West & Central Europe


Thursday, December 16, 2004

 

The End...

We are now in Vancouver, Passepartout and all. Nothing much of note before our flight... we had a decent ride from Alexandre and Amelie's place to our hotel near the airport along a canal. Except for a bit of confusion once we left the canal, it was a nice ride.

Thank you so much to Alexandre and Amelie for showing us the greatest hospitality for our stay in Paris. I must say we learned quite a bit about life in Paris from them; I for one will have a hard time trying not to emulate a proper French dinner now that I have a bottle of Grand Marnier care of duty free :>

Happy Holidays to everyone!
Brad







A rough guide to our trip... red is cycled distance, blue is by plane, train, or boat.







Our trusty computer lasted through 2 bikes!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

The lights and sights of Paris!

Friday... Well, finding Alexandre and Amelie's place was super easy; they live right on a cycle route from the train station. They live in an older apartment building off of a courtyard, so it is very peaceful. That afternoon we saw the grand Notre Dame and then cruised pass the Louvre where we discovered that Friday evenings are free for <26ers! Great savings over the 8.50euro entrance. So we went and spent hours in the Louvre. It was perfect, no line ups for anything (I think lineups to see the main attractions in the summer are 2hours long). So we looked at the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, saw the very impressive Egyptian art, and BC Mesopotanian and Iranian art. Afterwards, Alexandre and Amelie treated us to a traditional French dinner... not so usual for us with 2 courses, aperitifs, digestifs and the works.

Saturday we cruised around town and saw many sights, including the Arc du Triumph. In the evening, we went to a Christmas food fair on a boat on the Seine. We sampled some of the most amazing wine I have ever tried (50 euro a bottle), chocolates (a first place winner), and Brad tried foie gras (a French xmas must, paté made out of duck livers which is about as expensive as gold). Then we went out for fondu and later on to a bar for the most expensive cocktails I have ever had, but I guess 8 euro is not expensive for a drink in Paris.

Sunday we went out to Versaille (think the most posh movie on Renaissance royalty you can think of and times by 2!) and took a guided tour of the palace. We got a first hand look at the extravagance while getting a very good introduction to French history as well. Then Amelie and Alexandre taught us how to make crêpes, yum (only ours were more like modern art than crêpes).

Monday we hiked the Tour Eiffel and had one last cruise of the city. Today we cycle out to a hotel near the airport, then we will spend the afternoon trying to get bike boxes and box our bike! Tomorrow we will be on the plane home!

A demain,
Emillie






A shortcut to Paris.







Food in the Louvre!







A shot of the ceiling inside the VERY popular Notre Dame cathedral.







Us and our hosts wandering in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

 

Tours, castles and cold

Well, we really like Tours! For 3 euro, we got an all you can see museum pass. We have been to see: the history of wine, fine arts, contemporary arts (the whole museum was taken up by two rather large exhibits. For one of them the artist tried to write out all the numbers from 1 to infinity. He had a self portrait of before and after and he'd aged quite a bit.), natural history, and the craftmens guild.

We had a lovely cycle out along the west Loire Valley and cruised the gardens Villandry, and enjoyed the tapastries in Langeais. The second day we tried to cycle along the Cher river, and froze, so we had to stop for some warming up in a local pub, and returned home without having reached our goal. That was it for our cycling time. It's just too darn cold! By the way we have covered 7830.9km in point to point cycling distance. (Doesn't include cruising around cities, however, we barely spent anytime on the bike once reaching our destinations).

Next we're off to Paris! We are lucky to have been invited to spend the weekend with some actual Parisians! Ahhh la vie est belle!

A bientot!
Emillie






The way to Tours.







The kitchen gardens in Villandry.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

 

Tours

Tours is very nice. We're even gonna stay a bunch of extra days! Yup, we think change of plans are in effect... we'll double check tomorrow at the train station, but we have almost decided that we'll hang out in Tours and the Loire Valley for 4 days instead of enduring temperatures hovering above freezing. We figure that cycling through the suburbs of Paris is not as interesting than a few well-timed day trips up and down the Loire Valley to check out the local Chateaus!

Since Angouleme, we had 4 days of ok cycling, and only 1 of ok weather (from Angouleme to Civray). It's unfortunate, but as soon as we get a bit damp, the day is not so fun anymore, and we're forced to duck into the first bit of shelter we can find in a city. Lately, this has taken shape in the Formule 1 hotels that are scattered throughout all of France. These are great for us when there are no hostels, cause they charge less than 25 Euro a night for two people! But not too entertaining, since they tend to be in the box-store area of a city, thus not easy for us to cruise the old towns, etc. Oh yeah, and hostels (when they exist) would be great of course, since they are usually central, but they don't usually open in France until 5 or 6pm!

For those of you charting our journey, we spent the night after Portiers in Chatellerault (Descartes home).

A bientot,
Brad






Pitstop.







The old town in Tours, saved from demolition in the 50's.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

 

Poitiers

It's starting to get a bit chillier... but we're almost there! After Bordeaux, we starting turning North; Bordeaux to Chalais to Angouleme to Civray to Poitiers. The landscape in this area is 'tres' cool, and we can tell why it's so popular with the cycle tourists (who usually tend to be here NOT in December... so far we see only 1 or 2 cycle racers a day). Our plan is now to be in Tours be the weekend, spend a day relaxing, then a last 4 days into Paris!

A bientot!
Brad






Through the Tarn and Garonne into Bordeaux.







The imposing cathedral in Angouleme.







A colorful church in the small town of Civray... Emillie was getting decorating tips.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

 

Through the vineyards

We left Carcassone on a sunny Monday morning and cycled down the Mer to Mer canal valley towards Toulouse. However, we decided to skip the urban life and headed for the hills winding up in the very sleepy town of Revel. The next four days were spent freezing our butts off in dense fog packed valleys. The temperatures were not so bad, between 5-12° C; however, the thick fog was that damp seeping cold. The view was also a bit boring, as we could only see 100-500m around us. Don't worry though, the traffic saw us; we have a great light system!

Those nights were spent in:
Gaillac, Montauban, Agen, and Marmande. Agen was by far our favorite, with a young and fun atmosphere.

The following day we set out for Bordeaux and managed to escape the fog into a beautiful sunny day (I think it coincided with leaving the hills and valleys). So now we are spending a day off in Bordeaux! As a sunday it is pretty boring, however we did get free entrance into the musée du Beau Arts, and cruised a xmas craft fair. They were selling xmas trees for enormous prices. Sixty euro for a 6' tree! Most of them were 2' at 13 euro.

For now we have decided to keep cycling towards Paris (ahh the adventurous spirit); however if the weather sucks we may end up training.

A bientot!
Emillie






The centre-square fountain in Gaillac.







On the road bordering the Midi Canal towards Bordeaux.







Chilling at the Xmas market boulevard with Pablo the donkey.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

 

Pays Cathare

We left Barcelona on time after our last blog... we were having doubts, what with the urban tales of never leaving Barcelona if you drink from a certain fountain and all. We even managed to find a relatively different route for most of the way to the French border. But we again stayed a night in Girona ( they recognized us still!) then the next night we were just across the border in La Boulou.

The next day, we wanted to avoid Perpignan (no hostel, and we thoroughly investigated that town last Sunday we were there) so we went inland through the mountains as a 'shortcut'. Except the maps failed to make note of the nickname of the area... the 'home of the valley of the winds'. The first part of the day was gorgeous, but as soon as we started over a ridge into the valley, it hit us hard. We got stuck in a village called Estegel. We tried to continue up the valley, but the 70\80 km\h winds struck us still. The next morning, we got up early early and tried to beat the winds, which were at a paltry 30\40 km\h. But the views were amazing. The valley has castles in the peaks all the way to the pass. Very impressive. After crossing the mountain pass we descended into a very narrow river gorge. The view was absolutely astounding. The descent was quite fast so, we even managed to catch up to our original schedule and arrived in Carcassone last night. We stay here a full day to check out the huge and well preserved (and touristy) old town. The castle walls, turrets, etc. are all in perfect condition, so we're off to be touristy!!

Aurevoir,
Brad






Provence and the Carmague, then into Spain... and back up to the Midi Pyranees after Barcelona.







Sculpture by Dali in Figures.







On the road through the Midi-Pyranees (we're tough, we're on the Tour de France!).







Carcassone, definitely a must for castle enthusiasts. Oh, and our hostel was located in the centre of the castle walls.

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