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It was nice to be hiking again, after months in the saddle. Could it be as long ago as california that my legs had been able to stretch?

We were orbiting chevalier-blanc for the next few days and pannier free, the freedom of unburdened daytrips felt good.

Our little hike up the tiny mountain nearby was a familiar landscape, there was similar looking rocky outcrops in Boulder, Yosemite  and around Victoria. It made me realise that a lot of the world is mirrored, just with different dressing. Replace pine with eucalypts gripping the sandy soil, holly with acacia and well we don’t need to do anything about the blackberry and this could be home. The terracotta rooftops and olive and apple groves are man’s initiative.

It was nice to wander at my leisure, able to slow down to the speed of an insect tracking their progress from flower to flower. The cicadas were out in force reminding us it was another hot day.

As I rode and dylan ran home a roofer cheered us on, last night the work crew had lined the road and clapped Dylan on his evening run.

We visited cavaillon that afternoon and found that the industry surrounding it had left its mark, the old town was a shadow, but the dramatic backdrop of the mountain remained. There were some strange homeless types drifting around, one man kept hovering around a fruit display retreating to a corner hovering picking a fruit up putting it back, returning to his corner. We did have the best pain au chocolat and almandes in France there though, crunch and good quality chocolate.

Back at the house the Swiss guests were happily sharing melon by the pool. It was nice to speak to them in English, our brains could be lazy. Their dog played a game of fetch that involved finding a small stick and biting it in half every time she brought it to you until it was no more than a matchstick and lost amongst all the other twigs in the lawn. A bumble bee flew overhead completely laden with pollen, so strange it can fly, like a yellow powder puff. Tomorrow we will be on the hunt for some fields of lavender.


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cheval-blanc

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Sometimes all it takes is a cool glass of peach ice tea to make things alright.

After a day in the saddle with headwinds, trucks and some wrong turns we thought our accommodation might not exist. Google had lead us to, well nothing, the house numbers stopped at 187 and then jumped to 83, we wanted 87.   Our minds flew to the worst, could it be a scam? Not that it would be a very lucrative one, the accommodation was luxury for us (there was a pool and a garden), but probably very standard for anyone else.

We had sped through the countryside of van Gough, glimpsing arles and st-Remy which were separated by a small mountain range that I had not expected to see looming from the olive groves. The top was scattered with Roman ruins as a salve to exhausted travellers. St-Remy seemed to be ‘the’ destination for American tourists, their bellies propping up their massive camera lenses, ordering with flowery phrases like “tall glasses of icy water” which caused much confusion for their french waiters.

When their was shade it was long avenues of plane trees. If there had been a shoulder it would have been perfect, but as those who are well acquainted will know, they like to crack the road like cream brulee and up and down we went like horses at a trot.

After getting lost in the cavaillon zone industrielle and then arriving at nowhere, we were saved by the lady at the tourist office who rang our host and orientated us. “ride to the crossed out cheval-blanc sign, 20m gauche down a little lane and their it is at the rusty gate. There were two rusty gates, but in the end we were ushered in by our lovely host to the relief of shade, peach cordial and a swim in the pool. Ah rejuvenation.


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always running late

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I think I saw a group of clowns being arrested, or at least getting a serious telling off by the gendarmes. They were standing heads down with their dreadlocks sympathetically limp a puddle of bubblywater nearby with two policemen gesturing their disapproval with their fingers. When we rode by again they were gone and an African man playing an instrument out of a Tim Burton dream was in their place. That was toulouse, a trendy quirky university town, I was sorry not to have more time there.

Once again we were rushing to the train station with ten minutes to spare. I just don’t know how we do it, time seems to stretch infinite, we relax, we leisurely pack, find a meal and whoosh time disappears and is replaced with panic. We made it, but the rush wasn’t over we arrived in nîmes at 5:30 and had to make it to the campground before 7 when it shut.

All I saw of nîmes was the station, two possibly homeless, middleaged cyclists bulging with luggage and three or four dogs in a trailer behind their bikes and red, pink and white flowers. Then it was just busy roads, not dissimilar to those from bordeaux airport, but they just did not end. Hot, black, flat and not a shoulder to call our own.

I had a romantic notion of Provence and like the shanty towns of hawaii, this was my “real Provence” moment. No lavender and sunflowers here, just endless fields of rice, wheat and the silos that processed them. Afterall we’d be pretty hungry if all we had to eat was flowers. I still hoped that sometime in our week in Provence I’d walk through a picture postcard.

Shadow was creeping over the surface of the pool when we finally made it. My legs burned from the most intense non stop push to the finish line I’d had on the bike, fear of cars and lock out making me hit reserves I sneakily knew I had but didn’t like to publish as it might mean I’d be tapping in more often.

Dusk, mosquitoes, a young man, obviously fond of his own voice, who walked throught the campsite singing Islamic songs. The campsite next to ours overflowed with spanish men, one particular overweight specimen took to walk to and from shirtless, wobbling with every stride. We went to bed early to the sounds of all of them having separate phone conversations where we could hear both ends and woke to the same. How strange people are. Picture book moments are reserved for the two week traveller where everything has to be perfect before the fortnight is over and the work day grind begins again. I’m kind of fond of the slightly odd, I feel like I know our world a little better now, how it is different but mostly how nowadays it is just the same.


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