Posts Tagged ‘bikes’

Poor Me.

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Ok, that’s it. I’m having a whinge. It has been one of those days where I’m fairly certain an evil little man with a remote control and a general mean streak is sitting up in the sky and causing things to happen to me JUST TO BE ANNOYING. He is definitely French and he is most certainly short. I don’t like him. In fact, I hope his arms fall off because this is just ridiculous. Ok, here are the rubbish things that happened to me today:

  1. Whilst making coffee this morning, the plunger decided it was a volcano and spurted hot coffee all over my perfectly clean jeans.
  2. I had to take a tour today at 1pm so I left home at 12.15pm which gives me enough time to find a Velib (which can be tricky sometimes) and ride down to Place Saint Michel. I left the house and found there were no Velibs in the stations near me so I started to walk towards Place Saint Michel. On the way, I found a Velib station, took a bike and all was fine and dandy until BANG! I must have ridden over something sharp and my back tyre blew. So I then had to find a station to put the bike into so I could take another one which should have been easy except the closest station I found had one spot where I could have put the bike back except it was broken. So I then had to walk down the street, pushing the bike in search for another. It took me 10 minutes to find a station that wasn’t full where I could leave the bike. I then had to keep walking to another station as you have to wait five minutes in between taking bikes. By this time, I was late for work. I finally found another bike and rode like the wind (hitting every possible red traffic light) and made it just in time to be told that today was the day they were reporting back to the ‘Big Boss’ as to what time staff were arriving. Excellent.
  3. It rained for about 15 minutes of my tour – at one point quite significantly.
  4. I had an arrogant, know-it-all, likes to butt in, Frenchman on my tour who didn’t give me ANYTHING at the end. He brought with him his two know-it-all sons who proceeded to tell me the CORRECT history of France and how many things I had said wrong (this was probably a good thing though… I considered stealing his brain. Although I did wonder why on earth an 8 year old boy knows the names of every single King of France. He must get teased at school.)
  5. I had another arrogant Irishman on the tour who also didn’t tip me.
  6. My group was full of poor backpackers who are living on 4 Euros a day and therefore are disinclined to give any of it to me for taking them on a 4-hour walk.
  7. During the break in the middle of the tour, I bought myself a nutella crêpe because usually they make everything better. This crêpe was made by a 14 year old boy who had clearly never done it before and who proceeded to completely and utterly stuff it up. It was awful and I had to throw most of it in the bin because it wasn’t worth the calories.
  8. At the end of the tour I took a group to a ‘local French restaurant’ where they could have ‘real French food’ at ‘great prices’ and I proceeded to make measly centimes (that’s French for cents) for each person I brought.
  9. Someone gave me a Russian coin as part of my tip.
  10. I had to come home and cook dinner and then stupidly left the stove top on (I never do this.) Thankfully no fires resulted so clearly the little man has had enough.
  11. I discovered that an apartment that I have been trying to book for when Tom and I go to New York and that up until now has appeared to be available and the guy renting the apartment kept telling me was available, is, in fact, UNAVAILABLE. And now the internet is working at a snail’s pace and I am having to try and find somewhere else for us to stay.
So, as you can see, I’m having a bit of a whinge because I did also spend the day walking around Paris seeing the Louvre, the Seine, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais etc, and then I did come home to find that Tom had mopped the floor, defrosted the freezer AND bought ice cream for dessert. The ice cream did fix most things. Except for the internet. That’s still a pain.

Ohhhh the Champs Elysées

Monday, July 25th, 2011

J’adore Paris et le Tour. What a great afternoon! At 1.30pm, Tom and I met my ex-school friend, Pippin, and his girlfriend near the Champs Elysées and headed down to find a spot to watch the riders come in on the last leg of the Tour de France. I was expecting madness but all I found was “slightly busier than normal”. As a result, we managed to plant ourselves at the end of the VIP tents, right near the finishing line, but standing in mud piles with the rest of the average folk. No tiered seating for us.

Tour de France

Not a bad view apart from the annoying police folk who decided to stand in the way

We had to wait for a while. The riders didn’t hit the Champs Elysées until after 4pm so in the mean time we watched a parade of trucks and vans covered in sponsors’ logos and with tight-tshirted girls dancing and waving to the crowd. Now that’s entertainment. I must say the truck advertising laundry detergent with two six-packed men who were only wearing their red underwear was probably my favourite.

Baguette mobile

A baguette a day makes you ride like Cadel

The crowd was full of non-french people who had clearly come from far and wide to be there. It was a nice group of people and I only saw two drunken idiots, both of whom were escorted away by some of the many police officers standing around. When the riders finally arrived the crowd cheered and applauded and it was a vibrant and happy atmosphere. There was a very strong Australian support group who were surprisingly well behaved and oh-so-proud of Cadel.

Tour de France

Spot Cadel on the left of this photo, next to the policeman's cap

I have wanted to be on the Champs Elysées for the end of the Tour for many years now and it was such a great experience to have been part of. We chose a great place to stand as at the end of the race the award stage was pulled out and positioned within our view and we could watch Cadel being announced as the winner.

Tour de France podium

Cadel is the winner!

Sadly I didn’t get to see Jens Voigt but I felt good knowing he was within a few hundred metres of me. He’s so cool.

For photos and videos of my time at the Tour de France, and to hear Tina Arena sing the National Anthem (yes… that was depressing), head to my Flickr site.

Three Highlights

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I am well and truly back in Paris and have said farewell to my parents. I am now officially living independently (well, plus Tom) in France with no parental guidance, job or direction. Sounds fun! Pity it is currently raining. Actually, I’m going to go and watch the rain. Be right back.

Back. A reasonably heavy downpour just happened and instead of taking cover like most Australians would, the French people who were hanging out in the park just continued to chat and put up some umbrellas. Water doesn’t seem to melt them as much as it does to Australians.

Anyway, back on track. So I am back in Paris after three weeks away in Holland, Germany and Crete and I feel I haven’t written much lately and I probably should. The problem is, a lot happens in three weeks so I am going to choose one highlight from each country and the rest you can decipher from looking at my photos that are now all up on my Flickr site. Sounds like a plan, Stan.

Holland

Ahh, Holland. Or should I say, The Netherlands. Apparently there is a clear difference but it is a bit like the capital city of Australia – is it Canberra or is it really Sydney? No one from outside Australia really knows or cares. Having Dutch family, I have always enjoyed pretending I am ‘Dutcher’ than I am. There’s something exotic and romantic about being from European decent as opposed to being the great-great-great-great granddaughter of a convict. I believe I am a mix of both. But it still amazes me how everytime I arrive in Holland I feel an instant recognition and connection with the locals. I can see myself in their faces, their rosy cheeks, their longer limbs and larger builds. On this visit it really hit me how a large percentage of Dutch women have stronger, more ‘solid’ builds than other nationalities. French women are tiny and ‘petite’ and would be crushed to death if a Dutch person sat on them. I certainly not saying that Dutch women are fat – they are very healthy and fit despite eating a lot of pancakes and cream. However they are tall and well structured and for once I actually felt like my own body shape fit in. Kind of relieving, really!

My ultimate highlight from Holland was most likely the mudwalking but as I have already written about that I shall write about my second highlight – Bike riding to Hoorn. Dad had hired bikes from a local bike shop and as he and Mum are now expert bike riders we decided they should teach Tom and me the secrets of the dutch bike paths. The night before we set off, Dad and I looked at maps and planned a route from Medemblik (the small town where we were staying) to Hoorn (a larger town nearby) – a 50km return trip past two windmills, through lots of little towns and across many dijks. Holland is covered in cycle paths that are all linked together and numbered. All you have to do is look at a map, see what number bike paths will connect you with where ever you are going and then jump on your bike and follow the numbered signs. It’s that easy!

Bike path map
It’s a netwerk of fietsroutes

It is a wonderful system – you can get slightly lost if you go off track or miss a sign but Holland isn’t really big enough for this to be a major problem. You only have to ride for a few minutes and you are in another town – there isn’t much chance of getting lost in the woods/desert/ocean etc. We rode past some really interesting scenery and along bike paths of various descriptions. Sometimes we were on the road side with cars and trucks giving way to us, other times we rode along the top of dijks with sheep farms and fields of flowers on either side. No matter where we were riding I always felt safe and the cars on the road knew exactly how to deal with bikes. That I think is the main problem with riding in Australia – drivers in cars become nervous about bikes and accelerate to get past instead of just waiting for a safe moment to overtake. Idiots.

Bike ride

Riding along on a dijk

Another things I discovered while riding was that my Grandma wasn’t lying when she told me that the wind in Holland is always in your face, no matter what direction you are riding and how many times you try and ride in the opposite direction. You cannot escape it and it can have quite an impact on your peddling abilities. We did choose a remarkably beautiful day to go on our ride to Hoorn so the wind wasn’t a huge issue, but I did wonder how my parents managed to ride for 100km in rain and strong winds a week or so before on their cycle tour of Holland. They’re clearly insane.

Anyway, the ride was wonderful as it was such an easy and enjoyable mode of transport. I think I received severe bruising to my rear end by the end of the day but otherwise no injuries sustained. Tom punctured his tyre so we had an emergency stop at a bike repair shop. And we ate fresh gevulde koek from a bakery which was probably the ULTIMATE highlight of the day. Much better than packet versions that have spent three months on a ship to Australia.

Gevulde koek

Mmm... deliciousness filled with almond goodness

Now I am hungry and I am going to go and buy a baguette but I will return later to write about Germany and Crete. Fear not!

A Quick Aside

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

On a side note, my parents have started their two-week bike tour of Holland. They are riding around on Gazelle dutch-style bicycles with a group of Australians with the main aim of discovering how those Dutch manage to make such good bike paths. Yesterday I used my new Velib card to hire the free bikes in Paris to ride around the city and it was one of the scariest moments on my time here. The bike paths in Paris aren’t quite as well planned as those in Holland and yet I know the paths in Australian cities are even worse. So I think we all need to get behind this team of bike-riders and get them to bring home the secret to a good path. Plus it’s just amusing to watch my folks riding around on bikes for two weeks, living out of panniers. Will my mother survive not being able to wash her clothes every day? Will my father drop his camera? All will be revealed on the Cycling Dutch Style website.