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!
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…
Thanks to Rohantime for posting this one from the wisepacking files a few minutes ago!
The first of two gift ideas for yourself or others – for now or for later!
I’ve mentioned the Osprey Farpoint 40 pack (as seen above) and Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirts (as seen below) a few times on wisepacking (and on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum too).
I make no apologies for mentioning them again, because both are useful items to have around whilst travelling.
Relevant postings on wisepacking are listed below – read and enjoy!
And that’s the last of the gift ideas – have a good holiday season, whatever you’re up to!
Caroline and I were half way through our Portuguese road trip when we got talking to a group of Brits sitting on the table next to us outside Cafe Arcada in Evora. They were on a coach trip looking at cultural sights in Portugal and Spain and the look on their collective faces was a picture when we told them what we were up to…
Two weeks in Portugal with hand luggage only and most, but not all of our accommodation booked. We were travelling on buses and trains that hadn’t been booked back home in Blighty. We were eating at local cafes or getting evening meal fodder from the local mini-market. Oh, and we were wandering around strange cities, towns and villages after dark.
I also mentioned that I’d just fired my employer and had worked my last shift for the company the day before our TAP Portugal flight into Lisbon. Were they gobsmacked? Oh yes!
Rewind a week and we’d had an early start to Manchester Airport for that TAP flight. Leaving the car at a car park near the terminal was a doddle, as was check-in once the clerk realised that we had hand luggage only and nothing for the hold. We’d also booked Fast-Track for the security checking procedures and whilst we passed with flying colours, things came slightly unstuck as there was a log-jam on the baggage scanner, so we took about the usual time to get through security and then headed off in search of coffee and a late breakfast.
After a good flight into Lisbon and a brisk stroll through the terminal and passport checks, it was time to get some euros from the cash points and a cab to our first hotel, Pensao Londres in the Baixa area of Lisbon city centre.
It didn’t take long to check in, switch on the air-con, freshen up and change before heading off for the first steps around the city. We knew we were in for a lot of walking on this trip, especially as Lisbon‘s built on or around seven hills. We expected the centre to be quiet as the guide books had suggested that shops closed around 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.
Oh no they didn’t, as we found out when we reached Rossio Square to find it heaving with tourists, locals and politicos either taking photos, having conversations or pontificating in a language we couldn’t understand. Although we had a phrase book, it wasn’t needed as everyone we encountered spoke a fair amount of English.
Things were a little quieter as we approached the banks of Rio Tejo where the first of many cold drinks and ice creams were consumed. We’d had a good summer, but the temperatures in Lisbon were higher so we were pleased that we’d packed clothes with good sun protection and a new bottle of Factor 30 in our wandering around bags.
As this was just a good excuse to get accustomed to the temperatures, the lie of the land and a good leg stretch after the flight, we gradually orientated ourselves and found that wandering around the city centre was quite easy and that we didn’t have to keep looking at the map.
So much so it was if we’d been using a homing beacon to get us back to the area where our hotel was. A short walk around Baixa and several perusals of menu boards later, we ended up at Lost In… a bar/restaurant opposite Pensao Londres. Given the outside temperatures, it seemed only natural to take our meal, wine, dessert and coffee on Lost In’s terrace to take in the views over Lisbon as sunset approached rather than sitting inside, a good move – until we stood up.
Yes, the wine was stronger than we thought and we’d polished it off in one sitting rather than taking two nights as we do at home. The double espressos hadn’t kicked in, so it was a good job that we only had to cross one road and ascend a couple of staircases to our room rather than staggering a kilometre or more back to our digs.
As it was Saturday in one of Lisbon’s popular nightlife areas, sleep was a rarely found commodity that night. We were still up early though for showers and breakfast before a day of gentle wandering around was declared.
Although it was still before 9am, we even managed to beat the first tour bus to the nearby park – Sao Paulo de Alcantara Miradouro. We’d rested there before heading back to our hotel the previous night, but it was quieter now despite the contents of the tour bus so we were able to look, see and get our bearings as to where we’d been on Saturday and where we’d like to go to during this day and the next.
Some brave souls had got up even earlier as we found when we headed into the centre – a mass cycle ride to Sintra was about to start. As the riders started, one was unceremoniously stopped in his tracks by an organiser. His crime? No helmet! Once the riders were on their way, more wandering and then more caffeine was called for.
Now we’d said that we were wherever possible going to avoid global companies on this trip, but as Caroline was looking for an Americano rather than a double espresso, it was time to hit Star****s. Yes, we’d commented among ourselves when an American couple were drinking out of takeaway cups whilst waiting to go up Elevador de Santa Justa, but the lure proved to be too great. Caroline got her Americano, I plumped for an Iced Mocha and our ‘go local‘ stance had gone out of the window for the rest of the holiday, especially when money off the next visit vouchers were handed over with the change.
As Sunday morning and afternoon meanderings go, the one in central Lisbon was rather good. Although I’m averse to most museums, the Museum of Design and Fashion an interesting experience – and not just because it was a free attraction! An old bank has been turned into a gallery with furniture, design icons and items from Givenchy and Dior.
We’d wandered back down to Praca do Comercio by the Rio Tejo, discovered ginjinha and explored the back streets of Baixa – and all before lunch too! A couple of stalls on a craft market near Praca do Comercio had extracted some euros from our wallets, but the feeling at the time was how relaxed and laid back central Lisbon was. And why hadn’t we discovered it years ago?
Lunch was equally relaxed with salmon and cream cheese wraps washed down with fresh mango or orange juice and more coffee. Eating out and outside was going to be a feature of this holiday as that night’s evening meal was also eaten outside in the garden of Terra, a vegetarian restaurant that’s famed for its buffets and surroundings.
With curried dishes included in the choices, these were a cut above those offered in another town later in the week. As our local curry houses are all in Bradford, Terra’s dishes were more akin to what we’re used to at home whereas the other establishment’s offerings were more a case of ‘take a walk on the mild side…’.
We felt that we’d earned it though – we’d been walking for hours and had found our way around quite well without resorting to getting a map out to find out where we were. Only one barrier had got in our way whilst wandering around – a charge to walk through the Botanical Gardens.
If it’s Monday, then it’s just another day in Lisbon. We’d abandoned plans to take a journey on Tram 28 the day before thanks to a scrum worthy of Odsal Stadium (home of Bradford Bulls Rugby League team).
So we had another early start and caught Tram 28 at 9am. It’s on most traveller’s ‘to do’ lists in Lisbon as it wends its way around the streets on the forty-odd minute journey between Martin Moniz and Campo Ourique. The route is almost Lisbon in a nutshell as it takes in Alfama and sights such as the Se along the way.
The walk back into the centre after the ride on Tram 28 was the result of an unexpected need to go shopping. My camera had packed up even though it was fully charged and been tried with a new memory card. Not an ideal thing to happen on the third day of a trip, but the search for a new one proved fruitless and was abandoned.
Caroline’s Pentax was in full working order and we could share the camera to take whatever shots we wanted as we wandered around. We also had some train travel to book.
The next day’s journey to Sintra was easy as we just had to buy singles at Rossio Station for the short hop to our destination. The journey to book was the one from Lisbon to Evora on the day we left Sintra. With the advance ticket office being just a few feet away from a U.S. based coffee shop, you can guess where the next destination was!
With Terra closed on a Monday, a new place to eat was sought out. Esplanada is on the edge of a park in Principe Real and it’s another indoor/outdoor eating place. As we’d gone to town on Saturday and Sunday night’s meals, we kept the bill down by ordering a couple of specials with beer for me, fruit juice for Caroline and a couple of coffees.
And then? An early night, early breakfast, a quick packing of the bags and a walk down to Rossio Station for the next part of the trip… To be continued!