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Here’s to 2018!

thumb_DSCN2365_1024Here’s to 2018!

Nothing has been firmed up yet for 2018, but there are a few ideas in the melting pot that may (or may not) reach the fruition stage later in the year…

Clues? Where we’re going, we don’t need clues!


London calling again!

img_0131Yes, it’s the Food Hall at Harrods…

You may remember that Caroline and I had a grand day out in London back in February…

A condensed piece about the trip heads up a feature on Wanderlust Magazine’s website.


LDN kit & caboodle


We saw plenty of posters and displays for London Fashion Week when we hit London last Thursday, but practicality and warmth factors were in our minds when we were choosing clothes, footwear, bags and tech for the trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that cold and we did see a few city types wandering around in shirts rather than suited and booted.

There was a fair amount of Rohan and Peter Storm stuff worn last Thursday as both of us wore merino wool base layers under fleece jumpers and windproof (Caroline) or furry finish (me) fleece jackets and either travel jeans (C) or soft shell trouser (me).

Caroline’s Reiker shoes did the business over the fourteen or so miles walked in the course of the day. Although I’d chosen to wear a newish pair of specialist shoes from a respected brand, the cushioning wasn’t what was required for a day of pavement pounding – replacements are already being eyed up in running rather than outdoor shops…

Our day bags came courtesy of Healthy Back Bag (C) and the man bag I’d bought at Imperial College about eighteen months ago.

Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste kept the breath fresh whilst Tea Tree wipes and small size body sprays kept things smelling sweet (as did the decision to wear merino wool based tops under our fleece jumpers).

M & S socks with silver content also came in useful too as a means of combatting any trainer induced smelly feet…

Anything else? Well, the iPad Mini came in useful as I still hadn’t got a paper copy of the latest Pocket Rough Guide London before we set off, as did a mini map of the touristy bits of the city.

The iPad wasn’t used that much, largely because local knowledge gleaned from thirty years of visiting London came in useful. It did however get used for deciding what our next moves should be as we respectively quaffed a pint of bitter shandy and a half of Aspalls cider in a pub just off Piccadilly.

Did the choice of clothing, footwear, bags and tech cut it? Yes, providing you discount the battering my feet got because of those shoes!

The tech worked fine (the above pic from Harrods is from the iPad – my Nikon digital compact was also used on the day) and that’s just about convinced me to take the iPad out and about on a more regular basis…

And yes, this is the second iPad only posting on wisepacking!


London calling…


Kings Cross Station, London

Just spotted what’s being shown as part of the Keith Richards’ Lost Weekend thread on BBC 4 here in the UK tomorrow night (Saturday 24th September) at 9.15pm.

It’s Julien Temple’s ‘London – The Modern Babylon’, a fascinating documentary about London since the beginning of the 20th Century. It’s a mix of archive material from the BFI (British Film Institute)library, interview footage and clips from various films too. And it has a cracking soundtrack too… starting with The Clash and London Calling.

Will be watching it as it goes out, even though there’s a DVD copy on the shelf in the lounge.


Home thoughts…


Wells-next-the-sea, North Norfolk

One prediction from those in the know is that there’s likely to be a rise in staycations here in the UK as travellers shun foreign holidays in the wake of Brexit, exchange rates and various events around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Will it happen? Quite possibly, even though holiday companies are running TV advertising regarding seven day breaks in Turkey with starting prices at £199 per person – a figure that’s less than one or two night’s stay here in the UK if the test searches I’ve run on various accommodation websites over the last couple of days are anything to go by.

We’ve seen footage of how quiet various beach resorts in were before the recent coup attempt, but if media reports are anything to go by, the beach resorts in Turkey for example weren’t really affected by events in Istanbul or Ankara (both places we’d still like to visit).

Whilst there are still places that travellers are avoiding, there are also those which have been affected by widely reported events that are very much open for business and tourism.

People are still heading to Paris, Madrid, London, Nice and Oslo after they’ve seen or at least heard about the various events that took place in those cities in recent years.

Caroline and I still head to London and we’d go back to Oslo tomorrow, even after the events that brought chaos to Norway in July 2011.

If it had happened a week earlier, we’d have been caught up in that chaos as we were staying just a few hundred metres away from the Parliament buildings in central Oslo and had walked past the end of the road a few times on that Friday…


All the signs are there – and on a sunny day too!

Will UK staycations numbers rise? Yes, but a few things need to be examined.

The weather for one. Yes, we’ve had some high temperatures over the last month and it looks like they’re going to hover around the 20C/72F mark for the next ten days or so, but rain came with it and whilst we’ve missed most of it here in Yorkshire, there are no guarantees as to whether it will miss us again over the next month!

We may not have to deal with exchange rates, but there are matters relating to pricing, service levels and ambience in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, guest houses or shops.

It’s not really a problem in places such as Blackpool for instance as there’s Greggs, Wetherspoons and even Marks & Spencer in the centre that help keep costs down.

There are places though where some businesses really take the p*ss with their pricing. Fortunately we’re not foodies, and that works for us as a foodie and their money are soon parted…

Our local baker charges 75p for a decent sausage roll, but two shops in Norfolk were charging around £3 a couple of years ago, a price that I’ve only seen matched on my only visit to Fortnum & Masons in London.

We also try to avoid places where the name of a ‘celebrity’ chef is prominent or where the establishment has been starred for anything more than their hygiene standards (although we did see one place back in May that proudly displayed their one star hygiene rating sticker in their front window…).

There’s also places that overcharge for accommodation. It’s a problem that will never go away because some have more money than sense (see the earlier comment re; foodies).

Yes, we’ve stayed in a couple of good hotels here in the UK or in Portugal, but we’ve never paid the full rate as we’ve either booked in advance or taken advantage of discounts from booking site loyalty programmes.

Caroline and I have discussed taking a last minute UK break this week. Now we’re never going to go for Claridges (we saw the BBC4 documentary about that establishment a couple of nights ago and it is definitely way out our price range), but the places we thought were affordable at various places in UK on booking sites had reviews that included the  words ‘Avoid’ or ‘Don’t do it!’.


Langdale, Cumbria

We could go camping, but it’s high season, school holidays and everything else that goes with those eventualities.

The last time I stayed in the Lake District in August I had two very sleepless nights, even though I’d changed campsites when I heard my new neighbours on the first one discussing the number of bottles of Jack and other spirits they were going to buy from the local offie… The second campsite ended up being just as bad…

Something will turn up. It always does… and yes, the fingers are crossed!


One year – August 2015


Not just pictures at an exhibition either…

London calling – not just at the top of the dial, but plenty of other places too!

The full story behind my three days in London in August 2015 can be found by clicking on London to the right of this copy box, but I didn’t include any photos in those three posts, so here’s a few from that trip.


Imperial College residence hall

This was a great place to have as a base whilst I was down in London.

It wasn’t cheap (£68 per night), but I had a comfortable ensuite room with a substantial breakfast and access to a student bar that served reasonably priced pints of Irish nectar (Guinness) and good bar meals too.


Pottering around Kings Cross

Yes, it’s an excuse to pose for photos and quite a few people were standing in line to do just that. Some got their friends to do the camera work, whilst others made use of the stills photographer on the right of this pic.


Kings Cross station

The last time Caroline and I were in Kings Cross it was in the middle of the makeover you see above. Pigeons were perfecting synchronised fly-bys before the Olympics and the facilities were more basic because of the work.

As I mentioned earlier, the pen portraits of the trip are in the wisepacking archives by clicking on London to the right of the screen.

It’s a city that I’ve visited many times. Some have been for business, some have been for pleasure and some have been down to involvement in the music business for a few years.

It was cheaper to take demos down to London on an overnight coach and distribute them to record companies by using a day pass on the Underground than it was to post them.

There and back trips in a car or a van took up occasional weekends as a couple of bands played at Dingwall’s in Camden Town or at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden.

There were also visits to the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road to see Al Stewart or to the Town & Country Club and The Royal Albert Hall to see Fish, the former Marillion vocalist.

Fun gigs were those by The Skiff Skats at either The Dublin Castle in Camden Town or the Caledonian Road Fun Day. The latter saw the band play a set by the canal and then head off and play a set on a barge.

I’d met a couple of members of the band before in their office and recording studio , but things were spoilt by a pushy photographer going a little too far in getting shots of these members of a name band just having a fun day out by playing music that was completely different to that which had seen them in the Top 5 and on TOTP on many occasions.


LDN strikes back…

When the initial plans for this London trip were made, Thursday was meant to be a day of leisure with the Tube used to whizz around the capital as a means of saving feet and saving time.

Yeah, right!

After breakfast and check-out of Imperial College (I gave it 10 on my review), I wandered up the road and onwards to Kensington High Street. The reason? I seem to remember that there was a National Geographic shop there. I’d tried doing the usual internet search before the trip and had found that the shop’s page wasn’t playing ball, something I put down to technical gremlins rather than anything else.

But it wasn’t to be. All I found of interest on the High Street was Ellis Brigham and that was it. Still, I’d stretched my legs as a way of compensating for the big breakfast and ended up back by The Royal Albert Hall and the collection of bus stops on the other side of the road.

And guess what? They were all full and not stopping because of the Tube strike. After about half an hour, I did manage to get on one of the crowded buses, but it stopped way short of its destination because of congestion and road works, so it was time to get off just before Trafalgar Square and then find somewhere to check out how much credit was left on my Oyster Card. That turned out to be a fairly quiet Charing Cross Station.

As it was about time for a mid-morning drink, I went off in search of same. Big mistake as everywhere was busy, so I headed into a Tesco Metro, got a litre of strawberry milk and slowly, but surely polished it off before heading towards Covent Garden once more.

Yes, it was busy, but not as busy as I’ve seen it before. Stanfords beckoned with books on the agenda and whilst there was a good selection of Rough Guides and Lonely Planets on offer, nothing caught my attention. Unlike the small representation of a Peruvian immigrant sporting a jaunty hat and a blue duffle coat (but no red wellies). With no marmalade sandwiches in sight, it was time to move on, and on, and on…

Now I knew that there was a recently opened branch of Rohan in the area and whilst I could have easily found their old site in Henrietta Street with ease, I’d left the address of this new store on the desk at home (D’oh!) so the on foot exploration continued until I eventually found myself on the familiar territory of Charing Cross Road.

Which is undergoing some changes (and then some). The demolition crews have been in thanks to Cross Rail and the reconstruction of the area as a result of the work being done to create this new way of getting around London. Oxford Street was a surprise though as a few of the places I used to visit have now gone the journey and whilst it was interesting to see a branch of Lush on Oxford Street, Caroline and I had just done some shopping in their Leeds branch, so there was nothing that we needed.

Lunch ended up being in the thoroughly exciting surroundings of McD‘s. I don’t use them much at home, but quick service times and cheap for London prices meant that it was a place to go and eat rather than savour. Then it hit me. I was flagging and despite the words of Dr Johnson springing to mind, the long day on Wednesday was catching up with me and I was getting a little weary of the capital.

The buses on Oxford Street were as busy as one expected on this strike day, but a wander onto Tottenham Court Road brought some enlightenment. Yes, it was tempting to go to the cinema to while away a few hours, but the only film I might have been tempted to see was Mission: Impossible 5. And that was a problem as I hadn’t seen numbers 3 or 4, so I probably had lost the plot in the continuing story of Ethan Hunt. Oh, and the daytime admission prices were a bit of a laugh… allegedly!

Still, all was not lost as they say in clicheworld. An almost empty bus with the words King’s Cross came along and I headed to said station. Yes, there were six hours to kill before the train home, but I had some money for coffee and snack and a well charged/well stocked Kindle so it wasn’t going to be too much of a problem. Or was it?

Loads of people everywhere had taken up the seats in the station concourse. The cafes were all full and taking a look at Platform 9 3/4 and the adjacent Harry Potter themed shop doesn’t take up that long. So I hit the pub and had a very fine pint of Beachcomber and then made a pint of cola last an hour whilst resting/snoozing on a very comfortable sofa in the station themed bar I was in.

When hunger started to rush in, choices had to be made. The pub prices were interesting, the cafes were still full and McD‘s across the road was also busy. It was tempting to buy something from the food market outside of Kings Cross but with a sausage roll costing £4.50 and a scotch egg coming in at £5, someone was having a giraffe as they say in the semi-local parlance… The bakers up the road from Wisepacking Towers charges 75p for a sausage roll while Co-Op charges £1.15 for two scotch eggs…

And then it happened. I remembered about the pub in St. Pancreas, found it, ordered some very good comfort food – sausage and mash – and a pint and waited for the food to arrive. It came, it was eaten and was very, very good too.

After that, it was back to Kings Cross for some people watching, reading and observing the number of bikes being wheeled or carried into the station. If I had a £100 for the number of Brompton folding bikes only that I saw over the next couple of hours, it would have ensured that my travel money pot would be rather full for a couple of years.

When the chosen train came up on the boards as being ready to get on, it was time to have a bit of luxury, some ‘free’ coffee and a chance to reflect on a day in London when there was no Tube service. Hectic was the word of choice before I dozed off for an hour and woke when the coffee and biscuits were served once more.

Will there be another visit to London this year? Quite probably, but it won’t be a solo on next time – plenty more to show Caroline when we head down there together (and hopefully there won’t be a Tube strike!).