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Bye-bye big bag…

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Where we’re going, we don’t need big bags…

I’d had my Lowe Alpine Travel Kinni 60 for years, but as the Travel Kinni hadn’t been used since 2008, it’s finding a new home.

Which shouldn’t be hard as the bag has found its way to Geneva on its own before – it went on an earlier plane than I did, a no-no even in pre-911 years!

Yes, the bag and the Monarch luggage label from the bag’s last trip has been handed in at our local charity shop, as has a small Lowe Alpine pack and an elderly Karrimor hand luggage bag.

Apart from wanting space in the back room, there’s also the matter of having standardised my travel luggage to just three bags – the studenty man bag bought at Imperial College, London in 2015, the large size Healthy Back Bag that came courtesy of a BOGOF deal Caroline took advantage of five years ago and the almost four year old Osprey Farpoint 40 that has been used on our European (and a few longer UK ones) trips since 2013.

At 10, 15 and 40 litres respectively, the bags mentioned in the last paragraph should be fine for all of the trips we have in mind over the next few years.

The one from Imperial College has been commented on by staff when overnighting in Hampton by Hilton and Holiday Inn hotels in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield whilst the Healthy Back Bag proved useful for weekend-length trips to London, Northumberland and North Norfolk.

The Ospreys have been commented at airport check-in desks, whilst wandering up to our hotel in Tavira (the lady making the comments was a seasoned traveller from Hawaii who was wheeling a big wheelie case) and stared at in disbelief by a bunch of fellow Brits as we checked out of that Tavira hotel with our bags two days later.

Although the benefits of travelling hand luggage are well-known, it’s been interesting to see what people have been looking at in the way of travel bags in shops here in the UK.

Most have been going for big bags rather than smaller, more practical items. I’ve kept quiet as people have been plumping for those big bags, even though I’ve heard some of the prospective destinations that the purchasers were heading to.

When I was in retail, it proved difficult to convince people that they didn’t need a 70-80 travel pack for two weeks in Thailand (consensus is 35-40 litre max) as there are things called shops over there that mean that they didn’t need to take EVERYTHING with them!

We weren’t the only Brits using hand luggage on our last visit to Portugal, even though the hotel we were in iss regarded as one of the Algarve’s best.

All we did to stick to the unwritten dress code was to have smarter wash & wear clothes and to eat in family owned cafes and restaurants rather than the hotel dining room or gaffs with high prices on the menus displayed outside the establishments.

Portugal

All this in one country – Portugal

When we did our first trip in Portugal in September 2013, little did we know that it would lead to another three visits between July 2015 and March 2016.

That first fortnight saw us flying in and out of Lisbon, spending time in the capital before heading to Sintra for a couple of nights then Evora, Tavira, Sagres, Lagos and a slap-up meal in Lisbon city centre before getting the Metro to the airport for a restless night in the airport seating areas and a 5am check-in the following morning.

Every trip has been done on hand luggage only, something that’s phased check-in staff at Manchester Airport, raised the eyebrows of fellow Brits in Tavira when they saw the size of our bags as we were checking out of our hotel and comments from a resident of Hawaii as she trundled her rather large wheelie case and matching hand luggage towards that same hotel…

So, why Portugal? It’s all down to a throwaway line  (“Port comes from the port of Oporto in Portugal.”) from my geography teacher back in the 1970’s. There’s not much that I remember from my course, but the reference to Portugal alway stuck in my mind, hence that first visit years later.

And why have we gone back so many times? Probably because we’ve felt at home over there. Yes, we’ve had some rain in Sagres and weathered a storm in Porto, but there’s only been the odd couple of days when the temperatures have got the better of us.

We’ve used public transport to get around rather than hiring a car (haven’t done that out of the UK since the 1980s…) and haven’t had any problems.

Trains have been on time, as have both service buses and long distance coaches too. Feet have played their own part in exploring towns and cities, as have rechargeable travel cards such as the Viva Viagem card that’s available for use in the Lisbon area.

Eating out or getting things in to eat in a hostel dining area or our room in a guest house hasn’t been too difficult either. Yes, there was Cheekgate, but there’s only been a couple of times when we’ve been disappointed by what’s been put in front of us after we’ve ordered.

I did wince as one kitchen smothered a salad with olive oil (I prefer my salads to have no dressings) and whilst there was a lost in translation moment over chips being crisps in Portugal, it wasn’t a biggie and self and server both saw the funny side of things!

My use of Portuguese has got better over the years and I can now order coffee, drinks and food without too much difficulty.

Sometimes I’ve got a large beer instead of the small one that was ordered, but I’ve only become unstuck once when I tried to get a couple of beers in a cafe in the back streets of Aveiro last year. I got the beers, but there was a lot of pointing at bottles as a way of getting my message across.

Anything else? Just the small matter of forgetting about having some loose change on me to pay for coffee, ice cream, beer or bottles of water in a cafe or mini market. There were times when a €5 note wasn’t appreciated…

Only one person got really stroppy with me though as she couldn’t understand why we hadn’t got any change – it was something to do with having just landed at Lisbon Airport and we had notes, but no change!

Although we’ve made four visits to the country in three years, there’s still unfinished business across there. Out visit to Porto was hindered by the storm that hit the city last year, ensuring that a) we got wet – very wet and b) spent more time indoors or in the hostel than we would have liked.

So another visit to Porto and the Douro Valley is on the cards at some point, along with a week or so exploring the Atlantic Coast between Lisbon and Porto. Obidos during the Chocolate Festival sounds inviting too.

When will this take place? Who knows as whilst we want to head back and see some of the places we missed, there’s also a few other countries and areas we want to explore.

Some are in the UK and some are in Europe.

Where are they?

Some clues will be given out on Friday morning!

One year – the answers!

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Wells, Somerset – one of the locations for Hot Fuzz – May 2015

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Ogden Water, West Yorkshire – June 2015

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Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal – July 2015

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Padrao do Descobrimentos, Belem from Rio Tejo, Portugal – July 2015

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Torre de Belem from the Rio Tejo, Belem, Portugal – July 2015

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Centro Cultural de Belem, Belem, Portugal – July 2015

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It’s a sign! Between Estoril & Cascais, Portugal – July 2015

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On the beach near Cascais, Portugal – July 2015

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Sandeman’s Port Lodge, Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Portugal – September 2015

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Viana do Castelo, Portugal – September 2015

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Canal Central, Aveiro, Portugal – September 2015

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Praca 8 de Maio , Coimbra, Portugal – September 2015

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View from a room, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – October 2015

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Villa Real de Santo Antonio, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016

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Fishing boat, Cabanas, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016

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Tavira skyline, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016

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To Swaledale – and beyond! Keld, North Yorkshire – May 2016

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Broad Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales – May 2016

It’s Rohantime again…

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Poshpacking required for this hotel! Pic by Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100

Yes, it’s Rohantime once more as my recent Poshpacking post is currently being featured on the Rohantime website.

Thanks as ever to Sarah Howcroft for picking up on it and publishing.

http://rohantime.com/64794/portugal-packing-poshpacking/

Watch out for something completely different regarding clothes and packing as wisepacking goes rocking all over the world!

In Blackpool

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!

Poshpacking…

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The cloisters at Pousada Convento da Graca, Tavira

Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100

It all began in October last year when Caroline’s workplace approved a week away in March and then Expedia came up with an offer that we couldn’t refuse – flights from our local airport, private transfers from and to Faro airport and a week in a hotel in Tavira on the Algarve.

Not just any hotel you understand, but one that Berlitz Algarve described as “one of the most desirable places to stay on the entire coast”Pousada Convento da Graca, a converted 16th century convent complete with cloisters and its own church.

We knew that Pousadas had special rates for those of us who are over 55, but as the offer we were made beat a few of the prices we had last year for stays in guest houses or boutique hotels, it would have been madness to turn it down…

Which left a couple of problems.

The first was what to wear during our stay, given that Lonely Planet Portugal‘s comments on the Pousada started with “If you can get past the front door (there’s a bit of an attitude here)”

The second was packing to cope with any potential dress code, given that we were flying with hand luggage and that our airline – Monarch – had a 10kg weight restriction on hand luggage.

In the end, we needn’t have worried, even though the temperatures encountered during the first full week of March were below expectations after reading the ten day forecasts for Faro and Tavira.

We packed by taking our cue from these forecasts and perceptions based on looking through the photos in the Pousada Convento da Graca section of the website dedicated to the Portuguese Pousadas.

I ended up packing virtually all Rohan kit once more. Four Progress polo shirts, a couple of Stratum long sleeved polos, two Merino t-shirts, two pairs of 2015 Goa trousers, a selection of Cool Silver trunks and a few pairs of M&S silver containing socks.

Wash kit had the usual contents – factor 30 Nivea suncream, disposable razor, King of Shaves shaving oil, Via Sonic battery toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, Lush shower gel, and Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant. Spare shoes? One pair of espadrilles.

Caroline’s choices were somewhat similar and yes, most of it was also from Rohan. Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs, a couple of Serene vests, a brace of Malay tops, a pair of travel linen trousers, a pair of Trailblazer trousers bought during the Rohan sale at Trek & Trail Saltaire and a Malay dress – just in case. Oh, and a couple of Stria long sleeved tops, again just in case.

Our choices coped admirably with both the expected dress codes and the changeable weather conditions encountered. We’d layered up in readiness for the early start to the airport (3am departure from the house with a car thermometer reading – 1C), so these warm layers (Rohan, Peter Storm, Lowe Alpine) came into their own on the cooler nights during our trip.

We didn’t have any problems once we checked into the Pousada or in fitting in whilst wandering around Tavira, eating in family run restaurants such as Bica, Casa Simao and Churrasqueira O Manel or on the local buses and trains used to get us around the Algarve and the ferry used to have a few hours in Spain.

Yes, there was a bit of washing and wearing going on during the week to keep things sweet, but we stayed smart and our bags came in at 8kg each so no worries on the plane!

And we weren’t the only ones using Rohan in the Pousada either as fellow Brits were sporting Rohan trousers or shirts in and around the hotel.

An account of our visit to Tavira will be posted here soon!

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Caroline, Sunday morning, 7.15 am, waiting for the car to Faro Airport.

Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100

http://www.rohan.co.uk

http://www.pousadas.pt