a few words about miss chelsea elizabeth...

she likes: making kites, dancing in the rain, adventures, little-while friends, letters, whole-leaf tea, crayons, bare feet, jumping in rivers/streams/creeks/waterfalls, language, catching the clock as it changes numbers, sleepovers, trains (big or small), cuddling & waking up before the sun rises, among other random things.

oregon-born, seattle-raised, bellingham-bred and franco-refined, she had moved back to the states from her affairs across the atlantic & now resides in columbia city with french husband & love of her life rémy. they spend most of their time taming the garden, taking care of their three chickens & two cats, and preparing the urban homestead for a new little chick of their own.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a sizable adventure: part 2 [spain & the comeback]

[continuation of a sizable adventure: part 1]


day seven:
saturday, april 19, 2008
bike from camp near collioure --> port vendres --> banyuls sur mer --> cerbere --> SPAIN!!! --> portbou --> llanca --> failed attempt at the GR92 --> camping at port de la selva
trip distance: 53.68km
trip time: 4:40:29
average speed: 11.48 km/h
max speed: 49.37 km/h
total odometer: 383.72 km


after an intense climb, we passed through was used to be customs (but no longer exists because within the european union there are no longer borders... well, there are borders, but no longer stations at the border...) and reached the infamous espana sign. my first trip to spain. ever.

(check out the rest of this adventure...)
our feeble attempt at using the auto feature on the digital camera. "put some pants on, girl" is my advice to myself & rémy looks like he just committed some unforgivable crime.


much better.


the tourists office was closed in portbou (and was only open from 10-2 twice a week... the chances of us being there when it was open are slim to none) so we couldn/t get any information on the hiking trail we had wanted to follow. we found a map that featured certain parts of the hike, though, and decided that the mountainous coastal route was pretty enough. we/d continue south until we ran into the trail.


well, run into it we did, after asking a few kids if they knew where it started. it was absolutely beautiful, just like we had guessed the website we had found that described the route in catalan had said it would be, however it was virtually impossible on bicycle, let alone fully loaded touring bicycle. it literally hugged the coast, most of it intense rock stairways & cliffs overlooking the sea.

it took us one hour to travel one kilometer. at which point we found ourselves pushing our bikes through soft sand on a beach. pretty hard when you/ve got a bike that weighs more than you. we decided the hike (our original plan, the route we wanted to follow all the way to barcelona) would be virtually impossible with our baggage.

video

a bit comical, no?

we decided to find the road again & figure out what to do later that evening.

so my daily bouts of nausea had been getting worse & worse. this day was the kicker. it started shortly after crossing into spain, right before facing a few more coastal climbs & got to the point where i had to stop too frequently for my liking. severe abdominal pains had me thinking i had food poisoning of some sort, but in the end it turns out it was this new birth control i had just started taking. we found a campsite in the coastal town of port de la selva & weighed our options.
we could either: 1) continue on to barcelona, entirely doable, but with my nausea as serious as it was, and not knowing how long it would last, my health was becoming a concern. also, we would be riding nonstop all day every day until we reached there, we would only have about a day or two in barcelona until we would have to head back, and we didn/t have enough money that we could stay in central barcelona & enjoy ourselves.
or 2) stay in the northeastern mountain/coastal region we had wandered in to. do parts of the hike that we had wanted to do, but on foot. rest (to prevent me from repeating the multiple-hospital-visit experience of a few months ago) & really soak up the culture.

we opted for number 2.

being sun-kissed meant having pearly whites. rémy was also proud that his teeth have whitened so intensely in the few months since he quit smoking. we/re also happy to have found the only open camping site in the region. (most were closed bc it was april.)

the campsite was beautiful. on the beach, with mountains in the backyard. literally the first time i have felt at home in a really really long time. reminded me a lot of bellingham. we were on a peninsula, and the majority of the land there is a natural park, meaning lots of trails & things to explore & not lots of cars or tourists or pollution.

unfortunately i spent saturday night vomiting everything i had eaten for days up in either the toilet trash cans our just outside our tent. all night. it was not very fun. almost no sleep. and i didn/t feel too much better the next day.


day eight:
sunday, april 20, 2008
port de la selva, spain
day of rest
[also our six months]


i spent all day sunday laying in the tent. sometimes sleeping, sometimes being in pain, sometimes being semi-okay, generally in a miserable state. rémy decided to explore the port & found it quite beautiful. i stopped taking the birth control & actually felt significantly better even just that evening.
port de la selva. the sea, the mountains, little boxes tucked into the hillside. very picturesque.

since i was feeling better, we decided to go on a walk. the campsite was a few km from the official port, so we followed the coast into downtown.


i couldn/t agree more, port de la selva; fun definitely is fun.


proof that rémy/s hair is getting ridiculously long.


day nine:
monday, april 21, 2008
bike & hike along the GR (grande randonée = big hike) 11 from port de la selva --> cap de creus
trip distance: 17.11 km
trip time: 2:04:08
average speed: 8.26 km/h
max speed: 42.25 km/h
total odometer: 400.83

monday we decided to follow one of the hiking trails we hadn/t been able to follow with all our baggage, this time without all the weight. we left our sacs with our tent at the website & followed the coastal trail into the mountains.

and it was certainly a good thing we didn/t have any baggage with us. there were stretches that were almost impossible on bike. it was pretty comical. i/m sure anyone who may have seen us wondered what the hell we were trying to do.


it sure was beautiful, though.


our intention was to follow the GR11 through the natural park that leads all the way to the cape, which has the best view of both france & spain from the mediterranean.

it wasn/t long into our "bicycle hike" that we realized it was pretty impossible to do on bike & we were going slower than the only other couple we kept running into on the trail, who were on foot. so we ditched our bikes, locked them up tight to a tree somewhere on the trail & decided to finish the rest by foot. according to the incredibly detailed map we had, this was the only way to reach the cape anyway, so we would have to return home following this trail no matter what. we/d just pick up our bikes on the way back.


it was a beautiful day, and a beautiful hike.

this natural park boasts an enormous quantity of bees. some of these bees are exploited to make honey, but the majority are just wild bees, who were incredibly busy with all the spring flowers out. it was terrifying at times, the constant buzz surrounding us. surreal. volume turned up too loud. sometimes seemed we were near a highway filled with motorcycles whizzing by, which was definitely not the case. it sounded exactly like in "my girl" just before macaulay culkin gets stung by all those bees & dies. at times it was a bit too much.


we found a pond that had frogs. the frogs made more noise than the bees, so we chilled here for a while.





it was an incredible hike, but it was quite long. it took us about 4 hours in all to reach the cape. and to our dismay when we turned around we realized there was a giant storm that had been following us the whole way. so much for the morning sun.


it started to pour just as we reached the end of the trail. it was beautiful. but we were wet. and it was already 5pm. and we were not looking forward to another 4hrs in pouring rain towards certain nightfall just to retrieve our bicycles.

however the "very detailed" map we had had lied. there was a lighthouse & tourist center/restaurant at the cape, meaning there was a paved one-lane road & plenty of tourists as well. we hitched a ride into the nearest town (cadaques) with a large french family & then back down to port de la selva in a car of three incredibly friendly parisians. by the time we arrived back at the cape the storm had miraculously passed & the sun was once again shining. but we were now forced to return to our bikes, which were a good few kilometers in the mountains along the trail.

literally as soon as we got back to the mountains and looked behind us we saw yet another giant storm raging, this one more terrifying than the last. we tried to race the rain, but we lost, and we were soaked to the bone well before we got to our bicycles. it was a few kilometers in the cold back to our campsite and the rain didn/t stop all night, but it was a really good day all in all. beautiful sites, beautiful trails, beautiful company.

we slept well.


day ten:
tuesday, april 22, 2008
bike from port de la selva --> across the pyrénées --> roses --> back across the pyrénées --> port de la selva
trip distance: 45.00 km
trip time: 3:17:14
average speed: 13.69 km/h
max speed: 55.07 km/h
total odometer: 445.83 km

tuesday we decided to try to make it to figueres to see the salvador dali museum, but after climbing the pass we saw that it would be an 80km round trip and that we wouldn/t have too much time to goof around in the city. we opted instead to visit the coastal towns on the other side of the mountains, still on the peninsula. we spent the afternoon on the beach at roses, a beautiful town. we also got a surprise when rémy was able to withdrawal a large chunk of change from an atm in the city. (we thought we were down to 10 euros for the rest of our trip, but gladly accepted the 40 that was offered to us.)

the climb home was the second largest climb of the trip, but went super quick with no baggage.

we came home, ate, socialized with some english/french women & their kids & went to bed.


day eleven:
wednesday, april 23, 2008
bike from port de la selva --> camping in a field near roses
trip distance: 21.26 km
trip time: 1:30:57
average speed: 14.03 km/h
max speed: 43.67 km/h
total odometer: 467.09 km


we woke our last day at port de la selva to beautiful & warm sun. we had heard from wednesday on out it would be warm & storm-less, and this was pretty much the case.

the first decent breakfast in a while (having money meant buying things like jam, which we normally wouldn/t) before heading up the neighboring mountains to a castle & monastery.


allegra, i was shocked to see that in the mountains of coastal spain, just below a beautiful stone monastery, live the same cracked out druggies on acid that drew all the little hearts on the clovers in san francisco. crazy world.



the little bit of white you see on the coast to the right there is port de la selva. directly in front of us, on the coast, is our campsite.



we made it! and then the monastery required paying to enter & didn/t really seem that cool up close, so we decided to head back to camp & pack up.

we took our time eating & packing, then headed back south across the mountains towards roses. our goal was to get as close to figueres as possible & camp in a field somewhere, so we could have all day thursday to dink around in figueres.

as we descended to the coast the sun was setting through the clouds.
another storm seemed to be brewing so we stopped as soon as we could & found a quick hidden field near the highway.


day twelve:
thursday, april 24, 2008
bike from field near roses --> camping site just outside of figueres
trip distance: 29.55 km
trip time: 2:05:38
average speed: 14.11 km/h
max speed: 36.08 km/h
total odometer: 503.17 km


when we woke we realized we had slept in a patch of lavender & wildflowers.

pretty.

we made it to figueres still relatively early in the morning & found a campsite just outside the city. we had wanted to come to figueres to see the salavador dali museum, but it was crowded, there was a giant line, and it was expensive. rémy had already seen it twice so he decided to walk around the city while i visited the museum.

i dig dali. but i don/t dig tourists who are loud & obnoxious & bring their loud & obnoxious kids to museums even though none of them really care about what they/re looking at. i also don/t dig people who try to spout off their overly "sophisticated" analysis of dali pieces much too loud in the hopes of seeming intellectual. "hm, this looks like dali is trying to convey the complex concept of a fierce battle between good & evil, with a tad bit of american contempt mixed in" i would hear while standing in front of a piece titled "a fierce battle between good & evil with a tad bit of american contempt mixed in".

i may be exaggerating slightly, but i hate tourists. traditional tourists. even though technically that/s what i am. whatever.

after the museum, rémy & i walked around the city a bit. not particularly pretty. too many tourists. i wouldn/t come here really if it weren/t for the museum.


a toy store where you can buy barbies AND playboy!?!? get out!!


dali really was a genius, though.

we spent the evening drinking spanish beer, slacklining & playing various forms of battleship at the campsite. (what was once a simple game of "bataille navale" soon turned into "bataille dans le ciel" (battle in the clouds, with airplanes instead of ships), "bataille bicyclette" (battle of the bicycle, featuring tandems & unicycles) and even a bitching round of "bataille nasale" (battle of the noses, with pig snouts, crocodile mouths & elephant trunks, as well as the longest nose possible, the nose of a frenchman). it was a good night.


day thirteen:
friday, april 25, 2008
bike from figueres --> la jonquera --> col du perthus --> FRANCE --> le boulou --> elne --> camping spot by a park in saint cyprien
trip distance: 67.70 km
trip time: 4:08:08
average speed: 16.36 km/h
max speed: 42.25 km/h
total odometer: 570.87 km


the campground we stayed at in figueres was empty. absolutely no one other than us.

and i mean no one.

this did not tempt us to stay much longer. we decided to head back to france & spend a day at the beach near perpignan, where we would be catching a train home on sunday.


it was hot. & sunny. i changed into my swimsuit after about an hour of cycling & this is the sunburn/tan mark i already had from the shirt i was wearing.


we headed north directly from figueres, through the famed "col du perthus" known to be the only route through the pyrénées that doesn/t involve much climbing. we had heard about it from a guy in a pizzeria in perpignan on our way down, but hadn/t really believed him. it turns out to be mostly true. none of the climbing that was we saw at the coast. just a slow, steady barely visible climb to the border.

we headed straight to saint cyprien, a small town we had passed through on our way down that we had liked. we knew there was a pretty nice beach there, so decided we/d spend most of our day on saturday hanging at the beach before saying goodbye to the ocean for a while.

we found a spot near a park & set up the tent. i was severely sunburned, however & didn/t sleep too well that night.

rémy & his bitchin biker tan.

days fourteen & fifteen:
saturday, april 26 - sunday, april 27, 2008
bike from saint-cyprien --> perpignan
train from perpignan --> béziers --> clermont-ferrand
trip distance: 35.68 km
trip time: 2:55:43
average speed: 12.18 km/h
max speed: 38.93 km/h
total odometer: 606.55


saturday:
our campsite next to the park.
well-hidden, but lots of birds making noise & spiders (rémy is scared of spiders, not me, thankyouverymuch).

we headed to the beach late saturday morning & spent the entire afternoon sun-bathing & swimming in the sea. we followed a coastal trail for a bit & ran into a world convention of kites.
:]


if you know anything about me, you know how much i love kites. it was a perfect ending to the trip.


we headed northwest to perpignan, found a restaurant that took checks & feasted while listening to an entertainer belt out american classics.

we weren/t sure what to do for lodging that night. our train left at 6:30am, so we didn/t want to risk sleeping outside of town & waking up too late to pack everything up & therefore missing our train. but we didn/t have enough money/want to spend any money on a hotel. we thought we might just stay in the train station until morning.

however when we asked at the information desk if it was possible, the lady said that the train station was closed at night, locked up & guarded. then she winked & told us the big boss was really nice & to go ask him, but not tell him she told us to. which is exactly what we did.

he was hysterical. a big fella with a big belly & a laugh to match. he told us if we wanted he would lock us in the waiting room & we could sleep there. we/d be safe (the doors would be locked & there would be a police officer there all night) & warm & we wouldn/t possibly miss our train considering the station opened around 5am. it was perfect.

however, there were a few conditions.

"if you two make a baby tonight, you must call it perpignan and in one year you must return to show me & to conceive its sibling."

we agreed on perpingya & said we/d send a picture.


in the waiting room, waiting for everyone else to leave. note the sleeping mats already rolled out to rémy/s right.


sunday:

turns out sunday morning there are the still-drunks from saturday night who have come to the big city to party that wait outside the train station until it opens its doors hoping to snooze a bit before catching an early train home, so we were woken up around 4:30. but it was all good. we made the train and watched the sun rise over the ocean.



we had an hour or two to dink around béziers before our connecting train & we enjoyed the little time we had. lucked out and for the third time managed to not pay a reservation fee for our bikes & situated ourselves for the second leg of our train trip home: seven hours.

we got a little out of our minds being in the same position for seven hours & i decided to try out the baggage racks. not as comfortable as they seem. not comfortable at all, actually.



but amusing as hell.

we made it back to clermont around 4pm, rode home, unloaded our bicycles, ate some yummy food & climbed into bed for a good blankety snuggle.


all in all, on a scale of 1 - 10, i give this trip a 9.3. it was the perfect length for the distance we covered. perfect budget. the gear worked out great. the weather was pretty good, all things considered. rémy & i didn/t once get on each others nerves (ok, maybe once when i was really pissy at port la nouvelle, but that was bc of the raging birth control hormones). we didn/t have any major health problems or setbacks. the scenery was breathtaking. the people we met were incredibly friendly. i saw the ocean. i played in the ocean. i played. and it gave me complete confidence that if i want to ride my bicycle around the world, i most certainly can.

plus now i/m tanned & fit & motivated to stay outdoors. all good things.

i/m planning on developing pictures i took with my slr & sending them to y/all as postcards, so look out for that. then again, with coming back to work & all, it might take me a while.

regardless, i love & miss you all.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

spain, the sea & the sun (spring break)

spring is finally here. the sun has shown her face from behind endless clouds. it/s no longer so ridiculously freezing that leaving the house without a giant north face coat is suicide. there are flowers & birds & sunshine. ahh yes. spring is here.

or more importantly, spring break is here.

actually in france they call this vacation "easter break", just like they call winter break "christmas break" and the break at the end of october "all saints/ day break". so much for being pc, i guess. whatever. regardless of what they call it here, i don/t work for two weeks and i am FINALLY getting a break where i can do whatever i want. friends & family visiting, sickness, moving. i realized i/ve been here for almost 7 months and i haven/t even left the country yet. crazy.

but all that is about to change.

(care for more?...)

there is an epic adventure to come a bit later, but for now i am about to go on a mini-epic adventure. we/ve been preparing for our big big one for a while now, and this is going to be kindof a test run. why? because these adventures are on bicycle, and we need to try out all our gear. we/ve been slowly been adding to the accessories & fixing them up, and they are now quite quite beautiful. in fact at this very moment rémy/s is all packed & ready to go. mine is half-way packed, which is normal. for some reason i can never be 100% packed until like 30 minutes before go time. but everything is ziplocked & listed & has its proper place in my panniers. ready to be ready, i suppose.


trying out our new tent in the living room.
don/t worry, mom & dad, we did our research.
it/s a beautiful 3person tent, which turns out to
basically be a palace. it/s huge...

and, new cookware. "stove" and dishes. ahhh camping.


so where are we going this time? well, let me tell you.

first leg, we leave tomorrow (sunday, april 13) at 12:52 from clermont-ferrand on the train to nîmes, on the mediterranean coast.


we get to nîmes at 17:40. then it/s a short 16km ride to the neighboring town of clarinsac, where rémy/s aunt lives. we/re spending sunday night at her house. very nice of her & her husband.


on monday morning we take off for the beautiful city of montpellier about 50km away.


we/re going to see montpellier a bit on monday, probably stay the night there, and take off early tuesday morning, heading south and following the coast. the closer to spain we can get, the better. our next rest point (and probably where we will sleep if we don/t find nice camping territory on the side of the road somewhere) is narbonnes, france. a good 105km away from montpellier, tuesday is our first big day. with all our gear, we/ll see how far we actually get.


narbonnes is our last official night in france, or at least that/s what we have planned. from narbonnes on wednesday we will (once again) follow the coast along windy roads all the way into portbou, spain. once again, a bit over 100km, so we/ll be on our way to legs of steel. :)


portbou is the start of a 550km hike that follows the eastern coast of spain, the GR92. (gr stands for "grand randonnée", or "big hike".) we will only be covering the first 350km or so to barcelona, and then maybe a bit afterwards, but we won/t have enough time to travel all the way to the end at ulldecona.


then we/ll be riding back up the coast to perpignan, where we/ll take the train home in two weeks (sunday, april 27)!! in total it should be about 1000km. which we have 14days to do. not so bad, actually. i/ve got my odometer, so i/ll tell y/all the specifics when we get back.


i cannot even begin to describe how excited i am. yesterday i could hardly make it through my classes. whenever i went to the bathroom i did a little dance in the stall, giggling furiously like a little girl. this will be fabulous.

anyway. it means i/ll be incommunicado for a few weeks. but it also means i will return home with stories galore. and you better believe i will be sharing them with you all.


sending my love from france... xoxo