By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #15
The commonality of the European Community appears to go beyond economics and business and for us has included the weather too. Rain has been too constant a companion and has traveled with us along the French Riviera, over the Pyrenees, along the Spanish Costa del Sol, and even into Portugal. Although it doesn't often rain for an entire day, there are not a lot of days which are totally dry.
An interesting logistical problem developed on the day we departed Levanto Italy bound for Genoa. On that morning we went through the customary ritual of storing our clothes and other belongings in the individual lockers assigned to us aboard the gear trucks. The protocol is that we bike to the day's destination (Genoa on this day) and find the gear trucks waiting (with our clean clothes, camping equipment and all). Well, during that day the tour leader received a message from his insurance agent, that the insurance on the gear trucks expired and for a number of technical reasons no insurance company, at that moment, was willing to extend that policy or write a new one. So the gear trucks could not be moved and the bikers had no access to their belongings (clothing & camping equipment).
Thus crisis management was the order of the day. Believing that the problem could be solved within a day or so, we were all put up in a first class hotel in Genova (Genoa). Of course the resolution of the problem did not reach closure by the next day. More changes from camping intentions to hotels were necessitated, including an extra day in Nice. By the 3rd day some of the staff was sent back to the gear trucks to cut the locks, remove all the gear and place it on newly rented "box" trucks which were rented locally. This ended the crisis but added the annoyance of requiring each biker to unload all personal gear each evening and reload it each morning. Eventually, by the time we climbed into the Pyrenees, one insurance company relented, wrote a policy and enabled us to return to logistical "normality".
Weather and logistical snafus aside, we continued weaving a thread along the Mediterranean Coast as we crossed into France. While most of the bikers were spending the first of the two unexpected nights at the hotel in Nice, we (and our friends David & Lisa) went off route and found a villa0-like accommodation high on a steep hill with a captivating view of the city of Menton and the sea below. While in the Nice area, some of us took advantage of a short visit to Monaco (and the Monte Carlo Casino). Moving on from Nice, we passed through San Tropez, whose most notorious citizen is Bridget Bardot. We beg her forgiveness for not stopping to join the colony of gawkers who come to stare in at her estate.
Particularly memorable to us were the two days of biking across the wetlands making up the Rhone River Estuary. The area is a gigantic way station for the uncountable number of birds flying from Africa to destinations in Europe every Spring and then back to Africa in Autumn. This beautiful estuary also has many navigable canals, part of a system which carries both commercial and pleasure barges between Northern France and the Mediterranean. We crossed the Rhone on a ferry.
Our last visit before climbing into the Pyrenees was to the medieval walled city of Carcassone and its famous castle. We presume that the castle-like home built on the rocks out on Marblehead Neck in Massachusetts was named after this great French relic.
Next we climbed into the Pyrenees Mountains which separate France and Spain and where the tiny country of Andorra is located. We stayed in a charming little ski village by the name of Ax les Thermes. The village also represented a haven to us because the bike trip into the village treated us to snow, sleet and penetrating cold.
Continued on Update #17
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