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Top 10… books

DK Eyewitness

Colourful illustrated guidebooks that hit the spot to give the reader an excellent overview of towns, cities and the local attractions along with brief details of where to eat and where to stay.

Favourites are the guidebooks relating to Portugal and Spain.

Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain – Quentin Letts

Journalist Quentin Letts aims carefully and highlights fifty targets. Some may surprise you whilst others may well be regarded as very suitable for inclusion in such a work!

Greece On My Wheels – Edward Enfield

Yes, that’s Harry Enfield’s dad.

Edward Enfield has written several books on his cycling exploits around Europe, but this was the first that I’d read by him and it’s on the list of books to read once more.

Hamish’s Mountain Walk – Hamish Brown

A classic book on hillwalking and backpacking around Scotland. One of those books that I read years ago and took lessons from, especially when it came to choosing and using lightweight camping and walking equipment.

An excellent read too!

Lonely Planet

Use paper versions when planning a trip, usually in conjunction with the equivalent Rough Guide (the latter’s city guides beat the LP versions hands down IMHO!).

There have been times when I’ve cursed their layouts (maps pages away from area info in two editions of the Portugal guide for example) and there have been one or three places that we won’t be returning to – allegedly!

My Dining Hell – Jay Rayner

The Observer’s restaurant critic’s collection of past reviews is a joy to read – unless you own one of the places visited!

Rough Guides

I don’t always agree with what’s written, but the appropriate Rough Guide is bought in paper format and used in conjunction with the same area’s Lonely Planet when planning a trip.

I regularly use paper area, city and country guides plus eBook only city or island guides.

The Descent Of Man – Grayson Perry

This is the newest book on the list and one of the few books in my collection that I have in both hardback and Kindle editions.

Not my usual type of reading by any means, but a book that has a lot to say about modern life and is engaging enough to read in one sitting.

The Moon’s A Ballon – David Niven

I first read this back in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again a couple of years ago. A classic autobiography with loads of anecdotes about Niven himself and his life in Hollywood.

Another book from this list that’s going to get another reading soon.

These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach

You may not recognise the title, but you may well have heard of the film that was largely based on this novel – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..

A few changes were made along the way from the printed page to digital screens, but it still hits the spot…

Spainpacking

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Choosing what we took with us on our road trip around Andalucia was determined by several factors.

There was the little matter of the size of hand luggage bags on Ryanair… some 5cm less on the depth of the bag compared to other airlines we’ve flown with since we bought our Osprey Farpoint 40 packs.

There were other considerations – the differing types of accommodation, the need to cover up in some of the places visited (Seville’s Cathedral and Mezequita in Cordoba) and expected weather conditions after looking at ten day forecasts (warm to hot during the day, cool on a night were among our expectations).

Pack size rules were adhered to as we chose items that could be washed and worn, used as layering pieces for cooler nights and we also packed long sleeved shirts for when we  visited places that required arms to covered.

So, how did we stick to around 7.5kg each in the hand luggage?

My North Face hooded soft shell has now bitten the dust, but it was worn on the plane rather than packed. It looked a bit worse for wear, but it has seen some action and has been proofed a few times to provide extra protection.

It had deep zipped pockets that took an iPad Mini, the Lonely Planet guidebook, my Nikon camera and the old Samsung dumbass phone when going through security, passport control and checks at the boarding gate.

The power adaptors for the tech mentioned above were in an IKEA pouch that, along with my wash bag, could be easily pulled out of the Farpoint for security checking and then pushed back in with the clothes, travel towels, booking printouts, bus tickets and meds.

Clothing included the usual mix of Rohan items – two pairs of Goa trousers, a Microgrid Crew Jumper, three Progress polos, two long sleeved polos, a few pairs of Cool Silver Trunks and some M&S Freshfeet trainer socks.

Worn items included that TNF soft shell, a Rohan Stronghold shirt, a Rohan Merino wool based t-shirt and another pair of Goa trousers. On the feet were ventilated Salomon trainers, the only footwear I decided to take.

Caroline’s choices also included a mix of rapid wash/dry and wear items such as Rohan Ultra Silver Camisole tops and briefs, a couple of their vest tops, two Stria long sleeved tops, Rohan Travel Jeans, Travel Linen trousers plus a Pathway Cardigan and a Royal Robbins shirt/jacket.

Her footwear comprised a pair of Ecco pumps and Ecco Mary Jane shoes.

Did it all work? Yes is the answer because most items had been used on a few travel trips now or even on a day to day basis. Respective day bags were from Rohan’s Stowaway line-up (a pack for me, a handbag for Caroline)

And in the wash bags? Well both Caroline and I use shower gels by Lush on our travels and she’s also using their shampoo bars.

I also packed a small bottle of tea tree oil that was used when I shaved with a disposable razor whilst sample size toothpastes from our dentist came in handy. The ViaSonic battery toothbrush stayed the course, even though I’d forgotten to put a new AAA in it!

Other items in the wash bag included some travel wash to do the clothing wash and wear thing, a small Nivea SPF30 suncream, a bottle of clove oil and a tube of Bonjela (both in case of dental problems…).

With two out of the four choices of accommodations providing shower gel and shampoo in the bathroom/shower areas, the above choices only needed to be complemented by the local purchases of Axe (aka Lynx) body spray and packs of baby wipes to cope with the after effects of street food on the hands or melting ice cream hitting clothing.

Other things? My iPad Mini has the Kindle App on it and loads of books, so the iPad was used for reading rather than surfing whilst Caroline had her classic Kindle. Both of us had mobile phones too.

Mine was hardly used, whilst Caroline’s did see some action as family members called or sent texts to her.

Did our packing choices work? Yes has to be the answer, even though there was more rain than we anticipated in Malaga. We sat that out in a hotel foyer until it was almost time to get a cab and head down to the bus station for our journey to Seville.

The coolest nights were those in Granada, but the layering choices worked to keep us warm as we wandered around in search of food. My only regret was not having another pair of shoes, but as plans to buy an extra pair failed due to cost issues, I didn’t worry too much about that.

Alhambra…

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I make no apology for making this more of a picture based post regarding our visit to the Alhambra Palace.

So much has been written about Granada’s World Heritage Site by those who know more than I do (Rough Guide Andalucia devotes @ six pages including maps and photos to the site, as does Lonely Planet Andalucia).

Our visit to Alhambra was booked back in January 2017, and yes, that was a wise move as the Sold Out signs were already posted when we collected our pre-booked tickets around 9.15am.

As our allocated time to enter Palacios Nazaries wasn’t for another couple of hours, we had time to wander over towards it, taking in the gardens, and second breakfasts too.

Whilst we’d had a spot of breakfast back at White Nest Hostel, there wasn’t much of it about thanks to the school or college party that had almost cleaned out the breakfast buffet selection.

A couple of bread rolls with marmalade and a cup of coffee weren’t going to set us up for the day, so coffee and a vending machine snack topped up the energy levels enough to last us until lunchtime.

Although I’d visited Alhambra back in 1999, there were only a few parts that I remembered seeing on that visit. With so much to see and take in, we took things nice and slow in the run up to joining the queue in readiness for our slot to get into Palacios Nazaries.

After queuing for a while and a bag check, we joined those starting to wend their way around the complex. We did hang back a bit because we’d noticed the amount of people who were wanting to photograph everything and then take selfies of themselves against the same views or interiors.

Taking things slowly had its advantages. We saw more than those doing Roadrunner impressions and had time to take things in. There were a couple of times when we couldn’t get into certain rooms, but we just held back a bit and got in when things were quieter.

We eventually exited the buildings and started to wander around the multi-level gardens adjacent to Palacios Nazaries for a while before hunger hit once more and lunch was declared.

Whilst we gave the vending machine coffee a miss this time, another machine served up not one, but two packs of sandwiches. Coffee came from the hut near the entrance to the Alcazaba fortress this time – good coffee, and rather strong too…

Once the coffee was downed, we entered the one way system in the Alcazaba, got the cameras out and then explored the fortress. I got told off for sitting on a wall rather than a bench, but once I’d found a proper seat, I could see that the wall was a bit older than the concrete I’d been sitting on at the top of it was older than I’d realised.

As Caroline and I made our way over to the Generalife and Summer Palace, my left leg started playing up thanks to some post-stroke muscle trouble, so I sat down to relax and do some reading.

Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindle app. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.

So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…

More tomorrow!

On the road…

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The road goes forever on…

Amazon came up with an offer that I couldn’t refuse last weekend.

The Kindle version of On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

It’s one of those books I’ve seen on other people’s bookshelves or heard references to on Marillion’s Clutching At Straws album, but also a tome that I’ve never read – yet…

Although I did a thirteen page analysis of a music video for the song On The Road by Lee Roy Parnell whilst at university in the 1990’s and have seen the film of the book a few years ago (on opening night as a time filler – both Caroline and I agreed that it was a few hours of our lives we were never going to get back!), I’ve never fancied reading the book.

Time will tell as to how long it will be before I read it or what I’ll think about it, but as it was just 99p, it was worth a punt!

TTFN!

Coming soon…

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More from Spain

Five days in Northumberland

Five days in North Norfolk

More thoughts on packing

Trip inspirations

Bits of news

Some silly stuff

Books, films and television programmes

Music

Classic kit

And links such as the one below…

We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.

They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…

http://www.ospreyeurope.com

TTFN!

LDN kit & caboodle

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We saw plenty of posters and displays for London Fashion Week when we hit London last Thursday, but practicality and warmth factors were in our minds when we were choosing clothes, footwear, bags and tech for the trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that cold and we did see a few city types wandering around in shirts rather than suited and booted.

There was a fair amount of Rohan and Peter Storm stuff worn last Thursday as both of us wore merino wool base layers under fleece jumpers and windproof (Caroline) or furry finish (me) fleece jackets and either travel jeans (C) or soft shell trouser (me).

Caroline’s Reiker shoes did the business over the fourteen or so miles walked in the course of the day. Although I’d chosen to wear a newish pair of specialist shoes from a respected brand, the cushioning wasn’t what was required for a day of pavement pounding – replacements are already being eyed up in running rather than outdoor shops…

Our day bags came courtesy of Healthy Back Bag (C) and the man bag I’d bought at Imperial College about eighteen months ago.

Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste kept the breath fresh whilst Tea Tree wipes and small size body sprays kept things smelling sweet (as did the decision to wear merino wool based tops under our fleece jumpers).

M & S socks with silver content also came in useful too as a means of combatting any trainer induced smelly feet…

Anything else? Well, the iPad Mini came in useful as I still hadn’t got a paper copy of the latest Pocket Rough Guide London before we set off, as did a mini map of the touristy bits of the city.

The iPad wasn’t used that much, largely because local knowledge gleaned from thirty years of visiting London came in useful. It did however get used for deciding what our next moves should be as we respectively quaffed a pint of bitter shandy and a half of Aspalls cider in a pub just off Piccadilly.

Did the choice of clothing, footwear, bags and tech cut it? Yes, providing you discount the battering my feet got because of those shoes!

The tech worked fine (the above pic from Harrods is from the iPad – my Nikon digital compact was also used on the day) and that’s just about convinced me to take the iPad out and about on a more regular basis…

And yes, this is the second iPad only posting on wisepacking!

The right guide?

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Which guide is the right guide for you?

There’s a whole lot of reading going on, largely because the weather around wisepacking towers is not that condusive to heading out, no matter what clothing/footwear is being used at the time…

There’s four paper guidebooks and two language helpers on the desk in readiness for our next trip and a new one on the Kindle section of my iPad too (this one’s a brand new revision of an existing title and I haven’t as yet found anyone selling the new paper version…).

The four on the desk are from Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness whilst the new Kindle on the iPad is a Pocket Rough Guide.

Why four books and why are they from different publishers?

That’s all to do with getting a more rounded picture of the places we’re going to as each has its own take on the cities and what there is to see and do. As you can see from the above photo, there’s a lot to be said for hanging onto old editions of guidebooks as these can provide further information as certain stuff may be mentioned in one edition of said book, but not another, even though the sight or establishment is still operating….

These guides from the big names are being complemented by a set of city guides in Kindle format from the Atsons and Unanchored series of eBooks or those produced independently by the authors themselves..

Some have been paid for whilst others have been free downloads, but all are being read to get more information and yes, there have been some good tips that are being noted and stored for use on the ground when we hit the cities we’re going to as a means of ensuring that our euros go that little bit further by not resorting to big name eateries for drinks or snacks.

At the moment, all of the main guidebooks are providing good information in a very readable format, something that is a great improvement on our findings when researching the various trips to Portugal.

Rough Guides were our favourites on these trips in either full country or Snapshot/Pocket Rough Guide formats. These paper tomes were used in conjunction with info gleaned from Julie Dawn Fox’s books on Portugal and Porto along with tips from Julie’s website – https://juliedawnfox.com

You may wonder why I favour paper books over techno books…

1) Because paper books are easier to read on the hoof.

2) The indexing is usually much better in paper books.

3) They don’t require charging up at regular intervals.

4) They’re more discrete to look at when out and about.

5) Sections could be copied or cannibalised from the main book, especially if you’re going to one town, city or area for a few days or a couple of weeks.

No matter what the information in the books, the format or who the publisher is, there’s one aspect that’s never left out or forgotten about – using our eyes and ears to discover places, events or eateries.

We’ve spotted posters on noticeboards about museums, stumbled across eating places, taken river trips or found interesting shops by just following instincts and heading off in what turned out to be the right direction…

Although I’ve just bought that new Pocket Rough Guide for the iPad, it’s only going to be used as a guide on a forthcoming trip.

Although the booking has been done, what we do when we get there is largely going to be made up as we go along. There’s a couple of daft ideas floating around, but whether they come to fruition is another matter…

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Not in a guidebook, but the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum was found after seeing a poster on the wall at a campsite washing up area…

What’s in the pockets?

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Langdale, Lake District, U.K.

News from the BBC News website regarding a multi-pocketed jacket to stash tech in whilst travelling or going about your daily business…

May pass on buying one though as I usually find a jacket with four pockets suffices as my wallet, keys & change are usually in zipped trouser pockets.

The other factor I would take into account is the amount of tech I take with me – a dumbass phone, a four year old basic Kindle and a basic Nikon point and shoot digital compact camera.

That’s all I need as I’ve found electronic guidebooks aren’t as user friendly as their paper counterparts (in full, photocopied or surgically reduced formats).

I have Kindle versions (and other format electonic guidebooks on my iPad Mini and my desktop), but I still prefer paper guidebooks.

What’s on the Kindle then? Travelogues, biogs, ‘how to’ books and the occasional novel too. Nothing too heavy though – I read to relax rather than fill the brain with stuff it doesn’t need!

The above pic is a reminder of where I used to read three books a week either in the pub or the tent after days out on the hills.

That link to the Beeb?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38527350

A-A packing… Part One

April to August 2016, the places, the packing

April 2016 saw us hit Blackpool in a big way. Yes, it was just before the May Day Bank Holiday, but even so, one would have expected warmth and sunshine rather than the biting winds and rain we encountered.

We did find some warmth, but that happened as Status Quo kicked off what’s been touted as their last electric tour.

So, what did we take with us for the two days/one night?

In my case it was a ten litre bag that I picked up at Imperial College, London last year whilst Caroline had a fifteen litre Healthy Back Bag.

I had my TNF hooded soft shell and was wearing a TNF microfleece zip neck over a Rohan tech tee plus Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers and Salomon Gore-Tex lined approach shoes.

Inside the bag was a travel towel, basic wash kit, my meds, socks, underwear, Rohan merino wool mix t-shirt, Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck fleece, Kindle and travel tickets plus the all important concert tickets…

Inside the soft shell pockets were a merino wool Edz beanie and the trusty Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera.

Caroline was similarly attired, only she’d chosen her TNF Windwall fleece jacket, her Berghaus PacLite jacket and Rohan jeans. She did however hit Primani for some leggings as she was feeling the cold and Millets didn’t have any base layer leggings left in stock.

Her bag also contained a Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck – it’s not often that we wear almost matching tops, but as we both wore them for the pre-show meal and whilst waiting around in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, we didn’t much care about matching!

The mix proved to be ideal for the mooching around we did before heading to the B&B. The choice of t-shirts and fleeces for the walk back into town, our meal, the show and the walk back to the B&B was a similar success.

Friday saw more rain and we were pleased that we’d had good conversation with the B&B owners before grabbing our bags and checking out. It was cold, windy and miserable!

We sheltered for a while in the RNLI shop before braving the beach, but it didn’t take long for us to hit The Albert & Lion on the seafront for a coffee in this Wetherspoons pub.

The coffee prepared us for the walk along the prom and then back around town before we headed to Harry Ramsden’s for a fish & chip lunch. It’s not often that I have a beer with lunch, but I was pleased we were inside as some of those looked as if they’d arrived for the bank holiday weekend appeared to be underdressed and blooming freezing as they walked on by.

As we headed back to Blackpool North Station for our train, a strange apparition appeared in the sky. Yes, the sun had come out – too late for us, but right on time for the couple of hundred people we saw leaving the station in search of a Bank Holiday break.

Ten days later and we were in the car heading for a holiday of two halves.

There had been a tentative plan to try and get a week to ten days in somewhere like Rhodes or Zante for a relaxing break, but it didn’t happen, so we thought laterally and came up with a plan.

Yes, we have Internet access via desktop, tablet and Caroline’s smartphone, but the idea for the first part of our break came from a paperback book – The Independent Hostel Guide.

I’d spotted Dales Bike Centre at Fremlington near Reeth, made the call and booked ourselves in for four nights in a room at their hostel accommodation (there’s also a bike shop, bike hire and cafe on site – along with 24 hour cake supply via honesty box for those  staying at the centre).

Swaledale was part of my old stamping ground as an instructor and whilst living in Darlington. Caroline knew it of old, but hadn’t been there for years.

As Caroline was taking her road bike with her to do some cycling, I was the Skoda driving equivalent of Thunderbird 2 – ready to offer assistance and with the hatchback available to be Pod 5… providing of course that both of us had a signal on our respective mobile phones.

Clothing choices for this trip were easy to sort out. The ten day forecast was set fair for both this and the next section, so in my case it was a mix of Rohan Core Silver t-shirts, Element t-shirts and the same company’s polo shirts to cover casual and smart casual situations. Trousers? Two pairs of 2015 Rohan Goas covered all eventualities.

The bag? The trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 that took all of the above plus jacket, camera, books, iPad, chargers and a bag of food too.

As Caroline was cycling, her clothing included Endura cycle pants, a Tenn cycle shirt plus a couple of Peter Storm pocketed tech t-shirts.

Tenn Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey  

Rohan Essence t-shirts and vest tops plus her Rohan jeans were worn off the bike and a Rohan fleece cardigan came in useful on the nights we hit local pubs for a meal and a drop of Guinness for me and cider for Caroline.

Now I said that this trip was a break of two halves as we had a cunning plan.

It did get changed though as we had to head for home sooner than expected to sort out two tyres for the Skoda – one was punctured and replaced, but once we got to Kwik Fit, it became apparent that we needed two new tyres.

Our overnight at home had been planned as we’d already packed stuff for the next part of the trip. But it did give us a chance to have a curry and do some washing, safe in the knowledge that it would be dry in readiness for the next morning…

More on Friday!

http://www.rohan.co.uk

http://www.tenn-outdoors.co.uk

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…