Thursday, July 1, 2010

French Interlude

My husband just returned home from a bicycle tour in the French Alps that he took with four equally cycling-obsessed friends. It's his third year going and though it's always sad to wave goodbye, it makes me happy to know how deeply he values a week spent doing what he loves. And really, what's not to love about the occasional separate vacation? I have a week to putter without guilt and then he returns deliciously weary, spiritually refreshed and loaded with (only slightly exaggerated) tales of adventure and superhuman endurance.
(Base of Alpe du'Huez, France, June 2010.
All photo credits: Jeff Suhy.)

Piero is cuckoo for cycling. At night in bed, he pores over his latest bicycle catalog (derailleurs! crankshafts! shifters!) with the same breathless intensity my son has for Pokemon cards and Percy Jackson books.

Me: Are you ever going to read that book I bought you?
Him: As soon as I finish this new catalog.
(Note: Catalogs arrive daily.)

Before each trip, he spends months meticulously researching a route, which always encompasses some of the same mountain ascents as the Tour de France and ranges from 60-100 kilometers a day and a few thousand vertical feet.
(My husband, far right, with ses amis in France)

There's no question that the trip is breathtakingly beautiful...
(War memorial, French Alps, June 2010)

(Hotel, Lake Annecy, June 2010)

...but it ain't easy.
(Approaching thunderstorm, Alps, June 2010)

(from "The Triplets of Belleville")

This year, there was pelting rain, bitter wind and the occasional snow-laden pass. And every evening, the inevitable aching feet, sore legs, and numb derriéres.
(Sign for bread, 2010)

After some carbo-loading...
(from "The Triplets of Bellevilles")

...they would hobble off to bed, collapse into dreamless sleep...
(from "The Triplets of Belleville")

...rise at dawn and very gingerly get back on the saddle.

At least that's the way I envision it. In truth, there were moments like these, too:
(A mountain and a Pernod, June 2010)

(Alpine picnic, June 2010)

Oh, and there was the team van that followed them in case they blew a tire, fancied an Evian or an almond croissant, or wanted an extra sweater to tie around their shoulders. (And Piero hasn't copped to this, but I'm pretty sure that if road fatigue set in, the driver would play Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" and spur them on with a theatrical "Vas-y! Vas-y!" in a throaty French baritone.)

(from "The Triplets of Belleville")

(Piero ascending mountain, June 2010)

P.S. If you somehow haven't seen the cartoon movie, "The Triplets of Belleville," oh do do do. It's strange and gorgeous and otherworldly and defies description, so here's the trailer (albeit slightly cut-off; does anyone know how to fix this?):

Note: If you are or know someone who is an ardent cyclist and would like to create a bespoke tour for themselves, Piero has used Duvine Adventures for three years now and has never been less than thrilled.


Susan B. said...

Congratulations to your husband! What a trip! I live in a household of cyclists (my husband and two sons) and I know they would love to do a ride like this. Actually, we are off to the French Alps in a few weeks but we are hiking, mostly (okay, who am I kidding, all) because of me! My posterior regions cannot take that many hours in a bike seat. Your pictures have gotten me very excited about going!

I'm glad he had a good trip and I love the van! I think I'll need someone behind me saying "vas-y" as we trek up the mountains!

Happy summer!

pve design said...

I think separate vacations are in our future. I am looking for an art camp for me.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do admire his adventurous spirit, and stamina. Mind you, that alpine picnic looks divine.

And, "numb derriéres".... sounds like the perfect name for a new rock group.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Susan B: That's so exciting you're off to the French Alps too... What a wonderful time you will all have. Be sure to check in when you get back. Bonne vacance! xx

PVE: There are some wonderful painting classes in Rome and Tuscany, I hear. The kind where you stay in an old villa and wander around like a Henry James heroine. I can SOO see you there. xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Pamela Terry and Edward: Ha! LOVE that. xx

Jane said...

I will have to show my husband this post he too is a mad keen cyclist and I hear you re cycling catalogues. A cycling trip in France is on our list - he cycles, I eat and read. Not sure how that will work but there you go.

Now much more importantly, if he doesn't already know, show Piero RIGHT NOW - its an amazing English business which makes (the only in my view) stylish proper cycling wear in the world - all black and white and sleek - none of that horrendous fluoro gear.

They also publish magazines, etc etc oh and I see Paul Smith is now doing accessories for them.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Jane: That company sounds fabulous -- I'm sure he'll be salivating...thanks! xx

froogal said...

I loved that movie! Looks like a gorgeous tour and I have always loved the "personal" vacation that is all about ones passion.

Unknown said...

Wow, this is quite the achievment!
I know the Frech Alps only from skiing vacations and I would love to see them in the summer!
I love all those photos done up artisticly...
And we do similar separate vacations on such occations, my husband is an avid skier, to a degree I could never join him and for the children still to dangerous!
So even while I fear for his safety, I let him go ones or twice a year...
I usually get an extra trip to see my oldest boys in Europe.

Have a great summer! We are off soon!

wild thyme flowers said...

Hi Lisa, my son Will is mad for cycling. In fact he was racing today here in Toronto. He recently purchased a Cervelo bicycle and guards it with his life. I tried following the Giro d'Italia (of which he is a great fan) last month but it's complicated, this cycling. Tour de France in a day or so (so I am told). I will let him know of Piero's Duvine Adventures. Sounds fantastic !

Emily said...

My husband is a cycle nut too. I call him a "roadie". He has been to these same spots in France, and he can't get enough of his catalogs and he orders all the races from some site and watches them live on the computer. He even sets his alarm early to do this. The Tour de France will be on non stop starting next weekend, and I have to admit, I've learned to enjoy it too! Glad Piero made it back safety!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Kathy G: I've seen it every year, I think, and it never fails to both move and amuse me.

Victoria Art: So glad you're with me on the occasional "separate vacations" front. You'd be amazed how many people don't get it. :) Family vacations are the best, of course, but there are times when one needs to get away and recharge. I am fully for that! xx

Wild Thyme Flowers and dear, dear Emily: I love that we are all bicycle wives! I feel closer to you both knowing that. :) xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Jane: Piero just said, Oh, Rapha, that is the COOLEST. How did you know about that?" So thank you for bringing an arch to his eyebrow in astonishment that I would know about that! (And can we talk about that Paul Smith shoulder bag???!! I. WANT. IT. BAD.)

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Lisa I had to read your blog out loud to my husband who was writhing with jealousy over Piero's trip. Graham (the husband) is too a cycling fanatic and this household stops when the Tour de France begins. Let me guess your husband likely rides a Cervelo or a Pinarello? Am I close?

Loved this post. The photos are incredible & mixed in with the so clever cartoon was so enjoyable! Bravo to Piero, what an experience.

A happy & safe 4th for you all ~

Terra said...

The photos are beautiful of the land and village scenes. I can relate since my own dh is devoted to riding mountain bikes, out in nature.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Dumbwit Tellher: Tell Graham he rides a Colnago with Campagnolo components. I hope that means something to him; it means nothing to me. :)

Happy 4th to you too. We're counting the days to our Scotland trip!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

one of my FAVORITE movies (of which I have too many). I'm so glad you mentioned it :-)
What an inspiring trip -so much to see! Why go to a gym and use a stationary bike when there is a great big world out there. Love what you did with the photographs too. xo

Megan Taylor said...

How lovely of you to honor his cycling adventure. I believe another person's journey can perhaps be as inspiring as your own. It seems that, while you weren't on his "tour de france," you saw the value in his adventure as well as your own short time spent apart. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, no?

One of my girlfriends has been traveling in South America for a year now and hearing her stories is invigorating for me. Though I love a good trip, I'm a home body for the time being, so it's nice to live vicariously through adventurous friends. (it's like watching the train fly by in a movie or reading of someone pondering a journey in a book).

Anyway, this post was perfect to jump-start the long weekend...I suddenly have that get-up-and-go feeling.

By the way, I heard a song on the UC Berkeley radio station KALX yesterday...I'm not sure what it was called but I can guess: amidst cheerful whistling a voice infiltrates the beat by singing, on repeat, "tour de france, tour de france."

A funny little tune, xo, Megan.

A Super Dilettante said...

The countryside and the mountains are just breathtaking. I ought to learn how to ride a bike so that I could enjoy these landscapes on a bicycle. Thank you my dear.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Architect Design:Of COURSE you love that movie...! xx

Megan Taylor: That song was by Kraftwerk called "Tour de France". Isn't it so great?

And I loved meeting your mom the other week. I bet she's having a wonderful time on her trip, no? A tour of great English gardens including Charleston and Sissinghurst -- can't wait to see her photos!


ASD: Don't forget I'm coming to Scotland in August. We must still try to meet...perhaps I take the train to you for a spot of tea and a tour of the gallery? xx

Sensible Footwear said...

Stunning scenery and great photos of the French Alps - it must have been an amazing trip.

We have a cycling fanatic here too. Colnago, Campagnolo, Rapha, stacks of cycling magazines everywhere, rollers for winter training, the Giro - it's serious and passionate.

I don't really speak the language of 'bike' but I know riding gives the cycle loving one in our home enormous pleasure. He'll be glued to the telly for highlights of the Tour de France over the next few weeks - as will our cycle loving children. Like Jane though - I'd be happier to eat and read.

Enjoy a lovely Summer.


Mystica said...

I watch Tour de France religiously every year and this year I added Tour de Suisse (just for the scenery!!!!)

Dash said...

Oh crumbs your husband is a brave soul! We live just round the corner from 'The Col De Tourmalet' another famous climb on La Tour de France.

I often see brave people cycling up there some of them quite elderly, puts me to shame, I only like to cycle on the flat!

Hope you don't mind but I have just mentioned you on my blog!

Dash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jules @ The Diversion Project said...

that is fantastic!everyone needs a time out holiday doing what they love i think. all for this!

Ed Loessi said...


Thanks for the post on your husband's trip, the photo's look great! We love it when our guests share their experiences and we look forward to providing many more!

Best Regards,



DuVine Adventures said...

Lisa - Great work, cool blog. Thank you for being DuVine! You have the DuVine style. Say hello to Piero for me. Our bicycle guides - Justin and Jenn - had a fabulous time!
See you on a bicycle soon!
Andy Levine
DuVine Adventures

Angie Muresan said...

Separate vacations every once in a while is a heavenly concept.

Weight Loss Pills said...

I've really enjoyed having a look around your blog today, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin