January 1, 2011

Lessons, with hindsight

There are some things I'd do differently. 

Improve my French! Mostly, I spoke only French in the south, with several exceptions. When lost in Salon-de-Provence, when I called the hotel Ibis to make a reservation they offered English and I took it. Lost, the road was noisy, I wanted to be sure of where they were. And our hosts at L'Escaliers spoke English so that Roy could participate at breakfast. But mostly I spoke French and it was very barely adequate, because of the kindness and patience of the French.

Ancient bridge, near prehistoric caves at Fort Buoux
Take a tent. Or take enough money to not worry about the budget. I made some stupid choices because of worrying about money and missed some things I’d liked to have done.

More careful route planning! Print out routes into and out of towns. The Michelin maps are not detailed enough, the signs are not good enough, and the maps in the guidebooks only cover the central cities with accuracy. It was wearing, exhausting to keep getting lost going into and out of cities.

Me, in the Arles Coliseum
Allow more time for wandering on the bike. I really like point to point riding, with the goal of getting somewhere. But I’d like to learn to wander more, to take the time to explore the side roads.

May is not ahead of tourist season on the coast. Well, it might be ahead, but still it was more crowded than I enjoy. Beach towns share a lot of characteristics, whether they are on the Delaware shore or the Mediterranean. Crowds. Expensive food. Cotton-candy atmosphere.
Ride on white roads (as shown on Michelin maps) whenever possible. Stay off larger roads if possible. They rarely or never felt scary, they did feel stressed and sometimes hectic.

Roy in the Medieval Market, Peyrnes-les-Fontaines
Carrying the bikes in boxes. There must be a better way. Tiny little wheels on the boxes? Or, allow time to put the bike back together at the end of the public transportation traveling, if possible. This would be one way to avoid dragging/carrying an unwieldy, heavy bike box.
Stop looking for memorable meals, just eat. All the food was good.

Buy lots of stamps for post cards at once. Then there would be only one line and no searching for post offices. I frequently saw mail boxes, but didn't have stamps.

Carry a chain tool and generally better bike tools and learn how to use them.

Look at the schedules of the slower, regional trains, even from Paris to the south.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Suze

    I'm enjoying reading your stories of your first France bike tour. It brings back memories of my first tour, especially the stress of bringing bikes on the TGV! I'm so glad you found bags (une housse) at Decathlon, although sorry about your derailleur! I agree that there must be a better way. The problem with a good case is you need somewhere to store it. Our solution has been to go to Paris bike stores (including Decathlon) and ask for a spare bike box before flying out. And for tours, we carry our bike bags with us, even if they do add bulk. A bike bag with wheels would be even better (but bulkier :(). I haven't read your tales of more recent trips, so I'm curious to see what system you came up with.

    At any rate, bravo for making a lifelong dream a reality (several times over, it appears)!


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