Saturday, August 4, 2012

End of the Trip: Days 37 – 41 (July 29 – Aug 2)

End of the Trip: Days 37 – 41 (July 29 – Aug 2):

            We spent the end of our 41-day European cycling tour riding through the beautiful countryside of southern England and finally into London.  Some of the country roads were narrow enough that we pulled to a stop and pressed against the edge of the road to make room whenever a car passed.  Every so often, there was a pullout to the side to allow space for cars to pass one another.  If they met in the middle, one would have to drive in reverse until reaching a pull-out.  Those roads were often lined with tall hedges that opened up to offer lovely vistas of rolling farmland.  This made me want to spend a lot more time cycling in the UK.  Hmm, maybe on our next trip…
            We spent a night near the London Bridge and cycled all over the city, enjoying the energy pulsing through the town from the Olympic games.  I expected the streets to be overwhelmed with traffic jams and people, but London was surprisingly manageable – I suspect that many locals chose to work from home this week. 
            We cycled from the heart of London to Heathrow Airport, which is about 20 miles outside of town.  I feared that we would have to ride on dangerous roads with lots of traffic, but the entire route had either a bike path or designated bike lane.  A local bike shop disassembled our bicycles and put them into boxes for the return flight.  As Sho, Saya and I took a taxi from the shop to the airport, it felt strange to be inside an automobile.  Saya said, “I keep thinking we should ride on the bike path.”
            The taxi driver told me that his father is 105 and his mother is 97 years old.  I asked if he had to take care of them, and he said, “No, they are still healthy and quite active.  Each day, they walk a few miles to the farm where they work.”  He smiled at my amazed expression and said, “My dad told me that their secret is simple: they are active outdoors much of the day, and they don’t overeat.”  Hmm, maybe the secret to a healthy life is that simple.

Here are some pics:

“Medieval Saya” getting into the spirit of the Canterbury Tales:  

Sho and Saya with British Parliament in background:

Cycling through downtown London:

Sho and Saya piloting the flight from London to NYC:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Days 34 – 36 (July 26 – 28, 2012)

Days 34 – 36 (July 26 – 28, 2012)

            On July 26, we cycled seven miles from our place in the suburbs to Gare du Nord train station in central Paris, where we took a train to Calais.  On the train, Sho and Saya made friends with a cute 5-year old and her parents from Mali, who were visiting family in France (see pic).  We also met Marcy and Peter Carpenter, a brother and sister from the U.S. who were near the end of a cycling trip through Europe.  They started in Italy and cycled through Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France.  They were headed to London to watch their 22-year old cousin, Taylor Phinney, compete in the Olympic cycling competitions (Taylor came in fourth place (!) in the road race yesterday and will compete in the time trial on Wednesday, Aug 1).  We got along great with Marcy and Peter, and ate dinner together in Calais.  They were very sweet with the kids – I included a pic of Peter reading the book “Mr. Strong” to Saya. 
            On July 27, Sho, Saya and I took a ferry from Calais, France to Dover, UK.  We made sure to hang out on the deck near the end, so that we could enjoy the view of the famous white cliffs.  We fell asleep that night watching the Olympics opening ceremony.
            On July 28, we started the day cycling up a short, but challenging climb (with a 13 percent grade at one point) to Dover Castle, where we spent the morning watching a re-enactment of the 1216 siege by Prince Louis of France.  Louis was attempting to overthrow King John, and the actors included plenty of witty dialogue explaining the complicated political intrigue surrounding the event.  Then the mayhem ensued with archers sending arrows into the fortress and two catapults pounding the stone walls with exploding stones.  It was a lot of fun to watch, and Saya was especially enthralled.  The weather was cool and pleasant as we cycled from Dover to Canterbury that afternoon, riding along narrow country roads.  I told Sho and Saya about Chaucer’s famous epic poem The Canterbury Tales, but they were more interested in the various bugs they found along the road. 
            We’ll make our way through Southern England over the next few days and hopefully catch a glimpse of Taylor Phinney in the cycling time trial on Wednesday.
            Here are some pics:

Saying goodbye to Eiko when she returned to Libya:

Sho and Saya with new friend:

Peter reading to Saya:

Marcy and Peter Carpenter:

Cycling onto ferry from Calais to Dover:

View from ferry into Dover:

Saya on beach in Dover:

Siege of Dover Castle:

Saya the warrior:

On the road from Dover to Canterbury:

Canterbury Cathedral:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Days 25 – 33 (July 17 – 25, 2012)

Days 25 – 33 (July 17 – 25, 2012)

            We took a break from long-distance cycling and spent the past week in Paris.  Eiko flew in from Libya – a wonderful treat for all of us to spend time together.  We had the good fortune to stay in the home of Sandra Souillard and Chris Michael, friends of my sister Becky.  They are traveling in the U.S. now and generously let us use their house.  It is stately and comfortable, over 100 years old and located in a quiet suburb of Paris.  Each morning, I walked to a nearby fruit vendor and bakery to pick up breakfast – luxury! 

As we visited the famous sites of Paris, Sho and Saya conducted a few impromptu tap dances.  I’ve included two short clips below.  We explored the Orangerie Museum, where Sho and Saya created their own impressionistic versions of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.  And I checked off an item on my Lifetime To Do List: watching the final leg of the Tour de France live.  If you watched this on TV, you might have noticed a ferris wheel in the background.  That is part of a carnival at the Jardin des Tuileries (between the Louvre and Champs-Elysees).  Sho and Saya both agreed that this carnival was the highlight of their visit to Paris!

It was hard to say goodbye to Eiko as she flew back to Tripoli, but we’re distracted at least by the final week of our trip.  We’ll travel by train to Calais, take a ferry to Dover and cycle for a week through southern England before flying back to NYC on Aug 2.

Here are some pics & videos:

Eiko taking a shot of Sho at the Louvre:

At Pont-Neuf:

Saya enjoying the carnival at the Jardin des Tuileries:

Eiffel tower:

Notre Dame:

Saya's water lilies:

Sho's water lilies:

Final stage of Tour de France:

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins in the yellow jersey:

Sho tapping at the Louvre:

Saya tapping with the Eiffel Tower in background:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Days 21 - 24 (July 13 - 16, 2012)

Days 21 – 24 (July 13 – 16, 2012):

            We cycled from Dijon to Alise Saint Reine to Tonnerre to Sens, France over the past three days.  The weather was mainly cool and wet.  Yesterday, we cycled for many hours in chilly rain and strong winds.  Unfortunately, both kids woke up this morning feeling sick.  We took the day off from cycling while the kids recover by watching the Tour de France on TV.  Hopefully they will feel well enough to resume cycling tomorrow. 

We’re two days out from Paris, where we will meet Eiko and spend the weekend together.  Eiko is on a six-month United Nations mission in Libya, and we’re all excited to see one another.  It’s hard to be apart for so long.  I hope to take advantage of our time in Paris to watch the final leg of the Tour de France on Sunday, July 22, as the riders cycle down the Champs Elysees. 

Here are some pics:

Sho striking a pose:

Wind turbines in French countryside:

Ready to ride on a cool, wet day:

Sho and Saya hamming it up:

At one of many war monuments we've seen at small towns in the French countryside:

Dramatic skies on a windy day:

Taking a break from cycling to work on their soccer skills:

Saya tucks in her stuffed animals:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Days 18 - 20 (July 10 - 12, 2012)

Day 18 – 20 (July 10 – 12, 2012)

            We spent the 18th day of our ride, July 10, traveling to Besancon, the capital of the Franche-Comte region of France and a town with over two thousand years of documented history.  An impressive citadel overlooks the cluster of buildings sitting along a river.  Sho, Saya and I climbed the steps to enjoy the view and the cool zoo and insectarium on the citadel’s grounds.  
            From Besancon, we cycled through inspiringly beautiful countryside for 50 kilometers before stopping in the small town of Pontailler sur Saone.  Saya showed off her climbing skills and Sho practiced soccer in a local playground.  We slept in a comfortable bed & breakfast run by a lovely French couple.
            While riding, we sometimes pass war monuments, and I appreciate the past few decades of peace, an aberration in the history of Europe.  We stopped to explore a cemetery in the countryside that held perhaps 100 graves.  Sho and Saya called out the dates on the stones, and Sho excitedly told me whenever he found someone who had lived to over 100.  One woman was born in 1900 and died in 2000.  Many of the women outlived their husbands by as much as 30 years.  
On Day 20, July 12, we cycled to Dijon, of mustard fame, but the locals prefer to talk about the city’s fabulous architecture.  We explored the town on foot, and Saya came up with an impromptu urban tap dance and even performed an amazing magic trick (see videos below).  
The weather has been excellent so far -- often cloudy and cool to keep us from overheating but with plenty of sun peaking through.  It feels like such a privilege to cycle through the stunningly beautiful, peaceful French countryside with Sho and Saya.
Here are a few pics and videos:

View while cycling:

Saya with a flower she picked by the road side:

At the bed & breakfast in Pontailler sur Saone:

Sho and Saya with the couple who run the B&B:

Part of the Citadel in Besancon:

Besancon Citadel:

Countryside graveyard: 

In Dijon:

Saya's urban tap in Dijon:

The Amazing Rising Saya:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Days 14 – 17 (July 6 – 9, 2012)

Days 14 – 17 (July 6 – 9, 2012)

            Two weeks after the start of our ride, we said goodbye to my sister Becky and her 14-year old son Lucas, who took a train from Fribourg to Munich, then flew back to the U.S.  They were excellent traveling companions, and Sho, Saya and I miss them. 
We enjoyed good company the evening of Day 14 (July 6), staying at the home of Alain and Ursula Besson, two adventure cyclists who have traveled by bike all over the world in the past few years.  Sho and I met them when we cycled through Japan in 2009 and have stayed in touch.  The 70-kilometer route from Fribourg to Lausanne was hilly, and Sho was exhausted by the end.  Alain picked up the kids in his car about 8 kilometers from his home, and I pedaled the rest of the way by myself.  
We took the next day off from cycling, explored Lausanne and spent a second night at Alain and Ursula’s home.  They were generous hosts, serving us several wonderful meals that included fruits and vegetables picked from their garden. 
            On Sunday, July 8, Alain and Ursula cycled with us from Lausanne toward the border with France.  They were headed to an adventure cycling conference, and our routes coincided for about 25 kilometers.  It was wonderful to follow them on quiet roads and not worry about getting lost.  We were sorry to say goodbye to them, but maybe we will meet again some day cycling in a foreign country.
            We slept in the town of Vallorbe, then said goodbye to Switzerland as we cycled into France on Day 17.  We traveled through beautiful farmland and ended the day at a comfortable campsite in Levier, France.  After setting up our tent, we cooled off in the campsite’s swimming pool. 
            We’re now in Besancon, which hosted a leg of the Tour de France the day before.  I wished we had made it here one day earlier, so that we could watch the event, but it was not meant to be…
            Here are some pics.  Also, Sho and Saya have been tapping impromptu throughout the ride.  I've included some videos of one of their sessions.

Sho recreating the scoring pattern of the Italy vs. Germany Eurocup soccer game: 

Field of sunflowers on our cycling route:

One of our fabulous meals with Alain and Ursula Besson:

Saya with swans in Lausanne:

Family pic:

Saying goodbye to Alain and Ursula:

Dramatic sky during our ride:

Sho cycling through the lonely Swiss countryside:

Border between Switzerland and France:

Church in French countryside town:

Setting up tent in Levier campsite:

Saya in pool at campsite:

Sho teaching Saya some tap moves:

Saya's impromptu tap dance:

Sho's impromptu tap dance: