Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 71

I made it to Rome


For the first time since the trip has begun, I'm actually staying at a designated camp-site. Generally its a case of "fly-tenting" wherever takes my fancy. That is, illegally camping wherever I like. So far, I've fly-tented by beaches,rivers,streams,lakes,canals. I've camped on hill-tops,cliff-tops,the bottom of a valley, and all makes and sizes of ditches. Home for a night has included the grounds of schools,libraries,football fields, and everything from a car park to a national park. And it doesn't care whether you fly-tent it or whether you pay for it,everywhere seems to have a dog in the distance barking. About 2 hours before finding this campsite,I stumbled upon a 2000 year cave system that the Romans used as tombs. I was very close to camping in it (and wish I did, rather than be staying at this designated campsite),but I decided to push on while there was still daylight. This morning,I was fixing a puncture in the rain on a motorway,when a priest pulled up,chatted for a few minutes and then invited me back to his home that evening for food and lodging.(it was way to early in the day to be sorting out the nights bed and I was keen to get as near to Rome as possible so I thanked him but declined). I must admit,I enjoy my fly-tentin. I never know where I'm going to be sleeping the next night. Although,considering I'm only 35kms from Rome,I'm pretty sure where I'll be tomorrow.(I'm just not sure whether it will be by city park,by hostel or by invitation to the Vatican)


The original plan may have been to continue on into the Appennini mountain range past Lake Transmino, Perugia, Assisi and eventually south through Terni and into Rome. But this bike ride is demanding enough without heading into more mountains than necessary in winter. And besides,I got a better offer. Genevieve will be in Rome next weekend so its a case of "All roads lead to Rome". In a country that is 75% mountain, it felt good to come out of them today. I hit speeds in excess of 50kph. Thats fast enough to warrant a speeding ticket. Obviously, the Italian passion for speed is contagious. I'm presently camped up by Lake Bolsena, 130kms north of Rome. The gentle sounds of the waves are been muted by a dog that has picked up my scent and will bark himself hoarse through the night. Time to put on the ipod.


Tuscany- How could I say a bad word about it? I'm just pedalling along enjoying the rolling hills. The morning began with a puncture but after that it was okay. I passed through many sweet towns, but Sienna certainly took first prize of the day. I'm camped up on a hilltop with views all around............... Blah,blah,blah... This tour is going so good,there is nothing interesting to talk about.

DAY 65

This time last night I was sitting down to the best meal of my life with my dad and 2 brothers. Tonights dinner was a 'plate of bland' in a ditch by a bend in the road near a river. I keep thinking of a song by The Emotional Fish"If I hadn't seen such riches,I could live with being poor". There are a hundred reasons to go to Florence but to visit Il Latinos is reason enough (just tell them 'Fat Tony' sent you). We had an evening spent sitting back quoting Hollywood's finest;-Goodfellas, The Godfathers', Leon, Hannibal etc... while enjoying the Italians favourite of the deadly sins, Gluttony.To help us build an appetite, we went for a walk up to Plazza Michelangelo as the sun was setting to view all of Florence. Florence seemed to be surrounded by hills and I checked the compass from my pocket to see how the south-east was looking. Just my luck,the direction I was heading had the biggest hills of all. This morning I packed up all and left Florence in the company of the first other touring cyclist I have met since leaving Ireland. This young Korean guy joined me till the first petrol station. He was doing a tour of Italy and I filled up my stove with fuel. It only takes 70c to fill the tank and that will keep me going in spaghetti meatballs,porridge,coffee etc for about the next week.Today was a day of rolling over the finest of Tuscany's' hills passing vineyards, beautiful empty villages and olive trees. I am presently camped up just outside the medieval wonder of San Gimignano. This town,perched on a hilltop is visible from miles around cause of its 14 towers built in the 12th and 13th centuries for no reason other than to show off their owners great wealth.I only got 68 kms today but my legs are convinced there is a malfunction in the bicycle computer,but Im sure they could pedal double that distance tomorrow,for another evening like yesterday;-"just don't put too much salt in the sauce"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Global Cycle Ride Video - part one


Just after spending the last 5 days with my dad, Jim and my 2 brothers Paul and Eoin. What a great time. We spent the days wandering around the amazing city of Florence. Our days were spent looking at Leonardo da Vinci painting, Michelangelo sculptures, and everything from 500 year old Cathedrals to the last fashion and Ferrari cars been paraded up and down the street. Our evening were spent drinking tasty wines and eating the best of food while quoting the favourite Italian gangster movies. In fact if you ever make it to Florence I recommend a visit to Il Latina on Palchetti st. We spent our last night eating. Our dinner comprised of 7 courses and 2 litres of wines. Pretty much the best meal of my life. But the crew are gone home and tomorrow I'm back on the bike and I'm pedalling outta town in a southerly direction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

DAY 59

In a country that has produced some of the greatest cyclists in the world,its amazing how bike-unfriendly (by European standards) its roads are. I did a small bit of biking in Italy about 2 years ago and was surprised how I ended up on motorways or busy dual carriageways and I've found the same is happening again. The poorly surfaced roads are clogged with traffic. Maybe I was just getting to used to the biking heaven that France is. But I couldn't complain about Italy.What it lacks in biking in gains in so many other ways;possibly the best food of the world,the headquarters to possibly the world's greatest ever empire,possibly the best art of the world. And possibly the capital of the fashion world (so I might do a laundry).I say 'possibly',cause someone is bound to disagree.
So I arrived into Italian port of Livorno and (unintentionally) took a motorway north for a bit,before I got back on the smaller roads.I got into the town of Pisa in late afternoon and went to see the lop-sided-tower.I'm presently in the city of Florence.I've been pushing it since my short visit to Corsica to make to here because tonight my Dad,Jim and brothers Paul and Eoin are coming out for 5 days to visit me. I've crossed over the 3000km mark and I'll update this site later with a few photos. But the sun is shining and I wanna see Florence

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Todays ride across Corsica was super.It was just more cliff-hugging cycling up and down through cork screw roads.The day closed with a tough cycle over the mountains and back down into Bastia. We're camped up (on a not so pretty beach) just a 20 minute ride to tomorrows ferry,which will take us out of Corsica,out of France and into country number 5,Italy.Theres no doubt about it.France has been great.I got so see so much,generally have good weather and have the wind at my back.I only wish I could have spoken a bit of french. The people were so good to me.I think its due to the bike. In France,football is the only sport bigger than cycling (or so I've been told by the locals) but they very often see cycling as a "sportif" rather than a mode of transport, and so the bike gets quite a bit of attention. I've been invited into peoples homes,given advice on better places to camp,directed towards empty houses to have for myself for a night and in all the time here,I haven't had any (even slightly) bad experience. When the snow was really bad down in the south east,I would be forced to ride a good bit out on the road, as the frozen slush and snow would be hard enough to knock you off a bike.It would be awkward for the vehicles following to overtake me as there was often more frozen slush/snow in the centre of the road,but no one blew me off the road or became in any way agitated at my presence on the road. That said,I would always try to keep in as close as possible to the kerbside and pull off the road altogether,if the vehicle behind was struggling to get by. The only people who ever honked their horns would then start waving out their windows and quite regularly shout something like "Go Italia",most likely due to the similarly of the Irish flag on the back of the bike to the Italian flag (less likely due to the similarly of my appearance to an Italian). Yes, France was great;-the people,the scenery,the wind at my back,but now its time for me to "Go Italia".


You could easily spend a week on a bike in Corsica,so I know I'm really limiting my stay here by only giving myself 2 days but I need to get on to Italy. I've been keen to take a trip around Cap Corse for sometime now. Its an 100km ringroad made up of a combination of corkscrew turns that climb and fall and are in many places dug into the cliff edge.Its the kind of terrain that is used in car commercials and it reminds of all the best car chases,that would have me sitting on the edge of the seat when I was a young lad.I seem to be stopping every few minutes to take photos,but I'm unsure whether this is due to the great scenery or the tired legs.The only drawback with hugging a cliff edge during the evening is trying to find a piece of flat land away from the villages and road to camp. But just as the sun was setting,I found home for the night. Just as well I dont turn much in my sleep

DAY 54

Today was just the perfect close to a country that has, in so many ways, been so good to me. It was a Sunday and Sunday is always a day for the cyclist in France.(In fact all trucks are banned on all roads in France on Sunday,but I never had any trouble with the trucks here.The drivers always gave me loads of room when they overtook me) By 11am the sun was getting strong,so much so, I nearly went to the shade to enjoy my morning dose of pain au chocolait(I'm going to miss these tasty buggers from the local bakeries). I continued on up over the hills. I must have passed more than 200 cyclists today.Well actually they passed me to be more correct. (My Koga Signature bicycle is a complete work horse. It will carry the heavy load up the steep hill that would buckle the wheels of an average bike and the brakes are powerful enough to control its decline from the mountains.) Many of the cyclists would wave as they pass and many more would even ride along beside me and chat a bit. But one particular cyclist,Patrick, was fluent in English and we had a great chat.His knowledge of bikes was amazing.He was well aware of the Koga and all the components that I had chosen for my bike.He is even considering getting a Koga at some stage.He pointed out and named all the surrounding sights and as we stopped at 1 point on a hill top to take some photos,Patrick rang home to check if it would be okay to invite myself home for lunch. His home was situated in the hills and we enjoyed the views and sat out on the terrance and had a super lunch. I had ate everything around me and then a plate arrived with a huge selection of all locally produced cheeses. And I love the cheese down here in France. Soon afterwards more of his extended family arrived and at about 2pm there was 12 of us going for a walk to the local church on a spectacular hilltop with views all around. But,sadly, I had a ferry to catch and I always like to be off the roads before nightfall. I practically free-wheeled downhill for the last hour all the way to the ferry dock. I presently sitting back on the overnight ferry to Corsica.Corsica is part of France but I hear many of the locals see themselves as been Corsican before they are French (maybe its the French equivalent to the "Peoples republic of Cork" in Ireland) and I guess I feel that France has been completed and I'm moving on to Corsia.We're starting to get places.The legs feel strong and the bike is hungry for more. All is 100%


I'm presently relaxing in a hotel enjoying a bottle of wine that tastes a lot better than its name would suggest.Yesterday's plan changed when I woke up this morning and found that I had not 1 pair of dry socks left. I was just sick of putting on wet socks so myself and the bike had a chat and we both agreed that we would find a cheap nearby hotel with a bike shed. The bike is presently lounging out the back of this 1star hotel with my tent spread across the roof of the 1star bike shed drying out. Everything is getting dryed out and charged up and tomorrow we are packing up and heading the last 50km down to Toulon and out of France. We're booked on tomorrow nights ferry to Corsica,so no matter what the bike says we're outta town tomorrow morning. I'm so excited about getting to Corsica. Theres a road down there,that I've had an eye on for years and I plan to make a crack at it before this week is out.............HAPPY DAYS


Today was a day of snow and mountains and to be honest, I dont particularly like either. But the last hour of the day was spent clenching the brake levers tight as I coasted down the mountains and finally out of the snow which has been making things tough over the last 3 days.Its amazing the morning after you camp in the snow as all the surrounding trees are filled with birds,because once you fold up your tent and move on,you leave behind the only patch of green for miles around. Im back camped up on grass rather than snow and I'm surrounded by olive trees.Its now only 50kms to Toulon and from here I plan to take the ferry across to Corsica. Theres a ferry leaving tomorrow night and I plan to be on it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

DAY 49

Anyday that begins with 4 pain au chlocalots from the local bakery and a bike ride around an amphitheatre was shaping up to be a good day. After this I made my north into the hills towards the town of Uzes.This fine town was like stepping back into roman times. I brewed up a coffee and had a bit of lunch next to a Cathedral with an adjoining bell tower which was a bit similar to a more upright version of the leaning tower of Pisa. I continued east and it was about 2pm when I arrived at the highpoint of the day.If there were just 2 things I came to France to see,they would be the Mont St.Michel(Day 18) and todays highpoint,the Pont Du Gard. This Unesco world heritage site is an aqueduct made up of some 35 arches and running 50metres above the river Gard.It was built in the time of Jesus to supply water to the city of Nimes(where I stayed the previous night). This place gets over a million tourists a year but today I practically had it to myself.I biked another 20 or so kms and am presently camped up by a river near Avignon. In this part of the world, they have old Roman structures like Ireland has pubs. Thats to say,every town has a few and they are always a welcome sight.


If ever you make it to Nimes in south France,make sure you stay at the Concorde hotel beside the Amphitheatre. Its only got the 1 star but its in a 5 star location with a 5 star welcome in a 5 star city so you probably wont stay too long in your 1 star room. I was downstairs in the reception chatting to the super friendly manager over cups of tea and maps and colourful guide books for over an hour. Tell me 'what 5 star hotel offers that kind of reception??'. By the way,if you do happen to arrive into Nimes on a bicycle, call into 'Cycles Passieu' beside the Amphitheatre. The guys in this store refused to accept payment for an immediate service of the bike. In 20 minutes they sorted out a rear wheel buckle(due to the bumpy roads along the canal du midi), a loose chain and something or other that was causing the chain to jam in the rear axle when in top gear. They thought it was hilarious that I cycled from Ireland to here and said 'That Guinness must really be good for you'. The day just kept getting better. I spent the afternoon wandering around the city admiring all the sights.I got chatting to a Belgium bloke,Apu,at the amphitheatre. He had spent the Christmas/New years down in south of France and was dying to chat away to anyone (except family members) about anything (except family matters), so I was delighted to wander around Nimes with him to the Amphitheatre,roman gardens, the Maison Carree(from 5 A.D) and up the hill to the Tour Magne(from 15 B.C).All going grand.Happy Days from the south of France

DAY 46

Today I was biking up over a hill and then my first view of the Mediterranean sea came into view.It felt good. I have left the Canal du Midi behind.This 240 km Unesco World Heritage connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic so that boats didn't have to go around Spain,but now it just has a wonderful tree-lined bike path/walkway where the towpath for the horses used to be.Tonight I'm camped up in the sand dunes next to the Mediterranean


I'm just after having the best week since leaving Ireland. My girlfriend Genevieve from Dublin came over to Carcassonne and so we spent the week in this amazingly beautiful medieval city and we also got a train up to Toulouse to ring in the new year there.Our days were spent wandering through the streets and in the evenings we would find some little bar or restaurant for good food and fine wine. Its been the most relaxing week (apart from when we were wandering around Capitol square in Toulouse about 30 minutes into the New Year.There was some minor disturbances involving a few young lads fighting between themselves. Next thing 3 vans pull up and loads of police in full riot gear jump out.Were kinda laughing at the whole thing but before we know it,there is tear gas going off and empty bottles flying and we're standing right in the middle of it).I must be the luckiest lad around when I have found someone who not only tolerates the idea of me heading of on a world trip but actually encourages me to follow the dream of attempting to cycle around the world.This afternoon we said our goodbyes at a taxi rank and while Genevieve returned in a north western direction to Dublin,I continued in a south eastern direction through France. I'm back in my tent,back in my reality