Thursday, June 30, 2005


Putting some better navbar stuff on my web pages, temporarily broke my blog menu (overloading the id="menu" name). So I changed the blog-specific CSS files to use id="blogmenu" instead.


Take the MIT Weblog Survey

…though this survey did not have any means to indicate that one was linking to ones own home page from a blog entry, which strikes me as odd.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Really helpful, guys!

Blogger have decided to add a "clear:both;" explicitly styled <div> top and bottom of the post bodies. The effect was to drive the post bodies below the archive panel on the right hand side, which is pretty sub-optimal.

So I've had to wrap an extra <div> around it, and "display:none" all <div>s except those that explicitly override it. More non-semantic mark-up and weight on each page. *sigh*

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shortest Night

I went out last night with the team from work and drank too much (a couple of beers, get some tapas and couple of pints of San Miguel, get some air and then another couple pints of real beer). Watched the May Ball fireworks at John's from the bar at the Baron of Beef. There were enough fireworks that the street was hazy with smoke — even the underground bike-park in the Park Street multi-story was thick with it.

So, I set out for the ride home, with the just-past-full moon rising, and the always twilight of the shortest night, the air just cool enough to be fresh and invigorating, lights needed to be seen, rather than seen by. Almost enough to tempt me into doing something stupid like attempting the Dun Run next month.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Tuesday evening, I had the interesting experience of trying to determine whether the loose bits floating around in my mouth were tooth (organically formed apatite) or crown (plastic shell over peg). Eventually I managed to determine that it was in fact the last veneer of tooth around a now mainly epoxy core of the tooth behind the two that are crowned.

So this morning it's into town to get it patched.

Seriously, if I have to upgrade in place, renewable teeth are the first thing on my list. Just as well it wasn't last week!


7500 miles on the way to work today; on a day where I'd much rather be cycling.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Homeward bound

Early up again, breakfast, and another walk, taking photos in bright morning light, with the sun already hot. Check out at 09:30, though this takes them a while to figure out how much I owe for eating à la carte when I'm booked demi-pension.

I'm at the station at 10:00, and am not best please to find that I'll be on a perfectly good TGV to Paris and have to get off it to kick my heels in Poitiers for two hours. That town is built around a steep river valley, so getting far from the station is too much climb in the hot and sticky. The station loo eats my 40c and fails to open, so when I reach the nearest bit of shade in the Solferino gardens, I pay appropriate respects at the back of the war memorial.

Lunch of tabouleh and strawberries; walk a circuit, and wait where the coach is supposed to pull in.

Of course the train is back to front compared with the map, so everyone has to trudge; and the coach I'm booked into is full of 8-10 year olds with only one adult (teacher?) in control. Having manfully struggled to keep awake on the first train, now I have trouble dozing, and when I do, that's the cue for the ticket inspector.

Hike from Montparnasse, down the Rue de Rennes where there are girls promoting the Smart forfour; and I have to repeatedly tell them I've already got one of the originals.

There are sprinkles of rain, but nothing major, and I get to the Trappiste at 16:30. Late lunch on salade Italienne (today's special) and a bottle of Rodenbach. Walk to Sebastopol and metro the rest, because it's there. It's also very hot and humid.

Eurostar has the usual problems of folk with infeasible amounts of luggage; and I have a monstrous hike to the front of the train. Emerging from Paris, there's a monster thunderhead off the to right, but by the time we reach the Somme it's now fair weather clouds.

Usual mystery tour of S. London, plus 15 minute wait for points problems near Battersea power station, ending up 1/2 hour late. Just miss the 21:06 at King's Cross, have to catch the 21:51 medium-slow train. And so home, beer, bath, bed.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Île de Ré

View Île de Ré in a larger map

Forecast of lightning storms and 14C this morning, cloudy and up to 24C this afternoon.

Muesli and yoghurt for fuel, then I'm on the road at 07:36. This time I make the route direct and don't feel chill even in just a light silk shirt. The grind over the bridge is boring, rather than tiring. There are lightning flashes, but no thunder, in the distance ahead as I coast down. This is a bit worrying.

Île de Ré map


On dry land at 08:15 and start negotiating the roadworks along the harbour cycleway in Rivedoux. Past La Flotte and am at St. Martin by 09:30, with only one stop under a tree for a brief shower that barely wets the path. As usual, when I try to take pictures, all the traffic in the world arrives out of nowhere - including a bus that wants to mount the bit of sidewalk I'm parked on!

I do seem to have been revisiting my Jammy Bastard skills with the weather, as veils of rain go by on either side, accompanied by lightning.

Now there's a long flat run up the coast, horse, donkeys and their foals, goats and kids, sheep, and vineyards separated from the tidal marshes by a high hedge. This is all into the wind, like the island is on a slope.

Tide was low earlier so I'm worried by the low paths where the cycleway cuts between le Martray and Ars, with open water to either side — this is at the very neck of the island where the main road is about as wide as the dry land.

It has obviously rained heavily here and recently, and the crunching noise as I cycle is not gravel, but snail-shells, as the whole path is thickly strewn with all sizes of them, looking like they are involved in suicidal cannibal feasts on the wet tarmac.

By Ars, start to notice that although I started with a distance of 29.5km to the Phare des Baleines, the total distances to start and the the Phare slowly increase. Near St Clement, I stop to take a photo of the Phare now it's obvious — and reach into the saddlebag for the brolly, instead, and wait for the shower to stop. Phare is signed as 2km away as other distances mount, like some event horizon; but finally it yields and I get to it — to find not a lighthouse on a bleak promontory, but a whole slew of concessions, and loads of tourists. I do a quick circuit for pictures, and start the way back at 11:38 : having been on the road for 4 hours, I don't have much dwell time.

I loop round St Clement to the west, then backtrack, with just a side trip to Loix at around 13:00 because it was there. And now that the sun has started to show I apply sunblock — I already have serious tanlines around the cycling shorts, and some reddening where the hems have shifted.

I passed a lot of picnic sites on the way out, but taking the western loop from la Couarde, there aren't any, so I munch cheese at random stopping points, and then have a pack of biscuits for refuel at 14:30 before taking the bridge. Riding back has been weird as I'd been going with the wind, often riding in dead, oppressive, calm, which oncoming cyclists were having to struggle as I had had to.

It really is only about 1/4 the way across to reach the top on the homeward leg on the bridge, and with the knack of the cyclepath, it's only another hour to get to the hotel, and can unpack everything, drop it in the room, write a note to the Bicyclette Verte chap about the puncture (and grinding pedals, and gears that don't shift where the index markings are), change and drop the bike off at reception.

Check station: 5 mins walk even with rush-hour traffic; and note that the old departure hall is being remodelled. Shop for supplies for the way back, then further to take more photos. It's now a bit chilly for short sleeves and shorts.

Bath, check the tan lines aren't too bad after the stop-go sun this afternoon. 18:00 sunny, blue sky except cloud low in NNW when I started this last section. 18:30 now and cloud is most of the way here and the sun is hazy. Cloud comes and goes all evening, and by 22:30 most of it has passed. Dinner diffs - duck in orange, not beef; no cheese, strawberry soup.

Wander out past Chain tower, and the gardens beyond, see across to Minimes, bristling with masts, and a silvered glass rotunda brilliant in the last of the sun. Back through the parks, dodging a skein of trainee rollerbladers in high-vis tabards, and through more of the back streets behind Jean d'Acre. There's a curry-house, but it looks geared to the rosbifs, given the amount of English on the menu, and a mystic store with, amongst the other stuff, an Île de Ré tarot — which I am content to leave as an enigma; then round through Minimes, which is dead like the City at this time, unlike the still vibrant old town, and then packing and so to bed.

All the photos

Thursday, June 02, 2005

To the Sea!

View Fontenay to La Rochelle in a larger map

Well, an even more convincing "Nee!" from the Dutch. And SNCF are holding a strike today. At least that should be over by the time I travel. Clear and bright again, and the forecast is that I'm headed for the hottest part of the country, at 30C this afternoon!! Crap! I want the cooler showery weather I was promised.

On the road at 07:42, and I'm already soaked with sweat from loading the bike, though the air is cool. Twenty minutes in, at Boisse, I swap my helmet for the sunhat.

The riverside path is really crappy, worse than I remembered, so I swap onto the main road at Chaix.

In Veilluire, another cat who hides from the camera; and I'm at the viewpoint beyond after 65 minutes. I'm at Île d'Elle at 09:35, and solve the mystery of the Rue de la République that I didn't find last year; it's a no-entry, just after the pharmacy, and the sign with the name is not visible from the way I'm coming. I push into the square, and the find a town plan. A better route would be to follow the cyclepath towards Maillezais at this point.

The thermometer at the pharmacy says 22.5C, but between breeze and flat terrain, it's better than yesterday.

10:00 at the outskirst of Marans, on the reasonable track along the canal (better than at Boisse, not as good as to Île d'Elle) — I'm slower than last year, strolling and taking photos. The run so far has been pretty, but not the sort of stuff where you can easily bottle the moment in a photo.

Marans is a pretty town if you avoid the advice to stick to the canalside which leads you through the Industrial area. Better to cross the N137 at once, then turn left towards and past the church — you can't miss the D105 if you keep on this side of the canal and the N137.

Church at Marans

retrofit steeple

Getting onto the main canal again, the ride is wonderful, what I came back for. Shade, breeze. Unlike last year, no anglers on the sluices, just a couple on the banks; and no hikers to have to weave amongst.

Then the last run to the coast where there are blessed sea breezes. I reach the third fort, south of l'Homeau about 13:15, about 45 minutes slower than last year, mostly due to the stop in Marans. I lunch here (memo to self: pack a spoon — it makes eating pots of fruit purée easier); but whereas last year I soaked up blessed sun after the rain, now I sit under the one shaded tree. There is a creperie a few minutes further on, but all the outside tables are in the sun.

And then I take the cycleway round the top of the town, and in through Mireuil. At each stop for lights, the heat is fierce, but I don't feel anywhere as bad now I've stopped as I did yesterday. Only a little bit of farce at reception: I'm booked into an accessible room!

Have a very welcome bath and then stroll. This time I find a small co-op in the back streets behind the harbour, where I didn't venture last time, so am set up with cheese and biscuits for lunch tomorrow, and cold orange drink for now. Drop off lunch at room (after an old guy had stopped playing silly buggers with the lift), then walked along the harbour to Minimes and Ville de Bois, where I can sit at a shaded picnic table and enjoy the breeze — and look at the anti-shadows on my hands, where I've tanned through the cycle gloves.

I really like modern technology. The 128Mb chip I have in the camera has more than 50 shots left on it, despite reckless use (almost 100 with the extra cards).

The mediæval bits of La Rochelle port are imposing, but the old town is cramped and hot. There is also the usual old French run-down feel that makes most places less photogenic than at first meets the eye. I am more drawn to the futuristic modern bits, with air and green spaces. It all feels a world away from Mervent and Fontenay!

5pm and the living is easy. Except for the hopeful sparrows hopping around the table, and finding I've no crumbs to drop.

Had a good wander in the mellowing sun touring the harbour. Catch forecast that says the weather will break overnight, and be much more like what I was anticipating come the weekend.

Dine à la carte, mushroom ravioli with extra wild mushrooms, emincé of beef (harmless), cheese (fuel) and apple crumble (harmless); plus the good Haut Poitou rosé again.

21:30 and it's still shirtsleeves weather for a wander, especially out of the wind in the old town collonades, where ice-cream parlours are still doing a roaring trade well after 22:00. Some of the masonry is buttressed with timbers.

Hazy cloud came up in the west during dinner, blunting the last of the sun. An arm of some weather system is going to sweep by. The warm breeze tells me that something is on its way. Hope it's not too bad for tomorrow's run on the Île de Ré

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Fontenay day trip

View Fontenay day trip in a larger map

Out into new territory, with an 08:00 start, and I get to where I left off past L'Orbrie walking by 09:30, having taken a while to push the bike down the obvious (but one-way) route through town (not that the locals seem deterred by the signs) and to take photos.

If I had gone on last year, the path (where one is advised to push unless extra fit on a mountain bike) would have been a young river, as I'd expected. Today it was the hottest and nastiest 200m pushing up a dried river bed I've gone with a bike; and by the time I reach the top, I'm drenched with sweat. Not a good omen.

The forest road is nice to ride; but I misread the instructions, not helped by the pink squiggles drawn on my copy of the map, and don't look for the side turn to Vouvant soon enough, and end up at les Quilleres, so I hack back across a diagonal of the suggested route to Vouvant — the slightly-more-main road is empty enough and is pleasant riding. Vouvant is a pretty town (see photos), with church, castle, loads of flowers, and lots of low-flying swallows, as well as buzzards higher up.

Flowers at Vouvant

I now try to cast the way back, and can't find the forest road from this end either, so take the Route Forestiere de Verrieres instead, and get back to the road I'd started on. Finally find the Belle Cepee sign hidden by undergrowth. I try to cross the river at Pierre Brune (brown stone cliffs), but the road is closed that day for tree surgery.

Now very hot, and no wind; it's stifling under the trees. I shed helmet for sun-hat, and backtrack to Mervent, which is resurfacing hell, grit and tar and roadworks everywhere. I don't regret skipping it earlier, and do regret doing the up and over now. I'm not going back on the path I came up, so I carry on to the main road. It's a lot of pushing up hill, too hot for hard work in low gear, but once past the climb up out of the river valley, it's downhill almost all the way to Fontenay, just one last hard left and push up to the hotel. I'm hot, very hot, but not tired. Need lots to drink, though, and then force myself out to buy more for tomorrow, when I'll have over 5 litres on board.

Dinner is a crab and avocado mould with some pale stuff that turned out to be cucumber, then the rest is as yesterday, except I skipped cheese, being too full.

Early finish for the meal at 20:15, so I wander into town to try and find something photogenic, rather than the usual shabby. A thermometer says 25 degrees; it's still saying 22 well after 21:00. This is not what I'd been expecting — indeed I'd put on a long sleeved shirt for dinner and regretted it; it's still more than comfy with sleeves rolled up at 21:15 as I jot these notes.

There is no sign of the clouding over from the morning's weather forecast, and the cooler weather I'd expected from the long range forecasts went further north. If I do the Midi tour next year, that will definitely be early May!