The Guardian here in the UK asked readers to nominate their favourite views, so I put my nomination in…
The results were announced today and guess whose piece was among those selected…
Yes, it has been a while, hasn’t it!
Time flies when you’re having fun, working, travelling or throwing the clock out of the window.
Yes, the clocks changed here last night, but Caroline and I have two more time changes to come over the next two weekends…
Where are we off to?
All will be revealed upon our return, but rest assured, we haven’t planned a trip like this one.
The last big trip mentioned on here would be our visit to Isle Of Man back in 2017.
Since then both of us have new jobs, we’ve made flying visits to North Norfolk, Suffolk and Newcastle-upon-Tyne and also made two road trips around Andalusia too.
I’m back in retail for the first time since 2013 and it’s been an interesting move to make, especially since it’s working for a company whose clothing I’ve been wearing for over thirty years now – Rohan.
As this could be seen as a potential conflict of interest, I’ve taken the decision to not mention product names in any future pieces on what Caroline and I take with us when we’re travelling (even though we do use items from other brands from time to time) and use more generic references to items i.e polo shirts, t-shirts, travel jeans etc.
Given that there has been comment in the mainstream media concerning promotional products being mentioned and photos appearing on social media, I think that this is a sensible idea to adopt regarding product mentions on wisepacking.
There’s a lot to do over the next week, but I may be checking in again later this week!
Ullswater from the steamer pier
First visited in the 1970’s…
Watch out, there’s squirrels about!
The return of Tufty?
Ullswater on a grey day
Same day, but with added sun!
With three days to spare, a couple of last minute accommodation bookings were made, the car tanked up with unleaded and a couple of bags packed for a Cumbrian road trip.
Despite spending so much time in the Lake District since my first visit back in 1973, there are parts of the Lakes and the surrounding area that I don’t know that well, even after my years as an outdoor instructor and gear tester for a number of climbing, walking and cycling magazines.
Although I’d run off a route card from the AA’s Route Planner software, it wasn’t needed as the car was pointed towards Skipton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere and the right turn that took us to Troutbeck for a drinks stop at The Mortal Man.
Once refreshed, the car was pointed towards Kirkstone Pass, Brotherswater and then into the car park at Patterdale Youth Hostel. We’d got a room for the night, arrived earlier than anticipated, checked in, dumped the bags and then went a wandering.
Which is why we ended up in Glenridding. I’ve used Gillside Farm campsite on more occasions than I care to remember and it would have been a good place to overnight had we been in camping mode (Caroline was getting physio for a back problem at the time, so it would not have been a good idea to break out the camping gear for the weekend).
I did show Caroline the campsite though before we made our way around the top of the village to have a drinks stop at The Traveller’s Rest, a pub first visited back in the summer of 1975 when a few of us were over in the Lakes for a spot of walking, sightseeing and sword fencing.
It was tempting to stay at The Traveller’s Rest for another pint, but that would have been a bad move given that I tend to stick with one drink per night at the best of times. So it was back to the hostel and to the member’s kitchen to cook up some posh meatballs and accoutrements bought at Booths in Kirkby Lonsdale earlier in the day.
Although we were checking out of the hostel on Saturday morning, we were allowed to leave the car there whilst we went exploring. The plan was to head somewhere that I’d passed through on several occasions, but had never stopped in and taken a walk around.
I’d been on the Ullswater Steamers before, but only as far as Howtown before. Getting the steamer to Pooley Bridge was therefore a new experience, especially as that was the village I’d never stopped in.
The steamer was busy, but not packed out. Pooley Bridge on the other hand was busy with quite a few Geordies and Mackems in evidence (I recognised the accents after working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and three years living in Sunderland whilst taking my degree course).
Other accents and languages were also evident – Punjabi, Hindi, American and a variety of Eastern European accents were amongst those heard.
With the £ exchange rates being what they are at the moment, all parts of the UK are coming into play as tourist destinations once more. How long it stays that way after March 2019 remains to be seen!
As Pooley Bridge is a small place, walking around didn’t take too long. Lunch was easily found in a local deli and eaten in the village square. The wait for the steamer back was taken up with a conversation with an American family on the merits of visiting Durham over York and the merits of an orange coloured politician!
Once back at the car, it was time to Boo Boo * and get going towards the hotel we were staying in near Wigton.
We did need a route card for this one, but there was a small problem near the end of the drive that meant that the navigation tool on Caroline’s phone was brought into play.
After a little bit of driving around, we found our hotel for the night, but realised that we had a small problem. I’d heard a not-quite-familiar sound coming from behind me on my side of the car and the reason was evident when I pulled into the hotel car park.
One very flat tyre!
The origin of Boo Boo? Watch The World’s End!
I make no apology for making this more of a picture based post regarding our visit to the Alhambra Palace.
So much has been written about Granada’s World Heritage Site by those who know more than I do (Rough Guide Andalucia devotes @ six pages including maps and photos to the site, as does Lonely Planet Andalucia).
Our visit to Alhambra was booked back in January 2017, and yes, that was a wise move as the Sold Out signs were already posted when we collected our pre-booked tickets around 9.15am.
As our allocated time to enter Palacios Nazaries wasn’t for another couple of hours, we had time to wander over towards it, taking in the gardens, and second breakfasts too.
Whilst we’d had a spot of breakfast back at White Nest Hostel, there wasn’t much of it about thanks to the school or college party that had almost cleaned out the breakfast buffet selection.
A couple of bread rolls with marmalade and a cup of coffee weren’t going to set us up for the day, so coffee and a vending machine snack topped up the energy levels enough to last us until lunchtime.
Although I’d visited Alhambra back in 1999, there were only a few parts that I remembered seeing on that visit. With so much to see and take in, we took things nice and slow in the run up to joining the queue in readiness for our slot to get into Palacios Nazaries.
After queuing for a while and a bag check, we joined those starting to wend their way around the complex. We did hang back a bit because we’d noticed the amount of people who were wanting to photograph everything and then take selfies of themselves against the same views or interiors.
Taking things slowly had its advantages. We saw more than those doing Roadrunner impressions and had time to take things in. There were a couple of times when we couldn’t get into certain rooms, but we just held back a bit and got in when things were quieter.
We eventually exited the buildings and started to wander around the multi-level gardens adjacent to Palacios Nazaries for a while before hunger hit once more and lunch was declared.
Whilst we gave the vending machine coffee a miss this time, another machine served up not one, but two packs of sandwiches. Coffee came from the hut near the entrance to the Alcazaba fortress this time – good coffee, and rather strong too…
Once the coffee was downed, we entered the one way system in the Alcazaba, got the cameras out and then explored the fortress. I got told off for sitting on a wall rather than a bench, but once I’d found a proper seat, I could see that the wall was a bit older than the concrete I’d been sitting on at the top of it was older than I’d realised.
As Caroline and I made our way over to the Generalife and Summer Palace, my left leg started playing up thanks to some post-stroke muscle trouble, so I sat down to relax and do some reading.
Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindle app. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.
So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…
From the alleyways of Cordoba
To a colourful hostel – White Nest, Granada
To The Alhambra Palace
And just one of many views over Granada…
A short post today as we’ve had a hectic weekend in Cumbria, so here goes!
The bus journey from Cordoba was the longest on our tour of Andalucia. The ride was a comfortable one, especially as we’d taken light refreshments with us to consume along the way.
We’d spotted on the maps of Granada that the bus station was a couple of miles away from White Nest Hostel, our home for the next two nights. There was the opportunity to get the bus into the centre and then make our way on foot from there, but we chose to grab a cab instead.
There was a little bit of confusion when we got to the taxi rank as the driver didn’t appear to recognise the address on our booking sheets. After a short time talking over the radio, we set off and soon realised that we’d done the right thing in getting the cab, because the journey to White Nest didn’t appear to be a simple one.
As the road narrowed, the cab started to avoid the pedestrians that were making there way along in the same direction as us. The entrance to White Nest was up an alleyway, we entered, registered and was then given the room key and directions to get to it.
When we opened the door and stepped inside, it became very apparent that we’d struck gold and had got a room with a view.
The vista from the room’s double doors was right up to The Alhambra and as it was dusk, we noticed the palace’s floodlights sparking up, leading us to rightly believe that we had got the best room in the house.
After a quick change, the search for a meal began as there were a couple of rumbling sounds to be heard when people walked past us. We took a look at a couple of places opposite the end of the alleyway, but the menus didn’t appeal, so we wandered off.
One place looked inviting, but the friendly bloke let us down gently to the fact that he was just closing up, so we turned around and headed back down the street to a cafe that we’d spotted, but initially decided against.
Which was our mistake. We were the only customers and I got the feeling that the chap running the place was about to close up, but we ended up having a very fine Moroccan style meal with hummus and pitta bread, salad, falafel, mint lemonade then coffee and a sweet course to round things off.
As it was around €28 for this feast for two, we weren’t complaining, especially as it was so good, yet oh so simple.
One returning to Room 37 at White Nest, the view from the window just begged to be looked at. The night shots didn’t work out (and neither did the day shots), but the eyes had it and there was no way that we were going to complain about this room.
Tuesday was going to be Alhambra day – more on Tuesday!
We may have stumbled across the Metropol Parasol (middle picture on the top row), but after half an hour of wandering around under the structure and exploring the market hall, we had yet to find the entrance hall and the lift to get up onto the walkway up top.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’d walked past it as the entrance hall is underground and we’d missed the signpost at street level that would have put us in the right direction.
At €3 each, the admission charge wasn’t going to break the bank, but there were a couple of add-ons that made it even more worthwhile.
Apart from giving us access to the walkway, we also had a free beer each from the tapas bar at the top and a free postcard to collect from the shop in the Parasol’s basement area.
We spent a fair amount of time on the walkway. Some of that was just taking in the views and taking the occasional photos whilst the rest was having to wait for a bunch of hipster beardies to take what appeared to be their obligatory selfies on their mobile phones.
Not only were they taking a lot of selfies, but this flock (or should it be herd?) of beardies were also rather oblivious to the fact that there were quite a few people trying to either look at the view from the viewing section or trying to take their own photographs of the view rather than shooting themselves…
After free beer, postcards and plenty of time spent soaking up the sun and the views on the Parasol’s top deck, we headed back down and found a cafe for a light lunch and more wandering around.
More of the Metropol Parasol plus a whole lot of bull going on…
We weren’t using street maps to get around Seville as we found it easier to just roll the dice and see where we ended up. This first day in Seville was like all of the others spent in Spain – free and easy without any real need to hare around all of the sights listed in the various guidebooks we’d read before we got on the plane to Malaga.
IF we wanted to wander around, we wandered around, if we wanted a coffee or a beer then we stopped for refreshments and if we wanted to stop for rather good ice cream, sorry, gelato, we did – at a shop cum cafe on Avenida De La Constitution.
€9.20 for two ice cream cones? You’d better believe it, but they were probably the best ice creams that we’ve had and they also came with a pretty high standard of presentation too…
So what next? A mooch back to the digs, where we opened our room and initially thought the worst as none of our bags, clothes or other kit was anywhere to be seen.
When we found out what had happened, our shock turned to something else. Our kit had been moved back to the room we’d been in originally and whilst it was all in order and nothing was missing, we’d have appreciated it more had the owner waited until we got back and allowed us to move our kit ourselves.
Once we’d raged silently against the machine, it was siesta time, reading time and then wash and change time before heading out in search of our evening meal. Although we’d looked at a few places during the day, we wandered around for a while as most places were relatively empty, even though by now it was around 8.30pm.
One place had caught our eye, but we’d wandered on and then retraced our steps until we got back to Bar Pelayo – we took to calling it The Seven Bulls Heads – yes, seven bulls heads on the walls and plenty of memorabilia relating to bull fighting and bull fighters.
Bull fighting may not be to everyone’s tastes (it’s not ours), but it is a way of life in Spain and has been for a heck of a long time. I remember my aunt visiting Spain in the 1960s and talking about El Cordobes and bull fighting whilst a regular film at my local cinema’s Saturday morning film club was Tommy The Toreador starring pop star Tommy Steele.
Beer and wine were the drinks of choice for the night and whilst a couple of tapas dishes were the same as the night before, there were two that I indulged in that really hit the spot.
The first was gazpacho and the second was baked goats cheese. With ratatouille, spinach, tortilla and chorizo also on the menu, we didn’t need a sweet course, but did indulge in another beer and wine each before wending our way back to the digs that we don’t mention the name of for some light reading and a couple of soft drinks before we turned in for the night.
More on Seville next Wednesday…
Could this be our new back garden getting the first set of visitors?
No, it’s part of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristanos in Cordoba…
Even The Alhambra in Granada needs some TLC from time to time.
This is part of Palacios Nazaries complex as is…
Palacio del Partal which is also undergoing some restoration work…
More on our Andalusia jaunt next week!
One fine day… just not today!
We were expecting to wake up to find snow covering the roads, pavements and car here at Wisepacking Towers given yesterday’s weather forecasts.
It may arrive later of course, but we have things to do and places to go, so it may or may not impinge on our plans.
Whilst the forecast wasn’t right for this morning, yesterday’s was spot on – high winds for most of the day with some disruption.
For most of our surrounding area this meant that there was a spread of rubbish and a batch of disposed disposable nappies over the road and pavement as bins had been put out for collection by the bin trucks last week rather than today when the collection is supposed to take place…
No nappies here though – just a neighbour’s trampoline invading parts of our back garden after being lifted up and deposited by the fence around 3am.
Parts of the trampoline structure ended up in our garden whilst an ornamental chimney pot suffered the same fate as a few garden gnomes.
The trampoline has been moved and weighted down, but there’s a bit of repair work that needs to be done to the fence.
And the garden gnomes? We can rebuild them without consulting the Gnome Office or a copy of Rolling Gnome magazine.
One tube of super glue should do the trick as there’s no need for any to them to become the Six Million Dollar Gnome as none are modelled on Lee Majors (yes, that’s a gratuitous 1970’s TV series reference just there that some may have to Google to find out more about…).
So what can you do when the weather’s taking a walk on the wild side?
Get the guidebooks out and start planning the next batch of trips or sit and watch some travel based TV.
We made a point of watching Rick Stein’s programme about a weekend in Lisbon last night whilst demolishing one of Caroline’s home made fish pies.
Plenty of memories of time spent in Lisbon, Sintra and beyond and yes, there were a few places that we’d been too and eaten in too.
Whilst we’d both pass on seafood dishes or any potentially cheeky pork stews, we have eaten well on our visits to Lisbon, Sintra, Porto (see below) and elsewhere in Portugal.
Some have featured in guidebooks, others haven’t and yes, I have spotted one or two Hollywood names eating out a table or two away from us.
None of that matters though so long as the food, wine and beer are good.
We don’t take photos of our plate or frequent places lauded by foodies or loaded down with stars. We don’t need to be in flash surroundings either, something that we do have in common with Rick Stein after watching that Lisbon programme last night…
Regaleira, Porto – no pretensions, but good food and drink!
October 2015 saw us make the first of four visits to Northern England.
This one was a hit and run exercise – there had been sightings of the Northern Lights on the Northumberland coast, so that’s where we headed.
A quick delve into the realms of booking.com and we came up with a guest house in Seahouses for Saturday night and a cut-price deal at the Hampton by Hilton in the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for Sunday.
After a fish supper, we headed to the beach path between Seahouses and the guest house and spent an hour or so on a bench staring out to sea in a northerly direction.
Guess what? No Northern Lights for us!
The following day saw us having a hearty breakfast and walking back into Seahouses for a spot of photography and a general mooch around. The National Trust shop came up with some goodies, as did the RNLI shop.
Lunch came and went and it was time to head for Newcastle.
After working in Newcastle for years, I thought that I knew the way to the hotel, especially as it was around 300 metres away from where I worked.
What I didn’t realise was the the road layouts had changed in a big way, so all of the shortcuts I used to use were closed off or open to buses only.
Still, we found the hotel, parked the car in a nearby car park (£12 a day…), went for a walk, had a coffee and then changed for a night on the town.
Not into the type of garb favoured by those wandering around the Quayside or Bigg Market you understand. No, we chose more sensible clothing to combat the colder weather being encountered…
Monday was a shopping day around Northumberland Street, Eldon Square and in the Baltic Art Centre shop. Lunch came from M&S and by then it was time to head home…
Life’s a beach…
But not for long as we were back in the North East three weeks later.
We’d got a good deal at Redworth Hall Hotel for a couple of nights, had a pretty decent Sunday lunch at a pub on the outskirts of Darlington and then headed into that town for a mooch around my old stamping ground.
Once at Redworth Hall, the bar and log fire beckoned, as did the following morning’s visit to the National Railway Museum‘s outpost Locomotion in nearby Shildon.
That was followed by a weather beating visit to the local multiplex to catch up with The Lady In The Van before a pre-pack salad plus accompaniments was bought as an BYOB evening meal back at the hotel.
Alnmouth beckoned next – one of our joint favourites in Northumberland because of the village and the beach. The B&B wasn’t wonderful, but the pub meal a few doors away was.
After a drive up the coast to Seahouses, lunch was declared and taken, but a couple of the places we’d been into before were closed for redecorating or just closed due to lack of volunteers. So it was time to hit Bamburgh.
The car park was almost empty, as was the beach which proved tempting enough to inspire a wander and provided a bit of inspiration to use a couple of my camera’s not often used functions such as the black and white mode…
Bamburgh Castle – hand held in black & white
Same castle, same day, different side, but as the sun goes down…
A nearby pub provided a good excuse to go inside to warm up as it had coffee on tap and an open fire too. Our digs for the night were thankfully chintz free, but unstaffed after check-in, so we were left to our own devices until the following morning.
Which ensured that there was just one thing to do – head to the pub!
Steak and ale pice plus cider for Caroline, Lamb Cutlets and Guinness for me plus coffees were a great way to almost end the day. The warmth in the pub and the walk back to the room along with a full day of fresh sea air ensured that our respective night’s sleep were long and undisturbed until the alarm went off the following morning.
When the Grace Darling Museum and RNLI shop were visited, along with the local butchers who did a very fine line in pies, pasties and sausage roll. So lunch was bought, drinks purchased at a mini-market/petrol station on the A1 and then it was time to head home via Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
John Lewis sold us an iPad Mini 2 and case, Lush got some more travel size shower gel and shampoo bar sales and M&S sold us a couple of ready meals to have at home.
Was that it for the year?
Nope, because rock and roll got in the way and ensured that there were a couple of good nights out.
The first was to see prog rocker Fish on his Farewell to Childhood tour at Sheffield City Hall. Tickets were booked, as was rail travel and a night in the Holiday Inn Express.
Although this was originally billed and booked as a standing gig, ticket sales had been so good that the concert had been moved into the main hall – a seated venue.
After checking into the hotel and getting a cab into town, fodder had to be tracked down. Posh nosh in a pub? Fine stuff in a restaurant?
Nope. we hit Yates instead… and it pretty good too!
As we were now fed and watered, we decided to join the queue to get into City Hall, and ended up in prime seats about four rows back from the stage.
French band Lazuli impressed with their support slot, but would Fish?
It wasn’t the best show I’ve seen him do, but that was down to a cold apparently as his between song banter revealed.
The older solo stuff was mixed with more recent songs, but the main course was the playing in full of his old band’s Misplaced Childhood album.
A sense of deja vu kicked in as I’d last heard the whole of it played live back in the 1980’s and some of the solo stuff was heard in the 1990’s on a week following Fish around on his Highlands and Islands tour.
Mind you, a week later there was an even bigger sense of deja vu in Last Of The Summer Wine country – Holmfirth.
This was a good night out seeing a guy that’s been around so long that there’s calls being made for him to do the Legends slot at next year’s Glastonbury – Roy Wood…
He’s back at Picturedrome in Holmfirth in a couple of weeks and it’s very tempting to get tickets for the show, especially as they’re just £20 each.
All the hits and more from a pretty long career were delivered with aplomb and I surprised myself when I realised how many of the lyrics I actually knew. The band were as tight as they come and the show was only marred by the pillocks trying to video it on their mobile phones…
Given the amount of Christmas jumpers being worn in Picturedrome, there was one song that just had to be played – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. And it was.
So a good night out to round off the 2015 year of travelling.
The 2016 year of travelling wasn’t as hectic, but plans are already afoot for the 2017 travel year as the first trip is already booked and largely paid for!