Phase Two Ends

Day 158: Southampton England, Sunday September 24th

The gang gathered at the Docks Cafe for breakfast. It was nice enough to eat outside. We headed back to the playground, but spotted an open Charity Shop on the way. Here Deb found perfect black shoes and a sparkly blouse. We celebrated with fun on the swings.

Will and I went to the Sea City Museum, which has an excellent Titanic exhibition, as well as a lot of really great model ships. The ladies caught up to us in the museum’s gallery of old-time arcade amusements. Harriet had her palm read by a machine that seemed to know her.

Sadly, this last event of our tour had to come to an end, as they had to catch their train back to London. We said our goodbyes, and Harriet was generous with hugs.

We still needed one important thing: bags. Without some kind of carriers we could never manage all our gear in one trip. We will not have the bikes with us when we board (supposedly), so unlike the cruise over, we can’t just strap things back onto our wheels. In a gigantic supermarket we began our search, while also picking up some things for dinner, but the lines were outrageous. The place was mad. We bailed out.

Deb wondered if a “Pound Store” would have what we need. Sure enough, the first one we checked had some woven plastic bags that would do the trick. We bought four.

Back in Woolston we picked up food at a much saner Co-op. On the walk home, there were two horses tied up outside the local pub.

Now we’re wrapping things up. Tomorrow, we check out at 11, ride into downtown Southampton where we plan to wait an hour over a craft beer at a brewpub called the Dancing Man. Boarding begins at noon, but we learned at the Florida end that everybody wants to get on right away. Hopefully the terminal will be nice and calm if we wait until about 2 pm.

Distance: 0

$

Joy Ride

Day 154: Newport to Newport (loop) England, Wednesday September 20th

What’s better than a ride without the camping gear? A ride with just the essentials. Staying two nights in Newport meant we had a day to ride some of the island that we hadn’t visited yet.

The first section took us along the Medina river, heading north, then east on quiet roads towards the Fishbourne ferry that we will take to Portsmouth tomorrow. It was a very pleasant ride, but Appa lost a bolt holding the front rack to the fork. We couldn’t find it, but Deb jury-rigged it using an ivy vine. Jungle repair! This was good enough to keep the rack from making an awful clattering noise as I rode.

It got quite hilly as we worked our way over to Nettlestone, but it smoothed out some after we turned south.

When we had worked our way back to the Red Squirrel trail again we took it north for a few kilometres, then up onto gravel roads to get to the quaint village of Godshill. We met a cycletourer on a fully loaded bike and he helped us with directions. He was camping around the island, which made us feel a little like wusses.

In Godshill we went to the Model Village. This completed a sort-of triumvirate of miniature tourist attractions for us: Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg, Legoland in Denmark, and now this.

It opened in 1952 when a Mr. Dam built a model of the Isle of Wight town, Shanklin, in the Old Vicarage gardens. It’s been expanded since then by a family that first purchased the site in the late 60s. My favourite thing about this Model village was that it had the model village in it, complete with tiny tourists looking at the buildings.

We retraced our steps to the Red Squirrel Trail and rode back to Newport where we couldn’t resist going back to the Hogshead. This time the special was “pie and a pint” and the game was Manchester United vs Burton Albion. It was a hopeless cause for Burton, a team who plays in a stadium that holds less than seven thousand people. Soccer is weird.

Distance: 50 km

$

Durdle Door

Day 143: Weymouth England, Saturday September 9th

Nicely rested after our rain day, we set out for a big hike (about 17 km) on the “South West Coast Path”.  It started on the beach, heading north around Weymouth Bay where it becomes the “Jurassic Coast”.

At one point we had to walk through a little amusement park called “Fantasy Island”. After that we passed the beautiful, old Riviera Hotel.

It was mostly sunny, and as we climbed up onto the cliffs we were treated to great views.

When a bit of rain caught us we ducked into a nice pub called the “Smuggler’s Inn”. We thumbed through a book of movie trivia.

We were about a mile farther down the path when Deb noticed that I didn’t have my backpack. Sigh. After retrieving it, and finally getting that mile back, it started to spit again. We waited this shower out under a tree. The sun returned and we walked on, stopping for little tubs of ice cream at just the right time, for a real downpour hit and we were able to hide in the little shop. Again, it didn’t last, but the ground did get pretty muddy.

It also started to get a lot rougher. In places the trail was just a muddy track. Still, those views!

I think it was just after we passed a little pebble beach called, ahem, Scratch Bottom, that things got a bit crazy. We had three or four tricky hills. One of which was so steep that we did part of it crab-style. If there had been any other option other than a long hike backwards, we might have bailed.

When we finally reached Durdle Door, a natural arch at a beautiful sandy cove, we felt that we had truly earned all that sunny splendour, unlike all those people who drove there and walked a paltry 1 km.

We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the view, but decided against going down to the actual beach. Our legs were tired! Instead we hiked up to the car park, and then on to the campground. We stopped to buy a postcard and to confirm that there was a bus stop at the main road. When we found the stop we realized we had only seven minutes to wait for the last bus to Weymouth. We were very, very happy we’d decided not to go down to the beach.

The bus driver looked about fifteen, and he drove like a teenager (fast). It was an entertaining, bumpy ride back to town.

We felt we had earned a pub meal, but all the places near the beach seemed overpriced or a little fancy for our muddy selves. We started back, thinking we’d have a Tesco pie, but we chanced upon a small pub with its menu in the window: homemade pies for less than six pounds. We had to sit at the bar, as the place was full of locals, but we didn’t mind and the bartender was a nice, chatty gentleman. The pies were slow to arrive, as they really are homemade, but they were definitely worth the wait. A perfect end to a memorable day.

Distance: 0 (23 km hike)

$152

Roman around Dorchester

Day 140: Dorchester England, Wednesday September 6th

Dorchester has a set of walks around town. We did all four of them.

Thomas Hardy is their most famous son, and there’s a statue of him, and many buildings connected to his life and writings.

There is also a really interesting Roman Townhouse, that has been partially reconstructed and covered in glass. We spent awhile checking out the mosaics and marvelling at Roman ingenuity.

Where the Roman town walls would’ve been (there’s only a small section remaining) there are pretty tree-lined walking trails, and we sat on top of what is left of their amphitheater and watched a dog fetch a frisbee for awhile (almost as good as a chariot race).

The amphitheatre was actually built on a pre-existing neolithic henge site known as the Maumbury Rings. Another significant neolithic site was found just down the road and excavated in the 1980s. I wonder how many people using this underground grocery store car park realize that the big red circles mark the locations of timber post holes from a massive neolithic enclosure?

As we are nearing the cruise home, Deb has started eyeing things in charity shop windows. Here she found a very pretty dress, and later she went back to try it on while I browsed in a comic shop. Success! We celebrated her find in the Convivial Rabbit a “micro pub” which had no taps, just cask beers and bottles. It was tiny, and had no music. We chatted with a local enjoying a cider at the table next to ours.

We finished the walking tours and stopped at a more traditional pub. Finally we made our way back to Poundbury.

Distance: 0

$116 + dress

Avalon

Day 137: Glastonbury England, Sunday September 3rd

After our success with the Jane Austen audio tour in Bath we decided to follow an online walking tour of Glastonbury. It wasn’t great, but it did take us all around this strange little town.

The sacred Chalice Well, the freaky Tor, and a long association with Avalon and all things King Arthur has attracted a lot of mystics to the area. There are dozens of shops selling every New Age gewgaw you can imagine, and most of them have really excellent names, like Star Child, Elestial, and Cat and Cauldron. 

There’s some good street art too.

After our tour, we stopped at the King Arthur Pub for a pint, and there was a pretty good guitar playing singer performing.

Then we were ready to climb the Tor.

We walked up the steeper of the two paths, and it was a little harrowing, with a gusty wind blowing. The views were truncated, but the mists added to the magical atmosphere of the place. We saw one couple furiously scratching lottery tickets in the tower, but I don’t think the gods smiled on them.

The hike down was a bit easier and we finished off with a final ale at the Rifleman’s arms, where a guy was stuffing coins into the e-jukebox and playing a selection of really good songs from the 80s and 90s.

Distance: 0

$105

Wisely and Slow

Day 130: Long Itchington to Stratford-upon-Avon England, Sunday August 27th

When we woke up sunlight was streaming into the tent andwe were starting to cook. I’m not complaining; it was fantastic. We ate breakfast at our picnic table in short sleeves. We had found summer at last.

It was a short ride west on cycle route 41 to Royal Leamington Spa, which is a posh little place. We stopped and took a break in a big park full of picnickers and families out for walks.

A little farther west we hit Warwick, which has a strange break in the cycle route. We discovered that it was likely because the streets are narrow, busy, and steep. I think the Sustrans people responsible for UK’s cycle routes just threw up their hands and said, “There is no good way through this town, we’ll just let the cyclists figure it out for themselves”.  We pushed our bikes on the narrow sidewalks for several blocks. Even then, there were places where crossing the street was tricky. We also popped into a pub.

Deb found us the 41 on the other side of town, and we were now headed pretty much south to our destination: Shakespeareville.

Our Airbnb in Stratford-upon-Avon was pretty fancy, with a big, bright room and washroom all to ourselves. No kitchen access though, and though our hosts seemed nice, we didn’t really see much of them.

We walked into town, stopping at a Tesco to buy sweet potato pies and a discount sandwich for dinner. The city was full of people out enjoying the weather.

They don’t have food trucks here, just food boats

We toured the streets, and took pictures of Shakespeare’s birthplace. At the Garrick Inn, a pub which claims to be both the oldest in Stratford, and haunted, we had a cask ale before walking back to the B&B.

Distance: 

$

Duke and Baron

Day 115: Brightons, Scotland, Saturday August 12th

Our hosts kindly gave us a lift in the morning, dropping us off in Falkirk at a big park called the Helix. The showpiece of this big green space is the Kelpies. These are massive, yet somehow delicate, stainless steel horse head sculptures. It was a nice day, so we were able to take nice pictures of this stunning art.

It was a long, but good walk back. The guest labrador, Charlie, was there waiting for his owner to pick him up. He kept us company while we blogged and planned.

Later, Charlie went home, but we had puppy Campbell and friendly Evie to keep us company.

Distance: 0

$78

Drummed out of Town

Day 114: Glasgow to Brightons, Scotland, Friday August 11th

We took the scenic route, riding backwards along the River Clyde, then all the way back up the Kelvin to pick up the canal route towards Edinburgh. The weather was a bit spitty, but the wind was from the southwest, pushing us along.

All the way out of the city we could hear bagpipes and drums, drumming us out of town, I suppose.

We rode beside the water, practically coasting, for hours. Deb kept waiting for it to get less pretty, but it didn’t.

We stopped at an old Inn called the Stables for a hobbit-style pint, and again at the Falkirk Wheel for pictures. Unfortunately the wheel wasn’t doing anything while we were there, and it’s likely much more impressive when you can see it in operation, lifting or lowering boats from one canal to another.

I was enjoying the canal ride so much I led us astray, and we had to rely on Google Maps to get us to our Airbnb. Google seemed to want to have some fun with us, sending us on a long climb up a gravel path in the woods, then under a rail bridge with a ledge barely wide enough for our fat, loaded bicycles.

When we did finally arrive, we were warmly welcomed by Justine and three very excited dogs. My crabby mood was obliterated by Campbell, a five-month-old spaniel.

Distance: 54 km

$120

Pipes and Pints

Day 113: Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday August 10th

It was a short walk from our Airbnb to the Glasgow Green. We stopped to admire the terra cotta celebration of colonialism that is the Doulton Fountain. I love that the “Canada” figures include a trapper holding a moose head with a beaver at his feet.

Behind the fountain is the equally ornate People’s Palace, with a museum of Glasgow inside. We spent some time in there, and then walked beside the Clyde and up into Kelvingrove Park. A big bagpipe festival and competition was almost set to begin, and pipes and drums could be heard practicing everywhere. In the park we stopped to watch a couple of troops rehearsing.

We went to the Kelvingrove gallery and museum, picking out a few exhibits we were most interested in seeing.

On our way back across the city, we stopped at the very nice Shilling Brewing Company where we sampled and enjoyed their pizza and a pint special. We capped our tour with a stop Drygate Brewery, just down the street from our room.

Distance: 0

$136

Stumpy

Day 108: Pitlochry, Scotland, Saturday August 5th

We walked out and around the big dam in Pitlochry and spent some time in the visitor’s centre looking at the displays and watching a movie about Hydro power in the Highlands.

Later we walked up to the Moulin Inn, which happens to also be a brewery. It was very busy, so we had to take stools at an occupied table. At first we kept to ourselves, but when I got up to get another round, Deb got social. It was an English couple and their friend, all out for a long-weekend motorbike tour. The friend, “Stumpy”, was former military; he and I connected because he was a big Rush fan. We talked about bikes and Brexit, about our tour and where they thought we should go; we talked about differences between the English and the Scottish, and between the new world and old.

 

Distance: 0

$147