Showing posts with label Wales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wales. Show all posts

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ireland-UK Trip: England Day 5 - Ruins

We did a quick foray back into Wales after leaving the hotel in Bristol, England.  The objective was to see the Chepstow Castle ruins.  It's claim to fame is having the oldest castle gate still in existence, using tree ring dating, they figure it goes back to around 1109 I seem to recall.

We then headed towards the nearby Tintern Abbey along the Welsh border of the river Wye.  It must have been quite the impressive abbey in its heyday.  Founded by the Cisternian Order of Monks and destroyed during the "Dissolution" under King Henry the VIII.

We then returned to England and spent the rest of the day making our way to our lodgings for the night in Farnborough.  Didn't much to write about this town, it appears to just be a bedroom community for the Greater London area.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Ireland-UK Trip: England Day 3 - Swansea and a short Sportster Ride

This morning, Martha and I went our separate ways to do some touring.  She would take the train to Bath to explore and I went to Riders Motorcycle Rentals in Bristol to pick up a reserved Harley Davidson Sportster.

I drove the rental car through Bristol's rush hour traffic and made it with no incident and only one wrong turn to the rental location.  It's also a Harley-Davidson dealer along with also being a Ducati dealer.

I found Andy, the rental coordinator, and after a brief search for my reservation, he produced a 1200 Sportster, in deep silver color, for my rental use.

Leaving the rental car with Andy, I geared up and left the dealership and into Bristol traffic, aiming for the A4174 road which would eventually wind me over to the M4 Expressway on my way to Swansea, Wales.

Initially, I was having slight problems finding the foot pegs on the motorcycle as they are much more forward than what I was used to.  Once I convinced my booted feet to reach out further, all was OK.

Good throttle response but boy does the engine rattle the entire bike and rider when one is standing at a stop!  Oh, and apparently, this particular bike had custom pipes so it was louder than a stock HD.  I am sure the loud pipes annoyed folks as I rode by, I could hear them clearly, even through my ear plugs!

Some thoughts about this motorcycle:

Fast enough for me, it reached 70 MPH easily enough with a very easy and application of the gear shift pedal.  However, I found it didn't like being in fifth gear, it's top gear, below 70 MPH...then the engine would sound like I was lugging it.

Nice low end torque in the city, very nice.  Good brakes as well, didn't have to press hard with my hand for the front brakes or with my right boot for the rear brakes.

She didn't, at least for me, turn as tightly as my '87 R80 Brigitta or the F800R I Beemer I rented in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I am sure it turns fine once you get used to it, I was learning as I rode, once again enmeshed in traffic all rolling on the "wrong" side of the road and trying to navigate at the same time, so perhaps it's not a fair thing to say.

Not sure if by design or perhaps some tuning need, but there's a lot of backfire noises and crackle as one uses engine braking or even when rolling off the throttle.

I rode out to Swansea, a bit over 86 miles from the dealership, reaching it without incident and under sunny skies.  I rode all the way to where the road ended in "The Mumbles".  Nice views of Swansea Bay along the road to the Mumbles, but not very many places to pose a motorcycle.

  In the Bracelet Bay area, overlooking Limeslade Bay.

I had discovered that my phone's battery had been used up when I neglected to stop and turn off the GPS application on it after I'd successfully left Bristol.  So, I had to return back to the hotel sooner than planned (I had planned a stop in Cardiff for picture location seeking).

On the way back along the M4 Expressway, the low fuel level light came on.  I was 8 miles from a service area so I exited there only to find it under construction.  No fuel.

I got turned around while getting back on the M4 and once again headed west back towards Swansea, all this while with that dang "low fuel level" light shining brightly at me.

I decided to take the Pyle/Porthcawl exit and luckily there was a gas station at the first roundabout that I came to.  I filled it up with only 12.5 liters of gas and its spec sheet says it's only got a 17 liter gas tank so it's not exactly a long-ranging motorcycle!  I believe SonjaM has alluded to this "lack" on her own Sportster.

Just before all this gas searching activity, I'd been thinking how the stock seat on this bike is not very comfortable.  OK, it's not comfortable at all after say an hour of sitting on it!  I also kept sliding forward a bit due to the shape of the seat, and had to keep pushing myself back a bit once in a while.

It's a low slung bike, so folks with a short inseam will like that.  Not too heavy when not moving though I found you have to pay attention some times.  She tended to, tilt to the right when at rest or slowing to a stop.

I got back to the dealership and turned the bike in.  I was hurting in places I don't normally hurt after just a few hours of riding.  The forward position for my feet, unused to it as I was, had caused some cramping of my legs as well.  The ergonomics just weren't working for me, and I didn't want to ride it another full day.

About 200 miles ridden, most of it under super slab conditions.  Slight cloudy skies, with almost warm temperatures so a perfect riding day, just not the perfect riding motorcycle for me it seems.

I got back to the hotel shortly before Martha returned from her train trip to Bath where she'd enjoyed some touring. 


We had us a fine sunset here in Bristol, England this evening, the silhouette of The Bristol Cathedral's spires show up nicely don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2016

The UK-Ireland Trip: England Day 1 - Caging it...

And so, we begin the England phase of the trip:

We woke up in Aberytwyths, Wales and after breakfast it was time to get into the mini cage and roll out of the city in the light rain.  The weather did clear soon after we got on the road and by mid-morning we were enjoying sporadic views of sunshine which would eventually lead to pretty much clear skies and sunny weather....sure, just in time for us to leave Wales.

The few glimpses we did catch of the Welsh countryside gave us the impression it was similar to what we'd seen in Scotland and Ireland though with a lot more slate roofs on the houses!  The welsh towns and villages we rode through looked a bit gray and damp in the rain; the Welsh don't seem to go in for bright paint work out in the country.  A couple of times, we spied far off views of fog shrouded hills around bays but either there would be no safe places to stop or some big truck or cager right up on our car's bumper.

We did stop to find the Vodaphone store in Abergavenny to ask how we'd managed to burn the through the 150 minutes of free calls on each of our SIM cards we'd obtained from Vodaphone .  Turned out to be "user error", the number we'd been trying to reach (Hertz in Manchester) had a 084 prefix which turns out to be a "premium" code and not covered by the "unlimited" voice call plan we'd bought.  Sigh.  So now we know.

Soon enough, we crossed the border back into England and caged it on the M4 expressway for quite a few miles heading for the town of Newbury.   The final destination was the town of Highclere for our tomorrow of Highclere Castle, the location of the castle featured in the Downtown Abbey TV series.

Martha, my loving wife, had gotten me hooked on the series and we basically binged it in a few short weeks.  It's a bit pricey to tour the castle and grounds but what the heck.  Yes, we planned this phase of our vacation in the UK around the tour reservations for Downton Abbey....

We're even staying at a country inn called the Yew Tree Inn which uses the name of a farm of the same name in the TV series.  Here's a photo Martha took to try and remedy the fact no real photo opportunities presented themselves to us today.

The Yew Tree Inn

Dinner was a Chinese restaurant in Newbury, a town a few miles away from Highclere.  The town was looking a bit run down and in trouble with lots of empty store fronts.  Could have been just the time of the day of course, but it was looking a bit desolate.  Still plenty of cars to run you down if you don't look in the right direction before stepping off the curb mind you....

After dinner, I took the wrong turn at one of the endless roundabouts and extended our return trip back to the inn, but the Waze GPS app got us to the right place eventually.  The app is actually pretty good in terms of directions but it sometimes would quit speaking directions for unknown reasons.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Ireland-UK Trip: Wales Day 2 - Three Castles

Martha and I spent Father's Day touring three of the top five castles built by King Edward the First as part of a "Ring of Iron" to surround Welsh princes and their territories and control Wales after conquering it.

First one up was Conwy Castle, it was dry when we arrived but would start sprinkling rain by the end of the touring.

On the overpass ramp built over the rail lines that lead past the castle

Conwy Castle

Yours truly next to an artwork of a bored castle guard

Martha found the 12 "loos" built into one of the castle walls
The were put there by the King to provide his workmen the facilities.

Then, we drove over to Caernarfon Castle (we liked this one the best of the three visited today).  It's where the current Prince of Wales was crowned back in 1969, and pretty much was the "capital" castle back in King Edwards' day.  As you can see, the rain was a bit more intense here but still not too bad.

 Good use of multimedia and displays at Caernarfon Castle

 Yep, more towers to climb up...

 Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum Entrance
(Very nicely done, this museum)
Note: Welch is the old way of naming the natives of Wales, it's now Welsh

 A chess set used to depict the history of the era of King Edwards

 Model of Caernarfon Castle, Conwy was very similar to this
castle by the way.

 A view from one of the towers on the end

 Cool stained glass window I stumbled upon
while wandering about the castle

Next we spent a good hour driving on narrow Welsh roads (so happy we swapped out the car yesterday....) and we made it to our last castle, Harlech Castle.  It was pretty much raining pretty well when we got there and we had the place basically to ourselves.  Harlech castle is pretty much just ruins by the way, and I only went up one tower.

I chose Harlech to see the castle which is home to the regiment that inspired the song "Men of Harlech".

 View from inside the main area of the castle
The interior of the castle was basically open to the elements.

 It was windy and cold up on the tower....didn't stay up there long

Model of Harlech Castle, it had a great position on the hill, eh?

Parting view of Harlech Castle as we departed for Aberytwysth where we'd spend the night.

More narrow roads in pouring rain, slowed our progress of course but still stayed at the speed limit for the most part thanks to the small size of our rental car.  Lots of big puddles on the side of the road causing minor hydro-planing for us but no big deal otherwise.

We found a nice hotel, Harry's Bar and Bistro and got a really nice room for less money than we paid for the mediocre room at the Holiday Inn last night.

All in all, a win of a day!