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Hola Seville!

Some of the many faces of Seville – which is why we’re going back!

Our wish list for Seville was a short one – see the Metropol Parasol, visit the Real Alcazar, have tapas for the first time, take in at least one flamenco performance and (in Caroline’s case) pay a visit to the Cathedral.

Our bus from Malaga reached Seville in late afternoon and it should have theoretically a half hour walk to our digs for the next four nights.

We checked in sixty minutes later and were shown to our first floor room. Simple? Yes. Basic? Yes? Budget friendly? Yes.

Following a brief siesta,we  scrubbed up and then hit Seville. The district we were staying in – Barrio Santa Cruz – had a few roads through it, but the more interesting parts were linked by narrow footpaths flanked by shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

So we wandered and did more of the same as a means of getting our bearings and trying to find a place to eat later on. After investigating a few places, we settled on a tapas bar just a few hundred metres from our digs.

Ordering beer and wine was easy, but choosing which tapas was a different matter. Sea food was out as neither of us partake, but it wasn’t that hard to find seven tapas choices.

Ratatouile was one, spinach topped with an egg and small ham chunks was another, but as the dishes kept on coming, we weren’t all that worried as we’d only had a snack lunch on the bus from Malaga. Seven empty bowls later, we were done. Or were we?

Although I’d had a couple of beers and Caroline had had a large glass of wine, I decided that we should have a glass of manzanilla to round off the evening instead of coffee.

We were fed and watered later than we would normally be at home, but we were still a couple of lightweights compared to locals who were just heading out as we headed back.

After a side visit to a small shop for some bottles of water and chocolate we started to unlock the room door, but were stopped by the pension owner.

He explained in broken English that the room above us was getting some emergency work done on it and that this was starting early on the next morning. We could have the downstairs en-suite instead, so we collected our barely unpacked bags and accoutrements and headed downstairs.

A bit of clothes washing was done before we turned in for the night, but fortunately most of the stuff had dried when we noticed the ‘No clothes washing‘ sign on the back of the room door. Oops…

With just washing and dressing to do the next morning, we got an early start.

Which is just as well as we needed to find somewhere to have breakfast and the first coffees of the day. Help was at hand though as a guy doing some touting for a walking tour tried to do his thing and tempt us onto the tour.

When we explained that we were looking for breakfasts, he pointed us in the direction of the place he had his breakfast every day – Taberna El Papelon (see the pic above). “Look for the red canopy” were his parting words as we headed off after thanking him.

We were the only Brits in the place, but we got our fresh orange juice, coffee and toasted croissants and jam without any difficulties and ended up with a sub-€8 bill for everything. And it was a pretty good way to start the day.

Although we weren’t heading anywhere in particular, we found ourselves outside a civic building that was the scene of a worker’s protest. We never found out what the gripe was, but we did get approached by a couple of Americans who were eager to talk to us and find out some opinions from us.

Yes, you’ve guessed it – Southern Baptists on a mission from God…

After answering their questions and Caroline commenting on the deck of cards they were using to help them in their quest, they realised that we’d got thoughts on religion that didn’t tally with theirs (both of us have been there, seen it, done it and walked away from different religious backgrounds) and we agreed to disagree.

With that settled in a very friendly way, we continued on our meanderings and then realised that we were almost upon the Metropol Parasol. After crossing the road to it and exploring the structure from the ground and the market at that level, only one question remained – how the hell did we get up to the walkways on the top?

More on Monday!

Hola – the bag contents…

Yes, I meant to post this last Friday, but our internet provider decided to do some upgrades on their system without telling the most important stakeholders in the process – their customers!

The Andalucia trip was twelve days long and involved a bus and train/coach ride to Manchester Airport, rail journeys between Malaga Airport and the city centre and then four coach journeys, the odd cab ride and some walking.

There were a few more things to consider – the three differing types of accommodation being used (hotel, pension and hostel), the need to cover up a bit in some of the places being visited (such asthe Cathedral in Seville or the Mezequita in Cordoba) and weather conditions (warm to hot during the day, cool on a night and rather wet in the case of one morning in Malaga.

And then there was the little matter of the size of hand luggage bags on RyanAir… which were some 5cm less on the depth of the bag compared to some of the other airlines we’ve flown with since we bought our Osprey Farpoint 40 travel bags.

The RyanAir pack size was adhered too with ease as we merely packed items that could be washed and worn, used as layering pieces for the cooler night time temperatures and we both included items with long sleeves for those times when the place we were visiting required arms to covered.

How did we stick to around 7.5kg each in the hand luggage?

By working within the rules!

My North Face hooded soft shell jacket was worn on the plane rather than packed. It’s looking a bit worse for wear, but it has been proofed a few times to provide additional elemental protection.

It also has deep zipped pockets of the kind that will take an iPad Mini, the Lonely Planet guidebook to Andalucia, my Nikon digital compact camera and my Samsung dumbass phone.

All of the power adaptors for the above were in an IKEA wash bag pouch inside the Osprey along with clothes, hotel booking printouts, bus tickets, meds and my actual wash bag.

My clothing was the usual mix of Rohan items – two pairs of Goa trousers, a Microgrid Crew Jumper, three Progress polos, two long sleeved polos, a few pairs of Cool Silver Trunks and some M&S Freshfeet trainer socks.

Worn items included that TNF soft shell, a Rohan Stronghold shirt, one of the same brand’s Merino wool based t-shirts and another pair of Goa trousers. On the feet were ventilated Salomon trainers, the only footwear I decided to take with me (I had a cunning plan and it didn’t work Mr. B!).

Caroline’s choices included a mix of rapid wash/dry and wear Rohan Ultra Silver Camisole tops and briefs, a couple of their vest tops,  two Stria long sleeved tops, Rohan Travel Jeans and Travel Linen trousers plus a Pathway Cardigan and a Royal Robbins shirt/jacket. Her footwear comprised a pair of Ecco pumps and Ecco Mary Jane shoes.

Did it all work? Yes is the answer because most of it has been used on a few travel trips now or on a day to day basis in the case of some of my items.

I regretted not having an extra pair of shoes with me, but that was part of the almost cunning plan. I’d seen some adidas Gazelle shoes I quite liked in Leeds and thought that they might be cheaper in Spain.

They weren’t as whilst they were £75 in the UK, they were €100 (@£90) in JD Sports in Cordoba and the same in an independent store in Malaga.

And the wash bags? Well both Caroline and I have taken to using shower gels by Lush on our travels and she’s also taken to using their shampoo bars. A small bottle of tea tree oil and some shower gel was used when I shaved whilst sample size toothpastes from our dentist also came in handy.

I still use my ViaSonic battery toothbrush and it stayed the course, even though I’d forgotten to put a new AAA battery in it before we left. Other items in the wash bag included a small Nivea SPF30 suncream, a small bottle of clove oil and a tube of Bonjela (in case of any dental problems…).

Other things? My iPad Mini has the Kindle App on it, so the iPad was used for reading more than it was for internet surfing, Caroline had her classic Kindle with her and both of us had our mobile phones too. Mine was hardly used, whilst Caroline’s did see some action as family members called or sent text messages to her.

And how did we cope with the rain pictured above?

We cheated by staying in the lobby of the Ibis in Malaga drinking coffee until about an hour before we needed to head out for our bus. Whilst the bus station was only about fifteen minutes walk away from the Ibis, we decided to take a cab rather than get ourselves and our kit wet.

A wise move, because boy did the heavens really open when we got to the bus station!

The rain in Spain doesn’t always stay on the plain…

Ten more things…

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  1. Sunscreen, even on slightly overcast days
  2. SPF clothing such as shirts, trousers etc for extra protection
  3. Long sleeved shirts and long trousers for sacred sites
  4. Stay hydrated, especially when temperatures start rising
  5. Insect repellents, even in cities such as Porto or Lisbon*
  6. Business cards for your digs re; walking or taxis back etc…
  7. Spare specs if you wear glasses or contact lenses
  8. A torch – either a pocket option or on your phone
  9. Personal medication, condoms etc. You know it makes sense!
  10. Notebook and pen for directions, running costs, notes

* Little bar stewards had free meals off me in both of these cities – not as nasty as the oft encountered caber tossing Highland Midge though!

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!

LDN calling… again!

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And this is just one part of the candy store…

Well, I did say that there was a madcap venture in the planning and it’s done, dusted and over.

Down to London on the overnight coach on Wednesday, a day of wandering on Thursday and then back home on last night’s overnight coach…

Madness? One of my favourite bands!

I’d done this before, but Caroline hadn’t, so the tickets were booked via the National Express website, we got the last bus into town and hit London at 6.20 am yesterday morning.

First breakfasts were in McD but there was a lot of walking to do before we got back to Victoria Coach Station so second breakfasts were to come along with lunch in student places and a pub meal at the end of the day…

In between meals, we hit the river, Covent Garden, Piccadilly, Kensington, the RGS, the V&A, Harrods (where the chocolate hall pictured above was encountered) and a few other places too.

Retail therapy came in at Harrods (best hot dog ever, and much cheaper than the average cost of a cinema version), Stanfords (map and new locks for my travel bag) East and Rohan (scarf and winter jeans for Caroline).

Pret had a few coffee sales and couple of Greene King pubs supplied liquid refreshments plus a set of bar meals as we killed time before the home run.

There’s more to say, but there’s a story to file about it first for another outlet, so it will have to have a delay to telling it here on wisepacking.

Not only, but also…

The postie knocking on our front door at 11.30 am this morning wasn’t appreciated, especially as we’d got in at stupid o’clock and that the postie was knocking to ask us to take in a packet for our next door neighbours!

Grrrr…

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/