Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Ocean Hotel, Saltdean, Brighton

Along with the Lido to the south, the Ocean Hotel (sometimes known as the Grand Ocean Hotel) is another fine example of thirties seaside architecture in the south coast village of Saltdean.

Indeed, it was constructed by the developers responsible for the Lido and much of the actual village, the saltdean Estate Company, formed by speculator Charles Neville in 1924.

The Ocean Hotel was acquired by Butlins and opened its doors for business in May of 1953 after an extensive refurbishment. Six months of hard work had gone into restoring the near-derelict building to its former glory.

As luck would have it the hotel turned out to be excellent investment for Sir Billy Butlin. With its close proximity to the bright lights and night-life of Brighton, the hotel proved a very popular destination for honeymooners throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies.

It stayed in their ownership until Rank Leisure, the owner of Butlins, put all of the Butlins hotels up for sale in 1998. They went to the Grand Hotel Group.

There is so little demand for accommodation in the hotel now, that plans are being made to house asylum seekers there, which is currently rousing local protest.

Unfortunately, the front view from the hotel (which faces north-east) was blighted in the 1950s when the countryside opposite it was redeveloped for housing.

However, the hotel appears to be in good condition, retaining many original features, including glass-brick columns flanking the main entrance, and the mouldings on the ceiling of the foyer. Due to its slightly off the beaten track location, it is not somewhere you would find without looking for it, but it is a beautiful building.

Embassy Court, Brighton

Embassy Court is one of the most striking buildings on the seafront at Brighton and Hove, although the reasons for this have differed over the years.

When built in 1935, the building contrasted sharply with the more sedate and ornamental architecture of King’s Road; but by the 1990s, the structure drew comment because of its terribly run down nature.

The building made the local press after chunks of render and windows fell from the building onto the street below, and it appeared until recently that it may suffer the same ignominious fate met by the West Pier sat opposite it, which finally succumbed to the elements (and arsonists) in early 2004.

Luckily this proved not to be the case – a consortium formed by residents and owners were able to wrestle the freehold of the building from the previous ineffectual management company, and with the assistance of the Conran group, restoration commenced in 2004.
The decline of Embassy Court was all the more worrying due to its significance in architectural terms. Although there are several blocks of flats in the Art Deco style in Brighton and Hove, none encapsulates the boldness or prominence of Embassy Court. The building was designed by the architect Wells Coates, a Canadian/Japanese designer acknowledged as one of the masters of the machine aesthetic of the 1930s.

One year previous to this, Coates had been responsible for the design of the Isokon flats in Hampstead, London, which were intended to provide affordable housing with a communal slant, and in the year that Embassy Court was completed, one of Coates’ most iconic designs appeared on the market – the striking Ekco AD65 radio set, housed in a perfectly circular bakelite cabinet, and now highly collectable.

Embassy Court was intended to be luxurious, and this was reflected in the well off (and sometimes famous) occupants in the building’s early life.
One of the features of the building was a restaurant in the basement to cater for residents; and even though this meant that kitchens in the flats were rather small, they still featured built-in cupboards with integrated Electrolux refrigerators, a feature practically unheard of in British homes of the period. The building also incorporated the first ever penthouse flats to be built in the UK.

Like the Isokon flats, Embassy Court was uncompromisingly modern; the sole concession made to integrate the building with its neighbours was the way that the windows were designed to line up with those of its neighbour.

However, such was the contrast between the two styles of architecture, such a subtle gesture went largely unnoticed. The failure of the building to blend in with its surroundings was a frequent criticism, but its appearance found favour with one very significant man. That man was Herbert Carden, who had been a town councillor for Brighton since 1895.

Carden was a great believer in what was referred to as Municipal Socialism, and had been responsible for the formation of Greater Brighton in 1928, leading to a knighthood in 1930. So taken was Carden with Embassy Court, that in a booklet commemorating the Royal Jubilee in 1935, plans for the complete reconstruction of the seafront area were revealed, which would have entailed mass demolition of the original Georgian properties to make way for a slew of new and ultra modern blocks.

Thankfully, such destruction did not go ahead, leaving Embassy Court as the only modern building on the seafront until the construction of the Cavendish hotel and the Kingswest Centre in the 1960s.

By the time that these two buildings were constructed, Embassy Court was in physical decline, a situation exacerbated by a cheap and shoddy programme of refurbishment in the 1960s. The fabric of the building was also in poor condition; the steel framed windows were highly vulnerable to the salty sea air, as was the steel reinforcement of the concrete structure of the flats.
Maintenance work on the block was skimped, and by the late 1990s, the block had a reputation that was at best bohemian, and at worst, downright dodgy. The proliferation of absentee landlords did not help matters, and it appeared that the block would face more years of neglect until it was razed to the ground, despite listed status.

The state of the building was so poor that it was impossible to get a mortgage on any of the flats; and it was not until the management company Bluestorm formed by residents were able to gain control of the building at the turn of the 21st Century that work could commence on reviving the block.

This is currently in process, with repairs being carried out both externally and internally, with the intention being to restore the block to something approaching its original state, although with some modernisation such as the replacement of the centralized heating and hot water system with individual units for each flat; but it would appear that once more Embassy Court will become a building that strikes one because of its unique and uncompromising appearance rather than the semi-dereliction that had affected it for such a long time.

The pictures on this page were taken in 2001, long before any work had started, and show how poor the condition of the block was externally. At the time of writing, work is being completed on the restoration of the side of the building that faces the seafront, and the scaffolding that shrouds it is due to come down soon.

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

The De La Warr Pavilion was erected between 1934 and 1935 in the otherwise sleepy seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, following a competition held by the mayor, Earl De La Warr. He sought a design for a new leisure complex for the town, and this was to be the winning entry.
The design was by Eric Medelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, both celebrated designers of the modern movement. It was truly a stunning design, with a welded steel frame and cantilevered staircases, and even today it is considered to be one of the most significant modern movement building in the United Kingdom.

Although the building has never been subject to some of the indignities or neglect that many of its contemporaries have, over the decades there had been some unsympathetic ‘modernisation’. Happily, the pavillion has been Grade 1 listed since 1986, and the building is currently undergoing a gradual but sympathetic restoration.

Bishopstone Railway Station, Seaford

Nowadays, Bishopstone railway station is almost forgotten, an unstaffed halt and the last stop on the Lewes – Seaford railway line. The whole site has an air of neglection about it; it is easy to forget that it was part of a plan to bring the railway network of south east England firmly into the 20th century.
Before 1923, the railway lines of Great Britain were owned by numerous different companies, a situation that was to change that year with the grouping of the companies. Four new companies were formed, the one responsible for lines in the south of England being the Southern Railway. This company differed from the rest in that much of their network centred around commuter traffic into London, using some of the most intensively worked lines in the UK. Due to the high volume of traffic carried, the Southern proved to be the company that carried out the most expansion before World War Two. New railway lines were built; existing ones were electrified; and new stations were constructed to handle commuters from new and intended suburban housing estates.

Following the electrification of the London-Brighton railway, completed in 1933, the lines to Eastbourne and Seaford followed in the summer of 1935. Three years later, a station at Bishopstone on the latter line opened in 1938. The village of Bishopstone itself had a tiny population, and was situated almost a mile from the railway, but the new station, located about a mile from the terminus of the line, was built speculatively – in the hopes that its construction would encourage the erection of new homes nearby, giving commuters easy access to the frequent electric trains and increasing the income of the Southern Railway.

These intentions were however thwarted by the outbreak of war in 1939. Home building ground to a halt throughout the country, and the area never was developed to the extent that was hoped. This situation also occurred
elsewhere on the Southern Railway, including the stillborn seaside resort of Allhallows-on-Sea on the Thames estuary, and the station at Lullingstone near Swanley, which, although apparently architecturally very similar to the one at Bishopstone, was never opened to passengers and was later demolished.

Bishopstone was a modest station, constructed with only passenger traffic in mind. The frontage of the station was largely constructed in a typical art deco style, with corners incorporating windows that smoothly curved round the sides of the building. The roof of the booking hall towered above the frontage of the building, and it was a rather unusual structure in octagonal shape, foreshadowing the pillbox defence structures of the Second World War. Although flat roofed, the ceiling of the booking hall was built from glass bricks rather than a more conventional method, which had the advantage of making the booking hall feel light and airy.

Today, Bishopstone station is still open to the public, although it is now rather forlorn, having never reached its potential. It is unstaffed (although a newsagents still operates in part of the frontage), and one of the two railway tracks running through the station has been removed, leaving a derelict and crumbling concrete platform opposite the operational one. As late as 2004, the station still had a rather isolated feel to it, located at the end of a road with large private houses running down one side, and nothing but fields and a campsite on the other, but by the middle of that year, work had begun on a new housing development to the immediate west of the station – construction that the Southern railway had planned for nearly 70 years ago.

The Reality About Estonia

I have been visiting Estonia for many years. Since the late 90’s. I have a house there and (now) a Russian-speaking wife. I think I have a unique perspective that locals  don’t have. A bloke recently asked me: What did you like/prefer then? (in pre-EU Estonia) Apart from being one of few foreigners in the […]

The Realities of Expat Living in Moscow 2016

Let’s break down some metrics:

I live in a 2-room flat less than a 10-minute car ride to the city center (Prospect Mira for those of you who know the area).

It’s Western renovated and ran about $1330 (40k rubles) before the ruble devalued. Concurrently, most apartments in Moscow have either kept the same rental price, or have actually decreased in price in order to find tenants.

So, while someone’s income has decreased because of the exchange rate in dollar terms, so has relative housing cost; over $8k a year in my case (roughly $675 a month). That 40k includes gas, electricity, landline, cableTV/internet, trash, water and my Tajik Concierge. Great guy, and very helpful.

If I were to go back and live in a comparable flat in Los Angeles, the same cost would double, minimum.

I would also have to buy a car, so we’d be talking conservatively about another $600 for car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance for an average $20K ride. My transportation costs average about $150 a month (metro, taxis, g/f’s car, etc.).

The next biggest expense is of course food. I spend at most 1000 rubles a day. I really can’t see spending more than this, and 1000 could probably be chopped in half if push comes to shove. But for the sake of argument, let’s double it to 2000 and use this for reference.

Housing, utilities cable and WiFi internet – 40000

Transportation – 10000. Remember I’m an expat and don’t need a car here.

Food – 60000, and believe me that is an ambitious sum, more like 30-40000 at most, but again for the sake of reference. We’ll use 60k to include entertainment such as eating out, movies, theatre, etc., and a daily 300 ruble Starbuck mocha that I could easily do without, etc. This factors in a 35% rise in food costs during the devaluation period.

Restaurants/cafes prices have only increased about 5-10% during this time; closer to 5% all things considered.

Pretty much covers about everything and we’re looking at 106,000 rubles.

Now I understand that it would be nice if you could still stash away about $3k a month, but times they do change. And if you were someone who hasn’t saved for a rainy day (time), then that’s on you.

Nevertheless, that leaves us with 94000 rubles and that is still close to $1500; not bad all things considered.

If you think that things will not improve, or that your time back in the States will be better, I say don’t let the customs agent kick you in the ass on your way out. And good luck with those American women.

All I know is, given the situation, there’s no way I’m heading back, and really, why would I? Simply put, I have a wonderful life here, despite all the oppression I [don’t] feel from Putin.

Contrary to popular belief, life is good here. And it’s especially good if you’re lucky enough to be making 200k rubles a month. 98% of the working population in Moscow would love to make that kind of money. And if you’re one of the very fortunate expats to be making 200k a month or more, then count your blessings.

Russian Ukrainian Adventures Forum Newsletter – Summer 2015

The Forum Has Changed Direction a Little to Include More Travel, Culture, News and Politics.

The site was stuck in what is a dying and declining niche. When the site first started back in the mid naughties, it was firmly aimed at what some termed the “mail-order bride” niche. The FSU dating scene was then – although slowing down – still a vibrant industry. It was mostly centred on Ukraine the last decade or so, and most of those travelling there to meet women were from the US.

However, as you will know, a year and a half ago, there was a western-backed coup d’etat in Ukraine that saw the overthrow of the elected president and the installation of a new regime in Kiev. Subsequently, Crimea reunified with Russia and the east of Ukraine broke away into independent regions. Since then, civil war has raged in Ukraine while the new borders are being defined.

Against a backdrop of significantly reduced dating-related travel to the region, Crimea reunifying with Russia, increased American aggression against Russia, US/EU sanctions against Russia, counter sanctions from Russia, civil war in Ukraine and the MH17 crash, it isn’t hard to see why the forum became quickly dominated by these topics of discussion. So we decided to roll with it and reorganise the site somewhat.

If you take a fresh look at the placement of the forum rooms, you will find the dating and marriage sections have been condensed and moved further down the page. Up closer to the top you will find Cyrillic & Language, FSU News & Politics, Visas, Travel Discussion, Travel Reports, Culinary, Culture, Russian/Ukrainian Media and Expat Chat closer to the top. While we still have a lot of chat pertaining to dating in the former Soviet Union, you will find it isn’t as dominant as it once was.

Guys, if you are already married and haven’t visited us in a while, you can tell your wife it is a political, news and travel forum more than a dating forum nowadays. We know we lost a few of the married guys as their wives objected to them participating in what they saw as a ‘dating forum’. Yes, we still have some dating ads along with other types of ads, but like any site, we have to pay the bills. There is a topic on that here: Site Funding. Supporting Members. Q&A.

We would like to give you a few links to, and a little background about some of the recent popular topics.

Russian Diplomats Being Quietly Expelled from the UK.

The UK government appears to be quietly in the process of removing Russian diplomats from the UK.

The method they are using to do this is by not renewing or issuing new visas to staff at the Russian embassies in London and Edinburgh.

The press secretary in the Russian Embassy in London today decided to go public with the dirty tricks campaign by the UK government.

Among the tactics outlined are:

Stopping extensions of diplomatic and official visas for those staff members of the Russian Embassy in London and Consulate General in Edinburgh who stay in their positions over five years.
Refusing to extend UK visas for other staff members regardless of the requested period, quite arbitrarily.
A senior diplomat had to depart the UK last month because his visa was not extended.
The Russian Embassy says this is a clear violation of international obligations, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

According to the Vienna Convention, the functions of a member of the mission come to an end only after a relevant notification is served by the sending state (Russia) to the receiving state (UK). The Convention does not provide the receiving state with the authority to limit the length of stay, with the exception of cases when a member of a mission is declared persona non-grata or an “unacceptable person” by the receiving state.

Thus, by implication, the UK’s recent imposition of time limits on diplomatic visas, suggests the staff members refused visas are persona non-grata. A contravention of Article 9 of the Vienna Convention. In practice it means this is expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK.

Articles 7 and 10 of the Vienna Convention, stipulate that appointment of a diplomatic agent, with the exception of the head of the mission, does not require the consent of the receiving state (the UK in this case) and is done by notification.

Under Article 25 of the same convention, the receiving state shall accord full facilities for the performance of the functions of the mission.

It can safely be assumed that the “full facilities” mentioned, would, among other things, refer to issuance of relevant documents (like visas) enabling unrestricted entry and departure of diplomatic agents to and from the UK.

Despite the Russian Embassy having made repeated appeals, the illegal actions have been already deployed by the Home Office in coordination with the Foreign Office.

Already, in addition to the senior diplomat who had to return home mentioned above, another diplomat left without being able to be replaced this month, and two further staff members will have to leave for the same reason. The extensions of their visas were made for a measly three months, instead of the more typical one or two years.

One might say that the three month visas was in fact giving semi-permanent staff the opportunity to pack up and tie up their affairs before they leave. It is a de facto expulsion.

The Russian Embassy says it is practically impossible to prepare and process replacement staff members within such a limited period of time. And even if they succeed in doing that, the Embassy has been experiencing the same prolonged delays in issuing British visas for their new staff members, causing them to be unable to arrive to take up their posts.

The Embassy also incurs substantial financial losses by paying rent for apartments of our staff while they are sitting vacant. Their would-be occupants unable to get diplomatic visas.

The Russian Embassy says that the British authorities, in no uncertain terms have told them that this is their consolidated position, and the intent is to degrade the ability of the Russian Embassy to function as an effective diplomatic mission.

Such action, as well as being illegal under international law, is clearly aimed at diminishing and limiting the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK and a deliberate attempt by the UK to hamper Russian diplomatic work, in clear violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961.

Such an obvious attempt by the British government to wreck – on purpose – the established international order may prove to be a dangerous gamble by the UK in respect of the Russian diplomatic and consular missions. Such action by the UK will undoubtedly sour relations between the UK and Russia.

Other foreign diplomatic missions to the UK may like to take note of what the UK is doing to Russia here. The UK has has difficult relationships with a number of other countries; how long before they start to quietly expel diplomats of countries without just cause and in contravention of international law?

This is all the more noteworthy at this time as Russia is again looking at ways to relax the rules for people getting visas to Russia.

For me that can’t come fast enough, as I am one of many who has not visited Russia this year due to the onerous extra requirements of biometrics involving personal travel to London each and every time.

The current visa regime for Brits to get a visa to Russia needs swift and radical overhaul. It is unfair to subject ordinary travellers to Russia – many with family members in Russia and/or married to nationals – to extra bureaucracy simply as tit-for-tat because our government happens to be extremely foolish.

Russia could use this diplomatic crisis to overhaul the visa system for Brits and demonstrate to the UK that they are bigger than petty squabbles like this.

As a voting Brit, I would urge the UK government to abandon this pettiness, adhere to the Vienna Convention, and let the Russian diplomats back into the UK.

Russia Should Abolish Visas for the EU, America and the Developed World. Top Russian Official Agrees.

If Western sanctions against Russia are to continue, Russia is in a unique position to take advantage of the situation by relaxing visa rules and welcoming tourists.

Right now, you can get almost twice as many roubles for your money as you could a year ago. This makes Russia cheaper to visit than it ever was.

However, the current onerous requirements and unnecessary bureaucracy to obtain a visa to Russia has been holding Russian tourism back for many years. The current visa system is inconsistent, inconvenient, and puts many people off travelling to Russia. Visa registration once in-country, differs across Russia and can also prove cumbersome and problematical.

Oleg Safonov, head of Rosturism, the Russian Federal Tourism Agency agrees. He proposes to scrap the lot.

Safonov’s latest proposals, as reported on Interfax, include electronic visas, visas on arrival and simplification of the registration process. Travellers to Russia will very much welcome the moves, if implemented. Russia is a little late to the party with this; they should have done it years ago.

Russia already allows visa-free entry to citizens of some countries. But they are not the countries that significant tourism revenue is derived from. Rosturism recently announced that the number of foreign tourists coming to Russia grew in 2015 by 16.5 percent. Chinese tourists account for most of that growth to date. Russia now has an eye on increasing tourism from the rest of the world.

Readers of this site will be aware of the constant hysterical warmongering and hyperbole that Western politicians and their cohorts in the pliant mainstream media churn out day after day. One of the best ways to counter this misinformation war waged by the West is to allow people to easily visit Russia and see what it is like for themselves.

And who doesn’t want a selfie on Red Square?

Only when more people begin to visit Russia will the skewed perception of Russia abroad change. Visitors will see that much of what they read and hear in their local media is patently false and concocted for purely political reasons.

Relaxing visa restrictions means easy travel, especially for Europeans who are only a budget flight away. Over time, more contact between Europeans and Russians will improve political relations. It is hard for politicians to sell us lies about places we have actually been to. Western media will then find it harder to recycle the ludicrous US State Department propaganda we see daily in our newspapers now.

If Russia is to develop the tourism industry it tells us it wants, things need to change faster. Instead of occasionally tinkering around the edges of the visa system to allow for sporting events and cruise arrivals to specified ports with a host of conditions, it is time Russia’s visa system had root and branch reform.

Tourist visas could easily be issued on arrival; fingerprints could be taken at the same time. Invitations and registration need to be scrapped altogether. They are relics of the Cold War and serve little practical purpose today. An online visa waiver system, similar to what the US uses would work far better. Oleg Safonov from Rosturism gets this.

If Russia is going to have wider appeal to tourists, the visa system needs urgent radical reform. It will be impossible for destinations such as Sochi and Crimea to become popular with nearby Europeans if obstacles in the form of the current visa system remain in place.

The time for Russia to act is now. The rouble is currently good value for foreigners. Let people come and spend their money in Russia.

Russia Considering Overdue Changes to the Current Visa System

Russia Considering Overdue Changes to the Current Visa System Oleg Safonov, the head of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency, has proposed simplifying the visa regime for foreign tourists coming to Russia. The current onerous requirements and unnecessary bureaucracy in place to obtain a visa to Russia has been holding Russian tourism back for many years. Safonov’s proposal […]


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.