“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I come to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Dead Poets Society, 1989)
Seize the Day. Everyone does this in a way unique to them. Some have families, some dedicate themselves to sport and finally others travel. While I can’t say that I have always been the best user of my time I like to think that I make up for it when I am on the road. In 2010 before I blogged everything, I wrote a journal when I went to Tibet, Nepal and India and as I left each country I wrote a section titled Things Not To Forget, so as I sit in Heathrow waiting for my plane home I guess it is time to reflect.
Things Not to Forget
- Amsterdam – The city really is one of the most multicultural parties I think I have ever witnessed. The number of languages you can hear in a small area is incredible, almost as incredible as the number of Stag and / or Doe parties that are happening in that same small area. The people who go to that city to celebrate their last nights of single life really do embrace the humour of the city and make me think that my friends got off relatively lightly.
- Nurburgring – First riding and then being driven around this amazing place. I have never felt so lost on a racetrack as I did there as it is rare that you can see the corner you are about to enter as there is either a hill or other turn in the way. I am sure that it took me 15 – 20 minutes to get around and even then I almost rode right off it at least once. This is contrasted by what is possibly the most expensive and amazing 8 minutes of my life the next day. The ring taxi was a better way to cap off the visit as this guy has been driving the track for years and knew every inch of it. Click here to see a lap in a ring taxi!
- Riding a Motorbike into Downtown Paris – Driving in Italy had been fun for the most part as I had missed most of the major cities and when I got tired of all the people I had escaped to the Autostrada but Paris was something else. I had no idea where I was going and was blindly following my GPS. As the crush of people and the size of buildings increased my GPS seemed to deliver directions much slower. Add to that a series of driving rules that don’t seem to match how everywhere else organizes their roads and you create chaos. In places you get a green light to turn only to get straight into the intersection only to be confronted by a red light which leaves you stopped directly in the middle. The traffic circles are also a mess as there are no lanes, many are cobblestones and there are endless numbers of streets coming onto or off of them. I am convinced that the best way to move through European City traffic is by motorbike but I don’t have the confidence to do it yet (see below).
- Filtering – Or as we might say in Canada, lane splitting. I didn’t do it in the U.K. or Paris but I did for a while on the Autobahn (tagged onto the back of a passing bike), Lyon and for a time in Italy along the Mediterranean. The Italian trips were usually inspired after little scooters carrying 70 year old grannies came speeding by and I felt a little like a wimp.
- Paris Itself – The city is everything that is described of it. They avoid grass so it is dusty, There seems to be a constant protest of some kind going on, people eat inches from cars whizzing by (at least when they can) and piles of people seem to be constantly smoking. I loved the madness of the place and for a person who generally does not like city life that is saying a bunch. What I didn’t experience was the stereotypical French indifference or snottiness. The people I met were wonderful as well as helpful.
- Roads that never go straight – It was tiring and took entire days to go 250 km but amazing. They started in Germany and didn’t stop until I headed North to Paris. 5000 km later and I happy to say my riding experience has grown a lot this summer despite the addition of a couple of new scratches on the bike.
- Family – The last few days after the Canal Boat (Part 3 of the trip) have been spent with people I rarely get the chance to see. It has been wonderful to meet up with my Auntie Gill, Jayne, Auntie Glenys, Uncle John and Cousins Mathew and Joanne. After constant movement for the last 5 weeks hanging out and chatting has been an amazing way to decompress and think about things. Hopefully it won’t be another 8 years before I see them again.
For all of my trips I always struggle to answer the question of my favourite experience as all of them add to the story but I am sure I will talk about riding around Europe for a long time to come.