Jun 26

Our European Vacation

by in 2006 Trips, Europe

One month…one page!

Click to see image enlargedWe went to Europe from June 28 to July 28. We flew using frequent flyer miles, so our itinerary took us from Seattle to Atlanta to Toronto to Milan to Geneva. Along with the assorted flight delays due to weather, missing crews, etc, it made for a long, interesting journey. The first photo is all the snacks we bought with the meal vouchers they gave us when we were bumped in Seattle.

Click to see image enlargedThe highlight of the trip was getting bumped to first class for the trans-Atlantic portion. Now that’s the way to fly! Free drinks, tablecloths, real food and dinnerware, 4 attendants for 20 passengers, plus huge seats that virtually became beds for the night.

Our gear took longer getting there than we did. The bike took four days just to go from Milan to Geneva! Fortunately, our clothes arrived before we left for Budapest and we didn’t need our tandem or cycling gear for another week.

Click to see image enlargedWe spent 5 days at the start in Hungary visiting Sheila’s friend from her army days in Germany. Budapest was an amazing place, a contrast of Iron Curtain dinginess, 18th century sumptuousness, and modern utility. The public transit system was great. Saw some excellent museums, particularly one which outlined the twin terrors of Nazi occupation and Communist domination. Spent lots of time just sunning and relaxing. Some time at Lake Balotan and some at Budapest’s public baths, all hot springs and mineral waters.

Petite French Alps: Tour de France ’06 (7/8-7/22)

Click to see image enlargedBack to France for the heavy-duty biking portion of our trip, a 14 day tour with Erickson Cycle Tours. Basically we rode a big loop from Geneva south past Grenoble and back. We covered 614 miles and countless passes in the Alps. Every day had 4-6000 feet of elevation gain. We rode the legendary Alpe d’Huez, a climb that is 8 miles long, 3,000 feet high and has 21 switch-backs, each named for a famous rider. The Tour de France goes up it every other year and it was packed with campers eagerly awaiting the Tour’s arrival, three days’ hence.

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While on our tour we sampled French customs from late evening meals to dental techniques. A 70 year-old cyclist invited us into his home for lunch and Pastis, the traditional French anise-flavored aperitif, while we were climbing one of the passes. We rode through huge fields of lavender and sunflowers. We had stunning views and wild descents. We rode all day while our gear was carted from hotel to hotel by the Erickson folks. Each day was an adventure with no rain, but plenty of heat! We found that, contrary to our usual riding position in the front half of a group, we were in the back the entire time with this crew. It was a new and unusual experience for us. But our little tour group of 20 was full of interesting people with fascinating stories.

We saw two stages of the Tour de France, Floyd Landis’ terrific comeback (shown left) and a flat stage in which we saw all 150 riders pass in about 30 seconds.

It was a fabulous trip.

UK Tandem Rally, Edinburgh, Scotland

Click to see image enlargedBut it wasn’t over yet. We then went to Scotland for the UK Tandem Rally. This was quite different from the NW Tandem Rally. First, it was a week-long event. There were 3 rides a day, but no support on route. The rides were set up to give you a good flavor of Scotland and that meant some road riding, some trail riding, and some trails that were just barely trails. And of course, we rode on the wrong (ie: OTHER) side of the street everywhere.

We were served Scotch single-malt whiskey the opening night. We met lots of tandemers from the UK and one pair from Germany. We stayed with our Seattle friends, Janet and Steve Sisson, who had told us about the rally way back last February. We clocked about 180 miles in our three days of riding. We also spent a day sight-seeing in Edinburgh while our bike was in the shop. We’d broken three chain links the day before and decided there must be something more seriously wrong. There was and it was fixed for less than $70.

Click to see image enlargedThen we had the long, long, long flight home. We didn’t get first class this time. We were traveling 28 straight hours from Geneva to Seattle. And this time none of our bags made the whole journey. They arrived a day later after we were happily ensconced once again in our new condo.

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