Europe Travel Itinerary, 1999-2000:
This itinerary is intended to capture the day-to-day activities and impressions of our trip.
Click on the asterisks * next to the day to go to that entry.
Wednesday, May 12th 1999; leave Holland arrive in Harwich, England: *
Thursday, May 13th 1999; traveling around London: *
Friday, May 14th 1999; Winchester, England: *
Saturday, May 15, 1999; Stonehenge: *
Sunday May 16, 1999; Pilton: *
Monday May 17, 1999; Glastonbury: *
Tuesday May 18, 1999; Glastonbury & Wells: *
Wednesday, May 19, 1999; Bath: *
Thursday, May 20, 1999; Avebury: *
Friday, May 21, 1999; Cotswold Hills: *
Saturday, May 22, 1999; Stratford-upon-Avon: *
Sunday, May 23, 1999; Stratford-upon-Avon to Nottinghamshire: *
Monday, May 24, 1999; Sherwood Forest: *
Tuesday, May 25, 1999; York: *
Wednesday, May 26, 1999; York: *
Thursday, May 27, 1999; Dales: *
Friday, May 28, 1999; Richmond & Dales: *
Saturday, May 29, 1999; Forbidden Corner: *
Sunday, May 30, 1999; Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere: *
Monday, May 31, 1999; Bank holiday and driving through the Lake District: *
Tuesday, June 1, 1999; Hadrians Wall and arrival in Scotland: *
Thursday, July 22, 1999; Ferry to Hollyhead and Wales: *
Friday, July 23, 1999; Drive to Warwick: *
Saturday, July 24, 1999; Warwick: *
Sunday, July 25, 1999; Warwick: *
Monday, July 26, 1999; Oxford: *
Tuesday, July 27, 1999; Oxford: *
Wednesday, July 28, 1999; Oxford: *
Thursday, July 29, 1999; On our way to London: *
Friday, July 30, 1999; London: *
Saturday, July 31, 1999; London: *
Sunday, August 1, 1999; London: *
Monday, August 2, 1999; Cambridge: *
Tuesday, August 3, 1999; Cambridge: *
Wednesday, August 4, 1999; Oxford and drive toward Folkstone: *
Thursday, August 5, 1999; The Chunnel: *
Wednesday, May 12th 1999; leave Holland arrive in Harwich, England:
Drove the van to Hoek van Holland. Said goodbye to Piet and boarded the ferry at 4:00pm. Arrived in Harwich, Essex County, England at 7:10 local time. Drove the A120 to Coggeshall and camped next to a lovely canal and a dog cleanup sign designating the area as Braintree.
Thursday, May 13th 1999; travelling around London:
Organized the van all morning. Drove to outside Coggeshall and continued organizing the van. Drove the A120 to M11 and took it south to the M25 London Orbital. Stopped at a rest station (a Welcome Break as they call them) and were unable to connect to the internet. We then stopped to buy sheets and groceries near Watford. Total cost £47 (approx. $72). Drove on the M25 Orbital to the M3 and on to Bagshot where we camped on a residential street between Bagshot and Windsor.
Friday, May 14th 1999; Winchester, England:
Drove to a Welcome Break on the M3. Used the Internet Exchange there to connect for e-mail. Drove on to Winchester on the M3. Parked at 1:00pm and walked the town, touring Winchester Castle, the house where Jane Austin spent her last six weeks, Bishops Hill outlook, the Cathedral and the old castle walls. Returned to the van at 6:30pm and drove B3049 to A30 to Salisbury. Visited the Salisbury Internet Café to pick up e-mail and check out our acoustic coupler. Drove two miles north of Salisbury toward Stonehenge and parked in the dark by a country stream.
Saturday, May 15, 1999; Stonehenge:
Drove to Stonehenge along a back road past a stream and many thatch roofed homes. Ate breakfast in the Stonehenge parking lot and visited the monument from 10am till 12 noon. Stayed in parking lot till 3pm eating lunch and working on our budget. Then we drove the A360 north to the B390 and on west to the A36 and finally the B3414 to the tourist information center in Warminster. There we bought a road atlas (to our great relief) and got other tourist information. Then we drove to the Granada rest stop north west of Warminster where the A36 meets the A350 and the B3414. We had showers and made dinner in the parking lot. We filled up on Petrol and water and drove back to Warminster looking for a grocery store. The one we had seen was closed so we drove on to Shepton Mallet taking first the A36, then the A3098 and finally the A361. In Frome we saw a Salisbury SuperStore and stopped for groceries. Past Shepton Mallet we turned on a side road at about 9pm to find a campsite and stumbled onto Pilton. We parked by a tall stone wall and slept for the night.
Sunday May 16, 1999; Pilton:
Kathleen moved the camper at 7:30am to another spot while I slept. I woke up and we drove back to Shepton Mallet to find a bathroom and a Sunday paper. Then we drove back to Pilton, parked, ate Muesli for breakfast, finished Rick Steve's Europe 101 chapter on Britain and took a nap until 2pm. Walked around Pilton until 4:30pm and then drove the A361 to Glastonbury. Ate dinner at Gigis for £10.20 for Pizza, glass of wine and one dessert. Drove around the TOR, the abbey tower on the "green hill" outside Glastonbury and camped on a road leading toward the campground. From the street we can see the keep silhouetted against the slate colored sky like a single dragon tooth raised to the heavens.
Monday May 17, 1999; Glastonbury:
Woke up around 8am and drove to the backside of the TOR (Celtic for hill). Bundled up as the wind was fierce and walked to the top. Met only a half dozen others on the climb up and another half dozen while at the top. The countryside does indeed show that this area was all once a lake. (Thus the name the Isle of Avalon with the TOR being the island.) Its 518ft above sea level and made of harder clay and stone than the surrounding area. On the crest of the hill is the ruins of an abbey tower, the second abbey on that spot. (Other ruins not visible date back to the 6th century and the time of Arthur.) We took pictures then bought camp gas down the street for £8.75, then drove into town and parked for 50p all day in the municipal parking lot. We camped out at the Blue Note Café on High Street from 11:30 until 4pm working on emails, postcards and the website. Then we first bought bread and treats at the Burnt Bread Bakery (£3.85) and walked to Visionscapes further down on High Street where they let us spend 36 minutes uploading for £4.50. At about 6:30pm we drove 6 miles to Wells up the A39. There we thought the town was a bust while we toured a broken down cathedral with many anti-theft measures taken on the outside. But fortunately we persevered and found the cathedral and Bishops Gardens which brought out the vicious tourist in us and we quickly fired all our digital shots and color film. Drove back to Glastonbury to see the barest sliver of moon rising over TOR's dark silhouette. We camped at our same campsite between two farmer's gates with the wind swooshing down the street like gales coming off the sea. Downloaded pictures, reviewed the website and went to bed at 11:15pm.
Tuesday May 18, 1999; Glastonbury & Wells:
Woke up after a cold night to the sound of rain on our windows. By 9am we had warmed up enough to begin our day. We took our first sponge bath which cleaned not only ourselves but our linoleum floor. By 11am we had made our way to the Glastonbury Folk Life Museum where we saw the photographic exhibition An English Eye by James Ravilious. We stayed at the museum until 2pm, then bought groceries and filled our water tanks in Glastonbury. Another short drive up the A39 took us to Wells where we made a bee-line for the Bishops Gardens and arrived at 4pm. The Wells Bishops home is the only residence in England which is fully surrounded by a water-filled moat. The Bishop's springs give the town its name (Wells) and replenish the moat at the prodigious rate of 40 gallons a second. The stone walls are actually only a show of wealth put on by the church, they were never really needed or meant for defense, only for landscaping effect. We toured the Cathedral of Wells and listened to evensong, then went to the parking lot to make veggieburgers around 6:30. By 8pm we were ready to continue up the A39 to Bath. The city is bigger than any other weve visited so far and the center is beautiful. But with the sky getting dark around 9:00 we headed back the way wed come. At Marksbury we took a turn off the road to follow signs to Priston Mill. Its a watermill which was closed when we arrived and had no good parking spots nearby. A half mile back up the road toward Marksbury we found a decrepit concrete pad and parked for the night. Had shakes and worked on webpage images until midnight.
Wednesday, May 19, 1999; Bath:
Drove to the park and ride at Odd Down Park. Arrive about 10:30 at the park and ride, for £1.10 each we rode to the city center in about 15 minutes. We walked about until we found the tourist information center and the Roman Baths. Purchased combined tickets for the Baths and the Costume museum. Went through the bath museum from 11am till 12:30pm. Had lunch at the Pump house for £13.50 and then went on a volunteer guided tour of Bath for an hour until we came to the Assembly Rooms and Costume Museum. We stayed at the museum till about 5pm, then walked onto the Circus, the Royal Crescent, then back to our bus for a ride to our van. We drove the van back into Bath to do our laundry at a laundry mat in Margarets Buildings near the Royal Crescent. Then we drove back to our campsite near Priston Mill, worked on the webpage till 11:30. Kathleen went to sleep and I continued until 12:30.
Thursday, May 20, 1999; Avebury:
Returned to the Backpacker's Hotel by means of the A368 to the turn-off for the Odd Down Park and Ride. Continued to the city center and parked in the lot across from the hotel, snagged the last spot in the area that would accommodate vehicles as tall as ours (2.7meters or 8 1/2 feet). Finished our e-mails and webpage up to and including Bath. Paid £5.00 for one hour of computer connect time. Started 12noon and left the hotel at 1:15. Read e-mails and drove out of town at 2pm. Took the A36 south to the B3108 to Bradford on Avon, a delightfully quaint town nestled in the valley Avon. Arrived around 2:30 and had scones and tea and bought used books and wine (new). Took many pictures of the 7th century Saxon church while we were there. Left town at 5:00 and drove east for a half hour to Avebury on A3102 and A4. The mile-wide stone circle around the town took about an hour for us to walk and photograph. The third quadrant of the circle was a photographer's paradise, filled with amazing rock objects, grazing sheep, thatched roof barns and a sky pregnant with possibilities. With the sun beginning to drop we jumped back in the van at around 7:00, downloaded pictures and grabbed sandwiches. Then we drove 5 minutes to the West Kennett Long Barrow passage grave (built 3,500BC and used until 2,200BC when the stones at Avebury were erected) in sight of Silbury Hill (built 4,500BC for reasons unknown to this day). Finally to finish the day, we drove back west on the A4 as evening arrived, then north on A350 to Chippenham. Bought groceries at 8:30, then hopped on M4 and went to the Granada rest stop for showers, petrol and water. The fellows at the petrol station told us how to sneak past the gate and onto the back roads, saving us 20 miles and $10 in petrol. We drove the back roads to the Castle Combe visitor parking where we entered our receipts and collapsed at 1am.
Friday, May 21, 1999; Cotswold Hills:
Woke up around 9am, the parking lot was empty and the sky was spitting rain onto the van's rooftop. We made breakfast and made ready to walk to the village. Leaving our packs we walked five minutes to town and spent about an hour and a half taking pictures, visiting an art gallery and making use of their public toilets. The village was very well preserved but not very extensive. The small church was a treat, but there was a wedding scheduled there so we had to leave.
Backtracked on the backroads we'd used to find Castle Combe until we came to the main road of A429. Rode north to Cirencester planning to go to Bibury (planning to follow the itinerary of a Cotswold Hills tour bus for which we'd seen a flyer). The weather was overcast and rainy. In Cirencester we decided to find a Roman amphitheater we saw on the map. Kathleen asked a local where we should go to find the coliseum -- after a moment's thought he knew what she meant and we didn't realize what we'd said until we drove away. The amphitheater was a series of earthen mounds and we didn't stay long as the rain started again. At 1pm we returned to the van parked just outside the amphitheater park and had lunch.
We decided to skip Bibury and drove straight north along the A429 (a major road today built on top of Foss Way, an ancient Roman road). Made stops in Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold because of imagined tourist attractions. Decided the Model Village was not for us. Bought scones at a bakery.
Turned off the A429 at Moreton-in-Marsh and followed the A44 to Broadway Hill where a small but tall castle turret overlooks the valley. Took pictures of the castle, but the park was closed as it was 5:30pm. Turned north on B4632, a secondary road, to Stratford-upon-Avon, hometown of Shakespeare. Parking was remarkably available and we snagged a spot on one of the main roads: Wood Street.
Walked 10 minutes to the Royal Shakespeare Company and purchased two tickets to Othello for £22.00 each (nice seats on the ground floor in what they call the Stalls) and two tickets for A Midsummer Nights Dream the following night for £7.00 each (bench seats on the balcony). Snarfed down some chips (in the US we call them French fries) and watched the play from 7:30 until 11pm. We both cried.
Parking for camping was our first night of striking out. We drove south out of town and using our usual technique turned onto the first back-road we found. But instead of finding a delicious spot among the rural sounds, we kept driving narrow roads with no place to stop. We kept trying all the tricks, turning down neighborhoods, driving toward tourist attractions (the Avon Aquatics turned out to be a fish hatchery in the midst of broken down farm machinery). After almost and hour, we finally pulled to a stop on someones land across the road from their house. We decided wed need to drive away at first light but that the spot would have to do. Fell asleep around midnight.
Saturday, May 22, 1999; Stratford-upon-Avon:
Woke up at 7am and drove north. Hooked back up with route A3400 and drove into Stratford-upon-Avon. Drove around town looking for another spot and finally found one on Shottery Road, around the corner from Anne Hathaways cottage (Shakespeares wife). There we slept until 10:30. Had breakfast/Lunch and walked about town. Stratford-upon-Avon has lost the battle to remain quaint. All our modern day commercialism is plastered on top of old buildings with a tounge-in-cheek Shakespearean twist (Much Ado about Toys blazed above one shop). We had lunch and a few minutes of reading time next to the Gower Memorial looking across a spur of the river Avon at Bancroft Gardens. Tourists, tourist busses, jugglers, day-boats, hour-boats and ice cream boats were everywhere. The weather was cool with a brisk wind and we stood out like aliens sitting on our bench in the occasional sunlight with the hoods to our Gore-Tex jackets over our heads.
After we got too cold, we went to the library, visited a used bookstore, saw Shakespeares birth place and retreated to the van for a pasta dinner.
We walked back to our play at 7:30 and sat on a padded bench in the very last row of the top tier in the theater. The theater is amazing with a circular stage set up to perform all sorts of feats of magic, like flowers appearing from nowhere and levitating beds. The view was still very good but the production was not as much fun as Othello (which was strange since Othello is a tradgedy and Midsummer Nights Dream is a comedy). Walked back to our van and got in bed by 11pm. There was a party going on somewhere on our block complete with a loud drunk and a baseline that rocked our eardrums. Sleeping was difficult.
Sunday, May 23, 1999; Stratford-upon-Avon to Nottinghamshire:
Woke at 8:30, walked to the corner store for paper and juice. Decided to spend a couple of days in Nottingshire. Drove north on the A439 to the A46 (a divided carriageway). Through Warwick to Coventry we drove until we could take the A4600 north to a Motorway (M69). That Motorway joined with M1 and went further north to the first rest stop we could find. It was a deserted stop because an enormous parking lot had been built, but the Hotel to accompany it was still under construction. There we stopped at about 11:30 and rested, napped, had lunch and dinner until 6:30pm. We bought gas and filled up on water. Then we went to the Granada rest stop outside Nottingham for showers. We called Marianne McKee to tell her we could not meet up with her in the north of Scotland. Finally around 9:30 we drove north to Mansfield (taking the A38 to the A60 and finally the A6075). In one day we traveled through three pages of our Britain road atlas. We pulled off following a small road toward Old Clipstone and parked next to the River Maun Got in bed and read Europe 101 by Rick Steves.
Monday, May 24, 1999; Sherwood Forest:
In the crisp morning air we realized we hadnt parked near the River Maun at all. Wed parked next to a bridge over some railroad tracks. That was the sound we kept hearing through the night that never brought any headlights by our windows. But all in all we had a good nights rest. We drove a couple of miles to a camping ground and purchased a refill of butane gas, then drove on to Edwinstowe (via the A6075).
Sherwood Forest Country Park is an odd mixture given our expectations. Theres a crafts center with twenty different stalls for crafts ranging from furniture building to wood-burning. There was a collection of old travelling carnival rides permanently parked, a playground and vending machines for Merry Men stickers. And the word forest conjures up visions of thick wooded lands but Sherwood is more accurately a park with meadows and woods interspersed. Kathleen was not much impressed, but I felt the age of the place despite the dumbed-down tourist placards.
We drove next to Haugton (via the B6378) to see a re-created medieval village. But the weather turned nasty, raining and cold. When we arrived it looked inviting to our inner children (music playing and village huts peeking above the stockade walls) but the place was almost deserted so we decided to drive on to York.
Checked our list of internet numbers and discovered there was no number for York, our destination, but was a number for Doncaster. Drove up the A1 to a Park and Pay outside the city library. Got a map and took our laptop to the Spider Web Café on Cleveland Street. They could not allow us to hook up to a phone line because they only had one servicing all the computers. We tried the bar telephone with our acoustic coupler and lost another pound sterling in a vain attempt. Drove out of town feeling a little disgusted.
Initially took the A1 north from Doncaster, then cut east at Campsall to the A19. We were finally able to tune into a station carrying the BBC news. The countryside was littered with huge coal burning power stations. We longed for the pastoral settings of southern England. Sigh.
Once into York, there was no parking for us. All the public lots had height restrictions far beneath our towering 8 feet (2.7meters). We finally found street parking on Toft Green near the city wall on the south side of the river and began walking around. Even though Yorks a city, all the stores were closed as it was ten past 6 oclock. We tried a hotel to see if we could use a phone line. No luck. We called the local internet café. No luck there either. We walked down the street and tried the Backpackers Hotel (where we had uploaded in Bath). No luck there either. We both started to feel bad. None of our tourist activities had really panned out and our only connection to the cyber world was denied us. We walked to the movie theater for entertainment but there were no shows around 7pm (only 6 and 8) and nothing we wanted to see. Even though we were running out of money for the month, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner.
We stopped into Villa Italia on Micklegate and ordered a pizza. Soon the Italian waiter was asking us where in the states we came from and being nice to us. We had a salad. He brought us bread for gratis. Then as we were leaving we asked directions and began talking with the waiters daughter and a nice young man from the south of England named Paul. He called his brother up from the basement to help us with directions for the Moors, the Dales and a camping spot for the night. His name was James Lowe. We got to talking and wondered what role the two young men had in the Italian waiters restaurant. Before long we had related to them our problems with the internet. James invited us straight away into his basement and hooked us up for free. Turned out he had just bought the whole establishment two weeks before! Everybody there worked for him and he was an avid web enthusiast himself! We talked for another hour and by the time we left our spirits were once again dancing in the sky looking down on our medieval city parking spot.
We drove straight north according to James directions (along the A19) and found a convenient parking spot amongst a bunch of lorry trucks. Read our e-mails, reviewed our computer records and went to sleep.
Tuesday, May 25, 1999; York:
Woke up at 8:30am and had our usual breakfast routine (Muesli & milk, juice & vitamins, and a face wash with cold water). Drove into town and confirmed that most parking lots would not take a van of our height. Finally found one on Gillygate outside the city walls which specialized in 50-person tour busses and parked for £5.00 for the whole day. Walked down the street and into the town. Went first on a tour of the Minister (Yorks cathedral) which started at 11:15 and went for an hour. The lady was as sweet as they come and knew so much about the church. Even so, there were a couple of times people asked her questions about carvings in the church and she answered "oh that doesnt mean anything, its just ornamentation."
The cathedral was magnificent. The roof is made of wood which allows the interior walls to be set much further apart than cathedrals with stone ceilings. The expansive space is lit by equally expansive and well preserved stain glass windows. Apparently in the civil war most of the significant stain glass in the country was smashed by puritans aligned with the Parliamentarian forces that eventually won over the Royalist forces. But when York was taken by the Parliamentarians, the triumphing leader (Fisher?) was himself a native of York and did not allow the puritans access to the Minister. Consequently all the glass has been preserved and the sight of it is stunning. (We also learned that stain glass windows must be taken down, the lead that holds them stripped off, re-melted and re-applied every 100 years.)
We returned to the van for lunch, then joined a volunteer walking tour at 2:15 in the afternoon which left from the Art Museum on St. Leonards. The walking tour was really more of an outside lecture. In over two and a half hours we covered only one and a half miles. But the tour guide was an excellent authority on the Romans and the history of Richard III (he believes Richard did not kill his nephews, as do many Yorkers). The levels of history to the city were fascinating and the guide's soft spoken voice kept us enthralled. He shared but a single ghost story with us, but it was compelling enough to convince us to get a book of Stories of the Treasure House, before leaving York. (See our website for more details.)
We learned also that many words used in York are of Viking origin. York itself is short for Jorvic. A street is called a gate and a gate is called a bar and a bar is called a pub.
After the tour we walked to a used bookstore wed seen on the way in. The Minster bells began ringing for Evensong at quarter to five, and as if this were the signal for some vengeful angle to come and turn anyone standing on the street into werewolves, the shops began shutting their doors with loud slams and rattles, turning the street into a no-mans-lands.
We stopped for five minutes at a used bookstore with a lazy attendant, then drove to a Tesco for Groceries. We drove the ring (A1237) back to A19 and home to our campsite from the previous night. Started supper at 6:30 and afterwards worked on the website.
Wednesday, May 26, 1999; York:
Woke up promptly at 8am, but somehow with the speed things go when one is camping we didn't make it to town till 11:15. Then we drove around in vain looking for a parking lot that would allow our van (all 8 feet tall of it) to enter. So after an hour of fruitless searching, we parked back at the same lot as the day before.
After we parked, we walked across town to the Castle Museum. The collection was founded by Dr. Kirk in the 1930's as he realized an entire way of life (the rural and old town) was going to disappear. He began buying up old shops and homes as they were being demolished by chains such as Woolworths. So all around the museum we saw the types of uses technology was originally put to (electric fans to blow the warm air from the fireplace into the room, water heaters built into the shower so no warm water was available in the kitchen) and facts about things which formed English life (like English gardens for common folk were originally sponsored by the industrial employers as a way to foster 'upstanding living' and so everyone could see who was setting a good housekeeping example).
The castle museum is housed in the old woman's prison and the debtor's prison. This was the time of Dickens when there were 200 capitol offenses including forgery and marital treachery (infidelity). Jailers weren't paid, they extracted their payment from the prisoners. There were three classes of debtor prisoners: 1st and 2nd class were accommodated reasonably well. The 3rd class inmates were the ones constantly being hanged and their part of the prison was deplorable.
After the Castle Museum, we walked to the courtyard near the Jarvic Museum and ate the lunch we'd brought. This was around 1:30 in the afternoon.
At 2pm we went to the Jarvic Viking Museum and paid £10.00 for the pleasure of sitting in small automated bumper-carts that drove us through a re-created Viking village (complete with sounds and smells). Though this was recommended by Rick Steves, we didn't feel the charge was worth it. The cost was slightly recovered during the visit to the museum. The first room of which was a mock-up laboratory with mannequins as scientists. Since real people were mixed in at some of the microscopes, it was disorienting -- Kathleen turned to Henry and said "who are the real people?"
In the museum they had people playing Viking characters and a couple of them did an excellent job. We learned to play Hnefatafl (pronounced nef-tafle which means Knaves table). Its played on a 13x13 square board and the attacker has 24 knaves while the defender has 12 knaves and one king. Knaves can move as many spaces horizontally or vertically as they wish until they run into an edge or another piece. The king can only move one or two spaces at a time. The object is for the defender to get their king to one of the corner squares and for the attackers to capture the king. Knaves are captured by surrounding the captured knave on two opposite and adjacent squares. The king must be captured by surrounding him on all four squares (unless the King is against an edge). For purposes of capture and movement the courners are assumed to be occupied by white. Strategy for the attacker involves first defending all the corners. The white (defender) pieces start in a diamond shape surrounding the king on the center square. The browns (attackers) start in four groups of six: on each side of the board five men are centered along the side, then on man sits in front of the others in the center of the group.
After the Jorvic museum, we went visited the Richard III museum located in the Monks Bar (northern city gate). There they had a tongue-in-cheek defense of Richard III and samples of the types of prison cells that Christians were kept in during the Middle Ages.
Finally we went back to our van around 5:30, updated our webpage and wrote e-mails. We moved the van across town and visited our friends at Villa Italia where we uploaded, did banking and got e-mails. Retired to the van and greedily read our mail, then got water, milk and camped at the same spot as the night before.
Thursday, May 27, 1999; Dales:
Woke around 9:00 to a beautiful day, puffy clouds chased each other across a pale blue sky. We got ourselves cleaned up and ate breakfast. A cute english couple named Glen and Merice stopped by and gave us pointers on where to go to enjoy the Moors and Dales. We followed their recommendation and after travelling north on A19 a short way we turned off at Cross Lanes toward Helperby. The countryside began to suggest that it was going to start rolling in hills. At Helperby we mailed a small package and drove on to Boroughbridge where we used the public toilets (big relief). The entire town of Boroghbridge smelled like manure so we quickly moved on. Drove to the west (on B6265) and stopped to admire the market and the outside of the Minster in Ripon. Got a map from the tourist office and continued east toward the town of Pateley Bridge (still on B6265). The moors were plainly evident and we loaded film in our cameras and started stopping every mile or so for landscape shots. At one shoot stop we stopped for lunch at about 1pm. The weather continued to be wonderful; it was both warm and partly cloudy. Unfortunately the air was also misty, so visibility of the valleys was somewhat limited.
At Pateley Bridge, Henry took a nap for an hour and a half until 3:30. Kathleen took pictures of the village children who were sitting on the street practicing their drawing. We turned north along a back road toward the town of Lofthouse, driving in the bottom of a valley between by the river Nidd. Continued our pattern of stopping and taking pictures.
Learned from two locals, Norman and Raymond, about the Land Enclosure Act which was the cause for all the stone walls. It was the equivalent of the Land Rush in the US anyone who could enclose land in that area with a stone wall could have it. The walls were made from stone brought from miles away and are not mortared. The chinks and cracks in the wall let the wind through, so they need little repair.
Continuing north through the valley, we turned west at Masham onto A6108. We hadnt gone far before we saw the ruins of an Abbey on our right. Turned out to be the Jervaulx Abbey which had been built beginning in 1156 and finally ruined by Henry VIII in 1536. We first wandered the ruins soaking up their peacefulness and serenity. Sounds of sheep bleating mixed with the sound of wind whistling past the bleached and broken stones. In some places all that was left were piles of rubble. In others, entire walls and staircases were left intact. After an hour we realized there was literature containing a map of the original abbey and a suggested tour explaining what each wall meant and what it was used for. Most impressive was the drainage system removing waist from the rere-dorter (lavatories). It ran the entire width of the monastery and connected two sets of lavatories and the kitchens.
We were at the Abbey for about two hours and returned to the van at about 7pm. We had cheese and crackers, then continued to Leyburn where we turned north toward Richmond (on A6108). We found a lovely bare spot next to a bend in the River Swale where we camped for the night. Turned in for sleep at about 11pm.
Friday, May 28, 1999; Richmond & Dales:
Woke repeatedly between 6 and 9 am. The weather was pounding rain. Had breakfast and by 11 were ready to get underway as the sun began penetrating the clouds. Drove to Richmond (our hometown in Virginias namesake) in search of showers. The Granada in nearby Scotch Corner was a disappointment. But we got directions in a dialect we could barely understand, but she said something about going north After going the wrong way on A66 we doubled back and went north on A1. After about a mile we found a rest stop with a dinky brown building marked CAFE in large letters. The toilets inside revealed how few women truckers there are there were showers in the mens but none in the ladies. We waited until the coast was clear and snuck in together. We were able to make one of the two showerheads work and had an enjoyable lunch time cleanup.
We noticed our pace had slowed down to a country crawl. We went back into Richmond and drove around the twisty, steep streets which looked the way San Franciscos back streets would were they built from stone. We had lunch in our van in front of Saint Josephs and toured the ruins of Richmond Castle in the rain. The streets were full of amusement park machinery in preparation for the weekends bank holiday (Monday will be a day off). Then we shopped for food at the local supermarket (poor selection), and drove back toward our campsite for the night.
On the way we realized we had forgotten to call Ian in Belfast. So we turned down a 15th century stone bridge toward the village of Marske and in a half mile we were stopped by cattle in the road. Gerald and his 9 year old son John and 6 year old daughter Caroline were driving the cattle from the milking barn down the road a half mile to their night pasture. The small kids gave the huge milk cows constant encouragement with thin strips of wood. The father plugged along slowly in the family jeep. They invited us to a cup of tea after our phone call, and we made it to their farmhouse about 7:30pm.
The Horns gave us an ear-full about the governmental regulations under which they live. It was an interesting contrast with James and Paul. (They were the owner & manager of Villa Italia in York, but were young and only planning to stay in the business for 10 years). Gerald is a fourth generation farmer, the second generation to own his own farm. He loves it, but since the Mad Cow Disease debacle, the regulations he needs to live under are intense. He showed us a box full of Animal Passports which are just as they sound. Each animal has a serial number and he can be imprisoned if he doesnt keep their paperwork up to date. (I asked him if anyone had actually been imprisoned and he told me not yet, but the passports were new.) It is an attempt by the government to be able to trace any piece of meat from a package in the supermarket back to the specific animal on the farm. (It doesnt work yet because the meat gets mixed up in the packing houses today). Poor Gerald sighs as he explains, "its taking the fun out of farming."
(Gerald also corrected the information about the fences not needing repair. He says they need a lot of work to keep up and is costly.)
At about 10pm we said our good-byes. The children hid from us in a closet and Kathleen had to find them before we could leave. We returned to the same campsite as the night before, but now we realized we could see the Horns farm from our window.
Saturday, May 29, 1999; Forbidden Corner:
Kathleen woke about 6:30 and Henry at about 9. We had our usual breakfast and then drove south to Leyburn. This is the town where Kathleen spent 11 days back when she worked as a volunteer in Northern Ireland. We spoke to a shopkeeper who remembered the man and woman Brand and Butler who lived down the street. We visited their home and drove on south toward the Forbidden Corner. (Ann and Gerald Horn had recommended we try them out.) By 12:15 wed found it at Tupgill Park near Agglethorpe and bought tickets for £4.00 each. At first the grounds seemed fairly modest and we fantasized about making one ourselves in New York. But after an hour wed made our way to the castle and the intricacies of the underground labyrinth and hidden temples astounded us. We enjoyed ourselves to our core for three solid hours, then got back in our van and continued our drive toward the lake district.
We stopped at Weyburn and took a nap until 6pm, then drove straight westward (on A684). The drive was filled with landscape so beautiful the sight of it hurt the heart for knowing we would soon be gone. All the buildings inside the National park seemed to be made out of stone. But once out of the park, we noticed a lot of wooded buildings and a lot of stone fences that had fallen into disrepair and were patched with sections of wire fencing.
We arrived in Kendal around 7:30 and surveyed the town center. It was quite appealing and we were sad to find we would miss the Medieval faire on Monday. We decided to push on for the evenings campsite but planned to return. We drove another ten minutes to Windermere which is on Windermere lake. There we drove through the small hamlet of Bowness-on-Windermere (very appealing) and stopped at a scenic viewpoint to make dinner while watching the sun set. We drove back a little ways toward Bowness and parked on the side of the main street (A592). Cropped images for the webpage until 11:30. Kathleen went to bed and Henry continued working on the website until 12:30.
Sunday, May 30, 1999; Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere:
Awoke around 9am to a beautiful sky above and crisp cool air on the ground. A farmer had corralled his sheep into a small fenced in yard right next to our camping spot. Again it was three generations of farmers, grandfather, father and son. The granddaughter was there too with a sawed-off stick poking the tiny lambs when they strayed too close. We got to see the Border Collies in action encouraging the sheep to move along faster into a transport wagon where the farmer and his son administered the sheeps medicine. We could see suddenly why the sheep hated the dogs in the movie Babe.
As we walked back to the van Henry realized he was coming down with a cold. We drove to the lakefront and parked on Glebe Road looking out on a small beach and boat area crammed full with ice cream shops, cotton candy vendors, people, boats and ducks. Though the air was chilly, the Lake District people were eager for summer and many were there wearing tank tops and shorts.
We hung around from 11 to 1:30 when we left and went grocery shopping at Booths in Windermere. We drove back to Bowness using back roads for the queue of cars wed seen on the way to the store stretched all the way from the lakefront to the top of town (over two miles). We lucked into a back alley where there was parking next to some trees. Henry took a nap while Kathleen went to the cinema to watch the 2:30 showing of Notting Hill.
For the rest of the evening we stayed in the van. Kathleen helped nurse Henry with dinner and medicine. We both read Europe 101 and worked on the webpage. Went to sleep at 11:00
Monday, May 31, 1999; Bank holiday and driving through the Lake District:
Neither of us slept well. As it turned out our secluded alleyway had a good amount of traffic flowing through it. At 6:30 in the morning a huge truck came and spent what felt like a half hour gunning the engine to compact the trash from a nearby dumpster. Henrys sick-induced tossings helped keep Kathleen aware most of the night. At 8am we turned around so our heads would be in the darker interior of the van (away from the back window where the daylight was pouring in).
We finally gave up trying to sleep at 10:30 and had protein shakes for breakfast. Then we walked about town, got cash at a bank machine, then drove to the railway station looking for showers. No luck. Had a brief lunch at The Hobbit Café, (which was disappointing as it had nothing inside to suggest association with Hobbits). Then we headed north on the A591 through countryside even more gorgeous than the dales.
As we passed the town of Keswick we passed out of the Cumbrian Mountains. We stayed on the same road heading north to Bothel where we turned onto the A595 towards Carlisle. The guide book wasnt too enthusiastic about Carlisle and we had to agree. It was dirty, congested, the drivers were rude and the information centers were unmanned grimy posters with automated dispensers promising maps in exchange for a pound. We quickly found our way out of Carlisle and followed A69 to the little town of Brampton.
That was a nice and quaint change of pace. We had lunch 3:30, grabbed maps and drove off on the back roads that paralleled Hadrians wall. Quickly we came upon a shard of wall and like every other roman thing weve encountered, it fills one with awe. Emperor Hadrian ordered the wall built in A.D. 122.
We wondered what tourists two thousand years from now will wonder about the great structures of our time. Will they walk on the ruins of Interstate 95 and be impressed that such a primitive people would go to such lengths to move their physical selves around the planet?
After our first picture taking we headed off to find our campsite, an internet connection and a shower. After striking out on internet and showers at two places, we struck pay dirt for internet at a small B&B off the main road (headed toward Haydon Bridge). We also discovered Shamie: beer mixed with Lemonade. Kathleen just loved it and wanted more.
Our campsite for the night revealed itself further down another side road. We pulled over beside a quintessential stone wall with the pastoral sights and sounds of sheep and stone barns. While we were sponge bathing a family walked by and yelled through the curtain "If you can hear us in there, your lights are on." We yelled "thank you" while rinsing off Henrys hair.
Worked on the webpage until 12:45.
Tuesday, June 1, 1999; Hadrians Wall and arrival in Scotland:
Kathleen woke at 8am and worked on e-mail until Henry woke at 10. He was still feeling under the weather from his cold but was feeling better than the day before. After the morning breakfast rituals we drove back to the Housesteads Roman Fort. We visited the ruined walls from 11:30 until 2:00. They were over-run with tourists, mostly British. We overheard one lad of about 10 complaining to his older brother that he wanted to find a stone to take home with him. The brother picked up a pebble from the path and threw it at his younger sibling. "No," cried the lad, "I want one thats been laid in place so Im sure it was put here by the Romans."
The original walls were sixteen feet high, eight feet wide and 73 miles long. This was at the far edge of the Roman world. The walls today are still eight feet wide in many places and stretch out of sight. But they are as much a testament to the power of the dark ages as they are to the efforts of the Romans to shut barbarians (Picts) away from their sophisticated civilization. For the walls today are only as high as ones knees the stone has been carried off to make barns and houses and to sit in the show and tell box of young Britons.
After lunch in the parking lot, we drove back west toward Carlisle and picked up the A7 north into Scotland. Kathleen drove while Henry slept in the back for the drive to Carlisle. Once we got into Scotland, we immediately noticed the absence of stone fences and the presence of many more trees. It gave the countryside a much more familiar feel it was reminiscent of landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. We followed the A7 on towards Edinburgh, stopping only at Galashiels for some tourist information. We followed signs toward Carlisle Castle (B6458 to B6367) and parked in the parking lot to the castle ruin at 6pm. Listened to the BBC news, made beans and cheese and toast for dinner. Walked to the ruins and strolled around it, then met another Scottish couple doing the same and asked them questions about Scottish history. The fellow was more than happy to oblige and we learned a lot. Especially keen we were to hear that the midgees (wicked Scottish mosquitoes) are not due for another four weeks.
We worked on the webpage until 11pm completely removing old links and changing the tour page.
Thursday, July 22, 1999; Ferry to Hollyhead and Wales:
Missed our 6:30 alarm and woke at 6:50. But we made it to the ferry with plenty of time for breakfast. The seas were moderate and Henry developed a wee queasiness while on the ferry. Once we landed the sky was blue with occasional clouds, but it was chilly. We drove inland on A5 looking for the town with the longest name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. You couldnt make that up in fiction and have it be believable (though one wonders what inspiration it gave to Tolkien as he made up the language of the Ents).
Before we found it we stopped to take a nap in the parking lot of a garden store from 3 till 5, forgetting that wed left our fridge on battery power. Boy, that did it. Now the battery is even deader than before, and all morning driving we did through Wales to charge it is now lost. As we left we had the scare that we were locked in. But the bar across the entrance only covered the entrance, it left room for us at the exit. Whew!
When we found the town with the long name, usually shortened to Llanfair PW, we took a picture of a newsagent store with the full name written across it. It took the entire storefront to spell it out. Outside town we found a burial cairn. It had a very nice walkway to it and a rock on the backside with some beautiful squiggles. The tomb itself, however, wasnt that interesting. Returned and had stir fry for dinner.
Back on the road we somehow got onto the A55 and hugged the Irish Sea. The views were marvelous. The architecture struck us as more continental (maybe German or Dutch) than English and the towns were built into the sides of the mountains sloping down to the sea. At Conwy we picked up A470 south and stopped by a little town that had a perfect stone circle in a tiny park. A bon fire was burning nearby. Turned out the stone circle was a work of art and the bon fire was to dispose of construction trash -- not the spiritual experience wed expected.
Found a rest area and pulled in behind a tractor trailer for the night.
Friday, July 23, 1999; Drive to Warwick:
Woke shortly after 9 to a gorgeous day. Got ourselves ready and got on the road about 10. The A5 took us on through Snowdon National Park and east. We really noticed once the territory became British - different houses, different place names, big roundabouts and waxy paper in the toilet.
Kept going east through a succession of roads: got the M54 to the M6 where we stopped at a Granada. They didnt have showers, so we took the M6 south to the M5 and tried the other Granada. Bingo! Henry was able to take a shower, but after waiting for a half hour, Kathleen discovered the shower in the womens room wasnt occupied, it was out of order. Ugh. And she was really starting to smell (Henryd taken an extra bath while we were at Gort Muire).
We headed south on M5 and took the M46 to the M40 to Warwick. Wed decided not to sweat trying to make the castle on Friday, and then changed our plans again when we found there was a folk festival in town that weekend. After a heart to heart money discussion, we resolved to pick a Ceili to attend the following night. Well hang around the streets enjoying whats out in the open and do Warwick castle on Sunday.
Parked to the south of Warwick (off the A46 to Stratford upon Avon) and gave Kathleen a sponge bath. Read and turned in around 11.
Saturday, July 24, 1999; Warwick:
Woke promptly at 8:30 and had made breakfast, driven to the West parking lot and walked to Swan street by 10am. The sun was already brutally hot and we stopped to by a giant size of SPF 30 sunscreen. The first entertainment we found was Soft Option, and their dancing seemed strangely familiar. We realized they were clogging. Asked them where their dancing came from and they called it Appalachian Step Dancing. Turns out its quite the rage in folk circles here, just as Morris has that savior faire back home. But at the end of the set we got to see the most amazing Morris team perform. They wore black face paint and bright yellow and black tatters for a costume. They called themselves The Witchmen from that dark place known as Kettering. They were an all male dance troop with their women playing in the band to a pagan beat that set our feet stomping and our minds flying back in time to the bonfires around Stonehenge. We got their business card. We also decided to find a place to recharge the camcorder batteries so we could get the music and sight of them on video. They had a great male aggressive way of leaping at each other and hooting and shaking their fists in rhythm with the bells on their knees and the beating of the drum.
After the dancing, we collected cheese and mustard from our van and went to Castle Street, picking up a loaf of delicious fresh backed whole wheat on the way. We lucked into a pair of chairs on the table front and center in front of more Morris dancers. There were all women teams with hoops or painted up as cats, there were all men Rapper teams with swords, and of course more traditional Morris teams jingling away through lunch. We bought a pint of bitters, downloaded pictures, made yummy sandwiches and were accosted for more money from Jack Crawford. He was was literally playing the fool in a bright red costume hed sewn himself (hes from Berkshire and we got his e-mail address). The sun beat on us making us glad we were dressed as silly Americans in sun hats and gooey sunscreen.
After lunch we briefly checked out Warwick Castle to get the prices (steep at £10.50 for an adult) and the schedule for Jousting the next day. Then we walked on to Myton field and the Crafts Fair. Turned out we needed a ticket before we could go into the Crafts Fair to spend our money. We wanted to see the Ceilidh anyway, so we bought our tickets (£10) and visited the crafts. There wasnt really much we found that appealing, except for the clogs. Kathleen decided she was definitely going to buy a pair of handmade dancing clogs from the clog maker once we get back to the States. She got his address and all and found exactly the shoe she wanted, with a rubber horseshoe shaped piece on the bottom that makes the shoe suitable for dancing on floors. Trefor Owens was making the shoes in front of his stall and as with seeing any craftsman work, the process was fascinating.
Then Kathleen watched the Morris dancers playing and dancing in a pool at the end of their procession while Henry napped in the shade of a tree. Then we returned to the Crafts Fair to watch the Bradshaw Mummers doing The Defeat of the Spanish Armada in Shakespearean English. They were quite entertaining with their hamming and pyrotechnics.
Henry walked back and drove the van to the Ceilidh parking lot where we made pasta for dinner and tried to stay cool. The sun on us all day long and the heat had drained our energy. But we were determined to go to the Ceilidh and so we packed away the carbs from the last of our pasta and rested for an hour till 8. Then the dance music started. The Ceilidh was similar to a contra dance, but they had a lot of 4 and 5 couple set dances, which meant only one couple danced while four other couples waited out. Consequently, though the shoemaker had said it was a lot more energetic than contra dances, we found it to be less so. They also had many kids on the floor trying to do dances that kids just cant do (cause either their not tall or coordinated enough).
By 10:30 wed had enough and set out for the showers. We were quite drenched with sweat and in dire need of cleaning. Sadly, the showers turned out to be cold water only, so we cleaned ourselves quicker than ever before in Europe.
We returned to the van, drove back south to our spot from the night before and turned in around midnight. The air had become a bit cooler and less stuffy.
Sunday, July 25, 1999; Warwick:
Woke at 8:30 to a much cooler and overcast day. We drove right into town to grab a free parking spot near the castle. Got the last one just past the tower on High Street. Walked to the nearby newsagent for newspaper and milk and finished our bowls of cereal just before the castle opened at 10am. Got inside and saw the Bowman of Warwick demonstrating the longbow: he was able to shoot 21 shots in a minute -- it wasnt the kind of shooting where one holds the bow taught, that would tear ones muscles apart he said. Rather he put an arrow to the string and pulled back and let go and immediately slung another arrow. He mesmerized the group of English speaking tourists with his telling of the battle of Agincor (? Is that right?) where 5,000 English defeated 30,000 French with half the French dead and around 300 English killed. Then he quoted Shakespeare from Henry V with the archers soliloquy.
The sun came out as we moved inside and walked the ramparts. Warwick Castle was recommended by Rick Steves as one of the seven best castles in Europe. Wed have to agree. It was big enough to handle the huge crowd and so well preserved one could vision what life was like in the medieval days under the watch of the mailed guards in the tower.
There was also a cheesy but atmospheric little bit with dimming candles and whispering voices in The Ghost Tower. The lord of the tower who was killed by his disgruntled servant is said to haunt the place.
We returned to our van for water and the camcorder wed forgotten, then made our way to the River Island to see the Jousting event. They only have jousting at Warwick Castle two weekends in the summer, so we felt lucky to get to see it. Unfortunately, wed seen jousting in the States at a Renaissance Faire and the jousting at Warwick didnt compare favorably. The best they had was circus like in its use of the horses, but the medieval flavor and entertainment value seemed sorely lacking. Even the kids were bored.
Returning to the castle, we checked out the Wedding Party and State Rooms exhibits. The wax figures inside the castle recreated a specific wedding party the Duke and Duchess of Warwick held in 1898, including such notables as Prince Charles (Victorias son) the Prince of Wales and a young Winston Churchill. There was one wax figure which was so lifelike we and everyone else who came through the door had to stare and gawk for ten minutes unsure whether it was real or an exceptionally good pose artist. Henry had heard of such artists who were so good that members of the public sometimes attacked them to prove they werent real. (We found out the butler figure was definitely made of wax.)
Then we left the castle to track down the Witchmen. We found them on Castle Street and followed them back to the castle. We knew we wanted to get their performance on video since the stills wed taken didnt do them justice. We hung out in the stables area, then were let in though a back way to photograph them in front of the castle. Their performance was wonderful but not as energetic as the day before. We realized wed first seen them as they were just starting out, and now we were seeing them after they were tired from a weekend of performing.
Finally we returned to stand in line for the dungeon. Dungeon Queuing, the caretaker of the dungeon called it. "Dont you find that a bit strange?" he asked us. The conditions inside were horrible enough to fill many lifetimes with nightmares. The oubliette for forgetting prisoners was a breadbox for human misery. A plaque explained the hanging cage: many a stalwart murderer did not flinch when condemned to die, but broke down when measured for his chains -- he would be hung in them for days and weeks until he died and decomposed. As we reached the top of the stairs, the dungeon master made both of get on our knees and beg to be released.
Finally we visited the armory and with our energy spent, returned to the van. We drove to get water and take our place at our campsite from the night before. At 6:30 we settled in for an early evening with quesadillas and reading.
Monday, July 26, 1999; Oxford:
Woke around 8:30 and drove the hour to Oxford. There we got stuck in the incredibly snarled traffic around the city center. Took Henry twenty minutes to drive around one block while Kathleen went into the tourist information office.
We headed east out of town looking for the auto garages so we could get our dead van battery charged. We stopped at an auto parts place for miscellaneous supplies and to ask about a place to charge the battery. Good news was theyd charge our battery for free. Bad news was our battery was fried. We had to buy a new one and getting one thatd fit under the seat took some finagling. We got a windshield reflector to keep out the heat, a spare key and a hide a key. (Wed had a scare at the festival when Henry shut the door without his keys. We were lucky wed left the small top window open, and Henry was able to snake in and open the kitchen window -- now we realize we have to leave that window shut, even on hot days.)
After an hour and a half at the car parts place, we moved on to the home supply store. We wanted to put screen on our windows in preparation for needing them open at night in France and Italy. But the people in the stores looked at Henry as if he was crazy.
"What do you put over your windows to keep the bugs out?" he asked.
"We dont have anything like that," they replied.
So while Kathleen organized the books which had taken over all our free storage space, Henry took the fridge out again in an effort to see if he could figure out what was still causing it not to cool with much gusto. We had luck with the re-org, but not much with the fridge.
We went on in search of a Tesco for comfort shopping (as well as needed groceries). Had to go to the neighboring town of Abingdon. There we found a 24-hour Tesco with everything wed been needing and wanting. We stocked up, had pasta in the parking lot, and slept there as well.
Tuesday, July 27, 1999; Oxford:
Relaxed in the parking lot till about 10:30. Drove back to nearby Oxford and scouted around for a delightful camping spot for the following evening. Decided to stay for lunch and a nap.
Drove on into Oxford and around to Clifton (?) and around some more till we parked on Ifley road just southeast of Oxford. Rode out bikes into town.
Toured Magdalen college (pronounced Maudelane by the locals) where they filmed Shadowlands. Everything is bigger in the movies and Kathleen was a wee bit disappointed with the lack of grandeur of the campus. The place was pretty well deserted except for a small handful of tourists and a very occasional member of the college. The old quadrangles were full of inviting passageways of stairs snaking up into the darkness past signs which read Private.
We got back on our bikes and rode down High Street to the pedestrian district. It was the only place fit for walking around as the traffic is horrible. We bought a sun hat for Henry, got his watch fixed and found a second hand version of W.B. Yeats A Vision at Blackstones (after buying another sci-fi anthology for Romania at a second hand bookstore.) Then we settled down for web-work and reading at The News Café.
When we left to go to the Internet Café and get our e-mail, we got an unpleasant surprise. Wed gotten their closing time wrong. It wasnt 8:30, but 8pm. So we were denied our e-mail and spent another half hour checking out other bars and the Backpackers Hostel looking for someplace to plug in. No luck. So we biked back as the sky began to darken and drove our van toward our campsite past the western edge of the city.
On the way we passed a Sainsburys so we stopped for some phone calls and to stock up on their excellent Museli. Wed spent a lot on the meals as the News Café and spent more at the Sainsburys. It felt a bit like comfort buying, but weve been two and a half months from home now and sometimes were finding that hard. We find ourselves wishing we were back in New York with a working fridge, regular phone lines and a cable news service.
When we made our campsite, it was dark and the full moon shone through the steam plumes rising from the power plant down the valley. We worked on the Ireland website for several hours and finally turned in at 1am.
Wednesday, July 28, 1999; Oxford:
Woke at 8:30 and attended to some e-mailing. The beautiful weather was holding strong -- mostly sunny with light puffy clouds and a steady cool breeze. A local came by around 10 to tell us wed parked on private property and there was no parking here. She was superficially polite and it made us mad. Wed carefully looked for No Parking signs and there werent any. We checked for them on the way out.
Drove to our parking spot of Ifley and rode bikes to the Internet Café. There we got our e-mail and greedily read it all. Words from home brought good news from one of our friends who got a great position for the next three years to pursue her art at Ithica in NY. It made us slightly jealous of her accomplishment, since shes now establishing herself as an artist. We felt in our hearts the feeling others have told us they feel towards us and our trip. This feeling is why theres a whole commandment reserved against coveting.
Kathleen finally managed to convince Henry his eye needed looking at. The sty had grown to include whiteness underneath the red and was beginning to hurt him. We rode our bikes to the Oxford Infirmary and went into the Eye Hospital. They were very accommodating. We were there at 2 and told to come back at 3:15 and service was pretty prompt. They recommended a course of antibiotics (oral & eye cream), which we picked up at the hospital pharmacy. The prescriptions were priced by multiplying the number of prescriptions by £8.10.
After the hospital it was almost 5pm. We went in search of someplace that could upgrade Henrys eyeglass prescription (itd changed since the glasses he had, and he was going to be wearing them for several weeks now). The Boots optometrists wouldnt stoop to add new lenses to eyeglasses they didnt sell. Seemed like a marketing gimmick and the bad news was delivered to us with a relish that told us wed better search elsewhere.
We biked back to our van as the city center shut down at 5:30 and headed off for a shower. Going first south, then north on the A34 we joined up with the M40 heading north. We stopped at roadside parking and ate the stir fry whose ingredients were cramming our fridge (which since we were now switching to battery as we drove is working much better). We ate too much, and so by the time we made it to the Granada to seek showers, we decided to wait until the next day.
Drove off the M40 at exit 10 and found a small town with a tall wall and parked next to it.
Thursday, July 29, 1999; On our way to London:
Woke at 9 and Henry was experiencing a sore throat and exhaustion. Oh no! we thought -- could he be sick again? Could it be some sort of reaction to the antibiotics? We decided to get our showers, give Henry a nap and see how he felt in the afternoon.
The showers at the Granada were the nicest wed seen. We took turns and while Kathleen showered, Henry napped. While Henry continued napping, Kathleen read her Jane Austin. Afterwards, Henry felt enough better not to worry about an allergic reaction, so we made some calls to London about vaccinations before Romania (very expensive, £180 for the two of us, and Hepatitis A & B require follow up shots. Yikes!)
Started our drive south toward London at 1:30 on the M40. We did a wee bit of research and found weeks worth of activities we wanted to engage in. By the time we made it to London, wed missed any chance of getting our vaccinations today. We crawled through the snarling London traffic on the A40 and turned north at Essex station to find Queensbridge where Will Rugg lives. We parked on a side street and scoped out the neighborhood.
The weather was hot and muggy -- 85°F and we took the pleasure of a pint in the local pub. The locals were a goodly mix of different ethnic backgrounds: English, Asians, Africans and East Indians. There was a sense of run-downness in the neighborhood, but not run down to the bottom. We found out this was East London at its typical. People at the pub seemed to have a good time and when it got dark we went back to our van. We heard a drunk man yelling for about an hour at his wife (very articulate for a drunk man) in a Jamaican accent.
The slant of the van on the street and the noises in the street gave us a fitful nights sleep.
Friday, July 30, 1999; London:
Woke at 7:30 and jumped on our bikes at 9 to make the appointment for our immunizations. Though wed bought a city map the day before, we got lost several times because the roads are only occasionally marked and they have several mandatory diversions not shown on our map. Consequently, wed get turned around and be headed the wrong way on the streets of our choice.
After driving about London and seeing Big Ben, Westminster, the Victoria Monument, Hyde Park and the Ministry of Defense, we found the clinic on Basil street and had our immunizations against Polio, Typhoid and Hepatitis A.
In our exploration of the immediate area, we found Harrads department store and went inside to find out if theyd replace Henrys prescription and not make him buy a whole new pair of glasses. Bingo! They were very helpful and gave Henry the exam and prescription he needed. The only catch was wed need to drop off the glasses the following morning for four hours. Henry would be blind, but it was the only way to make it work.
We rode our bikes back through Hyde Park and up Oxford street to Jessops photo where we made some of our last photography related purchases before Romania (we hope). Then we headed northwards again in 4:30 traffic which bordered on scary to our van in Dalton. We moved the van in front of Lillians house (where Will was living) and enjoyed their fine hospitality. We had stir fry, conversation about living in the far east (Lillian is a citizen of Malaysia) and London. Found out about the practice of Leaseholding (which is what Lillian did for her flat). In London almost no one can afford to buy a property Freehold. So they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to purchase a lease for lengths of time typically lasting 125 years. The lease can be sold, but every year it has less value, since 125 years from now rights to the flat revert to the Freeholder who owns the building and the real estate. The Freeholder, by the way, bills the Leaseholders monthly for insurance, utilities, repair charges, etc..
We stayed up watching Frazier, downloading imaging software and trying (unsuccessfully) to complete a backup with the CD Burner. This is brewing as our next big dollar crisis. We havent had a successful backup since Anns in Dingle.
Saturday, July 31, 1999; London:
Woke at 8 and said goodbye to Will and Lillian who were going camping for the weekend. Moved the van to loose the trail for any potential thieves and hopped on our bikes to Harrads. The ride in was clear and cool and much nicer than the day before, partly because the traffic was not crazed commuters but only crazed shoppers, and partly because we knew our way and didnt get lost so much. Still it took us 45 minutes.
We dropped off Henrys glasses and he wandered around at Kathleens direction through both Harrads and the competing department store Harvey Nichols. Both are entire worlds unto themselves -- like enormous shopping malls in the states with each department as big as a specialty shop. They had sections for everything from clothing to furniture, from books to eyeglasses, from groceries to electronics. Harrods has a £30Million Egyptian Escalator which is listed as a national place of interest. It makes one believe the Egyptians actually possessed escalators and stained glass technology and colonized England.
After our window shopping we went to Hyde park and ate our lunch. Henry then took a nap while Kathleen composed e-mails. When Henry woke, we worked together a bit on the website until it started to rain. We high-tailed it back to Harrads where Henry got his new glasses (the vision was excellent again) and we headed back on our bikes.
The city is very dirty with all the diesels which are popular and the seven million inhabitants and who knows how many tens of thousands of tourists who all seemed to out on the street shopping in spite of the warm rain. By the time we made it back to the van, we were covered in sandy grime and had to change our clothes. We decided to drive out of town to sleep and drive back in under cover of early morning to snag a choice free parking spot for Sunday museum going. Drove up the A10 to the A409 to the M11 and north to the Welcome Break at exit 9. Stopped at a Sainsburys for groceries along the way and had veggie burgers for dinner in their parking lot.
We both had showers at the Welcome Break and drove off to the town of Birchanger for parking through the night. Found a parking lot to a public library which, in the long list of do's and donts, that didn't not to sleep overnight. So we decided what's not forbidden is allowed and pulled over to the corner. It was muggy and uncomfortable.
Sunday, August 1, 1999; London:
Woke early (around 6am) and got ourselves quickly dressed. We got on the road at 6:30 and discovered first hand just how enormous the town of London is and how unkempt it's transportation network has become. It took us over two hours to make the forty miles to city center. When the signage isn't missing altogether it's usually vague. There aren't enough lanes and there are no streets that go straight for any length of time without diversions that deliberately force traffic to turn at a right angle from it's former direction. We had to hand it to London drivers though, they deal on a day to day business with a bewildering range of traffic rules and situations.
After our two exhausting traffic hours, we were rewarded with a legal parking spot at 8:30 just fifty yards from Trafalgar Square. We had our breakfast and set about looking for a place to leave our packs for the day. We didn't like the looks of or the price at the nearby train station, so we waited until the National Gallery opened at 10am and checked our bags in the cloakroom. No charge and pretty friendly to boot.
We had our 'hit list' of artists we wanted to see: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and El Greco. We were in luck for everything but the El Greco which was closed because they didn't have enough guards to watch it. The Da Vinci they had was the Virgin with Child in Cave and an almost completed Da Vinci and one of his sketches, probably intended as a transfer for a similar composition to the Virgin with Child in Cave. The remarkable thing about the Cave was how he made a 'triangle' out of four figures (Mary, and Angel, the baby Jesus and the baby John the Baptist). Also amazing was how Da Vinci convinces you of the depth of the painting without using perspective tricks, just by using the fading of light and detail as one travels further into the background.
After two hours in the Gallery we were pooped. Trafalgar square was packed with people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Vendors were providing the public opportunities to have their portraits done, have a temporary Henna tattoo, buy jewelry, snacks, art or their horoscope. Kids were playing in the fountain trying to cool off as we went back to our hot van for sandwiches, and then stopped next door to the National Gallery in the basement of a church which is a café called 'The Crypt.' Amidst people tracing brass etchings with different colors of chalk and pastel we had some tea and ice cream and read the Times.
Walking north to the British Museum, we met Kirsten Bennett at 2pm and took a tour of the museum's holdings focusing on the Egyptian and ancient Greek exhibits. Astounding to see the granite and marble workmanship which the Egyptians were erecting five thousand years ago. Kirsten wanted to know why all this stuff was here in Britain. Henry explained since Britain was such an expansive empire so recently, they got to keep all the spoils in their capital city. We learned how lucky the British were to have their Egyptian collection: when Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1799, he took over 150 scientist with him to study the antiquities of Egypt. (That was when they found the Rosetta Stone, the subject of a special exhibit Henry went to while Kathleen and Kirsten caught-up on old memories.) But after the French had done all the hard work of excavating, identifying and packing the relics, the English invaded Egypt in 1802, just before they could be shipped to France. At the end of the day, the British got all the dug up Egyptian booty.
After two and a half hours in the museum we left for a treat at a nearby café. Kirsten kept us entertained with stories of her teaching position in Malaya, Africa. After the café, she had to go along -- she's due in Oman in two weeks to take up her position as a school teacher. We all walked back to the National Gallery at Trafalgar square where Kirsten left for the Tube and we went inside to get our packs.
Again we visited our hot van again for more rest and more food. As we lounged and ate, the passing tourists mechanically looked in on us, making us feel as if we were just one more exotic sight for people far from home.
We resolved to walk around and see Downing street (they don't let you walk down it), Westminster (got to be one of the most ornate and huge seats of governments imaginable), Westminster Abbey (also huge) and Buckingham Palace (the gold statue in front distracting all attention from the drab building and looking rather like a theme park attraction). Afterwards we decide we'd had enough of the dirty, congested, fume filled streets of London. We drove another two hours to get our of town, trusting to signs and maps and eventually making the rest stop where we paid £5 for the first time since our trip began to park the van for the night. Since we got a free £5 coupon for filling up with petrol, we decided to act like we'd not broken our string of not paying for sleeping.
Monday, August 2, 1999; Cambridge:
Slept in until 9am. Used the showers and ate their ridiculously high priced food until 11 when we pushed off for Cambridge. On the way we stopped at a vast, flat campground and Henry slept on the ground while Kathleen did the laundry. We also bought two new tanks of camping gas.
We liked Cambridge a lot. Where Oxford had been crowded and hectic, Cambridge was peopled and serene. Everywhere there are bicycles, and we made good use of ours by parking on the free parking road and biking into town. Whenever one passes over the river, one sees the punt boats being pushed along by inexperienced and joyful tourists.
We toured the town looking for used books and also connected to the internet for a few minutes, reveling in being charged only by the minute for the time we'd used (3 minutes ran us about 43p).
We retreated to the van and drove off and found a sleeping spot next to a field full of thistle and nettle.
Tuesday, August 3, 1999; Cambridge:
Slept in reading and relaxing till lunchtime. Then we went into town and called Henry's mother from the telephone connection place across from the tourist information office. We then biked around town making a sweep for more used books. Finally ended up at CB1, a café/bookstore strewn with computer terminals and sporting numerous eccentric/mentally disturbed individuals. We spent several hours working on the webpages and bought more books. Our appetite for English books for us to read in Romania is boundless. We had two more full bags of the heavy things.
We stayed at CB1 8:30 (just before their 9pm closing) and sped to the phone connection place where we were able to upload the rest of our Ireland pages.
Returned to the van and had cottage cheese and crackers as we drove the back roads to Oxford. Our intention was to return to the infirmary and have Henry's eyelid drained. We kept passing parking spaces which were right on the highway. Finally found one about 10 miles from Oxford that was a wee further from the road.
Wednesday, August 4, 1999; Oxford and drive toward Folkstone:
Woke around 8am and drove on into Oxford. Kathleen dropped Henry off and went to find a parking spot. By the time she returned, she found that they'd refused to treat him because his eye is no longer considered an emergency. He'd have to wait months on a list for his turn to come in. We called a local private physician and discovered it would cost £250 to have it done. We decided to wait and see if steaming it could make it go away.
The weather was beautiful, a little muggy but not too hot. Rode the bikes around town again -- glad we are to have them -- and confirmed our feeling that we like Cambridge much more than Oxford. We bought a bag full of maps of France, Italy, Romania and other places we're going and more books at second hand stores.
At the end of the day, we drove toward London. Kathleen did the driving and Henry did the napping. She picked up the M40 to the London Orbital (M25). We had a scare near exit 11 when the car stopped unexpectedly. We think it was because Kathleen's foot got caught underneath the gas pedal. We exited at Maidstone and went shopping at a Tesco, then went looking for Loose (the home town of the checkout woman we talked with) but couldn't find it. Ended up in the parking lot of the Bearsted train station where we parked at 11pm and sacked in for the night. As we parked, it began to rain.
Thursday, August 5, 1999; The Chunnel:
Slept late and then organized the van. The weather was overcast until afternoon by which time we were under the shade of the trees. Giant busses came into the parking lot every hour to take people to Leeds castle.
Organizing the van felt very good. We brought the big black trunk down from up top, took out all the clothes and lined the bottom with all the books we figure we'll never get to till Romania. Then we crammed all the clothes back in and locked it shut. Then we put more books that we won't need for a while above the tripods which are as far forward as possible above the driver's compartment. When we were done, all the bags and bags of books and pamphlets and souvenirs we'd been collecting were squirreled away and we felt like we had our livings space back. It was then 4:30.
We rushed to the post office in Bearsted and sent away a small box of books we'd already read and souvenir pamphlets. Then we hit the road to Folkstone. Stopping only for a service break and pasta, we made it to the Channel Tunnel Terminal at 9:30.
Our excitement began to mount as we overheard French accents and saw the more European style of the shops. The road works were massive and the trains left three every hour every day of the year but Christmas.
When our time came, we drove to the tunnel train, snapping pictures every step we went. Inside, we got out of our van assuming, like on ferries, that we needed to leave it to go forward to the cabin car. Well there is no cabin car and everybody stays with their vehicles. The interior was like visiting a Star Trek spaceship -- as the train got ready to depart, separator doors descended automatically from the ceiling and fanned out from the sides. We could walk between the cars of the train by pressing a button and pushing the door; a whooshing sound indicated the pressure had been equalized and we could push the door open. In the dim light outside the train windows we could see the dark sides of the chunnel wall passing by. In 35 minutes we were in France.
Getting used to driving on the right side of the road seemed easy enough at first, but driving on the right side of the freeway felt as if we were in the passing lane. The speed limit was 110 to 130 km and we were doing 80. Needless to say we were dusted by the traffic all the way to the first exit where we pulled over to sleep the night in a lovely public parking lot with bathrooms open all night.
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