Highlights – Western Europe
Favorite Picture –
Cool Things I Did/Saw – Rode a bicycle 2,975 miles through the countries of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales, was able to visit the amazing towns/cities of Amsterdam, Delft, The Hauge, Gouda, Gorinchem, Antwerp, Leuven, Brussels, Ypres, Brugge, Ghent, Stamford, Canterbury, London, Nottingham, York, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Limerick, Cashel, Kilkenny, Bath, Salisbury and Lincoln, crossed into the eastern hemisphere for the first time in my life, lost a bag with 80% of everything I own in it (got it back), saw the famous windmills at Kinderdijk, nearly got my head taken off by a windmill, saw the International Court of Justice in The Hague, went with Karin to see huge fields full of tulips, saw Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, witnessed the drunken spectacle in front of the Manneken Pis statue in Brussels, lost the Battle of Waterloo to an old lady, saw many sobering WWI sites at Ypres and the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, sailed across the English Channel and saw the white cliffs of Dover, quickly learned about riding on the left side of the road, rode by the massive Dover Castle, passed through the town where sandwiches were invented (Sandwich), walked around the site where the Roman’s first invaded England, admired Leeds Castle, rode across the prime meridian (0° longitude), went on a massive bicycle tour of London, checked out the towering cathedral in Ely, paid a visit to Nottingham Castle, went looking for Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, fell in love with Edinburgh, tried not to get eaten by a highland cow, kept an an out for the Loch Ness monster, spotted some seals in Scotland, clambered over the rocks at Giant’s Causeway, went on a guided tour of Belfast, was lucky enough to catch the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through Dublin, rode across the desolate area known as the Burren, nearly lost my hat and sunglasses on the Cliffs of Moher, composed a limerick in Limerick, planted a big one on the Blarney Stone, strolled around the Rock of Cashel, was impressed at how well was Merlin was hidden in his own home town, carefully avoided landmines around Carreg Cennen Castle, reveled in the fact that I spent more time at Woodhenge than I did at Stonehenge, checked out the ruins of Old Sarum, nearly lost my bike and everything on it and spent an incredible week with this amazing woman in Lincoln.
Favorite Place – The Netherlands, it’s flat, there are bicycles everywhere, the towns/cities are all full of beautiful buildings and of course my best friends, Karin & Marten live there.
Least Favorite Place – England. This was a difficult choice because England had so many absolutely amazing things to see. The problem is getting there. The roads are busy, narrow and are often in poor condition, the prices are very high, the weather was horrific 90% of the time, the campgrounds were generally nothing more than a patch of overpriced wet grass, the entire country is basically farmland, there’s no wildlife to speak of, there are hardly any natural areas, people say/do rather annoying things instead of just welcoming you with a simple, “Hi” and there are more freaking CCTV cameras than anywhere I’ve ever been–it made me feel like I was riding in a giant prison.
Best Memory – No question about this one. The vacation time in Lincoln.
Worst Memory – My last day in Lincoln.
Best Road – The A861 and along the northern coastal route on the Isle of Mull in Scotland was stunning, mostly for the scenery although traffic was also very light.
Worst Road(s) – 95% of the roads in England. Way too much traffic, no safety lanes, deteriorating asphalt on the sides,
Toughest Section(s) – Wales had a lot of 20% and higher grade hills. Traffic was light on most of these local roads but my heart was pounding on the ride up. This day was the toughest. The Beatles wrote a song about one section of the B842 in Scotland. Lot’s and lot’s of hills for the 53 mile stretch (3642 feet of climbing).
Best Scenery – The coastal areas of Scotland were just magnificent. The water was crystal clear, there were seals swimming in the water and I even spotted a couple deer.
Best Drivers – Drivers in the Netherlands are very considerate of bicyclists.
Worst Drivers – Belgium wasn’t bad but all the UK countries and Ireland seem to have a big problem with slowing down to pass on the narrow roads.
Biggest Annoyance – Too many people. This was a very difficult part of the world for me because I like nature. Trees, animals, birds, forests, lakes, rivers and most of all quiet. Pretty much every inch of land is developed and with few exceptions it’s all fenced in. Traffic in almost non-stop on many roads; sometimes even small local ones.
Strangest Sight – I’ve never seen a shaggy cow before.
Funniest Memory – The OMG! girl.
Best Place to Sleep – The Orchard Guest House in Lincoln. 🙂
Worst Place to Sleep – Nothing comes to mind. I’m glad I got to camp as much as I did but I sure wish the places were cheaper. A patch of grass and a warm/hot shower shouldn’t cost $16 on average.
Most Looked Forward To – London and Edinburgh have always been places I’ve wanted to visit. I could have spent a month in London seeing everything and Edinburgh was a dream for taking pictures.
Biggest Disappointment – No leprechauns in Ireland. No that wasn’t it. Basically the country of Ireland was disappointing to me because I’d been expecting these dramatic vistas of undulating green hills. It seemed like there were just farms and a lot of sheep.
What I’ll Remember the Most – For some reason I just loved seeing the Olympic Torch relay in Dublin. Just being able to see it was memorable enough but for the first time in history it took place in a country not hosting the Olympics which made it even more special.
Friendliest People – Everyone in Ireland, especially the B&B owners.
Least Friendliest People – No one was really unfriendly but it started getting annoying in England when 99% of the people started a conversation with, “Wow, you have a lot of stuff there.” I much prefer, “Hi.”.
Biggest Surprise – It was pretty amazing to me how many sheep are running around Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Hardest Hill – The climb right after Saddell Abbey on the way to Campbeltown was brutal.
Biggest Tumble – I forgot to even write this on the post for that day but I tipped over when my rear pannier caught on a sidewalk barricade. It was a soft, rather graceful fall which is probably why I didn’t think to mention it.
Interesting Things I Learned – There are more CCTV cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world. There are more sheep in Wales and Scotland than there are people. The currencies issued by the Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Northern Ireland are not legal tender.
Worst Weather – The time I spent in western Europe happened to be during a period when this area was having the wettest spring/summer in over 200 years. Enough said.
Windiest Place – It seems that if it’s not raining it’s windy. Northern Scotland probably wins for highest sustained winds.
Favorite Food – Fish and chips.
Favorite Snack – Dead fly pudding (ok, they were raisins–Karin made it).
Favorite Drink – Guinness fresh from Ireland.
Longest Distance in One Day – 77.32 mi (124.4 km) Galway, Ireland
Highest Elevation – 1,199 ft (365.5 m) Wales, United Kingdom
Greatest One Day Ascent (paved/unpaved mix) – 3,642 ft (1,110 m) Campbeltown, Scotland
Health Issue(s) – My ass was killing me for about a week thanks to constant rain.
Most Thankful I Have – My friends. On more than one occasion I wasn’t feeling too chipper and it was nice to have people I could call to cheer me back up again.
Wish I Had – I was kicking myself for leaving my umbrella in Florida. I could have used it almost every day.
Best Buy – My Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent. With all the rainy days it was sure nice to have a tent that I could sleep/cook in without getting wet.