Around Sligo

Way back in May, when the weather was nicer and night time didn’t begin at 5pm, we trekked our way north to Sligo for a momentous occasion, the first “old guard” photo walk to take place in quite a long time indeed.

It is as it ever was, a flimsy excuse to meet up for dinner & drinks. But also to see some sights that I haven’t seen in quite a few years. First to Strandhill for that all important “I need to climb what hill” coffee, then onto Knocknarea. But first, a detour to The Glen, an amazing spot where I didn’t capture a single noteworthy photo. But just to prove that at the very least, Darren and I were there;

Back on track to Knocknarea, always an amazing walk.

The morning after a night well spent in the pub, back out into the world and over to Lissadell House.

Bit light on the photos of the gardens, as I always feel like I’m not getting anything new and end up just boring myself posting photos that look the same as anything I’d end up taking on the regular trips to Fota.

That Lighthouse again.

More of Neist Point lighthouse on Skye, this time from high above on the cliffs before the long walk downhill to see it up close. Like drinking yourself sober, my procrastination elevated to a sufficiently high level that for a brief moment, it turned into motivation. I assume everyone has photos in their respective queues that have sat for 12+ months, waiting for attention.

This was shot with Julie’s 5D Mark 2 but I find since getting the Fuji X-T3 I’m just as likely to do a RAW to JPEG conversion in the camera, suck a selection of photos down to my phone over WiFi and fire them onto Instagram making only minor tweaks to levels. After the relatively instant gratification of a few likes gained, I put the set of photos completely out of my head. I might see them again when I eventually import the RAWs into Lightroom, but that could be days, weeks or months later. By which time, no matter how good the photo is, I probably won’t be too motivated to do anything with it. As a photo sharing platform, the blog is pretty much dead for me. It exists only as a means to put up a few higher resolution photos and have a whine about why I don’t post more frequently.

Well, that turned from a simple photo of a lighthouse into an existential crisis in record time.

Low Tide Meander

Fountainstown beach, Monday night. A walk on the beach to kick some stones and poke whatever washed up on the shore with a stick. Also an excuse to stroll around a bit with the X-T3.

No, I’m not sure if that crab was dead or alive. I didn’t poke it with a stick.

Shameless self-promotion

Again with the ‘photos unrelated to text’ thing. This is my second attempt to write this post, the first died a painfully irritating death in about four paragraphs of complete and utter nonsense. This photos unrelated to text blog post features Kerry. Specifically, a few from around Muckross House.

I only realised after walking around the gardens that there is a pretty large garden at Muckross House. All the previous times I visited, I must have just strolled around the perimeter of the house itself, then jumped back in the car and drove off.

Anyway, on with the rambling. I have (for only about the last 10 years or so) been considering doing a bit of motovlogging (moto-vlogging/moto vlogging – never sure how best to write that made up term). I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of all the hugely talented practitioners of this form of communication that I subscribe to on YouTube. They make it look easy. Just strap half a dozen cameras to the bike, wire yourself and the bike up for sound and press the record button. Then, instant fame and profit? I’m a little unsure of the steps between those two.

The thing that always stops me at the end is the thing that always stops me from following through on so many things; I feel like I have nothing to say. I am also aware of the irony of saying this, given the years I’ve spent writing and posting photos right here and on previous blogs. When I can muster the motivation to do so, writing just seems to be easier.

There is also that whole part of it from which this post gets its name, the requirement to market and sell yourself to a massive audience. Shamelessly so, in order to get likes, comments, subscribers, sponsors, donations, free shit in the post (not literally, I hope) and all the other bits and pieces that seem to come along with being a content creator these days. I think I’d rather just mindlessly ramble here to my two or three daily visitors and not have to deal with trying to acquire a base level of success in a whole new medium. I have enough trouble trying to do that with this one.

But then I’d have to take my own advice, dished out generously like so many indigestible, sticky and possibly pre-sucked boiled sweets “Who really cares what people think?”

I did, once. Not so much anymore. Not caring is all well and good until you realise it applies everywhere. It must have grown over and intertwined itself in all facets of your life while you were so busy perfecting that grumpy face and attitude of extreme apathy.

I have it on somewhat decent authority that if you don’t actively market ‘brand you’ in your professional life, you don’t get anywhere. But to me at least, that goes back to making noise for noise sake. Sure I’ve got stuff that I’m really good at and really passionate about in my day job, but am I adding anything to the conversation if I’m just constantly telling everyone how great I am? No, no I’m not. Also, I’m very Irish. Saying nice things about myself is entirely foreign. I’d need to attend a course or something.

Incidentally, these photos are all with the X100. Since picking it up again, I’ve rediscovered the reason I bought it. All the fun of using an analog camera with none of the ‘now I have to get film developed’ pain in the ass. I’m working on a problem with the camera though, I need to find how to set the aperture to anything but wide open. From the next few posts I’m going to make in the coming weeks, you’ll see that’s a battle I’m mostly losing. I’m also eyeing up an X-T3 at the moment. Well, that’s not true. I’ve been eyeing up an X-T3 since the day it came out. I’m going to have to add it to a cart, then look away as someone else presses the ‘buy now’ button.

Another lap around France

If it seems I’ve only just written a blog entry about our 2015 trip to France, it’s because I have. The same thing that kicked me into motion to write that entry has prompted me to write this one about our 2016 trip (to mostly the same places). The 2019 trip will again be to many of the same locations, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. July to see lavender in full bloom, then to retreat into the mountains for a few days of not being boiled half to death by the weather at sea level. Although this year will be somewhat different in that it also facilitates the escape from and celebration of a milestone birthday.

It was pretty standard fare, so much so I can’t recall a lot of it. One way ferry from Cork to Roscoff, followed by a couple of days of cross country motorway travel to get to the fun bit. Thinking back, the most memorable part of the cross country trip was our stop at Sainte-Etienne. Only worth recalling due to the shockingly bad hotel restaurant. When the food did finally arrive (burgers, pretty difficult to get wrong you’d think), they were burnt on the outside and entirely raw inside. I had to double check that we hadn’t somehow ordered steak hache from a confused chef, with a side of burger bun.

I did however discover a stupidly useful new skill, mostly due to the imagined horror of not being able to get into a bottle of sweet, sweet Sauternes wine. Turns out that there’s a dual-use tool in my puncture repair kit that will get the cork out of a bottle without much effort at all. I present exhibit A.

Onward and downward, to the heat and the most lavender I’ve ever seen. Riding around Provence, the smell was everywhere and it was amazing. I’m looking forward to that again this year. Even if it means I’m spending most of my time when not on the bike hiding from the sun.

While down south, we stopped at Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a curious little town that seemed to be a cross between a location for a religious pilgrimage and a tourist trap. A lovely little town all the same and an ideal stop for an evening.

From here, we ventured further south, potentially as far south as it’s possible to be in France. From Moustiers to Castellane via a little bit of Verdon Gorge and on down toward Grasse.

Kept going beyond Nice (pictured above when we stopped for the French custom of le pique-nique) and along the (almost) coast through Éze. It was only by the best of luck and some split second road sign recognition that we avoided going through Monaco, an experience I’m told isn’t all you’d imagine it’s cracked up to be. If I want to see rich folks poncing around with hyper cars, I’ll observe them from a safe distance, through some high magnification binoculars.

We found our way down to Menton and along the beach front road, where I stopped and offered Julie the opportunity to wade through the shimmering and undulating mass of people packed onto what beach there was available, in order to dip her toe into the Mediterranean sea. She didn’t take me up on the offer and with the heat being what it was, that’s probably a good thing. I was about half a minute away from paying big money to go face down in a bath full of ice. One of the reasons I’d wanted to come to Menton in previous years is that it’s the start of (or the end of) the Route des Grandes Alpes. The huge stretch of mountain passes that brings you from Menton (obviously) north to Thonon-les-Bains, on the shore of Lake Geneva. But we had some more immediate plans. Namely to get into the mountains for some cooler temperatures and then at some stage to find our lodgings for the evening.

We were on the way to the tiny village of Roure, perched on the side of a sheer drop, as most things are in the Alps. Specifically, to Auberge Lo Robur, a fantastic and relatively small guest house with a Michelin star chef. Or at least that was the blurb if I remember correctly.

It’s a fancy affair and somewhat outside the usual, but it was decided that we’d just need to try it. I think if I was to go again, we’d have to go for the full-on seven course menu. Purely for practicality of course. For those who decided on anything less, there was an excruciating wait between courses. But the food (and the wine) was bloody good. The view from our table wasn’t bad either. We even had a visit from a Chamois goat, rather precariously perched on a nearby mountain ridge. Dinner and a show, the place had it all. Also worth a mention that all the staff were fantastic.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the toilet in our room had the most outstanding ‘poo with a view’ that I’ve ever seen or will likely ever see. 10/10, would poo again.

The next morning was a quick and valuable lesson. Something along the lines of “you’re in the Alps now, you need to plan your fuel stops more carefully”. With the bike computer estimating a range of about 15km and the GPS telling me that the closest petrol station was 20km away, I took the decision to leave the bike in neutral and roll it down the switchbacks, all the way to the valley we’d climbed up from yesterday afternoon. A journey of about 10km. So thoroughly impressed with myself that I managed to pull off such a daring feat of fuel economy, I completely forgot about the need to get petrol by the time we arrived at the petrol station and almost passed it. The Alps; Fill up early and fill up often. Or just don’t be a knob and ignore the fuel gauge until it starts flashing at you.

From there, north into the Alpine passes and standard mountain photography began. Not very much of it, the focus was more on the road and riding the balls off said road.

The riding of balls off roads needs to be interrupted by other things, like eating and sleeping. So we made our next stop in Valloire, on the north side of the Col du Galibier. It is, as you might expect and like the vast majority of everything else in the area, a town catered to winter sports. So it’s a town that doesn’t really know what to do with itself during the spring/summer/autumn months. I was expecting a completely abandoned ghost town of a place before we arrived, but was glad to see that there was still a surprising amount of life in the town. Those mad folks that do stuff that requires lots of energy, like walking and cycling. So maybe not so much a town that relies on winter trade. It’s easy to assume. While riding around on mountain passes, there are dozens of similarly sized places that just shut down for the non-winter months. It can be a little unnerving. Like some kind of extinction event has taken place and nobody bothered to tell you.

It was on a crowded Valloire supermarket shelf that ‘Alan’ was discovered. A short, cheeky, beret wearing Marmot that whistles on command. Oh la la. Shamefully, I don’t have any photos of Alan on the journey, except the below photo of Julie taking his photo with a bunch of his less swanky cousins. Somewhere on the far side of Col de L’Iseran.

Otherwise, as I’ve said above, photography was fairly standard fare for mountains. Stop the bike for five mins, take a few quick shots with the phone, continue on.

One of our final stops in the mountains (because I’m not really sure if where we were going next was still ‘in the mountains’) was at the establishment whose owner has come to be known affectionately as “the tartiflette lady”. Following our first stop there while on honeymoon in 2014, where we both experienced tartiflette for the first time. Long story short, no tartiflette this time around. But it’s still a pretty unbeatable place to stop. I’m not telling you where it is, because I don’t want the place constantly booked up for the next hundred years.

But what’s this? Lightning strikes twice! Oh yes. At this point I discarded all notion of ever having to follow through on my threat to add a corkscrew to the bike toolkit.

From Bourg-Saint-Maurice we headed north-east back into the hills, instead of our normal route deeper west into France. Whenever we’re away, and somewhere in the Alps, I always feel like I should be going into Switzerland more. I have tended to mostly avoid it due to change in currency, not speaking any German (or indeed that mad Swiss-German stuff they speak in some parts of the country), the exorbitant fees charged to use the motorways and somewhat due to the perception that the majority of Swiss towns dislike bikers. Or maybe the biker dislike thing is specific to certain areas. Anyway, whenever I’ve crossed the Swiss border, I’ve usually planned on crossing it again before the end of the day and resting my weary bones in any of the neighbouring countries.

For the above reasons, I really haven’t had the opportunity to ride many Swiss passes. Mostly just those that either begin or end in either France or Italy. I know I’m missing out. Maybe it’s getting time to branch out a bit, now that I’ve done practically all of the French passes at least twice?

Anyway, bucking the trend for one year at least, we set our sights on a night in Lausanne on the north side of Lake Geneva. That meant a slow but scenic ride around the lake, through many towns large and small and past a surprising amount of vineyards. Switzerland has a wine industry? Indeed it does! But something like 80% of the finished product never makes it outside the country. What does make it out doesn’t seem to travel much farther than their direct neighbours. Shame. Maybe. I can’t really say.

We’d chosen to stay in Lausanne on the Swiss equivalent of St. Patricks Day. Some big Swiss national holiday. I imagined Lausanne would be a hive of activity. Buzzing with people on the streets, festival kind of stuff. On arrival, it was possibly predictably Swiss. Quiet, reserved. The only ones on the street were the drug dealers we passed by on the way to a nearby craft beer place for dinner, and drinks of course. Drug dealers aside, because every city has them, Lausanne seemed like a very nice place indeed.

Avoiding any motorways (for reasons above), we made our way back to France through the wilderness, pretty much an ‘as the crow flies’ route to the border. We found a nice spot up at Lac de Joux. Somewhat secluded but still enough hotels and restaurants that made it a candidate for a future one-nighter. Back into France through the cutest little border crossing I’ve ever seen and swiftly back onto French motorways to continue our journey onto Dijon.

Stayed at Hotel de Paris in the center of Dijon. A very convenient but entirely no frills affair. It fit the two most important criteria; bed and somewhat secure parking. Dijon is another lovely place to stay for a night or two. Get into the hotel, stroll around. Couple of tasty French craft beers in Les BerThoM and a spot of dinner. Good going for a transit day. Certainly not the warm beer and plate of soggy chips in a motorway hotel I’d have ended up with if I’d been on my own.

Another transit day in Reims, a city which in the same fashion as Dijon, is quickly becoming a favorite for the one night transit stays. Or two night extended transit stays. I was quite impressed with Reims on our first multi-nighter here (in 2014?). How much my favour was influenced by the quantity of champagne I’d consumed during the tour of Mumm, I cannot comment on. It’s an easy kind of place to stay relatively close to the city center, then walk in for some dinner and of course a couple of local beers.

Brugge is as Brugge always is, like a poorly cut indie film that has hastily been put back together with several important scenes missing. I believe on this occasion, the early afternoon beers led to longer than average mid-beer snooze. Then, on waking up still drunk, finding the most accessible option is chips and whatever batter shrouded mystery meat they’re serving today. It’s a while coming, but I fear that after the 2016 stop in Brugge, I may have seriously diminished my stock of ‘Brugge points’ in the eyes of my ever patient wife.

Alas, that was 2016. Another lap around the sun and another lap around France. Outstanding. Roll on July.

The Fairy Pools

An interesting spot. Endlessly scenic (as is much of Scotland) and the kind of place you feel should be oozing peace and tranquility. It probably would, if not for the tens of thousands of tourists I had to somewhat skillfully avoid in order to get a photo that made it look like there wasn’t tens of thousands of tourists there with us. All the while getting a serious amount of stink-eye from someone trying to take selfies with her iphone on a tripod.

Work Resumes

More ways than one. Getting back to work on the Lightroom catalog following a creative cloud update that synced my synced copies with syncs of syncs. Lightroom on the iPad was a mess, Lightroom classic on the computer was a mess. I gave up on it over Christmas in favour of eating and drinking too much. Did finally get it solved, at the expensive of losing all the edits I’d completed on the Scotland photos. That was irritating.

Also back to work, which is similarly unfortunate and irritating. But on the plus side, the ferry is now booked for the ride over to and around France this year. That’ll add a 2019 set of France adventures to process alongside the other ones I have yet to finish. Ah well.

I suppose I should add some kind of context for the photo in this post. It was taken on Skye, after walking about two thirds of the way up to see The Storr. Then after promptly deciding that it wasn’t worth the massive effort to climb the rest of the way (what with the way the light was going and cloud rolling in over the mountain), I turned around and saw an amazing 180 degree view back over the island.

Gougane Barra Forest

Back at the end of November, we took a long overdue drive to the forest at Gougane Barra. Long overdue in comparison to how frequently I usually visited in winter during, lets call it, the height of my photographic journey. Visit frequency dropped off quite rapidly for a few reasons. The introduction of the barriers with the eye-watering entry fee (or at least what I’d consider eye-watering for a forest) added to my imaginary woes. My other standard rant was the reworking of the path at the top of the forest, which destroyed one of my favorite photo locations. I say ‘reworking’, what I really mean is several tonnes of gravel being dumped over the existing path. All in the name of health & safety I suppose. Gotta do everything we can to prevent the stupidest people in society from damaging themselves. Very anti-Darwinian.

I’d just (a few months previous) picked up a nice new ball head for the tripod, as well as a couple of additional solid ND filters. So I had to get out somewhere scenic with flowing water to make sure I could still take those wonderfully clichéd moving water photos. I’m out of practice, more work required.

Despite all my ranting, the forest is still a lovely place to go for a couple of hours. Mostly in the winter mind you. Less people that way. Also less people to either attempt to exclude from scenes or to remove later on with photoshop.

Funnily enough, even at the end of November, there were still plenty of tourists around. And even more surprising, a full car park at the bottom of the forest. Don’t usually get that in winter, what with the entry fee and all.

Neist Point Lighthouse

One of the destinations on Skye that I was going to get to, even if I had to crawl to it. After setting someone else’s photo of this location as my computer wallpaper many months ago, I needed to get here to take my own version. This isn’t it. It’ll be along shortly. The road to the lighthouse is very long, very single track and very full of animals. Also very full of tourists that randomly stop to take photos where there are no passing places. It was a somewhat frustrating drive with a very large reward at the end of it.

Toward Glen Etive

On the way back through Glencoe, we stopped briefly at the side of the road to have an in-car picnic. Mostly because the rain was so heavy, getting out of the car would have meant swimming toward the nearest picnic spot. As is normal in Scotland, the rain stopped and started every couple of minutes. The fast moving cloud created amazing contrast on the mountains in the distance. After taking this and checking exposure on the back of the camera, I do believe I even jumped around a little bit with delight.

Welcome to Scotland

Ahh Scotland, or in this instance, Glencoe. Less Specifically, it seems you can point your camera in pretty much any direction wherever you are in Scotland and produce something that gives the impression that you’re a decent photographer. This was taken after yomping through some very mushy ground to get various angles with my new best friend, Ms. Foreground Tree. There are many, many photos to sort through and many, many landscapes to oogle at. Expect more of this kind of thing over the coming days, weeks and potentially months. Interestingly, this was taken with a lens I didn’t originally intend on bringing due to it’s weight; the 70-200 f2.8L IS. More interestingly, that lens stayed on the camera for about 80% of the trip. Glad I brought it.

Part 7: The scenic route back to France

I woke the following morning to what must have been an answered prayer, it wasn’t as cold as it was supposed to be, and certainly not as cold as it’d been the previous few mornings. There was a stint of hasty packing completed, followed by one final eggy bacon buttery breakfast and enough coffee to temporarily incapacitate a horse. The original plan, which was to exit the Tyrol valley and Austria via the Silvretta pass, was very much still on.

Bike packed and getting ready to pay my bill, I ended up chatting to the proprietor of the hotel for a few minutes. The key takeaway from the conversation was that it was unnaturally cold and snowy for this time of the year. Normally they’d only get this kind of weather much closer to winter. Good to know it was specially reserved for my arrival.

One more jaunt over the Silvretta then, as if I hadn’t already well and truly ripped the heart out of it the previous afternoon. I took the time to thoroughly enjoy the last of my time in Austria and despite the cold, the rain, the snow and ice, I left hoping that I’d be able to get back soon. Just, in nicer weather.

The plan, as it usually is, was to avoid as much motorway as possible. That was as much for financial reasons as for hoping for a laid back jaunt over several borders and onto my final destination. My very brief encounter with the Austrian motorway in days past made me wary of getting near any major roads, lest I accidentally (or more likely through my own stupidity) end up back on a section of paid motorway and feel the wrath of whatever state body looks after punishing tourists that thought they could get away without purchasing vignettes. But that’s neither here nor there.

Onward through the valleys of Austria until, where am I? Things just changed all of a sudden. Even the lines on the road look different. Strange license plates on cars. Ahh, Lichtenstein! I had about as much time as it took to realise that I had crossed the border before I crossed yet another border into Switzerland.

The original plan, back when I was in ‘hasty plan making mode’ before setting off on this possibly ill-advised trip, was to spend the remainder of today riding around Switzerland, doing some of the lower mountain passes and conveniently end up in an awesome looking B&B/restaurant near Wassen. Then spend the evening packing myself with as much Swiss cheese and wine as inhumanly possible. But alas, that would have cost me an extra day when extra days were a little hard to come by. Next time Switzerland, next time.

I crossed into the country somewhere near Vaduz and blindly followed my poorly created GPS route in the general direction of Shaffhausen, a point picked for the sole reason that it reminded me of the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. Poor old Ruprecht.

To say I enjoyed my brief time in Switzerland would not be unlike saying I’m fond of the occasional beer. If I was to attempt to describe even a minute percentage of how bafflingly beautiful the country is, I’d be gilding the Lilly. If you’ve been there, you know. If you haven’t been there, for the love of God go there. I stopped all too frequently in out of the way places not to take photos, shout at the GPS or eat some of the stash of sweets & biscuits I had in the tank bag, but just to stop. To turn off the engine and bask in the glorious, enveloping silence. That and to gape open-mouthed at the hills and valleys. I’m not exactly a seasoned world traveler, but it’s easily one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time in. Every time I go, I wonder why I don’t go more. Every time I leave, I make plans to go back.

As all good things have a tendency to do, this too passed and before very long I was riding alongside the Rhine. Enjoying the scenery again and watching the ships as I rode, I followed the river as far as Koblenz before eventually taking the opportunity to cross back into Germany and onto the B500. After spending much of the day on narrow, winding roads at 30-50kph, it was refreshing to be climbing out of Koblenz on a four lane, 100kph road. I took full advantage. As with my jaunt through Switzerland, Germany was a transit to leave me in my final destination for the evening, the Alsace region of France. Long day, but a long enjoyable one.

The sky was blue and dotted with white fluffy clouds. There was a light breeze. Everywhere except where I was going. I was headed into an almost completely black mass of thunderstorm cloud. So that was nice. I had to stop to put on every piece of waterproof clothing I had with me, in the hope that once I got to France, I’d only be marginally soaked to the skin. I took the opportunity to stop at a petrol station and fill the bike before pulling on my wet gear. As luck would have it, the shop was fully stocked with that wonderful mix of cola and orange I’d bought almost by accident a few days previous when entering the Black Forest. It must be a German thing. A German thing I very much enjoy.

The rest of my German journey passed without the need for much comment. When faced with certain soaking and a practically unlimited amount of time to get where you’re going, you end up making a sort of game out of it and try to avoid going too far in the direction of the nasty, black clouds. Reached Freiburg, which based only on riding through the outskirts of the city, looks like a very nice place indeed. Another one on the list of places to hopefully get back to some day. Potentially mixed in with a future photography visit to the Black Forest.

Once more over the Rhein. I rode over a few large bridges, lined with people watching the ships navigating what appeared to be locks on the river. I wanted to stop and take a few minutes, but my aching buttocks wouldn’t allow it. A kind of “if you get off this bike, we’re not going to allow you to get back on” and “also, good luck straightening your legs”. So instead of treating the locals to my horrid, blood curdling screams while dismounting the bike, I rode onward into France. Even before I crossed the border, the familiar smell of the vines and fruit trees that filled the air was, to me at least, not unlike being slapped about the face with a “Welcome to France” postcard. It drove me onward for the final few miles, knowing that great things were ahead.

The destination was Ribeauville. My reasons for picking this place were numerous and varied. None of which I’m going to elaborate on at this point. All things will become clear. During a previous visit to the Alsace region, we had picked a charming hotel in Riquewihr without fully understanding the nature of the town. It’s a town that completely shuts down once all the tourists have departed for the evening. Even the vending machines won’t serve you. Ribeauville, slightly north of Riquewihr, seemed to be a larger and busier town, so I thought I’d give that a try.

As with many of these types of towns, I arrived via a side street and was quite unsure if I was supposed to be riding on the small, cobbled and tourist packed street I was on. Dirty looks from visitors were the norm. I walked around a bit and found the hotel (Hotel Au Lion), before enquirers about where I should leave the bike for the evening. Side note; Great to be back in a country where I can make myself understood and understand what is being said to me. Some of it anyway. Turns out, my parking spot was “wherever you want, maybe right outside the hotel door”, the instructions delivered in a uniquely French, why the hell are you asking me stupid questions kind of way. So now I needed to return to my bike and unashamedly ride through hordes of people who don’t seem to grasp the concept of this being a road, not a pedestrian right of way. I’d usually take a moment in this scenario and wait for a local to barrel up the road in their clapped out Renault, thereby clearing the way for me. Sadly, no locals coming home from work just yet so I was on my own.

Parking space secured and as I was unpacking, a short conversation with a friendly Dutch man about the BMW he used to have when he was a younger man. Always nice when being on a bike prompts nice people to come and talk to you. It seems to cancel out the semi-permanent resting bitch face I have, so people will actually come and talk. Once more for the back of the room, I’m not permanently pissed off, it’s just my face.

What was that though, great things were to come? Oh yes, bit off track there. Checked in, showered and changed and strolled back down the cobbled street to find a shop selling every shape and flavour of Pain d’epices, so I could bring something home for Julie. Apart from wine. More on that later. Off track again, back to the great things. After milling around waiting for the hotel restaurant to open, I was seated in the empty room and took exactly four tenths of a second to look at the menu. I’m not exactly sure why I even opened it in the first place. Good lady of the house, bring me all the Choucroute and Gewurtztraminer you have in the building.

Suitably packed with a multitude of meats, I waddled off back outside into the evening air for a short stroll to aid the digestive process. Soon found out that Ribeauville is exactly like Riquewihr, completely devoid of human life after 6:30pm. At least they’re consistent I suppose.

After scouting the locations of several promising boulangeries (boulangers?) for breakfast, I retired to my bed and slipped into a deep meat coma, the likes of which only ever seem to happen in the best parts of France.