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Vagamonde: Chasing Euphoria and Getting Hit by Reality
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Exit from France (and Schengen)

It was August 17. We had a little less than a week to exit the Schengen region before the 90-day allowable stay would be up. But we were advised not to head into certain countries in the eastwardly direction without being vaccinated against rabies and tick-borne encephalitis. That led to the decision to cycle in England and Scotland, both outside of Schengen. We could have the chance to meet up with friends and relatives and to get our vaccinations up-to-date at the same time. Before exiting Schengen, we wanted to spend a few days cycling in France. This is how we did it.

First, we cycled from Le Fau to the train station in Grenoble: 40 kilometres in total, and most of it downhill! Benoit's father, Patrick, took the photo below of us with Louise, as we were ready to start pedalling on that bright, clear morning:

We decided to cycle around the Bourgogne region of France for a few days. It seemed the perfect place to explore by bike, with its recently developed network of bicycle paths through vineyards and along canals. From Grenoble, we took a train to the town of Mâcon. That would be our starting point in Bourgogne. In Mâcon, we stayed the night at the house of another Patrick: this one we found through the couchsurfing network of hosts. He welcomed us with a spread of food and as much conversation as we could squeeze in before having to go to sleep. Benoit posed with Patrick in front of his gorgeous old mansion of a house (note the ripe tomatoes adding a splash of colour next to the steps):

The map below shows the route we took along La Voie Verte from Mâcon to Chagny. It would take us through a 1.6 kilometre bat tunnel, alongside the medieval castle at Berzé, past the monk-run community of Taizé (we got permission to stay the night!), and through the village of Buxy with its free wine tasting at the local cellars. Only a few sips of wines to taste, however: alcohol and the hot sun are not a good mix when cycling!

On the approach to Chagny, the bicycle path followed a canal. There we saw many river barges, that were like elongated house boats. In french, it is une péniche:

From Chagny, the bicycle path wound its way through rows of vines, the route climbing up somewhat steep hills into tiny villages and then back again through the vines. In the town of Beaulne, we stopped to visit the historic downtown and to peak at the multi-coloured rooftop of Les Hospices. Our bicycles propped against a wall, we sipped a cold drink to refresh us from the hot sun. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some people staring our way. Another look and I realized that it was Patrick, Nathalie and Louise: Benoit's family that we had just been staying with a few days before. What a delightful unexpected encounter. Of course, a family photo was in order:

Onward from Beaulne, we continued to pedal in the blazing sun through more vineyards, finally coming to the region of Gevrey-Chambertin, famous for its very fine wine. It was there that we met Keith and Sue, members of warmshowers, a network of hosts for cyclists, who gave us a place to stay for the night. They stuffed us with fine food and wine as we sat at their beautiful mosaic table (that they designed and crafted). In the photo, Keith is suited up in cycling gear, ready to accompany us by bicycle to the train station in Dijon:

We were worried about making it to the station in time. We had a series of train connections to get us to the port town of Calais by that evening: a TGV (train à grand vitesse) from Dijon to Paris, then another TGV from Paris to Hazebrouck, and finally, a local train from Hazebrouck to Calais. From Calais (France), we would catch the ferry across the English Channel to Dover (England). The train ride to Calais was uneventful, except for the section from Dijon to Paris. We had paid 10 euros extra for each bicycle to reserve a spot for them on the train. As you can see in the photo below, the bike hooks were taken by other bicycles (we suspect they hadn't paid for them!) and luggage was crammed in every available spot. We had no choice but to cram our bikes on top of the lot. Clearly, Benoit was not impressed.

So that you know this part of the story has a happy ending, the train from Paris wasn't overbooked and we had plenty of room to hang our bicycles for the ride. This is how it should be always:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Next up: England and Scotland

Our 90 days in the Schengen region are soon at an end. Next week, we will start making our way out of France, a bit by bicycle and the rest by train and ferry. We were reorganizing our equipment, when curiosity got the better of Bidet the cat:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A walk through of our equipment

Voir plus bas pour le français.

We know that many of you are following us closely. So, we want to share with you as much as possible. We thought it might be fun for you to get a bit of a walk through of our equipment should you get inspired to go on a long trip. Some things have been omitted to keep the videos at a reasonable length. Our clothes in particular are causing a bit of a problem. Going on such a long trip means that you have to carry clothes for different types of weather. Weather that you might not encounter for a long time. So, that means extra weight. I guess it is possible to buy things along the way but I've found that it's a real source of frustration trying to find equipment in foreign places. I guess we'll carry too much stuff once again. Not sure how much use our -10C sleep bags are going to be crossing deserts at 40 degrees C. But we might be happy to have them in Scotland in October. Get the idea? Please feel free to make suggestions.

(Michèle comments: We don't have much in the way of clothing with us. Enough for a change or two out of sweaty and stinky cycling clothes, and enough to layer against the cold. Concerned about how few clothes we have, a friend asked me, "Et si le Prince vous invite?". Um, well, for such an invition, we'd have nothing appropriate to wear.)

Benoît describing bicycle.

Michèle describing the part of the equipment that she carries.

Benoît describing the other part of the equipment.

Nous savons que pas mal d'entre vous suit notre blog régulièrement. Donc, nous voulons partager avec vous le plus possible. Il nous est venu à l'idée qu'il serait intéressant de vous montrer notre équipement. Certaines choses ont été exclues pour que les vidéos ne soient pas trop longs. Les vêtements, par exemples, nous causent un petit problème. Étant sur un voyage de cette magnitude, il est difficile réduire la quantité de vêtements. Nos sacs de couchage seront inutiles quand on traversera un dessert à 40 dégrés mais on sera bien content de les avoir en octobre en Écosse. Nous allons donc être encore une fois très chargés. Vous êtes le bienvenu de nous donner des suggestions.

Description de vélo.

Équipement de Michèle et Benoît.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Riding our bicycles in Haute Provence

Benoît writes: We cycled from Veynes to Volonne. A total of 70 km (see graph below). Just a quick note on the traffic we encountered. I was surprised to see that drivers are more aware then I had imagined. It is no longer the insane driving that you got in the seventies and eighties. I guess Sarkozy is good for something. People behind the wheel are used to driving in small, narrow roads and are used to cyclists.

We took our bicycles on a TER train (www.ter-sncf.com) to the town of Veyne. TER train cars with a bicycle logo on the side can take two bicycles and there is no extra charge. As you can see in the photo below, the bikes hang on these nifty hooks:

Michèle writes: Here is an elevation map that I made of the route we cycled from Veynes to Volonne. If anyone is interested, Volonne is 10 kilometres south of Sisteron, which was on the 2010 Tour de France circuit. I found a route from Veynes using the Via Michelin site (www.viamichelin.com) and selecting "cycle" to find secondary roads appropriate for bicycling. I used the veloroutes.org website to make the elevation map (measurements in metres). You can also see the full route by going to the link veloroutes.org/r/56833

It was a fabulous ride through the french countryside. Here is one of the views:

To see more photos ... France 2010 Photos

Michèle's blog: Iceland (Parts 2 and 3)

Here are the rest of the notes (in PDF format) that I kept in my little yellow bicycle log book as we bicycled through Iceland in May and June 2010.

IcelandBlogPart2.pdf (Part 2, 108 Kb, 4 pages)

IcelandBlogPart3.pdf (Part 3, 136 Kb, 6 pages)