The cloisters at Pousada Convento da Graca, Tavira
Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
It all began in October last year when Caroline’s workplace approved a week away in March and then Expedia came up with an offer that we couldn’t refuse – flights from our local airport, private transfers from and to Faro airport and a week in a hotel in Tavira on the Algarve.
Not just any hotel you understand, but one that Berlitz Algarve described as “one of the most desirable places to stay on the entire coast” – Pousada Convento da Graca, a converted 16th century convent complete with cloisters and its own church.
We knew that Pousadas had special rates for those of us who are over 55, but as the offer we were made beat a few of the prices we had last year for stays in guest houses or boutique hotels, it would have been madness to turn it down…
Which left a couple of problems.
The first was what to wear during our stay, given that Lonely Planet Portugal‘s comments on the Pousada started with “If you can get past the front door (there’s a bit of an attitude here)”…
The second was packing to cope with any potential dress code, given that we were flying with hand luggage and that our airline – Monarch – had a 10kg weight restriction on hand luggage.
In the end, we needn’t have worried, even though the temperatures encountered during the first full week of March were below expectations after reading the ten day forecasts for Faro and Tavira.
We packed by taking our cue from these forecasts and perceptions based on looking through the photos in the Pousada Convento da Graca section of the website dedicated to the Portuguese Pousadas.
I ended up packing virtually all Rohan kit once more. Four Progress polo shirts, a couple of Stratum long sleeved polos, two Merino t-shirts, two pairs of 2015 Goa trousers, a selection of Cool Silver trunks and a few pairs of M&S silver containing socks.
Wash kit had the usual contents – factor 30 Nivea suncream, disposable razor, King of Shaves shaving oil, Via Sonic battery toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, Lush shower gel, and Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant. Spare shoes? One pair of espadrilles.
Caroline’s choices were somewhat similar and yes, most of it was also from Rohan. Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs, a couple of Serene vests, a brace of Malay tops, a pair of travel linen trousers, a pair of Trailblazer trousers bought during the Rohan sale at Trek & Trail Saltaire and a Malay dress – just in case. Oh, and a couple of Stria long sleeved tops, again just in case.
Our choices coped admirably with both the expected dress codes and the changeable weather conditions encountered. We’d layered up in readiness for the early start to the airport (3am departure from the house with a car thermometer reading – 1C), so these warm layers (Rohan, Peter Storm, Lowe Alpine) came into their own on the cooler nights during our trip.
We didn’t have any problems once we checked into the Pousada or in fitting in whilst wandering around Tavira, eating in family run restaurants such as Bica, Casa Simao and Churrasqueira O Manel or on the local buses and trains used to get us around the Algarve and the ferry used to have a few hours in Spain.
Yes, there was a bit of washing and wearing going on during the week to keep things sweet, but we stayed smart and our bags came in at 8kg each so no worries on the plane!
And we weren’t the only ones using Rohan in the Pousada either as fellow Brits were sporting Rohan trousers or shirts in and around the hotel.
An account of our visit to Tavira will be posted here soon!
Caroline, Sunday morning, 7.15 am, waiting for the car to Faro Airport.
Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
The time has come to lighten the load.
Many start the process on January 1st, but I decided to be different…
Given that my birthday falls on January 3rd, it’s around anniversary time and the fact that the stash of food we’d bought in for the holiday season had hardly been touched, then a decision had to be made – to postpone things until February.
So, it’s time to do the deed now that there’s just a few crackers left in the cracker box and that the cheese to accompany said crackers is almost gone (along with the rather good homemade birthday cake).
The respective stashes have been gradually reduced rather than thrown in the bin and whilst we’ve refilled the cupboards, fridge and freezer, there’s little in the way of convenience foods and no ready meals either..
Not only that, there’s no chocolate left in the hidey hole in the kitchen and no biscuits leapt off the shelves and into the respective trolleys in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl last week either. I do know that there’s one box of RNLI fudge in the office, but once that’s gone, that’s it!
Yes, it time for some weight loss here and if the Hairy Bikers can do it, then so can I.
It will be done sensibly and it will be done without resorting to paying to attend any meetings or spending money on online resources.
So the sensible head is on, the calories are being counted and it’s bye bye to ready meals and regular takeaways. It’s Subway instead of burgers or fried chicken when out and about and the takeaways will be a treat rather than a regular occurrence.
And lightening the load may also occur on another level too – a lighter travel bag as any new trousers or jeans will be a smaller size (and a smaller packed size/lighter in weight too) whilst any footwear doesn’t need to be so sturdy.
The tops however will stay the same as I’ve taken the same size for years – it’s only the war on the waistline spread that I’ve lost!
It’s not often that I’ll dive in and take advantage of an offer regarding cheaper guidebooks on Lonely Planet’s website, but after seeing one of their emails a few minutes ago, I just have.
There’s been a few offers on recently, the latest being a 30% off promotion, but when a 45% off promotion rears it’s head, it’s very, very tempting to take advantage of it, especially when it’s also got a free postage offer attached to it as well (providing that you spend over £25 of course). And yes, I have ordered paper guidebooks again!
The books in question are the Lonely Planet guides to Andalucia, India and The Trans-Siberian Railway and guess what? They’re all the latest editions of these guides and they’ve been chosen because each one relates to places of interest.
At the top, this collection of titles should have cost me £50.97…
What did I pay? £28.02… a saving of £22.95 which effectively meant that the India guide was free as it normally retails at a full price of £20.99 here in the UK.
And the moral of the story – it’s worth signing up to company newsletters and emails as the news that sometimes comes your way can sometimes be to your advantage!
Especially when it’s a secret deal and it comes just one day after Caroline and I took advantage of some substantial savings on Rohan kit thanks to their email about final sale reductions.
The Rohan sale finishes on Sunday 24th January by the way…
One of the pet peeves that I (and several others) have on travel forums is the constant flow of posts that are placed in the wrong category completely or are expecting fellow posters to sort out and virtually organise a trip for the person making the original post.
For the most part, my initial comment is to suggest that the original poster buys an appropriate guidebook to the country or area that they’re visiting (one of the forum sites I frequent belongs to a well-known guidebook publisher) and then they can take a look at the suggestions offered in the book or to come up with their own suggestions based upon what they’ve read.
Some take up this suggestion and thank myself or others that have made similar suggestions whilst others still expect others to do their homework for them by posting multiple questions on the forums over a number of months, even though the answers could have been at their fingertips all along if they had taken the suggestion and bought a guidebook.
We’re currently researching two trips at the moment and there’s four paper country or area guides on the desk in front of me for the first trip and two paper guidebooks (plus several free or paid for books on my Kindle) that are already being looked at for the second trip later in the year.
Although I have accessed some of those Kindle books on my iPad, I suspect that some information may be copied into a notebook for use in country along with the appropriate paper book that we’ve taken along with us.
Paper guidebooks don’t need to be charged up or need a signal to operate. Yes, gadgets can operate offline, but if the power goes down where you’re staying, the battery’s kaput or the smartphone/dumbass phone/tablet/laptop or whatever breaks down or gets nicked, you may well be up S**t Creek without a paddle.
And that’s why we still love paper guidebooks, even though both of us were early adopters in terms of computer use and ownership of mobile phones and then smartphones.
And why Caroline was a bit put out last week when her Android smartphone stopped charging when the battery carked it a few minutes after she’d plugged the charger in.
The network shop in our nearest city were great on the customer service front when we went in about it, but we’re still waiting for the phone brand’s customer service department to email the return information that they promised to send Caroline six days ago. D’oh!
Spotting this sculpture in Lisbon in July – a British TV ad for a brand of instant mashed potato sprang to mind…
Travelling light and staying dry in Porto after spotting a red weather warning on the BBC forecast before we flew out. Took good waterproofs with us to combat the rain, but once the storm passed, it was back to t-shirt weather and dining outside at one of the city’s riverside cafes…
A day in the Douro Valley – travelled by train from Porto, lunch on a cafe’s terrace and a river trip with a glass of port as part of the experience.
Bangers & mash and a beer on the terrace of the University Of Coimbra‘s student/staff cafe. A quick lunch and a cheap one too – didn’t even get asked if we had student cards!!! Caroline had a salad and an orange juice by the way.
A couple of nights in Averio Rossio Hostel in Averio, Portugal – one of the best hostels we’ve stayed in around Europe so far. All this and a ride on a gondola on the nearby canal too. Cheaper than Venice? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!
Taking time out to visit Somerset in May. Spent time in Wells spotting some of the locations used in the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film Hot Fuzz, had a day in Glastonbury and spotted a former M.P. taking lunch in the same cafe as ourselves. Oh, and we bought a dragon too…
Sitting just off the beach at Seahouses in October in a vain attempt to spot The Northern Lights. We showed up, they didn’t!
Wandering around London with a group of fellow contributors to Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum and a trio of Lonely Planet forum moderators too. Some new places visited along with some old haunts from years ago.
Wandering around Newcastle-upon-Tyne with Caroline in November. More old haunts, some good food and a little bit of retail therapy thrown in for good measure. And no parking ticket either (touch wood) – we lost track of time and arrived back at the car an hour after the ticket ran out!
Taking time out to see Roy Wood (of The Move, E.L.O. and Wizzard fame) playing in Last Of The Summer Wine country at The Picturedrome in Holmfirth. Good meal at Brambles before the show, decent drinks prices at the venue and a good show by Roy and the band too. And yes, a certain Christmas themed classic rounded off the night!
And our plans for 2016? That would be telling!
So, what’s going on?
Music on the iPad that is…
Well, here are just a few of the artists that will have at least one, if not more, of their songs on the iTunes section of my iPad:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
New Model Army
And many, many more…
Tune in on Friday 18th December to see who WON’T be on my iTunes!
And yes, it’s all done in the best possible taste!
For many years, I’ve always associated the words tablet/tablets with something that you take when you’re ill, got a hangover or are on preventative medicine.
Or with the name of a distinctive Scottish confection that I indulge in when I’m north of the border or in an enlightened shop that’s below that line…
In recent years though, it’s come to mean something else. Caroline and I first looked at Apple iPads and Kindle Fire tablets back in 2012 when we were wandering around Glasgow for a few days.
We decided to give them a miss though as we couldn’t justify the purchase of one or two such items at the time. We both had smartphones, we used guidebooks, Kindle e-readers and digital compact cameras, so we didn’t need tablets.
There have been quite a few times when we’ve seen people using them in hostels, around town, in the grounds of stately homes and in museums such as The National Motor Museum in Hampshire (Old Hampshire, UK, not New Hampshire, USA!).
We’ve also taken the mickey out of some users as they try to use their iPad whilst watching a movie on a big screen in a hostel (and while also checking out anti-social media on their iPhones at the same time).
So why have I just gone out and bought an Apple iPad Mini 2?
Because it’s got to the point where I need to be able to view or update wisepacking.me when we’re on the road.
Or check out emails, the news or weather forecasts before we move on towards our next destination.
Or need a back-up camera just in case the Nikon digital compact packs up when we’re on the road (like the Lumix that stopped short, never to go again when we were in Portugal back in 2013).
Or when I/we fancy listening to some music on iTunes.
Some hostels, guest houses and hotels have computers for residents to use, but more have Wi-Fi. As do various shops, cafes, tourist attractions trains and buses.
The iPad Mini is a Wi-Fi only one, so usage is going to be for research purposes rather than bookings or purchases at this moment in time.
My iPad Mini has just one extra app on it at the moment and that’s the Kindle one. Whilst most of my Kindle books are on my basic 2012 Kindle, I’ve downloaded some of my travel books onto the iPad Mini 2 to evaluate the usefulness of having such books on the machine.
Whilst navigation is easier than the push buttons on that basic Kindle and there’s colour photos and maps to look at and pull or pinch as needed, I’m going to give it a little bit of a test against the Kindle and the paper version of at least one guidebook in the coming weeks to see whether it’s easier to check information out electronically or on paper.
As it stands at the moment though, two things spring to mind…
The paper guidebook may mark you out as a tourist if you whip it out in the middle of the street or in a bar or cafe, but the hardware may (or may not) mark you out as a tourist with a target on your back for the ne’er do wells/thieving barstools of this world.
The other one is much more basic though.
Paper guidebooks don’t need to be recharged – unlike the iPad Mini (around 10 hours use before charging according to what I’ve read so far) or that elderly basic Kindle (at least two weeks of use between charges if I’m in a heavy reading mood and there are books to match the mood).
So, time will tell, but one thing’s for certain.
You can’t watch a Noel Gallagher concert on a guidebook or a basic Kindle, but you can on an iPad Mini 2 if you click on the iPlayer button on the BBC‘s website…
I’ll come back to this subject in the New Year by the way.
And just in case you’re wondering why I went for Apple and not Android, it’s quite simple.
I’ve used Apple machines for around 26 years now and had an Android phone for four years. The Android smartphone was switched off and laid to rest in April 2015 when it was replaced by a more basic talk and text phone.
The result? Less hassle and a week between battery top ups!
Central Station, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tuesday 24th November 2015
It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but there are times when we buy and read a Sunday paper over coffee and cake. And it’s usually after we’ve been out for lunch, largely because we know a couple of shops that do good cakes or when Caroline’s had a baking session.
The Sunday paper in question is usually The Observer (other papers are available folks!) and one of the pages we inevitably turn to is Jay Rayner’s restaurant review.
As a fan of Jay’s reviewing style, there wasn’t too much time taken to think about buying his book My Dining Hell (Penguin) when it showed up on Amazon’s Kindle platform here in the UK for the pocket friendly sum of £1.99.
May I recommend it to the house…
What do the crew working on a flight do when the following occurs and there’s only about 50 minutes to turn the plane around for the journey home (which is presumably as full as it was on the outward leg…)?
Despite various comments and questions from mum before the seatbelt signs lit up, a youngster pee’d their pants whilst strapped in for the descent to the destination airport.
And yes, the child’s mum did go ballistic when it became apparent that the pee hadn’t just soaked clothes, but also the seat itself and the floor in front of the seat…
Father did ‘fess up to the child’s deed, but it did prompt self and Caroline to wonder what the cabin crew do in such situations – do they change the seat squab, put a cover over the seat or take it out of service?
Here’s hoping that the next occupant of said seat didn’t land in the UK with any damp clothing!