More from Spain…
Five days in Northumberland
Five days in North Norfolk
More thoughts on packing
Bits of news
Some silly stuff
Books, films and television programmes
And links such as the one below…
We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.
They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…
I have taken quite a few photos over the years, but when it comes to appearing in photographs, that’s another story.
One shot has escaped though and it’s on P19 of the latest edition of Wanderlust magazine.
The quote is about the recent developments relating to taking tech stuff on aircraft and how it may or may not affect travellers.
As I don’t have a smartphone and had Wi-Fi problems in Spain, I suspect that you can guess which side of the arguement I took!
A slightly different version with a different photograph can be found here…
Yes, normal service has resumed….
Where were we?
Ah yes, Seville. After booking into our digs and going out for our first meal in the city, we returned to our room and a request to move into a room downstairs as some last minute work was going to take place above us.
So we found ourselves in a ground floor en-suite – which was good as we needed to do our first set of washing our wash and wear clothing.
After doing the wash, wringing it out and rolling it up in travel towels and hanging it up to dry, we then noticed the sign on the back of the room door forbidding clothes washing in the room. Mmm…
Everything was dry come Wednesday morning though, which was a good thing as we headed out in search of places to see and things to do. When we got back though, we were pleased that everything had dried out, because we returned to a room devoid of all of our stuff.
We thought the worst at first, but some broken English came from above to tell us that we’d be back in the room that we’d originally been allocated and that all of our stuff was up there. Relief in one respect, but neither of us were too happy about our stuff being moved when we weren’t there!
Come Thursday and Caroline headed into the Cathedral after first checking the times for the roof tour she wanted to go on. After she’d paid and headed in, I headed off to do some exploring of my own, get a coffee or a beer and then return to our pre-arranged meeting place next to the Real Alcazar.
We met up again two hours later, swapped stories about our exploits and headed for lunch. As we finished, Caroline looked at her ticket and realised that she hadn’t been booked in for the roof tour at 16.30, but the 12.00 one…
Oops – she’d been booked onto the tour that a Cathedral guide had said was full. No matter though as we just decided to wander around some more, go for a beer and tapas mid-afternoon break and then head back for a siesta and some more clandestine clothes washing.
And that was about it for the small problems we encountered in Seville. The entrance to the flamenco club had moved, but that was about it.
We did have more problems with Apple Maps printouts in Cordoba, but we eventually found our hotel after much scratching of heads. Whilst we’d had good Wi-Fi at the basic guest house in Seville, in Cordoba the iPad got a signal in the hotel lobby or when we opened our room door…
When it came to Granada we took no prisoners in getting to or from the bus station to White Nest Hostel – we got a cab in both directions! It did however take us a while to find the ticket booth at The Alhambra the following day, but we got there and started to make our way around.
The site was busy and we weren’t the only ones who had difficulties with the vending machines dispensing coffee, sandwiches or snacks. The coffee one was interesting, the sandwich one dispensed not one, but two packs of sandwiches whilst the snack one behaved itself.
Best laugh of the day came when I headed downstairs to the gents toilets. As I was leaving, a whole party of Oriental ladies were heading into the gents.
They were rather surprised when I pointed out that it was the men’s toilets they were trying to get into and they soon scurried back upstairs.
Yes, I’ve been in rock or student clubs when ladies have invaded the blokes toilets (the queues were shortly and it wasn’t uncommon to hear the words ‘It’s alright guys, we’re not looking!‘ as the invasion took place….
Anything else? Not really as the rest of the visit to Granada was as planned.
In Malaga though, one problem arose after we checked into the hotel and switched the TV on.
One of the local channels was showing live footage of an event that had happened in London. The only English channel was CNN and their reporting was about an incident at Westminster.
With no signal for the iPad or for Caroline’s Android phone, it was lobby computer time to find out what had happened where we’d been back in February. BBC, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Independent websites told the story about what had happened.
Which almost brought us to the end of such aspects of our road-trip…
Friday’s posting will be about the stuff we took with us to deal with RyanAir’s luggage restrictions, the weather conditions we were expecting, the places we were heading to and their respective dress codes.
The story of the trip proper starts next Monday…
We knew there would be rain in Spain one day… Just not this much!
The planning for our trip to Andalucia started a while ago.
The initial thinking was to head over there in October 2016, but thoughts changed and we ended up visiting Herefordshire and Somerset.
The thinking started again back in November 2016 and a simple plan was drawn up – fly in and out of Malaga from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports and take a look at the Picasso and other art connections in Malaga before heading to Seville, Cordoba and Granada and then head back to Malaga for the flight home.
This was expanded upon by getting hold of both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide paper guidebooks to Andalucia. Although I’d already taken a read through the LP and RG books on Spain, the area specific guides provided more insights to the cities we were intent on visiting and useful snippets regarding travelling times between cities by bus or train, eating out, flamenco and a few tips on speaking Spanish.
Flights and our hotel in Malaga were booked via Expedia whilst digs in Seville, Cordoba and Granada were booked via booking.com.
All of this happened back in November 2016, as did upgrades to the basic flights as we chose to pre-book seats on the plane in both directions and opt for priority boarding.
Yes, this put the price of the flights up, but we reckoned it was worth it as a means of getting settled in to our seats and as a means of ensuring that our hand luggage wasn’t stashed in the hold instead…
The decision to use buses rather than trains in Spain came down to two factors – cost and journey times (which in one or two cases quoted in the guidebooks were shorter on the bus rather than the train…).
Booking the buses was left until January and it has to be said that booking buses between Malaga and Seville, Seville and Cordoba along with Cordoba to Granada was pretty easy via the http://www.alsa.es website.
A problem did arise when it came to book the journey between Granada and Malaga. My UK bank card had been used for the first three transactions, but wasn’t being accepted for the one that would take us back to Malaga in readiness for the flight home.
Technology being what it is, a web chat was established with Alsa and it transpired that I should have used a Spanish bank card or PayPal for all of my ticket buying transactions!
As the first three sales had gone through without any difficulties and I had both printed off the online tickets and the ones sent to my email address, I decided to press on for the fourth transaction and book it via PayPal.
The problem being that I hadn’t used PayPal for years and couldn’t remember what my password was. That took a bit of time to resolve, but hey presto! That last set of tickets was bought, paid for and printed off…
With all of the flight, accommodation and almost all of the internal travel sorted out, there was a couple of things left to do – book tickets for our visit to The Alhambra in Granada and sort out transport to Manchester Airport.
Tickets were easily booked and paid for via The Alhambra’s website and that was almost it.
Next up was the booking of rail tickets and we almost came unstuck.
We were travelling on a weekend when there was planned maintenance on the railway line. Although the website showed this, it didn’t tell us the full nature of the replacement bus service operating on our day of travel.
After three attempts at finding out, it was time to jump in the car, head to a mainline station and ask questions. Once answered and the printouts handed over, the tickets were bought and paid for and that was it for two months.
When March came around, all we had to do was get some € notes, check the mid-range weather forecast and go…
There was however one small problem left – neither of us speak Spanish!
- Your camera – digital compact, DLSR, smartphone, tablet or even film!
- Travel towel – to dry self or roll laundry in when washing on the road…
- Wet wipes – to clean up after spare ribs, fixing a bike or on a hot day!
- Body spray – high temperatures and it’s sweaty when you’re in a crowd!
- Bottle of water – handy at any time (sparkling rather than still).
- Trousers with zipped pockets – to keep thieves at bay
- Bags that can be locked or have pull-tight openings – see number 6!
- Copies of passport, travel docs & insurance (and phone numbers).
- Comfortable shoes, sandals or boots suitable for what you’re up to
- Loose change – for purchases in shops that don’t want €20 notes…
I’m losing count of the number of stories that are being discussed via media outlets old and new relating to travel matters of all different kinds.
Some are about the biggest international travel story of the moment whilst others talk about things to come here in the U.K. and the E.U. and then there’s those that relate to the travel industry and the way that it’s coping with the after effects of world events.
There’s also the way in which decisions by residents or governments have impacted on the financial affairs of travellers, cultural sites and airlines to consider too.
I don’t normally take notice of television advertising, largely because I only watch a handful of programmes on commercial channels, but I have spotted an increase in the number of ads for Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2, Virgin, Trivago, Air B n B, plus state ads for California, Texas and for countries such as Israel over the last couple of weeks.
It would appear that there’s a lot of people after the pounds in our pockets, but recent conversations and posts seen on travel forums regarding potential travellers wanting value for money as they head to destinations old and new.
We currently have three trips in 2017 that are in different stages of planning.
The first is a daft one that harks back to my days as a band manager hawking demo tapes around record companies, the second is a Spanish road trip and the third is a return visit to an area that both of us have visited on a regular basis.
It’s going to be interesting to see how busy the various places we’re visiting are going to be and what the respective costs per person per day are.
Budgets are being put together, but they will be flexible enough to ensure that we’re not missing out on potential experiences. We don’t go for posh eating, overpriced coffees or expensive bowls of cereal in hipster cafes and we’re not adverse to using buses or long-distance coaches to get around rather than trains or hire cars.
Will the foray into the E.U. end up being more cost effective that staying in the U.K. even though the pound has taken a battering thanks to the changes in exchange rates?
I suspect that it will, even though we’ve gone for pre-booked aircraft seats, fast-track security and priority boarding to make things easier at the airport.
Flying hand luggage only helps, as does frequenting local shops that aren’t just for local people and cafes/other eateries that aren’t on the main streets or popular tourist areas….
Watch this space for the end results!
Where we’re going, we don’t need big bags…
I’d had my Lowe Alpine Travel Kinni 60 for years, but as the Travel Kinni hadn’t been used since 2008, it’s finding a new home.
Which shouldn’t be hard as the bag has found its way to Geneva on its own before – it went on an earlier plane than I did, a no-no even in pre-911 years!
Yes, the bag and the Monarch luggage label from the bag’s last trip has been handed in at our local charity shop, as has a small Lowe Alpine pack and an elderly Karrimor hand luggage bag.
Apart from wanting space in the back room, there’s also the matter of having standardised my travel luggage to just three bags – the studenty man bag bought at Imperial College, London in 2015, the large size Healthy Back Bag that came courtesy of a BOGOF deal Caroline took advantage of five years ago and the almost four year old Osprey Farpoint 40 that has been used on our European (and a few longer UK ones) trips since 2013.
At 10, 15 and 40 litres respectively, the bags mentioned in the last paragraph should be fine for all of the trips we have in mind over the next few years.
The one from Imperial College has been commented on by staff when overnighting in Hampton by Hilton and Holiday Inn hotels in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield whilst the Healthy Back Bag proved useful for weekend-length trips to London, Northumberland and North Norfolk.
The Ospreys have been commented at airport check-in desks, whilst wandering up to our hotel in Tavira (the lady making the comments was a seasoned traveller from Hawaii who was wheeling a big wheelie case) and stared at in disbelief by a bunch of fellow Brits as we checked out of that Tavira hotel with our bags two days later.
Although the benefits of travelling hand luggage are well-known, it’s been interesting to see what people have been looking at in the way of travel bags in shops here in the UK.
Most have been going for big bags rather than smaller, more practical items. I’ve kept quiet as people have been plumping for those big bags, even though I’ve heard some of the prospective destinations that the purchasers were heading to.
When I was in retail, it proved difficult to convince people that they didn’t need a 70-80 travel pack for two weeks in Thailand (consensus is 35-40 litre max) as there are things called shops over there that mean that they didn’t need to take EVERYTHING with them!
We weren’t the only Brits using hand luggage on our last visit to Portugal, even though the hotel we were in iss regarded as one of the Algarve’s best.
All we did to stick to the unwritten dress code was to have smarter wash & wear clothes and to eat in family owned cafes and restaurants rather than the hotel dining room or gaffs with high prices on the menus displayed outside the establishments.
Our faithful packs – Osprey Farpoint 40
After watching a couple of episodes of The West Wing series two last night, we switched the DVD player off and up came one of the presenters of The Travel Show on BBC News who was talking about the latest in packing technology for travelling with both hand and hold luggage.
First up was a hand luggage pack with wheels that could also be used as a scooter that came in at an unladen weight that was fast approaching what some airlines have as their fully packed weight allowance for bags being used as hand luggage.
Somewhere in the mix was also a bag that you didn’t have to hold onto whilst negotiating the airport terminal or a hotel lobby as the bag is designed to follow you around as you make your way through fellow passengers or people seeing fellow passengers off.
Yes, it was a motorised bag that homes in your movements – a handy thing to have you may think, but dare I allege that it could cause problems when used in proximity to those with visual problems, children running around or even a potential passenger using the same type of bag (especially if they look identical as they haven’t been personalised!).
We phased out big time though when the hold luggage that could store flight and destination information was talked about, largely because we don’t travel with hold luggage any more.
The last time we did this was back in 2008 when we headed off to Austria for a walking holiday based in a hotel that was offering half board as part of the last minute deal. Since then it’s been hand luggage all the way when flying or getting a ferry to Bergen in Norway.
There have been a few posts on travel forums over the last few days as to what pack to take when travelling light and even a few from one person who is designing a potential hand luggage system as part of his third year projects for a degree course.
Osprey Farpoint 40 packs have been mentioned once more on these forums and it was purely coincidence that I had some time to take a look at a 2016 version yesterday whilst wandering around shops in Leeds city centre.
Yes, it’s gone up from £80 to £90 since Caroline and I bought our examples, but I had to look long and hard to see what changes had been made to the pack. From the outside at least, all I could spot were changes to the zip pullers for the two main compartments on the pack.
You may not be able to use the Farpoint 40 as a scooter, but you should be able to pack it for a trip and fly on an airline with a 5kg hand luggage limit.
Not as much fun if you’re a scooter fan, but at least we may not be handing over cash at an airport for last minute bags in the hold charges!
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/
All this in one country – Portugal
When we did our first trip in Portugal in September 2013, little did we know that it would lead to another three visits between July 2015 and March 2016.
That first fortnight saw us flying in and out of Lisbon, spending time in the capital before heading to Sintra for a couple of nights then Evora, Tavira, Sagres, Lagos and a slap-up meal in Lisbon city centre before getting the Metro to the airport for a restless night in the airport seating areas and a 5am check-in the following morning.
Every trip has been done on hand luggage only, something that’s phased check-in staff at Manchester Airport, raised the eyebrows of fellow Brits in Tavira when they saw the size of our bags as we were checking out of our hotel and comments from a resident of Hawaii as she trundled her rather large wheelie case and matching hand luggage towards that same hotel…
So, why Portugal? It’s all down to a throwaway line (“Port comes from the port of Oporto in Portugal.”) from my geography teacher back in the 1970’s. There’s not much that I remember from my course, but the reference to Portugal alway stuck in my mind, hence that first visit years later.
And why have we gone back so many times? Probably because we’ve felt at home over there. Yes, we’ve had some rain in Sagres and weathered a storm in Porto, but there’s only been the odd couple of days when the temperatures have got the better of us.
We’ve used public transport to get around rather than hiring a car (haven’t done that out of the UK since the 1980s…) and haven’t had any problems.
Trains have been on time, as have both service buses and long distance coaches too. Feet have played their own part in exploring towns and cities, as have rechargeable travel cards such as the Viva Viagem card that’s available for use in the Lisbon area.
Eating out or getting things in to eat in a hostel dining area or our room in a guest house hasn’t been too difficult either. Yes, there was Cheekgate, but there’s only been a couple of times when we’ve been disappointed by what’s been put in front of us after we’ve ordered.
I did wince as one kitchen smothered a salad with olive oil (I prefer my salads to have no dressings) and whilst there was a lost in translation moment over chips being crisps in Portugal, it wasn’t a biggie and self and server both saw the funny side of things!
My use of Portuguese has got better over the years and I can now order coffee, drinks and food without too much difficulty.
Sometimes I’ve got a large beer instead of the small one that was ordered, but I’ve only become unstuck once when I tried to get a couple of beers in a cafe in the back streets of Aveiro last year. I got the beers, but there was a lot of pointing at bottles as a way of getting my message across.
Anything else? Just the small matter of forgetting about having some loose change on me to pay for coffee, ice cream, beer or bottles of water in a cafe or mini market. There were times when a €5 note wasn’t appreciated…
Only one person got really stroppy with me though as she couldn’t understand why we hadn’t got any change – it was something to do with having just landed at Lisbon Airport and we had notes, but no change!
Although we’ve made four visits to the country in three years, there’s still unfinished business across there. Out visit to Porto was hindered by the storm that hit the city last year, ensuring that a) we got wet – very wet and b) spent more time indoors or in the hostel than we would have liked.
So another visit to Porto and the Douro Valley is on the cards at some point, along with a week or so exploring the Atlantic Coast between Lisbon and Porto. Obidos during the Chocolate Festival sounds inviting too.
When will this take place? Who knows as whilst we want to head back and see some of the places we missed, there’s also a few other countries and areas we want to explore.
Some are in the UK and some are in Europe.
Where are they?
Some clues will be given out on Friday morning!