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Back – again

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Now, where were we?

Right, back again after the combined effects of the lurgy, coughing fits as a result of the lurgy, hotter than normal temperatures here in the UK, internet outages and a break from it all…

Yes, a break – and during the half term holiday too!

Booked a bed in an independent hostel in Northumberland, a couple of miles away from where Caroline was sharing a caravan with daughter, son-in-law, eldest son and Caroline’s grandchildren.

Had the whole hostel to myself on one night out of the four I was there and was one of just a few people walking on the beach between Cresswell and Druridge Bay on Thursday morning.

Got back home yesterday and there’s stuff to put away, wash and photos to download too.

And an election to vote in next Thursday!

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/

A-A packing… Part One

April to August 2016, the places, the packing

April 2016 saw us hit Blackpool in a big way. Yes, it was just before the May Day Bank Holiday, but even so, one would have expected warmth and sunshine rather than the biting winds and rain we encountered.

We did find some warmth, but that happened as Status Quo kicked off what’s been touted as their last electric tour.

So, what did we take with us for the two days/one night?

In my case it was a ten litre bag that I picked up at Imperial College, London last year whilst Caroline had a fifteen litre Healthy Back Bag.

I had my TNF hooded soft shell and was wearing a TNF microfleece zip neck over a Rohan tech tee plus Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers and Salomon Gore-Tex lined approach shoes.

Inside the bag was a travel towel, basic wash kit, my meds, socks, underwear, Rohan merino wool mix t-shirt, Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck fleece, Kindle and travel tickets plus the all important concert tickets…

Inside the soft shell pockets were a merino wool Edz beanie and the trusty Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera.

Caroline was similarly attired, only she’d chosen her TNF Windwall fleece jacket, her Berghaus PacLite jacket and Rohan jeans. She did however hit Primani for some leggings as she was feeling the cold and Millets didn’t have any base layer leggings left in stock.

Her bag also contained a Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck – it’s not often that we wear almost matching tops, but as we both wore them for the pre-show meal and whilst waiting around in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, we didn’t much care about matching!

The mix proved to be ideal for the mooching around we did before heading to the B&B. The choice of t-shirts and fleeces for the walk back into town, our meal, the show and the walk back to the B&B was a similar success.

Friday saw more rain and we were pleased that we’d had good conversation with the B&B owners before grabbing our bags and checking out. It was cold, windy and miserable!

We sheltered for a while in the RNLI shop before braving the beach, but it didn’t take long for us to hit The Albert & Lion on the seafront for a coffee in this Wetherspoons pub.

The coffee prepared us for the walk along the prom and then back around town before we headed to Harry Ramsden’s for a fish & chip lunch. It’s not often that I have a beer with lunch, but I was pleased we were inside as some of those looked as if they’d arrived for the bank holiday weekend appeared to be underdressed and blooming freezing as they walked on by.

As we headed back to Blackpool North Station for our train, a strange apparition appeared in the sky. Yes, the sun had come out – too late for us, but right on time for the couple of hundred people we saw leaving the station in search of a Bank Holiday break.

Ten days later and we were in the car heading for a holiday of two halves.

There had been a tentative plan to try and get a week to ten days in somewhere like Rhodes or Zante for a relaxing break, but it didn’t happen, so we thought laterally and came up with a plan.

Yes, we have Internet access via desktop, tablet and Caroline’s smartphone, but the idea for the first part of our break came from a paperback book – The Independent Hostel Guide.

I’d spotted Dales Bike Centre at Fremlington near Reeth, made the call and booked ourselves in for four nights in a room at their hostel accommodation (there’s also a bike shop, bike hire and cafe on site – along with 24 hour cake supply via honesty box for those  staying at the centre).

Swaledale was part of my old stamping ground as an instructor and whilst living in Darlington. Caroline knew it of old, but hadn’t been there for years.

As Caroline was taking her road bike with her to do some cycling, I was the Skoda driving equivalent of Thunderbird 2 – ready to offer assistance and with the hatchback available to be Pod 5… providing of course that both of us had a signal on our respective mobile phones.

Clothing choices for this trip were easy to sort out. The ten day forecast was set fair for both this and the next section, so in my case it was a mix of Rohan Core Silver t-shirts, Element t-shirts and the same company’s polo shirts to cover casual and smart casual situations. Trousers? Two pairs of 2015 Rohan Goas covered all eventualities.

The bag? The trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 that took all of the above plus jacket, camera, books, iPad, chargers and a bag of food too.

As Caroline was cycling, her clothing included Endura cycle pants, a Tenn cycle shirt plus a couple of Peter Storm pocketed tech t-shirts.

Tenn Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey  

Rohan Essence t-shirts and vest tops plus her Rohan jeans were worn off the bike and a Rohan fleece cardigan came in useful on the nights we hit local pubs for a meal and a drop of Guinness for me and cider for Caroline.

Now I said that this trip was a break of two halves as we had a cunning plan.

It did get changed though as we had to head for home sooner than expected to sort out two tyres for the Skoda – one was punctured and replaced, but once we got to Kwik Fit, it became apparent that we needed two new tyres.

Our overnight at home had been planned as we’d already packed stuff for the next part of the trip. But it did give us a chance to have a curry and do some washing, safe in the knowledge that it would be dry in readiness for the next morning…

More on Friday!

http://www.rohan.co.uk

http://www.tenn-outdoors.co.uk

One year – September 2015 part VII

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Just another quiet day in Aveiro

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Down by the canal – and not one Cornetto…

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Looking good, using motor power…

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… and charismatic guides to the waterways too

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Almost back to the jetty

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in time for ovos moles and more coffee…

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Aveiro Rossio Hostel – simply the best?

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To Coimbra – and beyond!

After a couple of nights in Viana do Castelo, we headed south to Aveiro.

This was another destination prompted by a photo in a guidebook and a city that allowed us to chill out that little bit more (and then some!). It may have been a long walk from the railway station to our hostel, but once there, we found out why Aveiro Rossio Hostel is highly rated and given mentions in both Rough Guide and Lonely Planet guidebooks.

It’s been converted from a three floor family home and has both dorms and ensuite doubles (our choice). Yes, the decor was minimalist in our room, but we’d rather have that than a whole load of chintz or a bed covered by a multitude of cushions that usually end up being dumped on the floor so we can actually use the bed.

The hostel lounge has TV, DVD, music and books for entertainment, there’s Internet access on a bunch of low level PC computers and a resident’s kitchen cum dining & breakfast room too.

Although Aveiro Rossio Hostel is a fair walk away from the station, it’s very handy for the local shopping area, cafes, a shopping mall and the canal.

Our first afternoon and evening in Aveiro was largely dedicated to finding our way around the city centre. Finding somewhere to eat was a little more problematical though as whilst there were plenty of places to eat in Aveiro, most of them were closed on this sunny September Monday night.

Porta 35 came to the rescue though. Salad and a glass of white for Caroline and a burger with chips and a beer for me. No, my choice wasn’t very Portuguese, but it looked and tasted good when it arrived – although one part of the equation had been lost in translation.

What are chips to us are fries to others and what are chips to some are crisps to us. It took a while to sink in (yep, it was a larger than usual beer!), but once it sank in, it was laughed off and we continued our meal, desserts and obligatory coffee or glass of port.

Although the breakfast room was busy the next morning, it was quiet.

There may have been a mixed bunch of people in the hostel, but none were particularly talkative, something that we’d noticed back in Porto and in other hostels here in the UK since. Whilst Americans and Brits are quite talkative at breakfast, others aren’t.

Aveiro used to be a thriving sea port, but a storm way back in the 1570’s blocked the mouth of the river. The canal was built to regain access to the sea in 1808 and it’s this canal system that visitors to Aveiro can now take trips along and around on motorised boats.

Now we may have been lucky, but our trip on the canal had a friendly, charismatic guide giving us the lowdown on the canal, local history and Aveiro. The trip seemed longer than 45 minutes and given the temperatures we were out in, we were pleased that we’d grabbed a couple of bottles of water earlier in the day and used the Factor 50 too.

Once back on dry land, a snack break saw us giving ovos moles a try. Ovos moles are sugary  and eggy confections that were developed by nuns in the area and whilst we gave them a try, the feeling was that the experience could be a once only affair…

After another wander and a spot of t-shirt buying, lunch was taken in a cafe. We may have had a kitchen to use, but visits to local supermarkets ensured that we should eat out again.

What we did have to do though was some washing – and there wasn’t a plug in the basin in the ensuite.

That problem was solved at our next coffee shop when I decided to have a small tub of Hagen Daaz ice cream rather than a piece of cake. The ice cream was good, but the plastic lid was the right size to use as a sink plug – washing problem solved!

With siesta time beckoning and a laundry session for afters, we paid another visit to Porta 35 and I made sure that I ordered fries this time, not chips!

We’d enjoyed our stay in Aviero, so much so that we handed the keys back and asked whether the hostel sold the t-shirts sported by the staff. The walk back up to the station was a bit of a long haul, but necessary as we were moving on to our next stop – Coimbra.

One year – September 2015 part V

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Pinhao station in the Douro Valley

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Tranquil – and then some… from on land

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Or from onboard a river boat…

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Warm outside…

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And on the inside for hot dogs…

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More tranquility…

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With port producers along the way

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Just one of many famous names seen on the hillsides above the Douro

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All quiet on the station

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Until the train arrives…

A day along the Douro is a trip worth taking by train from Porto.

It’s a long day out, but having taken it, I can see why most recommendations are to split it over two days and have a night in a hotel or guest house.

Like most great train journeys, it’s one to take home in the memory rather than on a camera’s memory card.

The journey to Pinhao from Porto was a smooth one. We’d taken a couple of snacks and bottles of water with us for the journey, but once we’d got to Pinhao, taken a look around and bought the t-shirt I’d wanted to buy during the previous day’s visit to Sandeman’s wine lodge in Porto, it was time for a leisurely lunch down by the river and the area where the river boats pulled in.

In among the small boats of the kind we boarded later on in the day, the river cruise boats pull in to allow passengers time ashore to explore and then board again for another night and day of the same old, same old.

We took a two hour trip up the Douro on a small boat with a covered area and the added attraction of a port tasting session whilst we were afloat. As we’d been out in the sun and had coated ourselves with Factor 50 rather than Factor 30, I stayed undercover on the boat, as did the captain’s dog (who obviously knows a good thing when he sees it!).

The ride was a smooth one (as was the port), but once over, it was time to find a cold drink and an ice cream before taking another wander around Pinhao and then the short stroll to the station and the train back to Porto.

Although Pinhao had appeared to be a quiet place, the station platform suddenly filled up with people wanting the train down the valley.

When the train arrived, we found seats, emptied the water bottles, thought about the day, pondered another meal at the restaurant we’d found the day before and placed bets  as to how long it would take us to pack our bags before heading off on the next part of our road trip the following morning…

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A local restaurant for local people and those in the know…

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And a good place to chill out…

One year – September 2015 – part I

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Liverpool John Lennon Airport after dark from the Hampton by Hilton

Yes, we had another trip to Portugal in September 2015 and it was a combination of bus, train and another bus that saw us arrive at our hotel at Liverpool John Lennon Airport for a night before another early morning entrance into the terminal building across the road for our flight to Lisbon.

As we were travelling easyJet from Liverpool to Lisbon on hand luggage only once more, it was interesting to arrive in the hotel foyer as a family were trying to get up to their room.

Yes, we had our trusty Osprey packs, but this lot had so much luggage that the top case on the trolley was higher off the floor than the top of the head of the bloke trying to push said trolley in the direction of the lift.

The Sunday morning stroll across the road and into the airport may have been an early one, but breakfast had already been served in the hotel, so once we got through the fast track security process and into the airside catering area, it was time for more coffee.

As we’d taken the same flight a couple of months beforehand, we knew what the score was and where we should wait before the screens flashed up our gate number. This ensured that we were through the gate and heading to the plane in no time and seated before most of the other passengers had even joined the queue at the gate. Smug? Us? Maybe…

We also knew what to expect when we got to Lisbon. Off the plane, bus to the terminal, passports checked and then the long walk from passport control into the land side.

As we already had some euros, there was a quick right turn in the direction of the Metro station, a short wait in the queue to get a couple of Viva Viagem travel cards recharged with enough credit for the few trips we were going to be making on the Metro around Lisbon at the start and end of our trip and then it was off to Rato Metro Station.

No, we weren’t going back to Lisbon Dreams, we were heading to Casa Oliver, a boutique guest house overlooking the park at Principe Real. Our arrival at the park meant that we had some time to kill – at lunchtime.

Fortunately we’d eaten at Esplanada, the cafe in the park before, so a table was grabbed, drinks and food ordered and both were consumed in a suitably relaxed manner as befits Sunday lunch on the first day of a fortnight away.

As our check in time for Casa Oliver wasn’t until 3pm, we still had time to kill, so we adjourned to another cafe for coffee, very good lemonade and a little bit of reading too…

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Cafe, lemonade and Kindle in the park – and Caroline too!

Now when I’d booked Casa Oliver, I was under the impression that it was room only and that no breakfast was available. When we checked in, it became apparent that breakfast was available and that it was €10 each. As we had a train to catch the following morning from a station that we didn’t know, breakfast was booked as a time saving measure.

The early start to the day and the lunchtime beer & wine started to kick in, so after a siesta and a shower, it was time to change, have a walk and then find an evening meal. It was Sunday evening, but the streets were busy with others wandering around in search of food, drink or friends.

Whilst it was tempting to find somewhere new to eat, the familiar surroundings of Ristorante da Vinci in Rua Jardim do Regedor beckoned us to sit, eat, drink and do some people watching whilst we were at it.

Beer, fresh orange juice, a bottle of San Pellegrino, a lasagne and a filling calzone came, were seen and were conquered in a relaxed fashion before €33.15 settled the bill for another meal taken in what has become our favourite eating place in Lisbon.

Yes, there’s a Hard Rock Cafe nearby and a Starbucks around the corner at Rossio Station, but as the staff, food, ambience and coffee have always been good at Ristorante da Vinci, we’re happy to go back there and to write about it too.

After a reasonably good night’s sleep and a light breakfast, we headed off back down in the direction of Restauradores Metro station in search of Santa Apolonia station in search of our train to Porto.

Which we found almost as soon as we hit the platform area at Santa Apolonia. After more coffee, we hit the station’s Pingo Doce mini-market.

The intention was to get some bread rolls, some cheese, some cooked meat, some canned fizz and a couple of bottles of water to have for lunch on the train. We may have booked first class tickets at a reasonable price, but even we prefer to buy food off the train rather than on on it.

As I’d sorted my food needs out quite quickly, I took a look at what else was available as we were due to be doing some self catering once we got to Porto and found Rivloi Cinema Hostel, our base for the five nights in Porto.

As I wandered past the fresh meat chiller cabinets, my eyes glanced down and noticed a few packs of meat that brought back memories of a 1970’s number one record.

There were a few packs of freshly skinned rabbits in the cabinet and whilst there was no fur in sight, I started to sing a song that summed up what had been left behind by the store’s meat prepping team – Bright Eyes

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This was the calm after the storm in Porto… more on Wednesday!

One year packing goodies

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Yes, it’s that Rohan Cool Silver t-shirt again!

As we’ve made several trips over the last year, there are a few items which have earned their stripes.

Such as 100ml bottles of Lifeventure Fabric Wash, 50ml packs of Nivea UVA/UVB Sun Lotion (SPF 30 or SPF 50 depending on the advance forecast for the places we’re visiting), 100ml bottles of Lush Shower Gel (original choice was Flying Fox, but I’ve now swapped to using Rain On My Parade), Lush solid shampoo bars and battery toothbrushes…

I bought a Slim Sonic AAA powered toothbrush, liked it, am still using it and haven’t as yet replaced the battery that came with it. I’ve got spare brush heads, so on the current performance, I should be using it for a while yet.

Caroline picked up a similar device from Clas Ohlson’s store in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last year. While the sign said it was £4.99, the item came up as being £2.99 when it was rung through the till. It’s worked, but Caroline has switched to a Colgate 360 battery powered toothbrush and has found that to be a better buy.

Clothing with a silver content has worked well. I’ve gone on about the Rohan range of t-shirts and underwear for years, but I’ve found that trainer and dress socks from Marks & Spencer have also been worth investing in. Nasty riffs from sweaty feet are a thing of the past!

Caroline tried Rohan’s Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs last year and has gone on to buy another couple of sets as they’ve proved to be quite useful. The fine fabric is comfortable to wear, even in hot climates and each item has been washed at the end of the day and either packed or worn the following day depending on what we’ve been up to.

Rohan’s Travel Linen clothing has also been a useful addition to her wardrobe, as have the three pairs of Goa trousers that I bought last year. Whilst I spent a great deal of time in t-shirts when we were in Lisbon, there were times when I felt slightly underdressed whilst having evening meals.

So I invested in some short and long sleeved shirts in last summer’s Rohan sale and added a couple of polo shirts to my travel collection. The latter can also be washed on a night and worn the following morning and I have gone out and bought another three because I’ve started wearing them at home.

Merino wool t-shirts have also been added to the wardrobe and these are also home and away items. I’ve used them as base layers when heading to the airport at 3am in below freezing conditions and on their own at rock concerts, wandering around town and whilst walking on coastal boardwalks on sunny days.

Anything else? Giant size Lifeventure travel towels have been useful in hostels or guest houses when towels or bathrobes haven’t been available and as part of the wash and wear processes.

Wash the item, squeeze the water out and then roll it up in the towel to get rid of any excess water before hanging the clothing and the towel up to dry.

The last items help to keep my pack organised and at a hand-luggage gauge friendly size.

A collection of Rohan lightweight storage cubes have been bought and used. One large one contains a mix of t-shirts, polo shirts and long sleeves, another is used for spare trousers, a micro fleece pullover and a fleece gilet and then two smaller cubes respectively contain underwear and socks.

Any chargers and adaptors are in a small wash bag pouch from IKEA, any paperwork is in a plastic wallet from WHS Smith and the guidebook goes in a small plastic carrier bag. Meds are in a clear plastic bag along with any necessary paperwork whilst the wash kit goes into one of the clear zipped pouches used to contain the Gillette travel kits I mentioned yesterday.

The Kindle, Nikon, passport, wallet and loose change go in my jacket or trouser pockets along with my reading specs and my spare pair of specs that double up as sunglasses thanks to Transitions lenses.

And tomorrow? What didn’t keep on keeping on!