As I previously wrote, last Thursday began a dream weekend of biking and relaxing in the Southern English countryside. Here's what came next: The second day back on the bike is always the hardest, this weekend posed no exceptions. To add insult to injury, we road with Phil, Paul's buddy who is both a monster on the bike and a wonderful cycling photographer. Phil raced in France for seven years at a elite amateur level and it shows. As a consolation prize for my suffering on the steep climbs and relentlessly fast flats we had strong sun and were able to ride without gloves or jackets. The landscape continued to amaze as a rider's playground, the natural serenity delicately balanced with the artificiality of carbon bikes and the work of a good ride.
Choosing the sun over a few hours in the car, we relaxed and BBQ'ed in lieu of a trip to Bath. It would have been nice to see, but the simple pleasure of relaxing in a fashion so similar to life back home overshadowed that of missing out on the Roman baths and fantastic architecture. One of the most important things I've learned in my time out here is that you can't do everything, and it is better to enjoy the things you do do rather than scramble to fit it all in. Thus, the simple pleasure of relaxing with good food and beer shone as the sun did.
Sunday we again smashed hard, all the way to my breaking point. I bailed at Phil's house, an unexpected treat. In addition to his photography and racing history, Phil works as a freelance cycling journalist. Its a career that interests me and he has great insights and experience in the sport. While Paul fetched my rescue vehicle we chatted cycling and watching Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the end of the spring classics season in professional cycling. The end of a certain period in the sport season, it nearly marks a turning point in my adventure out here, with classes ending yesterday and finals next week.
The tourist activities of Sunday started off with a visit to Corfe castle. Situated on a hill with 1,000 years of history, the ruins were awesome, even from a distance. It was cool to see things so old, and be able to read about how many times it changed hands. Despite being mostly destroyed, its longevity is a testament to the strong will of its owners over the centuries. We then went to one of the coolest pubs in the country for some cider. The pub overlooked the rolling hills and the coast, and had as many chickens, dogs and roosters as there were people. We ate a pasty, a pastry with meat, potatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Delicious beyond belief, and perfect for the setting. Cheese and meat plates are great in a Parisian cafe, but in a rustic pub such as this, all must align. The drive home was a drove down memory lane for Paul, they were the roads he road as kid. We took the chain ferry across, the water, a small ferry that runs along a chain under the water. People take it in the summer to get to the beach or the pub we were at.
Another day of intense cycling and fulfilling sightseeing was again closed off by a sampling of good beer, talk of cycling and some serious homework on my part. A true student is always on.
As fast as our cycling may have been, it felt good to slow life down. Dorset and Southern England's farmland and coastline is a far cry from Paris. and I'm glad for that. Both have their sense of beauty, their own personalities and ways of life. The beauty of S. England is a simple yet picturesque, natural and subtle yet surrounding beauty. I'm grateful to have experienced its humble vivaciousness, its complete sense of contre-Paris.
Yet all good things must end, and for that we can treasure them. But one day I'll be back to this beautiful land of glorious cycling and friendly, hospitable people. Throughout the trip, I felt a foreshadowing of the few weeks to come. It was if the quick weekend away was a prelude to leaving Paris. There were striking similarities. Leaving Paris to go ride my bike in a beautiful and less busy place. I can only hope that the enjoyment of the weekend follows me throughout my travels and the summer goes as well as the dress rehearsal. Only eight more days in Paris!