06.07.09

The rhone valley and beyond

Posted in The journey journal, Wine and cheese and bikes at 3:01 pm by Administrator

If you want to do a week or so cycling then the section from Lyon to Avignon was great, flat and if you go in late May then teh trees are so full of cherries that I could litterally pick them while riding and keep myself fueled on the go.
We’re now in teh town of Villenevue Loubet near Nice and waiting to pick up Dan and Christal. We’re having a much needed day away from the bikes and giving the bodies a chance to recover. We haven’t had a full day off in 2 weeks and even then the last days off we’re full of running around Parisian sights with Jen. We even slept until 9am thismorning which was sooo nice. We’re staying with Jean Michel from the warmshowers website and he and his family have welcomed us so generously. Awesome stuff.
The road to here was a long one. Yesterdday was our longest day. 135 km. The hills weren’t steep but some were high enough to cause some hurt. We changed through 4 distinct geological units and so my nerd meter went into overload. The 3 people out there that are interested can email for details but I was a little over excited. There were also loads of bike paths for the day which was great and the road was stunning as only coastal roads can be. Some sections even rivalling my beloved great ocean road.
Well I’m off to do some bike maintenance.
Hugs
Tc

06.05.09

UPDATEY Goodness

Posted in The journey journal, Wine and cheese and bikes at 11:32 am by Administrator

OK so we’re currently n the town of Bandol on the mediterainian coast of France and I’ve realised that I’m never going to be able to keep upto date if I keep trying to add loads of detail. SO I’m gunna give a really quick run down since our teary fareweel to our initial cycle buddy, Jen in Paris.
We went to versailles and were amazed by the awesomeness of the gardens. The museum pass is invalueable in Paris as it saves you hours of queuing.
After Paris and a big thanks to Alexis for his awesome hospitality and putting up with us for 3 days we headed south.
Camped in teh bush and were nearly blown away by a thunderstorm overnight.
Hit the Loire valley the next day in Briar. Bloody beautiful town and this began the start of many wonderfully flat days and our first real tail winds that lasted all the way to Marseille.
The loire was beuatiful country side with lots of farming, white cows and old chateaus. Lots less inhabited and lots more organised than northern france.
From the loire valley we pushed a 120 km day, over a mountain range into the rhone valley. Stayed with Italian couchsurfers Samuele and his girlfriend and they were supernice and really looked after us after our longest day yet.
Then into Lyon for a quick stay and more awesome hosptiality from Jo and Tom and their kids. Lots of food and chats and fun. Tom rode 30 km with us out of Lyon and we went with the flat and the tail wind south. FIrst night stay in the field of a cool restauranteur, Bernoit and in a castle the next. Bernoit served us wonderful local cuisine of fried minnows and grenouilles (frogs). I never thought that my chips would be bigger than the fish on my plate.
We then made it to Avignon which is a pretty a ok city.
Then pushed south to keep the wind behind us and were planning to stay in Marseille. Unfortunqtely the city sucks and I caught 3 people trying to steal from us in the first hour. lucky that I’m on the ball or a guy would have walked off with Nics bag and 2 pickpockets would have got stuff. So after getting our fix of the Chateau d’if of Count of Monte Cristo fame we made a quick exit over the hills to Cassis. Then today we are heading along the Med passed Toulon. Its great.
One thing that we’ve really noticed is that there is a significant proportion of the french that really go out of their way not to go out of their way for you. Its not all of them, its not even half of them but there are an annoyingly large number of people in this country, especially the south, that seem to take enormous pleasure in being rude and.. well to put it bluntly pricks! It really detracts from the great and helpful people that we have met.
In other news Nic has taken the pressure off of me by having the first stack (crash) of the tour. I really thought that it would be me that would bite the dust first but in Marseille yesterday Nic missed a small gutter and fell off cutting her knee. Nothing too serious (no amputations required) but it’ll sting for a while and we’ll have to watch it for infection and nastiness. She did pretty well as I would have cried if it had been me.
Anyway, time for lunch and getting back on the road so that we can meet Dan and Christal in Nice in a few days.

Love and hugs

Tc

05.31.09

Into Paris

Posted in The journey journal, Wine and cheese and bikes at 8:39 am by Administrator

So here I am on a beautiful morning in Lyon and I figured that I’d do a bit of blogging. Lets see how much time I get.

I left the story off last time in Montreiul. From there the we headed to Paris and spent 2 more nights free camping. The wind slowly abated and the hills became slowly less nasty and our legs were getting a little stronger. The signs of tiredness were starting to show though as none of us had expected it to be as hard as it had been. Its amazing how much hard it becomes to ride a bike once you put 40 to 50 kilos of gear on it. I can do 100 km in my sleep on a road bike but the touring bike takes a lot of effort. As I was carrying the food for Nic and I my load varied up and down and I was trying to eat as much as possible to keep the load light. We’re generally buying food in the afternoons now. We stop in at a supermarch√® and buy dinner breaky and lunch the next day. Its working well. Jen carried all her own food and gear and was tremendous at keeping going.
Our camping spots were interesting. Either there aren’t many unattractive places in France or we’ve been really good at picking the picturesque ones as we’ve had some beautiful fields and locations to sleep in. One night we contemplated sleeping under a graphitti covered bridge but instead Nic spied a cute little fishing spot down the river and so we slept there.
We also made a fun stop at a town that had turned itself into a giant, townsized garage sale for the day. Everyone in the place wheeled all of their junk out to the street and people came from hundreds of Km away to buy the junk. Jen even found some great burningman costumes and Nic found the french books that she’d been craving. I was just happy to taste some of the local wines.
The road into Paris, that we took was the N1 which is quite the large highway and so there was lots of traffic to escort us in. The roads so far had been the secondary roads and the french are pretty good about giveing cyclists room to breathe (please take note of that australia, you don’t have to try to kill the cyclists).
So into Paris we rode. We didn’t come in via a hill and so didn’t get a great overview of the city like we’d hoped for but after lots of twisting through the streets we popped out of the maze at the Place d’√©toile and the Arc de triumph. This was paris and all its stunningness (I’m sure thats a word). We did a bit of sightseeing and the met with Alexis who had agreed to put us up for the few days that we were in town. He was awesomely hospitible and I can never repay him for how good he was to us. His cooking was excellent as well. I’m not sure if that is genetic with the french but I’m not losing any weight in this country despite riding millions of kilometres. Paris was a delightful blur of pastries, museums and random old stuff and once again I really enjoyed my time there.

Anyway time to hit the road again in Lyon so I’ll hopefully get another chance to update soon.

Tc

05.30.09

The bit in Northern france

Posted in The journey journal, Wine and cheese and bikes at 7:35 am by Administrator

So it seems to me that the people of northern france are really scared of trees as there were hardly any to be seen, that they are a mountain loving people due to the excessive number of hills across the countryside and that they constantly endure a strong southerly wind that is the bain of all cyclists trying to cross south to Paris.
Well that was the feeling that we all got from the few days that we spent crossing to the south.
The absolute best thing about cycling in the mornings in France is passing through the small towns and smelling the patisserie cooking up its heavenly goods to sell to the world. That smell would make a strong man cry it is so good. I now know how the ancient sailors felt as they tried to resist the charms of the Sirens because I nearly dashed my bike against the rocks trying to get to the patisserie many times.

So as the map will have shown we spent nights just outside Calais, in montreiul (pronounced mon-troy), on the south side of Poix de Picardy and just north of Paris before a great few nights in Paris with my old friend from College, Alexis.

Once we got off of the ferry we headed south and I thought that taking the coast road would be nice and flat and good. I was a little wrong. The road was nice and scenic but it was anything but flat and with a roaring head wind we only made it a little way south before stopping for the night in an abandoned (and falling down) farmhouse on the cliffs overlooking the English channel (the the marche as it is know to the rest of europe). We were all stressed about being caught and thrown off the land but as we found out later, no one really seems to care where you sleep if you area cyclist and don’t leave a mess. The french airforce did a few fly overs and we thought that the were on patrol for vagrants such as ourselves but our comoflage worked and the never found us. Also we found out that bbq lighting fuel isn’t the best thing for our stove and so we couldn’t get it to work and ended up eating cold cans of chicken korma (and vege curry for Jen) for dinner. Mmm cold canned food. We were also out of water and since it was late, I back tracked into town to find some. My mastery of french got a few drink bottles filled at a small shop so that was all good. Basically I knocked on the door after closing time and when the guy answered I held up the bottles and pleadingly asked “Eau” (pronounced badly as Ooh). He didn’t seem happy about it but filled the bottles anyway.

We have discovered that if the French know you then they are welcoming and helpful and hospitable but if they don’t know you then they don’t really seem to care and will only go out of their way to help if really pushed. We hit that a lot while asking for directions and things.

Day 2 of france was an early start up and down the rolling chalk hills of the Normandy coast. None of us was mentally or physically prepared to carry the weight up these hills into the head wind and so going was pretty arduous. Lots of stopping at the top of hills for a photo and a drink. The scenery was stunning though and so that made a good excuse to stop and rest.. I mean have a look at. I got my first flat in Bourgne sur Mer. It took a whole screw to penetrate the kevlar liners in the tyres but it did and I heard that horrible and scary hissing noise of air leaking from my back tyre. One thing that I liked about riding along the coast were the hundreds of concrete bunkers still left over from the world wars. Its interesting to see them all still in place and gives a really perspective on the scale of the wars in that area and the invasion size. There are also war monuments everywhere and many towns are dedicated to the forces that ‘liberated’ them.

From there we decided to head inland a bit to try and avoid the wind but couldn’t escape it and after a pretty tiring day we stopped in the camp ground in the town of Montreiul. It took a car load of french guys about 35 seconds to try to pick up Nic afer she asked for directions and even though she pointed out the fact that her boyfriend was standing 5 m away they were not to be dissuaded. But she resisted their charms and I got to keep my girlfriend. That night we wandered into town for a restorative ale in the local bar and felt much better about having had a gloriously warm shower and a comfy spot of grass on which to park the tents.

ok rounding off for now. We’re just outside Lyon with some great couchsurfers but its time to head into town and so I’ll finish the updating later.

Tc