Here We Go Again…….2014 Edition

Friday 27 June 2014

After an absolutely luscious night of deep sleep, we awoke to a beautiful view DSCN7140from the Stark Penthouse, deep in the heart of London.  Though we could not hear the music, we are sure we saw the chimney sweepers scurrying from the rooftops.

Our host fixed us a bikers breakfast (eggs, back rashers, toast, melon etc., etc.), as if we are refueling from  a weeks worth of 100 mile rides.  Still working out the cobwebs from the red-eye flight, as well as the bugs in the camera equipment, so we missed the meal photo.

Finally made it out of the door by eleven for a leisurely tour of London.  “Leisure” by most people’s standards would be to hop on a double decker bus and watch the sites go by.  Taking a tour led by Morgan, is much like Jerry leading a tour……on bike, at breakneck pace in heavy traffic coming from every direction (all from the wrong side of the road); no problem!  We were looking forward to seeing all the sites that London is famous for, with all her pomp and circumstance; so naturally this was our first stop.photo-12

Silly idea, but it made for good laughs.photo-gir.

We quickly adjusted to the mass hysteria that constitutes traffic in any big city,DSCN7012taking pictures as we rode and enjoying being back on the bikes;

DSCN7015 stopping only as necessary for important picture taking.DSCN7073

Yes, we did manage pictures of The Tower Bridge,photo-4 taken while standing on The London Bridge, the Shard,DSCN7061St. Paul’s CathedralDSCN7040

a city street dating from 1293, DSCN7056though we believe this fountain is a bit more contemporary.  We stopped at the remains of Christchurch Greyfriars, DSCN7034creatively redesigned as a living garden in perfect harmony with architecture of the former Wren Church from the 13th century.DSCN7036

There were sites to see everywhere;DSCN7029 I missed whoever had just walked by, but pretty sure the boys got a good look.DSCN7050

While covering a good bit of the famous sites, British color DSCN7063and character were never far away.photo-11

We wheeled past Sherlock Holmes’ homeDSCN7005 and Maxwell Smart’s office.DSCN7038

It was getting late, so we flew by the Eye of London DSCN7091in order to reach Big Ben on today’s tour.DSCN7093But as you can see by the clock, all we had time for was a quick kissphoto-5

and photo of Parliament photo-13before our date with the Queen.

When the boys realized that “tea” with the Queen did not include adult beverages, we did a quick circle around Buckingham Palacephoto-7 and scurried into London rush hour traffic past Horse Guards Parade DSCN7117and back to the Stark Casa.  Our seven hour, 19 mile tour was a great introduction to this city of nine million people.

London Tour, Thursday, June 26

Friday 27 June 2014

Grey skies but still a comfortable 70°, as we began our late morning errand running.  But first a delightful conversation with James.DSCN7141  We skipped the Rolls Royce and Bentley crowed streets and walked our bikes along the commoner filled sidewalks of the real London.  DSCN7144Batteries, cell phone and various other connectivity possibilities purchased, we dropped down to the Regent’s CanalDSCN7145 for a beautiful stroll DSCN7149to a traditional lunch of Fish n Chips (just for you, Doc) and Mushy Peas.DSCN7159

We biked through Regent’s Park DSCN7022on our way back in order to catch the U.S. play futbal.  Though we lost the match, we had a fabulous day of touring courtesy of Jerry’s new BFF.DSCN7166We will try to squeeze in one more day of touring, before our wonderful hosts kick us out.

London Walking Tour, Friday June 27

Saturday 28 June 2014

Just for the Record, for the last three days we have (both) slept in to at least 8:00 a.m.  I will miss this luxury, but we certainly are enjoying it while it lasts.  After another Incredible breakfast, we head out to see just a few more sites of this fascinating city.  We took a quick trip on the original line of the World’s Oldest Subway (1863).IMG_0002

First stop, hot nutsDSCN7172 on the steps leading to The Tower of London, DSCN7173where Jerry spent a moment with Julius Caesar Augustus.DSCN7175We circled the outer wall of the moat,DSCN7182keeping an eye on the archer (shout out to Mark)IMG_0014admiring the wire sculptures representing some of the many wild animalsDSCN7186 that provided a layer of protection for the royals of years past.  Fun Fact: In the 1800’s the remaining animals were moved to the World’s Oldest Zoo (London Zoo-remember the Giraffes?).

We joined a tour led by the fabulously funny, Jim,DSCN7192a member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Warder Extraordinary (i.e.: a very entertaining tour guide).  He told of the Bloody Tower, the Ravens DSCN7210that are both the life blood and curse of the White Tower DSCN7202 and showed us the original Watergate, DSCN7195

There were tall castle walls,DSCN7219 more animals,DSCN7225 gallows and the magnifieienct Crown Jewels.  Thought the timing clever to first tell of the hundreds of decapitations and then advise you NOT to take pictures of the Jewels…..duly noted.  We did manage the obligatory photo with a BeefeaterDSCN7237and a few more of inside the castle walls.DSCN7214

We ended up at the foot of The Tower London for more picture taking. IMG_0037 Walking through 700 years of history had worked up quiet a thirstIMG_0049 and hunger.  DSCN7261Rested and re-fortified, we continued along Queen’s Walk enjoying the views across The River ThamesDSCN7252   walking past the quiet unremarkable looking, but Internationally famous London Bridge.  DSCN7277

The various layers of architecture from a several centuries was as varied and interesting as the people that stroll the London streets.  We hopped on a bus DSCN7299for a quick ride to Trafalgar Square,DSCN7290 regrettably shrouded in tents set up for the weekend’s festivities.IMG_0062

We’ve enjoyed immensely three days of gorgeous weather, quite atypical.  Tomorrow is calling for torrential rains and flooding; and though that does not seem like good biking weather, we think it best to separate the boys DSCN7272as well as not over stay our welcome from our glorious host and hostess.  We will miss our evenings with you, Morgan and Julie, as well as all the wine we shared; hope to make it back to you in a couple of months.

 

 

Day 1. Saturday, June 28 – London to Harlow, England

Saturday 28 June 2014

Last night, after hours of deliberation (head northeast or southwest) and contingency plans for rain, we decided to wake up and figure it out.  The morning was crisp, but sunny!  So we downed a cup of coffee and toast, packed up the bikes and decided to get a jump on the promised torrential rains.DSCN7310 Thankfully, Morgan was not tired of us (yet) and led us out of town.  Or maybe he wanted to make sure we were far enough away that we would not return.  Whichever, we were happy to have his London navigational skills.

The Saturday morning streets were bustling with cars and shoppers taking advantage of the roadside markets. DSCN7316 It took us about an hour to find our tow path, DSCN7322leaving the busy city streets behind.  Riding along the canal with the occasional lock DSCN7324reminded us of so many of our other enjoyable tours.  We enjoyed an hour of quiet countryside while keeping our eye on the dark clouds quickly building behind us.DSCN7340We had a wonderful chat with David,IMG_0066 who was keeping a close eye (that he shared with us through his lens) of baby falcons.  It was not long after we lost our beautiful tow path, DSCN7331that we lost our way.  Our progress slowed dramatically when we found ourselves deep in the countryside on well used tractor paths.photo The ruts became so deep we were concerned we were going to loose our duckies……

DSCN7343then the rain hit and we slowed to a crawl; mud caked so thick to the bakes of our mud guards our wheels would not turn.  Not sure how long it took us to emerge to hard packed dirt then pavement, but while the road surface improved the weather did not; but forward progress was once again being made.  The 75° temps we had reached in the sunshine had dropped to 54°.  Ten miles down the road, as we reached the outskirts of Harlow the rain began to slow.  We biked into town and said our good-byes to Morgan who still needed to bike back to London.  We took a break for lunch and to figure out where to go from here, as the rain began to fall, again.  Cold, wet and feeling a bit defeated having only biked 31 miles, we decided to find a hotel, regroup and put some miles in tomorrow.  Our spirits were lifted after dinner when we happened upon hundreds of people getting ready for a midnight walk/run.  They partied and dancedDSCN7352

to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  Frank Sinatara’s New York, New York serenaded us as we strolled back to our hotel with a smile on our faces.

Day 2, Sunday, June 29 – Harlow to Colchester, England

Sunday 29 June 2014

It was a cool morning and the wind made it quite crisp; but we were happy to trade the rain for wind, even if it was in our face.  We quickly dropped on to a bike path and a tunnel of trees, DSCN7358protecting us from the wind.  Many twists and turns led us from path to country roads, DSCN7371which is where we met Doug and Rob; IMG_0068we traded stories while enjoying their British humor.

The countryside was gorgeous and the weather glorious.  DSCN7365

We passed lovely manor homesDSCN7361 and small villages and many stone churches.DSCN7373For most of the morning, we traveled the exact route that Tour de France will be following for Stage 3 (July 7); look for these pictures on the telecast. DSCN7384 The love of biking was evident by the numbers we saw on the road and various other displays.DSCN7374

Too soon for lunch, but could not resist the photo.  DSCN7386By noon the wind was howling and the skies had greyed, dropping the temperatures ten degrees.  We pushed on for another hour and found the perfect place to take a lunch break,DSCN7396conveniently across the street from the Chelmsford Cathedral. DSCN7403 Our lunch break was the same time as yesterday with no more miles, due to our late start.  As we began to push off after lunch, it started to sprinkle,DSCN7410 but today we were prepared.  We donned our rain jacket, rain gloves and foot covers; we were not going to succumb to the same fate as yesterday.  Apparently, all the rain gear held the rain off; even with the overcast skies and occasional sprinkle it was a beautiful ride.IMG_0074  We felt like we were going in circles on these country roadsDSCN7418and barely navigatiable paths (note the flooded road on the right, which IS our course),IMG_0079  had it not been for the ever changing scenery.  But the day got to be long.  At five we entered a small town and desperately searched for a place to stay, but none were to be had and it was getting late; the next town was 10 miles down the road.  Thankfully, as we are about to push away for our last stretch, someone stopped and suggested we take a different path that led straight into town in a few less miles.  We pushed hard to get to a stopping point.  With no reservations anywhere and not knowing exactly where hotels were, we asked someone walking by.  The skies opened up and poured on us, as the gentleman politely offered directions and suggestions on places to stay.  By 6:30 we were checking in, exhausted after our slow 60 mile day.  Thankfully, there was a good restaurantDSCN7436 right down the street as we badly needed fuel. DSCN7434 Tomorrow “we” are promised a shorter day.

Day 3. Monday, June 30 – Colchester to Framlingham, England

Tuesday 1 July 2014

The sun offers a warm and welcoming invitation to the day, if you are not in the crisp breeze; the 60° temps can go to 70+ easily in the sun.

We started the morning with a two mile uphill, that you only realize by the scream in the legs and not the look of the road; then we dropped into a beautiful park.DSCN7442  Stopping after a four mile circle, we decided we were lost, evvn though we’d been here before. DSCN7441 Thankfully a young man offered directions  and a recommendation for a straight route to the next town.  It would not have been our desired choice of road, but it had been a half an hour since we’d left our hotel and we had not made any progress.  Though the road was busier than our route 1, we were still able to see pretty sitesDSCN7450and swans (just for Bobby T).IMG_0081

About mid-day we stopped for coffee in the port town of Ipswich; the skies quickly greyed, temperatures dropped into the 50’s and the wind picked up; we had showers and sprinkles that lasted for about an hour.DSCN7466The sky then cleared to a Chamber of Commerce picture perfect day.  DSCN7501The small villagesDSCN7473 and countryside were spectacular, IMG_0088which we were thankful for, since the day once again proved to be long; thankfully a far cry better and a bit shorter than yesterday. We stopped in the darling small village of Woodbridge,DSCN7474 still trying to figure out which way our course wanted us to go; marking our second circle for the day; not all bad considering all we get to see.IMG_0084Sooner or later we will get the hang of this bike touring in England.

Churches were everywhere; this one was the perfect place for the Duckies to restIMG_0086 and restore some energy.  Enjoyable as the ride has been today,  down narrow country roads,DSCN7507 we were ready to be there; thankfully we had reserved a room, so we knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  We had no idea, however, how fabulous this little town.DSCN7532 the century old churchDSCN7525 and hotel would be….DSCN7509…a claw foot tub…… a wonderful luxury after checking in at 5:00.DSCN7511But the evening would not be complete with dinner, starting with Brie and Broccoli soup, DSCN7529 in a comfortable local pub.DSCN7527

We’d been on the bike for over five hours, so with bellies full, we headed for bed.

Day 4. Tuesday, July 1 – Framlingham to Norwich, England

Wednesday 2 July 2014

The city square was bustling with the set up for the Tuesday morning market, photo-3beautiful from our bedroom windows.  We began our day with a fabulous breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs on a toasted bagel photoand fabulous toast and jam.  I usually don’t get that excited with breakfast, but this was outstanding.

There was no sun or wind, yet a comfortable 60° as we pedaled away from our quaint town, noticing the castlephoto-4 that we apparently missed on last evenings walk.  Even in the grey skies the countryside,photo-6 farms and manor homesIMG_0101 were beautiful.

We rolled up and down through twists and turns as tight as a zipper.  As much as we were enjoying the scenery on our (postage sized signed) National Cycle Route 1, we also liked to make forward progress, we needed a new plan.  In Harleston, after biking 17 miles to a ten mile destination, we stopped to sort things out;photo-8 thankfully, Jim also stopped to assist.  He offered a couple of route suggestions, a couple places in town to possibly buy maps, as well as a place to eat in the next town.  Unfortunately, our map quest was not fruitful, but I did get a lesson in how to properly say Norwich (strong G, not ‘ch’).photo-10  Just short of the town of Bungay, a car drives by with a friendly honk and pulls to the side of the road; it was Jim.  Though we were not (yet) lost, he had retrieved a couple of maps and tracked us down to offer them to us. photo-14 We were delighted, as we had yet to find these kind of maps in the various bookstores and petrol stations along the way.  We bid our goodbyes again and headed for a little lunch.  Jim had mentioned the place was a local’s favorite and frequented by bicyclists;  this should have been our first indication of size.  Wanting just a light lunch, I opted for the sausage and onion pie, “assuming” it would be like a slice of quiche with a parsley garnish,photo-16huge but quite tasty.  Just as we were finishing, we met another friendly chap, Joe Skipper, a professional triathlete.joe  We discussed various routes and must-see scenery.  And as much as we would have liked to stay much longer, the food in our stomachs was luring us to complacency.  Joe was kind enough to lead us to our route then send us on our way.

The roads we were now on were a bit busier, but we still managed to roll past countryside,photo-13marketsphoto-11 and homes hugging the road.  photo-17We could see Norwich in the distance perched upon a hill and spilling into the valleys below.  We had no idea how large it was.  We biked through town,photo-18 along the water’s edge for a bit until we found a place to stay for the evening; properly positioned beside the stunning Norwich Cathedral,photo-20 founded in 1096 and set upon 44 acres,photo it is one of the finest complete Romanesque building in Europe, with the highest Norman tower and largest monastic cloisters in England.  A sight to be seen and unexpected treat.  We did a small walk around our neighborhood, as the long days and mileage (48) were starting to take their toll.