On any given trip to a new place, usually pretty far into the trip, maybe day four or so, maybe after you've been riding in too much heat, or the route was a bit too long, or went over terrain that was rougher than you liked, you'll come upon a view that just blows you away.
Now at that point you may be dehydrated, even bonking just a bit, and if you're like me, you didn't skip the wine at lunch, even though it does dehydrate you, but it's Europe—it's France or Italy or Germany or Austria, and you're in the countryside of those wonderful lands, where the grape vines grow in neat pretty lines, and the wine is just so good, so good it never makes it to America, and you'll have been looking at lovely countryside all day long while you struggle up hills, try not to get lost, make sure you know where your next meal and water is coming from, so basically you're bone tired. All of you is aching just a little, and some parts, quite a lot.
And then you see it—that place that seems to be brimming with God light.
I'm writing about this because it happened to us in the Loire Valley, this April 2013, and years before, in 2007, in the Veneto, the region near Venice in Northern Italy, it also happened. That golden moment, where two of us stopped, aghast, and wondered, wondered with a big huge sense of WONDER, as in Arthur C. Clarke-scale wonder, What is this place? Can we buy a house here? How would we live? Maybe we could afford just a small place here. And then we'd figure the rest out.
Since it happened on the last week-long bike trip, and then again on this one, I hazard that it might be a bike tour thing. I'm guessing it also happens on long hiking trips in the Old Country, on any kind of nice rural traveling vacation in which your transportation is, well, you.
That sense of beauty, of the sublime, is worth the whole trip. And the splendor you see from day one of getting those bikes and the gear, and the road manual, then swinging your leg over the saddle and pedaling toward some new destination, is cumulative. It soaks into you and changes you. It goes hand in hand with the hard exercise you are doing to get where you are going. It's all building toward that tremendous moment of revelation that seems to come, like any good climax in any good story, toward the end of the journey.
In the Veneto, it came after a long day of up and down past mountains and lakes, through a Belle Epoque town, and then over vine-clad hills like patchwork until we came to the village of Rolle. I've got some pictures below, which don't do it justice. It doesn't look like Shangri-La or Rivendell, but it felt that way when we came to it.
|Vineyards around Rolle, Veneto, Italy|
|Rolle, Veneto, Italy|
|Church in Candes St. Martin, Centre, France|
|Square in Candes St. Martin|
|Pricey lunch offering in Candes St. Martin|
|Pretty limestone houses|
|Detail of Church Porch|
|Stoney and Me, GoPro and allJ|
|Tower near Place de la Douve, Candes St. Martin, Centre, France|
There were so many random little magical views like this one, but at that moment, the beauty and the serendipitous feeling of the Loire just basically smacked us across the face. Thank goodness France knows what it has in these picturesque castles and has restored them.
When I was at Ciclavia about six month ago, a regular Los Angeles event in which a nice long circuit of road is closed to motorized traffic so people can ride their bikes, skates and scooters, I ran into a guy who told me about touring all around France, and he said the Loire isn't the real France because it's too touristy. That's probably true, but let me tell you, I didn't care. It worked for me.
If you haven't been to the Loire and are heading to Paris, you can get a day trip bus tour to some of the major chateaus of the Loire, and you absolutely should do it. You just won't believe your eyes.
Cheers, and thanks for visiting my blog!