Tag Archives: England

Experiencing Formula One Racing at the British Grand Prix

The great engines whined at a tremendous volume as the race cars came around the turn and then accelerated with maximum throttle. As seen close to the track, the cars became a blur as they whizzed by at over 200 mph. I was 15 rows up in the stands and had a nice perspective view of the turn and the straightaway. On the giant screen in front of me I could see race information and driver’s eye views of the track in front of the race car as it sped by.

race car
The Formula 1 car is a blur at 200 mph.

This was my first racing event. I haven’t been interested in car racing in general, and know very little about Formula 1 racing. However, I was going to be touring the UK during the dates of the British Grand Prix, so with the goal of seeking out new experiences around the world I bought a ticket along with some English friends.

The British Grand Prix is held every July at the Silverstone Circuit, near the small village of Silverstone, England. My seat was in the grandstand seating area called Woodcote, located on the course right after the sharp hairpin turn designated number 7 on the map below. I had a great view of the sharpest turn on the course, followed by the straightaway before turn number 8.

Silverstone race course
The racing circuit at Silverstone.

My friends live in Bakewell, in the Peak District, a two hour drive north from Silverstone. Since all of the hotels near the racing circuit are booked many months in advance of the race, we had two choices. First, we could camp in a field near the circuit, which required lots of camping gear and opened us up to the possibilities of getting soaked by rain (this being England after all). Second, we could drive from their house to the racing circuit and back each day. We chose door number two. Although it was four hours round trip in the car, it was the best option.

race course view
Formula 1 race car in the straightaway after turn 7 at Silverstone.

The Grand Prix event takes place over three days. I had no idea that there would actually be a lot of car racing going on, not just one big race.

On Friday, the Formula 1 drivers take their cars for practice laps around the circuit. There are two other classes of race cars, called GP2 and GP3. These are older or slightly slower cars that up and coming drivers race before they are ready for the more advanced Formula 1 cars. The GP2 and GP3 cars race around the track in qualifying sessions to determine the starting order of the cars for the GP2 and GP3 races, respectively.

In addition, Porsche sponsors a series of races called Super Cup races. All of the cars in the Super Cup races are identical Porsche 911s. Only the skill of the drivers determines the champions in Super Cup, not any difference in car technology. On Friday the Porsches run their practice laps. (to see other cool Porsches go here)

Porsche 911
Close up of a Porsche 911 during the Super Cup race.

On Saturday, the Formula 1 cars race for their qualifying times. The GP2 and GP3 cars compete in a first race for each class. The Porsches hold their qualifying sessions.

On Sunday, the GP2 and GP3 cars competed in their second races (with combined times determining the champion), and the Porsches competed in their race. After much fanfare, including a parachute display by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Falcons jump team, and aerial acrobatics by some RAF  Typhoon fighter jets, it was finally time for the big race.

British Grand Prix race view
The start of the British Grand Prix at turn 7.

The race course is 3.66 miles around, and the race comprises 52 laps. The entire race takes about an hour and a half to two hours to run. The time is variable because there may be delays in the race due to crashes.

In searching for a particular shirt among multiple souvenir shops, I made the mistake of trying to walk around the outer perimeter of the entire racing circuit after the GP2 race. I kept walking to the next souvenir shop around the course looking for my desired shirt. By the time I got to the halfway point after 45 minutes of walking, I realized I might as well just keep walking around back to my starting point instead of turning around. I barely made it back to my seat in time for the big race.

The local favorite is British racing champion Lewis Hamilton, who drives for the Mercedes team. Every time his car came around our position on the track, all of the fans jumped up and cheered. Hamilton has won the race twice before, and was the favorite this time around.

Race car drivers at British Grand Prix
Driver parade before the British Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is at left.

Hamilton was in the pole position when the race started due to having the fastest qualifying lap, but he was passed right at the start by two other drivers. He hung in third place until he stopped for new tires at lap 19. When the other two drivers were forced to change their tires, Hamilton took the lead.

He cruised along comfortably until late in the race when it started to rain. This is summer in England! Despite the rain, Hamilton stayed with faster dry weather tires while other drivers switch to slower wet weather tires. This gave him the advantage he needed, so that when he went into the pit to switch to the wet weather tires, the other drivers couldn’t catch him.

Mercedes team driver Lewis Hamilton, winner of the British Grand Prix.

I never knew how tire changing strategies and deciding when to take pit stops could make the difference between being the champion and having no place on the winner’s podium. As Hamilton crossed the finish line it seemed as if all 120,000 spectators cheered at once for the hometown hero.


The Beatles Story in Liverpool

I’ve always liked the Beatles. When I was a kid we had the two Beatles greatest hits albums (the red one and the blue one, to those in the know). We played those records until the grooves wore out.

Beatles black and white
The Fab Four.

Likewise, I’ve always been fascinated by the Beatles story. There are many great bands in rock and roll history, but none that have the extensive lore that captured the essence of the times when the band rocked the world.

On my latest trip to the UK, I knew I had to finally go down to Liverpool and see for myself where the Beatles came from and how Beatlemania got started.

Beatles instruments
The signature instruments of the early Beatles.

My first stop in Liverpool was the Beatles Story Experience. The museum is on the side of the Mersey River at a place called the Albert Docks. The once decrepit shipping docks have been renovated to be a tourist destination, with several museums, stores, restaurants, and cafes.

The museum tells the complete story of the Beatles from their earliest beginnings in Liverpool in the late 1950s to the break-up of the band in 1970. Each small room re-creates a time and place in the band’s story, complete with many authentic artifacts from that period. One walks from the place where they met, to Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the Hamburg clubs, Brian Epstein’s record shop, the Merseybeat movement, London’s Abbey Road recording studios, the British Invasion of America, the landing at JFK airport in New York, the Ed Sullivan show, and so on. Although most of the displays are static, their songs are played at different times, and the audio guide provides context and interesting tidbits about the band. It was an enjoyable and informative visit, both for longtime Beatles fanatics and casual fans.

With the Beatles story properly refreshed in my memory, I now wanted to see some of the actual sites for myself. The next morning I called Phil of Liverpool Cycle Tours. I interrupted Phil’s breakfast to inquire as to whether I could take his bike tour that afternoon. Despite being the only one to sign up for the tour that day, he agreed to show me around.

Our first stop on the bike tour was the Liverpool Institute, where Paul McCartney and George Harrison went to school. There is a statue of a pile of guitar cases out front to commemorate their time at the school. Appropriately, the statue is called “A Case Study.” Next was one of the grammar schools attended by Lennon, which is still in operation and thus was not very interesting. A simple plaque on the exterior wall notes Lennon’s attendance. Phil explained that Lennon was a poor student. He was known as a ruffian, a trouble-maker, and a daydreamer. As a tour guide, Phil was full of good information about the four lads from Liverpool.

Lennon childhood home
John Lennon’s bedroom is on the upper left.

I always thought of the Beatles as poor, working-class boys from a rough city neighborhood in post-war Liverpool. They certainly weren’t well off, but they actually grew up in the suburbs. As a child Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi at a house called Mendips on very respectable Menlove Avenue in a suburban area known as Woolton. The house was bought by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and donated to the UK’s National Trust. The house is also not open to the public.

McCartney's childhood home
Paul McCartney’s home, where many early Beatles songs were written.

Paul McCartney’s childhood home is a few blocks away at 20 Forthlin Road in nearby Allerton. It is also preserved by the National Trust and is not open to the public. Many of the early Beatles songs were written and rehearsed in the front and back rooms on the first floor of the house. Phil told me how McCartney’s father was strict and would double lock the door if Paul and his brother Mike wouldn’t come home on time for dinner. One of the boys would climb up the drainpipe to get into an upstairs window in order to get in.

Penny Lane sign
An original Penny Lane sign.

Phil and I then rode down Penny Lane. Lennon and McCartney took a fair amount of poetic license in describing the places in the famous song by that name. There is a fire station nearby, but it’s not actually on Penny Lane.  Neither was there a barbershop on the street. The short suburban street is quite nondescript and does not exhibit the busyness one would expect from the song. Fans have stolen the street sign for Penny Lane so many times that now the only authentic sign is the one on a stone wall. As you can see in the photo it has been defaced by the fans.

St. Peter's Church hall sign
Where Lennon met McCartney…

After a Guinness at a pub on Penny Lane where the Beatles once hoisted a few pints, we rode up a hill to St. Peter’s Church Hall in Woolton, where John Lennon first met Paul McCartney on July 6, 1957. Lennon’s early skiffle band called the Quarrymen was playing there at a garden féte. The hall is still being used today. The site is marked by this stone plaque.

St. Peter's Church
St. Peter’s (Anglican) Church in Woolton, Liverpool.

We walked across the street to the cemetery next to St. Peter’s Church.  As we sat there on a low stone wall, Phil pointed out a headstone in the cemetery where the name of Eleanor Rigby is engraved.  According to McCartney, the original figure in the Eleanor Rigby song was called Daisy Hawkins.  He later changed it to Eleanor Rigby after a British actress of the time and the name of a store in Bristol. McCartney has said he may have been subconciously influenced by seeing the headstone, at some point, because he and the others used to hang around the area.

Strawberry Fields gate and sign
Strawberry Fields Forever… at least until the housing developers come.

The last stop of the 17-mile bike tour was at Strawberry Field, made famous by Lennon’s song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army children’s home near Lennon’s house. As a child Lennon played with the kids there and in the grounds.  Much of the land has been transformed into housing, and the original gates were removed in 2011 and replaced by a replica. Even so, it made for an interesting stop.

Cavern Club sign
The Cavern Club lit up in neon.

That night I walked over to the Cavern Club. The Beatles played the original Cavern Club 292 times from 1961-1963. This was where Beatlemania started. The club was in the basement of an old warehouse.  It was down several flights of stairs. It was tiny, dark, hot, and humid in the club. Fans would pack it until hardly anyone could move. The original club was closed in 1973 and filled in during construction of an underground rail line. A new club was opened at the same address in 1984, using the original plans and even some of the same bricks.

Cavern Club view
The tiny middle hall of the Cavern Club, with the stage at the far end.

It wasn’t too crowded when I first got to the Cavern Club at around 8pm. A local solo performer was banging out 60s hits from the famous stage at the end of the room. Next, a pop quartet fronted by two women called the Mona Lisa Twins cranked out early Beatles hits note for note. They were very good, and it was a different sensation to hear the vocals sung by women.

Mona Lisa Twins
The Mona Lisa Twins play the Cavern Club.

By the time the Cave Dwellers took the stage at 11pm, the place was jammed and rocking. The Vox amps were blasting and my ears had had enough.

Cavern Club stage
The tiny stage of the Cavern Club, with two Vox amps ready to go!

Beatlemania lives on in Liverpool.


Rising U.S. Dollar Turns Your Euro Trip Into Reality

Nice signs
Which way should I go?

Plan ahead and spend your spring and summer vacations in Europe as the strong dollar veers tourists away from the United States, giving them more incentive to travel to culturally rich destinations such as France, Spain and Greece. The value of the dollar hasn’t been this high since 2003 ($1.10 for one euro as of today). It’s no secret that the euro value is diminishing, among other currencies, which makes 2015 the perfect time to visit the notoriously expensive continent.

Europe has transformed into a buyer’s market especially for American travelers. Research shows that the number of bookings to Europe was high even before the dollar’s value spike. The strengthening dollar with the increased rate of advanced ticket bookings is indicative of “an explosive year for Europe.” Some speculate that European tourism won’t bloom until 2016 since the dramatic value rises in currencies tend to have a delayed effect on the travel industry.

Vienna scene
To Vienna we ride!

A report from Expedia reveals that it’s best to book international flight 171 days, or just under six months, prior to the date of travel. Typically, Americans book their tickets around 31 to 90 days before they travel to Europe. With dwindling prices of oil, and competition between budget and larger airlines in terms of “unbundling” amenities, flights to Europe are going to be more economical than ever. Thus, planning for summer, and even winter getaways, are crucial at this point of time.

In comparison to the euro, the dollar isn’t as strong against the pound. However, exchange rates are more favorable than they have been for quite some time, so traveling to the UK could still fit right within your budget. London has two of the busiest airports in Europe, Heathrow being the top and Gatwick listed as the tenth according to Parking4Less, and with dream vacations in Europe looking more affordable, passenger traffic at these airports is likely to increase.

Athena temple
The ruins of the Temple of Athena, Lindos, Greece.

Although exchange rates will work in your favor, the travel industry is always going to look for ways so that tourists don’t have access to too many cheap deals. One of the worst places, if not the worst, to exchange currencies is at an airport, yet because of its convenient location, tourists continue to lose valuable bucks instead of making the most out of their budget. Some suggestions from travel guidebook writer Pauline Frommer include using your credit card to get to your accommodations from the airport, or only exchanging a small amount before traveling. The rest can be exchanged at a local bank.

If you’ve been wanting to go to Europe for awhile, now is the time to go. Be prepared, however, to see many American tourists there with you…

sign of Europa cafe
To Europe and beyond

Exploring England’s Peak District


lamb in Peak District
Mom! Protect me from this strange creature!

The ewe looked ready to charge.  (Can sheep be dangerous?  I know wombats can be deadly).  She was intent on protecting her lamb from this strange creature that was approaching on two legs.  The creature had a black box instead of a head.  The black box made a slight clicking sound.

It was lambing season in the Peak District in Derbyshire, England.  Tiny lambs were taking their first steps across the hills and moors. The ewes kept watch over them as they grazed in the spring sunshine.

The Peak District  is the most popular of the United Kingdom’s national parks.  It is between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield in the north of England.  Although it is designated a national park, the area is only partly owned by the government.  Many small villages with stone houses dot the landscape.  Fields full of sheep have walls made of stones to mark their boundaries.

stone house in Bakewell, England
A typical stone building in Bakewell.

Bakewell is the only town in the Peak District.  It was first settled in Anglo-Saxon times in the 9th century, when the Bakewell area was in the kingdom of Mercia.  The parish church was founded in 920, and a five arched stone bridge has been providing a way over the River Wye since the 13th century.

old stone bridge in Bakewell
The old stone bridge in Bakewell.

Bakewell is famous for Bakewell pudding.  It’s colloquially called pudding because it’s a dessert, but it’s actually a jam pastry with an egg and ground almond enriched filling.  It’s said to have been created by accident in 1820 by a cook at a local inn who didn’t follow her landlady’s instructions.

Bakewell Pudding Factory in Bakewell, Engand
Come get your Bakewell pudding!

I didn’t eat any Bakewell pudding while I was there, but since I was in Northern England I had to have some traditional fish and chips.  I made my way to Bakewell Fish & Chips for a delicious lunch of famously good fish and chips.

Haddon Hall, Peak District
Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.
skeleton drawings in Haddon Hall
Skeletons on the wall.

Just outside of Bakewell is Haddon Hall, a medieval manor house of the Duke of Rutland started in the 11th century. The current Tudor hall includes additions made between the 13th and 17th centuries.  It was used as a setting in the movies The Princess Bride, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice. Sometime in the 12th century, someone drew these skeletons on the wall in the chapel.  They were covered up during the Reformation and newly discovered hundreds of years later during a renovation.

A short distance away is Chatsworth House.  It has been the home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1549.  Many say it is the finest example of an English country house.  The house seems more like a king’s palace to me.  The window frames are lined with gold leaf and the interior is filled with fine furniture, precious artwork, and Greek statues.

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
The Duke of Devonshire’s shack.

Chatsworth has also been seen in many movies and TV programs, including “Pride and Prejudice,” where it was called Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy, as well as The Duchess.

The interior of the house is certainly spectacular, but I like the estate grounds even better.  The house was built on a hill overlooking the beautiful countryside of Derbyshire between the Derwent and Wye valleys.

water cascade at Chatsworth
The water cascade at Chatsworth.

Chatsworth is famous for its gardens, which have features built over six centuries.  The Canal Pond near the house is a man-made lake that is the size of a football field.  It was dug at the direction of the first Duke of Devonshire in 1703. The first Duke also had a water cascade built into a hillside in 1696.  It has 24 steps, each slightly different and with a variety of textures so that the water flowing over each step results in a different sound.


In 1843 Czar Nicholas I of Russia informed the sixth Duke that he was likely to visit Chatsworth the following year. In anticipation of this visit, the Duke decided to construct the world’s highest fountain. A lake was dug up on the moors 350 feet above the house to supply natural water pressure to power the fountain. The resulting water jet is on record as reaching a height of 296 feet. However, the Tsar died and never saw the fountain.

Chatsworth’s Great Conservatory was completed in 1841.  It was also as big as a football field and was the largest glass house in the world at the time.  The conservatory contained tropical plants collected by the Duke from all over the world.  It was heated in winter by coal-fed boilers.  The coal was stored in a hidden pit built into the hillside and the coal was transported to the conservatory by a tunnel so that visitors couldn’t see how it was heated.

The conservatory wasn’t heated during World War I so all of the plants died.  The building was demolished and a large hedge maze was planted on the site. I spent a good deal of time wandering through the maze to find my way to the center and back out again.

hedge maze at Chatsworth, England
The hedge maze at Chatsworth.

As I toured Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House I couldn’t help but wonder at the display of riches by the nobility in past centuries.  One man, who was lucky enough to be born to inherit a title, commanded vast wealth and power.  Thousands of others toiled for that man’s whims and follies.  It’s almost enough to make me become a socialist.  But not quite.



London Calling

I rode the tightrope on the side of the road. I didn’t want to leave the yellow line next to the curb. The traffic was heavy even though it was a Sunday afternoon. Cars whizzed past my right side, inches from my elbow. I pedaled faster as my heart raced.

Shoot, there’s a bus directly in front of me! How could I have not seen that big red double-decker? The brake lights of the bus lit up and the bus stopped. I braked hard and skidded to a stop while I inhaled the suffocating exhaust bellowing from the massive tailpipe of the bus.

I quickly glanced behind me. Another giant double-decker was bearing down on me. I was going to become a bus sandwich! The brakes of the second bus squealed and the behemoth slowed to a crawl behind me. It then occurred to my carbon monoxide-addled brain that I was in a bus stop.

Maybe renting a bike in London wasn’t such a good idea.

Dodging the buses in London
Watch out for those big red things!

London was in the midst of an early fall record heat wave. It was gloriously sunny and the high was in the mid-80s. Londoners sprawled over every available square inch of grass in the city, trying to soak up enough rays to tide them over through the bleak coming winter. England hadn’t had a real summer. The weather had been dark and rainy for weeks. Summer was officially over, but finally a brief period of sunshine broke out. This happened to coincide with my visit. I had expected cool and rainy weather. I had a raincoat and was prepared to use it. I could even buy an umbrella if there were going to be downpours. Instead I pulled the shorts back out of my suitcase.

I was staying in a flat in the Butler Wharf area of Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames River in central London. Butler Wharf is a neighborhood of gentrified warehouses near the south base of the Tower Bridge. It was quite a distance from the West End, but the views of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge at night were spectacular.

London's Tower Bridge lit up at night
Tower Bridge in London at night

I often strolled along the Queen’s Walk between the Tower Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. The Queen’s Walk is a promenade along the south bank of the Thames River. By crossing over the Waterloo Bridge I could get to the Theatre District and the restaurants near Covent Garden.

On this day I decided to stay on this side of the Thames and seek out the Imperial War Museum. I had always wanted to see the museum, but its location is far from anything else worth seeing in London. Getting there hadn’t ever worked into my plans on previous trips. This time I was determined to explore every exhibit in the First and Second World War rooms. I was by myself and could take as much time as I wanted. I set off for the London Bridge Tube station.

Underground sign in London
Go down the hole, George, down the hole...

The Underground is a marvelous thing in London. Taxis are very expensive and walking can only get you so far. The bus system is good and everyone should ride a double-decker bus at least once (get a seat in the front row on the top!). But the Tube is a cultural icon as well as an efficient transportation mechanism. For years after an earlier visit to London with my children we would spontaneously chirp “Mind the Gap!”

Once in the Tube station I learned that one of the lines was closed for maintenance. I was taking a different line, but so were thousands of people who would have been on the closed line. Down on the subway platform I approached a large crowd. I took my place in the crowd and waited for the next train.

The train arrived with a giant whooossh of air. It was completely packed. The people were like the proverbial sardines in a tin can. The doors opened but no one got off. After a few moments the doors closed, the train sped away, and the crowd collectively sighed.

The Tube station was full of hot, stale air. Sweat ran down my face and down my back. I remembered that I had forgotten my water bottle. This was not what I expected London to be like. It was steamy like Hong Kong or Singapore, not typical London.

Another train arrived 10 minutes later. It was packed too. It was a weekend afternoon and every train was packed to the gills. Was I really in Tokyo? Eventually enough trains came by, enough people got off, and my spot in the crowd moved forward until I was destined to get on the next train. As I waited my turn I kept wondering how London was going to host the 2012 Olympics. I vowed to not be in the same hemisphere during the event. Transportation is sure to be a nightmare.

The next train came to a stop. I could see a slight crease in the crowd of passengers on the train. I politely maneuvered my way into a spot just inside the door. I was trying to give the mother with the baby in the stroller a modicum of space. There were about two dozen people crammed into a six feet by ten feet space. Personal bubbles were compressed almost into nonexistence. It was a pickpocket’s dream scene.

Just as the doors were closing, several young men with immaculate hair pushed their way into the huddle. They were dressed in bright colored polo shirts and tank tops. I got pushed so I was leaning sideways over the stroller, by shoulder to the wall, my head near the door. The side of the head of one of these guys was two inches from my nose. He started talking loudly and flamboyantly.

“I hope you boys wore your deodorant today,” he said to the others.

At the first stop I mumbled “excuse me” and pushed my way out. I made it to the Imperial War Museum and had a nice tour of the exhibits. After visiting the museum I rested in a nearby park and planned my next move.

Empty Underground station.
The Tube on a good day.

For the trip back home I had a dilemma. I wasn’t willing to tackle the Tube again. I could take a taxi, but there didn’t appear to be any in this part of town. I could take a bus, but I had no idea where the bus stop was or what route the buses would run. I might end up in Dover. I did have a map, and it was a splendid day, so I decided to walk. I figured it was about two miles back to the Tower Bridge.

A couple of blocks away from the museum I saw a strange kiosk. It looked like an old American phone booth that had been squashed between trucks. Alongside the kiosk was a row of heavy grey bicycles.

I had seen these kiosks before around the city but hadn’t paid any attention to them. They are Barclay’s Cycle for Hire kiosks. London had recently installed hundreds of these kiosks, which are full of thousands of bikes. Pick up a bike at one location, ride to where you need to go, and drop it off at the closest kiosk. This is the way to overcome the congested roads, expensive taxis, crowded Tube trains, and uncertain bus rides of central London. What a great idea!

Barclay's Cycle for Hire in London
Can I ride with you?

I followed the directions on the kiosk and swiped my credit card. Nothing happened. The menus on the kiosk screen kept taking me in circles. I used to be a computer programmer and have used many different user interfaces and menus. I consider myself to be an advanced user of modern high technology. The simple act of renting a bicycle using a computer had me baffled.

I tried again and again, forgetting about the common definition of insanity. I began to get frustrated. What kind of idiot designed this system? It doesn’t even work. No wonder I have seen lots of bike rental kiosks but not very many bikers riding these heavy clunkers on the city streets.

Finally the machine gave me a code to release a bike for my use. It told me my credit card would be charged 1£ for the rental (about $1.55). I adjusted the seat and took off. I rode down quiet side streets and zig-zagged my way back towards the Thames. I covered many blocks without much effort. Riding was so much better and more fun than walking I thought as I cruised along.

As I got closer to London Bridge the traffic started to thicken. I moved off the side streets and rode down Borough High Street, a main thoroughfare in Southwark. I hugged the left curb and moved with the traffic. I knew I had to cross the street at the next intersection to take a right turn. My mind got confused as I dealt with the heavy traffic, pedestrians, other bikers, and motorcycles. Horns were honking and lights were changing. I kept looking to the left and back over my left shoulder when I should have been looking right and back over my right shoulder.

I made it across the road and into a warren of streets past the London Dungeon and the Tower Bridge to Butler’s Wharf. Whew… That was hectic. I had been afraid of being hit by a car every second of the last ten minutes. There was safety in the back streets. Where can I drop off the bike?

After circling a few blocks I found a nearby kiosk and pushed my bike into an empty slot in the rack. What now? How do they know I returned the bike at this location? Or at all? I reasoned there must be some sensor or ID tag on the bike that I couldn’t see.

A man was kicking the kiosk. “Bloody stupid thing” he muttered. He pulled out his cell phone and called the number on the kiosk. He complained to the customer service representative that he had gotten no indication that he had returned his bike. He started arguing with his phone as he walked away.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a cell phone. The kiosk sign said a fee of 150£ would be charged if the bike was not returned. After monkeying around with the kiosk interface for a few minutes, I gave up and went back to my flat. I would just have to deal with it later.

When I got home my next credit card statement had a charge on it from Barclay’s Cycle for Hire. After the currency exchange, the charge was about $6. I don’t know why it was that amount. I rode their bike for about 30 minutes over two miles. However, it was better than 150£ and better than walking.

Just barely.

Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge on a warm, sunny day