Just Outside Monaco - May 25, 2012
Well that was just a fantastic day... and the riding wasn't even all that great. Just one nice thing happened after another:
1) Took a wrong exit at a roundabout and wound up on the tollway. Had Karen the GPS figure a way off and she took me right into the heart of Avignon, right alongside the old section and right under the bridge. Fantastic. There were people jumping around on it ... and you know what they were all singing of course. I had pretty much given up on Avignon and so that was a real treat. Actually, it looks like a really interesting town as they had a huge market going and a really crazy-looking old section ala Toledo inside the walls. I would have loved to spend the day there, but you can't stop everywhere. Sometimes you can't stop when you want, and at other times, you wind up stopping when you don't want... like in the fog in Alban.
2) Decided eventually to get back on the toll-way but then realized that I had almost no money. Figured I better get off before I over-spent my resources, and tried my credit card at the automated tollbooth and it worked... woohoo. Anyway, while on the tollway I stopped at a service center, got a really surprisingly good pre-packaged salad and it even came with it's own fork. That was nice.
3) After getting off the tollway, I went through a little town that had taken its roundabout at the entrance to town and put a fountain in it. Fountain wasn't much... just water spouting up like a broken water main or as if someone had knocked over a fire hydrant... but I appreciated the effort. Alban... are you listening?
4) Didn't like not having money on the tollways, and so stopped at a cash machine in another little town. It was a very polite ATM, even asking if I wanted large bills, a mix, or preferred 10's and 20's. Holy cow. I was like a kid in the candy store. So I kept getting cash... 10's and 20's please. Cha-ching. So I don't even have a 50 or 100 now. Another woohoo!
5) Had a nice little ride through the mountains on a twisty road, but then saw that the sky was turning from clear to totally black and threatening. Went totally sour in about 20 minutes... but the tollway was close. That was nice to bail out to.
6) Unfortunately, the tollway turned from ticket type to one where you had to stop every bit and throw in between one and three Euros. The tollbooths stopped accepting my credit card for some reason and they had no attendants, and they were not equipped with bill readers. I was running out of change and options quickly. One or two more booths and I would have been stuck. So I decided to bail and drop down to the coast, drive through Monaco and find a hotel maybe on the other side before the skies totally opened up. Was following a minor highway down, and for no real reason, turned off down a winding street. Immediately passed a hotel and stopped, but their posted prices were a little high and so walked down the street to another that I saw. No rooms available. Now that seemed strange and was the first time on the trip a hotel had no rooms available. So I walked back to the first one. The very helpful lady said that they only had one room... a bit pricey but just the room I was looking for. She said that this weekend prices are up because it is Gran Prix weekend. OMG! No wonder there are no rooms in Monaco. Trials are tomorrow, race is Sunday. She's been booked since January as has every hotel for miles and miles as it is also Cannes Film Festival week. And I passed through Cannes just back a ways. She happened to get a cancellation just before I arrived. Now that was pure luck!! I'm dumb enough to show up on the Riviera during the Film Festival and on Gran Prix weekend and luck into a room by randomly driving down some street?? Anyway, supposed to have very heavy rains tonight and so camping would have been a real thrill.
Looking Down on Monaco
7) Walked down the street and found a dry cleaners... not that again... but walked a little farther and found a real coin-op with a lady who said that she would give me change for the machines. Fantastic! So I ran back to the hotel, grabbed my stinky clothes and hurried back. She gave me change so I could do my laundry at last. Even had a soap dispenser. Hey, these are big things. Not like I can carry a box of soap with me. Anyway, we got talking and she told me that she originally came from Lebanon and has been living in Monaco for the past 25 years. Her daughter and son-in-law live in Calgary. Small world. Well, anyway, we just talked and talked about all kinds of things. Best conversation with someone that I've met on the trip. Her name is Claudine. She visited her daughter in Canada a while ago but said it was too cold (came to Calgary in February... oops, bad timing on her part). Anyway, I mentioned about the change problem on the tollway and she offered me tons of change from her machines. So I think I have $60 in one and two Euro coins now. That was really kind of her to do that. She has a standing invitation to come to Kamloops next time she's out visiting. She said her son-in-law was particularly into skiing and mountain biking... Sunpeaks just north of Kamloops is perfect for both. Who knows... a visit would be fun. Even if they were to stop on a trip from Calgary to Vancouver or something.
8) Got back to the hotel with my laundry and two guys were eyeing my bike. We got talking and had another great chat for a half-hour. Seems that one of the guys is the night desk clerk at the hotel. He has a '54 Lambretta scooter he is having rebuilt. I told him he should go around the world on it. We had a good chuckle.
9) Down by the laundry there was a restaurant that looked interesting in that the building looked very old and it had no windows that you could see in to. It was going to be a total surprise to open the door. Turns out, it is a really cute place and had great homemade lasagna baked in a wood-fired oven. Just excellent. Nice beer too. And coffee.
Too much excitement today. I'm bushed. It certainly is pretty right here, but was not a real pretty ride today. Bigger mountains than I imagined but that's about it. But the highlight of day was all the nice things that happened. Some big, some small. All good. Just a great, great day.