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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Bern

It looks like there won't be any photos for a while, cause whilst I did have a quick check  online or otherwise for a cheap camera today, it's a bit of a misnomer here in Switzerland. That's to say nothing for the fact that virtually nothing was open here today being a Sunday.

But I was however able to locate a small electronics store, where I was able to buy a new phone charger, a power bank (I'm regretting not having bought a new phone battery in Malaga, Spain when I had the chance) cause the original battery dies in a very short space of time, particularly when it is being used for navigating around cities, taking photos and having some internet access. 

Reminder to self
Buy a new prepaid card in The Netherlands, cause otherwise the data roaming on your Australian SIM are going to bankrupt you!

I also managed whilst in the electronics store to buy a portable / external hard drive. Why is this important I hear you ask, well it would seem that I did a photographic back up onto my old and dying laptop computer, a couple of days ago. IE: I've still got most of my photos by the looks of things) and as a result all is not lost. Not sure how we'll they copy but its a start and also means I have two sets of photos. One of which I will be able to carry with me everywhere.. 

In answer to your next question - besides shopping (which I hate) and spending way too much time on the computer - I did manage to wander the streets of Bern and take in some of the sights. You'll just have to believe me when I say it's a picture postcard city with so much photographic appeal as to be not funny.

And NO - I won't be taking photos on my phone. The quality is lousy, I'm concerned about battery power / usage and to be quite honest I've always looked down my nose on the hordes who take snaps on the phones of iPads, etc. I can't change tack now.....

Finally in closing, given what's transpired, I'm a little hesitant to say right now as to whether I will or won't return to Bern on any future European adventures. I do suspect however that in a couple of years from now and it'll probably all be water under the bridge.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Photographic Lausanne

Sorry - That's a bit of a lie. I don't have any photos of Lausanne, other than the pictures I have in my memory, cause as I mentioned earlier - my cameras have been stolen.

All I can say is that it was a very picturesque town and what is funny is that as I was taking a few photos of the lake, I was asked in French to take a photo for a few girls.... 

Now I don't know what gave it away but I got the impression and was fairly confident that they were Australians (which they were)! So in typical Aussie fashion I simply pronounced - WTF are you girls trying to ask.... 

They just laughed, and embarrassingly admitted that they were uni students from Sydney and had been arguing amongst themselves as to who was going to ask. It's funny, but I have met / seen more of my fellow countrymen in Switzerland in 3-4 days, as I saw in the last six weeks in France & Spain. I mean, it's not even ski season yet!




During my trip here to Bern, I contemplated (and tried) to visit a railway museum, but unfortunately I couldn't get the car's Tom Tom device to give me directions. It did, however guide me up some very interesting roads. Narrow and with gradients that had to be seen to be believed.... Fortunately I made it up, down and over the mountain without throwing up or putting the car into a ditch. Phew! 

I'm not too sure how I would cope with some of them on the bike, well my road bike at least.... I mean it would be seat of the pants stuff and hopefully I wouldn't repeat my Stelvio incident (though I doubt it cause the roads were a narrower and very slick) so hopefully I'd show a bit of common sense. Then again, I know what I'm like....  

Things unfold around the corner...

This has been a journey comprising in a way of two distinctly different holidays.

  • A Spanish cycling adventure
  • An opportunity to drive through several countries, to get a better impression of what I think of Europe more generally and as an excuse to catch up with friends who live here. In reality I suspect it's how I hoped my 2013 Italian tour would wind up....

Whilst I have only caught up with the one friend - Robert in Barcelona, Spain so far. Someone incidentally, I could have spent more time talking to, as well as doing some cycling on some of his training routes, etc, had time permitted, as it stands at present, I know which of the two holidays has been the easier and in a way more enjoyable.

Particularly after my car was broken into earlier tonight (in a matter of minutes, whilst I checked into a hotel here in Bern, Switzerland) with the resultant loss of my cameras, a good camera lens, my tent, my winter clothes and so on.

Initially devastated, and I am still yet to come to grips with what's occurred, I am at least grateful that I wasn't hurt, that the damage is minimal and that essentially all they have done is pinch "stuff". Just means I may be a tad cold & miserable when I get to Britain (but that just mean's I'll fit in by whinging about the weather) and that I'm unlikely to have excess luggage for my return flight.

I mean sure I would have preferred to send it home through the mail or by courier but what the heck, as I have always said - You don't know what is around the corner - good or bad. You just have to deal with things as they occur and make the best of the situation.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Photographic Annency

Whilst I'm not sure what it is about the place, but I found Annency to be the first town in France where I actually felt "comfortable" and could (in fact wanted to) spend a couple of days. That said and I don't know what it is, maybe it's the mode of travel, maybe it's the length of time I've been on holiday, I really don't know, but all I can say is when it comes to France or Spain I've got a distinct favourite.


That said, I did contemplate the idea of taking the Troll out of the car and doing a lap of the lake. Trouble is that would have meant staying a second night in the hotel, given that whilst it is only a distance of around 50 kilometres around the lake, doing so and then being able to put him back in the car as well as getting changed out of my lycra gear all before check out time for the hotel, would have meant setting out at sparrow fart (and we know how good I am at early morning starts) or doing it in a more relaxed fashion then staying on a second night....



In addition to a favourite out of France & Spain, I've also got a preferred mode of travel and it's cycling, for whilst it may be harder physically and mentally because it requires a bit more planning & research, everything happens at a lot slower pace. 

I mean it's bloody hard work trying to keep everything ticking over in a foreign country on your own, when you don't understand the language or signage and even more so when things are happening at 100 rather than 20 kilometres per hour.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Photographic Grenoble

Driving as I did today, from Grenoble to Annecy was torturous in a way. The weather was great, the scenery was stunning, but there was little to no opportunity for me to pull over and stop to take photos.


Whilst there would have been a bit of climbing involved, there would also have been countless opportunities to stop, enjoy the views, maybe grab a bite to eat and also to take some wonderful photos had I been on my bike.


I was even informed by a colleague - Carroll - of an Australian woman who ran a B&B in the Grenoble area and would so loved to have been able to spend a couple of nights in her establishment.

Climbs such as Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier, Col du Télégraphe would then have been "within reach" particularly had I been able to hire a road bike, cause as much as I love the Troll, he's not really suited to hill climbing as a "sporting" activity.



This is just one of the small French villages that I passed through on my way to Annecy and one of the few opportunities I had to stop and take a couple of photos... Admittedly I may also have stopped to enjoy a quick drink (but not coffee because they can't make it here, in France) and to also grab a bite to eat.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Photographic Avignon

The main reason for my visit to Avignon was the Pont Saint-Bénézet or Pont d'Avignon, which is a medieval bridge spanning the Rhône between Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Avignon built between 1177 and 1185. 

Whilst the original bridge was destroyed forty years later during the Albigensian Crusade when Louis VIII of France laid siege to Avignon but was subsequently rebuilt but unfortunately was very costly to maintain, as the 22 stone arches tended to collapse when the Rhône flooded.



Of course for most, the town of Avignon is better known because of the Palais des Papes, which is where between 1309 and 1377, seven successive popes resided in Avignon. 

The Palais construction began in 1252 and Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when the Gascon Bertrand de Goth, as Pope Clement V, unwilling to face the violent chaos of Rome after his election (1305), moved the Papal Curia to Avignon. 

He lived as a guest in the Dominican monastery at Avignon. His successor Pope John XXII began work on the setting up the magnificent establishment but the reconstruction of the old bishops' palace really began in earnest by Pope Benedict XII (1334–42)





In 1348 Pope Clement VI apparently, bought the town from Joanna I of Naples and papal control subsequently persisted until about 1791, during the about the time of the French Revolution, when the local residents voted to succeed from Papal control to become part of a "new" France.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Photographic Nimes

Whilst I had always proposed to visit, Avignon and Nimes, because I toured through them some twenty years ago and was somewhat blown away by their culture & sights at the time, I thought I would be doing so on the Troll, rather than from the "comfort" of a car. 




The Roman Ampitheatre in Nimes

Whilst they use it for classical musical concerts and so on from time to time, it is also used twice a year for bull fights. Bet you didn't know there were bull fights in France?! Apparently though, it is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) given that the objective of the event, is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull.

Having had lunch and toured the Ampitheatre, I decided to head off towards Avignon. Along the way of course I took the opportunity to visit the Pont du Gard, which is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River and is / was the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts.


As you can see, the bridge has three tiers of arches, but what you might not know is that it stands 48.8 metres high and only descends a mere 2.5 centimetres while the whole aqueduct descends in height by only 12.6 metres over its entire 50 kilometre length, which is pretty impressive if you ask me, given the nature of their technology, etc.

Pont du Gard

Following on from my visit here, I then drove on to Avignon a distance of some 25 odd kilometres, something I only mention, because a lifetime ago, miss understanding a French bus driver telling me the time of the last bus from the Pont du Gard to Avignon, I ended up having to hike it on foot. T'was a long walk that night! 😊 😊

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Express Pass - Perpignan to Nimes

Gee, whilst I'm enjoying the freedom of having temporarily disabled the Troll (by removing the front wheel) and popping him in the boot of a car, I am mindful of the fact that he does to be ridden for a couple of days this week, somewhere here in France, if I'm to maintain my fitness and more importantly stick to my goal of riding 150KM per week.

How & where I do that, I'm a little unsure at the moment, but I'm glad I can be a bit flexible with it, particularly now that I temporarily have a car cause it was cold and wet today.....

I also have to admit, and this will possibly come as a shock to some given the amount of traveling I have done around the globe, but it's the first time that I have actually driven on the "right" side of the road..... I mean I have clocked up thousands of kilometres on a bicycle but I have never done it behind the steering wheel of the car. Just watch out motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and anyone else out on the streets of Europe for the next fortnight or so. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Cycling in Spain

Having left Spain and crossed the border into France, I thought I should publish a bit of a brief summary of my impressions of cycling in Spain.... cause I've got to say - I've enjoyed it!

I mean, from the day I set out from Seville, I can't recall ever once feeling intimidated or threatened on the road by motorists. That is despite probably having held up traffic (momentarily or otherwise) from time to time, because there was no way that they could pass safely as I struggled up hill, because I was trying to find my way through town or whatever....

In point of fact, I'm only ever aware of having been honked (and even then not done in an aggressive fashion) on a couple of occasions, with at least one of them being as a result of my doing something wrong. 

I just wish that Australian motorists were half as considerate.

The other thing that has surprised besides motorist behaviour, is the number of times I have seen some of the locals, on their training rides either individually or in a small group.... Seriously it can & has been in the remotest / weirdest of places...



Sure most of them won't acknowledge or say anything to me, despite my always giving a friendly wave, but that's OK, I suspect that's in part because I'm a 'touring' cyclist, something which seems to be a bit of an enigma here in Spain.

I mean I've only seen a few nutters like myself (mainly between Valencia and Barceona) and perhaps the locals realize / suspect that as a 'tourer', there's likely to be a language barrier...



The other thing which has amazed me is the amount & nature of the bike paths here. They are found in virtually every city / town regardless of its size and what's more, they can run for miles into the countryside... They're generally separated from pedestrian foot traffic and the roads (though not always) frequently by way of bollards, ripple strips or the like. 

Of course they aren't perfect, as they suffer some of the same design flaws as found elsewhere around the world.... They can begin / end abruptly for no apparent reason and aren't always that well signposted. All in all though I've been very impressed.





Friday, 22 September 2017

Photographic Barcelona

I tried last night to purchase tickets online to visit the Sagrada Família today, unsuccessfully! 

So figuring that it was eighteen years since I was last here and have no idea when (or if) I'll be back, I paid a visit to the site today nonetheless. Sure enough, no tickets were being sold, so I'll have to put it down to "next time" and satisfy myself with the photos I could take from the outside. I mean, it doesn't look like they've done that much work since I was last here. 😊 😊




From there I then headed toward La Pedrera, being a private residence designed by Gaudi.

At the time it was built, 1906-1910 it was somewhat controversial because of its undulating stone facade and twisting wrought iron balconies, hence the name La Pedrera which translates to "Open Quarry" in Catalan.

It boasted several structural innovations, for it's time including a self-supporting stone front, columns and floors free of load-bearing walls, an underground garage and sculptural elements on the roof.



There is a fully furnished apartment from the period of time in which La Pedrera was built which was also very interesting.

Following that, I then took a wander down to the Barcelona Cathedral which is a bit more conventional in comparison with the Sagrada Família as far as religious institutions are concerned. 



As I was leaving the Cathedral, I heard classical music coming from a square nearby and found that a large crowd and had developed to dance & listen to an orchestra play. It was a great way to wind up the day, so I found a little cafe, grabbed a Café con leche and just sat and took in the atmosphere....