Great to have a sportsbike parked outside my front door again. A ride back from Chichester on the rolling roads over the South Downs in West Sussex with a warm welcome at Tiffins Tea Shop in Petworth.
It’s a GSX-R600 L2, 2012 version. Pulls hard, corners tight. Noisy. Fun. Trim: Black Shiny Glaze. Unfortunately only a hire for the May Day weekend and the 2016 GLME Ascension Camp in Salisbury.
Day out to hike Blencathra, the double headed Lakeland peak formed of craggy Skiddaw slate. Leaving home in London at dawn, blackbirds singing in the streets. Pendolino train service to Penrith then a bus to the White Horse pub to start hiking uphill before midday.
Nice view over Scales Tarn. Picnic lunch on the summit of Blencathra (868 m.). Still blue sky and sunshine, wow what good luck! Thrilling views over the precipitous ridges over to all the Lakeland peaks, Skiddaw nearby, Great Gable and Hellvellyn as well as Derwent Water and Thirlmere far away in the haze but with flashes of snow remaining in the cold gullies on the tops.
A trip in the Quantock Hills and Exmoor, checking out the Black Cat route from Dunster (near Minehead) down to Tiverton, known as one of the top fifty bike routes in the UK. The Black Cat road is in good shape, it gets its name from the garage and cafe at the side of the road near Bampton; I'm looking to make an opportunity to ride it after the 2016 GLME Ascension bike camp, based in Salisbury.
My biker mate Tony with his new Suzuki GSX600-L4 bike and Alpinestar leathers.
Just a hike along the river Verdon, but few riverside walks feel the pressure of cliffs towering up to 750m. directly above the path. "Keep the river on the right": not a lot of navigation difficulties but a hike which is all about logistics; a couple of nights at the CAF Chalet de la Maline (mountain-refuge style lodging, busy) and avoiding the navette (minibus) reduced these for me. Mind the wet tunnels (torch required) and the vertiginous ladders (burning quads) but otherwise not particularly technical. I enjoyed my picnic lunch on the beach at La Mescla, the confluence of the rivers Verdon and Artuby The great views are in the middle of the hike, climbing over the cliff forming the confluence of the Artuby and the Verdon.
A satisfying ride round the Grand Canyon of the Verdon - it's the largest gorge in Europe. Lots of opportunities for sporty riding especially on the south rim road. On the north rim, the Route des Crêtes demands to be taken with care. Interesting to stop at the Balcon de la Mescla to look down at the Sentier Blanc-Martel along the river bank, that I hiked the previous day: hiking and biking are different sports and experiences; here, the more obvious pleasure is in riding the road.
Skirting the northern flank of the Esterel massif is the old N7 trunk road that used to be the main route for the 38km (23 miles) from Fréjus to Cannes. Now designated DN7, the road is well made and graded, reliably wide and the curves are usefully banked. Heavy traffic is discouraged leaving sports bikes, sports cars and white vans to enjoy the ride and views. The residences (ie swanky villas) in the hills around are what you might expect up the road from Cannes: private pools of course, plus tennis courts and outdoor entertainment areas.
Two Roman amphitheatres and a Roman aqueduct in a ride out from Marseille on my bike. Ideal motorbiking weather: a cool and hazy dawn which developed to warm sunshine. Tyres, bike and rider all run better in the warmth, 24°C by the end of the afternoon with just a light wind.
We’ve been enjoying three bottles of Tempranillo wine from north Spain over this stormy Easter weekend: Ribera del Duero of Marques de Almeida 2014 (Sainsburys £7.99), Allende la Vega 2013 (Waitrose £9.99) and Reserva 2011 (Tesco £6.99). They’re not quite cheap enough for “everyday” drinking neither are they in the “special occasion only” price range. All three have surprised with their complex flavours from a single grape wine. Here are our notes and conclusions.
Heartening to see (and join) the queue for Hot Cross buns this Good Friday morning in at Ravens Bakery, Fiveways, Brighton. So many craft bakers have given up, but Donald Raven’s bakery continues to offer a range of good quality and expertly baked, no-nonsense British bakery products. His “signature” brown loaf is a sunflower seed tin loaf, made with a tasty and high gluten flour. Joining the Good Friday bakery queue is an opportunity for talking with neighbours and finding out about the area, to step back from the one-stop shopping mentality lure of the supermarkets. The Hot Cross buns were – as usual – well worth waiting for and delicious either straight from the bag whilst walking home (see the guy with dog in my photo) or on a warmed plate for breakfast.