Derailed!

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Between time (gotta get to sleep, gotta get on the road), Internet troubles, and bike troubles, I haven’t had any time to write any updates.

After an amazing day of biking the day before yesterday, yesterday was a total disaster, with my rear deraileuer getting destroyed after the chain snapped and went under the wheel. No one was hurt.

Still, we managed around 50km and are now in Italy!

More detail in-depth coming some day soon. Gotta get moving!

Day 2: Toulon to (almost) Saint Tropez

Well, there is a reoccurring theme here of missing my arbitrary (and aggressive) targets. I guess the second theme is death climbs. We were supposed to pass Saint Maxime but we stopped before Saint Tropez.

The amount of elevation was not foreseen – bad planning and lack of experience on my part. But given that we did 92km yesterday, I can’t say we didn’t accomplish anything. Besides, the cycling is great.

But I’d say the highlight of the day was not the cycling – it was the beach break! We knew it’d throw us off track with time but we also knew we needed a lunch break and a dip to cool off.

The water was absolutely great! It was exactly what we needed and I don’t think I’ve ever earned something so well in my life.

The climbs might be punishing but I’m really enjoying it. Can we keep it up? That’s the question. Because there are (much) harder days ahead. We’ve been evaluating a series of backup plans (trains) and we do have 2 extra days to spread out the kilometres. We will almost certainly do that today.

The key is to get to the camp earlier and rest more. Last night, we arrived quite late again. The food options were also limited.

Yes, it’s salmon. ­čśŽ

Anyhow, we grabbed a good spot for the tent, so I could have another bad sleep with many pees.

This morning was oats with roasted almonds and spring onions, and day-old baguettes.

OK, we’ve got to finish getting ready, so we can get back on the road!!

Day 1: Marseille to (almost) Toulon

After our little visit to Paris, we hopped on the train to Marseille. It took only three and a half hours to cross the whole of France – French trains are amazing. Once we arrived, we put the bikes back together one last time (hopefully) and made our way outside.

It’s amazing how Marseille feels like a totally different country, when compared with Paris just 3 hours later. Bert was blown away and even though I’ve been here before, I couldn’t help but be too.

After some issues finding our way through the chaotic streets, we got under way on our bike trip proper. At 30+ degrees and with a huge amount of climbing in the first half, this turned out to be a more grueling first day than anticipated. But it was worth it.

As we ascended the hills beyond Marseille, we were treated not with just leg-punishing climbs but also eye-watering views! I can only recommend this road to anybody – but probably with a car if you’re not into punishment.

I’m worried we started too strong – we definitely got thrown into the deep end, probably owing a lot to the high heat – we bought at least 12 litres of water yesterday… but it was a great day and according to one of Bert’s very many positive mantras, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Well, I had too many pictures and not enough more to say about them, so enjoy.

We got into the camp very late. Actually, we ended up chopping off around 15km because of how behind we were. We’re hoping to make it up today. Let’s hope the second day is easier and that the tiredness in my legs is only temporary!

Bert’s still asleep. I envy people’s ability to sleep!

Now I’ve got to get back to something much more important – French bread!

Whirlwind Paris tour

Despite getting in late last night, we woke up early this morning to hit the streets of Paris for a lightning tour. Of course, we started with amazing croissants!

It was a lot of pressure to both plan a good route for someone who has never been to Paris and to keep us on track, so we didn’t miss our 10:37 train to Marseille. Although it took us a few minutes out of the way, I planned in a quick stop by the mini Statue of Liberty, bringing us full circle back to our New York trip.

Oh yeah and we cycled through the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe and lived to tell the tale. Probably getting there early was important to our survival chances.

Cycling in Paris is intense – you’ve got to pay attention at all times – but it’s overall quite good, since there are many bike lanes, including fully separated bike lanes, something Germany doesn’t have much of. This is a biking country. How does this Metropolis do it but Toronto can’t?

Anyhow, we stopped by the supermarket to grab some great butter, cheese, and salami – also raspberries for the vitamins and fibre – and managed to make it with just enough time to the train.

It was an effort getting everything in the train – not as smooth as in Frankfurt – but we did it. The train conductor insisted we put the bikes in bags, though. Good thing we came prepared with garbage bags!

Lunch was insanely delicious and not even expensive. It’s great to be in a country that values good food, rather than Preis-leistungs-verh├Ąltnis.

Of course, I recorded the Paris journey and will be live tracking future ones. Looking forward to getting on the bike in Marseille. We’ve got about 85km ahead of us. Let’s get the party started.

En route to Paris

The first stressful part is over. We dismantled our bikes and got on the train with all our stuff well secured.

Bert actually landed about 25 minutes early, so we had lots of time at the train station. Now we are sitting in the train, which is, of course, 45 minutes delayed! Sank you for travelling with Deutsche Bahn.

Jelena scouted out some good-looking boulangeries for us tomorrow morning. We hope to get an early start, chow down some amazing bread, and cycle around Paris before the train to Marseille, for which we’ve got to again dismantle the bikes…

Either way, we are in France now and that’s awesome.

All packed…

Well, I packed everything on the bike this morning and left it in the office. Now I only need to pick up Bert’s rental bike tomorrow.

We’re taking the evening train to Paris. I’m pretty nervous about Deutsche Bahn screwing something up but it should work out – I’ve done a lot of research and planning!

On Saturday morning, we’ll do a whirlwind tour of Paris (20km on the bike) and then it’s on to Marseille to begin in the afternoon for real.

I’m excited!!

Preparing to meet the Alps via the Spl├╝gen pass

The hardest part of the trip by far (and the crowning achievement) will be our journey over the Alps. Besides worries about sustaining long rides over two weeks, my main worry is about making it to the top of the Spl├╝gen Pass.

Cycle route through Liechtenstein
The route through Liechtenstein, along the right side of the Rhein.

I chose Spl├╝gen because we had to cross somewhere and I thought this would be a good opportunity to visit Liechtenstein. I’ve never been and I don’t really see when I’ll ever make it to this obscure Alpine country.

Preparing for the climb is the biggest uncertainty for me. I’ve never done such a climb before. It’s only around 30km, which sounds very short, but the peak is at 2000m, meaning there is a lot of up. The biggest climb I’ve got around here is Gro├čer Feldberg, the highest part of the Taunus “mountain range”. At around 850m, it doesn’t seem at first glance like too great of practice.
I searched Strava and found a segment for the Spl├╝gen route. It’s not a well-travelled route on Strava and at least some of the people who have cycled it seem rather like elite cyclists. I compared it versus my effort on Gro├čer Feldberg┬áand, to me, it looks like the first 10km are comparable to the entire effort, which actually is kind of reassuring because that effort did not kill me at all. The next 20km are another 1000m in elevation gain but over double the distance (probably because of the two flat bits).
I think this it is going to be rough and it’s definitely going to call for some breaks but it feels not insurmountable.
Cycling the Spl├╝gen Pass
The route up and over the Spl├╝gen Pass
By the way, it’s classified on Strava as an “HC climb“, which is a French term used in stage bicycle races for climbs that are “beyond categorisation”. There are normal categories from 1-4, based on steepness and length, with 1 being the most difficult (Gro├čer Feldberg is classified as a category 1). So, there’s that.
There’s more info about the Spl├╝gen Pass, with road signs, and opening and closure times. I practiced on Gro├čer Feldberg again last week and I’ll climb it once more in 2 days. I think I’ve covered all my bases. The only thing left is to make the climb a few weeks from now!

Marseille to Munich by bike

It’s time to dust off this blog and start writing about my upcoming cycling journey!

I guess it makes sense to start with an overview of the trip. On Friday night, we’ll take a train to Paris and sleep near the train station. Early the next morning, I’ll give Bert a whirlwind tour of Paris by bike, ending at the Gare de Lyon, where we’ll take the train to Marseille!

Marseille to Munich by bike
The route

The trip will then be officially underway. We’ll continue for about 80km that day, always along the coast. Over the next few days, we’ll make our way along the Mediterranean to Genoa. Then it’s over the Apennines and onward toward Milan. We’re taking the Spl├╝gen Pass, going through Liechtenstein, coming down around Lake Constance, and heading over to Schlo├č Neuschwanstein – then it’s up to Munich!

In all, we will pass through seven countries: France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Germany and do over 1200km, including a 2000m Alps climb. It will be demanding and exciting. I can’t wait.

Stay tuned for more planning and a record of my journey!

My Trip to London for Travel Technology Europe

I had intended a big write-up about my trip to London but I’m a little written-out after writing a post on our developer blog. In the end, I think you can get an idea of my adventures┬áwith my Travel Technology Europe 2017 Report┬áover on Travel to Live.

There wasn’t much time for fun. I flew into London City Airport, attended the convention all day, ate food with a friend, went to the convention the next day, and flew back out of Heathrow. I’d call it a whirlwind trip to London but since I got a chance to eat great food and meet an old friend, I’d also call it a great success. My whole trip is here on TTL.

Next week, I’m travelling to Berlin but I’m planning to do some more sightseeing and writing, so stay tuned! My ITB Berlin Trip┬áis also online, so you can follow the updates of my plans there. That’s it for now!

Planning for London!

It’s time to start planning┬áfor my trip to London! I’m heading there later this month to attend Travel Technology Europe. I hope to learn about the latest with the travel industry and maybe make some contacts while I’m there. If all else fails, there’s always food! I won’t be eating at cafes this time –┬áI’m thinking curry on this trip!

We finally published the trip widget┬áfeature on Travel to Live, which allows you to insert custom maps into your blog. I’m pretty excited about it because I don’t need to take static screenshots of my trips anymore. Now I can just insert the whole trip into my post. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, it’s only available on the paid or self-hosted versions of WordPress, so you can see what it would look like here.

There’s what I’ve got planned so far in London. Maybe there’ll be more by the time you are reading this! That’s the cool thing about it: it’s a living trip, embedded into your blog. Go ahead and click on any points to go to the site and see more. Find out how to insert your own trip widget on your blog.

As you can see, I’ll be flying into the London City airport and then out of Heathrow. I’ve never been to either, so it’ll be a new experience. Previously, I’ve only flown Ryanair to London, so I always came via Stanstead – what an awful experience! This time, I’m flying with British Airways.

Jelena won’t be along for the trip, so I’m staying in a hostel. I hope to meet some people there and ask them what they think about Travel to Live. You can also follow my London trip there or here. In fact, my blog now shows on the site as well, under my profile. Neat, eh?