Friday, March 4, 2011
More Mont Faron & Mont Caume
This is it- my France trip that I've being looking forward to all winter. The weather has been in the low 50's and mostly sunny. It feels downright balmy by Vermont standards. There are 311 sunny days a year here in Provence, and yet we managed to get caught out in one of the 54 that isn't. We were too busy swearing at ourselves and trying to get home to take any pictures of that.
Provence? Oui. I'm staying with a college friend who's been towing me around the local Cols and showing me his normal routes. I have to say that the riding here is simply incredible.
John took about 650 pictures of me riding over the last two days, and I'm trying to post the ones that make me look the least out of shape. Some of them are a little frightening. I keep trying to tell myself that it's March and not to panic...
Still, any mileage for me this time of year is a godsend. I have big plans for this year, and this trip is helping me to prepare for them.
To say this is just a training trip wouldn't be true- I've been looking forward to the food and experiencing Europe more than the riding. The French are known for their cheese, red wine and bread, and those three items are offered in great abundance at the local grocery store. Compared to the prices of other foods I'm pretty sure they're government subsidized. A loaf of artisan bread in VT would be roughly $3.50-4, and here it's less than half of that. Wine? Cheap bottles start at about $3, and you can get a respectable one for about $4 (I'm using the $ and converting because I'm not sure how to make the Euro sign on my keyboard). The cheese aisle is massive- about 50% larger than the cereal aisle in a US grocery store. And you know how much Americans like their cereal.
Americans tend to view Europe as a sort of cultural mecca, and I can see why they feel that way. I think the pro-bike community tends to look at European non-motorized transport as some sort of ideal, but there's no real mass transit here in Toulon, and there aren't many bike lanes, either. The roads are narrow and in the city there's a lot of traffic. The difference is that the people are more patient with cyclists, partially because as a culture France appreciates cycling, but also because the fines for hitting a cyclist are very punitive, and you can even lose your license. If we can learn from their model it's that we don't need to reinvent our transit system to make it safe for cyclists, but we could do a lot to protect people on bikes with stiffer penalties for aggressive driving and negligence.
Posted by Matt