Saturday, June 9, 2012

Part way Home

Hello Folks,

We traveled with our bike group from our hotel in Vaison-la-Romaine by bus to the Avignon TGV Station. Since it was Saturday morning the traffic was pretty light and we made good time getting to the train station. The Avignon TGV station is a pretty easy place to travel to and from, they tell you exactly where the door to your train car is going to be several minutes before it arrives. They you hop on stow your luggage, and enjoy the ride.

Riding the TGV is a lot of fun, it is fast, fast, fast. For the speed they are traveling it is surprisingly smooth, except in the rest rooms which must be in the bumpiest part of the train. Not good considering the purpose why you would go into the rest room in the first place. When you hit even a tiny bump in the tracks at 250 miles per hour, it sounds like someone is trying to open the door with an axe, and then you are pitched back and forth. You need lightning quick reactions and good aim. We arrived in Paris, made a metro connection in the train station, and arrived at our hotel a couple of minutes later.

After doing our checking and getting our boarding passes for our flight home tomorrow, we jumped on the Metro and headed up to the Champs-Elysee. We did a little window shopping, and people watching, bought a little food and had an early supper on one of the prettiest streets in the world.



Expensive Purse
As we were walking back down the street we noticed a crowd gathering and went over to check it out. There was a local film festival, and a few of the actors were out saying “Hi” to the crowd. If we stayed around at the end of movies and read the credits, we could probably tell you who the actors were, but we did recognize Donald Sutherland.

Movie Star Guys
We came back to our hotel to get a little rested up. We turned on the TV for the first time in a couple of weeks and found a rugby match. Since one of the teams is Toulouse (Toulouse vs Toulon), I am sure my good friend Gilbert is watching as well and cheering for he home team. Rugby is kind of like a combination of American Football and team Sumo Wrestling. There is a lot of action because they don't stop playing just because the guy carrying the ball gets tackled, they just pick up the ball and start running with it, toss it to someone else, or kick it. There is a referee, but it seems like a pretty easy job, because it doesn't seem like there are a lot of rules (other than no fistfights). Anyway, Toulouse won – Yeah!

Time to sign off, going to bed a little early tonight, we will have a real long day tomorrow.

A few More Photos at this Picasa Link.

We hope you are all doing well,

Stephen & Linda

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Provence - Riding to our favorites

Hello Folks,

Today we had kind of a do your own ride day, so we combined some pieces of the local bike rides that we particularly enjoyed with some things that we had not had a chance to see.

We started the ride by going to a small town nearby called Entrechaux and exploring it a bit and hiking up to the Castle ruins. One thing you can count on with a castle is that it will be on top of the steepest hill around, and that it will have a great view. Getting in to look around is an altogether different matter.



We then headed out to ride in some canyons with great views and visit a town called Buis-les-Baronnies. Although finding a detailed and accurate history is a little hard, I believe that parts of the marketplace are about 14th or 15th century. There certainly is very interesting architecture in this town.


As we approached Vaison-la-Romaine (the town where we are staying), we came upon a church built high on a narrow peak. The church occupies the entire top. You can easily see the church from anywhere in town, but I think they have a real parking problem.

Where is the parking lot?

Tomorrow (Friday) is our very last riding day, followed by cleaning up and turning in the bikes, packing our bags, and all of the other last day errands. Saturday morning at 8:00 we head for the train station and ride the TGV back to Paris for a night. Sunday we head for the airport and back home.

I am not sure if we will have a chance for another blog entry, or anything interesting to say unless our travel plans don't work out, so this may be the last entry for this trip.

We hope you are all doing well.

More pictures at this Picasa Link

Stephen and Linda

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Provence - Gorges de Nesque

Hello folks,

Our Wednesday ride was one of our longer rides in Provence. We rode to the Gorges de Nesque. France has a few gorges like Nesque that are cut into limestone by ancient rivers. The colors of the rocks change with the layers, kind of like the Grand Canyon in a different color scheme.

No worries about trucks, they won't fit through the hole.

We started off in the mouth of the canyon and rode up for about twenty kilometers. It was a slight uphill, but the scenery kept getting better and better as we rode further into the canyon. The very best views were where the road reached its highest point, which happened to be right around lunch time, so we had a picnic and enjoyed the view.

Not a bad spot for a picnic lunch

Our ride back was a slight downhill for about 20km, but the downhill was enough that we didn't have to pedal much. Unfortunately, there were several more kilometers to go when we got to the bottom of the hill.

This was probably the most scenic of all of our rides so far. We are talking about what ride we want to do tomorrow, there is an outside chance that we could repeat today's ride. We are down to only two riding days left.

Time for bed now. Hope you are all doing well.

There are more pictures at this PicasaLink

Stephen and Linda

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Provence - Mt Ventoux - and Rest Day

Hello Folks,

Yesterday we had a big ride, up a local hill called Mount Ventoux. It was a beautiful climb, with sun almost to the top, but then there was fog and wind for the last 3 kilometers. It was a fairly ambitious climb for us, but it was something we wanted to do since we had seen this mountain several times in the Tour de France. This road was one of the best marked in the entire area. Every kilometer there was a marker telling you how many kilometers it was to the top and what the current grade was. In the beginning it seemed like the markers were going by kind of slow – and they were, but toward the end when there were just a few kilometers to go it was very encouraging. Linda took a picture of every one of them that she saw.

Starting out

11 km to go and getting steeper

When you are riding in Europe, it is kind of cool to be using the metric system for distance, because it sounds like your distances are longer, and it is more impressive. The problem comes in when you are climbing a mountain. Climbing to the top of a hill that is 1909 meters does not sound as hard as climbing to the top of a hill that is 6263 feet – but it is.

That's us at the top!
 At the top it became pretty cold, so we started right down, stopping for hot coffee and cocoa about 4km from the top. It took most of the ride down to completely warm up since you really aren't pedaling that much for the ride down. We were pretty excited about our accomplishment while we were having our lunch at the bottom of the hill and finishing warming up. After we got back to town we cleaned up, went shopping and got a couple of Mount Ventoux “T” shirts, it has a picture of the distance markers that Linda was taking pictures of all of the way up.

Today was our rest day, but as you know Linda is not a big fan of sitting around, relaxing, and watching the world go by. We went to the town market in the morning, and then took a short ride to explore some of the local towns in more detail.

Lunch on our Rest Day

Tomorrow we are tentatively planning to take a longer ride to the south to see the Gorge de Nesque. It should be a real pretty ride.

We hope you are all doing well.

More pictures from today at this PicasaLink, and from yesterday at this other Picasa Link.

Stephen and Linda

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fourth Day of Riding in Provence

Hello Everyone,

Today was our fourth day of riding in Provence, and we did as always have a great time. Today our ride went through a beautiful canyon and back through a second canyon. We could see Mount Ventoux in the distance, waiting for us to try to climb it. We plan to try tomorrow if the weather permits.  We have been having a great time on all of our riding days so far.

Wish our friends could join us for this climb

We did not get as many pictures today because during the ride we had a couple of sprinkles of rain. The rain was not enough to get us all that wet, just a little damp. We did want to keep things like cameras in a plastic bag to keep it from getting damaged.

Near the midpoint of today's ride

After we got home we cleaned up and got dressed and it started raining in earnest. We were pretty glad to be back before the downpour started. There was a some thunder and lightening which is also a bit disconcerting when you are on a bike. During the lightening, Linda was drying her hair and the power went off briefly. She thought that she might have to settle for the frizzy top hairdoo. The power came right back on and she did manage to finish just fine.

We have been having our supper outside, but I suspect that we will have it somewhere else tonight.

The weather is expected to clear up before dawn, so it should not interfere with tomorrows ride.

Hope you are all doing well.

More pictures at this Picasa Link

Stephen and Linda