Suddenly Oslo popped up, and my family were waiting for me at the finish line! .
My first hugs in a long time! and 4138 kms since I left home.
Photos still to come, but most of you have seen the video on Instagram or Facebook. It was a very happy moment, although it feels like a dream. About 56 days of riding, is enough to become a habit, so tomorrow I may wake up to the usual feeling of ‘get up, get going”. But Elia will be awake before me I suspect, and bring me back to another reality.
Tyrone navigated the way to Oslo after a sumptuous breakfast at the rather posh old hotel on the beach in Moss. It was hot, and we rode in a very determined mode, along good cycle tracks past Ås, and Ski and onwards.
Finishing with a long speedy downhill into the city, and arriving in front of the marble Opera House. Megs and Stefano had made a banner with ROME TO OSLO written very large on it, and a finish line tape.
Ty had sped off ahead to photograph the scene, but I got caught up in a large crowd of pedestrians at the traffic light, who I overtook and went blasting through the middle of the banner in a flash, tearing it in half.
I wish I could do it again more slowly…. (tearing the banner I mean).
Exquisite Baby Elia was ok with being given to a stinky old cyclist for kisses.
All the wonderful messages from friends came popping up on my phone as soon as the video was shared. Everyone has been incredibly generous with words of congratulations, and I am so glad that you were pleased to see me finish.
After a sprinkling of confetti, delicious Proseco, deep red South African wine, and a fabulous meal, it is time for rest.
I will write again tomorrow….
Even so, it’s always a pleasure to be in this city.
We spent the day rolling around enjoying the scenery.
Bruce and Kealena treated me to an all insclusive personalised tour. Meals, a chat with the little mermaid, and a new lock for my bike. So now I can stay in dodgy places without worry that a goblin will make off with it.
If you’re in Copenhagen then get over to the other side, and partake in the street food fest. A freshly grilled Mackerel wrapped up with salt and pepper? Wash it down with a Tuborg or Carlsberg, both locally made beer.
This building is a power station which has a ski ramp on it, dubbed Copenhill. The chimney puffs out smoke rings. It also brags the highest artificial climbing wall in the world. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group……magicians.
Morning came cloaked in soft grey blanket of cloud. Thank heavens.
I said goodbye to my lovely niece and Bruce escorted me out of town and north along the flat sandy shores towards Helsingør to catch the ferry over to Sweden. On the way we stopped to see the charming museum dedicated to a fellow Africa lover and multitalented author, Karin Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa”. ( Isak Dinesen ).
This is her house in Kenya, which looks very like my own G.Grandmothers home.
It began to rain, so we dashed over the moat to look at Kronborg castle, where Shakespeare had Hamlet play out his drama.
Eric of Pomerania, (don’t you love that name), built the place in the 1420’s. You can look up the facts on wiki. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in my photograph.
Bruce very generously did the round trip on the ferry, just to make sure I got to Sweden.
I felt a bit like I used to feel, when I had to go back to boarding school. I have never been to Sweden, my 7th country on this trip, and there was a very long way to go, starting with Helsingborg. This time I was first off the ferry on my bike and had to find the way out of the docks, with some very large pantechnicons grating their gears behind me. This time, google girl knew better, and I followed her through a modest but neat residential area. A very new giant cycle track was all mine for the next 20 kms or so, then it was road riding once again. All the way there was a minipanic going on in my head, but it became clear that Swedish people are kind, and things are going to be ok.
Ängelholm sounded like a good place for a peaceful night, however there was no available accommodation at all, anywhere up or down the coast. The ladies at the info office called around, and found a rather expensive room in a conference park out of town. I turned it down, then checked on my phone once again, and there was that same room for almost half the price on booking dot com. So, I quickly booked it and set off in the rain. My phone ran out of battery, so no directions from google, but I had picked up a map at the info place. Arrived by way of a forest and a highway, a bit soggy and too tired for dinner…. but gnawed on an energy bar and half a hot dog from the ferry, then went to sleep.
But ask any Hamburger citizen and they will tell you with pride that the food here is highly sophisticated and exquisite. From rich and savoury to spicy and sweet, luscious meats, delightful veggies, free range biofriendly everything under the sun and rain.
I began the day at Zeven. A nice little town 86 kilometres by bike from my destination in the city.
The farms are perfectly manicured and manured, judging by the scents. I rode along adjacent to the main roads until Buxtehude, where I was supposed to head north (via the pretty part), sometimes ignorance is not bliss. Instead I followed the googley girl’s shortest route which was along the edge of the highway to Harburg and then north into a melange of bridges and intersections, where my phone battery expired and left me stranded.
Fringe people don’t really speak English, but they understand enough, and I don’t really speak German, but I understand enough. Thereby communicating quite efficiently. However, the people I asked said it was possible to go into town from all directions. I just needed one. Thank Goodness for church steeples.
Buxtehude is lovely, the old centre is perfectly preserved and interesting. I sat down there and ate my breakfast bun.
Hamburg is a port city with an incredibly difficult history of fire, plague and war. But obviously the population is clever and resilient, so they have created a splendid city once again.
A whole bridge for my bike and I… crossing into the city in style!
Last night Regina and Michael, with their pretty niece Zoe, kindly hosted me. Regina hired ebikes so she and Zoe could ride with me tomorrow, but the clouds came up and the rain came down in buckets.
After an abundant breakfast we decided not ride out until the rain subsides a bit. I’m happy to have a day of rest in their lovely home.
This is yesterday’s post. Hotel’s and hostels offer very poor wifi, so the blog cannot be shared when it should be, it has to wait for the next stop, just like many things in life.
The sun is dragging his billowing sky down to the smoking chimney stacks. A giant storm growled through dinner, but not a drop of rain fell on the canvas Erdinger umbrella.
Flammkuchen is a thin pastry crust with high edges. It is smeared with a thin layer of sour cheese, and usually one would have the traditional onions and speck sprinkled on top, but I chose sliced tomatoes and rocket. Eat it while it’s hot.
Getting here from Monheim am Rhein, took me through Düsseldorf, where an enthusiastic young man at the bike shop sold me a gadget to attach the phone to the handlebars, so now I can see the map while I ride.
Düsseldorf surprised me with it’s simplicity, and I had no problem at all getting into town, and out of it again.
From there the cycle path took me into a daydream, it was so so beautiful. Large old trees line the road, many old people pedal along too, some in wheelchairs, some on roller skates. You can just go for miles and miles through the fields without interruption.
A lunch place popped up on the edge of the river, tables set out under a dark green canopy of trees. “Poeusgeu”, rather fancy, to be found on the Alte Rheinfäre.
The waiter, dressed in black and white, had a special look about him, he stooped down to get my order, and I nervously pointed around the middle of the menu. The plate came…matjes, with roast potatoes and a creamy dressing. Marinaded fish, really delicious.
Afternoons on the bike tend to get a bit hot and complicated, and after going around the same wheat field twice, I told Googlely-girl to take a break. I rode alone through many small towns, mostly very quiet, on the edge of a skyline of factory towers and billowing chimneys.
On one of my unplanned reconnaissance missions around Duisburg, I found myself braking in front of a police station. It looked approachable, so I went in and declared the theft of my glasses. An officer wrote up the report in German.
Typing ferociously on his old clickitty-clacketty keyboard at high speed, I was astonished that he only managed three sentences. Seriously, this report will be sent to the police in Linz am Rhein, where I said I suspect the thief stole the things. There they will investigate the matter further. I hope I’m right about the location. What a bother.
I’m losing sight of the Great River Rhine (english name). My route will take me eastward and away. It is a sad goodbye. Moving with the fast flow of a big river every day for so long has been incredible. We became friends, I got to know the scintilla, caught glimpses of the dark beneath, felt the heave and the power, and sang with the ancient.
Knowing that it goes on is a great comfort, from mountain to sea to sky to mountain.
Unfortunately we have heaved up dykes of stone and soil to contain it, plastered the banks with cement walls, hemmed it in, and blocked it up with locks. We dump vast amounts of chemical waste into it. We motor our cruise ships and barges up and down without rest, blasting it with fumes and a huge din of vibrations that resonate underwater.
A small bottle of water cost me Euro 5 this afternoon.
Spent the night in a hostel Jugendherberge, Duisberg, Landschaftspark…in a rusty old Industrial zone, which was very interesting. Good preparation for the day to come…a day of Industrial parks.
The girl at the desk gave me their special handicap room, most likely because I looked like I needed help. It was very clean and comfortable with a chair in the shower, and a red switch next to the bed, which I pressed thinking it was the light switch. It blinked for a while, then I blinked off to sleep.
Today the wind came up against me. The tall poplar trees along the river bank clapped their silver leaves, making a high sound like a standing ovation at an opera.
It was a blue sky day, with puffy clouds dotted about. Birds of prey skimmed over the golden bristles of the harvested wheat fields looking for mice.
Getting out of the city of Ludwigshafen was like playing snakes and ladders, but there seems to be something good happening to my bird brain these days, that sends me off in the right direction. On the outskirts of town in the industrial area, under a bridge, I had a hot beverage (coffee) with three old men. They wouldn’t believe I rode from Rome.
I’ve noticed a strange phenomena, a bit too regular to be sheer coincidence. Maybe I’m getting a bit googledy-gook, but if I need something it just comes, like riding through a pop-up story book. Each page swings up at me, whether it be a cool-drink place, or a sign post, or the river, or a place to stay.
I dare not let anxiety pop-up, in case it manifests. But it is very reassuring to know that with proper attention and consideration at every intersection, the journey goes on. This is a selfie in an empty sandpit.
Worms had no redeeming features. I asked a girl near the station: ” Juligung Juligung, where is the centrum, the altstadt…innerstadt??”. She replied “You are in it, this is Worms”.
At the bakery-cafe, three large flies rested on the cheesecake. The cakes looked huge and very delicious, but I went riding around looking for a lovely square somewhere I could sit and eat one. But no luck. The garden down at the river was lovely though.
Later, while sitting at a table under a big green umbrella having a salad on the banks of the Rhein, extraordinary long barges came sailing upstream loaded high with containers or piles of sand. They don’t make much of a wave. When I got up to leave, a large spider landed on my chest, and I did a little jig and beat my chest like Tarzan. I think I damaged it.
Pedalled and pedalled all day, usually along the dykes. There were a handful of other cyclists, and some of them were loaded with panniers for longer trips. I followed a man who looked like he knew where he was going. He had a one-wheeled trailer attached to the back of his bike, loaded with his camping gear. Once we were on a wider section of cycle track, I rode alongside him and said ‘guten Tag”. He told me he had just completed 2000kms, and I said ‘me too’, but he looked at me strangely. I should have said ‘BRAVO’ instead, then he would have chatted longer. Every bit of lone cyclist conversation out here on the dykes is precious.
A river of this magnitude must be harnessed. It’s a pity really. Another natural wild thing, domesticated by humans.
Something that begins with a twinkle on the mountain peak then joins with other twinkles until it becomes powerful flowing force, such magic.
My cousin Ramsey is curious to know what I think about all day on the bike. Well, I’m trying to understand the great mysteries! And think of all my children and family and friends of course, but most of all learning about my silly foibles.
I was fortunate to find a room in a pleasant hotel. The chef was sick, so I was sent to the Sports Bar for a large schnitzel and beer. I was the only happy person there, as I didn’t realise Germany had just been kicked out of the world cup soccer tournament.
Back in wine country this evening, there are hills here, and a microclimate ideal for grapes.
Bitte schön – danke schön…Tchuss (sounds like cheers).
Today, this afternoon, at 16:30, we stopped for ice-cream at Jesolo eis, to celebrate our 2000 km moment. Us, being my bike and I.
A lovely young lady Kira very kindly served a trophy pistachio and fresh kiwi sundae, and took a photograph of my CUBE trekking bike with me behind it eating the eis.
The bike has performed excellently so far. The front tire needed a bit of air once, at a garage in Austria. Having never pumped up a tire before, the hiss of the air hose gave me quite a fright. Other than a bit of oil on the chain, everything is working well. Especially the brakes. They are fancy Shimano disk brakes, which are most necessary on very steep embankments.
I slept until 7 am this morning at Hotel Sonne in Neuberg, and feeling a little guilty, had a quick breakfast and headed out of town. Soon the river came into view and it was glorious rolling along the path with the water twinkling in the morning sun. Forest on my left and river on my right. Later at a large road intersection a lovely cyclist came along. Unfortunately I didn’t get her name, but she is Swiss and did 1000 kms so far. Her birthday is on the Swiss National day and she’ll be 60. She certainly looked a lot younger. You see, biking is good for everything. After a good chat, we had to move in our opposite directions, but we could have talked all day. She is the first and only solo lady cyclist I have come across since Rome.
Made a call to Tyrone to ask him where I should go next. I’m having problems with planning, since I don’t have a paper map. The solo cyclist had a very nice waterproof map book of all the tracks along the Rhein. Google maps helps, but it doesn’t show the velo 15.
Had a long singing ride along the dykes, and found a spot for lunch in the middle of nowhere. Well I had no idea where, but it was somewhere in the middle.
Buffet for Euro 8.60. They do love their polony salad.
Germersheim was nice, the info desk officer showed me about eight different maps for cyclists, but none had enough scope for my day.
I couldn’t find the arch that was printed on all the stuff in the info shop. So, I went on, in a way that Simon would have frowned upon. No map, no plan, just faith.
Speyer is a very interesting place with a long and convoluted history. First there is a technical museum with all sorts of things that mostly boys love, and a giant imax cinema. There wasn’t a show on at that moment, otherwise I would have stayed. A large Lufthansa aircraft on stilts is open to tourists, one can see them go out on the wing.
The old city is beautiful, worth a another visit for sure. Nice and spacious with pretty architecture.
After leaving Speyer, the villages came and went. – Otterstadt – Waldsee – Limbergerhof…. I saw storks and greeted a dalmatian, amongst a myriad other things. A pink frog leapt out of the bush into my path, birds chirped, tractors made dust, and my thoughts were on philosophical matters.
Then my thoughts about the upcoming night began to pester me. So I headed for Ludwigshafen, where I hit the 2000 km mark and had the ice-cream. But that was not all. The kind people sent me on, and I found a hotel at the river with some difficulty. Basically, the hotel staff was convinced the hotel was fully booked, and will send one packing, when in fact Booking.com has reserved a room for last minute people like me. All you need to do is go outside, book it on your phone, then go back in again and embarrass them.
I unwittingly gravitated towards Ludwigshafen, which is the site of BASF, the largest integrated chemical factory in the world.
The receptionist at the hotel said: “I don’t drink the tap water here, but you can if you want to”.
Sneaked off to an Italian restaurant for a little pasta.
It is almost full moon, we left Marino a moonth ago today.
Riding a bike along the banks of a river has a profound effect on the rider. The river softly massages away one’s knotty moods, while the bike carries you along at a pace neither fast nor slow…it goes at the exact speed you need to be propelled, so as to see most of the beauty, and avoid most of the ugliness.
You can slow down instantly to watch the black shine of a ravens back as it flaps off your path, or speed up past a sewage processing plant, or swerve and call out to a swan.
The bicycle is the most perfect machine ever invented.
Not only is it virtually harmless to our Earth, it also cures diseases of the body, mind and soul. Better than yoga, better than pills, better even than a glass of wine.
I was happy to roll back to the river, after my little sojourn in Freiburg. Cities are nice for a bit, then all that swarming ant-like behaviour and bad air gets too much.
I muddled along enjoying the various landscapes, thinking if there were no hills then it must be going down to the river. You would imagine that to work if you were lost in a jungle, wouldn’t you?
Yes, I did reach the river at the end of the day, but only after some rather quiet tracks. Surprisingly there was a little ferry motoring across between Germany and France. It was not my intention to cross at this point, but I thought ‘what the heck’, the road had brought me all the way here through fields of maize and wheat, and dark woods, why not!?
Good thing it did, because on the French side, there was an info office where a pleasant lady behind the desk said: ” Everything is full, there are no accommodations around here”, but she saw my expression and so flipped through a brochure, and called ahead and booked me a room for the night. Maybe, because she was putting crosses on the map, my side up, that her cross was put in another town altogether. So after a lot of pedalling to reach the town with the cross on it, and doing a twirl around an industrial zone, my eagerness was baffled.
It is asparagus season here.
I had to resort to google maps to find my hotel, just when I was enjoying the crinkle and flutter of a printed map.
The pretty town of Erstein.
WhallaaaH! The hotel of Erstein. Dinner was delicious, aromatic herbs and Dijon mustards……I was in France!
Except they had no wifi, so this blog was not published when it should have been.
No sign of the famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte so far. Maybe the world famous Black Forest Gateau will make an appearance at my next destination, which would be Freiburg, although I doubted I would make it that far in one day.
The journey was not without highs and lows, although the terrain was flat. Steel works, water works, chemical works…
After a good breakfast, I was back to pedalling along thinking abut all the wonderful people I love.
I went up to Basel to see a bit of Switzerland again before diving into the depths of Germany. It looks immaculate and rich. With particular attention to signage. The things one can and cannot do, especially on bikes, are clearly advertised.
Being a bit fuzzy myself, those bright red signs made me happy to traverse the city. The final sign, at the entrance to a roundabout pointed to Freiburg 77 kms. After circling a few times I stopped to ask a policeman which road to take, he said he didn’t know anything about Freiburg.
My chosen road took me to Huningue, which sounded good enough. However, I should have crossed over the river there because I ended up passing through many vacant chic French villages, and then Niffer and Blodelsheim and Fessenheim. None of which had people in them.
At a greenly painted hotel I came across the first rude woman of my trip. She rolled her eyes dramatically when I asked her if she could be so kind as to charge my battery a little bit. I said I would pay. She plugged it in with a dramatic gesture.
There were some very long and lonely stretches here, and I have to admit to performing my first bush-pee. It was not difficult to be seen squatting amongst the sugar beet dressed in luminescent pink.
Lunch consisted of stolen goods from B&B Jasmin. My bike served as a picnic table. Nutella, egg, apple, and a slice of horse food (sour bread). Washed down with a gulp of water.
The photography of the day is dismal due to my speedy urgency to reach Freiburg, which is way off my track. Also, the pictures are not edited because my lightroom has gone on the blink.
The final hours on the bike were divided between a boy on a push scooter colliding with my pannier and then apologising…golly that was a close call. Riding through a large hole which sent my phone flying. I noticed about 2 kms down the road so raced back and found it lying in the middle of the path. A wasp up my sleeve, which stung me repeatedly while I was on the phone trying to book my accommodation.
Do you know that kind of fatigue where pain is just a secondary sensation?
Negotiating the cycling traffic of a higgledy piggledy old university city at 18:00 was a new experience for me. No rules apply. There must surely be a million bikes here!
When choosing appropriate accommodation on the budget list, remember to enquire whether there is a lock up area for your beloved bicycle. Gasthaus Löwen does not, although it’s a very charming old place to eat.
I removed everything possible from the bike, including my whale bell, flower, carriers, lights etc, and pushed her in amongst all the other bikes parked on the street.
The person in charge of the rooms was not available to let me in, so I sat down at the restaurant table with flat hair and smelly clothes. A polite man who retired to Lago Maggiore sat near me. He knew all the Alpine bike tracks. He also said my bike will definitely be stolen, whether chained or not.
According to the restaurant staff, there was a secure bike parking at the train station. So I hastily dragged my bike off for another kilometre, and asked the eyelash girl at the info desk in the station. She said “no, there was no parking for bicycles”. I rode around the corner and there was a large round bike parking station. A young lady helped me figure out the in’s and out’s of the ticketing system, all written very accurately in German.
These photos were taken on my way to pick up my bike in the morning. I was overjoyed to see it, poor thing, all covered in dust. On the way there I had stopped in a shop and bought her a little present of some stickers to brighten her up. (A bicycle is female…biciclettA)
My room looks fine in the picture, but you cannot hear the large extractor fan outside the window which drew up all the cooking fumes from the kitchen. In the morning I looked for another place to stay, which was much more expensive, except the staff wouldn’t allow me in before 15:00. A slightly off-day sitting in the dining hall with my panniers at my feet. I might mention that university students are not into serving shabby old foreign cyclists.
All I managed to do this afternoon, other than sleep, was wash my clothes at a laundromat, with the help of a very-very thin man dressed entirely in black.
As Jane says, no matter how fast you ride, laundry always catches up with you!
This morning some of the Everest Hotel guests vanished with the key to the dungeon where the bicycles are stored overnight, so I had to wait for them to come and open the lock. It was an imperfect start to a few other annoyances that came up first thing. I pedalled out to the river where the cycle track is very well marked along the eastern shore. Happy to be moving again, off I went for about 1 km till it just fizzled out. A very good long look at the map later, I had to return and cross over the bridge. Lesson 1009.
Going along nicely, voicing a red-indian sounding song, when I heard popping noises on my helmet and my glasses turned into kaleidoscopes. The body was doing fine, but the atmosphere was sheer gloom. I would like to thank the government for making us this wonderful cycle track, it is smooth and clean and fast, even in the rain.
But it also nearly broke my heart when I came face to face with some big mower/cutter monsters who came down the track and cut all the beautiful spring flowers for meters on each side, sucked them up into a big bin truck, and left barren green stalks for the next 15 kilometres. In the south they would never do such a dreadful thing, but then they don’t have much cycle track at all.
No more forget-me-nots, butter-cups, lace, poppies…and the river Adige looked grey and bulging.
My bike at rest with the others at the special bike stop restaurant.
Lunch at a small village called Egna Newmarkt, Stop there next time you pass by. I went into a hotel restaurant with wet pants, you know the cushiony lycra type, and sat on the nice cushiony chair. When I got up and saw a big wet patch, it was a bit embarrassing. Then I asked the lady for the toilet…she must have been very cross.
Things went wrong navigationally again. There was a detour which put me off my track. The road was full of puddles and the nasty men go there to drive very fast in splashy cars. Big trucks go thundering past and blast one with dirty road spray. Then, just when the detour ends and we (bike and I) get back on track, it happens to be just passed the turnoff for Meran…no signs of course. All other cyclists either have an iPad affixed to their handle bars with the latest updated version of cycle maps, or a proper GPS. Little Leanne, gaily goes pedalling along, but Simon came to the rescue and told me what to do. Go back a few kms. Turn, gogogogo.
Doing just that, when up came a tunnel. Ummm, especially for bikes! Then another one. Gorgeous countryside unfolded all around as I went huffing up the hill. On and on through wonderful farms and forests. Another nasty surprise was waiting. A big road with signs that had names unrelated to any I should be seeing.
Not just wrong road, but wrong VALLEY!
Another turn around and a fast decent, almost having a face-on collision with a squirrel who happened to be hanging off the end of a branch eating cherries. We came eyeball to eyeball for a fraction of a second and I had to dodge the little beast. Which reminds me of the black velvet mole that nudged my foot in the grass earlier. And a lost duckling which couldn’t see his mom down the road, so I herded it a bit in her direction.
I must end here, as my eyes can’t stay open any longer. There is so much more to tell…
Big day today, a record distance of 108 kms.
61 hours in the saddle since Rome
total 967.15 kms. So tomorrow will be a 1000 km celebration. Whoo hoo.
I was thrilled to have an egg for breakfast at Pico Hotel. Usually it’s a matter of cornetti with jam and a coffee.
Set off a bit late this morning, due to it being Sunday.
Lesson 3. Don’t sing with your mouth open when riding a bike. Hum, because insects can get in your lung.
You would think cyclists prefer downhills to uphills. But like life, the ups are way more interesting and you get to feel pleased when you reach the top. Whereas the downs, as in life, are mostly just a whizzing blur and then you feel sad that it’s over.
On the flats, however, one tends to focus on the things right in front of you. Yesterday Giorgio said he goes up onto the dykes to see the sunset. It occurred to me that when you live on a level, one doesn’t get to see spectacular stuff like sunsets. There is always stuff to block your view. Like walls and gardens. Just a small up like a dyke can make all the difference.
Today I visited the small town of San Benedetto Po, which boasts a huge monastery founded in 1007. The spaces are incredible, and the people are very nice, but I didn’t go inside.
For most of the way the track Euro velo 7 follows the river Secchia. There are dykes on each side. Along the top of them are the cycle tracks. From up here there are great views of the farms and crops. All the farmers who lost their buildings in the 2012 earthquake have rebuilt particularly fancy sheds. Those whose buildings stayed standing, have to make do with the old ones. There must be a farmer or two amongst them who regrets that his buildings didn’t fall down.
After a sumptuous lunch alfresco: tagliatelle cut in ribbons (serrated edges), with smoked salmon sauce, and some veggies with lots of olive oil. Apparently we are supposed to drink four times the amount of olive oil that we do, so I’m not holding back. (Good marketing strategy for olive oil farmers).
Today the ride was wonderfully peaceful. Lombardy is worth visiting if you can.
Happily rolled into Mantova this afternoon at around 16:00.
48 hours in the saddle since the ride began.
Known for it’s general exquisiteness, Mantova’s weary streets are coated in tourist groups. My phone ran out of battery as usual, just when it was needed, so I drank a fanta in a bar while it energised. Finding a place to stay every night is quite a task on it’s own. Tonight I am sleeping in Industrial street 4.
The evening was lilac with pink roses, from the high terrace of the village called Radda our glasses of red wine held up in the sun, and the moon floated like a white petal between them.
A choir was singing in the church so we sat on a pew and closed our eyes for a while listening to heaven.
Saturday morning saw us pedalling past green vineyards. Little did we know what was coming.
First a very fast downhill. I whizzed down at 58kms per hour, which is a record for me, and I don’t intend going faster than that ever again. Simon went much faster.
But then the really-really steep uphills began.
We rode up and over wineries, olive groves and oak forests.
I stopped to wait for Simon under a tree, a luxury granted me by me electric bike. Luckily for us, a group of very happy people from Treviso stopped there too, for a sip of Prosecco in the shade of an old farmhouse. Corrado came over and invited us to join them.
We had a lovely noisy rest there and exchanged contact details.
When traveling by bike you really notice the ground, how it passes beneath you, changing colours and stones. You feel the wind dragging off the back of your arms like silk scarves. Sometimes you hold your breath when a truck goes past or a ditch of sand pulls you into a sideways skid. I’m getting better at hopping off without hooking my foot on the water bottle.
Insects often collide with your face.
Road things: Lizards, and lizard tails, small sharp white stones and flapping butterflies, 3 snakes (2 squashed), some unfortunate hedgehogs, african hoepoes, cuckoos, motorbikes, tractors, vans, and the scent of olive trees in full blossom.
My camera’s extra-wide-angled lens has an annoying way of flattening the landscape…
This was our last day of riding together, as Simon must to return to work. So we took it slow until lunchtime, when by chance, we found the perfect spot at Casa Nuova
The owners, a very nice Dutch couple, Ulla and Thierry have renovated the villa and made it spectacular. They are good friends of Maló and Guido (with whom I am staying now).
We had been there together for dinner about a year ago and loved it. Not realising it was the same place (night and day difference), we turned in and recognised the garden. Had a long chat and delicious lunch. Ulla has published a cookery book of their own recipes (written in German).
It was time to face the last long uphill to our destination, the magical home of Maló and Guido at Poggio Pratelli (we all share the privilege of grand-parenting Elia, our gorgeous grandson in Oslo).
And so we arrived by way of a gravelly road to find a bottle of excellent Prosecco from the family estate, Torre Degli Alberi, waiting for us in the fridge.
The garden is dripping with roses of all kinds, lavender and blue cornflowers, rosemary and poppies….
Sunday morning sunshine filtered through the vine leaves, dappling the veranda table. Maló makes the most delicious food; salads and wild strawberries picked from the garden and olive oil from her trees.
The four of us “nonni” bragged on about the pure wonderfulness of grandchildren, and made a toast to Elia who was at the same moment enjoying a 1st birthday picnic with parents and friends at the lake in Oslo. And to gorgeous Mikey who had just caught his first Australian fish, aged 2,5 yrs.
Sunny Sunday morning. Simon rode off to the train station. We watched him go, until he was just a speck on a far-off farm road, then he vanished into a forest.
I felt quite bereft.
Simon sent me this picture from the train station. So he did actually reach it in time.
I was very pleased to be invited to go with Maló and Guido to their good friends for supper. This is the view from their home overlooking Florence. We talked a lot about routes and bicycles.
Weather predictions for tomorrow are rain and wind. But I don’t believe it, and will head off at around 9 am. Maló is helping me find the track.