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  • Croissants et fromage
    • 31/05/2022
Covered some ground, approx 200km, so plenty of variety along the way.
Starting reasonably flat, on Sunday I stumbled into a line of american tanks (at a parade) and a motor bikers meet in the centre of Bethune, which I had popped into to see the historic clock tower. They do like cobbles in these old town centres...
Continuing to Lens, the landscape dotted with massive slag heaps from mining, one of which had been turned into a ski slope. Lens itself didn't seem too interesting, but maybe I circumvented the good bits. Toddled on, pausing only to eat some baguette and cheese in a bus shelter during a passing but heavy shower, and ended up in an area of lakes and canals, "les marais" at a municipal campsite which was basically empty. Don't know why I am so surprised, school holidays don't start for another month.

Lundi. Few more hills today, I'm sure I saw a contour for 150m Not many local shops and businesses open. And they haven't even official instated the 4 day week yet, its just "a French thing". However -
Great inventions of the 21st century - they have vending machines for everything! Bread, refrigerated meat, vegetables, in the absence maybe of an open village shop. Most ingenious.

Went through a few nice leafy forests, and an impressive fortified town, Le Quesnoy, one of those places with massive 8 pointed star walls and a big most. Liberated by new Zealanders.
Ended up at another municipal campsite since the last one was OK. This one turns out to have some other occupants, all seem to be dutch campervans towing trailers with motorbikes on the back. Noisy church clock that seems to do random numbers of chimes so have no idea what time it is. But its definitely too early!
  • Le Grand Départ
    • 28/05/2022
Train to London, no drama
Rock band at Alexandra Palace, (Mogwai), ear punishing volumes, good stuff.
Train to Dover, check. No bike reservations, so
turned up early to avoid disappointment!
Good job too, as am soon joined by a combination of 3 bikes, 2 pushchairs and a mobility scooter. Never mind the hundreds of partying youths heading to a dance festival.
So, speeding towards the channel, pondering the other side, and then -

At Ashford the tannoy announces: "Everyone off! Signal failure in the Dover area!"
An hour later its "this train calls at Folkestone.... And hopefully Dover. Maybe". But it isn't.
Only 10 miles from Folkestone though so I saddle up and actually ride the bike for once, and after a gruelling climb out of town, its a lovely run along the cliff tops, with what looks suspiciously like a spitfire buzzing overhead.

Arriving at the ferry terminal I met two lively French lasses on a tandem, each precariously balancing a suitcase on the handlebars - I definitely read about this somewhere - the ferries aren't taking foot passengers, so people are turning up with any excuse for a bicycle to get on board! I thought this was generally put into practice coming the other way but whatever. You could make a killing with a second hand bike shop at each end of the crossing

Just now a 30km cruise through the flat, tranquil french countryside, with the champions league final kick off being delayed long enough for me to extricate myself from the various fields that the villainous sat nav directed me to, and find an airbnb for a "soft landing" first night. Shame about the result, but the game panned out on entirely predictable fashion.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day, and I have only the vaguest idea where I'm heading. Hooray!
  • Cool Boarders 2018
    • 18/03/2018
Not much to report.
Went to Les Arcs for some snowboarding, using the tried and tested method of flying to Geneva and getting the Altibus.
It wasn't during the worst of the "beast from the east" coldness, but it was still minus 22 centigrade up the mountain some days, and the visibilty was generally poor - low cloud without bringing new snow.
So i spent half the time sitting in the hostel, run by an enigmatic english couple, eating croissants and ruining the seasonaires lives by introducing them to Monopoly Deal card game.
This was fine, since i was using an "a la carte" ski pass, where you only pay for the days you use it.
And on the few bluebird (new snow + sun) days, it was fantastic - vast swathes of off piste, DIY slalom runs through the trees, the monster top to bottom, 8km (2km vertical) non stop Aiguille Rouge run.
Also went across to La Plagne for one day, which was ok once the sun came out, again some great off piste off the top of the glacier, and then a race against time to get the connecting "hand bag" gondola back to the Les Arc side of the valley before closing.
  • TMB done and dusted
    • 28/08/2015
montreux sunsetmt blanc skylinewell earned beer
With the scorching heat returning the last few days have been dusty paths on an arid south face, gasping for the next water source while paragliders circle overhead and day trippers step off the top of chair lifts without raising a sweat... The wild camps have been brilliant though, peaceful and with stunning views over the chamonix valley to the mt blanc peaks and glaciers.
The end of a trip is always a bit sad and reflective as I contemplate going back to the normal life which I have successfully managed to not think about for the last two weeks.
Descended into the hustle and bustle if the valley today after witnessing some stunt helicopter piloting delivering supplies to one of the mountain refuges.
After an ice cream I took a trip into chamonix itself which would normally be heaven as it has a branch of every outdoor brand shop under the sun - however this week is ultra marathon week, and today 2000 endurance athletes set off to do a similar 168km route to me but in 24 hours. so the place was a bit mental.
Feeling the need to relax I have taken three trains through the alps (impressive engineering) to end up in Montreux of jazz fame on the shore of lake Geneva.
Immediately after checking in I dived in the lake which was a m a z i n g.

Quick thanks to all those fellow tmb-ers I met along the way, it gives me hope and confidence to know that like minded people are out there and I hope we meet again someday somewhere!
  • Photos from Tignes
    • 18/04/2015
A quick nod to a fun week snowboarding in the Alps.

Sunshine and valley mist (shown)

Blizzards and scrabble (not shown)

fresh tracksshenanigansthe mist...fork in the roadtop of the world


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