Penultimate

Guards! (Monday) Went to see the changing of the Guards at the Palace, got there 30 min early and it was already 2 deep around the fence. By the time it kicked off they were 6 deep and all over the place elsewhere. The show as a bit of an anticlimax, but the whole thing was a waste of time with the people in front (and back) holding cameras over their head to try for that good shot. Only by leaning over and being tall did I get any shots or see much.

Wandered along the serpentine and had some fun hand feeding the squirrels, they are too cute to be little rats and these ones have been trained by the tourists to come when you bend low with hand out.

Then off to the Museum of London, a good free museum with lots of stuff that is worthwhile, including a 1660’s leather fire bucket. The trouble is that now seems to be the time where school groups o to these sort of things and I was swamped by a horde of smallish kids and frazzled teachers.

Holmes (Tuesday) Went to the Sherlock Holmes museum,  not very good and cost 6GBP, a few rooms with a Victorian “bric-a-brack” with some vague links to the stories. They missed many of the touches that would have made it much better, ie the VR in bullet holes over the fireplace. The shop attached to the museum was only just smaller. In all a place to miss.

Lunch with Sue in the Scarsdale pub, nice pub and a good conversation wiled away a few hours as the weather turned nasty with showers and clouds (12 deg.) , looks like winter is here. I feel a little burned out on being away and think I picked just enough time to be away as my feet are sore from walking about town. But then again if I had more money to blow and time to stop for a few days I’d be happy to go on if it wasn’t so cold.

The Last Day (Wednesday) Took a black London cab to Paddington station to leave my bags there. I like these big cabs easy to get into with all your bags etc. Then off to the bigger London museum in the Docklands, A good museum with walk through displays ,mainly about “London the port” worth the run out here to see.

Heading back into town and seeing what I can before picking up bags etc

 Did a stroll to see the “London Stone” and through the national gallery, very nice but full of more adult school groups, all very serious and earnest teachers.

So I headed off and go the train out to Heathrow and now with bags and self booked in having dinner.

Back in Sydney 06:45 on 23rd or Saturday

Thoughts for the last day

Worn out – shorts 2 (the bike seat rubs a bit), Underwear 3 (ditto), jeans 1, belt 1, socks 2, Shoes 2 ½  (walked and ridden) to knees 2 (mostly) feet (ditto), money mostly (LOL)

Good times (too many to count)

Pictures (3000+) not all good (many of tags of previous pic)

Places seen, too many to recount fully

Times locals say “you’ve seen more of Britain/England/Scotland than I have” 100+

Memories 113 days worth

Souvenirs, lots, some of you will get some, some not, cash, my carry space, imagination and the getting them home unbroken etc limited them.

Riding in the UK

Much more bike friendly than Oz, the big bike paths are worth the ride mostly but sometimes are more into the ride than getting somewhere, ie  a path down into a nice village , up and down a steep hill where the road runs along the hill line. Or a loop path with only one train station on it.

You see much more from the back of a bike than car or train

Invest in good maps, see the Sustrans site for them or try Tourist info places.

Buy a compass, it helps with a map

You don’t have to cover the 50 miles a day the bike sites say is a good run. Stop and see the sights, that is why we travel, not just to cover ground.

Oh and remember that at the bottom of the hills is often a gravel, so slow down and be safe.

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Longitude 00:00

Greenwich (Thursday) Good day at the Royal Observatory with the new planetarium and watched the ball drop at1pm. There was a crowd even with the weather hovering around 12degrees. The parkland around the observatory is nicely coloured and has squirrels that you can get close enough for a photo. The only down side was no photos in the Observatory.

Had a look around the maritime museum while I was close, but a one with little on show of what one assumes should be a massive collection, maybe it’s scattered over the older museums. There was a no pics sign on much of good galleries here  but it is worth a stroll around.

Woolwich (Friday) I went to the gunnery museum at the site of arsenal set up by Charles II. A big museum with lots of big guns from 1450’s to the modern stuff, very interesting. The big guns include some “pick up” over years, some very odd and decorative.

It is a long way out past the Thames Barrier and I walked over to see it closer. Big and impressive but I can’t help thinking that in a few years when the sea rises there will be a lot of people with wet feet. From there the nearest tube station is at the O2 dome, a odd place basically lot of bars and cafes with a stadium.

St Pauls and the Globe (Saturday) Woke up late and headed off to find the weather has changed to a Sydney winter like cold and there was track work on the tube (sigh). After I worked out what the announcements meant and found that there was no hand out for the public, I had to ask, I found my way around the works.

St Pauls, the pictures don’t do it justice but you won’t see any of mine as no cameras zone. It is worth it’s iconic status and is one of the few places where even the horde of “Touristi” (an obscure group rather than a nation who think a doorway is the best place to stop and talk about where to go next in a ½ dozen languages) didn’t interfere too much with my enjoyment of the place. Walked the 550+ steps the very top and bumped my head as much as in any castle I’ve been in. Still very nice and well worth the look , the audio guide is very “preachy” though.

Walked over the M Bridge (as seen in harry potter) to the Globe theatre, the only thatched building in London (legally)  since the great fire in 1666 (I think) good tour had to have a word with the guide about the nature of time, in the 1600’s when he commented that one of the Bards plays ran 3 hours when the  intro says 2, sun dial time and that the day was 12 hours long summer or winter. Being the end of season, no plays on but of a Goethe in German.

Busman  (Sunday) After all the walking and stairs of yesterday ended up with sore feet and Knees I went for the Bus tour and river tour . Costly at 25GBP but restful after a days of walking (and the 550 step up and down in St Pauls) A good and a cure for sore feet without feeling you’ve wasted a day.

Not all the pics left cable in room.

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Day at the Museum

Centre of London (Tuesday) Headed off to the cabinet war rooms, and Churchill museum. Took a little finding but worth the time and cash if you like the whole WWII thing, but it got crowed after midday and the normal tourist who can’t listen to a audio guide and walk made the small corridors annoying and at the same time a little realistic as to the cramped space due the war. The Museum was well set out and took the most time but a lot of the displays are set too slow for my reading speed, so I was  tapping at the next button a dozen times before it was ready.  Or they run the whole set up off very old or a single computer and that is the delay factor.

It was a short stroll from there to Westminster Abbey, far too pricy considering Canterbury is the same size, age and ½ the cost. They also don’t allow photographs which is a pain. The place is full of history to the point of being overcrowded and cluttered. This may also be due going through the place in the middle of the afternoon and the tourist crowd.

Ducked across London to pick up a bike bag to take my ride back home rather than go through the hassle of selling it. Tomorrow I’ll find some museums that are cheaper or maybe do a bus or river tour.

Day at the Museum (Wednesday) Got up and finally pulled the bike down to fit in the carry bag. Now I can get it on the tube and the plane home, with only a minor cost i think.

Spend the day at the Science Museum , walked there (about 2km) and with the time I took to get the bike squared away it was about 11am but I only left a 445pm . It is a good museum if you are into tech with a huge flight, space, ships and steam halls. It would be best to think of it as the old powerhouse but good, bigger and modern.

Tomorrow up early and off to Greenwich as there is a cluster  of things to see there.

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All railroads lead to London

Bloody Trains (Sunday) Thought I do one last, little ride from Canterbury to Whitsable, along the “crab and winkle way”.  Eight miles along the old railway line and a fast trip into London and the hotel, but no more track work even though I checked on the rail web site.   25 miles one way on road but with the wind or 20 with all but 2 of road into the wind,  I rode into wind as you know I hate traffic. The path was good along the sea wall past a Roman light house/fort that became a Saxon/Norman church. Then the train that took the long way to

London stopped 1 station short due to ”unexpected failure” , a strange term but it mean I had to ride to along to the using the very poor directions from the staff.

Got into the hotel later than I wanted but I here and now have 8 ½ days to see London. The trouble is that many places have closed as it is the end of the “season”. But I will see what I can!

Tower Day (Monday) Headed off to see the tower of London, and so it seemed had everyone else, the ticket lines took 20 minutes to get a ticket. Good thing it’s 18 acres and the crowds were mostly spread out but it was still a little crowded. I’d have grabbed an axe from one of the displays if I’d gone in “main season” as one of the yeoman warders said the numbers were than more than double last month.  The tower is a great place and took 5 hours to see everything from the Ravens to the very sparkly crown jewels.

Walked across Tower bridge and found that they have opened the walkways on the top of the bridge giving good views to the river. The tour also includes the old steam engine rooms that raised the bridge. The city is costly and the Tower cost 18.70 GBP and the bridge 7GBP. Good thing I saved on some days earlier in the trip.

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Pilgrim

Dover to Canterbury (Thursday) The ride across Kent followed parts of the North Downs Way and was very pleasant but for someone playing silly buggers with the route markers with two turned 90degrees. This put me out of my way by a few miles but the locals are friendly with one stopping their car to give me directions when they saw mw looking at my map.

Canterbury looks good with lots to see and I have two days here, the room is good and in the middle of the old town making it easy.

Canterbury (Friday) Got to the cathedral at 9 hoping to beat the tourist crowd that still lingers but found there was a service for the St. George soc. The tourists are not the mobs,  et al, there are mainly school groups and older people. Iv’ e found the best time to go on the things that are ‘educational’ is before 1030, about 1200 before they get moving and when they eat.

Spent the day going to the local museums and walking the walls before heading off to a late lunch about 2pm. The ruins of thee castle are under repair but walking through the unlocked gate and turning up in the middle of a group of suits and the worker talking about the works allowed me to walk around and take some pics before being asked not to go inside as the site was “unstable”. The guy in the suit and work boots (I assume the engineer) was pleased with a “no worries, I’ll stay back”. I walked for  a few hours and felt hungry. I started with a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of very tasty local cider, two more and I decided to go back the room for a little nap late in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, I’ll see the cathedral and take a ride on the rowing tour along the river.

Canterbury (Saturday) Got to the cathedral at 10 beating the crowds , they started to file in as I left about 11 30. There was a line about 10m long as I left. The cathedral is HUGE and very impressive from the 12th century stained glass to the crypt and the 14th century main building.  It is a place where you can get an idea of how a medieval person would see the building and the awe it could inspire.

The river ride was a touristy trip but fun and you get to parts to the city you wouldn’t normally see. The Westgate was open on Saturdays and is worth the 1.30GBP for the experience. The town is maze of small street, alleyways and paths to hidden gardens and interesting places.

Off to London tomorrow, riding the Crab and Winkle way to Witsable on the coast and then the train to the West Brompton. A cheapish Hotel for 10 days before I fly out.

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White Cliffs

Hastings to Dover (Tuesday) had a disturbed night as the Historic Pier about 150m away burnt down in the night. This was despite the rain that kept on falling all day, heavy enough to soak me through in the few 10’s of meters from the station.

Dover (Wednesday)   The rain cleared by the time I walked to the castle, a very steep climb up the hill . The castle is many layered with the ditch, bronze age , a Roman lighthouse, Saxon church (left from a fortified town), Norman castle(s), Napoleonic rebuild and tunnels , WW1&2 buildings and tunnels with a final refit of tunnels as a nuclear command/government post in the 60’s.

The tunnels that you can see are fitted out as WWII but you’re not allowed to take pictures. The lower levels are off limits due to the lack of escape paths if there is a fire. The tunnels are worth seeing but will be closed til the middle of next year due to the rebuilding of the WWII command centre.

The roman light house is a ruin but you can see how must have looked from the remains. Next to it is the Saxon church, repaired in the 1300’s and 1790’s, partly restored to the Saxon style in modern times. The main castle was refitted to hold troops in the Napoleonic wars but this was mainly added buildings to the inside of the walls. The castle has been restored to roughly Henry II and is a good walk through. The rest of the  castle complex from the medieval tunnels to the Admiralty lookout that commanded the coast guns and aircraft guarding the straits. From the walls I could see France.

I walked out along the jetty to get a good pic of the White Cliffs as the tour boat wasn’t running. Then into the local museum where they have the remains of a Bronze age sea going boat. In all a good day.

Depending on weather I might ride to Cambridge as I’ve found a reasonable map.

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Rain on the Sunshine Coast

Eastbourne (Saturday) The heavy rain of Friday, I was happy that the morning was only overcast. Rode up to Pevansey Castle, rode, walked and climbed. The nice bike path ended and there was a sign pointing to a footpath to the castle, so I headed down the path. This path lead down a grassy path, then across stiles (6) and fields for about a mile before ending in a church yard near the castle.

The castle is a Norman keep in a roman fortress, smaller Roman fort than Portchester but a bigger castle. The castle is mainly 12th century and withstood 4 sieges and has the remains of them with piles of trebuchet stones recovered from the moat. The missing parts of the Roman walls are from this time but it is still very impressive.

Found a better way back and dropped into the Redoubt, part of the defences along the coast against Napoleon. There a 76 Montello towers and this central fort all built at great speed and cost by a builder called Hobson, the start of the phrase ”Hobson’s choice” meaning none. Hobson brought up all the bricks and brickworks before the contract was given, so no one else could do the job. It is a powerful fort right on the seaside

When I came out it started to shower and mist. There was a sign “Eastbourne Heart of the Sunshine coast”. So much for the Sunshine coast!

 Hopefully it will be finer tomorrow.

Eastbourne to Hastings (Sunday) decided to ride with the gale and head do the 5 miles to Pevansey, as easier then the mile to Eastbourne station. Once I got  there I found out the station was a weekday only stop , so had a nice ride through the old fen lands to a station about 8 miles away. Almost beat the rain to my Hotel and the rest of the day was wind and rain.

Hastings and Battle (Monday) The Weather is overcast so I got the train (with bike) up to Battle and walked around the Abbey. Very good walk over the battle field and the ruins of the abbey William ordered built on the site. Only part of the battleground is close to the same as the at the time of the battle but there is enough to get an idea of the steepness of the slope.

From there I was going to ride out to see a castle about 5 miles away but with weather looking like it might rain I decided to look at the 1st castle William built or what it became in Hastings. A there is a nice 1890’s funicular railway up the cliff and the castle is a picturesque ruin but most of castle fell into sea with a great storm.

Down on the beach is   two little museums, of wrecks and fishing. Interesting and free. The Wreck museum has the remains of what looks like a American Civil War blockade runner or slave trader as they were carrying loads of old French muskets, gin and Brady, machetes and French perfume. In all a good day.

Tomorrow off to Dover.

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