Poshpacking required for this hotel! Pic by Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
Yes, it’s Rohantime once more as my recent Poshpacking post is currently being featured on the Rohantime website.
Thanks as ever to Sarah Howcroft for picking up on it and publishing.
Watch out for something completely different regarding clothes and packing as wisepacking goes rocking all over the world!
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
So, how did things go with the items listed on Portugal Packing v3.0?
Very well actually (and everything bar the worn stuff did go into our respective Osprey Farpoint 40 packs). Virtually all of the clothing taken along earned their place in the pack or on me in the case of the items worn on the plane.
The only mistake I made was in taking along my pair of Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers.
They’ve been worth their weight in gold since I bought them last year, but they were too heavy an item to take along and wear in Portugal, especially given the temperatures encountered (even on the couple of wet, windy and generally stormy days).
When the storm hit Porto on the Tuesday of our trip, I ended up wearing one of my Rohan Cool Silver t-shirts, Rohan Goa trousers and the same brand’s Silver containing socks and trunks. The top layer was my HyVent jacket from The North Face. On my feet were one of the two pairs of Salomon ventilated shoes that I’d taken along.
Despite the conditions, everything worked well. Yes, I was wet from the bottom of the waterproof to the pavement and the inside of the jacket’s sleeves were damp, despite the pit zips being opened to provide some ventilation.
The rain was teeming down though and as it was still relatively warm, I’d expected some condensation in the sleeves as the linings were solid rather than mesh and also because I was wearing a t-shirt rather than a long sleeved shirt so my bare arms were helping raise those condensation levels.
Now the Goa trousers may be lightweights and meant for tropical use, but this combination worked in their favour once I got out of the rain and into the photography museum we were aiming for during the storm.
They were soaked when I entered the museum, but as I wandered around, they dried out.
So much so that I was able to sit down and partake in one of the many espressos imbibed over the course of the trip. The vending machine coffee was fine, but it wasn’t going to stop the rain, so after a while it was time to get back out there and try and find some lunch.
And yes, the Goas got soaked once more, then dried out again whilst waiting and eating fodder and then got soaked once more as we left the cafe, went to do some food shopping and headed back to the hostel we were staying in at Porto.
End result? Worn/soaked/dried/soaked/dried/soaked and you get the picture by now. Not only did they perform well under the challenging conditions, they also coped well with the heat encountered later in the week and over the time we were in Coimbra plus the lower temperatures and breezes when we were on the Atlantic Coast.
Washing and drying wasn’t a problem with the Goas either. Once we had a decent sink and places to dry kit out, then there weren’t any problems with the washing and wearing of any of the kit we’d taken along.
Caroline’s storm days kit worked as well as my own – the Rohan Thai trousers worked well as did the selection of tops used on the days and her somewhat elderly Berghaus PacLite Gore-Tex jacket. Her Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes did get a soaking, as did my Salomons, but they did dry out relatively quickly and were usable a couple of days later (something we’d anticipated, hence the decision to take two pairs of shoes each rather than lighter or flimsier items).
All of our tops performed as expected, especially the Rohan Stratum Polo Long Sleeved which came into its own on the nights when we could sit outside restaurants to have a meal.
Caroline was also more than happy with the couple of Ultra Silver Camisoles and the matching briefs that she’s taken along. These were used on their own or as part of a low-key layering system on cooler days, but washed and dried like crazy every couple of days, as did her Serene vest tops.
One thing that we did forget (okay, one thing that I forgot!) was our Lifeventure travel sink plug.
The sinks in three out of our five different lodgings in Portugal didn’t come with sink plugs, so necessity was the mother of invention. I plugged some sinks with socks whilst Caroline found that the top from her Nivea roll-on deodorant did the job in one place.
Other than that, it was make do and mend with the plastic top off a Pringles tube or the plastic top from a small tub of Hagen Daaz ice cream. Needless to say, a small amount of food consumption went on before these tops were used in the sinks…
Anything else? Yep, the tea tree oil worked well on the insect bites, as did the tube of gel that was bought in Porto to help combat the results of unexpected encounters with mosquitos.
The lavender oil had helped to keep the flying nasties at bay, but some had got through, resulting in 10 bites on my back, legs, arms and face, even though I had kept myself under the bed sheets on even the warmest nights in Portugal.
What I wasn’t expecting was for one of my pairs of shoes to deteriorate. One of the fabric lace retainers came away and as the two weeks wore on, it became apparent that the shock absorbing materials were breaking down inside the sole unit.
Although the shoes weren’t that old, they had done around 400 miles or so. Given that I have gait problems and also have trouble with my left leg as a result of that stroke a few years ago, I knew that it wasn’t something that I could put down as a problem with the shoes as I’ve been wearing Salomon shoes and boots for years now and not had any problems.
As a result, they were left in Portugal – not in a bin, but with someone who was going to repair the lace retainer and hand the shoes over to a local homeless charity.
On a lighter note, the umbrella that I’d taken along didn’t last either. It went inside out a few times in Porto and ended up being left in a guest house somewhere in Portugal.
It had served its purpose though in Somerset, London and Porto and as it had cost me the princely sum of £1, I wasn’t going to complain about being ripped off by a pound shop…
Because we’ve undertaken two visits to Portugal this year and our bag contents were changed from our original Portugal packing list to contend with the very different weather conditions encountered in July and September 2015.
v2.0 covers the stuff that was taken along in July when there was little chance of rain, but a very good chance of high temperatures and top of the charts UV levels, even in Lisbon – our destination and base for the week away. Fortunately, the weather conditions at home were approaching those in Lisbon.
The drive to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and a pre-flight night in the Hampton by Hilton hotel was a late one as Caroline had spent virtually all day at a family wedding. A swift change was made when she arrived home and the car was taken off the drive and pointed towards the M62 in search of the airport.
Baggage choices? Our trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 packs as usual as yes, we were travelling hand luggage, but on an airline that neither of us had used before – easyJet.
And the contents of the bags?
In my case they included a security friendly travel size wash bag that had been bought for the journey. It was originally full of predominately Gillette products aimed at travellers, but a little pruning and replacement ensured that the new contents covered all eventualities.
The disposable razor and small tube of toothpaste were retained, but in went a plastic cased Dove roll-on anti-perspirant instead of the smaller capacity metal aerosol.
That was followed by the Slim Sonic Toothbrush I mentioned a few posts back, a bottle of Lifeventure Fabric Wash for the clothes, a 100ml bottle of Lush’s Flying Fox shower gel for me, a small bottle of tea tree oil, a similarly sized bottle of King Of Shaves shaving oil and two small bottles of Nivea Factor 50 sun cream (Tesco had them on a 3 for 2 promo and they were worth the investment of buying a couple of deals each on Factor 50 and Factor 30 creams…)
Did they work? Oh yes and even though we were keeping the protection topped up, we still came back a little browner than we were when we left the UK.
As before, my usual prescribed meds, yellow Warfarin book and repeat prescription forms went in along with a pack of indigestion tablets and a few sachets of recovery powder (just in case there were too many glasses of vino collapso or local lagers imbibed over the course of a day…
Worn items included a pair of Salomon ventilated trainers, a pair of Rohan Goa trousers, one of four Rohan Core Silver t-shirts (the rest were in the bag along with a couple of Rohan Element t-shirts).
Why so many t-shirts? As good as all of these shirts are, expectations of 30+ C meant that for once I was playing safe and wearing two shirts per dayrather than one a day. I did however regret not having a polo shirt or two as a smarter option as we were eating out so much over the course of the week.
Rohan Cool Silver trunks and suitable socks completed the worn outfit and yes, there were spares in the bag of these. Other packed items included another pair of Goa trousers, my Nikon Coolpix digital compact camera and charger plus my Kindle and charger, a newly purchased Rohan Stowaway Daypack 20 packable day sack and a travel towel. Oh, and a copy of Rough Guide‘s Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon plus a pair of Next espadrilles for sock free days or nights out…
Caroline’s clothes packing wasn’t quite a mirror image of mine as she packed a couple of Rohan Serene vest tops, a Rohan Malay Linen Plus top and a few other items from that brand’s travel linen range too.
Footwear choices were a pair of Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes and a pair of Merrell sports sandals. Her day bag was a Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3 packable handbag to hold her passport, camera, travel wallet, tissues, sun cream and a small bottle of water.
Was everything used?
Yes, it was and the washing and wearing processes also worked well too, even when washing out trousers. Washing was typically done on a morning before we went out and left to dry on hangers next to the windows once the clothing had been rolled up in a travel towel as a means of squeezing out any excess water.
The Rohan Goa trousers were just right for the trip thanks to a lightweight fabric that washed and dried quickly, two zipped pockets to take wallet, camera, reading specs and guest house keys and protect them from thieving bar-stools.
We knew that there is an ongoing problem with pickpocketing in Lisbon, but the owner of the cafe we ate in when we first arrived was quite forthright in his views when he warned us of the dangers of losing stuff (we did meet a lady who had had her smartphone stolen on a tram in Lisbon when we were in the queue for the flight home a week later…).
Out of all the things we took along with us, there was only one piece of kit that required a rethink. I’ve no doubt that the Rohan packable day sack will come into its own in the UK over days out and periods away over the coming months, but I have to admit to making a personal wrong choice by using it over the first few days in Lisbon.
It was a bit too big for what I wanted to carry around with me and I ended up buying a small cotton bag that sufficed for the rest of the week. The Rohan item won’t be wasted though, because there’s at least one trip coming up soon where it will be in its element, so it will be used again and again. The cotton bag purchased in Lisbon will be inside to use as a shopping bag…
Yes, there is a reason for the two week break…
That’s down to having a two week break!
And yes, it was back to Portugal once more – second visit of this year so far.
Plans to do it on a stripped-down load didn’t happen after taking a look at the long term weather forecasts for each of the destinations that we’d planned to visit on this trip.
Take mountain-style waterproofs to one of the warmest countries in Europe at this time of year? You’d better believe it as a Berghaus Gore-tex was packed by Caroline and I took a HyVent jacket by The North Face to combat the elements.
How wet was it – well one of the owners of the Rivoli Cinema Hostel in Porto said it was the first time that he could remember a red weather warning being issued for the city.
Did it rain?
That’s for me to know and you to find out once we’ve unpacked, took a look at the post and done some food shopping!
Well, Forward Planning I got a few people going!
The spike in traffic yesterday was amazing after I’d posted a link to it in a forum posting…
So here’s Forward Planning II, which isn’t as contentious, but it should give some people food for thought.
Although there are those who do admirable amounts of research into prospective trips, there are those who over plan everything.
They try to cram in as much as possible into a short space of time and expect you to concur with their every move.
Sadly that isn’t always the case…
Putting a schedule together where there’s a whole host of destinations, things to see, things to do and places to eat at always seems a bit pointless.
I’ve seen itineraries posted that haven’t any rest days or have a list of things that’s going to require several days rushing around after downing fifteen double espressos or at least two boxes of caffeine tablets (neither are recommended by the way – one to two double espressos per day is enough for me and I’ve not knowingly taken caffeine tablets).
Yes, the posters aspire to doing everything on the list, but how many end up spoiling their collective experiences by going down that route? Virtually all of the best trips I/we have done have had a bit of planning about them, but not everything has been planned to the nth degree on these ventures.
Outward and return travel has been booked, airport car parking when needed plus first and last nights or the full trip’s accommodation and a bit of in-country travel on some occasions, but there’s always been some leeway to have days off, change plans or just drop stuff when the weather turns nastier than whatever was in the wood shed*
Mistakes can be made during the planning stages – we ended up in one Norwegian town for a couple of nights three years ago that we should have given a miss to, but we made the most of it.
We ended up walking to a nearby village, had a very good lunch, wandered around a fort and then spent time by the fjord listening to Roxette’s sound check in advance of their nearby open air show that evening.
Once back at our digs, we made a meal from the stuff we’d bought at the local supermarket and then whiled away the evening in a park by the same fjord – heading into the nearby pub for a couple of bevvies wasn’t an option as I’d already paid the equivalent of £8 for a beer that cost £1.68 at home earlier in the day!
Our last trip to Portugal had five main ports of call – the next one will have three-four depending on whether we decide explore the Douro valley or leave that for another visit. A rough outline has been made of where we want to go in Portugal, but apart from the flights and the first nights there, nothing else is going to be booked so we can have total flexibility.
Last year’s trip to Suffolk had just two base camps. One at the beginning of the week and another near the end. We’d sussed out which campsites to use in advance, but hadn’t booked them, even though it was high season.
The highlighter pen had been used in a paper copy of Lonely Planet’s Great Britain guide, but that was it as far as the other planning went. Decisions were made on the day as to where we were going to go and what we wanted to see and even these changed as there was a problem with the car and then rain clouds gathered and dumped their load on us , the car and the tent!
So, is indecision the key to flexibility? Could be!
Research can be done and notes made, but if you have some flexibility in your schedule, then there’s always room for days in magical places that you find en-route, brief encounters of different kinds or days off. Or to find ways and means of combatting unexpected strikes, any food induced quick-steps or bookings that have gone astray…
And besides, aren’t you supposed to be on holiday or travelling to escape from the stresses of commuting, work schedules, bosses who are pains in the neck (or other parts of the anatomy!) and everything else that goes with the 9-5.
Leave the carefully prepared holiday spreadsheet behind and enjoy the break (no I couldn’t believe that people planned their holidays on spreadsheets either until I read a few Kindle books recently!).
And remember, it’s your holiday or trip you’re on and you should do what you please and like…
Our next ones aren’t set in stone – we have some dates in mind and some destinations too, but as we’ve made tentative plans before and then dumped them at three days notice to jet off somewhere else, we’ll see what’s out there!
* Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Odd title I know, but as far as I know it’s not infringing any potential trade marks surrounding a certain film franchise!
It’s been an odd month off – little bit of heading to here and there, several visits to a certain Swedish retailer, a few one-off visits to DIY warehouses, a few technical drawings (for the first time since getting my O Level in that subject back in the 1970s) and a mega clearout before the builder arrived two hours ago to strip the old kitchen out and install a new one in its place.
One thing we noticed whilst heading out to find a kitchen option that we liked was how bland some of the options we were looking at were. The kitchen we’ve plumped for is classically styled, but we’ve added a few personal touches to ensure that it will be anything but bland – hence the visit to B&Q on Thursday and to IKEA last Friday morning!
Bland is something that couldn’t be applied to some of the colours going into the latest Rohan clothing collection – red and gold coloured trousers for instance.
Visits to other outdoor clothing retailers recently and I’ve noticed how limited the choice of colours is, which is somewhat ironic when I remember how well red and electric blue coloured jackets were selling in the store I managed until around eighteen months ago. Yes, I’ve got a few black jackets on the rack in the hall, but there’s also red, electric blue and orange ones hanging either on the same rack or in the wardrobe upstairs.
So, what’s coming up on wisepacking?
Pieces about Bronte Country, a local-ish air museum, the Lake District, some more kit reviews and a little bit more about planning (but not overplanning) trips in the wake of several posts on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum that have been made by people who haven’t bothered to buy a guide book to their potential destination who expect readers of the Forum to make up their minds for them as to where to go!
And a few mentions about books I’ve been reading too.
One Kindle Book I’ve been looking at recently is Money Saving Tips for Travel In Portugal by Julie Dawn Fox.
If you’re heading to Portugal, then it’s well worth tracking down as there’s some good advice in there and a few tips that I wished we’d known about when Caroline and I headed over there.
Yes, we picked one or two points up along the way that saved us money, but Julie’s book takes things a few stages further so we will be saving more money the next time we aim in that direction.
More details about the book and Julie’s travels on http://www.juliedawnfox.com
Or head to Amazon, do not pass go and do not collect £200…