A Day for Adventure

Starting with a cycle ride with Bike Tours of Lima through the two most ‘happening’ districts of the city – Miraflores and Barranco:

The ride whetted my appetite to explore Barranco in my own time, but the tour in itself was informative, especially about the modern history of the city. While Miraflores is the swanky new development, Barranco is the more arty, laid-back and well-aged district.

One of the highlights was the Parque del Amor, the Love Park, an iconic section of the promenade at Miraflores. El Beso, the Kiss sculpture by Victor Delfin, of himself kissing his wife. The park is also the venue for Valentine’s day record breaking activities against a beautiful sunset.

The other was the Puento de Los Suspiros, the Bridge of Sighs – the first time you cross the bridge, make a wish and take a deep breath, then hold the breath until you cross over to the other side, to make your wish come true. Believe the myth or not, it’s a fun, silly, touristy thing to do.

If you like to play with Google Earth, check this link for my cycling path: http://share.abvio.com/e52ba8633cd284a7/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20150804-1004.kml

After the tour, it was too early for me to head back, so I thought I might walk aimlessly around Miraflores. That’s when I looked up and saw a miracle – a hint of sunshine! And there were paragliders. I thought, why not? Another item on my wish list might come true. I wasted no time rushing over to the paraport or whatever they call it, paid the money, and was quickly strapped into the harness. My pilot, Alex, was ultra-friendly and uber cool (part time baker), and made the flight super exciting. I squealed at every turn, getting plenty of thrills gliding higher than the J.W. Marriott hotel, and close to the Larcomar strip, waving at pedestrians, getting a bird’s eye view of the city and the cliffs and the waves, and too soon the flight came to an end. All done in a space of 30 minutes.

Paragliding

Paragliding

Paragliding at Miraflores

Paragliding at Miraflores

Paragliding

Paragliding

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual POV

This week’s challenge is to present an unusual point of view. Here’s my story.

Souvik and I went to Dalat, Vietnam one weekend. I was feeling adventurous, and TripAdvisor had advised that mountain biking was one of the top things to do in Dalat. Souvik was not yet converted to the joys of cycling and I had all my experience only on the road. Still, I persisted (nagged) and we signed up.

The route went right through the pine forest, very scenic, but the whole deal about mountain biking is the rough terrain. Sure enough, there were plenty of tree roots, stones and other obstacles jutting out unexpectedly on the barely there trail. Plus some stiff uphill and insane downhill slopes that I could only manage on foot, pushing the bike. There was even a stretch where I struggled with myself and when our guide offered to push the bike, I weakly accepted. On the final rest stop, I lay flat on the bare ground, and prayed for it to end soon. As I looked skyward, the cyclist in me was dying, but the photographer leapt to life, and I couldn’t resist this shot from the ground up.

Unusual POV

 

That Trip… Cinquième Jour: the Big Ride

Day 5 dawned bright and clear. We had an ambitious plan of cycling up to the Maginot Line at the French-German border, and then getting back to Scherwiller (60 km). Wanting to beat the sun on this big ride, we were off at 6.30 in the morning, riding directly into the sun. Negotiated our way through Colmar, Horbourg-wihr, Muntzenheim, and found a dedicated cycling route all the way past Atrzenheim into Marckolsheim. Tree lined, canal running alongside, birds chirping, ducks swimming – just my idea of perfect cycling conditions.

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The Ligne Maginot was of great interest to Souvik, being the Great War buff that he is. I am neutral. The tanks and weapons from the French Germans and Americans are displayed, but it is a rather tiny exhibit. Here’s the memorial:

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From the Maginot Line we cycled across the river Rhin over to Germany. Found a beer garden on the banks of the river, ideal for resting and people watching.

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A couple of hours later, we set off towards ‘home’, following the direct route from Marckolsheim to Selestat and finally Scherwiller. The weather stayed good throughout, with a cloud diffusing the sun’s intensity. We could probably have made it a full military day with Neuf Brisach in the plan, but we didn’t have that weather forecast when we set out.
A few rest stops around Selestat, and we made it back well in time for a shower and snooze before dinner.

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As for dinner, our last 4-course meal is best described only in pictures. You get to see the veggie ones, because Souvik couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture :-D. Accompanied by a glass of Crémant, a Pinot Gris, and a digestif.

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That trip… Quatrième Jour: on Foot

We spent a rather warm evening in Eguisheim, and were taking it easy in the morning on day four. The plan for this day was to give the bikes and our ‘seats’ a little rest. After a typical French breakfast, we cycled to the neighbouring town of Colmar, parked our bikes near the town centre and set off on foot to enjoy the touristy sights.

Colmar is by far the biggest town we’ve encountered on our tour of Alsace. It was reminiscent of Florence, Italy, with the big cathedral and the sidewalk restaurants and hundreds of map-toting tourists, though on a much different scale.

It seemed to be little school kids’ day out, with many groups milling about the town centre and in museums, drawing, or having a lesson. Colmar’s most famous son is Frédéric Bartholdi (take a moment to guess what’s his claim to fame). Turns out, our last few holidays have had a little connection to each other. In Chianti, Italy, we heard of the explorer Verrazzano, who was supposedly one of the first Europeans to cross into New York Harbour, and has a bridge named after him. Last year we spent a part of our holiday in New York (hence the connection), and of course, admired the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to USA by France, and sculpted by…Frédéric Bartholdi! Sadly, the Bartholdi museum in Colmar is closed on Tuesdays, and so we haven’t been educated about his other works.

After a just about average lunch of more Flammekueche (smaller the city better the food, and vice versa; Ribeauville beat Colmar hands down), we strolled over to the area of ‘little Venice’ and the covered market.
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It’s a shock for us to see how much the sun and heat are affecting our holiday. As the local grapes ripen in the sun, we wilt, and by 3 pm everyday, there’s nothing I like better than the shade of a big tree. We were lucky to find that in Colmar.

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And there was a well spent half hour!

Back into Eguisheim, we were quickly out exploring our own village which holds the distinction of being THE prettiest village. Our window looked out to the grand fountain, and there was not one, but two stork nests in the buildings next door. Eguisheim is another fortified town with very picturesque walks on the Rue de remparts.

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We wandered around until dinner time, then bravely entered the restaurant to face our ‘ordeal’. Luckily (!) they had no vegetarian food, so I simply munched down the salad (Souvik had the mandatory foie gras), but Souvik loved his first course of flaky pastry filled with fish and egg swimming in a cheese sauce. So much that he offered to finish mine, after I was done eating the sauce with bread. Naturally we were full after this, and all ready to refuse dessert until we were presented with this:

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I call it the chicken begging mercy, after being stuffed with pork. I was allowed to place mine aside, and eat the legumes below. Souvik needed his bed! But shamelessly agreed to eat his crème brûlée, as I downed some coffee. BURPPP!

All said and done, the highlight of the day has been the shop signs! Very artistic, many of them done by Hansi, a talented caricaturist from Colmar. See for yourself some of the coolest ones:

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That Trip…Troisième Jour: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

We’re going away for a couple of days to stay in Eguisheim, so we spent the third morning packing our panniers. It’s a roughly 30 km ride; I say roughly because we tend to take wrong turns a lot. That’s probably because we’re working with paper maps after ages – no GPS! So we depend on the maps, the sun, the direction of the Vosges Mountains, and some landmarks along the way. Getting lost is fun, but the heat takes a toll on the legs and the spirit! I was so occupied by the packing that blogging took a back seat, and I’m having to post about two days together.

The day’s forecast was 34 degrees C! Is that why we travelled all the way from Jakarta to France – to soak up the sun??? Now we’re committed, and packed up on the panniers, so off we go!

This time we exited Scherwiller in the south easterly direction right away into the vineyards, passing through Chatenois, then Kintzheim, pausing only for a morning photo op.

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We were riding on the ancient Roman road, mixed with the Route de Vins, all of it steeped in history and present-day culture. As we entered Bergheim, we found a nice shady spot to take a break.

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Moving on, our first scheduled stop was the touristy town of Ribeauvillé. I’m tired of using the word ‘pretty’, but is there any way out?

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It was a welcome change to see lots of people milling about, shops open (gasp!), informal eating on the sidewalks. This region is famous for storks (les cignones), and we spotted a few in their nest.

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The lunch plan was to sample the regional speciality of Flammekueche; we simply chose the restaurant based on the aroma that tickled our noses and beckoned us inside. I used my very basic French to order one traditional dish with creme and onions and champignons sans lardons (bacon) to share. We were not disappointed.

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Followed up lunch with a welcome ice cream, and cooled off at the fountain before heading off towards the next pretty town of Riquewihr.
With some serious uphill climbs, we decided to forgo the detour to Hunawihr. Just then Souvik’s bicycle seat fell off, and we spent an hour getting it to fit back. Whew! Then promptly took a wrong turn into Zellenwiller. The crazy uphill made me pause and we wound around the village back on the main road.

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Struggled all the way to Riquewihr in the heat, but the walk into the village was so worth all the trouble. From Nick’s description, Riquewihr reminded me of a chawl, with ancient external toilets (from the days before plumbing), and what a chawl it is! Deservedly finding a place among the most beautiful villages of France.

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By this time it was quite late in the day, but the sun showed no sign of mellowing, and we had a hotel to check into, in Eguisheim. The ride was fairly uneventful, just a few stops for directions and water and groaning. Getting into Eguisheim, we realised we didn’t know the name of our hotel. Some frantic calls to Nick, and asking a few people, we managed to find the Hostellerie du Chateau behind the Grand Fountain, which is ironically the picture on the cover of the Eguisheim map!

And now for the best part – dinner. Amuse bouche of asparagus soufflé. Foie gras and salad with Riesling. Grilled fish with egg and a fishy salad on the side was Souvik’s main course. I was offered yummy grilled eggplant and other veggies, with a baked potato and cauliflower mash. Dessert was indecent – a mountain of cream topped with meringue, concealing a scoop of vanilla ice cream over strawberry sorbet. This was one meal we didn’t share (except for my foie gras), and licked each plate clean!

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That trip…. Deuxième Jour: Chapelle-hopping

The second day of our holiday dawned bright and clear, and Mr full-of-foie gras Basu decided to jog while I blogged. I was up at 4, from a combination of jet lag and the excitement of being on the bike.

Nick met us after our breakfast of croissants with cheese, Nutella and coffee. He had an exciting route mapped out for us – to Dambach la-Ville then Epfig, Ebersmunster, through Ebersheim and back to Scherwiller. As we’ve come to expect, Nick gave us some good ideas on where to stop and what to see.

Half an hour later, we were all saddled up and ready to go.

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First task – take the bike path through the village of Kientzville to The medieval town of Dambach la Ville. And we got lost. The good news is that the spires of the chapels in nearby villages can be seen from a distance, and a few wrong turns later we were back on track.

Dambach is a fortified city dating back to the 14th century. We stopped in the shop to pick up some lunch first – un baguette, fromage, pêches, deux oranges, then cycled to the town centre to park our bicycles at the Office de tourisme. Then wandered around to admire some 15th century buildings, half-timbered houses, fountains and other structures.

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Right out of Dambach, we turned left to climb the hill to the Chapelle St. Sebastien. That hill sucked the juice out of me, and I had to walk up from midway. For a fabulous view of Dambach La Ville below.

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We spent a few minutes inside the chapel, a cool relief from the intense sun. And it wasn’t even noon!

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Then we set off on a longish ride, through Bienschwiller, toward Epfig, through the farms and vineyards on dedicated cycle paths, to the Chapelle Saint Marguerite.

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The ‘highlight’ of this chapel is the ossuary – holding skulls and bones of juveniles during the peasant revolution. The interior of the chapel is calm and inviting, and they have a short commentary about the history in 3 languages. I loved it!

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We moved on towards Kogenheim, and turned off towards Ebersmunster. But not before stopping for lunch at a banc de l’impératrice (the Empress bench), built all over Alsace for peasants to rest. Feasted on our baguette and cheese, slurped our peaches and were refreshed for another long ride ahead.

The Abbey of Ebersmunster was to be our last stop, suggested by Nick as a study of contrasting styles from the previous chapel. And what a shock it was!

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The ornate interiors would not have put me off had we not seen the simple dignified structure just before. Interesting, though!
Getting out of Ebersmunster, we had a little confusion of the north-south direction, but just ended up taking the longer way to Ebersheim, and continuing straight home to Scherwiller.

Dinner that night was at a charming family run restaurant in Itterswiller (among the few to be open on Sunday evening).

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We had a detailed discussion on every course (!) during which I agreed to try the fish, knowing that Souvik would eat most of it. We started with a glass of delicious Riesling, then starters of toasty bread with salmon pâté and little shrimp (Souvik ate them all), salad with mushrooms and other standard ingredients (delish) for me, and chicken confit for the hungry husband. Followed by the grilled fish and noodles in a delicate cheesy sauce and fluffy pastry for me and a gigantic chicken cordon bleu with sautéed potatoes for the boy. I had a few bites of that fish, and passed the rest to Souvik, trading for the yummy potatoes. When we couldn’t finish the entire quantity, the lady offered the local Munster cheese with cumin. We were expecting some durian-type smelly cheese, but this one was harmless, and very nice with the toasted cumin. Not done yet – a small portion of citron glacé to round off the meal, and we were in food coma!

Four cities, four rides

My life was eventful last month, what with the long vacation and its aftermath (all happy). One of the highlights was the cycling trips in different cities. So after I completed a ride yesterday at one of my favorite events – car free in Jakarta, I thought it would be fun to post all the routes, and relive those rides. Here they are, in reverse order:

Sunday, July 1: Car free Sunday in Jakarta. We usually park the car at Plaza Senayan, which is a km away from Jl. Sudirman with all the action. After the ride it’s mandatory to have a leisurely breakfast at Starbucks to put back all those burned calories, and then some more. My friend, Prachi, did her first ride yesterday,  and is presently lamenting the lack of appropriate cushioning!

Wednesday, June 20: All around Lake Monona, Madison WI. The subject of my last post, with no pictures yet (am still sorting them out!). Unforgettable ride all by myself, trying to decipher the route with the billowing map, and getting rewarded with some views of scenic neighborhoods of Madison. Rukmini took me out to a Lebanese lunch after that. I think we skipped the baklava, but compensated with salted caramel cupcakes from Cupcakes-a-gogo later.

Thursday, June 14: Central Park, NY (where else?). Souvik & I started this route with a bit of trouble with my bike – flat tires and grumpy me – but we cheered up at the sight of bare-chested runners (aspirational for Souvik, eye candy for me). We could’ve done a couple of rounds more, but it was lunchtime. We missed lunch, but had mini cupcakes “Baked by Melissa“. Oh, you think there’s a theme to this post that has nothing to do with cycling? 🙂

Wednesday, June 6: Twice around Stanley Park, Vancouver. Sigh! That’s all I want to say here. If you want to know more, I did a whole separate post on this one here. What did we eat? Ummm, cupcakes and ice-cream at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory ;-).