Are you a Picasso or a Van Gogh wannabe? Or maybe you’re into drawing
cartoons like the late great Charles Shultz. If you enjoy doodling, drawing or
image editing and you also have a WindowsCE device, then you have to check out
the following graphics packages. This is a 5 part review with new package
reviews being added often.
Pocket Artist v1.14
One Cat Doodler v3.0
Microsoft Pocket Paint
Image Expert CE
Palm-size PCs, Handheld PCs, and Handheld PC Professionals running CE 2.11 or
SH3 version is ~500K executable size
MIPS version is ~650K executable size
Memory used is the executable size + 600K for a Palm-size PC, and ~3MB for a HPC
Pocket Artist by Conduits Technologies
Inc. is a 24 bit graphics editor / drawing application that is very full
featured. It reminds me more of a desktop PC program like Adobe Photoshop than a
typical WindowsCE application.
|With Pocket Artist, you can open existing images in BMP,
GIF, JPEG, and 2BP formats. Work can then be saved in BMP or JPEG formats.
You also have the ability to adjust the JPEG quality which makes the saved
files smaller or larger depending on the setting. New images can be
created of any size that you wish. There are also preset image sizes that
you can choose from such as 240 x 320, 480 x 240, 640 x 240, 640 x 480,
and 800 x 600. I did find that if you try to create a huge image like
10,000 x 10,000 it will pretty much crash the program. So don’t do that.
:-)This software has so many features/tools that going into detail about
each of them would make for a huge review. So, I’m going to try to go over
the features that I think are the most important or unique. For a detailed
explanation of every feature, be sure and check out the great online
documentation at the Conduits site.
There are quite a few different brush sizes and styles available. These
brushes are used when drawing with the pencil tool or paintbrush tool. The
difference between the pencil and the paintbrush tools are that the pencil draws
with sharp distinct edges where the paintbrush draws with a softer edge.
|Drawing with the stylus on the screen is easy. All of the
brush styles work well except the very large ones. When you try to draw
with the largest sizes, there’s a noticeable lag from the time you tap on
the screen, draw a line and see the line that you just drew. The other
brush styles allow you to see what you are drawing as you are drawing it.
If you want to paint/draw with other brush styles you can make your own
from .bmp 48×48 pixel images and save them to the \Brushes directory under
the Pocket Artist installation. You can also simulate sketching on paper
with a pencil by checking the sketch box. When you do this, each
subsequent stroke gets darker as a pencil does.Another way that you can draw is with a texture brush. There are 8
different textures that you can use such as brick, canvas, and marble.
Very cool effects can be achieved using textures. For example if you check
the sketch box, it looks like you are drawing on rough paper or canvas. If
you want to paint with other textures you can make your own textures from
.jpg images and save them to the \Textures directory under the Pocket
Pocket Artist has the normal drawing tools such as filled and unfilled
rectangles, ellipses, polygons and lines. But those tools are just a few of what
is available to you. Check out the menu images below…
Other features not shown above include color blending, a screen capture tool,
a feature that lets you take what is on the screen and make it your desktop
background (tiled or untiled), image resizer, and an image cropping tool. There
are also different filters that you can apply to the image such as blur, emboss,
sharpen and more.
My exciting work of art!
Drawing on a small screen like the Casio E-100 using Pocket Artist is
surprisingly easy and comfortable. If you need to work on an image that is
larger that the display, you can easily resize the canvas size. You can even
anchor your work and grow the screen in one of 8 directions. This is a
really nice feature.
I also really like the image resizer in this program. It gives better results
than the one I’m using on my desktop PC! The resize tool gives you three choices
for the resizing algorithm. You can use Nearest Neighbor, Bilinear interpolation
or Bicubic. The first one is the fastest and as a result does give you some
jaggy lines with the finished image. I use the bicubic option and although it
takes a few seconds more, it does a great job. Check out the images below.
The big picture on the left is the original. The next one is resized using
Nearest Neighbor. The next uses Bilinear Interpolation and the last one uses
Bicubic. You can see some jaggies on the first resized pic.
Although Pocket Artist has tons of features, there are a few that I would
love to see added. Multiple undo, rotate by a user defined degree, a sizable
selection tool that has handles so that you can enlarge the currently selected
area, grid display and snap to grid. I’ve confirmed that some (if not all of
these) features will be included in upcoming versions.
This software is fun and pretty easy to use. There are a few features that
require some explanation which you can find thru the detailed online
documentation. This is a must for people that want an extremely portable image
editor and full featured drawing package. At $50, it is expensive, but it really
is worth it. There is also a 30 day demo so that you can try it before you buy.
Buyers of version 1.1 will get free 1.X upgrades.
Conduits will also be releasing a Pocket Artist Lite which will be stripped in
features a bit, but will allow for casual doodling / digicam stuff, and will be
It’s like Photoshop for your Palm!
Palm-size PCs, Handheld PCs, and Handheld PC Professionals running CE 2.0 or
~350K – 500K executable size (depending on processor)
Memory used is executable size + ~400K – 550K when running.
One Cat Doodler from One Man And A Cat
Software (love that name!) is a drawing and slideshow package that is suited
more for a person that wants to make complex illustrations instead of edit
images. The program is a vector based drawing program which allows you to
individually select and modify every “object” in your drawing. One Cat
Doodler can load and save .BMP images as well as its own proprietary format.
This program has the standard drawing toolset such as line, rectangle, circle
and polygon. A small floating toolbox on the screen can be expanded and
collapsed as well as deactivated.
You draw with a pencil tool. There are 6 different line thicknesses that you
can use from a dotted line to a thick bar. You can choose the line color and
fill color for any object that you create. An object is at least two
points on the screen. If you tap on the screen and drag your stylus a few pixels
and then let up, that’s an object. Or, if you tap and draw a freehand circle and
end up at the first point and then raise your stylus, that whole circle will be
|This is the most powerful feature of One Cat Doodler. You
can do all types of things to the objects that you draw. You can rotate
them, stretch, shrink, change color, line thickness etc. If you draw
objects on top of each other, you can also pop those objects to the top or
bottom of the stack. Objects can also be grouped, ungrouped and aligned.Getting used to working with objects takes awhile, but once you do it
is hard to go back to a regular paint program. You know how hard it is to
erase a portion of a drawing in typical paint programs? Well there isn’t
an eraser in this program at all. That’s because you can just click on the
object that you want to get rid of and delete it. It’s quick and easy.
The only thing that took awhile to get used to with this program was the lack
of a FILL tool. I’m used to doodling around and then selecting a color for a
fill. With this program, you select the color first and draw the object. When
you are finished drawing the closed in object, it will automatically fill with
the color you chose.
One Cat Doodler will also smooth your drawings to help get rid of the jaggies
when you draw freehand. You have the ability to set how much smoothing that you
want the program to do. You can also enter a rotation degree which is
Another thing you can do is put a grid on the screen which is very helpful
when trying to draw things like maps and floor plans. You can set the grid
so that your objects will snap to it if you wish. Speaking of maps and floor
plans, I see One Cat Doodler as a good choice for people that need to draw line
type drawings like that. Using another great feature of this program, you can
create libraries of frequently used objects. For example, you could create a
library of furniture and use this program to draw house layouts.
This program will also allow you to create slide shows of your images. You
can arrange the images in an order you prefer and then let the program display
these images one after the other. This feature makes this program good for doing
small presentations. Sort of like a baby PowerPoint type application. You can
also add bulleted text to the images easily.
There are a few features that I wish this program had that it doesn’t. I’d
like to see a multiple UNDO, fill patterns instead of just fill colors and save
to .jpg format.
I wish that there was a program that included the powerful object features of
this program and the image editing / painting features of Pocket Artist. If you
need to create complex drawings and don’t need to edit digital images, then One
Cat Doodler might be the program for you. There is a trial version available, so
check it out.
Can’t load or save as JPEG.
Small learning curve.
Pocket Paint is a free paint program from Microsoft
that is contained in their PowerToys for the P/PC. This is a free download that
contains other useful utilities for your Palm-size PC.
|Pocket Paint is a simple to use paint program that saves and
loads pictures in .BMP format.With this program you get the usual set of basic drawing tools such as
a magnifying glass, eye dropper, fill bucket, eraser, pencil, line,
rectangle, and circle.
You also can add text with 4 size choices (no font choice though). One
You draw with the pencil tool and have access to only 4 brush sizes.
Rectangle and circle shapes can be drawn in 4 styles: dotted outline,
|If you draw a closed shape, you can easily fill it with the
color of your choice using the fill bucket. It would have been better if
it included a few fill patterns as well.Pocket Paint only gives you a 16 color palette to choose from. The
program would be much nicer if they would update it to allow for use of a
device’s entire color palette.
I think one of the best features of Pocket Paint is the Select feature.
Pocket Paint is a small and easy to use little paint program. It
Select grow and shrink feature.
Can’t load or save as JPEG or .GIF.
No polygon drawing tool.
Limited to 16 color palette.
36 thoughts on “Windows CE Graphics Packages Review”
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I haven’t been to Great Britain, but I have been to Paris and Provence in France. I discovered many ways to offend the French 😮 Here are some tips if you go to Paris:
1) Try to learn a few French nouns and verbs. They really appreciate the effort. Parisians usually speak English fairly well, so you don’t really need to take a crash course in French.
2) The only acceptable beverages for dinner are wine, Perrier, and mineral water. The waiters give very good advice for wine. And you won’t pay an arm and a leg, either.
3) Dress nicely, esp. for dinner. No shorts, no tennies. In fact, if you wear white tennies around town they will pick you out as Americans right away.
Have a good trip. It will be fun. Keep us updated.
Thanks John – we really appreciate your hints!
If anyone else can think of any other things we should see or know – please tell us!
I will be heading back to Great Britain for the second time in two years. I think the most important thing to remember is dress well. No t-shirts, shorts, jeans, etc. The only people you see dressed like that tend to be American tourists. Local maps on your PDA are helpful, as is a tube map or metro map for backup. The small ones they have for free in the stations are easiest to use.
Beware of pickpockets. Carry your wallet in an inside coat pocket that can be securly fastened or closed. If that is not an option carry it in a secured pocket for a bag or knapsack. When carrying a knapsack or similar bag, keep the zippers closed next to your body.
Use expedia.co.uk for local travel reservations. When I was over there last year, we used it exclusively for hotels during our 2 wek trip, and found some awesome deals on superb hotels.
If you will do a lot of train travel, get a Britrail pass before you leave. One other option, which worked very well for us, was cheap 1-way regional flights. EZjet was our favorite, Ryanair was a little disconcerting. Cheap and fast when going from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow.
A good guidebook is a must. The fold out maps are pretty good to. Can’t remember the name but there is one I saw for London and other major cities that had local attractions, info, tube and bus maps, local city map, street locator and a cheap little compass. You cannot believe how helpful a compass can be, especially in Paris or London where it is easy to get turned around and lose your bearings. Hope this helps someone.
Ha! All I wear is jeans and sneaks. They’ll just have to get over it! :p
Frankly, I’d avoid Paris altogether. The country folks in France are way nicer and will go out of their way to enhance your stay in France. Parisians feel that most foreigners should stay away…..
My wife speaks fluent French, and even she was snubbed in Paris. I just ended up insulting them back in German and Chinese…. 🙂
A few random tips:
When dining in France, look for “prix fixe” menus. “Menu” in French does not mean “menu” in English (that’s “carte”). Instead, a French “menu” is a meal of several courses (appetizer, main dish, salad, dessert) at a fixed price (“prix fixe”). The prix fixe menus are usually a fair price and a fun way to experience French dining.
For that matter, I’d suggest trying to go to a French bistro that’s a block or two away from the tourist traps; probably cheaper and better, though you may not have waitstaff who speak good English.
Don’t go to a French restaurant planning to get in and get out. French meals should be enjoyed slowly 🙂 And as said by others above, dress nicely; you’ll get markedly better service than if you go in jeans, tee shirt and/or tennis shoes.
Also, read your guidebook’s notes on tipping, since French tipping is very different from American custom. The TimeOut guide to Paris is particularly well done in my opinion. Even if you don’t buy the TimeOut book, you might be interested in the local TimeOut insert in the “Pariscope” weekly guide to Paris events. Pariscope isn’t free — you can buy it at any newsstand — but it is thick, packed with fun things to do. Note: Pariscope is entirely in French except for the TO insert. You can see a sample of a TO weekly guide at the TO website (click on “city’s events”).
Avoid French taxis unless you really have no choice — they’re very expensive. Traveling around Paris is wonderfully easy once you get the knack of the subway system (the “métro”).
that’s all I can think of for now — have a great time!! and bon voyage! 😀
I’m going to be biased and recommend you visit the City of Chester in the North West of England – my home town!
It is a Walled City and was founded by the Romans.
Check out the site:
Beautiful city, beigelarry. Definitely one to visit in the future.
As far as Paris is concerned, we were not overly impressed with it. After having spent the previous week in London and Northern Scotland, Paris seemed a little weak. Obviously the language barrier did not help, even though my wife spoke French. We found the metro to be overcrowded, dirty and smelled awful. I also felt the architecture in London was far more interesting than what I saw in Paris, but that is my personal preference. It is a beautiful city, but we were just not as impressed, which is why we are returning to only the UK this year. I have heard that the countryside is a much different experience than the city, so we may give it another go in a year or two.
Okay, long post but here are some of the things I learned from my own trip to that same part of the world. Hope you find some of this info helpful!
After lots of research, I decided to not buy any traveler’s checks because some places just don’t like to take them. Instead, I used my ATM card or VISA card to get enough cash to hold me over for a day or two, and just took care to not be a victim of a pickpocket by wearing a travel vest and pouch (see below).
Even though I never had anyone ask to see it, it bears repeating that you should keep your passport with you at all times. I got one of those fabric pouches that has a strap to go around your neck. It’s designed to fit under clothes..very discreet. I put the passport there with my ATM card, my VISA card and my main stash of cash.
Don’t take real expensive gadgets. I know…it’s hard to resist, but if you are like me, you’d spend too much time worrying about them being stolen or damaged. What a distraction exactly at the time in your life when the last thing you want or need is distractions! 🙂 I took my cheapest PDA (my old Palm IIIx) and bought a refurbed VHS-C camcorder off eBay for $150 (One of those JVC models with the 3″ flip out screen and speaker so I could watch what I taped every night…fun!). Not bleeding-edge by any means but still did the job. Don’t forget to get a voltage adapter to charge batteries!!! As an aside…there’s some debate about taking camcorders. People say you tend to spend too much time looking thru the viewfinder and not enough time experiencing the actual sites. I tried to keep that in mind and was more selective about what I taped. I think it is good advice to pass along.
Consider getting a traveler’s vest with lots of zippered pockets for your stuff. I did this rather than hassling with a purse. Even though I never saw anyone getting their purse snatched, I just felt safer and there wasn’t the issue of having the purse strap dangling and getting tangled up with my camcorder strap. I always had some cash within reach yet it was secure…and room keys, hand cream, etc. was always handy. Another item that I was glad I brought was one of the tiny, flat travel umbrellas. It fit right in my camcorder case and came in handy a few times. My American Tourister one was about $14 at Meijer’s and worth every penny. I keep it in my work bag now and it still comes in handy as well as being a great reminder of my trip.
You have probably read all the suggestions about packing light, laundry facilities, etc so I’ll just give you my best tip when it comes to clothing: This is for people who hate ironing and would rather spend their extra time sightseeing or whatever: pack an empty spray bottle. When you are unpacking and hanging up the stuff you plan on wearing that day and the next…fill the spray bottle with water and give the wrinkles a quick spritz, then shake the item a few times to help the wrinkles fall out and hang the item on a rust-proof hanger. I splurged and bought a 2-pack of those inflatable ones and they worked great for helping these somewhat damp items keep their shape while drying. Within a few hours the item will be dry and wrinkle-free. This works great on cotton blouses. Empty the bottle before you pack it up when heading to the next destination.
Have fun trying to figure out how to get a hot shower without being scalded or frozen. Which combination of knobs will it be this time? Seems like there is no standard for hot and cold shower faucets over there as there is here…I saw it as a puzzle to be solved and that made it less annoying. 🙂
If you want to mess with getting a refund on the VAT, then save your receipts and make sure you have the items in a carry on bag so that the purchases can be verified at the airport. I didn’t realize they would want to see all the stuff…I thought the receipt would be enough but according to the official at Gatwick Airport it wasn’t, so I lost out. I don’t think I lost much money but if you are buying lots of expensive souveniers keep this in mind.
There is so much to do and see in London that I won’t even touch on it except to say that the best value is getting an all day ticket for the red double-deckers. There are at least two companies offering this service and I think they are comparable. It’s a neat system with the color coded routes and you can see the whole city within a few hours if you manage your time well. I think we got off three times including a stop for lunch.
Other places I liked: York…loved seeing the Shambles in person and walking the wall. Stonehenge is cool. The pictures just don’t do it justice. Also, if you are into that sort of thing, there are other locations where “standing stones” can be found. Do a web search and see what I mean.
Aside from London, Liverpool was probably one of the most interesting of all the cities I visited. So many other places come to mind but I don’t want to create a megapost here.
Find the internet cafes and email us now and then! Two years ago when I was there, Edinburgh had a great city-run facility right on the Royal Mile (Princes Street), about a block or two west of Edinburgh Castle. The cost was reasonable and no waiting for a PC. Speaking of the castle, I think it was the one item I cammed the most. Every direction you approach it from is as good as the last. Just awesome!
Hope your trip is everything you hoped it would be and more.
Okay, I’m done. :):eek:
beigelarry, I believe we will definitely be visiting Chester – thanks so much for the suggestion!
Vickie, Awesome post! THANKS!
Vickie mentioned something that should be emphasized – you may need plug adapters for your gadgets! I had a hard time charging my laptop in France because their outlets require plugs with little round prongs, not flat prongs like in the US. I don’t know what British outlets look like.
I have seen plug adapter kits at luggage stores, with half a dozen adapters for $10.
Take a GSM mobile phone.
I have a t-mobile here in the US. The coverage is . . . well . . . spotty. But in the UK, it is so great. I realized how it was supposed to be. Every area in the southern UK had a strong signal. I used 4 different cell providers (that showed up on my bill). And, $0.99/minute in a foreign land. That’s for calls to the UK and to the US. What a deal.
Power plugs in the UK: BIG 3 pronged, square plugs. Buy a converter in the airport. Don’t get a 220/110 voltage converter, all my power supplies already work with either voltage. You just need to convert to the BIG plug. (Why so big? Every plug has a fuse built into it. Why? Because they don’t have fuse boxes or circuit breakers in their homes’ electrical system.)
I’ve been seeing some crazy suggestions here about safety, and the fact is it’s safer in Europe than in many parts of the US. Yeah, there are pickpockets, but those are everywhere. I’d say, try to go as native as you can and still stay comfy. Just try to blend in as much as you can and you’ll be able to carry as many gadgets as you like with no problem. Wearing travel vests and passports around your neck just screams “tourist”. 😛
Now I’m in Helsinki which isn’t like Paris or London, but I’d say the biggest thing is eye contact. When you’re walking around, try to avoid making eye contact with strangers. Where I’m from, if that happens, you maybe do a little smile and nod…now here in Europe that’s just plain weird, and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb rather quickly. As for clothes, in Helsinki we just ask that you please remember to wear them.
Just take it easy and enjoy. Take the same precautions about your gear that you would in the US, and just try to blend in. Try a little bit to speak the language in France, and remember to smile, that goes a long way.
Have fun! 😀
Wow, it seems like I need to come back and clarify my post because I guess I didn’t make things clear enough for some people. 🙂 Okie dokie!
First off, I don’t know why anyone would try to debate that it’s safer in Europe than the US. I personally don’t feel “unsafe” in either place. I also don’t see any “crazy suggestions” in anything I wrote. The point is to be able to <u>relax</u> and enjoy yourself knowing that you’ve taken some precautions. It would be my luck to be that one in a thousand to not be cautious and having something bad happen, but it would be my fault for not preparing. 😮
Again, if you re-read my original post, you’ll see that crime wasn’t the only reason I don’t carrying lots of gadgets when traveling.
Aside from the obvious stated in my previous post, they take up valuable room that could be used to carry souveniers, and often at the end of a busy day, I wanted to look at my travel books or hang out with friends and discuss what we did and saw that day, not play Scrabble or read an ebook. I can do that at home anytime.
I suppose I could download that map of London’s tube system…that would justify taking my color Palm, wouldn’t it? 😉 Instead, I found a nice plastic credit-card version over there that I could just shove in my pocket.
Re: the neck pouch…maybe you missed some of what I said about that as well, Plainsong. We are all gadget lovers here and I think if someone was developing x-ray glasses, J & J would have posted about it on the page. 😉 Since they haven’t, I think we’re safe wearing a neck pouch <u>under our clothes</u>. Same with a travel vest…it fits nicely <u>under a jacket</u>. Surely this time of year, the tourists aren’t the only ones wearing some type of jacket or coat?
No one is saying that you have to lose sleep at night worrying about imaginary hoards of criminals just waiting for the innocent American to get off the plane. That’s not how it is, nor how we, with our “crazy suggestions” are presenting it.
I hope I’ve cleared up some things in my original post that were not blatantly obvious before…have a great trip ladies! 😎
I still don’t really go for wearing tourist gear like passport pouches, and I’d be naked without my ipod, tungsten, digital camera, and some decent headphones, but hey I guess we’re all different. 🙂
But speaking of carrying gear, have you ever heard of the Ameribag healthy back bag? My back isn’t bad, but there’s something this bag apparently has.. comfort and pockets. Lots of pockets. PDA-sized pockets. 😉
I wanna get one for myself for the summer, but if you haven’t heard of them already, I thought I’d let you know of a perhaps a potential gear-bag. 🙂
I had one of these bags for awhile. It was ok. I ended up selling it though. The pockets on the outside used velcro 😡
Oh right, you’re allergic to velcro.. well, that’s one of the things that immediately made me like this site. I was getting tired of all these cases hailed as “great” when they used velcro. Apparently the Gadgeteers agreed. 🙂
The gear bag I’m in love with is the Waterfield small cargo, but maybe just for summer out-n-about use, Velcro won’t be so bad, at least for me.
Thanks for the heads-up. At least now I know to be prepared for “riiiiiiiiip”.
The healthy back bag is pretty cool. I have seen them before in various iterations, all well designed. Over here I know you can find them at the Container Store. When I was over there last year It was cold enough to warrant wearing my long rain/overcoat on a daily basis, which had more than enough interior pockets for my wallet, PDA and whatever guidebook I decided to carry around that day. I carried my camera in an M-Rock zoom camera bag. Great design, one of the best I have run across in a while. Can be worn as a backpack or shoulder bag, with a great deal of utility.
As far as a gadgets go, It was amazing the number of people walking and on the tube that had PDAs, MP3 or CD players, and small laptops. Significantly more than what I see here in the US, although that is somewhat skewed by our lack of decent and reliable mass transit where I live. I took my PDA at the time, a Diamond Mako, along with my Toshiba Libretto, and was fine.
Above all, have fun. Plan your days accordingly so you can hit attractions clustered together. If you plan on going to Westminster Abbey, go on Wednesday evening. This is amateur photography night, and is the only time pictures are permitted within the abbey.
If you like pizza, you have to eat at Pizza Express. Some of the best pizza available, IMO. Check out the location in SOHO, and catch some excellent live jazz downstairs. Also, internet cafes are plentiful and very reasonable throughout the UK. I never once felt the need to use my laptop from the room, even though I had previously signed up with some of the UK free ISPs.
Okay, let me state my bias right away – I live in the North East of England, which is where you’ll find Newcastle Upon Tyne.
It’s only a couple of hours drive from Edinburgh (I often go up there to Scotland for the day), and easily accessible on the motorway. You can do it in about 90 minutes on the train, right into the centre of town.
It’s the regional capital of the North East, and currently favourite to win the position of European Capital of Culture in 2008.
within five minutes walk of the city centre you’ve got a 1000 year old castle, museums, art gallerys, the Centre for Life Genetics centre, the spectacular quayside with the historic bridges and the new multi award winning Millennium bridge (erm.. how do you STOP spelling Millenniumminum?), the Baltic art centre, more shopping than you can shake a stick at, and it was also voted into the top 10 party cities in the world.
Tons of stuff, basically. If you go farther afield into northumberland, you’ve got Hadrians wall, etc, etc, amazing countryside and coastline.
check out http://www.visitnewcastlegateshead.com , and click on the ‘Links’ section, and explore a bit… oh, and if you need a guide – I’m available (and housetrained).
Several Years ago I had the opportunity to take a “whirlwind” tour of Europe. It was with a school group on an educational tour. In ten days we went from Rome, Assissi, Florence, Pisa, Paris and London. The information packet said we could bring one suitcase and one carry-on (or something like that), so that’s what I packed. Little did I realize how many times I’d be lugging that thing to the bus, from the bus, to the hotel, from the hotel…
Then I noticed this one guy who apparently had done this before. His baggage consisted of one and only one Garment Bag! Inside it he had about 3 pairs of Dockers, 2 T-shirts, 1 dress shirt, a pair of brown loafers, a couple pairs of socks and underwear and a small bottle of liquid laundry soap (Tide, if memory serves me correct). That’s it! When we’d check into the hotel, he’d change into a fresh set of clothes, and wash the old clothes in the sink and let them dry in the room while we were out seeing the sites. If he bought any souveneirs that wouldn’t comfortably fit in his garment bag, he had them shipped home. His thinking on his packing was that he was their to enjoy himself and not to worry about looking a certain way. He looked presentable everywhere he went and everytime I lugged my bags to the bus, I’d see him strolling along with the one lightweight, easy to throw over his shoulder garment bag…
Roberto – that was an excellent post and you really made me stop and think. I usually travel with a HUGE Halliburton and a carry-on. I have no idea what the cabs will be like or what floor our apartment will be on – I may need to pack a bit lighter than I was planning on…
When we were in France, we rented a Ford Ka. The trunk was big enough to fit just 2 roller-type carryon bags! Luckily that was all my wife and I brought, aside from her purse and my small camera bag.
YIKES! Now I know I’ll have to rethink my packing strategy…:eek:
Oh yeah, cars are smaller in Europe. I forgot about that one.
Hi Girls, I thought I would throw in some thoughts on Europe too.
My wife and I organized a bus trip with 17 of our clients through Scotland in Spring 1999.
Needless to say it was great country-wise! The people were fairly nice – aside from elder english or scottish persons. The older ones turned out to be somewhat stiff and very much to themselves – this was especially so in hotels with breakfast rooms.
This does not mean that they were really unfriendly – just different and not as open.
Food turned out to be somewhat difficult for all of us since we noticed a lot of it is not thoroughly cooked and turned out to be mixed (on the plates) in mysterious ways. Typical scottisch dishes turned out to be pea or potato soups, cooked meat (yes cooked not roasted), vegetables and sauces which were partially luke-warm or even cold, also fatty food.
After three experiences of that kind, we started heading for restaurants. What really baffled us was that they were very expensive (restaurants)- and hey we were a group from Switzerland (we live in an expensive country and thought we were used to it), but that was downright shocking at times. So check the prices on the menus outside the restaurants!
Try and get used to the currency right away so that you will have a feel for it when you get there – the whole of the country still uses English Pounds and the coins are in very different sizes and shapes.
When you get to the “mainland” Europe then you will be dealing with Euros (aside from Switzerland) which is roughly 1 to 1 in US dollars right now.
I found crime to not be an issue. But the I would advise you to use common sense.
Scotland is – all in all – a somewhat poor country (this is not meant to sound condescending) so you shouldn’t run around flashing stuff or have on loads of expensive jewelry or flash bills when paying. As far as your gear bags are concerned, tuck the stuff away, always close your bags in very dense places (subway, crowds, at historical sights, etc.) and have loose change and small denominations in your pockets handy. Also try and not take too much stuff – it could get heavy logging around, because (someone already mentioned it) you will be in and out of hotels and possibly seeing so much stuff, that you will curse yourself for bringing along so much gear that you may not even have used.
As for Paris, when in the subway or on buses or streetcars, be aware of pickpockets and people getting too close to you – that is somewhat difficult since lots of people cram into public transportation in the rush hours.
We brief our customers on behavior a bit before each trip, since this is a big plus while in other countries when wanting to get along with other cultures (we have been planning group trips since 1995 every year in different countries – Egypt, Malta, Scotland, Austria, the Azores, United States, Finland, Italy [this year]).
Rule of thumb: don’t be loud, wear appropriate clothes (jeans and sneakers aren’t welcome in all (restaurant) hotels and nightclubs), ask rental car or hotel personnel which parts of the city you need to stay away from.
This major issue – especially in the last few days – is most important.
Don’t take along anything that is far out of the ordinary. especially at airports, if you have gear out of the ordinary, you could be stopped and checked more closely which will result in frustrated officials and time lost.
If you take in your hand luggage, objects that you think are precious (gear of course) then be prepared to have to show the airport officials how they work really quick and of course to take it out of your hand baggage quickly. SO be familiar with your gadgets and I would suggest you don’t take “exotic” gear with you at all.
I would advise you to take public transportation in large cities. Renting a car can get frustrating, since in Europe we do not go by east, west, north and south routing. The streets here have names and you get anywhere by checking on the landmarks on the way to your object of desire. For americans usually very difficult and awkward..
A rental car is only usually very good on the trips through the countryside itself.
Aside from that: common sense is the most important factor. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun too!
About security, I’ve had some friends on audio forums stopped and questioned for long periods of time over things like portable headphone amps (nevermind that x-raying it shows it’s not a bomb).. but that mostly seems to happen on the West coast of the US.
As for gadgets in European airports, I’ve been to Helsinki/Vantaa (obviously), Frankfurt, Stockholm Arlanda, and Amsterdam, and they seem a good bit better trained about gadgets than they are in the US… I suppose there’s lots of reasons why that is, but that’s for another forum. So delays in Europe because of gadgets shouldn’t be so bad.
Now of course now that I’ve said that – I’ve jinxed you to every gaurd who has never seen an Ipaq. 😉
Don’t forget the most important item to bring to scottland.
I’m travel sized, gadget lover, with red hair. 😉 isn’t that all you really need?
Just a hello from London! (Love your website btw)
Sorry, this is a long post (but not patronising, I hope)!
London is just like any other big city. It’s a great place (been living there for the past 9 years)! Just a few things which they don’t tell you. If you’re staying in London over a weekend, get a weekend travelcard, it saves pennies and it lets you travel for cheap on the ferry on the Thames (nice when it’s sunny, as it goes from Westminster to Greenwich – where the Cutty Sark is, and there’s lots of nice cafes, walks and pubs there). There’s also a family travel card (for 2 adults and 2 children) which is also much cheaper. There are 6 travel zones in London and I assume you won’t be moving out of zone 1 (at the most zone 2), which is where the Westend is. I don’t advise going out of zone 2 unless you’re sure where you’re going and keep to zone 1 particularly late at night. Some of the tube stations do attract trouble. Try not to stare at people on the tube (as some take this as challenging behaviour and use it to cause you all kinds of problems).
Don’t plan to drive in London. As of Monday the 17th there are Congestion Charges for travelling through zone 1 which costs you £5 per day, doubling if you don’t pay by midnight and then going up to £80. There’s also loads of speed cameras around now and if you’re not careful you can get a hefty bill (my brother notched up £200 in the space of 4 hours).
If you’re flying to Gatwick trains run often to London Bridge (dead easy to navigate from there to your desination) and costs about £12 for an open return. Flying to Heathrow is easier as it’s a tube trip to Central London (costing about £3.70 for a single).
Camden Town is nice on a Sunday for shopping but notorious for pickpockets as it’s so crowded (and it does have a rather bad drug element particularly in the evenings). Covent Garden is a trendy (if touristy) place to spend a few hours, and there are lots of galleries near by, including the London Opera House. For kids, going to South Kensington is great, as there’s lots of museums which are free, including the science museum (which even now is a right laugh – gosh that makes me feel old)! All the theatres (I mean for plays not movies 😉 are in the West End and there are some good ones at present, I heartily recommend Umoja which was excellent. There are some theatres (including Shakespeare’s Globe) for the old world experience, as long as you don’t mind standing up for the whole performance!.
Anyways, London is great. Just be careful and with regards to using your PDA in public, just watch over your shoulder! From personal experience, someone tried to nab my nice Tungsten T from me the other day, to which I didn’t respond to in a happy way (but I was a gentleman-ish, I am British)! Oh and completely ignore the guys who hang around cash machines (oh and on the tubes, particularly those with a baby) asking for spare change! A recent survey showed that some earn lots of money! If you want to give homeless cash then give it to those who sell the Big Issue. The government is really trying to help out homeless at present in London (so ‘they’ tell us ;).
And NO NO NO! Do not have one of those pull-out maps in public! Buy a nice discrete A6 one as it fits in your pocket/bag and the world won’t know that you’re lost – plus it has a tube map on the back (remember the map is all about the colours)!
Have fun, the UK is great. Any questions or anything before you go, give me a shout! I can recommend some lovely Welsh Villages plus some excellent restaurants/night life in London!
just a few thoughts straight off the top of my head as I work in London and live near Cambridge (another tourist hotspot)
1. If you haven’t got Metro installed on your Palm OS devices then do it now! It is accurate and fast for London (install the London Tourist database) it also gives you the ability to disable certain lines which is good as the Central Line on the Underground is out of action ’til they modify the trains.
2. You will look like tourists 😎 Everyone from out of town does, (who knows what I look like when I’m on holiday) just try not to look like vulnerable tourists, all the stuff as above PLUS when you a see a sign warning of pickpockets DON’T pat your wallet to check its still there, that’s what they’re waiting for!
3. If you order a cold drink in a pub or cafe and you aren’t asked if you want ice then ask for it as it isn’t automatic over here and I’ve found that whenever I’ve been out with Americans over on business that they tend to want ice (excuse the stereotyping if this is not true in your case)
4. A (relatively) little known and interesting attraction in London is Tower Bridge which is just round the corner from the Tower of London (by the way they’re called Yeoman Warders not Beefeaters and are all ex-army guys who’ve put in at least 20 yrs service) 😉 , you can get up onto the gantries at the top of the bridge and it gives a great view up and down the river Thames (:) we think of the Thames as being a ‘big’ river when it wouldn’t even feature in the top 100 rivers of the US, please leave us our illusions)
5. If you drink beer and want to try British Real Ale try to look for pubs with the Good Beer Guide sticker on the door and you’re pretty well assured of a good pint; but not necessarily a ‘beautiful’ pub as it isn’t a good pub guide
6. Unless you can’t possibly avoid it don’t go to McDonalds or Burger King, Brits don’t do fast food well, we take what’s good about it ie. its fast and then do it at our own pace :rolleyes:
7. Have a great trip, if there’s anything specific you want to ask then feel free
Darn, just thought of another, re. your comment about cabs, in London try to only use Black cabs (some of them aren’t black any more but they’re all much the same shape). They are licensed and inspected and are responsible to the London Cab Office which is at police HQ so they don’t mess you about. They’re also always a source of cheery opinion about current affairs 😉
Someone told me that Black Cabs were very roomy and had large trunks for luggage. Is that true, or are they just typical cars with signs and meters?
Nope, Black cabs aren’t normal cars – they hold about five people (three on the back seat, two on fold out seats) with legroom and space for bags. in the North we can ride beside the driver at a push, but I don’t know if London Cabbies allow this. They have huge Boots (sorry, Trunks 😉 ) and are also able to clip on ramps so that wheelchair users can get in – plus there are anchor points to stop the chairs moving once in. You know, this may be the least exciting information I have ever imparted? 😮
Julie and Judie will be able to haul all kinds of gadgets!
Thanks for the info. It was useful and interesting to those of us who have never been to England.
I aims t’please…
My thoughts, for what they’re worth:
London is really big – several times the size of any other European city and on a par with, say, New York or LA. However, the tube is really extensive and there’s hardly anywhere you’d want to go in London that it doesn’t cover and you’ll be sticking to the centre (well inside Zone 1) for most/all stuff.
An absolute priority in my opinion is avoid getting on the tube (or buses for that matter) during the rush “hour” – say 8 to 9.30 am and 5.30 to 7pm. If you find yourself outside a tube station at these times and are tempted, I suggest just chilling out for a bit in a nearby coffee shop (millions everywhere) and watching us wage slaves battling to work!
The buses are very good and fun, but the routes are harder to work out. It’s really worth spending five minutes studying the maps at the stop(s) nearest your hotel because there’s nothing nicer than sitting on the top deck and trundling off to a bit of London you’ve got to know. At the moment, with the start of the charge to bring cars into the centre, the buses are really fast too.
Taxis – easily recognisable black cabs although not all are black! Five passengers (you don’t sit next to the driver in London black cabs) if you are friends, plus a big boot (trunk) and more luggage space where the front passenger seat should be. Black cabs are licensed by the police and the drivers are supposed to know every street in London – at the very least they know every street in the centre. It is extremely rare for passengers to be ripped off on the fare (even American tourists!). Just don’t worry about it. As someone said previously, avoid unlicensed minicabs in London, unless you a visiting a local who calls one for you or you are in a flash restaurant and they get you one. Black cabs are a bit of a luxury – they’re not cheap, but very convenient and safe. If you’re coming in from Heathrow airport, a cab will cost you about £40-50. The alternative is the tube is about £3.50!
Driving in London – don’t bother if you are here to have fun. It’s on a par with Manhattan and parking is impossible.
It’s hard to be objective here as I’ve lived in London on and off for 20+ years and don’t spend much of my spare time around the tourist sites. Who knows what defensive behaviour I’ve unconsciously adopted in that time. However, I reckon London is very safe. As a tourist, you are unlikely to stray into a dodgy area. People ripping you off will be very rare – the prices are all quite high enough to make that unnecessary! There are nuisances such as begging, but much less so than New York. Pick pocketing is a problem as are thefts of unwatched handbags etc from pubs and cafes. It is very rare indeed that these crimes and problems involve violence or threatening behaviour. Keep your cash and travel documents in zipped (even velcroed?) inside pockets. I suspect the worst you will see is closing time mayhem. Stupidly in England all the pubs close at 11pm unless they have a special licence. That means that on a weekend in every English town or city centre there are throngs of young drunk people milling around at about 11.30pm not really wanting to go home. It can be a bit intimidating and is often not a pretty sight, but shouldn’t be a problem in central London. Scotland is much more civilised about these things (I mean closing times rather than drunkenness).
Compared to the US, the UK and particularly London is expensive. Although the exchange rate is about $1.59 : £1 or £0.63 : $1, for most stuff you might as well reckon on £1 : $1. It’s not really a place to pick up a bargain, but you can probably buy just about anything you can think of somewhere in London. If you do want to shop, or window shop, here are some ideas:
Designer clothes, jewellery, watches etc – Bond Street (Piccadilly end), Sloane Street (Knightsbridge end). Both are beautiful streets with beautiful people. All the famous names.
Hippish/funky/secondhand clothes and much else – Camden Lock market and/or the top end of Portabello Road at the weekend. Both get very crowded, but are fun.
Antiques – junk to high end: first section of Portabello Road
Consumer electronics – Tottenham Court Road
Harrods – does have just about everything but is sooooo tacky
Selfridges – well worth a visit
Harvey Nichols – trendy clothes, cool bar and restaurant on the top floor.
Whatever the guidebooks say, avoid Oxford Street (except Selfridges) and Petticoat Market.
The parks are very good, plentiful and safe –
St James’s Park : behind the Ritz and adjoining Buckingham Palace. Beautiful.
Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. Huge, great for a walk. The Serpentine Gallery is a small modern art museum on its own in the centre of the park. There is always something worth seeing there, even if you come away saying “interesting, but is that really art” or “I could have done better blindfold” etc.
Hamptead Heath : enormous, parts are really wild. Read the guidebooks, and maybe go to a concert at Kenwood House.
Outside the very centre of London i.e. the West End (theatre, restaurant, gallaries and shopping district) and the City (the financial district – note the upper case “C” in City), people generally talk of London as a series of separate villages that have joined up over the centuries. It’s a cliché, but a useful one.
One corner with a real village atmosphere, as Jeremy says, is Greenwich on the river south east of the centre. A really good trip is to take the Docklands Light Railway out of the City (financial district) to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs (real name!), cross under the river by the foot tunnel and emerge in Greenwich. After sampling the atmosphere and a beer or coffee or two, take a river bus upstream under Tower Bridge and back to the City or Westminster. The Docklands Light Railway is a different system from the tube or overland rail and runs east and south-east mostly elevated through the former industrial docklands (including the Isle of the Dogs). Now the area has been transformed by the creation of huge financial district and chi-chi apartment blocks. There’s not much to do on the ground, but it’s a nice way to get to Greenwich.
Other “villages” worth a trip if you have the time/a good excuse:
Richmond – quite a way out to the West between the Thames and a huge deer park.. Actually at the very end of a tube line!
South Kensington – very smart, good shops and restaurants, the museums nearby
Hampstead – a really nice area as well as having the Heath
Like most Londoners, I’m so lazy when it comes to making the most of the huge number of sites, museums and galleries around me every day, so I’ll definitely miss some places (and have ignored must-see places such as Westminster Abbey which you’ll go to without my help). The following are some of my favourites:
The Tate Modern – a converted power station by the river showing the national modern art collection. A truly stunning space, and the art is very very good. Usually the central hall is taken up with an exhibition of oversize sculpture. A nice way to get there is the new footbridge over the river from St Paul’s Cathedral. It has a proper name but Londoners just call it the “wobbly” bridge, because that’s what it did when it was first opened.
St Paul’s Cathedral – one of my favourite London churches. Designed and built by Christopher Wren – it transformed ideas in England about how churches should be. The light and space is wonderful. Hint – if you pass a building by Christopher Wren or his former apprentice, Nicholas Hawksmoor, stop and have a look around.
The Science Museum and Natural History Museums
These are magnificent cathedrals to the wonder of science, created mid-19th century at the height of the Victorians’ power and confidence. They still work to educate and inspire wonder. I suspect originally they weren’t as much fun.
National Portrait Gallery
The adjoining National Gallery is very good (although Paris equivalent, the Louvre, is better), but the NPG comprises simply of portraits of people – ancient and modern. In some ways I find it more fun as the art is less important than the story behind each person portrayed. London particularly is such a historic place, the NPG is a great place to get a feel for the great and the good who, inevitably, have lived or passed through.
There is so much more that I will remember as soon as I post this, but I should stop sometime.
(i) “Power plugs in the UK: BIG 3 pronged, square plugs. …………..Why so big? Every plug has a fuse built into it. Why? Because they don’t have fuse boxes or circuit breakers in their homes’ electrical system.”…
Not true. Every electrical system in the UK has a fuse box or circuit breakers (in the case of my 1819 house, both). I think the “giant” UK plug evolved when this wasn’t universal. Now it’s really just overkill (if that’s the right word in the context).
(ii) “The food is bad.” Again wrong. London has some of the best eating in the World; if you’ve never tried Ethiopian, Nepalese, Swedish or Argentinean cuisine and want to, London will have at least one restaurant catering exclusively to your obscure choice. But it’s not compulsory! It’s worth looking out for a new breed of eating place – the “gastropub”. These are typically stripped out drinking pubs devoted mainly to serving freshly-cooked restaurant quality modern English or European food in informal settings. Often you have to order your food, then find somewhere to sit down and the kitchen will be open behind the bar. Other reliable good value standbys are Pizza Express, Japanese/Chinese/Thai noodle soup restaurants, shushi/sashimi conveyor-belt bars (Sushi Sushi is the best known) and non-branded sandwich shops.
However, eating out in London tends to be pricey. I’m afraid the £1=$1 rule applies here particularly.
(iii) “The weather’s always terrible”. It’s certainly variable, it will probably rain when you are here and it’s rare that the sun is out for a whole day at a time. However, you don’t have the extremes of heat, humidity and freezing cold that you find in, say, Chicago. If it’s raining in the morning, it’ll probably have stopped by lunchtime. In fact generally it’s not a bad climate with which to explore a big city.
(iv) “You’ll look out of place in a teeshirt, jeans and trainers (sneakers).” Rubbish – that’s pretty much a uniform for most Londoners away from work. Certainly it’s worth smartening up a little for a smart restaurant and you won’t get into the coolest of bars dressed like that but that’s about it. Smartening up really needn’t mean much – for a man I’d say swap the tee for a tee with a collar(d’you say “polo shirt”), the jeans for chinos and the trainers for loafers. The female equivalent is I expect almost the same. The correct dress code for the coolest of bars ghas probably changed whilst I was typing this.
(v) “It’s expensive”. Sorry, not a misconception.