Archive for Travel

My new career in the Leisure Industry

Since my last entry, waaaaay back in June (where did THAT time go???), I have embarked on a new venture, and jolly good fun it is proving to be, too.

I had major surgery done on my house back in April, completely re-modelling the existing bathroom, and adding a new en-suite facility to the guest room. At the time, there was no intention to extend these facilities to anyone other than our occasional friends-and-families visitors. However, AirBnB was brought to my attention as something I might try, to help fill my daily void and, potentially to recoup some of my outlay on the alterations.

I’d never heard of AirBnB before, and if you haven’t, I suggest you give it a serious looking at as a much cheaper and more interesting form of accommodation for travelers.

To summarise, it is a web-based way of letting out spare rooms for financial reward. You can be as basic or extravagant in your facilities as you like, and as long as you are honest and open about your offering, then your guests can expect an experience that’s always going to be more interesting and personal than, say, Travelodge.

I started letting the guest room out at the end of July, making my entry on the AirBnB site live at about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. I thought that I’d be doing well if I got any sort of response within, say, a month. Eight hours later, I got my first enquiry, and it’s been pretty busy ever since. I’ve had a steady stream of visitors from a wide variety of age-groups and countries – Canada, Australia, USA, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Romania and even some from the UK. Bookings have slackened a little since November; that’s to be expected in the winter, I guess, but I already have several bookings for next year, so it promises to be busy again.

The most surprising and satisfying thing is that everyone, without exception, has been really pleasant, and it’s been a genuine pleasure sharing our home with them. Some are more private than others, preferring to spend their time in their room, or watching a movie in the conservatory, but others are happy to share the lounge with us, have a drink and a chat, and to just chill. We’ve learned a lot that way – not just about the individuals, but about their homes and their ways of life.

We’ve seen the other side of the coin, too, and have used AirBnB as guests three times so far. The three stays have been very different, but have each been extremely pleasant and so much more enjoyable than the Travelodge way of doing things. We’re so sold on it that we have future trips to Scotland and Canada all booked up with AirBnB.

So, if you have spare accommodation capacity – ANY spare capacity at all – I can recommend giving AirBnB a go **. You can do as much or as little of it as you want, even offer the most modest of facilities and people will come. You’ll meet some fascinating folk along the way, and make a few bob too.

What’s not to like?

** Unless you live in or very near to Llanfairfechan. Then, of course, you’d hate it. (And I’m not just saying that because I don’t want the competition. No, really.)

If you want to have a gander at my ┬áhumble offering, take a peek here…

On more birding in The Algarve

My last post described how easy it was to see lots and lots of dickie birds in The Algarve. So easy, in fact, that it caused us to doubt the wisdom of laying out E125 in advance for a day’s local birding guide’s services.

She’d helpfully provided us in advance with a list of birds that we were likely to see, which stretched to a very ambitious 94 species. As you might expect, such a long and exhaustive list included quite a few species that we’d seen before, many of which are very common in the UK – Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin and many species of duck, etc. Nonetheless, there were just as many tantalising entries that we’d never seen and which aren’t UK-present, including Sarah’s personal wanna-see, the Hoopoe.

According to the list, we’d already seen 30-ish species in our first full day here, but many of the ones that we hadn’t seen are amongst the most common in the UK. So, with about 60 still on the list to see, it seemed rather ambitious and unlikely that we’d add very many more to the roster of what we’d already spotted by ourselves.

How wrong can you be?

Our guide, June, was really on top of her job and knew where to look for every, and I mean every, bird on the list. Having started out at 8am, by 5pm, we’d not only seen all but 17 birds on the list, we’d seen 7 that weren’t listed. Only 3 of the 17 were species that aren’t present in the UK, and they just happened not to be in the expected locations when we arrived. You can’t win them all!

We’d seen the remaining 14 before anyway, and most of them are very common – just not in the Algarve.

Highlights? Well, Sarah got to see her Hoopoe. We got a lovely view of several particularly attractive birds – Southern (Iberian) Grey Shrike, Sardinian Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Purple Swamp Hen and the wonderfully-named, and I kid you not, Zitting Cisticola. (The name refers to its call, not its complexion.) We also got distant, but distinct, views of Little Bustard, Black Shouldered Kite and Iberian (Azure-Winged) Magpie.

The day came to a happy close when looking unsuccessfully for a Stone Curlew, but we were rewarded instead with a lovely view of a Little Owl, perched on the wall of a nearby derelict building.

So, we got full value for our investment, thanks to June.

If you are even vaguely interested in bird-watching, you can’t expect to improve much on The Algarve. There’s lots to see at this time of year and the climate is ideal – lots of sunny days with temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius, or thereabouts.

Gutted that we didn’t get to see my personal priority, though – a Chaffinch.

On birding in The Algarve

And by “birding”, I don’t mean going on the pull in some sleazy nightery on The Strip in Albufeira.

Never having been on a holiday whose prime, if not sole, objective was staring at as many different and hopefully new avian creatures as possible, my expectations were unclear. However, having been here for two full days now, it’s becoming apparent that I’d underestimated the area’s potential. Without boring my audience (you know who you are) with a list of every species that we’ve seen (already over 30, with very little effort), suffice to say that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Apart from things that don’t appear very often in the UK, unless they’re blown off course by a severe Siberian draught, there are species that you’d have to make some effort to see.

Consider, for example, watching Redshank, Little Stint, Little Egret, Turnstones, Terns of unidentified variety, Sanderlings and others along a 150-metre stretch of river bank, being accompanied by a saxophonist of limited ability and imagination. Well, such is Tavira, the town that we’re staying in for our first 3 nights. (The 150-metres of river bank is directly outside our hotel!)

A ten-minute walk took us to a place where Flamingoes hob-nobbed with Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Greenshanks and more of the above mentioned birds.

A 15-minute drive up the coast to Cabanas saw even more variety, with Hoopoes, Spoonbills, Redstarts, Crested Larks, Blackcaps, Cetti’s Warblers and more parading themselves before our eager binoculars. (There were 2 or 3 other types of warblers, but I’m hopeless at telling them apart.)

Tomorrow will see us on an accompanied trip with experienced local birders, so we’ll hopefully see some even more unusual birds. I’m hoping for some Storks, Cranes and a Bluethroat, but I’m not holding my breath. Given what we’ve already seen there can’t be much left…