Geneva to Rome #2
Phil and I are 18 days into our bike tour, and after mile 668 we've finally made it to the Mediterranean Sea! We managed to make good time through southern France following an almost exclusively bike path called ViaRhôna. In addition to getting stronger and faster its been easy to tick off the miles when being a tourist is nearly impossible. As tempting as it is to stop and stroll through the many ancient towns it's cumbersome to drag a fully loaded touring bike around and we're constantly worried about someone stealing our rig. Even though we don't dawdle I've tried to soak in the impossibly old villages; tiny cobbled streets, connected pastel stone houses, the inevitable medieval fountain. There is history everywhere you turn, from the most ostentatious castles to tiny monuments or farmhouses forgotten on the side of the road. Phil and I have been sleeping in a mixture of places. So far we've stayed with four Warm Showers families. Without asking anything from us they've cooked delicious dinners, taken us to a concert, given us the key to their homes and welcomed us into their lives for a couple days. One family took us in even though they have a tiny two month old baby, something I'm not sure most American families would do! In return we've serenaded them with music, done the dishes and made sure to provide plenty of wine. As well as Warm Showers and sanctioned campgrounds we've wild camped twice; once on the banks of The Rhône and the second time in an apple orchard. The first time almost ended in disaster as the height of the water increased drastically overnight when they let the dam out. I woke to the sound of water lapping two feet from the tent just before a passing barge sent waves barreling toward us.
As we've been biking we've also been able to interact with several other travelers. We've met a young Austrian fellow headed to South Africa and a Dutch man on a solar powered bike traveling, eventually, through China. Many of the bike tourists we meet are attempting the most epic travels and they make me feel like our “little” bike tour is for novices. Its been eye-opening to meet people who have decided to cut ties with the rest of the world for up to three years. I try to remember them when I get anxiety about being removed from my day to day life for a mere two months.
While increasing my French language skills, I've also learned a few crucial things about French culture. For instance, if you want coffee at 9am in a small town you go to the nearest bar (where you will inevitably see a few locals drinking wine or beer). My idea of the bustling French café with coffee and pastries in the morning is a myth. If you want Pain Au Chocolate you go to the patisserie, if you want coffee you go the the bar, but rarely do those two shops provide both services. We've also learned to leave at least two hours for lunch when we stop during the day, eating is not a quick affair for the French so we accept the difference and settle in for a meal.
Since my last blog post I can feel my body getting more attuned to biking every day. My legs are stronger and the bruises from my many accidents are starting to heal. I'm still hungry all the time, and we're trying to find foods in supermarkets with the most protien in them (power bars don't exist here). Also, food, and quality food at that, is considerably cheeper in France. I've been amazed at how much we can buy for 20€ even when a bottle of wine is included.
I write this second post at the home of our fourth Warm Showers host. We're going to spend a couple days in Toulon and then take a ferry to Corsica where we'll camp for a couple days. Maybe there I won't hear so much about the presidential race in America, because even here, in France, people are watching.... and believe me they're concerned about the outcome.
Brangues, FR at a Farmer's house who also puts up traveling cyclists!
Rainy day on Euro Velo 17
Phil helping out a couple of cyclists who needed their wheel trued
Out first wild camp on the banks of The Rhone (almost a disaster)
Our Austrian friend, Manfred, who is headed to South Africa
Wild Camp #2