Spring Travel: The Curse of the Caterpillar

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It’s spring. There is pollen everywhere and if you are lucky, some sun. You are suffering miserably. You are also looking forward to traveling on your spring or summer vacation. The dilemma of packing for travel. To bring toiletries or not bring toiletries, that is the question? And what it really means to deal with customs and travel with a portable medicine cabinet, because if you have allergies you are probably carrying creams and any other magical thing to ward off the sneeze or itch. But really, you should have they very basics that you need purchased when you get there, and a small first aid kit. Think of it as warding off all evil. It’s not worth being held up in customs over the littlest thing.

The fashion statement of small cosmetics bags should just be for cosmetics, and that’s it. Even these should travel in a clear bag. Even if you are a seasoned traveler, the ports of call can be a challenge with the toiletry and meds dilema. You will be stopped and asked questions, just accept that you will. So make it easier to deal with. If you are on medications, you need these to be clearly labelled and kept with you at all times. You may wish to keep a copy of the full description your pharmacist prints for you. For the most part, prescription meds make it through okay, but packs of allergy meds that can be used to make recreational drugs are very regulated. Don’t bring large blister packs of allergy meds through customs. Packing liquids and lotions still requires that you store them in small, less than 3 oz. bottle and it’s best to just use a clear zip bag. Have these out and ready for declaration. All airports require a clear bag of some kind and people have been forced to repack and use airport provided bags in some cases.

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Apothecary

Which comes to the next part. Plan to get to the pharmacy or apothecary upon arrival, and stock up on travel sizes there. The £/€ 20 is worth not being hassled at the airports. I discovered over the years that stuffing little bottle full of products that you will have to have tested by customs officials, and told you cannot take it, and toss is more expensive in the long run. Now this may be difficult if you are going to Asia or a country where you may not speak or read the language printed on containers. Let’s face it, personal grooming products are recognizable for the most part, but it may not be made or have the ingredients you approve of or can tolerate if you have sensitivity issues. If you are the average Joe or Jane, you can get by with the minimal and maybe share with travel companions on shampoos and such. Washing powder for laundry is another issue for sensitive skin and nose people.

Health and Wholefoods Markets are Your Friends

They can be your saviour if they are open when you arrive. One of the first things I did when I hit Glasgow or Dublin again was find the whole food mart. Unscented soaps and laundry detergents and toiletries can be found here,  not to mention organic foods and veg you can get up to your room. Many Gluten Free options as well. You will benefit from keeping fresh fruit around if you are in a place for a few days, it helps your immune system and is cheaper than always eating out. Grab a tube of Aloe Gel to help with sunburn and other scrapes. Natural sunscreen can be grabbed. Yes, I got sunburned in both Dublin and Glasgow last year, go figure.

Flora

If you know you have severe allergies, skin and pollen related, you will need to plan to bring what you can. However, in many English speaking countries, the U.K. and Ireland, you can find the allergy over the counter meds you are used to in the US and Canada. Keep in mind that there are different flora and fauna in these countries than you are used to. I found that because I was also going between islands, I had to plan to have to dump things for all airports if I had over 3 oz in any container.In the U.K. and Ireland, brands like Zyrtec and Benadryl and other allergy medications are known or have equivalents, so if these work for you you can get them there.

You will always find a Boots, or other apothecary. But if you are into whole foods and the whole body approach, you may want to research this a bit for each large city you may visit. I found this really helpful when I was choosing a place to stay as often I would have to rely on the whole market for meals because kitchens had closed at restaurants early or I needed things with ingredients I could decipher.

And Now for the Creepy Crawlies

March of the caterpillars may make your spring really unpleasant. A particularly pesky crawling teen, the larva of the Processionary Moth, can be seen in lines, end to end roaming London. Eradication crews are on the loose throughout the city, and it is thought that this creature came from Southern Europe to invade the shores. Why the fuss? Because the tiny hairs that are shed by this inching creature can cause severe rashes and bronchial problems in unsuspecting humans. 

 

 

Caterpillars in London

Midges are the scourge of the Highlands, and yes, right in Glasgow off the Kelvin. If you are near any waterway in the spring and summer months, these flying fiends bite and some people are very allergic to them. You can get repellents, but the clouds of them are so big, you can just find another way around them. Long sleeves are good for the river hiking and running you may do.

Ticks are a danger in the isles and Europe as they are in the US and Canada and some carry Lyme disease. As you would in any wooded area, check your clothing for the tiny, expanding arachnids. Clean wounds well and monitor. Again, when you are at the chemist, you may want to pick up anti itch and antiseptic creme to be on the safe side.

Health Food Stores

Glasgow https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-stores/glasgow.html

Dublin https://www.organicsupermarket.ie/

Edinburgh https://www.realfoods.co.uk/

London https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/03/ethicalfood.fooddirectory2

Park Life

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Hidden Parks in Dublin

It’s starting to feel like spring may just sneak up on us finally here in the PNW, and I have started planning trips it the parks of Portland for my annual spring bulb hunt. Since many a confused bulb has already come up and bloomed by the end of January, there may not be much to see in this theme. However I was reminded that when traveling, one of the best and for the most part free activities you can do in any city, is enjoy it’s public parks. And you don’t just wait for spring. I find any park has it’s seasonal stages that still just make it beautiful no matter what time of year, a place to seek refuge from urban sprawl or just be.

The UK and Ireland have some amazing public parks. They are grand affairs that can go on for miles. But there are also many hidden places, small neighborhood parks that offer a great place to sit, read, think and just be. And if you are very clever and have a portable hammock, you may find a place to hide. Don’t get caught.

I have tried to always live in a port town. Over the years most places I have been were either a bay port (San Francisco) or a river port (Portland OR). I have tried living inland and quickly found it to be torture. Just too much open space without a large body of water is not the right place for me. Port towns have a great deal of vibrant community and exposure to all things brought into port. However, culture and happenings can create a very vibrant buzz that sometimes can be a bit much, and you need a refuge and one that preferably includes green. When visiting another port town like Glasgow last season, I hit the ground running after 20 hours of flying and airports, desperate for walks and parks. I also needed to get my bearing in this great city. So, I got got the map app( and the Mophie battery pack) and started walking the Clyde in the very early morning hours filled with fog and seagulls. The fog left fairly quickly, the seagulls not.

Glasgow

Glasgow has quite a few large, robust park sites. Most cities with rivers have riverside parks and walkways. Off the Clyde the first major large park I hit was Glasgow Green, a very large expanse with the People’s Palace featured. I spent a good amount of time hanging around the fountain, and then decided I just wasn’t done with the Clyde. Then I just started wandering the Clyde. I think with park exploration, you can make an effort to go to the main famous parks in any town, when I lived in San Francisco, I knew every inch of Golden Gate Park, or so I thought. But the best parks are sometimes the ones less trodden so to speak, or the less glamorous ones that only the locals know about. Plus I like rivers, who doesn’t.

Don’t forget to download the Glasgow Walking app in iTunes

My other favorite parks in Glasgow were:

Kelvingrove and the River Kelvin area

Victoria Park

Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace

Bellahouston Park

River Clyde Side Parks

By the end of the first day I had covered half the city in just walking Clyde side and West and North West ends connecting parks. I then went in search for a tea house as I was dead tired and the jet lag finally caught up.

west end parks Glasgow

Glasgow West Side

Tea for Travelers

After my many walks in Glasgow, I kept finding tea time to be a great break before an evening jaunt. My favorite tea places were off the path, the best being The Hidden Lane Tea Room. I must say that the clotted cream and scone was amazing, especially when you are an American and well, sadly people in America just don’t get how to make real scones and clotted cream. Ours are like a cross breed of biscotti and scone. This place has a great fun eclectic feel and the staff are great and upbeat.

You can find them at:

The Hidden Lane (Argyle Court)

1103 Argyle Street

Glasgow

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Edinburgh

Edinburgh, not to be left behind, has parks and bayside areas for leisure. Edinburgh can be quite foreboding to a newcomer and getting used to the flow of the city can be tackled fairly well by connecting up the parks. When I visit, I usually use the castle as a guide, how can you not, and follow the wynds and narrows. You get lost pretty easily, but can always find your way out. That’s part of the charm. However if you take a parks walk day, and connect up the parks, you will get to know where you are fairly quickly. The park at Holyrood large and usually filled with people during the summer months, can feel overcrowded at peak times, so finding smaller areas to stretch out a bit can be much more intimate.

West and East Princes Street gardens are a much better way to walk down Princes street I found. Many people go to the capitol to shop and that’s all well and good, but I would much rather take in a bit of green while getting to a destination. The easy stroll here allows you to still see the city’s great architecture but have the scent of some earth and loam while strolling. Inverleith Park is a bit north of the main city with wild wetlands feel going on with it’s marsh and good trails. A great place to take a piece and eat under a tree. You are still near the city, but you have plenty of leisure space with playing fields and pitches. The Botanical Gardens are near and if you can connect up with the Water of Leith, a green corridor area you can get a few miles in for a walk.

For more, check out the best parks and green spaces in Edinburgh

Best Parks and Attractions in Edinburgh

Dublin

Dublin is new to me, so I have been researching the parks there in serious anticipation. Getting off a flight from Amsterdam I will be chomping at the bit to walk some of these parks. I like parks that you can just happen upon or are a part of a community. Blessington Street Basin looks like one of those idyllic spots that make you just want to live in the neighborhood. Now I am a sucker for roses, and any town that has rosegarden is a place that must be visited. The rose gardens at St. Anne’s Park are a sight to see and smell.

Park Gems

Best Glasgow Parks

Hidden Parks in Dublin

Belfast Gems

Cardiff by the Sea, Wales

London HIdden Spaces

Galway Gems by Locals


Keeping Fit While Traveling in The UK and Ireland

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Updated 13/3/17

In the UK you will hear the terms, “She’s Fit, He’s really Fit”. Yes, the pick up crowd at bars are really into guzzling the alcohol and watching for the really sexy, hip, fit crowd to come tumbling in. Not applicable to you? Well, really let’s think about this. Being healthy is a good thing, and well if you are spending weeks traveling, you should be fit. Why? You need to make it through the whole experience and traveling is a workout.

To get ready for this years travel, I spent 9 months at a gym getting ready for my trip, that and I had joined My Peak Challenge 2016 last year to support Bloodwise UK, actor Sam Heughan’s charity. I figured I would challenge myself to get ready to travel and spend 10 hours a day going non stop exploring every part of the communities and sites I was seeing. I started going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week, started to add My Peak Challenge to the routine again (on second year). Then I met with my first personal trainer, Tommy, who doesn’t yell by the way, and told him my goal. I wanted to be able to walk 10 to 18 miles in a day, climb castle ruins, see all I can to enjoy another country. He said, “let’s go”. Some months after that November day, I was more fit than I had been in about 20 years, yup back to university days weight and size. However, I still had not done enough. Last year I encountered a great may cobblestone streets, and paid the price.  If you live on the west coast or mid US, you don’t know cobble stones and wynds. When at the gym, train your feet and ankles, and get really good walking or hiking shoes. 

Let’s look at the reality of travel. It’s a workout. From lugging cases around that can be 50 pounds in weight, to hiking, biking, climbing over ruins, and walking beaches and strands. You want to survive it and not end up getting medical help on your vacation. Start getting ready now. And of course if you plan on doing hiking, biking, Monro climbing (a mountain that is over 3000 feet high) and just plain hitting the streets, you are a travel warrior. Train in advance.

Start Walking

If you live in a city, or have a fairly large one nearby, spend a few hours just walking as if you were the tourist. We have mostly cement in the US and yeah, this will hurt your knees and back. Get good shoes and find a store that will work with you on your stride and fit. Get a pair of good walking shoes and arch support. Pack a backpack with some items and explore for a few hours and do this a few times a month, then weekly.

Hike

Walking all over town can be a hike, depending on the pace you take. But when you travel to great countries with mountains and hills like Scotland and Ireland, finding a hiking tour or group shouldn’t be too hard. Tour groups can be costly, but you also get locals who know the terrain. If you are a student, check with local universities and colleges to see if there is a hiking club that  wouldn’t mind if you joined them. Many universities have summer programs with this kind of activity. There is also Meet Up app, where you can find groups that do day walks. If you are traveling alone, as I often do, don’t go on a long hike without mates. It can be dangerous especially if you don’t know the area and terrain. Besides, it’s more fun in a group.

Walking Highlands is a directory of tours and trails. Check their site out.

Irish Trails is a directory of trails in Ireland. If you find a trail to your liking, search for groups that hike it.

Walking Clubs N. Ireland is a site with groups mapped out so you can see who is hiking in an area you have interest in and contact them.

Bike

All over the world, people are riding bikes again. Some countries never stopped. Cities have bike rentals now and you can even take biking tours of many major cities.

Public Bike Share v. Private Rentals

You have seen them probably in your city, those brightly colored bikes and racks at the city center encouraging you to ride the town by public bike. In America, like here in PDX, these are often sponsored by private companies as an advertising campaign. The idea is great, but if you walk by the multitude of racks in the city, half the tires are flat or semi-flat and while a great idea, maintenance sometimes just isn’t happening. But other cities have embraced this and actually run the public bike schemes. They are bright, visible, and you can park them at another rack, go about your touring pleasure, pick up another bike later if you desire. This is a great way to get around and you usually pay as you go, or can get a day pass via credit card.

Private bike rentals and tours may be a good route if you are not too keen on single gear bikes, want a bike similar to the one you have back home, participate in a tour, or support local small businesses. Remember, community is world wide and small families can depend on the income, so if you want to be supportive, this is a good way to go. They people at the bike shop can also be informative on best routes that may suit your style of biking. Don’t forget to get the app.

Next Bike – Biking in Some UK Cities Belfast, Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Coventry, Bath, Exeter

Bike and Go £3.80 per day – Is hooked up with rail stations across the UK. Check their site out.

Dublin Bikes €5.00 3-day ticket- Stations all over Dublin

Bike Share Ireland €3.00 3-day ticket Galway Corporate sponsor Coca-Cola

Gym and Cross-Train

There are gyms all over the world. True, you are on vacation so why hit the trudge mill? If you are constantly walking and doing no other form of activity, you are over taxing your muscles and not training or stretching out the ones you have. Take it from me, I thought I was cross-training well  on my last adventure. I came back with tendonitis. So, giving yourself time at the gym a few days a week while on vacation helps you stay healthy and hopefully have the stamina to go the whole day and night.

When  I was in Scotland, I found a gym that was reasonably priced and straight forward. If you like the fight type gyms and attend one at home, research online based on this type of gym and contact them in advance to see if they do day passes. For a straight up get in and get done situation, Pure Gym has facilities in many countries. It’s a pay as you go situation, you can create an account at a kiosk on site and use a code to enter. Some are open 24 hour and great if you are still adjusting after jet lag when you are wide awake and everyone else is asleep. Many hotels and boutique hotels have fitness areas that are fairly limited and help in a pinch. If you like the serious fight/garage type gyms and are a member, talk to management to see if that gym is affiliated or a member with other gyms in the world and has reciprocating rules. Some of these gyms are very members only and don’t do day passes.

When working with trainer, talk about luggage. You need to be able to lift that 50 pounds. Train for that. Why? You don’t want to throw your back out.

Some Clubs With Day Use Policies

Pure Gym ££ has facilities in UK – Britain, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, no contract pay as you go, you can get a week pass.

NUI Kingfisher € Galway Ireland €8 per day but limited hours 7-9am, 2-4pm and 8:30pm-9:30pm.

Glasgow Club Pay as you go, many locations

Bring an Exercise Band

They weigh next to nothing and fold up well. This handy toning tool is flexible and easy to use while traveling. You will be doing a lot of cardio walking, but should check with your trainer and set up a travel routine with things at hand, including the water bottles that come in the room. Not sure how to use a band, plenty of demos online at YouTube or meet with a trainer. Best place to attach in the room is a door handle.

Links to Articles

Cheap Gyms UK