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Holiday fever?

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UK or not UK? That is the question…

Plans and bookings have been made for 2017 and there are ideas in the melting pot for others in the UK and Europe.

Airlines, holiday companies and hotel chains are already sending me emails regarding their offers for next year whilst Expedia have just awarded me + Silver status on their rankings, something that goes alongside the Genius status awarded by Booking.com earlier this year.

[I will hasten to add at this point that I personally don’t regard myself as a genius in any way, shape or form – I know what my school results were and that my degree from University Of Sunderland is a Desmond (a 2:2).]

But I digress. I suspect that there will be a few more emails over the coming months giving me more details of what their promotions are.

Yes, I’ve unsubscribed from one accommodation provider’s email list as I was getting so many emails alerting me to deals going on in places I’ve already been to over the last twelve months and to deals in places that I’ve already booked for in early 2017.

I already know what Rohan’s sale items are though as a catalogue arrived via snail mail earlier in the week and this has been backed up by an email a few minutes ago.

Items of interest have been identified and that’s to my advantage as I decided not to take up the offer on a 20% off full price stock voucher for use in the Leeds store a couple of Saturdays ago.

Have the prices gone down? Yes, and by more than 20% – one will have a 30% reduction whist the other has a 50% reduction.

They’re both fleeces, but they will come in useful as a couple of existing fleeces have seen better days.

A couple of t-shirts have also caught my eye too as selected colours in the Element T and Merino Union 200 T ranges are also being given the 30% off treatment come Tuesday 27th…

The above will come in useful as Caroline and I head off to either European destinations or those here in the UK.

We haven’t been up to Scotland for a while now and whilst Caroline has been to both Northern Ireland and Isle of Man, I haven’t – yet!

I’ve not been up to the Borders for a while and it’s a few years since we spent time in the Lake District. Our North Norfolk hideaway has changed management recently, so a few days may be spent in one of the hostel’s en-suite rooms or on one of their campsite pitches.

A return visit to Suffolk could be on the cards, as could London or Brighton and Hastings. My last visit to Brighton was way back in the 1960s and whilst Caroline and King Harold have seen Hastings, I haven’t…

Anything else? Have a good holiday season, wherever you are in the world!

And that pic?* Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A-A packing – Part Two

May to August 2016

Now, where were we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One year – May to July packing

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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.

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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 – June 2015

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Deepdale Backpackers, Burnham Deepdale, North Norfolk

There are times when we just pack a bag and head off at short notice for a few days r & r to a place where there’s almost no mobile phone reception.

Which is exactly what we did in early June last year. Caroline had a few days between shifts and once a couple of things were rearranged, we headed pointed the car towards one of our favourite haunts – North Norfolk.

Our place of choice on all bar one of our visits to the area has been Deepdale Backpackers, a hostel with both dorms and en-suites plus a campsite, tipis, yurts and shepherd’s huts. There’s a supermarket and petrol station next door, a cafe, a few retail outlets and a couple of decent pubs in walking distance.

Holkham Hall is just down the road, as is Holkham Beach (as seen at the end of Shakespeare in Love) along with Burnham Market (if you can find a parking space and successfully negotiate other road users who make you remember a memorable Bruce Willis line from Die Hard (“Who’s driving this car? Stevie Wonder?”).

National Trust has several properties in the area and whilst we’ve been to Fellbrigg Hall and Blickling Estate before, Oxburgh Hall was a new one on us and visited as we’d just renewed our National Trust membership just before our visit.

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Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham – a National Trust property

Also in the area is Holt. Bakers and Larners department store. It’s always worth a visit as it has a food hall that caters for all tastes, especially if you’re a foodie.

We’re not, but we can usually find something in the food hall for a snack, evening meal or a top up on sweet stuff such as nougat or Turkish Delight.

The kitchen department has also had some trade from us too as we had some difficulty a couple of years ago in finding decent potato peelers.

Did we stock up on three of these? Yes, even though they were flagged up as Lancashire Potato Peelers (we’re from Yorkshire!).

On the outskirts of Holt is one of the end stations on North Norfolk Railway, the other being Sheringham on the coast. Steam and classic diesel trains run between the two, giving passengers a hint at what rail travel used to be like before before Beeching’s axe fell on so many rail lines around the UK.

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The beach at Sheringham, plus granite blocks to prevent erosion..

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Guess why there’s rope near the slipway in Sheringham

Sheringham is another place we try to visit when we’re down there, either to wander along the promenade or do the odd bit of shopping for bags of fudge at the RNLI shop in the town.

Thankfully this was a sunny day so we could wander around without wearing two down garments (one down jacket, one down vest) each or ponder what steps to take when we spotted the Amy Bomb Disposal Team taping off the beach (the answer to the steps question was easy – bloody big ones!).

Yes, both of these had happened during a past visit – on the same day!

Caroline also likes to get out and do some cycling when we’re in North Norfolk, either on her own charger or on a hire bike. Coffee stop is usually at Holkham Hall or Wells-Next-The-Sea and lunch is wherever we find that’s worth stopping off at.

On this occasion it was a pub we’d driven past, but had never visited. It was pleasant enough place, but there were a couple of perceived problems with my meal…

When did it become almost compulsory to serve decent burgers in Brioche Buns? And when it did it become almost compulsory to slather salad with a salad dressing?

After this experience, it’s now compulsory for ask for a standard bun on a decent burger and for any salad to not be coated in salad dressing. Any that don’t comply get sent back, no messing!

Just don’t get me started on places serving roast beef or lamb which is pink, bloody or both. You wouldn’t like it when I’m angry!

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Wells-Next-The-Sea

Next stop? Liverpool John Lennon Airport & Lisbon!

http://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk

http://www.bakersandlarners.co.uk

http://www.nnrailway.co.uk

An unexpected pleasure…

SONY DSCTipis at Deepdale Backpackers, Burnham Deepdale, North Norfolk

It’s six years since we first visited North Norfolk, but the tally of visits now stands at eight and we reckon that there could be a few more. The decision to base ourselves in an en-suite room at the self catering Deepdale Backpackers hostel at Burnham Deepdale for a few days paid dividends.

We’d decided to go indoors rather than on the adjacent campsite as the weather forecast hadn’t been wonderful and my camping kit was still here, there and everywhere after moving house (we’ve used the campsite on two occasions now, and there’s no problems with it at all – quiet, relaxed and as laid back as the hostel).

So, there we were, 160 miles from home, with some walking kit (The Peddar’s Way is nearby), some food and a couple of maps and no idea of what we were going to do or where we were going to go.

Did we know what was in the area? Not really, even though North Norfolk had been featured on Coast, Countryfile and had served as one of the locations for the Stephen Fry series Kingdom. Fortunately, the reception area at Deepdale Backpackers is also a tourist information centre, so leaflets were picked up and read over that night’s evening meal/lounging around with a bottle of wine.

We’d already gathered that the main attractions of North Norfolk were the coastine and that towns and villages which are scattered along or near it. SONY DSC The tide is low… Wells-Next-The Sea harbour

There are numerous wildlife sites to explore too, but the main attraction is summed up by the name of a that was the name of a shop on the main road out of Wells-Next-The Sea for a number of years – Big Blue Sky

I’ve got back into photography and Caroline’s an artist when she’s not working as a nurse, so light can be quite important to both of us in many ways.

We’d holidayed in St. Ives and Paphos a couple of years beforehand and had appreciated the way the light changes through the day – something that I’d also noticed when driving through Glencoe a few years ago, whilst having the first coffee of the day on a campsite in The Lake District last year and in Haworth a couple of weekends ago.

Many of those staying at Deepdale Backpackers were heading off to the RSPB sites at Snettisham or Titchwell, whilst others were heading to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust site at Cley Marshes. Others were heading to Pensthorpe, a reserve site that had provided the BBC with an ideal location for Springwatch.

Now we aren’t too fussed on birdwatching, but we had heard about one regular event that was worth getting up for in the early hours of the morning. It was (and still is) the Wader Spectacular at RSPB’s Snettisham reserve.

Getting up early was a shock to the system, but after a couple of mugs of strong coffee, the car was pointed in the right direction, parked up and we headed down to the beach to see what all the fuss was about.

And we weren’t disappointed as it was one of the greatest free shows we’ve ever seen. As the tide comes in, waders such as Knot gather together before suddenly taking off and wheeling and performing aerobatics over everyone’s heads.

Around a hundred or so people were also witnessing this and every one of them was in raptures as the thousands of birds took off and flew in almost silent formation for several minutes before heading inland towards nearby lakes. It’s a cliche I know, but words can’t describe the experience, even though we’ve witnessed it three times.

Snettisham isn’t the only beach we’ve walked on in North Norfolk – those at Hunstanton, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Sheringham, Cromer and Holkham all spring to mind. Hunstanton’s is below the multi-hued cliffs whilst Wells is a fair walk from the harbour and town centre.

Sheringham and Cromer are interesting at any time of the year – unless of course it’s February or March and the temperature without the wind-chill factor is below zero! The beach at Holkham is quite possibly one that you’ve seen without even realising it.

Remember the beach that Gwyneth Paltrow walks on at the end of Shakespeare In Love? Yes, it’s Holkham Beach. It can get busy at times, especially when the sun’s out, but if the car park’s quiet then it’s a gem. As is the nearby Holkham Hall.

The gardens, grounds, museums and house are all open to the public, although it’s best to check exactly when various parts are open to the public. On the occasions when Caroline has taken her touring bike to Norfolk or she’s hired a bike, she’s loved riding through the grounds of Holkham Hall, especially when it’s early in the morning or late afternoon.

As Caroline’s a history buff (I’m more into Horrible Histories…), she went around the hall on a guided tour and spotted that one part looked familiar. On asking the guide why, it was because the hall had been used as a film set. When Keira Knightley’s character is running upstairs with her hair on fire in The Duchess, the staircase is in Holkham Hall, but the room she runs into is in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Steam trains are also a part of the North Norfolk visitor experience. The Poppy Line runs between Sheringham on the coast and the inland town of Holt. It’s a short trip and once you get to Holt, there’s a bus service to take you into the town centre.

Holt may be small, but it’s a busy town, so if you’re planning on driving instead, then it’s worth getting there early as car parks fill up quickly. Although there’s a host of interesting shops in the town, one fine reason to visit is Bakers and Larner’s department store.

It’s shopping as it used to be – refined, unhurried and with a very good food hall. As a past customer of Fenwick’s in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a one time only customer of Fortnum & Masons in London, I always ring-fence some of the holiday budget when in Norfolk in order to stock up on a few things.

At least one picnic lunch is bought, alongside chocolate and a box or three from the selection of Turkish Delight that lines the shelves. Bread, biscuits, coffee, cider and beer have also found their way into the shopping basket with the result being a bigger bill than we would get at our local branches of Sainsbury’s or Lidl!

The train’s starting (or finishing depending on which way you journey) point of Sheringham may be small, but it’s a town with a good YHA hostel (2014 was the first year in which we haven’t stayed at Deepdale Backpackers – both are equally fine hostels though!).

Apart from the steam trains which depart from a site adjacent to a Network Rail station, there’s many small specialist shops, a good RNLI shop (got to give them a plug as they’re out when others aren’t and their bags of fudge/boxes of teabags are rather good ) and a few places to get a decent lunch too. SONY DSC Cromer Pier and lifeboat station

Down the road is Cromer with its fine beach, pier and lifeboat station. There’s also the lifeboat museum and plenty of places to wander around at your leisure. It’s a great place to stretch your legs in at any time of the year, but with that light at its best, autumn is the personally preferred time to visit and because it’s quieter, parking is a lot easier.

Even though we’ve visited the area so much in recent years, there’s still places we haven’t been to yet.

We’ve flashed our National Trust cards at most of their properties in the area and whilst Caroline’s been exploring the houses and gardens of Blickling Hall or elsewhere, I’ve explored the North Face of the tea rooms and read a few chapters from a book or Kindle file or sat down and made notes about the trip or business ideas. SONY DSC The gardens at Blickling Hall, a National Trust property

We’ve also headed out on one of Bean’s Boats from Morston Quay to take a look at the seal colony on Blakeney Point and Caroline’s tasted and bought a few bottles of different ciders from Whin Hill Cider in Wells-Next-The-Sea.

Caroline’s also explored the area by bike too on her own tourer or on a hire bike from Deepdale Backpackers. Cycle routes are well documented and signed, but Caroline also makes her own up and lets me know by phone when there’s a signal where the best place is to meet up for lunch (preferred favourite is the cafe at Holkham Hall – very good sausage baguettes, scones, slabs of cake and either coffee or interesting cold drinks).

Whilst it’s tempting to head back to North Norfolk this February, camping at Deepdale Backpackers may be out, but they do have Tipis, Yurts and Shepherd’s Huts available as whilst we have tents, we don’t have a camper van that can be parked up and used for the duration (Deepdale Backpackers do have one to hire though).

There’s always the hostel and en-suites though and there are occasional offers posted on the Deepdale Backpackers’ website. If you don’t fancy cooking then there’s a mini-market at the adjacent petrol station, a pretty decent cafe that does good breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks plus a couple of good pubs – The White Horse and The Jolly Sailors – in walking distance. http://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk http://www.yha.org.uk