D-34 Antibes (F) – (MC) – Ventimiglia (I)

Camping and traveling by bike is one of those things that keep you very busy without seeing quick results. I spent all morning arranging things, storing stuff, and getting myself ready. A lot of work to have everything just as it was before, no improvement or anything to be seen. The kind of work that cleaners do, the best case scenario is to see no difference, otherwise something is wrong.

I finally get ready to ride myself towards the entrance of the camp site and find the owner with her daughter and company having lunch. They invited me to sit and have lunch with them but I was eager to cycle to my next destination. We started to talk and they were interested on my trip, I gladly talked about it now with a home made sangria on my hand. The camp site was built in the 50’s and now it was the 2nd and 3rd generation that was taking care of it. This was the typical, “I left my office job to take care of the family business at the beach”. We had a nice chat, shared some pictures and they were nice enough to not charge me for the night.

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I kept thinking about the 80 year old painter I met yesterday. It was a great example not only because of his age but the courage it takes to go to very different countries by only speaking French. I did not consider myself much of a traveller to do all what he has done on so many countries. I don’t enjoy much being a tourist, if there is something I really want to see about a place I do it and then flee from the area as soon as I can. Otherwise I’m fascinated by being a local person wherever I go.
At my age and with what I’ve gone through, I’m not embarrassed to recognize this, when I arrived to Bruges I left my stuff in the hostel, bought food and a white cloudy local beer. I ate and then took the beer and a book to sit at one of the main plazas, it was a bit cold but very sunny, the perfect combination for everyone to come out. A couple sat next to me with a camera, a map, a bottle of water, and that particular rush tourist have to see everything around them even if they haven’t done a tenth of that at their own hometown and even if they will forget everything they learn the very next day. They asked me how long I’ve been in town -expecting me to live there and being able to give some advise-. “3 hours” I ventured. They looked at me as if I was pouring my money down the drain by just sitting there. The fact of the matter is, I don’t enjoy much been a tourist, I just like to be a local everywhere I go. I have itchy feet and I like to relate to the culture I’m traveling too. So many new countries like the ones the old painter visited involved a lot of learning, maybe I’m just too lazy.

I had great weather before I got into Nice.

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I got into the city where Chagall and Matisse came from and started to rain right away. If you’ve been following my blog you will know by now that food quickly climbs up in my priority list. It was raining and it was a good opportunity to sit hopping for a clear sky. I did not feel attracted to the good restaurants, instead I could not resist stopping at a hidden rundown for-sale shop that sold sandwiches, pizzas, and sodas on a corner. The other three corners had shops that carefully thought on displaying their products nicely: a fine bakery, a gourmet ice-cream place, and a local branded body-shop. I don’t normally intend to be in the spotlight, I don’t mind if I have to or if I’m in a territory I’m comfortable with, like talking about my trip. It was rainy, I didn’t want to talk or meet people, and I was enjoying my simple vegetarian sandwich observing the people around which walked right in front and barely noticed the shop where I was or not at all. It was perfect. I’m sure even the must attention needy person dreamed to be in this situation. I changed a few words with the Iran owner and sensed two emotions competing with each other in his mood. One, I don’t care about this place cause I’m selling it, and two, I do want to do a good job selling this so I can be with my family in Sweden as soon as I can. I can tell he felt pity for me traveling alone, not having a family on my own, and not knowing where I was sleeping tonight, just like any other day for me. I liked his reaction, it matched the weather and the rundown place, the same way I saw people walking by I observed a tremendous emotion of sadness coming close. It was like watching a movie, stuff was presented to you, but it was your decision to allow that sadness affect you or enjoy it for a moment as a visitor and let it go. I shook my legs and arms to warm up, and wore my water proof jacket in the absence of a clear sky.

Monaco was a nice country to ride through but somehow difficult with all those little roads full of cars and not allowing much time to decide where to go. I followed what it seemed to be a bicycle path but became very narrow, short barriers protected the road. One from the cliff that lead to the see, and the other from the speed demons of the road. At some point salsa did no longer fit with the panniers and the last thing I wanted is seeing them fall to the sea or ran over by a car. I could not go back, so I pulled the panniers out and carried them to the end of the road and then pushed salsa. A couple of times I ended up inside a tunnel with narrow lanes. I passed by the start line where the Grand Prix just occurred and then checked out some nice yachts. The owners waved happily next to their crews when I stopped for pictures.

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The rest of the road back to France and then to Italy offered some great views of the towns and sea. The rain did not stop and I was a bit tired definitely not willing to camp. I found a hotel that ended up being at the tip of a hill, but was worth the climb. The receptionist -and very likely owner- reduced by half the rate after knowing where I came from. The dinner at the hotel was great.

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D-29 Corps (F) – Savines le Lac (F)

El desayuno no fue tan impresionante como la cena de ayer pero el pan dulce lo hacían ahí mismo y no tenía abuela. Salí relativamente tarde, como en los últimos días, ya que me dormí como a las 3am haciendo el blog.

El cielo estaba azul pero no duraría mucho, me apuré y poco después de entrar a la carretera me encontré a las productores del documental ‘Amitié’, o amistad. Platicamos un rato para ver a donde iban y hoy nos dirigíamos al mismo lado, al lago Serre-Poncon. Me tocó granizo, nevada, lluvia y viento, pero hasta ahora todo bien. Yo iba a pasar al decatlón de Gap a comprar mi equipo para acampar que amablemente me patrocinó mi hermano Rafa.

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Primero vi tiendas de acuerdo a tamaño y especificaciones, con luz interior, con ‘patio de entrada’, etc. Pero al final me guié simplemente por el peso. Así qué compré la más ligera y cuando la termine de armar… Me di cuenta que en efecto era la más ligera y que apenas cabría yo con mi sleeping. Espero que quepa aunque sea una alforja -fotos mañana-. Salsa y demás alforjas se quedaron guardadas en el garaje.

Hice una fuerte depuración de cosas que ya no necesito y que le pueden servir a otros peregrinos que pasan desde aquí al camino de Santiago. Saliendo de decatlón hasta salsa se quejó con un rechinado del peso extra, con esta depuración espero que regresemos a lo que teníamos antes.

Busqué en el lago a mis amigos del tractor pero ellos llegaron después que yo a otro sitio para acampar, ni modo. Esto de la acampada le está dando otro tono al viaje ya que se necesita mucho más trabajo, pero vale la pena por los lugares y por el precio que es como 20% lo de un hotel. Vamos a ver como amanezco mañana. El lago increíble entre las montañas pero un poco frío para meterse.

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D-27 Annecy (F) – Saint-Ismier (F)

Hoy amaneció despejado y se alcanzaba a ver el Mont Blanc y otras montañas de los Alpes. Me fui hacia el sur rodeando el lago Annecy y después empece a subir entre las dos cadenas de montañas. No he investigado bien pero creo que el recorrido que hice es parte del tour de Francia por todos los letreros que se veían en el camino. A pesar de ser lunes, había mucha gente en bicicleta, pero para variar todos iban en bici de ruta y yo era el único que llevaba de tour y que tenía todas sus chivas arriba.

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La subida estuvo buena, la estrategia ideal fue darle despacio y sin interrupciones. Creo que sí rebasa a la subida de Cebreiro en distancia y altura pero no en lo empinado.

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Casi en la parte más alta encontré un letrero que señalaba unas cascadas, el problema era que no decía a qué distancia estaba. Seguí el camino que era pura bajada donde perdí como 200m de altura y que claro que tendría que regresar por el mismo camino pero valió la pena la visita a pesar de la enlodada.

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Regresé a mi camino sabiendo que ya no llegaría a mi destino final -Grenoble- y que tendría que buscar hospedaje en algún pueblo. Pasando la parte más alta seguía una dosis de adrenalina bajando la montaña. Desde Cebreiro que salsa no bajaba montañas a buena velocidad e inclinándose en las vueltas. A mi me tocó aprender que dos cuerpos en fricción pueden generar mucho calor. A media bajada donde iba frenando constantemente a una velocidad entre 50 y casi 70km/hr, se me ocurrió ajustar la pastilla del freno de disco delantero. Quité rápidamente el dedo índice porque estaba muy caliente pero no estaba seguro de la teoría y volví a repetir la operación con el dedo medio. Ahora que tengo una ampolla en cada dedo por la quemadura ya aprendí que no se deben de tocar los frenos después de un uso frecuente.

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Hoy no tenía pensado rebasar los 100km por la subida que hice pero no encontré hotel y me tuve que seguir de pueblo en pueblo. En mi siguiente viaje seguro me llevaré equipo para acampar. Encontré finalmente un hotel bastante bueno con vista a los Alpes. Desafortunadamente el clima no promete estar tan bueno como hoy el resto de la semana, ni modo…

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D-26 Lausanne (CH) – Annecy (F)

During this trip I’ve been close to three cycling races in the Netherlands, Belgium, and today, Switzerland. The first two were pro levels so I was kicked out of the road, but the later one was for common planet Earth habitants. I was riding from Lausanne to Geneva (my final destination being Annecy) and all of a sudden found myself within the race which gave one lap around the lake.

I missed this environment and decided to play the game, I did let go the faster riders, -or rather they skipped an obstacle… Me- and found a group I felt comfortable riding with. I stayed at the end of the pack bearing in mind I would need triple the time to slow down. Salsa’s disk breaks were great, but the rain and the extra weight made her react way too late for emergencies, and in this event everyone would break down on the very last minute with their snappy road if not triathlete bike -I would do that, anyway-.

An hour passed by and I asked myself, “what a hell I’m doing here?”. I had a whole day to ride, tomorrow, the day after, and so on… I did not need to race. I waved goodbye “my” team and decided to take a break at the lake shore now that the rain decided to shed some blue patches to be seen up there.
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I made my way to Geneva, fortunately I’ve visited most of the main attractions that were present on my way such as, the United Nations, the Red Cross museum, etc.

Traveling by bicycle is not only cheap, healthy but quickly shifts you to different realities and situations. I started the day racing, something that normally takes weeks to plan. I had lunch at the lake, next to a park where a guy played with his daughter, and I spent some time at Geneva lake front side next to all kind of people having a stroll after lunch.
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For third and last time I left Switzerland to enter the Annecy area, found this great bridge from 1838 with an impressive view of the alps on the left side. The road started to be a bit hilly and I ran out of water. I’m only carrying one bottle of water to eliminate weight and because so far has been easy to find water sources… Not in France though. I asked someone at the street of a town if I could have a refill and had no problems to get it. Not sure if this will be the strategy going forward though.

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Finally made it to Annecy, a really nice town next to a lake and high mountains.

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I finished my day with quite a big dinner. A salad with eggs, potatoes, and a 1cm shredded cheese coating, was a meal on its own. Followed by a fantastic mushroom fondue and a mousse au chocolate to wrap up. If I don’t head north of the 61kg zone with this diet I have no what else to do.

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Here is today’s ride.

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