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Cotswold bound

Small and frugal – Skoda Citigo Monte Carlo

When the UK lockdown ended in April, it was all hands on deck to take advantage of some freedom to do things.

First up was my first haircut in six months – my hair was never that long in the days when I was managing bands and reviewing three to four gigs a week in the early 1990s! There was also Caroline’s birthday to take into account and then the packing for three nights in a Cotswolds cottage.

Sunset at Hook Hill Farm

As we were going to be using the car to get to, from and around the area, the Skoda was tanked up before we left, but once packed with our bags, space was also left to accommodate the food we would be buying as sustenance over the time we were self catering in the farm cottage at Hook Hill Farm near Royal Wooton Bassett.

Packing for the trip was easy as we’d looked at the weather forecast and packed accordingly. We had a bag each and also a waterproof, hooded soft shell and a fleece as just in case items.

My own bag contained a couple of fleece crew necks, two tees with a silver content, two pairs of trousers with loads of pockets to take care of my phone, digital compact camera, wallet, change, keys and reading glasses.

All of my stuff mentioned above was by Rohan, but a pair of shorts by The North Face and a couple of Uber Moose cotton tees were also packed as lounging around items. Undies were from M&S and Rohan whilst socks came via M&S & Bamboo Clothing. And footwear? Merrell Jungle Mocs and a pair of the same brand’s sports boots.

Wash kit was in the usual see through bag that I use for most trips with a Gillette razor, Via Sonic battery toothbrush, shaving foam, after shave balm and cinnamon flavour toothpaste in a handy size that was picked up at Yorkshire Soap Company.

The contents of Caroline’s bag were roughly the same with Rohan long sleeved tops, jeans, tech trousers, her padded gilet and Bamboo Clothing vest tops & loose fitting pants that she could longe around in or do yoga sessions. Her footwear items were by Ecco and Merrell.

Burford

With a cottage and a well equipped kitchen at our disposal, our food and drink choices were simple, largely because we were on holiday and didn’t relish the thought of spending hours prepping and cooking meals.

So we kept it simple by visiting a Tesco shop on the outskirts of Swindon.

A dine in for £10 deal took care of the first night whilst a ready meal variation on a pub meal theme ensured that the two of us could each eat when we wanted to rather than make compromises.

As some of the other ready meals were on a two for £6 deal, they ensured that we could eat what we wanted to without breaking the budget, especially as the food bill ended up being a lot lower than three nights of bar meals.

With food choices made, drinks choices were easy – three beers for me, three bottles of cider for Caroline and a pack of Pepsi Max Cherry all ended up in the cottage fridge along with milk & a few bottles of sparkling water.

Breakfast choices were easy – granola for Caroline and bacon or sausage butties for me, along with a bit of toast too.

Coffee was our usual choice of Taylor’s Italian blend and a bit of milk and whilst we had a brace of Alladin flask style mugs with us, these weren’t used as we decided to keep caffeine levels down and stick with sparkling water.

A taste of things to come…

Did we make good choices? Everything worked both packing and food wise.

The tech choices also worked well – my items all did their stuff in keeping me in touch with the world and getting some camera practice in and my iPad’s Kindle software also behaved itself!

And Caroline’s Android phone and tablet? Again, no problems.

How did the trip go – the answer to that starts soon!

Things to come…

No bull…

Changes are on the way, hence the big gap between my last post in August and this one! Yes, we have been away for part of that time, but I’ve been awaiting news as to what was happening work-wise after furlough’s end.

And now I know – redundancy.

So, what’s next? Possibly staying in the retail world with a new employer once Lockdown II is over or heading back into journalism once more.

This site will be getting a reboot once new Mac and Office software has been sourced and a new printer installed. It may be happening at this site or at a new one as I’d have preferred recent upgrades to have never happened, another reason for the lack of posts over the last two months.

As I’m no longer working for a travel clothing and equipment brand, clothing and gear reviews will be making a comeback along with pieces on the places we’ve been to in 2019 and 2020, site and software permitting!

Top 10… books

DK Eyewitness

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!

Lonely Planet

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!

Rough Guides

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…

More Aylesbury on Saturday…

Yes, it should have been posted at 8am this morning, but as our broadband provider left us without service for around 22 hours, the rest of the Aylesbury post will be along tomorrow.

Providing of course that we don’t get disconnected once more.

That would be verging on the ridiculous. Allegedly!

Oh no, technofear!

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No, my old phone wasn’t this old!

And it came to pass that after more than two years of faithful service, the talk and text phone that I’ve been using since April 2015 has started to pack up…

Which led to a difficult decision.

Do I get another one of the same or go back to using a smartass phone?

Getting an upgrade wasn’t a problem as I was out of contract and there were loads of offers on both old style and new style phones.

As an Apple fan, it was tempting to go for one of theirs, but at those prices?

I don’t think so…

So the list was narrowed down to four Android smartphones that were on the list of potential phones I could upgrade to.

After reading reviews on The Guardian, Which, Amazon and Tech Radar websites, the decision was made – the Honor 5C.

It arrived over the weekend, but I’ve waited until a quiet day to set it up.

It’s taken two hours to do this, but a fair chunk of that time was getting used to the slight variations between the last Android phone and this one and the time it took to manually input the details and numbers from the old phone’s contact list (no Bluetooth to do that job on the old phone!).

As it stands at the moment, I’m a happy bunny.

That may change should frustration levels rise when trying to use the phone!

Time will tell..

Coming soon…

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More from Spain

Five days in Northumberland

Five days in North Norfolk

More thoughts on packing

Trip inspirations

Bits of news

Some silly stuff

Books, films and television programmes

Music

Classic kit

And links such as the one below…

We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.

They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…

http://www.ospreyeurope.com

TTFN!

Yep, that’s me!

I have taken quite a few photos over the years, but when it comes to appearing in photographs, that’s another story.

One shot has escaped though and it’s on P19 of the latest edition of Wanderlust magazine.

The quote is about the recent developments relating to taking tech stuff on aircraft and how it may or may not affect travellers.

As I don’t have a smartphone and had Wi-Fi problems in Spain, I suspect that you can guess which side of the arguement I took!

A slightly different version with a different photograph can be found here…

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/mywanderlust/forum/big-debate-has-the-uk-electronics-ban-in-hand-luggage-put-you-off-bringing-them-altogether_5639

Hola – plans v reality II…

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To Seville – and beyond!

Now the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes work.

And sometimes they don’t!

With the dates, flights, accommodation and travel set in stone, there were a few misplaced problems to overcome.

Like certain places being closed on a Monday – the day we had planned to spend a full day wandering around Malaga.

Fortunately we found out the easy way that the times quoted in the guidebooks for the opening hours of the museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso were wrong, as we discovered when wandered aimlessly up a side street and unexpectedly found it open…

We did fill up the day though and thought that we could take a wander around the other places we’d thought about on either Tuesday or when we got back to Malaga on the Wednesday at the end of our trip.

Er, wrong in both cases. As you may have seen from the photo on Monday’s posting, it was raining (and then some!) on Tuesday so we stayed in our hotel reading and drinking coffee rather than trying to find out info on the iPad Mini as guess what – we couldn’t get onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, no matter how hard we tried…

With the weather against us, we also abandoned plans to walk to the coach station in Malaga and opted to take a taxi instead, a wise move when we saw how the deluge developed as we waited for our bus to Seville.

Although we’d planned to take that wander around the missed sights in Malaga on our final full day in Spain, that didn’t happen. We checked into the same hotel, dumped our bags on the room floor and turned on the TV.

Which revealed that there had been a major incident in London at places we’d only walked around in February.

With CNN being the only English speaking option on the hotel’s TV and that lack of Wi-Fi, a trip down to the lobby for a coffee and accessing the BBC coverage via the lobby computer was the only way we found out more about what had happened.

And so rewind a bit to our arrival in Seville. Which is where we actually wished that we had a decent street map to find our accommodation for the next four nights. I’d printed off three sheets of differing scales from Apple Maps that should have got us there, but didn’t.

After much scratching of the heads, we found one spot that almost correlated with the printouts and we took it from there using nous rather than the map.

Our Pension owner was welcoming, took our details and payment, showed us to our room and then gave us a much better map of Seville and a couple of recommendations for a flamenco club and a good tapas bar.

With the weather in Seville being distinctly better than it was in Malaga, a mooch around led to us doing a bit of a circuit for a while before we found a different tapas bar just up the street from where we were staying.

The fine weather continued for the rest of our stay in Seville, a factor that led to me taking a lot of photos in a short time. As we wandered around a market in a park, the space on the SD card finally ran out.

“No problem” or so I thought as I had another SD card in my camera pouch. On swapping them over however, I discovered that what I thought was a fresh card wasn’t – it was a full one!

Fortunately we were within a few metres of the main branch in Seville of El Cortes Ingles – a big department store along the lines of John Lewis here in the UK. I found their photo department, the memory card section and a 16GB Sony SD that was duly bought and installed – with a 3000 + shot capacity, I suspect that it may last me a while, even at my shooting rate!!!

Sod’s Law however did give this one a bit of a sting in the tail. I got back to the hotel, went into my charger pouch to get the camera charger and I remembered something.

That there was a new 4GB SD card in the pocket of the charger bag! D’oh!!!

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Yes, it exists – photographed before the SD card cried ‘No more!’…

LDN kit & caboodle

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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!

Tech or no tech?

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The old ways are the best – sometimes

The Internet may be the future for most things, but there are times when it’s a bit like asking HAL to open the pod bay doors…

Have tried to do two sets of bookings over the last few days, one for rail tickets and the other for airport fast track.

In the case of the rail tickets, it was easier to get into the car and drive down to the station where the train in question is going from as a means of getting the sensible answer and the tickets – the out trains to our destination are being replaced by buses, but the website couldn’t tell me whether this was a full replacement or a partial replacement.

The lady in the ticket office resolved the matter in a couple of minutes, loaded the times into her computer, taking payment and printing the tickets.

After five attempts at getting fast track, I checked to see whether any payments had been taken out of the bank and then rang the helpline.

After explaining the situation, the fast track was booked, the payment taken and the confirmation email sent. By the time I put the phone down, the email had arrived and it’s now been printed off and stashed in the appropriate file in readiness for the start of the trip.

Technology, don’t you just love it?