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Hola – the bag contents…

Yes, I meant to post this last Friday, but our internet provider decided to do some upgrades on their system without telling the most important stakeholders in the process – their customers!

The Andalucia trip was twelve days long and involved a bus and train/coach ride to Manchester Airport, rail journeys between Malaga Airport and the city centre and then four coach journeys, the odd cab ride and some walking.

There were a few more things to consider – the three differing types of accommodation being used (hotel, pension and hostel), the need to cover up a bit in some of the places being visited (such asthe Cathedral in Seville or the Mezequita in Cordoba) and weather conditions (warm to hot during the day, cool on a night and rather wet in the case of one morning in Malaga.

And then there was the little matter of the size of hand luggage bags on RyanAir… which were some 5cm less on the depth of the bag compared to some of the other airlines we’ve flown with since we bought our Osprey Farpoint 40 travel bags.

The RyanAir pack size was adhered too with ease as we merely packed items that could be washed and worn, used as layering pieces for the cooler night time temperatures and we both included items with long sleeves for those times when the place we were visiting required arms to covered.

How did we stick to around 7.5kg each in the hand luggage?

By working within the rules!

My North Face hooded soft shell jacket was worn on the plane rather than packed. It’s looking a bit worse for wear, but it has been proofed a few times to provide additional elemental protection.

It also has deep zipped pockets of the kind that will take an iPad Mini, the Lonely Planet guidebook to Andalucia, my Nikon digital compact camera and my Samsung dumbass phone.

All of the power adaptors for the above were in an IKEA wash bag pouch inside the Osprey along with clothes, hotel booking printouts, bus tickets, meds and my actual wash bag.

My clothing was 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, one of the same brand’s Merino wool based t-shirts and another pair of Goa trousers. On the feet were ventilated Salomon trainers, the only footwear I decided to take with me (I had a cunning plan and it didn’t work Mr. B!).

Caroline’s choices included a mix of rapid wash/dry and wear Rohan Ultra Silver Camisole tops and briefs, a couple of their vest tops,  two Stria long sleeved tops, Rohan Travel Jeans and 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 of it has been used on a few travel trips now or on a day to day basis in the case of some of my items.

I regretted not having an extra pair of shoes with me, but that was part of the almost cunning plan. I’d seen some adidas Gazelle shoes I quite liked in Leeds and thought that they might be cheaper in Spain.

They weren’t as whilst they were £75 in the UK, they were €100 (@£90) in JD Sports in Cordoba and the same in an independent store in Malaga.

And the wash bags? Well both Caroline and I have taken to using shower gels by Lush on our travels and she’s also taken to using their shampoo bars. A small bottle of tea tree oil and some shower gel was used when I shaved whilst sample size toothpastes from our dentist also came in handy.

I still use my ViaSonic battery toothbrush and it stayed the course, even though I’d forgotten to put a new AAA battery in it before we left. Other items in the wash bag included a small Nivea SPF30 suncream, a small bottle of clove oil and a tube of Bonjela (in case of any dental problems…).

Other things? My iPad Mini has the Kindle App on it, so the iPad was used for reading more than it was for internet surfing, Caroline had her classic Kindle with her and both of us had our mobile phones too. Mine was hardly used, whilst Caroline’s did see some action as family members called or sent text messages to her.

And how did we cope with the rain pictured above?

We cheated by staying in the lobby of the Ibis in Malaga drinking coffee until about an hour before we needed to head out for our bus. Whilst the bus station was only about fifteen minutes walk away from the Ibis, we decided to take a cab rather than get ourselves and our kit wet.

A wise move, because boy did the heavens really open when we got to the bus station!

The rain in Spain doesn’t always stay on the plain…

Ten things… to take with you

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  1. Your camera – digital compact, DLSR, smartphone, tablet or even film!
  2. Travel towel – to dry self or roll laundry in when washing on the road…
  3. Wet wipes – to clean up after spare ribs, fixing a bike or on a hot day!
  4. Body spray – high temperatures and it’s sweaty when you’re in a crowd!
  5. Bottle of water – handy at any time (sparkling rather than still).
  6. Trousers with zipped pockets – to keep thieves at bay
  7. Bags that can be locked or have pull-tight openings – see number 6!
  8. Copies of passport, travel docs & insurance (and phone numbers).
  9. Comfortable shoes, sandals or boots suitable for what you’re up to
  10. Loose change – for purchases in shops that don’t want €20 notes…

A-A packing – Part Two

May to August 2016

Now, where were we?

Ah yes, we’d been to Blackpool and the Yorkshire Dales (hence the pics of Caroline at Tan Hill Inn and her study of the cake menu at Dales Cycle Centre’s cafe) and we’d dived back home for one night only.

First up on the Saturday morning was a weather check to get a ten day forecast for the Fishguard area. Yes, that was our base for five nights as we’d bagged the double ensuite at Hamilton Backpackers Lodge.

With a favourable forecast, our bags contained virtually the same items we’d had in Swaledale. Caroline’s bike kit and a few other items had been washed and had dried overnight, as had my two pairs of Rohan Goas, my Rohan polo shirts and travel towels. The bags? Yes, a brace of Ospreys

As this was meant to be a relaxed break, Caroline hadn’t taken a lot of bike kit as she was hiring a bike rather than taking her road bike to Fishguard.

The relaxed nature of the few days down there were only matched by the relaxed nature of the plans we had for our time in the area – loose ones!

We had planned to have a Sunday lunch out and for Caroline to have a day on a bike, but that was it. With rain keeping at bay for all of the time out of Hamilton Backpackers Lodge, the clothing selection was ideal – casual for the day time and smarter casual for any nights wandering around town or heading into a pub for a bar meal.

Smarter casual attire also came into play in St. David’s, especially as Caroline was planning on wandering around the Cathedral and I headed for the cathedral’s cafe to do a spot of reading.

Our five days of bumbling around worked a treat as we took a look around museums dedicated to the Sunderland Flying Boat, wandered on quiet beaches, watched a rowing regatta and pondered a £10 each day trip to Ireland from the Fishguard ferry terminal.

Caroline got her ride in and whilst we donned smart casual kit for a last night pub meal, we have to say that our dress sense was much better than the items on the couple of plates placed in front of us when we found a pub that wasn’t having a giraffe with their pricing policy.

Did we hit the pub with the worst bar meals in the area? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment, but I will say that it was the wurst sausage and mash I’ve ever had.

If we hadn’t been so hungry by the time the plates arrived, we’d have sent them back. We had a meal out with Caroline’s youngest son a couple of nights ago in a pub near Leeds United‘s football ground and we all agreed that the food on offer was pretty decent, even though it was fairly standard pub fodder. My choice – sausage and mash of course!!

With June and July being turned over to a bit of refurbishment and decorating of Wisepacking Towers, Our next break wasn’t until August – a three night hit and run to one of our regular get away from it all spots – North Norfolk.

Whilst it was overcast at times, North Norfolk was rather warm. As the temperatures were high, I ended up taking double the usual amount of t-shirts and polo shirts with me so one could be worn during the day and another following the pre-evening meal shower taken as part of the freshening up process.

Yes, we were back at Deepdale Backpackers once more, but as this was a last minute and almost spur of the moment thing, it was a casual affair as we weren’t eating out on an evening and the poshest place we were going to hit was the cafe at Holkham Hall where Caroline had gone to for bike hire.

Caroline did the wash and wear thing with some of her stuff – Rohan Ultra Silver Camisoles & Briefs, I did something that was quite radical given the usual nature of our travelling.

My worn stuff went into a nylon clothes bag picked up at Waterstone’s book shop in Leeds earlier in the year and was washed when we got home. No smelly socks in the bag though as the North Norfolk trip was done in sports sandals – Clark’s ATL leather for me and Merrell’s for Caroline.

It may have been a more sensible move to use ventilated approach shoes over these few days, but as temperatures were high, it was simple a matter of donning the sandals and slathering an appropriate amount of Nivea Factor 50 as sun protection.

The other factor to consider is that I rarely wear socks or footwear at home as I pad around in bare feet most of the time and have been spotted in sandals sans socks in the local chippy or Co-Op in December and January up here in deepest Yorkshire!

So, what else went along for the ride on these trips? The ever present Kindle, Nikon digital compact camera, Lifeventure and Eurohike travel towels plus Lush shampoo bars and shower gel, my Via Sonic electric toothbrush and my dumbass phone on the trips where driving was required.

Although I took the iPad Mini 2 along on the Swaledale and North Norfolk trips, it wasn’t used that much. Cinema Paradiso was viewed in Swaledale and a couple of pre-prepared wisepacking posts went live thanks to the iPad when we were in North Norfolk.

The artillery also went along to North Norfolk – my Sony A100 DSLR. This was used alongside the usual Nikon S3100 digital compact camera and it gave me the chance to remember and use some old shooting skills over those few days…

The next trips? All in the mix at the moment…

The first part – https://wisepacking.me/2016/09/07/a-a-packing-part-one/

One year – September 2015 III

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Beyond the Se…

If it’s Wednesday then it must be Porto and guess what? It’s still raining…

This doesn’t phase us though – we’re from Yorkshire and we’re used to rain (just not as much as we had on our first full day in Porto!).

As the rain was a bit lighter, I left my jacket behind and used a brolly. The footwear were dry though as my other pair of shoes were still drying out after the previous day’s soaking.

It was a day for mooching around the places that we’d intended visiting on Tuesday. Caroline (and quite a few more from a string of tour buses) headed into the Se whilst I had a wander around the area before sheltering from the rain once more.

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Going to see the Se…

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View from a terrace

The day was a one of two halves as we wandered around, dodged more showers and found an old-style corner shop to get stocked up on food such as cheese, bread rolls, soft drinks, fruit and a bottle of red to have for lunch in the case of the food or with our evening meal in the case of the wine.

As our Portuguese is virtually non-existent and the shop owner’s English was minimal, we were pleased to be able to come away from the store with a reasonably full shopping bag without any difficulties at prices that weren’t too far removed from what we would have expected to pay in a supermarket.

We did however have lunch back at the hostel and whilst I still couldn’t work out how the heck to get the coffee machine to work, I enjoyed the cold can of fizz and resolved to get a caffeine fix later on in the day.

The afternoon wanderings weren’t in any particular direction. All we did was just walk and see where we would end up at. Yes, there was a coffee stop or two, but there was also a bit of non-food shopping to be done.

As the temperatures were cooler than we’d experienced on previous visits, Caroline decided to have a look around a couple of clothing stores for some extra tops. A denim shirt hit the spot in Zara whilst C&A came up with a warming full zip hoody.

Whilst Caroline was in C&A, I was downstairs in F-NAC in search of a DVD. We’d seen what others were playing on the big screen in the hostel lounge so we wondered whether we could get hold of a locally encoded copy of one of our favourite films – Paul.

The answer was no. The guy in F-NAC had heard of Paul and remembered that it was about an alien, but also recalled that the distribution in Portugal had been handled by a company that was no longer around. Which kind of put that idea into touch.

When we arrived at Sao Bento station in Porto, we’d noticed the azulejos on the walls of the station’s entrance hall.

These blue tiled walls were suitably impressive and I could see why Michael Portillo had taken time out from his rail journey through Portugal to film a piece about the walls for the Porto segment of the finished programme.

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Sao Bento station, Porto

The tiles were attracting lots of attention from camera and smartphone owning passers by. Guidebooks had warned us about hustlers in and around the entrance to Sao Bento, but we saw none of it as there were a few armed police officers around the building and elsewhere in Porto too (but not in the same numbers as we’d seen in Lisbon city centre back in July 2015).

With more coffee consumed, we headed back to the hostel in search of our evening meal and started talking to an American lady who was taking a couple of days off walking the Camino Portugues. She was walking on her own whilst her husband was acting as back-up by driving a hire car. The time out was to get over an injury she’d picked up, so she was resting, putting her feet up and taking the tablets to get over the swelling and the pain.

Whilst we were in the hostel, we noticed that only a few had signed up for the meal being cooked by staff every evening. We’d budgeted on having a couple of evening meals in Porto so we’d decided to cook or have a salad based meal for three nights.

What was more interesting was doing some people watching – which blokes were going on the pull and whether they were successful or crashing and burning. Some however were feeding the lounge’s DVD machine with a film and then not only reacting to messages on their iPhones, but also stabbing their index fingers at the screen of their iPads too.

The mix of hostel users was an international one, but until the couple from the States arrived, we were the oldest ones there and whilst we’d tried talking to people, most were more content to interact with their smartphones, tablets or laptops than they were by talking to people either in the lounge or around the breakfast table.

With the weather forecast for Thursday looking good, there was only one thing to do – head down to the river in Porto and indulge ourselves by taking a look around a port wine lodge…

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The Don awaits…

One year – September 2015 II

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Yes, this was the calm after the storm in Porto

We’d got a good deal on our rail tickets from Lisbon to Porto by booking in advance on http://www.cp.pt, but that wasn’t the only deal we’d taken up.

The price quoted in Lonely Planet Portugal for standard class tickets between Lisbon and Porto was €24, but we travelled in First Class for €22. Yes, we were tied to one train and one train only, but given the quieter nature of the carriage, the comfy reclining chairs and the close proximity of the bar, we weren’t complaining.

The air-con was also appreciated as we headed out of Lisbon. Airfields, towns and farms were all visible through the carriage windows too as the seats hadn’t been crammed in, so we sat back, relaxed, dozed off, ate or read over the course of the three hour trip to Porto.

Once in Porto, the route from Sao Bento station to Rivoli Cinema Hostel was an easy one, so much so that I didn’t bother keeping the guidebook to hand as we wandered up there.

Caroline and I had been allocated the Blade Runner themed room. The framed film poster on the wall was familiar as I’d had the same poster on the wall in my student digs back in the 1990’s.

The Blade Runner room was minimalist, a feature that we also saw as we passed other theme rooms which were being cleaned or vacated over the few days we were in Porto.

We had the use of the kitchen/dining/breakfast room, a roomy lounge complete with one of the biggest TV screens I’ve ever seen, a very comprehensive choice of DVDs to watch plus a row of Internet connected computers for you could check your email on, watch football matches or find out what the latest weather forecast was.

This was something that we were quite interested in as we’d spotted that the weather had the potential to be somewhat inclement for the first few days of our stay in Portugal. So much so that we’d both brought very good waterproofs with us, just in case.

When I’d checked out what the latest BBC forecast was for Porto, I turned to Caroline and let her know what the prognosis was – a red weather warning for rain and plenty of it.

At this point, one of the cinema buffs who owned Rivoli Cinema Hostel chipped in with a comment about the fact that he’d never heard or seen a red weather warning before, so it sounded like things were going to be bad…

Once this was done, we headed out to stock up on food, beer, wine and fruit juice. There may have been plenty of salted cod in the shop’s freezers, but we didn’t see any wabbits (or putty tats…).

Bread, salad, cheese, cooked chicken, fruit, local fizzy pop and a couple of bottles of mineral water hit the basket and we found out the hard way that we should have packed a couple of shopping bags as yes, we were charged for plastic carrier bags…

We did have an early night after our evening meal, but sleep wasn’t an option for the whole of the night as a nearby dance club cranked up the volume after midnight and stopped around 4am.

Was I like a bear with a sore head the following morning? Oh yes!

Fortunately I had some sachets of the old student hangover cure in my meds bag and one sachet plus a few cups of coffee helped to resolve the situation. As did the yoghurt, bread, cheese, hazelnut spread and orange juice that was served up for the hostel breakfast.

Did I mention that it had started to rain? It had and boy, did we know about it!

After a couple of hours of mooching around in the hostel lounge, Caroline and I decided to make a break for it rather than being indoors all day.

Wallets and loose change was stuffed into pockets as our cameras and day bags were left behind, jackets were zipped up and hoods pulled in tight as we went in search of Centro Portugues de Fotographia.

Given that maps were useless, it took longer than we thought to find the Centro Portugues de Fotographia, a former prison that’s now dedicated to exhibitions of photographs and camera equipment.

As we were now soaked from the waist down, it was a good thing that there was a cloakroom for our jackets and that we’d both decided to wear quick drying travel trousers.

Once we’d made our way around, had hot chocolate and retrieved our coats, these trousers and the rest of our clothing were much drier, but we were squelching as neither of us were wearing shoes with a Gore-Tex or other waterproof lining given the weather we’d experienced before in Portugal.

The rain had eased off a bit, but only like a racing car does as it goes into a corner before a flat-out straight. It was well past lunchtime and we were hungry, so we hit the first cafe we saw and became their only customers for the next hour or so.

Caroline had a chicken salad, but I tried one of Porto’s specialities.

Middlesbrough has the parmo, Scotland the deep fried chocolate bar, France has the joy of frogs legs, but Porto has the Francesinha, a hefty sandwich containing steak, sausage and ham which is covered in melted cheese and given a slurp of peppery tomato and beer sauce over the top…

Tasty? Yes. Filling? Definitely! Did I have another? Yes, but two days later as a means of keeping any cholesterol at a sensible  level!

Once lunch was over, we pledged back to Rivoli Cinema Hostel for showers, dry clothes, reading, a light tea and another early night.

Or so we thought as that bloody club started up at midnight again!!!

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More about this on Friday!

One year – err…

You may recall that yesterday’s post mentioned quite a few likes that have been used on our travels, but there are also a few (and I mean a few) that haven’t quite worked for us.

Some people love Crocs, others hate them and will happily take the mickey out of anyone who wears them. I have some, love the comfort offered by them and appreciate the ability to just wash them in a sink or to wash them in a shower whilst you’re still wearing them.

They don’t take up that much room  in a pack, particularly if you stash them carefully and pad them out with pairs or socks or whatever. Choose a plain navy or black pair and by heck, you’ve also got footwear that will go with quite a few outfits in a capsule travel wardrobe.

I used mine extensively last year, but there was a problem that couldn’t be denied. Naturally sweaty feet (like mine!) and Crocs don’t always mix, no matter how often you wash your feet or your Crocs.

So a replacement had to be found and I ended up rewinding twenty years for the solution. A pair of Clark’s ATL leather sandals. I had a pair back in the mid-nineties that were sent in for magazine-related testing.

If memory serves me right, the advertising for the sandals was headed up by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The sandals were smart, comfortable and wore well. The leather uppers and leather inner section of the sole units did their job and while they did take a little while longer to dry out than normal sports sandals from that time, I didn’t mind because they were so comfortable.

The latest versions on the ATL theme are just as good. Comfortable from the off and they’ve been worn extensively over the last year, so much so that I’ve been seen wearing them without socks in supermarkets and takeaways in the depths of winter (I’ll hasten to add that I was using the car to get around and not walking to said establishments).

There’s still one pair of Crocs doing the rounds though and a modified pair in the boot of the car too. Only one out of the original three pairs bought in 2013 have bitten the dust, and that’s because the cushioning was rather crushed after so much wear and the sole units had been holed in a couple of places after close encounters with tent pegs.

The small packable Rohan day bag I bought last year is still around, but it’s not used that much now. The idea was great, but when I used it, I realised that it needed a bit more compression potential to make it work properly.

It was good when it was almost full, but when it wasn’t, it was a bit of a pain. I ended up leaving it in our room on our Lisbon trip and used my shoe bag.

This simple nylon drawstring bag did the job, coped with loads large or small and ensured that if someone tried to get in the bag whilst I was using it, then I’d know about it because the cinched closed entrance hole on the bag was usually nestling in my armpit, a ticklish area at the best of times!

Anything else? Well I’ve been using Salomon shoes and boots for years, but the couple of pairs of ventilated shoes that I bought last year weren’t as good as I thought they were going to be.

One pair’s shock absorption wasn’t wonderful after three months and when one of the lacing loops came away whilst in Coimbra last year, I gave them to a good cause and lightened an already light travel pack.

One year – buying power

If you were reading yesterday’s piece about the stuff we packed on our travels between May and July 2015, you may be surprise to learn that despite the age of the Internet and the opportunities it presents to make purchases from the comfort of the sofa, your office chair or whilst supping an overpriced milky coffee in a chain cafe, most of our purchases are still made in shops rather than transactions made via Firefox or Safari browsers (other browsers are available folks, but I still remember Netscape!).

The reasons are simple. We like to support local businesses or retail chains that do give a monkey’s about what they sell and how it’s sold. Some items are also no-brainers as packs, footwear and cycle helmets are the categories that I’d always try to buy from physical stores rather than online as all should be tried and fitted before you buy.

It’s not usually in a salesperson’s best interests to advise and recommend items that have the ‘in’ brand label on them or the highest price tag. It’s also worth taking note of a salesperson’s recommendations are as they may have knowledge that could swing your thoughts in a more useful direction.

I’ve had a couple of people go into huff mode when I’ve mentioned that they don’t need an 80 litre pack for a visit to Thailand (40 litres is the usual recommendation from those who have headed off in that direction).

One aspect of world travel is that yes, you can usually get what you need in most countries so you don’t need to take large bottles of shampoo, conditioner or shower gel with you.

Think light and it’s a case of having travel sizes for your first few days, by which time you have probably passed a few stores that stock just about everything you need for your stay in the country/countries you’re visiting.

There’s also the school of though that thinks it’s best to travel as light as possible to avoid baggage charges either from the airline you’re travelling with or the bag in the boot charges levied by taxi companies.

One of the best exchanges Caroline and I have had was with a taxi driver in Arendal, Norway about five years ago. We needed to get to Arendal railway station in order to get a train to Stavanger and as it was a few kilometres away and uphill, we got a cab.

Once in, we started talking to the driver who was dumbfounded when we answered his question ‘Have you left your main bags at a hotel?’.

‘No’ was my reply. “They are our main bags….” He couldn’t believe that we were in Norway for almost two weeks and were only using a holdall each.

By going for a smaller bag, there’s another point to consider – you will probably be able to pick it up and run in the event of any last minute dash for a bus, cab or train.

One person I was advising was insisting on a 90 litre bag to hold everything for their travels until I out that if that bag was filled to the brim with what was perceived to be needed for the trip, then the potential owner of said bag probably wouldn’t be able to lift it, let alone sling it over their shoulders and run with it…

Footwear is another area that shop purchases rather than online buys pay dividends. Visit a decent shoe shop or outdoor store mid-afternoon and try the boot, sandals or shoes on and wander around in them to your heart’s content until you’re happy with them and always, but always, insist on taking the pair that you’ve tried on rather than another pair from the stockroom that you haven’t tried on.

Why wait until mid-afternoon to try on? Unless you’re just off a night shift, then mid-afternoon is the time to try on as your feet can expand between half and a full size as the day progresses.

And cycle helmets? It’s a case of getting the best advice and listening to it. Be honest with the type of biking you’re doing and listen to what’s being said regarding the care, aftercare and way to wear a helmet (I’m still amazed at the number of cycle helmets that are being worn in such a way that severe damage will be inflicted to the wearer’s skull as it’s not being worn properly).

Caroline and I do buy clothing from trusted online retailers from time to time, but that’s usually because we know the company’s size blocking and can be pretty sure that the items we order fit and fit well.

For the most part though, we still buy from shops. Some are local to us whilst others are part of the same chain in another area of the country.

The main chains we deal with are Rohan and Cotswold Outdoor, largely because we’ve had good service from their staff and we’ve been happy with the purchases we’ve made from both companies over the last few years.

With Caroline needing some new shoes for her cycling and potentially some new sandals too, it could well be that we’re heading to their Leeds outlets soon to take advantage of Cycling UK or sale discounts at Cotswold Outdoor and sale discounts at Rohan as their sale starts tomorrow.