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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 – May 2015 III

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Glastonbury – before the festival crowds arrive…

As we were in Somerset, we deemed it appropriate that we should visit Glastonbury to see what all the fuss was about. The town, not the festival as that had sold out months ago.

With Caroline heading off on Betty Bike, I pointed the car in the right direction to ensure that the Skoda version of Thunderbird 2 could be used for a rescue job if my mobile rang.

Caroline and I are used to heading into towns with reputations as being favourable with those seeking alternative lifestyles. We’ve visited Totness in Devon and we could see where people were coming from when they argued that Totness had been twinned with Narnia.

Closer to home though is Hebden Bridge, a town with several strings to its bow, although most will normally associate the town with the damage caused to shops, housing and infrastructure by flooding in recent years.

Getting to Glastonbury was easy, but it was interesting to note that several big name outlets are clustered together in a development on the edge of the town, leaving the centre almost free from the usual suspects found on the average UK high street.

Caroline and I had reached Glastonbury at virtually the same time, but we’d parked up about half a mile apart so it was I that had the first stroll around the streets as a means of getting our bearings.

Gift shops were tasteful, New Age shops interesting and cafes were spot on with coffee and food that didn’t rely on the meat factor. Our wander around took us into a well-stocked green supermarket with good lines in food, alternative cleaning products, competitively priced tea tree & lavender oils and a fine selection of chocolate and snacks.

One toy shop had a sale – for the gold/black/sparkly dragon that now sits on the top of the bookshelf in the lounge and The Lazy Gecko Cafe came up with a fine line in non-alcholic drinks, food and coffee plus a small piece of artwork for display on the landing at home.

Now we were aware of the Glastonbury associations with hippies and a few of the cafe’s clientele appeared to back that up. So much so that we reckoned that they were original models who had found their niche back in the day and had stayed there!

Another customer though was of a more recent time – a former MP who made a name for himself whilst in Westminster. He’s not been seen or heard of for a while, but somehow I guess that he will be back in the limelight eventually. The name? That would be telling!

Once the lazy Lazy Gecko lunch was out of the way, Caroline wandered around Glastonbury Abbey whilst I hit the shop (no purchases made) and took in some more of the book I was reading on my Kindle.

Once back, Caroline took to the saddley thing once more and we both headed back to Dragonfly for coffee, showers, food and sleep – in that order. Although we had both come to the conclusion that Glastonbury was like Hebden Bridge on steroids!

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The Haynes Motor Museum near Brookhampton

Friday was a lazy day as we knew that we had an early exit and a long drive on Saturday. I’d been keen to visit The Haynes Motor Museum on our previous visit to the area, but it wasn’t to be as we ran out of time and some development work was taking place at the museum.

It’s big, it’s well stocked and the cars on display are kept in immaculate condition. It’s like a history of motoring in there with classic cars from well before I was even born to more modern cars that I either recognised from fleeting glances as they passed my dad’s car on the motorway or from photos in papers or magazines in my schooldays.

Although I’ve had cars such as the Mini, VW Golf Mk 1, Ford Fiesta and others, it was more exotic machinery that caught my eye – the Jensen Interceptor, Aston Martin Lagonda plus cars by Alfa-Romeo, Lotus, M.G. and others.

Schoolboy dreams of owning at least one of the above – the Jensen Interceptor – never materialised, but hey, was it wrong to dream? Forty years later, I’ve learned that practicality in a car is worth a lot more than the potential to pose and pose and pose…

A good museum is always worth a visit (if only to revisit Amnesia Alley) and there’s a fine and reasonably priced cafe plus a gift shop to appeal to petrolheads and those of a more sensible nature.

By Saturday morning, home was beckoning and more travel plans were formulated and distilled as we made our way back up to Yorkshire

The first two destinations will be highlighted on here next week!

One year – May 2015 II

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Wells Cathedral

If it’s Tuesday then it must be Wells

We’d joked about visiting Wells, largely because Caroline and I are both fans of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz can be regularly caught on ITV, but we have it on DVD for those nights when Caroline comes back in from a 14 hour nursing shift and needs a little bit of light relief.

Spotting the locations used in Hot Fuzz is fairly easy (although the National Trust shop seen in the film has closed down), but even so, taking a look around Wells doesn’t take too long unless you’re having a meal or taking a wander around the Cathedral.

I chased coffee, went to the bank and had a look in a camera shop whilst Caroline visited the Cathedral (it’s a long, long time since I went to church for anything other than a wedding).

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As seen in Hot Fuzz…

With the Wells visit taking just a few hours, we headed back to Dragonfly, parked up and then went for a wander along the canal as far as the cafe at Maunsel Lock where a coffee and cake stop was declared.

Now this may have been a Tuesday, but the cafe was quite busy with people stopping off as they were taking advantage of a rather fine day. Some were walking, some were walking their dogs whilst others were cycling or taking a look at the planetary sculptures placed by the side of the canal.

After what was now a full day out, an executive decision was made not to do much cooking on the night so the car was fired up in search of food.

No, we didn’t go to the pub, but we did hit the service area just off the M5 near Bridgwater. Yes, there’s an M&S Food outlet there so it was salad time for Caroline whilst I indulged in a pack of chicken portions.

The latter may be snack food, but by ‘eck it tasted good once heated through in accordance with the instructions on the pack (I have had food poisoning before after eating chicken, one reason why I’m not rather picky when it comes to food being cooked properly – losing a stone and a half in a matter of days isn’t my idea of fun!).

And so to Wednesday.

As Caroline had Betty Bike with her, it was time to take Betty out for a ride to Taunton via the canal tow path. I took the car down to Taunton and got my bearings in a town that I know reasonably well from visiting friends in the town during the late 1980’s and a work trip in Y2K.

Although I remembered my way around town, it didn’t appear to have the same appeal as it did all of those years ago. Maybe that’s down to most towns and cities having the same shops in them which have sounded either the death knell of local traders or marginalised them to secondary locations where the rents and business rates are more affordable.

But I digress. Caroline arrived in Taunton and a light lunch in a nearby pub was declared. Once consumed, we had a wander around and Caroline got back on the bike and headed back to Dragonfly whilst I tried to leave Taunton.

With both of us back at the same destination, there was a problem. Betty had a flat and there appeared to be something up with the other tyre too. I knew of a bike shop in Bridgwater, but they weren’t able to help, so it was time to hit Halfords.

So Halfords was found, the problems explained and fixed whilst we went to top up our caffeine levels in the centre of Bridgwater. Once back, it was time to pay for two new tyres and a couple of spare inner tubes and we were on our way once more.

Whilst we prefer to deal with smaller concerns when it comes to food, bikes, photography, computers etc, on this occasion it was ironic that a large trader had come to Caroline‘s rescue.

There may have been question marks over using a big shop, but Halfords did the job and did it well, just as they have in the past with the couple of bikes I’ve bought from them in the last thirty years.

And in Part III…

A town before a festival, a motor museum and home – that’s tomorrow’s posting folks!

One year – May 2015 I

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The weather was warmer than the photo suggests – then came Monday!

May 2015 saw the start of twelve months of heading off and having fun and our first port of call was Somerset for a week.

We stayed at Dragonfly 1 apartment, one of three units at Dragonfly Barn in North Newton near Bridgwater. I’d spotted the apartment on booking sites a couple of years beforehand whilst researching another trip to the South West and when it came up twice during the research for this trip, Caroline and I looked at the website, discussed it and then booked.

Our plans for the week were loose ones. Yes, there was a kind of a list of places we wanted to visit, but as Caroline had taken her trusty road bike down and we’d seen the weather forecast, we decided to play it by ear.

Dragonfly 1 was a comfortable place – ideal for the two us with an ensuite bathroom, well equipped kitchen and a lounging area where you could read, watch TV or just sit and relax.

After the long drive down to Somerset, Saturday night was a chill-out night once the car was unpacked and Caroline‘s bike was locked away in the secure bike storage. Semi-fast food was the order of the day as we microwaved a meal deal from Sainsbury’s in Bridgwater and enjoyed the bottle of wine that was part of said deal.

Sunday saw a chilled out morning with breakfast, coffee and newspapers being the order of the day. As was a visit to The Harvest Moon, a short walk away from Dragonfly 1 and a place that had a good reputation for its Sunday lunches.

We may have entered The Harvest Moon around 12.30, but the pub was already rather busy and we were lucky to get a table. Plates and glasses were filled and then emptied and whilst another pint of Guinness and a half of Thatcher’s Gold were ordered, we held back on ordering coffee and desserts because the Sunday lunch was more substantial than we realised and besides, we had a bag of our favourite coffee back at Dragonfly.

Once the recovery process kicked in, Caroline took Betty Bike out for a spin on the Bridgwater-Taunton Canal towpath for an hour or so, leaving me to have more coffee and to do the washing up.

Grey clouds were gathering later though once Caroline got back from her ride and we ended up having our own wander along the canal towpath. After this spot of wandering around it was time to head back to our temporary home in search of coffee, cake and a light evening meal and an early night.

Monday morning saw the grey clouds delivering the threatened rain so we went shopping.

Not to a mall you understand, but to Clark’s Shopping Village in nearby Street. The town is home to the Clark’s shoe brand, but the Shopping Village is a brand extension and home to small shopping units from the likes of Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, Cadburys, Lindt and others.

Shelter from the rain was sought as we wandered between shops and a few judicious purchases made. Body Shop and M&S got some business, but did we buy chocolate from both the Cadburys and Lindt outlets?

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

After lunch in a nearby cafe, the sun came out so our rain jackets were stashed in the car along with our purchases, allowing us to wander unhindered around the rest of Street.

Bike route guides were bought from the Tourist Information Centre and visits made to the Clarks Museum, an excursion into Amnesia Alley if ever there was one as both Caroline and I spotted shoes that we’d been bought as school kids by our respective parents or had bought for ourselves once we had the cash to do our own thing.

With a day of driving and two days of relative relaxation behind us, we decided that the next few days were going to be rather busier.

Once the latest weather forecast had been seen and digested, a slightly tighter plan was hatched that involved a visit to one of the locations used in Hot Fuzz, a destination marked out by a famous Tor and several bright yellow festival related signs plus a haven for all fans of classic cars of all shapes, sizes and horsepowers…

And where would these places be?

Some of them will be revealed tomorrow in May 2015 Part II

http://www.dragonflybarn.com