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London calling…

Yes, three days in London was the reason behind the 10 minute packing session.

Didn’t quite go as originally planned thanks to the Tube strike, but more will be revealed next week.

Hasta la vista…

Location, location, location

Just back from Lisbon where we missed seeing a classic movie that has a connection with that city – it was shown on the 1st July at the art-house cinema a couple streets away from where were staying. We arrived on the 5th!

Not a great loss though as it’s being shown locally in a few week’s time – it’s the first one on this list of ten movies with connections to particular towns or cities that Caroline and I have watched a few times over the years (sometimes in the UK, sometimes elsewhere).

Casablanca  – the title says it all, but there’s a Lisbon connection too…

High Fidelity – set in Islington in the book, but the film version relocated to Chicago…

Brief Encounter – yes, Carnforth rules the roost here…

TT Closer To The Edge – everything you wanted to know about the Isle Of Man TT races, but were afraid to ask. Star in the making Guy Martin’s profile has risen somewhat since this was made…

Shakespeare In Love – that beach at the end is actually Holkham Beach in Norfolk…

Amelie – yes, Paris rules the roost on this one…

Hot Fuzz – visit Wells in Somerset and some sites in the centre may just seem familiar from the Battle Of Sandford towards the end of the film…

Stormy Monday – Sean Bean, Melanie Griffiths, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting film set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne…

The Illusionist – great animation from the team behind Belleville Rendezvous. This Jaques Tati story is part set in Edinburgh and there’s some familiar places in there…

London The Modern Babylon – Julien Temple’s portrait of the city…

There are more of course, but they’re for another day!

Yes, I’m back into action after a few weeks of travelling and dealing with coughs and splutters caused by the post-stroke medications that are supposed to be doing me some good!

More on Friday before some features start coming your way next week.

See, I told you that I’ll be back!

Quick change…

Yes, wisepacking.wordpress.com is now wisepacking.me!

Shorter, snappier name to type and to have on cards etc…

And the first of one or three changes happening soon!

D’oh!

The best laid plans of mice and men…

Yes, there was a cunning plan – then along came damage to the car, a cold, subsequent cough, worse cough and then a cough that didn’t improve because the cough medicine made matters worse thanks to interactions with my normal post-stroke meds.

You might think a bacon buttie might bring some comfort first thing on a Sunday morning, but no.

Second bite of the day saw one tooth breaking free when it came into contact with the bacon!

And all of this in the course of the last week…

Am I cheesed off?

Yes, but fortunately there was a silver lining (and I’m not just referring to the new M&S socks or the Rohan t-shirts I bought last week).

The price of accommodation for a couple of trips and the cost of flights for one of those trips and another one later in the year.

Substatial savings made on both the accommodation and the flights too…

Cue one happy bunny – planned service should be resumed soon!

Coming soon…

Are a few minor changes to wisepacking!

I’ve been having a few thoughts recently and these are getting worked on over the next week or so. There should be a few more reviews, opinions and trip accounts coming up along with some longer gear features and a mixture of tips to get your travel bag that little bit lighter.

First up will be an In praise of… piece about a long running British outdoor and travel brand that started life just a few miles away from Wisepacking Towers. Their products have been used on Everest, in deepest Darlington and have also been responsible for relieving me of quite a few pounds from my wallet over the years. Oh, and some bloke called Palin has used their stuff too.

The brand? Craghoppers it is…

More ways and means…

If you don’t need a smartphone, don’t have one!

I got a new phone last week and opted for a basic talk/text/basic internet/email model with the same amount of minutes, unlimited text and a 500mb ceiling for internet usage for £2 per month less than I was paying on the old contract.

Savings over the length of the contract? Around £48…

I don’t send picture messages via phone or send messages with emoticons either, so save more money that way!

Phone does have a camera that could come in useful when out and about, especially as it has a flash unit and the phone has Bluetooth.

The new phone is still going to stay at home on most trips though… exceptions may be made when travelling in countries that have no roaming charges on the 3 network.

Salesman did try to talk us into considering an iPad for life on the move.

We resisted as we’ve looked at iPads from the time they were introduced and we’re still not tempted to dive in and buy one.

The subject of tablets came up again over the weekend though thanks to a madcap idea we had that’s being worked on. May have to investigate further to see whether it’s a possibility if or when the madcap idea comes off!

On the subject of other money savings to help fund travel – one store’s loyalty card use started a chain of vouchers that had me paying out £4.31 for around £16.57 worth of food items last week.

Use of card and two vouchers (£1 off a £5 purchase & £5 off any purchase) plus a selection of items from the reductions fridge, no longer stocked shelf and the coffee promotion helped along the way!

Complete meal for two including a rare sweet course plus a high end can of coffee and a rather large bar of Cadbury’s chocolate went down rather well for some reason… over two nights of course!

We also use loyalty cards as and when the providers make us an offer we can’t refuse – like a decent reduction on a £20/£30 shop voucher deal when we’re buying the food in for the month. We still check Lidl prices first…

Check on the costs of accommodation for different times of the year and as to whether there’s any offers available should you stay on longer.

Had this on campsites here in the UK and it’s come up a few times on both Late Rooms over here and on Booking.com for places in warmer climes.

Also check out what the rates are for Hostelling International affiliated hostels.

We’ve found room rates that were cheaper in these hostels (especially if you opt for shared facilities rather than en-suite ones). Mind you, we’re still trying to find the English translation button on at least one European HI affiliate organisation – if the Portuguese HI affiliate can do it, anyone can!

There’s also the potential for a reduction on the overnight charges abroad too if you’re a member of your home country hostelling association (i.e. YHA here in the UK).

A YHA membership card also gives you reduced price kit at various outdoor stores here in the UK too – may only be 10% off full price items, but hey, reduced prices mean more money for your trip!

Buy any clothing out of season if you can – colours and sizes may be limited, but if the brand’s a good one, the item should last you a while.

Select travel clothing and equipment that’s multi-functional.

Can it be used for activities as well as a night out?

Or as part of a layering system when the temperatures drop?

Do the shoes or sandals cut it on the trail as well as in town?

And can your travel towel be used as a sarong as well as a towel and as a means to squeeze excess water out of your travel clothing if you’re washing and wearing stuff as you go along?

Do you eat and drink at places on the main tourist drag?

Or do you go off centre in search of the places that the locals use which have set menus or meal of the day offers?

Do you go for coffee at a local place?

Or a chain?

Do you buy a bottle of water in a bar?

Or in a supermarket?

And if you buy a bottle of wine, can you get the ruddy bottle open when you get back to your digs?

Discount store bottle openers don’t always work as we found out one night in Sintra.

We called it The Curse Of The Cork Bottle Stopper Night…

Can you book direct with the accommodation?

Or do you have to go through a middleman website to do the booking?

Are you willing to wing it when you’re in country?

Or do you want everything sewn up well in advance with no room for manoevures?

Do you really need to book a taxi in advance?

Or do you just roll the dice?

There will be more, oh yes, there will be more!

One for those of a certain age…

Thunderbirds Are Go

The series will be on air soon here in the UK

FAB…

Three days into 2015 and yes, it’s raining…

Three days into the new year and the weather is against rushing out to do things.

Still it could be worse as snow was forecast for today, but that hasn’t arrived – yet!

So it’s time to fill up the food cupboards, the fridge and the freezer, but there’s one thing to do first.

Get the car started and get the battery checked out at Kwik Fit so there’s no further problems.

And then I can start enjoying my birthday – it’s the one that matches the number of varieties purveyed by Heinz!

Ten days of gifts – 5 

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Travel towels are one of those items that really are a no-brainer when it comes to travelling. They’re smaller, lighter and dry quicker than regular towels, can be used for drying oneself after a bath, shower, swim or deluge and also as a means of squeezing dampness out of travel clothing to accelerate the drying process when it’s been washed.

Snugpak is a brand which offers a whole range of different products that has been around for years now, and they’re noted because along with everything else they do, Snugpak have come up with some very fine sleeping bags and clothing produced in deepest Yorkshire just a few miles up the road from Wisepacking Towers.

The Antibacterial Travel Towel that I’ve been trying from the Snugpak range comes from somewhere that’s a bit further away – Korea.  

There’s now five sizes of towels available in the Snugpak range and each one is made from microfibre and has a Dr. Bacty antibacterial treatment. This is based around silver ions, a feature that I know is effective from other items that I’ve used in the last five years. Use it, dry it and use it again and again – it doesn’t need washing after every use.

I’ve been using a large size Snugpak towel recently and it’s worked well when it comes to drying off after a shower and has proved that it dries quickly too. Two hours after the shower and it’s dry and ready to pack away (ambient temperature was 19C according to the thermometer on the remote unit for our central heating system that was placed about a metre away from the towel whilst it was drying). No radiator was used in the drying process by the way…

Although I do have a lighter weight large size towel from another brand, the Snugpak take on the theme offers a far superior performance, so I guess that the lightweight one will stay at home now, even though there’s going to be a small weight penalty as a result of making that choice.

Two colours are available in the Snugpak Travel Towel range (olive or blue) and the sizes that’s available ensures that there’s a towel for almost every eventuality.

Small is 62 x 60cm, medium is 60 x 80 cm, large as tried is 80 x 124cm, extra-large is 100 x 124 cm and giant is 120 x 124 cm. Packed size of the large towel is 21 x 14cm

Prices start at £9.95 and top out at £29.95 (the large is £19.95) . Each towel comes with its own wet and dry stuff sack.

www.snugpak.com

Ten days of gifts – number 6

Calendar Cover – look at  www.johnmuir.co.uk and you will go ‘AAAH!’

Yes, it’s a case of man v machine again so you will have to click on that link to see what I’m talking about!

It’s a great shot and one that’s an excellent choice for the cover of the Wild Nature Calendar 2015 that’s been commissioned by the John Muir Trust, the UK’s leading wild land conservation charity.

The calendar and the 2015 Wild Nature Diary are the result of a fair amount of work by editor and publisher of the calendar and diary, John Beatty, one of the UK’s leading travel, wildlife and adventure photographers.

As John himself puts it “This year’s editions have outstanding and spectacular covers, representing the ‘personality and emotion’ of the natural world. They are eye-catching and inspiring visions that hopefully, will carry the message of conservation far afield.

Hundreds of images were submitted online for potential inclusion in the calendar and John whittled these submissions down to 60 images used over both works. The foreword to the diary is by HRH The Prince Of Wales.

And just in case you haven’t heard of John Muir, here goes…

John Muir (1838-1914) was a naturalist, conservationist and visionary who was inspired by the works of nature both in Scotland and the Sierra Mountains of California, where he made his lifelong home.

His nature writings and essays became very popular to the extent that governments reconsidered the values of land use and created the first National Parks in the world. Muir founded the Sierra Club of San Francisco and inspired the formation of the John Muir Trust in Scotland.  (www.jmt.org).

With over 10,000 members the John Muir Trust is the UK‘s leading wild land conservation charity, who believe wild places are essential, and are dedicated to protecting and enhancing them for people and wildlife.

The calendar and diary are available from www.johnmuir.co.uk.  The calendar is £11.99,  the desk diary is £14.99 or you can buy both for £25.

John Beatty is also on the lookout for new nature and landscape photographs of Britain’s wild places. If you are interested, send thumbnail sized images (or reference to your website) by email to www.wild-vision.com and title the email SUBMIT DIARY.

Copies of John‘s book ‘Wild Vision – In Celebration of the Natural World‘ are available from www.amazon.co.uk