Monday, September 23, 2013

Provence part 1

So, we're back in Marburg after 2 amazing weeks bike touring around Provence France. I'm sure I'm about to over-use this word in however many posts it takes me to fully impress you with the awesomeness of Provence, but just to fit it in a few more times, amazing A-MA-ZING.  I think it's a good thing we were biking every day, though, because so. much. butter.  OK, so maybe your average French person doesn't eat too much butter, maybe you don't eat them every day if you grow up with Brioche and Quiche and Croissants and all the various other tasty things that can be made with croissant dough (pain au chocolate, which is a square croissant wrapped around 2 chocolate sticks, or my favorite, pain au raisin, which is a spiral of buttery-croissanty goodness with a sort of creamy custard and raisins swirled up in the spiral).  But I didn't eat them nearly enough growing up or something, and the hotel breakfasts were expensive and almost every day we woke up just a few doors down from an "artisan boulangerie/patisserie"and none of those days was I able to resist the draw of the buttery deliciousness. In a few days, once the France withdrawal kicks in, I think I'll have to make a batch of croissants. 

But enough about the baked goods, and I'll save ravings about the cheese and fruits and stuff for later.  Let me tell you about the trip.  Two friends of ours from the states, Clara and Patrick, were the first non-family to take us up on the offer of coming to do cool stuff in Europe, but rather than explore anywhere in Germany, we decided to do a bike trip in Provence, which had been pretty darn high on my Europe bucket list, and it met the criteria of being neither too flat nor too mountainous.  We rode from Nice to Avignon through the gorge du Verdon and over Mt. Ventoux, and then from Avignon to the Mediterranean at Ste. Marie de la Mer and back to Avignon.  Clara and Patrick started in Italy and rode some 500 miles before meeting up with us, but we decided to take the train and spend a day in Paris before taking another train down to meet them in Nice.  There was a bit of stress when 2 weeks before the trip, many hundreds of dollars of bike components were stolen from Sasha's good bicycle, but we were able to change our tickets around a bit and the bike shop built his bike back up in time for us to catch our train to Paris.

Paris is cool.  I have to admit, it has lost a bit of its magic for me in the last decade; I went there to meet up with a college roommate in 2002, when I was living in Tubingen, Germany for the summer, and that whole weekend we spent in Paris lives in my memory with this special magical glow of "culture" and "history" and "Paris".  I guess Sasha didn't read the same books or something growing up, because while he enjoyed seeing the sites, I don't think he went there with the long list of things that he -had- to see the way I did in 2002.  Oh well.  Paris was the bonus of the trip. I may no longer have the eyes of a 20 year old, "seeing the world" and traveling without my family or sports team for effectively the first time, but Paris is still a great city.

Notre Dame de Paris.
Sasha and the Eiffel tower

On Sunday, September 8th, we took the train from Paris to Nice.  So, we'd been planning on shipping our bikes in advance because you can't just wheel your bike onto most TGV fast trains in France, but what with the bike theft, that wasn't possible.  Instead, my Lonely Planet biking in france book said that we could take our bikes onto the TGV if we put them in a bag, so in Paris, we found bike shops that sold bike bags, disassembled our bikes and carried them onto the train.  We were a bit nervous about the whole thing, but it worked!  Patrick had to help us with a few bolts and minor adjustments, but at the days end, we had working bikes in Nice, and saved a bit of money, too.

We spent Monday exploring Nice, seeing the sites, and spending some time on its famous pebble beaches.  Or infamous, maybe.  The biking started the next day.  I'll write about that later.The Mediterranean was a lovely color, the water and sun were nice and warm, but I have to say, big rocks, even smooth, rounded ones, are not a nice beach surface.  They are hard to walk on and pebble castles are way less satisfying than sand castles; they take a long time to build, and one misplaced rock and the whole thing collapses.  Oh well.  Sun. Sea. Gelato. Our first amazing bakery find of the trip. What's not to like in nice Nice? 
Nice. Nice.
500 miles in for Clara and Patrick, 3 train rides in for us. And maybe 3 miles of biking.

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