We are becoming experts at living slowly! The hours seem to go by so easily without our doing very much. Today, for example, we spent nearly an hour sitting on some steps in central Lausanne, eating lunch and quite contentedly doing nothing very much. This is not something that I am used to. But it did have the unexpected payoff of our still being there to see the incredibly stupid Swiss clock strike the hour – complete with marching armies, dancing couples and a disembodied voice telling the story. Madness!
Two cultural highlights. The first was a medieval carving in the Cathedral showing Christ in heaven crowning Mary after her assumption – apparently the only example of such iconography from the period. Even without the original paint this was impressive. The second was the trendy modern art gallery’s collection of glassware from the 60s – made to designs by Picasso and (in the photo below) by Jean Cocteau.
Late in the day we visited the HQ of the IOC and wandered round the Olympic museum. I thought this was disappointing – though if you want to see a display of actual costumes worn by winning ice skaters, or all the Olympic torches ever used, then this is the place to go (Lillehammer’s is the biggest – if you see what I mean!). The best exhibits were outside and free. Olympic records in various field events marked out in actual size.
This weekend the International beach volleyball competition is in town. Last night we watched France beat Turkey – once Helen had established that it was a men’s match, not a women’s match, and therefore fit to watch. According to Helen, unlike their female counterparts, male beach volleyball players wear enough clothes so that there aren’t any dangly bits showing. If it’s a women’s match tonight there may be pictures on the blog tomorrow…..
Helen’s track of the day: Diane Krall, Departure Bay; though not Vancouver the harbour, vast lake plus mountain scenery in Lausanne has evoked memories of an earlier family holiday in BC.
Last night’s sunset was serene – and we managed a lakeside walk to see it.
But it presaged the hottest day so far – so we were up early to get the day’s only climb out of the way in the cool. A shame to rush away from this lovely valley – but sensible! Breakfast was at a welcoming chalet on the Col de Mollendruz at 1180 m. And we celebrated the crossing of the Jura – it’s all downhill to Lausanne from here.
And what a superb, high speed descent of about 600m! And, in addition to the adrenalin rush, there were magnificent views of the Alps to the south, across Lac Leman – (too washed out with the sun behind to be worth a photo). We paused to calm down in L’Isle.
We looked back towards the mountains we had descended with some satisfaction.
We are now relaxing in a waterfront hotel in Lausanne – drinking tea and looking forward to a day off tomorrow. We are back online for the first time for a while (having picked up a missing cable sent to our hotel – thanks Tim). Many thanks to you all for the encouraging comments that we have just been reading! The bicycle symbol on the banner at the top of the page is really moving on now – (yes, I admit it, moving it really makes me absurdly happy!)
Helen’s track today: Rachel McShane, The Fisherman, because that was my first view of the day, seeing fishing boats out on the lake early this morning.
We took an intricate route away from the main roads – which meant much climbing but fantastic scenery all the way. Starting from 750 m, Helen was jubilant to reach the top of her first alpine col at 1080 m. The slow climb was made easier by an early start and lower temperatures than in recent days. Helen also looked out for the wide range of wildflowers, though without the knowledge to name many, and would have welcomed the arrival of next door neighbour, part time botanist and all round good egg Mandy to sort them out. But getting to the top was a good reward for the effort.
There was a short descent before we reached the main climb of the day – the col de Landoz Neuve which took us up to 1260m in beautiful mixed woodland and upland pastureland. Gone were the chic holiday homes close to Besancon yesterday – this was genuine farming and border country. Even more elation on reaching the col!
Disappointment at the border – just two wooden sheds and not an official in sight!
Another descent brought us to a picture postcard perfect Swiss lake – the Lac de Joux. Ambleside this was not! But they let us into the smart hotel, where we could (just) afford a well earned beer.
Then we cycled on down the lakeside to a small campsite at a lakeside farm and a swim in the lake. Could this be heaven?
Helen’s track today: Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls/ I like to Ride My Bicycle because I am very chuffed to complete my first alpine col and border crossing and despite the effort this track kept me amused. Fat Bottomed Girls 1, Rest of the World 0.
Another very hot day was promised, so we were up and off early in an attempt to stay in the cool for longer. The day began with a riverside section along the Doub in the gorge outside Besancon, but then 250 m of climbing at 10% and more, up a quiet back road. This was hard, but it got us up onto the plateau south of Besancon – and into the Jura mountains themselves. The cycling here was perfect – long views of pasture land with brown and white cows with bells, Swiss-style farms, and wooded hilltops.
The back road rolled gently up and down – then descended 150 m or so to the gorge of the river Loue. Here we found a late breakfast in the village of Cleron, where the hotel produced copious bread and jam for hungry cyclists. The village had a beautiful chateau.
But crossing the river meant more climbing – about 450m of it this time, but if the gradient was more sympathetic then the heat was intense. We reached the pass at 800m above sea level – our highest point so far.
The day ‘finished’ at lunchtime, with a lovely salad lunch in the village of Levier, where we have checked into an excellent campsite and had an invigorating swim in the pool. Beer is in order. Tomorrow…..Switzerland!
Helen’s track of the day: Justin Timberlake, Cry Me A River, playing at our breakfast stop and stuck in my head all day.
We survived the evening storm sitting under a porch roof, and then eat very well at the smartish restaurant beside the camp site. Breakfast, on the other hand, was from the boulangerie as usual, though on a picture-perfect bench beside the river and the 13th century water mill.
Today we have followed the river Ognon upstream for a while, with flat ground becoming increasingly difficult to find! The barns are getting larger, with overhanging Swiss style roofs, and the roads have signs indicating whether of not they are cleared of snow in winter. Beautiful country.
Just after lunch we arrived in Besancon – a very up market town. We weren’t sure they’d let us in but luckily we found an Irish bar, where the talkative owner provided Guinness and wanted to know all about the trip. We have reached the stage where claiming to have cycled from Paris gains respect! And just about makes credible our claims about riding over the Jura to Lausanne!
Now it is downtime on the out of town camp site – preparing ourselves for harder days ahead!
Helen’s track of the day: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill, because I must be getting psyched up for all the climbing ahead…
I liked Dijon. The whole place seemed to me to smell of old cheese but that could just be me… It had an exuberance about the place which was great, plenty of live music and festivities around and much fuss over food. Indeed we watched the chefs walking through the town into work on Sunday morning and they were regarded with great respect and courtesy. One of them, all of 6′4′ and easily 17 stone strutted through town in his whites, though in shorts and sandals and pulling a trolley bag. He reminded me of the alpha male barristers with whom I used to work, though none of them had his moniker ‘Papa Grand’ printed on their pinstripe suits!
Now we are off again, cycling in slightly cooler, overcast conditions. After Dijon we rapidly entered gently rolling farmland, quiet lanes, and our first sunflower fields – a sure indication that we are making serious progress towards the south. We don’t have these in the Vale of York so pictures of each other were in order.
We soon crossed the river Soane and stopped for lunch. Then, a few miles further on we entered the Department of ‘Jura’, our final Department before the Swiss border. We reached today’s destination – Pesmes – at just after 2pm and have spent the afternoon wandering around this lovely little fortified village.
Andy had to have a swim in the river Ognon – right underneath the walls in the picture above – and now we are sitting in the municipal camp site waiting for the start of what looks as though it will be a gigantic thunderstorm. The ground is so hard that none of the tent pegs are properly fixed. Oh well! For what we are about to receive……
Helen’s track of the day: Cherry Ghost, 4 am – because it was too hot to sleep.