Let’s go Valencia, mini break 2021/22 from UK

What makes a Perfect Mini Break?

Sunshine, culture, good food, easy transport system, friendly locals?  Valencia offers this and much more. Easy to reach from the UK, a 3hr flight from Edinburgh or 2.5hrs from London. The crowds tend to head for Barcelona and Malaga, and you will find Valencia a breath of fresh air even in June for a holiday or mini break.

Most locals speak very good English but the official language is Valencian, a dialect of Catalan. This beautiful city, the third largest in Spain is also the official home of Paella, you are guaranteed an inexpensive freshly prepared meal with delicious local wine whenever you dine out.

A min break in Valencia is guaranteed to fascinate you with its stunning futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. This has to be seen to be believed. The scientific and cultural complex consists of six structures with family entertainment, a cinema and planetarium and outdoor activities for everyone. Set in the old riverbed, the Turia gardens stretch for 9km of beautiful gardens with water fountains, playgrounds, statues and pathways to cycle or walk along.  As if that’s not good enough, this city is also blessed with miles of golden beaches…to see all my photo of Valencia click on Shutterstock here.

Neptuno promenade of Valencia, Spain.
Las Arenas Beach

Valencia is halfway along the Mediterranean coast and is part of the three provinces that make up the Valencia region. Castellon, to the North and Alicante to the south with Valencia in the middle. A choice of taxi and buses from the airport guarantee an easy arrival to the city within 20 mins or take the metro line 3 or 5. The Aerobus is the cheapest option and runs every 20 mins till 10pm.

Things to see and Do 

For a  Special Treat or birthday occasion try the rooftop tapas and wine dinner, with a tour of the City of Arts and sciences before the gourmet fun begins. Run by Sea Saffron, this was the highlight of our trip to Valencia.

We booked online a week previous after reading so many positive reviews.  Our fellow travellers (12 in total) met in a nearby hotel where we started a short walking tour of the Turia Park Science centres which was very informative and manageable with my dodgy knee. Touring later in the evening meant that it was a lovely temperature to walk around and explore the science buildings and history of the Turia gardens.

After the tour we were escorted to the mystery apartment on the 33rd floor for the 10 course ‘Dinner and Wine Experience.”  Sea Saffron staff talk you through each course and why they have chosen each specific wine, which my husband loved.

Sitting outside round a large table, watching the sunset over Valencia city was truly memorable and transport home was provided. We didn’t use the taxi home as our group headed into the old city for cocktails! Naughty but nice..

Day 1

Our mini break covered a 3 day period.  We started our adventure with a cycle tour of the city to get an insight into the best attractions and landmarks.  We choose a 3 hour cycling tour from the city centre to the beach and back. There were plenty of stops and interesting historical facts and places of interest.

City cycle tour Valencia
City cycle tour Valencia

The city is fairly safe to cycle through, and for the most part, the cycle lanes are beside or on the pavements. I did not enjoy being last in the convoy especially getting stuck at traffic lights and preferred to ride up near the front. We were a mixture of ages from 19 to 60 yrs.

City of Valencia town centre
Lou Armor@shutterstock

After a busy cycling morning, where we covered most of the main attractions, it was definitely time for a siesta. The main sights we covered included: Torres de Serranos, Plaza de la Virgen, Puento de la Flores, Turia Gardens, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Science Park, central market and Plays de la Malvarossa – (Beach). Don’t worry about your fitness levels, as you stop at each location for up to 5/10 mins. You are not cycling for 3 hrs straight.

Also look out for the Bat in the Town square. It is claimed that a bat flew onto the helmet or flag of the advancing army of King James 1st of Aragon, which was taken as a good omen for the  battle for the city of Valencia. The bat has featured on Valencia football team since 1919 and is recognised throughout the world.

Accommodation.

Our quaint hotel, the Marques House Hotel was a great location with a cool cafe bar downstairs, the Cafe Madrid. The cocktail are quite famous, especially the Agua de Valencia and I love the quirky interior. Centrally located with easy access to the main shops and the Old Town. One of my top tips for a boutique hotel is a rooftop area. After a hot day sight seeing, there is nothing better than heading upstairs to relax on a lounger and catch the late sunlight with a gin and tonic. These rooftops are never large or crowded but they are on my list of must haves. The Marques House Hotel does have a roof area and bar.

Hotel Marques House Valencia
Hotel Marques House Valencia

Top Attraction

The Cathedral, built on a Roman site dating from the 13th century, has endured more battles over the years, becoming a Mosque before returning to its current state as a Cathedral.  The Cathedral has been recognised by the Vatican as one of the world’s eight holy cities and a city of the Holy Grail, which attracts many pilgrims. On our visit there were many tourists, nuns and school children. Choose your visiting time wisely.

Plaza de la Virgen Valencia spain
Lou armor@shutterstock

From April till October The Cathedral,  is open to 6.30 pm and audio guide is included in the entrance price. I would say this is one of the top places to visit. If visiting the Bell Tower then remember that it is a spiral staircase with 207 steps..the octaganol bell tower known as the Micalet offers views across the city.   The Cathedral can be accessed from the Plaza de la Virgen and after enjoy a stroll through the square with cafe and the beautiful Triton fountain.

Turia Fountain in Valencia
Lou Armor@shutterstock

Eating Out

Valencia has plenty of tapas style bars and restaurants. The beach area restaurants are very popular but as many of the locals eat around 9/10pm,  we Brits are usually fairly lucky to find somewhere around 7.30/8pm.

Popular tapas restaurants include Casa Montana and for Paella – Casa Carmela, both should be pre booked as walk in may have a long wait.  Ruzafa district was recommended to us by our local cycle guide as hip and happening with cool craft beers, Moroccan and Turkish food, aromatic coffee shops, cafes and late night dining.  We had no problems eating out but I was told that the exception to this rule is during Fallas in March.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1135.JPG
Paella @shutterstock

Fallas Festival Spain

Valencia is very busy in March as people travel to see the Fallas festival, huge papier mache models, which can take up to a year to make are paraded through the streets and burnt at the end of the week. An old age tradition originated from a carpenters tradition of burning wood to celebrate the arrival of spring.

There can be up to 700 Fallas sculptures on display and the festival starts on March 15th to 19th 2021. It is a very noisy place with firecrackers going off and fireworks during the day, the mascletta is around 2pm daily. During this festival it is recommended to pre book your restaurants and hotels in advance as the city gets very busy with thousands of tourists and visitors.

Valencia also has its own ‘Banksy’ style graffiti artists, leave some time to stroll through the winding streets and discover some street art.

Valencia street art in Old Town
Valencia street art in Old Town

Day 2

I was surprised and a little apprehensive that my husband had booked a 5 hour Paella cookery class… 5 hours of my precious holiday…I was not thrilled at the prospect of staying indoors but I have to say it was amazing.

We had the funniest chef and another great group of travellers. The cookery school is well established and our class began with a trip to the oldest food market in Valencia, the Mercado Central. Here we are given a list of ingredients and shown how to choose the best ingredients for a true Valencian paella.

Mercado Central Valencia
Mercado Central Valencia@shutterstock

Back at the cook school, we were fitted out in our aprons and after our health and safety talk we were escorted into the kitchens. Paella, I discovered is not a fast dish. In true Valencian style there was lots of chopping, caramelising, pouring stock, leaving it to simmer, adding more stock. I never realised how long you should leave chicken to brown before turning it over! All those lovely smells certainly stimulated the taste buds. Thankfully a sit down tapas lunch and wine was included while we waited for the paella to cook.

The cook school that we used was Escela de Arroces y Paella Valencia. Details down below.

Another great day in Valencia and tomorrow we would head out for a relaxing day at the beach. El Cabanyal or Las Arenas. Valencia beach areas offer beautiful clean wide walkways to stroll, jog or cycle along with a great selection of restaurants.  The beach area is an unusually long walk to the sea, a bit like Venice beach in Santa Monica but there are plenty of sun loungers to rent and umbrellas for us lily white Scots. All in all, Valencia is a very easy city to soak up the sunshine and enjoy some amazing attractions.

For a quick look at Valencia click here

GOOD TO KNOW…

 The Tomatino festival

The annual Tomato food fight is held on the last wed in August in a town 38km west of Valencia, called Bunol. It is a ticketed event, restricted to 20,000 and many people stay in Valencia.

Bunol is easily accessed by train or bus and sadly due to Covid 19 – the 2020 festival has been cancelled. The dates for 2021 Tomatino Festival are August 25th, last Wed of month. Participants are known to wear goggles and masks and many shops are covered up to protect them from tomatoes. 120 tonnes of the stuff!

People love to wear white and basically pick up as many tomatoes as they can and throw them at anyone! The fight starts with water canons and usually runs for one hour.  People can wash later in the river before heading back.

 

Getting around Valencia

Valencia has good transport system with underground metro and good bus system. You can also hire a bike using Valenbisi bikes. Download the app. Valenbisi.com

Mercado Central website: http://www.mercadocentralvalencia.es

Paella cook school: http://www.escueladearrocesypaellas.com

The Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas houses the Ceramic Museum and is a stunning 15th century palace. The Ceramic Museum also houses porcelain, ceramics, tapestries and decorative furniture and paintings. The exterior of the building is exquisite, made in Alabaster and this stunning Rococo palace is free with the Valencia tourist card but for tours I would pre book. Saturday evening and some Sundays is free entry. Closed on Mondays. From July-Aug night visits from 8pm to midnight.

 Valencia Tourist Card
This is a combined card that offers free public transport and discounts in Museums, leisure activities, shops and restaurants, during 24, 48 or 72 hours. This is within the Valencia zone, ABCD and includes to the airport.

Conclusion: We had a fabulous 3 day break in Valencia and I would definitely go back . For safety, great food, lovely locals and a fabulous mini break Valencia ticks all the boxes. Valencia main train terminal make it a good location to travel around Spain and a mere 1hr 46 mins to Madrid. If you love photography or architecture you must see Valencia.

 

UK -Dementia/memory loss aids -gadgets/tools/helplines

I am writing this with a heavy heart after a long, slow decline in our loved ones. Mrs C is now in a dementia unit and Mr C will be heading for a care home soon. The family have tried everything to keep them at home but eventually one has to admit that the progress of the disease is making it unsafe for the person to remain at home. Paranoia, ramblings, disorientation, confusion and anxiety have all increased considerably.

If you are brand new to this journey your first port of call is your doctor for a diagnosis. This will help immensely with care packages and the correct, early treatment of a loved one. Next is usually a referral to a memory clinic and if required a social worker may be assigned to the person.  CT scans or neuro imaging are also used to identify what sort of memory loss your loved one is suffering from. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of Dementia.  Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, Fronto temporal dementia… it is best to get a correct diagnosis.

Please do not be afraid of involving Social work.  Sarah, our point of contact is amazing. Full of useful advice and insider knowledge of the care system, which is completely alien to us.  She has also been very helpful in wanting to keep our loved ones at home for as long as possible.  Mobility tools, benefit awareness, support groups, local musical memory classes, information leaflets, all good to know.

My Recommendations: Firstly talking about money and Power of Attorney can be an extremely difficult conversation but I am afraid it is one that we should have started much earlier.  The paperwork and new banking rules make this process weeks/months long and not an event that is going to happen soon.

financial power attorney dementia
power of attorney & bank accounts

Why do you need Power of Attorney? Simply the person may lack mental capacity to make decisions about their finances, health and welfare. There is still no cure and the disease is usually progressive.

Why Medical Power of Attorney: if they are forgetful about collecting medicine, taking medicine, which medicine, when, they may keep asking for repeat prescriptions as they have “lost” their medicine.

Fortunately for us in a small town, the local Pharmacist flagged up concerns quite quickly and we were suddenly made aware of boxes and boxes of medicine hidden at the back of drawers, dropped under chairs and stuffed in bathroom cabinets.

collection of packets of medicine
Lou armor@shutterstock

If you do not have medical power of attorney, discussing these things with professionals can be difficult as nowadays, everything is “confidential”.

If you have Power of Attorney while the person still has mental capacity then it will make your life so much easier further down the road.

Financial Power of Attorney allows you access to their bank accounts. This is helpful as you may have to cancel standing orders, over inflated policies or car insurance if they give up their driving license.  (Mr C had boiler cover with 3 separate companies.)

It also allows you to simply monitor their cash flow.  Mr C loved chatting to the telesales lady and regularly ordered cases of  red wine at £200 case which he then gave away to visitors…or withdrew hundreds of pounds from the cash line and regularly over paid window cleaners, domestic help, taxi drivers.

We were lucky that many people were honest and informed us of what was happening. There will be plenty of indicators as to what is happening to the person mental state so stay in touch with neighbours and make them aware of the situation. We have been blessed with wonderful neighbours, popping in to see Mr C and notifying us of problems. Eg. banging doors at night, wandering lost and confused, unsuitably dressed.  I won’t wear you down with the details……everyone journey is different.

Help is at hand and I have listed some of the websites and helplines below. Please call them if you need advice. Providing a safe home for the elderly or dementia person is your priority. These are my favourite aids below.

  1. A digital clock with large illuminated face describing day, time, month and year. The reason this was a brilliant buy is that even if they accidentally switch it off or hide it, once plugged back into the wall, it resets itself to the correct time of day.

You may think,”oh, my mum can see the date on the newspaper” but often there will be a jumbled pile on the floor.  The TV becomes obsolete as they may forget how to use the TV remote and sky box, so the TV for telling the day or time, is no longer an option.  We also had to mount the TV on the wall because of stumbling elderly people. The modern TV are so thin and lightweight, they can be easily toppled, scratched and broken as we have discovered.

Dayclox digital clock
illuminated digital clock to aid dementia/Alzheimer sufferers.

People with poor vision and those struggling after a stroke where the ability to look down is impaired, may benefit from a projection alarm clock. This clock has a small projection screen which illuminates the time onto the ceiling. There are several brands to choose from and include: Ecwin, Mpow and Mesqool Alarm Clock. They retails from around £22 upwards.

2. Rails – elderly relatives may qualify for a personal allowance grant to adapt their home and this will help pay for handrails in entering house, up the stairs and shower rooms/ bathrooms etc. Your social worker will advise you.

GPS tracker and fall sensor
Lady holds handrail and GPS tracker

3. Keysafe outside home. This becomes a priority if the elderly person is hard of hearing or simply cannot get to the door easily.  A key safe allows carers to enter and family/neighbours access in emergency situations.  (An incident last week prompted us to remove all interior locks after a bathroom incident which involved care workers their manager and a police car).

key safe for dementia carers access
Lou Armor@shutterstock

4. Medicine boxes: I really found the pop up medicine boxes with the days on it really helpful.  The one below has the press release button easier for people with arthritic fingers.  You can also buy pill boxes that have alarms, flashing lights and vibrations to prompt the person.

Daily medicine box
Daily medicine box with press access buttons
Arthritis in hands
lou armor@shutterstock

Mr C could not open the Dosette round boxes and would often resort to a knife which would invariably spill the pills over the floor. We did eventually get to the stage where all medicine had to be kept in a locked box until we, or the carer came to sort out the weeks medicine.

5. Door sensors – We have not gone down this route yet, but many of my friends benefitted from fixing sensors on the doors. This was to alert them of wandering parents in the night and also over frequent use of the toilet. My friends elderly mother had visited the toilet 9 times in the night, as shown by the sensor, and this indicated to my friend that her parent possibly had a UTI. (Urinary tract infection).  A quick visit to the doctor confirmed and resolved this issue.

6. Money and jewellery going missing.. this is a very tricky one. Often the elderly person has hidden their jewellery and sometimes bury it. It is often claimed by them, that someone has stolen it and with memory loss and so many people coming and going it is difficult to know what is going on.

We did encounter a situation with expensive make up, perfume and nail varnish disappearing. We did not set up cameras and would like to think that Mrs C hid them.

We have no proof of anything and yes, a camera would have helped, but we felt it was too much of an invasion of their privacy.

family jewellery
photograph  jewellery and valuables

What I would recommend, is that you itemise all the expensive jewellery, cufflinks, medals etc, take photo and remove to another location, safe or secure place. If they are going missing involve the police and show them what each piece looked like, this will help in the event of stolen goods and their recovery.

7. Personal alarm.  This invaluable equipment is connected to a central emergency line that offers a rapid response to an elderly person.  It also offers peace of mind to the elderly person if they have lost confidence walking outdoors alone, and it gives the carers peace of mind if they need to pop out.  This is available through social services but there is a monthly call centre fee and the elderly relative needs to press the button.

Fall emergency wrist band
lou armor@shutterstock

Another clever alarm is the Fall detector, this uses an inbuilt motion sensor to send an alert to a loved one if the elderly person collapses or falls, without the need to press any alarm buttons.  I believe that this may be available via NHS but again a fee will be in place for call centre. Check with your individual local authority.

8. Grabber – not entirely sure what the correct name of this is but after several bad falls, we found that one of these allowed Mr C to pick up things when it was too uncomfortable to bend down and toppling over was an issue. Available online from many suppliers, check that it is easy to squeeze the handle part as again some of them can be quite stiff for an older person who lacks strength. Read the reviews on places like Amazon.

grabbertool elderly
grabber tool

9. A tray with small attached beanbag underneath is  very useful at meal times. Frail elderly people often dribble food, spill food and generally tip food over by accident. The tray moulds to their legs and offers stability and a level surface. Rather than attempting to balance a hot teacup and saucer with cake on a tea plate, they can both sit safely on the tray.

10. Food and cooking. This was a huge issue, worrying about what they were eating and when. Concerns about leaving cookers on etc. We order weekly meals, a combination of fresh food, microwavable and oven meals. Mr C enjoys Wiltshire farm foods frozen meals.  The wonderful dog walker cooks the meals as we worry about the cooker being left burning. There are products called stove guards and stove alarms by Innohome, I believe Fireangel is the UK Supplier. http://www.fireangeltech.com

Ensure that gas detectors and smoke alarms have been serviced and are working properly.

11. I.D cards, you can go online and make a dementia ID card for the elderly person but adapt it to say, “Hi I have dementia if you find me lost or confused please could you call this number.” This can be helpful if they are found by the police or if they ask for help in a shop. My friend passed them out to local shop keepers and someone called her to say her mum had been sitting at a bus stop for over an hour.

Elderly man walking with stick
Elderly man walking with stick

Cards are cheap and easy to order in bulk, pop one in your parents purse, jacket pocket, wallets etc. The cards also give peace of mind, especially if going on holiday. Can include contact details, doctors number, medications, emergency contacts etc. I believe you can get them via NHS, but going online allows you to multiple buy.

11. Toilet frame: after falls and brusied hips, it is difficult for elderly people to rise up from a sitting position. The toilet frame gives them confidence in the loo and is a good secure frame for them to lean on and elevate themselves. We brought this one to my house over the festive period and one of my visitors is now getting one for his mum!

Toilet frame for elderly
Toilet frame for elderly

12. Memory books and photographs albums are always good tools but write in the album who the people are.

13. Giant calendar. Elderly people can get anxious about appointments and can become agitated and repetitive. A giant calendar, with clearly marked appts and activities can give them a sense of reassurance. A routine certainly helped us.

14. Mrs C gets easily agitated in restaurants with background noise. Large groups of people or just clattering plates and cutlery. It can be helpful to carry earphones with relaxing music if this is an issue for you and gives you a little breathing space to finish up and pay the bill before leaving. I am not sure if this would work with people using hearing aids, but you could also try large head phones, which are currently back in fashion.

Travelling and the elderly/disabled public toilets. If traveling in the UK and using disabled toilets, to avoid difficulties accessing a locked disabled toilet in a hurry, pre order a Radar key. These let you have access to any locked disabled toilets in the UK.  According to Diability Rights Uk, the official key costs around £5.70 and some local authorities give it out for free. http://www.disabiltyrightsuk.org/shop

And finally knowledge is power. Read about the condition affecting your relative, understand why they may be over reacting or ignoring you, there are plenty of leaflets and books about this subject. Books to read: The Contented Dementia by Oliver James.

It has taken my brother a long time to stop correcting our elderly relative, there is no point correcting them. In their mind, they may be in the 1970  and everything around them at present, is frightening and confusing. Dementia can be a terrifying word or diagnosis. Choose your language thoughtfully.

Dementia is something that my mothers husband is living with and coping well. He is not  battling it, he is adapting to his memory loss with help and support.

When visiting Mrs C in the dementia unit, the nurse could see I was struggling and she said to me that, “Mrs C was happy in her own world and it can be difficult for others to  accept the changes”.

That was an understatement.  I wanted the old Mrs C back. I wanted her to recognise me. I wanted her to sit in front of me in her pearls and cashmere cardigan and make me a cup of her awful, stewed tea.  Mrs C in a moment of clarity would sit and weep quietly on the bed, saying, “I’m so sorry, I can’t remember your name.”

I would always take her hand and say, “I’m Lou. I know who your are, your not alone”.  Holding a hand or a simple hug can go a long way to reassure a loved one.

It’s not an easy road ahead, ask for help when you need it and be kind to your family and loved ones. They are as scared and frightened of the road ahead as you are. Everyone reacts differently and everyone journey is different.

I hope this helps someone. Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time.

Lou A/Edinburghcitymom

If you would like to see more of my photographs they are available on Shutterstock. Click here.

Here are some useful helplines:

Helplines: http://www.Alzheimer’s.org.uk National helpline : 0300 222 1122.  Alzheimer Scotland: 0808 -808-3000

NHS – http://www.nhs.ukhttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimer-discease/

http://www.ageuk.org.uk– 0800 055 6112 – befriending, day centres, pensions advice, end of life planning, healthy eating, arranging social care, independent living products, legal advice.

Dementia helpline: 0300 222 1122. http://www.dementiauk.org – coping with dementia, Admiral nurses, types of dementia, getting a diagnosis, understanding changes in behaviour etc.

www. Carersuk. org – a fantastic website to help carers. Fact sheets and information, carers allowance, independence allowance, practical support, technology and equipment, online forums.

Power of Attorney is called different things in different parts of the UK. The Alzheimer society above explains the rules for Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.

LPA, Living wills, Deputyship and Enduring power of attorney are all explained above in the fantastic Alzheimer website. You will need a lawyer to complete the legal paperwork.

Books to read: The Contented Dementia by Oliver James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucial tips Driving rental vehicle Edinburgh

Are you planning a Scottish vacation? Are you confident about driving in Scotland? Do you know the Greenways speed limit and priority rules? More details here to ensure a smoother driving experience for you and all your passengers.

If you are picking up a rental car from Edinburgh or Glasgow airport then watch my videos at the end of the post demonstrating easy car driving routes into these cities. Edinburgh is dual carriageway, Glasgow to the city is motorway.

Car rental tips in Edinburgh scotland
Lou Armor@ Shutterstock

Edinburgh Greenways is a traffic control system giving priority to Buses, Bikes and Black taxi during the peak rush hours. Vehicles/car drivers/rental cars cannot use bus lanes from 7.30 – 9.30am & 4pm- 6.30pm Monday to Friday. The bus lanes do not apply at the weekend.

Edinburgh Greenways bus lanes
Greenways bus lanes@shutterstock

If car drivers/rental car drivers are caught in a bus lane during peak times the fine is £60 which is around $74.78 US dollars. Plus a transaction fee from your hire car company to process… consider hiring a car when you are leaving Edinburgh city.

Seat belts must be worn for front and back seat passengers. Children aged 3-12 or smaller than 135cm require an approved child restraint. Advise your car rental company in advance.

Speed Limit in Edinburgh city centre are 20mph. Cars cannot drive the length of Princes street and should not be using Bus lanes. Car drivers can drive part way and across intersections.

Road signs No entry for cars Edinburgh
Princes street@shutterstock

What are the legal requirements for foreign drivers from Europe? A valid licence allows you to drive any type of vehicle listed on your license in Scotland.
What are the legal requirements for foreign drivers from outside the EU including States? Drivers will require a valid licence from your own country, you can drive any small vehicle in the UK for up to 12 months. You will also need proof of your I.D. such as a passport. Some car rental companies will also require proof of flights & hotel reservations. if your license is not in English you may require a IDP.
Do I need an IDP? An International Driving Permit is required for non EU Drivers whose licence is not in English. It is used alongside a drivers licence. An IDP identifies you and allows police and people in authority who may not speak your language to communicate with you.

RENTAL CARS

Rental car age restrictions: Drivers must be 21 years old and have a valid drivers license for 3 years with no endorsements. Many rental car companies will not allow drivers under the age of 23 or 25. A young drivers surcharge rate may be applied which costs as much as £30 extra a day.

Car rental tips in Edinburgh scotland
Car rental tips in Edinburgh Scotland

First time drivers in Edinburgh from the States. An automatic car will be easier and a built in sat nav rather than a stick shift. The rate for GPS is around £13 day extra. If you have children they will also require booster seats which cost around £12 a day to rent in addition to car rental fees. Also if driving the NC500 in the Scottish Highlands buy a road map and keep in the boot. It will be useful. Many hire rental companies are now issuing wrist bands to remind drivers which side of the road to stay on. Other drivers put signs on their dashboards. It is easy to forget in a panic situation, so use any tools that may help you.

Rental car deposits – Credit cards are accepted. Cash is not allowed and often debit cards are not accepted on premium cars or SUV. The car rental company will require a security deposit of around £200 on a credit card, this rate may vary from individual companies.

Car Hire rental in Edinburgh uk
Car Hire rental in Edinburgh uk

What is the excess damage on insurance? This is the amount of money that you will pay for any damage incurred to the rental vehicle before the insurance kicks in. Eg. Excess of £200 means that any insurance claim does not include the first £200.

Some rental companies offer extra roadside protection which costs more and includes lost keys, cracked windscreen, tyre repair etc. Each rental company policy is different. Shop around and read the small print.

  1. Fuel – All rental cars have the type of fuel required to fill up the tank on the fuel cap. Check whether your rental car requires a full tank before returning as they charge extra to take it for refuelling.
  2. Drink Driving- Scotland has different driving laws to the rest of the UK. The limit is Scotland is lower. It is 22 micrograms per 100 ml. Do not drink and drive. The penalty is a fine, a possible prison sentence and points on your licence.
Don't Drink & Drive
Don’t Drink & Drive@shutterstock
  1. Never park on double yellow lines in Edinburgh. Your car is at risk of being towed away. This includes in the middle of the night especially if your car is blocking the road/junction/traffic. If your car is missing call the Police on 101 to ask if it has been towed. To release your vehicle you will need to pay a fee of £180 and provide proof of your ID and drivers licence. The compound is in Leith and is open from 8am – 6.45 Monday to Saturday and Sunday 8.45 -11.30am
Cycle lanes and Bus lanes Edinburgh
Lou Armor@shutterstock

Do not stop your car inside a Red cycle box at traffic junctions in Edinburgh. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid if there is a traffic jam or ambulance etc but anticipate the space ahead. This is for cyclists to move off safely at traffic lights.

  1. Traffic lights – never turn on a red light. Red means stop. If you drive through a red light and are caught on camera it is an automatic £100 fine and 3 points.
  2. Mobile Phones – Hands free mounted phones are permitted but you cannot send text messages while driving in Scotland or use a hand held mobile phone. See below for a list of rental car companies.
  3. Parking in Edinburgh is very expensive. Read the meter carefully as some streets only allow 2/3 hours parking maximum.

There is a Ringo app for parking which requires registration of a credit card or you can feed the meter – eg.’ use coins.’ The benefit of the app is that it reminds you when your car parking is about to expire and gives you the opportunity to top it up from your location without having to rush back to your car.

Edinburgh parking app
Edinburgh parking app

Remember to ensure that you have entered the correct code for the street that you are parked on. The app remembers your last parked location and will usually assume that is where you have parked. Type in your new location code as seen below to avoid a parking ticket. It is very simple and easy to use and one of my favourite apps.

Reduced speeds in scottish cities.
Lou Armor@shutterstock

Three new bus lane cameras are now operational in Edinburgh as of June 2019. Liberton Road – Commercial Street & South Gyle Broadway.

Unsure of roundabouts, one way roads and driving on the left? I have recorded these journeys to help you navigate Scottish roads and motorways. click below

Follow me driving from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre click here:

Follow me in my car from Glasgow airport to Glasgow city click here:

For full details of the highway code please refer to highwaycodeuk.co.uk
Speed Limits

Built-up areas mph(km/h) Single carriageways mph (km/h) Dual carriageways mph (km/h) Motorways mph (km/h)
Cars, motorcycles, car derived vans 30mph (48) & 20mph (32) 60mph (96) 70mph (112) Dual carriageway signs are green 70mph (112) Motorway signs Blue

Rental Car companies – Final advice.

Please check the small print for damage waiver/ damage excess and if you are booking through a travel company check the reviews of the car company they use in the UK.

In Scotland these can be checked on Tripadvisor or Reviewcentre.com

Before driving off your car hire vehicle: Take your own photo of damage internally or externally before you drive your car hire away. Show these to the booking desk and agree that they have not been caused by you before driving off.

Car rental companies in UK include Alamo, Budget rental car, Arnold Clark, Enterprise, Avon, Europcar and Hertz.

Edinburgh city council have currently released a consultation paper for the end of free city centre Sunday parking. No details are yet confirmed. I will update if the situation changes.

If I have completely put you off driving in Edinburgh rest assured the tram, local buses and taxi are very good and we have Uber. Personally I prefer the bus or walking, it is a small city and easy walk around, unlike Glasgow a large sprawling city. I hope this information helps and To download any of my photo check out my portfolio on shutterstock. Click here.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Lou A. – Edinburghcitymom

Explore Alicante in Spain (72hrs)

I just love this small compact city. I have visited Alicante in Spain, three years in a row and each time I discover something new. Alicante or Alacant it’s (Valencian name) is on the eastern coast of Spain, in the Mediterranean region of Costa Brava. Its original name was Lucentum, meaning the ‘City of Light’. Famous for its wonderful palm lined boulevards, the Old Quarter and its stunning beaches, Alicante is a popular cruise ship destination.

Alicante city port in Spain
Alicante city port in Spain@ shutter stock

Flights & Transfers: We flew direct from Scotland to Alicante and it is a pleasant 3 hour flight, with a one hour time difference. The currency is the Euro.

Alicante–Elche Airport is 20 mins from the city centre and I usually pre book a taxi which is around 20/25 euro as there are normally 4 of us travelling. The airport has a good taxi rank but if your flight arrives with 3 other flights you may find there are no taxi available and that is why I recommend pre booking. I normally use airport transfers.

There are plenty of Car Hire companies at the airport, including Hertz, Europcar and Centauro amongst others. You can also use the C6 airport bus which is around 3 Euro and tickets are purchased on the bus. The bus stop is at Level 2, Departures.

Alicante city@shutterstock
Alicante city Lou Armor@shutterstock.

During my most recent stay in Alicante, I decided to explore the Old Quarter, Barrio Santa Cruz, nestled under Mount Benacantil. Narrow, colourful streets, weave upwards past the oldest church in the city, past the music school, until you get the best views of the city below. Spain like most mediterranean countries is quiet in the afternoon as most locals enjoy a Siesta to escape the heat of the midday sun. A good time to explore if you want deserted street. Don’t forget to carry water and a sun hat as many cafes are closed for Siesta and re-open late into the evening.

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante (MACA)
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante (MACA)@shutterstock

The first place I stopped at in Alicante old quarter was the Museo De La Asegurada, known as the MACA, found next to the church of Santa Maria, this museum exhibits many contemporary paintings, sculptures and lithographs of over 140 Spanish artists, across 4 storeys and two basement levels.

Works from Miro, Picasso and Chillida can be found here at the Plaza Santa Maria. The museum is open from 10am and entrance is free, which is a great bonus. Remember it is closed on a Monday. Tel: +34 965 140 76. Next to the Museum is the Basilica of Santa Maria, worth a quick look inside at the stunning altar and the marble font by Carrara. Built in Valencian Gothic style the front doors are beautiful with ornate carvings and statues. The statue of the Virgin is by the sculptor Juan Bautista Borja. It is visually stunning and many people sit in the square with a drink admiring the exterior.

I discovered that very close by to the Basilica is Alicante city Segway tours. One of my favourite ways of quickly seeing a city and learning about its history without antagonising my troublesome left knee! The young man informed me that the tours last 1.5 hours and take you to the top of the Mountain and Santa Barbara Castle.

Other private tours include a Tapas tour, wine experience and bike tours and of course Sunset tours. Segways are the easiest things on the planet to use and we have tried them in Rome and America and I can highly recommend, especially if a long walking tour is impractical for you. Open from 9am-7pm. C/ Mayor 45, 03002 Alicante. Julien: (+34) 656 332 485. info@segwayalicante.com

alicante segway tour
alicante seaways tour

Meandering slowly uphill now I passed many beautiful alleys and streets that make up the Old Quarter. Overflowing with plant pots and brightly coloured houses, this feels very traditional and Spanish.

El Barrio, Old Quarter Alicante
El Barrio.Lou Armor@shutterstock

I did not make it to the top of Mount Benacantil and the castle of Santa Barbara. That is on my next trip. My daughter assured me it was stunning as she jogged to the top every morning! ‘Sunrise is special’, I was informed.

I personally would take a taxi or the elevator that is across from the promenade. The lift costs two euro seventy to go up and it is a free return. There is a guide to take you up in the lift and the castle entrance is free with a cafe and a small drink/food booth. Open from 10am onwards.

Santa Barbara castle, alicante
Santa Barbara castle, Alicante @shutterstock.

During my Alicante long weekend I stayed at the Melia Alicante. This lovely hotel has the best location with the marina to the front and the beach to its rear. There is a gate from the pool which gives you easy access to the promenade and the hotel restaurant overlooks the beach with fantastic views down the coast.

Alicante beach in July, Spain.
Alicante beach in July@shutterstock

I have travelled to other parts of Spain but this beach is ideal. There are sun loungers and parasols to hire and the sea is not covered in huge pebbles or has a sudden shelf drop. It just gently slopes out and its warm. Go further along the coast for a little more space as everyone packs into the area beside the cafe and restaurants. There are coastguards along the beach and the area is police patrolled. There is also a water assault course which I usually get dragged out too, but this year big Sis stepped in and I enjoyed watching their antics under the shade of my sun lounger.

The Explanada de España is the beautiful tree lined promenade that runs parallel to the port, from the Puerta del Mar. Also known as the “Paseo de la Explanada”, the street is decorated with wave effect mosaics and is popular with families, runners and dog walkers. It also has local stalls with interesting merchandise and small gift ideas.

Look out for the statue of Icarus, Greek legend says that he plunged into the sea to his death after flying too near to the sun and damaging his wings. The bronze statue is situated in the water opposite the Melia Hotel on the marina side. It is the work of sculptor Esperanza d’Ors.

The marina is a great place to find fabulous seafood restaurants behind the Casino next to the Melia hotel. There are street stalls and of course the beautiful replica ship of the Santisima Trinidad. People have mixed reviews about the ship. It is a tourist attraction but seems to be used more for relaxing on deck with a drink than historical references.

There is also the Museo Volvo Ocean Race museum dedicated to one of the toughest sailing races in the world. Interactive, it has a simulator and fascinating video presentation and a guided tour of the old boat. It’s free and the opening times in the summer are Sunday 11:00 – 15:00 and Mon – Sat 11:00 – 21:00.

Santisima Trinidad, replica Galleon ship in Alicante Port. Spain.
Santisima Trinidad Alicante. Lou Armor@shutterstock

Families will enjoy a stroll along the famous Mushroom Street – San Fransisco Street.

Yellow bricks, giant snails and huge life size mushrooms make this street a big hit with families and children. The statues were designed to regenerate this part of Alicante and produced by Sergio Martinez. Lined with boutiques and cafe’s, it is a popular route taking you to our next stop, Plaza Portal de Elche. Here you will enjoy the shade of the magnificent Rubber trees and enjoy the beautiful fountain and welcome cafe in the square.

If you have young children or teenagers and it does get too hot, then I would recommend walking or taking a taxi to one of the air conditioned shopping malls. Alicante has a few and the teenagers will enjoy having some freedom to shop at Bershka, Desigual, Mango, Pull & Bear, Benetton and HM amongst others. There are usually pharmacy and food courts here too.

Alicante also has outlet stores which I would have loved to visit but I was short on time. The mall in the photograph, is easy to find if you walk along the marina and round behind Mount Benacantil or take a taxi. Plaza Mar Shopping centre.

Outlet stores are Carretera Alicante, 94
03690 San Vicente del Raspeig (Alicante), Tel: 34 96 566 44 98.

Other malls include Centro Gran via Alicante and Centre Comercial Panoramis.

Plaza Mar shopping centre Alicante
Plaza Mar shopping centre Alicante

Entertainment at night.

This last trip was full of surprises as my sister flew out with her two daughters, one of whom is a huge karaoke fan. Much to my surprise behind the casino amongst all the wonderful fish restaurants is a karaoke bar. When we arrived it was pretty empty but the older male singers were incredibly talented. We did not know any of the Spanish songs but the young ones took turns to sing the English songs.

Its a really good laugh and my sister blasted out Katy Perry, ‘Baby your a superstar’. Unforgettable! It was filling up fast when we were leaving but if you are want a sing song this is the place for you.

Water Sports: Other activities on the marina behind the casino are the jet ski and boat hire or fishing trips. Walk to the end of the restaurants and you will see the signs.

Food and Drink

It really is a great city and I never pe book a restaurant. We just wander through the streets and stop wherever we like the look of. The British tend to eat earlier than the locals and I have never found this a problem. Some restaurants are closed on Mondays, so check them out online if you have a favourite before heading out.

Alicante city restaurant, Spain
Alicante city restaurant, Spain

I hope you enjoyed my blog post. Any other tips please submit. I hope to travel further up the coast next time and see the stunning beaches at Altea, Calpe and visit the Guadelest Valley.

All of my photo are available on Shutterstock. For video clips of Scotland, click here.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time. If you would like to see more of my travels, here is my youtube video from my tour around Scotland to Skye, Torridon and Dornoch, part of the NC500,

Click here: Tour Scotland.

Lou. A

Rosslyn chapel, Knights Templar and Vin Diesel Fast & Furious 9.

I have always wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel, this stunning building with its mysterious references to the Da Vinci code (made popular by Dan Browns novel), the Knight’s Templar and the Holy Grail.  It is a popular location for filming and has recently attracted more attention with the arrival of Vin Diesel in the city of Edinburgh filming Fast & Furious 9 directed by Justin Lin.

Vin Diesel the actor has released a short video stating that “he and the top executives from Universal had a sacred meeting about Fast 10 here at Rosslyn Chapel”.  With 57 million followers on Instagram, Rosslyn Chapel I suspect is only going to get very busy.

Rosslyn Chapel Edinburgh
Rosslyn Chapel Edinburgh@shutterstock

If you are expecting a large, imposing building you will be surprised to discover that it is in fact, quite small.  Rosslyn Chapel, formerly known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, is a 15th-century chapel.  Located in the village of Roslin, Midlothian it is around a 20 min drive from Edinburgh City.  Easy to reach from the city by car or local bus follow the brown tourist signs. The easiest place to catch the bus is on the Bridges (No 37) in the city centre. There are no trains to this location.

Rosslyn Chapel attracts attention in part to its elaborate carvings and  a sequence of 213 cubes or “boxes” protruding from pillars and arches with a selection of patterns on them. Many people believe that they are a coded message and the position on east of west facing walls are pieces of a bigger jigsaw as yet completed.

It is also believed that the Knights Templar, a Catholic military order known for their skill in fighting in the Crusades were connected to Rosslyn Chapel and that the treasures of Knights Templar were removed from Paris in secret and hidden in a Scottish Temple.

There is a village near Rosslyn called Temple, which was once the  genuine headquarters of the Scottish Knights Templar, the place was known as Balandtradoch.  This is from the Scottish Gaelic, ‘Baile nan Trodach’ which translates as “Town of Warriors”.

Green men in Rosslyn Chapel
Green men in Rosslyn Chapel

There are over 100 Green men inside and outside of Rosslyn Chapel a traditional feature of medieval churches.  It is said that the green man symbolise the capacity for great goodness and for significant evil. However, these faces  have also been found in important buildings since Roman Times… fuelling the theory that there is a historical connection.

The interior of the building is exquisite and has a fascinating history especially the Apprentice Pillar.  This stunning column has a sad story which I will not recount to you as it will spoil your visit but believe me you will love the ornate and beautiful carvings within Rosslyn Chapel.  Photographs or filming are not permitted inside the chapel or the Sacristy underneath. However you can film the exterior.

Ornate statue outside Rosslyn Chapel
Ornate statue outside Rosslyn Chapel

There is small visitors centre, shop with gift souvenirs and small cafe with outside decking looking over Roslin Glen.  I had lunch and the soup, tea and cakes were delicious.  There is a small interactive area but I think to get the most out of the chapel, a tour would be ideal, these are available throughout the day with the admission price.

The other connection that the Chapel has, is the discovery of sub terrain caves known as the Gilmerton Coves. Highlighted in the Edinburgh news, these caves run much further and deeper than originally thought. Some people think they are connected to the Chapel and that Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge in them before her imprisonment and secret tunnels were used by the Knights Templar.  Fact or fiction …or just another theory?

It’s a fascinating place and if you do visit remember that you can spend time walking through the Glen, looking at the many beautiful and fascinating graves and statues behind the Chapel.

To access the Castle ruins, follow the road down the side of the car park,  its a ten minute walk, steep and uneven, not suitable for dodgy legs or walking sticks or wheelchairs.DSC_0326

The Castle is a ruin but there is a  mansion within the castle walls, which can be rented from the Landmark Trust as a truly memorable Scottish accommodation, overlooking the Glen. The castle is virtually unseen unless you walk down into the pretty Glen where you will discover its true magnificence.

FullSizeRender copy

If you walk into the Glen look our for Grandma tree and Grandpa tree, ancient trees that many travelling people say have special energies… they are pretty awesome and do not remove any of the fairies or pretty stones that you see hanging from the branches as you may incur the wrath of the tree spirits.

To see my full  portfolio click here on Shutterstock. 

Tips and notes

Rosslyn Chapel guides  provide talks throughout the day, which are included in the admission price. These are at Monday to Saturday:
10am, 11am, 12.15pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm. 

Sundays:
1pm, 2pm, 3pm

Opening hours are Sept – Dec – 9.30- 5pm and Sundays 12-4.45.

June – Aug – 9.30 – 6pm and Sundays 12 – 4,45pm.

It gets busy inside so mid week will be quieter.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Lou Armor