Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Final Days

The LTDF came to an end July 27th in Brehement, France, a small town along the Loire. It was clear during the event that front-runner, Rhys Lloyd was a shoe-in for first place but in a surprise move, cruiser Tom Lloyd poured on the steam and with a Herculean push in the final leg between Chinon and Brehement pulled into and held on to the lead position. In a quote that speaks for us all, Tom says, “I just wanted to get off the damn bike”.

Should we plan another cycling event in the future, and may I say at this point the mere thought of a bicycle seat brings shooting pains to my buttocks, but should there come a time when I once again contemplate such a trip, I would advise shorter distances and a shorter overall trip. One week for the undisciplined is plenty. I’d even suggest a day off in between cycling. For example, two days on, one day off. Also, 30 km is pleasant, 40 km is exercise, and anything more is masochistic.

After our two hour bike ride in the morning, it took the rest of the day to reach Paris. We shuttled by van to the train station in the next town where we waited an hour for the train. We then transferred to another train, another one hour layover and arrived in Paris around 5:30pm. From the train station, we caught the Metro and then walked the last few blocks to our hostel. By the time we had checked in to our room it was 7pm. Isn’t it amazing how long travel takes without a car?

We slept in a closet with two bunk beds. It was so small we couldn’t open the door with all four of us standing in the room. It took reshuffling to let someone in or out. I have to say that Paris is not a city for the poor. If you have lots of money to spend, come to Paris. You’ll have a wonderful time in a very romantic city. If you are on a budget, you will see the squalid underside and eat mediocre food, heavy on the fries. We loved the tourist Paris but everything else is a smelly dump. I wouldn’t want to live there.

The next day we caught the Eurostar through the chunnel to London. Our experience in London has been completely different from Paris. Here is another big city but you can still have a great time on a budget. We stayed in a youth hostel the first night and a travel lodge the next night and both were comfortable, if small. The neighbourhoods were clean and pleasant. We had a lovely walk along a canal to the youth hostel.

We were very excited to take the Eurostar but in the end the trip through the chunnel took 20 minutes and was dark. We tried not to think about the ocean liners hundreds of metres over our heads. We were in second class and the seats were not the roomy, spacious ones I had seen advertised in the train museum last August. It was actually quite close compared to other train lines. However, we made very good time between the two cities and had a whole extra day in London because of it.

We wandered Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, down Whitehall Street to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings and the London Eye. We spent several hours inside the British Museum but only wandered the outside of the rest of them. We returned to eat at two of the places we remembered had fabulous food but both disappointed. I guess you can’t go back. The weather was cooperative both days even when it wasn’t supposed to be.

We spent some time feeling sentimental. We began our year here and we end our year here, walking the same fabulous streets and seeing the same wonderful sights. Many have wondered where the time went but I feel I have lived a year. It doesn’t feel like a long year but it doesn’t feel like the blink of an eye, either. It feels like a full experience, like something grand has happened and I was there. Sometimes I feel like the daily life I lead is small and that my efforts to “make a difference” are mundane. Each day has a pattern and they all blend into each other to make a life filled with people, events and settings that create a steady rhythm. It is familiar and pleasant and safe.

This year, I stepped out of that rhythm and created something different. Together, my family and I heard hundreds of different life rhythms, never completely joining in time to any one. It was exciting, exhausting and enriching. There is a beautiful blanket of life out there, woven together. I feel so fortunate to have had this year to experience a bit more of it. I am looking forward to coming home and fitting back into my corner of existence but I know I have an explorer’s heart. The beautiful world calls to me.

2 comments: said...

I feel teary just reading all your last blogs...and in a few hours, you will be boarding the plane, coming home! So many of us will MISS your travels! Can hardly wait to hug you all! Brace yourselves!!!! Love Mom

Steve said...

Maybe just keep the blog open for the next year, journaling your trials and tribulations in Langley. If the Lloyd's want to see Costa Rica, I think a big old family vacation there would be a wonderful time. It has been a pleasure reading the blog and catching up with you all on Skype. It is amazing how much smaller the world seems with all this technology. I can only imagine how much change you have all gone through and what this means for the bearing of the rest of your lives. Enriched needless to say.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon. I am sure Sophie will want to tell you all about her last year, prior to hearing any of your stories, but it will be exciting hearing the "real" stories eventually. One hell of a power point presentation ensues!