer was sampled before glass of Warsteiner.