Sunny today, at least we have that.
We have tried several more options for bike storage, none of them are panning out. My new wheel has not come in at the shop yet, so I am back at the King's Head. . .just waiting. . .having fish and chips.
Cookie needs to go to the Festival office to submit his evaluation as a volunteer. We make a short stop at my favorite shop for two pan aux raisins for tomorrow's long journey. The gal at the Festival office has some photos of one of the events that she loads onto a disc for Cookie and she thanks him for being involved with the Festival.
VICTORY! Not only is my bike fixed (not that I was going anywhere today) but we have negotiated a deal with the owner of the bike shop to store our bikes for the year! The price is reasonable, and we now have peace of mind vs. the worry of leaving our bikes at the train station where there is much uncertainty. I breathe a sigh of relief. We head for the Cathedral Inn for a "last supper."
SO HERE IS THE FINAL TALLY
Thirty-one days, thirty-one blog posts, one missed route, one bent rear rack, one bent wheel, one escalator escapade, a couple of rainy rides, one very cold afternoon, fun storytelling, fun visits with old friends, fun making new friends, some tilting at windmills and many new adventures. I couldn't ask for more!
It's OK, Ginger, daddy will be home tomorrow night.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Sunny today, at least we have that.
A good night's sleep can do wonders! And a good breakfast too.
Having been restored to my former self, it is time to attempt to restore the bike. The bike store must order a wheel and they should have it tomorrow. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, Cookie and I transfer to the YHA. He rides over with his bags first, then I take his bike back to the hotel and load my bags on and ride over. We check in and head for. . .that's right. . .the King's Head for lunch and internet.
After lunch, I go to the train station to check schedules and buy my ticket for the Wednesday morning train to the airport. Then I do a little wandering about town, looking for a new place to possibly store my bike. The are a few options, but I may need to just use the train station again. I do have a better lock and big, heavy chain now. We'll see.
Okay, this time I took the picture BEFORE I ate dinner: salad, lemon shrimp over rice, green beans with red onions, and ciabatta bread. Admittedly, I cooked in the YHA kitchen, but could have done this on the trail as well. I only used my pot and my pan.
Tomorrow is day 31 of my "holiday trip". I hope the bike can get fixed, and I am looking forward to one more day in Salisbury before heading home.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Rain. Again. Rain. All night long. In the morning it continues to come down.
I want to stay in my tent until it stops or lets up. It will not.
We break camp and pack up in the rain. I just love packing a wet tent and equipment.
Cookie and I have agreed that we will head straight for the nearest train station and go directly to Salisbury, do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not bike farther than you have to. We will go to the YHA vs. the campground. We need to dry out. The route is flat, but it is still raining. . .and cold. It's that "cold-to-the-bone" feeling where you can't seem to get warm at all. We must wait at the station for one hour until the train comes, change at Southampton, wait another 15 minutes, then the long way 'round to Salisbury.
I should tell you that almost all of the tralns in England are fairly new. They are different than the older trains, and one of the differences is that there is a gap between the steps of the train and the existing platform. Every train has a recording (or the conductor announces) as it approaches each station that tells passengers to "Mind the gap between the train and the platform." We have heard this so often, that it has become like the flight attendants' announcements. We pay little attention to it.
I should have paid more attention.
As I exit the train at Salisbury, I back out of the car with my bike, miss the platform and my foot and leg goes straight down into the "gap". The bike jerks backward onto the platform. I am OK, but as I rise and pull the front of the bike off of the train, I realize that something is wrong. I have twisted the back wheel. It is completely out of alignment. I can walk with it, but cannot ride. Mind the gap. . .between my ears.
So here we are, pouring rain, bone chilling cold, and a bike that cannot be ridden. There is only one thing to do. . .head for a nice, dry hotel with a hot shower and soft, cozy beds. The White Hart Inn fits the bill. A bit more expensive than the YHA, but breakfast is included, we can dry out and warm up, and they take very good care of us! After dinner, I take that hot shower, then crawl into bed at 6:30. I sleep till the morning.
Saturday - June 11
Neighborly neighbors! It's another sunny morning (we know that won't last). But the brightest part of the morning is our neighbors. As we are breaking camp, a woman comes over from one of the caravan units. She feels sorry for us that we had to endure the rain last night, and offers us a hot cup of tea.
Julie, her son Elliott and husband Peter are also "on holiday". Elliott has a new camera and wants to try it out by taking our picture. I take their picture in return, and give them my blog info and e-mail so he can send it to us. We chat for quite a while before heading out for the morning. Another wonderful moment to treasure.
There is certainly a lot of history in Portsmouth. Since the 15th century, the port has seen many conflicts. We travel up the beach and see long walls of defense with canons at the ready. There are several man-made islands in the bay with small forts. Here I am with the Spinaker monument in the far background, and another monument to maritime fighters just behind me.
Our destination today is a campground outside of Romsey, a small town past Southampton, about halfway between Portsmouth and our base of Salisbury. We reach Fareham and realize that we have some distance ahead of us, and opt to train the rest of the way to Romsey. Good idea, as after Romsey, those pesky roundabouts get us turned around and about a bit until we finally get on track and find the campground.
I should mention that the campgrounds in the smaller villages, or in the countryside, are much friendlier and less adamant about "one tent per pitch." The very nice lady here only charges us one fee for both our tents. She does admonish us though to, "Put your tents on the grass, not on the bare patches. We get a lot of rain here and wouldn't want you to wash away!"
A dinner of lamb burgers, rice, and sauted broccoli with onions finishes out the day. The sun is setting and it is getting a bit chilly, so it is time to turn in. Tomorrow it is back to Salisbury, then just two more days until my holiday ends.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Friday - June 10
We couldn't get away from the windy campground fast enough. Little did we know what was in store for us.
Breakfast in Rye and a walk around the village with at least two old-time haberdashers and lots of antique dealers. As it is another gray day, we decide to take the train to Hastings, site of the famous battle, just down the coast. Upon arrival, we find the battle was lost to a world of Coney Island type arcades and attractions. Not what we had expected.
After lunch, we head straight for Portsmouth, where Cookie assures me that, "It's a much nicer campground, no wind or screaming kids, and not as expensive."
Three trains, four hours later, and a three mile bike ride, we arrive in Portsmouth at the Southsea Liesure Park. Hmmm. Twenty pounds per tent, and quite windy. We set up our tents and head for the campground restaurant. A tiny building with an adjoining game room.
The food is passable. It begins to rain. And then. . .karaoke. And it's raining. We are trapped. Imagine a 70 year-old English barfly, after several pints, in a duet with a roly-poly barmaid, who may have had a few pints herself. Words can't really describe the sounds coming from this place. Remember William Hung from American Idol? He would shine here! Time to face the rain, rather than face the music!
A forecast of winds gusting up to 25 mph prompts us to stay in Ashford for one more day. We have a liesurely breakfast, and do some laundry. I take an extra long shower. Then we head for town. Sorry Mick, but we find an even better route into town; one that avoids some of the harrowing highway crossings you took us through.
We spend the afternoon at Wetherspoon Inn, writing and catching up on FB. We stop and pick up some groceries, then it's back to camp.
Mmmm. I have a nice dinner of meatballs in a garlic, tomato sauce over lime rice. Oops, guess I should have taken the photo BEFORE dinner!
Talked with Mother and also Gabby. Time for bed.
Thursday - June 9
We rise to a sunny morning that turns cloudy just as we are leaving. Hmmm. We are headed to Rye, a small town near the southern coast. The ride is nice, no big hills. The clouds look ominous, so we stop to put the rain covers on our gear. We pass through Appledore (love that name) and as we head out of town and hit the open meadow, it begins to rain. Hmmm. No shelter from trees here, just keep pedaling and wiping the rain from my glasses. You know it is not good when you are riding in the rain, then you look towards where you are headed and see a "wind farm"!
Eventually the rain subsides and we stop at the Woolpack Inn, a 15th century inn. Probably named that as every farm around here has a ton of sheep, grazing in the field. We dry out and have lunch, then it is back on the road.
The rain has stopped, but now the wind is our enemy. I am in the lower gears most of the way now. I know why there is a wind farm ahead of us. The wind here is non-stop. Oh well. . .at least it is flat.
We arrive in Rye. It is actually a port town. There is a river that is fed by the sea. The only problem is that during low tide, the river is drained, and all the boats sit on the bottom, about twenty feet below their docks!
There is a lot of activity here: men bowling on the green; lots of antique shops and shoppers; a town market today - a bustling little village.
By the time we arrive at the campground, we have done 28 miles!
Let me tell you about this camping spot. Hmmm. This place is filled with mobile homes that are rented out, or purchased like time shares. There are rows and rows of mobile homes. Probably close to 400. The caravans (winnebagos) and tenters are relegated to an open field that is right across the road from the beach. The wind in this field could knock your socks off. It almost flattened my tent! Once again, it is constant.
After much consternation in setting up in the wind, we walk to the "entertainment center." It has a restaurant (way over priced), a convenience store (closed at 6:00 pm), and a game arcade room (filled with screaming kids). There is also a cabaret/bar that plays host to bingo; then a family-oriented show, complete with a Simon Says dance-along; and some other, late-night entertainment that we didn't stay for.
We turn in about 8:00. We are both exhausted from the wind. It is still blowing. The folks near me are talking loadly and joking. I put in my ear plugs. . .zzzzzz.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Tuesday - June 7
The rain has stopped!
We break camp and wipe down all our equipment. The rain flys, tents and ground cloths were a bit soiled from all the rain and some mud splatter. We are heading for Ashford, just 15 or more miles southwest of Canterbury. We shall follow the National Cycle Route 18, which we spotted near the old castle in town. The sun is out and we are on our way.
We head down the big hill, skirt the center of town and head around to the train station, and the begining of the route. Hmmm. We are heading southwest, but somehow we miss the actual route. Well, at least we are misguided together.
We are back on normal English roads. . .which means hills! The first ones we hit are not too steep, and I am able to stay on the bike and pedal, albeit in the vey lowest gear. As the day wears on, I get more tired and find it more difficult. Eventually, the steep hills I must walk. Cookie, as always seems to manage the hills on the bike. I just need more practice. Aye, there's the rub - more practice means going up more steep hills, which is what I am having difficulty with in the first place! Sheesh!
We eventually find route 18 and follow it into Ashford. We have biked 20 miles! We also find our "Wetherspoon" Inn franchise (same as the King's Head in Salisbury where the food is good, prices are reasonable and there is free wi-fi). A quick, late lunch, a stop at a grocery store and we are on our way to the campground which is about 3 more miles from the city.
After about five blocks, we stop and are not sure of the direction and route. The sight of two loaded down cyclists, looking at the map and pointing in all directions is too much for a local man named Mick. He is also on a bike and recognizes our dilema. We show him where we are going, and like so many other folks who have been so gracious in helping us, he says that we should not head down the highway. He has a better route and starts to explain, but realizes it is a bit complcated.
"I will cycle with you. Follow me." Indeed, he takes us on a path that weaves back and forth across the streets, but definitely avoids the four-lane highway. Mick is originally from Holland, and lives in the area now. He said he couldn't leave two fellow cyclists stranded as he saw us. Eventually, he gets us to about a mile from the campground and points us in one direction as he heads up the road in the other. It should be said that eventually, Cookie and I would have found our way, Mick just made it a lot easier and friendly.
Thanks Mick for saving the day, and making us feel welcome. Dank je!
We get to the campground, set up and cook dinner. We have done a total of 24 miles today, and although the highest altitude we reached was 524 feet, my GPS shows that with our ups and downs on the hills, we ascended a total of 1611 feet!
By now, it is almost 9:00 pm. Time for some internet check-ins, blogging and then to bed, as the sky is clear and the night becomes crisp and chilly. . .but at least dry.
Monday, June 6, 2011
In tents, rain. Intense rain.
I awake at 5:00. It rained all night and is still coming down. I go back to sleep and wake again at 8:00. It is still raining. An hour later, the heavens still have their spouts open. I head for the blockhouse, shower (I suppose I could have done it outside in the rain, but it is a few degrees warmer inside) shave and decide I can be in the tent no longer. I let Cookie know that I am off to the pub for beakfast, and head down the hill. . .in the rain.
Cookie joins me later and we have breakfast while we wait out the rain (good luck). We catch up with each other on our separate adventures of the past two weeks. We laugh and cry together. It is good to spend time with him again. We look at the map, and make plans to head southwest tomorrow for Ashford, or beyond if we can.
Our first stop after breakfast??? Our favorite store - Poundland (where everything is one pound)! By the way, I looked for, but could not find a Euroland or anything similar in Holland or Belgium. We stock up on tchotchkeys and then visit other stores in town for similar stuff that we really don't need.
The rest of the day is spent walking about Canterbury, chatting, telling stories, revisiting some of our favorite places and ending up back at the pub for some dinner and blogging. Except for the rain, a great day!
Tomorrow we ride.
Sunday - June 5
It's windy, very windy. No rain yet, but better break camp and pack first. That done, the wind has subsided a little and I make a quick fried egg sandwich. Yeah, another sandwich in Sandwich, who'd have thought? I pack up the kitchen gear, put the rain covers over all the bags (see pic above) and head out.
I have a map, but I am following a National Cycle Network bike route. These are well marked routes that generally follow back roads or bike paths throughout the country. I really don't need the map, but it is fun to follow along with each turn to plot my progress. One does have to stay alert though. I was coming down a hill and my gears were slipping. I was so focused on the gears that I almost missed a road at the bottom of the hill. I saw it, went past it, stopped and wondered, "Hmm, was that a turn?" Sure enough, it was.
Eighteen miles, two short "walking hills", and two and one half hours later, I arrive in Canterbury just as it starts to drizzle. I stop for some lunch, then head for the train station to meet Cookie, coming from Salisbury. He is not on the train, and I think he may be arriving at the other train station. I decide to head for the campground and get camp started.
The campground is up a steep hill, and I end up walking it, as I have before. When I arrive, I find that Cookie arrived an hour earlier than expected and has already set up his tent. It is raining harder now, and I set up in the rain, a wonderful experience.
We head back to town in the rain and find a pub to have dinner and check our internet accounts. I check in with my sister Sally by phone and she updates me on mother and what's happening at home.
Back up the hill in the rain to the campground. Get in the tent and finish setting up the sleeping pad and bag and it is lights out! It's only 8:30, but there is nothing else to do on Sunday night in Canterbury. The rain continues as I drift off.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
OK - I just couldn't resist! Most of you could have guessed this would happen. I traveled half-way round the world for a joke.
It's a sleepy little village with a lot of midieval history. Actually some of the area goes back close to 2000 years. But today, there is a Town Crier, anouncing the craft fair at the church (I really think he is in tears because of my picture of the sandwich). I visit the fair and then ride around town, taking in the tiny one-way streets and quaint shops.
I ride 3 miles to Richborough, site of the ruins of a fort, originally built by the Romans sometime around 64 AD, when they set out to conquer Britain. There were many itterations of the fort over the years, depending on who was in power, and who was trying to take power. See the pic above: juxtaposition of ancient and modern. . .the remains of the fort with a power generating stack behind to the right, and a modern-day power generating windmill to the left.
I return to town and connect at the Sandwich library, call Cookie on Skype and we coordinate meeting in Canterbury tomorrow. Head back to camp for a short nap while I charge the Tablet with the solar charger.
The campground folks have recommended a fish and chips place in town, so I try them for dinner (I would cook myself, but it is very windy, and I just don't feel like fighting the wind). This is supposed to be authentic, English fish and chips, but when the guys behind the counter converse with each other, they all speak in French! C'est la poisson et chips!
I am back at the pub, in the corner blogging, but pause long enough for dessert, Sticky Toffee Puding with cream. . .yes. . .I am on vacation and off my diet.
Tomorrow: A 15-20 mile ride to Canterbury. Supposed to be windy and wet. Let's hope that at least that I can pack up before it gets wet. One can always hope.
Today is a long travel day: from Brugge to Lille by train; change to Calais by train; take the ferry to Dover; take a train to Sandwich. Whew!
The best part: I was supposed to have a one hour layover in Lille, but when we arrive, I ask the conductor which platform the Calais train will be on. He points across to the next platform and says the train is leaving for Calais right now. He calls to the conductor of the other train and they waive me on - no wait - yea!
Another good thing is that when I got to Calais (France) I remembered the route from the train station to the ferry. And when the ferry landed in Dover (see pic of white cliffs above) I remembered the route to the train station. The brain is still there!
Twenty minute train ride to Sandwich, quick pedal through the town and find the campground. I have a huge pitch all to myself. Do these folks know something I don't? I set up camp (very windy) and head for a local pub where I sup. I ask if there is wi-fi and the proprietor, a very sweet lady, sets me up in a corner and unplugs the cigarette machine so I can charge my tablet. What a pleasure.
After uploading blogs, I stop at the co-op for some eggs, then turn in. . .with ear plugs to block the trains that pass every 30-45 minutes. Good night.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday - June 2
A beautiful, sunny day in Brugge. There are many, many museums here: a museum of folklore; a diamond museum; a chocolate museum. I am looking forward to as many as I can do. I check at the campground reception regarding a grocery store nearby for when I return and will make dinner. "There are two, but they are closed today. It's a holiday."
Oh well. I head into town to see what I can find. As I ride down the street towards the canal, I am aware that nothing is open. Every store, shop, service is closed. This must be some big holiday. I cross the canal and ride around town. Everything in town is gesloten. Shut down tight, museums included!
There are people walking around, they seem to be heading to the town square. I make my way there, and it is teeming with people. Crowds abound as I discover it is some sort of religious Festival of the Procession of Blood. There are chairs and bleachers everywhere in preparation for people to watch the procession, which goes throughout the entire town.
As crowds and processions of blood are not my thing, I decide to head back to camp. As luck would have it, I pass right by the chocolate museum and it is open. Mmmmm. There is a short film on the history of chocolate, and a nice demonstration on how they make those little chocolate candies filled with nuts and other stuff. . .and they hand out some samples too. I am including a picture of chocolate purses here for Sheri.
I head back to camp, do some laundry and putter about. As none of the stores are open, I am relegated to a second night of black beans and rice, this time with a scrambled egg mixed in (don't want to waste it, or take it with me back to England). Thank goodness for my dehydrated foods!
A little blogging, then off to bed as tomorrow is another day of full travel. Goodby Brugge, sorry I missed you.
If you are queamish, don't read this post.
To my sister Sally & my friend Gabby:
DO NOT READ THIS POST!
DO NOT PRINT THIS POST OR SHOW IT TO MOTHER!
Antwerp Central Station - The Rest of the Story
I arrived at the Antwerp station with 20 minutes to change platforms. This is a huge station with many levels, at least four that I can see. I am on the bottom level. I find the lift, but it is not working. I flag down a trainman and he says there is no other lift, but it is OK to use the escalator. "With the bike?" "Yes, it's OK." Hmmm.
OK, I figure, I will just hold tight to the brakes and I will be fine. I forget that the bike is "back-heavy" with the paniers. As the steps begin to rise and steepen, the front of the bike rears up like a frightened horse. The bike starts slipping backward, down the moving steps. I loose my balance. The bike with heavy bags now begins to topple backwards on top of me. I am upside down. I am backwards. I am upside down and backwards. I have no paddle. I cannot do a roll. I am drowning.
I have visions of my clothing getting caught and strangling me, like I am in some strange horror movie. I hear a woman yelling, "Stop, stop, stop!" If there is a kill button, no one pushes it. I hear people behind/below me. I cannot get up. I feel them steady the bike and stop it/us from moving backwards. I catch my breath but still cannot get up. I cannot reach the handrail to pull myelf up. I hold my breath and ride out the moving stairway.
We all reach the top where the bike and I are deposited, like baggage onto a carousel. Finally. . .dry land.
I manage to stand and try to gather myself. I try to right the bike, but it is heavy, and the front wheel has turned around 180 degrees. It takes me a moment to orient myself, and eventually get the wheel around and the bike upright and steady.
There appears to be no damage to the bike. Paniers are still on tight. Brake and gear cables all OK. The spout of my water bottle was slightly open and water has spilled in various places. My shirt and pant leg are wet. How could I have been so stupid? Only a complete idiot would have attempted such a stunt. The embarassment mixed with fear begins to subside as people move on to their own destinations. I do not even have a chance to thank the people who helped me. I never saw them.
I find an information screen and find the correct platform number. I am on level one. I must go up three more levels.
Now a new fear exists. What if I miss my train? How will I get up without the lift. I cannot survive a similar ascent.
I need to take a deep breath, splash some water on my face. I scout the next escalator. How can I run this rapid? What line and direction should I take? Aha! I shall do this backwards!
I turn the bike around and gently "back" on to the escalator, holding both brakes fast and placing my body on the lowest step. I have tamed the escalator! Two more, just like that one and we are home free. I have ascended to the top level, in more ways than one.
Years ago, I ran Badger rapid, and survived the rest of the Big Water of the Grand Canyon. In Belgium, I had a tumble, but I got back up and prevailed over the Big Escalator of Antwerp Central Station.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Wednesday - June 1
The sun is shining! A great day to ride. But first, breakfast. . .my way. Two eggs over medium with hash browns and half a croissant with butter and cinnamon and sugar. No meat today, but, still, a very respectable meal. I take my time packing up, and between the shaver outlet in the shower room and my new solar charger (oh yeah, did I mention that I have another new gadget?) my Tablet and cell phone are charged up and ready to go. I set the solar panel on the back of the bike so it will charge some batteries while I am riding. I do love technology.
False start as I leave the campground and realize that my glasses are not in my pocket, on the top of my head, or on my face. A quick turn around and I find them on the grass. Now I am truly on my way. I set the GPS so I can know the real distance, vs. My wayward path on the way here. I pass by some sheep and this time, instead of Babe's rhyming greeting, I merely let out a, "Baa. . .baaa. . .baaaaa." One small lamb lifts its head and stares as if to say. "How did that sheep learn to ride a bike?"
I have resigned myself to the wind, I just thought it would be at my back. No such luck. Today is market day in Lekkerkerk. I take some time to browse, but nothing catches my eye. I stop for one last apple turnover from the bakery I have been three times. The proprietor recognizes me and says, "Still €1.35." I move on and follow the bike path along the river, determined to not get off course this time.
There are a few spots where I find myself standing for several minutes, trying to reconcile the map with the strange European signs and markers. I have a bit of trouble as I attempt to find and cross the bridge that I had missed on the trip out. A young woman tells me in Dutch to follow her. Again, this one is cranking on her bike. I cannot keep up, but we are on the bridge now and I wave to her with a, "Dank je." I pump across the bridge and head down the path. The woman is waiting for me at a "T". Somehow she knew I couldn't do it on my own. She assures me, in Dutch, that I must go left, even though I think I should go right. I do the right thing. . .and follow her advice. I follow the path and eventually get back into the city.
A note here about the use of the WC (water closet) when you are in public. By this time, I need one in a bad way. I stop at a bike store. I am told they don't have one. So what the heck to THEY do when they have to go? I stop at a grocery store. I am told it is only for customers. "I am a customer," I say. Then I am told, "It's NOT for customers." What do they think I am going to do? Steal the bathroom? I stop at an Indonesian restaurant. I head for the WC and indicate to a woman there that I am going to use the WC. She tells me that if I am not eating, it will be fifty cents. "Fine!" I say. I would have agreed to almost any price by now. As I am leaving, I go up to her and hand her one Euro and say. "Here is one Euro, let the next guy go for free." I did not stay to see her reaction.
By the way, my GPS says I have traveled 17 miles from the campground. This means that with getting lost on the way out, I probably DID do 25 miles! I knew I was tired for a reason.
Heading for Brugge, Belgium. The lady at the ticket booth at Central Station hands me my itinerary and says I will change in Antwerp, and I have five minutes. "This will not do, I have a bike," I reiterate. She redoes the ticket and now I have twenty minutes to change platforms and trains. Much better.
On the first leg to Antwerp, I meet Carlos Lopez who is a Director of Operations for a Honduran company that exports produce all over the world. He asks what I do and we talk about storytelling and the use of narrative in companies and organizations. He is interested and we will e-mail after my vacation. He is quite an interesting man and wants to know what kind of stories I tell so. . .naturally, right there on the train (while I am holding on to and steadying my bike) I tell him Stealing Smells. He loves it and will look it up on Google so he can translate it and tell it to his five children. What are the odds that I would choose that particular train car and we would meet?
After Antwerp, it is another hour and a half before I get to Brugge. I call the campground for directions, and the woman says, "When you come out of the station, go to the right and take the bike path." Not the best of directions, but after another call, I find my way. By now, it is after 8 pm. I set up the tent, and then my table and begin to cook dinner. Two women who are at the tent next to me are watching all this and finally say they are amazed at how organized I am, and they marvel at my table. All they have is a small burner stove and a large-type whistling water kettle. They are heating water and filling hot-water-bottles and putting them inside their jacets to keep warm.
After a dinner of rice and black beans, it is time to turn in. A long travel day ends.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
OK. . .Let's face it, the Dutch clearly don't understand the concept of breakfast. The hostel website says breakfast is included with your room. What they mean is: bread; a toaster; some sort of cereal grain (?); juice and coffee. Where are the eggs, the bacon, the hash browns? Someone forgot to send them the memo!
I pack my paniers (bike bags - love that word), check out, and go to load up the bike and head out. Don't panic, the bike is there. . .but my bike light is gone. Of course, the one thing I did not remove fom the bike, someone else clearly has. Why do people do that? Part of me understands the need for power, etc. But another part wonders why some people never learned, or forgot, their kindergarden lessons: "Don't take things that don't belong to you." And they only took the light, not the mounting. What can they even do with it? Aaaarrrggghhh!!!
I have looked at the maps, both paper and online, and I am ready to head twelve miles east for the campground. A nice, sunny day, but near the river there is wind, a headwind. I seem to be doing OK until I come to some construction- the road and path are completely blocked. There is a sign directing bikes to descend some steps, but I am unsure of the route. As I am contemplating my options, two Dutch folk arrive on bikes and face the same dilemma. They do speak English and I show them on the map where I am going.
"Oh, no, no. You are up here." She points to the map. Seems I missed a turn and a bridge. I must now find the ferry and cross the river. "We will show you. Follow us." Translation: "If we don't show this idiot American the way, he will never find it!" Down the steps, down a dirt path, up some more steep steps (remember, 50 pounds on the bike) then back on pavement for about three miles. These Dutch folk are cranking on their one-gear bikes. I am peddling hard to keep up! We arrive at a very small ferry and I thank them profusely. "Dank je, dank je." Make sure you know the important phrases.
The tiny ferry takes me across the river. Three minutes. One Euro. Priceless.
NOW I know where I am. I can see the route clearly, but am still fighting headwinds. I arrive in the small village of Lekkerkerk. I have been biking for 2.5 hours, but it feels like five. Tired of fighting the wind, I stop at a small cafe for lunch and a short rest. I visit the local grocery store and find a steak for dinner and some nectarines. The campground is only a few miles away.
Camping de Nes turns out to be quite nice. It is not too full, so I have an entire quadrant to myself. Cokes are only 85 cents and the wi-fi is accessable throughout the campground, so I can connect while sitting in my tent! I set up my gear and get organized. I relax for a while and do a little blog and facebook catch up. Looks like rain for tonight, so I set up my table and stove, and cook a dinner of steak, tarragon-lime rice and broccoli with lemon butter. Nectarines for dessert. I do love to cook at camp!
Into the tent, a little more internet catch up, and a gentle rain starts as I drift off.
Monday, May 30, 2011
My friend Dies worries about me. She wants to drive me to Rotterdam vs. me taking the train. I thank her, but let her know that I am capable (sometimes) and have traveled before. "I got to Amsterdam, didn't I?" I have booked a room for one night at the YHA, to have time to blog and get my bearings.
A quick stop at the Jewish bakery. Aha, they are open! I buy two croissants for the short trip (they are the best).
In one hour, we are there. The website said to take the road from the station towards the river. Hmmm. . .I don't see the river. Once again, a quick question of a passerby points me in the right direction. Again, aha. . .I see a sign that says, "Info Rotterdam" - the tourist center (hooray, open on Sunday). I get my bearings, a map, and the fellow hands me a giant chocolate bar. "Free today." Okay, I am liking this place!
I find the Youth (ha!) Hostel, which is just a few blocks away and check in. I am a little surprised to find a young Chinese woman in the room. Hmm. . .now I understand what a "mixed dorm room" means. Okay, I am really liking this place!
I think I will take a short ride, but am intrigued by music coming from the park across the street. There is some sort of huge music, African drumming festival. I park my bike and walk about, have some fried fish and a smoothie. The park is FILLED with people. They are all speaking Dutch (duh) and all of the hand-outs and programs are in Dutch, so I have no idea what the festival is about, but I am enjoying the food and the people watching.
I leave the festival and take a short ride across the bridge. The bike paths here are completely separate from the roads, and quite wide. They do, however, also accommodate motor scooters, which can be somewhat unnerving. I stop at a grocery and buy food for dinner.
The kitchen at the YHA is not the best, but I manage to make a nice dinner of lemon chicken with steamed broccoli. Many of you know that in addition to being a gadget freak, I bring dehydrated stuff, like black beans and hash browns. I have recently found little packets of True Lemon crystalized powder. It really works great (comes in lime too). It is now 9:00 pm. Did I mention that the sun doesn't set until 9:30? It's a bit alarming to realize how late it is because the sun is still out. I do some blogging and then head for the room.
It is Sunday night, but the downstairs is filled with a drunken crowd, I think locals, who are hooting and hollaring. They do, however, stop on the stroke of 11:00 pm as the "quiet time" now begins at the hostel. I am now able to fall asleep next to (well, more like across the room from) my new friend, Sun Mai.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
The weather is gray. I decide to be a tourist and take a canal boat ride. There are so many bikers here, that Dies has advised me to walk vs. ride in the city. I walk to a bike shop along the way and buy a needed seat cover, then head to the central station. I board the "Lovers" museum tour that goes around the city. One can hop-on-hop-off and visit museums and other attractions. The ride is pleasant, and gives one a quite different point of view of the city.
I stop at one museum, but it is under renovation, so many paintings are unavailable. I had hoped to see more Vermeers, but it was not to be. I move on to the Van Gogh museum. There are many wonderful paintings, including Night Watch, but I am dissapointed as my favorite, Starry Night is not there.
The sun has come out and my spirits lift, and I return to the boat and finish the canal ride. Dies and I go to a Turkish restaurant and have little meat balls with rice and humus with the most wonderful, light pita bread I have ever had.
Dies wants to go to a market for flowers and to browse. I have discovered that I have somehow, unknowingly bent the back rack on my bike. A stop at the bike store reveals that it is irreparable and a new rack is needed (are we having fun yet?).
With that done, we bike to the market. I find a heavy chain lock for the bike and buy it. I will need this to guard against theft, a frequent occurance here in Holland.
Tonight, Dies takes me to an Ethiopian restaurant, one of her favorites. We eat with fingers, the traditional Ethiopian way. Our server assures me that certain elements on my plate are "not very picante." For those who know me, this is a red flag, as my no-spice palate rejects half of my dinner. C'est la vie!
Before bed, I gather my gear together and pack as tomorrow after breakfast I head for Rotterdam.
Thursday - May 26
When I was twelve years old, my mother had directed the stage play, "The Diary of Anne Frank." It had a profound effect on me and helped define not only my Jewish heritage, but I belive my sense of right and wrong, my indignity at injustice, and my distaste for those with power but no humanity. I have rallied against tyrany in many forms, and like Quixote, I too, have tilted at windmills.
So, it is here, in this land of windmills that I am aprehensive about visiting the former hiding place of Anne Frank. It is a quite unassuming building along the canal, a mere three blocks from my friend's home. Yet even as I approach it, I can feal the tears begining to well. The photo above shows visitors lining up to enter.
As I take my place in line, I prepare myself for an onslaught of emotions. I can see the images from both that original play I had seen, and the movie, which was so powerful.
Waiting in line, there are five young males behind me joking and using vulgar language. I try to ignore them. Just as we arrive at the entrance, once again, one of them is boorish and vulgar. This time, without hesitation, I turn and face him square in the eye. "Excuse me, but I would prefer if you did not use that type of language in public. Especially in this particular place." He turns silent. I was determined that he would not sully my experience, or this place, that stands as a symbol to so many more than just me.
In the museum downstairs, a short film tells of the war, and the chronology of the eight people who go into hiding for two years. I ascend the stairs. The higher up you go, the stairs get narrower and steeper. My heart is heavy as I stand in front of the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex. The stairs are now barely wide enough for one person and are very steep to accommodate the smaller space.
The rooms where Anne Frank and her family lived seemed not as small as I had imagined, yet for eight people together for two years, they were both sanctuary and prison. Unable to venture outside; unable to walk around during the day, for fear a worker in the warehouse below would hear them and suspect something, they sat and read, and Anne and her sister did their lessons.
I move slowly through the museum and the house, lingering at each section so I can retain the memories. There are more films: Otto Frank, the only survivor of the eight; and Meip Gies, who tirelessly brought food and supplies to them. The original diary is on display, and though its gingham-like cover may look similar to other diaries of other young girls, it holds a history that is singular in its depth.
In the far reaches of my soul, I am somehow connected to this young girl, who suffered through a monumental tyranny, but like many others, did not survive it. Perhaps this experience will prompt me to create a new story. I do not know. At minimum, it will remain with me forever, as it is now, even more a part of me.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday Morning - May 24
A beautiful sunny morning! I take the train to Rotterdam and will change there for Amsterdam. Twenty minutes later, I arrive and find a conductor for directions. The service lift is the only one big enough for by bike and bags. I change platforms and am told the train leaves at 10:28.
There is a train already on the platform at 10:23, and I ask if this goes to Amsterdam. An affirmative from a fellow passenger prompts me to board the train, park my bike in a cubbyhole and sit. Fourty-five minutes later, a conductor asks to see my ticket and informs me that I should not be on this train. It is an express, and there are no bikes allowed. Fortunately, he is in a good mood and does not throw me off! I have lucked out and arrive much faster than if I had been on the "local." There is a very small lift and I must lift the front of the bike straight up in order to get fully in to reach the exit.
Central Station Amsterdam
Just like it sounds, a bustling terminal of trains, busses and trolleys. I have a small map, and with only one querry to a walker and one reversal of direction, I find my way to the home of my friend Dies (pronounced Deece). She lives right on one of the canals.
Worse Than Cambridge - Exponentially!
There are more bikes than cars. They are EVERYWHERE! You must look 4 ways whenever crossing the street, or even just walking along the sidewalk. The riders are bold and have no fear. Cars too. This leaves all the fear for pedestrians. See above picture of bikes lining the streets and bridges of the canals. Also, many cart-type bikes, and bikes with child seats abound.
Dies takes me to a marvelous park in the countryside with a Van Gogh museum. I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous, sunny day and pleasent tour. We return to dine at a nice Thai restaurant.
More Monday - May 23
After school, Linda and I drive to Bury St. Edmonds, sight of a historic abbey where St. Edmonds is buried (of course). There is a lovely rose garden among the many half-shells of buildings raized by citizens hundreds of years ago.
After feeling a bit isolated days earlier, I have decided I need to buy a phone, just for peace of mind. Five pounds for the phone and ten for the sim card. Can't go wrong there.
We return home to a great meal of grilled steak. Linda has been most gracious with the shuttling, sightseeing and meals!
TUESDAY - May 24
I have had a wonderful time telling stories to the children. Today, Linda has a workshop to attend. I sit in the library at the base and blog.
Afterwords, we drive to Cambridge for some more sightseeing. There are bikes and riders everywhere. I think this is a taste of things to come in Amsterdam. I am pictured here, in front of King's college, the largest of the colleges in Cambridge. Also, a pic of bikes lining the street. We have a nice dinner of MILD chicken curry, then Linda drives me to Harwich, the port where the ferry is, and we say our goodbys.
The crossing is a pleasant and uneventful, just the way I like it. Tomorrow I will awake in Holland.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Post for Monday May 23
Linda Hanson's class at Lakenheath RAF Elementary School.
Telling to kindergartners. So much fun!
The eight classes of kindergartners (5 year-olds) are split into groups of two classes each, about 30-40 children in each group. These are children of the US miltary personell on the base. I tell for about twenty minutes to each group, spread out over the day.
I start off talking about how "stealing" is not a good thing. Several children share that things have been stolen from them. "Do you think someone can steal a smell?" I ask, and proceed to tell "Stealing Smells." They all breathe in and smell on cue. They each guess at what the Judge will decide. Will he make the girl pay? They all agree that the judgement fits the crime.
They want a "scary" story and I tell "How Mosquitos Came to Be" where clever Jack kills the blood sucking giant, cuts him up, throws him into the fire and the ashes turn into mosquitos who forever search out humans to suck their blood. They wanted more scary stories, but I shifted gears.
Some heard "The Princess and the Storyteller Frog." Some heard my version of "Something from Nothing" or " The Otters and the Fox." Others made the sounds of all the animals in "A Big Quiet House." All groups got a little bit of magic with a dissapearing red scarf.
For each group, I finished by guiding them in telling a "group story" where they chose the characters, actions and dialogue. The best of the group stories was about a mosquito named Quito, and a lizzard named Lizzy. They walked to the market where Lizzie bought some shoes. Quito looked down at the shoes and said, "Those shoes are lovely!" I have all the children repeat her words, then - I seize the moment!
"All of the boys, raise your hands - say that line again."
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
"Young men, you will need to remember that line, and say it often in your life. Say it again."
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
I just couldn't resist.
Post for Sunday - May 22
The London "Eye" ferris wheel. Picture taken from a very windy Waterloo bridge across the Thames.
On my way to just north of Cambridge to visit my friend Linda. The train goes from Salisbury to Waterloo station in London, about an hour and a half ride. I have brought along two pain aux raisin, fresh from the bakery (called a pasty). It is still warm, and almost melts in my mouth. Mmmm. This alone would be reason enough to travel halfway 'round the world!
I have a bit of unease. I am striking out on my own for the next week or so. This is a little unnerving. For the past two years, I have traveled with Cookie and relied on him for directions and "leading the way." Now, I will not have the advantage of his experience and knowledge of the area, or the safety of traveling together.
I must keep pushing back the images of me, stradling my bike on the side of some highway in the middle of nowhere; cars whizzing by me at autoban speeds; dark, cold and rainy; power drained from my cell phone and tablet; not speaking the local language or dialect; feeling like The Little Match Girl. Pehaps that sounds a bit extreme, but you must remember I have a very vivid imagination.
I arrive at Waterloo, hoping it will not be mine, get a map and ask directions to King's Cross. I walk outside and am immediately disoriented. Which way is up? Eventually, I am able to see the bridge and find my way onto it. The wind is fierce today. I am concened about time. I have one hour to get through the city to the other train station. Will that be enough? I seem to be making my way. I confirm my route with a passerby and after forty minutes, arrive at King's Cross. This train only goes to Royston, then busses will take us the rest of the way to Cambridge as they are working on parts of the track.
We arrive at Royston, and must first get to the OTHER PLATFORM, which means STAIRS. A quick query reveals that I must exit the station and ride my bike around the block to the entrance. There, I am happily informed that my bike can go underneath with luggage. Hooray! The Little Match Boy will not be stranded in Royston! (I am now resolved that I MUST buy a cell phone that can be used here.)
Linda is there at Cambridge to pick me up. We head for Lakenheath RAF base. This is a US run base where she teaches kindergarten. We sign in and head for the commissary to pick up some groceries for dinner. I am stunned! American food brands and products are flown into Germany and then trucked to bases in Europe and England. Since it is a US base, they all pay in US dollars. Amazing!
She takes me on a short tour of the area, then we head for her place and a wonderul home-cooked meal. I give her a little assistance with her computer and Facebook and we plan our schedule. Tomorrow I tell!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Cookie bought a new bike last year, so he has two now. He is trying to sell the old one at the market, but no one seems interested.
Market day, "Pound-a-bowl!" That's the cry of the fruit and vegetable mongers in market square. Some have 4-5 plums in a bowl, other vendors have 10-12. Still, the ballyhoo is the same. Hawking their wares to passers-by; some purchase, others stop to talk, and others speed by, intent on getting somewhere. Today I am a slow walker. No place to be, no place special to go, just enjoying the ambiance and the people.
The festival is actually going on all over the city. Often, street performers display their talent: jugglers, magicians, and even strange, small "skits" can be seen. Today, there are three young ladies pushing carts with tea service on them. They are quite jolly and talketive with the crowd. Then they burst into monologue, song and dance, all about tea. Yes, that's right, the national beverage, tea.
It's all quite in fun. There is a man hidden inside of a large pot on one of the carts who pops up to the surprise of the crowd. Their little "pastiche" goes on for about twenty minutes, using unsuspecting audience members as foils for their frivolity. As they exit down the street, I ask a festival representative if they are a local troup. She tells me they are from Winchestor,and the festival actually "commissioned" them to create the piece. Oh my. . .I am thinking, with that kind of attitude, I could make a bundle here!!!!
The rest of the lazy day is spent helping Cookie hawk his bike, "How about a bike for the little one there. He'll grow into it." No luck.
I also e-mail back and forth with my friend Linda from Cambridge. We met on the plane coming back last year. She teaches kindergarten at a US military base. We solidify plans for me to train there Sunday and visit, then do some storytelling at the school on Monday.
We finish up, as always, in a pub (the Cathedral Hotel) charging our electronics, having a bit of desert, and, oh yes. . .a spot of tea.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday - May 20
Today we leave the YHA and head for the campground. After breakfast, we organize all of our gear and pack the bikes. This is always amazing to me. We have a TON of gear...well, 50 pounds each. I have two paniers (bike saddle bags) a front handlebar bag and a "trunk bag" that sits on the back rack. I am not sure how I do it, but I manage to get everything in those bags. Oh yeah, and my backpack.
Now the bike handles quite differently with all that weight! Just geting on and off can be very dangerous. We head out, and as it is a little early to check in at the campground, I make a suggestion to Cookie. "Why don't we take the circuit to Woodford with the bikes loded and do a REAL tune-up." Damn. Cookie says "Yes." What was I thinking?
It was a good ride. I did have to get off and walk up one hill, but I expected that. All in all, a good ride.
We arrive at the campground and are welcomed by the hosts, Wendy and Nigel. They have become old friends of "the Americans". We set up tents in our usual spot and then it is back to town. Cookie is volunteering at the festival this afternoon and this evening for the big opening. I run some errands in town and then we meet up at the Kings Head for dinner.
The festival opening is a marvelous suspended acrobatic act from Argentina called Voala! I have uploaded a short video, but it really doesn't do justice to the act. There is nothing quite like gorgeous ladies doing acrobatic feats. Oh yeah, the guys are OK too.
Back to the campground and the first night in the tent. Ahh. . . love the sleeping pad and bag.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The sun is shining! We have breakfast and prepare our bikes. Cookie cleans up his, I attach all my tchotckkeys, front and rear rack, side mirrors, water bottle cage, and GPS. Looking good!
The children are leaving and all wave to me and thank me again for the stories. (see pic of us)
We head for the center of town, run a few errands, window shop a bit, then we are off on our tune-up ride.
Did I tell you that I LOVE MY NEW BIKE? Our ride is twelve miles round trip to Woodford and back. A pleasant ride with only a few small, little hills. This is the first time I have done this ride and not had to get off to WALK up the hills. I LOVE THIS BIKE! It is a beautifull day and we are riding. Nice and easy riding.
Here is a picture of Cookie riding ahead through a tunnel arch of trees. Later we encounter a pack of lazy sheep. "Bah ram ewe, bah ram ewe, to your breed your clan be true!" They do not reply to my bleating entreaty. I can't understand why.
We return to town refreshed and delighted at tuning up. The afternoon is spent working on the bikes, and I am making a camp table for Cookie. I made one for myself last year, my own design, weighs about one pound, is adjustable in height and packs small. Cookie has the advantage of getting a new one with the kinks worked out.
Dinner for me is a lamb burger and green beans with sauted red onion. The lamb is quite good here - home grown. Mmmmmm.
The Festival starts tomorrow. Cookie is a volunteer "steward" this year. He will be working several of the venues. The opening tomorrow night purports to be a marvelous show of airial acrobatics and performances. You can trust that I will report back.
I love it! So I went to a different bike shop this morning and they had a great bike. It was somewhat more than what I saw at the other shop yesterday - more money, but way more bike. So I bit the bullet and bought it. So happy I did. It will take care of me for the next 28 days! Will post a picture later.
The whole incident reminds me of the bike I bought in Phoenix just over two years ago. Three days after I bought it, I parked it outside of a bike store near my home. After browsing for five minutes, I looked outside and it was gone! I stormed home and barely held back my tears. The next day I went back to REI and purchased an identical bike. Needless to say, the salesman was perplexed. I call this new one, "The Twin."
Don't have a name for the one here in England yet. We'll see.
Another long day, walking back and forth before the bike is ready. Going to Poundland (the Brit's version of the Dollar store). One has to be careful here. The pound equals $1.62 American. One can get lulled into thinking it is "just a dollar." Then, before you know it, 20 pounds actually equals $32.40! Tchotchkeys don't come cheap!
Having some difficulty uploading to the blog. My new Tablet is small, but appears that it has some limitations.
I am off to bed and will post again tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Just as I physjcally crashed after the weekend Slam and party for our friend Paulette, my good luck ran out at the train station in Salisbury. My bike was nowhere to be found. Either it was stolen, or removed by security for being there too long. In any case, I need to buy a new bike. BTW...Cookie's bike WAS still there. I had put mine in a different location...bad move. C'est la vie. A trip to the bike store uncovers a possible choice. I will sleep on it (the decision, not the bike itself) and go back in the morning.
On to the grocery store to get food for tonight, and for tomorrow's breakfast. We are at the hostel for.two days and can use their kitchen to cook, and also use the fridge. I make lamb burgers and Cookie has a veggie/pasta.
Two years ago when l first came to Salisbury, I told stories to group of children staying here at the YHA. Well, there is another group of eleven-year-olds jabbering away in the dining room. Once again, I identify myself as a "storyteller" and offer my services. "Are you available at 8:45 in the day-room?" "I am," says I, and proceed to finish my lamb burger and contemplate which stories I might tell. What good fortune to have found an audience!
There are two dozen students from St. Catherine's Church of England Primary School who sit and listen attentively to "Stealing Smells", "The Otters & The Fox", "The First Picnic on Earth", and "The Princess & The Storyteller Frog." We take a picture for posterity, they are off to bed, and so am I...all with smiles on our faces. How I love storytelling! (pic coming)
Monday, May 16, 2011
One of the best decisions I made was to produce the Slam. I was overjoyed at the turnout, and my expectations were far exceeded. My thanks to all who participated!
Now it is time for another adventure - biking in England and Europe. My third summer there promises to be the best. In addition to the UK, I plan to visit Amsterdam, Belgium and France. Many of you know that we leave our bikes locked up at the train station. I have every confidence they will be waiting for us again, albeit a bit sooty.
As always, we shall start in Salisbury, site of a great Arts Festival. We stay at the hostel for two days, then head for the campground. That's as much as I have planned at this time. The rest will unfold as the days pass and we make decisions on the fly.
My eyes (and the rest of me) are tired and I shall attempt to sleep a bit on this first leg of the trip.
Monday, April 11, 2011
This is my third summer traveling to England with my friend Carl Cooke (Cookie). We bicycle around, camp out, meet interesting people sometimes have mystery food, and have great adventures. This year, I will be going for four weeks!
In addition to our "base camp" of Salisbury, I hope to visit Amsterdam, and then bike & train south through Belgium to Brussels. Then over to Calais, ferry across to Dover again, and perhaps revisit Canterbury. That was one of my favorite spots last year. We may also try to get over to Sandwich (yes, birthplace of the sandwich, and historical home to the Earl of Sandwich, inventor of the ubiquitous treat.). It might be fun.
Once again, I will be posting daily, or as often as I can with stories, pictures and perhaps some videos. Those who wish may subscribe to this blog, check in periodically, or watch Facebook for notifications that I have posted.
I am in training mode now and am trying to bike a little every day in order to get into shape. Oh, the knees. Oh well, better having some pain now than wait till I arrive and have a big shock like the first year.
And now…the adventure has already begun.