Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Day 109 - Cavaillon - South-East France

The weather in Provence at the moment is just about perfect. Hot, cloudless days, warm evenings and cool nights. I was sitting overlooking the Rhone last night, with a cold beer, trying to imagine a time when this lifestyle might get a bit boring. I couldn't, so had another beer just to think about it a bit more.

The stuttering restart after the holiday continued for a few days after Rodez, with a stomach upset in Millau necessitating another day off and a few easier days in the saddle. I think I'm pretty much back to fitness now, having just done four days of riding reasonable distances.

Some of the landscape here reminds me of Spain - fertile, hilly - but in Spain you don't get welcoming French towns every 15 miles. I say welcoming, and they are, but they are also pretty dead, still. I do enjoy their relaxed lifestlye and I'm still happy in my own company (you may be amazed to hear) but just occassionally it would be nice for a bit more life, or at least the choice.

I'm going to stay inland for a while, heading to the Verdon Gorge, then go down to the coast around the Nice area, ready to cross the border into Italy, which I will be doing on the coast - you don't get much choice!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day 100 - Rodez - South-Central France

I've been on holiday. Met up with friends and ended up staying there for 9 days. I reacquainted myself with many things - people, conversation, laughter, late nights, too much beer, hangovers, sitting around not doing much, not having much to do, eating cheese. A proper break. I even spent many hours not thinking about 'the trip'. Not thinking about cycling, about finding somewhere to sleep the night, finding a shop, making dinner. It rested my mind, and my body. It was good.

I thought the hard part was going to be returning to life on my own, on the road, but I've slipped back into that easily, almost immediately. It's a familiar routine now. The hard part was the cycling - I arrived in Rodez yesterday afternoon absolutely exhausted after only 30 miles. I barely had the energy to put the tent up and shop for supplies, and, after a shower, I did something I'd not done since Day One, in Combourg - I slept during the day, waking up at about 8pm, still exhausted. I had some dinner and went back to sleep. You don't realise until you stop for a while just how hard, physically, it is to live like this.

I was going to move on today but after a lazy morning I didn't really feel like it and wanted to see a bit of the town. I'll move on tomorrow, heading for Millau and then picking a route down and into Italy. The roads and mountains look like they'll make route-choosing interesting, but hopefully not too dangerous.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Some more shaky, pixelated rubbish for your viewing 'pleasure'.

Vultures in Extremadura, Spain:


Relaxing and philosophising at Lake Caspe, Spain:


Rain in the Pyrenees:


Anders and Magic

Anders and Magic have been on the same campsite for two and a half weeks now. Anders doesn't really know why. "I don't really know why," he tells me, "it's not like it's a particularly nice site or anything, just sort of quiet. We'll hopefully move on soon." He talks about it as if it's someone else's decision. He's right though - it's not a particularly nice site.

They have come from Holland, on foot. They're going to 'somewhere in Spain, just the other side of the mountains'. That's as specific as he gets.

I don't think Magic really minds where he is, as long as he's with Anders. Magic is quite big - about hip-height - with floppy black curly fur. Not tight and delicate like a poodle, but rough and weathered, like a tough rastafarian.

They left Holland on a whim after Anders lost his job. Instead of sitting around waiting for something else to come along he decided to go out and look for it, but rather than looking through the job section of the paper, like most people, he headed South, on foot, away from Holland. "Maybe I was just fed up with Holland," he muses, still talking as if it was someone else making the decisions. Magic sits by his side, awaiting instructions. "I think I'll stay when I get to Spain," Anders continues. Does he have friends out there? I ask. "No, not really." So where is he going? "A little town just across the border." Why there though? He shrugs his shoulders and smokes his cigarette. I try and suppress my questioning instinct and settle for looking slightly baffled.

Later, I go over to their tent to let Anders look at my maps but Magic warns me back with his barking and threatening pose. Anders eventually pokes his head out of the tent, looking like he's been disturbed doing something either sordid or illegal. Maybe both. "I'd better come see you later," he tells me, cryptically.

I never do see him later, nor the next morning when I leave. Maybe I will see him again - next time I'm in the area I'll pop into the campsite, see if they're still there. Or maybe Anders will be on the news sometime.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Conversation with a Policeman

(A Police car pulls up in front of me, facing me, and two police-people (a man and a woman) get out and stop me in the road)

(In French)

Policeman: Hello

Percy: Hello

PM: Have you just been riding on that road? (Points to the road behind me, the sliproad of which he's just watched me ride up)

P: Yes.

PM: (Looking stern and astounded) You can't cycle on there!

P: Oh, right. Ok. (Consider looking bothered and apologetic but can't manage it so give him my best Gallic Shrug)

PM: See that sign there? (Points to a big blue sign with a white outline of a car on it)

P: Yes.

PM: That means you can't cycle on it. Cars only.

P: Really? I thought if I wasn't allowed there would be a sign with a bike on it and a big cross through it, or something like that.

PM: No.

P: Oh, ok. (Another Gallic Shrug)

PM: When it is a dual carriageway you aren't allowed on it.

P: Ok. I thought it was just these roads with the white and yellow in them I wasn't allowed on (point at map). I've been following this road since Andorra - I didn't have a choice.

PM: It's dangerous.

P: I know it is! I didn't have another choice - there was only one road.

PM: Well now you can go on the smaller road alongside this one.

P: Yes, that's what I was going to do.

PM: Good. Well, Bon Courage!

P: Bye!