Saturday, September 27, 2014

Euro update...

Riders and Associates!

It's true. After riding the mountains for some time, when ascending you feel as if you are on the flat and when on the flat you feel as if you are descending. But I digress.

As I packed my kit away in Pistoia in the blue travel bag kindly provided by the bag shop at Tullamarine in order to avoid an 850 dollar excess baggage charge (one can never carry too much kit - international travellers require at least three sets), wiped the marmot droppings off my rear tyre and slid the bike into the back of the Lancia, I realised my quest could fail if I did not enlist some expert help.
So, after lugging the suitcase down the stone stairs of Il Canto Porta Vecchia, and after one more delightful espresso at the J. Enne gelateria across the road, I guided the rocket through the medieval streets of the town to the local Supermercado, purchasing a very nice bottle of Pampero Rum for after dinners, the bottle of which comes in a very nice faux leather pouch with a drawstring, then gunned the car on to the autostrada heading towards Lago d'Iseo where I knew our cycling colleague Paul McKinn and Carmel were in residence in Chris Browne's recently purchased apartment overlooking the lake, whose dark waters nestle between towering peaks like a large glass of Jagermeister.

Alessandra Amoroso's new single Belezza - incanto e nostalgia was on rotation replay on Holiday FM Firenza. Rockin'! I pulled out my new 'Selfie Stick', the latest European craze, and took a few shots of me and The Lancia.
It was a swift journey costing some 25 Euros on the Autostrada (the Italian authorities have motorways very well worked out - very good safe, straight roads for which you are happy to pay. Unfortunately they have not spent quite as much time on accurate signage, so getting off the Autostradae can be hit and miss). After a couple of attempts I was on my way to Val Camonica, Lago d'Iseo and the town of Marone and as I pulled into the village there were our friends sitting in the sunshine, nursing aperitifs! Very Continental!
But as well as soaking up local culture there was cycling to do and the next few days were spent, the three of us, talking to locals about The Grail, dining on local delicacies at the Browne apartment above the town, which appears to have been expertly refurbished after thumbing through Architectural Digest magazine for a week and is a delight, soaking up the sun, circumventing the lake (68kms), climbing into the surrounding mountains in bright sunshine to villages such as Ardrara san Rocco and Vigolo and isolated hilltop shrines to the Madonna, and searching for 'that thing' in local boutiques. We were not alone. There were quite a few riders in colourful Italian racing kit looking for The Grail as well.
It is probably worth mentioning that the quest for the Holy Grail nearly came to an abrupt halt when Paul and I were very nearly wiped out by a 'lout' on a trail bike who came around a hairpin out of control whilst we were descending the very difficult Croce Marone climb. This continental turkey missed us by the veritable bee's dick!

But wait! Perhaps The Grail may have been secreted in a luxury lakeside villa hotel? In order to investigate (and to relive the experience of white towelling dressing gowns and sauna) I moved out of  Marone's Villa Serioli, and checked into Hotel Araba Fenice with a lake view and a nice restaurant. It became immediately apparent that this hotel with a yachting theme would be unlikely to be sympathetic to a cyclist's whim. But the facilities were excellent and I allowed myself to be temporarily distracted from my quest! And those fluffy white towels are just great for cleaning the chain!
Cheers, Mick
To be Continued.....

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