Google+ The Norris Files: 2009


Super V trail at Mt Glorious

I took the new bike racks for a spin up to Mt Glorious today to ride the Super V trail. I was a little nervous at first that I was going to see the bike come flying of the roof but they worked fine. I didn't notice any extra wind noise, the only difference was some rattling epecially when on rough sections of road

I got to Mt Glorious around 08:30am and parked the car just of Mt Glorious Rd near the concealed entry to the Super V track. The start of the track is only a couple of hundred metres past the cafe and the exit point from the track is 2km's further up the tarmac. However, in between is 24km of rough dirt track and nightmare hill climbs

You enter the forest through a gate onto Joyners Ridge Rd (dirt road) at around 650m elevation. Within a few metres you are in dense rainforest where it's extremely dark and beatufully cool. Palms and fig trees are everywhere and the bird calls are racous. As if an invisible line is drawn in the dirt I exited the rainforest and started a 7 km descent to the 4 ways where Joyners Ridge Rd meets England Creek Rd. The downhill section is very rough and strewn with branches that make perfect derailuer snappers.

I took it easy and kept a careful eye out for snakes however, I still managed to ride right over the middle of what I thought was a 'branch' but in reality was a snake. My front wheel was nearly on it before I realised what it was so I couldn't avoid it. It must have been a fairly placid snake because as far as I could tell it didn't raise its head at all. I rode on a bit then got of my bike and walked back to see what type of snake it was but it had already slithered of into the bush.

Turning right at the four ways I enjoyed some more descending down to England Creek crossing. Here there is a small camp area on the right just after the concrete crossing over the creek. This is England Creek Crossing and immediately after this there is a huge climb up Northbrook Mt to Lawton Rd. At this stage I was about 150m elevation now. Leaving the camp site you ride for a couple of hundred metres before the trail turns hard left and up. At the start of the climb there are some beehives and the bees took a liking to the smell of my sweat and the sugary water in my backpack. I had to drop the bike and run up the hill a little way with 3 or 4 bees after me. Eventaully I headed back down the hill and picked up the bike and scurried away.

From now on I was climbing for the next 6 km's with little relief up to an elevation of 635m. At this point I was on Northbrook Mt and faced another 5 km's to Mt Glorious Rd which includes both descents and tough climbs. As I began this section there was some nice views to Wivenhoe Lake through the trees.

Entering the rainforest once more it was a tough final climb to the entry gates on Mt Glorious road at about 700m elevation and from there it was a short 2 km cruise on the tarmac back to my start point and the car. All up about 24km's and 800m elevation gained. I did it in just over 4 hours which is disgraceful, but I didn't rush it and took time taking pictures and checking out the view. Next time I go there I will attempt a better averaage speed and time.

From there I drove back to the cafe (which by the way is for sale) had some lunch, checked out the motorbikes parked outside, then headed home as a pretty violent looking storm was heading for Brisbane.

Bike Rack Sorted

I went out today and bought some roof and bike rack for the Focus today. I ended up getting them from Roof Racks Galore over at Kedron. They only had Rhino Aero Racks instock so I went with them. They also can carry kayak racks as well. For the bike rack they had either the Rhino brand or the Thule brand. I decided on the Thule brand as being made Sweden they should be good quality and they were only $2.00 more expensive than the Rhino bike rack. Both the aero bars and the bike rack have keyed locks for security.

I certainly didn't buy the most expensive option but it still cost $501. I coudn't be bothered installing them myself so they installed them while I waited. All up purchase price including installation was $536.00. Very expensive I know, but that is the going rate for them at the moment. I plan on giving them a test run in the morning on a trip up to Mt Glioious to ride the Super V.

New Wheels

Four wheels that is not two. You might recognise it? LOL.I have a few things to chase up for the car. First, I need some aero roof racks and a mountain bike holder. The racks will also need to be able to hold a kayak in the future. From what I have been told that limits me to the Thule, Prorack or Rola brands, It also seems like $500.00 is around the going rate for this set up. Secondly, as the stereo is dead I think I will replace it with a cheapish cd changer that is compatible with the Apple I-Touch and the new Tom-Tom car mount. This product not only allows you to link your I-Touch to your stereo system but has a built in GPS reciever that turns your I-Touch into a navigation system. . Thirdly, I need a dash protecter which seems to be impossible to find at this time of year and some seat covers. It appears I will have to put in a special order for the dash protecter. Fourthly, I need car insurance. I went through Union Brokers and the best price came back at $625 . After a year and if I maintain an A1 insurance rating I can then shop around for a better price. Finally, I wil eventually get a mobile repairer to touch up the scatches in the paint.


Rom emailed me what I think was the first sketch she had done using the Conte crayons/pencils that I bought for her birthday. Scary stuff! LOL


I went riding at Daisy Hill this morning. Pelting down one of the downhill sections a spotted a branch just past a water bar across the track. I couldn't go to the left or right of the branch and at that speed I couldn't stop so I aimed for the centre of the branch in the hope that it wouldn't fly up and snap my derailuer. About two metres away from the "branch" one end of it raised up in the air! Only then did I realise it was a snake!. Somehow I managed to bunnyhop over it and at the same time lift one leg off the pedal away from its head.

Needless to say I didn't look back but kept riding. I have no clue as to what type of snake it was other than it was brown, about 600mm long, and about a thumb thickness in diameter. From memory that is only the second snake that I have noticed in three years of riding at Daisy Hill

Unfortuanetly no pics !

The Tank Street Bridge

The Kurilpa Bridge, which I refuse to call it preferring the Tank Street Bridge, opened last weekend so I added it to my regular river walk route. From the city side the access point is in Tank Street and on the west bank side the bridge is accessed from the river walkway just near the State Library.

Its more impressive when you walk on it than the Goodwill Bridge probably because the span is higher. However, from ground level it looks ugly with support beams jutting into the sky at different angles. The Goodwill bridge is easier on the eye. Also, on the Tank Street Bridge there are numerous support cables criss-crossing at eye level that slightly affect your view, unlike the Goodwill Bridge which has unimpeded views.

Back on the Bike

I went to Daisy Hill today, my first day back on the bike since I went riding in the south of France at the start of September. I have to say its nice to be back on a bike that at least has front suspension.The bike I rode in France was a Specialised Touring bike without any suspension at all, and boy did I know it.

Daisy Hill was very dry and dusty and although the notice board is more than two months out of date the tracks were just the same. The rock garden has a newish 'B' line that you can see in the picture on the right. The exit from the 'B' line seen in the picture below is the same difficulty as the 'A' line.

Sleepy Hollow is still pretty much my favourite area of Daisy Hill, but the picture below right doesn't do it justice. It is quite a steep descent into the gully and the logs they have placed in the creek make for a difficult crossing.

In the last six months or so they have put up signs to most of the Daisy Hill single tracks, along with a grading, number, and in some cases completely re-named the trail. There are also a few new trails that I haven't ridden yet, so I will have to give up my regular route and give them a go. In the picture below the trail that I previously knew as Stonehenge has now been renamed the Wiry Panic trail and has been extended in length.

Dust Storm

Brissie wast hit with a duststorm today that made its way up from Sydney overnight and during the this morning. Sydney airport was closed this morning and international flights re-routed to Brisbane. About 11:00am the light started to change and become an eerie orange glow and the dust was visible rolling in from the southwest. The air tastes like dust and at times its hard to breathe.

Honeymoon Snaps

Nick emailed me some of his honeymoon snaps today from his time around Lake Louise and Lake Emerald. They look very cool.


I set a record for me this morning after waking up from 13.5hs of straight sleep. I went to bed at 01:00 and woke up the next afternoon at 14:30. I had no idea of the time when I woke up, I thought it was about 08:00 in the morning.

On the downside I am getting sick! I feel rotten so I will go to the doctors today to get some antibiotics. I'm disappointed that I didn't get through this trip without getting sick, but there were so many sick people on the plane it was probably unavoidable. I dont start work for three days but the way I feel I may have to have an extra day or two off sick before I start back at work

Heading Home

I only got four hours sleep last night as I had to be up at 04:30 to get to Dublin airport to catch the 06:40 flight to Heathrow. The plane was held on the tarmac for awhile as there was landing hold ups in Heathrow. Finally we got underway and landed in Heathrow just over an hour later. It was then only a couple of hours wait bedfore I boarded the junmbo and twelve and a half hours later I landed in Kuala Lumpur. From there a quick transfer onto a 777-200 for the flight to Sydney and then Brisbane

The plane had to circle Sydney for an hour due to air traffic congestion and after landing we had to disemaek from the plane and reboard 1.5hrs later for the flight to Brisbane. Because of the delay in the air they must of decided to cut short the 1.5hr stopover as we got back on the plane in what seemed like under an hour. Then it was an hour and five minute flight up to Brisbane for a rough landing at exactly 22:00. After going through customs and the sniffer dogs I caught a taxi home and walked in the door around 23:15.

All up the flights wern't that bad, it was just a very long time to be flying. What made it worse was the stopover in Sydney which brought the trip to a total of 4 landings and takeoffs. Turbulence was not that bad on the flights, a bit bumpy coming down the coast of Malaysia to land in Kuala Lumpr and a bit rough coming into Sydney because of high winds. Other than that I'm very glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed. I ended up crashing at around 01:00.

Dublin and the Giant Stuff Up

Well what a day! It started of all right with a leisurely drive back to Dublin from Gort. Arrived in Dublin around 14:00, returned the rental car, caught the shuttle bus to the airport and then to the airport hotel. First stuff up, my reservation at the hotel was for yesterday. No big deal, just pay for another booki g a d get a refund from the travel agent after giving him a serve for mixing up my reservation.

Then I get to my room and think Hmmm, maybe I had better check my airline tickets are for the correct day! Turns out at that particulary moment I should of been four hours into a flight from London to Kuala Lumpur, not sitting in a hotel in Dublin, Ireland!!!!

Well it turned out it was my fault. I don't know why, I think probably tiredness, plus the fact I hadn't checked my itineary since Nicks wedding and I had the original departure date in my head but this had been changed before I left Australia. Probably the other reason was that I just lost track of days, so even though I saw on paper that I was leaving for London and home today, it just never registered in my brain. Idiot!!!

So it turned out after frantically trying to find a contact number for Malaysian Airlines that whilst they initially said they could only get me back home in ten days time!!!!they put me on a flight the next day. At this stage I believe the new flight from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpar connects with my original flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane, getting me home at the same time as the original ticket but without the overnight stopover in Kuala Lumpur. This I will have to confirm once I get to Heathrow.

Fortunately Malaysian Airlines got me on these flight for only an extra couple of hundred Australian dollars. The British Midlines flight from Dublin to Heathrow was not refundable so I had to buy a new ticket and upgrade to business class as that was all they had available. So all up it is going to cost me a nights accomodation in Dublin, the cost of the flight from Dublin to Heathrow and a few hundred dollars for the new international flights. I guess it will also cost me an extra days car hire as well. I don't understand why the car rental company didn't mention to me when I returned the car that I was a day late in it.

Its a bit of a pain really because tbe rest of the holiday went to plan almost perfectly. Oh well, day done, crisis over, Phew!!!

West Coast of Ireland Part 3

I woke up to a really nice day with hardly a cloud in the sky. I followed a circuit route today leaving from Gort and heading south to Ennis before turning towards the North Atlantic Ocean and the small seaside village of Milltown Malbay.

From there I followed the coastline towards the Cliffs of Moher which rise in a sheer face up to 600 feet above the Atlantic and stretch for five miles along the coast. The main viewing area for the cliffs has raised platforms and walkways which allows for a better viewpoint. When the sunlight catches the cliffs they are quite dramatic as they are contrasted against the blue-green of the Atlantic.

Continuing on I followed the Burren Way over vast exposed limestone plateaus and hillsides that give the appearance of a lunar landscape, quite different to any other Irish landscape. This area is dotted with stone forts and ancient monastic settlements. The route continues on narrow country lands bordered by stone hedges and passes through Doolin and the Caher Valley all the while overlooking Galway Bay. I completed the circuit back to Gort via Kinvara on narrow windy rural lanes.

Like most of what I have seen of Ireland this area is not really ideal for sight-seeking. The roads are incredibly narrow (I have scratched the side of the rental car so bad as you have to pull right into the bushes when you meet a car coming the other way. Hope the rental people don't notice!) and you can't pullover to see the view or take photos hence, minimal Ireland photos.

Well, that's about it for this trip, Tomorrow I travel across to Dublin, return the car and get ready to fly out of Dublin back to Brisbane by way of Heathrow, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney.

West Coast Ireland of Part 2

I left Westport this morning and continued down the west coast via Clifden and Galway before turning slightly inland and ending up at a town called Gort. The coastline so far has been windswept and wild but is actually more populated than I thought it would be. It has stopped raining today and is quite warm with only a few clouds in the sky. From what the locals tell me this is the best weather they have had for sometime. Continuing south I was unexpectedly confronted by the site of Kylemore Abbey as I rounded a corner. It is situated in quite a remote but beautiful spot.

Dairy farming seems quite common in this area and extends right up to the Atlantic Ocean foreshore in some places. Amusingly in one place I had to follow a herd of cows along a narrow road bordered by mountains one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. They were being herded by some old Irish guys on decrepit push bikes. The cows and calves trotted along quite happily but the old bull of the herd took his time, ambling along at his own pace about 200 metres behind his cows. It was a least a kilometre before I could get passed them.

I reached Gort around 2:00pm and booked into a big hotel, The Lady Gregory. While having lunch in the main street of Gort a police car closely followed by an army green landcruiser, an armoured van and then another army green landcruiser, roared up the road and stopped a few doors up. Out from the landcruisers jumped about six military guys in full battle attire including machine guns. They then proceeded to guard the transfer of money between the bank they had stopped outside of and the armoured van. The waiter of the cafe I was at told me that this is how it is done in Britian, France and other parts of Europe. I can't say I noticed it whilst in Europe but it was quite impressive. A bit different to back home in Aus.

The hotel room is huge but I must say the water quality is a bit sus. I'm not sure if you can tell in the picture but the water is a very light urine colour! Nice! I haven't been game to drink it yet! I had dinner in the Irish pub connected to the hotel. I just can't get used to the huge size of the Irish portions or the heaviness of the food, so I settled for the soup!

West Coast of Ireland Part 1

After saying my goodbyes to Nick this morning I started heading north towards the Giants Causeway Coastline of Northern Ireland. The weather seemed to be getting worse the further north I headed so not feeling like driving in the rain I decided to turn around and head south-west and see as much of the West Coast of Ireland as I could before I left for home.

I ended up in Westport on the west coast after travelling through Omagh, Enniskillen, Sligo and Castlebar. The weather improved somewhat as I travelled south-west but it still rained for most of the day. I booked into a the Atlantic Coast Hotel just outside the town centre on Westport Quay. It overlooked Clew Bay with Croagh Patrick Mountain providing a strking backdrop. If you look closely at the picture to the right you will see a little white dot on top of the mountain which is actually a chapel. Apparentely this site is the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in Ireland with up to one million doing the pligrimage to the summit each year. I wasn't in the mood for a barefoot pilgrimage up a 640mn high mountain to pay penance, but given more time I would have liked to walked to the summit for the views.

The weather was still fairly awful and I half heartedly attempted a walk along the quay but gave up after after nearly being blown of my feet. In this type of weather the area looked pretty bleak but as you can see from these pictures taken the next morning when it was fine, it is quite a pretty spot with views to the ocean,the mountains and green fields with a small lake just opposite the hotel. Westport Quay reminded me of Brisbane with many of the quay side warehouses now renovated into either hotels, restaraunts or pubs.

Wedding Day

When I woke up early this morning and poked my head outside the window I saw that Nick and Rachael were going to have a reasonably fine day for there wedding. The ceremony was at Fintona Gospel Hall so I had to scoot down there for the midday start. It was a little starnge being at a relatives wedding and only knowing a handful of faces. I said hello to Alan and Shonagh Davidson and sat beside Anne Smith and her husband who I had never met but had heard alot about from Dad.

The ceromony went of perfectly, Nick vows were slightly drowned out by Jake deciding that it was an appropriate time to chuck a wobbly. LOL. Afterwards there was plenty of photo opportunities outside the hall followed up by the bride and groom hopping onto an open horse carriage complete with top-hatted driver. Appareantely as they were driven through the village of Fintona back to Rachaels parents house the towns people came out and clapped or cheered. I missed that bit as everyone apart from those in the wedding party stayed at the hall however, it would of been worth watching to see Nicks reaction. LOL

A great spread of food was provided at the hall, but after a cup of coffee and not knowing anyone there I decided to head back to the hotel as that was where the reception was being held in a few hours time. Guest started arriving around 15:00 and after a few hours of photos in the grounds of the hotel everyone went into the reception area which was above the hotel restaraunt. After a few speeches a four course meal waas served over about 4 hours. I sat at a table mostly made up of young people that knew Racheal and had met Nick on his previous trips. After a few more speeches the evening was over at about 21:30 or close to 22:00

Outside it was pouring with rain and Cheryl and Chris had to make the journey back to Dublin that night to catch a 07:00 plane the next morning to Paris. After using my room to change into more comfortable clothes and getting there boarding passes for tomorrows flight printed out at the hotels reception desk, it was getting close to midnight before they headed off

Nick and Racheal stayed in the bridal suite of the hotel in a seperate wing of the hotel. Tommorrow they will leave fairly early to get to Belfast for there flight that leaves just after lunch for Vancouver. All up a great day that went without a hitch. I think they picked a perfect place for the reception and the ceremony at the hall was well organised with alot of work going into the event

Unfortunately I don't have one photo of the event as my camera battery was flat and at that stage I didn't have a UK adapter. Hopefully I can get some photos from Cheryl or Nick in the future to post here.

Dublin to Northern Ireland

After a long walk from the hotel to the car rental place and some time spent twiddling my thumbs as they sorting out my car, I eventually headed in the direction of Northern Ireland. Dublin was hosting a Hurling grand final so it took me more than an hour to get out of the city. Then after numerous u-turns I eventually found a signed highway that confirmed I was going in the correct direction.

I decided to call Nick when I got to Enniskillen and from there I arranged to meet him in Fintona. In Fintona I checked out his new BMW, Nice!!, then got direction to the wedding reception just outside of Cooktown where I was staying for two nights.

I eventually found Tullygdagen Country House after getting lost many times on narrow unsigned rural roads. The place consists of a hotel which is the country house plus a building that houses a restaraunt and the reception area. The grounds are really beautiful, and my room is typical of old country houses with my bathroom nearly as big as some of the hotel rooms I have stayed in recently. I had dinner in the restraunt and ordered the duck. As far as I can remember thats the first time I have had duck and I was a bit unimpressed, quite stringy and dry.

I caught up with Nick later that night when he came back to the reception area to drop off name cards. I then followed him back to Pomoroy (where they where all staying in a cottage), at around midnight on dark, windy wet country roads to pick up my suit for the wedding. Coming back on my own I somehow managed to find my way without drama to Cooktown but got a little lost in the town. A service station attendant set me in the right direction and I got to bed around 01:00.

The Irish Mail

This morning I toook a short tube ride to Euston station to catch the 08:50 125mph Virgin train to Holyhead. Although Virgin have chosen not to name their train this is the famous Irish mail and follows the route (although in reverse for my trip) of many generations of Irish immigrants. I didn't realise that the train operated two classes so I had only booked into coach class. Bad idea! I was mixed in with screaming, crying kids so I probably didn't enjoy this train trip as much as I might have

After leaving Euston station the train sweeps through the Buckinghamshire and Northhamptonshire countryside with frequent glimpses of canal boats on the Grand Union Canal alongside the railway. Some hours later the train left the town of Chester and passed the towns historic city walls. The train then started to follow the north Wales coastline, often just a short stones throw to the ocean. At one point we passeed the an old ferry moored seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was the ferry 'Duke of Lancaster" brought here as a floating nightclub but now just rusting away. I found this stretch of coastline quite desolate and depressing, not at all hepled by the numerous gauwdy and cheap carnivals dotted alomg the coast complete with merry-go-rounds and ferris wheels.

As the train entered the pretty town of Conwy we passed directly under the walls of Conwys impressive castle. Finally, before arriving in the port of Holyhead the mountains of Snowdonia are visible in the distance. Arriving at Holyhead we were transferd by shuttlebus onto the 50,000 ton Irish Ferry 'Ulysses' for the approx 3.5hr trip across the Irish sea to Dublin.

The conditions were posted as rough to moderate seas but apart from a bit of swell leaving Holyhead it was calm sailing. The ferry was huge with numerous restraunts, pubs, shops and places to gamble. Not really my scene, plus as your in the middle of the Irish Sea there is very little to see so I jsut stretched out and dozed.

A few hours later the ferry entered the wide Bay of Dublin with Dun Laoghaire harbour to my left and the the dark purple Wicklow Hills in the distance behind it, and the town of Howth to my right. After disembarking I caught a bus to Dublin centre and then a taxi to my hotel located in the Temple Bar area.

The hotel was a bit difficult to find as the Temple Bar area of Dublin has preserved its medievil street patterns with narrow cobbled streets that are easy to get lost in. Eventually I found the hotel, had dinner, tried to contact Nick unsuccessfully then went to bed. Well, I went to bed but couldn't sleep as the Temple Bar area is known for its nightlife and there was an Irish Pub underneath my window in the alley below complete with Irish music at full volume. Around 02:00 I took a sleeping tablet and that was the last thing I remember.

South of France to London

A travel day today. After catching the 07:04 regional train from Isle sur la Sorgue to Avignon Centreville, it was a short shuttle bus ride to the Avignon TGV station and a blast through the french countryside arriving at Paris Lyon station just after midday. A metro ride deposited me at Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar to London St Pancras arriving around 15:30. Earlier I had done this journey during the night and in reverse, and it came as a suprise how little time the train spends transiting the chunnel.

A tube ride to Bayswater station (which of course was not without its complications; namely terminating before the station I wanted to go to) and a short walk brought me to my hotel a stones throw from Hyde Park. The hotel looked out onto a square that was tree lined and covered in lush green grass. My hotel room was right at footpath level which proved quite interesting as the late night revellers walked past, but eventually I dropped of to sleep.

South of France Part 4

After breakfast in the hotel courtyard it was time to head back to Isle sur la Sorgue via a different route from yesterday. After a frustrating 10km detour until I found the correct route it was a fairly pleasant ride back to the hotel, about 56kms in total.

Just outside the old village of Eygaliers I stopped to photograph Chapelle St Sixte. This is a 12th century chapel said to be the most photographed chapel in Provence. Most of the landscape in this area of southern France is a rocky and dry with relief provided by the greenery of the vines, orchards and olive trees but very little in the way of grass. The fields and orchards tend to be on the overgrown side and the old houses in poor repair. All my riding in the south of France has been done in a valley that lies between the mountain ranges of the Luberon and while there is plenty of flatland it is the hilltop villages with there ancient towns that provide real interest and picturesque settings. At one point through the heat haze I spooted a large mountain in the distance with some type of observertory at its summit that I had not noticed on my previous rides. It was only later I reliased that it was Mt Ventoux, where the pnenultimate stage of this years Tour de France had only recently been completed.

This picture on the right really cracks me up as it looks like I'm in a foul mood, but it was just a combination of the glare and the temperature being around 35 degrees that is causing me to grimace. I arrived back at Isle sur la Sorgue mid-afternoon and grabbed some luch and dinner to take back to the hotel. Went to bed reasonably early as the train leaves at 07:04 tomorrow and I will say goodbye to Europe as I head to Ireland

South of France Day 3

After breakfast the plan was to ride to St Remy de Provence and sleep the night returning the next day to the same hotel in Isle sur la Sorgue. The ride as about 46km but with detours and getting lost I ended up doing around 50km. Todays ride was easier as the weather was slightly overcast and the route did not have as much elevation gain as the previous ride.

I arrived at St Remy at about 14:00 and the place was a bit of a mad house. Market stalls had taken over what appeared to be the town centre and traffic was at a standstill on the narrow streets. I only had a very poor map of St Remy so I got completely lost and circled around and around the central part of the village without finding the hotel I had booked for the night. I asked so old dear if she knew the direction of the hotel and she yabbered away in French for ages without me comprehending was say was trying to tell me. She waved her hand vaguely in one direction so I headed of that way.

Finally, after much frustration I found the hotel. The village has a maze of narrow streets running in all diferent directions and to make matters worse waht appeared to be obviously the town centre complete with roundabout, fountain, statues and a plaza was in fact not the town centre or centreville as the area I was to stay in is known.

The female at the hotel I was staying in that night did not speak a word of English so it was an amusing time as I attempted to indicate I had a reservation, I needed to pay by credit card and I needed to lsomewhere to lock my bike up for the night. Somehow we both figured it out in the end.

The hotel was a jumble of old farm buildings together with new or renovated buildings that formed a square around acentral courtyard and terrace compelete with pool. The entrance to the hotel was guarded by huge iron gates that were framed by a stone arch and pillars either side. The hotel appeared to be made up of apartments like mine and units with private balconies. You could sit on the central terrace lined with poplars with the swimming pool to one side whilst drinks were served from the bar housed in an renovated barn behind you. The terrace was also the area where breakfast would be served in the morning.

South of France Day 2; Rest Day

The plan was for another 60km plus ride today with plenty of elevation to be gained by riding to various other hilltop villages. In the end I decided I was to worn out from yesterdays ride and elected to have a rest day.

I ended up wandering around the old part of Isle sur la Sorgue including eating lunch and dinner their. I had a coffee at Cafe de France which is in a courtyard outside the main church in the centre of the old village. The outdoor area of the cafe is shaded by a massive tree and it is a fantastic place to sit and people watch. The waiter put on an impressive show of opening and pouring screw top bottles one handed with a technique that I couldn't describe or follow. Very cool though!

South of France Day 1

There was a bit of a hold this morning as after breakfast the rental company still had not delivered the bike. Eventually it arrived and I got underway around 9:30-10:00. It was a stinking hot day with hardly a cloud in the sky. After the usual problems I always have with directions I finally found the correct road and headed off towards Petit Palais.

Basically today’s ride is a loop ride starting in Isle su la Sorgue, going to Menerbes, Bonnieux and Lacoste before returning to Isle sur la Sorgue. The ride mostly followed the Luberon bike route which is sign posted in a fashion, and takes in the best of Provences hilltop villages.

The hilltop villages of Provence that I visited today where all nestled precariously into the hillside or on top of hills. Houses had been built around a château or church, and crops or vineyards planted alongside or in the surrounding plains. Shady squares, clear running fountains, windy narrow streets and the stone construction where all typical elements of each village I visited.

Some of the villages where still thriving, others less so, some even deserted as over the years the need for fortified protection has diminished and the towns people had relocated to the plains. The village of Menerbes stretched out on a spur and dating back to Roman times, was probably my favourite today. It seemed to me to be the most populated and thriving of villages I visited, and seems to be home to muscians, writers, artist and craftsmen.

All up today the ride was around 70kms’s in heat up to 38 degrees. By 14:00 I was pretty stuffed and still faced around 30km’s to get back to the hotel. To make matters worse after I had finished the final climb and descent it was around 25km’s into a blustery head wind to get home. I was very happy to see the hotel, grab some dinner in town and then crash. A very tiring day.

Paris Day 2

After breakfast at the hotel I left early for the Champ de Mars metro station to catch the RER line C train out to Rive Gauche which is the closest station to Chateau Versailles. Forty minutes later I had arrived and from there it was a walk of around 1km or so to the Chateau. Even from a distance the Château is impressive as it is located on a slight rise at the end of a main thoroughfare the Rue de Paris which leads you directly to the Château’s impressive gates.
Being a weekend there was a long line up to gain entry into the Chateau. Disappointingly, the Paris Museum Pass no longer allows you to bypass the line, so it was a case of waiting in line. Once I was in the grounds I skirted around to the front of the Chateual to the courtyard which looked up to the royal balcony. It was here on October 6th 1789 that an angry mob had gathered after marching from Paris and demanded that Marie Antionette the Queen present herself. It was on this very balcony that she appeared and curtisied with such aplomb that the angry mob was briefly pacified. However, hours later her and her husband the king were led captive back to the capital where they were held captive for 2 years before eventually executed. So I guess I could say that I was standing on the spot where the French Revolution had its origin.

From there I moved inside the Chateau into the State Apartments and the beautiful Royal Chapel hidden behind its golden doors and built exclusively for the King and Queen to attend mass. Passing by the Chapel I entered the Hercules Drwaing Room which was the main banquet and reception area of the Chateau and then onto the Salon of Abundance before entering the Diana Room which was the billiard room. Next up was the Apollo Room which was the grand throne room where the King held court and from there I entered the next room probably the Kings greatest triumph The Hall of Mirrors. This hall is 250 feet long, 17 arched mirrors are matched by 17 arched windows which refect the view of the gardens. Lining the hall were 24 gilded candelabras hanging from the picture ceiling which chronicles the military accomplishments of the King and completed by a central panel showing the King with cupids playing cards at his feet.

A brief walk took me to the Kings bedrooms and apartments which looked out onto the Chateaus central courtyard. Returning to the Hall of Mirrors at the far end I entered the Peace Room where at the end of the Sun Kings reign and tired of war, he granted peace to Germany, Holland and Spain. Passing through the Peace Room I entered the Queens Room and her apartments in which 2 Queens died and 19 princes were born. Next was the Queens antechamber where the Royal family dined publicly follwed by the Coronation Room which honours Napoleon who became a Frances virtual dictator after the overthrow of the monarchy.

Paris Day 1

The next morning following a shower in a recess that was so small I was half hanging out of it, I headed downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was held in the open central courtyard of the hotel with a view to the open sky above. The courtyard was littered with all sorts of junk; an old mini car, rusting bicycles and broken machinery. It sounds awful but it had its own charm and was a pleasant place to eat the cereals and pastries on offer and watch the creeping wines on the internal courtyard walls reach skyward.

I headed out into the Parisian pre-dawn grey that was being washed orange by the first rays of the morning sun with the plan of catching the train to central Paris. The streets were still very quiet, occupied by only a few street cleaners and locals heading home from the bakery with a baguettes under their arm.

As per usual I was lost within five minutes of leaving the hotel but I didn’t mind as the streetscape was so fascinating. After wandering past Ecole Militarie the 18th centry military school from which Napoleon graduated I arrived at Hotel des Invalides, the impressive 17th century complex which houses the tomb of Napoleon and found Invalides railway station. After buying a carnet of tickets I headed into the metro only to find that RER Line C was closed for renovations between Invalides and central Paris. This threw a spanner into my plans as I had organised most of my travel around Paris on the suburban RER trains on line C rather than the busier, more crowded metro trains. Being a bit hesitant of using the metro trains I decided to walk to central Paris, a crazy decision as I was to learn later as the metro trains of Paris are fantastic and secondly my feet never recovered from that first day walking around Paris as I covered around 30km’s on foot.

After a long walk I eventually arrived at the crowded square outside Notre Dame Cathedral and the historical centre of Paris. After a brief tour through the cathedral during which a service was being held as tourists filed through its outer wings, I headed back outside. After bypassing the long line to climb the tower, and avoiding the gypsies and con artists in the square outside I circled around the cathedral. In actual fact I found the flying buttresses on the rear and side facades of the cathedral more impressive than the frontal façade. After touring the attractive small park at the rear of Notre Dame I crossed the street and entered the iron gates into the park at the tip of the island which houses the below ground Mémorial de la Déportation.

The Memorial de la Deportation commemorates the 200,000 French victims of Nazi concentration camps. As you descend into the memorial you are surrounded by walls and as the city of Paris disappears my only view was the sky and small glimpses of the river Seine below. A hallway appeared that was illuminated by 200,000 lighted crystals and at the far end the eternal fame of hope burned.

Leaving the Deportation Memorial I crossed over the Seine to the left bank and walked along the river towards the front end of Notre Dame and the spectacular side view of the church from across the river. Continuing past the Left Bank booksellers with their displays of second hand books housed in green metal stalls spilling out onto the parapet, I crossed the pont au Double strolled past the a small park, place Viviani and past the small rough-stone church of Julien-le-Pauvre.

Walking back towards the river I passed the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore and continued on towards rue St Jacques, a bustling north-south boulevard that was Romans busiest boulevard 2,000 years ago with chariots racing in an out of the city via this route. Turning away from the river I passed the Gothic church of St Severin and into the Latin Quarter. Wandering straight ahead I entered Boulevard St Michel with its café and artsy scene. After a café break I walked to the triangular place St Michel, the rallying point for social upheaval even up to this day.
Continuing on I passed the 13th century gothic Sainte-Chapelle church, the Conciergerie a gloomy prison that was the last stop for 2780 victims of the guillotine and the tranquil triangular park Place Dauphine. Exiting Place Dauphine I bumped into a statue of Henry IV and directly behind it a triangular tree filled piece of land with a boat shaped prow jutting into the Seine. It was the Vert-Galant, a popular park in Paris and one of my favourite spots during my first day in Paris.
Leaving the Vert-Galant I turned right onto the famous Pont Neuf. Pausing at the little nook halfway across I look downstream to the next bridge the pedestrian only pont des Arts, ahead on the right bank the Louvre Museum my next destination and in the distance the Eiffel Tower.

Next up was the Louvre Museum. After finding the place to buy the Paris Museum Pass I gained entry to the museum. The Louvre was very busy and if I’m honest at this stage I was more interested in seeing Paris not being inside a museum. I did quite a quick tour of the Louvre the highlights being; the Venus de Milo, the Apollo Gallery a tribute to the home of the French Monarchy, The Grand Gallery displaying Italian Renaissance art, the Leonardo Da Vinci painting Virgin, Child and St Anne, La Belle Jardinière by Raphael, the Mona Lisa, the Marriage at Canna a huge canvas, the Coronation of Napoleon painting, La Grande Odalisque a nude painting, the Raft of the Medusa painting, Liberty Leading the People canvas, and the two statues of slaves by Michelangelo. This was only a very small part of what there is to see in the Louvre but for me it would do for this trip. It made for a good excuse to come back to Paris one day, if an excuse is really needed anyway.

By this time it was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to sort out how I was going to get back to the hotel. I had found out that due to the metro line closure a bus was being provided to transport passengers between central Paris and Invalides railway station. However, when I got to the bus stop I was told that it had been cancelled due to a protest that was taking part near Notre Dame. I had noticed an increased police presence around that area but had thought nothing of it. In the end I decided to walk back to the hotel, a bad move as it was another long walk and probably took me more than two hours to get back to the hotel. I ended up roughly following the left bank of the Seine back towards arrondissemont 7 and ended up at the Eiffel Tower. The parks near the Eiffel Tower were filled with people picnicking and at the base of the tower there was a long line of people waiting to gain access to the top of the tower. I decided to give the trip up the tower a miss for today due to the long lines and if I had time I would fit it in another day. From the Eiffel Tower it was a fairly short walk back to the hotel but as usual I got lost but not to badly and anyhow Paris is not a bad place to get lost as there is always something interesting to look at.

After a shower and a rest back at the hotel I headed out to get some dinner. I had no real plans I just thought I would eat at whatever place caught my eye. I ended up having dinner at a restaurant located on a five-ways street with street lamps dimly lighting outdoor tables on a footpath that jutted out into the intersection like a ships prow. Surrounding me scooters flew past taking hair-raising risks on the intersection missing cars and pedestrians by a only a few feet. The low hum of my French speaking fellow diners was only muffled by the occasional thundering from a passing train on the raised metro platform across the road. It all sounds a bit chaotic and a rather unpleasant spot to eat a meal but it tuned out to be my favourite spot in Paris to eat. The food was good the staff friendly, though they didn’t speak English. Unfortuanetly I was never able to find this place again, even though I searched for it the next night. After dinner it was back to the hotel and bed as tomorrow was going to be a busy day.