Back to the Pap

Since returning to Papiano we’ve had a pretty quiet time.  We went on a bike ride a few days after getting here, but it’s the last one we’ll do together as Colin’s road bike – with the skinny tires – doesn’t do well at all on the terrible roads.

I’ve gone on several solo rides to some of my favourite places – Olmeto, Spina, Compignano, Mercatello, etc.  The weather’s been generally nice and sunny, but at times the wind has been rather fierce.

I’ve also gone a little further up the road to the east and into the hills that way – as far as the small town of Castelleone that I haven’t been to before.

There was a festa at the bar a few days after we arrived and it was very well attended.  We couldn’t believe how much food there was – 4 or 5 courses, including pasta al ragu, and more than one meat dish.  It was so nice to see everyone again, and we had some good conversation with John and Janet, as well as Afka (the Dutch lady).

Last Friday we finally took a short drive to Spello where we had lunch.

It’s a lovely little town with very scenic lanes, lots of artisanal shops, and many restaurants to choose from.

It looks like it might be a bit touristy at another time of year but wasn’t too bad at the end of October.

There is still work being done on both the bell tower and the ‘apartment’ building below us.  They’ve begun removing the scaffolding from the bell tower but it isn’t likely to be in use again until near Christmas.  The apartment will take a lot longer – the government is spending almost 1 million euros to fix the damage from the 2016 earthquake, and they’ve completely gutted it.

I’ve been practising making pies – not dessert ones, but meat ones.  Colin had seen a recipe in a magazine when we were still in France and the first one I tried was steak and mushroom.  It turned out pretty well, so I moved on to chicken pie – I roasted a whole chicken first, then peeled the meat off and made the pie – another success.  The last experiment was salmon and leek – I’m rather pleased with the results!

There was another festa at the bar this past Sunday – Monday was a holiday here so no problem to have a slightly late evening.  This one was more low-key, with pork buns rather than a sit-down dinner, but again nice to mingle with the locals.

I’ve spent hours in the last few days trying to sort out paperwork, etc for my journey home.  Air Canada sent some info on Friday and since then I’ve been very busy.  First I had to schedule a ‘molecular covid test’, which I had this morning.  It was the one involving a very long swab poked way up the nose, although I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as the one I had in France in the summer.

Then I had to fill out a very long thing online for entry to Canada and it failed time after time.  I finally gave up today and downloaded an app that actually worked.  Hopefully they’ll let me pass with no problem – I would hate to be stuck in Toronto for 14 days!

We had our neighbour Angelo over for lunch today – he’s a very nice person and we had a lovely visit.  Chairman Meow is his cat…

Il Lombardia – Race of the Falling Leaves

We got going to Selvino nice and early so there was no chance of getting caught behind a road closure.  The drive up the twenty hairpins was a bit hairy at times but the number of amateurs going up wasn’t too bad.  The road crew we’d seen the other day had done a pretty good job, and we couldn’t see too many bad spots on the surface.

We settled on a parking lot a very short walk from the main road through the town that was part of the route.

Taking the dogs with us on a walk to get a coffee we noticed that a great many of the locals also had dogs – every one of which Henry barked at if he saw them.

We returned later to the same cafe/restaurant for lunch, which was very nice and had wonderful views back towards Orezzo and beyond.

After lunch we settled the dogs back in the car and got ready for the race.  On the way to the spot we’d chosen to watch from we passed an Israel Startup Nation team car and I immediately went over to them.  I told them I was Canadian and showed them the flag on my backpack, as well as the bidon I use that is the old Israel Cycling Academy one.

I said that Michael Woods (Canadian!) rocks and they said ‘maybe it will be him today’.  They then gave me a new ISN bidon and I was happy!

As usual we knew when the first rider was approaching…

…and it was Pogacar!..

…all alone in front, with a local Italian rider not far behind…

…and then a group of eight that included world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic, former world champion Alejandro Valverde, and – Michael Woods!

I was shocked at how fast they were all going – they had just finished the last of several very difficult climbs just over 20 km from the end of a very long race and they literally whizzed by us.

A few minutes later another small group arrived that included Daniel Martin, who is retiring from pro cycling at the end of this race – we’ll be sad to see him go…

After the last rider had passed we scooped another bidon – this one from Bahrain, whose car had parked very near us.  They had a bunch of bidons ready to hand out but since we’re so close to the finish they weren’t going to be needed so several fans got lucky.  We then headed back to the bar/restaurant and saw the last few minutes on their large tv.

The locals were all, of course, cheering for the rider from Bergamo so I was rather subdued in cheering when Pogacar sprinted for the win.  To be honest I also would have been happy if Masnada had won instead.

Another wonderful il Lombardia – one of our favourite races.  One thing that we discussed at length later was the behaviour of the eight ‘chasers’ – it seemed that rather than try to catch Pogacar and Masnada and have a 10-man sprint for the win they were content to play catty-mousey and ride for third – kind of disappointing.  Other than that, though, it was a thrilling race through some of the most beautiful countryside around.

Back to Italy!

We got on the way from Mansle at a decent time in the morning, heading east through pouring rain.  The sky cleared a bit from time to time but it was generally a grey day.

We arrived in Chambery after a fairly long drive and checked into the hotel before taking the dogs for a short walk.  They are such good little travellers, and we make sure we stop regularly so they can have a little walk (ie:  pee).  

Since we’re in the car this time the seats in the back are down and Henry has his bed behind my seat so he can see Colin because then he doesn’t bark.  We tried putting Mo in the back also but she didn’t look comfortable perched on her blanket atop some luggage so she now lays on my lap on the blanket with her harness clipped to my seatbelt.

The next morning we continued east – it was still a bit grey out but not as much rain.

Passing through Bramans Val Cenis I finally realized we’d been through this pass before – albeit from the other direction – when we saw one of the Hannibal statues.

I’m not sure it’s been proven that Hannibal took this route over and through the Alps but it’s certainly possible.

We stopped just before noon at a cafe at the top of the pass – it was fiercely windy and had actually started snowing!

The proprietor of the cafe was a very old lady – when she spoke it sounded like every second word was Italian, although when I tried to converse with her she said in French that she didn’t speak it.

A few miles down the road we stopped again so I could take some photos – Lac du Mont-Cenis was looking spectacular with a bit of mist rising and whitecaps from the wind making the water look extra dark.  The place is half-way between Paris and Rome.

Only a few miles later and we were in Italy – again, just as passing from Spain to France, there was no border stop or covid check.  We only knew we were in Italy by the road signs and potholes.

A few miles outside Susa we saw a large message on the side of a mountain – ‘TAV = MAFIE’.

I googled it later to find out what it meant – there is/was a lot of opposition to the plans to build a long tunnel to accommodate a new high speed rail line.  Apparently there’s a lot of mafia infiltration in the construction industry, as well as many corrupt politicians – well, it is Italy!

We checked into a nice hotel in the village of Fornaci, not too far from Bergamo – we’re spending a few days on a little vacation before the race on Saturday.  The hotel has a nice restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely, although quite late dinner.

The next day we took a drive to re-con the race route, planning to pick a spot somewhere on the last climb of the day – the Passo di Ganda.

As we followed the route up through Orezzo, over the top and down into Selvino we remarked more than once how fortunate it was that we were in the BMW rather than the campervan.  The road was extremely narrow in spots and very winding and it’s possible the campervan wouldn’t have been able to negotiate parts of it.

Since we hadn’t passed many likely spots to park on race day we decided to watch from somewhere in the town of Selvino.  Another consideration was access to a cafe – and toilets, which is one of many perks of having a campervan that weren’t available in a car.

The drive down to Nembro was interesting, including twenty hairpin turns, each with a sign showing the name of an Italian cyclist.  Also included was the usual last-minute road works on the race route.

The next day we took a lovely drive up to the north end of Lago d’Iseo and down the east side, stopping along the way in the town of Marone.

It’s a nice little place, and being right on the lake it has lovely views, as well as some interesting architecture.

We left Marone and continued south along the lake to the town of Iseo, where we stopped for lunch.

Iseo is a beautiful place – we’ve used the campground more than once before, including on my first trip four years ago.

Returning to the hotel we were both so full from our excellent lunch that we didn’t bother with dinner, planning to get up nice and early so we could get to Selvino before the roads were closed in the morning.

Mellowing in Mansle

Since our return from Spain things have been pretty quiet for us and we haven’t done a whole lot, with a few exceptions.

First, and quite important – we went to a clinic so Colin could get his ‘vaccine passport’ and I could arrange for my second shot.  They weren’t sure what to do with me – they don’t vaccinate ‘tourists’ but we managed to convey that I wasn’t really just a tourist, and they really wanted to help me so they gave in.

The very nice lady doctor (that spoke pretty good english) told me that since my first shot was about four months ago it was too old and I’d have to get two more from them.  Disappointing as it would mean delaying our return to Italy, but I made an appointment for the first one two days from then.

When we arrived for my appointment the first thing the same doctor said was ‘why don’t we do an antibody test just in case – if you have antibodies then we may only have to give you one shot’.  They took a bit of blood from a finger prick, then gave me a shot.  While I waited my 15 minutes the test result came in and I did have enough antibodies – they presented me with a vaccine certificate!!  They still didn’t know what to do about billing me so just let me go.

The first thing we did when we got back to Mansle was go to the bar, but Edith had to break the news to me that I had to wait a week before I was ‘legal’ – oh well, back home we went.

The second, and very enjoyable thing was that we had Tony and Joyce over for dinner.  It was a lovely evening so we sat outside for the appetizers before coming inside for the main meal.  There was good wine, and excellent conversation, and the food seemed to go over well – an extremely nice evening.

We had lunch one day near Luxe at the ‘lake’ – they’d stocked it with 300 kilos of live trout and there were dozens of fishermen and women sitting in the rain along the shore.

One old fellow caught two good sized ones while we ate.

We had several nice bike rides, with the last one being over 40 km – we stopped in Aigre for lunch then managed to make it home before the rain hit.

Colin took the campervan to the place he bought it from in Ruffec to get all of the small things sorted out – we’re going to Italy in the car so won’t be needing the campervan again for a while.

I’ve learned to make a proper pie crust and have made a couple of very tasty quiches – next up steak and mushroom pie.

There’s been a couple of very important races that we watched on tv this year rather than being there.  First the world championships in Belgium, which would have been awesome to see live – a thrilling race won for the second year in a row by Julian Alaphilippe.

The second one two days ago was Paris-Roubaix, which normally takes place in April, and is the first time it’s been held since we saw it live in 2019.  This year it was rain and mud all the way, and was won with a thrilling sprint to the finish by three riders – the winner by a few inches was Italian Sonny Colbrelli.

Having missed both of those races we’re really looking forward to going to the last big one of the year – il Lombardia – on our way back to Papiano.