From St. Malo, France, the channel crossing meant ten hours on a huge ferry complete with bars, restaurants, a cinema, and live shows for children. Upon reaching Portsmouth I queued up with at least a dozen other cycle tourists to go through immigration. Most seemed to be headed home to somewhere in the UK after a bike trip in France or Holland. My entry into Britain appeared almost derailed as the immigration officer considered my four months on a bike to be suspicious. However, after several assurances that I did not intend to stay in the country indefinitely and did indeed have the finances to take care of myself, my passport was stamped and I rode into England.
A short trip across the harbor brought me to another ferry port where I caught a small catamaran and twenty minutes later found myself on the Isle of Wight. Where I met Lisa, my riding partner for the UK. We had run into each other a month earlier in Austria, each on solo bike tours, and decided to try traveling together in Britain. Lisa had started her European trip in Paris, ridden east to Austria and then south to Italy before catching a flight from Rome to London and then biking to the Isle of Wight. You can check out her blog at Semester on Cycle.
We spent a few days resting up and wandering around the eastern coast of the island, biking on narrow lanes and seaside cliffs and through quaint towns along the shore. Finally we caught the ferry back to Portsmouth and headed northeast toward London. We hadn’t quite worked out the distances or negotiated our navigation methods yet, so misjudged the route a bit and a couple nights later found ourselves biking through London, crossing Tower Bridge at midnight, and arriving at my friend, Osama’s place at one in the morning. Luckily Osama knows me well enough to expect absurd lateness and even had sticky toffee pudding waiting for a midnight snack. Brilliant!
After several days with Osama — including catching an Imax movie and dinner at a nearby Nigerian restaurant — Lisa and I caught the train to Edinburgh. We wanted to catch the end of the Festival Fringe and biking north would not have left much time. At King’s Cross station I was tempted to get in the line for platform 9-3/4, but in the end stayed with the other muggles on a regular train. Unfortunately, Lisa’s train experience was less than ideal when she came down with food poisoning and our arrival in Edinburgh was followed by an unplanned cab ride to the Royal Infirmary. Fortunately after a tour of the emergency room and a good night’s sleep she was back to her normal self.
Once in Edinburgh we took in several shows at the Festival Fringe of which my favorite was the Tarzan Monologues, a fantastic performance of monologues, dancing and singing by a group of Nigerian men.
We’ve now been hanging out at a campground just south of the city for a week and are about ready to hit the road again. In theory we’ll head north to brave the reportedly poor weather of the Scottish highlands before turning back toward northern England.