I will be posting a regular blog again. I am on the road to turkey from France, traveling with my friend Claire who I met in Chile.
YouTube – https://youtu.be/ZnMK-5MlZHg
August 19, 2015
LISBON – LISBOA
After an overnight flight from Toronto to Lisbon, there was a layover of several hours. Arriving the morning and not leaving until evening there was enough time to take a walking tour of downtown Lisboa. I was amazed at all the high rise apartment buildings, the modernity and beautiful architecture of the old blending with the new.
Arriving in one of the squares I was impressed by the spaciousness of the streets and the tree lined walking areas. Spotting where the locals where going for coffee, I found a little café with good coffee – I asked for an espresso but I found out later that you just ask for café solo sin leche. It was only $.70 Euro.
I didn’t get into Barcelona until 2 a.m. as our flight was delayed. So really I had just one day in the city of Gaudi. I found the Metro system very extensive. It puts Toronto’s subway to shame. I headed down to Colom. Again I found the streets tree lined with broad pedestrian ways in the middle and cars and other traffic on either side. There are many examples of alternative transportation, including electric car charging stations.
The hostel was in a very quiet residential neighborhood. I found the local tapas bars the best and cheapest places to have a coffee, eat or have a beer. The people seemed more friendly as well.
The highlight for me of course was the Sagrada Familia, the amazing structure begun by Gaudi in 1882 and still not complete, perhaps never complete. The way he created the collums and angles, makes for an interesting play of light. There is a lot of fanciful things like bugs in the wall, flowers growing out of the balustrades and a depiction of the Christ hanging in light above the pulpit. Thousands of pilgrims visit each day. For a few minutes I sat in the centre of the space and meditated, a space very conducive to quiet even amongst the throng of people, there was hushed talking that had a reverent quality to it
I took the train from Barcelona to Marseilles as initially it seemed cheaper to fly to Barcelona. As it turned out I’m not sure it was any less expensive but it was a plus to visit Lisboa and Barcelona for the first time. I had all my gear packed in two cases one with my bike and one with all the other equipment, plus camera bag and a backpack with computer, etc as carry-on – weight over 100 pounds. To my dismay, when I arrived at the train station in Barcelona there were no luggage carts like you get an any airport. I had to drag my bags along the floor. My muscles are still sore two days later. I got into the train just in time. The first train was super modern, quiet and fast. I’m not sure how fast we were going, perhaps not the highest speed, but faster than VIA and smooth as silk. The “dining car” was just a bar where you can purchase various items and then stand at counters to eat and drink.
Arriving in Marseilles my friend Claire, who will cycle to Turkey with me, was there to greet me. As I was dragging my luggage for the third and last time a man came a long and took my duffle bag for me. Then Claire came and helped me carry the bag with my bike out to the car driven by her friend Mark. After a visit to the bike shop to get Claire’s new touring bike complete with Vaude panniers and handlebar bag we were off to Esparron.
I had no idea what to expect. It is a small ancient village nestled in a valley in a “hilly area” of Provence. Complete with chateau, river, and lake it is a charming village. Claire lives in her grandmother’s former house, a small 1 bedroom overlooking the river. Yesterday I put my bike together and everything seems to be working. We rode to the lake for a swim in crystal clear water and then took a bike ride out in to the country with some good hills. At the end of our ride, which included riding on a dirt track, we headed to Mark’s house for what I thought was just wine and cheese. Well there were about 10 adults and 4 children there and it was a celebration for his sister Patricia’s birthday. Wow what a meal he prepared, with several courses all prepared by Mark with the exception of the dessert which was vanilla ice-cream combined with raspberry sherbet. The only thing I didn’t like was all the smoking, it seems almost every French man and woman smokes – yuk. But it was an interesting experience to see how social they are. We also visited Claire’s parents and her mother’s pottery shop. Again being the social people that they are, we were treated to food and drink and while there 3 other people dropped by. It seems they are very informal in these small villages and friends just drop by at any time unexpected. It seems much nicer than our formal way of life back in Canada in the big cities where you have to schedule coffee with a friend days in advance.
We left for a 3-4 day trial tour. We went over the hill and down the dale in to Valensole where we ate a sandwich by the village fountain and met Xavier touring on a bicycle to the Rainbow Festival. If it is anything like the ones in Canada, it should be very interesting as they have yoga, meditation, no coffee or alcohol while on the retreat. We visited Mario and Danielle, friends of Claire’s parents. The last part of our 42 km ride was 5 km’s downhill, very pleasant to their place in the valley, a little settlement with just 7-10 people living there. They have a vegetable garden and in the evening we took a walk in nature down along the river.
Today and the next 3 days were very demanding as there are lots of climbs. We are only averaging 11-12 km’s an hour so far. Claire is stronger (and younger) than me on the climbs and waits for me at the top. We have a similar style of being process oriented, stopping often to look at things, take pictures, drink water and snack. The scenery is spectacular.
Today we met Claire’s friend Tina in Forcaquilier at an outdoor restaurant. Outdoor living and dining is pretty much it at least during the summer. Tina, originally from Morocco but brought up in France is a classical Indian dancer and will be in India in September and again in February, studying and performing. We stayed with her husband and 2.5 year old daughter out in the country. The ride to their place was interesting, as it appeared as if we should be going downhill, but in fact were going up at maybe a 1% grade. It made for some very slow riding. A few friends came by for a meal that Claire and I prepared.
Leaving Tina and Tommy’s place we took a beautiful road that climbed up to around 572 meters. There were marker posts with the distance to the top, elevation and grade, which was mostly 5%. Then it was 5 km’s downhill in to Manosque, a very ancient city where we had croissants and coffee. I looked at one of the plaques and the date was around 910 – over 1100 years old. After going to an excellet outdoor store to stock up on gas, and a warmer sleeping bag for Claire we headed back to Valensole to camp on a high hill overlooking the village.
I had broken a tooth when I first arrived in Esparron and so we both went to the Dentist in Valensole before heading back. I think the repair was cheaper than it would be in Canada and very modern equipment.
In summary, riding is challenging here. We will only be able to go 50-60 km’s per day until we get out of the mountains, which doesn’t look like any time soon. But the scenery is beautiful, lots of little villages to stop in for food, and places to camp. So we will head off on our adventure early next week, with the first stop being the Grand Canyon of France and then to the Rainbow Festival and then Italy. In Italy we can take EuroVelo route 8 (EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route )from Torino to Venice. As far as I can tell, it will be just over 400 km’s and the route is marked with signs all along the way.
September 1, 2015
Yesterday I went to Manosque to get my hair cut. On the way back we stopped at a beautiful market that supports only farmers within a range of 100 km’s. There is a picture of each farmer near his/her produce, which I thought was a great way to connect to the farmer as a person providing for us.
In the afternoon we went to a nearby lake and borrowed kayaks from a friend. Marie, Marc, Claire and I went out for about 2 hours through this amazing canyon. There was water falling down the cliffs and through the trees, so that you had the feeling the trees were weeping.
Tomorrow we leave for our first day on our epic journey. We will head to the Grand Canyon of France.