Monday, June 27, 2011

The holiday is over.

I'm not suffering from post holiday blues (yet) just a bit of spacey jet lag.

Things that make you laugh:

Things that make you cry:

June 25, 2011
The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.
That's more than NASA's budget. It's more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It's what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Swiss

Today I caught the train from Florence to Beil, Switzerland. I had a hard time convincing the Italian travel agent that such a place existed when I was trying to book the tickets and as a result spent a very long trip going via Zurich and Milan.  On the upside I passed through the Alps and Swiss countryside which were such a contrast to the Italian summer.    It also made me worry a little.  I was nice and warm in the train carriage with my tshirt and thongs but the people outside were wearing heavy jumpers and boots.   Didn’t they realise that summer was on the way or was I wrong? 

oh yeah i was wrong!
Leah and Lionel, my sister and brother-in-law, have been showing me around their village, Tramelan.  So far I have been for a walk around the local nature reserve and lake and was once again an international traveller popping across the border into France. 

border control was on a break that day.
Strolling around 'the pond'
Lionel was able to loan a bike for me and took me on a mountain trail for a few hours.  Now the phrase 'mountain trial' combined with the fact that Tramelan is a good 1000m above sea level, surrounded by ski fields and is the township  is the lowest point in a very big valley should have been a bit of a give away as to the type of ride I was headed for.  
At this point the sensible thing to do would be to ask how big are the hills, what are the tracks like and possible weather conditions for the afternoon? Lionel speaks excellent English but I neglected to enquire about any of these (for the record he also failed to mention anything specific about the ride either). 

yeah, yeah, but where are the drop bars and can i ride it now?
it looked like trouble from the start.
I am very happy to say that I think I may have mastered those silly 'egg beater' gears and enjoyed the ascent once I calmed down and realised I wasn’t going to fall backwards off the road.
why don't you get the same feeling of vertical in a photo?

First off the ride was amazing; killer hills that went up for every, stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and lots of cows with bells. After a few hours the weather turned very sour  as the temperature plummeted accompanied by thunder, lightening, rain and hail.  The downhill run could be best described as electrifying. 

see the sunny skies?  riding the plateau.
at the time i just thought it was a good pic of a bloody great fan and didn't pay any attention to the  background.

obviously worried that the cows will stalk the local bird life.

The ride was of course designed specifically like this so that I could fully enjoy all that Tramelan had to offer!

seeking refuge.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Not much to say about Florence that others have said so many times before.  It has a massive reputation to live up to and does not fail. 

Just and amazing day walking around sightseeing and shopping.  And then a little more shopping.  I am feeling incredibly home sick, actually no,  I just wish that Jen, Angus and Milly were here with me right now.   

ok so he is not real but still pretty impressive.
no idea what was going on, but it didn't stop the largely American tourist crowd from cheering.

Ponte Vecchio

Only window shopping thanks

Tuscany Touches

Chris and I have been debating the next and lasts days ride.  Between us and Florence are the Apennine mountains and the scheduled route means that we catch a train under most of the bigger peaks and have a 'leisurely' roll downhill to Florence.  Well that’s what the guide book claims.  The question was whether our bike bravado would let us do the sensible thing and catch a train or try to figure a way to ride over 100km of vertical terrain without a coronary episode. 

Since riding from Feinza I have (understandably) been bike snubbed by a few roadies and was keen to re-establish my street cred.  Chris was also keen to find a way over the mountains but I am glad to say that common sense prevailed and we dutifully arrived at the train station the next morning. 

at a train station but still trying to be cool.

Once off the train I was so incredibly thankful we had opted for the 'easy' version. We had traded fields of corn for plantations of kiwi fruit and vineyards. 

oh the hills!

please note that this was the rare flat section of road.
I really would love to spend more time here with my family one day.  So very beautiful and lush with small villages and breath taking hills.  Then things turned a little more vertical.

i'm pretty sure that the sign is not exactly to scale.

i too was thankful there were no brass instruments

If my bike cred wasn't already in tatters it was totally smashed when I couldn’t handle the egg beater gears and walked the last few climbs.  I may never live down the shame. We had finally struggled to the top of the 13% climb and were taking in the views when a young woman literally flew up the road behind us on a mountain bike.  I was both stunned and appalled.  As I was about to give up biking riding for the rest of my life, she pulled in beside us and had the good grace to point to the motor powering her wheels.  On to Florence!

the first glimpse

Arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to spare to walk into town and visit the  Ponte Vechio.  The ride is over but there is still Florence and then to Switzerland.

Ponte Vecchio

they had done a good job 

i have been looking for these little signs in my sleep to follow the route. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cranks and more cranks

The last couple of days has been hot, dry and just a little dusty.  As we move inland towards the base of the Appennine range the scenery has subtly changed from fields of corn and wheat to lush vineyards and kiwi plantations.   Tonight we have arrived in Brisighella at it has a definite alpine feel to it.

Along the way we have stopped at a number of very beautiful and historic towns.  Each very interesting in their own right but I must admit to being a little 'ruined out'.  What is just as interesting is the culture and piazza del popolo action. (every town should have one)

I have very much enjoyed the towns were bikes rule and cars are a secondary means of transport.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The last two days have been lots of fun in the sun, and a little rain.  Since leaving Sottomarina, Chris and I leisurely trundled about 120 km through the Italian countryside.

Food and drink has played a considerable role in this part of the adventure.  It has been a great opportunity to get away from the tourist haunts and bad coffee to enjoy the smaller village cafes and bakeries.  Hmmm lots of pastries.  All of the locals and shop keepers have been very friendly, well as soon as they realise we are not German.  It must be Chris's blonde hair.
the food of gods (with very high cholesterol)
the old boy's club
Speaking of Chris, he has done his very best to assimilate into Italian culture and insists on having an 'Aperol' or 'Apritz' every afternoon.

hmmm orange turpentine, yummy!
The ride has mostly taken us along the rivers and levy banks in a meandering route towards Farrara.  Farrara is a beautiful renaissance town with a splash of medieval for good measure.

Medieval means not using cobbles but round rocks instead.  Now this is evil!

Tomorrow is back to the coast and on to Ravenna.