2010 Wrap-up

As I sit here in Paris, with a view of the arse-end of Notre Dame out the window of a free apartment (thanks Karsten and Sarah!), I can’t help but think that 2010 has not been all that bad. Somehow though it just didn’t seem to flow the way I wanted it to, but I’ll come back to that later, maybe.

It’s been an eventful year though, that’s for sure.

Concours

Shoko and I often get asked what the heck we’re doing here in France. It’s never an easy question to answer for me because all I want to say is ‘I came for the cycling’, which usually leaves people with a quizzical look on their face and the conversation nearly always dies right there. Well, I’m glad to announce that we have a much better answer now, or at least I can borrow this one from my wife. See, Shoko actually wanted to do something productive in France and she had ‘art school’ in her mind from the beginning. The first year we were here she was a full-time student at a French school at the University of Montpellier; the next year she continued to take lessons and went to night school in Nîmes to take art lessons; then at the beginning of this year she began signing up for a couple of concours (competitive exams) for the Ecole des Beaux Arts. On her 2nd try she got accepted and that prompted us to move to Nîmes.

France is a crazy country. Anyone can apply to its universities and if you pass the concours then you can attend an institution of higher learning essentially for free. This is quite a far cry from Canada or Australia, where international students are lucky if they get away with paying two or three times what locals have to (which is already far too much). Vive le solidarité! Here’s where she spends most of her time these days.

Visitors

We had three sets of visitors in 2010. First up were Thilo and Maya, good friends from our dragon boating days in Singapore who have moved back to Europe and decided to come to the south for some warmth in the spring. Joke was on them, unfortunately, and it was rainy and cold nearly their whole long weekend. But we still got out on the Canal du Midi for a boat ride and Maya got to dip her fingers into the Mediterranean.

Next up were Mom and Tom, regulars to Europe in the fall and lucky for me because it saves me airfare back to Canada every year! They were doing an independent trip this year and spent a whole week (I’ve seen them in London, Paris and Barcelona in the past, but literally for hours because they were always stopping over on tours) with us in the south. We took them all over the place, including a couple that I’m sure mom could have done without – the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in Europe; and Mt. Ventoux, a famous mountain smack dab in the middle of Provence, with all the twisty, windy, hairpin roads you’d expect here. She was a trooper though and never complained..until she got home maybe.

Me and Mom in St. Guilhem

Tom presenting the Millau Viaduct

Last day of the trip at the Carrée d'Art coffee shop

Last of the visitors were Sonya and Ali, friends who are 5 years into a round-the-world cycling trip that we welcomed to our condo in Singapore a few years back. I think they were a bit shocked with the lack of comparable luxury they found in Nîmes, but they were polite enough not to show it. If you’d like to see where they are at the moment then check out their excellent website here.

Our first drink at the Irish pub. Two of us weren't smiling the next morning...

A ride to the Pont du Gard

Fully loaded and on their way to Africa

Nice Segue…

And speaking of websites, I got around to putting something together this year that sort of resembles one. It was an idea born of the blog I run here; namely, putting up a site for people interested in cycling in the area we live in (Languedoc-Roussillon) with routes, points of interest, practical information and crappy photos. It’s a work in progress and I need to add a ton more routes to make it useful, but it’s a fun project and gives me more motivation to get out on the roads and explore. Here is the URL:

http://cyclinglanguedoc.com

And the blog:

https://gerrypatt.wordpress.com

And Shoko’s gotten in on the act as well, so if you can read Japanese here’s hers:

http://blogs.elle.co.jp/languedoc/

Getaways

Of course Shoko and I escaped a little in 2010. In March we took the motorcycle over to Italy to see a cycling race and made a weekend out of it by exploring a little of Menton, on our side of the border.

It wasn’t for fun, but we did enjoy a couple days in Toulouse while Shoko suffered through her first concours.

We also did a big bike ride in the summer. The trip started in Nice and finished in Prague and can be seen in all its gory detail in my blog, starting here. If you have the stamina, there are 10 or 15 blog articles on this trip. Good luck!

And finally, thanks to our generous friends, we can end the year off in Paris and all we have to do is make sure their cat Mats is well fed.

View from the apartment

 

Notre Dame cathedral

Giant skating rink in front of City Hall

Pompidou Center - where Shoko spent most of her time with nose in book

Ecole des Beaux Arts - Paris.

Mats - A cat of simple pleasures (eating/sleeping). Just don't disturb him when he's doing them!

 

Nîmes

So now we live in Nîmes. What the heck is that?. First of all, it’s completely different from Montpellier, which is only 50 km down the train line. Nîmes is an ancient city (Roman) that is sleepy and laid back compared to our old home of foreign students, northern tourists and endless festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. However, after two years living above the Vodka Bar (and on the same square as a Spanish tapas joint, a popular brasserie, another bar of dubious ownership and clientele and..a sushi bar), we are good and ready for a little ‘laid back’.

Nîmes retains a good part of its Roman heritage. There are two outstanding buildings that date from this period – both are still standing, and one is still being used for its original purpose, i.e. entertaining the locals with blood sport. Just now they use bulls instead of gladiators.

The other is the Maison Carrée, which is neither a house, nor square, but is one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world.  It has just received a good brushing and is now almost blinding in its beauty.

So yeah, maybe 2010 was pretty decent after all. At least the blog version looks good.

Hope you all have a wonderful 2011! Gerry and Shoko.

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12 thoughts on “2010 Wrap-up

  1. Thanks for the wrap-up Gerry! It was truly great to visit you guys again (apart from the day after…) and we hope to meet up again sometime soon. Ciao from Cairo,
    Son and Ali

  2. We enjoyed reading your 2010 Wrap-up and catching up with your lives. It makes us miss Europe.
    Big congrats to Shoko! Good work on the blog!
    We are in Florida starting our trip to San Diego via the Southern Tier.
    The dogs and gypsies wish you a fantastic 2011!
    Keep in touch 🙂

  3. Great work on the blog in 2010, Gerry (and Maki’s enjoying Shoko’s efforts too) – very impressive! If life over there is even half as great as it looks in your words and pictures, I think you’ve found yourself the perfect lives. Best wishes to you both for 2011 from Maki & Nigel!

  4. Nice Wrap-up!

    I have enjoyed catching up with you on your blog… even if you did not realise that I have been reading it 🙂 Keep it going in 2011.

    Have a wonderful 2011 with more adventures!

    Cheers
    Carlos

  5. What a wonderful year-end blog entry, Gerry. The photos are beautiful, and it’s great to see you and Shoko enjoying your life in France. Yasuki and I would love to come visit — maybe we’ll be in the photos for next year’s wrap-up! : )

    Happy new year!

  6. Hey old buddy, happy new year to you & Shoko from Dawn & I. Great to see you are still enjoying the occasional road trip from time to time! Hoping to see you over the summer, though still do not have anything planned out yet. We will be off to Myrtle beach for a week to visit Mom & Dad in early April (they have rented a place for a month) & that’s all so far. Hope 2011 is a great one for you.
    Cheers,
    Mike

  7. Hi Gerry,

    Nice reading this summary of your year!
    I’m happy to have spend some moments with you last year, and loko forward to spending some more with you this year! Miss you here in Montpellier and at Institut César ! See you soon – here or there 🙂

    Bisous, Ienke

  8. Little late catching up on your activities, looks like another good year. Going to Florida and Gaspe this year but I will guarantee we will be visiting you guys next year.

    Take care.

    Greg and Mariette

  9. loved your blog…nice writing, great pics.

    I am planning a few days in Singapore this spring on a trip to visit a friend in Thailand. Any suggestions or tips?
    all the best!
    Lori

  10. Hey you two,

    Great year-end wrap-up! Nice selection of pics from our visit 🙂
    Despite the cold & rainy weather, we enjoyed every minute!
    Very glad to hear that Shoko has now been accepted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Please give her a big hug (as always ;-)) and the best wishes from us.
    A few weeks ago, on another coooold evening here in Frankfurt, we finally opened the wine you gave us at our visit – hmmmmm, nice 😉 – it sure warmed us up!

    We are getting ready for our move back to Singapore and time seems to be flying as always. Hope to catch up with you soon!

    Cheers,
    Thilo

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