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
Yes, it arrived on the doormat this morning – just one week after the paperwork and photos were handed over and checked at the local main Post Office here in the UK.
It’s a biometric one too, so it’s going to be interesting to see how things go with it.
Although there are separate lanes at some airports for biometric passports, there is still the option of standing in the main queue to get checked into a country – which is good as Caroline doesn’t have a biometric passport yet (and also because the longest queues at Lisbon Airport in mid-September were at the biometric lanes!).
Now then there’s only one thing to do…
Bring me that horizon!
Yes, it’s that time again – time to renew the passport.
It doesn’t actually expire until January, but it’s a bit battered after being stashed in my pocket during the three weeks we’ve spent in Portugal this year (there’s a need to keep ID or a passport on you at all times when out and about).
So, I looked everything up on the appropriate website, got an application form that covers renewal proceedings and asked about photos. I got the answers I needed, filled the form in last night and went to do the deed today.
Eventually! Went to get photos and wasn’t happy with what I was being told about them. Gave up and went to another town (well city actually) and was told the same thing – that I shouldn’t wear my specs when having the photos taken.
Which was news to me, especially as I’ve been wearing specs for around 52 years… Apparently it’s to do with the eyes.
Got the shot taken and approved by the photo shop doing the deed and went up the road a bit to get the renewal form processed.
Everything was done and dusted, checked over and paid for.
Then it was pointed out to me that the background used by the photographer may not be appropriate as it’s a white one.
So I may get my new passport in three weeks time – or a letter asking me to submit some photos without a white background.
Time will tell whether the eyes have it or someone decides to do a background check!
A poster on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum has just asked how one saves up for travelling.
Some of what follows was posted as a reply – and yes, it’s UK orientated, but there’s a couple of tips that could be followed in local equivalents in other countries…
Shop at Lidl, make a good shopping list out before shopping as a means of avoiding extra purchases.
Check out the websites of food stores in your area to see what reductions or offers are in place (i.e. the cider that Caroline likes is between £2 and £2.39 a bottle in some stores – it’s currently £1.50 in Tesco until next week).
Shop at other food stores late afternoon/end of day to get any food bargains.
Get a number 4 haircut every so often to avoid paying out for a haircut a month (works well for blokes, or someone who is going for the Sinead o’Connor look!),
Drive a small 1.2 litre hatchback.
Go to cinemas that have a loyalty card and reduced prices 2.5 days a week or buy insurance from friends of Meerkats to get 2 for 1 with Meerkat Movies – Simples!
I had a student card until I hit 40 (student union split from the UK’s NUS, which meant that a few place which took the card and gave discounts no longer did). Good for reduced price cinema tickets, eating out in other colleges and getting into classical concerts, salsa clubs etc.
Camp wherever possible on summer trips here in the UK and buy food to cook on the site in local farm shops, site shops or supermarkets. Eat out as a treat!
Travel hand luggage only so bag in the hold or bag in the trunk charges in cabs.
Buy travel clothing or kit in the sales.
Don’t carry much tech when travelling – charged Kindle and a digital compact camera plus charger is usually my lot.
Kindle gets loaded with classic books before the trip – the ones that are usually free!
Or new books that cost 99p or thereabouts.
Don’t take a phone whilst away, not even a talk and text one.
So no roaming charges and work/other pains in the neck can’t bother you either when on shorter trips
Use photocopies of info on destinations or cannibalised guide books.
Use lobby computers at hotels or hostels.
Use buses and trains and don’t hire cars to get around.
Try wherever possible to eat out on deals or what can be bought in the local supermarket/shop/cabin/trolley.
Lay off the booze, especially in Norway!
I’ll add more over the next few days….
Okay, what started it all?
My first visit to the Lake District some 42 years ago as part of my Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award expedition training. The venture had been arranged through school and our expedition trainers from Number 3 Army Youth Team, Royal Engineers. It was also the first trip away that didn’t involve any kind of parental presence!
We stayed in premises near The Golden Rule pub in Ambleside – a bunkhouse with basic cooking and washing facilities and enough beds for the Army guys, us and the teachers who had given up their weekend off to supervise us.
Yes, it was an all-male affair at that hut back in the early 1970s as the female contingent were staying at Ambleside Youth Hostel on the shores of Lake Windermere and they were doing different walks to us.
If memory serves me right, our first walk was over Scandale Pass to Brotherswater and then back over to Ambleside via Kirkstone Pass Inn. As we were all under age and there were teachers with us, there wasn’t the chance to down a pint at lunchtime, so thoughts were more focussed on the map reading and the surrounding countryside rather than staying on our feet and pointing ourselves in the right direction.
The odd half was enjoyed later in the day though after the walk as we cleaned up, ate at the baked potato bar in Ambleside and then hit some licensed premises without any teachers in tow…
Was it Worthington E or Watney’s Red Barrel? The name of the brew is lost in time, but the half went down well and my sensible head took over and ensured that it wasn’t followed by another one.
The second day’s walking was somewhat easier – over Loughrigg and back before getting back into Ambleside, picking up our holdalls and getting the bus back home.
That first trip wasn’t the last one as most of us went on our first camping venture for the Award – to Neaum Crag camp site near Skelwith Bridge. Then came a winter venture based at Ambleside Youth Hostel with a day on Fairfield and a snowball fight with the teachers on Loughrigg… But I’d already been bitten by the bug on that first trip.
In the years since then I’ve walked in the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, France, Spain, done some climbing and biking, headed out on cross-country skis in Norway, Austria, Scotland and County Durham and travelled to a few other places too to see what’s out there.
I’ve also been an instructor for a local authority where part of my remit was to train youngsters up for the expedition section of The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award and last, but not least, I became a writer on a range of walking and other outdoor/travel titles and worked on the magazine that had helped nurture my early interest in the outdoors – Climber.
When the latter came calling, i’d successfully gone from rock to rock as I’d been a music writer for a few years too doing live reviews, album reviews and interviews too. Oh, and had managed a trio of bands too. 160 bands in a year? That’ll do nicely!
The skills learned in the 1970s and at Glenmore Lodge when I did my Mountain Leader training in the 1980s are still used, but not as often as they used to be after a stroke a few years ago. Sometimes I can do thirteen miles in a day, sometimes it’s four – it just depends on how I’m feeling at the time. The memories don’t go away though as I found out when Caroline and I headed to the Lakes last year.
We’d found an apartment near Ambleside whilst trawling the internet for accommodation. Small, comfortable and just what we needed to do some walking, photography or cycling as the leaves changed colour in time for Autumn.
By sheer coincidence, the apartment was part of the complex at Neaum Crag near Skelwith Bridge that emerged when the camp site I’d visited in the 1970s was closed down in the 1980s….
It’s six years since we first visited North Norfolk, but the tally of visits now stands at eight and we reckon that there could be a few more. The decision to base ourselves in an en-suite room at the self catering Deepdale Backpackers hostel at Burnham Deepdale for a few days paid dividends.
We’d decided to go indoors rather than on the adjacent campsite as the weather forecast hadn’t been wonderful and my camping kit was still here, there and everywhere after moving house (we’ve used the campsite on two occasions now, and there’s no problems with it at all – quiet, relaxed and as laid back as the hostel).
So, there we were, 160 miles from home, with some walking kit (The Peddar’s Way is nearby), some food and a couple of maps and no idea of what we were going to do or where we were going to go.
Did we know what was in the area? Not really, even though North Norfolk had been featured on Coast, Countryfile and had served as one of the locations for the Stephen Fry series Kingdom. Fortunately, the reception area at Deepdale Backpackers is also a tourist information centre, so leaflets were picked up and read over that night’s evening meal/lounging around with a bottle of wine.
There are numerous wildlife sites to explore too, but the main attraction is summed up by the name of a that was the name of a shop on the main road out of Wells-Next-The Sea for a number of years – Big Blue Sky…
I’ve got back into photography and Caroline’s an artist when she’s not working as a nurse, so light can be quite important to both of us in many ways.
We’d holidayed in St. Ives and Paphos a couple of years beforehand and had appreciated the way the light changes through the day – something that I’d also noticed when driving through Glencoe a few years ago, whilst having the first coffee of the day on a campsite in The Lake District last year and in Haworth a couple of weekends ago.
Many of those staying at Deepdale Backpackers were heading off to the RSPB sites at Snettisham or Titchwell, whilst others were heading to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust site at Cley Marshes. Others were heading to Pensthorpe, a reserve site that had provided the BBC with an ideal location for Springwatch.
Now we aren’t too fussed on birdwatching, but we had heard about one regular event that was worth getting up for in the early hours of the morning. It was (and still is) the Wader Spectacular at RSPB’s Snettisham reserve.
Getting up early was a shock to the system, but after a couple of mugs of strong coffee, the car was pointed in the right direction, parked up and we headed down to the beach to see what all the fuss was about.
And we weren’t disappointed as it was one of the greatest free shows we’ve ever seen. As the tide comes in, waders such as Knot gather together before suddenly taking off and wheeling and performing aerobatics over everyone’s heads.
Around a hundred or so people were also witnessing this and every one of them was in raptures as the thousands of birds took off and flew in almost silent formation for several minutes before heading inland towards nearby lakes. It’s a cliche I know, but words can’t describe the experience, even though we’ve witnessed it three times.
Snettisham isn’t the only beach we’ve walked on in North Norfolk – those at Hunstanton, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Sheringham, Cromer and Holkham all spring to mind. Hunstanton’s is below the multi-hued cliffs whilst Wells is a fair walk from the harbour and town centre.
Sheringham and Cromer are interesting at any time of the year – unless of course it’s February or March and the temperature without the wind-chill factor is below zero! The beach at Holkham is quite possibly one that you’ve seen without even realising it.
Remember the beach that Gwyneth Paltrow walks on at the end of Shakespeare In Love? Yes, it’s Holkham Beach. It can get busy at times, especially when the sun’s out, but if the car park’s quiet then it’s a gem. As is the nearby Holkham Hall.
The gardens, grounds, museums and house are all open to the public, although it’s best to check exactly when various parts are open to the public. On the occasions when Caroline has taken her touring bike to Norfolk or she’s hired a bike, she’s loved riding through the grounds of Holkham Hall, especially when it’s early in the morning or late afternoon.
As Caroline’s a history buff (I’m more into Horrible Histories…), she went around the hall on a guided tour and spotted that one part looked familiar. On asking the guide why, it was because the hall had been used as a film set. When Keira Knightley’s character is running upstairs with her hair on fire in The Duchess, the staircase is in Holkham Hall, but the room she runs into is in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
Steam trains are also a part of the North Norfolk visitor experience. The Poppy Line runs between Sheringham on the coast and the inland town of Holt. It’s a short trip and once you get to Holt, there’s a bus service to take you into the town centre.
Holt may be small, but it’s a busy town, so if you’re planning on driving instead, then it’s worth getting there early as car parks fill up quickly. Although there’s a host of interesting shops in the town, one fine reason to visit is Bakers and Larner’s department store.
It’s shopping as it used to be – refined, unhurried and with a very good food hall. As a past customer of Fenwick’s in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a one time only customer of Fortnum & Masons in London, I always ring-fence some of the holiday budget when in Norfolk in order to stock up on a few things.
At least one picnic lunch is bought, alongside chocolate and a box or three from the selection of Turkish Delight that lines the shelves. Bread, biscuits, coffee, cider and beer have also found their way into the shopping basket with the result being a bigger bill than we would get at our local branches of Sainsbury’s or Lidl!
The train’s starting (or finishing depending on which way you journey) point of Sheringham may be small, but it’s a town with a good YHA hostel (2014 was the first year in which we haven’t stayed at Deepdale Backpackers – both are equally fine hostels though!).
Apart from the steam trains which depart from a site adjacent to a Network Rail station, there’s many small specialist shops, a good RNLI shop (got to give them a plug as they’re out when others aren’t and their bags of fudge/boxes of teabags are rather good ) and a few places to get a decent lunch too. Cromer Pier and lifeboat station
Down the road is Cromer with its fine beach, pier and lifeboat station. There’s also the lifeboat museum and plenty of places to wander around at your leisure. It’s a great place to stretch your legs in at any time of the year, but with that light at its best, autumn is the personally preferred time to visit and because it’s quieter, parking is a lot easier.
Even though we’ve visited the area so much in recent years, there’s still places we haven’t been to yet.
We’ve flashed our National Trust cards at most of their properties in the area and whilst Caroline’s been exploring the houses and gardens of Blickling Hall or elsewhere, I’ve explored the North Face of the tea rooms and read a few chapters from a book or Kindle file or sat down and made notes about the trip or business ideas. The gardens at Blickling Hall, a National Trust property
We’ve also headed out on one of Bean’s Boats from Morston Quay to take a look at the seal colony on Blakeney Point and Caroline’s tasted and bought a few bottles of different ciders from Whin Hill Cider in Wells-Next-The-Sea.
Caroline’s also explored the area by bike too on her own tourer or on a hire bike from Deepdale Backpackers. Cycle routes are well documented and signed, but Caroline also makes her own up and lets me know by phone when there’s a signal where the best place is to meet up for lunch (preferred favourite is the cafe at Holkham Hall – very good sausage baguettes, scones, slabs of cake and either coffee or interesting cold drinks).
Whilst it’s tempting to head back to North Norfolk this February, camping at Deepdale Backpackers may be out, but they do have Tipis, Yurts and Shepherd’s Huts available as whilst we have tents, we don’t have a camper van that can be parked up and used for the duration (Deepdale Backpackers do have one to hire though).
There’s always the hostel and en-suites though and there are occasional offers posted on the Deepdale Backpackers’ website. If you don’t fancy cooking then there’s a mini-market at the adjacent petrol station, a pretty decent cafe that does good breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks plus a couple of good pubs – The White Horse and The Jolly Sailors – in walking distance. http://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk http://www.yha.org.uk
Yes, we’re twelve days into 2015 and if the news/opinion/conjecture is anything to go by, it could be a good year for travelling.
Will the exchange rate (pound v euro for example) stay favourable?
Will air fares come down thanks to the price of oil and changes to APD charges?
Will George bite the bullet on Budget Day and drop APD charges as a sweetener in the run-up to the election in May?
Will more people head off to foreign shores as a result?
Or will they stay at home in the UK and take advantage of the current lower fuel prices?
And lower food prices if self catering thanks to supermarket wars?
Will travellers cut down on tech and talk to real people in hostels and destinations rather than immersing themselves in what’s onscreen on their smartphones, tablets or laptops?
Or realise that you can travel on hand luggage only, even if it’s a three-six month trip?
(I suspect that the lady Caroline and I were talking to in Tavira may have cut down on her bag sizes after seeing our Osprey packs. A few Brits staying in the same hotel were similarly gobsmacked when they saw us checking out on our last day there…)
Or realise that by flying hand luggage only, you can cut out hold luggage and bag in the cab boot charges – more money for nights on the town, a better meal or sightseeing…
Or realise that staying in one, two or three places rather than five, six, seven or more can be a more worthwhile experience as you can see more, pay less, relax and linger over breakfast rather than rushing out for a train to get to the next port of call…
(Best example of this is the American guy I met who had arrived in Bergen that morning, had joined the Norway In A Nutshell tour and was heading to Oslo from Myrdal then onwards to Stockholm and then to Helsinki – Scandinavia ticked off in 24 hours! D’oh…)
Our trip list for 2015 has been discussed, but there’s a couple of late suggestions going into the melting pot.
One is a visit to Northern Ireland to visit Bushmills, Giant’s Causeway and the Armoy motor cycle road races.
The other is to visit a place that’s been mentioned a few times, but has come to the fore once more thanks to the book I’ve just finished reading, watching Casablanca last week and news stories over the last few days.
I’ve walked in the Jura and in Provence, but we’ve never been to Paris.
Yes, it’s New Year’s Day and it’s windy and semi-overcast here in West Yorkshire.
It’s going to be a quiet day (unless we take a walk to the pub) with nothing planned.
As far as tomorrow goes and the rest of the year, it’s all systems go with destinations talked about and notes plus costings made, dates being thought about (but not set in stone yet as there’s a wedding on the cards – extended family that is, not us!) and one or two other plans being put into place too.
Oh, and there’s an imminent birthday too – nothing planned for Saturday either, just going to roll the dice and see what happens!
Here’s to 2015 – let’s see what’s out there!
After writing that little piece about music choices in 2014 a few days ago, it’s been interesting to hear a lot of music since then which sounds fresh, interesting and had what John Peel used to call the ‘F*** Me!’ Factor (as in ‘F*** Me! What’s that?‘.
The small, but significant problem is that it’s been old stuff, or a new take on an old song. Apart from Pharrell William’s Happy (which sounds good on the radio or as the soundtrack for the Fiat 500 commercials) there’s nothing that’s caught my ear recently.
I’ve not done any downloads from iTunes over the last three years and the last couple of CD’s I bought were compilations by Roxy Music and Al Stewart from a shop in Wimbourne, Dorset.
I listen to the radio in the car and tend to watch the BBC festival coverage of Glastonbury, T In The Park and Reading/Leeds, but I still draw a blank in finding new music that’s interesting or which doesn’t go back over old ground.
I saw an Ed Sheeran acoustic performance from Glastonbury on a 2014 festival round up a couple of days ago and then just happened to catch a BBC compilation about singer/songwriters on Yesterday – which featured James Taylor and Neil Young singing some of their songs from over forty years ago that still sounded fresh to these ears.
That festival round-up also featured Metallica and one Dolly Parton along with Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. The first two worked for me, the last three didn’t. Other than Metallica and Dolly, only Imagine Dragons‘ performance of an old Proclaimers song impressed, proving once more that some songs can work when given a totally different treatment by newer artists.
Unlike a version of XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel that I recently heard in a pub. I like the XTC original, but this version was the same song done as a ballad, and Caroline agreed with me that it just didn’t work. Some interpretations of older songs work – actor Jack Black’s take on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On for example or The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s rendition of Delilah or The Toy Dolls punk take on Nellie The Elephant. Oh, and I nearly forgot about The Mission’s versions of Crazy Horses and Like A Hurricane…
Will 2015 bring any new music that sparkles, fizzes and sets the music scene alight once more?
I first started writing about music in the mid-1980’s when I did live reviews for The Northern Echo. Quite a few bands were new, some were on their way up, some were established and some were on their way down. Then there was a lull for a few years until Britpop happened.
When Britpop exploded, it was with a vengeance not seen since the days of punk. Some bands were good, others horrendous, but there were a load of memorable songs.
I happened to be a student at the time so Saturday nights were spent watching bands at Manor Quay in Sunderland or listening to the tracks being played by a couple of guys who, like myself, wrote for the independent student newspaper Universal Post. Some bands and songs were good, some were bad, but various songs played on those nights still shine on.
Will there be a new phase in 2015? That depends upon whether any new talent emerges that can take the UK music industry by the scruff of the neck and give it a damned good shaking up…
I might even update the music on my iPod if that happens and start packing it again whilst on my travels!