How great and how strange at once it is to suddenly understand (almost) everything again and to be able to communicate and make one understand. Two weeks in France have almost passed and still it feels like I just crossed the border. As mentioned, the first “French” week was spent with a break from travelling and by actually being on vacation: mountainbiking in Breil sur Roya. It was the first time ever since I left home that I stayed in one place for so many nights (8 in total)!! And it felt good. I spent this week with a lovely group of friends from back home. We lived in a typical French “gites” with a beautiful garden, cherry and olive trees, good honest homemade food and a perfect terrace for long nights spent with Rosé and Pastis.
Some highlights of this weeks:
– endless laughs playing UNO with special rules added by the guys making sure the game got ever more complicated
– many of the flowing and partly technical single trails (like one with 60 switchbacks in a row)
– our guide and host Carlos of Roya Evasion with his unique French riding style (love it)
– every sip of Rosé and Pastis we enjoyed and all morning and night talks filled with meaningful and meaningless discussions.
– the nice pinkish train station with the bar/restaurant that became my coffee/wifi homespot.
Thank you guys for this awesome week!
The only real drawback happened at the end of the week, as I got a little sick and had to cancel the last day of riding in order to be strong enough on the next day to continue my travels. I have to say, seeing the guys leave in a car, made me want to go with them, as it seemed necessary in order to finish off this vacation together, but then on the other hand, I was also really excited to continue my travels on the next day.
So the different stages I did in the last five days were: Breil sur Roya to somewhere between Cagnes sur Mer and Antibes, from there to a tiny village in the hills called Bargemon. Then a short stage from Bargemon to Comps-sur-Artuby in order to ride along the Grand Canyon du Verdon on the next day until Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. And the final stage then brought me to Gargas (right behind Apt en Provence) where I am staying with my godparents and parents for two nights. So all in all those five days accumulated to about 320 km and 5600m climbing. Most of it was beautiful, two of the days were hard, because I was coughing a lot and probably not in the best shape for riding, but now I feel much better.
Surprisingly enough, I loved doing the two passes going from Breil to Nice: Col de Brouis and Col de Braus. I think mainly because I was “carried” up there, by all the other roadbike riders who passed me and didn’t spare with nice comments. Apparently there was a race going on the same time I rode up to Col de Braus and the riders passing me complimented with “Bravo”, “Bon courage” or my two favorite lines: “Quest-ce qu’elle est courageuse” (difficult to translate, but I’d go with something like: “how strong/adventurous she is!”) and the last rider of the competition – slowly passing me, looking at my bike with a lot of attention – suddenly going “Sans moteurs??!! – Mais c’est magnifique!” (“Without motor?! That’s awesome!”).
I have also received a lot of “thumbs up” by motorbikers lately and to be very honest it impresses me how impressed random people are that one (in this case me) is travelling by bike (like the guy in the coffee place yesterday in the afternoon who offered me an extra cookie once he saw my bike:-)).
Crossing the Provence by bike is a very nice experience in general. The Grand Canyon de Verdon was gorgeous (unfortunately for the photos the light was completely flat on that day, fortunately for me, because then it was not soooo hot riding). The smells of all the herbs and flowers along the way is so pleasant and the fields of lavender and all the small villages – just beautiful.
The nicest coffee in France I had so far, was in Comps. I was invited by three seriously unique locals to share a cup and some talks. I have no idea of how much of their stories were true, but the main talker claimed to have been raised by Americans (he did speak American English flawlessly, as he proved to me in order to test my English, as we were acutally talking in French) in Algeria and then grew up in France and apparently was the head of the police force of the region of Comps. I have to describe them to you: so one guy was a motorbike rider, pretty “normal” (whatever that means): tatoos, leather jacket, jeans. The apparently “ex-cop”: Long, curley grey/white hair, cowboy hat, John Lennon glasses, “cowboy-style” Wooden Clox and side pocket pants. And the third guy was like out of a book: skinny, cut-off jeans hot-pants which were held up with wide neon orange suspenders over a checked cowboy shirt, tatoos all over, FOKUHILA (in English: FRSHBALO: front short back long – I just made that up), meaning that his grey hair was mainly short, except for the back part which was long and in treads. Awesome. The main talker also had a story about riding a bike. Apparently he bought a bike once, rode with it for 2 minutes, saw a kid, asked him if he wanted that bike and offered it to him for free, as he had decided he didn’t really like riding within those two minutes… Go figure! I felt like in a theater play sitting with these three inspring gentlemen:-)
So France has been treating me gently and the after-effects of the border crossing have not been so heavy in the end:-) I guess the main difference (between Italy and France) I still have to get used to, is the fact that I don’t get as many receipts anymore. In Italy you get a receipt for every 30 Cents coffee you buy, whereas the French seem to take this “new” EU regulation not thaaaatttt seriously.
So starting tomorrow I will slowly make my way towards Marseille. A plus – Eva!