Roseanne does a Mumism!

We’re boarding the ferry. We drive into the ship, the stewards direct us round the back, doing a u-turn around the cones to queue up in a tidy line beside the trucks, when suddenly our SatNav Roseanne pipes up with perhaps the best observation ever…

“Caution: ferry”

We’re still laughing! 



The Insignia has character, no seriously!

When I told Mum about Dad’s 12-hour adventure getting to London yesterday, including a motorbike breakdown, 7-hour wait at Peterborough services and Caravan Club recovery, she was all sighs and bless him comments. That was until I told her what car he’d got as a replacement – the thought of a Vauxhall Insignia being his rescue option had her in hysterics!

Now I’ll be first to admit I’ve never liked my parents’ car – it’s heavy, unresponsive, sluggish, unreliable and handles like a wet sponge. But the one we’ve got for Spain is a vast improvement. According to the rental agreement, it’s a Sports Tourer (that’s an estate, to the rest of us) but it’s got character!

Introducing Roseanne

So I have a habit of naming inate objects. My laptops and tablets have all been named after Bond girls: Vesper… Domino… Solitaire… My cars have all had names: FiFi Le Focus… Jimi (my first A3)… Xenia (my Merc)… Toni (my TT – hairdresser’s car)… my beloved Bruno (the Black edition)… and his SatNav, Stella…

So when Dad and I acquaint ourselves with the SatNav in the Insignia today, we decide she needs a name.

Vauxhall is part of General Motors, which is American, so we think the SatNav lady should be named after a memorable American female; an icon of her era, someone whose voice was distinctive, a key feature of her persona, someone who commanded authority, who people listened to, someone whose company we’d enjoy, have fun with, have a laugh with… Got it!

Ladies and gentlemen – meet Roseanne…




Saved by the Caravan Club

So Dad sets off from Yorkshire on Tuesday morning, to arrive in London around lunchtime… Yep, well it kind of went a bit pear shaped there.

The fuel tank on a motorbike being smaller than a car means you have to stop more often to fill up. So Dad got as far as Peterborough services (90 miles from home) and pulled in to fill up, only to discover his bike battery had died. Or rather it hadn’t been charging properly since leaving home. Bugger.

No it’s ok, he’s called the Caravan Club. What? Turns out Dad has a comprehensive insurance policy with the Caravan Club, which covers him for bike breakdown. Great!

Well not quite – all our luggage is in panniers and tank bags designed to fit a Triumph Sprint ST, so they won’t fit on another (replacement) bike. Fuggerella.

No it’s ok, the Caravanners can get him a car instead… Except the ferry is booked for a motorbike and two passengers. Do they have room for an extra car? Yes… hurrah! …for an extra £205. Flippety bollox.

But guess what, the Caravan dudes will cover that as part of Dad’s policy. Bonus! So ok, driving across Spain in a hire car isn’t quite the same as riding on the bike. But we’re getting a Polo – it’s German, it’s a little hatch, it’ll handle the windy little mountain roads of Northern Spain, so we can still take the scenic route with some fun, right?

Erm not quite. They couldn’t get a Polo in the end, so we’ve got a Vauxhall Insignia. What? You’re joking! The car Mum and Dad have at home? The car they do nothing but moan about? The car that breaks down on them at least once a month? The car Mum convinced Dad to buy, and now can’t convince him to replace?

I knew the Caravan Club were no good! #bloodycaravans

I jest, but it’s not all bad. We meant to leave on Tuesday, it turns out to be Wednesday, so what? A bike turns out to be a car, but a scenic ride over the mountains turns into a booze cruise! And packing light turns out to include a rucksack, two cases, three handbags, four pairs of shoes, numerous scarves and a rainbow of nail colours and manicure kit… Of course it does!

Apparently, the word of the moment is #agile – plans change, goalposts move, bikes break down and there’s always a caravans leading the mayhem. But if anyone wants any wine or beer bringing back from Spain, we have an Insignia Sports Tourer to fill! Orders please…



Let’s go racing

A few people have asked me recently, how come I travel to so many F1 races. So before I share the silliness of this trip, a little background for those who don’t know the background…

A few years ago, I took my dad to the #BelgianGP in Spa – I’ve loved F1 for as long as I can remember, but I’d never been to a race, dad hadn’t been since before I was born, I could afford to buy the race tickets, so the deal was: if he could get us there, I’d get us in… Five months and a whole lot of excitement and planning later, we set off on his motorbike, complete with tent a camping kit strapped onto the back, and had a blast. During the obligatory post-race analytical celebratory refreshment process, we realised that if we continued to do one race each year, we’d complete the F1 calendar the year dad turns 80… well there’s a reason, if ever we needed one! And so began the annual pilgrimage of dad and I going to an F1 race together each year, now affectionately tagged as #letsgoracing

In 2011 we were drawn, like olive oil to balsamic vinegar, to the passionate, flamboyant home of motorsport… We joined the Tafiosi in a sea of Ferrari red, in the glorious Italian province of Monza for the #ItalianGp #trip2

In 2012 mum and dad went off round NZ in a camper van, like recycled grads on a gap yar, whilst I went off solo and explored Honkers and the East coast of Australia… Naturally, being so close, it was rude not to coordinate the trip with the #AustralianGP in Melbourne, right? #trip3

That being the first race of the year, by mid-season we were getting itchy feet, and because Melbourne hadn’t been just the two of us, and no motorbike was involved, it was only acceptable to do Spa again, right? #trip4

By this point I’d well and truly caught the bug, both for F1 and travel, and snuck in a few extras including the #SpanishGP in Barcelona, #MonacoGP in Monte Carlo, #HungarianGP in Budapest, #EuropeanGP in Valencia, #AbuDhabiGP on Yas Island…

One of the many advantages of living in Europe, is that travel is relatively easy (compared to other countries, where you can travel thousands of miles just to get out of the country). But unfortunately, the number of GPs in Europe is diminishing, as emerging wealth in other countries allows Bernie to demand more and more money for hosting a race. Don’t get me wrong; the newcomers are putting on some spectacular shows and justifying their place in the calendar, but the traditional venues are dropping like flies. A sad state of affairs. So whilst the long hauls are attractive, the iconic tracks closer to home are more so. So in 2013, dad and I joined the bikers of the F1 paddock (who, every other year, opt to ditch the first class lounge in favour of the Black Forest and take the scenic route) and rode to the iconic Nurburgring for the #GermanGP! #trip5

Last year, Bernie announced that F1 would be returning to Austria. I’ve never been to Austria dad… Haven’t you? That’s no good… No further discussion required (other than shall we fly rather than ride this time, to minimise time off work and potentially have time for another race later in the year…?) Three months later we fly out to Vienna, drive across to Graz (if you’ve never been, go, it’s so pretty!) and join a sellout crowd at the new RedBullRing in Spielberg for the #AustrianGP! #trip6

Whilst I’ve squeezed in a few more races (#CanadianGP in Montreal, #MalaysianGP in Kuala Lumpur, and old favourites Barcelona and Budapest), dad hasn’t missed out either – he’s done a few bike trips with his brother, but has talked for years about riding across Spain… I think there’s a ferry from Plymouth to Santander dad, and one from Portsmouth to Bilbao… Really?… And Google says you can ride from there to Barcelona in a day… I expect so… And the transport from Barcelona to the track is really good, the trains run direct from Sants to Montmello, it’s easy… Well… The next thing I know, I get an email from Papa along the lines of “Oooops! I hope your passport is still valid!”





KL reflections

Apparently, from my posts on Facebook over the weekend, it came across as perhaps the best trip I’ve been on? To be honest, I don’t know if that’s true. I find it hard to point to any one trip and say “that was the best” as they’ve all had their own individuality and memorable moments.


This time, the individuality came from the lack of individuality! KL is perhaps one of the most mixed places I’ve been to, even compared to London. London has a lot going on, but I find that almost works against it – the constant excitement and buzz, always millions of tourists and even the climate, means that you just know you’re in London. I expect it’s probably the same in places like New York?


AN: I haven’t actually been to New York since 2000, apart from transferring through JFK, which doesn’t really count does it? So I’m totally speculating on the ‘just knowing you’re there’ thing. Maybe it’s time I went back? Thelma & Louise trip for 2016 perhaps? I digress…


In KL, there’s loads of different areas to explore and each has its own story, unique feel and vibe, and on my first day I saw this in abundance.




Firstly, there’s the bit where two rivers converge, the point where KL was founded. When I get here, I walk out of the LTR station straight into a small but bustling street market. They’re selling nothing notable, it just feels like your average locals’ market, a local community, nothing touristy at all. I clamber over rubble and broken pavements to get down to the point where the rough guide says I’ll get the best view of the convergence of the rivers. I get there in one piece, toes and ankles intact, to find a motorbike park on one side and a building site on the other. If I hadn’t previously read-up on it, I’d never have known it was anything significant? But I still think it’s quite interesting because of what it stands for, and I find myself taking photos of piles of concrete, a crane and the odd digger. Hey ho!


From here, I walk South through an unassuming little square with a tiny clock tower in the centre. Not hugely impressed by the tower, but the mishmash of buildings around the square makes me wonder (as I do!) Turns out this was the old market square and the centre of the city – I’d never have guessed, again there’s nothing notable to tell me that, just different eras evident in the decaying architecture around me.


I carry on over the bridge towards the Colonial core. Now this is more obvious. With Moorish looking buildings on one side, a mock Tudor building housing an exclusive Gentlemen’s club on the other, fountains and a flag pole at one end, and arches and pillars at the other, all surrounding a huge square plot of well-kept grass, complete with cricket crease in the centre! You can tell this place has so much significance, even if you dodn’t know the history. In the midst of all this is a giant red model of the initials I❤️KL and markings on the ground for people to queue up to take their picture with it… yep, not proud, of course I did!


In the centre of the fountain stands a huge flagpole, where the Malaysian flag was raised at 12:01 on their first day of independence less than 60 years ago. Suddenly, a city full of such old buildings and history feels so young – it’s like it’s full of people who’ve been there for ever, but who suddenly have a new lease of life? And they’re grabbing it with both hands and rebuilding their city into a magical place, whilst neither losing nor over-exaggerating its past. It makes me feel lucky, humble and excited all at the same time. I also feel very hot (relentless sun, no shade, first day in 30+ degrees, when the forecast suggested it’d rain all weekend…) so I have a moment, take my snaps, then make my way back over the river.


At this point, I’m looking for shade and fancy a drink, but don’t want to head back up to the hotel just yet. Out comes the guide book and #2 on my list (yes, of course I have a list!) is Chinatown. Except they don’t call it that. It’s just an area influenced by Chinese culture, a bunch of street markets with an oriental vibe. Now the guide book says to head for Petaling Street, and shows me a photo vaguely resembling Gerrard Street in London. Looks a bit touristy, so I decide to get to it via the back streets and alleys. And here I discover a very different kind of market. Not for the faint hearted, vegetarian, vegan, or anyone with any other moral foodie preference; this is dark, smelly alleyways, where I’m clambering over milk crates and avoiding puddles of goodness knows what, staring in curiosity at stalls either side propped up by steps and tarpaulins, mostly selling food (although the only indication of what’s on sale is what’s clucking around in the crate under the table), with limited interest in hygiene (although I do see a chap washing a wicker basket under a drainpipe). I generally have the constitution of an ox and not much makes me queasy, but I’ll admit, I may think twice about what meat I eat after seeing this!


As I come back out into the daylight I find myself on Petaling Street, where the markets suddenly become outlets for football shirts, baseball caps, fake watches and touts. Not my kinda thing, so I scurry through with my head down, and scuttle round the corner. Luckily, I’ve already plotted an idea of where I’m going and I manage to find my way to the Little China Café. Goldmine! For a mere 15 ringgit (c£3) I get a delicious freshly squeezed lemon iced tea, served with liquid sugar?! (New fave, the tea not the sugar, if anyone knows where to get this in London let me know!) and fresh spring rolls (perhaps the freshest, lightest and tastiest I’ve ever eaten, they were just delicious!) In fact, there’s heaps on the menu I want to try, but I’m not that hungry yet. So I decide to come back over the weekend and make sure I’m starving!


After lunch, I head back North and see a bit more of the city, literally. Now anyone who knows anything about KL has heard of the Petronas twin towers. They’re the tallest skyscrapers in the city, but you can only go up so far, as the top section isn’t open to tourists. However, the KL tower just across the road is built on higher ground, so although it’s not as big, it actually reaches higher above sea level and is therefore the highest point in the city. And there’s a 360degree platform at the top which you can go out onto. And you can see the Petronas twin towers from there. So that’s where I head.


When I walk in, it’s all very efficient. A lady welcomes me, asks my nationality, and escorts me to the appropriate desk. The chap there asks whether I’m going to the inside view room ¾ of the way up, or the outside observation deck at the top? I think back to a mate in Australia telling me that, if I was going to do a skydive, don’t go for the cheaper 11,000ft jump, do it properly and pay more for the 14,000ft. So I pay my 99 ringgits and am escorted to the next desk, where I’m presented with a piece of paper and asked to sign a contract… Erm, what? Apparently, the small print basically says I promise not to run, jump or push anyone over the edge! Well that’s ok then! Let’s go!


The view from the top is incredible. KL is so much bigger than I realised! Most of the bits in the guide book are walkable, and the light rail train and monorail get you pretty much anywhere quite quickly. So on the ground it seems quite small. But it feels like you can see the whole country from up here! And the skyscrapers aren’t just in the centre, they’re dotted all over the city, which makes it feel even bigger. And there’s random hills popping up everywhere too, not like Yorkshire hills or Everest, but hills big enough to throw up a spot of green in between buildings. I take my photos and after just a few minutes, wonder how long I’m meant to stay up here to consider it value for money? To be fair, 99 ringgits is only about £20, so it’s not silly money. I breathe in the view, make sure I get another picture and head back to the elevator.


Once back on the ground, I realise that, in between here and my hotel and is KLCC – the new city centre. So I follow my feet and aim in the general direction of the twin towers. Now, this is a bit like coming to London and seeing Big Ben. It’s probably one of the best known images of the city, and you can see it from miles away. But when you get up close, it’s something different.


From an early age, I’ve liked interesting architecture – not so much the older stuff, but weird and impressive new buildings. And my favourite for many years has been Richard Rogers’ ‘powerhouse’ – home to Lloyds of London. Well sorry Rich, but the top spot has now been taken over. I LOVE this place! I could honestly stand and look at the twin towers for hours. The fact that it’s sunny does help, and I’ve been told that they look even better at night.


Beyond the towers, is a huge park, with impressive buildings all round it. Like a cross between Central Park and Canada Square, but with heaps of sun, no traffic, lots of fountains and cafes, it’s just lovely, and another distinct change from the Colonial core, Chinatown and Bhukit Bintang.


Talking of which, it’s time I headed back, so I walk from KLCC back to Bhukit Bintang, where I’m staying. This area is surrounded by impressive shopping malls, and Gucci, Hugo Boss and Prada adorn the view from my hotel lobby. It’s bright lights, glamour and credit cards all round, but feels clean, safe and not in the slightest bit pretentious.


Just a few streets away, is the nightlife of Chankit Bhukit Bintang, where I’m heading this evening. One long strip of more uneven pavements, raised kerbs, stationary traffic, convenience stores and Thai spas, this is one of the busiest streets I’ve seen so far, and clearly where the tourists come. As night falls, the streets fill with hawker style eateries and loud bars – there’s the token Irish and, with F1 in town, a few bars are sponsored by race teams like Red Bull and Kingfisher. Luckily, I’m in flats tonight and opted to dress down, so the terrain, touts and tourists are easily navigated. I make my way up to the top of the street before stopping, to decide which establishment to go back to. Across the road is a quieter venue called Havana, perfect. So I grab a table, order a cold one, pull out my book and read up on very thing I’ve seen.


In one day I’ve experienced the Moorish old town, the Colonial core, street market heaven/hell in Chinatown, incredible food, the immaculate KLCC, the view from KL tower, the shopping mecca of Bhukit Bintang and the frenetic nightlife of Chankit. I’ve only touched the surface of each so still lots to explore, but already I love KL… This place is amazing…




Was that really a week ago? I guess having landed home on Tuesday morning and gone straight back to work, I haven’t really stopped and reflected until now, so it feels like I was only there yesterday. But I’d go back tomorrow. The people were friendly, not pushy at all, and didn’t seem to see tourists as a money pot. They were welcoming and seemed genuinely pleased that people want to come and see their beautiful country.  I wasn’t offered a selfie stick, not anywhere, quite the contrast from Rome last month. And when I go back – I will go back – my new Malaysian friends have told me to go to Penang and Cameron Highland too. I will, for sure. Just need to save up again first!



Just go, they’ll work around you

On my first day here, I walked from KLCC to Bukit Bintang using the roads and pavements. And I mean literally, roads and pavements, because it seems they don’t differentiate between who can use what?

The cars are generally pretty good at going where they’re told, but if a building site pops then appears in the middle of a busy shopping area, they just push the traffic over to the left a bit, onto the pavement (it’s ok, most of the slaps are missing or wobbly anyway).

But the motorbikes are not catered for at all. Why would they be? They just go wherever they like anyway! Roads (with or against the general flow of traffic), pavements (but don’t worry, just keep walking and they’ll find their way around you), stairs (I kid you not, it’s like Kick Start in some places!) Up the steps, across the grass, down the rubble bank, over a couple of old tyres and back onto the road the other side, slipping into the traffic (going at 90 degrees to the cars to get across to where they want to be)

For pedestrians, they might build you a walkway (which could take you round three shopping malls and a subway, bringing you out two blocks from where you thought you’d be). 

But it all just seems to work. It’s like the epitome of a non-bureaucratic traffic system – there’s structure, of sorts, in places, but they just go where there’s space. 

Zebra crossings are merely decoration

Seriously, they have absolutely no purpose whatsoever! I discovered this after spending ten minutes strategically positioned in a Hagen Daas shop surveying how it all works (tactical move of course, nothing to do with mango sorbet).

Eventually, on realising my two scoops have gone, I make my move. I start logically at the crossing. There’s a huge round button (with no signage or instructions) so I press it. Nite, I didn’t spot anyone else trying this whilst consuming my choc n mint, but few people in London do either, they just wait for the lights to change) but I’m taking no chances. I give it a couple of minutes, then the red man opposite goes green and I hear what sounds like a peacock stuck in the lamppost beside me, so I start to cross. But the cars and bikes don’t stop for the light, or for me? Erm, ok!

By Saturday night, after a day exploring the city, I think I’ve got it covered. As I emerge from the hotel, I’m surrounded by a myriad of shoppers, tourists and locals, all waiting patiently for the lights to change. To my right a see a local-looking chap make a run for it and descend into the traffic. Right, I’m up for this… let’s just take it a lane at a time… I start slowly (so the cars know I’m going for it) and start to walk out as I see a gap behind the oncoming car. As the red/white taxi goes past (and I chuckle at the ‘no haggling’ sign on his door) I step up a gear and quicken my pace to the relative safety (?) of the white line between lanes… I slow a little until the bikes have played cat & mouse with me, before subtly (trying desperately to look like I do this every day) making a final dash towards Prada.

So general rule of thumb: just go where you like and they work around you – fun fun!


Birthday bubbles with friends old and new

Friday night. And after a long day’s exploring, trying to cram in everything I wanted to see, I decide it’s time I arranged something to do later. Thanking the hotel for complimentary wifi, I contact the pitlane to see who’s out and about tonight; an iMessage to Organised Esq (who’s already sent me his number in KL) an email to the Snowman (as I’ve no number for him) and a FB message to Mr Useless (notoriously rubbish and unlikely to even look at his phone before Tuesday, except to share the latest HuffPost on Facebook).

Organised comes up trumps – general plan is to aim for food in KLCC about 8. I suggest Marini’s? Yep, should be able to find that. Desperado’s out too, so we’ll see you then. Cool.

Next-up, I WhatsApp Tina to see what he and Alej are up to. They live out here and his brother is a mate of mine in London. I haven’t seen him since a very drunken hockey night out at the Olympics, and I’ve yet to meet his fiancé, Alejandra. So v much looking forward to that, although slightly unsure whether calling him ‘Tina’ may be a tad dangerous in SEAsia?!

Unfortunately for the pitlane boys, who are staying out of the city closer to the track, no taxis are prepared to come into town! Organised and Desperado are at different hotels but both having the same issue. They call to see if I can go further out? Being me, and always up for exploring and adventure, I give it a go. But because I’ve arranged to meet Tina and Alej at 11, I’ll need to get a cab back no later than 10:30… By this point it’s close to 9 and if I don’t find a cab in the next 15, it’s hardly gonna be worth it! Unfortunately for the pitlane, the city taxis are as cooperative as Nico was with Lewis, and no-one wants to go anywhere! I make a decision – it’s now 9:30, do I really fancy spending my birthday Saturday night in KL in a taxi? I head over to Marini’s and up to #57.

…where there appears to be a party going on! I know no-one in the building and have no idea what to expect, but I jump in the lift with 5 Aussie blokes and up we go. One of the Aussies (who bears a vague resemblance to Russell Crowe, but slightly less rugged and with curlier hair), turns round and asks “you’re going up to the party too?” To which I respond “certainly looks that way!” I have no idea where this sudden burst of cockiness comes from?! And given my utter lack of insight into where the lift is taking us or even who’s party it is, I can only assume it’s a defence mechanism for the fact that I’m actually on my tod and just want a glass of bubbles in the best bar in the city! Luckily Russell doesn’t take offence and, in fact, buys me a glass of said bubbles for my birthday 🙂 

Meanwhile, we reach #57 and as the doors open, the music gets louder, the lights get darker and the party presents itself. To be honest, I’ve still no idea who’s party it is, but Mr Petronas suggested that Mercedes had a party here last year (it is right beside their sponsor’s HQ so I wouldn’t be surprised, although I saw no-one looking remotely F1ish in the place). 

Having looked at the view and said “wow” more times than I probably should (there goes that illusion of looking like a regular), meeting a bunch of really friendly Malaysians, accepting a glass of birthday bubbles from Russell Crowe chappie (who turns out to be called Anthony) and chatting with his mates (who turn out to be called Antonio, Tony and Brian) and deciding it’ll be simpler to just call everyone Tony (except for Brian – not at all confusing), I finally hop in a cab and head down to the Havana bar to meet Tina and Alej.

On arrival, it appears half the Aussies who left before me, had a similar idea. We reconvene and play continues. By this point, we’re on our fifth bottle of bubbles and I’m wondering where Tina’s got to… Just as I pull out my phone, I hear a familiar voice behind me saying “don’t text, we’re here!” Lots of squeals, big hugs and more bubbles – awesome 🙂