Brighton was our last stop before boarding the Celebrity Silhouette for our transatlantic cruise back to Miami. It had been 42 years Since John was in Brighton and it was Bill’s first time. Brighton is a cute seaside city about an hour south of London via the Gatwick Expresss Train, which only stops in London Victoria, London Gatwick and Brighton. It would have been only an hour ride, but we had to stop Gatwick to pick up a piece of stored luggage that we needed for the cruise, but did not want to take with us on the rest of the trip.

We had originally planned 4 nights in Brighton, but since we were filling the void left by our canceled trip to Leeds and Scotland, we added 2 more nights to Brighton. The hotel we originally booked was not available for those nights, so we used an Airbnb for those nights.

Our 2 night stay was in a cute Victorian Townhouse. It was well appointed, had everything we needed and was 150 feet from Brighton Station, a blessing since it was raining when we arrived.

After the two night in the townhouse, we moved to our originally planned hotel, a gay hotel right in the center of things. Brighton has had a gay following since George III’s son, George, known as the Prince Regent, during the King’s long mental incapacitation (1811-20). Even though George, the Crown, or the state had the money, George set about to upgrade his residence in Brighton to something more for an almost king, and after 1820, King in fact. Prince George’s lavash upgrade of his residence to what is now known as the Brighton Pavillion, provided a venue for extravagant parties. Before 1841, getting to Brighton was a long coach ride. But this did not deter the invited guests from having multiple day affairs, hob knobbing with the Princecand later King.

A small number of those invited to Brighton were aristocrats, who also had a little secret, they inclined toward relations with their own gender. An additional benefit was having large numbers of, primarily single, men serving in various military installations, which provided a deterrence to Napoleon invading England from the south during the Napoleanic wars. Much like the returning US soldiers after WWII, these soldiers with were away from home and open to exploring their sexualy. All of this, along with being outside the long reach of London Metropolitan Police, gave way to a burgeoning gay subculture. As word spread of the possibilities in Brighton, venues opened that catered to that clientele. Although homosexuality remained an offense, discreet businesses capitalized on the growing number of homosexuals by providing venues for entertainment, socializing and overnight accommodations.

By the turn of the 20th century, Brighton’s place as a gay destination was well established. Today 10-15 percent of the populationion is gay, Brighton has the largest pride celebration in the UK and percentage of same-sex household is greater than any other city in the UK. John says, “Brighton is to London what Fire Isand is to New York, Provincetown is Boston and Palm Springs is to Los Angeles. A place to get away and let your hair down, if only for a short time.

We spent our time in Brighton exploring the city on foot. There are several areas near the seafront with shopping, restaurants and cute coffeehouses. Additionally, there is a nice walking/cycling path along the seashore stretching from Brighton Marina in the East to Hove Lagoon in the West. This 4 mile path is well used, although because it is wide with multiple lanes for cycling, running and walking, it doesn’t seem crowded.

One afternoon we were walking in area known as the Lanes with cute narrow streets, filed with shops, cafés and pubs. Amazingly, many of the shops were trading in jewelry and watches. It is hard to imagine how there is enough business in this small town to support so many high end jewelry stores. We found a restaurant called The Ivy in the Lanes. They offered an Afternoon Tea. We had tried to book tea along the seafront, but they were booked. Luckily, although busy, The Ivy could accommodate us the following afternoon. We have always enjoyed the British tradition of afternoon tea with towers of finger sandwiches, pastries and other desserts, all accompanied by an assortment of teas.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tea experience. Not only were the teas, sandwiches and cakes delicious, the space was beautiful. The building was a 19th century post office building, what was originally the post office sorting room has been transformed into an elegant space filled with period furniture and countless pieces of art. It was as if we’re were dining in a museum.

On our last day in Brighton, we visited the must see Brighton Pavilion. This venue is spectacular. George, then Prince of Wales, first came to Brighton in 1783, visiting his uncle Henry, Duke of Cumberland, whose tastes in fashion, fine cuisine, gambling, the theater and overall fast living, the young Prince shared. George, in 1786, rented, and later purchased, a farmhouse right on the Old Steine, a grassy area used as a promenade for visitors to Brighton. The prince began to seriously expand his small royal residence, first in 1787, again in 1801-02 and finally the major expansion, 1815-22, by London architect John Nash into the Indo-Islamic exterior we see today. As Prince Regent, 1811-20 and King Georgec IV, 1820-37 George continued to use the Marine Pavilion, as it was called then. It allowed for discreet liasons with his mistress and later secret wife, Maria Fitzherbert. Marrying the Catholic Maria was proscribed under Royal Marriages Act. Both as Prince Regent and as King, George hosted lavish multi-day parties. His over indulgence of food and alcohol contributed to his in increasingly poor health. George IV died on June 26, 1830. His uncle became William IV. William continued to used the Marine Paviliam, but after his death in 1837, Queen Victoria found it unsuitable for her growing family. She particularly disliked the lack of privacy afforded by the small grounds. The Pavilion was stripped of all furnishings and sold to the City of Brighton in 1850 for £53,000, £8.5 million today. The stables were converted to Brighton Dome, still used for concerts today. The Pavilion was used a conference center, and later a military hospital during WWI. Eventually plans were devolped to restore the building to its former glory. Loans and gifts from the Crown of many of the pieces of furniture and artwork that had been removed. Queen Elizabeth, who was particularly interested in the restoration, loaned or gave pieces to use in the restoration.

Today, the Pavilion is open to public and its one of those must see visits in Brighton.

After 6 nights in Brighton, we were ready to board our transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette. With that I will stop here and post the final chapter the in a day or two.

Note about timing. The internet on the ship was not fast enough to upload pictures, so this entry and the one to come about the cruise, are being written after returning home.


After our pleasant dinner with family, We had several days on our own. We are still modifying behavior, with Covid still about. So, we planned walks, walks and more walks. Our first was a nice 10 + mile walk from our hotel in Paddington through Hyde Park, onto Green Park, a walk past Buckingham Palace and then along the Thames from Westminster to Chelsea.

Hyde Park was established by Henry VIII, when he took the land from Westminster Abbey in 1536 during the dissolution of the monasteries. It was used as a hunting ground until James I opened it to “gentlefolk.” In 1652, during the interregnum, the park was sold by parliament for much needed cash. With the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II reacquired the land, walled it in, reintroduced the deer.The park is 350 acres and although smaller than Golden Gate in San Francisco and New York’s Central Park, it had a similar impact on the quality of life. The park has two lakes, The Serpentine and Long. Lake. Queen Caroline, wife of George II was a major force in creating the public park space we have today.

Green Park, is a small park (47 acres) that connects Hyde Park with with Buckingham Palance and its adjecent St. James Park. One story I love, is that Queen Catherine had all the flowers removed, because she caught her husband, Charles II, picking flowers to give to a milkmaid he had his eyes on. Even today there are few planted flowers, although naturally growing dafodils are abundant.

We walked past Buckingham Palace. The pedestrian area in front of the Palace forecourt was packed with people, so we did not linger there. But, John snapped a quick picture.

We then made our way to the Thames, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The last time we were in London, there was restoration work ongoing on Big Ben and it was covered by scaffolding. But this time, Ben was visible in all its glory.

This tower that we all call Big Ben, built in 1857 as a part of the rebuilding of the Palace at Westminster, after it was largely destroyed by a fire in 1834. In reality, the tower’s real name was simply “The Clock Tower,” but was renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in 2012 to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. “Big Ben” actually refers to the largest of the five bells in the Tower. Weighing in at 15.1 ton, that is the US version of ton. I will pass on explaining the differences between long, short and metric tonnes.

Anyone who pays attention to their surroundings and walks the streets of Westminster have seen these light poles. They are everywhere!

On two sides of the pole is a stylized “W” representing the Duke of Westminster. Between the two Ws are what appear to be the Coco Chanel insignia. Well, the story goes that in the 1920’s, the second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, the world’s richest man at the time, was so enamored with Coco Chanel he honored her by putting her insignia on all the lampposts. It’s a great story, but apparently false. It is true the Duke was infatuated and had an affair with her. He may have asked her to marry him. But the intertwined mirror image C’s refer to the City Council of Westminster, who co-governed The City of Westminster.

This trip we have been choosing small cafés and restaurants for dinning. We have had some good meals at international restaurants. London is full of Italian, Indian, Chinese, Greek…etc. You can dine out every night and not be subjected to English food, which is just fine with us. Other than pub foods such as cottage pies or fish and chips, we can give it a pass. One thing that has improved in the 40 years is the availability of good wines. Let’s hope Brexit doesn’t reverse that trend.

Amazingly, Bill had never been to The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. So our last full day in London, we rode the District Line out to Kew and walked a total of 5+ miles exploring the gardens.

Privately owned gardens were tended at Kew from as early as the 16th century. The site was acquired in 1731 by Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales and his wife, Princess Augusta. Frederick Louis was son of George II and father of George III. He died at 44 without every being King. After his death, Augusta, continued to support the gardens until her death in 1772. In 1759 she established an exotic plant research center at the gardens. By 1769 it contained more than 3,400 plant species. The gardens became famous under the lengthy management of Sir Joseph Banks, 1772-1819, and the collections grew to include specimens from all over the world. In 1840, the gardens were transferred from a Crown holding to public trust. Under the direction of Sir William Jackson Hooper in the mid 19th century and later of his son Joseph Dalton Hooker, Kew Gardens became a centre for scientific research and the international exchange of plant specimens. By the early 20th century the grounds were expanded to the present size of 300 acres.

Amazon water lilies

As expected the fall gardens were less spectacular than in spring or summer, but beautiful, nonetheless. Here are some of the many photos taken that day.

After six enjoyable days in London, with remarkable weather, walking over 20 miles exploring many of our favorite areas and visiting new, we were ready to head south to Brighton, our last stop before boarding the Celebrity Silhouette to head back to the United States. And with that, goodbye now.

Change of Plans

Our ride from the ferry to Truro did not take long. As usual, the last bit was on village streets and required paying attention to those crazy drivers. Our overnight accommodation was in a place called the Townhouse Rooms. I did not know what to expect. An image of 19th century boarding houses did come to mind. But what we found, was a stately home, with a lovely garden, with it’s own guard cat, Buddha.

Buddha looks intimidating, but that is his guard face, on the ground he is friendly and welcoming. Our room was right off the garden. Unfortunately due to the overnight rain, we didn’t spend much time in the garden. We did however, have afternoon tea, with freshly made lemon cake. Our host, Joyce, was very proud of her cake. Taking advantage of the break in the rain we took a quick walk around town. Truro, not being on the coast, isn’t as picturesque as Megavissey, or the soon to come Newquay. But it was a port town. Up until the 1920s Truro had a river port. Ocean going ships could navigate up the River Fal from Falmouth. Truro’s port use to ship tin from nearby mines. This mining based economy was, as is usually the case, one of from boon to bust, based on the fortunes of mines. During the 18th and 19th centuries many stately homes were built in Truro, many of which are still extant today. In the 1920s the port was closed due to declining mine production and the silting of the river made it difficult for large ships to sail up. Today the port has been filled in and is the site of the weekly farmer’s market.

I found a list of of Turo’s heroes, which included the Lander brothers, John and Richard, West African explorers, who navigated the Niger River to its source. The monument in the picture above, celebrates their achievements. Also, of some note, Roger Taylor, drummer for Queen. Queen’s first concert was at Truro City Hall. And, (Sir) Ben Ainsley, 5 time (1996-2012) Olympic medalist in Competitive Sailing, grew up in Truro and learned to sail on the River Fal.

Classic Cornwall- Day 3 – Truro to Newquay

After a nice breakfast, we were on the bikes again, destination, Newquay, pronounced New Key. The ride was a short 15.3 miles, but we wanted to get an early start because we planned to do a long walk to the headlands in Newquay.

We hadn’t planned for any scenic stops along the route, but we were surprised. We came upon a lovely manor house. The House at Trerice is an Elizabethan Manorhouse built in 1572-3 by the wealthy Arundel family. It was purchased by the National Trust in 1953. Today it has been restored and the Trust operates it as short term lodging rental. As we passed by, Bill noticed one of the gardeners, so he had a brief chat with her.

After negotiating the city streets of Newquay, we arrived at the Griffin Inn, an ordinary 3 star hotel, that, at one time , had a nice harbor view, but with the construction of a mundane building housing an Aldi Market and a Travelodge, the view is long gone.

As I mentioned earlier, we planned a nice long walk to the headlands near the city. The headland juts out into the Atlantic creating on one side a protected harbor and on the other, Fistral Beach, a world famous surfing beach. The conditions there are such that only well accomplished surfers should try.

In 1897, construction started on the Headlands Hotel and Spa. Opening in 1900, the luxury class hotel was a destination for those seeking a seaside escape. Its formidable structure sitting on top of the rugged headland ‘scape, overlooking Fistral Beach.

In 1911, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, convalesced there, while recovering from the mumps, he was joined by his younger brother, Bertie, later George VI. Apparently Bertie had already had the mumps, but was recovering from the measels. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, their Grandparents, visited the hotel frequently from its opening until the King’s death in 1910. During WWII, the hotel was requisioned to serve as an RAF Hospital. After the war, the hotel returned to hotel service, but it has lost its luster. Today it still operates as a hotel, but as one visitor commented in her review, “it closely resembles a convalescent center.” Well it is beautiful to look at, but we think we will pass up staying there.

Our 5+ miles walk included the headlands, the aforementioned hotel, it’s competitor The Atlantic, a stroll along Fistral Beach, an aborted attempt to have coffee at Rick Stein’s Fish Restaurant and a stroll along the edge of the golf course. It was a blustery afternoon and either we were dead into the wind or it was pushing us along.

An impressive sight was a house on a rock. Access is by a pedestrian suspension bridge. It is rentable by the week. In January only £2300 for the week, but if you want it in July, £5600. The three bedroom house is well appointed. So if you are up for an unusual vacation, here is the link:

The house

Otherwise, here are a couple of pictures. The one on the left, John took, and the other is from the website.

After our 5+ mile walk, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest. Later, since it was raining, we stayed in the hotel for dinner. They had a French onion soup special and John thought he might try it. As a main, he choose a roasted cauliflower with curry sauce. The combination of the two sauces was too much. Both were made with British brown gravy and were so thick they were hard to enjoy. By 11 PM, he was not well. At first, we thought it might be food poisoning, but now now know it was a fast moving 24 hour virus. By morning, he was too weak to walk, much less ride a bicyle. We first made the decision to cancel the rest of the bike ride. Our plan had been to rest for the couple of days, and then continue our train journey north, first to Leeds and then on to Scotland. But, 12 hours later, Bill was also sick and we had not shared or eaten the same foods. So, the likelihood of it being food poisoning was remote. Now with both of us sick we decided to cancel Scotland altogether and to stay in Newquay for a couple of nights and then make our way back to Bodmin, where the bike ride began, and where we had left luggage. But now we were up against scheduled rail strikes on the 8th and 9th, so we stayed in Bodmin until Monday, October 10th, when we took a morning train back to London.

We did have a nice silver lining to our upended travel plans. Bill’s brother Kip, sister-in-law, Jill, their son, Kyle and his wife, Ida and son, Thomas, were all in London for the Green Bay Packers’ game with the New York Giants at London’s Tottenham Stadium. They were not scheduled to fly home until Tuesday. So, we were excited to be able to have dinner with them. Kyle, Ida and Thomas live in Norway, so we see them infrequently. While Kyle and Ida were finishing up their workday (they were working remotely), we went for a stroll with Kip, Jill and Thomas in his stroller, we all went to nearby Hampstead Heath, with great views of the London skyline.

The clan at Parliament Hill Viewpoint in Hampstead Heath
London Skyline from Hampstead Heath

While leaving the Heath, Bill needed to get some juice, so he popped into the Freemasons Arms, a pub at the edge of the Heath to get some. Little did we know, we would be back there later for dinner. Kyle and Ida, who are familiar with Hampstead from their graduate school days, had chosen another place, but when we got there, their kitchen was not yet open and it was already past Thomas’ dinner time. Kyle called the Arms to pre-order a kid’s macaroni and cheese, and we quickly made our way there. Dinner, as most Jacobs’ family dinners are, was fun, and sometimes loud affair. We really felt blessed to have this opportunity to spend time with family.

With that, I will stop here and cover the rest of our unplanned London visit in the next installment.

Hello Cornwall!

On a very rainy morning, we walked the short distance to Padddington Station, had breakfast and waited for our direct train to Bodmin Parkway. Because of the planned rail strike on October 1st, we left London a day earlier than planned. Probably because of the strike the next day, our train was very full. Even though we had reserved seats, because of the quirkiness of British Rail’s seat reservation system, we were seated close by, but not together. We are comfortable being left to our own devices, so we both used the time to read, check emails and study Spanish using the online language app, Duolingo. Keeping ourselves occupied, the 5 1/2 hours seemed to fly by.

Arriving at Bodmin Parkway station, on the edge a Bodmin Moor, we had assumed there would be taxis available to take us the five miles into Bodmin Town. That was not the case. Not seeing any taxis at the stand, I called the local taxi company and was told it would be over two hours before we could be picked up. Apparently there is a taxi driver shortage in Cornwall. We were just getting used to that thought when I saw a big red bus come to a stop at the station. I ran over and asked the driver if he was headed toward Bodmin. Luckily he was and we had three minutes before departure. Quickly we gathered our luggage, boarded the bus and in 15 minutes and 2 quid each, we were in Bodmin, only 500 meters from our hotel.

There is a reason I earlier mentioned Bodmin Moor. In 1950, in a small village in the moor, a litter a kittens was born. All of the kittens save one, seemed to be normal. But, as Wikipedia explains:

“The Cornish Rex is a genetic mutation that originated from a litter of kittens born in the 1950s on a farm in Cornwall, UK. One of the kittens, a cream-colored male named Kallibunker, had an extremely unusual, fine and curly coat; he was the first Cornish Rex. The owner then backcrossed Kallibunker to his mother to produce 2 other curly-coated kittens. The male, Poldhu, sired a female called Lamorna Cove who was later brought to America and crossed with a Siamese, giving the breed their long whippy tails and big ears.”

And several generations later we have our pride and joy, Mouse, a pure bred Cornish Rex.

Originally, we were to have only one night in Bodmin, but because we arrived a day early, we had an extra night. We used that extra day to check out the village. It is a small town, one of the oldest in Cornwall. Dating to the 6th century when a a Welsh priest formed a monastery where the current day St. Petroc’s parish church is located. The name, Bodmin, comes from the Cornish “Bod-meneghy,” which means place or sanctuary of the monks. The current St. Petroc’s is built on the ruins of the 6th century building and dates to the 15th century.

St Petrocs

We took a quick walk around town. It is apparent they have an overabundance of hair salons, charity resale stores and fish and chip shops. We did check a couple of the resale stores, ordered take-away fish and chips and found an amazingly great quality men’s clothes store, where Bill bought me a cute shirt that you will not see until later in the trip.

That evening, we stopped by The Hole in the Wall, a typical Cornish pub. The name comes from the fact the building was an 18th century debtor’s prison and the hole was where food was passed to the inmates in the cells. While having a pint, a local women eyeing Bill, decided to make a play for the most handsome man in the bar. I was certainly amused, and I didn’t want to spoil her fun. I do think she finally caught on that it was not going to happen, but before then, she made sure we saw the lion, a white lion. White lions are extremely rare and have been, for a very long time, on the endangered species list. But Bill’s admirer, Sandy, was keen to shows us.

I know it looks like a photo, but it is a real lion, of course, long dead
Inside the Hole In the Wall

Classic Cornwall – Day 1 – Bodmin to Megavissey

Sunday morning we started the first day of our Cornwall bike tour. The weather looked good and later in the day was even better. If it rained, we had our rain gear and rain or shine we planned to make it to Megavissey, a seacoast village on the eastern coast of the Cornwall peninsula. The actual ride was only 25 miles, but we had a planned stop about 11 miles in. More about that in a bit. All of the Cornwall rides were to be on established national cycle routes. Some of these routes are totally separate bike paths and separate bike lanes. But predominantly they are on low traffic country lanes. After a little traffic getting out of Bodmin, we started out on a cycleway, but a after a few miles transitioned to a country lane. Along the way, near the village of Luxulyan, we encountered a well kept community cemetery. We stopped and took a couple of pictures. It seems it is very well kept. But one thing for certain, it is not very old. The earliest deaths I saw were from the mid 1970s. I am sure there is another nearby.

Just a few miles later, suddenly high above the path was what appeared to be a viaduct. After a little research, I found out that the Treffrey Viaduct was dual purpose, both a tramway and aqueduct. The tram was used to transfer quarried materials to the coast and supplies back to the quarries. Built by Joseph Treffrey in the mid-17th century and fully operational in 1844, viaduct was an engineering marvel, because it used the cascading waters leaving the aqueduct to power a paddle wheel used to pull the mostly empty trams back up from the coast.

The Treffrey Viaduct, 600 feet long, 100 feet high

Back on the bikes and in a few miles we arrived at our planned stop, The Eden Project. Completed in 2000, The Eden Project was built in a sterile former china clay mining pit crater, transforming it into a global garden. Nestled in this huge crater, the covered Biomes house the largest rainforest in captivity, Mediterranean landscapes, crop displays, art installations and exhibitions, all combining to tell a magical story.

Before and After

After spending a couple of hours at The Eden Project, we were off again on our bikes for, what we assumed, would be a quick 12 mile ride. But, that was not to be. We were almost to Megavissey, about a mile and a half out, when John’s front tire went flat. We tried pumping, but the tube wouldn’t hold air. At this point, we could have stopped and fixed the flat, since we had all the tools to do that. But, we decided we would rather walk to bike the last bit and fix it at the hotel. What we didn’t know was how steep that last would be.

So, when you see the map, know the last part was on foot, pushing the Bike up a steep incline as we reached our hotel with gorgeous sea views from up on the bluff.

Classic Cornwall Day 1 – Bodmin to Megavissey


Mevegissey is exactly as I imagined a small Cornish seacoast village to be, not very big, quaint with a picturesque waterfront. After fixing the flat and taking a little nap, we headed into the village. It was a short rather steep walk down to the waterfront. It didn’t take much time to walk the shopping and entertainment area. We spent most if our time along the harbor.

The steep street, that we used, up. And down.

Our hotel in Megavissey was the Tremarne Hotel. Owned by a young couple, Wes and Tam. The place was immaculate. The care that the they show in keeping the property beautiful, showing a sincere interest in the Guest experience and providing a perfect experience contributed to our brief stay. Dinner at the hotel was fantastic. I told Tam to tell chef how we enjoyed it. She said, ” you can tell him yourselves, Wes is the chef.” As I mentioned earlier, the hotel was at top of that steep hill, with panoramic view of the neighboring hills and sea. The next morning, we took a second walk into the village and walked along embankment to the lighthouse.

Our Hotel, the Tremarne

Classic Cornwall- Day 2 – Megavissey to Truro

After our morning walk we were on the bikes again, headed toward Truro. Like the day before, our route was on the National Bike Route 3. The day’s route was only 23 miles so another easy day. Of course, with the hope of no more flat tires! As you can see from the map, we touched the coast a couple times on this trip.

What the map didn’t show was that when we were on the coast, we were at or near sea level, but when we were away, we were up on bluffs and hills. The next graph is our elevation change over the course of the ride.

Even though our max elevation was only 350 feet, the combined elevation gain was 2,508 feet. That number is not a net, it only counts the elevation increase. Needles to say, we were up and down the entire ride. Which brings me to another important point. After seeing the elevation profile, Bill insisted we rent ped-assist ebikes. Although reluctant, I eventually agreed. In the UK, for a ebike to assist you, you have the pedaling. So after all those ups and downs we were feeling it even with the ebike.

The high point of the day, just 2.5 miles out of Megavissey

To give you an idea of our riding conditions, here are three pictures represent the majority our rides.

This is not a bike path. It is a two way road. The high sides made visibility tricky!

It was nice to have a few level or descending miles after the climbs. It rested the legs and the hearts. And on this ride descending usually meant “beachward.” I know it is not a word, but it does work here. This beach is part of the of the Caerhays Estate. It has a good sized parking lot, so I assume it is very popular on Summer days. Directly across from the beach is the gate the the Caerhays Estate grounds.

Caerhays Estate Beach
Caerhays Estate Gate, I’m not sure the green works!
But the castle does.

This blog entry is getting long, so I’m not going to give a history of the castle, but here is the Wikipedia link:

After leaving the castle and coastline, we headed up and inland a bit before dropping back down to sea level, where we encountered another beautiful beach. This one called Pendower Beach. Even though it was mid-week in off season, the Shallikabooky Beach Hut was open. We took the opportunity for coffee and a hot chocolate.

Back on the bikes, we headed to one of my favorite things, a ferry ride. A short 5 miles brought us to the King Harry Ferry across the River Fal. The ferry, is a vehicular submerged chain ferry that pulls itself across the river. Originally built in 1888 to replace an old pole pushed barge that had been there since Henty VIII. The ferry used steam until conversation to diesel in 1957. The current ferry boat is the 7th since 1888, so I guess you could say it is the King Harry VII Ferry. It did make me think, the current Harry is unlikely to ever be King.

After making quick work of the last few miles we arrived in Truro. I am going to stop here. The next blog will cover Truro city, the ride to Newquay and our time there. Thanks for reading.

Off to the United Kingdom

In the final make-up trip from canceled 2020 plans, Bill and I departed for London on September 26th. This trip includes a few days in London, a week bike trip in Cornwall, a couple days in Leeds, just to break up a long train ride, and a few nights in Aberdeenshire Scotland, where John has long dead ancestors and living distant relatives. We will then make our way Brighton, on the South Sussex coast and finally, on October 20th, board the Celebrity Silhouette for a 14 night transatlantic cruise from Southampton to Miami.

After saying goodbye to Mouse and our housesitters, Luke and Lachlan, we were off to LAX. Our late afternoon flight meant we didn’t have to overnight in Los Angeles. We timed our drive, such that we had time to enjoy the Oneworld Business Class Lounge at LAX. We were flying on the return portion of the round trip business class ticket we used on the Spring Europe trip.

Flying in Upper Class, with lay down seats, makes the 10+ hours go by. But, in all honesty, they still aren’t very comfortable, but we not complaining. We arrived London Heathrow at 10:35 AM in the morning. (That redundancy is for the benefit of my brother). We made quick work of collecting bags, immigration and the, almost non-existent customs. In less than an hour we were on the new Elizabeth Line train to Padddington Station. This line, which went into service on May 24th, this year, and was officially opened by the Queen a few months before her death.

Unlike the much more expensive non-stop Heathrow Express, the Elizabeth Line makes several stops on its way to London Paddington, coincidentally the same station at which the Express terminates. It was nice to check out the newest London Line. Prior to the Elizabeth Line, the newest London tube line was the Jubilee Line, which opened in 1979 and celebrated the Queen’s 25 years on the throne. John happened to travel that line shortly after it opened on his very first trip to London in 1980. It is hard to imagine that he has been coming to London for 42 years!

As is always the case, our first day was low key, resting, getting used to the time change and trying to stay up to at least, 10 pm, a goal that we miserably failed to achieve. The next day, we got up and out early, to walk a bit.

The walk ended up being over 7 miles, through some of my favorite London areas, Hyde Park, Piccadilly, Oxford Street and our turn around point, Covent Gardens.

A personal note from John: I am 69 years old. When I was born, in 1953, Elizabeth had already been on the throne for a year. Until September 8th, she is the only King or Queen of England I have known. And, of course, it makes me think of my own mortality. As a student European history, I have followed the British monarchy as it negotiated the changing world. Whether you generally support the monarchy or not, one must acknowledge the role of the Queen for holding the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth together, albeit with some exceptions. Although at 96, it was no surprise when I heard of her passing, but I did reflect on her and my fleeting moments in her presence. I actually saw her twice, once in 1983, when President Reagan hosted a dinner for her aboard HMS Britannia in San Francisco. My partner at the time and I waited hours in the rain on SF’s waterfront to be in a receiving line, to see President and Mrs. Reagan, the Queen and Prince Phillip quickly walk by. The second time was in 1987 in a throng waiting for her to come out on the balcony at Buckinham Palace celebrating 35 years on the throne. Who would have thought that would only be half of her reign. Given that she was not my Queen and that I only saw her in person those two times, I am surprised by how it impacted has me and what emotions I have felt in the ensuing days.. And now, so soon after, we are in the United Kingdom, having conversations with all sorts people, seeing memorials, both state sponsored and personal. We have been moved by the genuine affection a significant number of the British people had for her.

We know this is short. Originally, we had planned 4 nights in London. But , with the rail strike that had originally been planned during what became the Queen’s official mourning period, postponed to October 1st, we decided to cut London short by a day and take the train to Bodmin Pkwy on a, very rainy, September 30th. With that, I will stop. Next up: Biking Cornwall. Until next time.

Playas de Vera and visiting friends in Torremolimos

After the brunch at La Dulce Vida, Bill and I drove the short distance to Playas de Vera, just up the coast 15 kilometers. Vera has 15 urbanizaciónes (developments) that are clothing optional, along with a 1 KM long section of the beach that is also clothing optional. This had been part of the cancelled 2020 trip, so we had been planning this stop for a while. This, however, was one of my booking errors. I know! They don’t happend often, but I am human. I noticed while we were at Costa Natura, that the booking I had made for Vera was not in one of the 15 naturist developments. It was down the beach a bit. When I discovered the error, it was still in the free cancellation period. So, I looked for an alternative. I found one in Natura World on “La Primera Linea de la Playa.” which translates to beach front. It was a 1 BR/1BA, facing the beach. The apartment didn’t look bad, so I changed the reservation. Once we got there, the building looked something akin to a World War II bunker, with no esthetic appeal at all, and most importantly, even though the building is on “La Primera Linea.” the apartment faced a rather bland courtyard. Needless to say, we were very disappointed and I can say it impacted our overall impression. After brooding about it and thinking seriously of driving back to Costa Natura, we decided to make the best of it, check out the beach other options for future travel.

As it turns out, we really like the beach at Vera, long, wide, with several options for palapas and hamacas (loungers). We did shorten our Vera trip by one day. Afterwards, we are glad we got to know the Vera area and will be back. But now, we know which Urbanización to choose.

After departing Vera, we had a 3 1/2 hour drive back to Málaga Airport, where we would drop the car and take a taxi into Torremolinos. Our friends Ken and Andrew, who we have known since early in our time in Palm Springs, now live in Torremolimos. They remodeled and lived in two different places in Cathedral Cove. In 2016, they sold and moved back to Vancouver. A couple of years later, they decided to retire and move to Torremolinos, Spain. Torremolinos is a city of about 70,000, a short distance from Málaga airport. The town has a large and well developed gay social scene. Some say it is the gayest city in Spain.

The drive down the coast through Murcia and Almería is dotted with thousands of greenhouses. These greenhouses provide optimal growing conditions for the various fruits and vegatables that contribute to the 61 percent of Spanish fruit and vegetable production out of these two provinces. But this comes at a high price. First, most of the workers, much like the California Central Valley are immigrants. In Spain those workers come from ecomonmically stressed areas like Eastern Europe and Northern Africa. The working conditions can be extreme, temperatures up to 50 degrees celsius (122F), high humidity and very little air movement create adverse working conditions. Additionally, all that used, and no longer usable, plastic is creating millions of metric tons of plastic waste. Also, the area is Europe’s only desert, so water to support the agriculture has to be brought in via pipelines and canals. It is not dissimilar to the situation in the American west. Below are some photos from online sources showig home much of the terrain is covered by these greenhouses. There is a comparison photo showing before (1974) and after (2000) the implementation of greenhouse agriculture. Clearly it changed the landscape! Also, a few photos of the drive on the AP-7, (Autopista 7).

Since we had decided to leave Vera a day early, our room at Ken and Andrew’s place was not available. They suggested we stay at the Hotel Ritual, a gay hotel on a cliff overlooking the beach. We checked in to Ritual, and had time to enjoy both the naturist rooftop pool and the large party pool on the 2nd deck. Our room had a large terrace overlooking the party pool. Even though it was for just one night, we enjoyed out time. I particularly enjoyed the rooftop pool early before the afternoon sun was too much. But by then a large part of the 2nd floor pool was shaded by the building. Bill stayed up on the rooftop, while I moved below. Bill enjoys sun far more than I do. That first eveneng we met Andrew and Ken out for cocktails, later we were joined by their houseguests, one of whom we had met previously in Palm Springs.

The next morning, after a great breakfast at the hotel, Bill and I walked along the Torremolinos beachwalk. This walk, and bike path, stretches from one end of Torremolinos to the other. There are countless Chirinquitos (beach bars) and restaurants along the walk. As we were walking, I saw a bike rental shop. Even though I had previously sent my biking clothes and gear home, I decided to plan a ride for Sunday morning.

On Saturday, we had arranged to spend the day at Eden Beach Club. Located on the beach, just below the Hotel Ritual, Eden is a larged churinguito, with countless palapas and hamacas and a few cama balinesas. Ken and Andrew had arranged to rent one of the 4 person Cama Balinesa, a covered Balinese style bed. The rental of the bed was cheap, but it did require food and wine consumption of €25 each, which wasn’t particularly difficult. I think we exceeded the minmum by a little bit. We had a great time, people watching, walking the beach, swimming in the rather chilly waters. Remember, water temperature is impacted by the cooler Atlantic waters coming through the Strait of Gibralter. Anyway, it was a fun day. I particularly enjoyed that we weren’t wallowing in the sand and had protection from the sun. And, after getting out of the salt water, there were a nice fresh water shower. Here are some pictures. Look closely at the size of Andrew and Bill’s Club sandwiches. I really think they are made to share.

On Sunday, as I mentioned, I went on a bike ride. It was all going great. I was about 9 miles into the ride and heading toward the waterfront in Málaga, when I had a flat. First, the rental bike did not have a pump, so I have no idea if it would pump. I tried asking several cyclist riding by if they had a pump. Very few did and the couple that did just rode on by, so I called Bill told him I was walking the bike back to the rental shop. It was slow going, but finally I was back on the Torremolinos beach walk. I stopped for snack and water. Bill called again and suggested that I just wait there and Andrew would pick me up in the car. I was disappointed that I didn’t get a longer ride in. But pushing the Bike the 3+ miles back to Torremolinos, did give me a workout.

Monday, Juy 4th, after 9+ weeks since leaving home, Bill and I began our trip home. We had orignally booked a non stop British Airways Málaga to Heathrow flight on Monday evening and then the non-stop Virgin Atlantic flight to LAX the next morning. You may have heard or read of the challenges BA is having, particular in Heathrow. Our non-stop to London was cancelled and we were booked on an earlier departing, Iberia to British Airways connection through Madrid. Because it left earlier, we got into Heathrow about the same time as orignially booked. However, we did have to negotiate a Termianal 5 to Terminal 3 transfer. It is interesting, they actually use the Central London to Heathrow Express which stops at both teminals as a free transfer. You have to use either a London Transport Oyster card or a Touchless Debit/Credit Card. Although there is no charge, they do use the number to track the number of riders. After trying to follow non-existent signs to our hotel, which was right in Terminal 2, and getting lost a couple of times, we finally checked in and went right to bed, because the next morning would be an early rise, so that we could the enjoy the Upper Class Wing, for breakfast before boading our non stop flight to LAX.

Time passed quickly on the flight. Upper class has fully lay flat beds and an entertainment system with a large variety of choices. Bill watched 3 moves and I binged on The Brokenwood Mysteries, a New Zealand crime series. Whatever each of us did, it made the 11+ hours fly by. Clearing customs and immigration at LAX was smooth and, amazingly, efficient. Only 45 minutes after landing, we were through all that and awaiting our house sitters, who were driving my car to LAX because they were taking a later flight to Mexico. We met at a bar/retstaurant outside security, chatted with them for a bit and then we were on our way home.

You all know that Bill and I travel a lot. But we both feel, 2+ months is too long to be away, particularly to be away from Mouse. Mouse was very glad see us, but did express his displeasure with a several loud meows, which to us sounded more like, “where have you two been.” But as you can see from the photo below, it didn’t take him long to enjoy a nap with Bill. All is right in his world.

Mouse right where he wants to be!

We are home for 3 weeks, then are off on a travel trailer trip to Wasington to see Keith and Joanette. As much as we enjoy being home, July and August can be brutal weather wise in Palm Springs. Heading up the coast and spending time in the Pacific Northwest gets us out of the heat. Mouse gets to come with us. Until then!

Estepona and Mojácar

Our stay in Estepona was 7 days, with 4 nights at Costa Natura, a naturist resort just down the beach from Estepona. As you know, Bill and I enjoy staying at naturists resorts and always look for opportunities to add a few nights textile free on our trips. Costa Natura is a family vacation resort, clothing optional throughout the resort, with no clothing permitted in the pool amd spa area. It is right on the beach, but in all fairness, not one of the prettier beaches we’ve seen. The shore is a combination of small stones, large rocks and rough dark sand. It is quite narrow directly in front of Natura. The resort grounds are well kept, with large grassy areas, and a large heated pool. There is a restaurant and a snack bar. Just across the street is Aldi Supermarket, which made it convenient for us, since we still were traveling without a car. As you can imagine, photography is strictly regulated so my pictures were focused so to avoid invading someone’s privacy.

One nice sight from Natura was off in the distance, we could see The Rock of Gibraltar and further the background the mountains of Northern Morocco.

Gibraltar is on the right and Morocco ‘s Jebel Musa, Mount Moses is on the left.

Gibraltar and Jebel Musa (Mount Moses), above the Spanish town of Cueta, were, according to mythology, two of the Pillars of Hercules. The myth goes that the Strait of Gibraltar was created by Hercules using super human strength to create a sea passage from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. In doing so, he created these two mountains marking the entry to the Mediterranean. However the Strait was formed, Gibraltar, a British Overseas Terretory, and its counter part, the Spanish Autonomous City of Cueta, on the Moroccan coast, are at strategic points at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Both have been subject to invasions, foreign control and countless wars. The current political situation is that in each case, territory that should belong to Spain (Gibraltar) and Morocco (Cueta) are held by foreign powers. Gibraltar citizens have voted twice to remain British and the Spanish majority Cueta residents seem happy with the status quo.

After our four nights at Costa Natura, we took the short taxi ride into Central Estepona. Bill’s cousin Anne and her husband Vijay, own two apartments in Estepona’s Puerto Alto Urbanización, a short distance from the Harbor. Anne and Vijay offered to let us stay at one of their units, so Bill and I checked in to Apartment Vikram, named after one of their sons. The apartment was very comfortable, had a great sea/harbor view and was very convenient for exploring this cute coastal town. We took a couple of walks exploring Estepona’s harbor, beachfront and old Town.

One of our walks included a stop ar El Orchidario de Estepona (The Estepona Orchid House). The orchid display was a little disappointing because so few were blooming. That may be a seasonal thing. It was fun walking through seeing some in bloom and imagining what it might look when things were in full bloom.

There are plenty of restaurants near the apartment. We enjoyed sushi one night. I was amused that a sushi restaurant couldn’t, at first, find their Sake, but eventually a nice warm Sake appeared at our table. The sushi was good, somewhat different in presentation that at home, but good, non-the-less. The next night we enjoyed Indian. The masala sauce was sweeter than we are used to. We had chicken tikka masala, spicy grilled shrimp, palak paneer and garlic naan. The food was good, but if you remember, we had an excellent Indian meal in Amsterdam. This did not quite meet that standard, but we certainly enjoyed it.

After three enjoyable nights in town in Estepona, we rented a car and headed east. Now you might think, “wait, you are already on the east coast of Spain, how can you drive east?” If you look at a map of Spain, the Spanish coast from Almeria to Gibraltar is a generally east-west, with a slight tilt to the North as you head east. After Almeria the coast is generally north-south. We had a four hour drive to reach Mojácar. After a two year delay, we were ready to celebrate the wedding of our nephew Kyle and his bride Ida.

The wedding was a 4 day event, starting with a family pizza night. Our restaurant for the evening was La Murralla, located high up in the Pueblo Mojácar, one of the most beautiful white houses villages in Almeria. Our hotel was on La Playa Mojácar, but the pueblo was a 10 minute drive up a costal ridge. I assume the pueblo was built high on ths ridge for defensive reasons. The food and wine were great and the views spectacular.

After dinner, we had a short walk around the pretty pueblo.

Mojácar Pueblo

On Friday evening, Ida’s family hosted a tapas and paella dinner at their Finca, just a 20 minute drive away. A finca is a plot of rustic land. Rustic land, was usually used for agricultural purposes, but today is oftentimes recreational. The Knutsen Finca is a little of both. Two gorgeous homes, owned by Ida’s Father and Uncle, surrounded by gorgeous grounds, a large infinity pool overlooking the valley and the family’s olive grove and vineyards. The Grove is an active olive growing farm and the vineyard produces a beautiful Vino Tinto Crianza. In fact, our departing gift was a bottle of the olive oil and the wine was served both at the Friday evening rehearsal dinner and for dinner after the wedding

The wedding was planned for 1 PM, Saturday. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. Shortly after 12:30 we boarded the 3 buses to take us to the wedding location. You might ask why so many buses, Well, there were over 120 guests, from 24 nations, a credit to the international nature of the relationship. Ida is Norwegian, but studied at Carlton College in Minnesota, where she met Kyle. Both did graduate work in the UK and now live in Norway. Her family owns the Finca in Spain and both have travel extensively and have met friends along the way, many of whom traveled to Spain to celebrate with Kyle and Ida. The wedding was originally scheduled for June of 2020, but with Covid, it was postponed twice. While waiting, Kyle and Ida got on with their lives, getting a civil marriage in Norway and giving birth to their beautiful son Thomas. But, they were not to be denied their celebration on the Spanish coast.

The location of the ceremony was in Castillo de San Ramon/Las Escobetas. Completed in 1769, the castle, along with nearby military barracks, provided the little fishing village of Garucha with protection from Berber pirates who routinely attacked villages on the Spanish coast. The Berbers have occupied North Africa, most notably Libya and Morocco since the beginning of recorded hitory. With the protection, the village bagan to grow into a more commercial center.

In the background of the picture of Bill and me is Bill’s Brother Kip, holding his Grandson, Thomas.

The wedding couple’s transportation was a 1930s vintage Rolls Royce, beautifully restored. Full disclosure: I have no idea what the beautiful car is. I was told this by one of the bus drivers that were checking it out, while waiting for the ceremony to conclude.

The wedding was a beautiful affair in this historic building. Afterwards the buses took us all back to the Parador Hotel for the reception, dinner and dancing. By dancing time, I had hit a brick wall, so I excused myself and left the dancing to others and went up to the room.

The American custom is when people clink their glasses, the couple has to kiss. The Norwegian customs is that the kiss is while standing on their chairs. And if the guests stomp their feet the kiss is under the table.

On Sunday, after 4 days of non-stop celebrations, people began to say goodbyes. Bill and I were only going a short 10 kilometers up the coast to Playa Vera, so when one of our new friends, Axel and Ginger, suggested dinner at a seafood restaurant right on the Marina in Garucha, it was only a short drive to return for one last wedding related event.

Although Kyle and Ida had to postpone the celebration twice, the weekend was a fabulous success. Bill and I enjoyed seeing our family, meeting new friends and sharing in all the weekend fun. This four day event was the kernel that grew into our 9+ week Europe trip. We are now on the tail end of the trip. Only a week remains until we fly home. And of course, waiting patiently for us is Mouse. I wonder what goes through his mind when we are gone so long.

We are now in Vera and will go to Torremolinos on Thursday to visit friends from home. With that, I will stop for now. I will have one more blog, wrapping up this trip. I will do that sitting on our patio in Cathedral City. Until then!

Bordeaux, Barcelona and Greece

We arrived at Saumur station with plenty of time to catch our 8:01 train. This trip was in 3 segments, first a 40 minute ride to Tours, Then a 5 minute trip to St. Pierre des Corps. I tried to find a way to make that a single connection, but apparently, even though the two stations are close together and frequent service between the two, there are no trains to go directly to St. Pierre des Corps from Saurmur without the change in Tours. After our mishap in Marne-La-Vallée, we were very careful and making sure we were at the right place and right time.

It wasn’t a particularly long train day, as we arrived in Bordeaux just after noon. After taking a taxi to our Airbnb, our host checked us in and gave a tour of the apartment. First, remember this was to have been for 6 of us. It would have been Brian and Gary and our friends, Peter and Mark, who recently moved from Palm Springs to Greece, joining us. The apartment is huge, just under 2000 square feet.

This was a gorgeous apartment in a 18th century building right on the Garonne River. It was conveninent to transportation, with a Tram stop right in front. The neighborhood was multi-cultural, with lots of Middle Eastern, Chinese restaurants and Eastern European cafes, and shops. I heard a lot of languanges other than French as we walked the area. As I mentioned, Peter and Mark were coming later in the day. They eventually got to the apartment around five and we chilled for a while, enjoying a little wine and then heading out for dinner. There were so many restaurants to choose from, we walked until we found a nice restuarant. We also found a cute little gay bar/cafe with sidewalk tables called Sweeney Todd’s. It was literally around the corner from our apartment.

For our first full day in Bordeaux, we decided to walk along the Garonne, as far as La Cité du Vin, The City of Wine in English, is a museum dedicted to the history of wine. It was very interesting and we would have spent hours there and not seen everything. We stayed a couple of hours, viewing several of the video presentations, playing with some of the interactive exhibits and finally enjoying a glass of Bordeaux on the observation level. It was a fun couple of hours we learned a lot about wine. Afterwards, we decided to cross the river and return on right bank. The right bank of the Garonne is far less developed that the left. Lots of open space, RV camping, boat clubs, parks and even some rather large homeless encampments. We stopped at a funky bar along the River for a nice cold beer and then continued on to the Pont Pierre, the bridge right in front of our apartment. This bridge was built by Napolean Bonaparte.

It was a nice walk along the river, the stop at the wine museum was a nice addition.

I realize I didn’t take any pictures of us in the wine museum, just shots of the building and a few of the interior exhibition rooms.

We had 4 nights in Bordeaux with no particular plans for dinner, so we would walk around in evening until we found something that loooked nice. We mostly ate in the outdoor seating, which is so common in France, and has been long before Covid. As far as touristy things, we booked a city tour by bike and we booked a small group tour to St. Emilion.

It was about a half an hour walk to our bike tour meeting point and we were ready to ride. Our bilinqual tour guide who spoke English and French was informative and made our 3 hour ride around the city very interesting. We did have a little 10 minute rain which made the pavers slick. Peter hit a particular slick area and went down, the tour guide turned to see what happened and went down also. Although neither was injured, Peter’s bike did not survive and after several attempts to fix it our guide decided to park it, rent one of the many city bikes available and get on with the tour.

Our next day was filled with a 5 and 1/2 hour trip to St. Émilion There has been wine making in Saint Émilion since the Roman times and there are remants of the Roman structures still visible in the Village, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. The wines of Saint Émilion are typically red blends, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Savignon. Bill and I really like red blends, so we expected to enjoy our tastings. Our tour had only English speakers, since it was the four of us and one other couple from Canada. it was about an hour drive to Saint Émilion where we toured the village before heading out to the vineyards.

After the village stop, we had two additional stops to taste wine. Our first tasting was at Château Du Tailhas. It was in a fairly non-descript building, but the Château du Tailhas Pomerol blend is a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It was a dark red that had showed the complexity of its blending. A very pleasant wine. At the second stop, we toured two wineries owned by the same family. Château Tour Baladoz, is a traditional winery, with oak barrels and ceramic wine tanks. While its sister winery, Château La Croizille, is a modern facility with stainless steel wine tanks. It is very modern looking. However, the wines produced by both, from the same grapes are similar. Again, complex red blends, with a fruity nose and complex tastes that play delightfully with your palate. I think I could drink only St. Émilion blends and be very happy.

Our tour lasted almost 6 hours and with all the wine, the food and the ride, we were tired and ready for a nap when we got back to Bordeaux. After another evening stopping by Sweeney Todds and dining at Symbiose, a restaurant that Peter had heard about, that was also recommended by our hosts, and by our tour guide. Our guide offerred to call and make reservation for us. As it was, they only had space early, and since it was only a short walk from our tour drop off, we decided to forgoe our naps and head directly to dinner. The restaurant was very nice and, for once, we ate inside. The food was what you would expect at a French restaurant in France, was well prepared, with excellent service and, of course, Bordeaux wines. It was perfect for our last night in Bordeaux

Our train did not depart until 10:30 and we were a short 7 minute tram ride to the station, so we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up and headed to the station. Our ride to Bordeaux was a single connection through Narbonne and we were in Barcelona by late afternoon. Bill and I planned to stay at the Axel Hotel, a gay hotel right in the center of Barcelona. While Peter and Mark went to Sitges, to see friends of theirs, who used to live in Palm Springs. So Bill and I were on our own in Barcelona. We had a nice room, with a cute stain glassed in corner patio, which was great for morning coffee, but a little too warm the remainder of the day. We did not do any tours in Barcelona, we just opted to walk the city and see what we could find. We only had 3 nights there. We did send home one more bag, full of all the biking clothing and gear. We would not be needing that again on this trip. Although expensive, it is really nice to be down to one bag each for the remainder of the trip.

On Saturdy morning, we flew to Athens. Originally, Peter and Mark were supposed to fly with us, but one of their friends in Sitges had a 70th birthday party on Saturday night, so they decided to stay the extra night, while Bill and I flew as planned. Now we had an unplanned day in Athens. Peter and Mark would meet us at our hotel on Sunday afternoon and we would drive to their house about an hour from Athens. We didn’t get to the hotel until around 5 PM. We rested a bit and then decided to walk aroud and find something to eat. Bill had seen online, a gay cafe not far from our hotel, so we decided to check it out. The restaurant, called Rooster, had a large outside dining area right on a shaded square in the center of town. Again, dinner was a simple affair, but just what we wanted. The next day, we decided to walk up to the Acropolis. I am not yet comfortable with crowds at tourist sites, so we opted not to go inside the walls, but to walk around. We then headed back toward our hotel and stopped the Rooster for drinks and a snack. Afterwards, we went back to our hotel to wait for Peter and Mark.

While we were sitting at Rooster, I noticed a handsome young man across from us. He had classic Greek looks, enough so, he could be a model for any of the many statues from the classical Greek period.






Peter and Mark picked us up in their car and we headed to their house. Until March, Peter and Mark lived in Palm Springs, but they decided to retire and move to Greece. Peter, who is Greek and speaks the languange and Mark, who does not, have purchased a hillside house overlooking the Gulf of Euboea. They bought the house in 2020 and between covid and construction they are just now getting settled in their new place. They have great sea views from the various terraces of the property. Across the gulf is Euboea, also known as Evia.

Our plan was to take it easy after several weeks of being on the go. A quiet few days would be most welcome. We did a walk with Peter along the coast in Oropos, we had dinners on the water front and Peter also cooked a couple of meals. Peter is a great cook and enjoys preparing tasty but healthy meals.

Peter has not fully retired, but is expected to do so next month. So, we had time with him in the mornings and then in afternoon he worked remotely from home until about dinner time. One day we decided to drive over to Evia for a little sight seeing and lunch. Evia is connected to the mainland by a bridge over the Euripos Strait, which is only 40 meters wide at its most narrow point. If was a fun, but quick day, since Peter had to be back in time for work. We took the ferry from Oropos to Evia and then drove back using the bridge.

Our last day in Greece, Peter, Bill and I went to the beach. We hung out at one of the many beach clubs just down from the house. We had a great morning, into afternoon. Bill and stayed at the beach club while Peter went shopping. Afterwards, he picked us up and we headed home.

Early the next morning, Mark drove us to Athens airport for our flight to Madrid with connecting service to Málaga. And with that, I am going to end this blog here. I know it covered a lot, but I was trying to catch up. We are now in Estepona, Spain, having arrived on Thursday and we will be here until next Thursday, when we head to our nephew, Kyle and his wife, Ida’s celebration of their wedding. But that is a story for the next blog. Until then!

Loire Valley Cycling

We left Brugge midday to take the short train to Brussels. Our train to the Loire Valley departed at 6:30 AM the next day, so we could not get a train out of Brugge early enough to make the connection, not that I would have wanted to in the first place. We chose the Brussels Midi Pullman Hotel, a hotel right in the train station. You may remember the name Pullman in association of the first sleeper cars in the United States. The Pullman brand expanded to luxury hotels, often times in or near train stations. The Pullman group inspired a still famous European brand, The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, a very popular European travel brand. In its early days in the 19th Century, Wagon-Lits mirrored the rail sleeping car and train station hotels, the Pullman was doing in the United States. Accor Hotels acquired the Pullman brand 1991 and changed all the Pullman Hotels to Sofitels. The Pullman brand was resurrected by the company in 2007, the Brussels hotel was one of the first to carry the revived brand. Our stay in Brussels was short and early the next morning we were on our way to France.

After a little confusion in Marne La Vallée, which resulted in us standing on the platform watching our train pull away, quick work on John’s part got us back on the road and we arrived into Saumur with plenty of time before out scheduled shuttle to Loire Life Cycling.

Loire Life Cycling is run out of a former farm house near the village of Parçay les Pens. Our hosts, Jon and Alison, are British ex-pats who fell in love with the Loire Valley and moved to France and in 2009 started Loire Life Cycle. Unlike the bike trip we just completed in Holland and Belgium, the activity this week is called a center based biking adventure. All week, we stayed each night in the Farmhouse and each day, a different cycling itinerary, with options were presented. All rides were self guided, with the assistance of information and suggestions from Jon, and the provided GPS tracks to make sure we didn’t get lost. Some days the rides were one-way and the shuttle took us back to the farm, other days, the ride was a round trip back to the farm.

At the farm house, breakfast was provided each day. A nice assortment of breads, cheeses, meats, cereals and fruits accompanied by french press coffee. I don’t know how French a French Press, is, but it does make a strong pot of coffee. Now a word about half and half. You may not know, that both Bill and I like half and half (lots of it) in our coffee. Half and half is not common in Europe. In the Netherlands they had a product, Koffie Room, which was a nice approximation. But in France, I had to ask Alison what I should buy. She recommended Crème Liquide and had some for me to try. It was great, but the container was so small that in a couple of days I needed to buy some more, so I went to the market found the package and bought several. But when I tried it in my coffee, if was very thick. What I had not noticed is that Crème Liguide comes in the 12 percent fat variety, perfect for coffee and the 30 percent variety. I had purchased 3 containers of 30 percent. The perfect solultion would be to combine regular milk and the 30 percent and get close to the15 percent fat product we are used to. Bill and I could now enjoy our coffee.

Our lunches were at cafes while riding the bikes. One day, we bought makings for lunch at a local market and had sandwiches on the grounds of a Château. After the tasting, we wanted to buy two glasses of wine to go with our picnic lunch. At this particular wine cave, they could sell us wines by the bottle and could give a a free wine tasting of 6 wines, but could not sell us a glass, so the host just gave each of us a glass each to enjoy with lunch.

Dinners at the farm were wonderful. Alison is a great cook. She served locally available produce and meats and made tasty and beautifully presented meals. Each meal began with a starter, had a main course, followed by a cheese course consisting of a selection of 3 cheeses, which changed daily. Then dessert. Alison is a very talented cook and clearly took pride in her culinary creations.

With the beautiful weather, dinner was outside on the patio.

In the picture above you can see the six of us. They can accomodate 8 people, but with Brian and Gary cancelling so late, the extra spaces were not filled. Our companions for the week were Christopher and Louise from England. Louise is next to me and Christopher across from Bill. The other couple was John and Heather from British Columbia. We were a great group. We enjoyed each others company. Some days we rode together and other days we met up somewhere along the route.

After getting our bikes fitted on Sunday afternoon, we were ready for our first ride Monday morning. As was the case each day, we had choices of rides. First, the basic ride as a 17 mile ride to the Loire River and the town of Langais. You could park the bikes, walk around town and take the shuttle back to the farm or wait for the shuttle in the afternoon. Or, you could chose from serveral extensions. The first was to Château Villandry, which was 7 miles upriver from Langaeis and then ride back to Langeais for the shuttle pickup. This was the option that all 6 of us chose.

After enjoying lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Langeais, we crossed the Loire and headed up river to Villandry.

We chose Villandry for its impressive gardens, but it has an impressive history. The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Columbine until the 17th century. They were acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I. A new Château was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Phillip II of France once met Richard I of England to discuss peace.

The château remained in the Le Breton family for more than two centuries until it was acquired by the Marquis de Castellane. During the French Reveloution  the property was confiscated and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his brother Jerome Bonaparte.

In 1906, Joachim Carvallo purchased the property, financed by his wife Ann Coleman, who was an American steel heiress to the Coleman fortune. Extensive time, money, and devotion were then poured into repairing it and creating extraordinary gardens. Its famous Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. The gardens are laid out in formal patterns created with low box edges. In 1934, Château de Villandry was designated a Monument Historique. Like all the other châteaux of the Loire Valley, it is a World Hertiage Site.