Travels

This will be my last post here for a while. We’re off on our travels again tomorrow, driving through France, visiting friends and relatives as we go, then to Spain to visit our daughter – our usual annual jaunt. Depending on where we are I may be able to pop in from time to time as I will have my laptop with me, but it will be spasmodic as we will be in our motorhome and not always where we can have wifi access. As always our son will be holding the fort at home – what would we do without him? We don’t expect to be back home until early to mid-November so apart from a possible few brief visits I look forward to seeing you again then.

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Onward Journey

Continuing from my last post we moved on through France, stopping first at Chateauroux then at a lovely little village called Sadroc near Brieve-le-Galliarde before moving on to stay for a few days with my cousin Ruth and her husband at Villefrance de Rouergue near Toulouse.

Sadroc

One morning Ruth took me to visit a friend, Heather, for coffee. I have met Heather several times before, she is a lovely lady and very keen on craft work – anything from knitting, crochet, quilting to card-making or whatever else she fancies trying. She lives in a lovely old French farmhouse and has a large room as a well stocked crafting studio which is where we had our coffee.

Heather showed us a crocheted Octopus that she had made and, knowing that I also do crochet, she gave me a copy of the pattern which she had got from a Danish website. The octopus pattern has been designed by a charity as a toy for premature babies, the idea being that it is small enough for them to hold, the tentacles resemble the umbilical cord and they can play with them rather than pulling at any medical tubes they have attached to them. You can send them in for distribution or donate them to a neo-natal unite of your choice.

Heather’s Octo

Now I am back home I am having a go at making one but find I have been struggling with the tentacles! Not surprisingly they are rather fiddly and it is quite hard to keep them even. The first 3 or 4 got undone either in part or fully several times but I think I have smashed it now, though I don’t think they are as neat as Heather’s. Maybe the babies won’t mind!

I have now finally completed the tentacles and will post a photo of my Octo when he is finished. If you are interested in making one you can download the pattern in English and find ideas to vary the pattern with accessories by clicking the link here.

French Trails

Our first stop on our recent tour through France and Spain was with our friends who live just outside the town of Pre-en-Pail, near Alencon, where they run a B & B. They live up a single track lane off the main road between Alencon and St. Malo. A couple of hundred yards up, the lane crossed an old single track railway line, via a level-crossing.

As recently as our last visit in the spring of 2019 the track was still in place though rusty and overgrown, not having seen any trains for years. This time however, after a good eighteen months since we were last there, we noticed that the rails had been removed and the disused route had been turned into a cycling, walking and horse-riding route and only recently opened. Apparently this is part of a new long-distance route from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. It is not yet complete, there is more work to do but we were keen to explore it.

We had bikes with us as we were to do La Pedals de Clip classic cycling event in Spain a few weeks later. For this we had solo bikes with us, but we also had our trusty George Longstaff tandem and this is what we used to to explore the new route. Of course we didn’t have time to ride the whole thing, but we did sample several miles in each direction from where it crosses the lane to our friends’ house.

Hubby looking up the trail towards Mont Saint-Michel
Me on the trail towards Alencon
Should you wish to ride it here is a Km marker showing the route length.

In some places as yet the route crosses the main road which is rather busy but at one place in the Alencon direction an underpass has been built, possibly as a test case for others. The problem with this is that it is goes quite steeply up and down under the road and in wet weather the gravel tends to get washed down into the dip. As we went through and put on the power to get up the other side we came to a sudden standstill as we slammed into the deeply piled gravel! We just about managed not to topple over.

Having said that and, despite the complaints of some locals (according to our friends) this route is a great use of an old railway line. It has also been advantageous to our friends as they have already benefited from several walkers and cyclists visiting their B & B. Maybe another time we will be able to explore a bit more of this new route, though I think the whole distance would be a bit ambitious for us!

Home Again

Just dropped by quickly to let you know that I am home again after gadding about in France and Spain. Very little internet access while I was away has left me with a lot of catching up to do, but hopefully I will be fully back on board again in a day or too -watch this space!

Road Trip

This will be my last visit here for a while. I’m thrilled to say that at long last we have been able to arrange a trip in our motorhome through France, visiting friends and relatives on the way, and then into Spain to visit our daughter – the first time we will have seen her since January 2020. We are leaving tomorrow morning. As always with the motorhome we will not have much opportunity to access the internet and with roaming charges having rocketed since Brexit was finalised we will also be using our mobile phones as little as possible.

Thankfully our youngest son is able to hold the fort at home – what will I do when he finally leaves!

This trip has taken some organising, absolutely everything that is likely to need renewing had to be renewed – passports, driving licences, health insurance cards and, of course we needed to get our Covid passes. At one point we thought it would not all get it done in time but finally it all fell into place (the last documents to arrive were our driving licences about 10 days ago) and it has been a mad rush to get ready to go. While we are in Spain we will also be able to take part in the Pedals de Clip classic cycling event that we have done in the past. It usually takes place in May but was cancelled last year and postponed to late October this year.

We will probably be away until about mid-November but if I get the opportunity to drop by from time-to-time I will do so. I shall look forward to catching up with you all again then.

Travellers Return

I’m back. We have returned from approximately 8 weeks travelling through France and Spain in our motorhome. We have had a mixed bag of weather – snow (yes, snow), rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and I admit, some hot days with sunshine – enough to at least show some slight signs of a suntan (I’m fair skinned and don’t tan easily at the best of times), but generally a lot colder than we are used to when visiting this time of the year.

Family at La Pedals de CLip

Photo from La Pedals de Clip website

I now have an awful lot of catching up to do so I don’t intend to give you chapter and verse of my time away. However one thing we did do is take part once again La Pedals de Clip, a rally for classic road-race bikes, together with our daughter. I have reported on this event in the past (here) so there is no need for me to fully explain it again. Basically it is a fun event that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, very friendly and enjoyable. My husband and I both rode our Henry Burton classic bikes (built locally to our home in the UK) and our daughter rode her James Fothergill which was built in Liverpool. At one point I thought I might not be able to take part, having taken a tumble from my bike a couple of weeks before the event and hurt my elbow rather badly – beware of pedestrians in Spain, they have right of way apparently and do not always look before stepping out to cross the road! (Hubby stopped suddenly to avoid hitting the pedestrian and I crashed into hubby’s bike.) Fortunately the pain had subsided sufficiently by the ride day, although I did ache a bit afterwards!

Always a fairly tough ride, up and hill and down dale with a final 1Km hill climb to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca where the event finishes, this year’s ride was tougher than last time we did it due to an almost continuous strong headwind all the way round. (I gather that last year’s event, which we didn’t do, was worse as the weather was very cold and wet.)

We made one or two interesting observations at the cycling event. First we got the impression that there seemed to be slightly fewer participants than previously – possible due to last year’s weather – but there did seem to be more younger people in evidence, which must bode well for the future of the event. I also got the impression that there was not as many females this time and in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was probably one of the oldest females, if not the oldest, taking part.

Before we went away I challenged myself to write at least one poem a week during the holiday. Usually when on holiday I do very little writing other than keeping a journal so I decided I wanted to make better use of some of my ‘spare time’. Although I didn’t literally  write a poem every week, (some weeks I wrote two and then maybe nothing for the next week) overall I wrote 9 poems plus 2 Elfje, 2 Tanka and 10 Haiku or Senryu and I wrote my usual journal. I have impressed myself – not bad for just under 8 weeks away! Most of the poems do need some further polishing (I didn’t say they were good poems!) but I hope to share the Elfje, Tanka and Haiku/Senryu with you over the coming days, starting here with one about my little accident:

Falling off my bike
the road bites my arm and leg.
My elbow swells up.

 

Travels

I’m off on my travels again this weekend, in our Motorhome and we will be away for a couple of months. As we have often done before we will be travelling through France and into Spain to visit our daughter. We try to go via a different route each time so that we see more of the two countries which is always fun. Our youngest son, who lives at home, will be in charge in our absence.

One of the problems we have when travelling in the Motorhome is unreliable access to the Internet (we tend to stay in small villages rather than large towns with plenty of WiFi Cafes) so this means I will for the most part be off-line until we return in late May and therefore unable to post anything here. If I can I will.

Aware that I rarely, if ever, post any of my what I call my ‘proper’ poems I hope to share some of these with you while I am away, starting with one this coming Monday. All of these are poems that have previously been published elsewhere. I have also challenged myself to write at least one poem a week while we are away – but I will not be sharing these as they will need time to settle and receive several sessions of tweaking! Maybe some other time.

I look forward to seeing you back here again on my return.

There and Back Again

It’s lovely to travel,
(so hot in Spain,
cooler in France)
but yes, it’s lovely
to be home again.

Single File

Caught
in headlights,
single file across
the road – three wild
boar.

_______________________________

On our last day in France during our recent holiday, we were driving at dusk up a road that wound with hairpin bends uphill through woodland when we came to a standstill along with a car coming down the other way as three wild boar trotted across the road. What a surprise – I have never seen wild boar before.

Tandem Touring

Okay, so this is not quite as the title suggests. We have just returned from almost six weeks of touring through France and Spain but I have to admit that we weren’t actually touring on the tandem – we were in our motorhome with the tandem on the back so that we could go off for rides on it at various locations along the way.

Motorhome and tandem

Motorhome with tandem, Valencia, Spain

One of the drawbacks with a motorhome is that you have no alternative transport and if you want to go anywhere you either have to drag the lumbering thing with you, use public transport or take a bike. (Some people actually tow a small car but one of the reasons we swapped our caravan for a motorhome was in order to avoid towing.) So we decided it might be fun to take the tandem.

The first tandem excursion was a couple of days after we had arrived in France on the overnight ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. We had stopped at an Aires in the village of Montville just north of Rouen. The plan was that we would cycle into Rouen and visit the cathedral. Hubby reckoned this would be a round trip of about 12 or maybe 13 miles. In the event it was more like 25 or 26 miles, was extremely hilly, alternately cold then hot then cold and took considerably longer to get to Rouen than we had envisaged, giving us only about an hour in the town before our return trip. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the cathedral but have since learned that there are two in Rouen and I think we went to ‘the wrong one’. Maybe next time!

We then spent a few days with some friends who run a B&B near Alencon before moving on south so it was about four days before we got on the bike again. This time we were at an Aires called La Petite Gare at Uzerche, an old railway station. The track has been removed to create a public amenity and cycle path. It was a lovely gentle and flat ride! It was hot and we were in shorts and t-shirts. This was to be our last ride for a while as we wended our way via a visit of several days with my cousin near Toulouse and a few other overnight stops plus two days at Carcassonne – lovely medieval city, could have done with longer here – until we arrived at our daughter’s some 45 mins drive inland from Tarragona in Catalunia, Spain.

We stayed here for about a week and as we had no intention of driving the motorhome up and down their lumpy, bumpy, rocky, narrow track on a regular basis the tandem was our transport of choice. On it we made trips into the local village and to the nearest town, Mora D’Ebre. I have to say it was colder here than I had expected and we were glad we had packed some warm cycling gear. On one ride we nearly ran over a large snake that was thrashing about in the middle of the road. I wondered if it had been knocked by a tractor that went down the road ahead of us. When we returned down the road a short while later it had gone so can’t have been badly hurt.

Husband and tandem

My husband and tandem,
Peniscola, Spain

Then we discovered that we had six broken spokes in the back wheel! Why the wheel didn’t collapse we will never know. We tried to get some replacement spokes from our daughter’s favourite bike shop but they didn’t have the correct size. It was a few days before we managed to get any and by then we had moved on to a campsite near Peniscola, north of Valencia. We bought ten spokes so we had four spare. A few days later we broke another and this was to be the pattern for the next several days. We bought another six spokes in Oliva, just south of Valencia, when we only had one spare one left. The next day another broke. My husband had not been convinced when we bought it that the tandem had its original wheels and when the chap from the bike shop in Oliva looked at the wheel he said the spokes were not of good enough quality. Now we had replaced all the ‘inside’ spokes in the back wheel with stronger ones and checked their tension. Fortunately we had no further trouble.

Snow over the Mountains

Over the Mountains

The bike next came out in San Sebastian after a horrendous drive over the mountains from Pamplona in the snow! (After two days of almost continuous heavy rain) This is not what we went to Spain for. Once the snow and rain had stopped we had a gloriously sunny day, though cold, and rode the tandem through the town and along the sea front. What a lovely place – though riding a tandem through town with all the roadside furniture and pedestrians drifting around over the cycle track does not make for easy riding. Maybe we would have been better with solo bikes! Every time the pilot slowed down without warning it jolted through my body as I tried to peddle against sudden resistance, being unable to see ahead too well to anticipate!

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Our last tandem ride of the trip was around the old city at La Rochelle, France, again a very interesting place. There had been a marathon earlier in the day and although the event had finished when we got the bike out the place was still heaving and again a tandem was not really the ideal bike for the stop/go conditions. After that it was back to our friends near Alencon before returning to the UK, it was pretty cold and frosty so the bike stayed on the back of the motorhome.

It was great fun to have the tandem with us but in retrospect taking the solo mountain bikes might have been a better idea – easier to get around towns and less likely to break spokes out in the rough countryside.

Now the tandem needs a thorough overhaul – especially the back wheel! Will we use it again over the winter? I don’t know but if we do I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

 

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