Here we go again this time with a super athlete and the number two deliveroo work colleague Scott Hinshelwood and my trusted mascot Bryan. The trip will go through France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran and last but not least The United Arab Emirates.
Starting from Paris and “hopefully” end in Dubai, the tour like the last tour through the U.S. Of A will also be an exploration of the body and mind as well as a cultural discovery maybe a hint of self discovery.
Day 1-6, June 27th-July 2nd (Bumpy and rainy start, ending with a sunny side up and a hint of downhill at 40 mph) – Paris to Geneva.
I got to Paris before Scott to see what Paris was like, the plan was to start from here because I had already seen the english landscape from a previous trip. A friend of mine lives with her boyfriend, a roomie and Kaya the kat, they were kind enough to guest me for a couple of days and also showing me around Paris, which is by the way not as bad as a lot of people say. Parisian are great though they are super busy – the architecture is beautiful, the different monument were, well… monumental, far beyond my expectations, great food and that about sums it all- pricy but worth it.
Very big thank you for my hosts(Paola, Pierre, Thomas and Kaya) for showing me a great time in Paris and showing me the beauty of Paris, I’ll be sending you a care package from Scotland when I get back 🙂
As for the touring goes Scott and I decided to started out from the Arc de triumphs, unlike the tour d frans where this marks the end and triumph of the journey – but none or less a triumph as a gesture of the adventure to come.
After getting out of Paris with some stops here and there for bike parts plus simple hiccups with the map, the feel for touring was in our mind and body. The first day/night went without big issues, we slept in a disclosed location in France after a short ride. On the first night Scott tells me that it is his first time camping, luckily the site we had found was a good start for a first time camper.
The second and third day was beginning to look like we would have a bit of a challenge. First off smoking and drinking is not suitable for touring long distances – put that on a t-shirt! not being able to break my habits from these bad activities I suddenly saw stars on the simplest climbs in the midst of the afternoon, which tells me that my insides are in worse shape than I had first anticipated. With some help from Scott supplying me with some food, water, and a asma spray along with some breathing techniques, I got myself up and kept on going, slowly but steady.
The further we got to the French/Swiss part of this contingent, the more frequent the climbs would be with some added distance to them as well. We took one big break before our small warm up climb for the alps. While one of us was lightning on the climb, the other a thud that came shortly after(guess who). In the end we managed to get through and to a camp site, slightly separated because the thud was so slow and our communication were not a bit off on where to meet up before campinssg.
The last part before entering Switzerland was a bit of a climb but well worth it, the view and the decent to our destination in Geneva was already a great reward. I had contacted a friend, which also did her first bike touring from Glasgow to London this year, big probs to you Melanie, you are awesome! 😀 Through her, Scott and I had the best time of our lives in Geneva, another reward. We were welcomed with Genevian hospitality, pampered with food and all the accommodation that could ever be accommodated.
Day 7-11, July 3th-July 8th (Valley of awesome, alps that takes your breath away and the Celtic festival – Celtica ) – Geneva to Courmayeur.
After staying at my friends mothersb place, both Scott and I agreed that this was not the last time we would visit Geneva. Not knowing what the city could provide us, sightseeing, cultural events, culinary experience(kebabs), cheese, chocolate etc.. We both were amazingly surprised, everything was more than we could had ever imagined, with Copenhagen as my go to city when I’m home in Denmark, I really have to give Geneva a big medal of awesome, accept for the high price tag on everything. Thank you Geneva for being such an awesome city, and of course thanks to our host for being super awesome.
After riding from Geneva to Martigny and camping up in a pique nique park, the long awaited “big” climb through Great St. Bernard Pass was upon us. At this point Scott and I decided to do the climb a la lone wolf. To get the full magic and spirit of the alps. I can only say for myself that having the lungs of a part time smoke is not that fun, after 4500ft the climb did a job on my lungs, it really took my breath away, so much so that I had to use a inhaler that Scott gave me. Though the climb was hard nothing encourages one more than the locals and the thoughts of going down for a long, long…long way.
Ones finally in the city of Aosta, I realized that in Italian they had something called siesta. I always connected this with the Spanish culture, so I was somewhat surprised. No pizza, no gelato and nobody on the streets, I did manage to find a place that could hook me up with some panini’s and I was good to go for Courmayeur, where a celtic festival was under way called Celtica. One of my friends(Steffy) had secured Scott and I a spot as a volunteer and a camping spot where we could stay for a couple of nights.
Celtica is a wonderful place for friends and family with activities for everyone, so check it out if you like good music, good food, good atmosphere etc(if you are in the area). And one don’t even have to be into the Celtic culture, that’s just more of a bonus.
I would like to give a big thank you to everyone there at Celtica and a special thank you to Steffy. For showing us so much love, as I can see it is the core experience of Celtica, you guys are also the best. And for sure Scott feels the same as I.
Day 8-14, July 9th-July 15th (it’s getting very hot in here) – Bergamo to Perugia.
The wolf pack had split at this point, because Scott and I agreed that we wanted different experiences from the trip for now and will meet up in Brindisi or before. He wanted to have the whole experience of Celtica and I, the experience of my friends hometowns from North to South as planned.
From Courmayeur it was somewhat downhill all the way to Bergamo, though after not being on the bike for a while makes the muscles a bit cold. When mentioning cold, being down at 100+ meters over sea level in July here in Italy it is anything but cold, another thing that the body will have to adjust to as well. First night from the safety of a camp ground and into the Italian wilderness, was not as wild as hoped. Here in Italy I’ve discovered that in the northern and middle part of the country there will be a town or some kind of civilization within about 10 minutes of cycling. It’s very hard to get some form of off-site camping to be a bit invisible.
So anyways, after a long day of cycling I found an abandoned winery joined by millions of mosquito, fireflies and a mysterious creature walking about, never found out what it was. After the winery it was on route to Milan and Bergamo where Claudio, one of my closest friends in Glasgow had provided me with a place to stay and hosts to show me around Bergamo. And what a wonderful place it was, close to nature and the metropolitan of Milan, a city worth the visit. After the one day of break with great company, great food well great everything thanks to my hosts and Claudio, for the wonderful visit to the small city of Bergamo.
Now I was ready to get to Bologna where sadly I could not make it all the way there from Bergamo, I was a bit late out but anyway the distance of 120mi would have broken me a bit. Though I did get 40 miles from my Bologna and for the first time tried to camp up in a garden, but with my bad Italian language skills I did not manage to find a garden to sleep on and ended up behind a gas station. As the morning came along and I got all my stuff packed, the short journey to my destination for the day was calm and slow, enjoying some Gelato and other local refreshments such as the Coka-cola. My reception in Bologna was more than expected – another, another friend of mine in Glasgow who lives close to Modena(Tania), had a friend of hers welcoming me there. My host here in Bologna, sheares a awesome flat with four other girls, so a day with some lovely girls as hosts is simple more than awesome. Thank you to my lovely friend Tania and to the lovely girls from Bologna.
Between Bologna, Florence and Perugia the hills finally started showing up. While crossing the mountain range of Apennine I met some other bikers and had a small chat with them. They were actually the first couple of bike toures that I’ve met so far, maybe there’s so many routes that meeting some are rear occasions.
This would be the first day that I finally get to see what the middle part of Italy is all about, what I was looking forward to the most was getting some good wine from Napoli, even though wine and cycling don’t go well together, but one glass usually does not hurt anyone. After some food and wine experience it was on to Perugia where Dario, another friend of mine from Glasgow was waiting for me. Having to see my friends in there respected hometown always cheers me up, it gives me a view into their history and of course to meet and greet family’s and friends. I was well greeted by his family, had a hot shower and later on a super Italian dinner. Afterv the dinner, it was jazz night in the city, while the next day was set on sightseeing and more gastronomical experiences a la pizza and gelato and to end the whole thing off, a dinner at one of his friends place. I give my friend Dario and his family and friends a big thank you 🙂
Day 15-20, July 16th-July 20th (from mountains to coastline) – Rome to Napoli.
The previous night hit me as I woke up caused by the “small” amount of alcohol at the dinner. Morning became noon before I finally left Dario’s place. Things were slow, both time and space, body and mind, the amount of alcohol that went in really did its job on this day. Eventually the poison worked it’s way out and things ran a bit on par, the day went without any big hitch and I got as far as I could. As for camping goes, I managed to talk to a cool farmer that let me stay near the river where his farm ran to, which was a nice place away from traffic and a step closer to nature.
The way into Rome was easier than expected thanks to the miles of cycling path into the city central. First off the bucket list was the Vatican city, though mainly to see all the touristy selfies and the beautiful buildings, then some Gelato and some food and the rest of the other touristy selfie places. From the encouragement from my ex I decided to stay for the a day and see more of Rome, with that decision I met a fellow rider who was from Argentina and was cycling around Europe for an indefinite time. We talked about bikes and touring of course and of other life stories such as. He told me that on the first night in Rome, he slept in the middle of a roundabout because he could not find other places to stay somewhat comical, yet it’s like having your own fort, secured with cars. We exchanged info parted our ways and the mission now was to find my own adventurous place to stay for the night.
I finally got to a place in a random park and did manage to get some hours in but it was a park in a city I knew little about, soundly a sleep, I was not. The next day was scheduled for more culinary experience, I was recommended a place called Casio e Pepe, It did not disappoint! To everyone that reads this and plans on going to Rome, visit this place if you have time, also not far from there is a Geleteria that gives you more gelato for your money, so what’s to wait. Scott was in Rome at this point as well so the wolf pack would now be assembled once again. Though because of some communication error(seems like that’s a reoccurring theme on our journey) we didn’t manage to meet up and we both agreed on meeting up later on. Rome would not really let me go to fast out of its vicinity, because the path that I headed out on was kept the way the Romans first had build it, stone by stone. Beautiful but not super functional for cycling, I did eventually manage to get out of Rome on a nice a busy highway and found a somewhat quiet sleeping area, on another bench of course.
Now it was time for Napoli, I opted for the coastal route to avoid the highway and big climbs, there are still some ups and downs a long the coast, though not too steep and of course the view to the coats do not disappoint either. If you are in Rome heading for Napoli and have the time, this route is highly recommended. Side note: Along the coast, there is a town close to Napoli that seemed like the government had decided to place most refugees there and “forgot” about the city, this took me a bit by surprise but I was told at one point that Italy had it’s poor parts, and I guess that this was one out of many. It is a good eye opener to see that nothing is as it appears sometimes, where bigger cities are being filled with tourists, beautiful sights and where things seems to run as smooth as they can.
As fast as poverty came it also went, the metropolitan of Napoli appeared, expensive stores, restaurants, yachts etc. This was now what it was all about. Napoli is a beautiful city, both new and old styled buildings, small lanes in the city center where you’ll find artisan shops, old restaurants etc. Castle, museums and so on. For me this is a city that really took me by surprise, in positives and negatives, apart from the city of Napoli there is of course not far from there the city of Pompeii and it’s maker the volcano Vesuvius. Highly recommended city to visit. If you come by bike it’s better to have a mountain bike with good suspensions, or be prepared to have your insides shaken and stirred, the road from the main city is paved with cobble stones all the way to Pompeii.
Side note: While lying here on the coast to the Tyrrhenian Sea under the lights of the full moon, listening to Bloodhound gang’s bad touch, I think about how beautiful this whole experience is and of course of what’s to come.
Day 21-23, July 21th-July 23th (Arivideci Italy and Yassas Greece) – Matera to Brindisi.
From napoli it was on to Matera, I had already made it about 50 miles out of Napoli the previous night and had secured myself a spot on a farm that I was most likely not welcomed on. I had to get up early(5 a.m.) so to not get caught in the field I was sleeping on. Today was a bit of an up hill battle from the start, I didn’t get any breakfast and it was an up hill battle, what normally would have been easy took much more effort and time. Later I the afternoon the road straighten up and by the end of the day I actually made it just in time to see Matera during the sunset. Though not what I had been told of Matera and shown pictures of, because it turned out that I rode in on the wrong side, on this side the city mainly consist of industrial facade and housing blocks, a bit sad I was. Then a surprise came in the form of Scott who had just arrived a couple of hours earlier and had secured a place and a host, as for me a secured place in a random park.
Next morning, I really wanted to see the Matera everyone a had been talking about and wow what a sight. Of course it was just 5 minutes away from where I had set up camp, which is a typical occurrence. The route to Brindisi was straight forward and mainly downhill, with everything running the way it should nothing out of the ordinary. On this day I met another fellow rider, Francesco, who was on his way from Leuca to Bari On his fixie bike to surprise his brother. A distance of approx 240 km in a day, at the point I met him he had already done 160km and still 80 To go, he had also assured me that he was going to be seen at night time, with the amount of lights that he had, in his own words “I like lights” mad probs to you man.
Finally the day had come where both Scott and I met up and also could to take a chilled day and a child day it was, Gelato, food and 8 hours sailing from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa.
Big thank you to all of Italy, the country, the people and of course the food 😛 everything was good, great and wonderful, we’ll be back, next time in a car or some other form of transportation.
2 thoughts on “Two guys, two bikes, two continents pt.1”
Amorn!!! It’s Mary, Christina’s friend! 🙂
I was watching a couple of art videos on youtube and our conversation came in mind…
I really want to know what happened with the project you were working on but I didn’t know another way to come in contact with you… 😛
I hope you see this and that you’re still having a great time creating art and exploring!
Hello beautiful Greek girl 🙂 I will answer you on your email.