Archive | May 2016

The Portuguese Way of St. James

One of the joys of having a public holiday here in the UK yesterday was that I actually got to read my email notifications and pertinent links to any websites as they came in on the iPad rather than having to wait until I returned home or (like today) wait for the noise to die down in order to concentrate – there’s a tiler working upstairs for the next few days!

I’ve subscribed to newsletters from Julie Dawn Fox‘s website for a while now as there’s always plenty of information coming my way in said newsletters about one of our favourite countries – Portugal.

Julie is a British expat who lives in Portugal who explores, photographs and writes about the country on a regular basis.

Apart from her website, Julie is also the author of a couple of useful books for travellers to Portugal – Money Saving Tips for Travel In Portugal and Best In Porto (both available via Amazon). In addition Julie has also contributed to DK’s Eyewitness Travel Portugal guidebook.

One of Julie‘s recent ventures has been walking the Way of St. James in Portugal, a 200km walk from Barcelos in Northern Portugal to Santiago da Compostela in Spain.

There’s plenty on Julie‘s site about the prep work, an initial encounter with the Way of St. James and the full walk, but as ever, it was the piece on packing for the venture that caught my attention, reeled me in and ensured that I want to find out more about the walk.

Julie‘s packing list caught my attention because it was a comprehensive one that covered just about everything that you would need to know, pack and carry for  a walking weekend or a longer venture such as the Way of St. James.

Clothing, footwear, pack, drinks systems, first aid and the benefits of using two walking poles rather than one are all covered along with blister prevention, sunscreens plus sit mats, guidebooks, phones, cameras, torches and the use of sandals or flips flops to pad around in after a day in boots or approach shoes.

And the link to that packing list (plus access to the rest of Julie‘s site).

Here it is…


Short cut to somewhere…

It’s Monday 30th May and it’s a public holiday here in the UK.

It’s t-shirt and sandals weather in Yorkshire and I’ve just had lunch.

Given the above, I found one movie choice rather interesting as I flicked through the TV channels.

More 4 are currently broadcasting a very seasonal movie as I type this post…

White Christmas!

Public hols – pain or pleasure?

It’s another long weekend here in the UK thanks to the Bank Holiday that usually occurs over here on the last Monday in May every year.

Will we be heading off anywhere? Nope. Not over this weekend anyway – we usually have a holiday weekend substitute up our sleeves where we head off from home or a campsite and do stuff over three days when everyone’s either at home, working or at school!

Caroline’s working and doing some babysitting for her daughter whilst I’m doing some sorting out at home in readiness for a tiler coming to do some work in the bathroom on Tuesday.

It’s already been mentioned in the news today that the roads will have 50% more traffic on them today as people head off for the weekend. I know to my own cost as to how long it used to take me to do a 25 mile journey over a Bank Holiday Weekend – what was normally a 45 minute journey from Skipton to home did take 150 minutes on either the Sunday or Monday of such weekends.

Those heading over to France this weekend may well have other problems as they feel the effects of the industrial action that’s taking place over there at the moment – car drivers are being advised to have full tanks before they board a ferry or Eurostar train over the next few days.


Bamburgh Castle and beach – at a quieter time of year!

Shopping’s a virtual no-no as people flock in their hoards to wander aimlessly around malls in search of things that they may not actually need, but this scenario is expanded to happen over the next week or so as it’s the half-term school holidays next week. Any shopping we do is more likely to be for milk or bread rather than more clothes or tech stuff.

So, apart from the sorting out at home, what are we going to be doing over the holiday weekend? Caroline’s weekend is sorted through work, babysitting and a long cycle ride with her club tomorrow and I’m going to sort out some more photos for wisepacking.

With the TV offering an excellent selection of visual experiences over the weekend (NOT!), then it’s going to be a mix of listening to the radio or some CDs, watching the odd programme of interest or starting and finishing one or two box sets.

We’re already part way through the latest Young Montalbano box and have Our Friends In The North, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Francesco da Mosto’s Italy From Top To Toe, Guy Martin’s Speed and the double pack of Jean De Florette & Manon Des Sources to think about.

Any that we don’t watch now will be saved for the imminent infestation of sport on TV over the coming months – football, tennis, darts, cricket, the Olympics etc.

Still, there’s one set of sports broadcasts that won’t be missed – the Isle Of Man TT races.

Even though one of the more charismatic riders is giving it a miss this year to do a very long mountain bike ride in the US of A!

One year – the answers!


Wells, Somerset – one of the locations for Hot Fuzz – May 2015


Ogden Water, West Yorkshire – June 2015


Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal – July 2015


Padrao do Descobrimentos, Belem from Rio Tejo, Portugal – July 2015


Torre de Belem from the Rio Tejo, Belem, Portugal – July 2015


Centro Cultural de Belem, Belem, Portugal – July 2015


It’s a sign! Between Estoril & Cascais, Portugal – July 2015


On the beach near Cascais, Portugal – July 2015


Sandeman’s Port Lodge, Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Portugal – September 2015


Viana do Castelo, Portugal – September 2015


Canal Central, Aveiro, Portugal – September 2015


Praca 8 de Maio , Coimbra, Portugal – September 2015


View from a room, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – October 2015


Villa Real de Santo Antonio, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016


Fishing boat, Cabanas, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016


Tavira skyline, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016


To Swaledale – and beyond! Keld, North Yorkshire – May 2016


Broad Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales – May 2016

One year

So many places in just three countries…


One of the locations for Hot Fuzz – including part of the end battle!


The scene of The Great Teddy Toddle in deepest Yorkshire


A smaller version is on the bookcase downstairs


The view from the river


The view from the river, part II


Art for art’s sake?


Hot day, cool beer – but not on The Algarve!


And it’s still nowhere near The Algarve!


And no, it’s not Zorro! Or the next Bond…


A grand design?


And not a Cornetto in sight!


Market square heroes?


No fog on the Tyne…


Has someone painted the town red after hearing about Mourinho’s next job?


Provider of local specialities?


Spot the supermarket…


For when you need to know where the highest pub in England is…


One week ago

You can take some guesses as to where these are – the locations will be revealed tomorrow!

No prizes though as it’s just for fun.

All photos by Keith Rickaby on a Nikon Coolpix s3100 digital compact camera

A roof over your head…


A Portuguese Pousada…

Out of all of the places Caroline and I have stayed in over the last year, this is the one that ticked all the right boxes, even though it’s several notches above our usual choice of accommodation.

Pousada do Convento da Graca is a luxury hotel in Tavira on the Algarve at a price that didn’t break the bank thanks to the over-55’s rates available via the Pousada chain’s own website and the likes of Expedia (which is where we booked our week long stay plus Monarch flights from the UK and private transfers from and to Faro Airport.

Our room was a generous size with a luxurious bathroom and a good buffet breakfast was part of the deal. Pousada do Convento da Graca is a converted convent complete with church and cloisters that is a few minutes walk away from Tavira‘s centre and bus station in one direction and the railway station and Lidl in the other direction.

Apart from breakfast, we ate out for both lunches and evening meals (and saved a reasonable amount in doing so – eating in was around €65 for two without wine or beers whilst our last night’s meal in a local restaurant cost €40 for two mains, two desserts, two coffees, a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling water.

Old school…

Redworth Hall Hotel near Darlington here in the UK was an independent school that I used to pass twice a day when I went to and from work in Darlington back in the 1970’s.

Caroline and I stayed there three years ago, but decided to check in again last November as part of a break in the North East.

Large rooms and big, comfortable beds are the order of the day, as are good breakfasts and some fine in-house catering (they even made sure that their take on a good burger came with a decent regular bun as requested rather than a Brioche bun).

Lisbon dreams…

Yes, it’s back to Portugal time! Lisbon Dreams Guest House has a hostel vibe to it, but that is a good thing.

There’s double rooms with shared bathrooms plus very luxurious bathrobes to wander from your room to the bathroom and back without upsetting fellow residents. Breakfast is a simple affair whilst evening meals can either be taken in one of Lisbon‘s many eating places or prepared in the Lisbon Dreams kitchen – the Guest House is situated above a mini-market with a good choice of meat, fruit and bread which is a boon for self caterers.

Lisbon Dreams is in the Rato area of the city, but it’s a quiet area around twenty minutes walk from Rossio Station and ten minutes from Principe Real‘s bars and eating places. This isn’t a bad thing though, especially if you’ve been eating out as the portions can be rather generous at times…


Chilled hostel.

It only seems as though we were at Hamilton Lodge in Fishguard last week and there’s a good reason for that – we were!

For five nights in the double ensuite room (others with shared facilities are available). Light breakfasts are provided, there are several pubs and takeaways in the town centre (the nearest is a Chinese immediately opposite the hostel) and there’s Q and Jet.

Q is the laid back owner of Hamilton Lodge and Jet is a black labrador who tends to get spoiled rotten by those staying in the hostel… like us! Q has put together a comfortable environment and one that’s great to relax in either indoors or outdoors in the garden at the back of the hostel.

There’s a good kitchen to prepare meals in with hobs, oven, microwave and toaster (there’s a Co-op, a Costcutter and Tesco Express to get supplies from, along with several independent retailers too), that garden to relax and unwind in, wifi and TV’s in each room too.

We will return. Oh yes, we will return!

And I’ll be writing more about Hamilton Lodge in the not-too-distant future.


Guess where?

Caroline and I have stayed in three proper hostels in Portugal – one H.I. affiliated in Lagos and two independently run hostels in Porto and Aveiro respectively.

Aveiro Rossio Hostel is our choice out of the three as it’s in the centre of Aveiro (but a long walk from the railway station) and therefore near the gondolas on the canal and several bars, cafes and other eating places in the centre.

Like Hamilton House, there’s a chilled atmosphere, light breakfast and a kitchen to use at other times. The double ensuite room was simply furnished and comfortable whilst the hostel lounge had an interesting mix of furniture and artwork around the room.

Any problems? Only with the door code to get into the main entrance as the keypad was playing up, something that didn’t worry us as we were coming and going at sensible hours whilst staff were in attendance and not coming back in the wee small hours.

After two nights, it was time to move on to Coimbra for three nights and boy, did we wish that we could have taken Aveiro Rossio Hostel with us (and on so many different levels too)!

And just for the record, all of the accommodation mentioned was paid for by ourselves!

All will be mentioned again in the One Year series of posts that’s coming soon!

Technology – loving it?

Now I’ve mentioned the love/hate relationship that I have with technology before, but it’s worth bringing it up again.

First of all, the iPad Mini 2.

It went with me on the recent visit to Fremlington near Reeth in Swaledale and it came in handy as there was no television available to keep up with news, forecasts or travel reports.

It also helped in checking emails, logging onto wisepacking and checking out forums too. And by ‘eck it came in useful to watch the copy of Cinema Paradiso that I’d bought from the iTunes store.

But I also found that I was falling into the same trap as many people that I’d seen in bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants – constantly looking at the iPad’s screen and stabbing at whatever caught my attention rather than say having breakfast and talking to Caroline or fellow temporary residents at said hostel.

So it didn’t go with me when we headed off for Fishguard and another hostel as we embarked on part two of our break after one night at home.

Yes, there was good wifi at the Fishguard hostel, so much so that the owner looked to be using his full sized iPad for just about everything connected with the hostel, but I didn’t miss my own variation on the iPad theme.

It has however come back into its own since heading back home as emails needed to be checked, news stories read and comments made on one or three sections of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travel forums.

The other part of the technology equation was the upgrading of computers when we got back home. Software only in each case as security upgrades were sorted out on both Mac Minis and the iPad Mini 2.

An easy task? Oh yes in each case and one that was relished rather than grunted at as it used to be in the many years of having to use another proprietary operating system that I could mention.

The latest Mac Mini was set up just before we went away, but gave me no trouble at all, even though I am to computers what deep fried chocolate bars are to healthy eating…

The couple of tweaks to the installation of Microsoft’s Office:Mac and a cleaning up of the Dock task bar have made things lean and meaner than they were. Next up is the installation of a cost-effective Canon Laser Printer (£40 from Ryman via Amazon) and Bob’s your uncle, I’m as happy as I am when a good bacon sandwich is put in front of me!

The new system is part of a plan to up the ante here on wisepacking.

Posts will be more regular and there’s going to be a mix of trip accounts and kit reviews.

Along with some anecdotes and the potential for what New Musical Express used to call ‘Smart-ass one liners’ around the time I first started to buy said paper back in the early 1970’s.

First up? Some good places to stay…

Just back from…

A few days in’t Yorkshire Dales and a few days in and around Fishguard in Pembrokeshire.

Used the car for both trips and stayed in independent hostels too.

First part was on familiar ground as Swaledale was part of my old stamping ground in my days as an outdoor instructor whilst Fishguard and the surrounding area was new territory.

Did the sun shine? Yes!

Did it rain? Only overnight and whilst in the car on the way back from Wales.

Was the food good?

Yes, apart from the last night’s bar meal – how is it possible for a pub to screw up a plate of bangers and mash?

It was probably the worst bar meal I’ve ever had and certainly the worst (or should that be wurst) sausage and mash I’ve ever had.

There’s more to come once the bag has been unpacked and some washing has been done – it’s the photo downloads that take up the time now as there’s a new Apple in place and the photo program has been ‘upgraded’.

Oh, and there’s a software upgrade to sort out too.

Still beats using Windows…

Hail Blackpool!


Don’t get me wrong, but I do like to be beside the sea…

But I’m not particularly fond of rain, hail and high winds when I’m trying to walk on a beach. I thought it was bad whilst trying to do so at Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast a couple of years ago, but that was nowt compared to tackling the beach at Blackpool just last week.

We had seen the weather forecasts and had dressed and packed accordingly, even though our respective bags had capacities of 10 litres (mine) or 15 litres (Caroline’s).

Despite a mix of soft shell trousers and jacket (me) and windproof fleece and tech jeans (Caroline) plus an effective use of tech t-shirts and micro fleeces (both of us), the wind and rain still presented problems once we got to Blackpool North Station and started to walk down to the town centre.

When it got really bad, there was only one thing for it – get into Marks & Spencers and head into their cafe for a hot drink, food and the chance to dry out. Once this was accomplished, it was time to head back out and see what was out there…

Caroline had already decided to try and find some thermal leggings to help combat the elements and as she hadn’t seen anything in M&S, we sought out the local branch of Millets.

Which had moved and had everything but thermal leggings as they’d been recalled back to the warehouse in order to make space for summer stock. Fair enough I suppose given that it was the end of April and it should have been fine and sunny…

After a quick side trip into Sports Direct in search of leggings, it was Primark that saved the day. One set of black leggings in Caroline’s size at the princely sum of £4 – bargain!

Once that was sorted, we tracked down the venue for Status Quo’s show and then headed to our resting place for the night – The Ascot Guest House in nearby Hornby Road.

Although we were the only ones booked in for the night, the sign in the window said No Vacancies – after all, it was going to be the calm before the storm that is the Great British Bank Holiday Weekend…and the Hotel Inspector was due to take a look at the premises at 6pm on the day we arrived.

Once settled in, we freshened up, headed out and then went in search of fodder. The first port of call was full and didn’t have any tables free for about an hour or so. The next one was busy, but had tables, so that’s where we ate.

Good pizza, good beer, but we’re still waiting for our coffees to turn up. They’d been prepared, but as the place was busy and hadn’t enough staff, the coffees had been made and placed on a tray, never to be served.

After asking for the bill, the coffee error was realised and whilst an offer was made of fresh coffee at no charge, we had to go, so the bill was handed over and paid, but not before I witnessed the £5 or so being taken off the bill for the coffees that never were.


thumb_DSCN1685_1024 2

And so to The Empress Ballroom. Posh? Yes, Pricey? Yes – £4 for two jackets in the cloak room and £4.50 for a half of bitter and a half of cider and £15 for a tour programme (from Quo’s merchandising stand and well worth the cost after looking at it a few times now).

The following day saw a reasonably early breakfast and a good chinwag at The Ascot, one of the friendliest places either of us have stayed in over the years.

By the time we left at 11am (an hour after the time to go listed on the back of our room door), we decided to hit the seafront and see what was out there.

Wind, and  plenty of it. A brief respite came about through heading into the RNLI shop at the lifeboat station to stock up on bags of fudge and a new ‘coin’ substitute for use in supermarket shopping trollies, but the weather had to be faced once more. And it was.

Blackpool beach was almost deserted and stayed that was as we quickly went back on the promenade in search of shelter and coffee. Both came about in The Albert And Lion pub – coffee, shelter and warmth for half an hour.

The wind had dropped a bit, but not enough to tempt us along the beach once more, so we headed up the seafront and passed Harry Ramsden’s and a few pubs. One Irish bar had a bloke with a radio mike dressed up as a leprechaun as a potential means of pulling people into the pub.

We gave it a miss, but were rather amused a few minutes later when we headed back past the pub and heard said leprachaun broadcasting an interesting comment from inside the pub – he’d forgotten to turn the radio mike off before making said comment to another member of the pub’s staff! Oops…

As a late afternoon train had been booked for the journey home, there was a whole lot of mooching around going on after a fish and chip lunch at Harry Ramsden’s.

Now I don’t normally spend much when I’m away for a couple of days, but one shop window display caught my eye – an array of Corgi die cast models including FAB1 and a joint set of Thunderbird 2 & 4. Not cheap at £20 per box, so a decision had to be made.

So it’s Thunderbird 2 & 4 that’s on the shelf to my right as I type this up and FAB1 will arrive at a later date, as will Thunderbirds 1 & 3 when they’re sighted in a shop.

Apparently this latest batch of Thunderbirds related items aren’t being sold to the same potential customers as the ones relating to the ITV animated activities of International Rescue.

The Corgi models are being sold to nostalgic fifty somethings! Like me…