7 Days of Cycling

I am somewhat negligent for not thanking Alastair and Sarah for hosting me in London, a feat truly appreciated.  Sharing a flat, which are really small mind you, with a cyclist and all his gear means basically giving up a whole room of their life.  They also gave me a taste of a true London life with a Jerked Chicken dinner and another night spent at a quiz night at an English pub.  ‘Twas lots of fun I hope to cycle properly through the English countryside someday.

Leaving London on a cloudless day was the omen I needed, Alastair escorted me to the rail station (he convinced me that cycling out of town was a bad idea and it isn’t too expensive to get out of town, nor hard to do on a cycle.)  I commented that it would be nice if he could ride as well and he agreed that it would be a nice but it wasn’t meant to be.

I left last Sunday from Paris to Rouen with little more target than to be back in Paris 7 days later when Gina was free to play host.  It’s a relatively loose idea I came to enjoy, each day I set off with little more direction than to cycle, leaving the path ahead open to the moment.  I ended up following the river Siene to where it let out to the ocean and decided to follow the coast down instead of crossing any one of the 3 bridges I came too.  They all looked fairly daunting and wasn’t sure it was advisable to try and cross them.

I typically got on the bike by 7 and 8 in the morning and rode until dusk where I would find a bunch of trees and jump into the forest to camp the night.  Setting up the tent first and enjoying some bread and cheese typically with a bottle of cidre that I bought at the farmhouse door.

I met my first tourers, they were from Canada and were headed in the opposite direction as me and on recumbent trikes.  We had a nice chat about how pleasant it is to cycle in France as the drivers give all kinds of room to cyclists, even those with souped up cars wait until there is room to pass by to go around us.  They did the Netherlands last year and gave me lots of places to try and visit on my trip up there.  Thanks to Lesley Thomas and Thomas Quinn for advice and the chat.

Continuing on the coast I knew that the Normandy invasion happened somewhere in Normandy but wasn’t quite sure were.  When I looked one map further than where I was it was clearly marked where Omaha beach was so I decided since I was that close it would be worthwhile to visit the museum there.  It ended up being a really amazing place, the museum is really well done and I got a one on one tour with a guide since the weather wasn’t the greatest.  I found out there are 5 guys from Hawaii buried there (note: Hawai’i was yet to be a state at that time.)  One father, son pair and a bunch of brothers.  The film “Saving Private Ryan” is based off some truth, 2 brothers were lost within a day of each other on the invasion and a third brother was thought lost somewhere in the Pacific so the fourth brother was repatriated.  I ended up spending 3 hours there and could have easily spent a few more but it was closing time and I had to find somewhere to camp for the night.  I spent the morning before that in Bayuex looking at a really old tapestry and ended up visiting the graveyard of the British soldiers lost in the invasion, the epitaphs on the gravestones there are soul rending.

Rolling along Normandy I found that it’s a popular area for cidre and that most are really keen to sell a bottle for a euro or two so most nights I couldn’t help but pick up a bottle for dinner.   That is  when I remember Gregg telling me about his trip through France samping ciders and taking pruning that he could add to his trees back in New Zealand.

I found the Normandy area to be a lot more interesting than the route from Calais to Paris.  The houses were a lot more old fashioned and very well maintained, even going so far as to have roofs re-thatched.  Most of the towns by my guess are summer resort towns so at the moment they are fairly well deserted with only a baker, butcher and a bar to keep the town going.  Most people stare at me as I cycle by but I have been approached a few times as I’m enjoying some crossionts to inquire what I’m up to.

A day or so before getting back into Paris I finally found my rhythm coming back to my on the cycle, much like the Pacific coast it came to me after a week of riding.

Pictures from London and France added.

Paris for a Day

Current Location: Paris, France

I arrived into Paris yesterday after 4 days of riding.  It ended up being a little bit harder than I had anticipated due to the fact that there is a very persistent wind that always seemed to be against me.  Add to this that it’s been a while since I’ve been cycling and not all the muscles remember what they are supposed to do, it’s coming back to me though.  One thing I’m quite happy about is that I haven’t had to walk my bike up any hills like I did during the Pacific Coast ride, although none of the hills compare in any way to those on the Pacific Coast.

This is just a quick post because I’m actually going to move on from Paris so that I can meet my friend Gina later this month and properly hang out in Paris.  So the plan now is to head up to Normandy and cycle around the area there looping back into Paris again.

I must say that I had an amazing meal in Paris when I arrived, I’m not sure if I found it amazing because that is what it is or because I’ve been living off of baguettes and cheese while on the road.  But whatever it was it was truly amazing, the sauce was so very rich I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like it.

The bike is holding out like a champ, I’m really quite happy with what I managed to get for 300 pounds and I think my uncle Bill and Rob would approve of this one.  It’s a Koga-Miyata Worldtraveller and it comes fully tricked out with Tubus racks, a Brooks saddle, mud guards, Shimano SPD peddles, and lights.  I think all those accessories alone come out to probably 300 pounds really quite a deal I think.

Written 3 days ago, I am somewhere in Normandy near Caen.

Catching Up

Just added the last set of pictures from Cambodia and some from Hong Kong into the old 2008 folder.

On my first trip into S21 (the concentration camp in Phnom Penh) I refrained from taking pictures to try and fully appreciate what happened there.  On my second time through I thought it would be okay to take a few pictures to try and illustrate some of what happened.  I’ve posted 6 photos from the concentration camp, but this really does the place no justice.  It’s full of photos and stories of people that went through a very tragic time in the history of Cambodia.  It’s a bit altruistic to think that these photos will change anything but for history’s sake I post them anyway.

Hong Kong pictures are the typical food and people types of shots.  I tried to give an idea of what Mong Kok is like, it’s the reason I enjoy the area so much.  You are absolutely enveloped by people the moment you step onto the sidewalk.  I can walk down the side walk and people don’t even give me a second glance, a nice change from Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam.

An American in London

Current Location: London, United Kingdom

Flying into London I made a cardinal error, one that I was well aware of before entering the country.  This goes for entering any country really, but when it asks for an address where you’ll be staying always fill it out.  I left it blank this time for whatever reason, mostly because I was tired after the 13hr flight on which I didn’t get much sleep and probably more than a little lazy and cocky that I hadn’t been denied entry anywhere else before.  On getting to the border agent his first question is if I had an address where I’d be staying to which I said I was planning on getting a hostel somewhere in London, strike one.  He next asked if I had a job to which I replied I hadn’t had one for 2 years, strike 2.  He then asked if I knew anyone in London and I said I did and he asked where this person lived to which I didn’t exactly know, strike 3.  I gave him my story about  cycling my way to Italy and around Europe but he wasn’t very keen on hearing this story, he looked at me grimly and told me they would be watching me as he stamped my passport for 6 months.  I was genuinely grateful to him for letting me in the country after all the wrong answers and more than a little stressed out just entering the country.   Add to this the fact that the temperature is hovering around 8degrees and the tube was closed where I was trying to get to it was easy to feel a little discouraged.

After a few hours I made it to the hostel and dropped off my big bag and decided to wander around the city since I didn’t want to take a nap in order to kick start my body clock.  I ended up wandering upon Buckingham Palace and getting there in time for the changing of the guard (this meant waiting in the freezing cold for 2 hours in order to see it, but I toughed it out.)  After wandering around the rest of the city for the day I passed out on my bed around 7pm and woke up early the next morning at 6.

Meeting Alastair (for those that don’t remember he was the bloke I cycled with for a majority of the Pacific Coast) for dinner the following day turned out to be more exciting than either of us could have imagined.  He decided to welcome me to London in true fashion by taking me to a bar/restaurant called Rules, it being the oldest restaurant in London.  We had a couple of Gin and Tonics, the most British drink I can think of, and while reminiscing about the pacific coast Alastair starts staring at people over my shoulder.  I glance over and don’t recognize anyone and continue chatting on.  This goes on for a while until Alastair stops me and asks me if I know who Ben Elton is to which I respond that I had seen the name in association with music somehow.  He tells me I’m correct and that he’s responsible for We Will Rock You, a theater production tied to Queen.  This is then followed by another guy entering the bar and Alastair breaks into a laughing fit after which he asks me if I’m familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber.  We then both break into a minor fit of hysterics.  So for the record, I’ve had drinks with Andrew Lloyd Webber… if you define having drinks loosely as being in the same room as the guy.  Alastair pointed out to me the following day why the two were meeting for drinks, it turns out theres a sequel to Phantom of the Opera called Love Never Dies that was just opened.

I’ve bought another second hand bicycle and am waiting for my panniers to arrive to set off for France.  Alastair and Sarah were nice enough to put me up for a few days.  I’m pretty stoked about the bike, it’s got every bell and whistle I could wish for and should hopefully be fairly bomb-proof.

Delay No More

On arriving into Hong Kong Homer was quite sure I would be run over within the first half hour.  Fortunately I’ve been able to avoid this fate, not without some close calls.  I picked up the bad habit of crossing the road whenever I wanted to in Viet Nam and it’s something that I found to be very easy to get used to, much to Homers disbelief.  The traffic and people there move slow enough to avoid pedestrians and generally move at a slower pace.  The pace of Hong Kong is something I should have been prepared for seeing that this is my 4th trip th HK but it still caught me off guard, everyone here is basically running from place to place where people in the rest of SE. Asia stroll to their next appointment.  This is essentially how I think of Hong Kong people now, they move at 2 speeds; full blast or full stop.  This goes for anything they do be it talking, walking, eating or anything you could think of.

This isn’t to say I’m not once again charmed with Hong Kong because I totally am.  Homer’s cousin took us to what I like to call Kung Fu Dim Sum, a totally new experince for me.  The dim sum i’m accustomed to is very calm and orderly with a food routine basically worked out over many times eating dim sum.  This was a polar opposite to what I’m used to, starting with getting seats. We had to stand over people and try and guess who was finished eating and would soon be leaving their seats.   I personally thought one fellow who was enjoying the news paper would soon be leaving, he barely gave me one glance and went back to reading his paper and didn’t move one inch.  We managed to sneak onto a nearby table sqeezing in between two other groups of diners.  This wasn’t the end of the trials there, I’m used to them wheeling around their carts of food and we point at things we’d like to eat.  In this case you can wait for things, but you may be waiting for quite some time.  It’s quite normal for people to go wandering around the shop themseleves looking for what they want and it’s not uncommon to see a popular cart overwhelmed by people.  At one point Homer went to the kitchen to ask for something, he was informed gruffly that the food was out on the floor and to go find it himself. It was a totally fun eating experience in Hong Kong, I was informed this was a genuine tea house that had been there forever and this was how it’s supposed to be.

Once again Homer’s family took good care of us, feeding us way too much good food and Homer and I made trips out to some food eating mecca’s like Sai Kung.  We consumed more than our fair share of mangoes and I had my ghost eyeballs.

Long flight to London tomorrow, flying on Virgin Atlantic.  Hopefully Mr. Bransons planes all have personal video players.