Sunday, 15 October 2017

Raggy's Travels: Scottish Road Trip - Day 2

Day 2 started as Day 1 ended in the lovely Hunters Lodge Hotel Gretna. The night before we had order 2 To Go breakfasts consisting of a Bacon Roll and Orange juice each to the room for 8:30am. At 8:30am one of the owners of the hotel knocked on our door dropping off the breakfasts. We ended up not really having the breakfast to go. After eating our breakfast we finished packing up, checked out and were on our way bright and early to explore Dumfries and Galloway.

On the road

Our first stop was Caerlaverock Castle  roughly 40 minutes from the hotel. We arrived a little before the castle opened so we took some pictures from the car until we saw the warden arrive.

Waiting in the car park

Caerlaverock Castle is owned by Historic Scotland, and open all year round (opening times vary seasonly). Entrance fee is £6 unless you have a Historic Scotland membership (or 2nd year English Heritage or CADW membership in which case it is free), or you have purchased an Explorer Pass (£31 for a 3-day pass, £42 for a 7-day pass [adult prices]) which I would recommend purchasing if you are visiting Scotland for a road trip.

Caerlaverock Castle has a long history. You will notice when visiting the castle you are actually visiting 2 for the price of 1. Behind the impressive triangle shaped Caverlaverock Castle, built in 1277, can be found the ruins of the first Caerlaverock Castle built in 1220. This first castle is believed to be the first stone castle constructed in Scotland. It was abandoned most likely due to building collapses resulting from the wet and muddy conditions, as the castle was located at the head of a tidal inlet (no longer present today due to changes in sea level).

Owned by the Maxwell family for roughly 400 years, Caerlaverock experienced an unsettled history. Located at an important gateway to Scotland the castle was sieged in 1300 by the English and 1640 by a Protestant Convenanting Army. The siege in 1640 was the last the Castle would see as the protestant army dismantled the Castle so it could no longer be a place of defence. The Catholic Maxwells however, held on to the castle during the siege for 13 weeks, a feat aided by having an internal water supply.

Due to the location of the castle, it was not only a home to the Maxwell family but also a barracks, law court and pit-prison, in which it is believed in 1425 Murdoch, Duke of Albany was located before his execution in Stirling Castle. 

The castle has an interesting past and story to tell. It is now in ruins, though much of it still stands to be explored. There is also a tearoom, shop and toilets at the site making it a suitable location for a day out.

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle gate house and moot

Caerlaverock Castle gatehouse from the inner court yard

Caerlaverock Castle court yard

The first Caerlaverock Castle

After Caerlaverock we headed to Threave Castle about 50 minutes drive away. Threave Castle is owned by Historic Scotland, opening times vary seasonally and the Castle is closed from the start of November to the end of March. An adult ticket is £5.

Threave castle is situated in the middle of the River Dee and only accessible by a wee short hop of a boat ride from a small jetty 10 minutes walk from the car park. Due to the steep steps in the castle and accessibility of the boat and jetty, this castle is unfortunately not suitable for wheel chair users.

The castle is a tower house built in 1369 by the Lord of Galloway (also known was Archibald the Grim). At 30 metres tall it is the same height as a modern 10 storey block of flats, though in its hayday it was 5 storeys. With 3 metre thick walls, small windows, a prison, and well in the towers lowest floor, and an artillery wall built later in its life, this castle was a strong hold of the Black Douglases, closes allies of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence. 

The castle was a strong defence and stood its ground in turbulent times. It also had a unique feature of Scottish towers, in the walls of the top floor were passages with access to holes for a wooden wall top walk which could be used to contain an attack.

To its end Threave Castle held out, however in 1455 the Black Douglases surrendered to a bribe from King James II who had attacked feeling that the Black Douglases were becoming to powerful. The castle was eventually given to state care in 1913.

Bell to ring for the boat

Boat to Threave Castle 

Threave Castle

Threave ruins adjacent to the old harbour

The weather turned whilst we were visiting Threave which made for a wet sprint back to the car. Unfortunately we did have a wee bit of a wait in the rain for the small boat to cross the river, due to a coach trip of passengers causing a queue to cross - luckily we had come prepared with our waterproofs.

Onwards in the rain we headed to Dundrennan Abbey, about a 1/2 hour drive away. It was bucketing it down, but that added to the atmospheric ruins, especially wondering through the graves. 

Dundrennan Abbey, now owned by Historic Scotland, was built in the 12th Century and was home to Cistercian Monks for 400 years, until the Scottish Reformation when the abbey was passed to the crown and it subsequently fell into disrepair. 

The Abbey was the first of three founded by the monks in Galloway, the others being Glenluce Abbey (which we saw later in our trip), and Sweetheart Abbey. 

Famously Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Dundrennan Abbey on her last night in Scotland. She was flee to England supposing that she would be helped by her cousin Elizabeth I. On her arrival in England Mary Queen of Scots was arrested and she never returned to Scotland.

Little is known about the Abbey as not much history has survived, however the abbey is said to have some of the best early gothic architecture in Scotland. 

Their is not much cover at the abbey and few facilities (though it does have a toilet), but it is pretty and worth a visit. The enter fee is £5 for adults, do check online for opening times as this site is not open all year.  

Dundrennan Abbey

Back on the road the weather started to clear up a little. By the time we reached Cardoness Castle, about 20 minutes drive away, just off the A75 the weather had cleared.

Like Threave Castle, Cardoness is a built in the Tower house style. It was built in the late 15th Century by the McCulloch family, however it takes the name of the Cardoness family who owned the land previously. The land was most likely acquired by the McCulloch's through marriage to the last remaining member of the Cardoness family.

The McCulloch family where known to be rather quarrelsome and reckless. They not only quarrelled between themselves but also with neighbours. In the 1620s they had to mortgaged the castle and the castle changed hands to the Gordon family who left the castle empty preferring to live elsewhere. The two familys did not particularly get along, in fact Godfrey McCulloch was executed for later murdering Gordon of Cardoness. The McCulloch's had moved back into the Castle, but following Godfrey's death the Castle changed hands a number of times; to the Gordons, Maxwells, Stewarts, Murray-Bailles, and back to the Maxwells. In 1927 the castle was gifted to state care, but by this time it had become a roofless ruin.

The Castle has a fascinating history which you can learn about in the onsite exhibition. The Castle is worth a visit, it has a shop, toilets, is in a known local stronghold for Red Squirrels, and at 6 storeys high offers excellent views across the surrounding areas from the top floor. Entry is £5 per adult ticket, and it is also owned by Historic Scotland. Do check opening times online as they vary throughout the year, and the castle is closed from 1st November to 31st March.

Cardoness Castle

Stairs to a view - Cardoness Castle

From Cardoness Castle we drove on heading to Whithorn. Along our drive we decided to stop at Cairn Holy I & II, 10 minutes drive away, as the weather was still holding off.

Situated on a hill above Kirkdale Glen, these two chambered tombs date from 6000-4000 years ago. Cairnholy II is the slightly less impressive of the two, however it is said to be the tomb of mythical Scottish king Galdus, and it may have been reused for a later burial at some point. Cairnholy I, on the other hand is believed to have been the place of rest for an important member of the early community who lived here. It is surrounded by standing stones and contained an axe with a stone that originated from the Alps.

Cairn Holy I and II are free to see and open all year, they are maintained by Historic Scotland. There are no facilities, but the site does offer good views of the surrounding countryside.

Carinholy I

Cairnholy II

Back on the road we passed through Scotlands National Book Town, Wigtown (a 25 minute drive away). We didn't stop but we did make a note to come back. The town is a planned book town and official designated in 1998. It is now home to a wide range of book related businesses and home to an annual book festival in Autumn that hosts over 200 events. The official town website describes the town as a 'book lovers haven'.

Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town

By this point in the day we were getting rather tired but we still had one more place to see, Whithorn Prior and Museum, also owned by Historic Scotland and a 25 minute drive from Wigtown.

Whithorn is famously part of a pilgrimage route that follows in the footsteps of St Ninian, a saintly bishop who lived in the 400s and is famed for bringing Christianity to Scotland, converting many to the faith. St Ninian is also believed to have been buried at Whithorn.

Whithorn priory was built on this ancient religious site in the 1100s, later becoming the Cathedral Church of Galloway. It was visited by many including royalty such as James IV. The priory was home to one of the 1st Christian communicates and housed a shine to Saint Ninan. For many years the Whithorn site was a centre of Christian worship, but after the 1560 Protestant Reformation it fell to ruin.

The priory also contained one of Scotlands oldest Christian monuments that of the Catinus stone dating from the 5th Century, it is now on display in the Whithorn museum which houses many engraved stones decorated with interlaced knot work. Most of the stones are from religious sites, apart from the Monreith Cross which is from a court-hill beside the home of a local lord. The Monreith Cross is believed to have been used in punishment. It possibly had 2 iron rings at the bottom to which a person would have been attached by chain and collar.

Whithorn priory and museum has much to see and is well worth a visit. At the time of writing the website did not give a price for tickets but suggested a phone number to call to check. The site is owned by Historic Scotland and open most of the year apart from 1st November to 31st March.

Whithorn Museum - Monraith Cross left of the picture

Following Whithorn, we were both quite tired as we had had a busy day and travelled quite a distance, we decided to call it a day and head to the hotel in Portpatrick. The road to Portpatrick was lovely but been tired and hungry it did seem to last a very long time, the drive to the hotel took about 1 hour. Once in Portpatrick we parked up, checked in to The Portpatrick Hotel and headed down into the seaside village to locate somewhere to eat. We came across a pub on the front which was rather busy, but we managed to find a table at the back to have a lovely pub meal before heading off to bed.

The Portpatrick Hotel is lovely. It was a purpose built hotel which opened in 1905. It is located at the top of the hill over looking Portpatrick bay. It is today used by couch tours, but it didn't feel busy or noisy, and the staff were lovely. Our room was on the top floor, it had or in the past had had damp, however it is an old hotel and we were in the roof so this didn't really bother me at all. The bathroom was also quite cute as it was really thin but had still had a bath, though by toilet it was quite spacious. It was a really lovely hotel, and in the room was a local travel information book, and quite a good information pack about the hotel, including its history which was fascinating. In this book I discovered that they offer travellers lunch, a pack lunch for £4.95 each, and a lot about the first manager of the hotel, M. J. P. Mair who was hired from a hotel in Egypt after the owner of The Portpatrick Hotel, Mr C. L. Orr-Ewing, enjoyed his service there. In the next post I may share more about our time at the hotel as we actually spent two nights there.

Portpatrick

PortPatrick Hotel

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Scottish Road Trip: Day 3 - COMING SOON


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Second Scottish Road Trip Vlog - COMING SOON



Saturday, 23 September 2017

Raggy's Travels: Scottish Road Trip - Day 1

Maybe it is just the Scottish blood running through my veins but I love Scotland. It is a land of great history, stories, culture, and beauty, which I just can't stop visiting and exploring. This is my third proper road trip in Scotland in just as many years. This time however we chose to book hotels as accommodation can be expensive and hard to find in the height of summer. We booked 1 hotel via it's website and the others on a booking website.

Day 1 consisted of driving up to Scotland, it was a slow journey, we hit some bad traffic, and encounter a mix of weather including thunder at one point.

Bucketing it down on the motorway

Blue skies in the Lake District

We spent our first night in Gretna, staying at the lovely friendly and welcoming Hunters Lodge Hotel. We were greeted by the owner of the hotel who asked about our travels and plans, and was kind enough to give us some suggestions of places to visit along our way. She even brought us the name of a place that she could not quite remember at the time of check in, when she brought us our To Go Breakfast in the morning.

I would definitely suggest this hotel to others wishing to stay in the area. It was cosy, homely, welcoming, and a lovely stay. Our room was a twin situated at the back of the hotel. It was a large room, with a ensuite bathroom, with bath and shower in the bath. The hotel also had wifi in the rooms, guide books, and in their vary informative information pack the owners had put together a selection of different drives that they felt might be of interest to guests, copies of the drives could be picked up from reception.

Frontage of Hunters Lodge Hotel, Gretna

Twin room, Hunters Lodge Hotel Gretna

After settling in to the hotel, we ventured out to explore Gretna. Gretna is right next door to Gretna Green, because of their proximity to each other they are seen by many to be the same. Gretna Green is the older of the two and famed as a destination for young couples to elope to. Gretna Green and Greta are just over the Scottish border, a perfect and easy place for young couples to marry due to Scotland's lower legal age of marriage. The famed history of the two places can be seen in Gretna's wedding themed shops. On the road with the famous register office are shops offering all your wedding essentials from flowers, hair dressers, barbers, and even a one stop wedding shop.

Gretna One Stop Weddings shop
Gretna is the younger of the two settlements. Gretna was built during World War 1 to house the workforce of the nearby HM Factory, the biggest munitions factory ever built in the world. The Hunter's Lodge Hotel played a part in this history originally being built as a 'Staff club' for the factory. 2015 marked the 100 anniversary of the town.

After our walk around Gretna including a sweet wee circular park, we grabbed a bit to eat from one of the two local convenience supermarkets and headed back to our hotel to bunk down for the night.


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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Raggy's Travels: A week in sunny Tuscany, Italy

Italy is a beautiful place; rolling hills, greenery, sunshine, wine, beautiful buildings and villages, and plenty of history. There is so much to see and do in Italy, I really must go back. One my list of places to visit are Rome, Venice, Pompeii, and Florence.  

This summer my family and I went to Tuscany. We flew in to Pisa, where I have been before, but this time we drove out to the countryside, staying in a villa just outside Chianni.

Chianni is a comune (community) in the Province of Pisa, in Tuscany. It is small with approximately 1500 residents, a few shops, pharmacy, cafes, church, library, and sports centre. The area is fairly unspoilt by tourists, with buildings dating back to the 12th century.

Houses in Chianni

The church in Chianni (Chiesa di San Donato) dates back to at least the 1270s, when first recorded mention of it appears. However, in 1812 it was completely remodelled. It was expanded and the main alter was added. The alter dates back to the 17th century and had been at a church in Massa which was sadly destroyed. The two statues either side of the alter where added in the 18th century, they depict Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Outside the entrance to Chiesa di San Donato (Chianni)

Inside Chiesa di San Donato (Chianni)

Chianni has a very authentic Italian vibe, possibly because it does not seem to have many tourists, or not obvious ones. We ate at an incredible restaurant on our last night in Chianni, La Locanda Del Gallo. It is family run, and authentically Italian. The menu is in Italian but the owners are prepared for none Italian speaks and will translate the menu for you on arrival. The food was incredible and the staff were very friendly. I would suggest booking though, as they are not always open throughout the week, and they are very popular, with locals and tourists. The price is not to bad, with €8-10 dishes, €5 puddings and €7-8 for a litre of wine.

For starter we shared two nibble dishes of breads topped with different things, such as paté, caramelised onions, and a tomato sauce dip thing. It also came with some cold meats. It was very tasty.

1 starter plate of tasty food already been consumed a little

I then had the stuffed pasta with onion and sausage sauce as a sort of second starter. It was also very tasty. The pasta was perfect.

Stuffed Pasta with onion and sausage

For a main I shared the slow cooked pork with my sister, with a side of roast potatoes. This was incredible, so light and tasty with a wee bit of spice.

Slow cooked pork main

I also tried one of my brother's snails which was good. I have only had a snail once, years ago in France and I didn't really like it. This one tasted nice, chewy like muscles, though I don't think snails are really for me. I also tried some of my mum's chocolate (70% dark chocolate) cake pudding and lemon ice cream, and my brother's girlfriend's crème brûlée, they were both amazing.  

This holiday was all about relaxing and exploring a little. The villa we were staying at was nice, it was a converted farm house. It had 5 bedrooms, a living room, huge kitchen, a study with portable wifi, a veranda with large table out back, a balcony with seating, a large salt water pool, table tennis table, volley ball court, and a authentic stone pizza oven (which we didn't use). One of rooms had a damp issue, but it is an old building, we just didn't use that room. Also being in a farming area a tractor drove past twice a day, the next door farm has horses and chickens, and we did find a toad stuck in the pool, which we saved. I thought the farming life added to the relaxation, as you feel truly away from the city, and its all authentic, people are just going about their daily lives.

Relaxing by the pool

As well as exploring the local village and relaxing by the pool, we also explored the surrounding area. Tuscany has many a vineyard. I had never been wine tasting, but we decided to take a girls trip out to a local vineyard, Castelvecchio. The Castelvecchio Agricultural Estate has been owned by the Pantani family since 1956. In 2002 the youngest daughter and her siblings and cousins decided to restart the grape cultivation and winery on the site, opening up to the public as well, previously the family had just produced for themselves. 

Castelvecchio is set up for tourists with leaflets in different languages. They do advise booking, however we just rocked up and they happily gave us a tour and wine tasting. It was interesting learning about the wines and fun tasting them to. We tasted 5 wines, II Picchio (Tuscan White), II Tocco (Tuscan Rose), Le Balze (Terre di Pisa Red), Le Colline (Terre di Pisa Sandiovese), and Armida (a desert wine). They also provided bread accompanied by their own Olio (Extra virgin olive oil), which they don't sell as they don't make much of it. My favourite wine was the White, which I purchased a bottle of to take home.

Castelvecchio logo

Castelvecchio wines

Wine tasting

Wine tasting in the Italian countryside

Further afield we visited Volterra, which I came across when researching places in the area. Volterra is a walled town in the mountains in Tuscany. It is a medieval town, which actually featured in Twilight as the home of the Volturi. The history of the town dates back to before the 7th century. When researching the town I discovered it had some Roman ruins, which whilst in Italy I felt I must see some Roman ruins.

My sister and I thought Volterra was rather quiet at first due to the entrance we came in by, but we rounded a corner and found everyone else. Volterra does attract a number of tourists, but it is an interesting and pretty place to visit.

We went to the Roman ruins, which were rather quiet compared to the main shopping streets. the Roman ruins are just outside of the town walls. It costs €5 to enter but that also gets you into 2 other historically significant places, the remains of a Tuscan temple and a Roman Water Cistern (water tank).

The main roman ruins are of a Roman baths and theatre. The baths date back to the 3rd century AD, and the theatre to the 1st century AD. Unfortunately you can only view the ruins from up the top of the theatre. Much of the site was destroyed when a town football pitch was built without consent, it wasn't actually until they attempted to enlarge the football pitch in 1941 that they discovered the Roman ruins. Some of the site has been rebuilt so that you can see what it would have looked like, and there are plenty of informative information boards in both Italian and English.

Roman baths and theatre, Volterra

The archeological areas of the Acropolis that houses the remains of the Tuscan Temple are found within Volterra's walls, adjacent to the park. The site has a long history spanning 3 major periods; 15th-8th century BC - Occupation prior to the founding of the sanctuary,  7th century BC - 3rd century AD -  The sanctuary from its founding to its abandonment, and  13th-15th century AD - Post-sanctuary: the late-medival quarter. This area was attacked and destroyed by Florentine troops in 1472 and nothing was ever built here again, though a nearby fortress was built to protect the area, which is located at the other side of the park and is now a prison.

The archeological areas of the Acropolis
After you have visited the Tuscan temple ruins, the people in the ticket hut will guide you to the Roman Water Cistern, which is from the 1st century AD. It was the largest water tank for Volterra and the main water supply. It is divided into 3 large sections, measuring approximately 16 x 12 metres, and has a maximum height of 7.10metres. It is quite cold down there as it is cut into the rock. It is well worth a visit as it is quite impressive. In its heyday it would have provided water for 1000 people.

Roman Water Cistern, Volterra

Roman Water Cistern, Volterra

I had a wonderful trip to Tuscany, Italy. I enjoyed relaxing by the pool and soaking up the local culture and history, all whilst having a lovely time with my family. I would certainly recommend it as an area to visit.

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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Raggy's Reviews: Michael McIntyre: Work in Progress

Michael McIntyre: Work in Progress tour

I recently went to see Michael McIntyre preform his Work in Progress tour, which is a warm up to his upcoming Big World Tour (2017). He was hilarious as usual, and had me chuckling and head back laughing throughout. He is still brilliant at observation and story telling jokes.

My favourite joke was probably the urinal story, but I also found the glasses joke funny, and it was added to by the man sitting behind me saying he wears the reading glasses round his neck on a string seconds before McIntyre stated that those type of glasses wearers aren't very sexually active. My sister and I also had quite a chuckle at the car wiper joke, especially having recently returned from a road trip in Scotland.

There were a couple of jokes that I had heard before, possible ones that didn't make the arena tour previously, but I still found myself laughing again, especially with the hotel light story, which I feel had been adapted a little since I heard it previously.

I'm not sure how many of these jokes from the work in progress tour will make it to the world tour, but you will be in for an excellent show whatever happens. Some of the jokes did have some swearing, but McIntyre is still quite family friendly otherwise.

Another brilliant show from a very funny man. An enjoyable night out.

Raggy's Rating: 10/10

The Work in Progress tour is sold out but for details regarding the Big World Tour (2017) and future tours see http://www.michaelmcintyre.co.uk.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Great Big Job Hunt: Part 4 - The Hoops

What are we all doing with our lives?
What is our path?
What will be our story?

If only applying for a job was as simple as sending off an application, CV or cover letter. Unfortunately now a days not only may you encounter an interview, but there may also be tests, especially if you are applying for any graduate schemes. Tests, interviews, telephone/Skype interviews, assessment days, and group days are what I call The Hoops of the Great Big Job Hunt. Sadly you have to pass through all the stages of application and interview before you might get a job offer, but it's a game that must be played to succeed. But don't be disheartened I have some hints and tips for these pesky hoops.

Tests

These come in many forms. They may be given on the day of interview / assessment day or they may be taken beforehand online as a way for the company to sift through applications. They can come in the form of tasks related to the position you have applied for, such as conducting a short literary review, prioritising a fictitious workload, giving a presentation, or taking part in a role play. On the other hand they may be standard sifting test such as numeracy and literacy tests.

Key Tips:
  • If you have a disability that entitles you to extra time or other special arrangements - get in contact with the recruiter as soon as possible to seek adjustments.
  • Carefully read any instructions that you may have been given.
  • If you can, usually only if you are completing online tests for sift purposes, practise - you can practise for other test at interviews / assessments though it is not always clear before hand what these might be. There are books available and online sites to practise numerical and literacy tests.
  • Ask for more information if you are unsure or worried - recruiters and HR will help as much as they can.
  • Stay calm, you can only do the best that you can - if this doesn't work out, keep hope and keep striving because you will find your place soon

Interviews

Interviews can be tricky things for some and wonderful things for others depending on your personality. I personally am not fond of interviews as I can become nervous, but the more I do it and the more practise I have, the more confident I become.

The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. An interview is not only to see whether you are capable and knowledgeable, but also that you would fit in with the team, so just be yourself.

As for questions there are many sites and books out there with interview question examples. You will never be able to prepare for ever question ever asked, but some good tips would be:
  • Go through the job spec and come up with examples for each aspect, that way if you get asked skills based questions you will be able to offer a good example of your skills.
  • Questions should be answered with a story like style beginning, middle, and end - some call this the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique - this makes it easier for interviewers to write notes - it is annoying sometimes, but all part of the game, especially if you are looking to work in a university or for the government.
  • Consider and have an answer ready for 'Why do you want this job?', 'What do you know about the position?' and 'Why do you want to work for the company?' These questions or equivalent come up frequently in interviews. They are looking to see you know what you have applied for and that you are passionate about it.
As well as being asked questions you will also need to have some questions prepared at the end of the interview, 1-3 should be sufficient. Things such as 'What is the work environment like?', 'I hear you are relocating soon, when and where might that be too?', and 'When might I hear from you regarding an outcome?' - Again there are websites and books that can help with suggestions for this questions' just Google 'questions to ask employers at interview'.

Finally, it important at interview to dress appropriately, and make sure you smell nice. I have heard of people being discounted due to their smell and future employers being worried about that being in the office.

Unfortunately as much as we would like to think that the an application is all down to our skill and experience, it is also down to our fit with the company and a bit of luck.

Telephone Interviews / Skype Interviews

These are similar to normal interviews except for you are not in the room with the interviewer. Prepare the same way, however,  also:
  • Find a suitable quiet location to take the telephone or Skype call.
  • With a Skye interview or other video interview make sure you are dress appropriately and that your background is suitable for the interview. Websites suggest to have a plain background behind you.

Assessment Days / Group Days

I have been to one assessment day which consisted of 3 tasks, 2 tests and an interview. 3 people were at the assessment day at once. rotating tasks.

Assessment/Group days can be slightly intimidating as you are competing for the same job or a limited number of spaces. Remember to be polite to everyone you meet including your fellow job seekers, and stay true to yourself, don't compare yourself or try and be someone different. Being you is the best plan of action to find your perfect job and right company fit.

Chasing

Another hoop that you may encounter in chasing. You may have to chase up a response after making an application, or after an interview/assessment day. Usually employers will give you a window of time to hear back from them say 1 week - 6 weeks for application, a few days - 1 week after interview. If you have not heard from the employer within a suitable amount of time you can chase them either by phone or email.

If you are chasing after an interview: make sure you thank the interviewers again for the opportunity and then enquire about when you might hear back from them.

If chasing an application: Give them as much detail as possible, your name, and when you applied for what job, and ask politely when you may hear from them, or whether the position has already been filled.

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If you have any questions regarding any part of this weeks topic or anything else, feel free to leave a comment.

Part 5 - COMING SOON

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Raggy's Travels: A flying visit to Amsterdam

My dad I are had a flying short visit to Amsterdam this year to see the Piano Guys. They were due to perform in the UK on their tour, but we were on holiday over those dates. I had seen them before in Birmingham, but my dad had missed out due to work. He felt it would be a nice unique experience to see them in Amsterdam this year.

I had never been to Amsterdam. We weren't there very long but I really enjoyed my 24hrs in the city. The first thing I noticed flying in, was how flat Amsterdam and the Netherlands are. Due to this flatness, the other thing you will notice very quick into your visit is the popularity of cycling in the city, with thousands of bikes and lots of cycle paths and routes.

Cycle track outside Amsterdam Central Station

An Amsterdam residential street with pretty architecture and hundreds of bikes.

We landed at Schipol (Amsterdam Airport) which is a huge busy international airport, serving 50 million passengers a year, and an important transfer hub for many. From the airport we caught a direct train to Amsterdam central.

As we were travelling light we decided to explore a bit before heading to the hotel. My dad has been to Amsterdam before, so suggested we take a fee ferry to NDSM, an arty district of the city. The journey only takes 10-15mins but is a lovely way to see some of Amsterdam.

View from ferry looking back at Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam architecture 

Amsterdam Film Museum

Swings at the top of Amsterdam Film Museum

NDSM was once the largest shipyard in Amsterdam. Around 1984 it was abandoned, squatters moved in to the area which was in decline. To revive the area the City Council gave subsidies to artists, craftsmen etc who were settling there. The area is now rather quirky with a boat hotel, abandoned submarine, and crane hotel, but it also has cafe's and art studious.

The submarine, is an abandoned Soviet Zulu Class submarine, purchased after its decommission to be turned into a night club, but it has now been abandoned, presumably due to planning issues of a night club on a submarine.

Soviet Zulu Class Submarine, Amsterdam NDSM

Hotel boat, Amsterdam NDSM

Ship ramp remains, and tables from Europe's largest Flea Market

Abandoned Crane, Amsterdam NDSM

Crane Hotel Faralda, Amsterdam NDSM

Abandoned Tram, Amsterdam NDSM


Inside Large boat house where artists and startups based 

After catching the ferry back to the station we then took a tram to the hotel. We purchased 24hr tickets from the Amsterdam gift shop at the station, but you can buy tickets on the trams too.

We stayed in the Hilton Amsterdam, which was very nice. It actually is a bit of an attraction in itself, as John and Loko, staged their Bed-In for Peace in room 902 (now 702) between March 25th - 31st 1969. They knew that their wedding on March 20th 1969 would draw large press interest, so they used their honeymoon to promote peace. They invited the press daily between 9am and 9pm to discuss peace. The hotel has been refurbished since 1969, hence the change in room number, but guests can still stay in the John and Yoko suite, which is decorated with memorabilia.

Hilton Amsterdam

John and Yoko Suite, Amsterdam Hilton

In the afternoon we headed to the Rijksmuseum. We didn't have very long as it was closing at 5pm and we had arrived at 4:15pm. You really need a lot of time to really explore and appreciate the museum, as it has 3 floors and a basement, but I enjoyed what I saw on our flying tour round.

The museum is an arts and history museum, covering the Netherlands from the Middle ages to present day. It holds many fascinating objects and artwork including the famous Night Watch painting by Rembrandt, which was painted in 1642. It is a large painting  363cm x 437cm. As well as this world famous painting, the museum also holds such objects as a piano which King Louis Napoleon ordered to be created for his wife Hortense in 1808, an impressive Doll's house c. 1686-1710 which belonged to the wife of an Amsterdam merchant, and a Crown for the king of Ardra, gifted by the English in 1664, the crown never reached the King as it was seized by the Dutch who were expelling the English from Dutch fortresses on the African coast.

King Louis Napoleon's wife Hortense's piano



Doll's House of Petronella Oortman

Crown for the King of Ardra


After the museum we heading back to the hotel to get ready for the concert at the AFAS Live venue. The security was very good at the venue, with bags being checked and everyone being patted down. Due to the security checks the show did start late, but it is better to be safe especially in the current climate of todays world.

The venue sells drinks and snacks by tokens which are silver, however some are blue which is a competition. The lady at the bar told us that with our blue token we were entitled to 2 free cocktails, which I took full advantage of in the interval.

The venue was very good, it was busy and at times difficult to get served, but everyone was friendly and helpful. The show was amazing as usual.

AFAS Live venue

The Piano Guys performing Fight Song / Amazing Grace with Bag Pipers

The Piano Guys enjoying life


I had a wonderful flying visit in Amsterdam, but I definitely need to go back and explore more sometime.

*Word of caution for any fellow hayfeaver sufferers, the Netherlands are known for their tulips. My hayfeaver was rather bad whilst I was there due to the pollen in the air, so make sure to pack any hayfeaver tablets before you go.