Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paris in August

We are loving our time in Paris! We expected that we would, but we did not anticipate that Paris would be fairly affordable even in high season. We have rented an apartment in the 2nd arrondissemont with everything we need and some lovely additions, like a cappuccino maker. Other than our rent, museum and velo lib passes, and groceries we have spent very little here.

The velo bike rental system is amazing. I first became a convert in Toulouse when we studied French there. The bikes make it easy to wiz off to museums and sites and then return home for lunch and a break before heading out on another bike somewhere else in the afternoon. The distances in Paris are ideal for velos; using the metro would actually involve more walking and take more time. Best of all it's August, so all of Paris on vacation and as a result traffic is very light. We were even able to cycle through Place de Concorde with only one near death experience (only kidding mom)!
The velo game can, on occasion, be intense. Eight euros buys you an unlimited number of 30 minutes rides for a week, but sometimes it is a mad dash to find a station to park the bike when the meter is running out. It is not that the bike will suddenly turn into a pumpkin, but additional charges will kick in.

The fact that most Parisians have left the city for the month is a bit strange. In certain districts the town seems empty or sleeping, but the contrast is huge when you reach within a block or two of any of the major sights. Swarms of foreigners queue up for hours to get into the Louvre or the Musee D’Orsay. Thankfully the museum pass allows you to jump to the front and get an even bigger overdose of art. Gord and I are visiting three museums a day and definitely are at the addict level.

We love Paris and now that we have found this perfect home away from home I hope we return many times.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

La Sarraz to Lausanne: The importance of literacy

Our last day on the Via Francigena was a difficult one largely as a result of failing to follow good Swiss instructions. The signage for bike and pedestrian routes is amazing here. For the past two days we have been following bike routes primarily, so it seemed sporting of me to take the pedestrian route for our last day. Apparently the word pedestrian does not include bikes pulling trailers. As a result it was a rough go down to lac Lamond. Gord walked behind me so he could help lift the trailer over roots and rocks as we made our way slowly towards the lake. At the lake we both immediately went for a swim clothes and all!
Once we followed the lake around to Laussane we were sobered by the huge hill we had to climb and push the bike up to get to the center of town. I was confused by the bike sign that seemed to point into a building, but ignored it to concentrate my energy on pushing up the hill. There are moments on long days where according to Gord, I get kind of surly, and this was one of them. If he hadn't finally agreed to a beer stop things might have gotten ugly. With the cooling elixir I was able to push up the final blocks to our hotel.
It turns out, once again, literacy is a golden tool. The sign I had ignored earlier was indicating that bikes could travel up the hill on the funicular .?!!**#!!

Our 960 km trip on Via Francigena has come to an end for this year but it has only convinced us that it's time to take up Italian so we can return and head into the Alps that are waiting for us.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Sainte-Croix to La SarrazDown

Today was almost a pedal free day for me as I lost most of the height of two day's climbing in just 30 minutes. Gord took the more direct gorge route that was stunning. After such a great effort, particularly on my part, it was time for a coffee break. Conveniently we ran into Alessandro and Magdalena, two Italian pilgrims that we have been following for several weeks. We had formulated our on version of their lives based on the traces left in visitor's books and comments from our hosts. It was great to finally meet them in person and hear their version of their own lives. This brings the grand total of pilgrim sightings to: 6!

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pontarlier to Sainte Croix: Switzerland- First Impressions

                                 Gord eating lunch just before the Swiss border- oops wrong photo!

As soon as we crossed into Switzerland the neat as a pin green fields and hills looked like they had been photoshopped into perfection. I was also struck by how flag happy they were until Gordon filled me in that yesterday was their national holiday.
If my first impressions had to be summed up with just one word it would be "clean." I actually saw a city worker in Saint Croix vacuuming the side walk. Yes things are also definitely more expensive here, but we expected that. The organization of markers for walkers, cyclists and even skiers is also outstanding.

We made our final major ascent today and are currently relaxing at the B&B les Replans high above practically everything except mount blanc. My knee was much happier in my support socks even if I was committing a major fashion faux pas.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

To Pontarlier: Red Jersey day!

It is time for an update of the Tour de Valise. Today the tour climbed up into the Jura mountains on the most challenging leg of the race. The leader of the pack, and coincidently also the tail, climbed up the first 12 kms at shocking speeds ranging from between 4.3 to 9km/hour. The wind generated by these sorts of speeds can almost but not quite blow away the local biting flies. Canadian champion Ruth McDonald demonstrated her specialized "side hill gouger" wonky pedaling technique, whereby she mostly climbs with her left leg protecting her ever so tired right knee. A great day on the tour with McDonald earning the red jersey.

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