Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boats and Bikes

Well, I can now say I have cycled in France! We rented bikes and rode along Lake Annecy. There is a fabulous bike path the runs the length of the lake. We didn't go all the way to the other end (the lake is rather large), but we had a nice ride. Prior to getting on the bikes, we rented a pedal boat on the lake. We bought a lunch of sandwiches that we ate on the boat. The water is very shallow for a long way out, but then it becomes very deep. We ate and then swam for awhile. There are tons of boats out on the lake of all kinds. It sometimes makes for a challenging experiance staying out of the way of the motor boats and the big cruise boats that go up and down the lake.

Yesterday we went to a small village called Yvoire. It is a medieval time village (complete with a castle) that is still lived in today. It was really pretty with lots of beautiful flowers. I bought a few souveniers at a couple of the shops.

Only one more week in this beautiful place. Time has gone far too quickly here! I will miss everything, but most especially Mary-Clare and Max. I am so lucky to have had this time here!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PARIS!! (and a day in Geneva)

A few days ago I was in Geneva, Switzerland just walking around the city. We walked along the Rhone River, went to a nice park and sat beside the lake watching the people go by (a couple of people even asked me to take their picture with the fountain in the background--I was going to start charging 10 francs--okay, not really). We went to lunch at a very nice restaurant where I had...a burger, fries and a Coke! An American lunch in Geneva! After lunch we walked along the lake to a large park and botanical garden. They even had little zoo there. Max was disappointed that the Cockatoo exhibit was closed. I think if we go back to Geneva, I might buy a Swiss Army knife!

Lake Geneva and the fountain

The next day, very early in the morning we took the train to Paris! We arrived around 9:30ish, took a taxi to our hotel where we dropped our bags and then headed straight to the Musee d'Orsay. Home of the most famous Impressionists. I saw Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and many others. We had a fabulous lunch in the museum.

After the Musee d'Orsay, we walked to the Concorde Plaza where we saw the Obelisk and the Eiffel Tower (in the distance) and the Arc de Triomphe (also in the distance). We safely crossed the street (not as easy as you think) and took the subway to the Eiffel Tower (yep, first time on the subway). Of course, the Eiffel Tower was spectacular! There was a group of Italian cyclists singing directly under the tower. It appeared that they had just finished some big ride.

From the Eiffel Tower we walked to the Musee Rodin. There, of course (in french, bien sur), was "The Thinker". Also "The Gates of Hell", "The Kiss" and many others. The museum was actually Rodin's house. Nice house! On the way to Musee Rodin, we went to Napoleon's Tomb. There are also alot of other military generals and such buried there.

After Rodin we took the subway to Notre Dame. Very impressive! At Notre Dame there is a very unobtrusive stone that marks the very center of Paris (this is something maybe not every tourist would learn--I'm lucky to have the best tour guides!)

Since we were going to take a night boat tour on the Seine, we decided we would not go back to the hotel, but instead we would hang out for awhile then go have dinner. We sat along the Seine on Cite Island just watching the boats go by and enjoying the sun (it had rained briefly in the morning). Marie-Claire was dreaming about how nice it would be to live in one of the apartments here.

We had dinner at a nice place. I had a shrimp salad appetizer, braised beef in sauce with carrots and creme brulee for dessert. It was all very yummy! During dinner we watched an interesting group of people at a park across the street playing Patank (like Bocce). They were just clustered around several park benches with food and wine. Looked like they were having a good time.

We waited until it was dark for the boat tour (which meant 10:00). The tour was really cool and the tour guide spoke English with a very strong French accent. It was quite comical. We saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up. We passed under 13 bridges.

After the tour it was back to the hotel (we took a taxi). I was in bed around midnight. Pretty tired, but, WOW, what a great day!

The next morning we started with the Louvre. Of course we only saw a fraction of it. It would take many days to see all of it. We saw the Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo. We then concentrated on the Egyptian exhibit. We saw all the Egyptian artifacts that you can imagine! Mummies (even cats), sphinxs, jewelry...everything. They really were an incredible people! What is going to be left behind from us????

After the Louvre, we found a little sandwich shop and picked up some food to go (we found it by following the people carrying sandwich bags). We took our food to a park and had a nice lunch sitting on a bench (I've yet to see picnic tables in any of these parks). I had croc monsieur (spelling probably not right, but it is a grilled ham sandwich with alot of cheese on the top). Very good! I had a chocolate eclair for dessert. After the park we walked to the area of Paris where all the jewelers and haute couture is. Spendy spendy! Mary-Clare and I each bought a pair of red shoes that were on sale. Mine are flats and Mary-Clare's are heels (bien sur!).

We took the subway to Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart) which is high above Paris. It affords a spectacular view (once you climb all the stairs to the top--we were sweating like crazy by the time we reached the top). Montmartre is close to Sacre Couer and is where all the artists are. You could have your portrait done by any number of artists (some good, some not so good). I bought a small painting of a Chocolatier shop. Then we walked the stairs all the way back down and started the mad dash to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get to the train station to catch the 5:50 train to Annecy. By this time we were getting pretty good at the subway (well, Mary-Clare was) and we thought we had it figured out. When we came out of the subway station, we didn't know where we were. Turns out we were just on the other side of the block from the hotel. We raced to the hotel, called for a taxi and made it to the train station only to find out the train was late (only 10 minutes). We got something to drink (as we had sweated out all fluids in th race to get to the train on time) and waited for the train.

For spending just two days in Paris we sure did alot! I can definately say I have seen Paris!!!

Look! It's me actually at the Eiffel Tower in Paris!!!

A whole line of rental bikes.

A group of Italian cyclists underneath the Eiffel Tower They were singing.

The Louvre ala Da Vinci Code

Just hanging out along the Seine River in Paris.

Good night Paris!

Friday, August 7, 2009


Okay, so even though this blog is about my bike touring, I am going to blog my France trip. Afterall, it is a "tour"--just not a bike tour. I arrived yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland. Mary-Clare and Max picked me up at the airport. We drove to Menthon St. Bernard. It is on Lake Annecy and is very beautiful. The house is very nice as is my room (I even have my own bathroom!). We went to Annecy yesterday to get train tickets for Paris (next Tuesday). Then we walked around in the old town. It is everything one could imagine about a french town. Old buildings, narrow streets, shops (many selling ice cream) and flowers. Oh yeah, lots of people! We got some ice cream (see? just like a bike tour!). I got three flavors. One was a salted caramel (may not sound good, but it was), coconut and white chocolate. It was very tasty!
I managed to stay awake until 9:45. Then I crashed and slept until 5:00AM. Today we went to the market. It is strange to go into a store where you can't understand anything. I am learning though! I may not learn to speak french, but I will recognize the foods!

Enjoy these pictures of Annecy.

In the old town part of Annecy

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hot Time in the Mountain Climb!

Courage Classic 2009--What a warm one!
This was my 4th Courage Classic and my hottest one! We were barely out of Snoqualmie (the town not the pass)on Day 1 and it was already 84 degrees! It was about 8:15am. For the first time, I was only wearing shorts and a jersey (no arm warmers or knee warmers this year!). This is in sharp contrast to last year when it was raining and freezing cold. Going through Denny Creek was heavenly as it was all in the shade. That is, until we started the switchbacks up to the summit. Now, I usually don't sweat that much, but sweat was running down the side of my face by the time I got to the top! I was even a little lightheaded (remedied by eating spaghetti, salad and delicious garlic bread). The ride down was great, but the temperature continued to climb. The banana splits at Lake Easton were a welcome treat! When we got to Suncadia in Cle Elum, the wind was blowing as usual, but it was a warm wind. Leandra and I tried to rig up some shade with the rainfly from the tent, but the wind kept messing it up. I don't think I actually got into my sleeping bag until early the next morning.

The next morning we got up at o'dark hundred to get to breakfast and get on the road as early as possible. We had heard the temperature was going to be 101. Getting going by 6:30 (on the road after breakfast) was the way to go. It was nice and cool for most of the climb up Blewett. I even had hot chocolate at Mineral Springs (in addition to all the tasty cookies). At the summit, after we had eaten lunch, we met a guy named Cloyd. He told us to look for him later and he would give us candy. I said, "Candy? I love candy!". Then he noticed my trunk bag and handlebar bag and said he would give it to us now. He gave us each a bag of Pecan Brittle and his card. He is the sales rep for a company out of Lynnwood called Cornell Confections. Of course, it was all I could do to not eat it right there! BUT, I put it in my bag to save it for later.

It was really heating up as we came down off Blewett Pass. We had our snow cones at Ingall's Creek then headed down the road to Leavenworth. As we came into Leavenworth along US 2 (we didn't go into Peshastin this year) it was stifling hot! When we checked in at the day's finish, they said it was 109! Leandra and I grabbed our bags, staked out our spot and then hopped back on our bikes and rode to the river. There we parked the bikes and just walked right into the river in our bike clothes (Leandra even had her bike shoes on). Now, that felt good! There were a few others in the river in bike clothes too. After our dip in the river, we sat at a bench in the shade and ate our Pecan Brittle from Cloyd. It was very tasty! Buttery, with lots of pecans (my favorite nut)! It definately hit the spot! After dinner, we went to the Beer Garden (I managed to get in even though I didn't have any ID with me--you mean I look over 21??? I had left my wallet and my phone in the car at Snoqualmie). Leandra won a New Belgium jersey in a raffle. The best way to get a jersey is have it given to you!

The next morning we got up even earlier (o'dark dark hundred) because our fearless team leader, Jon, wanted us to be at breakfast by 5:40am for team pictures. We left the park at 6:30 and got to Plain at 7:50. I had gotten one of my Ponderosa gal's number by a roundabout way ( phone with me) and was able to call and arrange to meet them in Plain. We had a nice chat and then we were onto Rootbeer Floats! Along the way, just outside of Plain, there was a dog who decided she wanted to do the Courage Classic too. She ran alongside me for about a mile. We kept telling her to go home, but she just kept running. We heard later that someone finally took her back. I'll bet she just started running with other riders.

The climb up Steven's wasn't too bad. There was a headwind, but, although it was abit defeating at times, it did serve to keep us cooler. We got to the summit at about 12:30ish. Our baked potatoes with all the toppings you could imagine (and then some you wouldn't) were delicious. The ride down was great. I would have been faster if there hadn't been the headwind, but it was still good. Old Cascade Hwy. was a blast as this year we just let it fly with very little braking. The finish was in Skykomish this year at the school. It was somewhat chaotic since there was also a bunch of construction right next to the finish. Lots of big equipment in addition to all the Courage Classic trucks and buses! It was actually more fun this year at the finish with all the hubbub. Usually at the finish, it is sort of anti-climactic. We actually took showers this year and got on the last bus (supposedly--I think there were still more people). Oh yeah, before we got on the bus, I ran into Cloyd, the candyman, again. He asked me how the ride was. I told him I was done and now onto the next thing. He asked what the next thing was and I told him I was leaving for France on Wednesday. He said that was good, but there was no Cornell Confections in France. I asked if the candy was sold in Olympia and Cloyd said no. I said that was too bad because I would have bought some and taken it to France with me. He pulled his last bag of Pecan Brittle out of his pocket and gave it to me! Then he said he had one more bag of popcorn left. He went to his car and brought it back to me! So now Cornell Confections is going to France! Thanks Cloyd!!!

Anyway, it was another great, albeit hot, Courage Classic! Onto France!