Author Archives: Karen Bryan

About Karen Bryan

Hello, I'm Karen Bryan, I created Europe a la Carte in 2002 to highlight the best places to visit in Europe with travel tips, photos and no fluff reviews. I’m also an artist; my artworks are often inspired by my travels

Carsluith Castle

You can visit the ruins of a 16th century tower house at Carsluith Castle, in Dumfries and Galloway, in south west Scotland.

The castle is located just off the A75. It’s open all year and it’s free to enter. You could combine a visit to Carsluith Castle with a pit stop at the adjacent cafe. If the weather is dry, you could sit outside.

There are stone steps to ascend the castle.

The higher you get, the better the views of the surrounding countryside and Wigton Bay.

I had the place to myself when I visited around 10am on a Saturday morning.

Malleny Garden in Edinburgh

Malleny Garden is located in Balerno, an Edinburgh suburb which lies 8 miles south west of the city centre.

I’d visited the garden a few times in the past, the most recent occasion being around 12 years ago. I’d been to the nearby Jupiter Artland sculpture park in the morning. I thought that Malleny Garden would be a good place to eat my picnic lunch. It was a good choice. I was hungry when I arrived at the garden. I was immediately attracted to the bench behind some yellow flowers.

It was lovely inside the green house.

There were even some seats for a wet or colder day.

There were some pretty flowers bordered by red bushes.

The yew trees are around 400 years old.

Malleny Garden has a heritage collection of roses. Very few were in bloom when I visited in late July.

Malleny Garden is open every day from 10am to 5pm (or dusk if earlier). There’s a toilet in the garden.

 

 

 

 

Spring Fling Art Open Studios in Dumfries and Galloway

Spring Fling is an annual art and craft open studios event in Dumfries and Galloway, in south west Scotland. I attended the event in late May 2018.

The studios are dispersed over a wide geographic location. The event organisers suggest six colour coded routes to follow. However, I decided to draw up my own itineraries, based on visiting the studios which were of the most interest to me.

This was a complex task, especially as I am not familiar with that area. I also had to factor in different opening hours and the travel time between venues.

Below are photos from a few of the Spring Fling studios which I visited.

Peter Wareing

Andrew Adair

Annie Cooney

Christime Hester Smith

Jo Gallant

Penny Lilley

Phil Mcmenemy

Wendy Kershaw

Ir you’re interested in arts and crafts, I recommend a visit to Spring Fling. It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists, see them at work and purchase their pieces.

How Brexit Will Affect Travel to Europe

As Brexit approaches at the end of March, many UK citizens are wondering how it’s going to affect their travel plans. Depending on whether there is a deal struck between the EU and the UK, travel will impacted in a variety of ways. While it will change holidays in the EU, there is nothing major to worry about. Being prepared for the changes is key. Here is what you should be thinking about if you are planning on going abroad after Brexit.


Flight Prices

Since air travel has been relatively unrestricted between the United Kingdom and EU countries, it is unclear how the flights and flight prices will fully change. Budget airlines rely on this open sky policy, and a deal between the EU and the UK will likely determine how much higher prices will go. Up until now, it doesn’t appear that they will stay the same. The government has a contingency plan for areas that would cause major disruptions. These would affect civilians and businesses, including financial services, air transport, and customs. This preparedness will not reciprocate for EU members, however.

Visas

While the EU has confirmed the British travelers will need to pay for a €7 travel permit, which will be valid for three years. This is a part of the European Travel Information and Authorization Scheme (ETIAS). Every traveler to the EU will need to pay the fee and register 72 hours in advance of travel.

Passports

Passports will also change in accordance to EU countries. The government is recommending that travelers have at least six months on their passports from the day they go abroad. If you renewed your passport before it expired, extra days could have been added. It is best to check how many days you have left on your passport ahead of time. To do so, use the passport-checking tool online.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance will be impacted greatly by Brexit. European health insurance cards (EHIC). EHICs cover pre-existing conditions and emergencies when traveling. “In the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers this topic, a House of Lords report said, “the rights currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit.”

According to an expert at MoneyPug, a site specializing in cheap travel insurance, some reciprocal emergency measures with EU countries may be negotiated, but right now it seems like individual deals will be struck with each state. While it remains uncertain, the UK government has proposed a law to begin implementing this measure. Without EHIC, purchasing insurance for particular trips will be the way to ensure that you don’t have to pay large sums in an accident, emergency, or illness. Those with pre-existing conditions will need to get specialized insurance.

Mobile Roaming

Under the current rules, mobile data is the same in the rest of the EU as the United Kingdom, but this will change. In the event of no deal with the EU, free roaming will not be guaranteed, but some mobile phone providers, including Tesco Mobile, Vodafone, and O2 have said they won’t charge for roaming in Europe. The UK government has also said that it will legislate to put £45 limits on charges while abroad.

Tour Operators

The Association of British Travel Agents has said that British travelers should be confident to book after March. In a statement they noted that tour operators provide the most comprehensive consumer protection. In fact, travel tours are protected under Package Travel Regulations, which will give you the right of a full refund. The Association of Independent Tour Operators agrees. They suggest booking holidays that have full financial protection. While tours are the safest way to book a holiday, you will still be able to travel to Europe without booking a tour or losing too much money. It is important to know ahead of time how the regulations will change between Britain and the country you are traveling to.

Currency

The relationship between the pound and the euro has already changed, and it will continue to do so. It has become more expensive for British travelers in Europe, and the exchange rate will likely fall more. After Theresa May’s vote to delay the parliamentary vote on December 17th the pound dropped to its lowest in two years, exchanging with the euro at 1.11 pounds.

While many things about traveling to Europe will change, being informed will help you avoid headaches and extraneous charges. Planning is always key to a successful holiday. Don’t allow Brexit to change your plans or discourage inspiration for the perfect vacation. It won’t be as difficult as it seems. Get ahead of it, and start today!

Barnhill Rock Garden in Broughty Ferry, Dundee

If the weather is dry one of my favourite places to visit in Dundee, is Barnhill Rock Garden, in the seaside suburb of Broughty Ferry.

It’s usually quite sheltered in the garden, with the trees and shrubs offering some respite if there is an easterly wind. I’ve visited at all times of year.

There are plenty of benches and picnic tables in the garden. Plus, there is free on street parking and the all important public toilets.

I really like sitting by the pond, but there is only one bench with a good view of the pond.

It never seems to be too busy at Barnhill Rock Garden. If it’s a good day weather wise, most people seem to head for the beach. If the weather isn’t great, the cafes in Broughty Ferry are more appealing to many.

When I visited Barnhill Rock Garden last Summer, there was one of the giant penguin sculptures which formed Maggie’s Penguin Parade.

Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway

I’d read about Logan Botanic Garden, but was it’s located in rather a remote spot in the south west of Dumfries and Galloway (15 miles south of Stranraer), I hadn’t visited. When I saw that one of the outdoor dance performances of Les Impromptues: A Breath of Fresh Air was taking place there, I knew I had to visit.

Logan Botanic Garden is part of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The location, close to the warning effect of the Gulf Stream, means that it is Scotland’s most exotic garden.

When I arrived at the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the car park was already full, so I had to park the car on a grass verge at the side of the driveway.

I was entranced by the Les Impromptues: A Breath of Fresh Air especially the dance around the fish pond.

There’s a cafe with outdoor seating around a smaller pond with a spherical slate feature.

There was a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds stands aimed at kids.

I spent around an hour in garden after the dance performance.

The fish pond was my favourite part of the garden, despite it being too hot for my to sit in the sun on a bench at the side of the pond.

There was a section planted with palm trees.

The Conservatory is huge.

You can have a picnic in the shade of Tasmanian trees.

There’s a boggy area where Gunnera grows.

The Woodland Pond was so pretty.

You can learn more about the garden in the Discovery Centre.

I have to say that Logan Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens which have visited. Despite the car park being full the garden, it didn’t seem too busy.

The admission fee is £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concessions, kids go free. The arden is open daily from 1 March to 15 November, from 10am – 5pm (4pm in November and Sundays in February. If I lived closer, I think that I’d buy an annual pass, which costs £29 per year if you pay by direct debit. The pass also gives you free entry to the glasshouses in Edinburgh plus Dawyck, and Benmore Gardens.

Rozelle House Galleries & The Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr

I did an online search for art galleries in Ayrshire, when planning my drive south to Dumfries and Galloway for the Arts and Crafts Trail in Kirkcubright. My search brought up the Rozelle House Galleries and the Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr.

Initially, I was a bit confused wondering if the two galleries located in different places. But they are adjacent.

Rozelle House is a former mansion house which was gifted the Royal Burgh of Ayr in the late 1960s. It then became an art gallery. In the mid 1970s, the stable block and servants quarters and became the Maclaurin Gallery.

There were plenty of parking spaces in the free car park when I arrived early on a Thursday afternoon.

I started off in the Maclaurin Gallery, which is accessed through the courtyard.

I really liked William Dick’s The Paper Works  exhibition.

As it was raining, I had a  rather quick look around the Sculpture Park.

Then it was back inside to the Rozelle Galleries.

There’s a Henry Moore sculpture at the bottom of the staircase.

I thought that some of the pieces by the Ayr College students in their HND Art & Design exhibition were wonderful. The young woman portrayed on the left below is constructed with jigsaw pieces.

The man on the right below was made by painting on a tapestry.

Below are photos of some of the other exhibits.

Upstairs at Rozelle, there was an exhibition of Alexander Goudie’s painting depicting Robert Burns’ Tam o’Shanter. Most didn’t appeal to me, being too dark coloured. The one I liked was of Brig o’Doon.

The basement walls outside the toilets had been painted by local young people.

I highly recommend a visit to the Rozelle Galleries and the Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr. It was free to get in and the galleries are open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and noon to 5pm on Sundays. But do check before you visit as many museums and galleries opening hours have been reduced and charges introduced to see some exhibitions, due to spending cutbacks by local authorities.

Personalized Items for Your Journey

Although travelling is a great experience, it can sometimes also be a stressful and difficult experience. Everyone loves a holiday, everyone loves seeing new places. Getting there, however, can be a nightmare. If you’ve never experienced the miserable process of losing your belongings, you doubtless know someone who has. There is a way to mitigate this risk, though, and ensure a more comfortable travelling experience. How? By using personalized travel items.

At specialist online printing companies, like www.helloprint.co.uk, you will see a wide variety of personalised printed items available. This allows you to minimise the risk of your property being wrongly identified or lost while you’re travelling.

Having your things taken by mistake is never fun. It’s not always malicious, either, not everyone is out to steal. When you have a sea of thirty similar shaped and shaded cases it can be difficult to know at a glance which is yours. The same applies to items such as caps, jackets, and even water bottles. They can all be easy to lose if you’re not careful. Custom printing these items allow both you and other travellers to identify who they belong to, easily. It also reduces the risk you forget something yourself. If you see a cap with your name or design on it, you are more likely to notice it if you leave it laying around somewhere.

Enjoy plenty of choice

Nowadays online printers are not only useful for businesses; also as a customer you can enjoy the benefits of custom printing. There is a wide variety of items that can be custom printed at a specialist printing website. This means that custom printed goods aren’t just useful for holidaymakers. Those who regularly find themselves travelling for work, for example, will also find many useful items available for custom printing. Even down to the smallest items such as a pen, you can personally identify your possessions to ensure they don’t get pilfered.

Affordable and easy

Something else to consider about personalised printing is that when it’s done online it’s very easy and quick. It’s a process that takes mere minutes; you can do it on your lunch break or settled on your favourite chair in front of the TV. Simple choose your items, choose your design options, check out – done! Your goods will be printed to your specifications and delivered to your door. It’s as simple as that. With no overheads from physical store locations, it’s much cheaper, too.

The next time you travel, make sure both you and everyone around you can identify what’s yours easily thanks to custom printing.

Review of Premier Inn Dundee Centre

I stayed at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre for two nights in October 2018. My stay cost £60 for a double room, booked several months in advance on the non-refundable Saver rate.

I’ve stayed at the hotel in the past, you can read my review here. The hotel was closed for in 2016 for a year long renovation and extension. When it reopened in early 2017, the number of rooms had more than tripled from 40 to 148.

Premier Inn Dundee Centre is in a great location on the Tay estuary, next to Discover Point and close to the V&A Dundee (which you can just make out at the end of the esplanade in the photo below).

An unwelcome change, is that you now have to pay to park at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre. It costs £3 per night, which very reasonable for city centre parking.

It’s pretty confusing in the car park, especially if you arrive after dark.  The The car park is meant to be for Premier Inn guests and customer of the adjacent Beefeater restaurant. However the car park is not run by the hotel or restaurant (owned by Whitbread0, but by a private car park firm.

There are machines in the car park, but they  are for Beefeater customers, who pay £2 for three hours, which they can reclaim when they order in restaurant.

Premier Inn guests should use the machines the hotel lobby. The strange thing is that you don’t get a ticket to put on your windscreen. You enter your car registration number as part of the payment process. Be sure that you enter the registration number carefully. If you enter it incorrectly, you could end up with a £100 parking infringement charge.

I arrived at Premier Inn Dundee Centre around 9.30 with the intention of making the most of the day. Check in time is !4.00.  I checked with the receptionist, that paying the £6 for my two night stay would cover parking until noon checkout time, two days later. She said that it would.

I attempted to phone the hotel the day before arrival to request a room with an estuary view. But I wasn’t put through to the hotel, it was a customer relations office. They said that my request would be passed onto the hotel, but could not be guaranteed. When I asked the receptionist about the parking, I also asked if my request had been received. She said that they didn’t accept requests in advance, that I would have to make the request at check in. To increase the chance of my request being granted, I decided that I would need to return to the hotel at exactly at check in time of 2pm.

I arrived back at hotel a couple of minutes after 2pm. I couldn’t see any spaces in the Premier Inn/Beefeater car park. I think that some visitors to the V&A Dundee are parking in that car park. It’s cheaper than the adjacent Discovery Point car park, which quickly fills up with museum visitors. This made me think that it would be wise not to move the car, as I might not find a parking space upon my return.

At reception, I was allocated an estuary view room on the third floor. I was so glad that I had persevered to achieve my goal, as the hotel remodelling included the fitting of floor to ceiling window, so the views were great despite the grey, wet weather.

The room was great; tastefully furnished, spacious and comfortable. There was plenty of desk space. My beef with Premier Inn is that they are still so mean with tea and coffee supplies. You only get two teabags, two sachets of coffee and four little milk pots in a double room. Everything’s Premier, except the hot drinks supplies.

You can request more supplies at reception, but you might not feel like trailing down there. It seems such a penny pinching policy when it feels like a lot of money has been spent on the room.

I liked the fact that there was a sofa, so that could have a comfy seat without having to sit on the bed.

The bathroom was spotless with lovely tiles.

It was nice and quiet in the room. I heard no external noise, not even the hotel banging fire and room doors.

I spent most of the time in the room sitting by the window admiring the view. Fortunately,there was a small table by the bed, which I was able to move over to the window, which was ideal for laying he Chromebook so that I could work with a view.

In summary, I thought that the Premier Inn Dundee Centre was very good value for money at £30 a night. The room was of a high standard. But I think that the car parking policy needs to made much clearer to guests in their booking confirmation and on the machines in the lobby. Plus, Premier Inn need to be more generous with tea and coffee making supplies.

Hidden Door Festival in Leith, Edinburgh

The Hidden Door Festival in Leith, Edinburgh ran from 25 May to 3 June 2018. I attended the event on the second Saturday the 2nd of June.

I mainly attended to see the contemporary art exhibitions. Most of the art was exhibited the State Cinema.

I liked the copper panels in the foyer.

It was very colourful in the colonnade of Leith Theatre, across the road from the State Cinema.

I also saw a few performances.

Hagit Yakura – Air Hunger was wonderful.

photo courtesy of Hidden Door

I also enjoyed Claricia Kruithof – Untitled (labyrinth), which was performed outdoors in the courtyard of Leith Theatre.

I made my Edinburgh stage debut at Alice Mary Cooper’s Bean Counter, when I was selected from the audience to play the part of the bean counter’s oath taking official.

photo courtesy of Hidden Door