The Alhambra, Granada…
With travel prospects outside the UK being on hold at the moment, filling in gaps that were supposed to be holidays has been interesting.
Yes, we’ve been to Oxford and Ambleside in recent weeks and had a fortnight long Scottish trip planned using trains and buses to get between home, Glasgow, Fort William, Mallaig, Inverness, Kyle Of Lochalsh, Stirling, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then back home.
That last one has been moved to 2021 though as there’s an impending wedding – not us, but Caroline’s eldest son and his fiancee.
In between times though, we’ve been watching a few travel related TV progs and got a few ideas from Rick Stein, The Hairy Bikers, Richard Ayoade and Anthony Bourdain (the last one seen was a visit to Granada).
Some were familiar to both of us, some to me and one to Caroline as Jerusalem was visited when she lived on a kibbutz in the late 1970s.
Greece, France and Sardinia would be new destinations for the two of us, but return trips to Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Norway are being added to the mix, along with a visit to Malta to make up for that trip which was cancelled a week before departure thanks to Covid 19.
There are other plans, but they’re not totally fixed yet and quite a bit of flexibility is built into each plan!
In the meantime though, it’s a Bank Holiday Monday here in England and there’s a few more Anthony Bourdain shows to watch on Netflix…
Paper or digital?
There’s a trip on the horizon and a quandary in the planning stages.
What is the better format to use – a paper guide or one in Kindle, PDF or an alternative eBook format on an iPad, phone, desktop or laptop?
There’s two Rough Guides and a Lonely Planet plus a DK on the iPad in Kindle format and an elderly Lonely Planet, a newly acquired (last Sunday – from a bookshop, not online) Rough Guide, a more comprehensive DK and an Insight Guide (also from the same bookshop) in paper format.
It’s over two years since I wrote about this subject, but since doing the research for this upcoming venture, paper books are still for me the way to go when planning or undertaking a trip.
The Rough Guide I bought last Sunday is already on my iPad in Kindle format, but getting the paper version has already proved worthwhile.
Our town and city destinations for this road trip have been marked up with Post It notes and the highlighter pen will be in action this week as potential attractions in and around those towns and cities are spotted.
That book will be shoved into my jacket pocket when we fly and used alongside any information or posters spotted once we land, find our accommodation and then start exploring on the ground.
It will also be used as a guide to menu busting, an aide to my ever woefully bad language skills and as a quick reference assistant should we find ourselves in interesting places at short notice…
I may have an iPhone now, but Siri is disabled on my phone as a means of preserving battery life and data usage allowances.
Is Siri useful? Possibly, but it’s not for me, even though we’ve had great fun leaving reminders on someone’s Alexa device recently (usually along the lines of “It’s time to tidy your bedroom” or “It’s time you used the washing machine” or “It’s your turn to do the washing up”…
So no, technology hasn’t won me over.
Yes, I will have the iPad with me for email checking, but the Kindle app will be used to read biographies, travel accounts or even the odd novel or two (I’m not into fiction).
As far as guides go though, a paper book is easier to read, mark up and find things in thanks to the contents list at the front and the index at the back.
And a book has another advantage – you don’t need to charge the battery!
Yes, still working..
The above pics from the wisepacking archive may give you a hint as to recent travels.
There’s still the Isle of Man pieces to come along with items on Dumfries and Galloway and Suffolk too.
Plans for further afield are being made, but flight prices are high for our dates at the moment, so there is both a Plan A and a Plan B being put together.
In the meantime there’s a busy time coming up at the day job, but writing sessions are being rostered to clear the log jam that’s occurred in recent weeks.
And besides, Caroline and I have both had one of those money can’t buy impromptu experiences.
Something to do with being invited to sit in the driver’s seat of an iconic British steam engine!
No sunloungers here! Thank goodness…
One of the main news stories here in the UK today is about a holiday company that is bringing in a £22 charge that allows you to reserve a sunlounger by the pool at selected hotels.
The story has been run on news websites and on TV news bulletins too.
We won’t be paying the charges though as the photos and news footage I’ve seen on said stories appear to be suggesting the type of holiday experience that Caroline and I would go out of our way to avoid.
There are a few suggestions in the melting pot for our trips in 2018 and none of them come even close to this kind of holiday venture!
Here’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!
One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…
Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin
And the last day in Douglas
The term Three Legged Race was our name for the basic plan for our recent visit to Isle Of Man.
The decision to head there was made at relatively short notice as Caroline and I had a two week break coming up, but hadn’t planned anything.
I’d held up a road book with a circle indicating four hours driving time from Wisepacking Towers, but wasn’t expecting Caroline picking out Isle Of Man as a destination for this upcoming trip.
By close of play two days later, we’d got return train travel booked to Liverpool, a night in Liverpool before the outward ferry trip, two return seats on the fast cat running between Liverpool and Douglas, , seven nights in Douglas, found out about smart cards for use on our travels and made sure that travel insurance was also in place.
With no motor sport or other festivals taking place over our visit, we did have to amuse ourselves, but we’d got a few things sussed.
Some came from the only guidebook we could find, some of it came from the Tourist Board’s brochure and website, but there was also some prior knowledge coming into play too as Caroline had made two visits to Isle Of Man about thirty five years ago.
More to come over the next month or so!
Colourful illustrated guidebooks that hit the spot to give the reader an excellent overview of towns, cities and the local attractions along with brief details of where to eat and where to stay.
Favourites are the guidebooks relating to Portugal and Spain.
Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain – Quentin Letts
Journalist Quentin Letts aims carefully and highlights fifty targets. Some may surprise you whilst others may well be regarded as very suitable for inclusion in such a work!
Greece On My Wheels – Edward Enfield
Yes, that’s Harry Enfield’s dad.
Edward Enfield has written several books on his cycling exploits around Europe, but this was the first that I’d read by him and it’s on the list of books to read once more.
Hamish’s Mountain Walk – Hamish Brown
A classic book on hillwalking and backpacking around Scotland. One of those books that I read years ago and took lessons from, especially when it came to choosing and using lightweight camping and walking equipment.
An excellent read too!
Use paper versions when planning a trip, usually in conjunction with the equivalent Rough Guide (the latter’s city guides beat the LP versions hands down IMHO!).
There have been times when I’ve cursed their layouts (maps pages away from area info in two editions of the Portugal guide for example) and there have been one or three places that we won’t be returning to – allegedly!
My Dining Hell – Jay Rayner
The Observer’s restaurant critic’s collection of past reviews is a joy to read – unless you own one of the places visited!
I don’t always agree with what’s written, but the appropriate Rough Guide is bought in paper format and used in conjunction with the same area’s Lonely Planet when planning a trip.
I regularly use paper area, city and country guides plus eBook only city or island guides.
The Descent Of Man – Grayson Perry
This is the newest book on the list and one of the few books in my collection that I have in both hardback and Kindle editions.
Not my usual type of reading by any means, but a book that has a lot to say about modern life and is engaging enough to read in one sitting.
The Moon’s A Ballon – David Niven
I first read this back in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again a couple of years ago. A classic autobiography with loads of anecdotes about Niven himself and his life in Hollywood.
Another book from this list that’s going to get another reading soon.
These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
You may not recognise the title, but you may well have heard of the film that was largely based on this novel – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..
A few changes were made along the way from the printed page to digital screens, but it still hits the spot…
So, day two in Aylesbury and breakfast time at Holiday Inn.
Which was okay, apart from the fact that we weren’t offered coffee tops ups as we were expected to find the unmarked filling station and the couple of vacuum jugs on a tray.
Caroline headed off whilst I tried to find out what was up with the car as a light had made it’s presence known on the dashboard, had gone off and then illuminated itself once more when I headed off on Friday night.
I didn’t sort it, but it was fixed later in the day by someone who did know what they were doing and had the gizmo to rectify the problem…
So after that and more coffee, I headed out for a bus that would take me into Aylesbury town centre. I missed one, but caught the next and was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the return bus fare was.
I’d only visited Aylesbury once before, to attend a show at Aylesbury Civic Centre by former Marillion singer Fish. It was an interesting way to spend Independence Day 1990, but another good night out was had by all, despite getting a bit flummoxed by Fish’s announcement that he was going to sing a song inspired by Aylesbury’s Market Square.
I wasn’t the only one expecting him to sing fan favourite Market Square Heroes, but that wasn’t the song he was looking for. The song that was sung was one by David Bowie – Five Years – a version of which eventually appeared on Fish’s Songs From The Mirror covers album.
But I digress. Wandering aimlessly around Aylesbury without a plan seemed like a good idea and that’s what happened. It didn’t take too long either as retail’s usual suspects were all present and correct and didn’t need exploring.
A couple of magazines and a paper were bought for research purposes at WH Smith and that was almost about it as far as non-food purchases went. Lunch came courtesy of Greggs, but the prospect of a lunchtime pint on a sunny day wasn’t going to be passed up, especially as I wasn’t planning on driving for a few hours.
And that was about it for Aylesbury. Three hours including lunch and beer stops. The bus station was nearby and there was a bus in, so it was back to Holiday Inn to read the paper and magazines and to do some internet surfing on the iPad.
Once Caroline arrived back, we headed off to The Five Bells for an evening meal before having drinks at the hotel and calling it a night.
Breakfast came and went on Sunday morning, but yours truly was starting to feel rather rough. No, it wasn’t down to the affluence of incohol, but a gum pain of the throbbing kind – three or four days after a dental check-up.
We hadn’t any paracetemol in the car or our respective bags, but we managed to acquire some in the hotel, so I took these and then applied a liberal coating of Bonjela over the gum area.
With Caroline heading off once more, I stayed put for the day, took more painkillers, used more Bonjela and managed to get to solve the problem a few hours latter by applying some pressure on the gum which popped the offending item, got rid of the goo and brought almost instant relief.
By breakfast the following morning, everything was almost back to normal. The emergency we’d travelled down about was over, I was feeling a lot better and we had to vacate our room anyway.
So it was time to go home, but not without a small side trip – to the wilds of Milton Keynes.
Why Milton Keynes? There’s a Rohan shop there with a clearance department. It took a little bit of finding, but find it we did with a little help from an app on Caroline’s phone.
Some delving around saw us leave the shop with a bag of clothing – a jacket and a dress for Caroline and a couple of pairs of socks for me. Next stop was the nearby Shell filling station for petrol before we aimed the car in the direction of the motorway and home.
So, what did we learn from this?
Keep some paracetemol in the car for potential use, remember to pack the couple of travel coffee presses we have plus some decent ground coffee and some biscuits (the Holiday Inn coffee in the room wasn’t wonderful and guess what? No biscuits either!).
And that there are times when you have to forget about planning stuff and just go with the flow…. and have the phone number handy for the local curry house so you can order a meal to be delivered when you do get back home!
Next week – Northumberland!
Our weekend in Aylesbury wasn’t planned – the phone rang at 8am and we were on the road just after 10.30am.
We’d got up, had breakfast, found a hotel for three nights on booking.com, got the route cards off the AA’s Classic Route Planner, packed, filled the petrol tank and hit the road.
Yes, it was a last minute thing, but when emergencies come along, you just have to do it, no matter what was already planned.
We’d booked into a Holiday Inn, so there were some things we didn’t take (big bottles of shower gel, towels, coffee press, ground coffee etc), but clothes were packed along with wash kits, footwear and Kindles/iPads with the Kindle app and that was about it.
Although it was a Friday morning, the motorways weren’t busy and neither were those roads leading to the hotel. A stop at a motorway services saw lunch bought and demolished thanks to M&S and we were on our way again.
The Holiday Inn at Aylesbury is an out of towner, but easily found. Check in wasn’t problematical and we found our room in a quiet part of the hotel.
Caroline did freshen up before organising a taxi to where she was off too. I crashed out for a while, did some reading and then thought that it could be a good idea to find some food.
Although we had a B&B deal at Holiday Inn, the dining prices put me off, so I got in the car and headed into the town centre. I found Tesco, but their cafe had closed, so a pack of sparkling water was bought and I moved on.
Yes, I did get fed up with driving around, but after drawing a blank, I started looking for the nearest takeaway. One was spotted, but there was no parking place outside, so I ended up driving on and found an inn further up the road.
The name sounded familiar and it didn’t take long to realised why. It was one of the places that I’d spotted and discounted on booking,com as it was too far out of Aylesbury.
The decor was also rather familiar, but the reason for that was because it was part of the same small chain as the pub Caroline and I frequent which does good food and is a short walk away from wisepacking towers…
No drinks for me as I was driving, but water went well with the pretty good pizza that made its way to the table at The Five Bells in Weston Turville. I decided against a dessert, but made a mental note to head back there on Saturday night.
With Caroline and I getting back to the hotel within a few minutes of each other, we had a catch up session and decided to have an early night, a wise move considering the day we’d had…
The Alcazar of Seville
The Alcazar of Seville was one of those places that sprang out from the pages of the guidebooks as we planned this particular road trip.
We’d put off visiting for a couple of days, largely because every time we passed the entrance, there were queues.
As Friday was our last full day in Seville, we couldn’t put off visiting any longer, so it was up early, shower, dress and head for breakfast before joining the queue to get in.
When we reached the front, we realised why there was a queue to get into this World Heritage Site – airport style security with both walk-through body scanners and x-ray machines to examine the contents of day bags, hand bags and camera pouches.
There’s plenty of buildings to wander around, but there are also some impressive gardens to walk around. I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but even I was impressed but the way in which the gardens were planted, laid out and kept spick and span as people entered and gradually dispersed themselves around the numerous arrays of plants, lawns, ornaments and fountains.
Words can’t really do justice to what we saw during our time in the Alcazar (Lonely Planet’s Andalusia guide devotes almost two pages to describing the complex), so here’s a few pictures selected at random from those taken as we wandered around…
After a few hours in the Alcazar, it was time for refreshment and a chance to rest our feet. The cafe was rather busy and customers were being treated to grand displays of feathers from an obliging local peacock. Who stopped when I got my camera ready….
If you are every in Seville, you really must bite the bullet and join that queue at the Alcazar. Words can’t really describe it as there is so much to take in as you wander around the buildings and the grounds.
Although the complex is right in the centre of Seville and is bordered by main roads, it’s very peaceful and the only audible intrusions came from the sounds of sirens on a couple of emergency service vehicles as they headed off to do their stuff.
Yes, there were quite a few people visiting the Alcazar on the day of our visit, but once we’d left the buildings and the start of the garden area behind, we had sections of the gardens to ourselves and weren’t being bothered by selfie stick toting phone owners.
We’ve already said that we are going to go back to Seville for another visit and that will be including return visits to the Alcazar because this was one enjoyable way of spending a day just wandering around on our own and exploring the site without a guide or a guidebook.
And without a tour guide marching us around in record breaking time in order to get the party back on the bus to get to the next stop along the way!
Next up – Cordoba!