On to the Cotswold

brighton-20After a relaxing weekend with friends and hearing Ian sing in the choir at the Winchester Cathedral it was another overcast day as we revised our plans for the next couple of days. Originally we intended to head to Cornwall before going to Berkshire and Oxford area to explore the area we’ve seen on all those Midsomer Murders we’ve watched over the years. So based on the forecast we figure we’ll explore the Cotswolds.

Just down the road from our friend’s house we saw the first thatched buildings of our trip. These are alms houses originally for the deserving poor. I suspect that’s not who occupies them now. The sun couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to come out or not.

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Salisbury Plains, sort of like Kansas – NOT. Well okay, there is some winds and it is gently rolling but instead of cattle and pig feed lots you’ve got tank crossings. Yes, you read that right tank crossings abound since there’s a large army training base that uses the area for tank training and testing. Between this and other trips I’ve crossed the Salisbury Plans half a dozen times and never once seen a tank. I have seen tracks once the paved section of the crossing ends but that’s the closest I’ve come to one.

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Note you want to make sure you have at least 40-50 miles of gas in your tank because gas stations on the plains are few and not easy to find.  Traffic on a Sunday when you stay off the M and single digit A roads is light. The views were sweeping and posted speed was 60mph. Not too shabby a way to spend the day. Though it wasn’t long before we were back on equally scenic roads but without the sweeping views.

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Dinner started calling our names so we headed to the Colesbourne Arms gastropub for a traditional Sunday Cavery. My lamb was fantastic but Steve was disappointed that his first choice of beef was already sold out before we sat down to eat at 7. He did say his chicken was excellent enjoyed with real ale.

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Next morning we headed over to Stratford upon Avon where we had booked into a service flat so we could do some laundry. With only limited packing space you need to do that fairly often.

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brighton-26brighton-20-3Not having breakfast provided by our lodging for a change we decided to ride to Broadway Tower and see if they had a tea shop. They did though I wasn’t particularly wild about the thick gravel in the parking lot.

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Lovely breakfast of smoked salmon with scrabbled eggs and good coffee. 

For a complete change for the modern interior and square brick service flat our lodging for the night was at the Faulkland Arms a 16th century pub in the small village of Tew.

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One of the reviews said that the rooms were nice with modern bathrooms but getting to them with luggage could be a challenge.

stairsThe widest section of those stairs is about 7” and if you had large shoulders you’d have trouble walking up without turning sideways. View from our window is a school but at night all the local single scene took place at the smoking tables outside and underneath our windows.  Good thing their food and beer was decent. I have to admit was impressed at the number of women in 4-6” stilettos who were managing to drink and walk on less than ideal surfaces in them.

img_3298_28221After a good breakfast we headed off the next morning for our first National Trust property visit.

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Brighton

001All packed with extra bag shipped and ready to head for the UK.

Late afternoon we arrived in the UK and picked up our scooters, Vespa 70th Anniversary Edition GTS 300s from About Town Bike Hire. What a pleasure to deal with Mike, the scoots were ready and he even offered to store one of our bags so we didn’t have to drag it with us around the UK.

Took a few minutes to attach the TomTom Vio to my blue Vespa and put in our Brighton B & B, A Room with a View and off we went. Neither of us had a problem riding on the left side of the road. Must have been all that time in Australia and New Zealand last year. GPS was set to avoid motorways and that’s what it did for the 30 miles between Horsham and Brighton. Traffic was pretty good especially when you consider that we were right at prime going home from work time thanks to delay in leaving Barcelona.

brighton-20-2Unfortunately it was a bit dreary and overcast with the odd bit of rain so while the view from our B & B wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped.  BTW, the payment for that view was that we were on the top floor of a 4 story row house that had no elevator.

brighton-21-2We were able to get prime parking spaces right in front of the steps into the B & B.

After unloading, changing clothes and generally take a break we headed out to explore the town, okay we wanted dinner and an adult beverage.

We quickly discovered that we weren’t in Spain anymore. 8:00 pm and three of the places we stopped had already taken their last food orders for the night We finally found a place with a “just opened” sign that was still serving. Food was decent but they didn’t have any beers on draft so we had to make due with the house wine.

brighton-2We also discovered that although the maps said we were some distance away from the Brighton Pavilion it was only a 5 minute walk away. Had we realized that so many places shut down their kitchens so early (okay there were several takeaways still open) we’d have eaten before exploring but still.

Next morning the weather wasn’t really any better but leaving the scoots at A Room with a View who allowed us to keep them there along with our luggage after checkout time we set off for the Brighton Pavilion. Steve left his backpack at the B & B only to discover that backpacks were allowed in but cameras were NOT! The excuse being that many items were on loan and the terms of the loan agreement was no photography. How that prevented you from taking photos in the music room of the ceiling I don’t quite know but suffice to say we were disappointed.

brighton-1The outside of the pavilion was as ornate as I had always imaged reading regency romances as a teenager.

What Steve couldn’t get over was the “chinois” interior especially where they took mahogany stair rails and faux finished them to look like poorly lacquered bamboo. 

Apparently Queen Victoria couldn’t stand the place and sold it expecting it to be torn down. Instead it’s had a variety of uses over the centuries since constructed including being used as a hospital for the Indian Army in WWI. Who knew?

brighton-9Anyway we didn’t linger since a few of the rooms were musty enough to trigger my allergies. So back to the B & B to pick up the scoots to head over to stay with friends near Basingstoke. Since we had plenty of time we decided to set the GPS to “shortest route” figuring that would keep us off the dual carriageways.

As you can see it did that taking us on some scenic single track roads.

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The white flowers blooming like crazy in the picture above right was wild garlic. It has quite a heady aroma that smells more like onion than garlic to me. Apparently Rape plants as well as wildflowers bloom in May.

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We did escape the gloom of the coast after a bit. The drawback to these single track roads is the occasional encounter with farm vehicles.

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brighton-21I don’t have any photos of the most exciting moment of the ride though. We had reached saturation with a single track lanes especially those where farm traffic had deposited lots of dirt and other detritus on the roads as shown left and told the GPS to reroute us avoiding interstate highways since neither of us desired to go 70mph without a windshield on the scoots.

That took us to a two lane country road bounded by high hedges several feet taller than you could see over  on each side but room for two normal size cars to pass each other. A good thing since it was now late enough on a Friday that people who took off early for their county houses were starting to appear on the roads.  As we were riding on these two lane roads we’d see the occasional sign warning of a single lane bridge coming up or the road coming to a section that was single track. Sadly this wasn’t always the case. Approaching a blind curve I slowed down because a couple of cars appeared around it so I approached the curve going pretty slowly. That was a good thing because as soon as I could see past the bend I saw the corner of a Range Rover. As I was able to see more of it I realized that it was just entering a single lane stone bridge only a few dozen feet in front of me. As I completed the curve I was staring straight at its headlight and there was only about  3’ of clearance between the side of the Rover and the stone bridge  Instinct, training or something kicked in as I focused on that clear space and the next thing I knew I was past it. I still don’t quite know how I managed because there was no way in the space available both the Rover and I could have stopped before we reached each other.

Fingers crossed that will remain the closest encounter I’ll ever have for the rest of my life.

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Barcelona

Yesterday we took a 360 tour of Barcelona starting with a walking tour of the old Gothic quarter followed by a short boat tour of the harbor looking at multi-hundreds of million dollar yachts. Topped off with a helicopter ride over Barcelona. I know I took photos but for the life of me I can’t find them, sigh. Anyway in chatting with our guide I mentioned how we had enjoyed the scooter tour we took in Lisbon but I hadn’t been able to find a similar tour in Barcelona. He tells me a friend he used to work with was now doing tours of Barcelona in conjunction with Via Vespa. Funny, when I contacted Via Vespa before our trip they told me they had “gps guided tours” but couldn’t guarantee a live guide so we hadn’t booked one.  So he sent a text to his friend with my email and sure enough we could indeed book a guided tour with him. So Steve and I stopped by on our way back to the hotel to make sure we knew where it was and what to expect. Jamie was thrilled because Marcel agreed to let her ride behind him with a discounted rate to take into account she wasn’t riding her own.

barcelona-21So next afternoon we arrive at Via Vespa with Jamie and meet Marcel and off we go. BTW, the shirts Steve and I are wearing are kevelar lined ones we brought with us for those days when our waterproof jackets would just be too danged hot and yes, I really should have had it zipped up or at least the buttons snapped but I didn’t.

barcelona-2Marcel asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to see and we requested a tour that would include Gaudi buildings.  The most well know of which is the work in progress Segunda Familia.

Definitely impressive as was the line of people outside the building waiting in line to go in.

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But that isn’t the only bit of Gaudi in Barcelona. There’s Gaudi Park and several other building scattered around town.

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Definitely had his own style of architecture did Gaudi.

We intended to go to the bar at the top of the building below left for cocktails the night before we left but didn’t make it. barcelona-13 barcelona-15

Even when you go up to the highest point in Barcelona and look out over the city you can’t miss the Segunda Familia.

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Like Lisbon the streets we rode varied from cobblestone to wide multilane modern roads with large roundabout without the trolley tracks. Only a couple of sections had any sort of grade. I wish I could have gotten a video of Marcel making little tiny switchbacks as he was going up to the overlook. Somehow a 50cc with two adults on it just wasn’t quite as zippy as the 125s in Lisbon. Smile Of course down by the sea it was easy peasy level and flat.

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Lisbon 2017

lisbon-1-2We arrived after a week of crappy weather: rain, high winds and bouncy seas on the Freedom of the Seas we pulled into Lisbon with sunny skies and perfect weather for scooting not too hot or too cold.  It was a pretty early arrival and for some strange reason our ship was on Barcelona time not Lisbon time which made it a bit confusing so we were a bit concerned that our scheduled scooter tour might be cut short.

lisbon-2Instead a gentleman walked up to us as we waited at the appointed place saying he’d never had riders on his tour before who brought their own helmets. Winking smile

Bruno introduced himself and led us to where three scooters were parked. Two 125cc  LML Stars and a 110cc Honda Vision. Apparently there was a bit of a mix-up when we registered online and Bruno thought that Steve and I were planning on riding two up while Jamie was riding solo.  He said no problem but it would be over an hour before we could pick up another scooter so in the meantime  he recommended that two people ride on the Honda Vision since it seat was better for two up riding. Jamie started off riding behind Steve but at our first stop getting off/on with the top case was a bit difficult so Bruno suggested she ride with him to the next stop.

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This worked out much better and Jamie was quite happy being a passenger after seeing the cobblestones, trolley tracks and the step roads that we were riding, not to mention traffic at times. Like Rome and many other European cities it sits on a series of hills with centuries old buildings on narrow streets most of which still have their centuries old cobblestones. Bruno told us that there had been an attempt to asphalt over them but the asphalt wouldn’t stay on and made the surface even more treacherous so they gave up on the experiment. Trolleys and their tracks were everywhere.

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lisbon-10Stopped for coffee at the “Time Out Market” which was created when the old farmer’s market was upgraded to include a food hall where the top restaurants in Lisbon (Michelin stars included) were invited to open a stall. The only criteria was that the food had to be “affordable” so very few dishes cost over 10€

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Riding sweep I took a few photos like the one at the left as we were riding down one of the streets in town. Turns out that Lisbon is the second oldest city in Europe after Athens, who knew? lisbon-14

Then again there are also very large busy traffic circles but Lisbon drivers were quite good. Bonus the traffic circles we went through were not cobblestone.

lisbon-2-2Parking was easy, pretty much anyplace you wanted as long as you weren’t blocking pedestrians or vehicle movement. That made it easy to get off and get closer to many of the sites. Our guide was a font of knowledge about the places he took us to see.

 

 

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Without the scooters we’d never have been able to see as much of the city as we did in the relatively short time we had in Lisbon.

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Bruno took us places we’d never have found on our own like the terrace behind a shop a friend of his worked in that gave an outstanding view of the city.  Our time ran out long before our interest so Portugal is one of those places I’ll have to go back and explore more of in the future.

lisbon-15Back on the ship it was time to say farewell to Portugal and look forward to our next stop in Cadiz where we were just going to wander on foot.

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Melbourne

2016-12-13 001Arriving from New Zealand we settled into a service flat near the Victoria Market. What a great location. We had arranged to rent a pair of scooters, one Vespa GTS 250 and a Burgman 400 since those were the only two options they had available that we could take as far as the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.  Here they are parked in the dedicated motorcycle parking in the middle of the street outside our flat after we picked them up the afternoon before we planned to head for the Great Ocean Road the next morning.

2016-12-13 005Steve  started off on the Vespa but decided riding the equivalent of I-10 without a windshield was something he had more problem with than I did so we switched. Worked for me because I prefer a Vespa to a Burgman any day of the week.

Getting to the Great Ocean Road was pretty much like getting out of any other large city.  Wearing earbuds so I could hear the GPS inside me helmet allowed us to navigate our way out of the city.  The day was sunny with light breeze and being midweek not too much traffic but it still took about an hour to get to the fun part.

2016-12-13 012While the Great Ocean Road is paved not all of the pullouts or other places you might want to stop are not. 

We had been warned by many people that there is zero tolerance for speeding and the cops are frequently out in force to enforce the speed limit but being a weekday with school in session we only saw a few on our trip. Not that it mattered because there were just too many places you wanted to pull over and enjoy the view.

First real stop after coffee was at the official entrance to the Great Ocean Road. The parking area was a bit treacherous with lots of sand on the pavement but you gotta get the picture, right?

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I was a bit surprised to see just how read my hair looks in the photo above. After a short break we continued on.

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After a stop for lunch we rolled into the parking lot for the Twelve Apostles around 3 in the afternoon. You can’t see them from the road but have to park and walk through an underpass to get to the viewing area.

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Planning on taking the faster more direct inland roads back to Melbourne we continued north on the Great Ocean Road to the next town to get gas before turning inland. Then there was a pop and the Vespa quit responding to the throttle. coasting along I looked for a turnout which thankfully I was able to glide into on before the wheels quit turning. Looked down once I was safely in the turnout to see shreds of the belt sticking out the case. Crap

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What was really ironic is that after the fiasco with the scooter breaking down just 68km from Auckland Steve had quizzed the scooter rental company in Melbourne what to do in the event of a breakdown at Port Campbell.   The belt broke just about 12 miles from Port Campbell. Told him all his questions were a jinx. Anyway, I reached them just before the shop closed for the night and received instructions on how to secure the Vespa so we could ride two up on the Burgman back to Melbourne. Unlike the New Zealand trip this was a day trip so we didn’t have luggage just some water, external battery for the etc so we transferred everything into the cavernous storage area under the Burgman seat and set off. While getting gas at Port Campbell we discovered that there was a train from Princetown to Melbourne so our goal was to get to the train station and put one of us on the train so we wouldn’t have a 3-4 hour ride back two up.

We hit a fair bit of road construction including sections where there was just a single width paved section with heavy gravel on each side for two way traffic to be able to pass as needed. Thankfully there wasn’t much traffic and what we did encounter was courteous enough to pull over to the gravel when  sides when they saw us coming. But the slower speeds and a detour or two meant we missed the last train to Melbourne so kept on two up. Once the sun went down the temperatures dropped to the point where despite layers we were getting cold, especially Steve without windproof gloves. So that caused further delay with breaks for food and warm drinks. Didn’t park at our hotel until after 10pm.

Next morning I ended up doing some consulting for a company a friend works while Steve took the Burgman and returned the Vespa keys so they would have them to unlock and load the scoot when their trailer got there to pick it up.

The following day I went for a ride down to St Kilda’s Beach to see the colorful huts as seen in Miss Fisher’s Mysteries episode “Away with the Faries”.

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Followed by a ride back up the coast to return the scoots since somehow it wasn’t the same when you have to share a single scooter instead of having a pair to play with.

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