Category Archives: Travel

How to make a guitar …. the Gibson way.

A few years ago I visited America and was fortunate to see Graceland and then the Gibson guitar factory in Memphis. The girls in our party went off shopping which left me in peace for a few hours. As well the guitar factory in Memphis there is a Rock n Roll museum which absorbed me for about 2hrs you get a pair of headphones and a kind of Star Trek type gadget so that whichever particular piece of history you looked at music from that time was played through the headphones, cool.

But the Gibson factory was something else, I play guitar, to what level I will let my neighbours argue over 🙂 so this was a great place to immerse myself in. It was a guided tour and our guide had some good stories to tell about the various rock n roll stars who visited the place. The one I liked as a certain very well known guitarist of one of the biggest Rock n Roll bands of the era visiting and just pointing to each guitar on show that he liked, he ended up with 12, then left his entourage to pay the bill.

So how is a guitar made? With care and precision, we were told that you could, at one time, get a slight seconds Gibson guitar, there might have been an imperfection somewhere so you got a great discount and a great deal. Some new owners took over and stopped all that, each guitar that left the factory had to be perfect, no seconds allowed, pity I might have come home with 12 guitars 🙂

Our guide started off with a supermarket trolley load of ‘bits’ as he called them.

A wider view of the factory.

The many ‘bits’ laid around.

The guitars take shape.

Then of course meticulously sprayed.

Now they are something more recognizable.

Then the finished articles, but before they get to this stage they are checked, by hand, we saw a woman with a pair of gloves on who had been doing this job for years. She checked the paintwork by moving her hands over the guitar body for blemishes or other imperfections, remember, no seconds. We never saw them being strung, or at least I didn’t so maybe I missed that bit.

One of the many variations of Gibson, Gibson Les Paul and Epiphone guitars in their shop.

I had to be dragged out screaming from this shop my wife came back and said no you can’t have one 🙂

The nearest I’ll come to actually having one of these I think, although the guy in the shop offered me a very good deal, including shipping to the UK, just a pity my wife came back before I could hand over my credit card LOL.




Another coastline of Spain. Costa Del Sol.

For many traveling British people visiting Spain the vast majorities head for the coast or Costas. The main ones seem to be the Costa Brava, Costa Dorada, Costa Blanca and Costa Del Sol basically one long stretch of Spanish coastline with many sandy beaches and coves. The big advantage over windswept Britain is the weather, sunshine, and at times a lot of it. Plus the fact that from the 1960’s onward many of the coastal regions of Spain have been transformed from what were fishing villages and small holiday/vacation resorts for the Spanish, into multil story hotels and bars to cater for the British invasion.

On the one hand the money the British, and other nationals, have brought to the region has enabled jobs and investment in infrastructure, as to whether the Spanish feel the same way is another matter only the Spanish themselves can answer that one. Looking at some old pictures of the Costa’s coastline I can see that many places were unspoilt wilderness and hardly anything else. But the following pictures are from the Costa Del Sol and the resort of Torremolinos.

We decided to take a winter break to get away from the snow and the ice of the UK, which was fine, for the first day. We landed, hazy sunshine and mild weather greeted us, but not for long. The next day, and for the rest of the holiday storms lashed the coast and instead of the ice and snow of the UK we had the cloud, wind and rain of the Spanish Costa’s. You win some you loose some we made the most of our stay by going on a couple of trips, Blanket Trips.

What? Basically its a trip where you have a sales demonstration lasting a couple of hours or so and many products are shown to you that you may order and have sent to you when you get home. They tend to be products aimed at the older generation to help them with their ailments like special wool blankets, mattresses, housecoats, slippers, gloves, an assortment of wearable items to help with the old age problems of aches and pains. You don’t have to buy, just sit through the spiel and get a drink in the process, and when its all over you are taken on a tour with a couple of hours to explore the Spanish countryside, all free. So Torremolinos is a large holiday/vacation resort but during the winter season many places close down so it is sparse compared to the summer and even more so after the thunderstorms struck. (Click on the pictures to get a larger version).

Hazy sunshine and calm, at first.

But slowly the cloud increased, this is the main beach area obviously and in a summer would be full of people enjoying the sun.

Then this happened, but it still provided some photographic opportunities and a different perspective from the sunny beach type thing.

Despite the gloom I was quite excited seeing what was happening around me in the place due to the absence of the sun. The seagulls had the beach to themselves and this flock took off as they noticed me getting a bit too close, it was an awesome sight.

I would have thought that these were perfect conditions for surfers, but I didn’t see any. There was a strong wind and the waves did come crashing ashore, at times it blew me about, but seeing those seagulls dancing in the air and seeming to relish the conditions certainly made up for any lack of sunshine.

A bustling resort, deserted, the above picture but one is just a small stretch of the whole area and the one above is the beautiful boating harbour which is like a mini town of its own complete with shops and bars. The sun did return, eventually, but that is for another time.

Liverpool – England (2)

Addendum: Originally posted 18th February 2012.

The first part was rather rushed, so I apologise for that, we have grandchildren sleeping over and my attention wandered somewhat. But this second part is much like the first, pictures/photos and an explanation. Liverpool was a vast port catering for the Atlantic Ocean trade of luxury liners transporting their passengers to the USA, of which the Titanic was one such ship. But all that has gone now but the docks area has had a massive investment program to make it into a very cosmopolitan shopping and eating place.

Other things have also changed since the early days of The Beatles, The Cavern being one such place. The original was cellar, heaving with bodies dripping in sweat and dancing to the music of various groups, including The Beatles. But it seems the original Cavern was not very health and safety friendly so it had to go and a ‘New’ Cavern was constructed, I believe using the original bricks and style of the old, but with modern features, not least air vents and fire escapes.

What has not changed is the history of the place and its place in music history you can always go to Wikipedia and get far more information than I can give suffice to say it made, along with Hamburg, The Beatles as we knew them.

The Cavern Club (not to be confused with the Cavern pub close by)

And of course memorablilia.

R.I.P. John, your place in history is secure along with the others.

And of course there are plenty of places to indulge in Beatle stuff of all kinds.

And finally.

I have more pictures, when I sort them out, so maybe a Part 3, who knows?

Liverpool – England (1)

Addendum: Originally posted 17th February 2012.

A little while ago my wife and I went on a coach trip to the land of the Beatles, Liverpool. Its not far from where we live, when I say far, a few hours travel, depending if you stop off its between 3 to 4hrs. Its a lively place and although probably not as famous as the Fab Four, its where the Titanic sailed from. But back to Beatleland, and once there we took a tour, round all the Beatle sites and the tour was aptly named The Magical Mystery Tour.

Now Liverpool, like a lot of Norther England cities, is a place in transition, and that pace of transition is determined by the one thing that determines most things in life, money. Many old houses have been knocked down for large areas to be re-developed, my own city, Hull, has the same thing, but on a smaller scale. But the Beatle stuff is still there, just, there seems to be an on going battle with the authorities and the historian type people over Ringo Star’s first house.

Its in the middle of a derelict area due for demolition but some want to preserve the house on a historical basis, but the last we heard it was holding up the whole redevelopment of the area, a tricky one though, it has historical interest, but he only lived there before The Beatles became famous, so not sure what will happen. I took some pictures, so without further ado I will post them, with a short explanation, well sort of.

The name says it all.

Yes THE Penny Lane, it was cold though.

Don’t know about the Strawberry Fields forever bit but the iron gates have been welded into place because they kept getting stolen by souvenir hunters.

One of the houses George lived at, he moved a few times apparantly, before the fame that was.One of the houses George lived in, he moved a few times apparently, this was before the fame.

Aunt Mimi’s John’s home.

Actually its quiet ironic this ‘Working Class Hero’ lived in the best house and area of the lot of them.

Paul’s home.The name where he lived.

And Ringo’s house, the one just past the tree on the left and right in the middle of all the other borded up houses waiting to be demolished, some want to save Ringo’s house.

THE Penny Lane again.

'Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout a pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray' words by Lennon & McCartney of course and this is THE shelter in the middle of the roundabout.‘Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout a pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray’ words by Lennon & McCartney of course but this is THE shelter.

‘A banker with a motor car’ and this is the bank

Thats the first lot for now, I will carry on with this theme at some point in the meantime I will post this off.

Las Vegas – Nevada – America

(Addendum: This is a blog written on 23rd February 2012 but I’m including in this new blog)

For anyone from the UK who has not visited the USA it must be difficult to fathom out what all the fuss is about, and for those Americans that live in the USA they must have the same feeling as they see it everyday. The first thing people say in the UK is the flying time, lots of people do not like flying, simple, and the thought of being on an aircraft from anything up to 13 hours, fills them with horror as 2 hours to Spain in enough for them.

America has been everywhere for as long as I can remember, from TV shows (I Love Lucy) to music (Elvis, Ray Charles) so we have grown up together and oddly enough not with our near neighbours, Europe. I don’t recall many European TV shows, (I can’t think of any at the moment) but certain music from Europe has had a foothold in the UK, Johnny Hallyday was popular with the girls if I remember but the main European group was Abba.

So came the day I thought could never happen, a holiday/vacation in the USA, it was surreal, I was going but not believing it even when sat on the plane. Even more strange was the fact that when we were going to land at McCarran (Las Vegas) airport it would be at an earlier time from when we set off from the UK. On the plane itself was a revelation, little screens in the back of the seat in front where I could watch movies, listen to music, or watch a picture of the terrain we were flying over.

We were well fed, often, but drink was kept to the usual English type, tea, I’m not a big alcohol drinker when on a plane, I once had a couple of drinks on a short trip to Spain years ago and felt dreadful afterwards and vowed never again, so I don’t. Then we came into land, yes terra firma, in the USA, Chicago actually as we had to catch a connecting flight, it wasn’t direct. We had to collect our cases and make our way to the connecting flight, but first get through immigration.

Photographs, fingerprints, forms and more forms, questions and more questions, this was pre 9/11 by the way, do you want me to visit your country? Eventually we were through, but not before my wife was in a state that we were going to miss our connection, and the fact that our two friends whom we were traveling with, had sailed through immigration, two women traveling seemed to have had an easier time with things than my wife and I. Collect cases and on to find the TED airline desk, I was in a daze taking everything in, I was thinking Al Capone, Eliot Ness, was that really Chicago, the windy city, I could see?

The TED flight was uneventful but we had spent a long time on airplanes and just wanted to get to our destination, and even though sat down most of the time it was tiring. Finally we could see Las Vegas come into view, it was night time so everything was lit up, an explosion of colour in the desert which not only woke us up but also dazzled us with its spectacular entrance into this traveling experience.

So lets live the dream, collect our cases, the case carrousel being in amongst the slot machine then find a cab. Get a grip man, you are in the USA, still not believing I was traveling down Las Vegas Blvd. Excalibur, New York New York, MGM, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, wake up man you are actually here stop day dreaming. Then our hotel Imperial Palace, check in, 16th floor sir, 16th? So make our way to the lifts, pass the slot machines, a fact of life in Vegas, card tables, dice, spinning wheels, and some familiar faces.

Was I seeing things? Madonna? Roy Orbison? Tony Orlando? Elvis? (well there had to be an Elvis) …….. even a Dolly Parton, and they were all dealing cards, I thought I had discovered a secret second life for all of these stars and as some people say Elvis wasn’t really dead but a card dealer in Las Vegas. I wasn’t seeing things they were, impersonators, dressed just like the real people did and not only that, as I was to find out, they actually got up onto a small stage and sang.

Sometime later we were to stop and see these people deal cards one minute then get up and stage and really rock the place, they were no karaoke singer, but pretty good. We may have been awake for nearly 2 days but we were suddenly alive once we found our rooms, freshened up and changed, it was time to hit the strip. Maybe more some other time.

MGM with live lions in the foyer, now retired.

The Paris hotel I believe this replica of the Eiffel Tower is 1 third size of the original.

This is when I think Las Vegas comes alive, night time is a magnificent spectacle

The Luxor is based on and Egyptian theme.

Our hotel, Imperial Palace based on an oriental theme, well sort of LOL.

For those with more money than me ….. the Venetian, luxury.

For those with a bit of history, downtown Vegas Fremont Street and Binion’s.

Benidorm – Costa Blanca – Spain

Here we go again, some more pictures of Benidorm, maybe these will turn out as intended, not keyholes. But Benidorm is still Benidorm only this time it was better than I expected. You may have read, or seen on the news, a thing called the Euro crisis, so many countries in the Euro zone are heavily in debt that the currency itself is at risk, although bankers and politicians tell you otherwise.

Greece has had some dizzying amount of money lent to it to pay off debts that were due to be paid so how lending them even more helps things I don’t know. So Spain, and Portugal, are close to the same scenario and I wasn’t expecting to see much activity in what is essentially a holiday resort. But what do I see when I get there? Much the same as in years gone by, the Spanish were in the bars, eating, drinking and talking, well that is a bit of an understatement as they debate with great fervour.

Tapas alley was as bustling as ever and bars and shops were being spruced up ready for another summers season of holiday makers. It all made for a great atmosphere and one that I love, even thought I cannot speak Spanish, or any other language, that is not a hindrance as you get a lot of help from the bar staff, shop assistants, to assist in your needs. Well I do know how to say Hola, dos, vino tinto por favour, pathetic I know.

Levante, with long sandy beaches and many bars.

One way of getting around Spain in this type of weather.

Amongst the high-rise apartments and hotels a lovely Spanish villa right on the front of the prom.

A more distant view of the sea front of Benidorm, there are actually 3 beaches, Levante (sunrise), Poniente (sunset) and a small beach in between called Malpas.

This is the Malpas beach, like a private cove and far different to its bigger brothers.

One of the many sand sculptures.

After the hustle and bustle of the day, peace.

Benidorm was built to its present position mainly for the hordes of British holiday makers who wanted some of that Spanish sun but still wanted the comforts of home. Like British food, beer, TV etc so a whole industry was set up to cater for these invaders. And invade we did, millions of us have at some time been to this lovely place, many time and time again, and although the place is occupied predominately by the British it is also a favourite with the Spanish themselves.

There are other nationalities, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, and just recently Russians, not many from the likes of France or Italy, well they have their own Benidorm’s. It’s a peculiar thing in a way that the British attend clubs and bars, just like back home, and see entertainment, singers, comedians and the likes, whilst the Spanish just sit and chat, or debate. They make their own entertainment, ok a TV may be on in the background, but no one is watching, unless football (soccer) is on.

And not too far away are some lovely areas to explore if that is your thing or you fancy a stroll. At one end of Levante in the Ricon area, is a small mountain range, not too high, but there is a road to walk along in safety as no traffic is allowed. It leads to what’s left of an old fort that was used as a look out for foreign invaders, British or otherwise.

The road leading up to the old fort.

The fort, or what’s left of it.

I don’t know what will become of the Euro zone situation but it seems as though the Spanish will still be coming to Benidorm and the tapas bars and will be eating, drinking and debating as they have in years gone by. But that’s the essence of Benidorm, enjoy the holiday and come back again soon.