Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT. Join us, read about what we do and please leave us your comments.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A day out, we visit the nearby villages of Gomshall and Shere

As I have already said, there is plenty to see in this beautiful country and on a clear and sunny (albeit cold) day last week we decided to take a short drive to visit the villages of Gomshall and Shere which are only about half an hour away from Dorking, where we are staying.
 I chose a slightly longer route, "off the beaten track" and we drove along narrow, twisty country lanes through shady forests with moss covered boughs on either side. I love these drives but things can get a bit difficult if you meet someone coming the other way!
It wasn't long before we were back on roads easier to navigate and passing through the picturesque vilage of Abinger Hammer. The trouble with these villages is that they are all so wonderfully picturesque that one runs out of superlatives, bear with me.
Next was Gomshall and we stopped in a roadside pub for a cold pint,
from our refreshment stop we could see this older building next to the river, note the old red telephone box on the corner. We finished our beer and browsed through a nearby shop where I saw this rather unusual table;
made from parts of an old Royal Enfield motorcycle, I was torn between whether I liked it or not, whether I would have it in my house or not, Janet was adamant "No!" she said, but anyway I could not afford the price and the shipping so I left it.
Literally just around the  corner is the tiny village of Shere with its beautiful old church and graveyard and we briefly wandered the narrow streets, braving the chilly wind,
by then it was lunchtime and I was hungry, as luck would have it there was a lovely old pub in the village; the White Horse and we found a seat close to a roaring fire,
this delightful looking place was originally built in 1425 as a farmhouse and was converted to an Inn during the 1700s, this ancient history just blows my mind!
Apparently the area in those bygone days was the wildest in Surrey, with numbers of sheep thieves, poachers and smugglers who all found refuge in the nearby hills. The link with smugglers was confirmed during restorations in 1955 when a hidden cellar filled with casks of brandy dating back to 1720 was discovered!
In Victorian and Edwardian times the Inn was a meeting place for writers and artists and in 2018 I sat there and had a lovely lunch!
Seabass fillets on a bed of prawn risotto, delicious! Accompanied, of course, by a pint of lager. Another lovely day out and still plenty more to see.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I visit the MCN Motorcycle show in London, something to do with bikes for a change

On a beautifully sunny (but cold) winter's day my son in law drove me through to London so that I could visit the bike show, he had something else to do there so it was convenient to drive. We parked and took the "Emirates airline" cable car over the Thames, an interesting experience in itself.

From there it was a short walk past the luxury Dockside hotels and apartment buildings to the massive exhibition centre which was hosting a classic car show at the same time as the motorcycle show, so the crowds were huge.

Pretty much the first thing I saw as I walked in was a display of beautifully restored classics, I have a particular soft spot for the British Matchless and BSA motorcycles as they were the first bikes that I rode as a young policeman in the Rhodesian Police Force, I got my license on a Matchless in the Police driving school way back in 1968 and would probably give up a body part to own a Matchless like this one;
They were such nice bikes to ride, once you got them started! Kickstarting these beasts into action required a technique that we soon became adept at. Next I admired two classic BSAs which had been lovingly restored, I had lots to see so I reluctantly moved on.

I saw a modern remake of the old well known marque, the Brough Superior (left) and something new to me, "Mutt" motorcycles (right), this looks like a fun ride.

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the numerous trade stalls, still looking for a specific type of cruiser/touring boot but I was unfortunately unsuccessful, I had hoped that this would be the place.

As you would expect, there were a lot of custom bikes on display, I particularly liked the "Green Manalishi" (right) by "Krazyhorse Customs". These bikes, as well as the impressive display of MotoGP bikes were roped off so that the people could not climb onto them. Understandable because all of the other bike manufacturers let people sit on their bikes, this had resulted in the BMW R1200RT having badly scuffed and scratched pannier cases and I wondered if perhaps that bike would have been sold off cheap after the show!

If I lived here in England I might have followed up with an offer because that certainly couldn't be sold as a new bike.

By mid afternoon the place had become very crowded and on my rounds I had noticed that there was a pub, I headed back that way in the hopes of acquiring a cold pint and a place to sit. I joined the long queue and got chatting to an English biker who, on hearing that I was a biker from South Africa, insisted on buying me a beer, thanks Julian! I found a place to sit for a bit and enjoyed my pint. It had been an interesting afternoon and I was in amongst my kind of people but it was time to go, I had a last look around as I made my way to the exit.
Biking is strong in the UK., I don't know much about their club scene but I do see lots of bikes out and about and they are, by necessity good at riding in adverse conditions. Not many of the roads here are suited to high speed riding, being quite narrow and winding, but they are lovely for tourers or cruisers and I would love to ride here.
We're off on another road trip down to the coast next and after that I intend visiting the Sammy Millar motorcycle Museum down near the New Forest, stay with me. Time is running out here in the UK, we head back home mid March where my bike is waiting for me.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Three days in beautiful Brugge, Belgium and I drive on the wrong side of the road

For a country-bumpkin like me even driving the car onto the train for the thirty-five minute crossing under the channel from Dover to Calais was an exciting experience and leaving the train in France I had to drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time in my life. I managed alright, mostly because I was following my brother-in-law and he has done it before. I made two very slight mistakes but nothing serious. As we had plenty of time we chose to drive through Northern France avoiding the motorway, through Dunkirk and into Belgium where we found a place for lunch.
In Brugge we were a little early to book into our AirBnb accommodation so we found a quaint little pub nearby and drank some Belgian beer, good stuff.
We were a short distance from the market square, the centre of the old town which we visited the following morning, it was sunny and clear but still very cold, at least it didn't rain while we were there. Brugge is incredibly, almost unbelievably picturesque,

and I discovered that whilst wandering around it was best to turn around every now and then to look back at where you had just walked so as not to miss another amazing view.
Of course when in Belgium you cannot ignore the delicious chocolates and Brugge has 63 chocolatiers, each with mouth watering displays of their wares and of course we bought some!

There was naughty stuff as well but we didn't buy any!
We decided to take a boat cruise on the canals which run through and around the town and although it was freezing cold it was another relaxing way of seeing the sights from a different perspective,

In spite of the freezing weather and bitterly cold wind it was a lovely way to see the town, the boat pilot and guide was very knowledgeable and spoke fluent English as well as his native Flemish. We were shown the most amazing buildings dating back as far as the 1500s and 1600s!

When in Belgium obviously you cannot ignore the delicious hot chocolate and the waffles and cream so we found a warm and cosy little cafe after the boat ride in which to warm our bones and to indulge in this decadent delight.

The hot chocolate is served with some home made chocolates and some fresh whipped cream on the side and the waffles are light and crispy-delicious, also with fresh whipped cream, truly delightful.
Generally the food in Brugge was excellent and there was a huge variety of pubs and restaurants to choose from, another thing that must not be missed is the Belgian favourite, "Moules frite" Mussels and chips or fries and we had them on two occasions.

The first was with the traditional wine sauce and later I had them served with Langoustine in a creamy beer sauce, delicious both times. We had a wonderful time in that beautiful place and even though it was winter there were hundreds and hundreds of people around, perhaps winter is the best time to visit because I would imagine the summer time crowds to be enormous.

Before we left we wanted to have a beer in the oldest pub in Belgium, in continuous use since 1515, we found it down a narrow little alley but unfortunately it was closed for the winter! Our bad luck.
 I would like to think that I may get a chance to visit this delightful place again, there is certainly a lot to see and do and we didn't get to do a horse carriage ride.
Once there were thirty of these windmills around the town but now only four remain, two of which are still in working condition.
Remember to click on the pictures to see them full size.
Next post will be on the MCN (Motor Cycle News) Motorbike show in London which I attended, watch this space!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

More traveling around this beautiful country

We're about halfway through our wonderful holiday in the UK and have managed to do quite a lot of traveling around this fascinating country;
On a visit to Kenley which is in the south of the London Borough of Croydon to visit one of Janet's sisters, we ended up at a pub called "Wattendon Arms" for lunch, where incidentally I had a very nice portion of battered Cod and chips, (I have been complaining about the quality of pub food lately),

While Janet and her sister, who hadn't seen each other for a couple of years chatted I had a look around the pub and noticed the air force theme of the place, it turned out that the former station of the Royal Air force Kenley is nearby and was a station of the Royal Flying Corps in World War 1 and the Royal Air Force in World War 2.
Apparently due to RAF Kenley's strategic importance the Luftwaffe tried to destroy it with a massive bombing raid on 18th August 1940, the raid however was unsuccessful and RAF Kenley was operational again by the following day. Many famous pilots were stationed there amongst them was the well known South African "Sailor" Malan. An interesting place, deserving of another visit.
The next weekend on a cold and windy Sunday we took a drive, with the family, to the coastal village of Whitstable which is near the mouth of the Thames. This is quite obviously a very popular little fishing village because even though it was a pretty miserable day the place was crowded with tourists, I would not like to go there in summer, you wouldn't be able to move.

We wandered around the market stalls in the picturesque little harbour, found a little pub where we could sit and enjoy a beer and then headed for the Crab and Winkle restaurant where I was hoping to find some good sea food. I was not disappointed.

The ladies opted not to have starters but the guys went for a mixture of fresh oysters, cockles, whelks and winkles;

The oysters were delicious, plump and fresh, and remember I have oysters regularly at home so I know them but I really enjoyed the cockles and whelks, the winkles were quite tasteless but all in all a lovely starter. My main course however was the best meal that I have yet had whilst on this holiday, a fresh whole Sea Bass, I devoured it, head, eyes and all - absolutely delicious!
We got home quite late that evening after a very enjoyable day out and a trip into London was planned for the next morning! Christie (our daughter) and Andy (our son in law) had taken the day off and wanted to show us the Borough Market and one of their favourite Indian restaurants for lunch, talk about being spoiled!
We took the train, almost an hour, then a tube train and then a walk with a huge amount of stairs before arriving at the market, it was a cold and blustery day so we were well covered. The market is a very interesting place with stalls selling all types of food; fresh meat and fish, cheeses, bread, spices as well as street food from many different ethnic groups, one could spend ages (and pounds) there.

The seafood was incredibly tempting but we were going out for lunch, Andy and I did share a portion of whelks which were fresher and better than the ones we had at Whitstable!

I did buy a lovely big piece of Pork belly rib to roast the next evening and Christie bought some wild boar sausages, both of which turned out to be really fantastic - we'll be back!
Lunch at the Bangalore Indian Restaurant was very nice, large portions and plenty of authentic flavour, I had curried goat which I really enjoyed. We relaxed there for quite a while enjoying our meals and a couple of drinks before heading back home.

Not too much walking on the way home, we managed to catch a bus and relaxed on the train ride from London to Dorking after a great day out. Next we will be travelling north into the Cambridgeshire area to visit dear friends living in Ramsay Forty Foot. I will tell you all about the trip in the next post, remember if you want to see the photos full size just click on them.