Another day... another gorge. But this is the Big One, the deepest canyon in Europe, the Grand Canyon of the Verdon. Spectacular rock topography on view and very much in your face through a bike visor but for most of us our riding the canyon North Rim road is moderated by the up to 700m drop to the river below, even on a midweek out-of-season day like this when the North Rim road is blocked half-way to Castellane so the traffic is wonderfully light. Views of the snow on the peaks of some Provence Alps from the Col d'Ayen (1031 m.). Riding in my white kit so happy to find a quarry for a “Moonwalker look” pose.
The best rides are the roads leading to the canyon, up from Vinon-sur-Verdon where the Verdon meets the river Durance. Then the road up the valley of the quaintly-named river Colostre and some lakeside roads around the Lac de Saint-Croix. Pine forests concealing tricky curves and stacks of hairpins. The South Rim road is known for spectacular rolling curves and hills which give plenty of scope for sporty riding.
Today the canyon was in sultry mood aiming to frustrate the photographer. I had arrived too late to enjoy its early morning show of coloured limestone, having enjoyed the spring sunshine at Peyrolles-en-Provence while Lionél did the service on my bike. Never mind, I’ll be back.
Once to check out the road and then riding it again head-down and without stopping; the road of the Ardèche Gorge is one of the great French bike rides. 38km of road - route panoramique - from St. Martin-en-Ardèche (not far from the Rhône) to the natural rock bridge known as Le Pont d'Arc, the road follows the sinuous course of the river in its gorges and cirques below. Hairpins, long straights heading steeply down to a welcoming rock face and/or a ninety-degree bend. Tunnels through the bare craggy, dripping limestone.
Cassis to Gémenos is less than 20km by a direct route but Patrice from Arles took us on an interesting tour of east Provence taking in the Route des Crêtes of Cap Canaille, some of the sporty roads near the Grand Prix track at Le Castellet, a ridge route with views over towards the Maures and the islands of the Provence coast, this was great for the several riders now with Adventure style bikes.
Road ride from Pointe Rouge and la Madrage de Montredon then in the Parc National des Calanques onwards to the fishing village almost at the end of the road, Les Goudes.
L’Hermione (1779) was a three-masted Concorde class frigate of the Marine Royale française, launched in 1778 and initially very successful around the French coast suppressing raids by corsairs. L’Hermione took the Marquis de La Fayette with a crew of 200 to help the American separatists led by George Washington in 1780. I was surprised just how big the three-master from the trine of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution looks even today.
Should there be a poet in the Lunar Village, why are there so many exoplanets and why are they so diverse? Intriguing questions discussed at UCL’s first session of its Space Week; also how to distinguish between useful technology actively disposing of debris in space or identical technology being used in a hostile way to disable satellites.
Enjoyable rainy bank holiday lunchtime with Mike from Hove sharing our passions for MotoGP, World Superbikes (WSB) and riding our own sportsbikes. As well as the nippy little BMW G300R, Mike also rides his own BMW S1000RR with HP4 Carbon high performance package, that’s in sunny Spain.
Triangular hike from Falmer to the South Downs Way overlooking Plumpton. Skylarks and blackbirds singing. Crops beginning to germinate. Newly born lambs in one of the more sheltered fields. First strenuous hike of 2018: the Sussex Downs are long rolling hills which make for sustained effort to see the views over to Brighton or over the Sussex Weald. Picnic near Blackcap, 206 m.
Marseille Municipal Opera sounds like a paradox and it is: this was a very enjoyable performance with a memorable tenor in a new production of Massenet’s Hérodiade, a co-production with another French regional opera, St. Etienne. L’Opéra de Marseille has a long history dating from 1787. The art deco foyer and glorious marbled proscenium faced in pink marble with red veins are the result of reconstruction in the 1920s following a fire. The acoustics are good as a listener, quite clear. An old auditorium, high and wide rather than deep.
“Visit Sunny Worthing” shout the posters, and it was good to feel sun on our faces today; the slogan could equally read “Come to Colourful Worthing” as the Sussex seaside town seems to have a thing about colours.
This was a great bottle. Classic Margaux. Old enough to be rounded and slightly tawny but not so old as to taste thin or musty. A fine nose, a forward taste in the mouth with a delicious after-taste that complemented roast goose for our Christmas Day lunch and followed on from Champagne Bollinger Spécial Cuvée that was a birthday present (thank you Jon).
This is a bottle I bought and selected myself - we’re moving on from drinking our way through my Father’s cellar. One more bottle of Château Rauzan-Ségla 1994 remaining in my cellar, it won’t be long before it too is uncorked.