My top 6 tips of mini (budget) adventure

There are tones of useful information about tips for adventure on the Web, learning from them and with my own experience, here are my own tips after my recent a mini (budget) adventure to Nurgurgring:

1: It’s an adventure, so be flexible and adoptable!

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Relax, you’re on an adventure!

During my latest trip I have been thinking about what is the idea of challenging yourself and exploring new experiences. After returning home, I came across this excellent piece entitled: Adventure is personal written by Katie Jennings (trailtotheforgotton.co.uk) which beautifully described what the notion of adventure meant to me. In my experience, no matter how much you prepared, there is also an element of unknown, otherwise it wouldn’t be an adventure. So be flexible and try to enjoy as much as you possible can. After my first lap, one of the fork seal broke and the track was closed due to accident. It meant that was the only lap that I could have. I was disappointed, very disappointed indeed especially I came that far and so close to get what I wanted. Sometimes you have to learn how to manage the unexpected: analyse the stakes, make an informed decision and implement the action.

2: You can use car GPS on your motorcycle

I read a number of posts about how to use your car GPS on bike trip. They are very useful which gives lots of technical and practice advice. Comparing the price of a GPS for car and motorcycle, you can see why people would want to use car GPS. One caution though: buying a car GPS with Bluetooth doesn’t mean that it will connect to your helmet Bluetooth device, i.e. no audio point by point. In my case Garmin only connect to my phone via Bluetooth to make and receive calls via the GPS. It doesn’t equip Bluetooth connection capability to my Sena device as they want you to buy the specific motorcycle GPS!

3. Google Map is great for planning the route

I used Google Map to plan and research my route. I then download the kmx file to my Garmin. The street view is especially good if you want to see the actual location. When I planned this trip, I worked out the total time for travel (add more than what it said as you need to stop for fuel and rest too, let alone the traffic!), locations of petrol stop (especially good for motorcycle which has small petrol tank and no fuel gauge!) and the destination nearby (any food outlets for dinner and drinks).

4. Camping stove is handy

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Nothing better than a cup of tea first thing in the morning.

I love to have a cup of tea in the morning and at night. Carrying a small camping stove is great for both convenience and money saving. Cost for four cups of tea/ coffee does add up the daily cost which can be saved for buying beers! (Of course after the ride of the day)

5. Think about Plan B if you just travel to Nurbergring public open track day

Be aware that anyone who pays for the entry can drive and ride on the track. On a sunny day with racing on the closed circuit, it attracts lots of people and accidents tend to happen. I learned this bu reading such advice from other useful internet sites so I knew what I would do if it rained and/ or circuit close. The roads nearby the track are good and the actual track facility building are also worth visiting. The scale and the quality of their track facility make Silverstone look like a car boot sale park!

6: Any bike can be an adventure bike

 

I rode my 1997 Honda CBR900RRV Fireblade in this trip. It isn’t the most comfortable touring bike but that doesn’t stop you exploring the world on it. The majority of people that I met were on newer models, I also saw people rode bikes older and small capacity than mine both on the road and on the track. Nick Sanders rode a Yamaha R1 around the world and broke records, so no excuse of not going without having an adventure bike. As long as your bike is mechanical sound, it may take a bit longer and less comfortable to ride, it can do it! Take regular breaks, I stop for fuel and have a stretch at about 100 – 120 miles.

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An unfinished business: A blast to Nurburgring

Four years ago I embarked my first solo mini adventure of riding from Liverpool to Italy. During that trip I meant to ride to Baden-Baden and Nurgburgring too but I never made it (link). At that time I decided that one day I would finish that part of the trip. In August, I finally managed to fulfill that wish to complete such journey.

Taking the advantage of working in London during week days, I oragnised my trip in three parts: Liverpool to London; London to Germany and return at the weekend; London to Liverpool. My first stop at London was the famous Ace Cafe. They welcome people riding on any bikes, however the key theme of the place is cafe racer and rocker though. Travelling on motorway in the UK really tests your stamina especially wearing full leather suit under hot summer days as the average speed often below 40 mph. Seeing the Cafe was a welcoming sign and perfect moment for a well deserved cold soft drink.

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After five working days and all the anticipation, I finally set off from London the following Friday early morning via Euro Tunnel to Calais in France, through Belgium to Strotzbüsch in Germany, about 430 miles in total. I chose to ridet this route instead of going through French towns because I wanted to save time and energy to ride over there instead of riding to there. Everything almost perfect apart from my mobile phone stopped connecting to mobile network, no phone calls, no text and no GPS! Well that’s what I call adventure! (It turned out my mobile phone plan didn’t cover the usage in Belgium and Germany!)

After a comfortable night and some great local beer, I was ready to go to the Ring the following morning. Prior to the trip I read online posts and watched videos about visiting the Ring. One of the advices was that when it’s sunny and lots of cars turned up, accidents waiting to happen. I made sure to get my ticket and get on the track as soon as it opened. People who rode 50 laps couldn’t claim he mastered the track, let alone someone like me with limited track experience and track time. I set myself a realistic appraoch to my first lap: good steady pace and look out of fast appraoching cars. The build up at the car park and by the entrace to the track was immense. Once I was on the track, my focus was on speed, line and braking point, of course be aware of your surrounding too. There were lots of fast cars, Ring Taxi and hired track cars on the track. I let them pass on the straight so I could concentrate braking into corners, about 70 of them within a 13 miles long track. Just as I started enjoying my track time, soon my first lap was over. As I was returning to the car park (you must get off the track before re-entering from the gate), I felt more confident and ready for a slighly faster second lap. What I didn’t know was that was also my last lap on the day.

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Five minutes after, the track was closed for motorcycle. Ten minutes afterward, the whole track was closed. No official explaination but the sound of an accidetn lurking in my ears as I saw a police car went on the track and later a helicopter came too. I was glad that I made my lap, a group of riders from UK who missed their track time as they spent most of their time talking in the car park instead of going on the track. I waited for 2 hours, they kept telling people it’d open in 30 minutes, no sign of open, I decided to visit the track main stand to kill time and hope the track would re-opeen when I returned sometime later.

There was racing going on the closed circuit of Nurburgring which explained why the main grand stand was full of visitors. The scale and the quality of the facility were tremendouse which made the circuit facilities in the UK look like a car boot sale. A good range of goodies on sale from expensive designer lables to used car parts and toys. I spent good two hours before heading back to the Ring at 5 pm, the track was remained close. While the sun was still up, I rode around the roads neaby and tried to make the best of my time there. Back to the hotel, I celebrated my survivial on the Ring and commemorate the sorrow of unable to do another lap. I guess that’s life, whatever way I saw it, it’s time for a bottle of bubbly! Cheers!

Last day of my mini adventure before heading back to UK was the ride to Baden-Baden, B500 and Strasbourg. B500 has been described as a must ride for bikers. It really lived up for the reputation: smooth tarmac, lots of corners and great scenic views! But it’s a very busy road too, I saw a road accident casualty claimed one badly broken bike. I arrived at Strasbourg mid afternoon, after a quick shower, I visited Petite France, lovely! Back to the hotel, I enjoyed looking at the sunset, listened to smooth jazz with a cold bottle of beer. Tomorrow would be a 500 miles ride, not something I look foward to.

During the ride from Strasbourg back to London, about 510 miles, there was lots of time to wonder especially France motorway was usually traffic free and straight. Is this trip all worthwhile? There are a couple of things I wish turned out differently, but overall I did everything I set out to do. Afterall how do you put a value of one of your dreams? Until next time, dream on!

 

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We’re back on the saddle: 15 years reunion

Windermere, Lake District, UK

Windermere, Lake District, UK

Last winter while we were talking about our next year’s holiday plan, my wife said if the weather was good, she wouldn’t mind joining me for a motorcycle holiday break. It has been more that 15 years since she was my pillion, let alone riding on a trip. I was obviously very excited about the prospect of it and started my planning straight away. Firstly none of my bikes could accommodate a pillion and two people’s luggage comfortably. Secondly sitting at the back of the bike for a long time isn’t as simple as being a passenger in a car, it needs fitness and techniques. My plan this year would be a short trip so we can gradually building up our experience for a long haul European tour in the future.

Fast forward eight months later, everything is ready (a big adventure bike with full integrated luggage, latest Bluetooth intercom and three practice runs before the trip) and we are ready to go to Lake District. The plan is an overnight stay in a youth hostel and spend some time on the bike admiring the nature beauty of Lake District. Last two short rides with her proving an intercom with a pillion was very useful especially going through the get-on and get-off the motorcycle routine.

Afternoon tea break at Windermere, Lake District, UK

Afternoon tea break at Windermere, Lake District, UK

We set off from Liverpool to Glenridding in Lake District in mid afternoon. The ride via M6 motorway was reasonable good considering this time of the summer holiday season. I also planned two comfort stops in between so that she could stretch her legs. Riding with pillion and full luggage as if making me learn how to ride motorcycle all over again: the weight of the bike is really heavy comparing to my solo ride. I’m just about to touch my feets on the group, so stopping and supporting all the weight needs some careful planning, timing and the surface of the group are crucial. After a comfort stop at motorway service station and a very nice later afternoon tea stop at Windermere, we were full of confident to proceed on to Glenridding. The weather was warm but not hot; the scenery along the route was beautiful; a perfect British summer holiday. Knowing she was happily admiring the scene on the saddle was assuring.

According to the Google map the hostel was not far from the main road, what it didn’t say was the gradient and the type of surface. As soon as we turned off the smooth tarmac road, we were going uphill on a narrow path with loose gravels. I managed to get us up safely for a few hundred yards, stopped by a small car park and thought this off road adventure was over. It turned out the youth hostel was at the top the path and I didn’t know exactly how far it would be. Somehow I was in a panic mode: my muscles were so tense that I couldn’t position my body to balance the bike. The fear of dropping the it was immense. To avoid peer’s pressure, I asked her to walk up to the top while I could slowly crawl at a walking pace. It turned out to be the most terrifying motorcycle experience I have ever had. The fear of even riding the loose gravel stopped me open the throttle, without sufficient power and speed, it was even harder to keep the bike upright. Part of the path turned into loose gravels with two cement strips just wide enough for car tyres. Riding on top of any one of them feeling like walking with three hundred pounds weight on a plank. I had to move uphill, support by tip toes, while feathering with the clutch to keep the bike staying upright and moving forward. After 10 minutes, the clutch started overheat, my legs getting tired and I didn’t actually move very far! Time was close to sunset, last thing I wanted was stuck there in the dark. Super panic!

The journey turned into a thirty minutes battle which felt like much longer than that. Physically I was drained, I almost regretted choosing to come to this youth hostel. I thought the sense of wildness would add to the taste of adventure. Big mistake! You could imagine what a relief when I finally reached the hostel car park. I barely could park the bike properly on the slop. It would surely take two of us to get it back out safely on the right direction on the following morning. I couldn’t really worry about that at the time, I just wanted to rest and calm myself down. At least my wife did congratulate my efforts with a big smile.The youth hostel was clean and welcoming. It was well equipped with shared cleaning, cooking and dinning facilities. No wifi and no mobile signal meaning you could fully enjoy the nature. They also offer you for breakfast and dinner if you don’t want to cook, very handy.

Time to relax

Time to relax

After I calmed myself down, my wife suggested to go for a decent dinner to celebrate my effort which meant that we had to walk all the way back downhill to the nearby village. What? The up side was that at least I didn’t need to ride again, not till the following day though.

The walking turned out to be very useful for me. I felt much more relax with the nearby scenery: the soft sun light, sound of the running stream and fresh air. The anticipation of a nice evening meal (and drinks) also helped to put me in ease. It was also a chance to get a good perspective of the road. With my foot firmly on the grounds, I could feel how loose the gravels and the depth of the edges of the cement strips. We chose the first pub that we reached. It was a perfect choice: both food and drinks were good, a very welcome atmosphere. Fellow visitors were friendly and you could easily hook up good conversations. Recommended!

The following morning some fellow hostelers got up early and set off to their next hiking route. We visited the water stream close by the hostel and admired the wonderful nature: the water movement sounded exceptionally sweet and the air was exceptionally fresh. However I started feeling daunting by the tasks ahead after that: how to turn the bike around and ride downhills!

Water stream by the youth hostel.

Water stream by the youth hostel.

It took all our strength to push the bike backwards. Two passing by mountain bikers did offer to help but we felt that we must learn how to do it ourselves for the future. Fifteen minutes later, I was set. Our plan was that I would set off first while my wife would walk after me. In case I fell, she could help me to lift the bike up. I still felt nerves but I was better ready than yesterday. I pull the clutch in, first gear engaged and ready to go. This downhill ride turned out to be much easier, I even caught up a car that set off 5 minutes earlier. I soften the suspension beforehand, wheels and the suspensions provided good traction, the bike was nicely rolled on the surface. Last night my walk on the route helped me to understand the surface. I thought the change of suspension set up and the gravity possibly helped too. When she saw me waving frantically at the bottom of the hill, she knew I made it. I felt as if I had just won a battle. It’s time for a celebratory breakfast!

Breakfast at Keswick, Lake Sistrict, UK

Breakfast at Keswick, Lake Sistrict, UK

We rode to Keswick for a breakfast: fresh farm eggs and Cumberland sausages were perfect for the occasion. Our next plan for the day meant to be a ride through Hostinter Pass. When I turned to an uphill path at Seatoller, I missed read the road sign saying unpaved road, fearing for miles of unfamiliar rough surfaces ahead, I turned back to Ambleside for a ride instead. It was a pity not to ride along Hostinter Pass, however my key priority in this trip was her safety. If she enjoyed the ride and felt safe, it was more likely she would come out for a ride again. On our way home we even popped into a garden centre and she bought home with a small water plant.

It was a much shorter ride than planned. I did feel a bit defeated for not going to Hostinter Pass after miss read the sign. I asked her what she thought, she said, “The ride was reasonably comfortable and the intercom surely helped to kill the boredom during the ride. I liked the location of the youth hostel but a quieter accommodation would be better for next time.” I guess no camping on the card then. The crucial question was: Would she join me for the ride again? She paused for a moment and said, “Why not?” Bingo!

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Missing Hong Kong bookseller: dual nationality

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UK passport holder Lee Bo, 65, is one of five booksellers who have gone missing in Hong Kong. The disappearances have sparked shocks and anger among Hong Kong citizens. The UK has recently “urgently enquired” for information from Chinese. I am particularly intrigued about the response from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he was asked by Mr Philip Hammond, British Foreign Secretary during a news conference in Beijing.

Mr Wang told journalists the missing bookseller was “first and foremost a Chinese citizen”, while the Chinese foreign ministry has said other countries had “no right to interfere”.

This formal response made me looking for information about British Foreign Office offered for a person who has dual nationality (similar to Mr Lee).

According to the “Support for British nationals abroad: A guide”, if British nationals are missing overseas, the Foreign Office will:

  • tell you how to make a missing persons report for your local police so that Interpol enquiries can begin.
  • give you information about appropriate local authorities. They can also give you contact details for any relevant local charitable and voluntary organisations specialising in tracing missing people. Where appropriate, they can give you information about the federation or association of any local private detective agencies.

If British nationals are kidnapped or taken hostage overseas, they will try to do everything they properly can to make sure they are released safely. Where they can, they will work with the government in that country, who will normally take the lead in dealing with the situation.

Speaking to a lawyer specialised in International Law, his view about Mr Lee’s case in HK really helped me to understand the dual nationality issue better. He explained that because the Chinese nationality law stated that China did not recognise dual nationality with any other country. In general, Hong Kong and Macau residents with Chinese ethnicity are Chinese nationals, regardless if they have dual nationality or not. Within the context of Chinese nationality law, Mr Wang was right to point out Mr Lee was indeed Chinese citizen.

My colleague pointed out that British citizens would still have rights to access support from the Foreign Office. If a person has dual national status then the British consul can normally only offer support if they are travelling on British passport. If travelling on the other passport, you should go to that state’s embassy, high commission or consulate.

This might change some people of what travel documents they would use to enter Hong Kong in the future.

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We travel and we cook Ep1: Bordeaux

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This is the first article entitled a theme: We Travel and We Cook.

There are a lot of people writing about where to go and where to eat, however the culture of cooking food by yourself seems to be missing somewhere. We have been passionate about cooking for some time since we were students working part time in Chinese restaurant. Being budget travellers, we reflected on our recent years’ travels and we found the common themes: buying local produces and cooking food on my holidays. Visiting the local fresh food market also helps to get a sense of how local people live and eat. Quite often we have some wonderful conversations with them too. It is hoped that this series of article might inspire others who consider cooking when you travel on a holiday.

In July 2015 we went to Bordeaux for a week. France has been one of our favourite countries (OK, we love Italy, Spain and Germany too): very accessible from UK, fabulous food and drink culture and somehow much better weather condition than UK. We visited Paris, South of France (Nice), River  (Monet Garden), Le Man and this time “H” chose Bordeaux.

Bordeauxis well-known as a world class wine producing area. It is also a place that had a major development to the seafront area and it is also a host of 2006 World Expo. Bordeaux is also full of wonderful architecture with both ancient buildings and modern design. When people come to Bordeaux, especially wine lovers, will surely go to St Emilion too. None of us is fanatic about red wine, although we love to drink, we also like to go to St Emilion because of its World Heritage status. In France fresh oyster is very popular, Gujan-Mestras is a nearby town where produces fresh oysters, together with Archachon that is well known for the highest sand dune in Europe – it has already sounded like a good literary.

If travelling in a budget and still enjoying yourself are part of your plan, I recommend John and Heather travel blog, we follow a few tips from their recent visit to Bordeaux and they work well. Full details can be found in A DIY Day Trip from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion, France.

Food:

We visited fresh food market in Bordeaux twice and Saturday was a better day as there were more stalls open. Of course we bought some fresh oysters and brought them back to our accommodation to eat. There are two types: The first type is nice looking shape that are usually served for eating them fresh, they are sold in different sizes (1 – 5). The second type is not so good looking in shapes but still good for cooking. The latter type is as big as size 2 but 50% cheaper in price.

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Yummy!

There are lots of fresh vegetables but the ones that caught our eyes were these Chinese vegetables. We never come across them as fresh as those in this market.

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Fresh Chinese veg.

Most of the bakeries are superb but La Fabrique Paris et Brioches is highly recommended and we weren’t disappointed at all.

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One of the dishes we wouldn’t recommend to eat in Bordeaux is Sushi. Normally we would, but not at there. We found their presentation wasn’t good, the fishes didn’t look very fresh but the price was still high.

Shopping:

Many people commented about the cost of travel in Bordeaux could be expensive, we found a Factory Discount Outlet by the river front on Quai des Chartrons that sold big labels at good price. We certainly picked up a few bargains there ourselves. What’s more, there is also fresh oyster stall nearby.

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Sight seeing: Bordeaux, St Emilion, Archachon & Gujan-Mestras.

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Many people visited St Emilion for its wine, we did too but we also interested about its culture as it was granted the UNESCO World Heritage Status. Once again John and Heather gives an impressive guide and all we want to add is making sure you spare time for the tour to underground church. It is suggested that over 1 million visitors come to there, only 10% see this historic site. It is simply brilliant.

Before going to Archachon for the highest sand dune in Europe, pop-in Gujan-Mestras and learn about oyster in the Oyster Museum. Don’t forget to eat some at the nearby store too. They are relatively cheaper than Bordeaux and you can’t get any fresher than them as they just get them by the sea.

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Archachon beach is very pleasant. The beach offers shower facilities but no changing room, so get ready prior to the visit. The sand dune is awesome, not just for thrill junkies but I also see family with kids are climbing up to the dune too. Visiting Archachon from Bordeaux is very convenience by train, service is very often and the trains are in condition than our ones in the UK. Buy your tickets from the office would be better as the ticket machines doesn’t programme for one day return at the saver rate.

Sum up:

As usual we wish we could have stayed longer. The variety of activity, quality of food and drink, the culture and the peacefulness are key attractions of Bordeaux and its surrounding area. No matter what you are after in your holiday, you would surely find something you like here.

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2015 Donington Park Classic Motorcycle Festival

The Donington Park Classic Motorcycle Festival is reputed to be one of the largest Classic bike events in Europe. The festival is on 7-9 August and expected a massive turn out. The festival consists of racing and exhibitions of some classic race bikes. Due to my work location and other commitments, this year I couldn’t go on my bike very far, so I decided to go to one of the festival days as my summer biking treat.

Donington Park was used to be the home of motorcycle GP (now MotoGP), now the GP venue is in Silverstone but it still has lots of fond memories of the blue ribbon class motorcycle racing, especially the two-stroke era. I first saw 500cc GP racing on BBC and that was also the last win by one of my racing heroes Australian Wayne Gardner who had announced his retirement prior to the race. Since then I have never stopped following the GPs. I also attended the race events when I could and met other GP legends: Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Kenny Roberts Sr and Jr etc. (They used to mistaken us as Japanese so we could slip through the paddock, fab time!) The journey from Liverpool takes about 2 hours. This time I took my Yamaha which had just been equipped with a newly customised luggage rack by myself.

Two motorways and a long ‘A’ road later, I arrived at the circuit. First impression was very good: The parking arrangement was very well organised and there was even a buggy take you from the bike park to the entrance gate (only a few hundred yards apart).

The first bike that I saw was this GSXR and I knew that I came to the right place. Lots of craftsmanship gone into the bike and it’s a pure racing machine.

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There were also Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Ducati, Triumph, Norton, Moto Guzzi, BMW, Harley Davisonson and many customised frames, such as Seedly. Everyone could walk around the paddock and got up close to these racing machines (as long as not intruding people’s work and privacy). There was a friendly atmosphere and all of the people I met had time to talk to you.

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The bike exhibition area had many of iconic racing machines ranging from the early two-stroke era to the modern four-stroke 100cc MotoGP machines. I loved every single one of them, especially the adorable Ducati GP3 and GP5. Many of them were on the track later for parade laps too.

DSC_1754Racing was the theme of the event and there were a number of classes of racing during the day. You could get addicted to the smell of the two-stroke fume, I certainly was. The sound of these machines flying by brought good memories when they were the premier classes of racing. Two-stroke engine was the King however the so-called environmental concerns hammered the advance of such engine design. When Honda announced that they no longer produced two-stroke engines in nineties and in GP 500cc two-stroke was changed to four-stroke 900 cc, truly two-stroke, they signalled the end of the two-stroke era. Thanks to those enthusiasts who spent sweat, blood, time and money to restore, maintain and transport, these machines could race once again on the circuit. That was a truly amazing experience! Many of us like me, would never forget they were the most desirable motorcycles. Absolutely wonderful!

There were also racing legends around for autographs too, however I chose to watch the races instead. There were people ran off the track and in a side car race, the machine flipped over and a rider was trapped underneath, luckily both of them walked away unharmed.

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Side car crashed.

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The rider was trapped underneath and the passenger and race marshall desperate to get him out.

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Critical time!

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Luckily both rider and passenger were fine!

This reminded us the danger in the sport but that didn’t deter those who were passionate about speed, control and the feel of escapism.

I truly enjoyed the day out in Donington Park and the activities. Now, where can I get one of these bikes? Time to go to Ebay, dream on!

Link to the Photo Album

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2015 Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show has been the most high profile flower show in the UK horticultural calendar and is as popular as ever. It was originally called the Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show, and was held in 1862, at the RHS garden in Kensington. It wasn’t until 1913 that the show moved to its current turf in the grounds of the Chelsea General Hospital. All the Show Gardens are built from scratch in just 19 days and are dismantled in only five days.

This is our second visits to the Show and this time “D” also came along with us. The day started with team assembling at Euston Station (“H” travelled from Liverpool and both “D” and me came from different parts of London.) Thunder storm, heavy showers and even hailstone were expected to the day’s weather but none of them dampened our spirits to attending the Show.

The formats and layouts of the Show was very similar to last year’s. Coming to the RHS Members’ Day seemed to enable us to move around the show ground easier (less crowds). Unlike “H” and “D”, I am not a keen gardener myself. I can’t tell what is what in our garden neither. But I am touched by the enthusiasm of “H” efforts and seeing the plants grow so well. I must admit I only know how to see these show gardens by my own ‘feel’ with space, colour, smell, shape and form. Therefore my favourite gardens do not necessary mean anything to any keen gardeners.

Third place: The Hidden Beauty of Kranji with Esmond & Uniseal

The Hidden Beauty of Kranji with Esmond & Uniseal

The Hidden Beauty of Kranji with Esmond & Uniseal © The Royal Horticultural Society 2015

I like the tropical plants and orchid. The waterfalls add the sound and feel of Eastern culture. It really reminds me our visit to Malaysia last year.

Second place: Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden

Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden

Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden © The Royal Horticultural Society 2015

This was designed by the multi-award winning designer and TV Gardener Chris Beardshaw. Instead of simply dismantling the garden after the show, the features and some of the plants will be transferred to a local community project. Great idea!

First place: L’Occitane: A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse

A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane

A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane © The Royal Horticultural Society 2015

We went to Grasse few years ago where the perfume industry was vibrant but it appeared the last few years the perfume industry has been in decline and many of the traditional plantations have become overgrown. Things are improving now and this garden reminded me our visit and the plants give a very natural look and feel. It also happened that I the BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don too.”H” felt that this year’s show lacked of the wow factor from previous years. She thought they were somehow too calm. While this is “D” first visit, he found the whole experience was enjoyable. Although we couldn’t agree which show garden is the best, we did agree those three were some of the best and more importantly: we would return again next year!

After the show: Before “H” headed back to the Northwest of England, we stopped by the pub in Kings Cross and had a quick drinks before heading to dinner. We opted to Kings Cross St Pancras Renaissance Hotel Booking Office Bar but they had no seats to offer and we ended up in THE BETJEMAN ARMS the nearby. We really enjoyed their craft beer and pub food. Next we went along the main road and found a little gem, Roti King, famous for their Malaysian food. It is a tiny cafe and food was cheap but very good. After a long walk about, all three of us chose soup noodle: strong flavour, hot but not burn your mouth. Luckily we came a bit earlier than dinner time, by the time we started eating, there was a long queue and it showed its popularity. Highly recommended for people simply like good food but not care about the basic surrounding.

That’s sum up our visit to Chelsea Flower Show this year: good gardening show experience, great food and drinks, and more importantly fantastic companies!

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