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Published: August 4th 2015
We arrived at a cold, grey Stansted airport and caught the Easybus that I had booked earlier to Old Street in London.
I planned a walking route to Victoria Coach Station and once we arrived we were left with a generous 5 hours for the walk.
The route took us through the Strand and Fleet St, passing Trafalgar Square and St. James Park.
It was busy and exciting and, as always, the magnificent architecture and amazing spaces gave me a thrill.
People were knocking off from work at 5pm and the crowds on The Strand became so thick that I had to make sure Tomas would find his way to the bus station alone if we happened to get separated.
I had previously passed through London city twice in my lifetime but only for a day each time. Both times I had been there for a purpose and had never had the opportunity to play tourist and orientate myself to the locations on the Monopoly board so this was a new experience for me.
This is unusual for an Australian, as so many people I grew up with spent years in London and the UK after studying to
St. James Park, London
A walk through London on our way to the Coach Station
visit family or have their first overseas experience. Australia, being part of the monarchy, has always had connection to UK. Swedes, on the other hand, have much less curiosity or exposure to London and UK. They have more awareness of so many other spectacular European cities. In Tomas case it had never been on his radar as he had always only been interested in skiing locations when he considered a holiday.
Our Mega bus to Lancaster was leaving at 8pm so we wandered around until it was time to check in.
The thrill of London died when we realized the price of having to go to the toilet. (50pence = A$1.10/NZ$1.20) I decided to stop drinking the litres of water that I usually do. In Australia and New Zealand doing number ones and twos is free, it is somthing essential so the thought of having to pay, for me, seems obsurd. Then having to wait for our delayed Mega Bus in an obscenely crowded, ugly and crammed waiting area added to the distaste. Everyone was competitively pushing, shoving and elbowing each other to be the first to get a prime spot on the double decker bus.
a short time I started to forget what I loved about travelling but when we arrived in Lancaster at 4am and the staff at the University Security House were so kind in looking after us until daylight the pleasure returned.
The arrival time of our journey was scheduled at 3am and I was embarrassed to ask our friends to meet us at such a disrespectful hour.
I love how in this instance the unexpected kindness made everything worthwhile and sitting, waiting with a cup of tea, after what felt like a challenging journey was so pleasurable.
Paul and Marian picked us up at 8am and took us to their beautiful home. Both of us were completely shattered from the difficult journey so after breakfast had a little sleep until midday. We were then taken on a fantastic, scenic tour of Lancaster, Morecombe and surrounds. We were planning a cycle tour for the next day so this helped us to get our bearings.
Our hosts are our summer neighbours where we live in the north of New Zealand and had encouraged us to visit their UK summer home when I was in the process of planning the trip.
I had been left with the 6 day gap between flying back from Sweden and beginning the London housesit, so it seemed to work out perfectly.
After the first nights skeep and almost managing to recover we took to the bicycles, that had been collecting spider webs in their garage and cycled in the direction of Morecombe via Lancaster. The weather was partially clouded. There were dedicated cycle ways practically the entire length of the trip. Once we arrived to the coast in Morecombe we cycled towards Hest Bank from where we could follow the canals all the way back to Lancaster. The canals were scenic and peaceful. Pretty and colourful canal boats passed and occasional pubs and restaurants were alongside where they or us could pull up easily. When i had mentioned to people I work with in NZ that I was going to the UK many had said they had a dream to travel on the canals.
The return crossed the elegant looking Lune Aquaduct, which passed over the Lune River and over the aqueduct flowed the canal for 200 metres.
It was a late lunch by the time we arrived in Lancaster. I spent the
next few hours exploring the many charity shops in town but eventually came out empty handed as I didn't find anything that was worth further weighing down my baggage.
The track back to Lower Thurnham seemed simple enough, following the canal all the way but what started as an obvious track diminished to a narrow dirt path after a few kilometres. We didn't read the map carefully enough and ended up a little off course, having to ask for help in order to get back.
In the panic of being late and not knowing where we were what had meant to have been a flat ride ended up being slightly hilly and my chain managed to slip about 4 times. To cycle along the side of the roads and not on the cycle paths seemed rather dangerous as the roads were only just wide enough for one vehicle. They would have to swerve around any cyclists which was risky if oncoming traffic came around one of the many sharp, hidden bends. The roads were lined with high bushes much of which were stinging nettle, which were pruned inches from arm scraping distance.
By the time we returned
I was sweaty, greasy and relieved. Paul and Marian had seemed a little worried as they had spent much of the last hour trying to spot us returning on he canal and eventually saw us cycling in the undulating distance along the road.
After a clean up we had a great meal at a local pub for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised that pub meals could be quite reasonably priced here as compared to New Zealand but then most of the world was starting to look cheaper than what we were used to in New Zealand.
Our next day was a cycling day again despite the threat of rain that never arrived in the morning. We wanted to find the canal track that we had lost the previous day and after a start to the day with a debate over which way we should go that very almost took us away from the intended route again we, luckily, found it.
The track was mainly a grass verge beside the canal, so it was a little slow going on the bicycles and in some parts a little muddy. Being a Saturday there was plenty of activity. Many others were
walking their dogs, cycling and jogging as well as canal boats going in both directions. Tomas stopped to help some people who had lost their steering pull their canal boat with ropes to the bank.
Once again we stopped in Lancaster for lunch and then continued beyond the Lune Aqueduct to The Crook of Lune picnic area, stopping to pick raspberries from the side of the track along the way back.
Sunday was another day that the weather looked like it was going to be English bleak but Paul and Marian had arranged that they would take us for a drive into the Lakes District on this day, so we set off early. We were incredibly lucky to have such willing local tour guides to show us around such a famous area. Marian is a keen walker and does regular local walks with her bushwalking group plus they have both lived in the area many years.
We were told that the Lakes District gets more sheltered weather than the rest of the country and was traditionally where more affluent families would have had their stately homes in earlier times.
It is no secret that I am
not a good car traveller and prefer to be in the outdoors than to express sightsee from behind a car window so, luckily, the rain held off and short, regular stops and walks certainly helped me from dozing in the back seat.
The first stop was in a town called Grange over Sands. Ducks in a lake and quaint houses that looked stereotypical of a pretty little English town. Many of the shops were closed and we just went for a wander along the lake and main street to take in the atmosphere
Next stop was a village called Cartmel where we again wandered through the narrow village streets and were welcomed to enter the 13 the century priory church just at the finish of the Sunday morning service.
Morning tea was a stop at Coniston and later in the afternoon we joined families and happy dogs walking along the Langdale Valley and diving for sticks in the stream (not us but the dogs). I felt it would have been nice to have a dog enjoying walking with me in these beautiful surroundings. From my experience there are not many national parks or public trails along places
of natural beauty in Australia nor New Zealand where dogs are permitted to accompany their owners, even on a lead.
The route back to Lancaster passed though Ambleside and Windermere. The plan was to stop for dinner in a pub upon return but they all seemed to be so busy and full of playing children and after a long day did not feel relaxing. Back at the comfortable house the evening felt cold enough to justify lighting the fire, it was definitely the right choice rather than the noisy hotel.
The type of weather that I have been used to in summer seemed to be a rare occurrence in this part of the country but so far we had to be thankful that we hadn't had whether that deterred us from exploring by bicycle. An early night yet again.
The report had been for us to expect that Monday would actually treat us to warm, sunny weather but the forecast must have changed since last checking. On waking the day brought more of what we had been having until then; grey and cloudy, threatening clouds but hopefully no rain.
It had been quite a while since we
had treated ourselves to a lazy day, probably not since we had been in Prague, so we indulged in a late breakfast and slow morning.
Later in the day the sun did poke an eye out when we went for a small coastal cycle along bridal tracks beside lazy cows.
We collapsed and had a snooze on a pier at Glasson Docks. It felt good to do nothing for a while. We continued cycling for a short distance and sat ourselves at a viewpoint. A couple parked their motorbikes nearby and joined us with their thermos and coffee. We had a good chat to Bill and Judith and hugged them goodbye at the joke that we would never see them again, despite just having made new friends. Cycled back to the house following the narrow, grassy track beside the canal once again.
We were taking our hosts out to dinner, although they were driving us, so, theoretically, you could say that they took us. We went to the same hotel we had been to a few nights ago but this time I ordered a vego curry which was more substantial than the salad that I ordered last time which
Clouds lifted for a one off photo opportunity
was lovely but I could have easily eaten two of. There was hardly anyone at the pub which was peaceful and relaxed, just the way we like it.
Our last day in Lancaster started, not surprisingly, as a wet, grey, miserable morning. Tomas didn't wake up until 11am, as he had very bad hay fever which had knocked him out. Paul and Marian lit the fire and we had a cosy, lazy morning, late brunch and cups of tea. Tomas spent a few hours giving Paul lessons on how to use his computer.
A discussion early afternoon about a possible outing resulted in a group trip to a highly recommended ice creamery, Walling's Farm, in Cockerham which gives a "true cow to cone experience" as they make their own ice cream from their own farm milk. It was pretty good as i would say that the cream content would have been pretty high. They didn't have a yogurt flavour so we couldn't compare it to the one we had in Greece, which still rates as our top ice cream experience.
Late afternoon we took to the bicycles again for a ride to Lancaster. Now that we had
done this ride a few times it felt easy. It was only about a half hour ride. We had a tail wind there but returning might have taken about 45 mins as the head wind was pretty steady. All we did in Lancaster was get some initial supplies for the evening,'s bus trip to London. It was also good to get some fresh air and get out amongst other people for a while.
Just after dinner Charlotte called. We were to start our housesit for Charlotte's 18 year old Kelpie, Fly and cat, Alice in London the next day. Poor Fly, the old boy, had tumbled down some stairs the previous day and it could have been very bad but apparently he got himself up to chase a cat after a few minutes of worryingly lying there. We were looking forward to giving Fly in particular loads of cuddles when we arrived.
We caught the Mega bus to London at 10 pm. It was much less crowded than it had been on the horrible trip from London but gradually further filled with each stop. It was nowhere near as bad a trip as the way down had been.
The bus only had an upper level of passengers, so half the amount than the trip from London to Lancaster. I also managed to connect to WiFi which I hadn't previously been able to do. It felt like a good start to the next adventure which was about to begin.
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