My life the first week in France is pretty much as I listed in my previous post. This is the perfect preparation for my four-month adventure. I am starting to relax and adopt my natural state which is really nothing like the way I am in regular life.
I will comment on a few experiences that occurred the first week.
After catching up on my sleep, it was time to start some activities. Maysan and I enjoy running together in Calgary so why not in France? I was allowed to sleep in after traveling to France through England the morning of June 30, 2015. When I got up Maysan had already done her run and Glenn was just coming back from his bike ride. I felt like such a sloth! The plan the following morning, July 1, 2015, was to get up between 730-7:45 AM and then drive down to the beach in Le Lavandou to do a short run. I must have still been somewhat sleepy because by the time I got up to the kitchen at approximately 8 AM Maysan had already left. She was being very sweet thinking I needed more sleep but I really did want to join her on the run. Glenn said I could simply run down from the villa “on the path” to meet her at the parking lot beside the beach as she was likely coming back from her run. He texted her smart phone to let her know that this was the plan. I must have still been recovering from jet lag because Glenn clearly stated I just needed to go down “the path” until I got to the roundabout with the dolphins in Le Lavandou and then proceed straight into centre ville to find the parking lot beside the beach. Maysan would be parked on a side street beside the parking lot. It was all a perfect plan if I had listened to it! Also, I had never been on “the path” (many would agree with that statement) so I proceeded up the back stairs and then began my run on the road as it enters Bormes and took the road route down towards Le Lavandou. I was relatively familiar with this route but then I decided to take a side street which clearly demonstrated a bike route thinking it would take me straight down into town. I got somewhat turned around and as I proceeded to the main road I should have turned left but unfortunately turned right. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this took me further away from where Maysan was waiting. I ended up in a separate part of Bormes I had never been in before. I found a lovely boardwalk on a beach and then a massive campsite which seemed like one of those cornfields you can never exit from! The temperature was getting hotter and hotter and running was becoming more difficult. I didn’t bring any extra water with me because I thought the run down would be relatively short. I was not yet acclimatized to these conditions. I eventually found my way back to the dolphin roundabout and even though I knew Maysan would not be waiting for me, as I was about 45 minutes later than I should have been, I found the parking lot I was supposed to meet her at (for future reference). I then had to proceed back to the villa which is straight up the side of a mountain with relatively steep roads and the temperature was probably 33 C. It was like walking in a desert! I got back to the villa without heat stroke and proceeded to quickly down several liters of water. The infinity pool beckoned. We all had a good laugh about the short run that turned out to be 17 km. I do have a better appreciation of the size of the entire village.
The next morning July 2, 2015 was much more straightforward. Our plan was to do a bicycle ride of approximately 30 km starting at 8 AM. I was right on time this time! Cycling is so popular in France. Everybody does it. I have been amazed with the age of most cyclists who appear to be older than 60 years of age. They fly up those hills like 30-year-olds. As Glenn has stated, the people here age very well and looking much younger than their stated years.
Thankfully, we had three bikes two of which were road racing bikes at the villa. I was given the high end racing bike owned by one of my hosts’ sons Iskander (but, as Glenn reminded me he had purchased the bike!). Maysan preferred a hybrid bike with wider tires. There is a beautiful paved country road located approximately 1.5 km up from the villa that I absolutely adore for running. It is also amazingly good for cycling. The first section climbs continuously for about 6 km until you reach the top of the climb which provides wonderful views of the local area and the Mediterranean sea. Of course, a picture of my accomplishment had to be taken.
One then travels along the top of a plateau until one reaches a steep right hand turn and then proceeds down a road that has up to 15% grades! What fun! Maysan was a bit trepidatious about descending those steep roads but did a great job. 90° hairpin turns ensured you paid attention on the descent. You then ended up on a beautiful flat ride before you had to start the ascent back to the villa. Maysan led the way up the climb. She did a great job! Before we knew it, we were back at the villa to enjoy a wonderful breakfast. Cycling and France make a pretty wonderful combination. The only glitch that I had on this ride relates to my Polar multisport watch computer. This watch has been on numerous adventures with me over the last several years. The night before this epic ride I had noted some condensation building up within the watch after my evening swim. Maysan noted it as well. During the ride the inner watch face became completely occluded with condensation and I noticed the watch was no longer functioning. It had lived a good life. It died in a beautiful part of the world. However, now I was without any sense of time and I did need a watch with GPS to document my upcoming adventures. Shopping was in order!
Other experiences I would like to comment on relate to the wonderful cuisine and wine of this part of southern France. Each evening we would go to a different restaurant in order to sample the local cuisine and to re-energize after our preceding activities. The food was uniformly excellent. The local village has many wonderful restaurants as does the surrounding area. Sometimes fate intervenes when it comes to restaurant choices. The evening of July 2, 2015 we were going out to a small village close to Hyeres in order to have some wonderful seafood. After driving there for 20 minutes and arriving at the restaurant we found it closed. Glenn was shocked as this had never happened before. Drats! We proceeded to walk into the central part of the village. Luckily, technology came to our rescue. Glenn recalled his neighbors, who have become very good friends, always raved about a small restaurant located in this village. He was able to call one of his neighbors on the smart phone who gave us the name and then started to give us the directions to the restaurant. It was comical because as she was giving us the directions we realized the restaurant she was referring to was right in front of us! It was an unassuming restaurant and looked like it would serve regular pub food. Were we ever mistaken! The seafood was superb and to die for. What an amazing meal we had. We were also blessed the following evening after traveling to Nice for some shopping (I now have a new Polar watch with GPS and bought it at an amazing price-50% off!). We returned to Bormes to meet Glenn and Maysan’s “other French family” for an amazing meal as we sat out on a setup table beside a roadway on cobblestone as starlings fed in the darkening night sky above us. The food and rosé wine went down very easily! I wish I knew more French. Our guests appeared to be very engaging and wonderful people. One guest spoke some English to me and included me in portions of the conversation. Very sweet!
We returned back to the villa and had a great sleep. The following morning July 4, 2015 we had the most amazing bike ride from the villa down to the beachside right at the entrance of the Hyeres Airport. A good portion of the trail was multi use repurposed “rails to trail” pathway. Once we reached our midpoint and were starting to head back we heard a loud pop almost like a gunshot and then realized that Glenn’s front tire including the inner tube had pretty much exploded. Thankfully, he did not fall. He had to ride a 10 km return trip in order to pick up a new tire. Thankfully the bike shop was open on Saturday. We repaired the front tire and had an uneventful trip back to the villa.
What a great first week. I am now officially relaxed! We have a wonderful dinner planned this evening with the neighbors I referred to earlier. Tomorrow will then be a relaxing day at the villa as we prepare to get ready Monday for our weeklong trip to the island of Corsica.
The fun just keeps coming!