Archive | Books RSS for this section

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…

thumb_DSCN1850_1024

Your starter for ten… every time!

thumb_DSCN1166_1024

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…

DSCN0308

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…

New books and sparkies…

DSCN0122

Yes, it’s Tavira again – one of the first pics to appear on wisepacking.

Most of the morning has been taken up in going back for the future.

No, I haven’t taken delivery of a DeLorean, but I have been going back to the roots of wisepacking and looking at early posts from 2014.

Little did I know how it would develop. There have been a few hiccups, but I wouldn’t have guessed that visitors would come from all over the globe.

I expected views from the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and others from the usual suspects, but I didn’t expect views from Nepal, Turks & Caicos, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, Qatar, American Samoa and South Sudan.

The reason I’m going back to wisepacking’s roots is simple – there’s a work in progress which involves taking a look at what I’ve written over the last two years, updating it, editing and ensuring that the spelling is in English English rather than the American English that my word processing software keeps trying to correct it to…

Some 15,000 words are in the document file and I suspect that the end result may be around three times that word count.

The plan is to publish a Kindle book when the backpacker travel season kicks in and to update/upgrade or remake/remodel when necessary.

It’s just a short posting today as there’s a sparky (electrician to the uninitiated) coming along to look at the house lights after a problem occurred on Saturday afternoon.

We’re not dancing in the dark, but wandering around upstairs is being done carefully pace the sun’s gone down. Fortunately we have a street light out the front, so leaving the blind open on the landing helps overnight.

We’re not going to have power or indeed Wi-Fi later on, so the writing is done for now, the email needs to be checked and the Kindle pulled out when the power goes off.

Just wondering…

I’ve just taken advantage of an offer of a book for 99p on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s about an illegal immigrant to the UK, but don’t let that put you off in the wake of the news coverage of last night’s TV debate about the forthcoming referendum here in the UK.

This particular illegal immigrant travels light, comes from Darkest Peru and has developed a taste for marmalade sandwiches.

The name’s Paddington Bear… and may we recommend him to the house.

Even Nigel’s… allegedly!

Should it stay or should it go now?

No, I’m not referring to the UK‘s vote on June 23rd as to whether we stay in the EU or get the flock out of there… *

It’s a comment as to whether I take the Apple iPad Mini 2 that I bought a few months ago along when Caroline and I go travelling.

The sharp eyed may have noticed that there were no references to the iPad in the pieces I posted last week regarding packing for our recent visit to Tavira.

Yes, it was used the day before we headed off, but after the last emails and a look at the weather forecasts, the iPad was switched off and stayed at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the iPad and I’ve found it useful for checking emails, web browsing, watching programmes on BBC iPlayer and reading via the Kindle app, but I didn’t feel that it was going to be necessary to pack and use it whilst in Portugal.

There are times when it comes in very useful, especially when using it to log into newspaper websites that I can’t always access on the desktop.

Although the iPad has an adblocker installed, I can still read newspaper copy on the iPad without the need to look at anything up to 45 ads appearing…

One thing that is noticeable is the battery life. It may not use that much power when watching something like an edition of Michael Wood‘s recent series on China, but if you’re spending a bit of time on the Internet at different times of the day doing some research, then the battery does run down that little bit faster.

At the moment, I’m charging the iPad up on average about once every two days, which is fine by me as it can be on the desk charging from the mains charger whilst I’m doing stuff on the desktop.

On a different note, there are also recollections of a couple of recent meals out when several were constantly checking their smartphones or indeed checking stuff on their iPads rather than talking to their fellow diners…

Now this wasn’t just something that was spotted here in deepest Yorkshire.

It was also spotted in Tavira as people checked their phones by the pool to find out what TA had to say about a restaurant they were thinking of dining in, check their emails and other assorted goings on via their phones.

Although a couple of individuals were using iPads or laptops in the cloisters of the Pousada, one couple had his and hers tablets that they were using at the breakfast table in the dining room rather than talking to each other.

Were they techie obsessed twenty or thirty somethings? Nope, they were silver surfers!

I’m still not ruling out taking the iPad with me when we head off somewhere, but the booking of our next trip just proved that you don’t necessarily need to have one when you’re researching a potential destination and accommodation in said destination.

I’ve been using the iPad to track prices on four different websites for a potential visit to the Greek Islands. The prices were right, the flight times were right in some cases and the parking fees at Manchester Airport could be lived with. I’d even got a trio of brochures to do some cross-referencing with as I did the surfing…

But then it happened. The iPad needed a charge so I plugged it in and then remembered a book that I’d leafed through a few times since it arrived last year – the 2015 paper edition of The Independent Hostel Guide.

Its proved useful in the past and it came up trumps once more. A hostel somewhere in England that offered B&B accommodation at a reasonable price in an area that I know quite well, even though it’s 15 years since I was last there and over 20 years since I took groups there for three or four day backpacking trips.

Old technology ruled as I used a phone to make the booking and pay the deposit and the only time that ‘new’ technology got involved was when I received the confirmation email yesterday and when I checked the bank a few hours ago.

So on this occasion it was a case of “Apps? Where we’re going, we don’t need apps!”.

I used the paper copy of the Independent Hostel Guidehttp://www.independenthostels.co.uk

And that * above? I’m very happy to maintain the status quo and keep on rocking all over the world!

And Europe too…

 

Reading matters II

It’s not often that I’ll dive in and take advantage of an offer regarding cheaper guidebooks on Lonely Planet’s website, but after seeing one of their emails a few minutes ago, I just have.

There’s been a few offers on recently, the latest being a 30% off promotion, but when a 45% off promotion rears it’s head, it’s very, very tempting to take advantage of it, especially when it’s also got a free postage offer attached to it as well (providing that you spend over £25 of course). And yes, I have ordered paper guidebooks again!

The books in question are the Lonely Planet guides to Andalucia, India and The Trans-Siberian Railway and guess what? They’re all the latest editions of these guides and they’ve been chosen because each one relates to places of interest.

At the top, this collection of titles should have cost me £50.97

What did I pay? £28.02… a saving of £22.95 which effectively meant that the India guide was free as it normally retails at a full price of £20.99 here in the UK.

And the moral of the story – it’s worth signing up to company newsletters and emails as the news that sometimes comes your way can sometimes be to your advantage!

Especially when it’s a secret deal and it comes just one day after Caroline and I took advantage of some substantial savings on Rohan kit thanks to their email about final sale reductions.

The Rohan sale finishes on Sunday 24th January by the way…

Reading matters…

One of the pet peeves that I (and several others) have on travel forums is the constant flow of posts that are placed in the wrong category completely or are expecting fellow posters to sort out and virtually organise a trip for the person making the original post.

For the most part, my initial comment is to suggest that the original poster buys an appropriate guidebook to the country or area that they’re visiting (one of the forum sites I frequent belongs to a well-known guidebook publisher) and then they can take a look at the suggestions offered in the book or to come up with their own suggestions based upon what they’ve read.

Some take up this suggestion and thank myself or others that have made similar suggestions whilst others still expect others to do their homework for them by posting multiple questions on the forums over a number of months, even though the answers could have been at their fingertips all along if they had taken the suggestion and bought a guidebook.

We’re currently researching two trips at the moment and there’s four paper country or area guides on the desk in front of me for the first trip and two paper guidebooks (plus several free or paid for books on my Kindle) that are already being looked at for the second trip later in the year.

Although I have accessed some of those Kindle books on my iPad, I suspect that some information may be copied into a notebook for use in country along with the appropriate paper book that we’ve taken along with us.

Paper guidebooks don’t need to be charged up or need a signal to operate. Yes, gadgets can operate offline, but if the power goes down where you’re staying, the battery’s kaput or the smartphone/dumbass phone/tablet/laptop or whatever breaks down or gets nicked, you may well be up S**t Creek without a paddle.

And that’s why we still love paper guidebooks, even though both of us were early adopters in terms of computer use and ownership of mobile phones and then smartphones.

And why Caroline was a bit put out last week when her Android smartphone stopped charging when the battery carked it a few minutes after she’d plugged the charger in.

The network shop in our nearest city were great on the customer service front when we went in about it, but we’re still waiting for the phone brand’s customer service department to email the return information that they promised to send Caroline six days ago. D’oh!

A frivolous round-up of 2014!

Most enjoyable films

Paddington

Mr Turner

Pride

Most enjoyable piece of music

Happy by Pharrell Williams – the only song that caught my attention in 2014. Yes, the music scene has changed somewhat since my days of seeing more than 160 bands in a year!

Most enjoyable television programmes (as seen here in the UK – not sure whether they’re available elsewhere!)

Great Continental Railway Journeysis Michael Portillo stepping into Palin’s (Michael, not Sarah!) shoes as our leading travel broadcaster?

Speed with Guy Martin – still crashing (at 90 miles an hour with just a scratch on his crash helmet in the last one of the latest series), but getting various records along the way.

Marshall amplifier documentary on BBC4 – can’t remember the exact title, but it was the story of the UK’s iconic rock amp brand

Books

My Autobiography by Guy Martin

The Moon’s A Balloon by David Niven

The People’s Songs: The Story Of Modern Britain In 50 Records by Stuart Maconie 

UK Destinations (further afield on the agenda for 2015!)

Suffolk – unexpected pleasure that’s going to get at least one return visit. There will be a piece on here in early 2015.

North Norfolk – the place of many visits now. Relaxing, peaceful and a delight. There will be a piece on here in early 2015 too!

Langdale Valley – two visits in a month. No mobile phone reception and the week in an apartment was nice and quiet – unlike the two campsites visited over the August Bank Holiday weekend. That weekend was a one-off, because I don’t usually head off on a Bank Holiday!

Views

Up the Langdale Valley from above Elterwater Village

The view from Southwold Pier – complete with inland lighthouse

Take your pick of those on the North Norfolk coast…

Attraction

Flixton Air Museum, Suffolk – wasn’t in the guide books, a poster was spotted on the notice board at a camp site.

National Media Museum, Bradford – first visited in 2000, plenty of other visits since!

Salt’s Mill, Saltaire – galleries, a good book shop, art shop, home shop, outdoor shop and a busy diner too.

Fodder Bailey’s Torte at Treeby’s Gallery Cafe, Keswick

Bacon, sausage and egg bun,  Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale – look for the motorbikes and you’ve found the right place!

Lamb Rogan Josh and Chapatis at The International, Bradford – good choice before or after a film at the nearby National Media Museum or a show at The Alhambra (or a gig by The Mission at Rio’s).