The big smile and faraway look in my eyes tells it all: Happy Biker! That’s the first time I’ve got on my CBR600RR since being knocked off on the autoroute just outside Marseille in September. Not yet ready to ride but I’m visiting the workshop to discuss the repairs.
Driving a little Fiat 500 over the Col d’Espigoulier (723 m.) just outside Marseille was both a bit of fun but mainly a frustration. A car is not a bike and this route, which I know well as a biker, felt considerably more hairy when driving four wheels.
My reward was a dramatic Sunset over Marseille viewed from the col at the same time as several groups of bikers, including one in red, a Santa Biker.
The Col d’Espigoulier is one of those mysteries of Marseille: the road surface is maintained surprisingly well for a mountain road. There are no cameras and no speed bumps on the main route. Also the white line marking the summit is officially there for timing the road cyclists in hill climb events... but clearly it also gets used for motorsports...
Route crossing from the Valley of the River Durance in the Alpes de Haut Provence to the Riviera coast in the Var, Manosque to Saint-Raphaël. Of course this means the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Verdon.
A fine day, clear and cold, so choosing the route to the summit of Helvellyn (950 m.), the second highest mountain in England, to enjoy the views to the maximum.
Tasting the Vin des Hautes Alpes IGP wine in the thin air at more than 1600 m. in a mountain hotel in Cervières on the road to the Col d’Izoard, this is immediately a soft red wine for the mountains. A distinctive and slightly peppery taste reminiscent of the Swiss Valais or the new Austrian reds, this one is more tangy than a Mondeuse from Savoie. No great after-taste or bouquet but a refreshing and slightly tangy swig, standing up well to the locally-sourced soupe des ortilles, ie nettles. It tasted best with the local cheeses, Bleu de Queyras lightly scented with parsley and a soft goats cheese laden with fresh herbs.
A great Proms moment and the end of an era: Bernard Haitink applauds Emanuel Ax and the Vienna Philharmonic after playing Beethoven together for probably the last time at the Proms
I had to ask and look to check whether the piano tonight was the Albert Hall’s usual Steinway Grand because Emanuel Ax played the opening run so delicately it could have been a forte-piano. This was the tone of his performance throughout, ethereal, great delicacy, precision and charm. Hardly a hint of Sturm und Drang.
Maybe my mood was set by seeing the veteran conductor Bernard Haitink walk on stage to cheers from the audience, face beaming though walking with all the difficulty of a maestro now in his ninetieth year; tonight’s interpretation of the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto struck me as much with pathos as with beauty.
Emanuel Ax played softly and delicately, straining the concentration of the audience, seemingly pulling us in to the world of two musicians who have made great music together many many times but who both know this is coming to an end. We were privileged to hear piano playing at the other end of the experience spectrum to “Young Musician”: clarity of interpretation, depth, serenity and poise.