I’ve been doing these ‘wrap-ups’ for a long time now, with the oldest one on this particular blog being from 2005. Back then I travelled to southern Thailand, all over Japan and even got tear-gassed in Hong Kong. In 2021 I went to Toulouse.
Granted, for some of you, Toulouse might sound like a pretty exotic place to travel during Covid times, and it’s still a nice town to visit, even when nothing is open except the tiny theatre where I stood behind a camera for a couple of hours.
This trip to Toulouse was in the very beginning of the year, when France was in full, heavy lockdown. I’m still not sure how they managed to get an audience for this thing, or how we were even able to travel, but they take the arts seriously in this country and there always seems to be a way. In any event, this is the result of that 2 day trip – a ‘teaser’ that Shoko made for a theatre company she works with from time to time.
In May, when we weren’t even as far as ‘Delta’ in the Greek alphabet, the world tentatively opened up after months of confinement. Shoko and I decided to drive in the opposite direction of Toulouse for a couple of hours, till we landed in the small, chic enclave of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. It was a really lovely spot and of course there were zero tourists. Everything was within walking distance, including the walking path below that leads out to Cap Ferrat, probably the priciest place to live in France.
This was the first restaurant meal Shoko and I had eaten since before March and the first pint at a pub to boot. We were dizzy with freedom.
2021 seems like it all took place in the living room, probably because that’s where it’s finishing, but photos saved on my phone tell me that I did venture out from time to time, usually on my bike, but sometimes in my hiking boots.
And unlike 2020, this year my bike tour company even had a few bike tours. It was definitely touch and go for a long while and we cancelled all our tours till the summer, but we managed to have a couple of groups of fully-vaxxed foreigners come ride with us in France, Italy and Spain. I have high hopes for next year because we’re going to run out of Greek letters soon.
My wife left me this year, but that is nothing new – she leaves me nearly every year. A sick mother in Japan took her back for 4 or 5 months this time around, meaning I ate a lot of pizza and had to find ways to amuse myself in her absence. Driving 11 hours to Brittany is highly recommended if this ever happens to you.
My Parisien friends, Karsten and Sarah, like to spend time in Brittany, and I was happy to discover why. It reminded me a little of my hometown, Gaspé, only with better food and more comprehensible French. I was up there only a few days, but Karsten and I got out for a couple of great rides and I only got rained on once. One complete 3-hr ride, but ‘once’.
A few years ago the Tour de France came to Nimes and my favorite cycling podcast (The Cycling Podcast) was here to record it. As they do every stage, Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and François Thomazeau, tried to find a place to drink a beer and record their podcast. This happened to be my local Irish pub, run by friendly-enough folks, but apparently not all that pro-podcast, because they didn’t allow the guys to sit down and record. Their excellent recap of that day’s stage ended up including a thorough thrashing of my pub and even a little bit of the south of France itself.
I vowed to myself that I’d right this wrong if Richard, Lionel and François ever returned. I told this to myself, but unfortunately also to John, my partner in 44|5 Cycling Tours, who remembered the story as we were having a few at another local pub this July 9th. He insisted that I tweet to them to see if they needed a ‘safe’ place to podcast after the stage. I insisted that surely they’d have found one already, but John can be persistent, and my only tweet of 2021 found a response nearly immediately. Here is the result. Problem solved for the next time they venture into town.
You might not remember this, but there was a short window this fall when people were travelling. If the word doesn’t ring a bell, ‘travel’ means to move about, usually farther than the distance to the supermarket. It’s something we used to do before Covid Times, kids.
Anyhow, Shoko and I took advantage of this and flew to Toronto because it had been 2 years since I’d seen my dear old Mom. This was a short trip filled with family and friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen since high school or shortly after. You do the math.
In 2021 a decision was made to move. The problem was we didn’t know where we wanted to go. For sure we HAD to leave Nimes, no question. It was time for a change. Definitely NOT Nimes.
And so, after looking around for about a week, we moved up the hill about 10 min by foot…in Nimes.
But 10 min by foot can be a totally different environment in a small French city, and so it is with our move to Trois Fontaines. You can see that our front garden needs something to grow in it, hopefully quickly, and our huge terrace requires comfy chairs, but it’s a start.
2021 was a pretty good year, all things considered. We’re still alive, which is always a plus. As a wise man once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” After two years of Covid I’ve stopped with my predictions, so I’ll just hope you all have a pandemic-free 2022!