Archive | March 2015

Food for thought?

I’m in the middle of reading ‘My Trade‘ by Andrew Marr (Macmillan 2004/Pan Books 2005).

It’s about the media world and how it’s developed over the years, but the section on foreign correspondents has an interesting sentence that’s set me thinking.

‘Jet travel has rather limited the scope for genuinely adventurous travel writing; the bookshelves are crammed with guides giving worldly wise advice for holidaying consumers rather than offering discovery and fresh exploration.’

Are we travellers? Explorers? Or holidaying consumers?

The link to the Kindle book is…

The curse of the Teddy Toddle!

With a fine day in prospect after taking a look at the BBC‘s weather forecasts on Saturday, Caroline and I decided that it might be a good idea to have a Sunday stroll around Ogden Water yesterday and then head off to a favourite veggie cafe for lunch.

After an early start, suitable attire and footwear was donned and the car pointed in the right direction for the ride to Ogden Water. Now we’ve been before, and not had any problems, but as we turned into the side road leading up to the car park, we almost started hailing Houston…

Why? Because there was a queue in front of us and people trying to turn their cars around in order to exit the area. The Golf in front of us obviously wasn’t going anywhere fast as the side window was down and the occupants were talking to a lady carrying some zip ties and a set of white sheets.

Once she’d finished the conversation, the white sheets revealed their message – ‘Teddy Toddle – Car Park Full’.

Ah, said I (or words to that effect!).

With no walk in prospect there, it was time to come up with Plan B – quickly!

So the car went into the caravan site entrance, was turned around and headed back the way we came.

One brief discussion later, and off we went in direction of Skipton in search of a walk and lunch.

Getting there wasn’t hard, and neither was the route finding. After living in Skipton for five years, I kind of knew the way and could easily find somewhere to park that didn’t involve paying for the privilege. No, I couldn’t park outside my old flat, but did manage to do the deed around the corner and up the hill.

With boots on and a need to walk up an appetite, back down the hill we went, passed my old gaff and then turned left when we reached the canal bank.

Things haven’t changed much in six years as the canal is pretty much a permanent feature in the town. Yes, it’s the Leeds Liverpool Canal, but it wasn’t the part we’d seen Baldrick (sorry, Sir Tony Robinson) walking on the TV the night before – he was heading to Wigan Pier.

A few others had the same idea, but it was interesting to note that just a few intrepid souls ventured beyond the Canal Basin to the first bridge and lock. We were pleased that we’d dressed for the occasion, because although it was nice and sunny, it wasn’t overly warm so merino wool base layers, fleece pullovers and either down or synthetic fill jackets were the order of the day on top and soft shell trousers on the legs and either sports boots or approach shoes on the feet.

Although I lived in Skipton for five years, some of the ground we covered whilst walking from the car towards the canal bank and up towards the Skipton Castle area was new to me, even though I’d walked around a bit on days off and headed off on my bike along the canal tow path too.

As the lighting was of the midday sun kind, the camera only came out for a couple of snapshots that weren’t wonderful when played back (we’ll see whether Bill and Ben the canal boats are there next time in better lighting conditions!). Once we’d done some walking around, our respective stomachs started to mutter those ever pervading words ‘Feed Me!’ and we went off in search of fodder.

With a load of pubs on the main street and a host of cafes or bakeries to choose from, the decision was made to head into Wild Oats cafe rather than looking for a Sunday Roast dinner.

Yes, Wild Oats is a veggie/vegan cafe, but as we’d originally planned to have lunch in a similar establishment in Thornton, we headed in. It’s a while since we’ve been into Wild Oats, but it was busy, so much so that there was only one nut roast left rather than the two we’d ordered. Never mind, the spicy sweetcorn fritters and salad went down very well.

Once done, some retail research was called for. Caroline had a look at road bikes and waterproof gloves before we hit the car once more in search of some cake to take home with us to consume with coffee and the Sunday papers.

As we know our preferred farm shop does excellent cakes, we headed there and did the deed.

And then we noticed the poster on the noticeboard for a Teddy Toddle taking place at Ogden Water.

Which is where we came in!

We will hit Ogden Water this week – when the next fine day comes along.

We have the flask, we have the bread, the sandwich filling and the clothes to combat the cold so yes we can!


Whilst heading over to Ogden Water, we passed a very posh Mercedes that had the hood down.

Would I dare allege that the driver looked suspiciously like someone who is relatively local to the area who used to baldly go where no one has gone before?

Might do…

Forward planning II…

Well, Forward Planning I got a few people going!

The spike in traffic yesterday was amazing after I’d posted a link to it in a forum posting…

So here’s Forward Planning II, which isn’t as contentious, but it should give some people food for thought.

Although there are those who do admirable amounts of research into prospective trips, there are those who over plan everything.

They try to cram in as much as possible into a short space of time and expect you to concur with their every move.

Sadly that isn’t always the case…

Putting a schedule together where there’s a whole host of destinations, things to see, things to do and places to eat at always seems a bit pointless.

I’ve seen itineraries posted that haven’t any rest days or have a list of things that’s going to require several days rushing around after downing fifteen double espressos or at least two boxes of caffeine tablets (neither are recommended by the way – one to two double espressos per day is enough for me and I’ve not knowingly taken caffeine tablets).

Yes, the posters aspire to doing everything on the list, but how many end up spoiling their collective experiences by going down that route? Virtually all of the best trips I/we have done have had a bit of planning about them, but not everything has been planned to the nth degree on these ventures.

Outward and return travel has been booked, airport car parking when needed plus first and last nights or the full trip’s accommodation and a bit of in-country travel on some occasions, but there’s always been some leeway to have days off, change plans or just drop stuff when the weather turns nastier than whatever was in the wood shed*

Mistakes can be made during the planning stages – we ended up in one Norwegian town for a couple of nights three years ago that we should have given a miss to, but we made the most of it.

We ended up walking to a nearby village, had a very good lunch, wandered around a fort and then spent time by the fjord listening to Roxette’s sound check in advance of their nearby open air show that evening.

Once back at our digs, we made a meal from the stuff we’d bought at the local supermarket and then whiled away the evening in a park by the same fjord – heading into the nearby pub for a couple of bevvies wasn’t an option as I’d already paid the equivalent of £8 for a beer that cost £1.68 at home earlier in the day!

Our last trip to Portugal had five main ports of call – the next one will have three-four depending on whether we decide explore the Douro valley or leave that for another visit. A rough outline has been made of where we want to go in Portugal, but apart from the flights and the first nights there, nothing else is going to be booked so we can have total flexibility.

Last year’s trip to Suffolk had just two base camps. One at the beginning of the week and another near the end. We’d sussed out which campsites to use in advance, but hadn’t booked them, even though it was high season.

The highlighter pen had been used in a paper copy of Lonely Planet’s Great Britain guide, but that was it as far as the other planning went. Decisions were made on the day as to where we were going to go and what we wanted to see and even these changed as there was a problem with the car and then rain clouds gathered and dumped their load on us , the car and the tent!

So, is indecision the key to flexibility? Could be!

Research can be done and notes made, but if you have some flexibility in your schedule, then there’s always room for days in magical places that you find en-route, brief encounters of different kinds or days off. Or to find ways and means of combatting unexpected strikes, any food induced quick-steps or bookings that have gone astray…

And besides, aren’t you supposed to be on holiday or travelling to escape from the stresses of commuting, work schedules, bosses who are pains in the neck (or other parts of the anatomy!) and everything else that goes with the 9-5.

Leave the carefully prepared holiday spreadsheet behind and enjoy the break (no I couldn’t believe that people planned their holidays on spreadsheets either until I read a few Kindle books recently!).

And remember, it’s your holiday or trip you’re on and you should do what you please and like…

Our next ones aren’t set in stone – we have some dates in mind and some destinations too, but as we’ve made tentative plans before and then dumped them at three days notice to jet off somewhere else, we’ll see what’s out there!

* Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

Forward planning…

Yes, I touched upon this last week and I think that I got away with it!

For more years than I care to remember (well, about 40 actually), I’ve come up with ideas, done the research and then headed off into the big wide yonder to see what’s out there.

Initially it was here in the UK, but as the years progressed, so did the scope of the travelling.

Flights were researched and booked, accommodation found and booked, and in-country travel researched and not booked until I got into the country in question.

In all that time, there was only one real glitch – a request for a room for two in an independent hostel on a farm in Iceland thirty years ago was misinterpreted as being a booking for rides on two Icelandic ponies. Lost in translation? Oh yes, but we still got the room and my partner at the time was a keen rider, so she got a free ride on an Icelandic pony whilst I unpacked and put the kettle on for a coffee.

All this was done in the days before the advent of the Internet and in the days before I discovered either Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books. Phone calls were made or letters were written to tourist board offices in London and an envelope arrived a few days later with a map, accommodation guides and train & bus timetables. Simples!

When I did discover Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, things were a little easier.

Yes, some information became out of date, but planning became easier,

I had phone numbers to hand to do any bookings and I had some knowledge of what to do, what to see and where to go without having to draw up a rigorous agenda that had no gaps and had to be followed without any deviation, pauses, repetition or rethinks.

Although I was an early adopter and had a personal computer in the 1980s, plus a mobile phone and Internet access in the mid-1990s, I still buy and use paper guide books as the first port of call when it comes to planning and making travel arrangements.

Notes are made onto a paper notebook, pages in the guide books are flagged up by putting Post It notes at the top corner of the relevant pages and then a fluorescent highlighter pen is used to indicate any potentially interesting places, attractions, cafes, beds for the night and travel methods.

Once this is done in one guide book, the same exercise is repeated in a rival publishing company’s product. The results from the guide books are then compared, lists made on that paper notebook and it’s only at that point does the Internet come into play.

The latest travel times and costs are checked, accommodation availability is sussed out for at least the first and last nights of the trip and any pertinent queries made on forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum.

Phone calls are now kept to a minimum, but the aim is the same as it always was – find out the information, do the basics and wing the rest or simply roll the dice…

Does it work? Yes, it does.

We’ve not been stranded anywhere as yet and whilst we’ve had to sleep in an airport two or three times, it’s usually because we’ve either got there earlier than we thought we might do or we’ve decided to have a blow out meal on the last night.

Good meal or an early night as you have to be at the airport at 5am? Good meal every time!

There are some people though who don’t do their research before posting on forums and there’s been a few recently who have been getting short shrift from regular forum users for not doing their own homework.

Some expect regulars to do everything for them, including making the decision about the country they should go to, what town to go to, how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, what bag to take with them etc. etc. etc. Even when there’s stickies telling them what to do before they post what can, in some cases, be stupid questions.

Needless to say, regulars are getting somewhat brassed off at such postings and are getting rather blunt by telling those asking the questions to go away and get a guide book first, read it and make their own minds up as to what they want to see/do/visit/stay and all of the other variations on a theme before posting more pertinent questions on the forums.

And yes, I’m one of the blunt ones!

I confess, especially when someone asks that same question twice in a few days over what bag he should get or whether there’s a good place to go dancing or whether they should go to Country X, Y or Z?

There’s also those who want to use apps for everything (including one person who mentioned an app to communicate with people staying in the same hostel!) or who don’t realise that connectivity for smartphones or tablets may not be available everywhere they are.

Which is the cue for a funny to round this piece off…

What do you call a smartphone or a tablet with a flat battery or no connectivity?

A paperweight! (or a useless piece of **** depending on your demeanour or viewpoint!).

Kitchen sink drama…

Well, I haven’t got much done on wisepacking over the last few days, largely because the power at Wisepacking Towers has been going off on a regular basis with a three minute warning!

The reason? One new kitchen – old one was gutted, removed and the new one plus The Italian Job was built in just five days.

The planning started in December 2014, but how much notice did we get of the start date? One week…

So it’s been a bit frantic here to say the least, but the end is almost in sight as there’s a bit of decorating to do and some detailing to complete the job.

As the end is almost near it’s a cue for all systems go once more on wisepacking.

And The Italian Job?

No, it’s not a set of car boots (trunks in the U.S. – we know there’s a lot of wisepacking readers over there!) from classic or BMW era Minis.

It’s a bit of lateral thinking after years of putting food in cubbyholes at hostels, years of seeing Marshall stacks at rock gigs and the need for a little bit of colour.

It’s three IKEA Kallax shelving units – the base one’s red, the middle one’s white and the top one’s green.

They’ve been screwed to the wall and fitted with cupboards, drawers and soft boxes to give us what the builder called ‘a modern take on a Welsh dresser..’

A daft idea maybe, but it works!

And as I’ve already said, normal service is about to be resumed…

Back – to the fuchsias…

Odd title I know, but as far as I know it’s not infringing any potential trade marks surrounding a certain film franchise!

It’s been an odd month off – little bit of heading to here and there, several visits to a certain Swedish retailer, a few one-off visits to DIY warehouses, a few technical drawings (for the first time since getting my O Level in that subject back in the 1970s) and a mega clearout before the builder arrived two hours ago to strip the old kitchen out and install a new one in its place.

One thing we noticed whilst heading out to find a kitchen option that we liked was how bland some of the options we were looking at were. The kitchen we’ve plumped for is classically styled, but we’ve added a few personal touches to ensure that it will be anything but bland – hence the visit to B&Q on Thursday and to IKEA last Friday morning!

Bland is something that couldn’t be applied to some of the colours going into the latest Rohan clothing collection – red and gold coloured trousers for instance.

Visits to other outdoor clothing retailers recently and I’ve noticed how limited the choice of colours is, which is somewhat ironic when I remember how well red and electric blue coloured jackets were selling in the store I managed until around eighteen months ago. Yes, I’ve got a few black jackets on the rack in the hall, but there’s also red, electric blue and orange ones hanging either on the same rack or in the wardrobe upstairs.

So, what’s coming up on wisepacking?

Pieces about Bronte Country, a local-ish air museum, the Lake District, some more kit reviews and a little bit more about planning (but not overplanning) trips in the wake of several posts on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum that have been made by people who haven’t bothered to buy a guide book to their potential destination who expect readers of the Forum to make up their minds for them as to where to go!

And a few mentions about books I’ve been reading too.

One Kindle Book I’ve been looking at recently is Money Saving Tips for Travel In Portugal by Julie Dawn Fox.

If you’re heading to Portugal, then it’s well worth tracking down as there’s some good advice in there and a few tips that I wished we’d known about when Caroline and I headed over there.

Yes, we picked one or two points up along the way that saved us money, but Julie’s book takes things a few stages further so we will be saving more money the next time we aim in that direction.

More details about the book and Julie’s travels on

Or head to Amazon, do not pass go and do not collect £200…