Nice to Lyon
Les Alpes
June 23 / July 8, 1990

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Sat. June 23, Montreal & Mirabel
2  Sun. June 24, CDG Airport, Paris
3  Monday June 25 / Wednesday June 27, Sophia Antipolis
4  Thurs. June 28, Sophia Antipolis
5  Fri. June 29, Castellane (725m)
6  Sat. June 30, La Foux d'Allos
7  Sun. July 1, Chorges
8  Mon. July 2, Chatillon-en-Diois
9  Tues. July 3, Pont-en-Royans
10  Wed. July 4, Pont-en-Royans (after the Gorges de la Bourne)
11  Thurs. July 5, Lyon (Niévroz)
12  Sat. July 7, Lyon (Niévroz)
13  Sun. July 8, Lyon (Satolas Airport)
14  Maps

1  Sat. June 23, Montreal & Mirabel

On this trip I was presenting a paper at a Nato Advanced Research Workshop, in Sophia-Antipolos, just outside of Nice. Although I had just left Texas, it was virtually impossible to get from Texas to Nice over the weekend, and then back to Montreal ... at a reasonable cost. It cost approximately $1000 less to return to Montreal than to go on to France directly from Texas. Such is the vagaries of current airline tariffs.

As usual, the trip started out with an appropriate amount of trial. I managed to forget my backpack which had the computer with all my addresses in it, and my sweater. I left it on the bed while demonstrating it to Peggy. I left several messages for Virginia, as I slowly reconstructed the loss. Virginia eventually found it on the bed, phoned Air France, and much to my delight, and to the delight of the Air France ticket agent, she made it back to the airport with a few minutes to spare. I barged through the line at security - the final ``final'' call for the flight was being made - and got on my ``transporter''.

So far the service has been standard Air France excellent. This was another wine tasting flight. They usually have one Bordeaux and one or two Burgundy red and whites. I think that both the Burgundy reds and whites are much smoother than the Bordeaux samples that we have been given. I shall continue my scientific investigation on the return flight.

2  Sun. June 24, CDG Airport, Paris

We actually arrived on time. And it looks as though the flight to Nice will actually leave on time.

This flight is the first time I have seen a dog flying with his people as a regular, non-seat-occupying passenger. It was better behaved than the baby just beside me. There was also a pit bull on the flight, but he was in a cage down below in the cargo and snarled an introduction when he came out on the conveyer belt in Nice. We left on time and seem to have arrived in Nice on time. Unfortunately, this is such a small airport that it is rather easy to get to the baggage claim before there is any sign of activity. This is an Air France first. My bike made it on time and intact. I put it back together and took, what I am sure was a long way out of the airport.

I think I am in Biot, but have not seen any signs, and am having pizza for lunch. This is pizza territory rather than crêpes. Since I like the French modification of pizza, and they do it well here, I shall continue to suffer.

The signs all say ``Sophia Antipolis'', and I think the road is on my map but it is unnumbered. The hills here are quite rugged and, after what seems like going uphill forever, I reached a map of Sophia Antipolis. My hotel, the ``Sophia Country Club'' is listed among the establishments but is not on the map. The Hotel Ibis, the other hotel that was on the list is on the map. However, there is a clue. My hotel may be the ``Tennis Hotel Sophia Country Club''. A few minutes later, after passing INRIA, the place where we are having our workshop, I see a complex about 500 feet below me in the valley with lots and lots of tennis courts. I gamble that the next turn, that goes down into the valley actually leads there. I pass the Ibis, and after passing a circle, that on the map appeared to be the end of the road, I spy my hotel. still under construction, along with a number of people clutching their tennis racquets. I had arrived.

3  Monday June 25 / Wednesday June 27, Sophia Antipolis

The workshop was up the hill and all reasonable services were up the hill and down again 5km to Antibes. The only ``service'' in Sophia Antipolis was a small, understocked convenience store. A good friend had forgotten his US/Europe plug converter for his shaver and there was no way to get anything like that in Sophia Antipolis. Since he did not have any transportation, I rode into Antibes and easily found one for him. Antibes obviously caters to tourists because the direction he needed was exactly the opposite of anyone going to the US. I went back and forth several times getting needed ``things''. I am reminded again that the government likes to refer to Sophia Antipolis as the largest ``technopole'' in Europe. The reminder is because I am passing some solar powered street lights. The technology is not yet proven though. Out of 12, there were only 4 working last night.

4  Thurs. June 28, Sophia Antipolis

Today I leave on my to Lyon.


I first saw Grasse from Plascassier, or at least I thought it was Grasse - and it was, with a huge valley, a magnificent view, and a continual drop on the D4 of probably 1000'. Grasse looked intimidating, rising to the top of the cliff on the opposite side. I am now sitting in the parking lot of the ``Parfumerie Fragonard'', having discovered that the tours start at 9:00 and it is now 8:30. Fragonard imports flowers from all over the world. Perfume concentrate costs about $10,000/kilo. It has been continual up to Fragonard and will continue. Whenever you pass a perfume factory you get hit in the nose with the fragrance of unidentified flower.

I'm on my way out of Grasse. I think I am as high now as I was before coming down from Plascassier ... and I am still not near the top. Grasse valley is covered with a haze that I first thought was smog, but now I think that it really is smoke and perfume - a fragrant smog?

St. Vallier and Col du Pilon (782m)

It has been switchbacking most of the way.

I tried to have a crêpe lunch but 11:30 is too soon. I lunched in the park along with 6 different groups of school kids. St. Vallier is, apparently a resort town for Grasse. It is not clear whether these kids are local or not. The population here is 768, without tourists. If these kids are all local, the population is prolific.

Now off to my next pass.

Pas de la Faye (981m) This pass is not called a ``col''. St. Vallier is far below; the Michelin guide claims you can see the Mediterranean from here. Perhaps, but not today - it's too hazy, and there is thunder.

Col de Escragnolles? (1042m)

This is the most rugged and spectacular country that I have ever ridden in ... and the most exhausting.

Col de Valferrière (1169m)

Col de Luens (1054m)

After having been over my first pass, I have decided that I was wrong in translating ``col'' as pass. It is more closely a ``summit''. My first ``col'' was the ``Col de Donan'' just outside Strasbourg and it both looked and felt like a pass. However, I was obviously wrong.

Today has been both a short and hard day. Each pass and col was preceded by a rather long uphill portion ... and usually followed by a downhill, that felt instantly finished. I have just come down a long hill to get into Castellane. I am sure I shall pay for it tomorrow. Today was only 90km but I am exhausted. I decided to stop early, and have supper. I am also too early for dinner and shall have to wait 15min. I hope that there will be a place in the check-rated campground when I find it.

I got caught in an afternoon thunderstorm and decided to let my pants and legs get soaked. My pants are almost dry but the shoes feel rather sloppy.

I am still sitting here waiting for supper and watching the ``natives''. They appear completely astonished by my bike. I am not certain whether it is due to the incredible load or the fact that it is a mountain bike. One man even nuzzled my sheepskin seat cover.

5  Fri. June 29, Castellane (725m)

This campground is Michelin check-rated. They give themselves 4 stars, which means that they are relatively expensive (45ff) and have toilet paper in the bathrooms. They also have a small grocery store, restaurant, playing field. They also have small individual sites and no toilet seats. I wonder if 5 stars exist and whether this means toilet seats?

Castellane is obviously a center of vacation activity. D952 leading to the Gorges de Verdon was lined with mostly full campgrounds. A main attraction here is a 400/500 foot stone column with ``La Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc'' on its top. The signs refer to it as being ``fortified'', perhaps an understatement.

** Just out of Castellane is a sign saying that the ``Col d'Allos'' is open. Sounds ominous.

I am on my up towards Lac Castillon, almost level with ``Notre Dame du Roc'', and looking back at the valley containing Castellane and with its bottom covered in ground fog. It peacefully beautiful.

Lac Castillon (890m)

This a ``glacial'' blue/green former canyon now terminated by a 90m high dam. The trout seem to be unconcerned about the danger signs near the mouth of the dam. Now the lake is merely beautiful. I wonder if the region used to be spectacular.

Colmars des Alpes (1250m) A very pleasant walled, and walking only, medieval town - with a curious, but not entirely unusual war memorial. Apparently 47 ``enfants'' died in WWI and 3 in WW2, one in 1940 and two in 1944.

The ``Col d'Allos'' 2250m ... it is going to be a long up.

La ville d'Allos (1450m) The ski hills around go to 2500m. The one in front looks like a ski-cliff run.

Foux d'Allos (1910m) This is not the col but my energy reserve has just been depleted. There is about 1000' (350m) to the top of the col and it is clear that I cannot make it tonight. Foux actually consists of two towns. I went through the first, seeing a linear arrangement of old farm houses and no services. I needed to buy bread. I left town, with an appropriately decrepit end of town sign, only to enter the same place, about 1km later with a brand new beginning of town sign. The signs announcing the entry/exit of the first version of the town were about as old as the farm buildings. The second version is a ski resort, half heartedly trying to find itself in the summer doldrums. There is no camping, a few tennis courts and all but two of the hotels closed. I went to the upper reaches of town looking for an inexpensive hotel and found, with the help of the proprietor of the only grocery (open) in town, that there were only two open hotels. The ``Hameau'' that I had rejected on the way up and a *** hotel at the top of town that I rejected as I came back. It was a tiny, pretentious, and overpriced establishment. I returned to the Hameau and was entertained from my balcony as a groundskeeper, at the risk of the transmission in his small car, moved a 1m flower pot 1m south. The car drove away so I assume that no damage was done.

Sunset here was at 7:30, rather than the normal 9:00pm. Perhaps I am exaggerating but that was when the sun dropped behind the ridge on the western side of the valley. As far as I can tell, the ``Col d'Allos'' is still in sunlight.

Tomorrow I climb to it.

6  Sat. June 30, La Foux d'Allos

The TV fare is surprisingly ecumenical - certainly a result of satellites and cable. Along with the two French national TV stations, TV5, and a French movie channel, there is ``Music TV''. ``Sky One'', ``Eurosport'', and ``Sky News'', all in English. and a German station that seems to specialize in baseball from ESPN.

Vers le col

I left this morning at about 6:00 and it is now 7:40. I think I am barely half way up to the to top. It has been incredibly hard work, mercifully shaded, and extremely pretty. The wildflowers are covering the slopes in yellows, reds, purples, and blues. My survival tactic at this point is to ride for about 100/150m and then stop to rest. I think the vertical from Foux to the top is about 450m rather than the 300m that I originally thought. A moderately depressing point is that the map suggests that the steep part of the road is yet to come.

This road is definitely not open in the winter - the T-bar crosses right over it.

I am now reduced to walking. The total energy expended is greater than riding but the ``walking'' muscles are not yet as sore and tired.

** Little parking spots by the side of the road are labelled with signs reading ``GARAGE''.

Le Col d'Allos (2250m)

It has been 3 hours and 7.5km - needless to say it would have been impossible last night. I no longer have the road to myself. The map shows views in all directions. It's true but you have to climb another 100/200 feet for them. I must sit a bit before I am able to do it - if I do. It is a magnificent view looking down the valley on the other side towards Barcelonnette. The mountains look rather formidable with one huge ridge line followed by another and another and ... There is no snow in this direction but there are a few patches back towards La Foux.

The views are spectacular. I am looking down at least 3000' through the ``Gorges du Bachelard'' below. This turns out to be the most impressive and spectacular part of the ride. Even, maybe especially, with the trial to get to the top of the ``Col d'Allos'' from the south, I would recommend it highly.

In 17km, the drop has been about 1100m. There is no doubt that south over the ``Col d'Allos'' is the tougher climb. It is unrelenting. I continued into Barcelonnette, visited their market, and was reminded again of the existence of ``Hydromel'', a liqueur distilled from honey. The label claims that it was probably the first alcoholic beverage made. Is this what the Bible means by the ``land of milk and honey''?

At Meolans, the bell tower of the parish church is all by it self on a rock tower/cliff some 200m from and 100m above it. I hope they have employed modern technology to control it.

Ubaye River Valley and Gorge The word of commerce, continuously in evidence through the Ubaye River, is ``rafting''. There were at least a half dozen proprietors advertising their wares ...  using exactly the same words.

** ``Allumez vos lanternes'' - I wonder if it would be more understandable in Quebec.

Lac Serre-Ponçon

This is one of the largest lakes in the Alps, a glacial blue/green surrounded by sharp hills. I don't quite understand why the Michelin guide finds dams such a tourist attraction. The one at the far end, Serre Ponçon, rates **. The water level is very low. It looks about 10m down. The lake has sprouted new islands where the Ubaye river enters and the campers either have an expedition to the water's edge or have to rappel down.

Lac Serre-Ponçon has its own ``Mont St. Michel'' or rather ``Chapelle St. Michel''. The water level is now so low that you can almost walk out to it. So much for delusions.

The holiday season is beginning. There was a line at the office of the municipal campground at Savine-le-Lac. Municipal campgrounds are about half the price of private campgrounds, usually better provisioned and maintained. Private campgrounds cost about 12ff per * while hotels are about 120ff per *. I do not claim any universality for this observation but it does have some evidence.

7  Sun. July 1, Chorges

This is a small town about 20km from the large metropolis of ``Gap''. The market was being setup as I was leaving early Sunday morning and was so crowded I had to move chairs and clothes racks to make enough room to get my bike through. My general health was of concern to the townspeople and when I said that ``Je suis très fatigué'', so early in the morning, a lady expressed concern that I was sleeping well. She emphasized that it was very important to sleep well, especially while riding a bicycle.

Gap (733m) From the descriptions during the ``Tour de France'', I had always imagined that Gap was a tiny village at the top of a mountain. It is in fact a major commercial center of 32,000. Instead of going up to get into town, I have come down. It looks as though I go up to get out of town. Except for the ``Rénovation de Centre Ville'', the pedestrian area is quite pleasant.

It was up, to 980m, without even calling it a ``col''. However, from there it was essentially down, albeit against the wind, to Veynes (824m). After lunch, a broiled pork chop with a mustard sauce and green beans (is it possible to have a meal in France without them) nicely done, as usual, in a garlic butter sauce, I took the short way on D994b to a ``col'' of 918m. This is perhaps too much after lunch and sore legs - but I am here now in an open meadow with mountains all around.

I now go up the ``Val de Beuch'' to 1068m where I turn to Die (hopefully not).

La Rochette (872m) Here a thin ridge, of broken slices of rock, stretches into the valley. The Riviére Buech tunnels through, rather than go around.

Col de Grimone (1318m) The road to the col has climbed 250m, in 3.5km, up the slopes (cliffs) of a small side valley of the Val de Beuch. I can see some kids playing soccer in a field by a barn, right at the end of the valley. They appear as specks about 800' below. To accommodate the road on the way up, they blew a slot in one of those thin stone ridges that jut out occasionally from the sides of the mountains. If the geology were different, I would call them inclusions. The other side of the col ``collar'' is much more open and rolling. It should be down for a while.

Although the top of the valley was rather open it tightened up leading to the small village of Glandage. Just after the village, you enter the ``Gorges de Gats'', which are so tight here that the four tunnels, interspersed by a cliff hanging section of road, usually no more than 50m to 100m long. I think the gorge was about 50m wide and probably 100/200m high.

The Gorges de Gat were spectacular, especially seen from a bicycle. They were high, with the occasional rock bridge, and twisted sedimentary uplifting patterns. The fact that it was downhill for 20km, to my campground at Chatillon-en-Diois was an added bonus. However, I will pay for it on from Die to the Col de Rousset - a climb of 900m. I suppose I can look at it as practice for Haleakala.

8  Mon. July 2, Chatillon-en-Diois

It was down for 31km from the Col de Grimone. I am now in Die, the town that gives its name to the entire district. I am currently resting, browsing, and writing before I tackle the ``Col de Rousset''. I am sure it will be spectacularly exhausting.

** ``Clairette de Die'' - traditional - is a sweet bubbly ``champagne''.

Le Col de Rousset (1255m) The road on the way up (845m) switchbacked on a wooded cliff, making it virtually invisible. The switchback sections were about 2km long. The final push through the mountain was a tunnel. The northern side of the tunnel came as a complete surprise. The first thing you could see through the end of the tunnel was a tennis court. The northern end is a mini ski resort. I don't know what other civilization encroaches on the largest (so the sign boasts) natural park in France.

Les Grands Goulets These rate *** in the Michelin Guide. They start with tunnels through rock faces and a gorge that is about 10m wide and 50m high. The vegetation is a lush, almost tropical. The tunnels are one bus wide - two Autobus Drôme are struggling to pass on the ``wide'' part of the road where the gorge is now about 50m wide and 200m (I guess at least) high. They are more compact than the Gorges de Gat ... and best seen, for the first kilometre or so on foot (or bicycle). The water cascades deep down into the valley up beside the tunnels. As the valley opens the road, still clinging to the side of the cliff with the help of tunnels is 200m(?) above the river and 400m(?) below the top of the cliffs. It is spectacular and in a real sense, unmeasurable.

Les Petits Goulets This is a slot in the ridge that finished the valley some 12km downstream. Although not as impressive as the ``Grands'', they certainly had more interest than Ausable Canyon, NY.

My destination for the evening was ``Pont-en-Royans''. The town is nestled on one side of the slot that leads to the ``Gorges de la Bourne'', a *** attraction in the Michelin Guide. I am now staring out the door of my tent at the ducks in the Bourne river and the town in the background. I can just see the top of the slot in the ``mountain'' ridge that sits behind the town. A postcard view. Tomorrow, I think I shall ride, without any gear but tools, up the Gorges de la Bourne. It will essentially be a layover day.

9  Tues. July 3, Pont-en-Royans

Since I over indulged in bread yesterday, I have been feeding the Mallards in the river just outside my front door. There is only one family of little ones and the guardians are not polite enough to let the kids at the bread. I created a diversion on one toss and managed to get the next piece close enough to them that they got some breakfast.

Les Gorges de Bourne (***) They live up to their advance billing. After a ``petit goule'' almost inside Pont-en-Royan, the valley opened up into mixed farming with high ridges on both sides. About 8km later the gorge began in earnest. It continued onward and upward for about 12km more. I am running out of superlatives but spectacular they were. The road is distinguished in places by asphalt patches in the shape of letters such as A O H and the number 5. Some workmen were having fun?

I saw a small check dam with an 8/10 foot gate that looked as though it could swing upwards almost instantly. Either accidently, or on purpose a 6/8 foot wall of water could be released down stream. Perhaps the signs were not kidding.

Just beyond the top of the gorges, at 1025m is the town of Villard-de-Lans. Pedalling up 825m without my 85lbs of gear was certainly easier than, say the Col de Rousset, but it was not without strain. On July 14 this year, the Tour de France will use this route. I don't know whether they are going up or down. Since this is a ``layover'' day at Pont-en-Rayon, I am going both ways.

Villard-de-Lans is a very tourist oriented town with a fine pedestrian area full of ``stuff'' shops. At 11:00am when I arrived the place was packed with shoppers. It is now 1:30 and the place is dead. All the shops close from 12:30 to 3:00. A very strange way to run a tourist town.

10  Wed. July 4, Pont-en-Royans (after the Gorges de la Bourne)

St. Marcellin I came in the ``Route du Vercors'', and looking back at the mountains, I am almost amazed I was there. They are most impressive. Here are some ``Office de la langue française'' specials.

Perhaps these show that this is a reasonable sized town.

I am out of the mountains but I have just gone up the steepest longest hill that I have seen between here (D71e, St. Marcellin) and Nice. The Michelin maps are nice for bicycle riding because they show the grades of the hills. They use > >> >>> for the three grades of steepness, the >>> being the steepest. I have learned to avoid the >>> except under severe duress. This route had no >>>. However, there was something new, a ``15%'' on the road. This has been a 3km, 15% grade. I shall be more careful next time. I could have avoided it by going around, but I kept hoping I was near the top. Now on to the >> grade. Unfortunately, you never know how for how long these silly things go up.

It was not forever but at times it felt that way. The >> section rose above a quaint village called ``Murinous'', which I first read as ``Mutinous''. I wonder!

** While riding up ``Hector Berlioz Blvd.'' in Côte St. André, his birthplace, I saw some kids eating grass.

This has been a tough day. The first 80km were through mountainous foothills, being as hard riding as any on the trip. Then the country flattened somewhat with the ridges that I had to climb becoming farther and farther apart. Except for the last set of ridges leading to Niévroz, the country was reasonably flat for the last 30km. Lyon has a municipal campground but it is on the wrong side of town - measured with respect to the airport. The nearest, and only campground on the right side of town is in Niévroz.

** It turns out there is a closer campground in Meyzieu, about 10km closer in to Lyon and slightly further from the airport. However, it was not in any my guides, nor on my map.

11  Thurs. July 5, Lyon (Niévroz)

It is my second day of drizzle. I thought that I was going to be here until early Sunday morning. I just looked at my ticket and found out that I leave at 7:45am. To get there from here, with enough margin, I must leave at about 4:00am. This is moderately inconvenient as I have to break camp and ride in the dark. I think I shall look for a hotel closer to the airport for Saturday night.

It is about 15km from Niévroz to the airport. That is about 1.5 hours with the appropriate margin. There are, surprisingly, three inexpensive motels just outside the airport. I am booked at the ``Climat'', a ** hotel for 260ff/night (room) for Saturday. In Lyon I saw listings for both a Meridien and Sofitel at the airport. I don't know where either of these hotels are located, and they are not on the map at the information booth at the traffic circle near the entrance. It is possible that they are down where the autoroute ends. Some mysteries are not worth resolving.

I got lost - leaving - they are tearing the airport up to make it match the ``COURLY'' (COmmunitee Urbain de Lyon) image - and I went right inside to the terminals. Lyon Lyon is about 25km from my campground. It is a combination of village, farm, and urban sprawl. It's relatively flat except for a couple of trying hills. Perhaps the strangest name was ``Clinique Grand Large'', that I thought was slight overkill. Apparently ``Le Grand Large'' is a lake-like overflowing of the ``Canal de Jonage''. It may still be linguistic overkill.

Lyon is a little like Los Angeles (slightly predating it, but only slightly) - 40 communities in search of a city. Its total urban size is only 1.1 million - and I think that Niévroz is still officially in the area. Lyon is at the confluence of the Rhone and Soane rivers, with the main shopping and tourist areas being the ``Presqu'ile'' and ``Vieux Lyon'' between the two and the right bank of the Soane respectively. Vieux Lyon's location was obviously fortifiable. The ramparts are part way up a very steep hill (I walked up) and the Roman theatre is almost near the top. I stopped for lunch at a small park overlooking the Grand Theatre and the Temple de Cybelle to have lunch. While there, three Japanese, father, mother, and mid-twenties son, came in for their lunch. They had just come from Tokyo, via Moscow, and Berlin, for five days in Paris. One of these days was being spent in Lyon. They had taken the TGV, from Paris and two hours later they were in Lyon. Unfortunately they had to leave by 3:30 that afternoon. These are the pressures that one has to use a Eurail pass. I shared my wine with them, and they were so taken with it, I gave them the rest of the bottle. Wine in Japan is very expensive, and even the inexpensive (cheap?) supermarket Rosé is a treat. The son, who was wearing a ``Université de Paris'' sweatshirt, is a stringer for AP in Tokyo. He, of course, was not originally from Tokyo, but in fact from one of the hot spots in Japan, namely Beppu on Kyushu. His parent's faces lit up when he told them that I had actually been there. It was a delightful encounter. From there, I continued walking up the hill and they down.

The ``Musee de la civilisation gallo-romaine'' looks out on the grand theatre, built in the classic Roman fashion, where they were setting up the lights and scenery for ``Romeo and Juliette''. The museum, built as a descending spiral, but not dizzyingly so, has a nice collection of local Roman coins, stellae, and bronze plaques. They have number of mosaic floors, one of which you can actually walk on. One nice feature is viewing the floor from above, through a hole cut in the ceiling of the previous spiral. I wonder how the original owners managed an equivalent perspective.

The museum is quite new, dedicated by Mrs. Valery Giscard d'Estang, and it appears that most of the collection has been found (dug up) within the last 100 years.

On the top of the hill is the ``Sanctuaire de Fourvière'' with its ``Basilique Notre Dame''. This church looked, to me, like a thirties attempt at Gothic. That's almost true. It was started in 1870 and the first mass was said in 1890. You don't realise that it is small until you go inside Lyon's real cathedral, ``Primatiale St. Jean'', dates from 1245. It is a classic Gothic masterpiece.

I must admit that I missed the ``Maison des Avocats'' and the ``Rue du Boeuf''. Perhaps I shall be forgiven.

The ``Musée historique des Tissus'' *** is a memorial to the Jacquard loom and the silk industry that really made the modern Lyon. ``Crédit Lyonnais'' followed. The intricacies of some of the weaving was truly amazing. Two of the paintings, turned out to be woven silk. They also had a collection of quite impressive portraits. It was difficult, sometimes, to see the pieces because of the very subdued lighting - a precaution against fading. In fact, you couldn't photograph anything for the same reason.

12  Sat. July 7, Lyon (Niévroz)

I think that I shall explore the local neighbourhood - Niévroz and Montluel. Later this afternoon I must pack everything up and go down to Satolas, the Lyon airport. The dew should have dried by then.

Niévroz was having a ``Artisanat, Broçante'' - The latter is actually a flea market, and is usual throughout the world, most of the exhibitors looked as though they travelled around to various Broçantes. The artists were mostly local - including a basket maker demonstrating his skills. There were also exotic rabbits, quail, pigeons, and chickens for sale, as pets, I think (maybe). This is really a fair with games of skill. There was a fish pond ... about 3m square made of a tarpaulin fenced by bales of hay ... but with real trout, that you kept if you caught it (them?). There was also a salami slicing game. A salami was dropped down a water pipe, set at about 30 degrees. If you could slice it in two with an axe, before it got by you, you won an uncut salami. Both the trout fishing and the salami slice cost 10ff.

Lyon/Satolas (Airport) I arrived at my hotel (France Climat) in the ``Zone de fret'', had a bath, and dried with a non-rancid towel, and then walked to the air terminal. I found the ``Sofitel''. It is actually in the terminal building. It was slightly more expensive than the Climat ... 550ff/room. I ate dinner here at the Climat, which featured both salad and dessert bars. The ``truite amandine'' came with the trout staring at me. It was about the same size as the ones that the kids were catching at Niévroz.

I perhaps have been doing the Europeans an injustice. Of the five groups that I met that were bicycle touring, four were European, two of which were hotel touring, and the last was Australian. I think that my previous observations were biased by the time of year. July and August are the European touring months, not April and May.

13  Sun. July 8, Lyon (Satolas Airport)

Air Inter always seems to have problems. In this case it was a baggage belt that insisted on not working. Since I arrived very early, I was at the front of the line. The queues grew almost unboundedly. Air Inter insisted on charging me for the ``carton''. It wasn't very much (30ff) but the principle was irritating. Their box consists of some cardboard that barely covers the bike. When the baggage handler came to retrieve it, he appeared to complain to the agent. I probably ``packed'' it unconventionally. We shall see.

** The mystery crop, that dominated the fields between Toulouse and Paris has been identified. It was not young tobacco or anything of that type but rather young sunflowers. The identification has brought other mysteries. Why and how do the sunflowers decide to face the east en masse. In some cases, entire fields were a brilliant yellow while another beside it had not even begun to open. I presume there are several varieties. The sunflowers in the Gironde seemed to be a lighter green than the ones in Drôme. I did see one field though, in full bloom, that was the lighter green.

As in all other trips, there was something new to die on my bike. This time it was, and still is, the lower bearings on the steering column of the front forks. It did not become a major problem and will wait until I get home. I guess bicycle manufacturers do not build bikes with people who ride them 5000 miles/year in mind. It is not at all obvious that a ``good'' mountain bike would be any sturdier.

14  Maps

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On 28 May 2004, 04:23.