It was officially the weekend and the nearby towns and cities marked this event with markets. We wandered down to Hertford’s own local market to see what was on offer. It turned out that Hertford’s market was pretty small and the offerings were slim. Still, it was a comfortable way to see the town.
The end of the market stalls left us across the street from Hertford’s very own castle. We walked the grounds, which were deceptively simple and small. There was no indication that the fortified history of this place went back as far as the year 911. What I thought was the castle turned out to be the Gatehouse – just the gate house! The original castle had long ago settled back into the earth and there were no indications of where it might have stood hundreds of years ago.
I thought this was the castle – turns out it was the gatehouse
Instead of going back to the market Aaron took us to a path that followed a canal, which is actually the River Lea. I finally got a chance to see the fabled English canal boats and they were fantastic. There were so many different types and sizes and conditions of the river boats. We followed the canal, walking down the tow path while chatting casually, and came upon a lock.
The lock-keepers cottage
As we inspected the lock and cottage a canal boat came our way – we’d get to see the lock in action! We stood and watched as the occupants went about the process of moving the water and lowering their boat.
After the boat was secure in the lock, they closed the upstream gates. They used the hand winches and manually pushed the arms of the gates and slid them closed into place, making a fairly tight seal. The boaters then moved to the downstream lock and using a special tool they carried with them, they raised the lower gate valves to let the water drain out of the lower gate. We chatted with the boat owner on the bridge above the lock as we waited for the water to drain. He was taking some of his family out for a weekend tour – it sounded lovely. Once the water level matched the river itself, it was time to open the gates. While the boatman pushed one gate open, I decided to lend him a hand (or a butt, in this case) and push open the other one. He seemed to appreciate it and we waved them off as they continued downstream.
The lowering of the water
Pushing open the lower gate
Another boat heads upstream as our lock demonstrators head down
Views like this really made it tempting to get our own boat
Another way to get down the river
We had whiled away the morning and it was now time for lunch. We went to the train station and had lunch at the pub across the street. The food was hearty and tasty and it was a good way to start the rest of our day.
The General Lee makes a showing in Hertford
Lunch at The Bridge House
We took the train into London and made our way to Portabello Market, a huge market in west London, an area made famous by the movie Notting Hill. But what was really impressive was the sheer size of the market: it follows Portabello Road for approximately two miles. Two miles of packed stalls, crowded streets and sidewalks and just about anything a person would want to buy.
Kings Cross Station
Keeping order on the Tube
After having enough of the crowds of the market we took a side street and enjoyed the relative quietness of the neighborhood.
I may not want to own one, but I can’t deny the beauty of Ducati
We were done with ground level exploring – it was time for a bird’s eye view. We took the tube to The Shard, one of London’s newest architecture achievements. The day was perfect for our trip to the top of the 1,004′ structure. We had purchased tickets online the night before so we just had to wait for our time slot to start our trip up the double elevator ride to the 79th floor.
The Shard – and me
View from within
Tower Bridge (note the Shard’s shadow)
The flood gates on the Thames
The Eye, Big Ben and Parliment in the lowering sun
The day was fading. We returned to earth and made our way back towards King Cross Station. Dan had taken on the responsibility of choosing our dinner locations and so far he hadn’t let us down. Tonight would be no exception. We reached the Medcalf in time for our reservations and took our seats at the back of the quiet, darkened interior. The waitstaff seemed a little confused as to just who’s table we were sitting at, and we were asked by a number of people for our drinks and meal choices. Still, the service was good and the food was even better. I had Welsh rarebit followed by a “White Park bavette steak”, which turned out to be a thin but tender section of beef. Dan and Aaron enjoyed their meals as well and we left very satisfied.
Nothing could top our dinner so we decided to just go back to Aaron’s house and get ready for our last day in London.