Wed. July 27 Ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich, England
The river just kept getting larger and larger as we rode west. Along the way we came upon the largest water control gate in the world. After the devastating flood of 1953 (2000 people died and over 200,000 lost their homes) caused by a storm tidal surge in the North Sea, Holland started building an ingenious series of gates along their coastal rivers that can be closed when a surge comes. The weather is monitored every 2 minutes by computer and can close without human intervention. The one we saw is the largest of 20 or so and had a small museum and tour of the gate. It is 320 meters across the water. One half of the gate swings from each side of the river until they meet in the middle. After closing, the gate sinks to the bottom of the river. The exposed portion is 8 feet above the water so it blocks the water from going further up stream and flooding the lowlands. Very interesting.
When we left the museum, it started to sprinkle and the wind came up in a big way, so we put on our rain gear and headed off to the sea shore. We arrived at the beach, took the obligatory pictures, bought food for lunch and dinner then got in the ferry cue. The wind continued at a storm force, but no more rain. After at least a 45 min. wait in the line, we and about 15 other cyclists got on and put our bikes to rest in the hold. This ferry is large and very much like a cruise ship. The crossing was 6 hours. We spent the time working on our route to York, what to see in Cambridge, and talking with other touring cyclists from Germany and England. It was dark when we disembarked and a bit scary riding from the dock to our hotel in Harwich, but after a few wrong turns, we found it in the old village. It was a very cute and very old room above a pub. The building is from 1600 something. The floor in our room and bathroom was so uneven we felt like we were still on the ship or drunk when walking around.
We had the last 2 bowls of their soup of the day and went to sleep around midnight.
Thursday July 28 Harwich to Cambridge
We had our usual breakfast in the room and noticed a sign above the door on the building across the street from ours which told us why “The Mayflower” sign was in the village.
After riding around this really cute little sea village of Harwich and went down to the sea,
we hopped on a 2 hour train to Cambridge.
There were 2 changes on the way and, of course, one station without an elevator, so got a workout by carrying our bikes and gear down then up the stairs to change platforms. A woman in her 30’s grabbed a couple of panniers and helped us with the chore.
There was a street market in the central square in Cambridge so did a little window shopping, ate our lunch and visited one of cambridges’ churches
before starting our peeks at the many college quads and chapels..They are all quite beautiful and impressive. See for yourselves:
Kings College and Chapel, the most famous and beautiful will be left for tomorrow morning. Around 5pm we rode out to the home of our Warmshowers host, Geoff Jones. Just before we got there it clouded over and threatened rain. The sun came out and treated us to a rainbow. Geoff has been retired for 10 years. He had owned a company that made diagnostic instruments used for high powered jet engines. He did well since his instruments attracted the American Air Force. Geoff has done many solo cycle tours around the world and was very interesting to talk. It was his 69yh birthday so we celebrated by taking him out to dinner at a neighborhood pub. After eating we all walked along the river for an hour or so. His IT knowledge came in handy as he helped us with suggestions and planning our route north to York.
Friday July 29 Cambridge
We woke up to the smell of fresh baked bread…not a bad way to start the day. The first thing on today’s agenda was to tour King’s College trying to beat the hordes of tourists.
We got finished and out of the Chapel just in time. These old College buildings and Chapels are unbelievably beautiful and the list of famous inventors, scientists, writers, etc. who’ve studied here is amazing.
We walked around town and peeked into a few more of the colleges when it started to rain.
To avoid the rain we ducked into a tiny Greek restaurant and had lunch. As this picture demonstrates, some are more hardy and perhaps more practiced than others when it comes to dealing with the elements..
At 4pm we went back to Geoff’s house to gather our stuff and ride the 5 miles to our other Warmshowers hosts, Dan and Rita.. We were their first Warmshowers guests although Dan stayed with several hosts on his cross country tour of the US a couple of years ago. They’re a 30 yr old couple, he from this area and she from Kurdistan, who met 10 years ago while volunteering in Greece. We walked to the market together for dinner supplies then enjoyed eating, sharing stories, and looking at pictures until nearly 1 am. They took all of 2015 off and traveled in Asia, Russia, Mongolia, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand. Needless to say they had many memories and experiences to share. We thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with them. They were very nice to host us as the were leaving for two weeks holiday in Italy the next day.
Saturday, July 30 Cambridge – Peterborough
We said our farewell to Rita then Dan rode with us to the American Cemetery in Cambridge, about 4 miles from their apartment. It was very moving and beautifully maintained with a small museum on the grounds. There are more than 12,000 American soldiers from WWII buried there. After a half hour or so we said goodbye to Dan and rode north through the fields, farms, and tiny villages. A couple of places had wonderful thatched roofed buildings. Our hotel reservation was in Peterborough but once we got into the city, we had difficulty finding it. The GPS kept shutting itself off. Finally we stopped 2 college age guys on bikes and asked it they knew where it was. They ended up riding with us for about 10 miles guiding us to the place. It’s right on a small lake with people rowing crew, and is another “roll your bike into the room” kind of place. This was our longest riding day of the trip at over 90 Kms so we were fairly tired. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and well, let’s just say it was so unsatisfactory that the bill was dismissed.
Sunday, July 31 Peterborough to Stamford
We planned on a short day today as Peterborough is billed as a “Cathedral town” and we wanted to look around and enjoy the city before riding on to Stamford. It didn’t look anything special until we reached the center market square and as these pictures show, it was pretty spectacular. The first church in the square, St John the Baptist, rang its bells in the form of a song for a full 8 minutes at 10:30. We guess no one sleeps in on Sunday mornings. It is quite beautiful.
On the other end of the square and through a stone gate/arch, was the Cathedral and all of it’s wonderful grounds. The Cathedral is very large and had really amazing stained glass windows and architecture. This cathedral and much of the surrounding area are steeped in history. Both Katherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots, were buried here. (Mary’s body, and her head, we assume were moved to another venue many years ago.) Kate still rests here. All pretty impressive when you think of it.
About 2:30pm we started out of town on a cycle path which took us through the maze of city sprawl, and into the country. The ride was only about 28 miles with a coffee stop in a very colorful 17th century pub in a village named Market Deeping.
Just before pulling into town we caught a few moments of a cricket match. It is slow and colorful (if you like white and green,) whose rules remain incomprehensible to us baseball fans.
Our hotel in Stamford was built in 1720 and quite interesting. There isn’t much open on a Sunday night so dinner was in the hotel restaurant and very good.
Monday August 1 Stamford to Grantham
Happy 23rd anniversary to us!!
What a beginning, a full English breakfast and the sun is shining. Don’t get your hopes up though, the sun disappeared about 10 am and the day turned cold and windy. It didn’t warm up again until around 2pm. Stamford bills itself as the prettiest stone village in Great Britain. Almost all of the buildings are made of stone. We visited a couple of churches and just ambled through town for a couple of hours while our breakfast settled. After a coffee break on the walking street, we took off for Grantham. The terrain has changed to quite hilly and the route went up and down through many small drainages to the tune of a little over 1400 ft. of elevation gain. We haven’t seen another cyclist since leaving Cambridge 2 days ago. It’s pretty quiet where we’re riding now. None of the little towns we passed through today had anything in the way of markets or pubs, so lunch was on a park bench with no one around. We rode through the small villages of Bitchfield, Castle Bytham, Grimsthorpe, Witham on the Hill, Deeping Gate, Boothby Pagnell, and Burton Coggles. Yes, those are real names. We arrived in Grantham early enough to shop for a map and other supplies then relaxed in our room before dinner. There has been a hotel on this site for more than 700 years. King Richard the something and 4 other Kings have stayed here back in the day…so much history.
We guess that explains the worn carpet. Since today is our anniversary and our wedding cake was a carrot cake, we had a piece of the same after dinner in celebration.