Summary day 2 – Alnmouth to Embleton – return by bus

The weather forecast today was for a fine, blustery morning with rain in the late afternoon – probably around 4 or 5. We decided to walk up the coast from Alnmouth to Dunstanburgh Castle then on to Embleton to catch a bus back.

Mathew made a picnic and we set off at about 10am. Alnmouth was beautiful, with bright blue skies, sparkling sea and the wind sending sand streaming and skiming across the beach.

There were really very few other people about – some dog walkers and a runner running along the sand with her dog. We were walking north with the sea on our right and the sun mostly behind us. There’s a very well-marked coastal path and we used that or walked on sandy beaches or across rocks.

We went through or past Foxton, Boulmer, Howick, Craster then Dunstanburgh and Embleton. We walked about 14 miles when the bends and curves of the bays and promontories are taken into account. Zoly walked much further than that, of course – he was trotting backwards and forwards, zig-zagging from side to side, chasing after other dogs and paddling in the sea!

The coast heading towards Craster was really undulating with the basalt rock outcrop at Cullernose Point where tall linear stone columns juts out to the sea. The path was surrounded by gorse bushes with the most incredible bright yellow flowers. There were clumps of flowering daffodils and primroses too – making it very spring-like.

We stopped for lunch in Craster at about 2:00 and had a little look around the village – lots of pretty boats and smoke billowing out of the herring-curing sheds where ‘smoked kippers’ are produced.

Dunstanburgh Castle is magnificent – even though it it is ruined. It was built in the early fourteenth century on a cliff-top promontory and we could see it in the distance as we rounded headlands, then it would be hidden from view, only to reappear again, all the time getting larger and larger. The ruined gatehouse is one of the most striking features and was the largest of any British castle. The landward side of the castle was protected by large artificial lakes – meres – that have largely silted up now and are filled with boggy plants

When we arrived in Embleton, a bus was coming towards us – and even though we weren’t at a bus stop we signalled for it and the driver stopped for us, What a result! Zoly climbed on to our laps and fell asleep almost as soon as we were sat down.

Back at the cottage and Zoly needed a hose down before his dinner, which he didn’t particularly appreciate. After he’s eaten he fell asleep for he rest of the evening. He’ll have to have a quieter day tomorrow we think!

It’s time for our honeymoon (only one year late!)

It’s been a busy year, what with welcoming a new member of the family (our puppy, Zoly) and our wedding – we didn’t get around to having any kind of holiday in 2014. We even managed to get married without having a honeymoon, (which Matthew wasn’t very pleased about – I mean the lack of honeymoon, not the marriage, obviously!). But we’re putting that right now – we did some research and came across a lovely cottage near Alnmouth in Northumberland. The owners of the ‘Huffy House’ (more on the name later) allow guests to bring their dogs and it’s situated close to a railway station that we could get to direct from Bristol (the Plymouth to Glasgow train stops at Alnmouth!). We’re booked in for a week and decided that as Zoly hasn’t learned to travel by bicycle yet (he will, of course) that we’d make this trip on foot.

We travelled from Bristol to Newcastle on Friday. It was going to be Zoly’s longest train journey, so we both took turns to walk him – Matthew at 6am out along the Towpath and through Greville Smyth Park then back for breakfast and out again with me to make sure that he was tired and ‘wrung out’ before we settled on the train. The poor thing, he was playing with some doggy friends in Victoria Park – running and chasing and wearing himself out – and I shooed him away from the dog bowl outside the café.

We’d arranged to stay our friends Michelle and Catherine and Iain in Newcastle so that we could get to Alnmouth on Saturday afternoon. They have an absolutely beautiful Weimaraner called Poppy and we wondered how Zoly and Poppy would get on when they met. We needn’t have worried – Zoly was beside himself with excitement when they met and was entranced by her all evening and the next morning. He was constantly wanting to play with her, chasing about, doing a bit of showing off and following her about wherever she went. Poppy is four years old and was very capable of handling herself.

On Saturday morning we took Zoly and Poppy for a walk on the Newcastle Town Moor and into Exhibition Park and then to a café in Northumberland Street (Poppy’s first visit there) – the dogs had a wonderful time on the moor – sniffing and chasing each other. We tuned heads wherever we went – two men with two extremely stylish dogs was a bit of a give-away! Lots of people asked us what kind of dogs we had and would smile and say something like: “Beautiful dogs” as we passed.

After we’d walked the dogs we returned Poppy and headed to Central Station for our train to Alnmouth. We arrived at the station with six minutes to spare… so while Matthew bought our tickets Mike asked at the information desk where the Alnmouth train was going – “Platform two to Edinburgh”. So we went to platform two and there was a train waiting – destination Edinburgh. We just made it – it left Newcastle almost as soon
as we got on – which made us think that perhaps something wasn’t right – it departed sooner than we thought it should. True enough the announcer on the train said we were on the Edinburgh train, next stop Morpeth then
Dunbar! Argh!! I ran up and down the train to find the train manager to check if the train really wasn’t stopping at Alnmouth (and to see if they could be persuaded to stop there since they were passing through), no – and no – we had to get off at Morpeth, run over to the other platform and return to Newcastle to try again
for Alnmouth!

Eventually we made it and finding the house was easy – and it’s in a wonderful setting at the top of a grassy ridge, with views to the Lesbury Railway Viaduct and on towards Boulmer and over to Alnmouth.

Michelle had made some soup for us (Thank-you Michelle – you were a super-star!), so we didn’t have to worry about getting any shopping in and once we’d unpacked and eaten we went for a lovely evening stroll to the sea.

So here we are on the North East coast between Newcastle and Berwick – about a mile from Alnmouth and three miles from Alnwick. We’re planning to do lots of walking with Zoly – up the coast, visit Alnwick, Cragside, Bamburgh, maybe Lindisfarne. We’ll keep you posted.

Summary – day 17 – Washington DC – London and Bristol (Saturday/Sunday 06/07 July)

Up early and out for a run, (no cycling today, a long flight later … and a marathon for me in three months!).

It was warm, bright and amazingly quiet. We’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall a few times now and it’s always been heaving with people. This morning was different – a few other runners and ‘power-walkers’, but really hardly anyone about. I was wearing my local Southville Running Club vest – so I wanted to have some pictures of me wearing it around Washington DC. We were out for only about 2 hours, we saw the Lincoln Memorial again, the WWII memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

It was extremely hot by the time we’d finished our run. We called into a grocery store to get some juice and fruit for breakfast then off for some more shopping for M. Apparently that store last night wasn’t Crate and Barrel – it was CB2 – similar, but different in some very important respects … so to get to the real McCoy required a Metro train to Clarendon to the west of the city. We found the store and there were some nice things there – including a Vitamix blender for $599.95 – I didn’t buy it! Matthew bought some stuff – citronella candles for the garden and a chopping board I think. Next door was a huge storage-type gadget shop, half the shop seemed to taken up with selling coat hangers of various kinds! I came across a fabulous and entirely unfamiliar (for Brits like me) ‘back to school’ -type display – stuff for pimping one’s locker! This included pre-cut ‘wallpapers’, miniature chandeliers, tidy boxes and mirrors to hang inside the door … I fear that I have seen the future!

Back at the hotel, just time to consolidate the bags before setting off for the airport. An extension to the Metro has been approved apparently, in the meantime getting to Dulles is a nightmare. Either pay a fortune for a taxi or a shuttle bus or take a Metro to L’Enfant Plaza then a bus, (this was quite a bit of hassle with our bicycles in their bags, but saved us in the region of $50). On weekdays the buses are every half hour and beyone reason on weekends they’re only every hour – even on the weekend after 4th July! Needless to say the bus was absolutely rammed and some people couldn’t get on!

Dulles looks a bit dated now and no oversize luggage facility that we could use so at check-in our bicycles were loaded by a rather slight man, who could hardly lift them onto the everyday luggage trolleys. It felt strange bidding them good-bye – especially as we just abandoned them in the middle of the concourse. I was worrying as we walked away that they might not get to our plane. It took ages to get through the long queues for security. But there was a little sushi bar by the departure lounges and the vegetarian sushi was vegan, so we had some of that.

The plane was an Airbus A330-300 with 218 passengers and 14 crew – quite a few empty seats dotted about.

I watched Admission – with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd – mainly because I saw that it had Lily Tomlin in. Fey is a Princetown University admissions officer who believes that a bright young man is the son that she gave up for adoption. She tries to get him admitted to Princetown. Matthew watched Hitchcock – with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren – about the making of Psycho. Then he watched an episode of Downton Abbey – yuk – dreadful Tory propaganda … he did keep chuckling all the way through, though. I’ve no idea why. After we’d landed he said that he was laughing at the language use, which reminded him of my speech! Grrr …

In early to London Heathrow, landing just before 7 am and time to wish my sister, Lisa, the best of luck today with her ‘Monopoly Run’ – a fundraising run through all the streets and placed on the London edition of the Monopoly board. It’ll be a hot one!

Summary – day 16 – Washington DC – Mount Vernon (Friday 05 July)

Mileage: 31.26

Cumulative distance: 948.78 miles

We didn’t pack our bicycles in bags last night because Matthew wanted to ride to George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon today, it’s about 15 miles east of Washington DC. He’d also found a vegan bakery, about a mile-and-a-half from our hotel: Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights … so we rode over there for breakfast. Wonderful to have so much choice. And it was delicious, really making the point that vegan food isn’t boring or in any way sub-standard. It’d be nice if it was available more widely!

We headed to Mount Vernon – first taking our bicycles on to the metro to Huntingdon, then joining a beautiful and well-used bicycle path alongside the Potomac River for about ten miles to George Washington’s estate.

Mount Vernon is made up of several gardens and outbuildings as well as the main house. A landing stage, the Washington’s tomb and a slaves’ cemetery. It was boiling hot – it felt like our hottest day so far and I have to say that I found the whole place a little underwhelming and somewhat dispiriting. At the entrance there was a gallery of photographs of some rather unsavoury visitors: Churchill, De Gaulle, Hussein of Jordan, the Reagans, various Bushes, lots of hideous royals including the Queen, Margaret, Charles, Queen Mother, Akihito of Japan, etc. (too ironic that they visited the house of a founder of a republic). Then I thought that the whole place had very odd air about it – strangely uninformative, uncritical and upbeat. It was disturbing to find that it was overwhelmingly being visited by white, overweight people. In the museum there was only one black person in the room – and he was the security guard. The place seriously needs to implement a diversity strategy! The shop had a very scary children’s book homage to ‘the remarkable’ Ronald Reagan! I tried to hide them behind some other books.

We cycled all the way back to Washington and that perked me up considerably – the path ran up the Potomac, often in the shade of trees, so it was pleasant and cool. There were some incredible smells: pine and cedar and maple syrup with mingled with the smells from the sea – all intoxicating. I’d no idea that the Potomac was do big – its tidal section and estuary are huge. Occasionally the path crossed little creeks or inlets on wooden cycleways, wide and close to the water, surrounding some were tall bulrushes and other water plants. As we neared Washington DC the route passed through a pretty old town – Alexandria, with some old shops and brick-paved roads – quite touristy, but not in an unpleasant way.

Then on past the regional airport – the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as it’s known. I do quite like airports and here there was some excellent vantage points from the cycleway to watch planes taking off and landing … in fact I spent as much time as I thought I could get away with there. However, I do wonder who came up with the absolutely stupid idea of naming the airport after Reagan. I also struggle to understand how enough people to make it happen could possibly have agreed? The man was a monster – his callous indifferent failure to do anything meaningful for people with HIV and Aids should be sufficient to condemn him forever – and that’s before mentioning all the illegal covert operations.

Back in Washington we stopped again at the Lincoln Memorial and people-watched for a while.

We got back to the hotel, showered and changed and then it was time to hit the shops. Matthew wanted to go to a trendy neighbourhood called Georgetown – something to do with barrels and crates, (not that we need either of those items). The area was busy – and we came across a section of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, there was a cycle path from Cumberland that would have followed that – but it wasn’t going to be suitable for cycling on. We called on at a lovely market: Dean and Deluca – we bought some nice treats there.

We took some pictures at the canal had a Chinese meal and back to the hotel to spend the rest of the evening dismantling out bicycles and packing them away for the flight home :(

Summary – day 15 – Columbia to Washington DC (Thursday 04 July)

Estimated mileage: 29 miles, actual: 32.67 miles

Avg. speed: 13.5 mph

Cumulative distance: 917.16 miles

It’s US Independence Day! We’re not sure how they’ll feel about two British guys arriving into Washington, D.C. today! Hopefully we’ll be fine, providing we don’t appear to be playing with any matches!

When we got up Mike (McL) had yesterday’s Tour de France stage replay on tv – so we watched that over breakfast. Then the broadcast carried on to today’s stage … it was going to be very hard to turn my back on that – but a short ride to Washington awaited and maybe a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall!

We left at 10:00 for a very gentle ride to DC. We went past the restaurant that we’d eaten at last night in Clarkesville and a just afterwards had puncture # 6 (Mike front – a small shard of glass went through the tyre). Once the puncture was repaired and we were in our way again we took Route 108 to Highland, then Brown’s Bridge Road. It was really quite semi-rural with lots of big detached housed surrounded by massive clipped lawns and lovely gardens – almost everywhere we could hear buzzing noises and there were people using sit-on lawns mowers and strimmers! We descended to a bridge over the Rocky Gorge reservoir, then on Ednor Road, Layhill Road – past Northwest Park Golf Course and over the I-370 into the start of the built-up area at Glenmont. Now lots of stops and starts at junctions along Georgia Avenue, through Wheaton, Forest Glen and under the Beltway (ring road) through Silver Spring. The houses were becoming grander and interspersed with lots of churches, a beautiful National Synagogue, parks and some minor embassies as we rode closer to Downtown.

Still two miles out and Matthew spotted the very top of the Washington Monument in the distance – the obelisk is the tallest freestanding stone structure in the world. As we approached we could see more and more of it.

It was with a real real sense of mounting excitement that we approached Washington – partly because it’s so famous, we’ve never been before, it’s almost endlessly iconic and of course it represents the final stopping point on our journey.

The road we were on – 16th Street – passed Rock Creek Park, which ended at Lafayette Park – and suddenly we could see the White House right there in front if us! Just Amazing.

Matthew was given a free tub of ice cream for Independence Day!

We saw some of the parade balloons and floats and marching bands. Then we went to the Lincoln Memorial for more pictures and back to the hotel.

After we’d cleaned up we took the metro to Chinatown and walked to the Air and Space Museum :)

The first incredible thing that it’s possible to do at the Air and Space Museum is touch. a piece of Moon rock!. They also have the actual Apollo 11 command module, (the cone piece that brought the astronauts back to earth and that parachuted into the sea); a lunar module, (LM-2, which was a backup); the Wright flyer; The Spirit of St. Louis, (Charles Lindberg made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927); a nose section from a Northwest Airlines Boeing 747, ( it’s possible to visit the flight deck); an Eastern Douglas DC-3; the plane Amelia Erehart flew solo across the Atlantic in, (the first woman pilot to do that). They had lots of first and second world war planes – including a beautiful late-design (mk-4) Spitfire. A Messerschmitt 109, a P-51 Mustang, and a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

Mike (McL) brought our bicycle bags in to Washington for us so that we could cycle in. He left them at our hotel and then we met up again at a branch of Chop’d – a fast food place that specialises in salads. After dinner we walked back to the National Mall to watch the 4th July fireworks. They began at 9:10 and lasted for 20 minutes. Huge crowds were sitting on the grass of the National Mall and in the streets around. We found a fantastic spot near the base of the Washington Monument. The fireworks didn’t disappoint – they were launched from the reflecting pool, which was just in front of us – some even became gigantic letters in the sky when they exploded – a U, then an S then an A – the crowds went wild with delight when they saw that. Music accompanied the fireworks, too – with a USA theme. It was all free – worth coming to Washington on the 4th July alone for!

We walked back to our hotel, had a drink in the bar, then it was time to say thank you and goodbye to Mike (McL). He’s been a superb companion on the trip from Pittsburgh to Columbia – helping us to keep the pace high, keeping the conversation going, making excellent suggestions about the route and what to see. Then he was a wonderful host – showing us some of Baltimore and Colombia. I feel proud of him. It was sad to see him go and we’ll miss him. Thanks Mike! Already we’re starting to wonder if we’ll get to see him in San Diego next year as that’s where his work is taking him next!

Tomorrow is our last full day in Washington – for this trip. I fear that it might be dominated by Matthew and shopping!

Summary – day 14 – Frederick to Columbia (Wednesday 03 July)

Estimated mileage: 35 miles, actual: 38.14 miles

Avg. speed: 14.9 mph

Cumulative distance: 884.49 miles

A very short ride today. We weren’t realistically going to be able to get to Columbia before it went dark last night, so we could have something of a leisurely morning in Frederick before setting off. We woke up and there was torrential rain outside – another reason to take it easy this morning!

Over breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we were talking about the Tour de France – a Mark Cavendish sprint-finish win in Marseilles! On the next table Were Jeff and Ally from Richmond, Virginia. They had been cycling around Gettysburg – the site of the biggest battle in the US civil War in July 1863 – and perhaps the turning point in the war. We chatted about the Tour and our ride. Later, as we were leaving we met up with them again and took some photos – Jeff had a friend who he said would admire my Condor frame – so several pictures were taken of that! The bike’s the star!

We braved the downpour and made pretty good time along highway 144/Old National Pike. There were some undulating sections, but nothing at all taxing. The rain eased and it started to brighten up about through the journey at Mount Airy.

The houses and townships were all looking very prosperous now. Also, the roads were in good condition – smooth and well-maintained. Not far from Mike’s (McL) house we saw our first sign to Washington – 32 miles! We’re almost there!

We arrived at Mike’s at about 12:30 and just had time to change before Mike’s friend Chris arrived to get Mike to his car. Which was left at Chris’ house after Mike had flown to Pittsburgh with his bike. Mike is from San Francisco but said that he didn’t sound like he was from there – I’m not sure that I could exactly pinpoint a San Francisco accent, but Chris does have an extraordinary voice – I could hear South African, British and Irish when he spoke.

Chris was not far from Baltimore, so I took a risk and made a pitch for a visit to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum – Sean and Lynda back just outside Valparaiso had recommended it. Mike had never been, so we ignored Matthew’s slightly downcast air and off we went.

It was baking hot in Baltimore when we arrived at the B&O Railroad Museum. The main complex is a huge round engine turning house – faced in red brick and with an enormous slate roof. It was 2:45 when we arrived and they closed at 4:00 – so it was going to be something of a flying visit.

Baltimore was where the very first passenger railway track was laid in the US in 1830 – the start of the track was in the turning house. The B&O Railroad Museum has a huge collection of nineteenth and twentieth century engines – they’re really impressive … so much bigger and more powerful than what we saw in Europe. There were some lovely model trains, too. I wish that we’d had longer – but it’s often the case on these sorts of trips. Just before they closed I was speaking with one of the volunteers and he told me about the collapse of half the roundhouse roof after a heavy snowstorm in 2003 – the pictures were incredible and it’s a miracle that what was underneath survived. The restoration was beautiful though.

After the B&O Railroad Museum there was time to wander along Baltimore’s waterfront – some nice-looking ships, a huge Barnes & Noble bookstore where I bought Mike a present: a Calvin and Hobbes anthology. I was surprised that he didn’t know about Bill Watterson’s comic strip that follows the adventures of Calvin, a six year old boy, and his rather sardonic stuffed toy tiger Hobbes who Calvin imagines is alive.

We’d not eaten, so Mike took us to a vegan restaurant near his house: Great Sage – was fantastic. After we’d eaten a woman on next table started talking to us. She’d heard speaking to each other and knew that we were English. She’d been to Manchester to visit her sister’s family and had liked it, but she hadn’t liked Wolverhampton! We thought that it made a bit of a change for an American to have been somewhere other than London or Stonehenge! So after a good dinner – home to bed. Another very happy day!

Summary – day 13 – Cumberland to Frederick (Tuesday 02 July)

Estimated mileage: 89 miles, actual: 91.93 miles

Avg. speed: 14.1 mph

Cumulative distance: 846.35 miles

Last night, while we were all in bed asleep, there was a terrific crash at about 12:15 am. Next door in Mike’s (McL) room a framed picture fell off the wall and smashed on the floor! There was glass everywhere. The hotel staff were fine about it – and laughed when we said that we’d had a wild party! They told us that it was probably one of their resident ghosts – funny they hadn’t told us about them last night!

The main task when we got up this morning was to get all the dirt and dust from the cycle trail cleaned off our bicycles and ready for the day ahead. Matthew and Mike (McL) had determined that our destination should be Frederick as our destination – about 89 miles away. Between Cumberland and Frederick there were the absolutely ginormous hills, though – we’d have to take those carefully.

The Cumberland Hotel and Spa offered various treatments and one of staff told Mike (McL) that he smelled dehydrated! Whatever that means! He’s been chugging back water ever since! We had to go for breakfast and Mark’s café in the centre of town was recommended. It was really good – they had soya milk and made my oats with it. I was asked if I wanted ‘craisons’ – I assumed this would be a mix of cranberries and raisins, but they turned out to be sweetened dried cranberries.

While we were having breakfast Mike (McL) went to a bike shop to top up the air in his tyre. While he was there he talked to the staff about our route and was advised that it was probably the best way to go given that we’re riding bicycle with narrow tyres.

Meanwhile we took advantage of the free Wifi in Mark’s Café to FaceTime Mam and Janet – it was nice to be in touch with family back home and show them where we were.

We set off out of Cumberland and the road undulated before a series of slow, hard climbs then fast swooping descents: Rocky Gap and then down to Flintstone (accompanied by Matthew ‘singing’). Then up Green Ridge, a quick descent and on to the monster of the day: Town Hill – we took some pictures from the Town Hill Overlook, (while we recovered!). Then down and up Sidelong Hill for a descent into Hancock where we paused for lunch. We met two other cyclists who were riding from Pittsburgh to Washington DC . One told us about a 20 mile trail that we might have used! There was about 5 miles left she thought. We were surprisingly sanguine about this news – there was nothing we could do now, but we thought that we might make use of the trail as it would take us off the road for a while.

We bought provisions in a petrol station Sheetz – this is third one that we’ve used on this trip (see Matthew’s post about this). They have free wifi and it’s usually possible to find some stuff that I can eat. We took our food to a local park and picnic spot (adjacent to the elusive bicycle trail).

There were some young men hanging out at the park – mostly complaining about being bored. “This town is sheet. There’s nevva nuthin’ to do” that sort of thing. They were impressed with our journey though and had the good grace to acknowledge that the cycle trails had brought life and a certain amount if prosperity to the town; they also thought that tourists had the effect of driving up prices.

We went up onto the trail, which ran for more like ten miles rather than 5. We had our first proper look at the Potomac River, which runs through Washington DC – exciting. I fantasised about finding a little rowing boat and sitting in it until we carried into Washington DC (“Or the mid-Atlantic!”, Matthew retorted!). In any case, of course, that would be cheating.

The trail went to Big Pool and rejoined the road to go past Fort Frederick State Park. Then on to something of a roller-coaster road in to Williamsport where we called at the Desert Rose Café for a break and drinks – they had a copy of Canal Quarterly! That made Matthew very happy! The staff there said that half of their summer trade was people on bicycles. They also said that Mike (McL) looked like he was too tired to go on!

The countryside was really beautiful now – we rode alongside Antietam Creek over little hump-back bridges and past ponds near the Devil’s Backbone Park.

A series of historic quintessentially American civil war era towns – all with lots of buildings and houses decorated for 4th July. Boonsboro, Middletown, Braddock Heights and final (we hope) very hilly up and down to Frederick.

Mike (McL) had been to Frederick before and said it was an attractive place, (the outskirts were not – acres of very wide roads, stop-start junctions, food outlets, malls etc.), but we decided to take a look at the downtown area before searching for a hotel. It was really nice – lots of old stone and wood buildings – some quite grand. There was a real lively buzz about the place. As we cycled through the main street- Market Street, we were cheered by some lads on the pavement/sidewalk. One of then shouted: “Lance Armstrong!” Funny! We wondered which of us had been taking the most stimulants throughout the day – and decided it was Mike (McL), he’d virtually survived on energy gels!

Garmin came into his own in Frederick – I called up a list of hotels and there was a Hampton Hotel less than 2 miles away. Garmin took us there and they had a room with two queen-size beds that we could all three share.

While I was waiting for my turn in the shower, my sister Lisa called on FaceTime – it was 1 am back in the UK – she was a but the worse for wear, having fun with her friend and when she caught sight of Mike (McL) thought that he looked like Action Man – hilarious!, But he said that he was happy to take that! Lisa is planning a ‘Monopoly run’ at the weekend with some of her club mates: the aim is to run through London and go to every point on the London-themed Monopoly board. She’s doing it to raise money for cancer charities and I asked her how it was going – she has over £1,000 already. Amazing. Good on you, sis!

Near the hotel there was a Weis supermarket and we went there to pick up food for dinner. On the way back we heard a thud on the road by the junction – a car had hit another – they drove into the car park looking cross and the little red sports car looked pretty badly mangled. Prompting a conversation about how the US might reduce its dependence on the car!

Back in our room and time to catch up on the Archers podcasts – listening made difficult with Mike (McL) making comments and/or asking questions about characters and plots every minute and with Matthew too obligingly providing long convoluted explanations about who everyone was, their relationship to each other and what had happened to them – this is the longest-running radio soap opera in history … and it was going to be a long night!