Thursday, July 28, 2005

2d Week in July, Part 4

Warplanes and Punts

I bravely or foolishly gave the Eye map another go this morning in the foggy wee hours. This time I found that one footpath simply was not there, apparently obliterated by new (post-1998) housing. I got a few suspicious glances from folks leaving for school or work, but persisted and finally located a track heading off along some parsley fields. I noticed a number of folks off in the fog in the middle of the field; they were either birders or perhaps panther stalkers. The footpath petered out after a half mile or so, or -- more precisely -- suddenly did not match the map, and rather than duplicate yesterday's wild goose chase I wisely turned around. An older gent with an aged golden retriever that resembled a polar bear were out for a walk and waylaid me for a few moments. For some odd reason (I guess I felt suspicious myself being out that early) I fibbed about where I was from and assumed what, I suspect, struck him as a weird amalgam of BBC English, Scouse, and Irish brogue, with not a small measure of American, but I escaped back to our cottage ready for the day's adventures.

After our typical cholesterol-heavy breakfast we walked up to the weekly farmers' market in the spacious, tall-ceilinged main room of the Town Hall, arriving on schedule but, according to some of the ladies there, after many of the best produce had already been snatched up by early comers. Some were selling baked goods, some greeting cards made with pressed flowers, some home-made children's clothes, and many fruits and vegetables; we bought some coffee cake, potatoes, and cards, and chatted with the ladies who of course were curious about of holiday.

We then drove an hour or so southwest, past Cambridge, to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford -- essentially was an airport. You could charter rides in vintage aircraft, but these were all reserved today by school field-trips.

So we wandered the various hangars looking at Spitfires, Mustangs, and other WWII planes from both sides of the conflict, in various states of repair, plus a number of modern aircraft, helicopters, and boats, including a small submarine. The American collection featured an entire B52 suspended from the ceiling, a Blackbird, Harrier, U2, and other impressive death machines. We skipped the tank exhibit. It was boiling hot. The cafeteria, deluged by students, was out of sandwiches and pop. It was refreshing to stand in the intense backwash of a biplane on the runway. After a quick walk through a Concorde, a rather unsatisfactory lunch at another cafe, and a spin through the gift shop, we headed back to Cambridge.

It took quite a bit of back and forth to find our way to the town center (dang ring roads and unclear signage!) but finally pulled into a parking garage just as an absolute torrential downpour unexpectedly hit.

We stood looking out at it for several minutes, watching hapless pedestrians skittering by on the sidewalk below, or huddling under the plane trees, totally drenched, but it soon had returned to a hot, dry afternoon and we walked the high street a few blocks to the river. There we were accosted by warring punting vendors, but I opted to stay on foot, making a brief circle following a map I'd copied off the Web, which led us to "the second oldest church in Cambridge" and a few pubs which frustratingly were closed for the afternoon. The boys were getting a bit tired and we plumped down at a coffee bar's damp table, beside the river; then since Nick was feeling contrary we simply returned to the car. It was mid-afternoon and I knew it would be pushing things to either take a punt or walk any further in the burning sun.

Leaving Cambridge was even more fruitless than entering it since we got caught in rush-hour traffic, but we finally crawled to a roundabout that led us home, although we'd wound up traveling in exactly the wrong direction (again, without signage) for 20 minutes (my fault, I should have been using the sun for directions!). Unfortunately we then ran into a terrible jam on the M11 due to an accident, and we couldn't get off; it was about an hour of stop-and-go creeping until I finally reached a Services and we pulled off for dinner at a Little Chef. By the time we left the traffic had thinned out. It looked like the accident had happened right at the spot where the Services slip road rejoined the motorway. We didn't get back to the cottage until about 8 PM, about two hours later than I'd planned.

1 comment:

Terry Jones said...

This sounds almost like the highways in Oklahoma. You get a sign roughly every 20-30 miles telling which highway you're on and which direction you're headed. It's probably a method to drive away "foreigners." The people who belong here don't need signs, and everyone else should just go home.

Although I'm sure that's not the motive over there. The British are too polite for such tactics.