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Here’s to 2018!

thumb_DSCN2365_1024Here’s to 2018!

Nothing has been firmed up yet for 2018, but there are a few ideas in the melting pot that may (or may not) reach the fruition stage later in the year…

Clues? Where we’re going, we don’t need clues!


Spainpacking on Rohantime!


Down the avenues and alleyways in Cordoba..

As you may have gathered, Caroline and I have bought a few bits and pieces from Rohan over the years and regularly use their clothing along with items from other brands when we’re off travelling or even when we’re just mooching around Yorkshire.

My recent Spainpacking post from wisepacking has been posted on Rohantime this morning along with a trio of photos that you may recognise…

Thanks again Sarah!

The links to Rohantime and Rohan’s sites…

Weather or not…


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!

All is quiet…


Sunshine – but not today!

Well, it was a quiet night last night – no noise from the neighbours and only mild use of fireworks.

Looking out of the window at the moment and yes, it’s still raining so it’s a day in rather than heading out anywhere (one of our local pubs doesn’t do grub on New Year’s Day and the other one serves beef that can be pink and bloody whilst our favourite veggie place is rather closed today…).

So there’s books to read and programmes to watch plus time to look at the weather prospects for Monday and Tuesday so we can get out and about.

No Internet or bricks and mortar shopping though – the Rohan sale order was placed and has arrived whilst the other items I wanted were bought in the visit to the big city last Wednesday.

In the meantime, this restaurant review made me smile earlier…

Yes, Jay Rayner strikes again and doesn’t chicken out either!

TV or not TV?

Yes, the holiday fortnight is upon us, as is the seasonal selection of programmes and films destined to be on our screens (or not)…

We gave Strictly, SPOTY and The Apprentice a miss and as Caroline was out on Saturday night, I caught up on an episode of Endeavour series 3 and the first couple of episodes of To Play The King (with Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart).

Last night’s viewing was two episodes of a sixties classic – the first series of The Man From Uncle in glorious black and white. Sharp editing, sharp suits and a hint of what was to come gadget-wise too. Not much screen time yet though for Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum gets more in his average appearance in NCIS fifty plus years after his role as Napoleon Solo‘s Russian sidekick).

There’s more of a travel feeling to a programme highlighted in the Radio Times at 6pm on BBC2 over the next three nights – The Real Marigold Hotel. Six personalities head to India and it’s interesting to see who they all cope with the experience.

Four are back for follow-ups on experiences in Miami and Tokyo soon and there’s a new set of names heading to India for the second series of The Real Marigold Hotel.

In the meantime though, there’s always the film that inspired the reality show – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which has been given an early evening Film 4 slot on Sunday 25th – albeit in an edited format (I somehow suspect that the DVD of the same title will hit the player around the same time as a way of avoiding edits and adverts).

The Beeb are showing a of their few home-grown films too – The Lady In The Van, Pride, What We Did On Our Holidays and Saving Mr Banks.

Anything else? Well there’s a bit of Yorkshire in the air at 9pm on Thursday 29th as The Brontes come to the fore on BBC1 whilst over on BBC Four there’s a bit of slow TV as The Flying Scotsman takes to the tracks of the Severn Valley Railway at the same time…

There should have been another programme to watch at 9pm on the same day, but that’s been pulled from the schedules. Truck mechanic, bike racer and adventurer Guy Martin started an attempt in early December to ride around Britain on a pedal cycle with the aim of covering around 4800 miles in twenty days.

After 800 miles in four days and eight hours, an achilles tendon injury brought the attempt to a close at John O’Groats. One suspects that Guy will try again once he’s recovered from the injury problem…

Will we be watching It’s A Wonderful Life again? Possibly…

And might I be watching the film that’s become my favourite one set on December 24th?More than likely, even though it will be at home rather than in a cinema this time. It’s Bruce Willis, that colour changing white vest and Alan Rickman

Yippie-ki-yay, it’s Die Hard!


Silent running…


Ola… or should that be Hola?

I’ve been sorting a few things out over the last couple of weeks or so since my last post, have visited one or two places that I’ve never been before and I’ve been trying to do some shopping.

Food is always the easiest one to sort out, even at this time of the year, especially when supermarkets are kicking out discount vouchers left, right and centre.

Not that I’m complaining, but the thirty odd pounds worth of coupons from Tesco and Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s have ensured that we’ve stocked up on coffee, food and drink before the seasonal madhouse usually found in UK supermarkets at this time of year.

Our baskets and trollies have been empty compared to some we’ve seen, even though supermarkets and other shops are typically closed for one day over the next fortnight or so.

Our last minute shopping run is probably going to be confined to milk, bread and any bits and pieces we’ve forgotten about rather than a humungous pile of stuff that would probably pile on the pounds (or kilos depending on your location) and increase the waistline.

The supermarket loyalty cards aren’t the only ones kicking out vouchers or offers. The M&S one ensured that I got two plain black cotton t-shirts priced at £6.00 each for a till total of just £4.60 thanks to a 20% off t-shirts promo offer and a simultaneous £5.00 Just For You code being added onto my card when I checked it on the in-store terminal.

Shopping for stuff that’s been around for a while has also paid dividends – £5 for the first series of the Kevin Spacey take on House Of Cards was one offer that was taken up, as was that for a long sleeved Rohan Stratum polo shirt that’s just been ordered (£47 reduced to 37.50 with the added benefits of free delivery) and a rare decision to buy some Merrell shoes from John Lewis as a) there was a 20% off promo on the go b) free delivery and c) the added benefit of having a £5 gift card that was sent to me by the John Lewis loyalty card people earlier in the week…

Playing ones loyalty cards right hasn’t been the only way that we’ve saved money recently.

My folding bike needed some new tyres, and Caroline needed a new spare for her bike too. As neither were needed immediately, I tried to get them three weeks ago at a bike shop in a nearby city. And failed, largely because the assistant got a bit arsey with me…

The same company got the sale for that Panaracer Gravel Kingfor Caroline’s bike, two Schwalbe Marathons plus three Schwalbe inner for my folder , but over the Internet rather than in their local branch.

Savings? £2 on the Panaracer and £6 each on the Schwalbe Marathons compared to prices in other retailers…

Fortunately it’s been a different story in other bike shops recently where the staff were only too happy to help out, even though we were only in search of socks, energy bars and new skid lids.


Caroline at Tan Hill Inn, North Yorkshire, May 2016.

Step forward then Sowerby Brothers in Mirfield and the Leeds branches of Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative and Evans Cycles.

Caroline had had a spot of work done on her bike at Sowerby Brothers a few weeks ago whilst out on a club ride, so she headed there to sort out a bike service last Thursday whilst I stocked up on Clif Bars.

Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative have been a pleasure to do business with for years now, as have Evans Cycles.

A set of lights plus a fluorescent Specialized helmet was bought by myself a few weeks ago (Caroline renewed her lid there too) and when Caroline needed some warm merino wool based cycling socks a fortnight ago, these came courtesy of Evans Cycles, as did an extra front light for the folder.

So, will the money we’ve saved be used to buy coffee, beer and tapas in Andalucia next year?

You might think that, but I couldn’t possible comment…

One year – the shorter trips…


Seahouses, Northumberland

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 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 GlastonburyRoy 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!