We are back in Vancouver after a safe and uneventful flight. Paul reluctantly agreed to wheelchair assistance between gates at Frankfurt!The ER physician who looked after us in Italy texted this morning to see how we are – impressive aftercare!
Although still experiencing some shoulder pain and general discomfort, Paul is ambulatory and regaining his energy. He will be seeing his GP on Tuesday to get further medical advice and assistance. While recuperating, we will be planning our next steps which will be dependent on recovering and possible surgical intervention.
An upside to this unexpected turn of events is an earlier than expected reunion with Maritia, Steve , Jade, Rhys and Emme on this sunny long weekend in beautiful Vancouver.
We will blog again when our plans are firmer. In the meantime, thank you to everyone for your thoughts and best wishes. This means a lot to us and to our family.
Sanremo to Km 631 Via Aurelia – 41 kms. Site of collision
Unfortunately today’s blog post may be the last one for a while, as our trip has come to an unfortunate and unexpected halt. While cycling up a hill on a relatively calm road on a sunny day, Paul was suddenly hit from behind by a car. After being thrown from his bicycle and landing on the road, Lois, who had been cycling behind and witnessed the collision, feared the worst. In the minutes and hours following, a terrifying trip to a local trauma centre and hours of tests and waiting began to reassure us that we were incredibly, incredibly lucky.
In fact three days later, Paul is sitting up in his hospital bed, smiling, and looking forward to continuing our trip in one form or another.
Given the potential for a far, far more tragic outcome, coming out smiling is quite simply a marvel. This is not to say that Paul emerged unscathed, as he has cracked three ribs, had two small pneumothoraces and one crushed vertebrae (D5), numerous cuts and abrasions and has been dealing with some quite significant nerve pain across his shoulders and arms from oedema of the cervical spinal cord. While this has improved in the days since the accident, it will be a while before we can consider getting back on the road. We are grateful for the very high quality care that Paul is receiving at the Ospedale Santa Corona in Pietra Ligure.
We will be flying home to Vancouver in the next few days where Paul will likely face spinal surgery and some time to recover.
It is a frustrating and disappointing end to a journey that we felt had really just begun. If you’ve been following our blog over the past weeks, you’ve experienced with us the lows (struggles against hills and winds) and the highs (delightful conversations with locals, wonderful food, and gorgeous landscapes). We had reached the point where we had settled into our daily routine, once again feeling that waking up to another day of cycling was normal. It will be a difficult adjustment.
Yet this is not the end. Though the next few weeks and months will be a challenge, we will spend much of it looking forward to picking up where we left off. That may not include bicycles, but it will still include circling the world, exploring those countries we’ve never had a chance to see, raising awareness of Parkinson’s, chasing the perfect espresso, and enjoying the life that we have once again been reminded is so vitally precious. Thank you to all of you who have followed us on this journey, we hope you’ll pick up with us again when we’re ready to go once again.
This evening we were called “strange” grandparents by our waitress at the La Porta Verde, which she corrected to “unusual”, as she intended it as a compliment. Anyone who saw us pushing our bikes for two hours up narrow roads out of Nice onto the Grand Corniche may have agreed with the “strange” description! The elevation picture above tells all. The views that we eventually got looking down at the Mediterranean, however, were breathtaking. In Turbie, where we stopped for lunch, we saw the Trophy of Augustus, which dates from 6BC. Later, as we came back down towards the sea, we got great views of Monaco, just below.
We were anticipating an easier afternoon, but instead had to contend with four scary tunnels, the longest of which was over 800m. Our prize at the end of the day was cycling on the Parc Costiero del Ponente, a marvellous old rail line bikeway into Sanremo. It also has a very long tunnel but was much quieter, with only cyclists and pedestrians.
As we were leaving the restaurant this evening, our server gave us a small plastic octopus and asked us to take a photo of it when we get to Auckland. We have nicknamed the octopus “Sanremo”.
A link between exposure to pesticides and PD has been previously suggested and a recent study* from France, first presented at the International Congress on Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in 2016**, provides strong evidence of such an association in men and women, including non-farmers.
Although the studies do not quantify the proportion of PD cases that might be related to pesticides, clearly in relation to exposure to pesticides the incidence of PD is preventable.
*Kab S, Spinosi J, et al. Eur J Epi. 2017; 32: 204-16. Agricultural activities and incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the general French population.
**The 18th International Congress is being held in Vancouver in June 2017.
Today’s route was an undemanding and thoroughly enjoyable short ride along the Mediterranean, almost all of it on dedicated bike lanes, primarily the EuroVelo Route 8. We spent the afternoon wandering through Nice, sending postcards, having tea and sitting on the pebbled beach. Dinner at La Tapenade included pesto-stuffed sardines, ratatouille niçoise and crème brûlée.
SUN! With our still-sopping cycling shoes drying on the hotel windowsill, we joined throngs of others heading to the beach to nab a rented sun lounger (a steal at 15€!). After weeks of grit, wind, rain and trucks, a few hours reclining on the beach at Cannes was a little surreal, but wonderful!
We had more time to wander around Cannes as le résponsable at the Hotel Mistral very kindly offered to do our laundry (for free, as it turned out!) The preparations for the 70th Festival de Cannes are in full swing and the Croisette was crowded with tourists and the well-heeled.
As the forecast was for heavy rain in the morning, easing off in the afternoon, we had planned to look around Frejus while waiting for the storm to pass. Sunshine was expected for Sunday and we wanted to enjoy it on the beach in Cannes. When it hadn’t begun raining by 9:00, we decided to head out. Although the rain held off for the first hour or so, the winds were strong and gusty from the east. At one point, Lois’ bike came to a complete stop! When the rain did arrive, it was hard and heavy and accompanied by thunder and lightning. With nowhere to shelter on the highway, we carried on until we found a roadside cafe with a covered patio. With the rain splashing in beside us, we tried to warm up with multiple cups of hot chocolate, cheese omelettes and fries.
It is in the nature of cycle touring, especially alongside a coastline as dramatic as the Côté d’Azur, that hills, heavy rain and thunderstorms were quickly forgotten as we rode beneath the dominating red cliffs of the Massif de l’Esterel, rolling down to small pebbly beaches that today were pounded by surf. It was still spotting with rain as we pedalled along the seashore into Cannes, but by early evening the Promenade de la Croisette was bathed in sunlight.
Last evening, Yves, one of our hosts at the Au Puits de la Fontaine, kindly gave us a lift into Barjols for dinner at the eclectic La Part Des Angels. In the car, we identified that Nina Simone was on the CD and on the way back and sitting for a time in the car park, we had a delightful conversation (in French) about “golden oldies” and jazz. Yves is a great vinyl enthusiast and has a large collection of all genres, which unfortunately we did not have time to see. Both Veronique and Yves made us very welcome in their beautifully restored house in vieux Tavernes, which shows off a number of other items collected by the couple, such as around 40 wine-corkers made of Boxwood. They obviously like to join their guests at breakfast and we had another interesting conversation this morning. It touched on many subjects, including concerns about this weekend’s presidential election and the implications for France and the EU of the polarization in France, and the disaffection of the youth. Yves told us that his father had Parkinson’s and he was very interested in our trip. We took a group photo before pedaling off on a chilly morning.
The three long hills Veronique had mentioned were OK and the route otherwise descended to the coast, with lots of hairpin turns and spectacular views of the forested countryside. The traffic was light until we got close to Frejus, when it became awful. When we stopped to consider whether there were other options, a cyclist around our age pulled up to ask if we needed help. He said an alternative route would take us far around the city, is very hilly and would add another 10km. We persevered for a while longer until the constant barrage of traffic and lack of shoulder finally forced us off onto side roads, some no more than a tough track, but peaceful!
We continue to face challenges with the Garmin. It seems it doesn’t like it when we load a route from Ride with GPS and then go off it, e.g., to look for coffee. The Garmin suddenly shuts off and we lose the tracking it has done. This problem has been identified by others.
The unexpected: the nationalistic writing above the door of the church in Salernes; perhaps from the Revolution?
You win some, you lose some. This morning was everything yesterday wasn’t – gloomy, cold, drizzle and a heavy truck route with absolutely no shoulder. However, it is still Provence and the scenery is stunning. While it remained cool (this is not the weather we expected to be experiencing in the south of France!) and overcast, the rain did stop by noon. We are now cycling through the Parc natural régional de Verdon with its hilly woodlands of oak and other deciduous and olive trees, vines, cereal crops and a scattering of sheep. Tall cypress trees are planted near Provençal farmhouses (mas), traditionally a symbol of hospitality.
Today’s surprise was the Château of Verdière. Originating from 980, it has a commanding view of the countryside.
Tavernes, our stop for the night is a small town built as a circulade which served as a style of defence for communities before the bastide towns were built two centuries later. From above, the streets form an “escargot”.
Paul Gully: The unexpected is the essence of travel.
When we were suddenly confronted with 2km of steep hills before we had even left Aix city limits, we momentarily questioned the wisdom of our route change. Thankfully, that turned out to be the worst of it and we ended up having an absolutely delightful day riding on quiet roads, mostly with a wide shoulder, and had spectacular views of the Alpes de Haut-Provence. We passed through limestone and sandstone landscapes on the eastern edge of the Parc natural régionale du Luberon, covered with vineyards and fields of barley and artichokes.
A particular surprise was coming upon the remains of the Pont de Mirabeau. This was a suspension bridge built in 1845. The span was destroyed in WW1, replaced by another bridge which was destroyed in WW2. The bridges cross the River Durance which feeds the Canal EDF (Electricité de France), important for irrigation, potable water and power.
A view of the Alps on our approach to Manosque was also unexpected!
“Milestone”: Since Lisbon, we have cycled over 2000km.
We awoke to a cold rain and decided to spend the day in Aix-en-Provence, the home of Paul Cézanne. Everyone keeps remarking on how unusually cold it is, “comme Novembre”. The hotel receptionist said people are normally wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts by this time of year.
After catching up in a few things – haircut for Paul, sending a parcel off to Vancouver – we did most of a Cézanne walking tour, which gave an insight into the life and times of the painter but also a good sense of the city centre. We did not get to see the Cézannes in the Musée Granet. Although the hours for the gallery indicated it was open until 7, when we arrived at 5:20, we were told they were closing. We would have gotten there earlier, but were enticed into Monsieur Chou for 2 petite, but heavenly, cream puffs!
Dinner at Le Petit Verdot (thank you Lonely Planet) was Michelin-worthy! A salad of fresh asparagus, Parmesan and poached egg, followed by tender seared tuna on a medley of exquisitely cooked and seasoned local vegetables, ending with rhubarb crumble with honey ice-cream. Wine by the glass was a delicious blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.
We also succeeded in creating a Garmin route for the morning using Ride with GPS. We decided to go inland for a couple of days, to see the hills of Provence (yes, we know, we are suckers for punishment!)
May 1 in Arles marks the Festival of the Gardians and Election of the Queen of Arles, an event that celebrates the traditions of the herdsmen who have followed the bulls and horses in the Camargue. A candidate for the 3-year tenure as Queen of Arles must be knowledgeable in Provençal history, literature, architecture, arts, traditions and language. We delayed our departure to watch the procession of the Gardians and their partners riding on horseback past the Roman arena on the way to Mass at the Cathedral. Later in the day, equestrian games would be held in the arena, organised by the Brotherhood of Guardians (for photos see this page).
The city of Arles, which we had visited earlier in the week by car, is the site of extensive Roman ruins, including a largely intact coliseum and partly-preserved Roman baths. It is also where Vincent Van Gogh spent 15 months, during which time he produced over 180 canvasses, which include some of his best-known works. The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh was currently exhibiting 6 of his paintings, among which was his self-portrait. An accompanying exhibition of many of the works of the American painter Alice Neel was very interesting.
The proprietor of our B&B (Villa M – highly recommended) told us to look out for a new building going up, designed by Frank Gehry. It will house a cultural centre supported by the Luma Foundation. The construction is impressive, even now.
Approaching Maramas, we cycled alongside a vast intact prison camp of rows of essentially windowless huts. We read later that this was used by the US Army to house German prisoners of war from 1944-45. On the opposite side of the highway, a race track, the sight of the French Grand Prix in 1926, is now used by BMW to test cars.
At a pizza restaurant in Maramas, one of the few places open for lunch on the holiday, our journey generated a lot of interest amongst the patrons. The Vancouver license plates prompt questions! As we got further away from the marshes and rice fields of the Camargue, the land became drier, with pine forests, olive trees and vineyards beneath limestone hills with strange outcroppings. We stopped to admire the Pont Flavien, built in 10-12BC. It has been repaired many times, but remains a remarkable sight.
We arrived late in Aix-en-Provence, partly as a result of mistakes in finding our route and having to backtrack. We agreed that we really do need to take more control of our route-planning and be less ruled by Garmin and Google!
(River Lez bike path, D21 – bike path, D59, D255, D62, D46, D58, D38c, D570)
Raindrops and tears were falling as we bid farewell to our Paris-based family after a wonderful week together sightseeing, eating, playing with and cuddling our 7-week old grandson and 21-month old granddaughter. Despite unseasonably cold weather and broken nights, our son and daughter in law were determined to make the most of this vacation, for which we are in awe and hugely appreciative! We were also pleased that our nephew, Marius and his wife, Helen (aka as “Team Twite” from previous cycle trip blogs) flew from Derby to join us at the end of the week. Unable to accompany us on their tandem this time, Marius and Helen took the train to Arles, where we met up again later for a superb meal together at Le Criquet.
The route from Montpelier was on bike paths almost all the way to the coast and on to La Grande-Motte. It should have been an easy ride, but to the coast we cycled into a strong blustery on-shore wind, which blew sand and salt into our faces. The waves were high and apparently too dangerous for wind surfing. The wind continued to be a challenge for the rest of the day as we traversed the northern part of the Camargue past rice fields. We saw Camargue Horses beside the road.
Parkinson’s note: This is the last day of Parkinson’s Awareness Month. For those who are thinking of donating to PSBC, we encourage your support!