Published on Sunday, 19 May 2013 17:58
Fish Hill near Broadway is one of the finest road hill challenges in Southern England. Multiple curves as it rises from the Vale of Evesham to the Cotswold Hills. But biker beware: several of the picturesque villages in the Cotswolds maintain their medieval stocks!
Cotswolds roads are about straight lines and then right-angle bends so a different challenge to the very technical style that works for the roads of Provence and the Alps.
Met with some of the bikers from GBMCC London and Cardiff at The Rose and Crown in touristy Stratford-on-Avon. No stocks in that town but you have to pay up front for just about everything.
A ride through five of the counties whose names my French friends find most difficult to pronounce: Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire; useful to remember for encouragement when you are tripped up by Espigoulier, Carpentras, itinéraire, Marignane or Forcalquier!
Published on Sunday, 19 May 2013 17:51
A spring walk in Hyde Park, London: sculptures, screeches of wild parakeets from the trees, people walking their dogs, and magnificent artichoke plants in the flower beds.
Published on Monday, 13 May 2013 20:37
Some souvenir photos from an enjoyable camp of twenty-eight bikers from all over France, all of us members of the French club AMA; we were exploring from the Côte d'Azur to the Alpes Maritimes, the frontier range between Nice in France and Ventimiglia in Italy.
Pictures on my postcard show the palm trees on the promenade at Fréjus, the Col de Turini (1607m) a mountain route known and appreciated for its numerous corners, curves and hairpin bends, great for practicing lines and ballistics. And other halts at Puget-Théniers, Dolceacqua and somewhere high up in the Var just before we had the fun of encountering a group of bikers out from Marseille also out for the sport in the sunshine. See also my postcard of our base at St. Jeannetwhere the club had booked a gîte in a rustic style.
Parked underneath the orange trees in the garden at the Gîte des Baous, St Jeannet.
Published on Monday, 13 May 2013 20:28
The gîte for our stay for the Camp des Baous was in St. Jeannet in the Alpes Maritimes, resting on a ledge underneath limestone cliffs. Panoramic views to the coast below but high enough to be slightly out of the heat and the bustle. The town calls itself Porte des Baous (gateway to the Baous), Baou seems to refer to both the limestone cliffs and the numerous frogs who inhabit the fields below and were singing loudly in the evening sunshine... The cliffs have an appearance like the snout of a sitting frog, so maybe that’s the origin of the word. It could also be that Baou is a slang word for the people who live underneath Baous (meaning cliff). There’s a climbing school and numerous gîtes, despite the locals seemed to welcome us and our club’s booking.
Published on Sunday, 05 May 2013 14:06
Moustiers Sainte-Marie is a pretty Provencal village at the foot of the grand canyon of the Verdon. There’s a spring and a waterfall which lead to fountains in the Roman style. A fine place for a biker halt in spring before the tourists and caravans are too numerous. Onwards round the lac de Sainte-Croix, much of the route is suitable for very sporty riding style; a good route to play on the racing line with apexes, low gears and later braking and get the eye back in practice after winter.
Published on Sunday, 05 May 2013 09:39
Fire in the Vieux Port at Marseille! An encounter with fire and an opportunity to reacquaint with the Old Port, thanks to the 2013 European City of Culture. Numerous displays, thousands of fire sources and yes, it did remind us of fire, the element, that most of us don’t usually encounter in daily life. The heat from the fire, the enticing but dangerous play of the flames and the smell of the smoke. Lots of circles (think “ring of fire”), big coal spherical braziers suspended on frames above the Canebière and radiating massive heat, and a spectacular tunnel of fire formed of hoops, each featuring a number of fire sources. There were some acrobats; mime artists and musicians but mostly the public were the performers.
The risk assessment must have been formidable, both the fire risk from more than 4000 open flames with no particular separation from the public, also for personal security, as the street lights were switched off. There were plenty of marins-pompiers (firemen) in attendance plus there was a cordon of police around the whole display area; people joined in the spirit of the encounter and we didn’t see any incidents and none were reported in the press. So Marseille pulled it off, however it was cleared.
Compare with Burning the Clocks in Brighton, no open flames at all!
Published on Thursday, 02 May 2013 07:41
My day trip to MediaCityUK started bright and early at London’s Euston station; but inside the building, I faced the onslaught of grey and harrowed faces on the commuters hurrying importantly off trains arriving in the capital.
Once on the train, the countryside flashed past outside; bright clear sunshine revealing fields at last showing the welcome colours of a spring to end this seemingly interminable winter. Going north, it was still spring in the Trent valley but once through the tunnel to Macclesfield, much less of the green glow of new growth on trees and crops. Splendid views from the railway viaduct at Stockport of the town below and now no snow on the Pennine hills far away, unlike just ten days ago on my trip to the Lake District.
Change from fast train to urban tram at Manchester Piccadilly; the sunshine persisted, showing Manchester’s dour red brickwork at its best. Manchester's Metrolink tram ground and bimbled its way out from Piccadilly towards MediaCityUK at Salford Quays.
The tram arrived at the terminus with the sun still shining: MediaCityUK in spring sunshine! The statue of Petra the dog, the first television pet on UK television, surveys the Blue Peter garden, heathers flowering for the first full spring since the Blue Peter garden was relocated from BBC Television Centre in West London.
And so to work in the new buildings of BBC North. Compare with the bleak views of my previous trip to MediaCentreUK in May 2011.
Published on Sunday, 21 April 2013 13:52
A couple of hikes up from Keswick in mild and fine spring weather. Whinlatter forest park offers fine views of Keswick, Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw. Not yet enough mountain bikers on the trails nor kids on the “ape” high route of ropes and poles through the treetops to be a nuisance to walkers; the famous red squirrels were keeping themselves hidden though the birds were making good use of a feeding station at the headquarters of the forest park.
We took the route past “Keswick’s answer to the Eiffel Tower” and Walla Crag on our hike up to Bleaberry Fell (590 m.), one of the peaks on Castlerigg Fell above Keswick. Still a bit wet under foot, but the reward for the climb was an all round view of Lakeland’s three highest peaks, Scafell Pike, 978 m., Helvellyn, 951 m. and Skiddaw, 931 m. clear in the spring sunshine. The ridge and summit of Helvellyn are over my shoulder in the picture.
Far away over the Solway Firth, we saw the granite shape of the hills of Galloway. The return route took us down Cat Gill/Ghyll, no longer inhabited by escaped domestic cats.
Published on Sunday, 21 April 2013 10:23
After a couple of days of welcome spring sunshine, it’s a wet Sunday morning in Keswick. So here’s my interpretation of Keswick’s aerial tower, that my host Mike describes as “Keswick’s answer to the Eiffel Tower”. In reality, it’s a rather local fill-in transmitter for terrestrial television plus a measly amount of 2G and 3G coverage for Keswick in the Lake District, Cumbria.