Monday, September 21, 2009

Ipswich, Canterbury & the most cyclists I have ever seen at once.

It's been most of September since I got back from Edinburgh, so I must have a few little trips & events to write about. Hopefully the blog editor behaves itself this time. I've now worked out how to work around the annoying changes to Blogger - apologies to those that receive this twice.

A day or so after I got back I was off to Ipswich for a long weekend staying with Te Puke & Palmy friends – Louis & Emma. They have been in the UK for a little over a year & seem to be quite enjoying living in Ipswich. It was great to catch up - & quite like I remember flatting: generally eating, watching sport & a bit of mountain biking. Louis & I loaded the two bikes (it's good to know bikes can fit in Micras with the seats down) & set off north-east for Thetford forest. My first singletrack in the UK this visit. I see now why Suffolk is known for being flat – we didn't exactly have a lot of climbing to do. There were four different trails, apparently of varying difficulty, & we did the two “hardest” ones. It was great to be out riding in the forest & there were plenty of people out & about (but not too many on the tracks). We managed to occupy ourselves for three hours & Louis did heroically when the seat on his borrowed bike worked the bolt loose & kept tilting up at the front. There were some nice little bits of flowing singletrack, but these were few & far between & generally the trails seemed poorly designed. I got quite excited when I saw these signs -– warning of almost certain death, but in the end it was less challenging than the Diamondback/Dipper in the Redwoods & one small part of it was quite fun. Nonetheless, it was great being out & I more than happy to go out for some doubletrack around some woods closer to Ipswich on Sunday afternoon.

The two weeks since then have been spent organising things, brief bike rides (two hours) locally & the odd trip in to London to see sights (National Gallery & Portrait Gallery were very good – must go back to see the majority of exhibits that I didn't have time for; back to the Imperial War Museum; really enjoyed poking around Campden Markets & wishing I had a budget that extended a bit further) & friends.

Two weekends ago was a big family get together for Trish's (the second cousin I'm staying with) birthday. It was great to catch up with quite a few people – most of whom I had met last year. I have since seen photos of our trip in 1987 to the UK that I have not seen before – the infamous Renault 11 makes an appearance & I was a lot cuter.

Saturday last, Trish & I took a pleasant little day trip to Canterbury (a certain line from The [real] Office keeps coming to mind). After lunch, we took a look around the Cathedral (didn't see Blackadder around or Baldrick trying to sell dubious relics). In some respects it was another great big cathedral (more of which I'm sure I will see) – but I was surprised at how it kept on going, it was a lot larger than I expected on first sight. Afterwards we took a stroll along the river in part, & then around a lot of the old walls of the city. It was warm close day & there were plenty of people out enjoying the weather & I was surprised at how many teenagers & students were around.

Yesterday was the Mayor of London's Skyride. For six hours in the middle of the day, a loop was closed off that went from Tower Bridge, along the Embankment to Trafalgar Square & down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. Coming back the other half of the loop split off & took in St Paul's. I biked from home in Sidcup & met up with a small group three and a half miles down the road. From there we set off for Greenwich & met up with hundreds of others. Biking from there & over Tower Bridge it started to get chaotic with so many on bikes taking over the roads. It was great joining (as it turned out) sixty-five thousand other cyclists in the city on what was a beautiful day. Of course, it was rather congested & slow going – but no one seemed to find as there were bikes everywhere, not cars, taxis & murderous buses. A great range of bikes on display – fixies, roadies, a few mountain-bikes, town/city bikes, unicycles, penny-farthings, even a pedal-powered piano, clown bikes & best of all – kids everywhere on little bikes, trailing bikes having a ball. Six hours & thirty-odd miles later, I was pleased to make it home exhausted.

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