Fall, 2012 Trip Journal


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Europe
March 31st 2013
Published: March 31st 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

JNR's Trip Journal (subject to editing!)



Ireland, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France & Spain

Oct 24, 2012 10:47 AM Sep 22, 2012 8:54 AM

Dropped off in Bakersfield Airport shuttle - - place looks like a bus depot in a 3rd world country - said goodbye to the one who means the most to me in my life - guess the 1:00 bus would have gotten me to LAX in time :( - oh well - more layover time.

Weighed my pack - 26lbs - including bike bags, lock & tools - so about the same weight as the bike itself. Forgot to weigh my other backpack (carry on) - I estimate it weighs 15 lbs. {weighed it later @ LAX = 14 lbs - good guess!} 40lbs total.

Am already taking a mental note on items I can shuck - umbrella, my 2005 Rick Steve's guide book... So at 9:00am - we're off!



Sep 22, 2012 9:27 AM Seven people on bus including the driver! Hardly enough to pay for the fuel - no wonder the bus depot looked so bad! Guess this San Joaquin Valley is really a 'no man's land' - what in tarnation do we need a 15 billion dollar high speed rail system for? For six riders to get to the airport?

Sep 22, 2012 10:50 AM Three miles to Wilshire Blvd - it's a crawl on the 405 - Sep 22, 2012 12:34 PM All checked in - now time to relax

Sep 22, 2012 2:52 PM Had Moroccan lunch at LAX - was really good (but expensive!)

Sept 23, 2012New York - where do I begin? I think NY has to be the grand daddy of them all! Amazing! For at least 8 hours I walked all over Manhattan! One huge festival going on in Little Italy - found a woman's wallet on the ground - turned it in to police - they opened it - it was full of cash. Hopefully they were honest & made some sad person happy. At least I did my part.

Sep 24, 2012 2:36 AM For Daniel Ward & Mary Quinn; my great great grandparents ; parents of Michial Agustus Ward; and Joseph Beattie Sr, Junir, and Sarah Matilda; I come to the Emerald isle!

Sep 24, 2012 11:18 AM Picked up rental car, attempting to get sea legs I drove to Bunratty - had an awesome walk in drizzle rain - just put parka on & carried on! Smell of burning coal in the air. Decided to drive to Kinsale past Cork- decided to skip Dingle Peninsula, Killarney & Ring of Kerry at least for now - not sure I'm ready for droves of tour busses - on the way stopped in Croom - am updating this now over coffee in the 'only game in town' at this hour :) got a tip to visit Adare - 10 minutes away - I'll do that the continue to Kinsale

Sep 25, 2012 12:36 PM Got caught up with 12 hours sleep at hostel in Kinsale - Got some good travel tips from an Englishman staying there (He fixed me a good cup of tea :) - so now am in Monkstown at Murph's (established 1895) right on Cork's bay - just beautiful - having Seafood chowder & coffee -

Sep 25, 2012 1:02 PM ahhhh done! Very good:)It's raining - now headed to Cobh - last port of call of the Titanic & point of departure for
On the French / Spanish BorderOn the French / Spanish BorderOn the French / Spanish Border

On French soil - Spain in background
thousands of Irish headed to America

Sep 27, 2012 12:05 AM It's past midnight - am on top bunk in a dorm at the Dublin youth hostel - stuck in a room with four (make that five) old codgers - I feel like I'm trying to sleep in a swamp filled with bullfrogs - two with smoker's coughs - one was a wheezing 'can't get the itch' cough; another has a full mucus cough; another bullfrog sound is an incessant snorer, there is only one fella that is as quiet as can be. I forgot ear plugs - & it doesn't smell none too sweet either. The fifth bedfellow came in late & took the upper bunk directly next to me. I peeled my eye open to catch a glimpse - he was a man I had seen sitting in the lobby with a blank stare on his face; sitting there being avoided by everyone. Now he is bedded down in full clothing (guess that's better than naked :( just a 3 or 4 ' isle from me. He got up a few times in the night (I surmise the sounds of the swamp made it hard for him to sleep) and left the room for. Meanwhile the putred smell of these flabby aging bodies (yes, I know I'm no Spring Chicken myself!) was barely tolerable - the window was open but someone had closed the drape because of the light post outside. I am thinking this may be it for the YH experience - I'm due to stay in the one in Liverpool - but am thinking I don't want to repeat this experience :(

Sep 27, 2012 10:55 AM Been up since 7:30, had breakfast at the YH, stored my large bag & hit the street for another walk around. I have yet to see anything really fascinating in Dublin. Like I said, 'it ain't no Paris'. Lot of hard looking people here - some looked like part bulldog/

Sep 28, 2012 10:20 AM Arrived in Liverpool the late afternoon of the 27th - found the YH (easy!) & checked in - with a little trepidation because of the night before - as it turned out it was very pleasant - only one other in the dorm who came in so late I never even spoke to. Clean sheets, a good night sleep except for the ruckus that was going on upstairs - music & singing in some unknown language - sounded Ike a group of kids singing & stomping around - I thought the ceiling was going to crack! it was disturbing but i figured, hey, these are kids & this is aYouth hostel - they're having fun! Plus, it was a lot more tolerable than bedding down in the same room with five old monster bull frogs:) Also the breakfast that was an additional 5£ was much to be desired - worst sausage I've ever had... cold scrambled eggs - as was the hostess that allotted me my measly portion... leaving out the beans & potatoes (hash brown processed) that I saw later :( Walked around Liverpool at night & the next morning - Albert Docks, the Cavern... (yep, I saw the Cavern where the Beatles got their start) although there isn't a lot to see here I was surprised - I expected it to be a gritty town like Dublin - instead I found it really clean & classy - no doubt it has more than it's share of the ugly side, at least from the perspective of a traveler that never got very far from the city centre it was very nice.... But I'm eady to move on..... On to Kendal Cumbria...

Sep 28, 2012 1:10 PM Got a comfortable place to sit with a double espresso at Lime St. Station - perfect place for people watching before my 2:22pm train - back & tendon on the inside of my right knee is hurting - nice to rest here

Sep 28, 2012 2:30 PM So I get to the train station in plenty of time - ask an train agent which platform for Warrington Central (first leg of journey). He plays with my mind - telling me some other way to get to Kendal. I tell him I just want to go the way I am ticketed - & he directs me to platform 5. I sit there for 45 minutes listening contently to Beethoven's 7th symphony - the time of departure creeping up - finally at 5 minutes til departure concern sets in - I go back to the agent booth & ask again to make sure - this time a woman is there - the other old coot is gone - SHEtells me it's on platform NINE. I RUSH in half panic to platform 9 & board. The train departs within 60 seconds...

Sep 28, 2012 3:30 PM .... Arrive at Warrington Central - have to walk to Bank Quay - another train station for connection to Oxenholme (another connection) - I have about 15 minutes to walk about a mile :( this is crazy - but believe it or not I made it - in a dead heat run - again, without a minute to spare :( this is ridiculous !

Sep 28, 2012 5:43 PM A Beethoven Day

The trip to Kendal, beset with the frenzied connections as it was, at least had a little amazing coincidental process of events. Already mentioned, at the Lime St. station in Liverpool I put on my ear phones & amid the bustling train station was listening to Beethoven's 7th symphony. When I boarded the train I turned off Imagine the coincidence & the irony that when I got on board the first train, I sat across from a girl who was playing Beethoven quietly, but able to be heard, on her laptop - or so I thought - because when a destination came up she departed but the Beethoven continued. I deduced then that it was actually coming from speakers throughout the train. I thought this was amazing - and, might I add, in good taste. Beethoven! These English are something else to have Beethoven playing through the speakers. In each train that I rode in! Imagine how I felt when I got to my hotel & I took out my iPhone to put in some information - my iPhone - that earlier that day was playing Beethoven - was still on - all this time, the music - the symphonies - the concertos - was coming from my own pocket! Stupid American :(

Sep 29, 2012 12:19 PM Last night had dinner with Ian & Claire & picked up my Brompton bike - Ian gave me a lesson on how to fold it - then I rode ir (carefully!) back to hotelHad a very restful night - woke up refreshed & had a nice breakfast at the b&b Riversleigh - then went out exploring. Kendal is a beautiful town with lots of history. Hiked up to the old castle ruins - it belonged to the family of Catherine Parr - last wife of Henry VIII.Came back & strapped my backpack to my bike, and away I went! To theTowne square, & to the bike shop where I bought a spare tire & helmut. Better to have it & not need it than to need it & not have it! Ultimate destination today is Hawes - first leg of journey is to a town in the Yorkshire Dales named Dent. Going via bus. At Dent station I took a 4 minute train ride through a mountain where I caught a van pool to Hawes. Met a traveler named Peter - retired teacher & interesting guy - he helped me with travel info - he was traveling to the Hawes YH also. Dent station is the highest elevation train station in England (not GB, as that includes Scotland)

Sep 29, 2012 11:37 PM It's been an interesting evening here in Hawes - went out to dinner with Peter then came back to youth hostel - had conversation for hours with 5 or 6 others - all English men. I'm the only non English so they have lots of questions & observations about the USA. Two of the men were elder gentlemen from the Liverpool area - I told them how impressed i was with their city. Learned about the walking trail maps of England & also 'the law of enclosure' that required every landowner to put perimeter markings (stone walls) around their property because of so many land disputes. The evening was really quite an experience. Peter is an odd man but quite interesting - retired teacher - unlucky in love so is single. Very frugal - saved just about every penny he ever earned - his room & board provided by the school he taught at. He has every angle of bargains & freebees figured out, from traveling on a free rail pass for seniors. He was very familiar with the area - rattled off details left & right from which shower of the three in the wash room gave the most hot water to the train & bus time tables. With a smile on his face, through his buck teeth he proudly recited the bus schedules like a savant as far away as York. As we walked around town & went to dinner I could barely keep up with him - again, with a smile he told me he's a member of some '100 mile walking club'. Now in dorm (which is full!) tomorrow most are leaving - I'm staying one more night here - I need to rest my bones - I hurt all over :(

Sep 30, 2012 8:25 AM Dorm was full (7 people) but ventilation (lol) was good, and I slept through any snorers - had a good night's sleep! Storm is here - wind & rain. I'm not going anywhere - staying here again tonight. Hopefully the storm subsides. Hostel has several cyclists - not sure what all their plans are - but there is one really hard core cyclist who has cycled coast to coast in the States (among other places) plans to set out in the rain - he has a weathered face, travels ultra lightweight - has a camo satchel, hat & shorts that are totally tattered - amazing. He's encouraging me to post stuff back home & lighten my load - I sure am tempted - I just have too much stuff

Sep 30, 2012 11:07 AM Just ventured outside for a walk but storm is relentless - came back wet but thanks to parka not soaked - nylon pants dry after an hour or so- not bad

Sep 30, 2012 12:44 PM Sat in lobby/dining room for a while then went to room. Changed beds from a bunk to the one single bed next to the window that is now vacant. I put on Gortex pants thinking of venturing outside again but no - still storming relentlessly outside - wind whistling through the windows - turning the rain horizontal - too powerful for an umbrella - no bueno ! Will stay inside & think of home ...:( "I wish I was Homeward bound Home, where my thought's escaping Home, where my music's playing Home, where my love lies waiting Silently for me "

Sep 30, 2012 5:49 PM The rain has subsided at least enough to go out & get some dinner - Roast beef & Yorkshire pudding ! Of course! I'm in Yorkshire! Wasn't as good as home, and from now on, when ordering 'roast beef', I think it's fair to ask 'what cut' - is this 'pot roast' or ?? Well, I won't offend anyone - it's just that i've been spoilt - Afterwards I took a walk around town & down a country road that had a sign that said 'Caution: Weak Bridge 1 mile'. I walked down that road - intending to walk all the way to the bridge & back. Saw scads of rabbits in the pastures amongst the sheep grazing. The views were spectacular; flooding down in the 'dales'. Got about half way to the bridge - darkness set in & I turned back.

Oct 1, 2012 11:55 AM Up at 7:00 this morning - breakfast - then posted excess baggage I just cannot carry - about 10lbs (51£:( Now I can get fit small back pack into large pack & just manage one pack plus the bike- each weighs about the same - 25 lbs each or 50lbs total Took bus to Leyburn - next connection - Ripon - then to York. Got a quick look at Bolton castle - where Mary Queen of Scots stayed & was later detained after being arrested - then sent to London where she lost her head.... Having 'cream tea & scone' at The Posthorn Tea & Cafe across from bus stop - it's slightly raining

Oct 2, 2012 1:42 PM Arrived in York & cycled to b&b - to find out I was one day early :( don't know how that happened - but they had vacancy. So I'll stay an extra day in York. I rested a while - booked 2 nights in the Whitby area - "Boggle Hole" - right outside of 'Robin Hoods Bay'. I enquired about taking the bus into the city center & the owner of the B&B offered to take me & help famiarize me with the bus stops - very kind man. So I walked around York arriving back at the B&B by 9:00.Next morning awoke at 7:00, cleaned up, met Jay - an American working on his phd - another guest staying at the b&b. We had breakfast together then I started out for the day. It was bitter cold & on the verge of rain outside - so not conducive to cycling - at least for me! So I took bus into city center. At present, sitting at Starbucks gazing out the window at the people bustling about - in the rain. I'm ready to move on - but two more nights & one more day in York - that's a lot of staring out of the window drinking grande lattes - :( - may be tomorrow instead I take a high speed train into London so I can crack the L nut & won't have to keep saying "I've never been to London".

Oct 3, 2012 9:27 AM Well I'll have to crack the L but some other time - instead I rode to the city center around 2 miles - am sitting at Starbucks now next to the 'Minster' bike is locked up outside - within view (could have brought it in but didn't want to fold it up)

Oct 3, 2012 11:07 AM Windy & intermittent showers - but nevertheless I've proclaimed the day "Get aquatinted with Brompton Day" or "Ride like a Brit" - as this is the first day - with large pack aside, I've been able to just 'ride' - and it is amazing! I can ride as slow as people walk, weave around or in between cars snarled in traffic, pedal up steep hills with the greatest of ease, and sail like I have wings! Traded sore feet for - - you got it - sore rear end ! I'd been looking for a small piece of wood or steel I could attach to the back of the bike seat in order to strap my large pack on easier - so I stopped at a motorcycle shop & told them what I wanted - they were really helpful - while the guy was busy looking for something that might workI saw about a 10" piece of light gauge angle iron - they gave it to me. It'll work perfect! I'll secure it to the seat tonight - tomorrow will strap pack on at an angle instead of straight on the rack for my 2 mile ride to the train station!

Oct 3, 2012 6:52 PM Turned in early today as I've done all the riding I want to do around York at least my ceader end has - it's a good thing too, as the weather turned nasty. Will rest up & get an early start to train station in the Morning

Oct 4, 2012 10:15 AM The day started for me by locking myself out of my room - went to use the bathroom & forgot to take room key - so went to breakfast room, had cereal & tea - sat there until the owner came (about 45 minutes) Finally with room unlocked I did the impossible job of stuffing all my stuff (including my small pack) into my big pack - strapped it on the bike the new way - it worked out MUCH better - and pedaled my way to the train station - got off course a few times as I cannot navigate with my iPhone without stopping to look at it (which means pulling over somewhere safe, unzipping my secure pocket that I keep my iPhone in - a real klutzy procedure!) - and I cannot remember anything past one single turn (5 minutes!) So now am at train station - if you ask me 'Are you going to Scarborough Faire' the answer is "yes"! Oops - forgot to mention - the train to Scarborough is the most direct route to Robin Hoods Bay. Boarding with single pack on back & bike in hand was a breeze! Found out buying tickets in the station are almost twice as expensive as online in advance - £8.50 online as opposed to £14.80 at the station! Grrrrrr!

Oct 4, 2012 10:57 AM Am enroute to Scarborough - sun was out in York but less than 15 minutes later - overcast & FOG! Oct 4, 2012 11:12 AM Still on train - out of fog now :)A couple of 'very proper' ladies are carrying on banter in classic English accent - lol - I dare say, is the Queen present? "Saow proppah" Terrain from York to Malton (train stop) was rolling hills, rivers & forests - past Malton is flatter farmland

Oct 4, 2012 2:09 PM Arrived in Scarborough (Scarbro:) - before taking bus to Boggle Hole I got info about Scarborough - ended up cycle/walking down the city centre - all the way to the harbor - then back up again to get on Castle Rd which took me to the castle - checked bike & pack at the ticket booth & toured the castle

Oct 4, 2012 2:39 PM An enroute to Robin Hoods Bay - an old geezer is nodding off on bus - snoring! Hope his destination isn't Boggle Hole Youth Hostel!

Oct 4, 2012 4:55 PM Sheeze! Arrived @ RHB - no internet/phone service! I'm lost as a goose! So went down down down (literally!) to the little alcove of a town to find the i center to ask where Boggle Hole (to the locals it's "Bogglole") - believe it or not they said it was 3 miles UP the hill or 3/4 mile along the beach !So I hoofed it along the beach - just about missed it - was crossing a stream that went into the bay - on rocks - smelled a sewer stench & perceived that the stream was SEWER! I looked up stream - and there was the ordinarily picturesque scene of the Boggle Hole Youth Hostel - but at the moment I arrived not only was there a septic or sewer tank truck dumping it's load in the river, but they were cleaning out the two massive septic tanks of the YH too! But I made my way into the YH - got a bed for the next two nights!

Oct 4, 2012 5:07 PM Waiting 4 dinner that's served @ 5:30 (or did they say 6:30?) getting caught up with journal & wrestling with Internet connection :(

Oct 5, 2012 10:01 AM Lots of events to catch up with#1 dinner was a disaster - I ordered Haddock & got some sort of round fish cakes, chips & salad (no salad dressing - they were out so I used packaged tartar sauce - nasty!)#2 Internet service didn't work - so no contact to outside world#3 took an after dinner walk around BH - wow - this is remote ! Used to be an old saw mill #4 met a good group of travelers - from England & Northern Ireland - they were in dorm - somehow I managed to get a private room right off of the dorm - that is nice! Now sitting at bus stop waiting for bus to Whitby - left bike locked up at YH - needing to make train reservation to Edinburgh & figure out best way to get out of Boggle Hole tomorrow morning - the shore route (only in low tide), the upper cliff route (I walked it this morning - it's doable, but a LOT of steps!) or the road (length is perhaps 4 miles!)

Oct 6, 2012 12:55 PM Enroute to Edinburgh via Middlesbrough - countryside is a garden of Eden - forests, farms, rolling hills, rivers, little villages.Stopped in Rusworp, Sleights, Grosmont, Egton, Glaisdale, Lealholm, Danby, Castleton Moor, Commondale, Kildale, Battersby, Great Ayton, Nunthorpe, Gypsy Lane, Marton, Middlesbrough.I am thinking I don't think I have ever seen such beautiful country! The North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Oct 6, 2012 8:53 PM Landed in E - put pack away, locked up bike & hit the streets - decided to have dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant (Who ever heard of Scottish food?) - had some Saudi dish - very different - lamb on the bone in a stew - I thought it was full of fat - was eating everything except what I thought was fat - then realized it couldn't all be fat - it was half the bowl - then I found out it was some sort of - it was good, but hmmm - well, I didn't strike out, but no home run either - topped it off with a pizza on the way back to the YH

Oct 7, 2012 12:33 PM Up early this morning to lay some shoe leather around Edinburgh - put pack in locker at YH & started walking. Saw all I wanted to see - felt it was time to move on. I debated what else to do - where else to go in Scotland - I had many ideas but just couldn't lock into any plan so I returned & picked up pack & bike / cycled to train station - booked 'rail & sail' to Belfast for £22 (cheap!). Tonight I'll spend the night somewhere in Belfast ! No plans yet.

Oct 7, 2012 1:52 PM Made it to Glasgow Queen St. Station & cycled to Glasgow Central to pick up connection to Ayr & Cairyan where I take ferry to Belfast. Just need to be @ ferry terminal for departure @ 1930 (7:30pm) arriving at 2152 (9:52pm)

Oct 7, 2012 4:25 PM Long layover in Ayr - bus connection (no rail!?) to Cairnryan - what a pain - never seen so many smokers since before cancer warnings became mandatory

Oct 7, 2012 6:01 PM Bus ride took 1 1/2 hours! Windy road along the coast - now, I have 1 1/2 hour WAIT - am way out at ferry terminal - no chance to go anywhere - no restaurants here! At least it's clean & warm !

Oct 7, 2012 7:21 PM Might not make much sense, but I've always wanted to take a ferry to Palermo - and I fulfilled that a number of years ago. Also wanted to cross the Irish sea by ferry - did it a few days so by plane (Dublin to Liverpool) - now is my time to do it by ferry. We're rumbling across now - all window seats are taken but it really doesn't matter as it's pitch black outside anyway. Wondering what year it was that the Beattie family emigrated from Scotland to Ulster - during the plantation.

Oct 8, 2012 5:57 AM Had to take a cab from the ferry terminal to the city center - cab driver took me right to the YH - I checked in without a reservation (couldn't get online booking to give me a single room) Wentnout & found some grub to eat (now is middle of the night & I'm paying for it!:)

Oct 8, 2012 10:23 AM Am sitting at a very nice 'Causeway Cafe' at the YH - awesome "Ulster" breakfast - trying to decide what to do - I'm gong to have to rent a car - taking bus is too restrictive & time consuming - but if I rent here I cannot return in the Republic of Ireland - sheeze - what to do?

Oct 8, 2012 12:00 PM Ok with nice breakfast I ended up strapping on pack & cycling around town - everything was great except for my ever present navigational problems Am at Belfast Central - decided to take train to Newry - will take bus to Armagh & Caledon - then head for Donegal Towne or Letterkenny (larger town, more car rental options) via bus - then decide what to do

Oct 8, 2012 1:00 PM Enroute from Belfast to Newry - beautiful farmland - thinking of the bitter struggle over this land - even today :( land that Queen Elizabeth claims is her's :( But the truth o the matter, all lands were 'up for grabs' by the strongest - Scotland, Wales as well as Ireland - Ireland is still considered part of 'The British Isles' - there was a lot of cruelty - but that is human nature - happened everywhere - hey, we had slaves; the UK is forever tied to the commercial interest of slavery - what else is new? I guess I don't know enough about the conflict to make an opinion.

Oct 8, 2012 5:00 PM Arrived in Newry - upon arrival I asked which way to the town center - the guy pointed the way then muttered something else that I didn't understand - later as I was riding away - down hill and along a road which was almost like a freeway I realized he must have said "better wait for the bus" or "better call a cab" - at any rate, it was about 2 miles away - but I rode it like I knew what I was doing - saw the church where my great great grandparents (parents of Sarah Matilda Beattie, my great grand mother) Joseph Beattie Jr. & Mary Wright were married on Oct 31, 1845 :)

Oct 8, 2012 5:22 PM Am aboard bus from Newry to Armagh - about 1/2 hour ride (I predict) am later than I had hoped - public transportation is slow, but having a car has it's drawbacks too - at any rate after Armagh I'll head to Caledon - then to Derry then Letterkemny where I'll rent a car . Armagh - pronounced "Our Ma"Tyrone (County) pronounced "Trone"Moran - pronounced "Mourn"

Oct 8, 2012 5:42 PM Still enroute to Armaugh - such beauty! No doubt my ancestors traveled this same route - I thought - this bus driver may not realize he is helping me to fulfill a dream! Went to ATM in Newry - got some strange "funny money" Northern Irish currency! Was told it is transferable £ for £ in England but of course not in the Republic of Ireland !(sheeze!) Arrived in Armagh around 6:00pm

Oct 9, 2012 9:52 AM From Rags to Riches

Arrived in Armagh around 6:00pm the day before - cycled around, sent to YH which was vacant - no one was there! It was too late to catch a bus to Caledon so I decided to find a hotel or B&B - rode & rode & couldn't find one except for Armagh Cityhotel that was a modern convention center style hotel - I inquired on the cost - £72 ! I decided I'd stay in the bus depot all night than to spend that sort of money - finally - I found the Charlemont Hotel - a vintage style hotel much more my style - £40 - including breakfast - by & large the finest hotel I've stayed in so far ! Had a dinner of leg of lamb, potatoes & boiled vegetables - not my fav but I needed the veggies - carrots, broccoli, cauliflower & peas. Wasn't the best but price was right. The young girl that worked the registration counter & took my dinner order must have said 'no bother' a dozen times- I teased her & said I thought she said 'no butter' :)

Oct 9, 2012 11:14 AM Nice breakfast at the hotel before I departed for bus station. Another hour to waste here at the station - yes I know I could walk/cycle around but I'm ready to move on - going to have to forget Caledon as it's in the right direction but the wrong direction for bus connection - since I have to take the bus to Dungannon to get my connection to Letterkenny

Oct 9, 2012 12:38 PM Amazing amazing - reached the bus station in Dungannon just when the bus to Derry pulled up - this will take me to Strabane where I get the bus to Letterkenny - about 1 1/2 hour trip this is a "cruiser" bus, not a "milk route" bus like these others are.

Oct 9, 2012 2:26 PM Amazing! No sooner landed in Strabane when the bus to Letterkenny arrived! Already across the border into Republic of Ireland! Guess this means I'm in County Donegal! Seems more like home! Could the country western music the bus driver is playing have anything to do with that?

Oct 10, 2012 8:18 PM It's been a while since I've updated - Yesterday, arrived late afternoon in DTown - saw a hotel on the way in & checked it out - right away it seemed right - plus I didn't want the same scenario as the night before - so I jumped at it - private room for €35 a night. Rested a little then walked around town, stopping at the Old Castle for dinner - Irish stew - it was really good - although afterwards I was still a bit hungry - or better put, could stand a bit more to eat - & stopped at 'Donegal's Best Chipper' and thought, they might want to change it to 'The world's best Chipper' because I think it is! It was incredible! Well the portion was humongous - and I wasn't THAThungry - but I ate the whole thaing - Way too much - gave me crazy dreams - as well as a (mild) case of indigestion. Woke up around 8:00 - got dressed & headed downstairs for breakfast - but just had cereal, toast & coffee - couldn't handle bacon, sausage & eggs :( Decided to take a gamble & take bus to Killybegs - a fishing village - the gamble was altogether bad - Return bus meant I had 3 hours to spend there - that was 3 hours too much :( lunch was horrid - recommended by the tourist information office (why there was an i office there I'll never know :( - breaded cod (fish sticks?) puréed carrots and FOUR generous scoops (that's FOUR as in 4) mashed potatoes & a little valley of cabbage. This is Ireland. I focused upon the ambience - in this case the craic - on a scale between 1 - 10 was the lowest but at least they had one old sop at the counter that was talking to his Guinness - I left & killed the rest of the time sitting out in the cold - finally the bus arrived, went back to hotel & cleaned up for dinner. Yes, dinner. Tonight having seafood pie - can't wait to get home to make it! Shrimp, mussels, fish (salmon, yes!), creamy sauce, mashed potatoes, and cheese (Mozzerella - I guessed correctly - wouldn't hurt to have a bit of cheddar!) lightly mixed in & on the top, topped with fresh parsley!

Oct 11, 2012 12:57 PM Woke up this morning almost disabled with a terrible catch in my side - but managed to get dressed & head downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards went back to room to pack - what's the deal? I'm shedding items along the way (another pair of socks) and the pack seems harder to zip up!) - went downstairs & asked to hold my pack & bike while I toured the castle that was closed yesterday. Pouring rain outside so took my umbrella. Attempted to book a room in London - hostels are #1 full #2 mixed :( so will have to opt for a hotel - trying to book one - seems they're all full - sheeze - I don't need this :( getting too old to wing it :( Now departing Donegal - beautiful country

Oct 11, 2012 3:32 PM Still enroute to Dublin - mile after mile of emerald green - farms & forests, lakes (loughs) and rivers - bridges & hills, villages with ancient church steeples towering over it. In Ireland, instead of just a sign saying 'reduce speed' with a reduced speed limit posted, they have 'traffic calming' areas where the reduced speed is posted but it's more of a wake up call to reduce speed. Seems smart to me - would be nice if they did that in west Texas towns - instead of the speed traps that they have now :(

Oct 12, 2012 1:48 AM I never thought I was the sharpest knife in the drawer. Just when I was feeling so smug about the good "rail & sail" deal I got, sitting on board the ferry I realized I misread the "arrival" time. I 'thought' - arrival - 20 minutes after 12 midnight, meant - arrival in London. Yup - I really thought the ferry would zip across the Irish sea in a jiffy & they'd have us loaded on board a bullet train & we'd be in London at 20 minutes after midnight. When I reserved the room at the YH I told them my train arrives at 20 after midnight. Well, you guessed it - 20 after midnight (or thereabouts) the ferry completed it's voyage. The rail part of the rail & sail is another FOUR HOURS - and that's not the worst - the TRAIN does not arrive for FOUR HOURS! Lol I only under estimated this trip by 8 hours - that is all. What a dummy. Have to be careful of those smug looks - one false move & I'm cut down to size - The food was so expensive on board the ferry that I passed it up (a grilled panini sandwich that looked like two pieces of bread smashed together - for €7.00 :( Then here at the train station the food looked so pitiful I decided it was time to give my stomach a rest - I simply didn't have the heart to put it through the punishment of working through that rot!

Oct 12, 2012 9:40 PM After arriving at Holyhead around 1:30am, waiting for the train until 4:50am, the train finally arrived at Eden(?) station at 8:30 am - I cycled to the hostel (5 miles), checked in - slept for 5 hours - nice clean & reasonable room - Then got up & had coffee - cycled around London with no mishaps (scored one bus honk!) - my navigation skills are nil - hace to stop to pull my iphone out at almost every intersection - can't remember - plus it's hard to see the names on the streets - google maps is slow & sometimes doesn't respond :( Was taking photos of Buckingham Palace & my camera ran out of juice ! So no photos for the rest of the night

Oct 13, 2012 4:50 PM Kink in my side had moved to my back - it hurts - plus my room is 3 flights of stairs up - having to carry bike :( it's not as lightweight as I thought it was (or 25 lbs is heavier that I imagined!) Today, getting around is a lot easier - now that I have the basic lay of the land - plus, I'm more inclined to find my destination & directions & just head towards that basic direction - then recalibrate - it's working better :) I need a second hand smoke fan! Something to blow it right back at the smoker!

Oct 13, 2012 10:03 PM Got back to Hostel around 9:00pm - gathered up dirty clothes - am down in laundry room - no place to sit & it was such a maze of corridors & doors I figure it's easier for me to just stick it out here - through the washing & drying!

Oct 14, 2012 9:44 AM Sunday morning in London - having a slow morning due to aches & pains - still have bad catch in my back. Clear blue skies outside / need to take advantage of it but don't know what to do - need to plan my next move tomorrow - where to? The rattle of the brain like dice in a cup came up - Amsterdam! Another "rail & sail deal - £59 to The Hook of Holland - hope I'm not the one on the hook - booked a room at the hostel in Rotterdam for Monday night. After making next day arrangements I hit the streets - didn't return until 9:00pm - Rode & walked all over London! Soho, Piccadilly, Parliament Square, Leicester Square, Oxford St, Kensington, and parts in between. Mostly I was a clear day - no rain, but very cold. Was heading to Parliament Square & Westminister Abbey when I came upon a MAJOR Islam demonstration ! They were pouring in from every direction - I got out quickly! They were carrying signs that said "Moses & Jesus were prophets of God" and something about the sacred honor of Mohammed (sigh!:( - wish they'd get over it! The thought went through my mind how easy it would have been for me to commit suicide - all I would have had to do was yell out "(a certain unamed historical figure considered by moslems to be a prophet) sucked eggs" or something like that and it would have been all over. Or even question their bizarre logic - Jesus, a prophet. Did he tell the truth? If he didn't, how could he be a prophet? If he did, he was indeed God manifest in the flesh; the messiah!

Oct 15, 2012 5:38 AM Set alarm for 4:00am to book it to Liverpool St. Station for 6:00am train to ferry port via pedal - taxi was £22 -almost half the cost of my sail & rail toHolland - to go 5 miles! That was too much - I'd have paid it if it was raining - but away I flew - made it in plenty of time - yep, pedaled 5 miles to save £22! When I picked up my ticket voucher (rail & sail) the guy told me the 6:38am train was direct - gets me there in plenty of time - so now can relax a bit

Oct 15, 2012 6:38 AM Train departs - goodbye London! Hope to see you soon! Going through a dozen or more cities & villages I've never heard of before. Seems like more industry in this region than I have seen elsewhere. Thinking: may just base out of Rotterdam & take a day visit to Amsterdam - then begin my trek south to France & Spain. Train is fast approaching the harbor at Harwich - soon it'll by time to say goodbye to Merry England & the British Isles - I believe - having spent time in Great Britain, that I have much more feeling & understanding about royalty - the queen and especially Prince Charles. It's tradition - it's the warp and woof of their society - it is what it is - and if abolished, Great Britain would lose a vital part of their heritage. 6 hour ferry voyage to Holland - time to rest :) bought a few items to eat along the way so I don't have to pay the extorted prices on board the ferry!

Oct 16, 2012 8:28 PM Arrived in Rotterdam, cycled to hostel - seemed to cater more to Dutch students - lots of young kids. Thought I had room to myself but a guy checked in late at night. I cycled around town - found a nice 'Taste of Italy' restaurant that was fairly reasonable - good food & a very nice young man - very interested in America. Found out there are no old buildings in Rotterdam - all destroyed durin Couldn't get "free" Internet to work the whole time I was at the YH Was in Rotterdam at the time of the art heist - I promise I have no Picassos or Gan Goghs in my back pack!

Oct 17, 2012 9:30 AM Last night church bells were playing melodies (kit just gonging!) as I was in my room I could hear it - it was really an amazing thing, listening to it & thinking of being in Amsterdam! It's a beautiful city!

Oct 17, 2012 12:34 PM On way to Antwerp from Amsterdam - missed connection & ended up in Breda - took train to Rossendaal to reconnect - able to see more of Dutch countryside Oct 17, 2012 1:18 PM And for the life of me I don't know how it happened - I got off at "Rossendaal", proceeded to platform 3 that said "Antwerpen Centr" - jumped on the train that was sitting there, and once in motion I saw it said "A-Dam Centr" - once again I messed up! Now am in Dordrecht - waiting for the "elusive" train to Antwerp ! More Dutch countryside! Arrruugh!

Oct 17, 2012 1:41 PM The train comes - I jump into a car designated "bicycles" - usually has more cargo space - and the next thing I know I see it's 1st class - leather seats - etc - so I move into the next car - only to find the couchettes - all full - so it's Antwerp - a view from standing up! Oct 17, 2012 1:50 PM Back in Rossendaal - this time on to Antwerp! Sheeze! Still beats cycling that distance - should be less than an hour!

Oct 17, 2012 2:11 PM Arrival in Antwerp!

Oct 17, 2012 5:09 PM Cycled around this beautiful city - covered a lot of ground- light rain - got to the train station all soggy - good thing for Gortex - bought a ticket to Ghent & am on my wayHopefully away from the storm! Oct 19, 2012 9:46 AM A lot to catch up on - Went to Ghent, spent night in funky B&B - moved on to Brugge - rain & too many tourists - I left for Osstende small seaside village in Belgium. From there I cycled about 5 miles along the coast finally took tram to De Panne where I caught bus to Dunkirk. Looked for hostel but ended up in hotel next to gare. Woke up to pouring rain! Now on my way to Boulogne-sur-Mer - stop in Calais- no coffee on gare so sitting here on bus in stupor!

Oct 19, 2012 10:44 AM Yes, a bus. Take the train, get a bus - with rap music blasting! Horrible! Routed way out of the way to a town called Hazebrouck or something like that - now on 2nd bus to Calais I din't understand these time tables at all - fog, overcast, puddles on ground, fields are muddy - still no coffee!

Oct 19, 2012 2:30 PM To me this is extreme inefficiency - it's taken all day to go 30 miles by bus - it did route me through Calais with a few hours to cycle the city & get coffee & a baguette - but I need to do something - either rent a car or just forget visiting these small towns & get a fast speed train to Bordeaux. I don't know what to do. Headed now to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Hopefully the YH isn't booked. There, I'll decide what to do & how best to spend the remaining 9 days I have. My tour of Calais was rewarding - rain free. Very few places in the world have been historically as strategic - I can think of one place (perhaps) greater - and that is Constantinople / Istanbul. Now on the train, waiting to depart, I see it's raining. Arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer - YH was just across the road from the station - I checked in - €20 including breakfast - had a room with 2 beds + private bath all to myself!

Oct 20, 2012 10:13 AM In France, all roads lead to Paris - if you resist that, you'll spend all your time trying to get half baked connections which is what I did from Brugge to Boulogne-sur-Mer - although it was quite an adventure (& cheap!). But I don't relish the idea of spending half the day in train or (Heaven help me) bus stations- so with that in mind I skip a good deal of my plans - because it's just not practical given the short time I have left. So to Bordeaux via Paris I go - but one good thing, the fare was cheap - provided that I purchase the senior card (for €50) which I did - valid in all EU countries, so it'll help me even in Spain! This is a good day to be on a nice smooth train anyway - dismal damp & overcast outside - to Bordeaux I go!

Oct 20, 2012 2:14 PM Arrived in Paris Gare du Nord - looked outside at the rain - decided not togrey to change reservation for a later train in order to ride around Paris for a while. Instead & took subway to Montparnesse - buying a subway ticket from a hustler rather than wait forever in line. Arriving at Montparnesse I unfolded bike & rode to the train station just down the rue in the rain not bothering to strap in my pack, I just wore it on my back. Felt a bit smug passing up all the people with rolling suit cases headed to the same train station. I glided right into the station like I had wings! I wish everyone who has seen me befuddled & in my klutziest worst could have seen it! Made up for at least some of the classic klutz moments I have had :) Arrived in time to get a baguette de poulet & bottle of water (if it wasn't for the huxter hawking black market subway tickets I wouldn't have made it - now on 3 hour bullet train to Bordeaux! I'd love to have the flexibility of a car but it's nice to sit back, relax while passing cars like they're standing still! Burp!

Oct 20, 2012 8:41 PM It was pouring rain when I Bordeaux - then I looked up youth hostel (IYH) and there was no listing! So to make things easy I decided to check with a hotel next to the train station (since it's worked before, like in Dunkirk!) Saw 2 in view - started towards one - right next to it was a big lit sign that said 'Sex Shop' - that's my signal to go the other way! Yuck! So while walking away from it I prayed & God led me to another one - much nicer ! I checked in, unloaded my stuff, & started 4 walk with umbrella through Bordeaux! Had an awesome dinner that night - came back to hotel, took a shower (luke warm water :( & went to bed. Room was cold - even so I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat - like my body was trying to throw something off - also the noise of revilers outside seemed to never end - even though I got a good sleep.

Oct 21, 2012 1:50 PM Well for all the times i 'glided' my way with the greatest of ease today is the day of the major screwup - I'm at least still alive to recount the events - It wasn't raining when I woke up so I packed up my stuff, checked out & spent a couple of hours cycling the streets of Bordeaux - strangely vacant from the night before - no doubt all the revilers were still sacked out in bed - I decided instead of going straight to Toulouse that I'd find the Canal du Garssone & at least cycle its banks for a few miles - not all the way to Toulouse (9 days!) I had no idea it would end up being such a major deal. So I headed off in the direction of the canal - going through the outskirts of Bordeaux - like a little Fresno with cheap car lots & other auto related outlets dodging broken glass and other debris on the shoulder of the road - riding over little pebbles that pop to the side if I hit them with the side of the tire (I don't need this!). After about 3 miles I reached the country but was still on a road instead of along a canal bank! I saw a sign that said 'Port' something, so I decided that had to have something to do with the canal. I cycled down that road - it was very beautiful - and yes, I came to the canal - actually here it was a river - and here, no cycle paths. I was stoned out. There was an exotic animal zoo there / really interesting ! Camels, ostriches, emus, birds ponies for riding, and no doubt other creatures - no one spoke English but the guy got someone on the phone that could speak English & confirmed what I thought - no cycle paths around. Sheeze. I made it back down that same road when it began to rain -I stopped to put my Gortex jacket on - the rest of me was quickly drenched. I turned towards the next little town where there was a little train stop - (no one there) deciding that my canal cycling adventure was over. I read the time of the next train -13:05 - wow, that was only in a few minutes - then looked again & realized either the time changed or I misread it (most likely the latter) - it said 19:05! Six hour difference ! So looking at my options, I decided the train back to Bordeaux would be better - it came at 14:42 - only TWO hours to sit on my rear and do nothing but watch the bullet trains whiz past every 15 minutes & write this stupid journal! One amazing thing & that is these nylon pants of mine - that were drenched right through - were dry in an instant!

Oct 21, 2012 3:52 PM Now back in Bordeaux - right back where I started from - & booked a ticket to Toulouse - next one was full :( so mine leaves in 2 hours - sheeze-- sometimes this travel (travail!) is beyond pleasure - it's hard work! Enroute to Toulouse - why oh why - does this French (I assume she's French) lady sitting across the isle from me need to paint her nails here on the train? I'm being asphyxiated!

Oct 22, 2012 12:44 PM I think today is better than yesterday - got up & left hotel by 9:00 - cycled all around Toulouse & Canal du Midi. Came back to train station to book my trip to Lourdes - seeing I had over an hour I decided to make use of the time - a little more exploring- bought a baugette sandwich that was the worst ever - how can anyone mess that up? Then on my way back to station I got turned around - barely made it in time - now, on myWay to Lourdes. I have no idea why certain destinations appeal to me - but then, I never claimed to be wired like everyone else :)) Lots of clouds in the sky - today is the first time in a while I've seen the sun & some blue! Maybe I've left the dismal overcast behind?

Oct 22, 2012 6:39 PM Had a great day in Lourdes - no one I know has the distinction of being booted from the Grotto - Cycled down to the 'Grotto' - was right there at the entrance to the cathedral - just leaned my bike against a bench - was getting camera out - & a woman came running up to me & said I couldn't be there with my bike - this is a sacred place - & she promptly booted me out! She said she didn't know how I could have gotten past the guards! So now, I have the honor of having been booted from the Grotto! Besides that had a grand time people watching - there's got to be 250 hotels in this little village & twice as many souvenir shops selling Catholic paraphernalia- I tell you if Pentecostal people are a certain sort, Catholics are a breed! Now am @ station to catch the 18:20 train to St. John de Luz but it was canceled - wow there were two women in the office steaming mad! - it was an unfortunate thing - another hour to kill aRSFSR station - so had to take a later train - but since there's a bus to going to Pau - then I can catch that & pick up the train when it comes through or if I decide to spend the night in Pau then I can catch it in the morning.

Oct 22, 2012 11:00 PM As it's playing out, the 2nd train was late too. Won't arrive in St Jean de Luz until after 1:00am - I did cycle up (yes, UP!) to the city of Pau - checked on a hotel - it was reasonable but the guy said there was no room (don't think he wanted to mess with me). Well that's how fate works - I cycled back to the station in just enough time to catch the train. One other reason I didn't stay in Pau is, I'm done with France On my way to Spain, closer to Madrid, which means closer to home :)))

Oct 23, 2012 9:01 PM Arrived in St. Jean de Luz late at night - the last leg of journey was supposed to be a a bus from Bayonne but because of the messed up train schedule I arrived by taxi - complements of the train company - since I was ticketed to SJL & I was their job to get me there. Two others were in the same cab. One was warning me that all hotels would be closed now & I had better get one that we were passing that was open. I declined - I said I'd take my chances. As it was, I got a hotel right away right across from the train station. Clean but sort of rickety lol. Woke up in the morning not wanting to get up - tired. But needed to get going. Packed my stuff & began exploring - what a delight to be in such an incredible little village! Right around the corner from the hotel was the Les Halles ("Lawls") - the open market of the city - unbelievable! I cycled & explored the whole town thoroughly enjoying being there. Then decided to cycle to the border - the city named Hendaye. Google map showed the direction but what it didn't show were the hills! I trudged up each one - and held on for dear life (literally!) going down a few hills. I arrived at Hendaye - another beautiful city - and across the bay I could see Spain! After spending a while in Hendaye I went for it - & cycled across the bridge into Spain - and into Hondarribia ! Great experience ! Then had lunch (too expensive!) then asked directions on how to catch the bus into San Sebastion. Took a city bus into Irun and a metro train into San Sebastion. What an amazing experience going through this Basque part of the country - hardly even know this land exists - weird spelling! Arrived in San Sebastian - "Donastia" dead tired. Found a nice pension- after some niceties I went to my room & collapsed for at least 2 hours - then went out for dinner. I cannot believe prices - in some restaurants prices are 2x - or more! than what they would be in the States! I asked at the pension about fe Basque custom that I am familiar with - sitting down at a table & being served a 10 course meal - the lady told me that is unheard of ! 'Pinchxos', which is the Basque version of 'tapas' is an easy way for them to lift €10 right out of your pocket - beware - best to make a selection of one or two & know how much you owe. I did have a fairly reasonable dinner though - not fancy - and not too high priced. How much I'd love to have a 'Fruit de Meres' ("Freedamer") dinner but €30 - €50 is just too much! Or €90 for Monkfish! That must be something! Plus, these Europeans slurp down their food with bottles of wine! I don't see any recession!

Oct 24, 2012 10:32 AM This is the first time during trip I've slept in & am not in a hurry - cleaned up & am sitting in dining room drinking complementary coffee - instant that I fixed myself but not bad .

Oct 24, 2012 12:32 PM During coffee my plan for the day (method of madness?) began to set in / a day trip to Bilbao! I left bike at the pension (had enough of cycling - I thought!) & hoofed it down to the bus station - a 20 minute walk / wherein I regretted already that I hadn't taken my bike! Paid the fare - €10,30 - one way - sheeze! Seemed steep to me - but here I go - keep posted as to whether or not I think it's worth the €€ !

Oct 24, 2012 12:51 PM Enroute - Beautiful mountains forested with evergreen trees & beautiful farms!

Oct 24, 2012 4:28 PM Visited the Guggenheim Museum (I'm not buying this academia balderdash - it's all done with people with sick minds & a lot of money!) & Casco Viejo - the medieval part of the city - now that was incredible! Regretted many times I didn't bring my Brompton, but, even with sore feet, it was quite nice to take it in by foot! Visiting Casco Viejo made it all worth the visit!

Oct 24, 2012 9:35 PM Took the train/tram back to Donatio - 3 hours of screeching, lurching & stopping at ever nook & cranny along the way - if I knew what I know now I would have taken the bus, walked the extra distance to the bus station (train station was closer when I was ready to head back) & paid the extra €5.

Oct 25, 2012 11:31 AM Woke up, cleaned up, coffee'd up, packed up & pee'd up (the cardinal rule of travel - pee while you can!) & headed out to my next destination - Pamplona - in pouring rain. Wasn't expecting it - I intended to ride to the bus station instead of walk - but I'm not a diehard cyclist - so I unfolded my bike & walked under umbrella. Took about 30 minutes to reach the bus station. I suppose life would be easier if I'd learn things like local transit options, bit it just isn't in me to learn such things. Got my ticket the cost was €5 - but they charge an extra €10 to transport a bike (which I suppose is reasonable) so I put mine in one of the 2 Ikea bags Nicole got for me! It's no longer a bike!Now am sitting at a "Kafe"teria until close to time of departure (12:30) having some "pincxos" & espresso. Looks like there's been a lull in the rain. Hopefully it isn't raining in Pamplona! 45 more minutes 'til departure!

Oct 25, 2012 1:00 PM Enroute to Pamplona - beautiful country! Incredible forests & mountains. My assigned seat was next to a gal that no doubt thought she could compensate for being over weight by putting on more jewelry, fingernail polish & perfume - I thought I was going to asphyxiate - a little perfume is understandable - but this gal had enough on to disguise the smell of a rotting corpse! Would make good bug spray!

Oct 25, 2012 8:49 PM So I arrived in Pamplona - found a cheap pension right off, dumped my pack & bike & decide to walk. What a city! Beautiful! Very cycle friendly, saw a number of Bromptons - even found a shop that carried them - had dozens of them in various colors - i asked for a shot of grease on my chain & they kindly obliged. Pamplona! At night, the streets come alive with people! Pinchxos is the name of the game! Walked to the train station & ticketed to Santiago - have to knock it off my bucket list - that & Portugal!

Oct 26, 2012 10:36 AM Barely got enough sleep last night due to indigestion - from overdoing it the night before! I got the full baptism of "pinchxos" - after I returned from train station I looked for a restaurant that was still serving food from their menu- found out that isn't the custom (at least I couldn't find one that did!) - they all serve just pinchxos after a certain hour - and the streets & eateries are crammed with people! So I jumped in & began ordering pinchxos - fried calimari, mussels, potatoes, all very reasonable & very good! Yes, I overdid it - I paid the price all night! Too bad, because the pension was one of the nicest, cleanest & most comfortable I have stayed in - all for just €30. Early in the morning I could hear the rain pouring down - but at around 9:30 when I left the pension the rain had stopped - but it looks ominous !

Oct 26, 2012 11:45 AM Arrived at train station earlier than I needed - but I didn't want to chance getting caught in rain - plus, I guess when I'm done I'm done - Pamplona is a beautiful city with much much more to explore, but I'm ready to move on. The night before Google map showed the location of the train station a 30 minute walk - but that was not accurate, it was much longer (or sure seemed like it!) but when I cycled it this morning - wow - what a breeze! Took me less than 5 minutes! Am sitting in the station cafeteria having espresso & 'tortilla' (egg, potato, ham & cheese pie) - bearing the maddening sound of the television - some car race (NASCAR?) full blast! Sounds like million trapped buzz flys! Crazy! The Basque/Spanish people sure seem hard working & industrious - They certainly are making an effort to keep up with maintaining the infrastructure - no where is there not the sound of the jackhammer, excavator or circular saw or other construction effort. All buildings make maximum use out of the real estate - instead of gobbling up land in an urban or suburban sprall every building is at least five stories high. Most are not in the least attractive - they're just functional buildings for offices or residences. Some look new but the vast majority look like they were built in the '60's or '70's - drab buildings of concrete and or brick; and as everywhere else in Spain the graffiti punks (they're NOT artists) have won. Nice parks & bike routes compensate for the lack of yards. It may be too easy to stereotype all people - maybe there are hundreds that fill the streets at night eating pinchxos but are there thousands more inside their drab apartments watching television? And smokers - do they ALL smoke? An does the smoke ALWAYS blow in my direction?

Oct 26, 2012 4:15 PM My journey across Northern Spain - from Pamplona to Santiago, following the route of El Camino de Compostela - by train, is not particularly the traditional way to do it, but considering the time (and weather!) it's better than not at all. Sat next to a young man hoping to get into UCLA this Spring. His destination was Burgos - a vital town on the El Camino, and had worked with an association that promotes the pilgrimage. He told me about his home town, Burgos, that it is on the El Camino. He showed me beautiful photos. He was an ambitious, nice young guy - I decided to trade emails with him & plan to keep in touch. Then after he got off it was my fate that a young girl - a pretty girl - was assigned to the seat next to me. As soon as she sat down, she began to blow her nose like there was no tomorrow - trumpeting with her nose like I have never heard before - emptying the mucus from each nostril. Not just once or twice, but she did it until it was beyond reality. Sheeze - yesterday there was the fat lady with the perfume today it is the Louie Armstrong of nose blowing - how can I be so lucky? I shudder to think - what next? An hour later, she reached her destination, now sitting next to a vacant seat / at least for now. During the time the trumpeter was sitting there I at least had a bit of diversion - the train showed a movie. The main character in the movie was my oldest grandson's double, or maybe my own double when I was his age! I am not kidding! I had no sound, and the printed words at the bottom of the screen were in Spanish, so I couldn't follow the plot even if I wanted to / but each segment was further proof that this was this double. The name of the movie was El Nino de la bicicleta - or 'The Kid with the Bike'.

Oct 27, 2012 1:52 PM After arriving in STC I geared up & cycled to the Casca Viejo - on the way I passed a few hotels but decided to wait. Din't go much farther I until I saw another one - decided I'd check to see how much. It was €40 - more than I wanted to spend but I went for it - convenience is worth something! Dumped my stuff & went out to explore & get something to eat. It was after 10 pm - every place was just too crowded. I finally found a place that looked ok - it had a small vacant table outside so I sat down & ordered. While i was waiting for my food some man comes & stands right next to me smoking his cigarette. He leaves & here comes another. I am less than 2 feet away from his cigarette. Then the food comes - he leaves and SIX - SIX young people - I realize now were waiting for a table upstairs - were standing in that same spot right next to me, actually crowding my space - every one of those young people were puffing away on their cigarettes! It was horrible! All I could do was hurry & eat my food & evacuate! It was a horrible experience. In the morning I took my time exploring the city & the amazing cathedral. Folded up bike, put in Ikea bag & brought it right in with me. Saw dozens of pilgrims inside & outside - stopped to talk to a few of them & confessed that I cheated - took the train! Then around noon I decided it was time to start heading to Madrid. I decided against going to Portugal as I simply ran out of time. Train time from Lisbon to Madrid is 10 hours - one a day - and I figured the chances are to great that I might be cutting it too short to go to Oporto & Lisbon & be in Madrid in time for my flight. So around noon I arrive at the train station & ask about the next train departing for Madrid - yep - I failed to do my DD - I figured - Madrid? They should have a train leaving at least ever 3 hours. Yeahhhh right. The train departed after 10 PM & arrives in Madrid at 7:00 in the morning! 9 hours! Plus that means waiting until 10! So to the bus station I go - & what a journey to the bus station that was way out of town! But I made it, and rejoiced to find out the next bus was departing in 45 minutes! I bought the ticket, and here I am, on my way to Madrid, arriving about the same time the train to Madrid will be departing! I'm headed home!

Oct 27, 2012 5:57 PM Still enroute to Madrid - had no idea they were tossing in for free! a grand tour of the Spanish hinterland stopping at every nook & cranny picking up passengers! The Greyhound of Spain! And still 200 miles to go - Arrruuugh!

Oct 27, 2012 6:30 PM Another milk run - Astorga - saw an amazing cathedral & castle

Oct 27, 2012 7:59 PM Had a much needed put stop - I can't say where (no one but me is reading this anyway!) - quick pee, coffee, jamon croissant & water - Now back on board the bus seems now we're finally making good time -as the sun sets -- we're booking it through the plains of Spain - ahhh - the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains! (Julie Andrews in 'My Faire Lady might have 'got' it, but I think I've LOST it!) At any rate, I look to the west - the setting sun & think of it just rising above the ones I love at home - she better be getting rid of dust & junk :) (just kidding I know she isn't!)

Oct 27, 2012 8:18 PM 214 Kl (132 miles) to go

Oct 27, 2012 8:36 PM 183 Kl (113 miles)

Oct 27, 2012 8:48 PM 164 Kl (101 miles to go!) - 12 miles in 12 minutes - that's 60 mph :( the speed of a snail! Guess that's better than being on a bus careening out of control! I have sort of figured out this bus deal - it's a very nice 'super liner' bus - no doubt making the milk run picking up passengers in the province of Galicia - a very mountainous area. There were only eight persons on board when we started in Santiago. People have gotten off at cariois stops and still right now i'd say there are 25 passengers on board. And now, no more stops which is good because If it kept on stopping we wouldn't get to Madrid until next month!

Oct 27, 2012 9:14 PM Just passed Arevalo - beautifully lit up medieval city! Need to return - soon!!!

Oct 28, 2012 6:51 PM Arrived in Madrid just about the time the night train was pulling out of STC - train or bus it was a long haul but I really didn't mind it - besides being able to see a lot of the country it gave me time to think & catch up a bit on my journal. I got a late start today cycling around the city - just amazing. Got to Plaza de Cebelias & found a huge crowd of people - there was what I thought was a parade - cows, donkeys, horses, singers, musicians. Hundreds of them - the street was closed off - Calle de Mayor or Gran Calle (whatever they call it!) with hundreds if not thousands of people watching. I asked several times what it was all about & no one seemed to know. Later I googled 'parade in Madrid October 28' & found out it was the Federation of herders demonstrating for their right to herd their animals through cities! Although I didn't see any there were THOUSANDS of sheep that were herded down this main street! What I saw was everything else - literally hundreds of riders on horses as well as donkeys pulling carts, singers, marchers, etc. It was so crowded I couldn't cycle - I could barely walk through the crowd much less ride my bike - & roads were all jammed too. More street performers I think I've seen anywhere. It became really cold - around 5:pm i had enough - went back to hotel & rested, just went out for short walk later. Around 8:00pm I figured I had had it. I was ready to call it a night - and a trip. In that short period of time I was in Madrid it seemed there were more people that commented or were amazed at the bike - I gave several demos on how easily it folds & unfolds.

Oct 29, 2012 8:59 AM Taking bus to airport couldn't have been easier - the hotel was less than a 5 minute ride to Atocha Estation the airport bus stop. I didn't bother to strap on back pack, I just wore it. The day before I scoped it out to see exactly where it was. While there I noticed lots of cardboard people had used for packaging - so I figured o'd just pick some up there to bring to the airport to pack my Brompton. When I arrived this morning, sure enough there were really good pieces that I grabbed & brought with me to the airport. When I got to the airport I packed the bike nice & securely with the cardboard inside the two Ikea bags. Worked out perfectly! I used almost all the cardboard but had a little of it left over. Afterwards I looked for a place to put the remaining cardboard and my umbrella that I had served me well but I wanted to lighten my load the best I could. I figured some wayfarer micht be glad to have it. I saw a little alcove off to the side where it looked like a weary traveler had bedded down with his/her gear. I went over to the alcove and, about 15 or 20 feet from the person I placed cardboard & umbrella then continued with my packing. Then I got in line to check the bag (bike), out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the person who was in the alcove was standing up - he was a huge man with a beard. I noticed him approach the cardboard & umbrella - thinking that he may be glad to claim it - instead he booted it out of the alcove into the main walk way disdainful with his foot like it was encroaching on his space! Sheeze! Well, I decided to just look the other way, i melted into the crowd - I just stayed in line & continued on.... checked the bike bag & got my boarding pass. While waiting to board I glanced around imaging that if I were to 'profile' the passengers for potential whacko terrorist - who would I pick? I didn't see a single person that I would have picked as suspect - not until I found my seat - sitting there next to my assigned seat - with unshaven face, dark complexion & beady eyes ... a Junior Abadjinadab (not a word was spoken between us the whole trip:(

Oct 29, 2012 12:12 PM Flying over Spain I noticed the clusters of little towns surrounded by farms. There were a few farm houses but not very many. The vast majority of people live in the towns instead of living on farms. The plane is somewhere over the Atlantic. I watched as we became airborne - saying goodbye to European soil. I still have a little trepidation of what I may encounter in customs - I am not going to misrepresent the Brompton. If I have to pay I have to pay. Hopefully I won't have to.

Oct 29, 2012 3:33 PM Whooo Hooooo! It pays to be honest! It also (sometimes) to be ditzy! I think I was supposed to tell the person that first asked me for my passport in Madrid that I had something to declare - I don't know - but in Atlanta they waived me aside & an inspector was upset because that someone in Madrid did not alert them (or something like that) while she was debating what to do I reiterated that I bought and PAID for it - a used bike from a private party - back in early September or late August - I've got the PayPal receipt to prove it! She rolled her eyes & waived me on through!! We must have flown right over hurricane Sandy - because it was the most turbulent flight I've ever been on - but we made it!

********************

So after 37 days, traveling by air, bus, boat (ferry), train, car, my two legs, and bike - a lot of inefficient time wasted due to poor planning, but (very, VERY!) thankfully, no mishaps or wipeouts! .....

I have visited:

Ireland:- Croom- Adare- Kinsale- Cork- Monkstown- Cobh- Kilkenny- Dublin-Donegal-Killybegs

UK & Northern Ireland:

- Liverpool- Kendal Cumbria- Hawes & the Yorkshire Dales- York- Whitby- Robin Hood's Bay- Boggle Hole- Edinburgh Scotland- Belfast Northern Ireland- Newry- Armagh- London England

Holland

- Rotterdam- Amsterdam

Belgium

- Antwerp- Ghent- Brugge- Ostandee

France

- Dunkirk- Bologne Sur Mer- a quick scurry through Paris!- Bordeaux- Toulouse- Lourdes- Pau - St. Jean de Luz

Spain

- San Sebastion- Bilbao- Pamplona- Santiago de Compestola- Madrid & parts in between!

Criss crossed Manhattan Island (by foot!), Ireland, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, part of Wales, Holland, Belgium, France & Spain

Cycled in Belgium to (almost!) the French border, DID cycle from St. Jean de Luz to Hondarribia in Spain - cycled along the Canal du Midi - & made the good old college try to cycle the Canal Garonne (at least I found it!)

Cycled the streets in Kendal, York, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin (from the bus station to the ferry port - what a ride!) London, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lourdes, Pau, St. Jean de Luz, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Santiago de Compostela & Madrid!

Touched the Atlantic, North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Donegal Bay, Bay of Biscay Eaten braciole sandwich in New York City, Irish stew, Boxly & fish pie in Ireland, Fish & Chippies with mashy peas, (multiple times: most memorial was in Donegal - I'll never forget!

And - at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby!!!) English tea & scones, FULL English & Irish breakfasts (minus the black pudding!) Cumbrian sausage, Yorkshire sliced pork sandwich with roasted potatoes & gravy!, pickled herring (or was it raw!? either way, it's addicting!) in Amsterdam! Belgian waffle, Pinchxos, Tapas,

Good bye for now, to Cafe Nero, Pret a Manger - the ever present sound of the jack hammer & second hand smoke - the train, bus stations & ferry ports - hostels & hotels, b&b's & pensions. I reached a lot of travel goals - & am traveled out - for now.

Still have to crack the Alaska nut - (I think that's next!) & the Portugal & Southern Spain nut & the Prague nut & Munich & St Petersburg

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