Sunday, July 12, 2009

Port de Pollença, Mallorca

We recently went on holiday to Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. For anyone thinking "doesn't he mean Majorca?" Well, yes you can call it that if you want but the locals speak Catalan and that's what they call it. The island is Spanish so both Catalan and the more commonly Castilian Spanish are spoken but all the official notices and road signs are in Catalan so you might as well get used to it.

Port de Pollença HarbourPort de Pollença Harbour

The town is pretty much a tourist resort but a good bit quieter than nearby Port d'Alcúdia, one of the most popular resorts on the island. We stayed in the Oro Playa aparthotel in Port de Pollença (Puerto Pollensa) in the North of the island. The accommodation was good but, like most places we stay when on holiday, we almost never partake of the laid-on entertainments or restaurants so can't say much more than that. It was clean and well kept and the staff were very friendly., which is pretty much all we wanted The only downside was its proximity to the Puerto Azul hotel, which blasted out endless holiday songs at high volume for its kids club. Seriously, if you don't have kids, then don't ever consider going to the Puerto Azul, you'll be suicidal in a week.

As for the resort itself, the town is centred around the harbour area and the main square, where there are loads of restaurants and snack bars. There's also a very good beach stretching down from the South side of the town and around the bay. As for the eateries themselves, most are very good quality quality and I don't think we had a bad experience in the two weeks we were there. As ever, the Indian restaurants are woeful compared to those at home but we've gotten used to that by now and expectations of a decent curry abroad were set aside long ago. The nightlife is another issue though - there's very little of it. The resort is obviously more aligned to family or elderly tourists so if you're looking for a wild nightlife go to Alcúdia instead.

Port de Pollença BeachPort de Pollença Beach

It's not completely bar-free though and we did find a couple of decent ones near the main square, one Australian and two Irish-themed ones. Not that they'd ever seen a real Aussie or Son of Eire behind the bar but they were lively enough and had some live music most nights. We ended up in Mulligan's most nights as the area's only decent rock band, and the only one we could find in the resort, called The Hustlers played there several times a week. The downside was there are also two Elvis impersonators doing the rounds. One, a young fit-looking guy, was really bad and seemed to sing anything but Elvis numbers and the other looked like he'd lived the Elvis lifestyle and was close to expiring at any minute. I'm sure he also had a Glasgow accent.

There's not a lot else to do in Port de Pollença. I did find a little nature reserve called l'Espai Humit de la Gola. If you walk along the front, you'll notice a little bridge over a stream that's pretty full of fish. and always attarcts a few tourits. If take the road leading off on either side of this, you can get down into the reserve. It's not large but it's a pleasant stroll through a butterfly and bird infested wetland area. There appeared to be a resident Little Egret that was always worth watching as it pranced around catching who knows what in the shallows.

l'Espai Humit de la Golal'Espai Humit de la Gola

So, to sum it up - good beach and good food but not the best of night-life although Alcúdia isn't far away. If you want to get out of Port de Pollença for the day, there a decent walk though the Boquer valley to Cala Boquer, you can also walk over to Cala San Vicente but that's a bit more strenuous. Getting to the little town of Pollença or Alcúdia is easy by bus too and there's always car hire if you want to go further afield.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Cold Afternoon At Castle Semple Loch

Sunday again and the weather isn't great but still decent enough for a stroll by Castle Semple Loch near Lochwinnoch.

Castle Semple LochCastle Semple Loch, looking towards Kenmuir Hill Temple

It's still cold so the loch was partially frozen over with a thin film of ice but that didn't stop the usual gamut of over-wintering waterfowl from enjoying the day.

Castle Semple LochA Frozen Castle Semple Loch

There were plenty of birds in evidence - mallards, mute swans, tufted ducks and goldeneye as well as the ever-present gulls. The wind was whipping over the loch surface and where it hit the edge of the ice, it produced a really strange tinkling sound. Anyway a few hours wandering in the cold here was enough and we headed back home for a warm fireside.

Tufted DuckTufted Duck

Mute SwanMute Swan

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ardardan and Balloch

It was a cold and potentially snowy Sunday and we'd wanted to go for a walk up Ben Lomond as it looked spectacular on the Saturday, all cloaked in white. Unfortunately, it was completely hidden from view by low and freezing clouds and snow was forecast so, being sensible folks, we opted to stay closer to the ground and go for a wander along the shore at Ardmore Point, a privately owned peninsula with a nature trail laid by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, near Cardross on the Firth of Clyde.

Toffee CooNosey Toffee Coo

Unfortunately, my navigational skills were lacking on the day and I took the earlier turn off, missing Ardmore and ending up at Ardardan Estate instead. Ardardan is set in a little walled garden between Cardross and Ardmore and comprises a farm shop, garden nursery and tearoom. Not quite what we were looking for but we had a nose around anyway to pass the time. The farm shop was a bit upmarket for us, selling atrociously priced grocery items more frequently seen in the likes of Harrods or Fortnum and Mason's. The only positive thing was the fact that they sold Stornoway Black Pudding.

Of more interest to us at the time was a short woodland walk around, well a small wood. The path basically led off from one end of Ardardan, circled a small wood and came back round to the farm again. It was probably no more than quarter of a mile round but it had started snowing and seemed interesting enough at the time. On the way round we got to say hello to some inquistive Highland Cows and their calves. It's not a bad place to take kids for a few hours as they can see some farmyard animals like chickens, pigs and the "Toffee Coos" while mum and dad can edge them towards the tearoom. It also has a spectacular fountain with leaping dolphins, which looks a bit out of place among the farmyard clutter.

Drumkinnon BayDrumkinnon Bay

Deciding the weather wasn't even up to a shoreline walk at Ardmore, we drove on to Helensburgh and then up and over the hill to Loch Lomond to see what was going on at Drumkinnon Bay at the Balloch end of the loch. Loch Lomond Shores is yet another pretentious, upmarket tourist trap but it does have a coffee shop and some potentially spectacular views of Ben Lomond. Not today though as it was snowing and the Ben was completely obscured from view.

Gulls On IceGulls On Ice

With an almost grey backdrop to the loch, there wasn't much to see except some stark contrast images of snow, ice and frost and a tied-up Maid of the Loch. Oh and some gulls wandering around on an ice-floe on the water. After a suitably hot coffee and a bun, we headed home for the warmth of the fireside and the telly - brrrrr!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Robert Burns 250th Anniversary

As the weather was pretty naff on Sunday, we wandered into Glasgow town centre to do a bit of shopping. It's my birthday soon and Lorna was trying to squeeze some gift ideas out of me. Anyway, that aside, after we'd wandered all over the place and were thinking of heading home we took a detour past George Square as there were some live acts on during the Robert Burns 250th Anniversary celebrations.

Glasgow city ChambersThe "Shortbread Tin" View Of The City Chambers

I'd been in town on Wednesday on a Glasgow Flickr Social Club meetup and had caught a few photos of the projection system setup and fancied seeing the full show as it did look very good. What they had were three projectors throwing images onto the facade of the Glasgow City Chambers building and then images could scroll up and down or left and right so they played a sequence of images accompanied by a voice-over, giving us a summarized life story of the bard along with some of his songs and poetry.

There was also a stage set up and music suppied by the likes of the Phoenix Honda Glasgow Skye Pipe Band and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers to keep the decent sized crowd entertained. Pity we couldn't have stayed a bit longer but it was freezing and we had a haggis to cook for our tea.

Glasgow city Chambers

Photos were taken during the setup as the crowd would have blocked the view.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Quantum Of Solace

WantedWe went to see the latest James Bond movie at the weekend - Quantum Of Solace. Despite the odd title, it's the sequel to Casino Royale (the second one) and starts off from where that finished up. If you haven't seen Casino Royale, then I wouldn't read any further but here's a short description of the plot…
With Vesper gone and the mysterious Mr. White captured, the British Secret Service learns that a previously unknown organization called Quantum has insinuated itself into almost every layer of business and government on the planet, including themselves.

When all the evidence points at Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) as the face of Quantum, Bond (Daniel Craig) goes on a mission of vengeance and even alienates himself from the service and M (Judi Dench).

With Quantum gaining control of seemingly worthless tracts of land around the globe, Bond teams up with a Bolivian girl called Camille (Olga Kurylenko) to try and solve the mystery behind their operation.

The Bond character has definitely changed. Gone is the debonair spy of Connory or Moore's time and in is the licensed thug that is Daniel Craig. Also gone is Q and that is a pity as a visit to the quartermaster always added a little lighter moment to the story. What we have now in these two movies is a much harder, probably more realistic, storyline. There's also a serious lack of sex here as well and, while it was never explicit in previous movies, it was always a given that Bond would get more than his fair share of seduction along the way.

On top of all that there is no really evil arch villain of the piece either. Dominic Greene is more like a corporate leech and he has no huge thug of a henchman to back him up either. He is a pretty cold fish but just lacks that element of seeking global domination that should be the raison d'etre of any Bond villain. Not that all of this is bad, it's just different but it doesn't really seem like a Bond movie so much. To offset this uneasy situation, there's loads of action - roof chases, car chases, boat chases, hand-to-hand fighting, explosions, etc.

Quantum Of Solace is a reasonable sequel to Casino Royale and finished off the story well enough although I suspect they could have squeezed it into one movie easily enough.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
My Rating: 7/10

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Seven Things About Me

I got tagged by my boss's boss's boss in the chain blog meme about listing seven unknown things about yourself that's doing the rounds of the blogging circle. So, here's my seven…
  1. I don't really like football much. For a Scot that can seem pretty unusual but it's a fact and I suppose I'm not really into team sports of any kind. My dad played for Keith when he was younger but I never caught the bug. He took me to the only two football matches that I've been to in my life (Scotland vs Austria and Partick Thistle vs Celtic) and quickly realized that I wasn't that interested. Frankly, standing at one point on the edge of a live match, one sees so little of the gameplay that I didn't see the point of going.
  2. Another notch in the Scottish sports coffin - I'm not a golfer. I'm with Mark Twain on this one - "A good walk ruined". Golfing equipment was simply too expensive when I was a lad and I'm far happier walking over the hills and glens of this marvellous country but anyone that reads this blog will know that already.
  3. I was "Dux Litterarum" of my primary school but never went to university. I've done a few of those online IQ tests and I'm hitting over 140 so I suppose I must be bright enough!
  4. I used to work as an electron microscopy technician in Glasgow University. It was my first job after leaving school at 17.
  5. I like fishing but I'm allergic to fish. I suppose it was all part of that getting outdoors stuff as a kid and I was a pretty good angler but anything I caught and brought home always went on someone else's plate.
  6. I practised Shotokan Karate for a few years and got as far as fourth Kyu but again my anti-competative streak put me off going for higher grades and then marriage and kids kyboshed it completely.
  7. I like watching motorsports - Formula One, Moto GP, WRC, Touring Cars, World Superbikes, etc.
Well that's it for seven things. However, I hate the very concept of chain letters or chain anything so this tag ends here!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

Another year dawns and we're all that wee bit older although probably not that wiser. We spent last night in George Square in the centre of Glasgow at the Winterfest Hogmanay celebrations.

We had a few drinks beforehand in O'Neill's bar in Queen Street and then headed into the square via a tortuous route of closed off roads that had everyone enter from the East side. We got in in time for Idlewild kicking off on stage and they were pretty good. Following them was the headline act, Paolo Nutini, who arrived on-stage slightly early and performed all the way through until about 00:30 with a wee break over the bells so everyone could watch the fireworks over the city chambers and do the needful cheering and handshaking anyone that's close stuff.

I'm not sure I'm quite into Paolo Nutini's music, a kind of mix of blues and cajun rhythms with a rock feel, but he gave us a solid performance and had everyone bouncing up and down. The only downside was the fact that the video on the big screen they had up was slightly out of sync with the sound so it looked a bit odd but we were close enough to see the stage so it didn't matter much. He was followed by Blondie tribute band Bleachie who took us up to 1:30 and that's when it all came to an end. It was a pretty good night and everyone seems to have had a good time except for one ejjit we spotted on top of one of the buildings surrounding the square. I think he must have scaled the scaffolding that covered the front of the block to get up there and prance around but the police had spotted him as well so I expect they were waiting when he came down.

It was a ticket-only do as in previous years but this time they ripped us off for £15 each and with an estimated 10,000 attending, someone made an awful lot of money. Not bad for an event that used to be free.