Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 63--On a London Mission

Now that I had a sense of London, I went about my second day with a much more organized plan. I even wrote it out! 

I started out by riding in to the city again on Route 23. As I was getting ready to go this morning, a family asked me how it was to cycle into London. I told them to take 23, and they would have no problems. Not only is it well signed, but it's even marked on the road.

Because I was a little earlier today, there were definately more cyclists. I have to be careful, because I tend to zone-out, and start following the cyclist in front of me instead of watching for the route signs. I almost missed a turn! 

This time, once I got to CS7, I continued off 23 on my own route to get me to Hungerford Bridge. It's really a pedestrian bridge alongside the train bridge over the Thames. There are actually two bridges on each side of the train bridge. They are also called the Golden Jubilee Bridges.
To the left is the train bridge, and on the other side is the other pedestrian bridge.

I had to carry Betsy up a few stairs to get to the bridge, then I walked her across. The bridges came to Charing Cross--a train station, and tube station. My purpose for going that way was because Charing Cross is just a short distance from Trafalger Square. 
Trafalger Square

I wandered around the Square taking photos. 
The National Gallery and one of the four lions at the base of Nelson's Column.
Nelson's Column
The biggest cobalt blue rooster I've ever seen (to give you an idea of the size, see the pigeon?)
One of the "Performance Artists". He appears to be sitting in mid-air. 

I decided, since The National Gallery was free, I would go in. First I found a bike rack to lock Betsy. Then I found the toilets. Then, because it was a good time for a mid-morning snack, I went across the street to a cafe.
My maple almond pastry.

After all that, I went into the Gallery. Although it is free, they ask for a 4£ donation. I didn't have to pay it, but I thought that was reasonable. 
This is the only photo from inside as photography is not allowed in the gallery rooms. 

The National Gallery is not overwhelmingly huge, so I felt I got a good look at the paintings that interest me (mostly the Impressionists). Because I couldn't take photos, I bought 5 postcards of 5 paintings I saw. I exited out the Sainsbury Wing because I had parked Betsy just outside those doors (I felt pretty smart noticing that!). 

Next up on my itinerary for today was Piccadilly Circus. This is the Theater District. I saw "Wicked" was playing. 
The big screen (like in Times Square).
The Criterion Theater

From Piccadilly, I followed Regents Street, walking, as I was going the wrong direction on the one-way street, to the Duke of York Column. Here I had to carry Betsy down some stairs. I got onto Horse Guards Road and rode by the Horse Guards Building and Parade (the buildings also house the Old Admiralty Offices, the Household Cavalry Museum, and the Scotland Office).

Right next to these buildings is #10 Downing Street. Of course, you can't actually go on the street itself, but I could get a photo through the fence.
#10 Downing Street (Maggie's old house)

I rode along the south side of St. James Park on Birdcage Walk (I love the names of the streets here) toward Buckingham Palace. When I got to the palace, I noticed people were all lined up along the road. First I thought it was a line to maybe go in the palace, but then I noticed it was on both sides of the road.
Then I thought, I wonder what they are waiting for? I guess I'll wait too. Pretty soon, I heard drums and music. It was just after noon, and time for the parade of the guards (don't know if that's what it's called, but I'm calling it that).
It was interesting, because there were two groups. One went this way, and another went the other way around the traffic circle. As soon as they had passed, the traffic continued through the circle as if nothing had happened. Good timing on my part to get there just in time to see the parade!

Here's a shot of Buckingham Palace
There are several gates each named after a country belonging to England. This is the Canada Gate.

From the Palace, I rode along the "Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk" between Green Park and the Palace Gardens on my way to Hyde Park. 
The Wellington Monument
One of the Gates into Hyde Park (the Apsley Gate)

I rode along Rotten Row (such a name!) to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.
It was packed with kids playing in the water.
I can't help but think she would have liked it that way.

As it was nearing 1:00, and I saw there was a cafe near the fountain (The Lido), I decided to have some lunch. It was a nice place on the lake (Serpentine Lake). 
Yum!

There were lots of people in pedal boats on the lake. There was a small swimming place, but most of the lake is for boating (non-motorized).

I just looked at the map, and realized I could have continued on into Kensington Gardens, and to Kensington Palace (maybe next time). Instead, I rode across the Serpentine Bridge and through the park along the other side of the lake. 

At the end, there was this gate.
I think it was the Queen Elizabeth Gate.

I worked my way back toward Westminster. Along the way at the Stable Yard Gate, there were these two lads guarding the gate.

One would think they would be quite warm, and that chin strap would get very annoying. Also, that's a mighty sharp looking knife on that rifle. I think, however impractical the uniform looks, they mean business!

As I got closer to Westminter Bridge! I got a photo of the front of Westminster Abbey (only the back yesterday).

From there I went across the Westminster Bridge, and worked my way back to Crystal Palace. This time I followed 23 the whole way back. 

I had a much better sense of where I was today. I find I do pretty well riding in the city. I can tune out all the cacophony of noises and just pay attention to the traffic and the signs. I think riding in London would freak some people out, but I actually enjoyed it.

Tomorrow I already know how to get to Route 4, so I should have no problems getting out of the city. Also, I have determined I am still ahead by a couple of days. This allows me to take three days to get to Harwich. And, I can go to Amsterdam! I won't take a day off there, but it's not too many miles from Hook van Holland to Amsterdam, so I will have some time to look around. Woo Hoo!

Parting shots for today...
First, smiling, but then I thought I should play the part.
I should have pulled my chin strap over my chin!











Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 62--I See London, I See...

Well, I don't see France...and I wasn't looking for any underpants!

Day 1 of cycling around London was a success! I had been told three ways to get into London. David and Joanne (the Australian couple I met at Oxford) said, "Just follow the #3 bus." Janey said, "Don't cycle into London. Instead of following the #3 bus, just take the #3 bus!" Gillian, in Reception at the Caravan Park, said, "Just take London Cycle Network Route 23. It will take you right into the city." So, that's what I did. It was actually much easier than the other two options. The route was on mostly quiet streets. It was 7 miles from Crystal Palace into London. 

First I stopped at a post office and sent home the souvenirs I've been collecting. It was almost 4 kg! It should arrive home around the 28th (Tim or Nolan--it will need to be signed for--it's two boxes.) It cost a bundle, but I probably would have been over the weight limit to fly which also would have cost me. Besides, now I can get a few more (uh... Don't worry, not 4 kilos!).

Since the post office was right on the way, I just continued following 23. When I got into the city, and started seeing signs for various places, I stopped following the route. I turned to go to London Bridge. On the way, I realized I was a little hungry. I stopped at Borough Market, the oldest Fruit and Veg Market in London.
I got some fresh squeezed juice (the juice stand is to the left), and a piece of bread pudding. 

As I'm going across London Bridge, I can see what I thought was London Bridge to the right. The real London Bridge is just a bridge. The other, more famous bridge, is the Tower Bridge. I decided I would ride there. Of course, it's called the Tower Bridge because it is next to the infamous Tower of London. I thought about going in, until I saw it costs £22! Riding around it is good enough!

This is St. Thomas' Gate, also known as the Traitor's Gate.

I walked along the Embankment to the Tower Bridge. Here's a photo from the other side with better light.

I couldn't just take photos, and not go on the bridge! So Betsy and I made our way to the bridge itself.
We just went to the center, and came back.

By then it was about 12:30, and time for some lunch. There are a million places to eat, but I had decided today I would check a London Subway off the list. There just so happened to be one at the Tower of London (turns out, it's the only one I saw today). 

After lunch, I headed for St. Paul's Cathedral. 

I saw a sign for toilets, and it thought I should take advantage. I locked up Betsy, and also discovered a drinking water station. I filled my water bottle, then went in search of the toilets. I didn't see them. I got to the other side of the Cathedral Gardens, and still no sign of toilets. Then I saw another sign. The sign led to a very posh shopping place called One New Change. There I found the toilets (very nice ones too!). As I was walking out of the mall, I took this photo of the Cathedral.
I thought it was kind of cool how the dome was reflected in the walls of the shopping place.

Beyond St. Paul's I rode onto Fleet Street. 

Nothing special, but a few red busses.

I worked my way back to the Thames on the Embankment. I went by Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge on my way to Westminster. There was Cleopatra's Needle, and just before Westminster Bridge, but on the other side of the river, the London Eye, and the London Aquarium.
Cleopatra's Needle
The London Eye
The London Aquarium

I reached Westminster Bridge and Big Ben. 
Big Ben is part of Westminster Hall. No one is allowed in Westminster Hall, and each entrance is guarded by the Bobbies. I asked if I could take a photo of them with Betsy. They said sure, but it was the oddest request they had had today.
And the other guy walked away right as I went to take the photo!

Here's a photo of Big Ben and the Hall.
Well, some of the Hall...it's pretty big.

On the other side of Parliament Square was Westminster Abbey. 


By this time, I was feeling pretty much done for the day. I still had to find my way back to Crystal Palace. On my way, I saw Route 4 which I will follow out when I leave London and head to Harwich. I got to Elephant and Castle (it's one of the big traffic circles, and a train station too). I found CS7 (Cycle Superhighway 7). Route 23 had turned into CS7 on my way into town, so I thought I needed to go that way. Well, I did, but I went the wrong direction (now I know this). It ended up being okay as I found another route (25) that went to Durwich Village which was where I had mailed the boxes in the morning. Then I started seeing signs for Crystal Palace. I think the route I came back was actually less hilly. I only came up one big hill (Central Hill). Funny thing was, I ended up at Crystal Palace Station (the train station), but I knew how to get back to the Caravan Park because I had walked to the station last night--quite fortuitous!

Soon, I was back at my tent eating an ice cream bar! A most awesome day finished! I was nervous about cycling in London, but it is really quite easy. I used the free Central London bike map, and really had no problems. I'm looking forward to another day in London tomorrow!

Here's a most important parting shot.
Betsy phone home!






Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 61--From Palace to Palace

Jane and I stayed up waaaaaay too late talking last night, and her alarm came very early this morning. I wouldn't have changed a thing! We had a great time, and I have a new friend! We were up at 4:15. Her taxi came at 5:00. 
Headed to Heathrow, to Houston, then Quito, Ecuador.

I got everything packed up, and was out by 5:30. Here's the sun coming up over Slough.

I managed to backtrack back the way we had come last night without a single wrong turn! This time when I rode through Eton School, I took a photo.

I went back to the bridge between Eton and Windsor where I had met Jane last night. Here's a photo of Windsor Palace (the Queen's favorite weekend place).

I was following the Route 4 signs, but they seemed to be taking me back toward the towns I had come through yesterday. I couldn't seem to find any signs that directed me toward London, so I just put Staines-upon-Thames in the Garmin. When I got to Staines, I still couldn't find the route, so I just followed the signs to Chertsey. In Chertsey, I finally picked up the route. 

It went along the Thames Path (much better here) for many miles. 
Here's a guy kayaking in the "Danger Zone"

This is more what you expect to see on the Thames.

It was still a crushed gravel path, a little muddy in places. Periodically, I had to stop and empty the little bits of rocks out of my sandals. 

At about 9:00, I was getting hungry. Since I had had such an early breakfast, I decided second breakfast was in order. However, on the Thames Path, one doesn't exactly go by a supermarket. But, I happened to see a boater guy walking back to his boat in Moseley with a sack of groceries. Figuring he couldn't have gone too far to get them, I turned off the path. Sure enough, there was a Tesco shop just a couple of blocks up. I got a big container of coconut yogurt, and some little donuts, and returned to the path, and a bench, to eat them. 

There were just brief times when the route wasn't on the Thames Path. Even Hampton Palace was on the river.

A section of ornate fencing around the back of the palace.

I stayed on the route until Richmond Park. Then, I asked the Garmin where Crystal Palace Caravan Park was, and rode there. I'm sure there was a shorter route, but I just let the Garmin lead me on all the bike friendly streets.

Due to my very early start, I arrived here at noon. I'm actually going to stay here 3 nights to have two full days in London (I'm ahead a couple of days, so I can take the extra day here). I could have gone into London today, but I was so tired, I took a nap instead. Then I took a walk to the Crystal Palace train station in case I decide I don't want to ride into London tomorrow. Of course, I can also take the bus. I know which bus to take, I'm just not sure where to get it.

Crystal Palace was built as a big exposition. Now, it's basically a big park. At it's highest point is the BBC Communications Tower. 
Looks kind of like a mini Eiffel Tower.

Tomorrow I'll ask at reception where the #3 bus is. The gal today said it is also an easy 45 minute ride into London. If I do ride, all I have to do is follow the #3. I may just do that...although, I do think it would be fun to take the train.

Total miles today: 54