Archive | July 2016

Home thoughts…

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Wells-next-the-sea, North Norfolk

One prediction from those in the know is that there’s likely to be a rise in staycations here in the UK as travellers shun foreign holidays in the wake of Brexit, exchange rates and various events around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Will it happen? Quite possibly, even though holiday companies are running TV advertising regarding seven day breaks in Turkey with starting prices at £199 per person – a figure that’s less than one or two night’s stay here in the UK if the test searches I’ve run on various accommodation websites over the last couple of days are anything to go by.

We’ve seen footage of how quiet various beach resorts in were before the recent coup attempt, but if media reports are anything to go by, the beach resorts in Turkey for example weren’t really affected by events in Istanbul or Ankara (both places we’d still like to visit).

Whilst there are still places that travellers are avoiding, there are also those which have been affected by widely reported events that are very much open for business and tourism.

People are still heading to Paris, Madrid, London, Nice and Oslo after they’ve seen or at least heard about the various events that took place in those cities in recent years.

Caroline and I still head to London and we’d go back to Oslo tomorrow, even after the events that brought chaos to Norway in July 2011.

If it had happened a week earlier, we’d have been caught up in that chaos as we were staying just a few hundred metres away from the Parliament buildings in central Oslo and had walked past the end of the road a few times on that Friday…

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All the signs are there – and on a sunny day too!

Will UK staycations numbers rise? Yes, but a few things need to be examined.

The weather for one. Yes, we’ve had some high temperatures over the last month and it looks like they’re going to hover around the 20C/72F mark for the next ten days or so, but rain came with it and whilst we’ve missed most of it here in Yorkshire, there are no guarantees as to whether it will miss us again over the next month!

We may not have to deal with exchange rates, but there are matters relating to pricing, service levels and ambience in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, guest houses or shops.

It’s not really a problem in places such as Blackpool for instance as there’s Greggs, Wetherspoons and even Marks & Spencer in the centre that help keep costs down.

There are places though where some businesses really take the p*ss with their pricing. Fortunately we’re not foodies, and that works for us as a foodie and their money are soon parted…

Our local baker charges 75p for a decent sausage roll, but two shops in Norfolk were charging around £3 a couple of years ago, a price that I’ve only seen matched on my only visit to Fortnum & Masons in London.

We also try to avoid places where the name of a ‘celebrity’ chef is prominent or where the establishment has been starred for anything more than their hygiene standards (although we did see one place back in May that proudly displayed their one star hygiene rating sticker in their front window…).

There’s also places that overcharge for accommodation. It’s a problem that will never go away because some have more money than sense (see the earlier comment re; foodies).

Yes, we’ve stayed in a couple of good hotels here in the UK or in Portugal, but we’ve never paid the full rate as we’ve either booked in advance or taken advantage of discounts from booking site loyalty programmes.

Caroline and I have discussed taking a last minute UK break this week. Now we’re never going to go for Claridges (we saw the BBC4 documentary about that establishment a couple of nights ago and it is definitely way out our price range), but the places we thought were affordable at various places in UK on booking sites had reviews that included the  words ‘Avoid’ or ‘Don’t do it!’.

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Langdale, Cumbria

We could go camping, but it’s high season, school holidays and everything else that goes with those eventualities.

The last time I stayed in the Lake District in August I had two very sleepless nights, even though I’d changed campsites when I heard my new neighbours on the first one discussing the number of bottles of Jack and other spirits they were going to buy from the local offie… The second campsite ended up being just as bad…

Something will turn up. It always does… and yes, the fingers are crossed!

Phew!

There’s been some work going on at wisepacking’s humble abode over the last few weeks and one of the last bits has been completed this morning.

After a week of virtual camping without a bathroom in early June, the landing and stairs have just been remade/remodelled over the last fortnight.

So there’s a few finishing touches to be made by adding pictures picked up at local art shops, a cafe in Glastonbury and a Lisbon street market .

There’s also a new picture frame which requires a suitable shot to fill it. The possibilities are endless, but this is one contender…

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The harbour at Viana do Castelo, September 2015.

With the internals almost finished, it’s time to get blogging once more.

The next post is on Friday, but the latest One year posts will start popping up on Monday morning!

Lazy sods…

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Your starter for ten… every time!

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Or you don’t find out where you can see sights like this… *

My biggest gripe about travel forums is the number of people making posts that are almost asking those on the forums to organise their trips for them.

It’s not just newbies either – some have their own blogs and even they’re asking whether someone has been to X and what they should go and see.

If someone has done a little bit of research then I’ll help them out by suggesting relevant guidebooks, websites or places and occasionally link to wisepacking as a means of further helping the poster.

If they haven’t hit the research trail then there’s a suggestion made to look up how many guidebooks are available about City X or Country Y and I also prompt the poster to look at the suggested itineraries printed in guidebooks that can be followed, adapted or ditched.

We live in a technological age and have information at our fingertips thanks to the Internet and search engines such as Yahoo. Bing and that really big one, there are still those who can’t be arsed to look things up for themselves.

And then there are those who have the cheek to post more questions about where to go, what to do and what to see in the adjoining country or countries on their tick list!

Some are trolls, some are lazy and others are just thick as whatever…

Although I’ve been heading off for years, there is one resource that I use first before I even think of turning to the Internet and websites or search engines.

Guidebooks, printed guidebooks.

The photo at the top of this post shows a few of the books in our collection. Yes, there are two or more editions of particular country guides on that shot and the eagle-eyed may also spot that there’s some countries that I have both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet variations on a country theme.

We believe in due diligence and research before we head off, even when we are going to mostly wing it whilst on our travels. There are places or items in RG‘s that don’t appear in the equivalent LP guide and vice versa. The latest edition of one may have been released after the latest edition of the other and may therefore be more up to date.

Once Caroline and I have read both books, we’ll hit the Internet to check out latest costings, availabilities and opening times or (as a last resort) post questions on forums.

If memory serves me right, the last question I asked on a forum was about the date of the General Election in Portugal.

The reason? We’d been caught up in demos in Lisbon before…

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Lisbon city centre, September  2013

My question was answered promptly and accurately – the election was the week after we were due to fly home!

Rant over!

Aveiro, Portugal is the answer to the * by the way…

One year – August 2015

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Not just pictures at an exhibition either…

London calling – not just at the top of the dial, but plenty of other places too!

The full story behind my three days in London in August 2015 can be found by clicking on London to the right of this copy box, but I didn’t include any photos in those three posts, so here’s a few from that trip.

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Imperial College residence hall

This was a great place to have as a base whilst I was down in London.

It wasn’t cheap (£68 per night), but I had a comfortable ensuite room with a substantial breakfast and access to a student bar that served reasonably priced pints of Irish nectar (Guinness) and good bar meals too.

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Pottering around Kings Cross

Yes, it’s an excuse to pose for photos and quite a few people were standing in line to do just that. Some got their friends to do the camera work, whilst others made use of the stills photographer on the right of this pic.

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Kings Cross station

The last time Caroline and I were in Kings Cross it was in the middle of the makeover you see above. Pigeons were perfecting synchronised fly-bys before the Olympics and the facilities were more basic because of the work.

As I mentioned earlier, the pen portraits of the trip are in the wisepacking archives by clicking on London to the right of the screen.

It’s a city that I’ve visited many times. Some have been for business, some have been for pleasure and some have been down to involvement in the music business for a few years.

It was cheaper to take demos down to London on an overnight coach and distribute them to record companies by using a day pass on the Underground than it was to post them.

There and back trips in a car or a van took up occasional weekends as a couple of bands played at Dingwall’s in Camden Town or at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden.

There were also visits to the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road to see Al Stewart or to the Town & Country Club and The Royal Albert Hall to see Fish, the former Marillion vocalist.

Fun gigs were those by The Skiff Skats at either The Dublin Castle in Camden Town or the Caledonian Road Fun Day. The latter saw the band play a set by the canal and then head off and play a set on a barge.

I’d met a couple of members of the band before in their office and recording studio , but things were spoilt by a pushy photographer going a little too far in getting shots of these members of a name band just having a fun day out by playing music that was completely different to that which had seen them in the Top 5 and on TOTP on many occasions.

Why?

There were plans to do a long post today, but events in Nice led me to thinking that it wouldn’t be appropriate.

I’ll ask two questions instead.

Why do the media think that it’s okay to show footage of the truck on news bulletins given that we know what the outcome was?

And the other is simple – Why?

More friends in the North…

Yes, we’ve got box-set fever!

As last night’s TV wasn’t wonderful here in the UK, the second disc of Our Friends In The North was fed into the DVD machine.

Yes, it was cracking stuff, so much so that last night’s post-meal washing up wasn’t done until this morning, something that Caroline decided to tease me about an hour or so ago (in my own defence, I usually do the washing up when there’s an ad break on C4, More 4, 4/7, 5USA or Dave…).

The 1970, 1974 and 1979 episodes were cracking and I can see why the actors and series garnered so many award nominations twenty years ago.

These latest episodes covered a period that I can remember from my time up in the North-East, so the last ones should be even more memorable as the dramatisations relate to fairly recent history from the time I was working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then living/studying in Sunderland.

Once tonight’s session is over, then it’s time to find something new to watch (unless of course we keep something back for viewing during the Olympics).

New stuff to us includes Spaced, the Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources double pack, The Bridge Series 1, Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads series of monologues and a couple of Italian travelogues.

There are of course other things that could be pulled off the shelf to watch.

The box set of the original Top Cat cartoons, The Flashing Blade (the original, not the Saturday morning TV re-voiced version!),  The Singing Ringing Tree (in full rather than the BBC 1960’s edits shown in ‘Tales From Europe‘ tea time slot) and the likes of High Fidelity, Cinema Paradiso, Amelie, Run Lola Run, Belleville Rendezvous, The Illusionist and MicMacs. And The West Wing.

Yes, there’s a whole lot of subtitles going on, but unlike some people we know, Caroline and I don’t mind watching movies with subtitles.

They think it’s all over…

It is now!

Yes, Part One of  ‘The Great Summer Of Sport’ has left the building.

Problem is, Part Two is almost upon us…

The Tour De France is working its way through France at the moment with Froome getting the yellow jersey (and a fine for his troubles regarding an over-enthusiastic Colombian a day or so ago) and Mark Cavendish holding onto the green jersey for his sprint efforts and stage wins.

Are we watching it? Only when it’s meal time and there’s naff all on the other channels apart from episodes of NCIS that we’ve seen at least once!

Next up is the Olympics.

When I was doing my degree in 1996, a Media Studies lecturer asked myself and fellow students whether we’d watched any of the Olympics. It turned out that I was the only one!.

Needless to say the seminar went kind of flat at that point and our lecturer had to fill out the rest of the hour with something we could relate to given that I was the only one who had seen anything (and that was 10 minutes of mountain biking…).

Fortunately we have some DVD’s to fill in time we have when there’s so much sport on TV and so little inclination to watch it.

Mr. Holmes was Saturday night’s viewing and whilst it was slow, I found Ian McKellen to be an engaging HolmesCaroline likes Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the detective, but I saw the first episode and have avoided it since then.

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And yes, this was shot on a Stormy Monday!

Sunday night saw us going back in time to a 1990’s series and not seen by either of us until last night. Our Friends In The North has a good ensemble cast and it’s been interesting to spot the locations used in and around Newcastle-upon-Tyne, an area I know quite well.

We’ve watched the first DVD of the three in the box and we’re going to finish it off over the next couple of nights by watching the remaining two.

As I know nothing about what’s coming in Our Friends In The North, but a little bit about what was going on in the area thanks to years of reading the papers and watching local news bulletins on either BBC Look North or Tyne Tees Television in the seventies, eighties and nineties, watching the rest of the series could be interesting.

One nice touch though was a homage to another DVD in our collection – Stormy Monday.

This was shot in familiar places on Tyneside and one scene featuring Sting and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters in Stormy Monday walking across the High Level Bridge (the middle one in the moody shot above) may have been used as a template for a scene in Our Friends In The North.

It could be that Spaced comes out during the Olympics – along with six seasons of The West Wing or the second of Young Montalbano!