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45. Last whirl of the wheel. (July 31)

It has taken me a week to get around to writing to you, because baby Elia and I have been so busy catching up and playing.

This is a last look at the stats after finishing…

55 sunny days of pedalling from morning till night + 2 days of heavy rain when I stopped + 5 days of rest. Grand total 62 days journey over 4180 kms. Top speed 59.8 Kph, at which point the panniers would rise up dangerously, like wings opening for take-off. Average speed 18.5 kph. Oiled chain twice and pumped one tire once. Gratefully shared some riding days with Simon (8 days),  Georgio (0.5 day), Birgitta and Hans-George (1 day), Regina and Zoe (2 days), Bruce and Kealena (3 days), Tyrone (4 days).

I slept in 50 different beds which varied from a raw mattress to a bed fit for a queen and everything in between. Showers were always good. My booking app was very useful, and so was the Googley girl app.

 

Being alone for much of the time, led to the upwelling of seven “me’s” who I labelled: Dizzy blonde, Stupid-bloody-fool, Guru, Panic-pot, Happy, Sneezy, and Dopey.

All my personalities suffered moments of despair and exhilaration. Guru had the most arduous job of all, and only stopped nagging when I arrived in Oslo.

It would yell: “Get up out of that bed immediately and get on your bike” or it would shout: “PAY ATTENTION ! … stop…… go go go GO…. take your blinkers off, wait here, do this, do that blah blah blah.

Listen carefully and trust that voice. Act instantly. It saves your life.

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There was also the very much appreciated daily input from Simon, and the imaginary team (the voices of my kids who cheered me on), and my family and friends as the ‘blog-backup support team’ who wrote wonderful messages which kept me going. Thank you everyone for your kind words. I would have been miserable without you. Your good wishes put wind in my tires, and your comments put power in my pedals.

I became a man; no makeup, no hair brush, a ravenous appetite, strong muscles, navigating by the sun, loving my bike, drinking beer, not caring how ugly I looked, and going places where no women dare to go;  prohibited factory yards, pubs full of scary men, dark forest paths with wolves, that kind of thing. It was fantastic to be liberated of that fussy feminine stuff.

 

Europe is a remarkably safe place, despite the TV news. Chances of being led astray are extremely rare for someone my age. People are especially kind and they help you when asked. Just smiling and being pleasant.

Children are particularly interested, many a moment when feeling fatigued a bus full of kids would wave at me going past. Nothing gets you going like a little child looking you in the eye and asking a question. Like the little boy who traced the bike symbol on my pannier with his tiny fingers and asked if the bike was all new. Kids notice a lot of things that adults are too busy to see.


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Italians generally love to chat, discuss solutions, and give one really good food. Although cycling is yet to become a really popular thing to do, hence the lack of cycle paths. Everybody I met along the way became my friend and kept in touch.

Austrians are generally well organised and care about cyclists. Everyone is treated with equal respect, smokers and non-smokers alike. There are so many Harley-Davidson groups, cycle groups, and tourists from every part of the world, that they have become really good at hosting all types without getting too involved.

The Swiss work hard to make better food than the Italians and the French put together. Their properties are cultivated, their shops are expensive, and everything is run like a beautiful clock.

Germans are very busy doing everything properly. People are doers, movers and makers. Hotels are good, food is good, beer is good. Everything works. Maintenance and construction is continuous from south to north. The people are friendly, and it’s gemütlich.

The French are naturally confident, and they like to please who they choose. The villages along the Rhine are smartly renovated but everybody goes away at work somewhere. There are no facilities for Eurovelo 7 cycle route users yet, although there were a lot of nice french cyclists going past.

Danes are discreet, everything looks pretty, even the biggest factory is super stylish versatile and safe to be near. There is a certain wealth, but it’s softly tailored with humility. Cyclists everywhere, commuting on the thousands of well controlled cycle roads.

Swedish are similar to Danes, they also have nice wooden cottages at the seaside. Everyone speaks perfect English, and they’re nice to strangers. They have made a spectacular cycle track from Gothenburg.

Norwegians are similar to Swedes, they also have nice cottages at the seaside or in the woods. My children live here so I’m happy that Norwegians are happy people. They care a lot about children too.

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Last word…

Much to my surprise and relief the body managed to survive the journey with no sickness, or delays due to health problems.

The hands grew a bit claw-like and developed pads on the palms, painful at night…. werewolf symptoms?

Some short episodes of vertigo were annoying, it is caused by crystals in the inner ear detaching and moving. This has been an issue for almost three years now, so no fault of the cycling. It only occurs when I lie down or sit, so it did not prevent me from riding. However it is better now.

Allergies were a nuisance for about 2500 kms, dust and pollen blew around in clouds. No allergies since.

Finally, the answer to the most asked question…how is the seat?

The answer…UNCOMFORTABLE! But no damage done.

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43. A Rolling stone gathers no moss for 4000 kms (July 23)

The terrain rose up and became beautifully hilly. Massive piles of mossy granite boulders pushed up through the oats fields while balancing trees on their heads. These hills are perfectly spaced to allow cyclists to whizz down a steep slope for 10 seconds before starting up the next for 10 minutes. Up and down like that for hours. There were black-blue lakes there, shimmering behind the shaking birch leaves. All day we rode through the wilderness, with only one little fawn leaping away into the bushes.

It became clear at some time after lunch that hotels were far too few. Stenungsund offered us lunch, and a chance to ask for accommodation at the info office. A sweet girl telephoned ahead to the Hotel in Henån, the Henån Hotel, where we were able to choose between a hotel room and a bed & breakfast room. We chose the bed & breakfast, which was cheaper, and had a better chance of breakfast. But the situation was rather not up to our usual standards. Mostly due to the smell. Breakfast was nice and the manager gave us a winning smile. She came out on the doorstep to wave goodbye.

Another day of ups and downs. Tyrone was doing well on his new bike, although the seat was uncomfortable. Mine is too but not as punishing. After many, many hours perched on those seats, we realised there were no more hotels on the map.
We were in limbo between Sweden and Norway.
That “oh dear’ feeling was getting stronger the further we went into the forest. The feeling reached “Uh Oh!!! after 88 kms….”

But in the nick of time, up popped a camping ground.

With rejoicing we rode up to the reception, and found a lady who examined her bookings, and finally said: “Yes, I do” …’ have a hut for you”. She also told us the restaurant (food place) would be closing at 19:00. So we disembarked our paraphernalia and took a swim in the blue-black lake. Well, Ty took a swim, but i found it a bit cool, so painted something in my notebook instead. We needed tokens for the public showers, which were surprisingly good. By 18:00 we were puffed and perfumed, ravenous for a delicious dinner.

The husband of the receptionist watched us walk past the office window with straight legs, then he telephoned ahead to the restaurant to warn them we were coming and please would they give us something to eat. But they would not. The receptionist had made a mistake. Closing time was at 18:00. I told my sob story to the waitresses while they stuffed pomme frites in their mouths, but they said there was no food left over, the had a “hectic weekend”. I asked in my begging voice if they could spare a slice of bread?

All  they could serve was beer. Which they did.

The evening did not last long after that. We took our beer belly grumbles to bunk-bed in a tiny wooden room. I dreamed somebody stole my army boots which was very upsetting.

Sun up, so we went down to the receptionist, bikes all packed and ready to go. She and her husband had fragrant cinnamon buns in the oven, and hot coffee at the ready. So all was forgiven.

Soon it was time for my mileage meter to reach 4000 kms. I felt very happy, I suppose. Although it is a staggering thought that the whole ride has been rather a selfish endeavour, yet you are pleased that I made it. There were times of discomforting euphoria, peaceful joy, some humiliation and fearsome miracles, boredom, distraught feebleness, confident delight, and all the emoticons on the list. But I’ll tell you about that another time. There were times when I thought my mother was thinking about me, and an eagle would fly overhead. The perfume of a strawberry field would bring thoughts of Megan. I thought a lot about my children and their children, who are actually mine….

All day, we rode, up and down the granite hills under the forest trees, along highways and byways, on roads and paths, until we came to the sea at Moss. The only deviation was an urgent rush for a loo, when the lunch in my tummy gurgled. Three men in green road-working suits sat at a table outside their quarters eating lunch. I rode right up to them with panic on my face. “please excuse me, but can I use your toilet???!!”. The look went around between them, and the one who got the look from both of the others, got up and showed me into a dark little room with an unmade bed. The basin was less white than it should have been, but at least there was plenty of loo paper.

Pictures of Sweden blending with Norway. We rode 109 kms today, so it’s time for bed.

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Blowing avenue of trees in the garden.

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41. Copenhagen magic (July 19)

It was the hottest day of the year.

Even so, it’s always a pleasure to be in this city.

We spent the day rolling around enjoying the scenery.

 

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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.
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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.
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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 ).
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This is her house in Kenya, which looks very like my own G.Grandmothers home.

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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.
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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.

101 kms.
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36. Hamburger sophistication (July 11)

What do you order for dinner in Hamburg?

Sweet-potato chips.

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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.

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Buxtehude is lovely, the old centre is perfectly preserved and interesting. I sat down there and ate my breakfast bun.
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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.
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A whole bridge for my bike and I… crossing into the city in style!
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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.
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32. Goodbye my friend, Rhine. (July 5)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

66 kms.

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28. Würstsalat. (June 29)

Würstsalat has been bugging me since Freiburg. People order the stuff everywhere. At the biergarten in Bingen, today for lunch, a woman next to me ordered it, and so did I.
It was served in a glass jar with a lid.

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Rather fun to eat with a fork, a bit like spaghetti, but it didn’t taste remotely like pasta. Other than the vinegar, there are other ingredients involved, all of them unrecognisable to me. I presume the flavour is a mix of the standard salat cream (which may or may not contain diary), and the smokiness of the pink würst…which is in English just fancy polony.

It was rather satisfying to eat, although it must be doing terrible things to my cholesterol levels. I’ve got to stop having all these würsts, schnitzels, and bread with FAT….this evening I was served bread and a little ceramic dish of fat to put on the bread. It is perfectly white with bits of cured meat in it. I just took a tiny scraping….but the guilt was 100x bigger.

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This morning in Mainz, which is a lovely city, I found an E-bike shop and asked the nice smartly dressed young salesman, to please check my pedals. He did, and declared them – tight.
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Simon is arriving on Saturday to keep me company for the weekend. I’m very pleased, but rather concerned he will be a bit shocked at my vagabond appearance.

A month of sun and wind every day, has darkened my face to a motley brown (nose in particular) , but my glasses have protected my eye skin, so that’s all white, with pink piggy eyes (allergies). Arms are brown sticks with pronounced muscles, legs are tanned only on the back of the calves, and I still have tan stripes on the white feet. Back of the ankles are a mess from pedal bites. The hand bones seem very pronounced, with a vice grip!

As for my clothes, I wear the same stretch pants every evening, as it gets a bit cool at the terrace restaurants and there are mosquitoes around. The nice little frock I brought with me for the evenings is far too short for the leg tan.

My hair…oh dear! In Italian – “Un casino”

This morning after the church bells gonged and gonged until i woke up at 6 am, I painted a new sign for the handlebar bag. The other one was dull and nobody was talking to me. So I made a very cheerful watercolour, with the Italian flag in one corner and the Norwegian in the other, and wrote Roma – Oslo.

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There was instant interest from passersby, and 3 lady cyclists form Amsterdam called after me: “Roma Roma…” so I stopped and we were like a gaggle of geese, getting all the info we could get about one another.

On the ferry crossing over the Rhein once more, a large group of loud men, doing their annual cycling tour, took it upon themselves to include me in their photographs. Then kindly offered ‘ladies first’ when we had to disembark on a steep bank. Haha, I shot up there so fast with my battery on turbo…and heard them all having a laugh.

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Odometer 2144.8
Only 60 kms today, as I don’t want to go too far as Simon will be coming in at the FR airport…and he will drive to wherever I may end up today.

Here are some pictures of the day.
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I am so sorry about the lack of maps, but the hotels have terrible wifi, so I can’t spend time checking how to make them and save them. Maybe next week when things get tough. I ‘ll be off the cycle tracks and navigating every wheel turn of the way.

Thanks to you all, for your encouragement and generous remarks. It gives me so much strength to carry on! Love!

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25. Strasbourg. (June 25)


Sunday was a celebration day for us, our precious Elia turned ONE.
What a joy it is to have two fabulous grandsons, and a baby on the way!


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Now that my feet are firmly in socks and sandals on German soil, I can talk about practical issues without embarrassment.
The question I am asked the most is ‘how is my bum?’

The answer is: fine.

I know that’s hard to believe. Fine doesn’t mean perfect, and after an hour or two of cycling, standing up on the pedals helps to alleviate any discomfort, but I think my lady parts are gonna be ok.

I seem to have a lung issue which I’m not very happy about. Copious amounts of tree pollen and the general road and field dust billow into my lungs all day.
Same applies to eyes and ears. I put allergy drops in my eyes every morning and that seems to keep the sneezing at bay. I cover my mouth with my stretchy scarf thing when riding through swarms of gnats.

Finally my old gloves (which I may have stolen from Megan) fell apart, and when paying for coffee the cashier would throw my change at me as to not come in contact with a tramp. They are now a murky grey with large holes.The old bony hands get a bit tired of holding onto the handlebars, so I bought them a fancy new pair of white gloves, which I don’t like nearly as much. I can’t wipe my nose on them.

One can get a bit blasé after a while, once the actual riding technique has been learned, about paying attention to small things like pavement edges and sand pits, and those small paths around closed booms. Especially pedalling with one hand on a hip at 25 kms per hour. My luggage weighs about 18 kilograms, with computer on board, so one must avoid pointy stones while checking for a speeding car, while watching for the track signs, while looking for photo opportunities.

Today I rode past an army barracks onto a small path, and had a regiment of soldiers running at me in single file. Didn’t get a look as I was doing a wobble to avoid crashing into them.

Crossing the bridge between France and Germany was fine, no cycle track, so cars just had to hang back in a queue behind me. But I have to say this, the smell of cows was waiting!

On the French side – nothing, just fragrant trees, but just half a kilometre across the Rhine… ..phew!
Do the French import their meat from Germany? After that it was chicken schtink, then a farmer spraying his field with pig swill which made me gag.

The Mercedes factory is just south of Rastatt, and a car-carrier truck piled up with brand new Mercedes sedans pulled into the road ahead of another large truck, as it was coming along at German speed. There was a lot of hooting, but no crash.

If you book a hotel on the day, don’t expect to find somebody actually on the premises. One must call at about 5pm, and hope to find somebody there.
I was the only guest at ‘L’Ermitage last night, so had my supper in the room. The owner said she would bring it up on a tray in 30 mins, but after an hour I went down to see if I had misheard. She was having her supper with the chef. She brought it in for me, and I was very pleased. Some leaves and hunks of cheese, slices of ham and a bottle of water. The remains of the day.

Strasbourg is lovely. Avenues of plain trees along the canals.

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I bought a little stork, which is symbolic of Strasbourg, hoping it will bring me more grandchildren.

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This man was playing the sax so beautifully, I couldn’t move…

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Tram way in central Strasbourg.
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I stayed in Marienthal last night, it was a bit further off my track than expected, as places to stay around here are hard to find. It was another story getting there…

Today was a green and gritty ride, a long way on the eastern dyke, which is forbidden apparently. I was forced to do some bush-wacking, and scale a strange overpass.
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Found this monument to Goethe in Sessenheim. He met his beloved Fiederike there.

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Lunch place at Rastatt.
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Found a place in Neuberg for tonight, the Sonne hotel.  Terribly slow internet, but great Greek food!

70 kms

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22. Bed bugzzzi. (June 22)

The only men I attract by my appearance these days, are those with noisy machines. – mowers, tractors, builders and lorry drivers. Even the rubbish truck man made a comment after a near miss. I don’t think it was complimentary.
But the hoteliers usually always shake my hand when I leave, which is sweet.

My ebike has a little onboard computer which gives me four cycling modes, depending how much battery help needed for the terrain. I have added another mode: “LOST”, which is especially helpful for dizzy blondes.

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I wish it had “find the perfect hotel room” mode as well. My industrial park motel room, which I shared with my bicycle, was a bit bleak. When I picked up my panniers off the floor a couple of bed bugs crawled away. EEEK!

Luckily, thanks to a very disturbing fly that buzzed around me the entire night, I had got into my silk sleep sack, which unwittingly had prevented those dreaded bed-bug bites. Now all my clothes need washing. Good thing, as they haven’t seen a washing machine for 4 weeks.  The buzzing fly was telling me something more? (Hand washing my clothes every evening is not quite enough. My claws are very tired at the end of the day.)

Whistling along through yet another completely vacant village, I came across a swimming pool. It was the hottest day so far, and there was a blackboard with a fast food menu scribbled on it. The combination of pool and food was too much to resist. A nice round Italian Mama was dragging her crying little boy out of the water, he wanted to stay and swim like all the other little kids….but she whined: “DEVI MANGIARE AMORE!!!”… . (you must eat my love).

I collapsed into the large blue pool of icy water right on the banks of the river. The boy who made the brätwurst couldn’t believe how fast such an old person could eat the thing and wash it down with fanta. Not my standard order, but with a good dose of ketchup and mayo, it was delicious.

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Cooling towers, steel works, and other industry to be seen along the Rhine. Quite a contrast to the sweet little old towns.

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The bridge from Germany to Switzerland. I didn’t cross it. Switzerland is much more expensive. The Swiss like to swarm over the border to do their shopping, and then get the tax refunded!

At about 15:00 I usually begin to worry about accommodation. Around here there are no obvious places to stay along the route. Even toilets are very hard to find, and being a lady, one cannot just piddle on the side of the road like the men do. This is not Italy where you can find a crowded  friendly cafe at the centre of even the tiniest village.

There are long stretches of shady bike tracks, then some streets and intersections which can be a bit complicated, and then the signs direct you along farm roads through cultivated fields. One of the hazards of biking through the fields are the irrigation sprays, which I have learnt to speed past while they turn. A light sprinkling wouldn’t be a problem in this weather, but they are like a waterfall and rather blinding.

Checked my booking.com for a place to stay, and found Pension B&B Jasmin, off track at Karsau. On the way up a steep hill there was an ebike shop. Feeling very happy to have a reason to stop, I asked the huge man for some chain grease. He showed me how to apply some oil. Since then it doesn’t seem to change gear very well, and clatters terribly.

Nobody was at B&B Jasmin, so I plonked myself down at a Pub down the road. Tested out my German a little bit. Very traditional place that smelt of cigarettes and sour beer. I ordered Rinderleber with balsamico, and the man said it was cow heart. It took me some moments of revolted consideration, and I thought, oh well, maybe it’s good for courage, love and emotion. Strangely it tasted exactly like liver and onions, but good enough for the necessary amino acids and iron. Washed down with wine of course.

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What the doctor ordered

I was way too tired to write this blog, but please note, I still manage to put on some  lipstick once in a while but my hair is a fright.

Odometer 1573.7

63 kms today, not too many but it was really hot.

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21. Emerald River blues. (June 19-21)

19 June 2018.

Early morning ride along the southern shore of lake Constance (Bodensee in German) which forms the border between Switzerland and Germany, was so calm after the turbulent river that feeds it, unlike me who woke up in the night with vertigo!

I was horrified of course, and so worried that I would not be able to ride.

Got up on my bike and off I went, no problems so long as I didn’t look up!

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Very quiet little villages along the way, only builders and road workers to be seen. After an hour of looking out for a coffee bar, eventually pedalled up to a little bakery where two ladies and three dogs sat at my table and we chatted for a while. Gulped down a delicious hot croissant with a cappuccino.

Fantastic choice for bike rides here…

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The cycling is going well, I’m getting better at ‘handling’ the bike, and can almost always manage a u-turn in a small street without falling over.
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Zipped passed the ancient city of Constance, pity to miss the medieval part across the river, but went on to Stein-am-Rhine instead to see the frescoes.

A Chinese tour group were being herded by their guide, he was yelling at them to look at this look at that, and they all had their phones up to their faces taking photos of this and that.

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The colour of the Rhine is singularly beautiful here, with its shifting emerald greens and turquoise greys. It mesmerises as it swirls along with surging whirlpools while sighing against its banks.

Such a joy to be riding with this enormously famous waterway. Beats washing windows at home.
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After lunch in Schaffhausen (a delicious mango-curry-coco soup), I saw the falls at Neuhausen am Rheinfall… Apparently only eels manage to wiggle their way up these falls.
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About the body, two noticeable changes happening now that I’ve reached 1500 kms. My hearing has improved, and my bum has lifted!
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Arrived very tired at Waldshut-Tiengen to find my pre-booked motel room in an industrial zone, 3 kms away from any restaurant..

Todays ride – 100kms

Odometer 1510.9

average speed 18kph.

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20. Singing down to the Bodensee. (June 18)

I dropped down from the mountain ice, with the river misting at my side. From Stuben to Bludenz to Nenzing to Feldkirch. My wheels spun fast between the trees, until the land began to plain, and the white stream expanded into a calm turquoise lens.
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The tunnel panic wasn’t so bad this time, being Sunday morning, the traffic minimal.

There was an Austrian Oompah band playing in a carnival tent, and around the corner stood this beautiful black horse. I took this shot from the hip.

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I’m officially over the hill. There will be no more mountains ranges until I reach Oslo. Quite sad.

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Noticed the change in architecture and the cooking smells wafting from the houses.

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The Rhine River deserves a mention…Rhenus, Rein, Rhein, le Rhin, Reno, Rijn…. I will be following it for the next 1000 kms, so we’ll get to the whole history and geography of it later.

When the road flattened out, I felt it was finally time to admit I was going to Oslo, so I wrote ROM – OSLO on my front carrier label. This had a magic effect on the people around me. Paolo was the first to approach me to talk about the journey, and from then on everyone has been much more friendly and inquiring. They all say….”going solo” with astonishment.

By now the number of HELLO’S that have been said per day, must be nearing a million. A smile works wonders with passing cyclists, and they generally smile back. I sail along from smile to smile.

103 kms later, in Rorschach, Switzerland, I flopped into a bunk bed in this youth hostel. Felt rather like an old codger, but was very pleased to have the room to myself. It had a fabulous view over the lake and a basin in it where I washed my textiles.
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The plugs and the money are different in Switzerland. All my electronic equipment could not be charged. So I went out looking for food, which was a lot of trouble for my legs. Some nice ladies fed me some green asparagus spears with very yellow hollandaise sauce, and a little beer. – €26.00.

The world cup soccer – Switzerland versus Brazil game was on. Shame, they were all so enthusiastic, boys shouting from cars covered in red and white cross flags speeding past. As I left the restaurant the rain came pouring down and I had a soggy barefoot walk all the way back to the hostel. My sandals are very slippery on the inside when wet.

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The first thing I look for in a hotel room, is how many plugs there are. The hostel room had one that didn’t work. My ebike battery was critically low on power after 103 km even if it was mostly downhill. Here is a sketch to show you exactly how many electronics I carry with me in my panniers.


Jumped on the bike in the morning, and had 30 kms on the display…of course I could pedal without power, but it’s like going from riding a black stallion to riding a cow.

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A cyclist told me yesterday that the weather would be bad today. I have heard that so many times, and it turns out perfectly fine.
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Friends come in all shapes and sizes. This little sparrow had coffee and a biscuit with me.
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Just tell me how many bike paths do these people have!?!  So many choices! I am taking the Eurovelo 15, which runs next to the Rhine, via Basel.

There wasn’t the exact, perfect looking restaurant in Kontanz area, so I took a chance and went on with only 5 kms of power left on my ebike. Suddenly I was out in the countryside with fields as far as the eye could see, but at least it was flat in case my black stallion turned into a cow.

With just 1 km to go, a hotel appeared like a genie from a bottle, and I fizzled into the bike parking space.

The menu was: “Salad, Il Risotto al pomodoro with fried feta…and a banana-berry smoothy.   After lunch I asked the waiter if they had a room free, and in a flash I was booked into the hotel, and my cables were all plugged into the walls of my room.
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Little bowl of sunshine.
if you get lost
Sunday 17, Odometer: 1366.3 – today ‘s trip distance 103 kms, average speed 18.6 kph. Monday 18. Odometer 1410.4 – today 44 kms…

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16. Truck spray. (June 13)

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.

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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.

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My bike at rest with the others at the special bike stop restaurant.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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15. Going into the Alps. (June 13)

Lucy Lui gave me breakfast in her back garden, and waved me goodbye. All my hosts and hostesses so far have been truly generous and kind.

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Mantova was just waking up when I passed along her northern shores, sneaking along a little path in the woods. A large sticky spider web attached itself to my back, and I had a feeling the spider came with it. There were a swan couple who hissed over their ugly ducklings. Rabbits hopped around. It all seemed a bit too fairy-tail-ish.

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A Faraway Tree.

My nonna knees seem to be holding up, and my back is completely better. It’s amazing what biking can do for a gnarly old woman.

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Thank you Judith for the energy bars, this one went down very well after a long straight road along the canal. The farmers are turning their hay, clouds of hay-fever dust spread around everywhere.

A pig-swill truck came down the cycle track, and I found it quite easy to vomit off a moving bike. As you go along so the smells change, from star-jasmine in full flower to cow urine, to wet grass, to algae ponds. Lots and lots of water down south of the lake. All of it controlled by very fancy looking pump stations, dykes and cement canals.

Then suddenly a castle ruin on a hilltop surrounded by forest. History is always at your side in Italy.
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Stopped a moment in Monte Borghetto to look at the little place and found a Metasequoia tree.
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My bike battery had not charged properly the night before, so I was a bit nervous of getting to where I was going. Wherever that would be.

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First glimpse of Lago di Garda was at Peschiera, the most southern village. A man in a sailor suit, told me I had missed the boat for Riva today. (northern most town on the lake).

At the info place I asked a tall dark girl with long mauve fingernails. She had been asked that question one too many times. One must ask for second opinions.
The voice in my head said: “don’t panic Leanne, this is a holiday lake, there will be plenty of places to stay”.

But I very gingerly rode 8 kms to the next port to see if there was a boat from there. The ferry ticket man yelled over the loudspeaker in the middle of my question: “Schlange auf der rechten Seite” at which some German ladies giggled. It was shouted in English too: ” Please queue on the right side”. I wasn’t sure which was the right or wrong side, but we all got on board.

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It’s not actually cheating, if you want to ride along the edge then you’ve got tunnels and narrow roads to negotiate.

We floated up the long narrow lake, deep into the mountains. Away from the heat and white skies, the ferry criss-crossed the water, picking up and dropping off passengers as it went. The deck was green painted iron, and 3 sailors manned the ropes. It took four and a half hours to go from Sirmione to Riva.

You will see by the sheer number of photographs below, that there was nothing else to do on board. There are many picturesque villages on the way.

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and more…

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Finally arrived in Riva, and my battery clicked off as I reached the door of the Hotello Sport and Relax. It was 20:20.
However, after a shower and a nice chat with Luciana and her beautiful daughter, I managed to put on my usual evening outfit and head down to town for a little supper.

Eating alone is quite an art, you have to pretend not to be listening to other conversations, you’ve got to interact with the staff, and you’ve got to look less lonely than you are. With your one glass of wine, and one candle, and your notebook on the table.

The morning was lovely and cool, thank you.

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It’s my Dad’s 81st birthday. Wish he was here.

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12 June…going to Trento

Luciana gave me scrambled eggs for breakfast and we did a photo shoot, except my setup failed and we just got our feet in the picture. I’ve shared it anyway.
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The ride up the valley was pretty extreme. It started  beautifully. Then a steep hill where I overtook a young man on a mountain bike. After that I paid for my snigger, by taking the high road by mistake.

I’m going to skip that part.

After that I found the cycle track and it was an incredible ride! Like a dream come true.

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At Sarche, dark clouds came over the mountains and it poured with rain. Some road maintenance men told me to go to the hotel bar, so I did.
From then on it was a bit tricky. It got steep, and there was a complicated system of roads on bridges. In a moment of weakness I tried phoning my team for directions but nobody picked up. So, I went on, checking google maps but not actually finding the way. At one point I got off my bike and just stood there like a silly confused animal. To tell you the truth I would rather have pushed the bike through a forest than go on another ‘high’ road. Eventually I waved down a red car, and a very old granny just stared at me, slowed down, waited a bit, then went on.

I imagined my team all standing there with their bikes, discussing what to do, and they said to me: “Oh Mom, just go up the hill on this road, even though it’s scary, and see what is at the top”.

Turned out that was where the cycle track started again.

Two men were loading giant copper pots into a van. They gave me these verbal directions: “Go here, then two curves further on, take the third track left for a few kilometres until you see a fruit seller on the corner, then don’t take the marked track, take the one that goes to the left, then turn right almost immediately onto a dirt road, it goes up steeply but it’s fine, then at the fourth or fifth track on the right side of the big road, go down and up again, then cross over the highway at the end of that road…….

I did find the fruit seller. He was sitting in his van with the window open. He had one tooth. I asked him which of the four tracks were for Sopramonte. He said the muddy one in the forest, then gave me his apricot sample specimen which had been cut in half to prove to customers that it was ripe. I ate it in two snaps. It tasted like honey.

I didn’t take the forest road.

To finish, the last climb was huge. The going down on the other side was quite sad. Trento lay in the valley, all crusty and full of cars. Tonight in the ‘Everest Hotel’, I will write to you about the sounds of birds, and tall orange cliffs.

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Heading for Meran today.

https://goo.gl/maps/nFEos25EmcQ2

This is the google map for the past 2 days. They don’t have the bike option yet, so I’ve chosen the walking route. Very similar, except the ferry is not available as an option.

Trip distance so far 858.67 Kms.

Time in the saddle 55:32 hrs.

Happiness level: Very high.

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14. Po River flats. (June 10)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Today the ride was wonderfully peaceful. Lombardy is worth visiting if you can.

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Happily rolled into Mantova this afternoon at around 16:00.

732 km

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.

It’s a flat.

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9. Poggio Pratelli. (June 4)

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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.

 

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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.
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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.

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My camera’s extra-wide-angled lens has an annoying way of flattening the landscape…

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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).

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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).

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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.

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The garden is dripping with roses of all kinds, lavender and blue cornflowers, rosemary and poppies….

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Iceberg rose…
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Florence tomorrow…