Cycling

Grace vs Universe

I fell off my bike on Wednesday.

Sometimes the universe gets a bit fed up with my current lack of effort in terms of becoming more ert – instead of cycling home, I’d been really lazy and put the bike on the ferry so I just had a 5 minute cycle to the front door.

It was one of those moments where you’re tootling along, all’s well with the world la la la, then all of a sudden life leaps up and slaps you round the face with a wet haddock.

I’m last off the ferry and clamber onto my beloved Avanti to cycle down the long jetty to the shore.  Not paying attention, life veered off into one of those bizarre Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon slo-mo action sequences:

Scene 1:  oops handlebars got a bit close to the rail there whew got away with it nearly had an accident oh crap the pedal’s hit the railing this isn’t going to end well

Scene 2:  oh no this can’t be happening I’m actually going to fall off my bike only 5 year olds fall off their bikes this is so undignified I hope I don’t break my nose again am I going to die this is so embarrassing I hope nobody sees this oh bugger

Scene 3: thud scrape bang – leading lady inelegantly hits the ground sideways in a tangled heap of bike and backpack.

I rush to stand up and see if anyone’s noticed.  Nope.  Quickly put Harry Potter magic dignity cloak back on.

The bike is fine and everything seems to be working ok except for pinkie on left hand which feels numb. OMG NERVE DAMAGE.  And it HURTS.  And there’s BLOOD (a tiny little bit). OWWWWW.

It was, like, a LOT worse on Wednesday…

Once I’ve picked myself up and got back on my bike I feel a bit shaky and teary but tell myself that I’ve had a bit of a fright but I’ve been VERY BRAVE.  I wobble off home to a glass of wine and  an exciting story to tell Neil.

Universe 1, Grace 0.

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Health Kick

Cycled over to Sydney Markets this morning to get this week’s vegetable shopping – this  is what we got for $10:

Incredible – tons of stuff for curries, soups and stir fries.  There’s also a kilo of enormous apples at the back that you can’t see.  With this lot we’ll be making:

1. Leek and onion tart

2.  Vegetable rogan josh

3.  Brussel sprout, nutmeg and bacon soup

4.  Vegetable stir fry

5.  Leek and potato soup

Sydney Markets doesn’t quite provide the French market experience (or even Melbourne’s Victoria Market)  – it has all the charm of a council incinerator facility.

This latest health kick also includes not drinking alcohol while sitting at home attached to the sofa every evening – for the whole of May (gasp).

Results so far:  none.

This is day 13 and I thought I’d feel a bit zingier or something.  But no, life’s just the same – it’s just minus  the little bit of pleasure provided by a couple of glasses of decent plonk in the evening.  Is it worth it?  I’m not sure.  I think that must mean ‘no’.

Continuing with the vegetable theme, here is a picture of Neil’s carrots which he grew in pots on the balcony, alongside a normal carrot from the market.  Can you tell them apart?  No, I couldn’t either.

I suspect that the ones on the left are Neil’s – only because he’s managed to grow them into vaguely rude shapes.  He’s very talented that way.  I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the parsnips.

Parramatta Cycle

A beautiful day so we were up early to cycle to Parramatta for breakfast – 40km round trip.  You can now get most of the way on bike path and don’t have to stop and lug your bike over this pipeline any  more:

Some of the path’s been upgraded to a metal walkway with stop-off points where you can wander through the mangroves to the river and sit and look at the view.

Parramatta actually had some cafes open on a bank holiday (it always seems to be shut when we’re there and we end up at McDonalds).  Full of breakfast we started back.  By the time we got to the bridge at Meadowbank

my sense of humour was beginning to desert me due to the day warming up, general knackered-ness and lack of water (you’d think I’d learn – duh).

Neil pointed out that it’s a long time since I’ve cycled 40km – I hadn’t realised how much fitness I’ve lost.

Next post had better be about anti-sloth plans for 2012 🙂

The Loire – Montargis to Rogny

Just realised that I forgot to put up the post for this part of the journey (day 3).

I’m calling these posts the Loire, when we’re nowhere near it and we’re now on the Canal de Briare.  Well anyway, Rogny’s full name is Rogny les Sept Ecluses (Rogny of the Seven Locks).  It’s a very, very pretty little place.

The locks were built in the reign of Henri Iv in the 1600s and in use until the late 1800s – it’s an amazing piece of engineering.We stayed at the Auberge des 7 Ecluses – arriving when the owners were mid-argument.  The woman didn’t realise we could understand French so was talking about giving us the garage.  And it was literally the garage, slightly modified.  It didn’t matter; we were tired and hot after a long day’s cycling.  The weather had become really warm (into the 30s) and a storm was forecast.  ‘Rubbish’, we thought.

Dinner was a slightly bizarre experience.  The owners were clearly still fighting but trying a ‘pas devant les clients’ approach.  Our request for a table was met in the usual French manner with surprise and annoyance (why?  there was nowhere else to eat in the village).  Service continued in a rather tight-lipped vein with Monsieur clattering the pots in anger in the kitchen and Madame doing the French pouty thing of being really, really annoyed at having customers – especially non-French customers.

I don’t want to be bitchy …. oh, why pass up a good opportunity??  Of ‘traditional build’ – in the Botswanan rather than the Parisian sense, she should not have been wearing such an under-engineered summer dress.   Definately more ‘free-range’ than ‘caged’.   Neil was agog of course, but even he thought it all veered more to the unfortunate than the alluring.   Or at least that’s what he said.

The food was fine – even though we hadn’t come very far, we have tipped into Burgundy so both the wines offered and the menu changed significantly.   Regional means regional.  Intéressant, non?

The Loire – Sully back to Orleans

Today is the last day of cycling.  After 4 days without suspension and in the sit-up-and-beg position, I have a seriously numb bum.   We’re also a bit over it all as well as in ‘why are we doing this?’  The fun has gone out of it.

Last year we did the 250km Canal du Midi – Toulouse to Sète on the Mediterranean – so we had ‘something to cycle to’.  This trip is a circle, so we are only going back to Orleans, with which we were both underwhelmed.

We decided to cycle 20km and then take the train for the rest of the way to Orleans.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a passenger train station – goods only – so we had no choice but to do the last 30km by bike along the banks of the Loire.  This sounds idyllic, but after 5 days, we just wanted it over with.  It was a slog.

A kind Frenchman gave us directions at one point and was quite horrified that we were going to cycle this way – ‘le chemin n’est pas sympa aux vélos’ – the path isn’t great for bikes.  And this was the Loire à Velo trail.  Not amused.

We felt much better after a shower, some soothing kirs and dinner.

Next stop:  Paris for the flight to Bangkok.

The Loire – Rogny to Sully sur Loire

Hmm, cloudy this morning.  Yesterday’s scoffing about a possible storm was perhaps a bit over-confident.  Set off after breakfast (fed up with croissants by now) and decided to take the fastest possible route to Sully just in case it rained – we had minimal waterproofs with us.

There were a few showers on the way, until it really started raining just as we reached a tiny village.  Abandoning the bikes, we shot into the only place open – the bar.  The locals were knocking back kirs and pastis and, judging by the looks of astonishment we got, they don’t get much in the way of passing tourist trade.

Two coffees and hot chocolates later, the rain abated enough to allow us to belt down the road to Sully without getting soaked.

The path came out right at the chateau which was hosting a fete. Dumped the bikes at the hotel and went back to see what was going on, ignoring the light drizzle that had started. The fete turned out to have an Irish hunting theme – no idea why but there were lots of Irish flags, packs of hounds yelping in their cages, pony rides, stalls selling hunting horns, plastic deer (what for?), plastic ducks with wings that moved up and down, hideous woodcarvings, shooting equipment, country clothing, 4×4 cars etc etc.  It was huge.

Unfortunately the drizzle turned into a massive downpour and we got completely soaked.  I spent the evening trying to dry out my only pair of trousers with the hair dryer.

Sometimes there’s not much glamour in cycling.

The Loire – Lorris to Montargis and Fontainebleau

Today was a short cycling day.  Set off from Lorris and got to Montargis by noon. Managed to lose the cycle path, or rather it petered out and turned into knee-high grass.  This was too difficult to trek through, so arrived in Montargis via an unscenic and very busy main road.  The town is very pretty in the centre though.  

Checked into the Ibis and decided to go and spend the afternoon in  Fontainebleau, taking the bikes on the train. 

I used to live in Fontainebleau when I worked at INSEAD.  It’s a pretty French town with a wonderful chateau with massive grounds – great for cycling round.   

The chateau (not where I lived):This is where I lived – 17 rue Grande, literally 100m from the chateau:

My room (a mattress on the floor of  the sitting room) was the small window in the roof – a garret is the correct term.  On the night of the INSEAD ball, my flatmate slid down 4 flights of bannisters in a ballgown because the entire stairwell had just been varnished so we couldn’t get out.  I lowered her handbag down to her on a piece of stringThose were the days.   

At the back of the chateau is a large pond where I’d come on a Sunday afternoon if I was bored witless and had nothing else to do and no money – a fairly common occurrence. 
The entertainment was provided by enormous carp which fought to eat bits of baguette you chucked in the water.  Simple pleasures. 
 
The photo is also the exact spot of my 1989 worst-ever hangover due to (i)  not eating all day – the well-known ‘not eating all day’ diet and (ii) spending the evening drinking Champagne Napoléons (champagne and mandarin liqueur).  Quite a lot of them. 
 
Oh dear. Not recommended as a way to lose weight.  
 
Also in the chateau grounds is the site of my first ever attempt at jogging:   
I must have been nuts.  We cycled round it – I hadn’t realised it was so huge; no wonder I struggled (and gave up). 
 
Went and shared an ice cream in a cafe then back to Montargis on the train. 
 
It was great to go back and see Fontainebleau again.  I’ve been back a couple of times since I left but this was the best visit yet because we were on the bikes.  In the past, we had the car which was no fun at all – it’s very busy and crowded – and of course it’s hard to park.  This way we got to zoom around the town, INSEAD, the chateau and the grounds.
 
An absolutely brilliant day – one of the best yet 🙂  :).