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Man bags…

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A very fine day on Isle of Man, but we were heading home!

The packing for our visit to Isle of Man was definitely a last minute affair.

I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area for a week or so and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).

Things did look good for the first three days of the nine day break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and clothes for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.

We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme about walking on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.

Words weren’t actually needed, because the visuals provided enough evidence of what she and the television crew were experiencing!

Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham to catch the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.

We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were then heading around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.

We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out rather than using hostels and self catering facilities, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.

There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.

The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.

In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed  into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.

We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our travel and outdoor clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.

Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof one with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs too.

The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.

Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.

These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.

A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.

Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas – and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.

Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.

And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.

Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack for a week to ten days away, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.

The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.

With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.

Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!

My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.

Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?

Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.

The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU

But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.

Her Nike Pac-Lite Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchases lightweight Rohan hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.

A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks,two pairs of Endura cycling socks, her Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of their travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.

Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.

We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.

Was everything used? Just about…

I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.

We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!

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News just in…

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Grabbing the bull by the horns?

Just spotted this one whilst looking through the newspaper websites a few minutes ago.

Also found the official announcement from Ryanair regarding their hand luggage policy.

Link to Ryanair announcement first, then to The Guardian’s story….

http://corporate.ryanair.com/news/new-cabin-bag-policy-delayed-until-mid-jan-2018/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/24/ryanair-delays-stricter-cabin-bag-policy

TTFN!

Top 10… travel hates!

Accomodation

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. have been to a few places that were rated by guidebooks or websites that were not as good as described.

Now tend to lump descriptions such asArt Deco’, ‘Cosy’ and ‘Quaint’ into other categories – In need of renovation’ or ‘Requires redecoration’.

Chuggers, lavender/selfie stick/sunglasses sellers, timeshare touts 

Usually have an avoidance mechanism that’s more nimble than a rugby player heading for the touchline in order to score a try.

Always amuses me when sunglasses sellers approach those already wearing sunglasses – either specs that have Transitions lenses (i.e. mine) or those wearing Ray Bans

Coffee

How hard is it for accomodation to provide good coffee at breakfast time?

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had bad coffee at guest houses, hostels and hotels – even at U.S. based name chain hotels or five stars!

Mind you, a few cafes that have had business from us following bad coffee mornings, usually just after we’ve left our accommodation.

Duff information

Or when guidebooks get it wrong. We’d checked two guidebooks about the opening times  for a leading museum earlier in the year and both said that it was closed on a Monday.

It wasn’t, as we found out when we walked past it and found an open door and a full set of opening times that looked like it had been there for a while…

Fast track

We’ve found that this usually means you go a shorter way around into security to find that there’s a long queue at security because other passengers haven’t bothered to read the does and don’ts of what they can or can’t take in their hand luggage.

Note to self – stop booking Fast Track and use the money to get a coffee or a meal deal at either WH Smith or Boots when airside and in need of something to eat that doesn’t cost the earth at airport bars/cafes/restaurants or cost twice as much as it does on the plane.

Officialdom

Yes, it’s those jobsworths who are determined to put a spanner in the works when it comes to shopping, visiting a museum or wanting to put your bags in left luggage lockers.

Step forward that supermarket in Paphos and the museum in Belem who wanted me to deposit my day bag and the bloke who didn’t know what had happened to the luggage lockers, even when we were at the office that a sign on the wall had pointed us to!

Phone users

Yes, those irritating people who walk along the street glued to their phones who are oblivious to everything else that’s going on around them.

Blocking the pavement or other walkway is one irritation, trying to sent a text whilst pulling a wheelie bag along is another and then there’s those who insist on taking selfies or photograph their food before eating it.

One phone user did come unstuck earlier in the year whilst visiting the Alhambra in Granada. She was so intent on taking a photo whilst walking forward that she didn’t notice the step down.

Cue scream and a badly damaged/potentially broken ankle… Ouch!

Rain

It rained four days out of seven whilst on Isle of Man last week.

We’d gone prepared as we’d taken decent rain jackets, but it did put a dampener on proceedings. Had the same problem in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Portugal and Spain too!

Restaurant rip offs

Step forward the place in Cordoba that tried to charge us for bread, even though we hadn’t asked for a bread basket and hadn’t eaten anything from it.

Same place claimed that they weren’t doing tapas, even though there was a rather well done set of tiles outside with the word tapas at the centre.

Restaurant or tour touts

Those who try standing in front of you as a means of getting you into their cafe, restaurant or onto a tuk-tuk.

Answer is always ‘No’ and if they don’t take the hint then it’s ‘No, no, no, no, no and no!’.

Which really brassed off one bloke in Malaga in March this year.

We walked passed that establishment later on and there weren’t many in it.

Wonder why?

Top 10… albums for the car

Abba Gold

One of the most successful acts of all time and this CD/DVD collection has all of the hits that you either heard at the time or reminded of the last time you watched Mamma Mia the movie or had a night at the stage show…

Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd

One of the best selling albums of all time that still sounds innovative more than forty years after it was first released.

One suspects that there’s a few successful albums from the last decade that won’t be held in such high regard in forty years time!

Hits Collection – Dusty Springfield

There’s a documentary that keeps reappearing on BBC4 that tells the story of Dusty Springfield and it makes for interesting viewing.

Almost all of Dusty’s hits are on this CD (the ones with Pet Shop Boys are missing), but it makes for a fine reminder of a singer that didn’t need Autotune or other modern recording techniques to commit a great song to analogue tape.

Hotel California – The Eagles

Yes, it’s that 1970’s classic album – the one you either like or hate (one of my University house mates hated it with a vengeance).

Can go a couple of years without playing it and then put it in the CD player and sing along with it all over again.

Live And Dangerous – Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy in fine fettle a few years before I blagged my way in to photograph the band.

I have both the CD and DVD versions of this album and it’s interesting to hear the stories regarding the finished album that are related by band members in interviews on the DVD.

No Sleep ‘Till Hamersmith – Motorhead

One of heavy metal’s heaviest bands caught live with the bomber lighting rig on the cover and their best tracks on the CD.

We Are The Road Crew was recorded at Newcastle City Hall – I know, because I was there!

I also know what the dedication was for the song No Class on that night….

Real To Real – Marillion

This is the Fish era live album from the 1980’s that sounds good thirty years on from its original release.

Garden Party and Market Square Heroes still hit the spot, especially when the car stereo is turned up to eleven!

The Essential Nina Simone

Name checked at least once in an episode of CSI Vegas and featured and mentioned in the Bridget Fonda film The Assassin, Nina Simone has one of those voices that pre-dated modern recording techniques.

The Collection is a three CD box set that mixes studio and live recordings that showcase one of the best singing voices of all time.

Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors – Fish

This was the former Marillion singer’s first solo album and I’d still rate it as his best so far.

All of the songs were heard first live in a mix of club, town hall, village halls and small cinemas in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland a couple of weeks before Vigil was released and there’s still memories of that rather hectic week lingering years later.

(What’s The Story) Morning Glory – Oasis

One of the few albums that really caught my attention when I was a student writing for a student newspaper back in the mid-1990s.

Others may disagree, but it is still Oasis’ finest album to date…

Top 10… Travel TV programmes

America Unchained

Dave Gorman and companions buy a car and all go to look for America.

Around The World In Eighty Days

Michael Palin may not have been the first choice to present this, but it works and is still an enjoyable series to watch so many years later.

Coast

Still prefer the original format rather than the new programmes or Coast AustraliaCoast New Zealand due soon apparently.

Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage

Francesco Da Mosto sailing around to visit Croatia, Greece and Turkey.

The Hairy Bikers

Baking, cooking and motorcycles in the UK, Europe and elsewhere too.

Inspector Montalbano

Sicily looking good in the Young/Classic versions of the detective series…

Italy From Top To Toe

Francesco da Mosto leaves Venice behind and drives in search of Italy.

Rick Stein’s Weekend In…

Rick’s an affable host as he hits Lisbon or Cadiz and more before recreating dishes in his kitchen. I usually make a cup of tea when he’s cooking seafood.

Time Team

An unusual choice? Think about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen along the way as they dig up the countryside, islands and city spaces.

World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides

Henry Cole explores the world on a variety of classic motorbikes.

Ryanair make changes

The BBC have just posted this news item on their website concerning Ryanair making changes to their hand luggage and hold luggage policies.

Should be interesting to see how this pans out when implemented in the not-too-distant future.

That link…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41171871

Northumberland II

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On the beach…

Where were we?

Ah yes, heading into Alnwick for some fodder for an evening meal.

I’ve made quite a few visits to the town over the years. Some for work, but most have been for pleasure. My best friend from University lived a few miles away and even had her wedding reception at Alnwick Castle, but there were quite a few nights out on pub crawls or single bar nights, usually at Oscars.

Which appeared to have closed down when I drove past it a couple of times. Parking in the town centre was a problem, but a bit of local knowledge came in handy as I headed out of town in the direction of Barter Books and turned right into Lidl’s car park.

With shopping for a couple of meals and breakfasts done, it was time to head back to Calico Barn for coffee, food and a snooze before catching up with email and then switching the iPad to Kindle mode for the rest of the night.

Wednesday wasn’t quite a repeat of Tuesday’s meanderings. Yes, I did some more work and then tried to get into Amble again afterwards, but that mission failed thanks to parking issues once more, so I just ended up mooching towards Alnmouth again and then headed to Newbiggin-by-the Sea.

After getting back to Cresswell, I drove past the hostel and turned onto a side track that led to the car park at Druridge Bay. It was busy and there had been a load of builder’s waste dumped near the footpath to the beach.

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Druridge Bay

Although I’ve visited Northumberland many times, this was the first time I’d been to Druridge Bay. It may have been half term, but the beach itself was pretty empty.

The above photo doesn’t do it justice, because it is a great beach and I’d only wished that the lighting conditions had been better from a photographer’s point of view.

One thing was blindingly obvious. I’m pleased that environmentalists stood up to the powers that be over thirty years ago and fought a successful campaign against plans to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay.

Little did I know that there was a public enquiry taking place down the road which was discussing plans for opencast coal mining near Cresswell. BBC’s Look North covered it in their 6.30pm news bulletin that night and whilst the public enquiry is over, the verdict isn’t due to be released just yet…

After a while on the beach, it was back to Calico Barn to freshen up, have a meal and relax for a while. I was due to be the only one staying in the hostel for a couple of nights, so I could spread out, take the best seat in front of the TV and have a beer or two.

There was a knock on the door though as two Dutch cyclists who were heading onto the adjacent campsite were wanting somewhere to buy food or get a meal. Caroline and Luke rode past and whilst I shouted to them in the hope of catching their attention, the wind took my words elsewhere and they didn’t hear me hollering!

I suggested that they try Cresswell village to see what was available in the pub or indeed at the caravan site shop, so off they went. When Caroline and I spoke later on, it transpired that she had heard something, but had dismissed it as she rode back after another long bike ride.

Thursday saw a bit more work going on until about lunchtime so lunch was taken at The Drift cafe just along the road from Calico Barn.

Which was rather busy. A bacon and haggis roll was ordered along with a Coke Zero and both went down well, especially that bacon and haggis combo… The two Dutch cyclists were also in there and the steady stream of customers suggested that The Drift is a rather popular feeding station.

After a drive around, I ended up in a couple of places I remembered the names of from news bulletins during my days of living in both mining communities and towns or cities in the North East of England.

Ellington and Lynemouth had been proud mining communities, but those days were over. When I asked locally what had happened to those people who had worked at the collieries, I didn’t get that much information apart from the mention of a mental health facility opening up in the area.

On returning to Calico Barn, it was time for an early meal and a plan for another relaxing evening. Then a couple of large cars pulled up containing two families who had booking in at the last minute. Peace and quiet did go out of the window, so I retreated to my room and promptly fell asleep.

When I woke up, all was quieter than New Year’s Day. After a snack, a beer and a phone conversation with Caroline, I turned in for the night, only to be woken up by those two families returning at 11.30pm. I was not amused…

Friday was departure day, so my stuff was packed up and left until I headed up to the caravan park to pick up Caroline, her bike and her couple of bags. Once done, it was time to get my bags and then let Caroline look around Calico Barn for a potential weekend base for her cycling club.

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Calico Barn Independent Hostel, near Cresswell, Northumberland

After that, it was time to go home. On relatively quiet roads and motorways for once!

Next week – North Norfolk in June…