2015 – Athens to Nice

Day 25 – Tuesday – Go Home.

Our flight was not until 5:00 so we had a leisurely breakfast and strolled round the port and the old town before going back to the hotel to load the bikes for the last time.

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The cycle path to the airport runs right along the Promenade, so we were able to take a last look at the blue Mediterranean and the people sunbathing as we rode the 5km. Once there we had the pleasure of getting the bikes ready for their flight. Pedals off, handlebars loosened and turned, plastic bags on. Much sticky tape and, sweat and bad language later,they were ready. image

No trouble at all checking in either us or the bags and we were ably to have an hour relaxing in the Lounge. Spoiled only by Federer losing the first set to Wawrinka.

The flight was on time both leaving and arriving at Gatwick. The bikes came out on the conveyer undamaged and Mike was waiting to pick us up. He had driven my car so we could fit the bike rack to it, and this we did without problems. All going too well – right? Well not everything – Fedder had lost in straight sets!!

We made it out of the car park, up the M23 and onto the M25 before we all said, something sounds wrong why is the car making that bumping noise? The nearside rear tyre had gone complertely flat and in the time taken to stop had been totally shredded.

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Bikes off the back, wheel off, spare on, reattach cycle rack and bikes and we were on our way again.

Back to Little Grange and collapsed on the sofa by 9:00pm. Put off opening the mounds of mail until tomorrow.

Here endeth the epistle – We hope you have found it entertaining. We enjoyed ourselves enormously. Many thanks to those who took the opportunity to sponsor the ride and help fund Jane Scarth House.

Elaine and Paul Grainger   – 3 June 2015

Day 24 – Monday

The Hotel Windsor in Nice is everything the dump in Menton was not. We arrived at 11:00 in the morning.

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Elaine had had us out of the room by 6:55 and by 7:05 had negotiated the return of our payment for the second night and we were on our way. We really must be getting fit, the hill up from Menton to Rochbrune was much smaller than we remembered. Then we started rolling down the hill into MC with the busy rush hour traffic. It is a 2 lane road but the scooters, cycles and motorcycles just make an extra lane down the middle, travelling much faster than the cars. Elaine remembered our previous experience of disappearing underground into the bowels of Monte Carlo and decided to have a fit of the vapours. We were not allowed to pass any of the cars and when we reached the city itself, we walked along the pavements. This was still much faster than the cars were travelling. Eventually we reached the western edge of town and began cycling up the hill and around the headland towards Eze and Villefranche. A nice cool morning with the sky getting bluer by the minute.

The roads in Nice are busy but very well organised for bikes. Lots of excellent dedicated cycle paths. So we arrived at our hotel 350 m from the Promenade des Anglais without problems. The receptionist called housekeeping to get a room ready for us, showed us where to put the bikes and helped carry our luggage up to the room. Within 15 minutes we were in a delightful bedroom, showered, changed and ready to go play tourist in Nice.

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We took the Noddy train tour which took us round parts of the old city that we had never visited before. Then Elaine achieved her main objective of the holiday. We got to go to the beach and into the sea.

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Not quite perfect because the beach is all pebbles, it slopes steeply at the waters edge and at this time of year, the water is not warm. So the swim turned into a brief paddle, but we did get to lay and top up our tans for a while.

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Day 23 – Sunday

Sunday morning and we had only 93 km to go to reach Nice. The road along the coast was just what you would expect in this area. Flat along the bay with the beach on the left and all the hotels, bars, houses etc. on the right, then a climb through z bends lined with big expensive houses on each side then the headland with no buildings. All followed by a lovely downhill swoop  to the next village where the whole thing starts again.

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But it got much better, there was a long section of disused railway track which had been properly surfaced, fenced and signposted. This hugged closer to the coast than the road and avoided going up and over the headlands. It was wonderful cycling, or almost. It was Sunday morning and everyone was out making use of the excellent facility. Toddlers with trainer wheels on their bikes, men in lycra doing 40 Kph, walkers strolling into and out of the cycle lanes. Every couple of miles there were bike rental stands to ensure that even more people used the trail. Despite the crowding, the preponderance of other cyclists brought out Elaine’s competitive streak. If there was someone in front of us, we had to get past him, We were virtually sprinting and I was glad of the rest when we stopped for coffee.

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We were undecided whether to go for it and go all the way to Nice or to stop in Ventimiglia or Menton. In the end, with our difficulty finding a home last night, we selected a hotel in Menton and headed for it. The first problem was that we could not find it despite having the address, Lola and Google maps. Then when we did, I took one look and suggested we went elsewhere. After 30 mins finding elsewhere and deciding it is more expensive and looked no better we returned to the first choice, booked in and paid for 2 nights.

We enjoyed wandering around the town but over dinner, I decided that there was nothing wrong with the hotel, it was just a miserable hole in which I did not want to stay. So before going to sleep we booked into a nice looking hotel in Nice.

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Day 23 Saturday

Just when you think you have it licked, things start to get interesting. We were now less than 200 km Nice. John and Pat had left as we loaded the bikes. Elaine asked. Should you not check the tyre pressures. Sure enough my back tyre was very low, pumping did not help. So off came the wheel and out came the puncture outfit. As I removed the tyre, I realised it was not a normal puncture, I had simply worn out the tyre, it was paper thin. But with a new tube and a patch applied inside the cover it lasted until we found a big busy bike shop where I bought and fitted a new cover. They also lent me a big pump so I was able to get all our tyres rock hard again. Elaine was moving faster than ever.
We had noticed – it was impossible not to – that there were a lot more people around than we were used to. So about 2:30 we pulled out the iPhone and began to look for a hotel. I was horrified, instead of €60 to 90 they were €160 to 650 and lots of them were full. We tried the other approach, cycle along until we saw somewhere that looked nice then go in and ask. Sorry Full! . By 5:15 in full panic mode we booked a hotel 25 km away and €170 for the night. We eventually found out that Tuesday would be Republic Day in Italy and everyone fool this as a long weekend and the people from Milan invaded the coast.
We must be getting fitter. The 25 km went by in a flash and at only 7:00 we were in a nice expensive room in a nice expensive hotel. So after a shower we went down for a nice expensive dinner. 3 minutes after we were in bed Elaine was snoring happily and ignoring Casualty on the TV.

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Day 22 Friday

With one bound he was free. Well that is what it felt like. The receptionist at the hotel had told us that there was a train which ran from La Spezia to each of the 5 villages. We decided that this would be better than hiking back over the hill so walked down to the station to check if we could take our bikes on the train. The timetable there showed that we could get a train at 9:57 and go to Genoa. So I went to the ticket office.
Can we take bikes on the train to Genoa ? Which train? 9:57 in the morning. There is no train at 9:57. OK which train can I take bikes to Genoa? 9:57 in the morning.
I did not understand it either. But at 9:15 we were at the ticket office. 2 people and 2 bikes to Genoa please. €6.80 each, the bikes don’t pay. This is for an 80km train ride.

The train was on time. We got the bikes on board – no special facilities – just blocked one of the exit doors and I stood with them to keep them upright. I had wondered, trains don’t go up hills so can’t we follow the same route as the train line. 90% of the first 60 km were through tunnels, just popping out into the light at each of the many stops. At 11:40 we were looking at the chaotic traffic in Genoa wondering which way to go.
The traffic here is the most chaotic we have seen. The are so many motor cycles and scooters. Unlike cars, they do not get locked in traffic jams. They just twist and turn and ignore the traffic lights. Every available spot in the city is filled with parked motor cycles. acres of them.
With Lola’s help we found our way onto the road out of the city – yes the ss1. The heavy traffic stayed with us for at least 20 km. after about 30 km, Elaine noticed a message on her phone from old friends John & Pat Fleury. She called back and found they were only 20km away and so we all stayed the night in the same hotel and enjoyed a nice dinner and the odd drink or 3.

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Day 21 Thursday

Today was a day of 2 very different halves. There were 2 bus loads of Chinese tourists in the hotel. We had been told that breakfast started at 7:00 and they would probably arrive around 7;30 so we were in in the dot at 7:00 and 2 minutes later so we’re the yellow hordes. Ah well. So by 8:00 we had the bikes loaded and were on our way.
A short stretch of ss1 then nice lanes through urbanised countryside until we reached Viareggio. This is the first full on holiday spot we have found. Full of holidaymakers, shops, cafes, restaurants and a street market 2 km long. Being Itally the only time we actually got a glimpse of the sea was when we crossed the bridge over the river. The road ran straight flat and wide with dedicated cycle paths for over 20 km. the whole length on the seaward side was lined with wall to wall bagnios. All the same and all claiming their unique identity.
Although Thursday this seemed to be cycle day hundreds of them, big and small groups, going in both directions, ignoring the cycle lanes and all dressed in Lycra. Of the many hundreds we saw, there may have been 2 or 3 who did not have the same hair colour as me.
As we approached La Spezia we turned of the main road climbed a big hill, then through a short tunnel and we dropped down towards the military port area. Not the most salubrious or attractive part of town but it was lunchtime, we had covered 70 km and reached the point where we had planned to hire a car to get over the next mountainous stretch.

We had done so well today and yesterday and Mr Hertz wanted €195 to lend me a car to drive the 100 km to Genoa so I persuaded Elaine that we should try to cycle there instead.

There began the second half of the day. We could see from the map and from the big hill right in front of us that we had to go up and over to get back to the coast. Lola led us up the long zig zag road. As usual we walked the steep bits and cycled the less steep ones. Somehow we missed a turn and cycled steeply downhill for a while ending up in a church square with 250 metres of steps to climb to get back to the main road.
This took while and involved taking the panniers of the bikes and carrying them by hand up the steps, then coming back and pushing the bikes one at a time. It was hot and hard but eventually we got there and continued up the road as Elaine expressed doubts about my sanity.
At the top, through the tunnel, drinking a beer and looking over the incredible views life seemed better. We looked up a hotel in the next village – Riomaggio and started down the hill, down and down and down. The pedestrianised village is built into the steep hillside and is bursting with foreign visitors in walking boots. Apparently this whole area is world famous for its hill walks. It is however no place for cyclists, to cycle to Genoa along the coast would take at least 3 days Elaine was suggesting a taxi back to La Spezia. At least the hotel though weird was very nice, but the only safe place for the bikes was in our room. Carry the bikes up the tight winding stairs!

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Days 19 & 20 – Tuesday & Wednesday

We passed a major milestones (literally) on Tuesday morning. For the first time we saw signpost with the major I towns listed. It showed Ventimigllia, the last stop in Italy and our last planned overnight as only 459 km away. We must be about on schedule and should actually complete the trip as kplanned.
The wind was kind to us, the road was mostly flat and we covered 70 plus km without too many problems.
The only hotel Elaine fancied that was in the right place was right on the beach in Marina di Castagneto and so it cost €40 more than we had paid anywhere else. It was OK but nothing special so it was my turn to be grumpy. At least breakfast on Wednesday was good.

I had intended to stay on the coast route through Livorno but could see that it would mean significant time on the SS1 and that to cross the R. Arno we would have to come inland to Pisa anyway.
As we left Cecina we spotted a road leading directly to Pisa. A quick look at the map suggested it skirted rather than went over the hills so off we went. It was a bit of a shock after days along the coast with no hills, this road went up and down not dramatically, but with the strong head winds we knew we were working hard. My plan was to bypass the centre of Pisa on our way north but as we followed Lola’s instructions we saw more and more tourist then turned a corner and the tower was right in front of us. It really does lean a lot. The street was so full we had to walk the bikes through.
We ended the day about 10 km north where Elaine lost it with the posh hotel because the room was roasting, the air on did not work and the wifi did not work in our room. Free drinks before dinner!

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Day 18 – Monday

105 km and most of them in the right direction!
We shot off along the busy SS1 for just a few km and then spent the morning making good progress on the minor roads close to the coast. Our only problem was a major lack of coffee stops. I lost a lot of brownie points when I got us lost walking up a very steep hill to the only headland for miles but got some of them back because the views were stunning.
Tuscany is just so much nicer than the Deep South the soil looks richer, the people look richer, the buildings are cared for and the scenery is glorious.
By the time we found coffee we were back to the SS1, had covered 40 km and it was 11:45, so we bought sandwiches to take with us as we disappeared on a nice quiet inland road which rejoined the Ss1 15 km later. A few minutes and we were able to cross to the coastal side and get back on the quiet lanes through the pretty countryside. By 4:00 we had covered 80 km and were sitting with a beer in a bar in one of the villages. From here we used Elaine’s iPhone to book our hotel – only 8 km further on. Through the neimagext village, ovimageer the bridge and a couple of km and we were there. Well we would have been but the bridge was not and never had been, both my Michelin map and the 2015 Garmin map in Lola showed it but it had never existed.
So we had to make our way back to the main road, cycle 5 k along there then further 5 to Grosseto. Then the worst bit. It had been bright blue skies all day so by late afternoon the wind was blowing hard and we had 12 km straight in to it. Elaine was not happy and it was all my fault – of course.
But once we got here to the marina, the hotel was probably the best we have had so far so I may eventually be forgiven.

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Day 17 – Sunday

Today was a good day, despite occasional heavy showers. We started with a quick 10km along the SS1. Busy but a very smooth surface and nice wide white strip area.
I think every cyclist in Italy was out for a spin. More expensive bikes and Lycra than you have ever seen. They overtook us in bunches of up to 20 at a time. They filled the whole traffic lane and just made the drivers wait.
We left the SS1 and covered the remaining ride into Civitaveccia through a well maintained and busy urban area. There was large cruise ship in port so the area around there was filled with Americans wandering around wondering what to do on a showery day in Italy.
To make up for the lack of meat in the menus we dined in style at McDonalds.
In the afternoon we cruised along quiet country roads between the SS1 and the sea.
We are staying the night in an up market bed and breakfast near Montalto do Castro but for the first time we will have to cycle into town to find dinner.imageimage

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Version 2 – day 15 & 16

Sorry for the delay and lack of pictures but suffering  from a lack of in room wifi.

Two days along the coast towards and then past Rome. Friday started out with a head wind which got stronger and stronger all day. As a result we managed only 60km and spent the night in the town of Anzio.
Never mind we will get up early tomorrow and get some miles in before the wing gets up. Yeah right! “What time is it dear? It’s 10 to 8. Ah well we had better think about getting up. So at 20 past 9 we were on our way. Just before the rain started!
It rained on and off all day, but never too heavy and never for more than a few minutes. The good news was that there was no wind all morning and only very light in the afternoon. So we were able to exceed our target and reach a small town called Ladispoli.

The coastal route is fairly depressing. Unlike the UK there is seldom easy access to the sea. In the towns, houses are built on the beach side of the road and outside every access seems to be a “Lido”. Combination beach bar, deck chair rental and parking lot. The towns vary for no obvious reason, one looks prosperous with shops and cafes and the next is just plain miserable. But nowhere are there many visitors. Maybe the Italians expect the grey weather during May and descend in hordes in June, but it all seems very strange.

Our hotel on Friday, the Beauty Raphael, was serving a Gastronomic special as the only option. We had walked around the area (one of the depressed ones) and knew there were no other options. The special was OK but fishy, expensive and not really to our taste. So Saturday evening when we saw that the hotel was offering as the only choice a Gastronomic special by an allegedly famous chef, we made a determined effort to find an alternative. We walked all around the town, (one of the bustling ones) but could not find a restaurant p, pizzerias bars and cafes but no real food. So we gave in and tried the pizzeria nearest the hotel. When we ordered pizza, they said sorry no pizza anymore after 7:00 we just serve drinks and nibbles. Back to the Gastronomy.
This was OK but fishy, expensive and not really to our taste. The famous chef was overbearing, but went away after we tried and rejected the bottle of red he recommended.

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Version 2 – Day 14 Thursday

It was a miserable grey day when we woke. Worse it was blowing a gale, but because the wind was swirling round the hotel it was hard to tell the direction. By the time we had breakfast and loaded the bikes, it had started to rain, so on went our yellow jackets. If the place had not been so miserable we would have stayed where we were.

imageBut as the rain came, the wind dropped, then within twenty minutes the rain slowed and eventually stopped. We had coffee after 20 km at Marina de Minturno. The change in such a short distance was amazing. There were people on the streets, there were shops and cafes all doing good business, the buildings were well maintained. The only logic we could find was that we had moved out of Naples “county”.

We rolled along the road ran next to the coast but often quite high on the headlands.

Then came the tunnels. We don’t like tunnels. The road narrows, there is no walkway, they are dark, some slope uphill. Frankly we were scared. But with a flashing red rear light we made it through in one piece and passed through a beautiful spot called Gatea.

The headwind returned in the afternoon but not too strongly, we completed our 80km and found another nice hotel in s. Felipe Circeo. Amazing but we are now less than 100km from Rome.

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Version 2 – Day 13 – Wednesday

imageA new day a new problem. This time it was giant cobble stones. The road from our hotel to Naples was made up of blocks of stone about 24 inch by 18 inch. From what I could see when we saw some road repairs, they are 15 inches deep. They must be tremendously hard wearing. It really is possible they were originally laid by the Romans. They are hell to cycle over, no problem for cars, but on the bikes we felt every bump.

But that was really the only problem. The traffic through Naples was so busy it was moving very slowly and we just threaded our way through, cycling or walking on the pavement when we could not find a way on the road. We eventually walked up a hill past the cathedral and made our way out on a fairly busy 2 lane road. At no time had we felt threatened or unsafe despite Naples’ reputation.image

After that we rolled steadily along to the coast which in this area is best avoided. We have never seen so many properties in need of care and attention, the beach was covered in more rubbish than Bunny Lane can process in a week. All just totally depressing.

Our “4 star” hotel fit right in. It was probably very smart around 1900 with a huge reception and bar area and a dining room for at least 200 people. However, it had been left to moulded since then and it appeared to us that the current operators were desperately trying to rescue it on a shoestring budget.

We were the only guests – on the positive side, everything in our room actually worked as it should and was sparkling clean. We still felt as though we were staying with the Addams Family.

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Version 2 – Day 12 – Tuesday

“Pushing through the traffic, trying to get to where she’s at,
And I was campaign shouting like a Southern diplomat.”

I think Chuck Berry must have met Elaine.

The world between Eboli and Naples is just one continuous metropolis with a few quieter bits between the traffic jams. Every town centre is gridlocked. This brings out the worst in the Italians. No one gives way unless there is absolutely no option. It is sheer chaos and survival of the fittest.
Then Elaine arrived. Lord this woman is magnificent. It did not matter whether it was a 38 ton truck, a Fiat 500, 900cc Ducati, a bus or worst of all a pedestrian. It did not matter if it was a burly truck driver, a mama with kids, a teenage Mafiosi or a one legged man. It did not matter if the gap was 18 inches wide and the bike was 30 inches. She treated every encounter as a personal battle with only one possible winner. She leaned Into their car windows and explained what she thought of their mother’s ancestry, she explained that they were not fit to push a hand cart. I just followed on and tried to make sure no one got her from behind. We cleared every town in less than half the time it took the cars.

Mostly, the road was flat, however, there was one big hill, just south of Salerno. We had hoped to clear Naples in the afternoon, but the continuous hassle of the traffic, the heat and the big hill slowed us down and we ended up in yet another nice hotel at the foot of Vesuvius.

One encounter in Salerno was worrying. We stopped for coffee in Salerno and left the bikes against a lamp post 10 feet from the table we were sitting at. The proprietor rushed out grabbed the bikes and moved them to between the tables of his pavement cafe.

We are ready to take on Naples tomorrow, but is Naples ready for Elaine?

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version 2 – Day 11 – Monday

We had been in a really good hotel, had a nice dinner, slept well, eaten a good breakfast and were on the road by 8:30. Lola seemed undecided which way to go so we left the hotel going downhill. It was great for about 4 km, downhill all the way. Then Lola told us to turn left (but actually almost a U turn). We set off up the hill. It was over 5km long, impossible to cycle and at times so steep that I had to push my bike 50 yards and then walk back to push Elaine’s. We were pretty much in despair. We had been out for 2 hours, were exhausting ourselves and were still within about 2 miles of our start point. We could see it far down below us.
Eventually we reached the top, crossed a motorway bridge and after battle with Lola, the map and Google Maps on the iPhone we worked out where we were. image
We began a long, long, zig-zag ride down the other side of the mountain. This began as a major road with huge viaducts over the valleys but with no apparent major turn offs became a narrow country lane winding down to the river in the valley bottom at a beautiful small town called Balvano.

We were delighted that our road from Balvano followed the river downstream. For some reason the Italians are capable of going steeply up hill whilst following a river down. The road eventually took us to a small place in the middle of nowhere called San Gregorio Magno. Lola wanted us to go left, but we were on a hunt to find lunch. The usual bunch of older men were hanging out outside a tiny grocery store, while Elaine went in to buy, bread water, beer, and cheese, one of the locals came over and we and a delightful conversation in excellent English (well his was anyway) about where we had been, where we were going and how we had ended up in his small town. The grocer joined the conversation and insisted on providing cups for the water and beer.
A few hundred yards further up (yes up) the village we found a bar for a pre lunch beer – Elaine is getting into the 66 cl bottles of beer. The place was so classy Elaine refused t

o go in and sat at an outside table while I went in to purchase. The barman carried the beers outside, spotted Elaine and the bikes, then disappeared back inside. 5 minutes later he reappeared with small tray of sandwiches which he gave to us. And we had paid a total of €3 for the two beers.

Another long climb(walk) out of town followed by another even longer exhilarating plunge down the mountainside. I was convinced we had it made. We were on the floor of the major valley were alongside the motorway and it was surely downhill all the way.

There was just this 4km bit off-road until we reached the ss19 which paralleled the motorway and would take us down to Eboli and Salerno. The problem was that in 4km the road climbed 1200 feet. Elaine was made even more happy when we spotted a couple of dead snakes at the roadside.

I had originally hoped to reach Zuppino by about 11:00. It was gone 4 by the time we had climbed up to Zuppino and to our horror, climbed another huge hill out of town. We were 30 km from Eboli and had no hope of getting there in a reasonable time.

Except that for the next 20km we did not need to peddle at all, lots of braking round z bends on a very bumpy road. Halfway down the bumps got to the mount for the GoPro camera on Elaine’s handle bars and it just snapped off. Fortunately bouncing along the road does not seem to have harmed the camera at all. When’d the bends stopped we were on the dead flat coastal plain and made short with of the run into Eboli but we had been on the road from 8:30 till 6:00.

Dinner

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Version 2 – Day 10

Today was probably, the hardest day so far. We left the hotel early, the football team were filling the bar and breakfast was a single, unadorned croissant and a cup of not hot cappuchino. Initially we rode down from the town but soon found ourselves walking up long steep hills then losing all the height o steep descents. It took till lunchtime to reach Potenza where we were lucky to find a cafe/ber for a coffee and a roll. As we finished our coffee they closed and locked the door and went home for the day.

From Potenza to the village of Picerno is only 20 km and Picerno is 150 m lower than Potenza so it should be a nice gentle cruise down hill all the way. But it ain’t.image The motorway rolls gently down the valley bottom. The back road goes up and down like a switchback. As we entered Picerno, Lola took us off to the left and led us for a couple of miles down the steepest hill I have ever ridden down. The road surface did not inspire confidence and the sheep we disturbed did not make it any easier. But we eventually arrived at an excellent hotel cum wedding venue, the restaurant was full of the guests from multiple wedding receptions so the hotel ferried us a couple of miles up the road for excellent pizza and pasta. Elaine has adopted the very helpful (and handsome) young man who booked us in and ferried us to dinner.

if only Fedderer could have beaten Djokovic it would have been a really good day.

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Version 2 – Day 9

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After the extended ride and the hassle finding a hotel yesterday, we studied the map and recognised that Polenza was too far to reach and the country route had no towns for many miles before we got there, so we accepted that we would have a short day.

We were rewarded for the long uphill push yesterday, because the ride from the city was a long downhill. We rode to Gravina where we had coffee and bought the makings for lunch. We left Gravina on what appeared to be a main road but with very little traffic. When Lola told us to turn left onto a quieter road, we decided to ignore her as we were getting on so well.
After another hour we pulled into a layby far a breather and saw a cyclist coming towards us. He had set off from Portugal 57 days ago, had crossed from France to Italy in the Alps so that he could see the snow. He was on route to Greece via Bari and hoped to complete the loop through Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Germany, France and Spain before Christmas. His bike was much more loaded than ours, he had all his camping equipment with him!, Still he looked to be 50 years younger than us.image

Elaine is quite good at panicking and she began to worry that we would not find a hotel and be forced to sleep in a hedge, so out came the smart phone and Google and we were booked in to the Hotel zodiac in a small town called Oppido Lucano. Google does not mention that to get to Oppido Lucano you have to gon5 km up a 15% hill. Why are all Italian towns on top of hills, why to all Italian roads go over the top of hills.

When we got to the hotel, we thought we were the only guests. We were certainly the only ones in the restaurant at 8:30  but then the place began to fill up. For €50 we had probably the best meal of our trip so far and by 12:00 Elaine was screaming SHUT UP through the wall at the football team in the next room. I could ignore the noise from next door but it was hard to ignore Elaine.

I forgot to mention one of the major highlights of our trip. We passed through the birth place of Rudolph Valentino. We even had lunch in the square outside the Hotel Rudy. It is not hard to see why he left.

 

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Version 2 – Day 8

Breakfast was uninspiring – everything was pre packed plastic including the croissant.

We were soon on our way down a smooth but busy downhill slope towards Taranto. This city looks much better than Brindisi, even the derelict buildings have a solid grandeur and the developers are renovating the odd one or two.

Through the morning rush hour and over the bridge we were heading north up a very busy, very fast 4 lane road. 4 lanes squeezed into the smallest space possible – no central reservation. There was a cycle strip but the vegetation at the side was overgrown and it was impossible to fit in it. The wind was behind us and the traffic encouraged us to get a move on. 10 km out of town we took a junction, said hi to the inevitable prostitute (at 9:30 in the morning) and we’re off down a country lane, ideal for cycling with zero traffic.
Have you ever heard of Matera. neither had we but it is reputedly the third oldest town in the world and will be the European City of Culture in 2019.

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We had to get to Matera because there was nothing else but windmills as we crossed the high plain leading towards it. This meant we had covered nearly 90 km before we arrived at the bottom of the very steep hill up to the city. We walked and pushed very slowly.
It is a fascinating place, built originally as cave dwellings that had been extended into luxurious homes around all the sides of a canyon cutting in to the hillside. The top of the hill is a very smart piazza with many churches and smart civic buildings.

We had already been lost pushing the laden bikes up and down the steps that were the streets in the old city. The tourist office sent us to a hotel which was created from the cave houses. Fascinating, but over priced and a bit tatty.

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We walked back to the square for a beer. €5. The one at lunch had cost €1.20. Then it arrived, complete with crisps, nuts and olives. We went out for dinner later but failed to do it justice as we were already full from the nibbles.

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Version 2 – Day 7

Having left towels to soak up the water on the bathroom floor, we went down to the restaurant at about 7:30 to be told that instead of arriving at 8:30 it would be 10:00 – Why? It is the radar – bloody Italians. The boat docked at 10:00 but the trucks weimagere packed so tight that it was literally impossible to squeeze between them. Even the drivers had to wait till the next row had moved out before they could get in the cab. Naturally our bikes were stowed so that all the trucks had to move before we could get to them. Once again every truck was carefully searched to check for stowaways – once again we cycled out of the port without any check. Moral – if you want to sneak into Italy have a shave and get a bike.
We were not impressed with Brindisi, this city really does look run downimage, but I understand it has always looked this way.
We made our way out of the city on a decent road , not too busy and with a 2 metre strip at the side for us. After 10 km we returned on to an even quieter road with virtually no traffic – BUT – it was uphill all the way, not steep but a constant drag and with no downhill for a rest. Also this was the first day we had the wind in our faces, after the late start and the hassle with the boat we were both getting tired fast.
For lunch we had decided to buy rolls and filling at a supermarket, but as we cycled through Masena we could no spot a shop much less one that was open. We ended up having a beer and a panini in a backstreet bar where the locals amused themselves and Us by looking up the English translations of ingredients they thought we might want in the sandwiches.
The Romans built straight roads and so do the Italians. The road from Masena was the most boring in the world, dead straight, slightly uphill and straight into the wind. About 4:00 having done 60 km we decided we had had enough but the tone we were in had 2 hotels, one closed and the other full. After a further 15 km we were just outside Taranto and about to exit another small town. I went into a bar and asked if there was a hotel near after a little incomprehension the barman handed the problem to his wife. Bed and breakfast OK? Sure. She disappeared with a torrent of Italian into her mobile phone then announced the the b&b man would come and lead us to his place. He duly appeared and we are in a beautiful ensuite room. The owner told us we would have no difficulty finding a restaurant in the town square. We found the square. It was magnificent. Beautiful architecture and surrounded by benches. On each bench sat 3 local men. As we walked round every man carefully Elaine from top to toe. There were no restaurants – the nearest we found was a fish and chip shop. Fish meant a mixture of battered shrimp on unidentified bits of battered fish. Chips meant hand cut freshly cooked crisps. They wend down very well with a local beer.

Posted in 2015 – Athens to Nice

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Thoughts on Greece

Greece is doing much better than I had expected. The government may have no money but the Greeks are doing fine.

There are no more beggars in Athens than there are in London and none outside Athens. There are no more closed businesses than there are in Romsey. There are lots of new cars, there are plenty of prosperous cafe and restaurants all with customers. There are plenty of nice new homes under construction. We did not pay for anything where we felt we had been ripped off and everyone who served us was, smiling, helpful and efficient. The road construction we saw was being done well. Lots of heavy equipment and serious amounts of concrete being poured.

One thing totally baffled me. Alongside the edge of virtually every road we travelled, city or country, a narrow trench had been dug and filled just 6 inches wide. I assume it was to bury a cable. There was always at least one of these, usually 2 and sometimes 3. It did make riding along the edge of the road less comfortable than it might have been.

We met our schedule in Greece, enjoyed everywhere we went and everyone we met. If Italy treats us as well as Greece we will be extremely happy.

Posted in 2015 – Athens to Nice

Version 2 – Day 6

Before bed as we walked round the site, we had concluded that there were 2 families sharing the site and working hard to make what had been fairly tatty extremely nice. All the paths and the sea walls had been rebuilt. We watched one of the men building part of the wall and the quality of the work was outstanding.imageimage

We went on to the terrace for breakfast. Elaine had decided she did not want bacon and eggs but when freshly cooked bacon with 2 fried eggs and sliced tomato was placed in front of her she changed her mind and finished every bite. As we ate one of the dogs appeared looking up hopefully at her. “You can stand there wagging your tail all you like, but you are not getting any”. I remarked that she had said that to me before now and she dissolved into a fit of giggles for at least 5 minutes.

The lady who served us breakfast, wrote down the charges for us €35 for the room, €25 for dinner, including the wine, €8 for breakfast. Total €68. We added a 15% tip and were both rewarded with a hug and kisses.

The road towards Patras was similar to the evening before. The hills swept down right to the sea leaving no room for habitation and squeezed onto the bottom slope was a fully operational motorway, the old road that we were on and under construction was another huge dual carriageway. The construction was usually between us and the motorway but sometimes between us and the sea. Occasionally it was on both sides at once. This upset Lola who led us down shortcuts that no longer went any where and terminated in mounds of rubble.

As we approached Patras we began to see glimpses of the magnificent bridge across the entrance to the Gulf.

Patras itself was manic. The traffic was far busier, and more aggressive than in Athens but we made our way through and arrived at the port around noon. We found the ticket office and exchanged our voucher for tickets and were told that embarkation was at 4:00 except someone else said 3:00. We found a local supermarket for a bottle and some nibbles then retired to the snack bar on the port. We bought coffee and a sandwich (delivered as always with a glass of water) and sat outside under an umbrella utilising the free WiFi to catch up on mail and watch TV. About 2:30 the waitress reappeared -not to shoo us away but to deliver another glass of water.image
Just after 3:00 I walaqqm ked over and checked that we could board, first we had to queue behind the trucks going through security. They were being very carefully checked to ensure that none of the young men we could see hanging round the port had sneaked on board. (Why? We are in the EU). We were waved through and cycled actress acres of Tarmac before being waved onto the boat. Our tickets were checked but at no point did we ever have to show ID.image

When we got to our cabin we knew we were in Italy. Large comfortable and only one of the 4 wall lights had a bulb in. Prices in the restaurant were extortionate so we just had a salad and a bowl of excellent spaghetti then retired to finish our supermarket wine.
We slept brilliantly, but in the morning Italy struck again. The loo flushed but the incoming water arrived on the bathroom floor!!

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Version 2 -Day 5

button-1We were packed and on the way out of the hotel by 8:40. Problem was as soon as I tried to turn my pedals the chain snapped. In my 65 years riding a bike, I can’t recall this happening to me. must be all the training has made my legs so powerful that the stress was to much. One of the links had actually snapped. You can’t do a lot with bike with no chain, so back into the hotel to ask the receptionist where to find a bike shop. Keep going along the front past the harbour. So we waked for about a mile and found a small bike shop. The elderly (but younger than me) owner/ operator looked sadly at the broken chain, decided he did not have one in stock and set about removing the Brocken link and rejoining the chain. A little shorter but no problem. The chain wes not particularly cooperative and it took 20 minutes before he was satisfied that all was well. He was one of the few peogple we have met without a word of english. He wrote down the price €5 and seemed delighted when we insisted on paying €10..

then we were on our way riding along the coast road with the sea on our right hand side. Lola instructed us simply to keep going for 46 km and we did. In the afternoon we stopped for a coffee and toilet break.

coffee always meant coffee, a glass of water and a sweet biscuit of some kind. On this occasion it was essentially a Bakewell tart with apple pie in the middle. Total for the two of us €5. The man next door to the shop was hosing down his steps and as we were preparing to leave he presented U.S. With a huge orange each , freshly picked off the tree in his garden.

We were within 50km of Patras so decided to stop at the next hotel. Naturally, there was no next hotel and the next 10 km which were up and down felt like an awful long way. Elaine spotted a camp site we were passing had a bed symbol and decided we should ask there. No problem – we were shown to a delightful en suite room in a converted windmill. Can we eat. No problem – we arrived back at reception and were fed an excellent meal – freshly made Greek salad followed by huge grilled pork chop with chips and tomatoes accompanied by a bottle of rose. Can we get breakfast. No problem  – eggs and bacon OK?

we wandered around the campsite and down to the sea then to bed and asleep before 9:30.

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Version 2 – Day 4

The weather forecast for Corinth today said “heavy thunderstorms around noon will cause local flooding” so it seemed logical t

 To get on our way as soon as possible.

by 8:00 we were Eating breakfast and by 9:03 were on our way towards Corinth. All my childhood encyclopaedias had described the Corinth Canal as on of the wonders of the modern world. It certainly was a deep cutting, the depth emphasised by it being so narrow, but the canal is actually quite short, you can easily see both ends while standing on the bridge. And the bridge itself is just a tatty rusting short road bridge no sense of grandeur at all. As you can see Elaine was not impressed. Still the coffee at the adjacent restaurant was the best we had found so far.

lola then led us straight through the centre of Corinth, a busting mix of old and new buildings. Lots of people, lots of cars but not too much hassle to ride through. After the centre the road led alongside the Gulf of Corinth and we passed through a succession of villages all full of prosperous and modern looking bars and coffee shops but we did not see many hotels and everywhere was empty. There were no visitors yet. We tried to stop for lunch at a cafe that had a good number of people outside, but discovered that all that was available was coffee or waffles. Never mind we enjoyed the coffee and stopped a couple of miles later at a hotel/restaurant for a club sandwich -we ordered one each – a mistake as each would have fed four people.

We were getting on well, the sky was dark and the wind was blowing strongly, but it was dry and the wind was mostly behind us.

by early afternoon we had covered over 60 km and could see that the rain was on the way. So we began to look for a hotel. The first place Lola took us was being torn down and rebuilt, the second did not open till 29 May but we spotted a sign for the Hotel Arion – a beautiful modern gas and marble structure with one very smart receptionist and no sign of any other customers. €80 for the night including breakfast. We like luxury.

it rained hard all evening and we walked just a short distance for an excellent pizza -agin we made the mistake of ordering one each. We took the rest home for tomorrow’s lunc.

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Version 2 – Day 3

For once nothing went wrong on Sunday morning. We checked out but left our bikes and bags at the hotel and walked the short distance to the Acropolis metro station. Right on time at 10:00, Melanie appeared pushing her pink bicycle down the escalator. Are we the only ones? Yes you get an exlusive private tour. She led us back to the bike shop 50 yards from our hotel, then we pedalled of around the city. Two hours of interesting facts and views of monuments, slums and flash homes. This was one of 4 jobs for Melanie, she was a trained Physiotherapist, worked in the office of the family business and already having a masters was working for her Doctorate in Statistics.


We returned to the hotel for 12:30, loaded the bikes and finally we were off cycling. Lola led us through quiet back streets to the metro line for Piraus. 2 wrinkley tickets at 60 cents each and we were whisked past the Football stadium and to the port at Piraeus. We enquires and were told that for Sontormina (spelling?) we needed to go to dock gate 8. We found this easily enough but wondered why none of the pay booths were staffed. The boat was there, the loading gate was down but there was no one in sight. As I could not find any one to ask, I went to the Police Station. They told me it was not possible – the boat is not running today!!!

Oh bugger thought I. Never mind we will just cycle all the way round the bay it is only 30 miles further. So I told Elaine what we would do and that it was an extra 20km and off we set.

After fighting our way through traffic and city streets we emerged on the coast north of Patras. At this point I discovered that Lola is much smarter than me.

Turn left at the next junction she said and proceed 100 metres to the ferry.

It cost €1.80 each and we joined the many cars and motorbikes for the 15 minute short ride to the island. An hours ride, hillier than expected, but not too bad and we were waiting for the ferry back to the mainland. At first the road went past a beautiful range of oil refineries but we were soon riding along a beautiful coast, overlooking the dark blue sea with many hilly islands in the distance. Soon we arrived at the hotel which was set high on a headland overlooking a beautiful beach, was extremely reasonably priced and had the most chaotic dining service I have ever experienced. We shared a starter salad and were presented with several different nibbles and desert for free but Elaine’s main course arrived as soon as we started the salad and mine never arrived at all!

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Version 2 – day 2

When we had revived enough to climb off the bed and shower, we saw that from our window we had a view of the Parthenon (just)  floodlit on its hilltop. The view from the Rooftop Garden Restaurant in the hotel was even better, the meal (yes we managed to eat again) was good and reasonably priced.

 Saturday morning we were booked on a “free walking tour of Athens”. Trouble was the next piece of paper I had forgotten to bring was the one that said where and when to meet. Elaine remembered the time as 10:00 am and their website said outside the Acropolis museum so there we were – all on our own. Never mind, we bought tickets to enter the Acropolis – half price for wrinklies again but only EU wrinklies. We had visited before, but the size, complexity and beauty of the buildings up there is mind boggling. The view down over the city is pretty stunning too. Pity about the other 9 million tourists who were up there with us.

As we had missed the tour, we took a ride on the noddy train that took visitors round the city. Political Prediction -there will be no “grexit”. The city is buzzing, I have never seen so many restaurants, all busy, with both international and Greek customers. The train was a hop on, hop off service so we stopped a couple of times to browse the shops full of every kind of tourist junk and to have a very nice lunch.
We returned to the hotel mid afternoon to catch up on sleep before walking out through the shops and tourists to find yet another very good meal – the moussaka did beat Elaine, it was 6 inch square and 3 inch high.
We retired to bed tired but happy.

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Version 2 – Day 1

it was Elaine that made the first mistake. She said “as we need to be up at 3:15, we may as well stay up and watch the election results” so that is what we did. Quite fun but when the big white van arrived at 3:40 the prediction was still unchanged from the exit poll – Tories 3:16.

The trip to Heathrow was fine and we were in Terminal 5, each with a bike perilously perched on a trolley as the check ins opened at 5:00. No problems at the desk and we were asked to go to the oversize luggage desk with the bikes. We watched as the girl laid my bike down on the conveyor belt and attempted to put it through the system – it was just an inch too big to fit through the gap. No problem, but they will have to go down to security and be done manually. So off through to airside we went. We had a pleasant but overpriced breakfast and made our way via the transit to gate B45. At 6:30 boarding started but when we handed in our boarding passes we were asked to step aside. Then we were told there was a problem with the bikes in security – we would have to go back to the terminal and sort it out. Yes this meant there was no chance of catching the plane. Much shouting ensued but 10 minutes later we were heading back to the terminal. The bikes had been returned to the oversize desk. The same girl told us the security had x-rayed the bikes and found liquids in Elaine’s saddle bag. “Yes, I can’t take liquids in my hand luggage so I put my cosmetics in the saddle bag. what is the problem.?”

Much more shouting and a manager dragged in before it was finally explained that when security manually check items, they use the Hand baggage rules – no liquids over 50 ml. The sun tan lotion was bigger than that. We vocally expressed our disgust at the stupidity but the answer was always – you just can’t argue with security.

Eventually it was agreed that we would take the saddle bags off the bikes – BA would take them as checked luggage (for free) and the bikes could then go back to security. The holes security had torn in the plastic were patched with overweight warning labels and we were ready to go. It was now 8:00. The next plane was 12:50

Elaine took this as a personal challenge and after much frantic negotiation we were allocated extra legroom seats on the plane and a pass for the Club Lounge. So we spent the next 4hours, drinking free booze (with the occasional coffee) eating a second breakfast and watching the election predictions get better and better.

The big surprise of the day was the brilliant service on the plane. I think we had only paid £50 each for the tickets but it was full service, the cocktails were round twice before the meal and again twice during the meal. The food was hot and tasty and the staff were happy and obliging. Much better than any transatlantic flight I have had in the last 20 years.

With a 2 hour time slip it was 5:30 as we stood in the baggage hall waiting for the saddle bags and the bikes to arrive. The bags arrived on the conveyor and eventually, when almost everyone had gone the bikes were carried through. As it was quiet, we decided to rebuild the bikes in the baggage hall.   Bags off, pedals on, handlebars straightened, while Elaine folded the bags and pushed them into one of the panniers. Panniers and small bags on to the bikes and we were ready to go but where?  Turns out I had forgotten to print out the email with the address of the hotel.

We made it on to the metro, €4 (half price for wrinklies) for the 40 minute ride into Syntigma square. When we made it up to ground level, it was wall to wall people – the Athens street pole vaulting competition was taking place. Weird but there they were sprinting across the square and leaping over a 5 metre high bar.

I knew the right direction and as we walked, pushing the bikes, I called in to The New York College aka The University of Bolton where I was given the address for the Hotel. 15 minutes later, the bikes were locked I the underground garage and we were collapsed on bed in a very nice room.

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Version 2 day – Minus 1

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“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go”

The panniers are packed, the bikes are in their official Cycle Touring Club airline bags – yes it looks like big plastic bag to me too, but according to the website, these are fully acceptable to BA. We leave home in a big white van at 3:45 tomorrow (Friday) morning. So by 5:00 am we should know whether BA staff have read their website.

Before we set off, I thought it might be fun to publish the planned schedule. There is little chance of keeping to it but we have to have something to aim for.

  • Fri 8/5    fly to Athens on BA arrive amount noon – travel with bikes on the Metro into city centre.
  • Sat 9/5.   Booked on free walking tour – 3 to 4 hours
  • Sun 10/5.   Morning – Booked on bike tour of city $30 each.  Afternoon, take Metro to Piraus and take short ferry trip to the island of Salamis. It is just a 12km ride across the island to an even shorter ferry ride to Megara back on the mainland. Another 15 km and we arrive at the last hotel we have booked.
  • Mon 11/5  Cycle west and cross the Corinth Canal then try to bypass the city of Corinth and cycle alongside the Gulf of Corinth in the direction of Patras.
  • Tue 12/5  Continue towards Patras
  • Wed 13/5. We have to be at the ferry terminal by 3:00 pm to catch the 5:00 pm boat to Brindisi in Southern Italy. Total distance from Athens is 206 km
  • Thur 14/5 to Sun 17/5 cycle across the bottom of Italy to Salerno. 321km. From my detailed study of Google maps this appears to be the hilly bit of the trip. It is just possible that Elaine will point out that I am not very good at picking flat routes.
  • Mon 18/5 to Fri 22/5. Cycle north along the coast to Civitaveccia.   379km
  • Sat 23/5 to Wed 27/5  continue along the (apparently) flat coastline to La Spezia. 359km
  • Thur 28/5  the road to Genoa looks to be hilly, bendy and busy.  If I can’t find a coast road, we may be forced to rent a car for the day    Total distance 106km
  • Fri 29/5 and Sat 30/5   Round the corner of Italy towards France  – on the home straight and only 132 km to cover in 2 whole days.
  • Sun 31/5  Ventimiglia to Nice   48km but we know that the ride round the headlands is very up and down.
  • Mon 1/6 And Tue 2/6.  spare days – we fly from Nice to Gatwick at 5;00 pm.

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Version 2 – Day Minus 9

We had no intention of doing this – honest. However, so many people have insisted that we ought to do it as a sponsored ride for charity, that we have given in. Needless to say, our chosen charity is Jane Scarth House. If you do not know about this wonderful local charity, take a look at the website – www.janescarthhouse.co.uk
A fundraiser has been set up on ‘mydonate’.     The url is https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/montecarloorbust

We had originally set up the fundraiser on Givey.com. Givey comes top in the reviews because they make absolutely no charges. However, several people complained and confirmed my view that the Givey site is too difficult to use. ‘mydonate’ is run as a public service by BT and like Givey, donations can be made from any credit or debit card. They handle the gift aid for us and for every £1.00 you donate, they pay £1.25 to the charity. ‘mydonate’ does make a very small charge from the donation for the use of a credit card, but debit cards are absolutely free.
So if you are entertained by our struggle and feel generous, click on the link above and hand over your money. You can be sure that we and the users of JSH will be extremely grateful and every penny of your money will be put to good use.

Thank You Paul & Elaine

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Version 2 – Day Minus 17

CleanBike - 480px

It is getting frighteningly close.

I am busy compiling lists so that we do not forget anything we need. It is a waste of time- of course we will set off without all  sorts of necessities.
When we returned from Morton in Marsh, the bikes were filthy and I was instructed to get them cleaned up – I needed to service them and apply a little oil to the gears anyway. So for moment they are sparkling clean and smooth as silk.

Now  the weather has improved  we can go out on training runs without too many layers of clothing. Over the last couple of weeks we have used our usual 10 mile loop around Braishfield, cycled through some of Broadlands fields down to Eling Wharf and back, been up the Test Valley  to West  Dene and back via West Tytherley. Last week we took the motorhome to Cheltenham to explore some different countryside.

It is a beautiful area but I could not find any downloadable pre-planned routes on the web so I had to invent my own. Not easy, on the minor roads the junctions all seemed to be outside the villages so that I was unable to make a list of places that we could follow on the signposts. As a result on Wednesday morning we went via an incredibly complicated route the few miles to Gloucester and back by the much shorter cycle route (by just following the blue signs back to Cheltenham). The good news was that it is possible to ride all the way into and through the centre of Gloucester on safe cycle tracks – lots of them are shared with pedestrians but I can live with that. Wednesday afternoon we went on the motor scooter to watch Emma who was competing in a dressage event at Hartpury College.

Thursday was the day planned for our big ride. I had plotted a route north from Cheltenham, then crossing the Avon and the M5  and  returning via Tewksbury. With my brilliant navigating skills we cycled through all the busy traffic around GCHQ, past the racecourse (twice) on race day and after about 20 miles of hassle we had a nice pub lunch in Bredon. Unfortunately from Bredon we had to continue North for another 7 miles before we could cross the river and begin our return. We did manage to follow NCR(National Cycle Route) 45 which was nicely signposted and took us back South and around Tewksbury – pity it runs part of the way along the A38 – very scary. By Tewkesbury we had covered 50 miles already and I was getting more unpopular by the mile. By the time we returned to the motorhome we had done 60 miles. Elaine mentioned this several times!!

Pictures of the two rides  and a few horses are here.

https://plus.google.com/photos/116926004864799974977/albums/6140110994231333457?authkey=CMy137_CofKA7QE

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Version 2 – Day Minus 39

Christmas came and went – and we continued our daily rides while we remained in Florida. Santa did his duty and delivered a Go-Pro camera for me to play with. Elaine’s bike in Florida has a basket on the handlebars so while we were there the camera had to fit on my handlebars. After much trial and lots of errors I settled on a mode of 1 picture every minute. So in a long ride lots of pictures get taken. With the camera on my handlebars and Elaine in front lots of pictures of Elaine’s bottom get taken. The pictures do get a bit repetitive so I have put them in Picasa rather than cluttering up the blog – you can see the first album by clicking here    https://picasaweb.google.com/116926004864799974977/20141228BikeRidesInHollywoodFlorida?authuser=0&feat=directlink

We even took a couple of longer rides in the area south of Miami – with the traffic it took longer to get there and back than to do the rides – but the scenery on the ride to Key Biscayne made it well worth the trip. – pictures here https://picasaweb.google.com/116926004864799974977/20150111CommodoreTrailKeyBiscayne?authuser=0&feat=directlink

In the middle of January we returned home to winter in Romsey and it has been much more of a struggle to get out for training runs – our normal ride is a 10 mile loop around Braishfield and Michelmersh which takes us about an hour. https://picasaweb.google.com/116926004864799974977/20150120Braishfield?authuser=0&feat=directlink

We luckily chose a fine day for a 25 mile loop up the Test Valley to Stockbridge and back via King’s Sombourne and Braishfield. https://picasaweb.google.com/116926004864799974977/20150218Stockbridge?authuser=0&feat=directlink

and in early March we went away in the motorhome to Morton in Marsh in the Cotswolds – We planned to do 50 miles on Saturday and again on Sunday. Saturday went well – we cycled 50 miles with lots of ups and downs and arrived home tired but still able to walk. Sunday did not go as planned – despite having maps and ‘Lola@ our faithful  SatNav, we got very lost and it started to rain heavily. Consequently we enjoyed a long Sunday lunch in a convenient pub, walked up all the hills on the way home and managed only 25 miles in the day. 

As we move into summer time and get closer to our departure date, panic is beginning to set in because we probably have not done enough training yet – will have to try harder whenever the weather is good enough.

Posted in 2015 – Athens to Nice

Version 2 – Day Minus 135

It’s all happening again!!

This time we are flying with the bikes to Athens, then cycling along the Gulf of Corinth to Patras where we take the ferry across to Brindisi in Italy. From there the plan is to ride all the way up the western side of Italy until we get to our goal in Monte Carlo.
We learned our lesson last time and are travelling a bit later when the weather should be warmer. We fly on 8th May and will have a couple of days seeing the sights before we set off for Corinth and Patras.

No need to buy bikes this time – our trusty steeds from the last ride are still in good shape. But with a bit of luck Santa will bring me a GoPro camera so we can take video from the handlebars as we ride.P1020930 P1020937

We are in Hollywood Florida until the middle of January but have started our training. The beach here has a ‘boardwalk’ which features a cycle track. This is used by all sorts of wheeled devices – roller blades, bikes, trikes, funny 4 person 4 wheeled bikes, things with 3 wheels that you wobble to move along, skateboards and joggers. The only problem is that the visitors – snowbirds from Quebec and shoppers from South America seem incapable of recognising that bike paths should be used by bikes. It will be better once I get the flashing blue lights and siren fitted to Elaine’s bike.
We are currently managing to ride end to end and back again each day which makes for a route of just over 11 miles. After a week we can even  manage it without either legs or bottoms getting too sore. Being Florida of course everything is dead flat. The only hill we have to put up with is the bridge over the Intercoastal  (the waterway between the mainland and the beach), but the wind makes up for that. We whizz along going South to North and the struggle slowly back going South.

May have to miss training tomorrow – eating Turkey may take precedence. So Merry Christmas to all from Paul and Elaine. We hope you (and we) enjoy our trip in 2015.

Posted in 2015 – Athens to Nice

 

 

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