Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Not quite

done with this journey...

More moments... and in no order whatsoever so if you've read/heard these already, skip ahead.

The world famous (Pictures of Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith eating it) gelato I had in San Gimignano was good but not as good as the several licked in Vernazza which had lemon pits still in them. Hmmm... seems I'm back at food again. Oh well, let's see where that goes...

Food: the 8 Euro dinner in the Verona hostel: perfect pasta with olive oil, garlic and parmesan, grilled chicken with vegetables, freshly picked grapes, and a glass of vino rosso. Breakfast next morning in the same place was coffee and hot milk ladled into soup bowls and the previous night's leftover rolls. Everything evens out!

The decision to eat fish in Venezia (if you've understood the issues of plumbing in much of the Mediterranean, you'll understand how momentous this was for some clean freaks) and the waiter trying to get the table of six to order a whole fish and forgiving us for not doing so by making a dessert at the table which involved cream, gelato, wine, a whisk and bowl and a very accurate pour into some very small glasses. He did the same thing for two other tables and then finished off the last table by standing on a chair to do the pour.

Champagne Truffles - there is nothing more to say except they had an expiry date and they didn't last that long!! Thanks Cousin in Zurich and New Daughter in Paris!!

Salad of frisee, fried potatoes, more endive than I've ever had at one time, Roquefort, walnuts, tomatoes and cucumbers in a Paris bar while the opening act of "West Side Story" played outside the windows. Salad: fabulous; Paris Emergency Force Response: Excellent: 5 Police cars including 1 dog, 1 Ambulance, 1 Fire Truck. Metro station entrance happily immediately outside the bar and the action cooled off by my leaving time.

Good bottle of Rose (which would be ros e acute accent if I had a French keyboard but I don't) wine, serious sourdough bread, Brie, grapes, apples and pate (also missing some accent marks but you know what I mean) for under 7 Euros = dinner for two in a hotel room. And creates a short friendship with the shop owner who thinks that pique-niquing in Parisien hotels is a great idea and has useful suggestions for other nights' pre-cooked food.

Three pub meals with Cousin and one with Himself which say that soggy veggies are definitely things of the past and that going back to England to eat is not such a bad proposition.

Apples for supper after Vimy.

Pasta and fresh buffalo mozzarella and still quivering basil and tomatoes from Lizzie's garden in dishes she made and fired.

Cafe au lait et pain viennoise

Things learned: it is better to eat no chocolate than bad chocolate. Starbucks doesn't have a clue. Sliced endive might look like onions but isn't. Fresh in the markets is completely different from "fresh" in North America. That stuff in the shakers sold as "parmesan" isn't. Our wine is overpriced. Unsalted bread tastes a bit odd but is very useful for cleaning one's plate and cutting down on the mung swirled down the drains. Unsalted butter is addictive but enough walking will take care of the logical consequences!!

Now, it's time to see if there is any wine here... further reflections to follow.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monsieur Georges

In France, Remembrance Day is a stat holiday. This means that no public transportation is available to take people from the town of Arras to Vimy Ridge or any of the other memorials to the soldiers of the WW I bloodbath. Remembrance Day is like taxi drivers' Christmas and birthday all rolled into one. The TI lady tried to sort something out but it looked like the €20. one way taxi ride was going to win out over walking 16 km along roads (Unlike the Brits, they don't believe in walking in France or perhaps it is still too dangerous to walk in some places.) The hostel lady had better luck. Several phone calls and I was told to be at the hostel at 1300h on the 11th and "M. Georges will take you." "Et mon amie?" "Oui."

Mon amie arrived from Paris on the early train. It was grey and cold and windy. We stood through the ceremony of the wreaths at the train station. We stood through the ceremony of remembrance at the memorial where youngsters read letters from soldiers and the band played the national anthems of the USA, the UK, and one we didn't recognize but might have been Belgian. Then, throat-tightening for both of us, O Canada, and the Marselleise. A litle girl danced around her mother's legs during the music. And then it was time for the flowers - not the wreaths of paper poppies we are used to but huge floral tributes in carnations and chrysanthemums and needing three or five school children to carry each one.

The next adventure was M. Georges.

M. Georges is 82. He was driving home one day several years ago and saw two Canadian backpackers walking along the road to Vimy and stopped to give them a lift. The rest has become the stuff of a modern tale. He gives rides to Canadians because they are Canadians. He drove us and two other girls to Vimy Ridge, came back and picked us up and then drove us to the French national memorial (40,000 dead and 20,000 of those unidentified - cross upon cross upon cross marked 'Inconnu'), then on to the cemetary where our Unknown Soldier had been buried along with so many of the boys (18, 18, 17, 23, 19, 20, 36) from Vimy. Then to the German cemetary (37,000 more who were not removed to Germany). And then home for tea, his pictures, some biscuits and then back to the hostel where two of us collapsed and two left for the train.

That place is haunting.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Leominster (pronounced Lemster)

Quickly: The Sr Boy et Moi have met up and are "on the road" in the west of England in a lovely car which is scary wide on the scary narrow roads and on the opposite (for those 3 of you in the world who didn't know that). We have been to the edge of Cornwall and are heading to the VOC Spares Co. near Manchester today and then pointing back slowly towards "Town". Himself has some m/c work to attend to on Monday and Tuesday and I have a date with one of C's friends in London on Monday and hopes of a play on Tuesday evening if there are tickets.

Thanks to all of you who offered various friends and family members as resources should I be "all alone" - seems I'm not after all and I will take a rain check on your friends and relations for the next time!!

The rest of the journey will be posted when I am not in the midst of the library with a gentleman who is waiting for a walk!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Himself is In Greece

and heading to Italy. Looking forward to meeting one another in a few days. I am a few hundred yards down the road from my favourite English pub and going there for dinner tonight with cousins. As The Senior Boy has written about Gallipoli, I won't post about Vimy until next time.

We left our hotel, in Dikili, Turkey, on Wednesday morning in cool temperatures but some blue in the sky. We had some beautiful roads with the sun sparkling on the Aegean Sea on our left and beautiful hills on our right. Climbed up from the coast and the views from the top were spectacular.
Nice farmland with lots of fruit stands by the road in the valleys. Stopped in ancient Troy and TP & I enjoyed some sunshine at a cafe while Roy & HJ paid the fee to see the ruins. I contemplated the 4000 yr old Greek structures that I saw earlier in Ephesus.

We motored on towards Canakkale and the Dardanelles and saw the famous narrows as we rounded a corner high on a hill. Another spectacular sight to remember. The passage is a few miles across and looks a lot like the sea passages in Johnson Straight but with higher hills and mountains.
Canakkale is a busy seaport but we found our way to the ferry dock without drama. The ferry looks a bit like the old North Van Ferries. Lots of huge trucks waiting to get on but the bikes squeeze in between OK. The last to load onto the ferry was a horse and cart. Crossing takes about 40 minutes. High wind from the East and bright sunshine. Quite the sight as many very large ships are making the passage. We motor overland to the Gallipoli battle site as it is starting to get dark. Too late to see much so we find a perfect site to camp near ANZAC cove, under some pine trees, right above a long sandy beach. No one else around. Get adopted by a couple of friendly dogs who are happy for some dinner scraps.

Next day, Thursday, TP & I head out early and tour the ANZAC sites. A fitting place to spend the morning quiet the day before Remembrance Day. Its hard to keep a dry eye as I read the grave stones of so may 18 yr. olds. 250,000 were killed from April 1915 to January 1916. Most of them were Turks who successfully fought off the invaders.

We leave Roy & HJ at this point as they want to take longer on the rest of the way home. TP & I head to the Greek border under gray skies and very cold wind. The anticipated dreaded Turkish border crossing is the complete opposite from the crossing from Syria. The facilities are ultra modern and we are through in about 20 minutes with no problems at all, much to our complete surprise. We cross the bridge into Greece and the EU in the sunshine. We are very happy riders! We launch onto a fabulous Greek freeway and motor along at 120 km/hr for a couple to hours with almost no traffic. The scenery is beautiful, ... yet again. Lots of Aegean Sea and high mountains to the North.

We stopped a very nice small hotel near a lake, East of Thessalonica. Scenery is much like the Okanagan with fruit trees and vineyards.

This morning was cold with heavy fog as we packed up. More fast and beautiful freeway past Thessalonica and then onto a secondary road across the mountains. As we climbed through many new tunnels, we left the lowland fog and entered the sunshine. This was the best riding day, by far. We had five hours of mountain road with fantastic views, bright colours on the maple and oak trees, little traffic and one beautiful turn after another. Motorcycling doesn't get any better than that!

The sun is near to setting over the Adriatic and the temperature was 21 degrees C when we arrived a couple of hours ago, ... in November! The overnight ferry to Italy leaves in few hours so we have time for a nice meal and enjoy the sunset. We won't get too many miles under the wheels in Italy, tomorrow, but should be in England by the middle of next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Instalment 2 on the Turkish Snow Saga

Which is a bit worrying b/c I think I may have not posted #1!!! If not, stay tuned because I cannot figure out how to check whilst in the midst of entering the new stuff!!

On Sunday morning, itwas cold and rainýng ýn Konya. We packed up with hope of clear roads. It was very cold and rainýng as we climbed up the mountain highway towards the Mediterranean coast. About 40 minutes out, the landscape was winter-white wýth the snow piled 4 ft. high at the edge of the road. But, we crossed tyhe summit on clear, wet asphalt. The road was much like the Hope-Princeton Hwy for landscape but the highway is wider and the curves broader. Mostly fog on the way up with some rain. The long descent to the Coast was wonderful. We could see the sky clearýng as we dropped altitude. We came around one corner and got a fantastic vista of the Medýterranean wýth sunshine sparkling. We passed through Antalya, a býg city on the coast, and camped for the night off the road under some býg bushy pine trees. Campýng in November in mild temperatures only a couple of hours away from full-blown wýnter!

Yesterday, Monday, was a fantastic day for riding along the Turkish South coast. Beautýful sunshine, blue sky and sea and rugged mountaýns right down to the sea. It was a combinatýon of hours and hours of the road along Howe Sound wýth the colours and foliage of Northern Californýa. Fantastýc!! Good twisty roads, almost no traffic, and lots of distance between conjestion in the towns. We had a rather expensive lesson about Turkish speed limits wýth TP putting usp so much resistance that the police commander was almost ready to call the soldiers. We now are riding much more conservatively!

i Camped again last night, Monday, off the main road up in the hills. Býg canopy of pine trees and a beautiful view of the farms in the valley and the snow capped mountains to the West. It was a cold night and about 0 C. when we were packýng up. Sun was bright and not a cloud in the sky!
The young shepherd who owned the land came up the hill on his moped and brought hot tea for us. Another example of the generous hospitality offered to us by absolute strangers.

Today as been another fantastic ridýng day wýth beautiful scenery, nice twisty roads, light traffic and reasonable temperatures for November. We stopped at Ephesus, and walked the paths that St. Paul must have walked. Sat in the amphýtheater where he may have delivered his speach. The Greeks built ýt ýn tyhe 3rd century B.C. Sat ýn the parkýng lot and peeled off my 6 layers of riding gear. Ate a delicious local orange while baskýng in the sun without a shirt on! A good day indeed!!

After two days of camping, we're enjoying a hotel with nice hot water ýn a small resort town. North of the very býg city of Izmur. Tomorrow, all going well, we plan to visit Troy, cross by ferry to the Gallipoli battle ground of WWI ýn European Turkey.

Thursday should see us crossýng the border to Greece. We anticipate our usual border horror show.Aiming to get to the ferry in Greece that goes to either Brindizi or Venice on Saturday or Sunday.

Instalment 1 on the Turkish Snow Saga

A short update from the computer ýn our small hotel ýn Konya. Left Nevsehýr this a.m. ýn the cold but ýt wasn't rainýng. A být dýsmal along the freeway to the South West. Flat prairie wýth not much to brighten up the landscape. Started to rain heavily and got very cold. About 2 hours out, there was heavy wet snow up to the edges of the road and some slush on the pavement. Got to Konya and ýt was covered wýth heavy wet snow. Many broken trees and we crossed one set of downed power lýnes. We had to resort to a McDonald's for food as most other cafes were closed as ýt's still post-Ramadan holiday. It was very good to get ýnside, ... anywhere inside!

After warm up and map checking we headed out. Soon were in a snow storm wýth no escape. Thýngs were not lookýng very good. Could hardly see and snow was accumulating on the road. Wýth traffic behind us, there was nowhere to turn around. I was number three in the lýne. Hýt a snowdrýft at at about 40 mph and the býke slipped sýdeways and went down on the rýght sýde. HJ went down behind me. No injurýes but some býke damage. Snow changed to high wind blizzard. Rýghted the býkes with great dýfficulty and managed to push them down the hill and out of the wind. Right spar plug on the Guzzi and the lead wire were broken. Effected temporary roadsýde repaýr wýth the snow flying and managed to retreat to Konya, about 20 miles back. My right pannýer ýs smashed but held together. Rýght foot is goýng to be very sore tomorrow. My nýce new waterproof overboot ýs mangled. Will try a duct tape repair tonight.

Out for some food in a few minutes and hope the weather improves for tomorrow!

This was..

going to be cut and paste posting from Himself but I am working on a different computer and running out of time so suffice to say (a) he is fine, (b) bike is a bit bent but running and (c) he is supposed to be in Europe either in Italy or ??? Prayers gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


The thing about Paris is that it is Paris. This means that things are different and one either accepts or goes nuts. Par exemple: in the toilettes, it seems to be common practice to provide The Ladies with either a toilet seat or toilet tissue but not both. I have stopped counting the new things I have learned but carrying tissue in my pocket is now automatic. And dinner with the Paris VOC guys doesn't start until 2100 so don't go showing up at 1900 worrying about being late.

I have been to and seen a lot of Art. I do not ever need to go to The Louvre again (both of us, The Louvre and I, are thankful). I will go to L'Orsay and Ste-Chapelle over and over. Chartres is damcold in the November damp and the tour guide lacked grace but the Museum of Stained Glass was informative (even though all in French) and had huge pictures of the windows they had restored for the cathedral at eye level instead of where they are placed. Obviously those medieval types had waaaay better long sight than we 21st century types. Weather here is like weather in Vancouver: wait half a day if you want a change. The light is clear and the buildings are not tall so one can see the sky without craning (unless one is in my hotel room which has a lovely view of the neighbouring building and the rest of the ventilation shaft).

Sound clips: Nuns singing Matins in Sacre Coeur. Group of young people singing a 6 part Kyrie in Chartres. Bass player in the Metro. Sax player in the Metro. Wierd oriental instrument player in the Metro making EVERYONE hurry up!! French being spoken to me and me understanding!! The pianist at the piano bar off the square on Montmartre finishing her evening with Mozart and half a dozen of us standing around outside listening. Police sirens. Clip, clop of horses. Bicycle bells. A concert of Baroque music including a harpsichord (or clavier - sorry Shannon and Victoria, I don't know which) and recorder and a mezzo and soprano who sang "Sound the Trumpets..." And the unsound of Europeans having their cell phone conversations - even this inveterate eavesdropper can't hear them. This will change as soon as I cross the Channel, I'm afraid!

Tomorrow, I'm off to Arras on a pilgrimage of sorts. The Vimy monument is near by and I am going there on the 11th with a new young friend from Calgary (how lovely to have a new friend). And then it is Britain. If I haven't used up all my i/n time here, I will finish up with some more posting otherwise, it's au revoir for now.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

In Which Himself has some issues with Turkish keyboards...

Cold here in Cappadocia. Zero C thýs a.m. Two weeks from now I should be in London. The countdown has begun. TP is ready to peg the throttle all the way to the Chunnel.

The ride from Antýoch to Cappadocia was very interesting. Very different scenery to what we had ýn the Middle East. Large mountains and much more greenery. Sky was mostly gray, yesterday, which made for rather dismal riding. We headed North and výisýted St. Peter's Church, a sýte supposedly výisýted by St. Paul after the Romans dýspursed the Jews from Jerusalem ýn about 70 AD (?). Very early Christian church established there.

Up the coast on a very good freeway with virtually no traffic. Passed on the uphill side of a huge industrýal cýty with many bulk carriers at anchor and large cranes on the docks. Around the N.E. corner of the Medýterranean and West to Tarsus. Large mountaýns to our rýght and the Med on our left. Gray sky. Turned North to Cappadocia through the mountiýns. Started to rain so we suited-up. Into low cloud/fog and road construction, ... mud. Very short výsibilýty and some týght corners. Out of the fog ýn a fuel stop ýn a mountain pass. Snow ýs a few hundred meters from the road. Press on down on the other side and come out on a high rollýng plaýn. Looks lýke graýn has been harvested. Road ýs good and Roy on the lead býke sets a fast pace at about 75 mph, ... even though ýt's very cold.

At the end of a long day, end up ýn Nevsehir, Cappadocia. The reason for us being here ýs that there are unýque underground výllages nearby and Tony ýs an underground fanatic. We had our usual search for a "Lonely Planet" hotel, but no luck. Cold, hungry and frustrated is not where any of us really want to be. We find a place on the busy main street and park the bikes on the sidewalk.
By the time we're settled, most of the shops and eateries have closed as it's the end of Ramadan and most are headýng for a býg famýly feast. TP & I fýnd a small corner cafe with some food left and finish as they are sweeping the floor under our feet. I found a market shop open and bought a long sleeve turtleneck pull-over for more warmth, ... or should I say... less cold.

This mornýng, the thermometer on the wýndow ledge said 0 degrees C but the sun was brýght and the sky clear. We put on lots of clothes and headed to the underground výlage. Fascýnatýng place buýlt by villagers at least 2,700 for protectýon and escape from attackers. A steep and týght staircase carved from solid rock descends ten levels wýth wells, aýr shafts and enough rooms so that they could survive for 6 months. TP was ýn ecstacy!

Sunshine was gone when we surfaced. Went to a nearby valley where there are many trogdolýte dwellýngs carved from the hýllsýdes and unýque phallýc rock formations. Raýn and darkness arrive so we head back to Nevsehir and get fuel for an early start tomorrow morning. Fuel price here ýs 2.75 Can / litre. At an earlýer fuel stop, ýt was my turn and I paýd the 122.00 Can tab for the four býkes. Not too far away, in Lýbya the prýce was 0.13 cents / lýtre. Oh well, for supper, I had a shwarma ... shaved, spýcy meat & garnýsh ýn a large fresh chunk of bread ... and a juice for 2.00 Can.

Tomorrow, we head back to the Mediterranean and then around the coast to Ephesus.

Sainte Chapelle

There was simply nothing in my life to prepare me for the astonishment and awesomeness of this small church.

The French, eh? they know how to do things properly. No big fanfares, no big flashing signs outside saying, "Come on in HERE and we will show you SOMEthing!" (well, actually those signs DO exist and in the seedier part of my new neighbourhood which is known as Pig Alley to some and Pigalle to the rest of us. But I am not talking about them.) No, the French do things such as making one stand in line to get checked through security b/c they use the same lines for the Palais de Justice and for Sainte Chapelle. {Why waste perfectly good man (it's all men) power when the two places are side by side??} and, when one is asked to open one's bag to show the corkscrew left one by The First Adventuress, the bag examiner looks at the knife part, looks at Moi and, in French, shows another, more senior I like to think, examiner. The Sr Ex asks "de qui?". I am indicated. He looks at me, grins, and says, in English, "she's o.k." I am not sure whether to be flattered or disappointed but, as I didn't want to have to buy another corkscrew, I laugh and say, in my best French accent, "Merci et au revoir, messieurs." They both laugh and I get the heck out of there.

And then the French make one walk across the back alley to the servants' entrance and it is quite beautiful in itself, all vaulting and blue ceiling with stars of gold. Not quite what I was expecting but hey, stars of gold on a blue ceiling are good. I am looking for a big sign saying "Spiral Staircase to the Real Chapel" or something. It's over there, in the corner with a tiny sign ( I was going to make the font tiny but can't figure out how to do that and not have everything else tiny too and I have just spent about 10Euros of i/n time trying to do so so too bad...). It is a very steep spiral staircase and small heffalump with asthma seems to be ahead of me. I wait patiently b/c after all, this can't be That Big a Thing. It was only 6.10 Euro and everyone knows that in Paris that is for cheap stuff.

Everyone except the people who set the pricing at Ste-Chapelle.

Try to imagine stepping out of a dark, dark staircase. Kind of like the tunnel we are told some people experience at death. And try to imagine stepping into the most glorious light in the world. The light of all the colours alive and dancing brighter and duller with passing clouds and setting sun. Like being inside a kaleidoscope. These are the walls of Ste-Chapelle: 20 metres of stained glass straight up all the way round a nave that is less than 10 metres wide in lancets of four and, behind the altar, lancets in pairs. The effect was dazzling and eye-popping and, most particularly interesting, silencing. This was built in less than five years and consecrated in 1248!!!! Talk about no building committees and no diocesan councils!! And built before almost anyone except the ancestors of those already here had even considered the existence of where we now live.

You all know I don't get gobsmacked easily by "stuff". It has happened at last.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Very quickly....

I am in Paris. I have been in Paris since 0645 this morning after the night train (a new and broadening adventure) from Zurich. I have not yet seen my hotel room but I understand I may do so any time now so I'm agonna. Suffice to say that the singing in Sacre Coeur Basilica this morning at 0800 was sublime and that, even though I got myself into the section which is for those wishing to make confession, I'm saving it for a Sunday at St. G.

The Sr Boy is in Turkey with a cold. Send healing vibes. Meeting him in Coventry for dinner in 2 weeks.

The Jr Boy did not get sacked and the assbeagle who tried rocking the boat is now slightly seasick, I figure.

The Jr Girl is holding everything together including the 35# of candies leftover from the chickenshit children who didn't go to our house (after 20 years of loyalty.....) but to the Evil Subdivision (her term) down the hill.

More when it's not waaaaaay past my nap and hanging clothes up time.