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When bike is faster than train..

Can a bike be faster than a train? Oh definitely….especially during this period of chaotic timetables on Thameslink.

I took the opportunity to hammer my way down to Potters Bar, close to the M25 (London’s outer ring road). It was 111km (70 miles) and it took me something over 4 hours, including a couple of stops. A super ride, along lots of surprisingly quiet country lanes, past George Bernard Shaw’s house, through parks and urban woodland, to Potters Bar station, where I would conveniently catch a train back to St Neots, just 17km from my home.

Conveniently? You have got to be kidding….! The first of my two trains was cancelled, for lack of a driver. Thameslink simply have not trained enough drivers for the new schedules. My second train from Stevenage was also cancelled, presumably for exactly the same reason.

So by the time I got home, including the ride from the station, my journey back by train had taken longer than my ride down. Moral of the story?

I suppose you could say the trains were delayed by a head wind…..ūüėĀ

Free upgrade….

I’ve always wanted to know how to get a free upgrade to first class…..have something to complain about, knowing you are in the right.

The Midlands train that pulled into Bedford station was a proverbial ‘half mile long’. Station staff couldn’t advise me where the cycle space was, and before I had time to find it, I was forced to board by impatient staff, with my bike blocking the entrance/exit to the carriage. No one assisted me, no one was there to direct me, despite having bike space booked, so I complained vociferously to the train manager.

The reason he gave for not allowing me the time to find the correct carriage for my boxed bike was because “every second counts”. I assume that is a company motto drilled into all the staff. To me that was a red tag to a bull. Controlling my rightful anger as a fare-paying passenger, I let him know a thing or two…..and he knew I was in the right, and didn’t try to defend himself.

Result? “Sir, let’s put you in first class along with your bike”. Strangely, my rightful anger receded almost instantly….. Mm…..

And so to Santiago de Compostela

Rainbow over Ribadeo

After a stop-over in Ribadeo, a ‘frontier’ town between Asturias and Galicia, we arrived in Ferrol, the end of the line for the FEVE narrow gauge train. We had completed the journey in 5 sections, but to do it as a continuous journey (not recommended) it would take about 14 hours from Bilbao to Ferrol. Jenny was mesmerised throughout by the views on both sides of the train. I lazily read newspapers keeping half an eye on the changing scenery, jumping out of my seat from time to time to grab a photo. The FEVE is a beautiful, gentle way to travel the north coast, so long as you are not in a hurry!

I have been to Santiago de Compostela many times before, twice as a cycling

One of the 250 FEVE stations!

pilgrim. For Jenny it was 30 years since her last visit, a time before the re-inauguration of the Camino, and when there was only a relative trickle of pilgrims arriving at this ancient medieval city. Today, hundreds of thousands walk, cycle or horse-ride their way to Santiago, and many millions more come by other forms of transport. It is a huge, and growing, business, and the Compostelanos are well organised ‘y sacan m√°ximo provecho de tanto turismo’.

View from our hotel window

You can spend hours on the Plaza del Obradoiro (in front of the Cathedral) and be entertained by the stream of pilgrims arriving in a constant procession. Even in early October, there are over 1000 pilgrims arriving daily from the Camino. After they have collected their Compostela (certificate of completion) many will go to the Pilgrim Mass at noon in the Cathedral, the principle attraction being the swinging of the huge censer (botafumeiro) after the service. If you like the smell of incense, this is the place to be. If you enjoy unusual spectacles, this is one of the most unusual, and it has its

The famous censer (botafumeiro)

origins in the deep medieval past. Whatever spiritual or religious significance you care to attach to the use of incense, an important function was its ability to mask the appalling smell of thousands of pilgrims in medieval times. Remember, these people had spent many months on the Camino, and they would arrive unwashed, lice- infested and carrying an untold number of infectious diseases. Incense may not have been the cure, but it raised the senses to higher things!

When we opened the curtains of our hotel room, we were left speechless. I normally manage to book rooms overlooking car parks or noisy city streets, but this time we were able to feast our eyes on the soaring spires of the Cathedral, and when the moon was up and the illumination on, the sight was magical. For your information, it was the Hotel Pombal.

After a couple of nights in Santiago, we left to stay with some friends in deepest rural Galicia, who have thrown all caution to the wind and taken on the all-consuming project of restoring an ancient Galician farmhouse. Read on…………

Sunset over Santiago

Guess which is Jenny……..!

…with the rising moon

“By the rising of the moon”, from our window…..

A happy band of cycling pilgrims

Hey, you down there…..!

A bad day out hunting is better than a good day at work!

Don’t tidy or clean this room. I like it as it is.

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