It’s Wednesday and it’s a rest day around Lisbon
Now we couldn’t just do nothing, but we had a lie in, a chat with fellow Brits about Lisbon and then we headed out for a wander around nowhere in particular.
The Botanical Gardens appeared to be a good place to start this day of wandering aimlessly. We paid our money, headed in and I decided to indulge in a spot of photography whilst Caroline explored the gardens.
Which was a nice idea, but my Nikon had other ideas. Fortunately my camera hadn’t died a death (which was the fate of my Lumix in 2013 and the reason why I’d bought the current Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera in Lisbon a few days later).
I’d checked the battery on Tuesday, but it was now as dead as a dodo so that potential hour of photography became another chance to read from the Kindle as I waited for Caroline to show up. The slow day was a good idea as it gave us the chance to just see what took our fancy as we headed through Principe Real, through Baixa & Chiado and onwards to Rio Tejo.
Nothing was planned. We wandered in and out of shops, had coffee, had lunch and just relaxed rather than haring off like Roadrunner or Speedy Gonzales. The information centre shop sold me some stationery items and a cotton shopping bag that could be stuffed into my day bag – Portugal had adopted plastic carrier bag charges, unlike England at that moment in time…
There were several drinks stops as we combatted the high temperatures with fruit juices, Coke Zero and Sagres Radler beer plus the obligatory bottle of water in our day bags.
After a relaxing day, we had a plan for Thursday as we’d decided to head to Sintra. An enquiry at the ticket office revealed that we could use our Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards on trains to Sintra, something that we weren’t aware of at that time…
Siestas were declared on return to Lisbon Dreams then showers and a quick change happened before we went to The 39 Steps for our evening meal. The outdoor eating option was taken once more, drinks arrived and food was ordered, but unfortunately we didn’t expect an unexpected cinematic reference to occur.
I’d had a very good pasta and salmon main on our first visit to The 39 Steps, so Caroline ordered this for her main this time whilst I went for something completely different.
When the meals arrived, it looked like Caroline‘s order had been lost in translation. Instead of pasta with salmon, pasta with shellfish was placed in front of her.
Our waitress was very, very apologetic about the error, but Caroline decided to tackle the staring shellfish head on as it were rather than having to watch me eat my meal as she was waiting for her ordered meal to arrive. C’est la vie as the French say…
Thursday saw an early start and boy were we pleased when we got to Rossio Station and zapped our Viva Viagem cards at the barriers in front of the platform for the Sintra train. There were queues at both the ticket machines and manned ticket windows – long queues.
Once in Sintra, there was a choice to make of where to go first. We walked down to the Palacio Nacional, had coffee and Caroline paid a return visit this palace and then Quinto da Regaleira with its main building and impressive gardens complete with terraces, grottoes, fountains and the Initiation Well (which comes complete with its own entrance via a revolving stone door).
Palacio Nacional, Sintra
Whilst Caroline took a look at both of these impressive sights, I wandered around with a fully charged camera. The Toy Museum had closed its doors, so I took to the streets, explored the various alleyways and tried to avoid the midday sun….
Two views of Sintra…
As you may have guessed, I’m not one for museums, palaces or elaborate gardens. Caroline is and we have a mutual understanding that I’ll find something else to do whilst she’s off exploring historical places or galleries.
If there’s a museum dedicated to cars, flight or an exhibition on music or rock photography, I’m there like a shot, but if it’s historical, I’m with Rudge’s view on history as expounded in a memorable scene from The History Boys.
The quote’s a good one, but given that this is a free site without age restrictions, it can’t be quoted here!
Yes, I have an O level in History, but that’s from 42 years ago and my views on the subject have changed somewhat and I’m more interested in more modern history rather than what went on in days of yore…
Caroline enjoyed both Palacio Nacional and Quinto da Regaleira and was full of enthusiasm for both when we visited a very quiet outdoor cafe cum art shop on the way back into the centre. The town was quiet as we walked back to the station and so was the train, a welcome experience as the train had been crowded on the way to Sintra.
The return to Lisbon Dreams was equally quiet and as we’d had rather a good lunch in Sintra, we raided the mini market for bread, cheese and a bottle of wine for our evening meal. Rustic? Yes, but a fine way to end a grand day out.
And finally – Part IV. Museums, Os Tibetanos, the inspiration for Casino Royale and wine tasting in Cascais…
All quiet in Praca do Comercio, but not for long…
Wheelie good way to get around Lisbon?
If it’s Monday, it must be Lisbon without a plan.
Although we’d booked flights, accommodation and had Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards to get around, we hadn’t come up with a cunning plan as to what to do during the week we were in Lisbon. Yes, we had had a few thoughts about where we wanted to go, but nothing had been set in stone as to what to do on any particular day.
Our first problem came within a few metres of Lisbon Dreams. As the temperatures were high and we’d already slathered Nivea Factor 50 suncream over any exposed skin (the rest was covered by SPF protective clothing) to combat the sun and the high UV levels, we decided to get a couple of bottles of water to stash in our day bags.
Problem was a) we’d forgotten how cheap bottled water was in Portugal and b) we’d put all of our loose change into the tips bowl at Terra on Sunday night, leaving us with €10 notes as the smallest type of local currency in our respective travel wallets or pockets.
Big mistake as we were to find out for the first time on that not so manic Monday. We were armed with two bottles of water and a €10 note at a mini market check-out early in the morning and faced with an operator who didn’t speak much English who had very little loose change in his till. He made it, but it wasn’t an easy task.
As we wandered into Lisbon city centre on what was to become a familiar route, we noticed a couple of things. There were more armed police around than there were during our last visit and they appeared to be stationed outside banks and high end jewellery shops or on street corners near such establishments.
The other was that there appeared to be a protest of sorts happening as signs and small crosses were placed on the pavement outside one of the larger bank branches.
As we found out later, there had been a banking crisis in Portugal that we didn’t know about and the crosses and signs alleged more than we could gather from a short conversation later in the day.
Once in the city centre around Rossio Station, a decision was made to head down to Praca do Municipo for a coffee at Cafe Tulipa, a favourite haunt on our last visit to Lisbon. We’d visited the square before Michael Portillo (on one of his Continental Railway Journeys), but noticed that a set of alien-like sculptures had landed since our visit in September 2013…
Where’s the packet of Smash? (an old joke relating to an old UK advert)
Once refreshed, it was time to revisit a surprisingly empty Praca do Comercio. Segways came and left and we decided to take a wander around an area we’d missed out on during our first visit – Alafama. Now you can head up the easy way on Tram 28, but we took the hard way by using our feet.
Caroline took in the Se (pictured above) as we headed towards Alafama and then Castelo de Sao Jorge. The streets, gardens and rooftop views along the way had us stopping to take photo after photo and also sidestepping various street hawkers with hands full of sunglasses or selfie sticks.
As it was lunchtime as we approached Castelo de Sao Jorge, we decided to have lunch as the castle appeared to be getting rather busy. Now we’re used to having curry dishes as we live in Yorkshire, but this was the first time that we’d had curry dishes for a lunchtime meal.
Arco do Castelo turned up trumps, even though their dishes were a few degrees milder than the curries we’re used to around home. What did impress us was that quality of their freshly cooked naan breads – probably the best naan breads that we’ve ever tasted in any of our visits into curry houses in Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Somerset.
And so to Castelo de Sao Jorge (above). We paid, we wandered and wondered why there were so many young people in there wearing Minions t-shirts. It turned out that it was all part of an international summer school outing and the best way for those in charge to keep tabs on their charges was to look for those Minions t-shirts.
With the heat kind of getting to me, Caroline wandered around more than I did as I found some shade, drank some water and then tried finding an ice cream. I found one, but I didn’t expect such a palaver surrounding the purchase of just one Cornetto.
Yes, the curse of no change struck again, even though I’d tendered a €5 note this time!
One of the reasons why we like Lisbon is that it’s a relaxed and laid back capital city. There’s no rushing around like ants as there is in London for instance. Although it was now mid-afternoon, there was still plenty to see and do in a quietly relaxed manner.
Museu de Design e da Moda (Museum of Design and Fashion) is set in a former bank, is free to visit and plays host to loads of design classics of all kinds and has guest exhibitions down in the former bank vaults too.
After that, it was time to head back to Praca do Comercio and down to the edge of Rio Tejo to board a sightseeing boat as a means of getting a different view of some of the place we’d by now decided to visit the next day – Belem.
It was cooler too as we were under the shelter at the stern of the boat and the breeze on the river was a welcome relief from the heat we’d encountered so far. We did’t hear too much of the commentary coming from the speakers, but that wasn’t important as we used our eyes to view and made sparing use of our cameras.
The images captured on memory cards were of those sights that we were to see the following day, but the shots were taken from a totally different perspective and that alone made the river trip worth it…
Once back on dry land, we headed back to Lisbon Dreams for a late siesta, shower and a wander out for an evening meal. We’ve eaten out at cinema cafes before, but The 39 Steps cafe bar at Cinemateca Portuguesa is probably one of the best we’ve eaten in.
The cinema itself had shown one of our favourite films a few days before – Casablanca – as part of a Bergman retrospective, but The 39 Steps was worth the visit on its own terms. Mains, desserts, fruit juice, beer and coffee went down well, so much so that we decided to visit the same venue again later in the week.
Tuesday was a one stop day – Belem. Tram 15 to Belem was crowded, so much so that both of us paid close attention to bags and wallets, especially after the pickpocketing warnings. First up was the Centro Cultural de Belem and the Berarado Collection contained within the Centro Cultural.
Whilst I visited the former and had lunch too, I gave the latter a miss thanks to the officious staff member who wanted to take my day bag off me. Caroline wandered in whilst I read a book on my Kindle and watched as several people wandered into the Collection with bags that were much larger than mine and infinitely more capable of hiding any potentially stolen pieces of artwork.
There had been mention made of depositing bags at reception, but it was near the ceiling on a left hand side wall near the entrance rather than being on a graphic as one entered the reception area!
The three other places to go in Belem are the Padro dos Discobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) as seen above in the top photo of the two just above this piece of copy and Torre de Belem.
As we were there after lunch, both places were very busy with tourists wanting to see the view from the top of each site or to take both proper shots or selfies with their phones. The lesson learned? Get there early before the tour buses or crowded trams as a means of getting the place almost to yourself – that’s what we’ll be doing on our next visit!
And the third place in Belem? Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a consumer temple to pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and their customary dusting of cinnamon.
They’re great with coffee, but one each just isn’t enough. Yes, you can get them over the summer in the Co-op here in the UK, but they’re not quite the same as those from Belem, even when you do the cinnamon sprinkling thing…
After catching Tram 15 back to Lisbon, a decision was made to eat early, so we went in search of a budgetary gem – full-on chicken dinner at Bon Jardim, Rei dos Frangos in Rua Barros Querios near Rossio Station.
The establishment runs from three sites in the same street and there’s chicken, fries and salad galore plus a host of other choices too. There may have been three crabs in the tank inside the restaurant window when we arrived, but there were still three when we left after generous portions of piri piri chicken and one or two beers too.
A long post this one, but tomorrow’s about gardens & galleries in Lisbon plus a return visit to Sintra.
Deepdale Backpackers, Burnham Deepdale, North Norfolk
There are times when we just pack a bag and head off at short notice for a few days r & r to a place where there’s almost no mobile phone reception.
Which is exactly what we did in early June last year. Caroline had a few days between shifts and once a couple of things were rearranged, we headed pointed the car towards one of our favourite haunts – North Norfolk.
Our place of choice on all bar one of our visits to the area has been Deepdale Backpackers, a hostel with both dorms and en-suites plus a campsite, tipis, yurts and shepherd’s huts. There’s a supermarket and petrol station next door, a cafe, a few retail outlets and a couple of decent pubs in walking distance.
Holkham Hall is just down the road, as is Holkham Beach (as seen at the end of Shakespeare in Love) along with Burnham Market (if you can find a parking space and successfully negotiate other road users who make you remember a memorable Bruce Willis line from Die Hard (“Who’s driving this car? Stevie Wonder?”).
National Trust has several properties in the area and whilst we’ve been to Fellbrigg Hall and Blickling Estate before, Oxburgh Hall was a new one on us and visited as we’d just renewed our National Trust membership just before our visit.
Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham – a National Trust property
Also in the area is Holt. Bakers and Larners department store. It’s always worth a visit as it has a food hall that caters for all tastes, especially if you’re a foodie.
We’re not, but we can usually find something in the food hall for a snack, evening meal or a top up on sweet stuff such as nougat or Turkish Delight.
The kitchen department has also had some trade from us too as we had some difficulty a couple of years ago in finding decent potato peelers.
Did we stock up on three of these? Yes, even though they were flagged up as Lancashire Potato Peelers (we’re from Yorkshire!).
On the outskirts of Holt is one of the end stations on North Norfolk Railway, the other being Sheringham on the coast. Steam and classic diesel trains run between the two, giving passengers a hint at what rail travel used to be like before before Beeching’s axe fell on so many rail lines around the UK.
The beach at Sheringham, plus granite blocks to prevent erosion..
Guess why there’s rope near the slipway in Sheringham
Sheringham is another place we try to visit when we’re down there, either to wander along the promenade or do the odd bit of shopping for bags of fudge at the RNLI shop in the town.
Thankfully this was a sunny day so we could wander around without wearing two down garments (one down jacket, one down vest) each or ponder what steps to take when we spotted the Amy Bomb Disposal Team taping off the beach (the answer to the steps question was easy – bloody big ones!).
Yes, both of these had happened during a past visit – on the same day!
Caroline also likes to get out and do some cycling when we’re in North Norfolk, either on her own charger or on a hire bike. Coffee stop is usually at Holkham Hall or Wells-Next-The-Sea and lunch is wherever we find that’s worth stopping off at.
On this occasion it was a pub we’d driven past, but had never visited. It was pleasant enough place, but there were a couple of perceived problems with my meal…
When did it become almost compulsory to serve decent burgers in Brioche Buns? And when it did it become almost compulsory to slather salad with a salad dressing?
After this experience, it’s now compulsory for ask for a standard bun on a decent burger and for any salad to not be coated in salad dressing. Any that don’t comply get sent back, no messing!
Just don’t get me started on places serving roast beef or lamb which is pink, bloody or both. You wouldn’t like it when I’m angry!
Next stop? Liverpool John Lennon Airport & Lisbon!
If it’s Tuesday then it must be Wells…
We’d joked about visiting Wells, largely because Caroline and I are both fans of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film Hot Fuzz.
Hot Fuzz can be regularly caught on ITV, but we have it on DVD for those nights when Caroline comes back in from a 14 hour nursing shift and needs a little bit of light relief.
Spotting the locations used in Hot Fuzz is fairly easy (although the National Trust shop seen in the film has closed down), but even so, taking a look around Wells doesn’t take too long unless you’re having a meal or taking a wander around the Cathedral.
I chased coffee, went to the bank and had a look in a camera shop whilst Caroline visited the Cathedral (it’s a long, long time since I went to church for anything other than a wedding).
As seen in Hot Fuzz…
With the Wells visit taking just a few hours, we headed back to Dragonfly, parked up and then went for a wander along the canal as far as the cafe at Maunsel Lock where a coffee and cake stop was declared.
Now this may have been a Tuesday, but the cafe was quite busy with people stopping off as they were taking advantage of a rather fine day. Some were walking, some were walking their dogs whilst others were cycling or taking a look at the planetary sculptures placed by the side of the canal.
After what was now a full day out, an executive decision was made not to do much cooking on the night so the car was fired up in search of food.
No, we didn’t go to the pub, but we did hit the service area just off the M5 near Bridgwater. Yes, there’s an M&S Food outlet there so it was salad time for Caroline whilst I indulged in a pack of chicken portions.
The latter may be snack food, but by ‘eck it tasted good once heated through in accordance with the instructions on the pack (I have had food poisoning before after eating chicken, one reason why I’m not rather picky when it comes to food being cooked properly – losing a stone and a half in a matter of days isn’t my idea of fun!).
And so to Wednesday.
As Caroline had Betty Bike with her, it was time to take Betty out for a ride to Taunton via the canal tow path. I took the car down to Taunton and got my bearings in a town that I know reasonably well from visiting friends in the town during the late 1980’s and a work trip in Y2K.
Although I remembered my way around town, it didn’t appear to have the same appeal as it did all of those years ago. Maybe that’s down to most towns and cities having the same shops in them which have sounded either the death knell of local traders or marginalised them to secondary locations where the rents and business rates are more affordable.
But I digress. Caroline arrived in Taunton and a light lunch in a nearby pub was declared. Once consumed, we had a wander around and Caroline got back on the bike and headed back to Dragonfly whilst I tried to leave Taunton.
With both of us back at the same destination, there was a problem. Betty had a flat and there appeared to be something up with the other tyre too. I knew of a bike shop in Bridgwater, but they weren’t able to help, so it was time to hit Halfords.
So Halfords was found, the problems explained and fixed whilst we went to top up our caffeine levels in the centre of Bridgwater. Once back, it was time to pay for two new tyres and a couple of spare inner tubes and we were on our way once more.
Whilst we prefer to deal with smaller concerns when it comes to food, bikes, photography, computers etc, on this occasion it was ironic that a large trader had come to Caroline‘s rescue.
There may have been question marks over using a big shop, but Halfords did the job and did it well, just as they have in the past with the couple of bikes I’ve bought from them in the last thirty years.
And in Part III…
A town before a festival, a motor museum and home – that’s tomorrow’s posting folks!
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!
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
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…
With the after-effects of a head cold hanging around, it’s been time to catch up on some TV and films.
Several of the celebs taking part in The Real Marigold Hotel appeared to be sporting some large bags for their three week stay in India, whilst Michael Portillo still appears to travel with a small wheelie bag…
Even those in The World’s End had cracked the problem as they stashed their bags in the boot of Gary King‘s elderly Ford Granada before tackling The Golden Mile and a loads of Blanks.
Mind you, Pegg and Frost appeared to have large packs in their rented RV in the film Paul – the eponymous alien appeared to be travelling light though by carrying the same kind of bag sported by Neil Oliver of Coast fame).
One programme that I caught on The Travel Channel last week was Around The World In Eighty Days with Michael Palin.
Apart from the dinner suit that was posted home after a rail journey on The Orient Express, Michael’s bag of choice appeared to be a very full Billingham style travel bag.
The journey was however taken in the days before smartphones, dumb-ass phones, tablets, laptops or Kindles and if memory serves me right, Michael was carrying quite a few books with him as he travelled the globe.
Nowadays, I suspect that Michael would be travelling in a much lighter manner, yet still carrying his own stuff, especially as his camera and production crew had their own bags to carry around plus all the technical kit needed to record the images and sounds whilst on the road.
Mind you the crew would now be using the latest broadcast technology to do the same job, so their kit bags and cases would also be smaller, lighter and more manageable…
On a different note though, Jason Bourne appears to travel light, as does the British super spy who has the same initials.
Go back further in television history though and there are a couple of characters that spent three series apparently living out of two pairs of saddlebags in the wild, wild, west.
Who am I talking about? Hannibal Heyes and ‘Kid’ Curry – Alias Smith and Jones of course! Not only did they have the stuff needed for any ranch work, they also managed to pull smart suit and shirt combinations out of the hat on several occasions. Awesome!
Well, there’s been a lot in the media recently about the subject of time travelling and most of it has been prompted by the date Marty McFly ended up in during the course of Back To The Future II.
Whilst the news crews have featured this story and the trilogy has been back in cinemas for one night only or screened back to back on TV here in the UK, the subject of time travel also came up in another film screened over here on Film 4 during the last week.
I’ll let you know what it is at the end of this post, but the concept of time travel mentioned in the film is so simple that you have to roll the dice and try it out!
How many of us have taken a flight from our home country and ended up in a different time zone?
See – time travel!!!
Okay, it doesn’t work if you’re going from the UK to say Portugal as it’s in the same time zone, but if you’re heading into other parts of Europe for instance, then yes, you’re a time traveller.
It even works if you’re crossing time zones in the States (which is the cinematic criteria highlighted in that film I’m going to mention…).
So, you can time travel in a silver 1980’s sports car or in a plane, train, bus, ferry or even by hopping from one side of a time zone to another – unless you’re going from the UK to Portugal. Go from Portugal to Spain though and yes, time travel!
It’s daft, it’s frivolous and it’s Monday morning,but what the heck – anytime is good to be silly and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face! And looking at the places mentioned in the wisepacking.me stats list, we’re being checked out by people in several different time zones.
And the name of that film – Paul.
Written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s a road trip movie with a difference – there’s an alien that’s phoned home, curses like crazy and likes the odd smoke too. Yes, you can spend a lot of time spotting the cameos, the voices and the references to other sci-fi movies or you can leave the brain at the door and simply enjoy a film that takes the mickey out of life, society and the establishment.
We’d have liked to spend more time in Suffolk, but the original plans were scuppered thanks to a business meeting back in Yorkshire. Fortunately, we saw enough to make us want to revisit the area and ensure that the time was devoted to pleasure rather than business.
Neither of us had been to Suffolk before, but taking a look at comments made in Lonely Planet’s Great Britain guide and the National Trust handbook, there was more than enough to take a look at at least once, if not twice in some cases.
As the forecast was in our favour, accommodation and food costs plummeted as we decided to use a trusted Vango backpacking tent for the trip. No, you can’t stand up in it, but there’s plenty of room inside, especially when the rest of the kit is stored in the Skoda next to the tent.
The first day was a mix of travelling, eating and finding our way as we still use road books rather than rat nav. Campsite choices had been made via www.ukcampsite.co.uk. The first was Mill Hill Farm Caravan & Camping Park near Darsham (£13 a night for two people, that small tent and a car) and the second was Brighthouse Farm near Lawshall (£8 a night plus £1 each for shower tokens).
After a decent night’s sleep, some good coffee and a couple of bacon butties, we set off with the intention of heading to Southwold for a wander around and Sunday lunch. That didn’t happen.
The Southwold part did, but lunch ended up being coffee, scones and ice cream at a beach cafe after a front tyre punctured and the wheel nuts wouldn’t budge.
I’d taken my phone with me to deal with business matters, but it took a while for the road rescue operator to a) confirm that I did have cover with that insurer and b) realise that we were over 200 miles from home and didn’t know what was in the village apart from the much repeated road name attached to a road sign and a post box that were in plain sight…
When the rescue service turned up, everything was sorted in five minutes. The local tyre provider was closed for the day, so we headed off in search of a new tyre elsewhere and/or lunch. The tyre search was abandoned after an hour, so we headed for Southwold.
Once parked, we headed onto the pier Southwold Pier is one of those that has been looked after and whilst the shops along it were a bit on the pricey side for us, the views, Steampunk style features and more meant we spent time looking rather than glancing and wandering off to somewhere else.
Like the prom… Well, I was on the prom and Caroline was on the beach as I have problems walking on soft sand or snow. While Caroline made the most of the waves upon the sand, I sauntered along taking photos of the pier, beach huts and Southwold’s famously inland lighthouse. The town itself is reminiscent of town centres of old (well, the sixties and early seventies before developers turned towns into identikit locations) with only a few names that I recognised from home.
With Sunday trading hours and the earlier puncture time-bombing our exploration of Southwold, we only had time to take a look around a couple of places. We did make a promise to ourselves to make a return visit at some point, even if it was just to take a longer look around the Adnams shop and to book a place on the same company’s brewery tour.
It could be pure coincidence, but in the ten days prior to posting this piece, Southwold has been spotted in a repeated edition of Coast and on the DVD of Tony Benn: Will And Testament...
With a sudden rain shower putting a real dampner on things, we headed back to the car and onwards to Aldeburgh. Yes, it was Sunday after 5pm and it was still raining, but there were a few places open and as we’d been cheated out of lunch, a decision to go for a sit down fish supper was made.
With Caroline choosing the Mid-Shipman’s Choice at The Upper Deck Diner, I decided to go for The Admiral’s Choice and went for mushy peas as a side order. Big mistake. I know I have a healthy appetite, but the portion size almost got the better of me! The coffee went down well, but any thoughts of having a dessert went right out of the window…
After getting the tyre replaced on Monday morning, one place that wasn’t in the guide books beckoned – Flixton Air Museum. A poster in the washing up area at Mill Hill announced its presence to one and all and the low key approach to promotion paid off, because it was a gem that was both free to enter and worthy of a couple of hours wandering around.
Now I have been to some air museums which charged admission fees that weren’t worth the money, but with displays including classic planes such as the Lightning, Sea Harrier, Canberra, Meteor, Hunter and Javelin, there was enough to make me want to put a decent donation into one of the collecting boxes around Flixton’s hangers. MIG fighter at Flixton… Fortunately there were a host of other items in the museum to keep Caroline’s interests up. One display in particular fascinated her as it caught the attention of her artistic eye. Some exhibits were recovered parts of crashed aircraft – part ghoulish, but also with that previously mentioned air of fascination too. My thoughts went in a different direction as my late father apparently survived forty-odd missions onboard Lancaster bombers.
With NAFFI scones and coffee for lunch, we headed back to Aldeburgh for an afternoon of wandering along the beach (or the shingle in my case as fishing boats and other items provided interesting photo opportunities). With Caroline investigating a large sculpture she’d seen further along the coast, I decided that it was time for an ice cream and a cold drink and a chance to wonder why I’d not listened to more of Benjamin Britten‘s music. One better day – fishing boat on the shingle at Aldeburgh The following day saw us striking camp and heading off towards Brighthouse Farm, but there was a major stop to be made.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Caroline’s the history buff and I’m all for Horrible Histories, but when you have a brace of National Trust cards between you and one of their crown jewels isn’t far away, then yes, you do spend best part of a day exploring Sutton Hoo. With the main finds on display in The British Museum, it’s good to know that the replicas on show at Sutton Hoo don’t disappoint. That large version of the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet (as seen above) is above the door of the main visitor interpretation centre, but the smaller version inside is exquisite.
I didn’t go on the tour around the burial chambers, but Caroline did and was rather enthusiastic about the experience afterwards. Would we go back to Sutton Hoo? Oh yes, but we would ensure it was out of term time or early on before any school parties arrive.
With two days and nights left, we made our way up to Brighthouse Farm to find that the site fees were smaller than those mentioned on their website, so we paid that £8 per night instead of £12 and found that we could spread out and even have our own picnic table to cook by and eat at.
Although we’d taken some food with us, we did buy locally too and found some local ales and cider to help the meals go down. Although we have cooked from scratch in the past whilst camping, we were being lazy this time and most of our food came from packets or tins in order to save money and gas.
With no sore heads the following morning, it was time to head out once more and give our National Trust cards another outing or two. It’s not often that there’s two properties so close together, but the plan had been hatched to head to Lavenham to look around Lavenham Guildhall and to have lunch before heading out to the much larger Melford Hall.
Lavenham is almost like the land that time forgot. The roads are relatively quiet, the car parking is free, the place is peaceful and the only signs that you’re not in the land that time forgot are cars, the modernised innards of the Co-Op and the name of a well-known chef that’s at the top of one of the pub signs near the Guildhall.
The Guildhall is quite small, but it tells the story of the area and the local blue cloth too. The platter on offer for lunch in the small cafe was more akin to a posh ploughman’s lunch, but both plates went down well, as did the coffee and soft drinks.
What we didn’t realise when we went to Lavenham is that it has been the location for major feature films such as Witchfinder General and the last two Harry Potters whilst the area (including Lavenham) was used as the setting for a television series that’s still being shown today- Lovejoy.
We didn’t get the chance to explore the village of Long Melford, but Caroline took time out for a wander around Melford Hall, although parts of it were closed at the time of our visit as the roof had leaked and some damage to carpets and furnishings had occurred. The gardens at Melford Hall (a National Trust property).
We did however wander around and take a couple of relaxed drinks in the garden, but as closing time beckoned, it was time to head back to the campsite and a chilli that benefitted from the addition of red wine from the bottle that had been bought to accompany that evening’s meal.
After packing up the camping kit the following morning, we headed off in a northerly direction once more, but we did have one major stop to make along the way. Ickworth near Bury St. Edmunds is suitably grand National Trust property with the house only open on certain days of the week.
The grounds are more accessible however with the gardens, shops and restaurant being open virtually all-year round. I decided to sit outside and chill whilst Caroline explored the main house, but it was one of the hottest days of the year and with little in the way of shade available, I headed back into The West Wing to find somewhere cool to sit before heading in for lunch and then back to the car for the drive home.
Our five nights and six days in Suffolk were relaxed, peaceful and very pleasant. As we headed home, we reflected on the fact that we’d never been there before and could quite easily have spent at least another five days on a more thorough exploration of the area.
We’d like to explore Southwold some more and have more time on the beaches or the chance to head over to Orford Ness National Nature Reserve and the associated remains of the adjacent Atomic Weapons Research Establishment…
We’d also spend more time at Aldeburgh and explore more of the towns and villages that we missed as we drove around. Oh, and might even call in at IWM Duxford Air Museum on the way there to see whether Guy Martin’s Spitfire is still there…