Settling In – Seeing possibilities

We’ve now had a few days to experience different ways of doing things and thinking about things.  Hoorn itself is a gorgeous small city.

Back in the 1600s, when Holland was expanding its colonial interests with Indonesia being one of the main objectives, Hoorn played a vital role for the Dutch East India Company; or VOC as they were known.  The ‘Golden Age’ that followed demonstrated a massive contribution by the Dutch to world trade. There are many times within recent centuries where Dutch navigators have had contact with and contribution to the knowledge of, New Holland, as it was known for a long time.

Hoorn has a harbour and a series of inner harbours and canals.  It is fascinating to just wander about, as we’ve now done by bike and on foot. Around the next corner, who knows what will be found. We’re going to have such fun here!

So far, we’ve found a number of places where the coffee is espresso and well made.  It seems that serving a small coconut macaroon alongside the coffee is a thing.  They taste yummy too.

After settling in to our home for the next six weeks, we dodged the rain the next day and got our bearings around Hoorn as well as stocking up on various bits and pieces from the supermarket.


Then, it’s off to see some live music. It happens that on this Thursday night, it’s a monthly Salsa night and, for the princely sum of 5 Euros each, we get access, a very tasty dish with rice and some excellent music from Edsel Juliet and his Salsa Session Band.

Being able to then wander home via the Roode Steen, the main square was excellent.

We planned on a trip into Amsterdam for Friday, so we’ll be ready to head to the station in time to get one of the trains that run every half hour between Hoorn and Amsterdam.  The journey takes just over 30 minutes and the trains are clean, fast, comfortable and have free wifi onboard.

We’ve purchased chip cards for our stay here.  These work the same way as the Opal card in NSW or the Oyster card in London etc.

This gives us the flexibility to know that we can use trams, buses, trains etc as needed. We are soon deposited at Amsterdam Centraal, ready to chase up a few things we were looking for in shops, before having a foot tour of some of the inner canals.

Then, onto the tram and off to De Pijp for a look at the markets and a great coffee at Little Collins; one of a number of cafes in Europe channelling a Melbourne vibe. They even have ‘Long Black’ on their list of available coffees.

The streetscapes around here reminded us of Brooklyn, in NYC and, given the Dutch part in the history of New York, or New Amsterdam, this is probably understandable.

The return tram takes us to Centraal station and a quick shuffle through a brief rainstorm before finding our train and heading home to Hoorn.

Saturday looks set for on and off drizzle, so we take the car and drive West to Alkmaar; its cheese market place buzzing next to the canal.

Then, a bit further west to encounter the North Sea.

We find Egmond aan Zee, and a beach landscape disappearing into the distance with the wind sweeping in across the sand and the beach bars manufactured down there on the beach in shipping containers.  Out to sea we can see the giant arms of wind turbines converting bluster to power.

It is so wonderful, after a long day out, to be able to come home to a home and just ‘chill’ before having to do anything in particular. And then, when needed, we can wander to the end of the street and find a cafe serving great food and a welcoming attitude.

Our Sunday gives us a chance to explore more of Hoorn by bike; finding out that there is a large market on a Sunday and that there just continues to be streetscapes and views that charm and excite.

One of our new neighbours is the bass player in a band, so we’re off to Enkhuizen by train to see the gig, Sunday afternoon at 4pm.  The trains run every thirty minutes and the trip take about 25 minutes. We ride our bikes to the station; 1.2km, lock then up with the hundreds of other bikes, and then get on the train to Enkhuizen.  The vibe, by the harbour in Enkhuizen with a duo playing American roots music, was very relaxing and the food was excellent.

The return trip was also seamless, with the trains still running on a half hourly frequency at 9pm and clearly not stopping soon. We unchained our steeds and pedalled home without incident.  A very successful outing using integrated active transport; with great prospects for the next weeks.




Welcome to Hoorn

Lynette arrived at Schiphol Airport this morning and our exchange partners set off to our place in Australia.  Despite the last few days being fine and dry, the rain decided to descend today; not bucketing or even doing anything more than lurking about, damp and dispirited.

But, who cares?  We’re in a lovely town for the next six weeks and spent a little while exploring some of the very eye catching streetscapes where the faces of some buildings lean inward over the street as if to face off with the elements. A visit to a cafe with good coffee, some bread from the bakery and provisions from the supermarket; including beer and wine, and a wander home.

Our hosts have made us feel very welcome with a local Edam cheese; all gold and cream on the well as a large jug full of smiling sunflowers.  We assemble our picnic indoors instead and watch the rain in the yard. Bread, cheese, and meat washed down with French Rose and a Belgian Blonde beer.

We can manage the rain.


Amsterdam: Hope of Another Life?

After two very full and long flights via Abu Dhabi comes touchdown finally at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.  Despite a fairly quick processing through immigration, bags seemed to take forever to come through and for a while I was very worried that my guitar had found another owner somewhere between Sydney and here.  Eventually it too appeared and it was time to catch the train into Amsterdam Centraal station.

Like most European cities with high population densities the train system seems to work very well here and it’s not long at all before I’m dragging bags through the streets for a couple of hundred metres to the France Hotel where I’m booked in for the night.

Amsterdam certainly lives up to its reputation as a bicycle rich environment with bikes everywhere, especially outside the Centraal railway station, showing that people are used to the concept of integrating transport modes.  In the immediate vicinity of Centraal station, people on bikes pedal by while canal boats carry tourists around the canal and light rail and buses complete a picture which has far fewer cars in it.

It’s time for a welcome shower and change of clothes, washing off the accumulated grime of long haul travel.

This hotel is not fancy but it’s clean and in a great location.

I have a room overlooking the Irish Pub next door and the sound of large numbers of sports fans pre-loading before the Gaelic Football screen later in the afternoon makes me wonder about the chance of getting a good nights sleep later on.

A quick wander around the immediate area shows that this is going to be a fascinating city to explore by bike and I know that it’s going to be great when we can spend plenty of time getting a real feel for it.

It’s not too long before I find one of several craft beer bars which is warm and cosy with an interesting tap list.


The tap list at Het Elfde Gebod contains some Belgian classics but also some more local beers.  I try a very nice IPA to begin with from Gollem brewers.  Then, it’s time to enjoy the Blonde beer from the same brewers.  This is a blonde that has a nice subtlety to it and proves a nice drop for some musing and thinking about the weeks ahead.

Just across the street is a very old chapel which has a doorway adorned with a Latin motto and a bizarre scene of skeletons and wheat sheaves. The motto says:  ‘Spes Altera Vitae’ – Hope for another life.  Well, I can’t necessarily agree with the possibility of a promised afterlife but this motto makes me think that it seems like a good idea to do the best we can with the life we’ve got. So, time to raise another Gollem Blonde as a toast to the weeks ahead and then head off for some dinner and a long sleep.

Amsterdam, with clouds framing the charming buildings across the canals will be there in the morning: ready and waiting.

Tomorrow will bring some more exploring before transferring to Hoorn to begin the process of settling in for the next month and a half.  Can’t wait!

Please feel free to use the ‘Comment’ link to add comments or ideas.


Travel Tools

As usual, we have found a number of tools to help with our travel plans. Other readers may find these useful too. Please use the comments section if you’d like more info or you have other tools that you find really useful.



We’ve been using Tripit for many years now
and it really is an excellent tool for creating an itinerary and keeping all information in the cloud, ready to be accessed on mobile devices or laptop.

Tripit can be set up to automatically scan your inbox for any confirmation emails from booking sites etc and then to include all of those details in your itinerary.  In addition, you can directly forward emails to [email protected] and these will then be included in your itinerary.

It’s also easy to set up a calendar feed so that your trip plans are shown in your calendar as well as Tripit, making it easy to access details directly from your calendar as well.

The Pro version of Tripit also has alerts available for check-ins available; gate changes etc as well as the capacity to maintain balances for your rewards programs etc.

Tripit falls down a little in the lack of ability to store graphical information in plans for visiting a particular location, but this can be worked around by using the Notes area and linking information to there.

Click the logo or heading above to find out more.

Sim Corner

We’ve used Sim Corner products before and they’ve always been reliable and easy to use.  This time, we’ll be taking ‘data only’ SIMs with a 12gb allowance for an iPad mini and an iPhone to use as another ‘out and about’ device. We’ll also have 2 30 day 12gb plans which provide calls and data for another iPhone.  The SIMs all arrived; clearly marked and ready to go well within their promised delivery times.  On a recent trip to France, these SIMs didn’t miss a beat. (Yes, there are plenty of products available) There are also plenty of places that have wifi available but the speed is invariably variable and necessitate another step in finding out the password and hoping that it works.  It just makes travelling a lot easier to be connected with apps and maps that you are comfortable with using.  There’s a value attached to that ‘comfortable connectivity” when you think about it, and some more dollars spent to keep you connected in the way that you’re used to are dollars very well spent and will probably save you time and money in the long run.

Trainline – Web and mobile app

This online tool is a very valuable way of booking train trips across a number of different countries in Europe.  Country specific tools like Oui SNCF in France are also excellent but this tool works well across a number of country systems. Being able to link a Credit Card as a payment method and therefore be in a position to book a train ticket online anytime, anywhere, and have it on your device for scanning, gives you a lot of flexibility.


Our hosts will be leaving bikes for us to use around town and for exploring country lanes and nearby villages. We’re looking forward to living more closely with a cycling culture in communities as a practical solution to getting about.  We’ll also have access to folding bikes which we can ride to the station and take on the train. So, 1.2km flat ride to the train station; 32 minute trip to Amsterdam Centraal Station and then: onya bike !! In other words; the accessibility of frequent, integrated, transport offers exciting possibilities.

For this trip, as we’ll be in the Netherlands for six weeks, we’ll be buying some chip cards on arrival and using them like our NSW Opal Cards, or Melbourne Myki or London Oyster cards.

Click the logo for more information.


It looks like we can buy these at the airport – which makes sense, as it’s only a short train trip into Amsterdam Centraal


Like a LocalThe ‘Like a Local’ guide promises to allow you to avoid the tourist traps and find places that locals recommend. We’ll be giving it a good look in Amsterdam.



City Mapper – This will be our first time trying this app which looks like it should be a useful tool for getting around. Citymapper is a public transit app and mapping service. It integrates data for all urban modes of transport, from walking and cycling to driving, with an emphasis on public transport.


We’ll also make good use of the usual array of iTranslate , Google Maps, the Weather app and a Currency converter. We’ll also take along an Amazon Echo to be able to access our Spotify account and internet radio preferences as well as providing a bluetooth speaker option.



After our bike and barge tour, (described in the previous two posts), we trained back to Paris and then caught a TGV to Nantes.  It’s an really interesting city indeed and we checked into another great AirBnB before getting a feel for the city. Here’s a few shots: just click on an image to open it in a larger size with a description.

Into the Champagne region

We leave La Ferté sous Jouarre and head through more beautiful countryside toward the small village of Gandalu where we have a look at the interior of the centuries old church and castle before making a stop for tea, cake and cider at a Bed and Breakfast which has been created in an old mill house which still has water running through a race under the building.  

Having seen all of the wheat fields we’ve passed along the way it’s not hard to imagine the big mill wheels grinding out the flour to be used to bake some of those tasty baguettes we’ve been enjoying.

The break gives us a chance to get ready for some more rolling hills as we head toward the scene of one the largest battles right at the end of World War 1 which involved a large contingent of the American army engaged with German forces at Belleau Wood.
Our first stop is at the German cemetery, where rank has no place in death.  A musketeer is buried in the same grave as an Oberleutnant, with the date of death only 3 weeks prior to the signing of the Armistice at Compiegne on 11th November, 1918.




Not far away, thousands more young lives are remembered only by their final resting place in the beautifully maintained American War Cemetery which occupies the slope rising up to the battle field areas in Belleau Wood itself where the dappled light and peacefulness belies the horror of these events almost a hundred years ago.

After our climb up into the wood it’s through more open fields and countryside before our next overnight stop in the city of Chateau Thierry. Dinner is followed by a walk up through the old town to the Chateau which sits atop an artificially created mound and is decorated on one side by a rose garden where one of the roses has been blooming since 1583.  The view out across the city os stunning as the light lengthens and fades around 10.30.  

Tomorrow we will get our first look at the vineyards which provide the grapes for champagne making.

Before we jump onto our bikes again, we have the chance to cruise for an hour or so on the Zwaantje as she passes through a lock and further up the Marne, where our passing raises some heads from the task of fishing the river on this Ascention Day holiday which provides many French people with the opportunity to plan a four day weekend.



Along the way we see a number of pretty little villages and are accompanied on the Marne by white swans which skim the water top as they swoop in to land before plunging heads and necks into the river in search of food.

It’s soon time to get back to pedal power and we disembark ready to ride into the vineyards which provide the grapes from which the Champagne is made.  Our route is along a roadway so we ensure that we keep to single file.

The valley broadens out and the vistas and colours are amazing looking down across the Marne to vineyards, barley crops and wheat fields. 





Similar views take our eye in all directions.  This is a fertile and productive region indeed and it’s interesting to muse on the generations of families which have lived and worked in these small valley villages for hundreds and hundreds of years creating cultures and traditions. 



We’re headed into Dormans where we’ll stop for coffee before finding the hustle and bustle of a large outdoor car boot sale in the grounds of the local Chateau. We take the chance to enjoy our lunch beneath the cool trees before a wander around the markets.  

On the way in, I’d spied an old guitar being sold and, after checking that it was tunable, the guitar was mine for the princely sum of four euros.  The intent was to take it to the barge and leave it onboard for the enjoyment of any other guitarists who find themselves on board in future cruises.  In the end, I cobble together a parody version of ‘Sloop John B’ as the ‘Barge Zwaantje’ and the entire group have a bit of fun singing for the captain and crew at our farewell meeting on the last night onboard.

It’s now on to a small family operated champagne house to sample the end result of all of this grape growing.  We visit the Nowack champagne house where Frederick, the 7th generation champagne maker shows us the process and equipment used before we all have the chance to try the product and order some bottles to enjoy on board later.

Michael, our group organiser from Falmouth, MA, provides a photo opportunity outside Nowacks as we get ready to push on to Epernay where we’ll spent the last two nights of our adventure. We’ve been cycling between 30-45 kilometres each day which has provided plenty of time for stops and enjoyment along the way.





The last leg of this day’s cycling takes us along a new cycleway which runs beside the river and canal, passing locks and more grand views across the fields.





This leaves us with a visually flat ride into Epernay with only a few hundred metres of on road cycling as we enter the city of Epernay and head toward the town centre to find the Zwaantje marred close to the city centre.





As we board the barge, we’re greeted by the boat’s mascot; Gaston.

Keith, our chef, has prepared another wonderful dinner and we have a chance to gather on the upper deck and enjoy the breeze which follows a very hot afternoon.  All of the weather this week has been fine and sunny with it actually getting quite hot in the high twenties during our afternoon rides. It’s good, at the end of the day to return to our cabins and shower before relaxing. The fact that we only need to unpack our gear once on the trip and that we have our own cabin with ensuite to return to each night makes this a great way to travel and experience some different environments.

Our last day of cycling begins with a short cycle back along the canal cycleway before confronting a very challenging ride up the hill through vineyards labelled for Moet and Chandon to the village of Hautevilliers where the monk Dom Perignon is buried in the local church.

The climb takes its toll on many of our riders as some of us are forced to get off and walk some of the way, while for others, the right combination of weight and electric assist sees them make the climb easily.

For miles around, we can see the vineyards which provide the grapes for the champagne.






This is another lovely little village and, after our look at Dom Perignon’s resting place, we head to a local cafe for coffee and beer, as we get ready for the roll down another hill into Ay where we will stop for lunch.

After lunch, we head back into Epernay and a quick rest stop at the Zwaantje before riding through town to a planned tour of one of the very large commercial champagne houses which have kilometres of cellars extending under the town at a depth of 30 metres or so.

We’re shown a video of the process used in making champagne in this volume and then descend into the cellars for a trip through the vast galleries of underground cellaring in a small train, before ending the tour and riding back to the barge via the Avenue which houses a whole range of famous champagne houses.  Apparent there are more kilometres of roadway in the cellars under Epernay then there are on the streets and roads on the surface. 

We have a bit of fun on our final night, with some songs and speeches and some planing for a departure from Epernay around 9am on Saturday morning.  After spending a week at fairly close quarters with the group it seems a little surreal as the morning comes and we all take our speared directions, with some heading to Reims for trains to other parts of France, Belgium or Germany which others make for Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris for flights back to the USA.  We trundle our bags a few hundred metres to the Epernay railway station to catch a train back into Gare d’este in Paris before transferring to Montparnasse and our trains south west to our next airBnB in Nantes.

It’s been a busy but very interesting week indeed.  Using electric assist bikes certainly made dealing with many hills and headwinds much easier and its certainly easy to understand why they are growing in popularity.  We make a mental note to check them out further when we arrive back in Australia.  In the meantime; goodbye champagne and hello Nantes!

Ready to Ride – Off to Epernay

We leave Lyon behind as we catch the TGV to Paris.  These marvellous trains hurtle along at speeds around 300 kph.  First class seats are often available for only a few extra euros as the rail company set out to fill all seats.  1st class comes with power sockets at the seat and wifi access. It is certainly a wonderful way to travel as the beautiful French countryside zips by outside.

On arrival at Gare de Lyon in Paris we seek out the baggage storage room, or Consignes. Here, after all of our bags are X-rayed, we’re able to stow all of them in a 1 cubic metre locker which costs 9.90 euros for 24 hours.  It’s a far better option than lugging suitcases around.

We buy a ‘carnet;’ or set of ten Metro tickets and set off to visit Holybelly, a great cafe run by a guy who trained as a barista in Melbourne.  It’s up near Place de Republique, and we enjoy a wander around the Canal St Martin district after a great meal and some excellent coffee.

We’re due to board our barge for the trip eastward to Epernay in the Champagne region and, after retrieving our bags from the Consigne, we get a cab down to Quai de Bercy where the barge Zwaantje is waiting alongside site sheds for the making of a Mission Impossible movie starring Tom Cruise.

It’s fun to catch up with our US friends from the Upper Cape Ski and Sports Cub again; as this trip is a much smaller group than our Danube trip in 2016. The Zwaantje has 12 guest cabins and we have a tight group of 24.  Both the US and Australian flags fly proudly and we look forward to the days ahead.

The first day is a further opportunity to explore Paris and, while some head to the catacombs, and a 2 hour queue for entry, we set off to find a camera as my trusty Nikon Coolpix has decided to quit after 6 years of great service.  We eventually track down a store at Les Halles which is open on a Sunday and equip me with a Canon ISUS 180; nice and compact.

We reconnect with our group at Gare d’Este and take a half hour train ride eastward to join the Zwaantje which has moved East onto the Marne river and is waiting for us at Lagny Sur Marne.

It’s time for another great dinner and some chat about the days ahead.  We then have a chance to check the sizing of our bikes. As this trip has been rated as moderate, with some decent climbs, most of the group has opted for bikes with electric assist. A quick practice shows that this should enable some much more relaxed cycling and we look forward to heading off on the first leg of our ride the next morning.

Luckily, the weather has turned out to be much nicer than earlier forecasts had predicted. After breakfast, we collect our bikes and get ready to ride.

We start gently, with a nice level ride eastward for a few kilometres; getting the feel of the bikes and the size of the group.

On this trip we have a guide who will lead us along the way. 

Our first stop is at a sculpture park where the sculptor has spent decades creating beautiful pieces on a large scale, using limestone blocks which were once a bridge over the Marne before the bridge was destroyed during wartime to prevent troop access.  As we walk toward the sculptures it dawns on us that the field alongside is actually planted with hemp; a variety of cannabis which doesn’t contain the THC which provides a high.  This crop is destined for textile production.


It’s a beautiful sight, nonetheless, and provides a lovely backdrop for the large sculptures which the sculptor himself talks about as we all move about, enjoying the imagery and the colours of the countryside.

After this stop, we discover the scope of what is ahead as we tackle the first steep climb for the week.  This bit of reality therapy also shows the extent to which the electric assist can be expected to help up this sort of incline.  For most, the assist does the job, whereas some of the bikes struggle while managing to complete the climb.  

We applaud those who are using sheer human power and gearing.  All of us enjoy the chance for a rest stop at the top before pedalling on toward our first lunch break, beside one of the many canals which parallel or run adjacent to the Marne itself.

The green is amazing right throughout this trip and, down by the canal the pace slows as we tuck into the lunches that we packed after breakfast on the barge: fresh baguettes with cheese, ham and mustard along with fruit juices and fruit.  

It’s a good staple to get us through the afternoon, until we complete our first day of cycling and find the Zwaantje alongside in the city of Meaux.

The fading light lights up the beautiful stone buildings on Meaux as we have a pleasant walk around the city after dinner.  The bridge reflects in the mirror like river and we see the cathedral and Hotel d’Ville with all of their history and appeal. 

We’re gradually getting used to the fact that it doesn’t get dark until after 10pm here, so there’s time for a relax and a yarn before heading for bed ready to ride again tomorrow.

Our next day of riding takes us out through some more gorgeous countryside with wheat fields and views towards the river in the distance.

We’re heading toward our first stop for morning tea and an optional tour of a former Royal Chateau which was left to fall into ruin once the King decided that he would prefer to build the Palace to the South West of Paris at Versailles.  The former chateau is now a collection of ruins, but the moat is still visible and we meet the current owners who use the site for a number of different styles of events.  

The ambience of the place is relaxing and we enjoy wandering around and feeling the very tangible peacefulness of the place which was not without its more torrid times in centuries gone by.

It’s then back on the bikes and some more pedalling before arriving at our next lunch stop at a  Brie fromagerie in the small village of Jouarre where we are shown how the wonderful Brie de Meaux is made locally and distributed within France.

We also get the chance to taste the types of Brie made at this small family business and wash it down with some excellent local wine. There’s also the chance to buy some locally brewed beer.

Everybody is so impressed with the great flavour of this Brie that we all throw in a few euros each to purchase one of the 3 kilogram ‘wheels’ of Brie, to enjoy one we rejoin the Zwaantje which is now tied up in a small channel in La Ferté sous Jouarre.  

The warm afternoon and good spirits amongst the group entices a few of the men to show off their bombing skills by jumping overboard into the cool waters.

After another excellent three course dinner on board prepared by chef Keith, Lynette and myself set off for a walk around the town which is beautiful but quiet.  


Along the way we check out the street names and come across a special street with some lovely houses.

It’s then back to the barge and our cabin for a good sleep ready for more exploring the next day.




Our mooring is quiet and we aren’t disturbed as the light fades and the barge and its guests turn in for the night.

We’ll continue the rest of our journey tomorrow.  Each evening, after dinner, our guide provides us with a briefing of the next day’s ride.  Tomorrow will be rolling hills and a few climbs, with one up to a bridge across the TGV line.  We all seem to be getting a good night’s sleep and we look forward to the onward journey.

TGV: Totally good vehicle

This trip, we decided to use trains around France in preference to hiring a car.  We’re very glad that we did as the experience so far has been excellent.  We embarked on the TGV from Lyon this morning at 9.04am and are so far on time to reach Paris just after 11.00am. Two hours.  The Google maps estimate for the same trip by car is about four and a half hours.

On board, we have power outlets at every seat and free wifi, logged into using our booking number, and a speed of up to 300kph.

Yes, it would be a massive investment in infrastructure to replicate but on some key routes in New South Wales this would be a massive leap ahead.



Along with the access to wifi, the system also provides additional information, a record of data usage, trip and location information and even allows the unlocking of a badge as we top the 300kph mark.


We’ll arrive in Paris at Gare de Lyon and find the left luggage area before some quick exploration. We join our friends from the USA later this afternoon when we board the MPS Zwaantje which will be moored in the Seine.

The barge stays moored in Paris tonight and tomorrow night before our journey eastward on the Marne commences and we hit the bikes each day.

Lyon: Confluence and Symbolism

When we planned this trip we decided to spend three nights in Lyon as there seemed to be a sense that it would be a city worth spending time in.  That has certainly been proven to be the case and yet it feels as though we may only have touched the surface.

Leaving Avignon, we caught a cab to Gare Avignon Central and a short connecting train to the TGV station; stopping point for the very fast train that will carry us northward at speeds up to 300 kilometres per hour.




The TGV station is fairly new and very well laid out and has a few quirky inclusions like this pedal power charging station for getting that bit of charge into your device when it has the sad red bar happening.

The trip only takes us an hour and we grab a cab to take us to our AirBnB on the Quai General Sarrail; overlooking the Rhône, one of two rivers which have their confluence in Lyon.

This AirBnB would have to be amongst the absolute best we’ve experienced around the world. The furnishings, linen, crockery, cutlery etc are all superb and it also has good fast wifi. And, as a place that has a large bathroom, living room, kitchen and two bedrooms plus balcony it costs significantly less than a hotel room here which would have a fraction of the space.  


The apartment is in one of the beautiful buildings along the quai, next to a hotel and in keeping with the generally Haussman inspired buildings in the area.  Our building is the one to the right of the dark coloured inverted triangular roof.  The modern skyscraper in the background is part of the Part Dieu area where the Lyon TGV station is situated.

We can look out and see one of the VeloV bike racks about twenty metres from the door and look forward to using the share bikes during our stay.

After settling in, we head out in search of a supermarket for breakfast supplies and something to drink, with beer and wine all available cheaply in the supermarket.  We take the opportunity to stop at a bar on the way back and watch the afternoon commuters heading home on trolley buses, bikes and cars, all somehow managing to co-exist.  

Our host at the bar tells us that he uses the VeloV bikes 4 times each day: 1 from home to the metro station, 2 from the metro destination to work, 3 from work back to the metro station and 4 from the metro homeward destination to home.  Lyon has been home to a share bike system since 2007, (preceding the Velibs in Paris) and it’s clear that the community here have their head around the concept of integrated transport.  

The logic in sharing systems here has also led to a system of shared electric cars, where users subscribe and electric vehicles are plugged in and ready to go.

We wander out across a nearby pedestrian bridge and hunt out a craft beer bar that has a very likeable IPA on offer which reintroduces some lovely hoppiness into what has been a very lager based beer diet in the last week. 

The notion of confluence; of coming together, merging rivers and peoples and ideas seems to be a strong force here.

Our second morning dawns sunny and bright and we hit the bikes to head downstream along the Rhône bank to the confluence of the rivers; where the Rhône meets the Saône. The notion of confluence; of coming together, merging rivers and peoples and ideas seems to be a strong force here. There is a sense that from the Celts in ancient times, before the Roman occupation, through to the waves of peoples and ideas which have gripped this city there has always been a metaphor of confluence; merging without necessarily fully taking on the other.  

It’s saddening, for example, to read the stories of the ‘Butcher of Lyon‘ and the atrocities committed against suspects of the French Resistance during World War 2, or of the martyrdom of early christians in the Roman Amphitheatre which still has its remains benignly nestled into the rise of the Croix Rousse, where so much Lyonnaise silk was produced.

We find some of these places while simply wandering after seeking out a great coffee cafe, where a barista who once spent a couple of years in Australia has created a ‘speciality’ coffee shop which , wonder of wonders, allows you to order a ‘Long Black’ and get a very nice coffee indeed.  Cafe Mokxa is well worth a visit if you’re seeking a fix of decent coffee in Lyon. The barista gives us a few tips on some places to try when we get to Bordeaux.

Our bike ride takes us down the left bank of the Rhone before crossing the river on a bridge which carries trams, pedestrians and bikes. The contemporary building in the background is the Musee des Confluences and it’s an impressive building indeed, located almost at the point where the two rivers come together.  



We cycle around it and down to the confluence where a large sign proclaims proudly, ‘Only Lyon’ with the Lion symbol that signifies the city and appears on its flag.




A view back toward the museum, with trusty VeloV in the foreground clearly shows the coming together of a number of ideas and once again underscores an impression of the city itself.

Looking closer at the ‘Only Lyon’ sign, there appears a very clear message which is one of a number which point to some of the attitudes prior to the recent Presidential election in which centrist Emmanuel Macron was successful.

The lion of Lyon is emblazoned with the anarchist symbol and the words: “Ni Patrie; Ni Patron” which loosely translates to “Neither motherland, nor boss.” It is clear that there has been a strong sense from some that neither option represented a way forward that they were happy to support.  

As we wandered in Croix Rousse a day later we found more signs of a different view of a way forward for France.  Amongst the various other slogans sprayed on footpaths or buildings was a very poignant set of bollards on either side or a roadway up the hill.


One one side of the street, the exhortation toward ‘Abstention,’ while on the corresponding bollards on the other side of the street, the simple word: Revolution.

In a city where one of the main shopping strips is on Rue Victor Hugo, the writer of Les Miserables, and in a country where the 1789 revolution led to the creation of the current Republic; where student protests in Paris in the sixties  and actions across the country brought the economy to a virtual halt, and where the success of Marine Le Penn in making it through to the final round of the presidential election led to riots and  another Night of the Barricades in late April 2017, it is sobering indeed to sense what may have occurred.

As we wandered down from the hill of Croix Rousse we saw a number of the wonderful murals painted on the sides of buildings. For some of these, a double take is necessary to check whether what we are seeing is a painting or the actual building itself.

We’re now walking along the banks of the Saône and find another rack of VeloV bikes.  A few kilometres ride takes us further up the river past barges tied up along the bank, before turning back downstream and pedalling back to Vieux Lyon; ‘old Lyon,’ where we find a street side cafe and a ‘Plat de Jour’ for 8.50 Euros each.

From most of the inner part of Lyon, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière watches over the city from its perch high on the hilltop. Apparently some people locally know it as the ‘upside down elephant,’ with its four stubby legs pointing sideways, like an elephant on its back.




After our lunch in a back street of the old town, we find the funicular railway which lifts us up to the Basilica for a chance to enjoy the spectacular view over the city and the opportunity to shelter inside as a heavy rainstorm moves in from the North.  

We marvel at the intricate work in the building itself and the investment in the creation of edifices like this that seem to dot hilltops all around the world.


Symbolism within our civilisations is such a strong cultural element, and there are plenty of those symbols around Lyon. Amongst the street art in the city there are some in French, and some in English. This piece, in lovely script, was particularly poignant, and sad.

I still feel you, like the rope around my neck

After another day of many footsteps and kilometres pedalled, we seek out some dinner in the neighbourhood near our AirBnB apartment and stumble upon a small bar which has a guitar sitting on a stand in the corner.

The bar manager suggests that it’s there for anyone who wants to play.  With some encouragement, it was fun to sing a number of songs to an appreciative audience, and a great way to top off what has been an excellent visit to Lyon.

So, after just a brief acquaintance with this city it certainly is a wonderful place, with the confluence of many threads of culture and people and much symbolism of both history and ideas. Tomorrow we’ll be back on the TGV for a two hour trip north to Gare de Lyon in Paris before meeting up with our friends from the USA for our Bike and Barge tour eastward to Epernay.


For a sense of Lyon, and the Rhône from the saddle of a VeloV, you might enjoy this video. Lyon is certainly a city that is well worth a visit. Thanks for having us!

Avignon 2017

Avignon has lived up to expectations.  Our AirBnB is spacious and in the shadows of the Palais des Papes.  The huge doorway from the narrow street belies the space behind the facade. The modern additions of bathroom and toilet to a fourteenth century building add some quirkiness to the place but it’s spacious and quiet.  

The tourist throngs don’t seem so great and we manage to get around the Pont de Avignon and the Palais without any problems before a wonderful Basque lunch followed by an adventure working out this city’s version of a share bike system, which allows us to cover some more ground and get across the Rhone on a small ferry to enjoy the views of the city back across the water.

Its then home to rest before sampling some Moroccan food tonight.

Here are some photos of our adventures today. Click the thumbnails for a bigger image or choose to display as a slideshow.