Buildings

Les Cassieres to Forest-before-Feneu [Part 1]: Saturday 12 August 2017

0643. Tent. In some managed forest in Pays-de-la-Loire, some 30km or so to the West of Le Mans. We thought that would be our destination for the day, and that, it being a large, well-known, glamorous city an’ all, we would stay with a Warmshowers’ host there. We contacted four from the contrived comfort of our hotel room yesterday and the day before, but to no avail thus far. To be honest,  I wasn’t that keen on jutting East just to see a city. Actually, it wasn’t the city so much as the jutting. Now, in the absence of any replies, we’ve decided to continue more directly Southwards, which excites me infinitely more.

1f54f43e-5b43-4d0a-b62f-4eb427411747

From the maps, the terrain looks more varied and interesting – and just heading to a city? why? for the sake of it? just because it’s there? As destinations, cities just don’t hold any appeal right now. Yes, some may have beauty, some may have charm, some may have another aspect that makes them memorable, but most all are just conurbations built to serve a function; they don’t exist just to exist and lack that naïve quality that is maybe so beguiling about other more community-evolved settlements.

But where does, really? Either human or non-human, all developments and evolutions do so interdependently, and serve some function. And some develop this way; and some develop that way. And for some arbitrary subjectivity, this makes that one beautiful; that makes this one charming; the other makes it something else. Like with everything else, everything is what we make it to be: nothing has these qualities inherent in them. Qualities are perceived and invested with meaning by the beholder.

For me, a city’s just a city: bricks, cement, traffic, shops, people. They all have their own atmosphere, sure, and cannot be tarred with the same brush, but most exist to serve function rather than romance – and very few have developed with the bicycle in mind. They have veins of streets to pull the traffic in, out and through. Some do this more effectively than others; and some have managed to do this in a manner that allows a cyclist to meander and enjoy the city in the way that a pedestrian might, but many paths and roads exist just to get you from A to B as efficiently as existing infrastructure allows.

Many can be enjoyed, once you’re there and have planned an optimal route or followed a reliable instinct, but these, to me, for now, on this trip, are incidences of making the best, and taking the positives of everywhere, wherever we go:

    • if they’re pretty much on the way – do we have a way? – we meander through and have a feel.
    • if we need a sizeable enough town a day in order to be able to stock up on supplies for the day.
    • if we are in need of bricked accommodation.

But now we’re touring for real again, with no real aim except to enjoy the present and follow our hearts to who-knows-where-that-may-lead? And as we ride on the wave of beauty and pleasure that carried us through Normandy, Le Mans just seems to jut out that way: not part of the natural rhythm we’re on.

8e18dcf5-3dfa-430f-9eb0-e307cec9605d

So, for all this pointless philosophising, conjecturing or whatever, we’re just going with the flow – our flow! I like that, and we like that. And, as the days progress, the pure simplicity of just riding, eating and riding, then finding a place to pitch our tent, is a joy built more and more on our own requirements.

From time to time, it’s nice to kick back, relax and refresh in a concrete shelter, but mainly we are bicycle tourers, where the most that comes between the winds and us are a couple of layers of nylon canvas, and we lay our heads amidst the sounds of the worlds we inhabit calling to and fro. That’s how we like it, and that’s how we love it. I guess it’s still a gilded cage, but it feels so much larger, with so much unexplored, with so much unknown, that the occasional comfort of familiarity that four walls may provide holds little temptation – at least, for the moment.

So Le Mans seems a pointless diversion 😄

3ac292d3-3e55-4946-b1e5-606c06c8aeff

~~~~~~~~~~

next entry>>

<<previous entry

Impressions

Schoorbakkehoeve to Gravelines: Thursday 20 July 2017

Today we entered France and, boy, had we been spoilt by Belgium!

Ubiquitous cycle lanes and easy riding gave way to:

  • ubiquitous cars speeding past us on a narrow dual-laned highway.
  • a fierce headwind that seemed determined to blow us back to where we came. All day!
  • navigating around, to, through or past, Dunkerque: a puzzle set to ‘Sherlock’ setting; though maybe that’s a wrong metaphor as there appeared no logic on display to unschooled outsiders.
  • the multinational cemetery standing sombre testament to life and the living world we share.
  • the town we went through that didn’t have wi-fi!?!
  • the town with the ominous-sounding name, ‘Gravelines’ – we’re on our way to a funeral! – which, after much cold (dis)functionality, warms the heart with its more quaintly feel of a community evolved naturally rather than conceived to serve an industry.
  • the next day waking up, where I noticed that when I enter another country during the day, I feel a certain sense of displacement or dislocation, but upon waking up there, I’m immediately at home … for a short while only, as in one short ride and a ferry skip across the sea, we’ll be in England – and home.

And what a welcome it was!

E66BD428-DA07-4B4B-8935-A8CC52D1D649

~~~~~~~~~~

next entry>>

<<previous post

Thank You, Czechia

Brno to Těšetice [Part 1]: Tuesday 11 July 2017

0639. In a kitchen listening to and smelling the cleansing scent of a Summer downpour. Think it’s been at it for most of the night. Every time I recall waking, it was to the sound of rain and the distant echo of thunder. If it continues like this for much of the day, which it certainly appears like doing at the moment, it’ll add another dimension to the day’s ride, but nothing too dramatic: the temperatures are still high, so just the same riding gear as usual, with the poncho, the clear lenses in my shades, and sandals instead of my riding boots. Sounds a bit minimal, but one thing I learnt from last Friday’s downpour-day is that it wasn’t so much the getting wet that was the problem, but the staying wet while accumulating more water.

As we speak, it seems like there is a brief let up,
but, as I said,
that doesn’t really change anything in terms of getting off today.

That’s what we’re doing.

The next stage of our journey will hopefully see us in and around Vienna late Thursday afternoon, where we hope to be able to find someone to host us for a couple of nights, to put our feet up for a little longer and be able to enjoy some of this historic city. Have contacted five Warmshowers potentials so far, but, as of yet, have only received two negatives to our enquiries; which is cool, as it’s totally their prerogative which stranger they graciously invite into their homes, isn’t it; and it’s nice they have responded so promptly, so we can already tick them off the list.

It is July though, and Vienna’s not the most anonymous of cities, so one would imagine there are a fair few visitors more than usual.

Still, fingers crossed.

Something will turn up, and we’re going that way, anyway, so one way or another it will get experienced.

So, we approach the time when we’ll be saying a fond farewell to Czechia. This will be our ninth day here – and what a positive experience it’s been! From the beautifully lush, sweeping terrain of Moravia, to the slightly more scorched, Northern Mediterranean feel of the lower lying central regions, it has been an absolute joy, pleasure and privilege to be able to enjoy and be a part of the natural treasures that, to be honest, I wasn’t aware existed on such a Czech-wide scale as they do.

For that reason alone, I’d recommend anyone who has the opportunity, time or inclination taking as prolonged a visit as possible to this part of the world – preferably by bike or on foot, as I’m pretty sure that’s the best way to allow a place to touch all your senses 😉

And the people, too:

  • from the woman on the first night who allowed us space to camp in her lovely garden, and kept offering us extra things as afternoon progressed into evening;
  • to our fantastic Warmshowers’ hosts, Michal and Zuza, who invited us to join them on that wonderful ride through Beskidy;
  • which was then the ride that took us to the community in the mountain forests, who keep them clear by traditional means from their predation by various grasses, to allow the wild orchids that are native there to flourish. Great people, with whom it would have been nice to be able to spend a little more time and support them in what they’re doing. Unfortunately, time and circumstance didn’t allow it to be so at this time;
  • to the guy in the petrol station who acted as an informal Bureau de Change to allow a pair of tired looking cyclists the possibility to be able to get a coffee from a cash-only coffee machine;
  • to Ondrej and Jaroslava , who, despite being in the middle of moving home, with two young children, a son of one and a half – the cheeky Jakub, with the sweet grin that’ll see him get away with murder one day – and a daughter of three months, found time to offer us accommodation in the flat which they’re leaving – all to ourselves!!! – while they slowly settle into the impressive house they now call home; and who also found time to invite us round to said new home for a chill evening of good food, pleasant chat, good beer and a tasty Slivovitz, homemade by Ondrej’s dad 😃

Yes, Czechia, you’ve done yourself proud, and we’ve really enjoyed our time here. As a clearly keen cycling nation – and quite an active nation in general, I feel – the pleasure has also been heightened by the possibility to enjoy our environs on roads, routes, and trails that don’t pose the ominous threats roads and routes in other areas often do.

Of course, we’ve still got the prospect of another day and a half here, so time for something to take the shine off yet, but so far, Czechia – you’re looking good!!!

Today’s goal is Vitonice, some 60km to the South-East of Brno, and about 20km from the border with Austria. The plan is to stop and camp somewhere there overnight, before setting off tomorrow and making our way into our second country via Znojmo. We’ll then continue in a similar South-Westerly direction to Retz, before swinging South-East again to Hollabrunn, where we’ll make camp for another night. From there, it’ll be on towards Vienna on Thursday, and, yes, hopefully a two-night stop-over to enjoy a little of what the city has to offer.

Who knows – after just three days riding rather than the seven that brought us from Bielsko-Biała to Brno, we may even find the energy to go and see that new Spiderman movie this time? 😁

~~~~~~~~~~

next entry>>

<<previous entry