Hiking Hohe Wand, the limestone plateau about 35km out from Vienna. Wolf and I enjoyed a ridge walk culminating at Wilhelm-Eicherthütte (1082 m.) with a view out to Schneeberg (2076 m.), renowned locally as the most easterly Alp of more than 2000 metres and like today, usually topped with snow. The Hohe Wand has been a popular retreat for many years so has many settlements of log cabins; the cabin in my photo is constructed in the traditional way but also features a satellite dish, an interesting combination of aesthetics and lifestyles.
This is the eastern end of the Alps, the range known as the Northern Limestone Alps, where the uplifted and crumpled Tethys sea bed is meeting the Vienna Basin and the Hungarian Plain. There are hot springs in the valley due to the geological activity, my friend Wolf is a regular the baths of Baden. Looking over the valley we saw the town of Wiener Neustadt, that was founded in 1194 AD with the proceeds of the ransom of Richard the Lionheart of England. Vienna is far away from London but the history of the region has been affected by and, as the dynastic home of the Hapsburgs, has driven, the political and military history of the whole of Europe.
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.).
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.
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.
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.