Saturday, 21 July, Fontainebleau to Paris, 89 kms

So today I knew we had the equivalent of one (1) Saturday morning ride, or alternatively, two (2) river loops to go. This was the first and only time I focused on the finish of the ride. Sometimes I would mentally break a day’s ride up into ‘’mindsets of thirty (3) kilometres’’, but today it was different … I became focused on the finish of the tour. That seemed an odd thought for me to have, and I’m still puzzled by how I was thinking.

It was a clear sunny day, a little cool but not too cold. We set off on time, and had a lovely ride through the Fontainebleau forest before coming out into farmland of sun flower, wheat and corn. As we entered the outskirts of Paris we were mindful of the advice from Enrico to be very wary of our bicycles and personal belongs especially at the Crosne Train Station

Montgeron where we were to regroup.

The train station was like any other, but the warning from Enrico brought a whole new sense of return to reality which I’d not felt since our tour began several weeks ago.

As we continued we rode through the less fortunate suburbs of Paris, industrial areas, and then onto a bike path along the Seine. It was all however far from a picturesque ride into Paris, more like a ride through the dirt and grime of an industrial city.

A sad way to enter Paris, I thought, and I came to realise how lucky we are to live in a beautiful clean city like Brisbane.

But soon we came across a turn in the river, and there was the Notre Dame –

A brief stop, and then we continued along the left bank and then we were there … le Tour Eiffel.

This is the link to our ride today –

Le tour … cést fini.

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Friday, 20 July, Montargis to Fontainebleau, 67 kms

Our breakfast conversation was all about the expectation of an easy day without any climbs, but the wise ones amongst us know … every day starts out or ends with a climb, and that’s what we got … a nasty little devil to start the day!

But we were all looking forward to riding along the canals, so ‘’head down, and push those pedals’’. We followed the Canal de Briare, then into the Seine River area and Champagne sur Seine, Noing River then on to Forest of Fontainebleau, with historical chateau.

It was a beautiful day, and I’m sure each of us went to bed knowing that our trip was almost finished.

These are links to;

Our ride today –

Fontainebleau –

Photos of Fontainebleau –

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Paris … city of light, and focus of a nation’s culture, history and hope

Today is my first day without a  definite plan or schedule to follow.

So I’ve slept in, had a late breakfast, and now back in my room just lying in bed relaxing.

It’s a beautiful Paris day outside, clear and sunny, and I’ll get up soon and go out for a coffee and a walk around the ”Opera” area where I’m staying in my hotel.

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced this holiday, and now I just need to give myself some time to relax … before I continue my adventure to discover Paris, its people and its history.

,,, oh how many croissants can a boy bear?


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A typical day on this ‘’tour de Giovanni’’

‘’buzz, buzz,buzz’’ goes off at 6 am, and it’s time for up.

Our morning timing is generally breakfast at 7 am and luggage and ride out at 8 am.

I like to be organised before I go to bed with my riding gear for the next morning so that I’m on time to leave. But it’s not always so easy as the weather plays a big part when you’re cycling quite quickly.

Breakfast is simple with cereals, pastry, bread and frit.

In Italy the days were hot and dry, though we did have some rain. But in France the day might start out clear and sunny, but it seems to quickly turn to overcast , windy, with some drizzle and I can get cold. The scenario generally is, start out with warm gear, then I get hot quickly, so some gear off, then I get cold, so the gear goes back on, then I get hot again … it’s a cycle of events I’ve just come to accept.

Almost without exception, every morning ride starts off with an uphill, the only variable being the length and the gradient. This is so even on the hill top towns!

We generally ride for about forty (40) kms or so before we stop for a break and coffee in a village or small town. In between times the support van will be along the road with water and food, normally museli bars, fruit or nuts. We’ll then ride on for another thirty / forty kilometres before we stop for lunch, generally a baguette or quiche from a patisserie.

After lunch we’ll ride through to an afternoon tea, and generally arrive at the hotel anywhere between 5 – 6 pm.

Then it’s garage the bikes, up for   shower, briefing generally at 7 pm, and then either a group dinner or dinner separately.

In summary through, the day’s profile is; ride, eat, sleep!

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19 July, Sancerre to Montargis, 97 kms

What a wonderful feeling this morning to wake up knowing we had a relatively shorter ride, with minimal climbing.

A leisurely breakfast and then a later depart at 8.30 am. Our day started with a nice descent into the valley, and then the inevitable climb back out of the valley through beautiful vineyards. The morning was overcast, very light drizzle, and a cool breeze, so I was rugged up for the descent as I feel the cold.

The farmlands we passed through were a mixture of vineyards, corn, wheat and pasture with the white cows apparently typical of this region of France. It was a lovely days cycling and we moved along at a good pace.

… and then the wind. It is a well known fact that the only winds a cyclist experiences is either a headwind or a cross wind, and today we had it most of the day. This has the consequence of alternating between hot and cold and at various times during the day I was very cold yet perspiration dripping down my face.

We rode along some canals and stopped for a break that is chocolate chaud by the canal viaduct. This is an amazing piece of engineering design and construction carrying the canal high above the Loire river at Pont Canal de Briare, built between 1890 – 1894. This is a ink to come general information about the pont canal

So this afternoon we arrived into Montargis, tired, but very happy with the day especially that we have some free time to just ‘’chill out’’.

This cycling trip has shown me so many things, the beauty of Italy and France, and some aspects of those two (2) cultures, and it makes me want to learn and experience more of both. I hope I can do that … so it remains to me to make that happen.

This is a link to our ride today –

I will sleep well tonight, and let’s hope I have some dreams.

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18 July, Semur En Auxois to Sancerre, 154 kms

All I can say right now about today is … hard, and the longest distance I’ve cycled in one (1) day.

More later, but this is the link for today –

Today’s ride was always going to be hard, with more than seven (7) climbs, and 154 kms distance. It was hot, but not as hot as we had experienced in Italy, but still I drank probably eight (8) bottles of water during the day.

The ride was beautiful tough, through vineyards, and farm lands.

Our hotel for the evening was Sancerre, on top of a mountain which we had to climb right at the end of the day. The guides continually offered to take us up in the two (2) support vans, and while some took that option, the ANZUS group decided to make the climb, or at least attempt it. It was two (2) kms at varying 10% – 17%, and I managed to achieve about one (1) kilometre before I had to get off and walk, it had been a very long day and I was simply exhausted. I was nevertheless disappointed, but at the same time felt a great sense of exhilaration at the effort I put in today – a personal best distance with many climbs most of which were tough for everyone.

Sancerre is a beautiful hilltop town and castle and I hope to come back one day to enjoy it, rather than see it through a set of very tired eyes. I could only manage the main course and then went off to bed.

This is a link to Sancerre, a town well known it seems for wine –

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Beaune to Semur en Auxois, Tuesday, 17 July, 104 kms

The group was generally anxious today about the profile of the climbs after the past few days of climbing. There was some dissention in the group about the need for the extent of climbing and the difficulty of the rides especially the distances. The guides identified an alternative route to avoid the first climb, and some of the group took that option.

Now I’ve been riding with a nice group I’ve self title the ‘’ANZUS group’’ which is comprised of three (3) Americans and three (3) Australians. I’ve given NZ some opportunity to participate if we found a NZ who could join – but that did not happen. Anyhow we ride together well, and are generally around the same level. It’s a nice group comprised of for the US; Peter and Joseph, a father and son, and Bob a retired CPA, and for Australia; Deb a solicitor from Brisbane, Sharon a radiographer from Sydney and Missbianchiandme.

Anyhow we all decided to do the original route which included the climbing, and although it looked daunting at first we all managed it well enough. The gradients were nowhere near as we had feared.

It was beautiful riding out of Beaune through vineyards, past stately chateaux, little villages, beautiful valleys, farming communities and even a genuine castle at Chateauneuf where we stopped for the obligatory “chocolate chaud”’ [hot chocolate].

I was back on my bicycle today after taking a day off yesterday as I had stomach aches and a very sore throat. I woke this morning with the sore throat still present but I was determined to ride, so I did. We have a doctor in the group so I checked with him and his advice was to ride if I felt up to it, or to get in the van if I felt off. Not very scientific really but it made sense and I appreciated his frank advice, including him checking up on me during the day to see how I was feeling.

While today was short by comparison with our other days, it still was enough for us all and we arrived in  Semur en Auxois all very tired.

So an early dinner, in France that means a minimum of two and a half hours at the table, and then to bed.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the best bathroom of my trip, but ,,,

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… how hard is it to plug a bath?

One of the things we all look forward to is a hot shower at the end of the day, and it’s just heaven [rare] when our hotel bathroom has a bath tub.

But tonight I was absolutely stunned … I have a large spa in my bathroom. ‘’Lucky boy me’’, I thought … and things just went downhill from there!

Now I like to believe I’ve at least average intelligence. So far I’ve been able to work out how to turn on the bathroom shower taps of all designs all the way from Rome. Let me assure you it’s quite an achievement as some very smart [or stupid] people designed so many different types of tapes, at least in my experience here so far.

So I turned on the taps to fill the spa, and went about unpacking, all in great anticipation of a wonderful soaking bath. After about ten (10) minutes I went back into the bathroom to check on the level in the spa, and … it was empty! How could this be? Then I checked the plug again to realise it was very different to anything I’d seen ever in my short life, and I just cold not work out how to plug it to hold water. By now I’m just a little frustrated, so I think to myself, ‘’if it’s so complicated, maybe there’s instructions somewhere’’. It didn’t take me long to find the instructions … that was the large sign on the wall above the spa with directions to use the ‘’automatic plug’’. ‘’Mmmmm …’’, how did I not notice the large sign?’’

Anyhow, it cannot be too hard … to translate the French and if that failed the German instructions. Obviously the hotel management did not anticipate any English speakers to want to use the spa.

So I tried, and I tried, and I tried to use every possible way to plug the ‘’automatic plug’’.

At last I had a thought and a ready solution, so I just climbed in, sat down and hosed myself with the hand shower. Sometimes things just don’t work out as we’d like!!

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18 July, Semur En Auxois, Bourgogne, France to Sancerre, France

All I can say right now about today is … hard, and the longest distance I’ve cycled in one (1) day.

More later, but this is the link for today –

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Alpe d’Huez to Aix les Bains, Friday, 13 July, 143 kms

We woke today to drizzling rain, the morning we are to descend Alpe d’Huez. ‘’It’s unfair’’ we all thought. After the hard climbs of yesterday we were all looking forward to a fast descent back down the mountain, but it was not to be. So we all put on our wet gear and as much warm clothing as we had and started down the mountain.

It was to be a very slow descent, and on the brakes the whole way down. Now climbing a mountain is tough at the best of times, but holding the brakes in the cold and wet is almost as tough. My fingers were numb, and I was shivering and feeling cold almost from the start.

But the descent is steep, and that becomes even more noticeable when going down than when climbing up. It is especially noticeable at some of the switchbacks which seem to hang out from the side of the mountain with little or nothing really to stop you if you miss the turn … that has a way of ensuring you concentrate.

Fortunately we reached the base of the mountain safe and sound, but wet and cold. ‘’Time for another hot chocolate’’, I thought, but not to be, we went right at the roundabout and headed off for our first grouping spot at Vizille another  thirty (30) kilometres further on. It was a great feeling as we rode as fast as we could along the very long and gentle down slope, I was feeling warm again as the sun started to come through and the drizzle stopped.

As has happened o often on this trip, we were in for another surprise with a long and hard day. This time not only the distance at 143 kms, but also some confusion regarding the route, and the stress of trying to ride as fast as we could to be able to see the Tour de France cross out route just outside Apremont. We were well behind time, and so needed to ride harder and faster, and then we came to the next major climb, St Pancrasse … it was not going to be possible to get over this climb in time. The fast group had gone ahead of us and were well up the road, so our group leader identified another route on the flat and he felt we could still make the time to see le tour. So we turned around and off we went again. After an hour or so Gwendale and Daniele our tour guides, realised we could not make the time, so we slowed down. I was exhausted anyhow but kept going, just wanting to get to the end.

Sometimes things work out, and sometimes not, but one thing for sure was evident today, and it was the effort our tour guides went to for us. We are fortunate indeed to have Enricho, Daniele, Gwendale and Jerome, and while many were disappointed not to see le tour, it was outside of everyone’s control to meet the timeframes and distance required. The planning had not been practical and the four (4) guides were at their limits trying to hold to an unrealistic schedule.

There’s a parallel for me in what I do as a project manager. Planning needs to be realistic, simple and practical.

I arrived into Aix les Bains, tired but happy at my effort for the day. It was a very long day, and the thought of the rest day tomorrow made me all the more happy to arrive at the hotel.

I want to acknowledge the efforts of the four (4) guides today, they tried but despite their efforts things did not work out as they would have liked…. grazie and mercie.

Tonight I can go to bed with my only thought … how do I get my washing done tomorrow?

Bon soir

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