Italy 2018

via Italy 2018

We are in a process of uploading our 2018 Touring Gallery. The journey took us from  Ferrara in Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia to Bulgaria. An incredible experience it was.

Follow the link Italy 2018 if you wish to see the images from our brief yet beautiful Italian journey from Ferrara to Gorizia, before entering Slovenia. Enjoy ✌🏼🚵🏽‍♂️🚵🏽‍♀️

 

Made Up Things

Île de Ré and Back [Part 1]: Sunday 20 August 2017

14:55. Mixed emotions today. Beautiful get up and hop to the coast. Top breakfast again – as the sea discreetly reclaimed the shoreline. Great stretch. Some chat with some local dogs and local folk – and away we went!

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Over the three-kilometre bridge linking mainland France with the Île de Ré. Pure exhilaration. Couldn’t get the smile off my face – don’t know what it is about crossing expanses of water on my bike, but I am usually so full of emotions that I have no idea how to express them.

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And the island that awaited was – beautiful!

Maybe I was always going to flatten out a bit after that – I was still high, but didn’t know it in comparison to the earlier buzz.

And though this clearly isn’t lowest-common-denominator holidaying or breaking, it’s still entertainment-by-numbers: paths to be followed – although many you’re not strictly allowed to (?!), restaurants to be sat at, and donkeys with trousers (?!) to be ridden. Beautiful place, for sure, but devoid of heart, and designed only to part people from their hard-earned on things.

Spontaneity channelled down predictable tourist tunnels.

I can’t see the light!

I can’t see the light!

Even touring round the coast is mapped and therefore a little depressing, as I just feel like I’m on one of those farm trails – rather than one of my own design. For the first time since we set off at the end of June I feel a word rumbling to be used, one that I thought I’d kind of forgotten about: ‘bored.’

I felt bored.

I did find €10 though.

And leave the poor fucking donkeys alone!!!

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Synchronised Rhythm

Corn Field 12k beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer to the Coast around L’Houmeau [Part 2]: Saturday 19 August 2017

12:40. A hyper Utile! More supplies. Near L’Aquillon (I think). Lovely chilled decamp. Am loving this sense of freedom from demands, needs or expectations other than our own; and we’re not really expecting that much; just going with our flows and responding to needs when they occur.

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Yes, we do love it, but it is something that we’ve worked very hard for; and is something that requires constant work. We love it because we more consciously chose to do this than maybe any of the other choices made in our previous lives, but that doesn’t make it easy – though it does (if that makes sense).

We accept the difficulties because we have chosen them as part of our lives – and the benefits and freedoms arising out of living largely to your own rhythms outweigh any of them by a considerable margin; and in relation to our other lives, make them not that difficult at all; although this appears to be the default setting visible to most or many, and an unfathomable lifestyle choice, going by reactions we encounter along the way.

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Though many outside the age of certain lifestyle choices betray a more genuine feeling akin to our own: “Cool!” 😀

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Where some see deserts, some see life thriving in the cracks in between – as it speaks of possibility for us all.

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Synthetic-on-Sea

Corn Field 12k beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer to the Coast around L’Houmeau [Part 1]: Saturday 19 August 2017

6:52. France isn’t all: ‘my-camera-isn’t-good-enough-for-these vistas’, ‘insouciant chic’, and ‘effortless cool’.

As we made our way along the much-longer-than-it-appeared-on-our-mapping-application D747, our in-union-with-our-sense-of-self-within-the-world-around-us was torn asunder, as every crevice of calm was assailed and invaded by the monotone roar of machines belligerently missioning from there to there, regardless and heedless, oblivious and dangerous – to life.

To all life,
That is all.

Cars, cars, and more cars, and trucks, and lorries, and camper-vans, and caravans, and engines, and wheels, rowing and rolling and pushing, racing, bursting great holes through the fabric eternal; no longer eternal, but victim to the cold caprice of disinterested cogs in the wheels that steal anything life.

Finally, we got off the main thoroughfare of coastal dashers to enjoy the paths, lanes and trails running along the dikes threaded through this land once reclaimed from the sea.

Lovely.

Even here, though, sanctuary was shattered by the sound of holiday camps pumping manufactured enthusiasm through inadequate systems, creating that perfect sense of jarring disharmony you feel when something is out of synch with the Living World.

Camps where kids are sent for a fortnight of enforced frivolity and fun-by-numbers, which must be fun for some – but is clearly none for some.

Definitions of ‘fun’ are as varied as those of ‘interesting’, ‘tasty’, ‘quality’, ‘beautiful’, ‘ugly’, ‘sexy’. They’re just words invested with meaning by the speaker, then invested with a slightly different meaning by the beholder.

Other words announce themselves as I reflect upon yesterday.

Plastic.

Synthetic.

Again, two words that hadn’t applied to our French sojourn so far.

We exited the marshland and continued along a lonely lane, tailwinds enthusiastically assisting us along our way.

And,

lost in a breeze

We got lost.

Well, not lost, but off track,

so we had to re-route

Back on the 747.

Caravan parks to the left of me. Caravan parks to the right. No-one allowed in or out. Concentration camps of conformity, where fun is synthesised down to its lowest common denominator and mass-produced on cost-effective scales out of garish materials born not of this Natural World; and born never to return to it either.

Hollow sounds, which ring tragic in the ear, carrying within them the absence of feeling that fills a joyful expression announced of spontaneity and free-wills expressing themselves.

“We are on holiday.
We are here to have fun now.
And fun we shall have. Goddammit.”

And they are everywhere around the Le Tranche area. People farmed out here en masse, deprived of the money they have worked hard for, to spend on this idea they have bought into, which seems to rob most all of their dignity and virtue, as they are subject to bombardment by the slightly off-colour, slightly out-of-tune, not-quite-the-same-tasting world; where individuality is quashed and a human becomes a mob; where frustration is released through enforced hilarity; where cries are released as alcohol numbs; infusing these simulacra of happiness with strains of terror, of anger, frustration and anguish, and a self-consciousness that this is a situation not really born of one’s own desires, but of choices made by another – and not really for your own benefit.

And it saddens me.
And it’s tragic.
And it’s sad.

which is why I’m here, and not over there,
where we all are

Who am I
the judge?

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Pit-Stops

La Roche-sur-Yon to a Corn Field 12k beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer: Friday 18 August 2017

12:20. Another large E.Leclerc in La Roche-sur-Yon, to the South of the city this time, as that’s the direction we’re headed, but it’s still massive! Bit of a ridiculous size for us to do our shopping for the day, but it was exactly on the way, with little inspiring us to deviate – in this weather.

Pissing
it
Down

Temperature’s pleasant enough – 21º – so the bare minimum of layers is possible under the proving-ever-so-useful poncho, which will enable us to dry out more quickly when the rain does cease.

If

Our second point of call today will take us to La Tranche-sur-Mer, and a campsite there to meet a guy, Robert, who’s going to give me a hand with, and a second opinion on, tuning my front derailleur – thanks for putting us in touch, Sue.

I’ve been given a great step-by-step by the ever-supportive Rob from Rob’s Bikecenter, but it’ll be nice to have access to a stand and some more tools should I discover something unexpected.

It’s also a lovely ride to and along the coast there, and doesn’t add any k to our way, in terms of Bordeaux, so why the hell not make contact with another kindly soul?

And, from his last text, I get the impression the weather’s going to pick up.

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Discarded Items #2

La Roche-sur-Yon: Thursday 17 August 2017

Unnecessary items amounting to some considerable weight have been identified and discarded today, and are hopefully finding their way to a relevant charity centre, courtesy of the receptionist at our hotel:

– rain-shoe covers
– watch
– jacket
– t-shirt
– trousers
– long-sleeved top
– diary
– ‘tray’ of magnesium tablets
– shades-case
– rechargeable batteries
– WD40
– recorder cleaner
– skin-repair cream
– running top
– running shorts
– wristbands
– padlock
– tape measure
– shirt
– indigestion tablets
– bite spray

Since the previous item-discarding celebration, the following two items have also been deemed burdens, surplus to requirements, and have fallen by the wayside:

– measuring spoons
– egg box

The streamlining continues: we’ll soon have it down to one slightly soiled sock and a used zip-tie.

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Window Screens

Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret) to La Roche-sur-Yon [Part 3]: Wednesday 16 August 2017

11:30am. Sitting outside a typical E.Leclerc, after a light-and-easy 10k from our beautiful overnight spot beside the Lake/River Le Riot du Plessis. We were both awake and up around 7am, having fallen to sleep accompanied by the haunting-yet-soothing hoots of an owl or three.

No real urgency today. We’ve just got a hotel-check-in at 2pm for our rest-day. On some level, it’s reassuring to know we’ve got everything there waiting, without having to cycle from here to here, dependent on various weather conditions or shopping opportunities for what we eat, or when we eat, or even how. A bed is there, also not susceptible to the caprice of the weather.

And that’s nice. It is. The reliable. The sense it’s always there, almost exactly as you left it – and maybe exactly as you wish. It’s what you can have in day-to-day life, with convenience on your doorstep, if you’re willing to pay the price – of your labour; of your life; of most of your time on this Earth; to consume the fruits of your labour at prices higher than those at which you were paid; to keep a cycle going for those unknowns elsewhere, who we see on our screens, wishing that that was us. And life ticks by as we aspire to live someone else’s dream; a dream at the expense of our own. And the Earth spins on, vastly unknown, viewed through windows presented by others.

Inevitably, we tire, our vigour fades, and our market value declines. We’re put out to pasture – to do as we might, though a little too broken to do what we once could have done. So through those same windows we continue to follow the lives – those lives that we chose not to live.

And that’s nice, if vicarious is all that you need, and virtual is real enough. But as the heart breathes and life warmly flows, I want more than simulacra of being.

As one day turns to next, we all head the same way and leave some light footprints behind, so it doesn’t matter so much – your way or mine – as long as it’s the one that you choose.

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Your Own Voices

La Paulière Field to Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret): Tuesday 15 August 2017

1125. Outside a supermarket on the edge of La Verrie. Have already decamped, rode to a boulangerie, breakfasted, aired, stretched in a park – and are ready to make our (hopefully) chilled way to a forest some ten kilometres shy of the city in which our rest-day hotel dwells.

Despite the overnight light rain and the upon-waking-up shower accompanied by a symphony of ominous clouds which got us up and decamped in 50 minutes yesterday, it was our first day in prolonged proper heat since we left Vienna and began our English odyssey – and I guess I was a little rusty at hydrating properly. I’ve got one of those thirsts today that can never quite be quenched, like when you’ve had one-too-many the previous evening. So, with midday and our serious riding of the day on the horizon, the clouds all broken up and wispy, 25º on the thermometer, the Sun beaming on me, and a sheen of sweat cooling the torso, I’ll have to keep an eye on that today.

1535. La Ferrier: not our destination, but pretty damn close and, personally speaking, also about the limit my body’d like to  go today – particularly my bum.

It’s been, I forget now, thirteen consecutive days on the saddle – and that hotel and that rest-day are looking pretty damn attractive right now.

Don’t get me wrong: loving the ride today, and much prefer camping to the alternatives, but sometimes your body, or something else, has got different priorities and, after only 190 minutes riding and about 47km covered, my body and bum are telling me: “Rest!”

Tonight is another night under canvas. Hope we are able to find a place in that forest we marked as our target for today. Hard to tell exactly what ‘forest’, ‘landuse’ or ‘meadow’ mean on maps.me, but we’ll see, and at some point needs just tell you: “Stop being fussy – and stop! Here’s perfect.”

So we will end up somewhere …
… and it will be just right 😀

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1710. A lake. Human-made or made for human? Don’t care: chilling. On our way to where we are going, passed it. “Shall we stop there and chill out by the water?” Yes. 40-ish minutes of horizontal immobility and eye-shuttage later, and I’m doodling.

We’ve been chilling.

Because all of what we’re doing is so pleasurable and so fulfilling, it may be seen as one long holiday; it isn’t; it’s work; and we also sometimes forget that, lost in our reveries or our silly conversations as move from here to here.

Enforced getting up and out there so early this morning has allowed us this time to just stop; we’ve done the bulk of our riding for the day (hopefully), and just have to get from here to tent-pitch time. That’s a time to chill, too, but it’s more a drifting towards total switch-off and sleep than just doing nothing, which is a significant, and only just now appreciated, difference.

Would be nice to camp here and though, with our experience of France’s nonchalance, tolerance and indulgence so far, I guess it’d be possible, we may feel just a little bit too exposed to foot-traffic at random times to be able to switch off completely for the big sleep … and, er, satisfy certain more solid bodily functions in the morning, though it’d be great to just wake up and be in our breakfast spot already, even though we’ve barely got enough food to see us through to sleep this evening. We only carry just enough to see us through until the next time we are able to restock on fuel and it must be holiday fortnight or whatever in this region at the moment, as most towns are like ghost ones: the roads are pleasantly devoid of serious traffic and an open shop or boulangerie or café is a bonus rather than a taken-for-granted.

It’s nice, again, to see that the French still respect the weekend, still respect general time off rather than selling it all out to the needs of that ‘all important economy’ thing that everyone talks about with such significance, but very few, if any, could actually define. And it doesn’t seem to be doing France any harm – at all! The standard of living is clearly high – and clearly higher than those countries with which I’m familiar that are slave to this economy thing. The quality of life is, well, incomparably higher again; from what I’ve seen, anyway. And they’re trying much more effectively to not let economic progress or development savage too much of their natural surroundings. That’s not to say some isn’t savaged, but not on the don’t-give-a-shit-scale as England or Poland.

And, returning to a theme which I’m feeling and noticing – France is just France: how it is. England always seems to be trying to be something, trying to define itself – why can’t it just be? It’d be happier if it did, and feel so much better, too, than when it’s trying to put on airs and graces, and be like something it’s seen elsewhere. It’s there elsewhere because it evolved elsewhere. You don’t become chic and cool by pretending to be someone else, you do it by throwing away your complexes; by being yourself, but not at the expense of others, of course.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of people being themselves, and I love them for that, but when I see areas, villages, or towns clearly trying to dress themselves up in a way French towns, villages or areas instinctively do, I now know why it always comes across as feeling contrived and somewhat oppressive within my home shores – because it was trying to impose something.

If you want to be influenced by something positive, please do – there can never be too much positivity, but be influenced by the spirit that brought it to be; don’t just copy, in the hope that imitation will bring the same results. It may appear to do so, but it’s heart will be missing – and that is from where life flows.

Of course, I am spending all or most of my time in the best of France, or what France can be – why would I spend my days following roads I found distasteful? – but the fact that such a spirit exists and lives and thrives means there is no reason why this positive should not be ubiquitous, at the expense of the negative; rather than vice versa as so much of our mediated worlds lead us to believe.

Live life. Celebrate life. That is all. It’s easy, it really is, but for some reason we think it’s complicated – and that others enjoying life is to be envied, to maybe fear, and therefore to be curtailed. It isn’t. Just join in, or follow your own heart and passion, and you’ll soon find that other’s lives will bother you less and less as, simultaneously, you become part of a greater world of lives lived. And it’s a beautiful thing, it really is. You only have to do it and not heed those doubting voices with their vested interests – because those voices are not your own.

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Favourable Conditions

Forest-before-Feneu to Le Val Langlais Wood: Sunday 13 August 2017

9:30.

Still decamping. Good sleep.

The importance of good hygiene; of good ‘downstairs-business’ hygiene; of good hygiene in all those cracks and crevices.

We’re on that. Inspecting each other for bugs and bites, like regular chimpanzees.

So, while aesthetically we may not be admitted to the Ritz, we are as clean and go to go as a surgeon’s operating tools (pre-operation); and a damn sight cleaner than many of the gelled, soaped and perfumed purveyors are underneath all those contrived smells.

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Midday.

By the River La Mayenne. Thirty-minute ride to be here, but it was worth it – well worth it. Peaceful river. Fisherman. Family on a little cruise boat. Hikers. Bikepackers. All rested within a little village. And benches – beauuuutiful benches 😃

Draped on Finkel is the fly-sheet, on Einhorn the tent, spread out on the ground are the, ahem, groundsheets, the bike covers are open and hanging on posts, and other things are scattered. I’m optimistic that conditions will dry out our things sufficiently before we continue making our merry way towards Chemille-en-Anjou, some 50km of very-pleasant-looking bike-ride away, passing through the city of Angers, as we make our way South-Westerly tracing the river.

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21:35. Crickets chirrup. A distant dog barks at the rising moon. It’s 21.5º. The sodden evening of yesterday feels so far away. The whole temperate Northern-European-Thing seems to have surrendered to a more Southern vibe, without much in the way of warning. We were told by numerous people that France is a country made up of very distinct countries: you travel x-amount of kilometres in any direction and you enter a different world. “Yeah,” we thought, “we are all sensitive to things like that within our own countries.”

However, Normandy clearly gave way to Pays-de-la-Loire, which, aside from some great looking apples and pears, wasn’t the most endearing part of the pleasure-fest that has been the majority of France so far since re-entering at Dieppe just over a week ago. A ‘week’: not much, in terms of time, but an age in terms of memories and experiences.

Then today, as we entered Avrillé, we felt all Souther European. Followed by exiting the lazily, beautifully situated city of Angers, along the River Loire, to be greeted by vineyards and grapes, and fields and vineyards, and rolling hills and beautiful views, and picturesque towns where families do picturesque things, savouring the pleasures of life, just for the pleasure and nothing more, in a way certain slightly more uptight or self-conscious Northern European countries struggle vainly to imitate. But yes, another country. This is not the grandeur that is Normandy, this is not the drizzly Midlands on a Tuesday afternoon of Pays-de-la-Loire, this is not the new seaside development of Avrillé, this is not the island coastal vibe of Angers. This is the vineyard cliché of France.

Now I see that France does indeed have many distinct aspects to it. Each could be said to be a cliché, but they’re just one part, one fragment of the fascinating, charming patchwork that makes up this country. It offers so much, but in an unfussy way, in its own way, in its own time, in its own place; trying to be nothing other than as it is. Of course, this is the unforced joie de vivre that gives it its grace and charm. It’s not a show, or maybe it is, but it’s all so practised, so rehearsed by now, that it’s second nature, which is nature to the unschooled observer.

I often felt that the problem many people seem to have with the French is that they are not French – and I’m not seeing anything to disprove that. We’re only 430km in, it’s a big country and there’s a whole load that can happen between now and next time to colour my view another shade, but on top of the view I had held previously, of a people prepared to be who they are as a people, rather than bend too far to the voracious caprice of neoliberal globalisation, I now see the France that many have spoken of – so, sorry for being trite, but I’m just being honest – of a nation of people that know how to enjoy life. Well, I hope they do enjoy life, because they sure know how to do pleasure, and their country and well-tended surroundings and environment play their role majorly majorly majorly, too, so it’d be a shame if they didn’t. I know I am – and I know we are.

Just hope I can find someone to have a look at my front derailleur on our rest day in La Roche-sur-Yon cos’ me chain coming off a couple of times soured the joyful flavours somewhat; but again, mainly it’s because of my own limitations at not knowing what to do about it. So, as with certain attitudes towards the French, they and it are based upon an awareness of our own shortcomings rather than anything inherent in the people or, on this occasion, Finkel.

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