Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cycling Europe 2017 Days 1 & 2: Welcome To London & Bristol

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2017 Days 1 & 2: Welcome To London & Bristol
United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands & Germany : Days 1 & 2 - Monday & Tuesday, 28th & 29th August - Bristol
This is part of cycling tour of Western Europe, covering Bristol:
Cycling Distance - 6.47 km.     Level: Very Easy
Cycling Time : 10:30 am to 9:15pm.
Time Taken :  11hrs 45 mins (inclusive of stops for lunch, dinner, buying bicycles and many, many photo opps).

This is page 1 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Bikes On Planes         |      Go to Other Days   |        Go to D3 Bristol-Bath >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    The United Kingdom vehicles are right-hand drive so cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from! Fortunately in the United Kingdom, road markings at zebra crossings reminds pedestrian/cyclists to look left OR right when crossing. Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The United Kingdom has an elabortate called the British National Cycle Network which also includes Cycle Superhighways for cyclists to commute from the outskirts into London.
    The following for route planning the following sites are helpul:
    - CyclingUK.org has a feature to plan a route (journey) in the UK, click here to plan a journey route.
    - for planning cycling routes in Europe, Cycle Travel which has a very user-friendly cycle travel route planner, routes using this planner can be saved and also converted to GPX format for use in GPS devices.
    Our route today was an easy one that took us around Bristol, it was a short get to know the city ride.

3. Weather
    The weather for amicably cool, averaging at 22°C during the day and 13°C at night. There was a light drizzle during mid-morning, with light winds.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the United Kingdom are BBC Weather and AccuWeather.

4. Places of Interest
    - Cumberland Basin with ships, boats and an marine activities ongoing at the river.
    - The S.S. Great Britain parked at the Cumberland Basin. This is an old passenger sailing ship that has been converted to a museum. For entry fee, click here.

5. Food
    - Breakfast was instant noodles that we brought over from Malaysia.
    - Lunch was very nice set Chinese food at One Restasurant (GPS: 51.45637, -2.59829).
    - Dinner was English fare at the Grain Barge (GPS: 51.44943, -2.61225), a floating restaurant berthed on the Cumberland Basin.

6. Accommodations
    We stayed at the Rock & Bowl Hostel (GPS: 51.45629, -2.59352in Bristol. I took a bed in a 4-bedder dorm for £25/= per night ; whilst the girls took a bedroom for two for £65/= per room-night.
    As it was unclear whether the motel allowed foldies into the premises, we initially folded and bagged our bikes before taking them in. We later found that it was allowed to roll our folded bike in without bagging.

7. Bringing Bikes Onto Planes
    We flew MAS (Malaysian Airlines System) which allowed 30kg of luggage inclusive of our bicycles without additional charges. We had packed our bikes into Dimpa bags and brought along a spare Dimpa too (this spare Dimpa came in handy to pack our shopping and clothing on the return flight). On checking in, we had to take our bagged bikes to the over-sized baggage section for both Kuala Lumpur International Airport and London Heathrow Airport.
    A tip, simple but important. Ensure that you DO NOT carry your tool kits or any long/sharp metal objects in your hand luggage. Put your tool kit into your checked-in bike bags. I often seen friends forgetting about this, only to have their tools confiscated at the security checkpoints.

8. Bringing Bikes Onto Buses
    We used the National Express Coach to get from Heathrow Airport to Bristol and pre-booked our tickets on line, the fare was £15-40  per pax. Our bikes were bagged and stored in the luggage hold.
The coach station is just outside the arrival hall of Heathrow Terminal Four and arrives at the Bristol Coach Station (GPS:51.45887, -2.59328).

9. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We got pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three under the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/= from one of their outlets in Bristol (GPS: 51.45735, -2.59074). This plan lasts for 30 days and allows for 5GB Data, 3,000 minutes of call time & 3,000 text messages within the system. More importantly it has their "Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

10. Communicating with Locals
    Communicating with locals in England was not a problem, although some may have difficulty understanding our Asian accent when speaking English.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

11. Navigation
    As Bill was familiar with Bristol, he took us around.

12. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.

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PRELUDE - DAY 1

7:30 am - The BIG DAY has arrived. To play it safe we have arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport two and a half hours earlier even though we had checked in on line. There was already a long queue at the Malaysia Airlines counters, we had thought that we could just drop off our checked-in luggage but oddly we had to check in again physically!!
We are flying Malaysia Airlines as it is a direct flight and the fare was not that much higher than those of the budget airlines.
We settled in for the fourteen hours flight; in-flight service was good, we were well fed and drinks were served freely. We lounged into the comfortable chairs, watched movies, dozed off, and then watched more movies.
Although a long flight, it was comfortable. Perhaps in future I will just take the regular airlines instead of suffering the crampy budget airlines and the bonus is there is no charge for checking in our bicycles - yes there was no "sports equipment charges" and all food, drinks and entertainment were free. There was also more leg room for my short legs Haha!

4:35pm (London Time) - We landed at Heathrow Airport on time and cleared immigration and customs without any hassle into the welcoming arms of a cheery Beefeater. Although it was 11:35pm back home, we did not feel tired or sleepy; our adrenaline had prepped us up to a drunken excitement ..... HELLO LONDON!!

But we won't be heading for London; instead we jumped onto the 7:00pm National Express Coach and headed for Bristol ...... Er..... GOODBYE LONDON!!

The bus journey would take 2-1/2 hours; to keep onself entertained (other the sleeping it off), the company has entertainment (streamed movies, tv shows, news, etc. via one's on mobile phone) and Wifi on board. The thing is one needs to register with VUER before being able to use it. We were caught in a Catch-22 situation, we had switched off our phones' Malaysian data so as not to be exposed to exorbitant charges and as such could not register to use the free Wifi and so on.
I put this post so that others can register (please note that cookies may come with registration) while they have wifi at the airport or elswhere.
Alternatively, there is their "The View" onboard magazine to keep one occupied.

9:30pm - We arrived at the Bristol Coach Station and were glad to see Bill and Hong (they have arrived earlier). They had cycled an hour from their homestay to come meet us and guide us to our hostel. It was a good thing too, the girls will be buying their bikes here. So our bikes came in handy to transport the girls' luggage - Yes, that's personalised porter services for you! We took a slow push/walk that cut through St. Jame's Park to the motel, after which our "porters" rode an hour back to their homestay; many thanks Bill & Hong.

The entrance to the Rock & Bowl Motel, which will be a familiar site for us for the next few days. We would be staying for three nights - the girls in a private two-bedder room, and me in a shared dorm for four. I was lucky and was the only occupant for the dorm.
I have all four bunk beds to myself..... HOORAY!

By the time we checked in, the cafeteria had closed. So after a nice bath, I cooked one of the "MyKuali Penang White Curry Mee" instant noodles that we had brought along with us.
Hah! My first meal in England was Malaysian!

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THE RIDE -  DAY 2

This is an easy route that goes around Bristol town centre and to the the scenic port area at the Cumberland Basin.

10:30am - Bill & Hong met us at the motel; Bill is quite familiar with Bristol and is now "porter" turned "tour guide" 😜.
First thing first - stay connected! And we strolled over to the nearest Three Mobile Store at Broadmead to purchased pre-paid phone sim cards and got the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/=. This package last 30 days and comes with 5GB of data, thousands of minutes of call time, thousands sms (within the system) .... Yes, we were hungry for data as we wanted to share our journey with our friends back home. More importantly, it has the ""Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges! We would thus sitll have mobile data and call/message each other while on mainland Europe.

Now for A HAPPY MOMENT for the girls, they had pre-ordered their Brompton bicycles and we popped into the Evans Bristol Store to collect them.
Yahoo! Now we can really cycle around..... no more pushing!

And cycle around we did! Bill, having cycled here before, gave us some pointers to safe cycling so that we could get the hang of the DO's and DON'Ts - such as no cycling on pavements unless it's for shared usage, and using the right lanes at road crossings (often there are separate lanes for cyclists).

Our first destination, The-One Restaurant at Perry Street. Yup, no more instant noodles 😉.
This small and cozy place is run by a mainland Chinese and offers several set meals at £5-50 each.

While some of the others went for the Sweet & Sour Pork, I had the Chicken Stew that came with herbal Tofu cooked with bean paste. It was a very good meal and reasonably priced too!
We had budgeted £30/- per day for our meals, looks like we would not have any problems keeping within that figure.

Back at the motel, the girls changed the standard tires to Marathon Plus tires which they had brought over from Malaysia. These tires are made in Indonesia and are cheaper in Malaysia (almost half the price) on account of the ASEAN Trade Pact.
It's a first for the girls, and under the keen supervision of Bill they managed quiet well in removing the rear derailleur, the rear wheels, changing the tires, putting everything back again properly and setting the gear dilimiter chain.

Then it was off for a slightly longer ride to see more of Bristol, and also for the girls to get used to the new bikes.

6:45pm - Time to feed our tummies again; this time it will be some English Fare at the Grain Barge.

Panoramic view of the Cumberland Basin from the Grain Barge.
The Grain Barge is a old barge converted into a restaurant. It is moored at the Cumberland Basin of the Avon River; yes, it's the same Avon of ye ole bard Shakespeare. But there was no odes from the bard as Stradford-upon-Avon is very much further upstream. So we just had to be contented with the comptemporary piped in music, but the excellent view of the river from the barge more than made up for it.

We made our orders and while waiting for them to arrive, went outside to view the going ons at the river. Many were having rowing practice ...

..... while even many more were enjoying sailing.

And moored at the riverside were umpteen boats, like this on called "Pride of Bristol". It's an old Royal Navy ship and is now a marine training vessel.

On the other side was the mighty S.S. Great Britain, a former passenger sailing ship which has been converted into a museum.

Here we are inside the barge, comforably warm and ready to dig in. Yes.... finally some Englsih food and good ale!

We had some pies, rump steak and this good salmon salad that came with nice potato spuds and interesting hard-boiled eggs with runny yolk that was some what similar to the Japanes Onsen Tamago Eggs.

A night view of the Grain Barge; looks even lovelier now.

Captivated by the night views, we decided to ride along the bike path running along the riverside.... even better views!

Back at the motel, after a nice, warm shower, I went up to one of the balconies and found a group of young Spanish singing away romantic Spanish ballads. They were very good; good enough to set me into the mood for a pleasant sleep.

BUENAS NOCHE!
(that's "Good Night" in Spanish)

(For more photos of the Days 1 & 2, Click Here)

This is page 1 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Bikes On Planes         |      Go to Other Days   |        Go to D3 Bristol-Bath >
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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Europe / Cycling England / Cycling Europe 2017 / Days 1-2     |     Go To D3/D4/D5/D6/D7/D8/D9 &10/D11/D12&13/D14&15/D16-18/D19-22
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