Recent travels abroad

It’s raining in Paris.  Three floors below the horns are blaring, lights flashing, three police vans are futilely adding the occasional whoop of siren, but there’s no hope of getting anywhere in a hurry as everyone seems to be in their car today.  Our return flight to Australia leaves tomorrow and we’ll be seeking out the Metro to the airport if the rain doesn’t ease.

Our cycling commenced in Girona Spain with a three day self-guided tour followed by a six day Trek guided tour ending in Costa Brava… I was determined to ride the avid option all the way, but I simply hadn’t trained enough so I occasionally had to take the easier option.  

The scenery was beautiful; from farmland to ancient village to stunning Mediterranean cliffs and beaches.  The bike paths and roadways were exceptional. Girona is a cycling hub for many of the world’s elite cyclists and the local government seems to apply more of their road funding to cyclists than motorists.

Château de Chambord (440 rooms, 282 fireplaces)

Next was the TGV fast train to Paris and on to Blois, beside the Loire River, beginning our 14-day self-guided cycle tour from stunning Chateau to amazing Cathedral following the Loire River down to Saumur.  I can highly recommend this tour as an easy cycle (with the occasional grinding uphill bit) with beautiful farmland, wildflowers, vineyards, croissants, baguettes and great cheese.

Fields of wild poppies along the Loire River

Old vine near Vouvray

We had some great wines and some ordinary wines including a Bordeaux with Brettanomyces (spoilage yeast) at a two-star Michelin restaurant (I just might have informed them that their restaurant was excellent and shouldn’t be serving a wine like that).  And a Burgundy with cork taint… the waiter tried his best to convince me it wasn’t cork taint as it was a Vosne-Romanée and just needed to breathe but I managed to convince him after he tasted the replacement bottle… it was scrumptious!

I took photos of some very old vines and I found it interesting to note that most of these vineyards had some dead vines amongst the living.  I’m starting to think that the reason “Old vines make better wines” is because of virus… Viruses move slowly in the vine trunk and can be managed for the most part, but vines with viruses always yield less… So, perhaps we should change the adage to “Vines with virus produce the best wines”? 

It’s generally considered that new plantings need time to settle down before they produce good wine. My experience suggests that viruses start to manifest themselves after about twenty years… is this a coincidence?

Château de Chenonceau

Tuffeau is the soft white stone used to build the great Chateaus of the Loire.  Some 90 million years ago the Loire Valley formed the floor of a large sea. Sand and fossils of living organisms formed the Tuffeau that can now be seen in the white cliffs along the river.  The blocks for the Chateaus were mined by tunnelling into the cliffs as the rock is very stable and the tunnel roofs don’t require much support.  We visited one winery in Vouvray that utilises one of these three-kilometre-long tunnels to age their wines.  As we approached Saumur we saw many Troglodyte dwellings that were half in caves and half free standing.

Foggy Finale

Back in Australia now.  Our taxi made it through the Paris traffic and our flight was without a hitch… well maybe just one… I picked up a hitchhiker called Covid that I didn’t discover until the day after our return.  But fortunately it doesn’t seem to be lasting any longer than the jetlag.

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