Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
This is the post excerpt.
Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
Having been up so late the night before, we had a lie in, then Henri directed us in making a delushuz cooked breakfast. The sun was (mostly out), so we ate on the rooftop patio in the sun. Absolutely lovely.
Sunday afternoon we headed on the bikes, to a cheese tasting. We were supplied with the correct wine for each cheese, and we were supplied with several varieties. We learned to cut it thinly with a little cheese guillotine, and then how to smell and taste like a proper connoisseur. It was all very yum.
As part of the cheese tasting, we also got to ride a canal boat, which was a very enjoyable meander through the canals. The sun even came out a few times, and it was all very pleasant. The cheese and canal tour all up was 22 euro, which I feel was a pretty good deal, considering the amount of cheese I ate, along with a glass of red and white wine, and a glass of port.
After the cheese and wine and boats, we wandered back through town, and did Rick Steve’s Audio tour of the Red light district, and right to the start of the town. I honestly don’t have a lot to write about the day, so here are a bunch of photos of canals, boats, and crooked houses! It was just very enjoyable and relaxing, biking around, wandering, and the boat trip was definitely fun, a good way to see a lot of the city from a different view.
Henrietta made us another lovely dinner, mostly cheese and potato, but with a few colourful veges thrown in. After dinner, we took the cameras out and biked around in the dark, which was actually very fun, if a little chilly. Did some night photos, and the main thing I realised is that I need a tripod!
Friday 26th September
Friday we woke at a decent time, got up, and, as you do, went to get breakfast from the local patisserie. More cheese, bread, pastrys, oh no!
It did take us a while to get all sorted and out the door, as it was our first proper morning, but we weren’t in a particular hurry, and the whole day was kind of like that, just pootling around, looking at whatever we felt like, going wherever. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep you cool. I imagine summer would be quite hot.
We headed back over to Avenue Vert, which turned, very suddenly, from wide, paved, smooth, to rough grass with a bit of a dirt track in the middle. It was certainly interesting, but you wouldn’t want to follow that forever. Quite bumpy. Lovely and peaceful though, heading through the farmland and trees, with no city noises or car noises.
We got back onto normal roads, then kinda lost the trail a bit, headed down a few little side roads and had a bit of a map consulting session, before we headed off down some more back roads. We saw a tiny town up on a hill, and off-roaded it up a steep hill to have a look. La Ferte-Saint-Samson, a tiny little village on a hill, with very cute buildings (tudor style, and Henri reckoned with Germanic influence), probably 15th-16th? Century. It was quiet and lovely, and we biked around for a bit.
Headed to the top of the hill to check out the cute little church, where the bells rung for midday. Whoever was ringing them, seemed to enjoy it, and they went on for quite a bit. Found a little orientation statue thing, and a very old tree, which I climbed. Carefully. It was so lovely and peaceful and sunny.
Someone at some point during the morning had mentioned that we hadn’t had any flat tyres or problems yet, so heading out of town, Henri got the first flat tyre of the trip. We went back to the pretty village square to fix it, so not a bad view to have to endure.
Finally managed to leave town, looking forward to doing some decent biking, and Dale got the second flat tyre of the hour, just down the road. There was a french horse, whom I greeted in French, although he was quite uncommunicative. He didn’t mind that I brushed all the flies away from his face though, and we had some pats, before parting, and we continued on our way.
One thing I noticed, and kept noticing throughout the trip, was that even in the peaceful quiet of the countryside, there always seemed to be some passenger plane or other going overhead. Just the sheer amount of plane traffic in the sky above Europe is amazing. So. Many. Planes. So many people going places. It is honestly a bit ridiculous.
More lovely countryside, green rolling hills, farmland, and the occasional bit of wooded forest. We had a vague destination of a local castle, though google maps couldn’t pinpoint it, and we ended up biking around in a big circle, before stopping to ask directs from a local French lady. She spoke lots of fast french words, until Henri asked her to slow it down a little, and we ascertained that we had to go down the road, left at the corner, then a few kms along, then you couldn’t miss it. I think we were a bit excited about asking and getting directions in French!
We eventually found the castle, Chateau Bremontier-Merval, which was a massive four storey thing, very pretty, which is now a school. It was on a hilltop, surrounded by lots of huge, old trees, all leafy green and knobbly.
After the castle, we headed towards our destination, somewhere to the South and West. We stopped for lunch in a little town, I think was called La Feuillie. There was one patisserie, where the lady didn’t speak much English at all, but we managed to get all we needed. We met a Brit, who had lived in France for a while. There was no supermarket, but we managed to find a couple of dairy/4 square type places (I’m not sure what you call them in England.. Newsagents maybe?) where we bought enough food for dinner and breakfast.
We had to follow some main roads, which really wasn’t as fun, but not much choice. We had a lot of trouble finding our destination – gmaps doesn’t always like French places. Eventually, our lovely Airbnb hosts came to pick us up, which honestly made me happy, as the lived at the top of a massive hill. They were very happy, as we were the first bike tour people they had had stay with them, and also the first New Zealanders.
Our accomodation was an adorable little cabin, with all the amenities, a pull out couch, and an adorable little loft bed up top. We had a quick dip in the pool, met the local ponies, goats, geese and chickens, and then got clean and dry for dinner. Henri made us a lovely, lovely dish, of layers of potato and raclette (we had this in Bordeaux, it is the cheese that is for melting, it is so, so delishuz). For the sake of feeling better about ourselves, we also had some stirfry veg. And baguette. I put the raclette/potato mix on the baguette. It was amazing. Lovely pastries and tarts for dessert, and I think we also had some macaroons.
I guess I should have felt bad for the sheer amount of food I was eating, but I really didn’t, because, hey, so very delishuz. Also, we were biking like 50km a day.
We lay out on the deck chairs, surrounded by the gathering dark, and watched the stars start to twinkle, and the bats flitter about through the trees. Bliss.
We must have seen half a dozen planes go by while we were lying there (plus one shooting star). Do they ever stop?
Another decent nights sleep, however this time, we intended to be up and gone early the next day, so we could get to the next town with plenty of time to look around.
I spent a few runs along the water front, in various weathers, plenty of pretty views and chalk cliffs.
One weekend we biked out to the Smugglers Rest Inn, in Peacehaven, for lunch, with Henri and Alastair. They had good bikes. We had medium hire bikes. But it wasn’t too bad. Lovely ride along the South coast, chalk cliffs, a bit of a breeze, a non nudists beach, and chalk!
Monday dawned nice and sunny. We all piled in Curby (our vehicle, a 7 person carvan), and headed out into the local neighbourhood.
We had a bit of trouble finding our first location, and zoomed on to the second. A lot of the roads are quite small, and kinda crazy, zipping through them in a large car-van. We found the second location, but they were closing for lunch – most vineyards seem to close for a period over lunch, perhaps for napping? While waiting, we decided to go to the supermarket and stock up on cheese and bread! We spent the rest of the day trying, drinking and buying wine. It was very interesting, many of the people didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak much French, so there was plenty of extrapolation, hand waving and charades, but we enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Our last day was spent in a town called Cadillac, where they had various interesting points. There was a church, Chappelle d’Epernon.
There was also an old castle – Chateau de Cadillac, that was used for various things. It is apparently a good example of French Architecture, and was quite amazing inside, with massive rooms and fireplace. Each one was elaborately carved in marble and stone, with huge tapestries.
The town even had a proper wall, town gate, towers with arrow slits. It was pretty, lots of spring flowers around. We ate lunch at a little bakery, where I had to go back and buy apple pastry things, and eclairs, a couple of times, as they were very yummy.
The day we flew out, we spent a fair amount of time packing, and headed into Bordeaux early so we sort out extra bags. I think a couple of extra bags were bought by people for transporting wine home. We stopped at a massive mall, that had the most amazing fancy toilets I have seen in a while. We also bought more macaroons, and ate them. 🙂 Plane ride back was uneventful.
We awoke bright and early in Banff, to a slightly chilly temp of around -30 degrees. From what I heard, Sunshine skifield was on hold due to it being too cold…. wtf!!! You know it’s pretty cold, when Canadians close their skifield. We stopped at the supermarket to get some lunch, then headed north, along the section of road called the Icefields Parkway. It is not a transit road, it is a scenery/tourist road, maintained by Parks Canada, and it one of the prettiest drives ever.
We stopped at all the places that were open. It was very, very cold, but it was perfectly clear and sunny, which is what we wanted. I will not go on about each place (hey look, another mountain!), but I do of course have pictures of each mountain. Well, most of them. There are more pictures than words in this post 🙂
My favourite bits were:
Weeping wall – an ice covered wall, frozen and blue. We stopped here for lunch, next to a very pretty little river.
Mistaya Canyon – very pretty! There was a raven sitting at the edge of the pull-out, and his feathers were fluffed out all over his feet, I assume to keep them warm. He didn’t want to move when I got close, but he eventually did, and looked a little put out.
Athabasca Glacier – the glacier has retreated quite a way, but you can walk up almost to the face, to the frozen pool of water that sits in front of it. Down one side you can see the exposed glacier, a beautiful deep blue, with layers and lines. It was hidden away, most of the glacier is covered in snow. On the walk up, there are lateral moraines (scree piles), tall on either side, and you climb up a terminal moraine. Occasionally, the bedrock pokes through, and it is sleek and smooth to touch, slippery to walk on if wet, and you can see the lines scratched into it, from when the sheer mass of glacier was moving rocks across it. The glacier is part of the Colombia Icefield, which is over 300m2, and feeds at least 8 glaciers. It was pretty. They had plenty of signs telling tourists not to try and walk on it, as people fall in to crevices and die.
Wild coyotes – Dale spotted one walking down a river, so we screeched to a stop, and jumped out to watch it. It trotted down the river, peed on a rock, then continued on its way. We spotted another one crossing the road in front of us further down the river, and we stopped to watch that one too.
There are around 100+ accommodation places that are guesthouses, located in the basement of peoples houses, in Jasper, a bit like in Field. It seems to be a good way for people to make a bit extra from home. Warm and snuggly, if no view, and we found a relatively cheap one for our few days in Jasper. It was nice to have a lounge and space to ourselves.
We got up, briefly examined some shops, and then headed north. Once out of Calgary, it was straight roads and flat, flat, plains for a couple of hours drive. Flat As! The road you could see stretching out in front of you for ages and ages….. Flat plains, very little in the way of trees or fences, just flat snow covered flatness.
Cruise control was a great thing here. As we were driving, the wind was pushing snow across the road in a thin veil, it looked pretty cool, but kinda crazy driving through a horizontal snow curtain.
We saw a few oil wells, just pumping away in the middle of nowhere, in peoples paddocks. We travelled over the prairie until we came suddenly to a gorge, where the road dropped down to a river valley. We stopped in a town called Drumheller for lunch. The town is filled with model dinosaurs, in varying shades of paint. The whole Badlands area is in a valley, carved out of sedimentary rock by rivers. You can see the layers in the rock on the walls of the canyons, and for the most part, they are striped and vividly coloured. Reds, browns, black layers of coal. The area was known for its coal mining, and we checked out a river and a suspension bridge. From the looks of it, people had been driving up and down on the river on their snowmobiles.
It was lovely weather in terms of sun and blue skies, but the temperature was a bit chilly, and we were reluctant at times, to get out of the car. Dale didn’t want to be in any photos, he mostly wanted to stay in the car. Which is fair enough, in -25 with windchill (I think a windchill warning was issued, in some places, something silly like 10 mins till frostbite in exposed places). It was a: jump out of the car, run to the place, take a quick photo, run back to the car, turn the heater up High).
There are formations called Hoodoos, pillars that have formed, usually topped by harder sandstone, where the earth around it has been eroded away, leaving a flat topped pillar. The area is also rife with dinosaur bones, and I think they have pulled the most intact dinosaur bones from that area than any other in the world.
We checked out some hoodoos, and then the massive fiberglass t-rex that they have at the info centre. You can walk up inside it and look out over the town. We also went to check out horse thief canyon, which is very pretty, and then horseshoe Canyon just before the sun went down, then we drove back to Banff.
Sunset over the plains, such delicate pastel colours, so cold and pretty. It is currently -28 out, but windchill is a ***, I’m sure it makes it more like -40, which is just ridiculous, and just popping outside the car to take a couple of pictures is an ordeal!
We are travelling directly west, the sun set in a fiery golden ball. The sky behind is turning blue-grey, the snow covered fields stretch out in all directions, flat as far as the eye can see. They seem to glow, reflecting the aqua of the sky above. IN front,the sky descends from dusky blue through aqua, pale teal, blue-green, a touch of yellow, orange, and then salmon and coral at the horizon. I love this time of night in Canada, just after the sun has set, the light seems to linger for such a long time, everything looks just a little bit softer. In Field, with the mountains, the sun would set, and there would be a mix of blue and yellow lights reflected off the sky and surrounding mountains.