2005 Dales Way Walk, England

Prelude To The Walk

Tuesday April 19 2005

I was at a Pub in Ilkley, Yorkshire the night before my walk. 
I couldn’t understand a word the rumpled old fellow was saying. We were sitting at adjoining tables enjoying the pub’s local ale and beef chausser dinner, but his thick Yorkshire brogue was beyond this American. Finally, l realized he was complaining about Margaret Thatcher because she put the miners out of work. But that was 20 years ago!

I was jet-lagged, tired and ready for bed. After an overnight flight into Heathrow and a tube run into Kings Cross, I had caught an express train to Leeds then a short local that landed me in Ilkley. Very efficient this English transportation system!  At 67 years old, this kind of traveling taxes my recuperative powers!
Dales Way Path Through Yorkshire and Cumbria

Tomorrow morning, body willing, I’ll begin the 84 mile Dales Way footpath up through the Yorkshire dales, across the Pennines and over to Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Then on to Ambleside in the center of Cumbria for two days of mountain walking. I’m using Paul Hannon’s Dales Way guide and map copies off the internet. This walk is less demanding and shorter than the Coast to Coast Walk I took last fall, but it certainly has it’s challenges.  As before, I’m walking solo, carrying a 12 pound backpack and staying at B&B’s each night.  Well, I’ve tried to keep it to 12 pounds but, with water, it’s actually more like a stone. I’ve prebooked all my lodging and I have a new jacket to cope with rainy weather. In April, weather can be sunny or rainy.  We’ll see!

Day 1: Wed April 20 Ilkley to Burnsall

A good long sleep at Roberts B&B and a hearty English breakfast set me up for the day. A couple from Scotland at the B&B were also walking the Dales Way. We’ll cross paths again. The footpath began two blocks from the B&B, following the River Wharfe to Bolton Priory, majestic, gray ruins rising out of the misty day with a cemetery brightly filled with yellow daffodils.
                               Approaching Bolton Priory on the River Wharfe

I crossed and recrossed the Wharfe on wooden footbridges, stopping at an unexpected pavilion for a cup of hot tea as this April day was cold and rainy. Walking by the Strid, a narrowing of the river bordered by natural limestone slabbing, I slipped and fell flat on my back, splat! I wasn’t trying to jump across, honest! The slippery stone left me a sore left shoulder which I’ll nurse for several days. I know, I should have been using walking poles.
                                    The Strid on the River Wharfe
On to the small village of Burnsall and Wharfe View B&B, nice and quaint with a roaring fire in the lounge. I had a pot of tea, cleaned up, and went down to the lounge to relax. Chatted with an English couple living in France who have a house exchange business on the internet. They told me about their favorite type of beer called “mild”, actually a dark stout, which used to be quite common but is now hard to find. I’ll be looking for it! Dinner at the pub featured lamb Moroccan with rice and veggies plus my favorite ale, Black Sheep Best Bitters. Back at the B&B, my late night routine includes journal writing, map/guidebook reading, then reading a novel in bed until I fall asleep.

Day 2: Thurs. April 21 Burnsall to Buckden

A great breakfast by B&B host Maurice, who then let me use the computer to email wife Cathryn. The sky was almost clear today, very pleasant for walking. I set out along the River Wharfe again, now on a 1000 year old path with huge sycamore trees along it’s bank filtering the sunlight. It was a twisting river with rapids and high cliffs overhead. A spider web of roots from the trees on the riverbank crawled across the path for miles. Mallards were flitting here and there and lazily floating in the water. After passing Linton Church, the higher path gave wonderful views of the river and far bank, the hills covered with sheep and lambs.
                                         River Wharfe North of Burnsall

I reached Grassington by 11 am, much larger than Burnsall but smaller than Ilkley. Quite a tourist center, reminds me of a Cotswold village with its 17th century stone buildings. Older fellows in the square were talking about Thatcher again, complaining that she did Reagan’s bidding. I said it was the opposite!
                                         Grassington Town Square
I am meeting a walker that I met last fall on the C2C and we have kept in contact by email. Mary lives in Yorkshire and is taking the opportunity to walk with me to Kettlewell and then bussing back to her car in Grassington.. We met up in the square at about 11 am. She was full of descriptions of her trek last November to Annapurna in Nepal, a walk I would like to make someday to complement my Gosainkund trek in Nepal 40 years ago.
                                   Above Grassington Looking South

On to Kettlewell, up over high hills overlooking the river far below. Huge ridges and plateaus loomed above on both sides of the valley. Met a Yorkshire trio in their 70’s doing a 6 mile circular walk by Conistone Pie. Mary walked and chatted with the two ladies while I talked with the fellow until they turned downhill to the left. It started raining so we stopped under a tractor shed for lunch, eating saved sausages from my breakfast plus Mary’s rolls, tomatoes and cheese and even a Nestle chocolate bar. What a feast!  All that was missing was a pot of hot tea which we later found at an outdoor cafe in Kettlewell. A busload of tourists were getting ice cream. I was tempted, but I’m trying to limit my sweets on this walk. Kettlewell is where the Calendar Girls was filmed, so many tourists come to walk the sites. It’s definitely a picturesque village, but the noise and dust from the house remodel next to our outdoor tearoom table was a bit bothersome.

Mary was feeling good and fit after a recent walk on the Southwest Coast path, so she decided to walk on to Buckden with me, another five miles. The weather is now clear and warm. Along the river path we see holes in the ground everywhere. At first I didn’t know what they were, but then I saw rabbits disappearing down them. I’m walking through Watership Down country!!  Again today, many ducks are on the river. They fly off when I get near, in a straight horizontal line just above the water. What a sight!
We were crossing the river to Buckden when I saw a bus pass through the village. Mary said there was another in 40 minutes. Ok! Ten minutes later we were at the bus stop and she discovered there were no more buses. What to do - hitchhike? I spotted a couple having a pint in front of Buck’s Inn and asked if they were staying in Buckden or moving on. Yes, they were staying, but would soon be driving to a restaurant in Grassington for dinner. Perfect! Mary explained her situation to them and, within ten minutes, she was on her way. What luck!  But I was sorry to see her go, she was good company.

I checked in at Romaney Cottage where Gwen and Tim greeted me with tea and cake and local craick. Several of us drove over to the pub in Starbottom which was a great place to spend an evening My dinner was the famous Cumberland sausage (curled like a cinnamon bun) with bubble and squeak and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord’s Bitters. I finished the night writing and reading in my room.

Day 3: Friday April 22 Buckden to Ribblehead

There is a full table at breakfast including the Scottish couple from the B&B in Ilkley. Gwen is famous for her cooking and certainly proved herself this morning. We started with french press coffee, cereal and sliced fruit, then a plate of ham and eggs, sausage and blood pudding plus tomato, mushrooms and fry bread. Seconds if wanted - I didn’t want! But I did save the sausage for lunch and got a roll from the shop down the street. With these huge breakfasts, I don’t need much for lunch.

I headed off towards the little settlements of Hubblehome and Yokenthwaite with their churches, inns and farms. The smallest places have the most incredible names. How about Giggleswick? Shades of Bill Bryson!! It’s another beautiful day. The Wharfe has narrowed and the valley widened. First class walking, passing remote farms, river getting wilder with tumbling rapids, overhanging trees and limestone slabs in and beside the water. And, of course, mallards. I wanted to photograph them in flight, but they refused to cooperate!

River Wharfe near Hubberhome

 Following the river, I reached Beckermonds, site of a large farm, where two becks join to form the Wharfe. What an idyllic farm setting, but it was full of activity.

                                       Beckermonds Ranch
Then I climbed over the hill, following a narrow tarmac road to the small farming community of Outershaw with its little red phone booth. From here, it’s an indistinct path from a muddy farm, across a boggy hillside over stile after stile, through high, tough grasses to Cam Houses. Very difficult walking! Somewhere along there, I sat on a stone fence to eat lunch and rest. Cam Houses is reputed to be the highest settlement in England, very isolated. No sign of life at the farmhouse but the barn was being renovated. They must have plans for the place.
                                         Cam Houses in the Distance
From Cam Houses, it was a tough climb up Cam Fell to the old Roman road and junction of the Pennine Way footpath. No obvious way up, but I found the way by sighting on a cairn up at the junction. The ridge above the Roman road is a watershed divide; water on the west side runs to the Irish Sea, water on the east side to the North Sea. The whole fell is a big boggy mess! I followed the high Roman road, a dirt track full of rocks and mud holes, on it’s long, tiring, hard on the ankles descent to Far Gearstones Farm. Here I diverted from the Dales Way to jog a mile over to the Station Inn next to the Ribblehead railroad viaduct.
                                                       Station Inn
Station Inn is a charming old style railway inn with pub and restaurant. As I was going to my room, I noticed a computer in the nook of the stairway, so I asked if I could use it for email. "Sure, no problem, help yourself."

The pub had a great selection of real ales including Black Sheep and Theakston’s Mild. First “Mild” I have seen! Thanks to the tourist in Burnsall for making me aware of it. The bartender said it was a dark stout with lower alcohol level so I tried it and loved it, smooth and tasty, somewhat like Guinness. The pub is very popular on Friday nights, being the only public place around. I talked to some locals. They seemed fascinated by an American coming across the pond to walk their beloved footpaths.

The Scottish couple, Magnus and Karen, came in. Today is Magnus’ 40th birthday and they had just had champagne in their room and were feeling a little flushed! Only Black Sheep for Magnus, white wine for Karen and another pint of Mild for me. After awhile, we went in to eat. For me, a great platter of lamb shank (meat falling off the bone) with mashed potatoes and, I think, carrots and turnips mashed together, grilled veggies, all with a tasty onion gravy. Fantastic meal!  Isn’t Yorkshire lamb wonderful?  My friends are vegetarians and each had a good looking vegetable lasagna casserole with a platter of salad. Karen taught me that you can usually substitute salad for the ubiquitous chips. Much healthier!

Day 4: Sat April 23 Ribblehead to Sedbergh

I woke to a sunny day but a disappointing breakfast and terrible coffee. Where did last night’s chef go?  The gent’s room in the pub is said to have a marvelous view of the beautiful Ribblehead Viaduct,  the most famous viaduct on the over 100 year old Settle-Carlisle Railroad.  Best loo view in England! Just as advertised!
                                                    Ribblehead Viaduct
Walking back to Far Gearstones, rejoined the Dales Way, taking a track steeply uphill. This is the last high area before the Lake District. Again, the path is wet and boggy. A farmer was trying to divert water off the hillside so it runs into his pond, not his house. He said he was having success, but with much hard work. It was four miles to the Dent Head Viaduct, smaller than Ribblehead, but with classic lines. Under it, an old stone packhorse bridge was covered in brilliant green moss highlighted by sun rays. I was mesmerized.
                                                       Dent Head Viaduct

                  The Old Packhorse Bridge under the Dent Head Viaduct
I then followed a narrow tarmac road along the River Dee, passing an elegant YHA, crossed pastures, farms, forests, becks and gills and, of course, wooden footbridges. The footbridges are V-shaped things, about a foot wide at the bottom plank, two feet wide at the top of the rails, a very compact and efficient design. Daffodils are planted everywhere brightening the landscape. At the lovely village of Dent, I stopped at a cafe for hot tea with an absolutely luscious walnut slice. This was lunch!
It is lambing time in Yorkshire and every mother sheep has two little ones. They are everywhere, covering the hillsides, two little tykes following their mother’s milk around. They also play, and stray, and lose their mother. Then, when hungry, they rush up to the nearest teat and try to feed, only to get batted away emphatically. “I have enough to take care of without you”.
                                     Looking for Mother’s Milk
Still following the Dee, crossing it and up and over high hills, then all of a sudden Sedbergh is spread out below. This was a 16 mile day and my ankles are hurting again. Sedbergh is a three pub village with many shops and a choice of B&Bs. Mine is friendly but only one bath for three rooms although I seem to be the only roomer. This is my first B&B without a wash basin in the room - certainly makes a difference in convenience.

I ate at the famous Dalesman pub with the Saturday night crowd of tourists, quite friendly. I had Dalesman Bitters, meat lasagna and a large salad, quite good. This is the first time that I tried Karen’s tip to ask for a larger salad in lieu of chips. It actually works!
My B&B hosts are something else, a bit maniacal, but somehow lovable. Sandra is a nonstop talker, very effusive, loved everything she saw on a trip to the states, Elvis, Vegas, cowboys and Indians. Keith is a cornet player in the town band, runs around swinging his arms and singing songs, loves Fred and Ginger movies. We stayed up talking in front of a roaring fireplace.

Day 5: Sun April 24 Sedburgh to Grayrigg

Nice breakfast this morning, even porridge, a welcome change of pace. I’m following the River Kent today with the sun at my back. Only ten miles to Grayrigg village and Punchbowl House, my lodging for the night. I climbed over an abandoned railroad embankment and explored a wonderful old disused iron railroad bridge circa 1800’s, a real work of art.
                                     Iron Bridge Over the River Dee

I missed a stile at the side of the road and walked a mile before deciding to bite the bullet and go back to find the turnoff. I found it easily. How on earth did I miss it? I think it was sooner than I expected. Cutting across fields to the River Lune, I missed the path again and logged two more extra miles before righting myself.  I must be losing my navigation focus to lose myself so much. Then I passed under another disused beautiful brick railroad viaduct (the Lune Viaduct). I could have stood there and gazed at it all afternoon.
                                                      Disused Lune Viaduct

                                            The Path Bypassing a Farmyard
There was a long walk along the Lune before crossing it on the 500 year old Crook of Lune Bridge and finding yet another old disused railroad viaduct (Low Gill Viaduct) rising up in front of me, an engineering masterpiece with tall grasses sprouting off the top and one of those interesting old stone bridges at its base.

                                     Crook of the Lune Bridge

                                      Low Gill Viaduct - Packhorse Bridge Beneath

For me, the Dales Way is defined by the river walking and the historical railroad bridges and viaducts which still stand as monuments to a bygone era. I’ll be returning to Leeds on the Settle-Carlisle RR which was built around 1900. The railroad is an engineering marvel, being kept alive by local efforts, and will be a highlight for me.

I crossed the M6 motor way on a narrow farm road overpass, then several miles into Grayrigg, a tiny village about a mile off the Dales route. Punchbowl House, a stately manor house with quality furnishings and large rooms, greeted me with shortbread and tea. My host is originally from Switzerland and belongs to the local mountain rescue squad. “You didn’t get lost today, just temporarily misplaced.”

There is no pub in Grayrigg, so us roomers shared a taxi to the nearest town with a pub. The Rawlings, a couple from Scotland, both had Yorkshire pudding and I opted for chicken curry with rice and veggies and a couple of pints of Black Sheep ale.
I thought today would be an easy walk but, with the extra miles I tacked on from getting lost, I was very tired and my ankles were giving me a lot of pain. A sop to my tiredness was spending the night in the nicest and most comfortable room on the walk.

Day 6: Mon. April 25 Grayrigg to Staveley to Ambleside

In the beautiful Edwardian dining room, I had a most excellent breakfast with Cumberland sausage and the best coffee of the trip. To meet up with a junction of the Dales path two miles away, I cut across pastures on a public footpath. I could see the Rawlings walking the longer road route heading for the same junction. I get there first, but we met up several times later on. The Dales leads from farm to farm, easy to follow. I’m also paying more attention to my map reading, no more getting lost! I was told that yesterday is the worst waymarked section of the Dales Way - now I feel better!!

Unexpectedly, my short encounter with the River Sprint was quite exciting, it was so wild and beautiful yet tamed to work the Sprint Mill over a century ago. The stone mill buildings looked to have grown out of the far bank as sunlight filtered through the trees onto the water.
                                          Sprint Mill on the River Sprint

I decided not to stop in Burnside, turning on the path just south of town and following beside the River Kent to Bowston where I crossed to the west bank.
                                                Bowston Bridge

It was an idyllic walk along the River Kent all the way to Staveley, 10 miles from Grayrigg. My ankles are hurting me again. I think it all started on that rocky Roman road descent to Far Gearstones. The Dales Way ends five miles further at Bowness-on-Windermere but, to give my sore ankles a rest, I decided to catch a bus from Staveley and finish the five miles next week on my return. With rest, I’m hoping my ankles will be strong enough for walking in the Lake District tomorrow.
                                    Along the River Kent Toward Staveley

After a relaxing lunch break in Staveley, I bussed all the way to Ambleside. This is a walking mecca in the heart of the Lake District with bookstores, bakeries, banks, walking shops, pubs and restaurants. Civilization!!  After getting area maps at the TIC, I went to How Head B&B, my headquarters for the next three nights. They were expecting me. I was the only roomer in spite of the No Vacancy sign. My hosts, Val and Frank, were making sure they had some relaxation before the summer rush, but seemed glad to see me. I had my usual coffee and tea, then a shower. The room was small which was understandable due to the historic nature of the building, one of the oldest in town. Bath was across the hall and I had it all to myself.

The town internet room was in a snug at the Golden Rule pub, just a short distance from How Head. After email home, I ambled over to Zaffarelli’s, a vegetarian restaurant, very tony, a little snooty, but good Italian food. While eating, I met friendly vacationers from London and had a nice chat. Ambleside seems to be a most popular place for the British to spend time, relax and walk in the mountains.

Day 7: Tues. April 26 Ambleside

Woke to overcast skies, perhaps rain. My ankles have recovered after the easy day yesterday, so I’ve scheduled the next two days for day walks in the mountains. Today I’ll go north to Rydal, then decide whether to climb the Fairfield Horseshoe or stay lower. At the trailhead in Rydal, dark clouds up high looked daunting! Taking the trail up a ways, I got some dramatic views to the south and west but turned back after a couple of miles since there was a lot of rain up on Fairfield. I was told it is foolhardy to walk the Horseshoe in poor visibility.

I decided to follow the “coffin path” to Grasmere, skirting above the lake with mountains in the distance. The path starts at Wordsworth’s house in Rydal where he lived from 1813 to 1850 and ends in Grasmere at his Dove Cottage, 1799-1813. This was one of his favorite walks. Now I know why!
                                             A View of Grasmere Water

A clerk at Grasmere TIC was very helpful. He showed me a good path for returning to Ambleside (5-6 miles) which put me in high country over Loughrigg. I ate lunch, then took a lakeside amble before climbing steeply. Rough stone steps to the summit of Loughrigg revealed great views to the north but much rain to the east over Fairfield Horseshoe.
                                          Foot of Loughrigg, Beginning the Climb

It was a long climb to the top, a bit rainy, so careful with my footing. Down the south side there were paths shooting off in all directions, but I followed small cairns which marked the main trail. It was a steep slope. Suddenly, I slipped on the wet grass and fell on my left shoulder again. Drats! I cried out in pain this time with a short dizzy spell, but continued on after a short rest. With all the off shooting paths, I soon had no idea if I was still on the main trail, but eventually I could see Ambleside in the distance far below. After a precipice, a rock scramble and a beck crossing, I found a fence gate with a yellow arrow indicating the footpath. How did I do that? A track became tarmac past several farms to Loughrigg Brow and Brow Head, then across a park into Ambleside. I had time to browse the walking stores and bakeries before heading back to How Head for my usual tea and coffee and shower before dinner.

The Queens Hotel is one of the classy places in Ambleside with a choice selection of real ales in the pub and an imaginative menu. My choices were Coniston Bluebird Bitters and a baked cod mornay. Both excellent! As we have seen, the British culinary scene is far beyond the old steak and kidney pie tradition. Tomorrow, I may get a chance to see the Coniston microbrewery, a key part of the revival of the real ale movement in this country (no preservatives, no CO2, great taste).

Day 8: Wed April 22 Ambleside

Val is fixing me oatmeal along with her cooked English breakfast. Yumm! Patches of blue in the sky today. My plan is to bus to Coniston village, climb Wetherlam, then traverse over to the Old Man of Coniston. These are the two highest peaks in the area and is a classic if difficult walk (for me. anyway). My shoulder is still sore, but doesn’t really bother me.

After finding my way out of Coniston, it was a steep walk to the trailhead and even steeper to gain the ridge and on up to the summit of Wetherlam. I placed a rock on the cairn and marveled at the incredible views in all directions. Fairfield and the peaks of High Street to the northeast, Helvelyn northward, Scafell Pike, then the lowland fells westward to the Irish Sea. Behind me, Old Man Coniston, Black Sails and Swirl How are swirling in and out of black, dangerous looking clouds. Up here the wind is ferocious with periods of stinging sleet. The sun and clouds make dramatic patterns on Lake Coniston far below.
                             Climbing Wetherlam, Coniston Water in the Distance

                                From Wetherlam Summit Looking North

After a sausage and roll for lunch sheltered behind a boulder from the ferocious wind, I started across the ridge to Black Sails and the other peaks. However, as I came to a cross trail on the ridge, I realized that the wind, being so severe, would make it quite dangerous on this narrow ridge with a 1000 ft drop-off. I began to understand why no one else was around! So I prudently decided to back off my plan to bag the Old Man of Coniston and took the trail back down to Coniston village. It was a smart move. This was not the time for heroics!

                         Coniston Village, Coniston Brewery is Behind the Pub

Coniston is certainly a picturesque little place if a bit touristy. Yes, I found the microbrewery behind the Black Bull Inn with tourists posing for photos. The bus back to Ambleside passed through Hawkshead village, the home of Hawkshead Brewery, and where Beatrice Potter lived. A lively tourist trade here on that.

I emailed Cathryn, daughter Naomi and son Peter from the Golden Rule internet snug, quite expensive, two pounds! I ran into Val and Frank and friends in the pub and was invited to sit with them. As we drank a pint together, the bartender came over and sheepishly gave me a pound off the internet charge saying “I didn’t know you were Frank’s friend”.

Another dinner at the Queens Hotel, with Hawkshead Bitters and Lamb Henry, a shank in garlic and red wine, supposedly Henry VIII’s favorite dish. It was absolutely wonderful!  Back at the B&B, Frank told me that How Head is 500 years old, rebuilt by Val’s first husband.  "You can tell its age from the circular chimneys; square ones came later.”

Day 9: Thurs. April 23 Ambleside to Sedbergh

Goodbye to How Head B&B, a good place to be for three days. Frank is taking the No Vacancy sign down, ready for the tourist onslaught. I took a bus south to Bowness so I could walk to Staveley and complete my last day on the Dales Way. It was a flat six mile amble on a rainy day. In Staveley, I walked under a street banner announcing the annual Traditional Beer Festival starting tomorrow. Oh well! I would love to join the festivities, but today I’m taking a bus to Sedbergh. Tomorrow, I’ll catch the Settle-Carlisle train to Leeds, then London and back across the pond. It’s been a great trip, I’ve met some wonderful people and I have more than a few stories to tell. I think my shoulder will survive the two falls. One lesson I learned on this walk is to carry walking poles. Next time, no more falls!

Yew Tree B&B in Sedbergh is an old two story stone house, full of nice antiques and very clean. I have a large, comfortable room with double bed, stuffed chair, writing table, wash basin and fireplace. Anne is a good host, very knowledgeable and helpful. After tea, coffee and a shower, I walked back into town and had a pint at the Dalesman but the menu was uninspiring. Taking a cue from Anne, I ventured into the Taj Mahal and had lamb biryani with rice and veggie curry. Love that rice! I’m originally from Louisiana where rice is a big crop and is eaten every day. I can eat rice at anytime.

Day 10: Friday April 24 Sedbergh to Leeds

Anne loves to chat - about everything from wine to railroads to the history of Sedbergh, home of a famous prep school. After a very good breakfast, I walked into town to take the bus to the Kirby Stephens RR station. The bus was 15 minutes late and that made me very worried. I had to catch that train!   Thankfully, I was in time.  At the station I met the superintendent who was ready with a camera to video a special steam train coming through in two minutes. I got my camera ready and it was by in a flash, but I got the photo, also one of my train a few minutes later. A nice train ride through the Dales, passing many parts of my walk, everyone stretching their necks to see the viaducts.
                               Steam train passing Kirkby Stephens RR Station

In Leeds, the TIC was able to place me in the Hilton for only 37 pounds with breakfast. Was this a special tourist rate? My sightseeing priorities included the 1860’s iron buildings of the Corn Exchange with it’s marvelous dome and Kirkgate Market, a huge indoor market. Both are great examples of innovative iron architecture, a heritage of the great iron bridge technology at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They were fascinating! I then paid homage to the famous Whitlocks Pub which possibly has the largest selection of real ales found anywhere. What did I have? Something with an odd name I can't remember!!  It was very crowded on a Friday evening, lots of craick!  Then I had an Italian dinner on Briggate St. and back to the hotel to get ready for the train tomorrow and plane flight home. Breakfast opens at 7:30, but I leave on the 8:05 train. How fast can I eat?

Sat April 25 To Home

I finished checkout by 7:25 and slipped into the dining room as the first customer. A wonderful buffet was set up so I allowed myself ten minutes to eat, then took coffee, croissants and an apple for the train.  I'm only two blocks to the RR station. The train trip took only two hours, but then I ran into a scary delay at the King's Cross tube station.  There was an emergency evacuation in the underground (terrorist scare?) so I had to walk down to the next tube station resulting in a longer time to get to Heathrow.  Luckily, I had allowed myself plenty of time for the unexpected.  At United check-in, they offered me $800 in flight coupons and a business class seat to Chicago if I would give up my seat. It would mean an extra eight hours in layovers, so I reluctantly declined, then wished I hadn’t.
My seat mate was a Chinese woman, born and raised in Singapore, married to a Frenchman, lives in England, meeting her husband in San Francisco for a vacation in Hawaii and has a two year old daughter who speaks three languages, often interchangeably. What a world, eh!

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