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Holiday fever?


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 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

As seen in…


The only surviving TSR-2 at RAF Cosford Air Museum


A reminder of a former employer, Abergavenny


Lyme Regis harbour, Dorset


The Thatcher we approve of – Thatcher’s Cider Shop, Somerset


One batch of raw materials at Perry’s Cider, Somerset

One year – the answers!


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


Ogden Water, West Yorkshire – June 2015


Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal – July 2015


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


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


Centro Cultural de Belem, Belem, Portugal – July 2015


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


On the beach near Cascais, Portugal – July 2015


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


Viana do Castelo, Portugal – September 2015


Canal Central, Aveiro, Portugal – September 2015


Praca 8 de Maio , Coimbra, Portugal – September 2015


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


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


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


Tavira skyline, The Algarve, Portugal – March 2016


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


Broad Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales – May 2016

One year

So many places in just three countries…


One of the locations for Hot Fuzz – including part of the end battle!


The scene of The Great Teddy Toddle in deepest Yorkshire


A smaller version is on the bookcase downstairs


The view from the river


The view from the river, part II


Art for art’s sake?


Hot day, cool beer – but not on The Algarve!


And it’s still nowhere near The Algarve!


And no, it’s not Zorro! Or the next Bond…


A grand design?


And not a Cornetto in sight!


Market square heroes?


No fog on the Tyne…


Has someone painted the town red after hearing about Mourinho’s next job?


Provider of local specialities?


Spot the supermarket…


For when you need to know where the highest pub in England is…


One week ago

You can take some guesses as to where these are – the locations will be revealed tomorrow!

No prizes though as it’s just for fun.

All photos by Keith Rickaby on a Nikon Coolpix s3100 digital compact camera

A roof over your head…


A Portuguese Pousada…

Out of all of the places Caroline and I have stayed in over the last year, this is the one that ticked all the right boxes, even though it’s several notches above our usual choice of accommodation.

Pousada do Convento da Graca is a luxury hotel in Tavira on the Algarve at a price that didn’t break the bank thanks to the over-55’s rates available via the Pousada chain’s own website and the likes of Expedia (which is where we booked our week long stay plus Monarch flights from the UK and private transfers from and to Faro Airport.

Our room was a generous size with a luxurious bathroom and a good buffet breakfast was part of the deal. Pousada do Convento da Graca is a converted convent complete with church and cloisters that is a few minutes walk away from Tavira‘s centre and bus station in one direction and the railway station and Lidl in the other direction.

Apart from breakfast, we ate out for both lunches and evening meals (and saved a reasonable amount in doing so – eating in was around €65 for two without wine or beers whilst our last night’s meal in a local restaurant cost €40 for two mains, two desserts, two coffees, a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling water.

Old school…

Redworth Hall Hotel near Darlington here in the UK was an independent school that I used to pass twice a day when I went to and from work in Darlington back in the 1970’s.

Caroline and I stayed there three years ago, but decided to check in again last November as part of a break in the North East.

Large rooms and big, comfortable beds are the order of the day, as are good breakfasts and some fine in-house catering (they even made sure that their take on a good burger came with a decent regular bun as requested rather than a Brioche bun).

Lisbon dreams…

Yes, it’s back to Portugal time! Lisbon Dreams Guest House has a hostel vibe to it, but that is a good thing.

There’s double rooms with shared bathrooms plus very luxurious bathrobes to wander from your room to the bathroom and back without upsetting fellow residents. Breakfast is a simple affair whilst evening meals can either be taken in one of Lisbon‘s many eating places or prepared in the Lisbon Dreams kitchen – the Guest House is situated above a mini-market with a good choice of meat, fruit and bread which is a boon for self caterers.

Lisbon Dreams is in the Rato area of the city, but it’s a quiet area around twenty minutes walk from Rossio Station and ten minutes from Principe Real‘s bars and eating places. This isn’t a bad thing though, especially if you’ve been eating out as the portions can be rather generous at times…


Chilled hostel.

It only seems as though we were at Hamilton Lodge in Fishguard last week and there’s a good reason for that – we were!

For five nights in the double ensuite room (others with shared facilities are available). Light breakfasts are provided, there are several pubs and takeaways in the town centre (the nearest is a Chinese immediately opposite the hostel) and there’s Q and Jet.

Q is the laid back owner of Hamilton Lodge and Jet is a black labrador who tends to get spoiled rotten by those staying in the hostel… like us! Q has put together a comfortable environment and one that’s great to relax in either indoors or outdoors in the garden at the back of the hostel.

There’s a good kitchen to prepare meals in with hobs, oven, microwave and toaster (there’s a Co-op, a Costcutter and Tesco Express to get supplies from, along with several independent retailers too), that garden to relax and unwind in, wifi and TV’s in each room too.

We will return. Oh yes, we will return!

And I’ll be writing more about Hamilton Lodge in the not-too-distant future.


Guess where?

Caroline and I have stayed in three proper hostels in Portugal – one H.I. affiliated in Lagos and two independently run hostels in Porto and Aveiro respectively.

Aveiro Rossio Hostel is our choice out of the three as it’s in the centre of Aveiro (but a long walk from the railway station) and therefore near the gondolas on the canal and several bars, cafes and other eating places in the centre.

Like Hamilton House, there’s a chilled atmosphere, light breakfast and a kitchen to use at other times. The double ensuite room was simply furnished and comfortable whilst the hostel lounge had an interesting mix of furniture and artwork around the room.

Any problems? Only with the door code to get into the main entrance as the keypad was playing up, something that didn’t worry us as we were coming and going at sensible hours whilst staff were in attendance and not coming back in the wee small hours.

After two nights, it was time to move on to Coimbra for three nights and boy, did we wish that we could have taken Aveiro Rossio Hostel with us (and on so many different levels too)!

And just for the record, all of the accommodation mentioned was paid for by ourselves!

All will be mentioned again in the One Year series of posts that’s coming soon!

Technology – loving it?

Now I’ve mentioned the love/hate relationship that I have with technology before, but it’s worth bringing it up again.

First of all, the iPad Mini 2.

It went with me on the recent visit to Fremlington near Reeth in Swaledale and it came in handy as there was no television available to keep up with news, forecasts or travel reports.

It also helped in checking emails, logging onto wisepacking and checking out forums too. And by ‘eck it came in useful to watch the copy of Cinema Paradiso that I’d bought from the iTunes store.

But I also found that I was falling into the same trap as many people that I’d seen in bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants – constantly looking at the iPad’s screen and stabbing at whatever caught my attention rather than say having breakfast and talking to Caroline or fellow temporary residents at said hostel.

So it didn’t go with me when we headed off for Fishguard and another hostel as we embarked on part two of our break after one night at home.

Yes, there was good wifi at the Fishguard hostel, so much so that the owner looked to be using his full sized iPad for just about everything connected with the hostel, but I didn’t miss my own variation on the iPad theme.

It has however come back into its own since heading back home as emails needed to be checked, news stories read and comments made on one or three sections of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travel forums.

The other part of the technology equation was the upgrading of computers when we got back home. Software only in each case as security upgrades were sorted out on both Mac Minis and the iPad Mini 2.

An easy task? Oh yes in each case and one that was relished rather than grunted at as it used to be in the many years of having to use another proprietary operating system that I could mention.

The latest Mac Mini was set up just before we went away, but gave me no trouble at all, even though I am to computers what deep fried chocolate bars are to healthy eating…

The couple of tweaks to the installation of Microsoft’s Office:Mac and a cleaning up of the Dock task bar have made things lean and meaner than they were. Next up is the installation of a cost-effective Canon Laser Printer (£40 from Ryman via Amazon) and Bob’s your uncle, I’m as happy as I am when a good bacon sandwich is put in front of me!

The new system is part of a plan to up the ante here on wisepacking.

Posts will be more regular and there’s going to be a mix of trip accounts and kit reviews.

Along with some anecdotes and the potential for what New Musical Express used to call ‘Smart-ass one liners’ around the time I first started to buy said paper back in the early 1970’s.

First up? Some good places to stay…

Just back from…

A few days in’t Yorkshire Dales and a few days in and around Fishguard in Pembrokeshire.

Used the car for both trips and stayed in independent hostels too.

First part was on familiar ground as Swaledale was part of my old stamping ground in my days as an outdoor instructor whilst Fishguard and the surrounding area was new territory.

Did the sun shine? Yes!

Did it rain? Only overnight and whilst in the car on the way back from Wales.

Was the food good?

Yes, apart from the last night’s bar meal – how is it possible for a pub to screw up a plate of bangers and mash?

It was probably the worst bar meal I’ve ever had and certainly the worst (or should that be wurst) sausage and mash I’ve ever had.

There’s more to come once the bag has been unpacked and some washing has been done – it’s the photo downloads that take up the time now as there’s a new Apple in place and the photo program has been ‘upgraded’.

Oh, and there’s a software upgrade to sort out too.

Still beats using Windows…