Finding the Charm, Seeing the Race, Returning to my Native Tongue: 8-10 July 2015 – Paris – Le Havre/Ferry – Southampton

Wednesday 8 July 8:55 am – Tom’s Place, Paris I head out thinking I’ll just get breakfast someplace. I look in at two cafes – the breakfast is €9.50 at one and €12 at another. For coffee, croissant, and juice. Fuck you very much. I find a supermarket instead, collect fresh bread and apricots for € 1.60.  I bring these items back to Tom’s flat, make myself a coffee, find my cheese, and voila: un petit dejuner. I’ve moved from one friend’s place to another. I stayed at Carson’s for dinner last night then rode here around 10:00 pm. Tom is …

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Paris Kinda Smells of Piss: 4-7 July 2015, Dijon to Paris

Saturday 4 July – 10:20 pm, Paris – Carson’s Place It’s still light out and hot but a breeze has come on. I got up early to walk around Dijon before it became an oven. I wandered the quiet cobbled streets winding past shops and churches. I stumbled upon the markets – Les Halles – and bought cherries, a wee round of chevre, and some bread. Back at the hotel I worked on my schedule and plans for a while. I sent emails and messaged some possible Warm Showers hosts in Le Havre and Southampton. I haven’t received any replies yet, …

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Eastern France Masquerades as Hades: 1 – 3 July 2015: Montbéliard – Baumes Les Dames – Fraisans – Dijon

Wednesday 1 July 2015: Montbéliard to Baumes Les Dames  My Warm Showers host feeds me a fantastic French breakfast featuring rich, beautiful, unhomogenised milk they buy from a local farmer several times a week. Elisabeth then rides with me to the edge of Montbéliard and sees me off with a cheery au revoir.  The heat quickly rises to the high 30*Cs and the French are hiding. Those who are out look wrecked, or determined, or a bit of both. I feel fine; I feel Australian. What company I have comes from the beautiful grey herons which have been with me for a couple of …

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Hot Days on the Riverside: From Flaach to Basel to Montbéliard

Sunday 28 June 2015: Flaasch to Basel My heart is thumping GOOD MORNING as I climb out of Flaach to the clamber and clang of church bells. It’s 9:45 am and sweat rivulets down my face and back. I pass fields of corn, wheat, beetroot, sunflowers, capsicum, cows and sheep. Kirchen, a sign on the side of the road promises. A man in a bucket hat is up a ladder picking cherries into a woven basket. His wife sits at a red and white checked cloth covered table with punnets of the fruit ready for sale. Rolling down towards the river …

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The Rhine Delta and Konstanz to Flaach- 26th & 27th June 2015 (Days 33 &34)

Friday 26 June 2015: The Rhine Delta to Konstanz The day is stunning and summery as I ride along the Rhine Delta toward Lake Constance (or the Bodensee as it’s called locally). I turn onto a small road marked by a sign promising Erdbeere and soon find myself resting on a bench, a diminishing punnet of perfect June strawberries resting on my knee. They are all I could want: firm, full, juicy, sweet but with a fresh bit of tang as well. As I sit,eating one after another, the farmer drives past – his tractor loaded with trays of berries just …

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The Rhine and Lake Constance … I’ve heard of those – 25 June (Day 32)

Aldi is called Hoffer in Austria and before leaving Bludenz I get an Austrian SIM card here for less that EUR 2. Sarah and Tobi had helped me research my options – to keep using my Italian SIM is too pricey – and the Hoffer card looks a good deal. Now if I can just make it work. I’ll need help from tonight’s host with the German, I think. I won’t say that more of my German has returned but I am feeling more confident about using the little I have. My ear seems to be tuning more to the sounds …

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I’ve Ridden Over an Alpine Pass – Now what? Indecision in Austria (Day 30 – 23 June)

My first morning in Austria hasn’t begun well. It’s rained overnight and I wake to find a fairly significant puddle between the floor of my tent and the footprint (groundcloth) and some water has gotten into the tent as well. I think it’s a combination of a poorly chosen site and signs that this tent – beloved as it is – may be on its last legs. The rain has stopped falling but the sky is heavy and the morning is cool. As I lie in my tent and contemplate the tasks ahead I want to be someplace else. It’s …

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Visiting the Missing – The Merano Jewish Museum & Synagogue (Day 25 – 18 June 2015)

Thursday 18 June My tourist map shows a Jewish Museum. One of my goals for this trip is to explore my Jewishness and look our European history more squarely in the eye than I have been previously keen to. I haven’t done anything about that yet – if there were museums or old synagogues in Milan, Genoa or Florence I missed them. This one I would not. Centrally located but tucked away on a residential side street it took a bit to find it. Just walking onto the grounds stung a little – even before getting inside. As I suspect all European …

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Into the Mass Tourism Beast I Go – Cinque Terre and Pisa (Days 15 & 16 – 8 & 9 June)

Travelling solo, and not being inclined to wear obviously branded clothing, I think people are a little confused by me. It’s a thing I notice on the train to Cinque Terre. The few words I speak to the conductor are in Italian. The many English-speaking travellers around me don’t know if I can understand them so I sit there quietly, watching and listening. Cinque Terre will be my first full-blown tourist experience of the trip. I’ve been places with other tourists already, of course, but these have usually included a lot of Italian tourists and been places full of locals too. …

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The Ligurian Coast – Hot, Hilly, Beautiful (Day 14 – 7 June)

Wednesday 10 June: I catch up, then I fall behind, I catch up, then I fall behind. I’m struggling to find the right balance of riding, seeing the places I’m visiting, writing about them/organising my photographs of them and sharing stuff. I’m here to ride and to see but the writing consolidates the experience and if I don’t stay on top of the photos then at the end I’ll have thousands of images of stuff that I don’t really remember,  where it was, or what was interesting about it. So doing the work is important to me it’s just a matter …

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