A Surly Ride rides again

Hello again dear readers

It’s that time of year – blog necro time, as I think hipsters call it – where this blog rises from its looooooooong slumber to stalk the cycle paths, restaurants, art galleries and toilets of mainland Europe.

New people have started to follow this blog: welcome, I can only assume you are thoroughly exhausted from Internet pornography and Angry Birds.

My trip starts in about 4 weeks time and involves 5 countries! I’m intending to cycle the length of the Moselle from Epinal to Koblenz and then following the Rhein to the Hook of Holland over the course of three weeks. Last year’s alpine adventure was, in retrospect, fucking hard work. Plus I had been redeployed at work and returned to a boss who was the biggest control freak I ever worked for. Incidentally he is a keen cyclist so I would love the delicious irony of him stumbling across this.

So hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a wild ride (bear in mind that I’m a middle aged man who stumbles across good art, food and dirty fuckers pissing in the shower).

Avignon to Annemasse

A short, photoless post now. Packed my tent up for the final time this holiday. Journeyed by train then cycled from Geneva to Annemasse, a few km away in France (it’s cheaper here).

In a McDonald’s uploading this and other posts.

I’ll be signing out for a few days as it’s more train and ferry journeys and then back to work on Monday.
Hope you’ve enjoyed these holiday posts. I will be doing a series of awards for this holiday and also some gear reviews.

Looking forward to seeing friends and family soon.


Culture day in Avignon

Written on Thursday 5th August

There’s a lot to see in Avignon. I’ve managed about 4 things. One really needs a long weekend to take it all in.

First was the Palais des Papes, which is where the papacy set up for a number of years, causing a schism in the church. Some impressive architecture and because I went early there weren’t too many tour groups.


There was also an exhibition in the Palace called ‘Les Papesses‘, which included art by Louise Bourgeois, whose giant metal spider I love. There were 4 other artists and they all did some interesting things around femininity. The exhibition continued at the Collection Lambert in greater depth. Of all the artists I found the Louise Bourgeois stuff generally less gripping than the other artists. In particular, I liked Kiki Smith, whom I’d never heard of.


Kiki Smith – Spring

Next was the Musée Angladon, a private house whose owners were artists and collectors of modern art. This reminded me of the Courtauld Gallery, although on a smaller scale.


Pablo Picasso – Cubist still life with guitar.

Finally a trip to the Archaeology museum, which was a bit disappointing. Still, a few things of interest, some Roman reliefs, although they did not appear to be from the Avignon area.


Tomorrow, a train journey to Geneva.

Montmeyan to Avignon

Got up at the crack of dawn and awoke to this vista:


I’m not sure how representative the colours are but it was wonderful to behold.

130km today. It was mercifully flat and I got 80km under my belt before lunch. No pictures as I was ‘in the zone’ as me and Chris Froome say. The scenery shifted from mini Alps to rolling Loire-like river valleys full of crops and the last 20km were a shit arse drag into Avignon on main roads. I found a four star campsite near to town, although the showers and toilets certainly aren’t. I pitched my tent and decided I’d earned a beer. Lo and behold, I bump into the Dutch couple I met in the campsite near Martigues. They are called Rutger and Noortje – thank God I found that out as it had bugged me that I partook of their coffee without us sharing names. I was also thinking about our conversations about Europe while cycling.

We had some beers then I went for a shower but we met again for dinner. Conversation included Football – apparently Rutger came 8th in a national competition in the Netherlands that tested football knowledge. We talked about English footballing rivalries, such as MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon, and West Ham and Millwall. Also talked about Europe, mental health, renting in Amsterdam and London. It was nice to have a longer conversation with people. They are driving back to the Netherlands tomorrow which takes about 11 hours.

Tomorrow – Culture day in Avignon.

La Roque-Escalpon to Montmeyan

Written on Tuesday 3rd September.

Today was a good day. I left the campsite at just gone 8:30 and decided to ride through the Gorges du Verdon. This was fantastic in that I did 1500m of climbing but it didn’t feel too bad.

The Gorges du Verdun is France’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Not quite as deep or large but plenty of pee-your-pants sheer drops. I’m not the best with heights but I manager to get around without delaying other traffic.

I hope these pictures do it some justice – they are tiny thumbnails on my phone.



Had a spot of lunch, bavette, or steak and fried onions in the town at the end of the gorge, Aiguines. The waitress asked me how I wanted it done. I tried to ask for medium by attempting to demonstrate a spectrum between bon cuit and avec sang. However, as soon as she heard the dread words, “bon cuit,” she broke into English and said that it would make the meat tough and dry. I then said, “avec un peu de sang. Je suis un peu Anglais.” She smiled. The meat still came quite rare. Ah well. Another three hours in the saddle after lead me to Montmeyan. It’s noticeably less hilly now. Phew!

Le Bar-de-loup to La Roque-Escalpon

This will be a short post. I am aiming to be back in Avignon for Friday morning to catch a train to Geneva so I thought I’d take a scenic route there. It was stunning scenery all right but a load of climbing. I was close to tears as unlike with the Cols I was unsure of where the summits were. I did 70 km over slightly over 7 hours – a shockingly low average speed. This day and the Col de la Croix de Fer were two of the toughest days in the saddle for me. I wondered whether I should have taken the busy main road which is less brutal gradient-wise.

Still, my subsequent post will make this seem worthwhile.

A visit to le Foundation Maeght

It transpired that I was about 20km from St Paul de Vence, where the gallery is located. It was a very gentle descent to the gallery, apart from leaving the campsite where it took me 5 minutes to ride 200 metres. It was a 25% gradient! Also the Foundation is on a pretty steep hill.

The Foundation itself is truly amazing – a purpose built structure housing a wide variety of art, which I thought was all 20th century but they have a broader collection than that. The gardens house sculptures by Caro and Miro to name drop a couple. Data limits prohibit me uploading as much of the art as I would like to share with you.

They had arranged the gallery as a journey through time with art and philosophy in a sort of dialogue or competition. Yeah, I know, monkey spunk. Plus some guide was spouting some stuff about what the art represented. I overtook quickly. I’ll just show you the art – you can draw your own conclusions.


Overlooking the Labyrinthe Miro


Francis Picabia – Les Seins


Daniel Spoerri – La Céne


Jake & Dinos Chapman – Upstairs and Downstairs


Yves Klein – relief portrait of Claude Pascal

The gallery was small but wonderful. I strongly recommend a visit if you’re in this part of the world. On the way out was a chapel which was built in the memory of the Maeghts’ son, who died aged 11. Beautiful and moving. Tomorrow I head back towards Avignon. I have to be there for Friday morning.