Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Birthday Post.

Ok today is my birthday a date that will be marked in history in the same sense as the Kenedy assassination, where were you? Anyway I had a celebration of sorts anyway by dropping into a cool local bar for a few nice cool beers with my lil girl.

During my trip back home to Ireland I picked up a whole host of cables and gadgets and odds and ends so finally I am able to drag a few pictures from my trip off my camera phone and post them here. Im a bit limited in what I can show in order to protect my anonymity and because quite a few of them were a bit bland or of poor quality. So here goes.

The first picture is of my equipment, yes its for real this is all I took. Later on ill let yall knowwhat was useful and what was not. And I had a bike of course to but I suppose you guessed that. Picture number two and three are of the tiny little cabin I spent the night in during my crossing to france by boat. It was so small I couldnt get far enough back to take a good photo. I slept surprisingly well probably because of the rocking motion and the hum of the engine not to mention being totally pissed by the time I hit the sack. The second boat pic is the toilet/shower. The cabin would of been great if it hadnt been for the myster bugs hovering around the drain, hundreds of tiny black fly like insects probably living of disgarded human skin cells or something like that?

During my first day on the road I had the luck or you could say the misforture to choose a route that took me over the highest point in Brittany. The radio mast up there is absolutly massive, actually its more of a radio station there is a large structure at the base but there didnt seem to be any cars outside or any activity at all on this remote mountain top so I presume its all automated or something like that. The climb was a nightmare but the view and the descent into Huelgoat were magnificent. I kept saying to myself that this was as hard as it was going to get it ran through my head like a sort of mantra. Little did I know that this would be the longest and highest hill I would have to endure but by no means was it the steepest or the last.

My intended destination on the first day was Carhaix Plonguer but on my way through the forrests of Huelgoat I spotted a sign advertising municipal camping. The gorgeous scenery and my need for fresh water and a chance to cook a hot meal made me follow the signs almost as a reflex, there was no decision made my body just took me where it needed to go.

Day two saw me bypass Carhaix (A bit of a let down as I mentioned in an earlier post) and proceed directly to Pontivy where I spent the night in a pretty cool little campsite beside the canal that the town straddles. Pontivy is quite a cool french town skirting the line between its ancient history and the realities of modern france. If you ever visit be sure to check out a place called Jo's Bar (I think thats what its called). Well its the one with the Murphys sign outside if you wander about the town centre you'll find it. On the outside its a normal enough place on the inside you will find you have just stepped into a Morrocan hashish smoking den.

leave the town with its mornig traffic france. One ride they suggest is this one follow the canal east fromI set off from Pontivy bound for Josselin navigating using the Lonely planet cycling guide to Pontivy, its a 50Km ride on gravel bike paths in various states of repair. But the bumpy ride is easily forgiven when you leave behind the morning traffic for beautiful quiet contry paths.

This was actually the first time I encountered other touring cyclists. Mainly because the north of Brittany (Well the parts I travelled through) has little that would attract this type of holiday maker, the countryside is quite hilly, windy there are very few campsites and the towns appeared to be geared towards the agricultural industry that surrounded them not tourism. Of course the towns I came across were purely those that my funky navigation led me to they were not picked for their advertised attractions and so maybe I missed something in favour of covering ground during the first two days. But day three was what I had come for nice relaxing quiet french contryside.

Josselin was perhaps the highlight of my trip a beautiful ancient town with a great campsite about 3Km down the road. I stopped here for the night had a wonderful meal and a few beers, it was a bit touristy but still held alot of charm. It was the promise of places like this that made my undertake this adventure to begin with. The following day I planned to head for the coast, if I suceeded I would have traversed Brittany in four days by bike. At this stage of the game my knees were in a bad way, i've heard this is a common complaint among touring cyclists primarily due to cycling at too high a gear ratio but as my bike is a stripped down hybrid it only had eight gears so I was stuck for choice my only hope of avoiding another day in excruciating agony would be if there were no hills between Josselin and Vannes. Of course I was wrong, I envisioned the countryside petering out to form a flat coastal plane but instead I found hill after hill. The Lonely planet guide book charted this trek and described it as a 60Km ride with moderate inclines, wel if thats there idea of moderate I'd hate to see terminal but maybe im not as hardcore a cyclist as I thought I was.

The shot to the left is of sunset at my hilltop campsite in Josselin after the sun went down I was invited to partake in the consumption of a bottle of pastis (51) by a pretty new age Dutch couple who were camped just behind my tent. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this drink let me explain it is quite strong typically 40-45% and tastes like a mild version of Absynth. Its called 51 because you are supposed to consume it as 5 parts water 1 part pastis. Its extremely popular in France and strangely refreshing in hot weather with a minty/dry taste. Drinking Pastis generally results in a feeling of greater than normal inebriation.

The picture to the left depicts a view of a valley somewhere between Josselin and Vannes. The road in this neck of the wood was painted with the names of people who I assume to be Tour de France riders, either that or the lack of walls pushes prospective graffiti artists to tag the tarmac as an alternative. These sort of views and scenery often gave me renewed strenght and forced me to push on. It is a shot of a valley and as anyone who is a frequent reader should knowI came to regard the valley as a nice way of saying two hills very close together. To road vermin a valley includes a climb a descent another climb and another descent, how cynical I have become.

Vannes was a wonderful rest stop for me I spent two days there fixing my knees and eating everything that came to hand. This picture was my first view of the ocean. It was at about this stage of the game that I started to feel quite lonely. I had been on the road for about a week I was tired my french sucked and I was sick of sitting on the ground cooking at campsites and waiting to use a shower that I had to turn on again every twenty seconds. The campsites were well equiped but often the trip into town was a bit much on top of a days cycling and a good night sleep was definatly hard to come by with the french teenagers returning from the discos at all hours of the morning.

Above is a shot of the old part of Vannes which is extremely well preserved. After two days in Vannes which included a whole evening lying on the grass drinking wine and watching the crowds come and go in the large but reasonably ruralish campsite I packed my gear and headed south. It was the first time I did not have a destination in mind but I was quite confident now, I knew there were plenty of campsite in or close to all the major towns and so water and a plot would be easy to come by.

On your right you can see a portion of one of my taste campsite feasts. Potatoes fried in olive oil garlic and mixed herbs. I would like to impart a small piece of advice to anyone going on an extended jaunt of camping and traveling. Bring garlic, its small it keeps well its tasty and you can put it on almost everything. Also take an old film canister and fill it with various herbs these two items make a huge difference when your on the road just add them to staples like pasta or potatoes or even on sandwiches, you will find its the small luxuries that make your day. Try to pick up some bread, ham, tuna, salmon and any fruit and veg you can when you pass a convenience store. These things can be bought on a day to day basis as they are heavy and do not keep well in the sun.

After Vannes the scenery changes considerably the further south you go. The terrain is flatter the earth is drier and the roads busier. My map showed an estuary blocking my path so I had to aim for what I hoped would be a bridge that would allow me to cycle across. I had two options one seemed to be at the convergence of several major roads the other closer to the sea between Arzal and Camoel on the D139 looked more my style. It turned out to be a sort of tidal barrier in a lovely bird sanctuary with a large well designed marina that fitted wonderfuly into the landscape. My map also told me that the density of roads and towns was increasing which meant my days of quiet countryside and canals might be at an end. However I struggled on in thirty degree heat against a strong headwing as far as La Baule.

I described La Baule as a sort of Atlantic french riviera, I felt my journey was at an end it was time to go meet my girl. After spending a night and a day in this city in the worst weather I had encountered on my whole trip my mind was made up it was getting the next train to Lyon. So I did, that evening I boarded the overnight train that would take me to my new home in the south of France. My journey had been fantastic my first ever bike trip. It was painful at times exhillarating at others but I learned alot about this sort of adventure enought to better prepare for future trips and hopefully I have helped open peoples eyes to the joy that is seeing the world by bike. Its not easy definatly not as easy as I thought it would be even with just eight days on the road, but I now have a new found respect for those who travel huge distances sometimes around the world on humble and clean wire donkeys. Goodnight my friends I leave you with a picture of the sleeper car in which I travelled the final weary miles to my love, until next time.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Happy Birthday RV!!!

Past midnight here in France, RV has just celebrated his birthday with the opening of a gift from his family I secretly brought over from Dublin last week and one from me...I'll let RV decide if he tells you what THAT was hehe.

Rv got a little emotional but was very surprised I had set my mobile to ring at 12AM. His smile said it all.

Happy 25th Birthday!!!

-RV Girl
Listening to Sufjan Stevens

Sunday Morning

RV is snoring. We had a late night, again. It has only been a few days since we've been back from Dublin.

Believe it or not, we have only had half of the total time since mid-August truly alone together. We treasured our few hours before sunrise in our room the first 2 weeks as it was the only opportunity to be together in privacy. The summer month brought a couple of welcome visitors and we are expecting another end of September. Let's say my flat isn't the largest or the most sound proof but things time has gone by quickly with much fun and great friendship despite our need for couple time.

The funny thing is that it was only this morning that I really felt as if we were "together". I like to bother my fellow sleepers as I have really skewed cycles of sleep and as I jumped on RV, I looked at his peaceful face and realised that it really was true. He lives with me...we are together at last. Living side by side is so easy between us I often have to step back in surprise, even to this day.

RV will be another year older tomorrow too so ofcourse I have something planned. I can't splurge on anything extravagant but I think he will appreciate my little gift...

Poor bike has been totally neglected since August and I think we will have to wait until we find our new home in the next month before RV and I can actually feel as if we aren't in transit. In the meantime, we create little by little. I often wake up to his funny, fantastic DIY creations. We even made this funny sponge insulation for this contraception box I like to use as a change purse. We have so many plans, I cannot wait to get onto that over the winter.

Oh, and the festival was brilliant. Great music and atmosphere. We really pushed our alcohol consumption and also met some great characters. Namely that crazy South African who helped us revive and ridicule (hehe) an 18 year old kid vomiting his guts out from a couple of beers and absinthe! We had a great time! The brief family stuff was fun too. RV really has it good, they are so sweet and it was quite sad to see them off as it was the final goodbye for RV with all the remaining things he packed to come with me. I remember before I would joke each time I had to leave Dublin and ask him to come with me and I usually got the same reply, "I wish I could". This time it was, "OK".

- RV Girl
Listening to Mogwai

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stay Tuned 4 Foto Essay:-)

Ok two weeks have passed and you may have noticed there havent been any posts I feel I should explain. When I arriving in Lyon I was in a pretty poor state, exhausted both physically and mentally. I spent the first few days catching up on world events, sleeping and getting familiar with my girl again before embarking on a week or more of heavy drinking, heavy smoking and what was certainly heavy eating. I topped this off with a three day music festival which I flew back to Ireland for (Didnt see the tent till sunrise every morning and amid thirty thousand people I managed to run into quite a few familiar faces all of whom had heard rumours of my trip, you see I actually didnt tell many of my friends, I had my reasons I hope you understand). This trip also allowed me to pick up my laptop and camera cradle so shortly I will be uploading a couple of blurry quatlity pix.

My next mission is to morph this blog in order to keep it alive but rest assured it will still be cycling themed. I feel I will find plenty of material here in the city I have made my new home. The french are crazy about cycling, Lyon even has a public bike program which I plan to write more about later.