Robert Hampton

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21st December 2015

Dabblin’ in Dublin
Posted by at 8.52pm | Out and About | No responses

Leprechaun Museum

When my friend Andrew suggested a trip to Dublin, I leapt at the chance. I’ve jetted off to Estonia, Norway and Germany, but our neighbouring isle had remained off-limits. It was high time I put that right.

Of course, Andrew had an ulterior motive. He’s a planespotter — sorry… “aviation enthusiast”, so when Aer Lingus launched a new Dublin to Liverpool service on 23 October, he had to be on the first flight. A day in Dublin was an added bonus.

Yes, I’m writing about my trip two months after it actually happened. I’VE BEEN BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE. One side effect is that I’ve forgotten some of the details, so you’ll have to make do with some overall impressions.

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9th November 2013

Isle be Back
Posted by at 8.43pm | Out and About | 1 response

Isle of Man Railway Company CrestOn 21st September, I went for a day trip to the Isle of Man. Now, just nine short weeks later, I’m writing about it. Sorry, I’ve been busy or something.

This was all Andrew‘s doing. He likes his planes, and will find any excuse to go for a flight or two. When he suggested a quick flight to the Isle of Man and back, I was up for it. All I knew about the place was that it’s the home of the TT Races. Also, there are various heritage railways there, and I was keen to see them for myself.

Doing the Isle of Man in a day is a bit of a fraught process. On paper, it’s perfectly feasible: FlyBe operate several flights a day from Liverpool to Isle of Man Airport. In practice, it’s a little more difficult. In fact, this was our second attempt to reach the island. Our original day out was scheduled for 10th August. However, we got as far as the departure lounge before discovering our flight had been cancelled. We were offered the next flight, but it would have given us almost no time in the Isle of Man.

Two hours of hanging on the phone later, and Andrew had successfully got our flights rearranged. Six weeks later, we were back at the airport to try again… only for our flight to be delayed. At first it was 30 minutes late, but more and more minutes were slowly added.

There’s only so long you can hang around in an airside Wetherspoons. We sat, surrounded by twentysomethings off to Ibiza to “large it”, who were already on their third pint. At 8am.

Eventually, over 75 minutes late, our gate was called, and we were soon climbing aboard “Adam Stansfield”.

Flybe Plane "Adam Stansfield"

I’m a little bit suspicious of propeller aircraft. We’ve been spoiled as a race by jumbo jets – propellers seem just a bit… primitive by comparison. It may just be too many episodes of Stop the Pigeon when I was a child, but I had visions of the propellers snapping off and us plummeting to a fiery/comical death.

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11th May 2011

Ta-ta for now, Tallinn
Posted by at 7.17pm | Out and About | 2 responses

Go Hotel ShnelliThis is the seventh and final part of my Tallinn blog. If you haven’t already, please enjoy part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6

For my final blog, I present a few bits that I left out of the previous blog entries, and my final thoughts on Tallinn.

So what did I think of the hotel? It was probably equivalent in comfort terms to a decent Travelodge — not the height of opulent luxury, but clean and perfectly comfortable. I have absolutely no complaints and would recommend it for travellers on a budget. Here’s the hotel’s web site if you want to investigate further.

It sounds like a cliché, but in this case I think it really is true to say that Tallinn is a city of contrasts. There’s the medieval old town, the stark concrete buildings of the Soviet years and the gleaming 21st century tower blocks, all within walking distance of each other.

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10th May 2011

Night Kapp
Posted by at 6.03pm | Gay, Out and About | No responses

Artwork in KappI’m still not done – this is part 6! If you’ve just joined us, catch up by reading part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5!

When the prospect of visiting Estonia was first mentioned, I will admit that the gay scene didn’t figure into my plans too much. If we were going to Berlin or Amsterdam, sure – but Tallinn? A small-ish Eastern European city? In a former Soviet state, no less?

Our guide book — which devoted two paragraphs out of 96 pages to gay and lesbian Tallinn — was not exactly enthusiastic either: “While attitudes to homosexuality in Tallinn are more relaxed than in fellow Baltic capitals Riga and Vilnius,” it cautioned, “they could hardly be described as enlightened.”

Naturally I studied the legal situation in this area before departure (wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about things like this?). Homosexuality only became legal in Estonia in 1992, but some progress was made and with that coveted EU membership in 2004 came some protections against discrimination. But in other ways the country lags behind: there is no recognition of same-sex partnerships, and much of Tallinn’s gay population prefers to keep things quiet and discreet.

Perhaps the most shocking development was when Andrew took advantage of the widely-available free wi-fi to fire up Grindr, which had trouble finding any “nearby buddies” closer than Helsinki – just a short fifty-mile ferry ride away.

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9th May 2011

A kök and a narrow passage
Posted by at 7.06pm | Out and About | No responses

Kiek in de KökBelieve it or not, this is part 5 of the Tallinn blog. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

Tallinn’s medieval city walls are still largely in existence and have been lovingly preserved. At various strategic points towers were built. One of the largest is Kiek in de Kök in the west of the Old Town. The name is low German for “Peek in the Kitchen”, because from the windows on the tower’s upper floors it was possible to see straight into the homes of many of the city’s residents.

(Incidentally, we didn’t visit it at night as the picture suggests – the photo here was snapped by Andrew during our nocturnal wanderings the previous night. Between us we managed to miss taking any photos during our actual visit. D’oh!)

The tower has now been rebuilt as part of the city museum, housing various artefacts, mainly of a military nature. Excellently the internal structure has been preserved, meaning the various rooms and galleries are accessed via the original medieval stairways. That means – yes! – more steep, narrow passageways.

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8th May 2011

The Past in a Foreign Country
Posted by at 4.15pm | Out and About | No responses

The Victory Column in TallinnThis is part 4 of my Tallinn blog. Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Yes, I’ve run out of Tallinn puns. Never mind.

Wednesday was our only full day in Tallinn and we were determined to make the most of it. We headed down to breakfast, which excitingly was served in the railway station’s restaurant. The breakfast itself was (as hotel breakfasts often are) not particularly special, being your bog-standard help-yourself buffet, but it was adequate to start the day.

We headed first towards the the Occupations Museum, dedicated to Estonia’s history between 1940 and 1991, when the country was occupied by the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, before the Soviet Union invaded again. This small museum contains numerous artefacts from this fifty year period of oppression – everything from army uniforms to cars to Josef Stalin-themed matchboxes.

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7th May 2011

A Tallinn-ted Chef
Posted by at 4.33pm | Out and About | No responses

View of restaurants in Town Hall Square, TallinnThis is part 3 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part and second part.

Suitably re-energised, we headed back out and towards Town Hall Square. As the name suggests, it is adjacent to the Tallinn Town Hall. It also boasts a wide variety of bars and restaurants, and is thus a hub of activity throughout the day.

Despite the cold temperatures, a number of the eateries offered outdoor dining. Our guide book promised that in the summer months Tallinn has a “Mediterranean-style café culture”, but there was no evidence of that today, despite a lot of electric heaters working under the canopies to provide warmth.

Each establishment appeared to have a friendly man stationed in the square to entice tourists inside. Much to the delight of the representative of Old Estonia, we agreed to eat there. We decided to forego the outdoor option in favour of a window table inside.

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6th May 2011

Tallinn Ho!
Posted by at 4.14pm | Out and About | 1 response

Tallinn European Capital of Culture bannerThis is part 2 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part.

By the time we had checked into the hotel and took a few moments to recover from the journey, it was after 3pm local time (Estonia being two hours ahead of the UK). We wasted no time in heading out to explore the surrounding area and make the most of the rest of the afternoon.

The first thing that hit us: it was cold. The cabin crew on the flight informed us that the temperature was a brisk 5°C, however this didn’t take into account the chill factor of the wind. Even with multiple layers, we shivered, especially after the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in Liverpool lately.

I nearly brought the trip to a premature end outside the hotel, after forgetting that they drive on the left right in Estonia and looking the wrong way before crossing the busy dual carriageway. Only an angry honk from an approaching taxi driver alerted me in time.

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5th May 2011

Tallinn you all about Estonia
Posted by at 7.15pm | Out and About | 2 responses

View of the Estonian capital city, TallinnI’m something of an international travel virgin – and I’ve never been abroad either.

Actually that’s not quite true; I went with my family to Toronto when I was little. However that doesn’t count because despite being there for two weeks (I think) I can remember only three things about it: a day excursion to Niagara Falls, riding into the city centre on a double-decker GO train and travelling on a streetcar which broke down.

Fast forward twenty or so years and the only other countries I’ve visited since then have been Scotland and Wales. Which apparently don’t count either.

Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will remember that one of my New Year Resolutions was to travel abroad. I did some initial planning and toyed with the idea of going to Berlin, but true to form I never did anything about it beyond buying a guide book.

Then, a couple of months ago, my friend (and renowned international jetsetter) Andrew Bromage mentioned that he had booked an easyJet flight to Tallinn. The flight prices were cheap and the hotel would cost the same for one or two people, so did I want to come along?

Yes. Yes I did.

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2nd August 2010

What I did during my weeks off
Posted by at 8.34pm | It's My Life, Trains | 3 responses

Why hello, Mr Blog. It’s been a while since the last time I put fingers to keyboard and inserted my text gently into your box.

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