A Wonderful Group + Full Days

Although this blog is about travel by bicycle, in a sense, it is about meeting new people, visiting new places, and trying to balance actual experience with recorded thoughts and observations.

Since I do not have a film crew, and – since my companions (especially my wife, Joy), are so delightful, it has been hard to find time and coherence for a bit of blogging.

Friday (29th of May) – Logistics / Travel day

A reasonable start for a day of non-bike travel to prepare for bike travel… Pack, check out, and – finally – go.

Go – in the sense of walk to Châtelet – Les Halles – the connecting point for the RER train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Nothing is easy the first time. Or, even if retracing backwards steps from a week ago. But, no problem. And, the Bank of America credit card (chip and signature, but without the pin) works in the ticket machine! </whew>

Of course, as happens in some subway lines, the track forks: This train to This end point; the Other train to the Other end point. Therefore, exit train at first station; wait for next train to good ol’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. Easy.

Shuttle to hotel (1st of 3!) Novotels. Correct one. </whew> pause and breathe…

Back to Charles de Gaulle Airport for bikes.   pause and eat lunch… Shuttle again to correct Novotel hotel with two 70-pound bike boxes. Great fun transporting bike boxes on an airport shuttle bus.

Most of an entire day to move all belongings to a hotel a few miles away.

Isn’t Bike Travel fun?

Just as “Southern American English” has extra verb tenses (Present Preparatory: “fixin’ to do that next week…” And, Future Indefinite: “might could get to that real soon…”) – travel has special time sequences.

We have a moment to appreciate a 4 Star Hotel – and, attend a meeting in the lobby at 6:30 to do a first food event with ½ of the bike group.

food: Joy and Murph

Late, of course, with animated conversations about world politics ($ + power + alliances + resources…) and realpolitik. Anecdotes of BAC trips to Vietnam, Australia & China!

We should have an extraordinary number of fascinating insights as the trip unfolds.   And, since we are in the environs of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, a real remnant of the Concorde fleet mounted on a pedestal, and a much smaller modern art sculpture of the plane (stone & metal with hints of the shape of a pterodactyl). This is the land of pervasive aesthetics…

Concorde

{photo of Concorde}

Saturday (30 May) – Logistics / assembly day +

We have a reasonable start from the posh Novotel… Pack, check out, go on bus with all stuff.

3+ hours to by bus to Tours. There we assemble our bikes! Rather than repeat comments about how to move a bicycle across the Atlantic ocean as if it were mere baggage, I suggest a visit to an earlier post: Leaving for Europe – May 2012.

Chateau brochure

Dinner with gang… lovely Chateau, I guess! But, if you read the May 2012 post, you may realize that trying to assemble two bicycles in a patch of grass in a courtyard as the sun sinks behind the trees, takes 110% of one’s energy. Not much left to admire a lovely view.

with bike parts

Sunday (31th) – 1st ride day

A reasonable start… a 40 km ride to Azay-le-Rideau.

In Paris, museums are obligatory; on the road, stops at Chateaux are quite natural. so, a stop at a classic chateau; Villandry. Exquisite gardens, extraordinary beauty.

Villandry

gardens

joy murph

waterfall

Lunch on the road, with conversations & enthusiasm.

dining hall

(No, not real lunch area – a dining hall within Villandry.)

We wander Azay-le-Rideau for another chateau… in renovation state. Oh, well. Some of us are still vibrating from Villandry.

Dinner: delightful resonant connections with fellow travelers. Some greater compatibility than previous trips. More mellow? More aware of the good fortune of people to see the world from 2 wheels with rapport with others? I’m not sure – but at moments like this, travel seems a blessing.

This might have been posted earlier, bad Internet connections can happen even in lovely hotels. And, even blessed travel can create exhaustion.

murph on bed

Monday (1st of June) – 2nd ride day

Another reasonable start… a 36 km ride to Chinon.

Unfortunately, enough time for an early check of email: Secretary of State John Kerry Cuts Europe Trip Short After Bike Crash (in France!).

Better weather – no rain..   Easy distance.

Therefore stop for coffee (almost everyone, at the logical coffee shop on the road!).

IMG_1345

Remember, this is the Loire Valley…

boats on river

And, time for a leisurely stop for lunch.

Easy navigation with Harold and Judy (helps to be doing this tour for the second time).

Lovely hotel (Hotel Diderot) with exquisite charm for 2 nights.   Loop ride(s) tomorrow.

Tuesday (2nd) – 1st non-ride day

A slow start… The specialty of the Hotel Diderot is home-made jams & jellies. Guess what breakfast is like?

Since we have two days in this hotel, rather than get back on the bikes, a bit of laundry in the sink. One could discuss at length the logistics of a bike ride where there is a new hotel (almost) each night. And, days are quite full… And, sweaty bike clothes eventually ripen…

So, rather than loop rides, we opt for a gentle walk to the center of Chinon. A free ride in the town elevator up the cliff to the Fortress of Chinon.

And, an increasing appreciation for both François Rabelais and Joan of Arc, the patron saints of Chinon.

Joan of Arc

A stop at the Wine Museum of Chinon. (Did we mention that we are starting to make wine in Decatur, GA? Wine Workshop) The museum turns out to be the Animated Wine Museum. Imagine a Walt Disney of Chinon with not much money, but great enthusiasm for the history of wine in the Loire Valley… Animated figures in the sub-basement of a charming restaurant / bakery.

Murph at wine museum

Complemented by an audio track with endorsements by François Rabelais. Very weird; very entertaining (especially after the complimentary wine and a few detached comments at lunch.)

wine animation

Back to rest feet before the formal, narrated walking tour of Chinon. And, wine tasting. And, overwhelming dinner.

As Lance Armstrong said: “It’s not about the bike.” For BAC folk, life off the bike is OK.

Wednesday (3rd) – 3rd ride day

One challenge of travel is health. How to stay healthy in a world with new environments and frequent stress? How to get adequate sleep, food, serenity, and enjoy only moderate amounts of superb local wine…

Especially within a group of fellow travelers whose health deteriorates.

Two of the 24 members in the group were coughing on day 1. Hmmmmm. One of those recovered quickly; the other seems to have contracted some variant of the plague.

Now several of us are ill, and were it not for a rental cars for non-bike travel, this group would seem less like a victorious Tour de France team – rather, the rag-tag army of Napoleon returning from inglorious defeat in Russia.

Samur window

I managed the short 37 km to Saumur (including the 15% descent into town), and was delighted to rest in an extraordinarily beautiful room with a view of the local Chateau from the window. And, to discover, down a short flight of steps, the most anatomically correct bathtub in the world.

bathtub

Thursday (June 4) – 4th ride day

Despite my variant of the plague, I managed the short ride (33 km) from Saumur to Brissac-Quince. Hooray. No longer cold in the morning; no longer slight moments of rain. Now the reverse: bright skies and hot afternoon temperatures – 88 degrees.

We arrive before the heat of the day – and, after lovely rolling hills of well-tended agriculture and horse farms. (We did not see the Cadre Noir of Saumur – the French National Riding School – but the local horses in the fields are gorgeous!)

Another superb bit of navigation by Harold, one of our fellow riders. Illness is not so bad without the worry of getting lost.

And, almost time to post a blog entry. However, to use the sort of politically incorrect humor that results from frustration, finding “free time” on an organized bike tour and a solid internet connection at the same moment, makes the task of a blind pig finding a truffle seem easy.

Dordogne_3

{courtesy: http://deliciousconnections.com/truffles-foie-gras-dordogne/ }

(In the U.S., the pig is often in search of an acorn, but we are now in France.)

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