Archive | Kindle Books RSS for this section

One year – September 2015 – part I

thumb_DSCN0833_1024

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…

thumb_DSCN0835_1024

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

thumb_DSCN0877_1024

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

New books and sparkies…

DSCN0122

Yes, it’s Tavira again – one of the first pics to appear on wisepacking.

Most of the morning has been taken up in going back for the future.

No, I haven’t taken delivery of a DeLorean, but I have been going back to the roots of wisepacking and looking at early posts from 2014.

Little did I know how it would develop. There have been a few hiccups, but I wouldn’t have guessed that visitors would come from all over the globe.

I expected views from the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and others from the usual suspects, but I didn’t expect views from Nepal, Turks & Caicos, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, Qatar, American Samoa and South Sudan.

The reason I’m going back to wisepacking’s roots is simple – there’s a work in progress which involves taking a look at what I’ve written over the last two years, updating it, editing and ensuring that the spelling is in English English rather than the American English that my word processing software keeps trying to correct it to…

Some 15,000 words are in the document file and I suspect that the end result may be around three times that word count.

The plan is to publish a Kindle book when the backpacker travel season kicks in and to update/upgrade or remake/remodel when necessary.

It’s just a short posting today as there’s a sparky (electrician to the uninitiated) coming along to look at the house lights after a problem occurred on Saturday afternoon.

We’re not dancing in the dark, but wandering around upstairs is being done carefully pace the sun’s gone down. Fortunately we have a street light out the front, so leaving the blind open on the landing helps overnight.

We’re not going to have power or indeed Wi-Fi later on, so the writing is done for now, the email needs to be checked and the Kindle pulled out when the power goes off.

One year – May to July packing

03754C96

Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirt – worth its weight in gold?

As you may have noticed in the pieces so far in the One year series, there is a common denominator in the postings related to the posts on our travels in May and Junes 2015, but it’s hardly mentioned at all in the posts about the trip to Lisbon in July.

We know how much stuff can go in the back of a Skoda Fabia when the seats are down, but anything we took along on the Somerset trip had to be packed around Betty BikeCaroline’s trusty touring/commuting cycle.

Betty’s sturdy and took up more room in the car than we thought, so packing had to be on the minimalistic side, which is why we took small bags with us and shopped locally when we got to the apartment we’d rented for the week.

There were a few luxuries though as I’d shoved a few DVDs into a carrier bag in case we felt the need for some televisual entertainment and I’d also decided to take along my DLSR as well as the usual Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera.

As the weather was destined to be changeable according to the advance forecasts, a couple of micro fleece zip necks (TNF and Craghoppers) were packed into my Karrimor holdall along with a pair of Peter Storm soft shell trousers, a couple of Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirts and a couple of the same brand’s Essential t-shirts, three or four pairs of Rohan Silver trunks and a few pairs of M&S dress socks.

With that lot in the bag plus a pair of Merrell shoes and a pair of Brasher sandals, that was about it apart from a couple of travel towels plus my wash kit, meds and Kindle.

The bag wasn’t full and could be easily squashed into any gaps around Betty Bike once her front wheel had been taken off in order to get her into the back of the car.

Caroline was also using a Karrimor holdall, but her clothing mix included  travel clothing from either Rohan or Royal Robbins and a few bits of Endura, Altura and Tenn cycle clothing too.

A06572500

Your starter for Tenn – great shirt for cycling or daywear…

Did we take the right kit with us? We certainly did. The only pieces that haven’t been mentioned so far are the Berghaus and Nike waterproof jackets we took along or my TNF hooded soft shell. Only the waterproofs were used to protect the innocent…

Anything else? Well we did some shopping at the Rohan shop in Dunster, but that was for a few items that were required for the Lisbon trip that we’d decided to take a few weeks later. Even at that stage, Caroline and I had plans for Europe, unlike some who have been in the news over the last few days – allegedly!

As the visit to North Norfolk in June was a short one and Caroline wasn’t taking Betty Bike, we didn’t really need to pack much given the advance forecasts and the relaxed nature of this trip.

So it was a scaled down packing list compared to Somerset – the clothes we were wearing plus three t-shirts each, socks and undies, a spare pair of trousers and the usual travel towels, wash kits, meds and Kindles. The DLSR was left at home in favour of the Nikon and that was it.

Or was it? Well no, not really as Caroline was planning on hiring a bike whilst we down in Norfolk, so her bike clothes, helmet and gloves were also in her Karrimor bag.

And so to Lisbon via a night drive to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and a late arrival at the Hampton by Hilton hotel as Caroline had spent been at a family wedding.

Baggage choices? Our trusty Osprey Farpoint 40s as we were travelling hand luggage on easyJet.

And the contents? A security friendly travel wash bag that had been bought for the journey. It was originally full of predominately Gillette travel products, but a little pruning and replacement ensured that the new contents covered all eventualities.

The disposable razor and small tube of toothpaste were retained, but in went a plastic cased Dove roll-on instead of an aerosol. That was followed by my Slim Sonic Toothbrush, a bottle of Lifeventure Fabric Wash for the clothes, 100ml of Lush’s Flying Fox shower gel, a small bottle of tea tree oil, a similarly sized King Of Shaves shaving oil and two small bottles of Nivea Factor 50.

As before, my usual prescribed meds, yellow Warfarin book and repeat prescription forms went in along with a pack of indigestion tablets and a few sachets of recovery powder (just in case there were too many glasses of vino collapso imbibed over the course of a day…).

Worn items included Salomon ventilated trainers, a pair of Rohan Goa trousers, one of four Rohan Core Silver t-shirts (the rest were in the bag along with a couple of Rohan Element t-shirts).

Why so many t-shirts? As good as all of these shirts are, expectations of 30+ C meant that for once I was playing safe and wearing two shirts per day rather than one. I did however regret not having a couple of polo shirts as smarter options as we were eating out so much over the course of the week.

Rohan Cool Silver trunks and suitable socks completed the worn outfit and yes, there were spares in the bag of these. Other packed items included another pair of Goa trousers, my Nikon Coolpix and charger plus my Kindle and charger, a newly purchased Rohan Stowaway Daypack 20 and a travel towel. Oh, and a copy of Rough Guide‘s Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon plus a pair of Next espadrilles for sock free days or nights out…

Caroline packed a couple of Rohan Serene vest tops, a Rohan Malay Linen Plus top and a few other  items from their travel linen range.

Footwear choices were a pair of Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes and a pair of Merrell sports sandals. Her day bag was a Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3 that held her passport, camera, travel wallet, tissues, sun cream and a small bottle of water.

Washing was done before we went out and left to dry on hangers next to the windows once the clothing had been rolled up in a travel towel to squeeze out excess water.

The Rohan Goa trousers were just right for the trip thanks to a lightweight fabric that washed and dried quickly, two zipped pockets to take wallet, camera, reading specs and guest house keys.

Out of all the things we took along with us, there was only one piece of kit that required a rethink. I’ve no doubt that the Rohan packable day sack will come into its own, but I have to admit to making a personal wrong choice by using it over the first few days in Lisbon. It was a bit too big for what I wanted to carry around and I ended up buying a small cotton bag that sufficed for the rest of the week.

Coming up next – One year – August 2015.

London, Lonely Planet and a tube strike!

One year – July 2015 III

thumb_DSCN0760_1024

It’s Wednesday and it’s a rest day around Lisbon

Now we couldn’t just do nothing, but we had a lie in, a chat with fellow Brits about Lisbon and then we headed out for a wander around nowhere in particular.

The Botanical Gardens appeared to be a good place to start this day of wandering aimlessly. We paid our money, headed in and I decided to indulge in a spot of photography whilst Caroline explored the gardens.

Which was a nice idea, but my Nikon had other ideas. Fortunately my camera hadn’t died a death (which was the fate of my Lumix in 2013 and the reason why I’d bought the current Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera in Lisbon a few days later).

I’d checked the battery on Tuesday, but it was now as dead as a dodo so that potential hour of photography became another chance to read from the Kindle as I waited for Caroline to show up. The slow day was a good idea as it gave us the chance to just see what took our fancy as we headed through Principe Real, through Baixa & Chiado and onwards to Rio Tejo.

Nothing was planned. We wandered in and out of shops, had coffee, had lunch and just relaxed rather than haring off like Roadrunner or Speedy Gonzales. The information centre shop sold me some stationery items and a cotton shopping bag that could be stuffed into my day bag – Portugal had adopted plastic carrier bag charges, unlike England at that moment in time…

There were several drinks stops as we combatted the high temperatures with fruit juices, Coke Zero and Sagres Radler beer plus the obligatory bottle of water in our day bags.

After a relaxing day, we had a plan for Thursday as we’d decided to head to Sintra. An enquiry at the ticket office revealed that we could use our Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards on trains to Sintra, something that we weren’t aware of at that time…

Siestas were declared on return to Lisbon Dreams then showers and a quick change happened before we went to The 39 Steps for our evening meal. The outdoor eating option was taken once more, drinks arrived and food was ordered, but unfortunately we didn’t expect an unexpected cinematic reference to occur.

I’d had a very good pasta and salmon main on our first visit to The 39 Steps, so Caroline ordered this for her main this time whilst I went for something completely different.

When the meals arrived, it looked like Caroline‘s order had been lost in translation. Instead of pasta with salmon, pasta with shellfish was placed in front of her.

Our waitress was very, very apologetic about the error, but Caroline decided to tackle the staring shellfish head on as it were rather than having to watch me eat my meal as she was waiting for her ordered meal to arrive. C’est la vie as the French say…

Thursday saw an early start and boy were we pleased when we got to Rossio Station and zapped our Viva Viagem cards at the barriers in front of the platform for the Sintra train. There were queues at both the ticket machines and manned ticket windows – long queues.

Once in Sintra, there was a choice to make of where to go first. We walked down to the Palacio Nacional, had coffee and Caroline paid a return visit this palace and then Quinto da Regaleira with its main building and impressive gardens complete with terraces, grottoes, fountains and the Initiation Well (which comes complete with its own entrance via a revolving stone door).

thumb_DSCN0752_1024.jpg

Palacio Nacional, Sintra

Whilst Caroline took a look at both of these impressive sights, I wandered around with a fully charged camera. The Toy Museum had closed its doors, so I took to the streets, explored the various alleyways and tried to avoid the midday sun….

thumb_DSCN0742_1024

thumb_DSCN0747_1024

Two views of Sintra…

As you may have guessed, I’m not one for museums, palaces or elaborate gardens. Caroline is and we have a mutual understanding that I’ll find something else to do whilst she’s off exploring historical places or galleries.

If there’s a museum dedicated to cars, flight or an exhibition on music or rock photography, I’m there like a shot, but if it’s historical, I’m with Rudge’s view on history as expounded in a memorable scene from The History Boys.

The quote’s a good one, but given that this is a free site without age restrictions, it can’t be quoted here!

Yes, I have an O level in History, but that’s from 42 years ago and my views on the subject have changed somewhat and I’m more interested in more modern history rather than what went on in days of yore…

Caroline enjoyed both Palacio Nacional and Quinto da Regaleira and was full of enthusiasm for both when we visited a very quiet outdoor cafe cum art shop on the way back into the centre. The town was quiet as we walked back to the station and so was the train, a welcome experience as the train had been crowded on the way to Sintra.

The return to Lisbon Dreams was equally quiet and as we’d had rather a good lunch in Sintra, we raided the mini market for bread, cheese and a bottle of wine for our evening meal. Rustic? Yes, but a fine way to end a grand day out.

And finally – Part IV. Museums, Os Tibetanos, the inspiration for Casino Royale and wine tasting in Cascais…

One year – July 2015 II

thumb_DSCN0612_1024

All quiet in Praca do Comercio, but not for long…

thumb_DSCN0614_1024

Wheelie good way to get around Lisbon?

If it’s Monday, it must be Lisbon without a plan.

Although we’d booked flights, accommodation and had Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards to get around, we hadn’t come up with a cunning plan as to what to do during the week we were in Lisbon. Yes, we had had a few thoughts about where we wanted to go, but nothing had been set in stone as to what to do on any particular day.

Our first problem came within a few metres of Lisbon Dreams. As the temperatures were high and we’d already slathered Nivea Factor 50 suncream over any exposed skin (the rest was covered by SPF protective clothing) to combat the sun and the high UV levels, we decided to get a couple of bottles of water to stash in our day bags.

Problem was a) we’d forgotten how cheap bottled water was in Portugal and b) we’d put all of our loose change into the tips bowl at Terra on Sunday night, leaving us with €10 notes as the smallest type of local currency in our respective travel wallets or pockets.

Big mistake as we were to find out for the first time on that not so manic Monday. We were armed with two bottles of water and a €10 note at a mini market check-out early in the morning and faced with an operator who didn’t speak much English who had very little loose change in his till. He made it, but it wasn’t an easy task.

As we wandered into Lisbon city centre on what was to become a familiar route, we noticed a couple of things. There were more armed police around than there were during our last visit and they appeared to be stationed outside banks and high end jewellery shops or on street corners near such establishments.

The other was that there appeared to be a protest of sorts happening as signs and small crosses were placed on the pavement outside one of the larger bank branches.

thumb_DSCN0603_1024

thumb_DSCN0604_1024

As we found out later, there had been a banking crisis in Portugal that we didn’t know about and the crosses and signs alleged more than we could gather from a short conversation later in the day.

Once in the city centre around Rossio Station, a decision was made to head down to Praca do Municipo for a coffee at Cafe Tulipa, a favourite haunt on our last visit to Lisbon. We’d visited the square before Michael Portillo (on one of his Continental Railway Journeys), but noticed that a set of alien-like sculptures had landed since our visit in September 2013…

DSCN0733

Where’s the packet of Smash? (an old joke relating to an old UK advert)

Once refreshed, it was time to revisit a surprisingly empty Praca do Comercio. Segways came and left and we decided to take a wander around an area we’d missed out on during our first visit – Alafama. Now you can head up the easy way on Tram 28, but we took the hard way by using our feet.

thumb_DSCN0637_1024

thumb_DSCN0618_1024

Caroline took in the Se (pictured above) as we headed towards Alafama and then Castelo de Sao Jorge. The streets, gardens and rooftop views along the way had us stopping to take photo after photo and also sidestepping various street hawkers with hands full of sunglasses or selfie sticks.

thumb_DSCN0635_1024

As it was lunchtime as we approached Castelo de Sao Jorge, we decided to have lunch as the castle appeared to be getting rather busy. Now we’re used to having curry dishes as we live in Yorkshire, but this was the first time that we’d had curry dishes for a lunchtime meal.

Arco do Castelo turned up trumps, even though their dishes were a few degrees milder than the curries we’re used to around home. What did impress us was that quality of their freshly cooked naan breads – probably the best naan breads that we’ve ever tasted in any of our visits into curry houses in Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Somerset.

thumb_DSCN0644_1024

And so to Castelo de Sao Jorge (above). We paid, we wandered and wondered why there were so many young people in there wearing Minions t-shirts. It turned out that it was all part of an international summer school outing and the best way for those in charge to keep tabs on their charges was to look for those Minions t-shirts.

With the heat kind of getting to me, Caroline wandered around more than I did as I found some shade, drank some water and then tried finding an ice cream. I found one, but I didn’t expect such a palaver surrounding the purchase of just one Cornetto.

Yes, the curse of no change struck again, even though I’d tendered a €5 note this time!

One of the reasons why we like Lisbon is that it’s a relaxed and laid back capital city. There’s no rushing around like ants as there is in London for instance. Although it was now mid-afternoon, there was still plenty to see and do in a quietly relaxed manner.

Museu de Design e da Moda (Museum of Design and Fashion) is set in a former bank, is free to visit and plays host to loads of design classics of all kinds and has guest exhibitions down in the former bank vaults too.

After that, it was time to head back to Praca do Comercio and down to the edge of Rio Tejo to board a sightseeing boat as a means of getting a different view of some of the place we’d by now decided to visit the next day – Belem.

It was cooler too as we were under the shelter at the stern of the boat and the breeze on the river was a welcome relief from the heat we’d encountered so far. We did’t hear too much of the commentary coming from the speakers, but that wasn’t important as we used our eyes to view and made sparing use of our cameras.

The images captured on memory cards were of those sights that we were to see the following day, but the shots were taken from a totally different perspective and that alone made the river trip worth it…

thumb_DSCN0675_1024

thumb_DSCN0679_1024

Once back on dry land, we headed back to Lisbon Dreams for a late siesta, shower and a wander out for an evening meal. We’ve eaten out at cinema cafes before, but The 39 Steps cafe bar at Cinemateca Portuguesa is probably one of the best we’ve eaten in.

The cinema itself had shown one of our favourite films a few days before – Casablanca – as part of a Bergman retrospective, but The 39 Steps was worth the visit on its own terms. Mains, desserts, fruit juice, beer and coffee went down well, so much so that we decided to visit the same venue again later in the week.

Tuesday was a one stop day – Belem. Tram 15 to Belem was crowded, so much so that both of us paid close attention to bags and wallets, especially after the pickpocketing warnings. First up was the Centro Cultural de Belem and the Berarado Collection contained within the Centro Cultural.

Whilst I visited the former and had lunch too, I gave the latter a miss thanks to the officious staff member who wanted to take my day bag off me. Caroline wandered in whilst I read a book on my Kindle and watched as several people wandered into the Collection with bags that were much larger than mine and infinitely more capable of hiding any potentially stolen pieces of artwork.

There had been mention made of depositing bags at reception, but it was near the ceiling on a left hand side wall near the entrance rather than being on a graphic as one entered the reception area!

The three other places to go in Belem are the Padro dos Discobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) as seen above in the top photo of the two just above this piece of copy and Torre de Belem.

As we were there after lunch, both places were very busy with tourists wanting to see the view from the top of each site or to take both proper shots or selfies with their phones. The lesson learned? Get there early before the tour buses or crowded trams as a means of getting the place almost to yourself – that’s what we’ll be doing on our next visit!

And the third place in Belem? Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a consumer temple to pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and their customary dusting of cinnamon.

They’re great with coffee, but one each just isn’t enough. Yes, you can get them over the summer in the Co-op here in the UK, but they’re not quite the same as those from Belem, even when you do the cinnamon sprinkling thing…

After catching Tram 15 back to Lisbon, a decision was made to eat early, so we went in search of a budgetary gem –  full-on chicken dinner at Bon Jardim, Rei dos Frangos in Rua Barros Querios near Rossio Station.

The establishment runs from three sites in the same street and there’s chicken, fries and salad galore plus a host of other choices too. There may have been three crabs in the tank inside the restaurant window when we arrived, but there were still three when we left after generous portions of piri piri chicken and one or two beers too.

A long post this one, but tomorrow’s about gardens & galleries in Lisbon plus a return visit to Sintra.

Just wondering…

I’ve just taken advantage of an offer of a book for 99p on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s about an illegal immigrant to the UK, but don’t let that put you off in the wake of the news coverage of last night’s TV debate about the forthcoming referendum here in the UK.

This particular illegal immigrant travels light, comes from Darkest Peru and has developed a taste for marmalade sandwiches.

The name’s Paddington Bear… and may we recommend him to the house.

Even Nigel’s… allegedly!

Should it stay or should it go now?

No, I’m not referring to the UK‘s vote on June 23rd as to whether we stay in the EU or get the flock out of there… *

It’s a comment as to whether I take the Apple iPad Mini 2 that I bought a few months ago along when Caroline and I go travelling.

The sharp eyed may have noticed that there were no references to the iPad in the pieces I posted last week regarding packing for our recent visit to Tavira.

Yes, it was used the day before we headed off, but after the last emails and a look at the weather forecasts, the iPad was switched off and stayed at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the iPad and I’ve found it useful for checking emails, web browsing, watching programmes on BBC iPlayer and reading via the Kindle app, but I didn’t feel that it was going to be necessary to pack and use it whilst in Portugal.

There are times when it comes in very useful, especially when using it to log into newspaper websites that I can’t always access on the desktop.

Although the iPad has an adblocker installed, I can still read newspaper copy on the iPad without the need to look at anything up to 45 ads appearing…

One thing that is noticeable is the battery life. It may not use that much power when watching something like an edition of Michael Wood‘s recent series on China, but if you’re spending a bit of time on the Internet at different times of the day doing some research, then the battery does run down that little bit faster.

At the moment, I’m charging the iPad up on average about once every two days, which is fine by me as it can be on the desk charging from the mains charger whilst I’m doing stuff on the desktop.

On a different note, there are also recollections of a couple of recent meals out when several were constantly checking their smartphones or indeed checking stuff on their iPads rather than talking to their fellow diners…

Now this wasn’t just something that was spotted here in deepest Yorkshire.

It was also spotted in Tavira as people checked their phones by the pool to find out what TA had to say about a restaurant they were thinking of dining in, check their emails and other assorted goings on via their phones.

Although a couple of individuals were using iPads or laptops in the cloisters of the Pousada, one couple had his and hers tablets that they were using at the breakfast table in the dining room rather than talking to each other.

Were they techie obsessed twenty or thirty somethings? Nope, they were silver surfers!

I’m still not ruling out taking the iPad with me when we head off somewhere, but the booking of our next trip just proved that you don’t necessarily need to have one when you’re researching a potential destination and accommodation in said destination.

I’ve been using the iPad to track prices on four different websites for a potential visit to the Greek Islands. The prices were right, the flight times were right in some cases and the parking fees at Manchester Airport could be lived with. I’d even got a trio of brochures to do some cross-referencing with as I did the surfing…

But then it happened. The iPad needed a charge so I plugged it in and then remembered a book that I’d leafed through a few times since it arrived last year – the 2015 paper edition of The Independent Hostel Guide.

Its proved useful in the past and it came up trumps once more. A hostel somewhere in England that offered B&B accommodation at a reasonable price in an area that I know quite well, even though it’s 15 years since I was last there and over 20 years since I took groups there for three or four day backpacking trips.

Old technology ruled as I used a phone to make the booking and pay the deposit and the only time that ‘new’ technology got involved was when I received the confirmation email yesterday and when I checked the bank a few hours ago.

So on this occasion it was a case of “Apps? Where we’re going, we don’t need apps!”.

I used the paper copy of the Independent Hostel Guidehttp://www.independenthostels.co.uk

And that * above? I’m very happy to maintain the status quo and keep on rocking all over the world!

And Europe too…

 

Accessories after the fact…

If you read my poshpacking post a couple of days ago, you may have noticed that I talked about the clothing and other bits and pieces that I took over to Tavira, but missed out on a few things that ensured that my Osprey hit that 8kg mark that I mentioned in poshpacking.

Three things that weren’t in my pack were my camera, Kindle and dumb-ass phone. Two out of the three items were used in Portugal and one wasn’t.

The Nikon Coolpix S3100 has been worth its weight in gold. The pics are pretty good and the few that aren’t are either dumped off the SD card on the day that they’re shot or nuked when they hit the Mac Mini that wisepacking is put together on.

As ever, the old style Kindle proved its worth. Quite a few books had been added before we headed off to Portugal so there was a good mix of biographies, travel accounts, business stuff and quite a few amusing tomes too.

The best one was started on the plane over to Faro and finished whilst in TaviraMy Dining Hell by Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for The Observer. His weekly column in that paper is always a joy to read and his book highlights several of his Greatest Hits (and mentions which ones are still around and which ones have disappeared into the ether).

Now I did take the respective chargers over for the Nikon and the Kindle with me, but neither were needed as both kept their charges well over the course of the week. The bag used to store the chargers & plug adaptors and any spare SD cards came from IKEA and was one of bags or packing cubes used to keep my stuff sorted and in order 

The phone was only taken along as we were driving to and from the airport rather than using the mix of buses and trains when we flew to Lisbon from Liverpool Airport in September 2015.

I did switch it on a couple of times whilst in Tavira, but the phone didn’t connect with any network, unlike Caroline‘s smartphone, which did and took texts and calls from her family as we’d flown over to Portugal on Mothers Day UK.

Anything else? A small bottle of Lifeventure‘s Fabric Wash did the usual trick when we were washing clothes out throughout the week – around half a bottle was used, even though we were washing shirts, trousers and underwear during that week.

Fortunately we did have a sink plug in the washbasin this time around and we didn’t have to source plug substitutes by buying packs of Pringles or tubs of Hagen Daaz ice cream!

An umbrella was taken along and placed in my day bag along with my reading specs and Transition lensed sunglasses every day… With the food being so good over the course of the week, the Sainsbury’s indigestion tablets taken along as a precautions weren’t needed either.

Some sachets of Tesco Recovery Powder were used however by myself, largely after drinks orders were lost in translation and large beers arrived on the table instead of small ones or after nights where the two of us shared a bottle of wine (we usually make a bottle last 2 nights at home, largely because of one the meds I’m on after surviving a stroke…).

Small packs of Wet Wipes did come in handy on a few occasions. The first was after a meal based around lamb cutlets where the only sensible option was to pick the cutlets up in my hands to eat them rather than trying to use a knife and fork.

The second was after a mini-meal of croquettes at a street cafe in Tavira and the third was after stubbing my toe whilst wearing the espadrilles that I’d taken along.

Yes, blood was drawn and yes, I’m on anti-coagulants. Fortunately the wound wasn’t a gusher, but the Wet Wipes did their job when Caroline used them to clean up the mess that had been made.

Owt else? A folder containing the boarding cards, car parking ticket, fast track security booking along with details of Expedia booked airport to hotel and back car transfers and our hotel booking information.

Other items in this folder were copies of our passports, travel insurance details and bus & train timetable printouts too. Had we photocopied twenty pages of guidebook information and taken those with us?

You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!

Taking the tablets?

For many years,  I’ve always associated the words tablet/tablets with something that you take when you’re ill, got a hangover or are on preventative medicine.

Or with the name of a distinctive Scottish confection that I indulge in when I’m north of the border or in an enlightened shop that’s below that line…

In recent years though, it’s come to mean something else. Caroline and I first looked at Apple iPads and Kindle Fire tablets back in 2012 when we were wandering around Glasgow for a few days.

We decided to give them a miss though as we couldn’t justify the purchase of one or two such items at the time. We both had smartphones, we used guidebooks, Kindle e-readers and digital compact cameras, so we didn’t need tablets.

There have been quite a few times when we’ve seen people using them in hostels, around town, in the grounds of stately homes and in museums such as The National Motor Museum in Hampshire (Old Hampshire, UK, not New Hampshire, USA!).

We’ve also taken the mickey out of some users as they try to use their iPad whilst watching a movie on a big screen in a hostel (and while also checking out anti-social media on their iPhones at the same time).

So why have I just gone out and bought an Apple iPad Mini 2?

Because it’s got to the point where I need to be able to view or update wisepacking.me when we’re on the road.

Or check out emails, the news or weather forecasts before we move on towards our next destination.

Or need a back-up camera just in case the Nikon digital compact packs up when we’re on the road (like the Lumix that stopped short, never to go again when we were in Portugal back in 2013).

Or when I/we fancy listening to some music on iTunes.

Some hostels, guest houses and hotels have computers for residents to use, but more have Wi-Fi. As do various shops, cafes, tourist attractions trains and buses.

The iPad Mini is a Wi-Fi only one, so usage is going to be for research purposes rather than bookings or purchases at this moment in time.

My iPad Mini has just one extra app on it at the moment and that’s the Kindle one. Whilst most of my Kindle books are on my basic 2012 Kindle, I’ve downloaded some of my travel books onto the iPad Mini 2 to evaluate the usefulness of having such books on the machine.

Whilst navigation is easier than the push buttons on that basic Kindle and there’s colour photos and maps to look at and pull or pinch as needed, I’m going to give it a little bit of a test against the Kindle and the paper version of at least one guidebook in the coming weeks to see whether it’s easier to check information out electronically or on paper.

As it stands at the moment though, two things spring to mind…

The paper guidebook may mark you out as a tourist if you whip it out in the middle of the street or in a bar or cafe, but the hardware may (or may not) mark you out as a tourist with a target on your back for the ne’er do wells/thieving barstools of this world.

The other one is much more basic though.

Paper guidebooks don’t need to be recharged – unlike the iPad Mini (around 10 hours use before charging according to what I’ve read so far) or that elderly basic Kindle (at least two weeks of use between charges if I’m in a heavy reading mood and there are books to match the mood).

So, time will tell, but one thing’s for certain.

You can’t watch a Noel Gallagher concert on a guidebook or a basic Kindle, but you can on an iPad Mini 2 if you click on the iPlayer button on the BBC‘s website…

I’ll come back to this subject in the New Year by the way.

And just in case you’re wondering why I went for Apple and not Android, it’s quite simple.

I’ve used Apple machines for around 26 years now and had an Android phone for four years. The Android smartphone was switched off and laid to rest in April 2015 when it was replaced by a more basic talk and text phone.

The result? Less hassle and a week between battery top ups!

 

 

Things that make you go ‘mmm’…

Farpoint 40 Lagoon Blue

Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack

Yes, it’s on here again.

Caroline and I both have one and they’ve proved their worth again on our recent week in Lisbon. Both did their stuff once more and there were a few people checking them out as we headed to our digs in Lisbon and at both Liverpool and Lisbon airports as we waited for our flights out and back. And yes, they do fit in easyJet’s hand luggage cage – we checked!

It’s good to see though that the Farpoint 40 has also picked up the Best In Test kudos in the August edition of Wanderlust Travel Magazine here in the UK:

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/issue/august-2015-issue–on-sale-from-2-july

A couple of recent purchases were inside my Farpoint 40 in the shape of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen. The Slim Sonic Toothbrush is quite a neat package that runs off one AAA battery that comes complete with a good cover for the business end of the brush which protects both the replaceable head and the all important on/off switch.

My example came from Amazon here in the UK, as did a four pack of replacement heads to keep things sweet for future use:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00FXS46YK?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00

The Fisher Space Pen is something that I’ve looked at several times over the many years that it’s been around. Yes, I’ve heard the comments before (in an episode of The West Wing no less) about the Americans allegedly spending money developing the pen for use in space whilst the Russian cosmonauts  used pencils…

The Space Pen is compact when it’s not being used, but once the pen top is removed and put into place at the non-business end of the pen, the whole thing is well balanced and a joy to use.

Mine was stashed either in a trouser pocket or in my reading specs case whilst we were in Lisbon (it now stays in the reading specs case all of the time when not in use), allowing me to have a decent pen with me for use whenever I need it. Am I impressed with it? Yes, as is Caroline, but she quickly handed it back to me when she found out how much it was!

This was another item found on Amazon here in the UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000WGD13U?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s01

The purchase of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen were both prompted by the mentions made in a very useful Kindle BookThe Modern Nomad’s Backpack: A Guide To Packing Light For Round The World Travel by Anne Richardson.

There’s a host of other useful ideas in the book that can be followed, especially if you carry tech items with you on your travels…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Modern-Nomads-Backpack-Packing-Travel-ebook/dp/B00II2O31E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1437737462&sr=8-3&keywords=the+modern+nomads

Our accommodation in LisbonLisbon Dreams Guest House – was booked via booking.com. I’ll be writing about Lisbon Dreams in a future posting about our week in Lisboa here on wisepacking, but I have to say that one the usage so far, I’m quite impressed by the service offered by booking.com, so much so that I’ve also used the site to find a place to stay in London and for another trip Caroline and I have planned for later in the year.

What we have found is that a couple of places I’ve booked have been via the establishment’s own web site and the when I’ve clicked on the booking button on those websites have led me to booking.com‘s facilities.

In other cases, the places we’ve booked have been sighted before in examinations of either the appropriate Rough Guide or Lonely Planet to the country in question. In one case, a guide book quoted a hostel’s double room as being 44 euros a night, the hostel’s own website was quoting 44 euros a night for each person in that double room and booking.com came up with a cost of 50 euros a night for a double room in that same hostel…

And finally we come to easyJet. It’s the first time we’ve used that airline and the choice was made on the price of the flights compared to the prices on other airlines we looked at. Neither of us have flown from Liverpool Airport either so it was a case of two firsts on the same day!

The easyJet booking process was easily done with seats chosen for both the outward and return flights. Baggage wasn’t an issue thanks to those Osprey packs and the online check-in was a doddle to sort out once we’d got Caroline’s son to install a new computer printer for us!

We’d stayed at one of the hotels at Liverpool Airport on the night before the flight out and it was easy to walk across the road from the hotel, find the automated ticket check post, get through the paid-for Fast Track Security and then relax airside with a coffee whilst we waited for the flight’s gate to come up on the screen.

The flight was quite reasonable and the approach to Lisbon interesting as Caroline was spotting places on the ground. Service on the plane was good with no overselling taking place and attentiveness happening when needed, even when the father of the youngster sitting in the seat behind Caroline announced to the cabin crew that his son had had a wee on the seat as the plane approached Lisbon Airport…

And the return flight – not too bad either, but we did have a longer wait in Lisbon Airport for the flight home as we got to the airport much quicker than expected thanks to the Lisbon Metro system and the swift bus ride between Lisbon’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Would we fly easyJet again? Oh yes, the flights are already booked, but we will be wary of apparent damp patches on the seats when we board the plane!