Sept 1, 2014 – London
The plane touched down at Heathrow about 9:30 am. I slept not a wink on the 9 hr flight, but did see two good movies that had been on my list. The first apprehension of the trip slid away as my bike, first off even before any bags, seemed to be in good shape. The second apprehension, getting into London, proved as groundless. A new, to me, express train which was almost empty took me to Paddington station. At the station I removed the bike from its plastic bag and put it together. My big duffel pack was loaded onto the carrier and I pushed the load to the 72 QT Guest House; my tires were a little too low to ride, and it was only about a 15 min walk. The small single room with a shared bath is just fine, and given that my bike, unloaded, is very light the one set of stairs that I carry it up is no problemo. I share the room with my bike, the shower with people I have not seen.
When arriving at the starting city, for a trip like this, I have a number of things to do or buy, and these seem always to crowd out the tourist oriented objectives that I have. I picked up my train ticket to Penzance at Paddington so that was dealt with quickly. After settling in, I stopped in at the Bayswater Arms for a snack, steak and kidney pie, and my first pint of bitter. Two ticks on the to-do list. I kept on walking, in the light mist, into Notting Hill, to have a look at this tourist area, but basically in the hopes of finding a good bookstore for a road atlas. I stopped into three bookstores, including the one frequently by Hugh Grant and Julia Rogers. Apparently it is on the tourist trail. No luck, and I missed the chance to get a sim card as well. I had a bit of a crash in my room and then headed out for an evening walk about in Kensington and Hyde Park. It was now late in the going home rush hour; it was gradually turning dark and the mist was now a light rain, but neither stopped the runners, cyclists, duck feeders, parents with young children. I hit my second pub of the day and then had a long nice sleep.
Sept 2, London
A full English breakfast, and then I headed off on my bike into a basically sunny day. Two blocks gets me into Kensington Gardens and I merged into the commuter bike traffic, on what they call tariff free paths, riding through Kensington, Hyde, Green and James Parks. I stopped to take a few pictures and followed bike commuters as they wound their way around a few traffic circles connecting the Parks. Once close to my first objective, Stanfords, I had to head through a few blocks in the centre of town, but that was also pretty painless, with bike lanes painted on most roads, and cars and buses pretty used to cyclists. I spent two hours in Stanfords; it is a three story map store that has no end of travel books.
I bought my Britain road atlas and a cycling book, but could have bought a dozen books that would be useful on this trip and numerous others that I would love to have. A few doors away I got my sim card and around the block I bought a light weight cycling jacket, as the one I was going to bring is still hanging at home. From there I continued cycling to the Globe Theatre and was able to pick up a ticket for tomorrows play. They were sold out on the internet but I got a returned ticket I guess. I had Haddock and chips and …wait for it… a pint of bitter at a pub on the Thames and then spent a pleasant couple of hours at the Tate Modern, before cycling leisurely, this time in the evening commuter traffic, back to my guest house. I had my best pub experience at the Churchill Arms, close to my guest house. I spent a lot of money today, but got rid of all my to-dos. My first two days in London, have been thoroughly enjoyable. I love cycling here, and I forgot, or never noticed before, how beautiful this city is. One more tourist day before leaving.
Sept 3, London
It was a little cloudy as I headed out on my bike for a ride around Regents Park before a couple of hours in the British Museum. I basically only did the European part spending most of the time in British History. They have done a lot of expansion and modernization since I was last here. Riding on, back down to the Thames I had street food along the river front and on to the Globe.
The Globe is a pretty good re-creation of the original Globe that Shakespeare would have held his plays in. It is open air, with three levels of rough plank seating and an open court yard for standing room. My seat was in the middle level. I really enjoyed “Comedy of Errors”, based on an ancient Greek play. Twin brothers with twin brother servants, separated as infants come in contact in Ephesus where there is much confusion and many errors about who is who. Loads of action. I could not tell the difference between the actors playing both sets of twins; exceptionally well done.
Coming out, the comedy turned to tragedy (do they all?), as my bike was gone; the lock, neatly cut, and my helmet were lying on the ground. The security people told me they would have taken the bike into a secure area; nice to know that now. I walked for about an hour as the emotion boiled within me. I then figured out how to take on the rent-a-bike system and rode back to my guest house. The bike is gone, no doubt the work of professionals. The question is now what to do. I spent much of the evening mentally trying out possibilities, on the internet searching answers including used bikes, really in hope that something would occur. I did’t sleep much.
Sept 4, London
I was not getting onto the train this morning, no refund on that ticket. I cancelled my reservation for Land’s End. In the end after many mind changes I bought a train ticket for the Lake District for tomorrow. I now had more maps and guides to buy, so it was back to Sanfords. At least this was enjoyable. I bought better shoes for hiking; the ones I have are ok for short walks, but now I hope to do longer ones. My struggle is now finding places to stay; it is still high season in the lakes. I have one night booked only, and so I guess I will need to take my tent. The pack I have is more of a duffel bag, and so carrying a heavy load very far is not very attractive. By 10:00 pm my plans were set, at least for tomorrow.
I ended up using the rent-a-bike system for almost my full 24 hrs (2pds). You can take a bike as many times as you wish for periods less than 30 minutes. I must have had 8 or 9 trips, as I flashed around much of London putting together my patch job of a trip. I am now pretty comfortable about getting around here. There are 1000s of these bikes at stations everywhere. You stick your credit card in a machine, it checks to see that your 24 hrs has not lapsed and then gives you a code and off you go, sticking the bike back in a rack near where you are going. It is a very well used system. In hind sight (wouldn’t it be nice) I should have left my bike in the room and used this system. Oh well, it is off to the lakes for a while.