Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Day In Salisbury Falls Flat

Friday – May 28

Not the day actually, but my bike. I went 18 days without any problems, and then on the last day get a flat tire. I was headed for the YHA and all of a sudden, pssst. So, a stop in the middle of Market Square to replace the tube took about 45 minutes (it was the back tire).

As I have said before. These Brits love to talk. An elderly lady walking with a cane stops and says, “Oh, I can't do that anymore. In my younger days I would cycle everywhere. Oh, that was a treat. Can't get around on one now.” Later, and elder gentleman stopped and said, “Road repairs, eh? That's a bit of work. Well, good luck to you.” Any chance for a conversation, even someone fixing a flat.

With two conversations, I fixed the flat and went on my way, checked into the Y and then we went to hear more of the Salisbury stories read at the cathedral. The teller (reader) was quite good today, more animated than yesterday's.

We are back at the King's Head Inn, having our last supper (?) together. We will see a comedy show tonight and then in the morning, I head for Heathrow and the flight home. I suspect that I will post some sort of epilogue to this year's trip, but suffice it to say that I had a great time! Thanks to Heidi and all the gang at work for allowing me to muck about England and France for almost three weeks.

The stories will continue.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stories from Salisbury

Thursday – May 27

It rained last night and was a bit cold and damp this morning. Plus, they are doing some construction work next to the campground and started at 7:30 am! Don't they know I'm on Holiday? Doesn't the weatherman know I'm on holiday?

I thought there was “storytelling” at the Festival today. Turned out to not be what I expected, but was still quite interesting. The Festival had asked people to send in their “stories”, and then they would decide which ones would be told during the Festival. Cookie actually sent in a story about why the Festival is important to him and they will tell it on Saturday. Unfortunately, I will be gone by then.

So what they are doing is having someone “read” the stories that were chosen. Some of the stories are true; stories of love found or love lost; simple stories of childhood or fictional stories that people have written. One such story was written by a thirteen year-old. It was a great and beautiful story about a tree she had in her back yard. I absolutely loved it and was amazed that a thirteen year-old had written it. I went to the Festival office and asked about contacting the author for permission to tell the story as part of my repertoire. As it turns out, her mother works in the Festival office and gave me permission to tell it. I will, however, write to her and ask formal permission. I think she will appreciate that. I will go back tomorrow to hear more of the stories.

It turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day in Salisbury. Did a bit of biking about, sitting at the Inn and typing, and talking with people. Another great vacation day!

Heading back To Salisbury

Wednesday – May 26

We awake this morning and cook breakfast, to find that our little bird friend is back. She is looking for breakfast too. We try to accommodate her, even though it looks as if she, or one of her cronies has left several deposits on my tent!

Remember when I said in an earlier post how nice it would be to live the life of a young colt? Well, now I am wondering about being a bird. Think about it. You get to fly anywhere you want; you get to eat half your weight in food everyday; and you can “drop” on whatever (or whomever) you want!

We ride to a small town (they are all small here) called Castle Cary where we take two trains back to Salisbury. We'll stay at the campground here for two days and then change to the YHA on Friday the evening before I must leave on Saturday. We head for the Kings Head Inn, our usual mainstay for food and the Internet. We eat, tap out some new blog posts, upload to the blog and then head back to the campground for the night. Tomorrow, I hope to hear some storytelling at the Salisbury International Arts and Music Festival. I'll report back on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Glastonbury – Think Vortex, Dozens!

Tuesday – May 25

As difficult as the last ride was, going to Glastonbury was a dream. Small back roads, all flat, and we arrive by 10:30 am. We set up camp and head for the town center. There is a small open-air marketplace, fruits, vegetables, some clothes. We head up the main street.

This street is paved with incense and crystals. Think Sedona, then multiply it exponentially. Every other shop we pass is some sort of mystic, crystalline, herbal, wican, shaman toting, faery dancing, goddess-within-you, alfalfa sprouting “healing” center. They offer everything from chakra healing to colon cleansing, and that's quite a span. Unfortunately, we will miss the “Goddess Festival” which is next month.

That's all I have to say about the place. We buy some groceries and cook dinner at the campsite. A little birdie comes to beg for some food. She is hopping around and chirping. She gets very close, but when we move, she flies. She does come back when we throw bits of bread and she grabs them. We bid her goodnight and good nightingale.

Seven Times 'Round the Seven Hills of Rome

Monday – May 24

Well, not quite, but we came close!

So, Cookie says the ride from Bath to Wells is a “nice” ride. We have breakfast and leave the YMCA in Bath, headed for Wells. The beginning part of the ride is quite pleasant. Beautiful scenery, nice riding, We see an idyllic, picture-postcard of rolling hills and a two-car train coming around the curve that is just far enough away to look like a toy train. Did I say “rolling hills?”

That's when it started, or I should say, they started... the HILLS that is. One after another. And they kept coming. We would get to the top of one, and no sooner would we ease off, than another one appears! Did I mention that they are ALL GOING UP? What the heck happened here? Hey Cookie, what happened to, “It's a nice ride”?

These are “walking” hills. That is to say, I cannot ride up most of them, too steep. It takes more effort to try to stay on the bike in first gear (yes, even the granny gear) than it does to walk. Not to say that walking is easy. Easier than riding, but not easy. Not with 60 pounds of bike and panniers to push up the hill. After a while, even Cookie must walk.

Remember that I mentioned that it was hot in Bath? Well, it is HOT today too. We walk up part of the hill, stop in the shade for a moment, then continue on. It is grueling. I swear that one hill had at least a thirty degree incline. This is worse than the mile-long hill on the way to Rouen. This is brutal!

Eventually, and by that I mean after about four hours, we are at the pinnacle, just before our descent into Wells. My GPS says we have risen 850 feet in about 10-12 miles. Now we descend 600 feet in two miles. Yikes, that is a scary ride. My hand got sore just holing on to the brake!

Now, here's the kicker. After all that riding and walking in the noon-day sun, something happened that I didn't think could ever happen in England... I got sun-burned!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Hot Bath

Sunday – May 23

Another shift in plans. We roll the dice and decide to take the train from Canterbury to Bath. Then we will do some small rides from there. The first train goes to London, Victoria Station. From there, we must decide which station to change to. One takes the scenic route, Paddington Station has a train that goes “direct”. As most of the rides through the countryside really don't show the countryside (you mostly see the trees that were planted to hide the trains) we decide to head for Paddinton and take the “direct” route.

This means biking through the streets of London and continually asking folks, “do you know how to get to Paddington Station?” We ride through Hyde Park. Many people are enjoying the sunny Sunday. One person tells us, “Go to the far corner of the park, and when you get outside the park, ask someone there.” Amazingly, ten minutes later, another person responds, “Go three blocks down, and then ask someone on that corner.” Strangely enough, we don't see the ever-present signs that direct one to the train station. These are usually seen every five blocks or so. Eventually, a police women tells us we, “Can't ride on the sidewalk, there is a 70 pound fine.” (She has to catch us first!) She does direct us to the general area of the station.

We discover that the station is under “renovation” and we spend another fifteen minutes circling around until we almost miss the entrance! We find the platform. It leaves in four minutes. It takes us that long to walk to the front of the train where the bike car is. We load our bikes and barely make it into the seating car as the train pulls out.

We are so glad we chose the “direct” route.

We arrive in Bath and it is HOT. Never seen it this hot during my stays. I am sweating! We head for the YMCA. Cookie says this is preferable to the campground for just the one night as we are riding on tomorrow. Sunday, and the grocery store is closed already so we head to the Pig and Fiddle Pub and have a bit to eat. Tomorrow, the pubs all over England will be packed with folks watching the World Cup. We head back to the Y and both spend time on the computer, catching up. Off to bed (a lumpy one) and plan for a ride tomorrow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Canterbury Tale

Saturday – May 22

We rise to overcast skies and low fog. Every thing is wet. We must breakdown and pack wet tents (with fly and ground cloth wet too). Decision time. Head back to Salisbury? Bike to Sandwich? Yes, of the famous Earl of Sandwich who named the tasty treat. But wait, let's train to Canterbury. There is a campground nearby, and it has great historic significance. Train to Dover, switch platforms and off to the land of Chaucer!

We arrive in Canterbury and as we do, the skies clear and sunshine abounds! (Just a note here, it has been fairly good weather since we came. Same last year, for all the days I was in England. Must be me.) We find the campground (up a hill – of course) and then return to the city to explore.

It is Saturday, and the town is teeming with people. Much like Rouen, but even more people. Street vendors abound selling pastries, ice cream and crepes. I love strolling the street and listening to all the people, English, French, Dutch and many more. There is a magician selling tricks out of a small kiosk. We spend some time talking and exchanging a few “moves”. He is quite a nice chap.

Cookie and I partake of the Canterbury Tales Experience. This is like a Disney ride, except that you walk through it, as you view sculpted characters from Chaucer's book and listen to some of the tales told. Hmm... there's a novel concept: several people telling different stories, trying to outdo one another. Sounds like a Storytelling Festival to me!

We do some Internet typing and tapping, I upload several days of the blog. We buy lamb burger patties and fresh green beans at the store and head for the campground. A cookout ensues and then it's off to bed.

Four Trains and a Boat

Friday – May 21

Time to leave France. Leave the campground at 10:30 am, bike to the train station at Rouen. Head to Amiens, with a change of trains at Boulonge. Then another train to Calais. Take the ferry across the English channel to Dover. We see white cliffs, but no blue birds, and I can't hear Kate Smith! Bike to the train station in Dover. Take a six minute train ride to Martin Mill (about four miles from Dover – ALL UPHILL) and we arrive at Hawthorne Farm Campsite at 9:30 pm. With the time change, about twelve hours traveling time. Sleep is all we can think about.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Paris - not so much anymore

Thursday 20

I know it is Thursday, only after counting the days I have been gone. I have again lost all track of days and time. I guess I am truly on vacation.

We head to the train station only to find that the next train to Paris that accommodates bicycles will not be until 2:00 pm with a return at 7:30 pm. Bummer.

We take a tour of Rouen's town “clock”, an historic centerpiece of the town with ornate architecture. On the second level a window overlooks the street below, teaming with people. How I would love to open the window, lean out and shout, “Vive le Roi!” I don't.

We walk around a bit, do some window shopping, return to the train station, have lunch and board the 2:00 pm to Paris. I am excited as I have not been there in over 40 years!

However, arrival there reveals worse traffic, congestion, fast drivers, and more angry drivers than I ever experienced in New York! And to boot, the streets are narrow, and go every which direction, unlike a normal grid. And the streets change names after two to three blocks. After riding around for a while, I get too freaked out and we head back towards the train station. We find a café for dinner as we watch the passers by.

We get to the train station with a forty minute wait, but see a train leaving in the next few minutes. A conductor looks at our tickets ands allows us on. Little did we know the train was a “local” and got in just about the time our other one was supposed to. But it did beat waiting in the station for forty minutes. We stop back at the Web Café, still no wi-fi, but we use the computers to check our e-mails and send some too. We speed back in the dark to our campground and retire.

Talking English

Wednesday 19

And what shall I have for breakfast this morning? Oh, that's right (remember sister?) steak and eggs. There is something extremely satisfying about cooking one of your favorite meals at the campground.

After a leisurely morning, we head back to the city and locate the train station. Always a good idea to get your bearings. We get information about the train schedules to Calais for our return by ferry to England.

We are hard pressed to find anyplace that has wi-fi. It seems very strange, and a few inquiries of people on the street accomplish little. A trip to the tourist center reveals one just a few blocks away. In fact, it is called The Web Cafe (although their wi-fi is down right now, we can use the bank of computers).

We walk in, and as always, there is the requisite exchange of, “Bonjours.” A tall man recognizes our accents and asks if we are American. He then proceeds to speak in English and tells us that his name is Steve, and he is helping the owner who is ill. He is obviously starved for English as he spends the next thirty minutes talking our ears off! He is a very nice man, but thankfully, he has an appointment to get to and must leave.

We spend some time on the Internet checking campgrounds near Dover as we will arrive very late in the afternoon. We plan to take the train to Calais, then cross the channel by ferry.

Later in the day, as we head for the campground, we shift gears and decide to stay here an additional night so we can take the train to Paris tomorrow, ride around, have dinner and return in the evening. More shopping in the village for food, cooking dinner at the campground and then to bed before our trip to Paris tomorrow.


Tuesday 5-18

Next stop, Rouen, about twenty miles... but first, THE HILL. A long mile that rises over two hundred feet. I must walk the entire length, but Cookie stays on his bike and pedals all the way to the top. Bravo! A feat I would not even attempt at this point.

After THE HILL it is smooth going the rest of the way to Rouen. We arrive in mid afternoon and walk through part of the city. There are many small, cobblestone streets with bakery vendors and cafés where people are lunching. The French always sit at the cafés facing the street so they can view the passers-by. A good custom I am thinking.

We ride on through town to the campground, about another twenty minutes away. We set up and then walk down to the small village of St. Ledger to have lunch and buy some food for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow morning. Ah... the patisserie! Suffice it to say that the French know how to make bread and pastries (and they did long before Julia Child).

There is also a butcher in the village! Every kind of meat you can imagine, and some you don't want to. But the butcher is very nice and gives us exactly what we want. He cuts me a small breakfast steak (pay attention, my sister) and we also get some spaghetti bolognaise for dinner. A small “super marché” provides us with eggs and other supplements.

We lunch at a small pizzeria and after all the activity, return to the campground for a nap. Bad idea. We are both a little out of it now. The evening becomes a bit windy and chilly. I heat the spaghetti and turn in. A good day!

Chez les Mamies

Monday 5-17

It rained last night, but has ceased this morning and eventually the sun comes out. After saying our goodbyes to Orianne, we are on our way to Rouen.

We make a few stops for pictures and scenic views. We have only gone ten miles, but as we left a bit late, we must decide to either push on to Rouen, or stop sooner. Cookie warns that there is a BIG hill on the way to Rouen, and we may not make it over the hill and to the campground at a decent hour. We decide to search out a campground in the nearby village of Jumieges. Although only three miles away, it is all uphill – so we still have a bit of a struggle. But arrival in Jumieges finds us at a pleasant campground and a somewhat historic abbey to explore.

We bike down to the village and walk through the abbey. It appears as if it has been bombed, but Cookie tells me that at the end of the war, they started to use this and other abbeys and monastaries as “rock quarries”. They would take stones from them to build other structures I n the city. This practice was eventually stopped, and now they are restoring many of the old abbeys.

We search for a place for dinner and, once again, have an encounter extraordinaire.

We enter what appears to be the only place in town that is open, a small tea-house called Chez les Mamies. The woman who greets us recognizes that we are American (who wouldn't) and although she is apologetic, tells us that we can only get cold sandwiches, no hot food. As we converse more, she once again says she is sorry, but then begins to stop herself. “Ooo... oh... ooo,” she intones as she walks to one end of the shop to look for something. She returns and tells us she can fix us warm quiche with a salad for both of us. “C'est bien!”, says I, and we are off on another splendid repast and wonderful discourse with this sweet woman. We talk about where we are from and where we are going; traveling by bicycle.

She tells us about the town and of the owner of the shop, one of the two Mamies. There are four delicious looking pies and pastries on the table next to us, all different versions of apple pastries. They all look marvelous and cookie has one which is! We thank her a million times and depart with her wishes for a “bon journey... bon adventure!” So much for the myth of the French being inhospitable. Moments like this are a treasure and stay in your memory forever!

We head back to the campground and finally, with Internet access, I make connections with the office, We chat for a while and laugh as I recount our recent dinner adventure, and then it is off to bed again, even though the sun will not set for another half an hour.

Le Harve (I believe it may be closed today)

Sunday 5-16

We arrive at 8:00 am. We are now nine hours earlier than Phoenix. As we were the first on the boat, we are last off (of course). It is early Sunday morning in Le Harve and it is like a ghost town. Almost no shops or restaurants open and very few people about. We make our way through the city and find the small roads that will take us to the next campground. We ride through a great deal if industrial districts, but also some beautiful countryside along the route. After 30 miles of mostly flat terrain, we arrive at the small village of Villequier and the campground.

A note here - “Thank you Mr. Rogers!”
When I was a sophomore in high school, I took French for one year. The teacher was Mr. Gil Rogers. He was one of the best teachers I ever had, for any subject. But for French, he was magnific! The first day of class we were told that if we had any questions, or anything we wanted to say in English, that would be the day to do it. After that day, we spoke ONLY French. Mon Dieu! How were we supposed to survive? How could we learn a completely different language? Ah... the way most people learn, by speaking and hearing it. Of course he helped by drawing objects on the board, having us do projects and write little skits. Next to drama, it was my favorite class.

Now, some forty plus years later, the words and sounds come back just enough to get by. Oh yes, I could survive by speaking only English. And sometimes, speaking French gets me in a little trouble, as people start talking back very rapidly and I can only pick out every third or fourth word. I know I have poor grammar, my syntax is not always correct, and sometimes I strain for the right word. But I feel a bit of relief that I can have some ease of communication. So Mr Rogers, “Merci beaucoups!”

The campground is run by a husband and wife who speak almost no English. They are very pleasant and accommodating. Now comes the fun part. The part about traveling that I love the most: the people.

They have an eating area and serve meals, mostly frozen food, but passable. As we finish our dinner, a small child of nine enters and walks right up to Cookie and gives him a big smile. We have paper place mats and she turns one over to reveal several games on the other side; find the word, find six things that are different, etc. She motions to Carl to play the games with her. She is delightfully cute. Who could resist!

I have brought some things with me for just such an occasion. I go to my tent and retrieve some magic tricks... and Grover. I return to the dining area and after they have finished all the games, I produce Grover and he introduces him self (in French). She is all giggles and smiles as her parents come out of the back to see what is happening. Her name is Orianne, and Grover has a fun conversation with her about how old she is, does she like school, etc. She scratches him under his chin and he shakes his body in delight. Again, she giggles. I do some magic with small red sponge balls, producing two from one, and making them appear and disappear. Her smile and the look in her eyes are my reward and payment in full for the show! Before turning in for the night, her father takes a picture of us all. Can you see grover smiling?

Small Village - Big Money

Saturday May 15

So much to write about and no access to wi fi, or time to write for several days.

We arise very early in order to avoid possible capture by the New Forest police. We are successful. It is a gorgeous day as we head form the trail to the road on our way to Brockenhurst. Here we will catch the train to Southampton and the ferry to France.

The countryside is lush and green. It reminds me of Valley Forge, just outside of Philadelphia. Almost Amish country. The roads are fairly flat here (ah...relief) and the way seems quite easy. We make a side stop in a little village called Beaulieu. It appears to be a tourist village, modeled after towns of old, but it has several “touristy” shops. And here's the odd thing about this area – here, in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, there is a Bentley dealership, along with a Ferrari and Maserati dealership. Where are these people getting their money to pay for these luxury vehicles?

We arrive in Brockenhurst and Cookie now remembers the train station – there is no lift (elevator) to get the bikes up and over to the correct platform. As our bikes weigh 15 pounds and our paniers weight about 45 pounds, we must detach our equipment and transfer each piece separately up the tall flight of stairs and down to the other side. We will not make the train scheduled to arrive in three minutes and will need to wait for the next one in fifteen minutes.

With the transfer complete, the next train arrives and we are promptly told that there is a “medical emergency” in the first car and we will be delayed for about 20 minutes. A call over the loudspeaker system asks for “any persons with medical training to come to the first car.” Obviously, I stay where I am. Now, if there was a psychotic person needing assistance, I might go... no.

We arrive in Portsmouth and first check the location of the ferry. It is easy to get to along a bike path. We return to the town for a light lunch and a bit of window shopping. Then back to the ferry, do some adjustments on our bikes and paniers and then settle in for a long wait. We cannot check in until 7:30 pm, then we board the boat at 10 pm and depart at 11 pm. It is chilly as we wait outside in line to board the boat. The push-bikes do go first though.

On the top two decks, there are three partitioned off areas where there are TV monitor screens and a dozen or so rows of airline-type seating. We stake out a space and like many other passengers, put out our sleeping pads on the floor between two rows of seats. The churning of the engines lulls Morpheus to my sleeping pad and I am out. Next stop: France!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Over The River and Through the Woods, But First...

Friday - May 14

We set out at 9 am for the New Forest, just a bit southeast of Salisbury, about 20 miles to Lyndhurst. Cookie has been there before, but decides to try a “new” route, “the one less traveled.” Did I mention the hills that we encountered last year? We found similar ones along this way! There was quite a bit of up and down, seemed like more up than down, but I didn't find it as exhausting as last year. I am enjoying the trip more this year. Guess I am a little more prepared, or at least know what to expect.

We arrive at the edge of the New Forest. This is not a dark or foreboding wood, but an inviting arbor of green sights and aromas. The river Avon meanders through a portion of it. There are many little villages and towns interspersed along the way. I have never seen so many free-roaming horses! There are no fences. Horses, cows and sheep cross the roads whenever they want or need to. As the roads here are VERY narrow, at times the animals may cause cars (or bikes) to stop and wait. There is hardly room to pass in each direction let alone pass around grazing horses!

There are many, many young colts. I guess they are born in early spring. Ah, what a life: graze, run, play, roll in the dirt, or just lie down next to mom & dad for an afternoon nap. I fully understand!

We had seen some hikers earlier in the day as we set out. Now we have encountered them again and we can't believe how we twisted and turned, up and down all this time, and now they have caught up with us! We joke and laugh with them and then go on our way... but unbeknownst to me, my phone has fallen off my belt. I will not discover until much later that I have lost it.

More up and up, along some fast highways. On the uphills, we have to get off the bikes and walk up as we push our bikes along. Incidentally, that is what they call bicycles here, “push bikes” as opposed to “motorbikes”. Now I know why!

Eventually we get to Lyndhurst. We will camp on the other side of town. We stop for some lunch... and this is where I discover I have lost my phone. I am sick. I think I lost it on one of the hills in the last 2-3 miles just before Lyndhurst. I MUST go back to find it. After an hour and a half of riding and walking back 2 miles on the wrong side of the road, and then coming all the way back again... but obviously, no luck. I resign myself to the fact that it is gone. I am ready to move forward.

We head for the campground, which is a working farm that Cookie stayed at 3 years ago. We arrive to find “no room at the inn.” Well, actually we find that the spring has produced too much rain and the farm is not ready to open to campers for the season yet! And it is now 6:00 pm (although it does not get dark until after 9:00 pm).

We push ahead (yes I do mean push) uphill and find another campground. This one has signs all around that you must have a “self-contained” toilet in order to camp – NO TENTS. (Note: I actually do have a self-contained system of sorts, but that's a story for another time.). We talk to some folks at the campground and consider merely pitching our tents as the camp “host/guard” will not return until morning. On second thought, we head down a trail through the forest, hoping to find a spot out of the way and out of sight to pitch our tents. We see a man walking his dog and ask if the trail goes through to the next paved road.

“Oh yes, cross over the river, go through the wood, cross the railroad tracks and then straight on to the road” (and Grandmother's house we thought!). After we have followed half of his directions, we find a place off the trail and although it is not allowed, we pitch our tents. We make some soup and have leftover half-sandwiches from lunch. It is only 8:30, but as the bugs are bugging us, we retire, hoping that the camping police will not visit us in the night and haul us off to camping prison, or prison camp!

Another Lazy Day in Salisbury.

We have decided to spend one more day in Salisbury before heading south to the New Forest. We do a bit more shopping (you would think we were teenagers spending all our time at the mall – perhaps we are) and biking about around town.

We have bought some lamb burgers and cook them for dinner in the kitchen at the Y. Quite tasty! Tonight we went to the movies, Ironman 2. A bit of a disappointment, but the theater is quite interesting. As most of the buildings here, it is quite old, yet the inside has been converted from one theater into several smaller ones. The walls, architecture, fixtures and decorations are all preserved making it an “old-meets-new" experience. Much of the trip is like that.

Tomorrow we ride!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting to England

The hardest part about getting to England is... getting to England! Our plane was an hour late leaving Phoenix on Monday morning, then another delay with the trans-Atlantic flight connection in Detroit. But that wasn't the worst part. I got to the gate about 35 minutes before departure (one has to be there 30 minutes before , so I was cutting it a little close), and they had a terrible time finding the code for my seat and boarding pass. At first, I wasn't even sure I would be able to get on the flight, but eventually after three agents had tried, I finally got a boarding pass. However... you guessed it, it was NOT the aisle seat I had reserved. I was now in the MIDDLE seat for 10 hours! Not only that, but the woman on my left went to sleep and the longer she slept, the more she leaned in my direction. She was progressively encroaching on what little space I already had. In some countries, I believe we could be considered to be married now!

All that aside, we arrived at Heathrow airport about 9:00 am Tuesday morning. After standing in line for customs and then retrieving our bags, we got directions to the bus station. A labyrinth of tunnels and ramps finally found us at the bus terminal at 10:20. The next bus to Salisbury was at 12:20. After a hot chocolate and a bit of walking around to get the kinks from the flight out of our bodies, we had a lovely bus ride through the countryside and arrived in Salisbury about 2:30 pm. A short (?) walk to the YHA with our 45 pound bags and we were HERE!

Our next task was to walk to the train station to see if our bikes were still there. Carl has been to England four years in a row, and each time has left his bike locked on the platform at the train station. Each time it was still there. Would our bikes be there this time?


Well, it is truly amazing that our bikes were there again, and except for a little soot, were no worse for the wear. We rode back to the YHA and began to clean and adjust. Last year, I had settled for the standard seat sold to me. NEVER AGAIN! This year, in serious doubt that I would find a seat that I liked at any of the shops in Salisbury, I had brought my own (very comfortable) seat with me. It was the correct choice!

With our bikes clean, our bodies a bit exhausted, we had dinner at a local pub, returned to the Y and quickly crashed. No problem falling asleep this night!

Wednesday found us visiting various shops to not only buy some essentials like propane gas to cook our meals on the road, but also to purchase those proverbial chotchkis (Yiddish for knick-knacks). We can never seem to find too many and are always enticed to buy more. Such is life!

We made more fine-tune adjustments to our bikes, secured our chotchkis to various cross-bars and bike tubes and set out for a lunch of meat pies. Cookie (Carl) had a veggie, I had a chicken and asparagus. They are actually turnovers, and are quite tasty. After lunch, a new camping store caught our eye, and we were compelled to enter. And yes, I was COMPELLED to buy a new day-pack!

It was a little gray, and we felt a few drops, but nonetheless, decided to go for a 12-mile day-ride. As we were about to leave on the ride, a couple walked past and the man stopped. He said he admired our bikes, and then began a ten minute exchange with us about a long line topics.

The Brits are truly a friendly, and very talkative sort. Once they hear our American accents, they launch into a barrage of questions about us followed closely by where they had been on their visit to the states, suggestions about where we should visit if we haven't, where they live, the politics in England and America, and all manner of other information.

Earlier in the day, a chap had passed us on the street and when he heard our accents, asked us where we were from and then proceeded to take several minutes to tell us the “real” story of how the Battle of Little Big Horn had been started by a cow! We are not sure if the story is true, or if he just got Custer mixed up with Mrs. O'leary's cow from Chicago! All-in-all, it is a truly fascinating process to both observe, and be involved in.

Oh yes, our day-ride. Last year, this was the ride that set me up for pain as I had the very hard, uncomfortable seat. This time, the one I had brought from home made all the difference. It was smooth sailing (actually riding) this time, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Back at the Y, we sat in the common room and promptly... took a nap.

A late dinner of fish and chips for Cookie and mild (notice the spice wimp said, “mild”) lamb curry for me finds us both writing our blogs before retiring.

Although I have logged into my e-mail and had some contact with work about a couple of web changes I needed to make, I have lost all track of time and days. I constantly have to pause to focus in on, “what day is it?” This is a good thing! The only other long vacation I took was a two-week kayak trip on the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon. That “big water” trip provided many thrills, chills, spills, and a great deal of adventure! I can only believe that this three-week tour of England and France with my best friend will surely yield the same... and perhaps more!

Thanks for visiting.