Austen-tacious

Day 135: Bristol to Bath England, Friday September 1st

What a nice way to begin our final month of touring. After breakfast we talked with Jasmine and Dan in their lovely little garden, telling them how much we liked Bristol, and why. The neighbour was barbecuing something that smelled delicious, and before we left his son, who was dressed in a very smart robe, presented Dan with some food for Eid.

It was a short climb up to the Bristol/Bath cycleway, and soon we were enjoying the flat and beautiful trail.

We stopped at a grocery store to pick up lunch, and stopped again in front of a pub to fiddle with my mushy brakes. It was sunny and warm, and we had time to kill before we could check in at Bath, so we had a leisurely pint too.

A little farther along the cycleway we noticed tracks, and a small train platform that appeared to still be in use. Soon we reached Bitton Station, on the Avon Valley Railway. There was a steam train idling, and lots of people enjoying a little park. This short railway (3 miles, and expanding), we discovered, is a project undertaken entirely by volunteers who re-laid track in the 70’s, and restored the station and platforms, and now operate it as a recreational train.

Our Airbnb was on a hill overlooking Bath, and we ended up pushing the bikes a ways up sidewalk on a busy street. Pedro, our young host, seemed a bit quiet at first, but soon he was giving us good advice about how to best walk into town and what to see on the way.

After cleaning up we followed his directions and walked up into Alexandra Park where we got a great view of whole city.

From there, we took a path down to the streets below.

Deb had downloaded a Jane Austen walking tour onto her phone. It started at Bath Abbey and wound all through town. At each stop we listened to readings from her books and historical information about her life and the buildings. It was a great, free, way to get a feel for the city. A highlight for me was strolling the secluded, gently rising Gravel Walk while listening to a passage from Persuasion, where (spoiler alert) Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot of Persuasion stroll when they are finally reconciled.

Deb loves Georgian architecture, and Bath is like a giant Georgian amusement park. All the buildings are built out of the same white stone, and it feels like a place frozen in time.

Distance: 25 km

$104

Backwards to go Forwards

Day 125: Maybole, Scotland to Peterborough England, Tuesday August 22nd

We got out fairly early; too early to say goodbye to Chris and Shaun, who were still sleeping. Julie-Anne helped us with our gear and saw us off.

We needed to get back to Ayr to get a train, but we decided not to go over the mountain on cycle route 7, opting for reasonably quiet “B” roads instead. It was much, much better. It also meant we rode through Alloway, with the Brig 0’Doon, and the birthplace of Robbie Burns.

At the train station, Deb got us tickets. It turned out to be more complicated than we’d hoped, as the train between Edinburgh and Peterborough that we were going to take had no bicycle spots available. We’d have to take an earlier train, which meant going to Glasgow first, then walking to a different station for a train to Edinburgh. These first two trains would have some room for bikes, but you can’t reserve a spot, which made us nervous.

The first leg went smoothly, we were the only bikes, and we got seats right next to them.

We pushed the bikes on the busy Glasgow streets and reached the other station with time to space. The next train came, and this time the only other bicycle was a folding one.

Edinburgh was simple, because we had reserved seats, and reserved spots for the bikes.

It was strange seeing so many places we’d cycled go flying past through the window. The feeling that we were going backwards would not go away until we were in Newcastle. It would have felt much better if there had been a train from Maybole going south, but everything goes out of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We were very happy to get out of the stuffy, noisy, and rather smelly (a guy ate a tin of fish) train car. It was a ride of only about 2 km to our Airbnb, and we immediately appreciated the warm air.

On the doorstep to greet us was Selma the cat. Hannah, our host, welcomed us and got us settled. Her husband Keith rode home from work not long after we arrived. They were great and we talked for quite awhile. Hannah is Swedish, and had an interesting perspective on the area and England in general. Their house was very nice too, and they made us feel at home.

Distance: 17 km (bike) Lots more by trains

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