Friday, 20 April, 2012 — Left San Francisco. Another long flight, as always, and we were late out of SFO due to an aircraft problem. Two and a half hours late getting into Heathrow, where Albert was going to pick me up.
So we didn’t get an early start — it was mid-morning by the time we left Heathrow, and midday by the time we arrived at Exford in the heart of Exmoor national park, on the south coast of the Bristol channel. Pretty country, and most of the trip was on fast motorways, but the even prettier road into the park was narrow and crooked, and infested with pheasants, and took quite a while.
We are staying tonight at the local youth hostel (below).
We drove to Withypool and did about a five mile hike to the Tarr Steps, a stone bridge that may be as old as 1000 BCE.
It was getting on by the time we returned to Exford, and it had been a long day for both of us, so we ate dinner at the hostel — not fancy, but not bad — and called it a night. Albert offered me the upper bunk.
Sunday, 22 April
The hostel served what you would certainly call a full English breakfast. Among the usual offerings was black pudding, ie blood pudding. I tried a slice and ate it, although it didn’t become a favourite.
A cold, windy, rainy day. I had brought along my own rain shell, but Albert had brought an extra poncho, and I was glad to have it. We left the car at the hostel and hiked to Dunkery Beacon, which is basically a cone of rocks. No explanation of what it is, or was. Through the cloud and rain, we could see the Bristol channel.
The moors, heath and gorse, rocky, hilly terrain, interrupted by meadows here and there, and along the streams, woodlands.
Albert caught me in what can only be described in a characteristic pose.
… and this is the picture I was taking at the time.
Crossing a meadow, we found ourselves the most popular people around. Well, we were the only people around, but still…
And these lambs were working on their mountain goat routine. One of them was in the process of discovering that wire mesh is too strong to squeeze through.
Stopped in the pub at Exford for a brew. We thought we’d have a bit of lunch, but it was 2:30 and all they had was crisps. So we had crisps.
Then off to Bath, where we arrived in time to see the late sun on a day that was beautifully clear, at last.
The Pig and Fiddle is just around the corner from the hotel.
And King Edward’s school was founded in 1552.
Albert took the podium at the beginning of the Wednesday meeting, and embarrassed me as much as he could by waving my newly published book around and pitching it shamelessly. For a time, I was all the way up to #126,000 on Amazon’s best-seller list! I told him he could embarrass me as much as he liked, if it sold books. Nice. A number of people said good things about it, and I signed several copies.
The abbey is the most prominent and picturesque building in town.
One of the fine details is the ladders that bracket the main doorway, with angels climbing to heaven. Not clear why, because they have wings; maybe they need the exercise.
Tuesday evening, our meeting hosts sponsored dinner overlooking the Roman baths.
I continue to be impressed at how well the ancient Romans were able to predict the likeness of Asterix’ nemesis, Julius Caesar.
On Thursday, the final day, I went to dinner with Chulmin, Han Hyub and Jie Hyun, three Korean colleagues. We had thought to seek out a Nepalese restaurant that had been recommended, but it started raining, so we ducked into the nearest refuge, which was Moroccan. Pretty good.
We visited Bath in 1998, but I had forgotten most of it. A small town, worth a visit, and nice to come back every now and again.