Friday, September 7, 2012

A Journey Through England - Part Two

Continuing across the country... From the mystical Stonehenge in the south to the middle of England we journeyed up to Nottinghamshire.  There are just a couple more photos from the southern part I wanted to share.

Beautiful drive through tree canopy.
In between tiny villages, we often went through either gently rolling fields, or thick forest land.  The trees had grown up and over the roads so thickly in some places, that my camera demanded the flash - although a few minutes later the motorcycle would slip out of the dark green tunnel and into blinding sunshine.
I have never been in a country where the other drivers on the road were so respectful.  They do drive fast; most people, including trucks, go over the posted speed limit.  While the trailer was attached, we always went rather slowly - and of course being in a unfamiliar area without GPS or a map (and that we were driving now on the left) also meant we were extra slow compared to normal drivers.  Even while we were on the highway, about 90-95% of all other drivers put on their indicator and went around us with several large car-lengths of room.  On the roundabouts, of which there are a gazillion, no one ever jumped in front of us, or pulled around us.  Of the few incidents where there were careless drivers, most of those had plates from foreign countries. 
There were also a lot of street signs and information signs that were fun to see.  Next holiday I'll make it a point to take photos of some of those.  For my partner, all the steep road grade signs and runaway truck areas were fun, since he's native Dutch where pretty much everything is flat.  I liked all the various animal and people crossing signs.  For both of us, some of the more traditional signs translated into British English sound funny; "Way Out" instead of "Exit" always had me adding -man at the end.  In the petrol station: "No naked lights" had us stumped for a while, although I think it's "no open flames" in American. 

   Cute attack dog, can kill with kisses.
We stopped in Devizes to look at part of the Caen Hill Locks, and got to chatting with a nice group of locals who were happy to share their knowledge with us.  They were enjoying a drink out with their dog on the warm, sunny banks as we lumbered up, camera in hand, overdressed in full biker leathers (quite sweaty).  Our helmets were with the bike, parked some distance away.  Finally one lady inquired if we were motorcyclists.  Grand hilarity ensued as the rest of the group supplied their own answers.  "No, they're not bikers.  Just very kinky foreigners in leather." 
(Small) horse tunnel along the canal.
It was probably a perfect summer day if one was dressed for it.  We walked around the canal and several of the locks.  There was a great documentary about the locks and how they were abandoned, trashed and then rescued and restored.  What's really cool about the narrow boats and the locks is that it is all designed to get heavily laden boats up and down hills with horse and/or manpower. 
One of the Caen Hill Locks.
The local assured us it was not generally sunny, that one out of every three days was grey and rainy, but by this time I didn't believe them.
The first of many narrow boats we saw.
Nothing a Dutchie likes more than to see how canals and boats work in other countries.  The narrowboats are quite unique, and if you don't mind traveling slowly, they are a very relaxing way to travel.  Some of them have also been transformed into homes.
Our travels continued north, up to Nottinghamshire and the Horn Motorcycle and Boat Rally.  Those are (coal) cooling towers in the background.
Bike and Boat Rally
Great food, great bands, great people, and great weather!  Everyone was so nice, it really made a lasting impression on me.  I thought I knew what hospitality was, but I've never seen anything like what the British do - they can make you feel so welcome and included, that you forget that you ever came from somewhere else or were until recently, strangers.
We went with a lovely group from the bike rally into Nottingham on the train, as one must sample the local ale, safely.  We visited a brewery, and then went on to visit the oldest Inn in England.
Nottingham Railway Station
I saw a couple Bobbies just outside the entrance, and asked if I could take their photo.  They said yes, and even posed for me.  Having lived in other places, I was anticipating a different reaction - and was pleasantly surprised.  I thought in fairness I would keep the photo for myself and not post it to the Internet without their express permission, though, so you'll just have to take my word for it - even the police are pleasant and nice in England.

The inn is built below the Nottingham Castle (of Robinhood fame) and partly into the caves.  I was shown through much of the inn by a local - taking care to stop by to see the Cursed Galleon - and of course delicious food and more ale was in order.

The statue of Robin Hood outside the castle.

I'm going to continue (again) in another post for the last part of the journey.  I've been trying to get to this blog when I can, but continuing health issues demand my time and attention, so I ask for your patience in the meantime.