Showing posts from June, 2016

Mont Sainte-Odile - 48° 26'14" N 7° 24'13" E

After a week of non-cycling activities, which admittedly, have involved much eating and drinking, we were missing our 1000m a day climbs and the burning of the additional 3000 calories. So we leapt onto our trusty bikes and did the run up Mont Sainte-Odile. Proof that riding 1300km across a mountain range does improve your fitness, we zoomed by the placed we had stopped in a gasping, sweaty mess last time and arrived at the Convent with only one sneaky foot-down. 500m of vertical with grades 7-10% - c'est facile! Mont Sainte-Odile, you cannot daunt us!

Bischoffsheim - 48° 29' 18" N 07° 29' 38" E

So we are back in Bischoffsheim in beautiful Alsace but not at 3 rue des Merles where we have spent some many wonderful times.  Florence and Christophe have decided to go their separate ways so we are at Florence's new pad at 2 Impasse du Castel! And just to prove how homogenous our world has become that despite living in an ancient village in rural France, Florence still heads to IKEA for shelves, light fixtures and laundry hampers! IKEA is such an amazing business. The Strasbourg store was as busy as the one in SW Calgary on a Saturday afternoon with excited kids racing around, overtired toddlers screaming, young couples pondering kitchen fixtures and us hunting down the Billy bookcase! Stopping for coffee and cake at the cafe, we were very impressed to find wine available to have with our cake and IKEA has its own beer brand - cheaper than pop! Our weekend, in and out of amazing food and wine, has included the assembly of all sorts of IKEA furnishings and decorations. Flor

Milan - 45° 29' 04" N 09° 12' 15" E

assembled models from Leonardo de Vinci's drawings We jumped on the train this morning and were out exploring Milan before lunch! We lost time in the Leonardo Da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. Despite the guide saying you needed two hours to do it justice, we managed about a third of it in four hours when it inconveniently closed!  The computing gallery contained an original Enigma machine and an Apple I, Apple ll and the first Mac and the telephony gallery had every cell we have ever owned - rather disconcerting when stuff you had is in the museum! But what took up our time was the gallery where they had made models from Da Vinci's drawings. Amazing! Piling rigs, cranes, 'Bailey' type bridges, machines to measure the tensile strength of wires and strings, looms for weaving, carding (of textiles) machines and his flying machines. What a mind! Also some very cool exhibits on his town planning, water management and anatomy. Sforza Castel - a

Venice - 45° 26' 02" N 12° 20' 06"

Backstreet?  Back canal? We stepped of the train at Venice's Santa Lucia railway station and indeed, the streets are actually water! The station over looks the Canal Grande and the impressive San Simeone Piccolo. Venice is one of the few cities in which bikes are not allowed. Our tired legs were thankful and with the narrow streets and many bridges, we understand why! Venice, we determined, is rather crumbly and in need of a good pressure-wash but what a beautiful place. We skipped the gondola ride but hit most of the major sights, we ate some of the best pasta either of us have ever eaten and joined the hundreds of other tourists in aimless wandering and endless gawking.  We loved the architecture, the history, the canals (of course), the narrow streets.... We toured the Teatro La Fenice which was amazing and wandered around the Vivaldi museum filled with wonderful instruments. We discovered that they believe Vivaldi's Four Seasons to be the most played classical piece,

Feltre - 46° 1 '4" N 11° 54'17" E

After having an extended visit to Switzerland, you do not notice leaving the country as much as you notice entering someplace else.  The metaphoric handrail that would magically be present in the correct spot when you happen to slightly come off your balance ... was suddenly and noticably absent. The asphalt on the roads was a little bit rougher and in worse repair.  The traffic seemed to whiz by just that little bit closer.  The houses seemed less carefully finished and more in need of a good scrub.  However, we are paying 1/3 the price for just about everything, so we are happy to be here. Our multi-day ride from Stelvio to Feltre was a lazy cyclist's dream - gentle, undulating downhills (less than 300m elevation gain!) through valley bottoms. We were lucky to have neutral or tailwinds most of the time.  The route we had taken up is part of the Via Claudia Augusta , an ancient Roman road that links the german valley of the Po River to Rome.  We now know that the cycling p

Merano - 46° 40′ 0″ N, 11° 10′ 0″ E

Things here in South Tyrol get a little confusing with everything having a name in both Italian and German. So today, we rode Prato Allo Stalvio to Merano (Italian) or Prad am Stilfserjoch to Meran (German). We are following the Val Venosta or Vinschgau - that is the valley through which we are riding. All that hard climbing is paying off as today was only 60km with net downhill!!  Woohoo.  As this valley produces an eighth of all European apples, we spent much of the day cycling through apple orchards (and vineyards on the steep slopes). They are all grown on trellises which I assume they do for yield.  Gord allowed us to catch the shuttle bus up to the Messner Mountain Museum (in a castle on the side of the mountain) rather than ride up the 20% grade switchbacks!!  What luxury. The Museum was pretty cool but featured a lot of Tibetan artefacts. Reminiscent of Thomas Bruce (Lord Elgin) and the Parthenon Marbles, perhaps setting up a museum in Tibet may have been more sympathe

Prato allo Stelvio - 46° 37' 12" N 10° 35' 47" E

Kate and I are both enjoying the benefit of burning 2500+ extra calories a day.  We plow through whole pizzas (each), dishes of pasta, schweine schnitzel, French fries ... all in a hopeless effort to replace what we use up on our rides. Although we start out with some fatigue in our legs each morning, we are somehow able to push through to the new Bed and Breakfast each night. Most mornings start out dreary but improve as the day unfolds. The ride from Chur to Bergün was very much like that, with a solid climb out of a valley towards the next day's mountain pass.  I love pedalling through the little clusters of homes (village seems too strong a word), even if there are gravel roads and hills involved. Our exposure to the locals is limited to seeing where they live rather than interacting with them.  I suppose this is a step up from the bus tours that whiz along the main highways, but still I feel distant from the culture. We do have our brief merchant transactions, though,