2020 Wrap-up

Back by no popular demand whatsoever, I’m reviving my old yearly ‘wrap-up’ for 2020. I stopped doing these 4 years ago because there was just too much stuff to post; with tours, races and vacations galore. Unlike the old pre-Facebook/blog days, too, these days everyone already knows what we are up to, so no surprises for the few people who used to make their way through my wrap-ups.

Anyway, thanks to Covid-19, nothing much happened in 2020, so I’m back in business. Here we go!

After I wrote the intro above, I started going through my photos and had my first surprise. I didn’t think that I went much anywhere this year, but apparently I took a solo trip to Paris in January to visit friends from Canada, Karsten and Sarah. I recall the trip, but thought it was decades ago. I guess because it was just before coronavirus started giving us trouble here in France.

Here is the apse-end of burned out Notre Dame, before they finally got the old scaffolding down.

Below is a piece of the Philippe Auguste wall, which circled the city in the 13th century. Much of the remains today are integrated into buildings, including this one, which I think was a junior high school.

I’m not sure where this is, but it was lovely.

Bibliothèque Mazarine: the oldest library in France.

The Seine is so much more civilized these days, with much of the Right Bank turned over to pedestrian traffic.

In February, when I think Italy was already red hot with the virus, France began to get nervous. This was back in the days when the government assured us that masks were useless and border closings were never going to happen. Shoko and I went to Clermont Ferrand, smack dab in the middle of France, for a film festival, and found ourselves in packed rooms of sniffling and coughing moviegoers. It’s a miracle we survived.

Not a dirty cathedral. It’s made from volcanic rock
Not everything Eiffel built is in Paris.
The deserted Templar village of Couvertoirade (try saying that 3 times fast)

Later on in February, John and I met friend Rob for a ride around Ventoux, finishing at Chalet Reynard, where we watched Nairo-man Quintana start a promising year with a super-fast win on the mountain in the Tour de Provence. His teammate, French Champion Warren Barguil, shows us that we weren’t very concerned about social distancing back then, either.

And then there was the big bathroom renovations that nearly never happened. We started this in February and it was finished the day of, or after, our first lockdown started in March. Below (top left) is a typical French bathroom, with toilet and the other bits separated. We wanted the area opened up since it’s small enough as it is in there. Julien, our contractor, raised his eyebrow in disappointment when we told him what we had in mind, but he begrudgingly did the work. He was worried that we would have trouble selling the apartment later on, but I assured him that I’d just highlight the ‘salle de bain à la americain’ the buyer would be getting. Open concept kitchens (i.e. ‘American’) are all the rage here, so bathrooms can’t be far behind. Bottom right is the finished product.

My year in cycling was less than stellar, which is a little weird since I had a lot of time to ride. I notice on Strava that some of my friends are doing the opposite to me and having their biggest years ever. Everybody handles pandemics differently, I guess. These are usually people who don’t live in a country where riding was banned for 3 or 4 months, mind you, but still, I just didn’t feel the urge. I did do over 250 rides, but I didn’t do them with feeling.

One of the first rides ‘post-confinement’ (May 31) was with Anne and Erik, old riding friends who have found other things to keep them busy since we used to do giant sorties together in the Cévennes. I managed 4 or 5 rides with one or both of them in between lockdowns.

Former Haute Route ‘Lanterne Rouge’ and current ‘speaker’, Fergus Grant, graced us with his presence in June and we had a great little ride on the backroads on the Alpilles, before risking it all for an outside burger and beer at the end.

In August, Eugene, a client/friend from the UK, made his annual trip to the south of France with his family and we did The Perfect Hundred with him around Mont Ventoux. Really, you will not find a better 4 hours on the bike anywhere.

One of our most faithful clients (and friend, too), Eric, flew down in early October to ride the only Haute Route race in Europe this year – Haute Route Ventoux. He came a little early and we had a few good rides with him before we dropped him at the start line.

For the first time since 2011 I never climbed to the summit of Mont Ventoux in a calendar year. I do still have a few days left, so don’t write me off yet. The photo below was in October when we were supporting Eric and Thomas at Haute Route Ventoux. You can see that the summit was no place to be in 2020 anyway, with all the works being done up there.

A nice little silver lining in an otherwise dreary year was my grand return to hiking. Since I started organizing bike tours I let this most-enjoyable activity seriously slide. In my former life I was an avid hiker / trekker and I always thought that this would be the one I did into old age. My knee might have something to say about that, but 2020 saw me re-realize what a great thing it is to move slowly through the world.

Shoko and I did lots of day-hikes in the Cévennes and my new favorite place in France, the Vercors. Cycling is the perfect speed to move about, I think, but walking allows you to take in so much more. With a little luck I’ll manage a few hikes next year, but I’m sort of hoping there won’t be many – it’ll mean we’re giving tours again.

Léoncel, Vercors
Léoncel, Vercors
Hiking base for a few days in June – Cévennes
Gorges du Tarn, Cévennes
Just behind Nimes

We hesitated over this one, but decided to throw caution to the wind and do a car trip that we’d been thinking about for some time. In July, you might remember, it appeared that the virus took a break while all of Europe hit the beach. Restaurants were open and masks on the streets were nowhere to be seen.

We’re not really seriously looking for a place yet, but Shoko and I might want to move from Nimes at some point, and there are lots of little cities in France that could be candidates. We decided to drive north-west and see what we could find. The first stop was Poitiers, a town a little smaller than Nimes, reasonably priced, and full of university students. It also has a very decorative cathedral.

I saw that there was a ‘Canadian pub’ in town, too, which got me excited. It turns out that it’s a French pub, but with wooden walls and a canoe hanging from the ceiling. The dour dude behind the counter didn’t even show any interest at me being Canadian. I felt committed, though, so I bought a beer.

Next up was the very pretty city of Angers, on the Maine river. We were now in the Loire Valley, which is flat, so not really my style of cycling. The town was so pleasant, however, that I thought I could make an exception.

Just down the road from Angers is Nantes, the biggest city in the area, and a ‘little Paris’, according to an Angers local. It’s more expensive and more chic and from what we could tell, a lot busier. It did have a great-looking public transportation system and there were bikes everywhere. Oh, and check out the ornate mall they have downtown.

On the way back we stopped by the ‘anti-Nantes’ – Limoges. This city, famous for its porcelain and Raymond Poulidor (actually from a village nearby), looked to be stuck in another time and really needed a little sprucing up…except for the main covered market below. Admittedly, we visited on a Sunday morning and it was early and during a pandemic. We’ll give it another chance I’m sure.

After all was said and done, 2020 has not really been ‘bad’. We still have some work, we are eating well and we aren’t dead, which is always better than the alternative. The trouble with 2020, in my mind, is that it’s going to extend into 2021. But we aren’t there yet, so let’s just enjoy the holidays and see what happens.

As for Donkey, she’s had it up to here. This was maybe the way to wear your mask in the end this year.

10 thoughts on “2020 Wrap-up

  1. Happy Xmas to Shoko and yourself Gerry. Great pics and article as always. I was out La Rochelle way a couple years back. Flat but great wine. Wouldn’t mind one of those chateaux. I’m with you on those French toilets. Sink in the other room!! Who cleans the doorknob on the toilet side! Have a safe holiday.

    • Same to you and the family, Luc. I’ve never been to La Rochelle, but John has many times and says it’s a great city. I actually don’t know the Atlantic coast at all, really, but will remedy that soon, I hope. The Japanese do the same thing with their toilets and bathrooms, but some of their toilets have a little tap on top of the reservoir so you can at least get your hands wet after flushing. Nobody can compete with Japanese toilet technology.

  2. Nice Wrap up! Didn’t you make it down to the Camarque and maybe Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer? I seem to remember a post from you about riding the flatlands in that area…

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