Flying Bicycle


Oh no. I have morphed into the two most disliked passengers at the airport. I am THAT passenger with way way way too much luggage for flying, the one who breaks the baggage handlers back. AND, I am also THAT passenger who is super super super late, recklessly sprinting down the hall, losing control of the trolley, too panicked for apologies. The GF, pushing an identical load, glides towards the check-in having somehow gotten 10 metres in front of me. A huge winning margin considering the circumstances. Not that it matters with so many people in line. A line, I quickly realise, that is way too long to wait in. A line we will simply have to cut. Oh no. Now I’m THAT passenger too.
C’est la vie, we are flying to Paris!

Reassembling bicycles at baggage collection is a bit of an oddity. The first bike is back together and ready to ride as the carousels start spinning, signalling another aeroplane’s arrival. The second bike is in action not long after. Tyres pumped, panniers saddled, helmets on, we are off. There is something exhilarating about riding bicycles through an airport, like breaking an unwritten law of travel. Through the sliding doors into the arrivals lounge, past the chauffeurs holding name cards, a man with a bunch of roses, and all the other family and friends waiting patiently for the next arrivals, we were greeted to smiles of wonder and awe. A strange sight for sure.

Navigating Paris is simple. Find the Seine and follow it. So of course we get lost. 

“Excuse moi, which way to the river?” The GF asks some workmen in her best French.

“You are a BEAUTIFUL WOMAN”, a workman replied.

Welcome to France, I thought.

Peddling past the pedestrians, traversing traffic, crossing train tracks and we finally find the river flowing through the City of Love. A single poppy grows miraculously between the pavement on the bicycle track leading into town, a sign of the beauty to come.

J’aime Paris!
(Photo Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)

Albufeira


The six beachside restaurants in Albufeira are lined up looking out over the crystal blue waters of Southern Portugal. The scene is set with a traditional gaff topsail schooner slowly sailing across the bay. 11.30 in the morning and its already 30 degrees (86F for those yet to convert).The seats are filling up as tourists search to quench their thirst, and escape the ever warming sun. The GF and I sit down and order a couple of small beers that arrive cool and inviting, little beads dripping down the glass. Another couple sit in the chairs beside us and before their bums hit the seat the husband orders two ‘cocktails of the day’. These arrive all psychedelic, layers of yellow and orange and splashes of blue, garnished with a mini fruit bowl and tiny umbrellas that shout ‘look at me, I’m on holiday’.

The husband looks slightly embarrassed at the drink in front of him, but gives us a nod, a wink to his wife, and then to the world at large proclaims,

“Well if you can’t enjoy your holidays, what’s the point, eh?”

We both stay silent but nod our heads in agreement and give a smile. 

‘Another?” the GF asks pointing at our empty glasses. 

On point, the waiter comes over before I can reply and repeats the question. We nod.

Before the waiter gets a chance to leave, the husband grabs his attention with a short “senor”, then quickly downs the remaining 2/3rds of his cocktail and informs,

“We’ll be having some more, thank you very much.”

“Same again?” 

“Nah, let’s have a bottle of champagne”, announced loud enough to gain the restaurants attention plus a few of the tables next door.
The bubbles arrive with a pop and two flutes are filled just as our small beers hit the table. Fate would have all four full glasses in front of us at the same time, so, all making eye contact, we touch glasses, and give cheers.

“Good to be alive!”, the husband states in an attempt at small talk. We agree with a smile, which he takes as an invitation for conversation.

“Hope this weather holds for the next ten days. Just perfect”. 

More agreements from us and general chit chat follows on how good the day is. He’s not lying, the Algarve has really turned it on.

“Like I said, ten days in heaven for us. How long did you say you’re staying?”

We hadn’t. 

“Actually, we are just riding through”, I reply giving a nod to the bikes resting against a post in front of the restaurant.

“Very tempted to stay a night or two,” the GF adds.

“You should be treating your girl,” the husband adds, throwing back the glass of the bubbles, which is quickly refilled by the waiter who really is being awfully attentive.

We don’t reply, and are willing to leave the small talk at that, enjoying ourselves in the heat and serenity that sitting on the side of the ocean brings.

The blissful pause does not last long.

“Must be mighty hard on those bikes”, the conversation is about to resume. “Where have you ridden from?”.

“Lisbon”, the GF answers briefly.

“Blimey, all the way up there! You need to give your lady a break,” this with a stare directed accusingly at me.

“Lisbon was 6 weeks ago”, the GF in my defence.

“What, 6 weeks?? Seems an awful long time. It isn’t THAT far. You could drive from Lisbon in an afternoon. You could’ve seen every square inch of Portugal in that time. You could have done plenty. 6 whole weeks, you could’ve, could’ve done anything!”

The lecture ends.

“To be fair, we needed the first week just to recover from travelling the previous six months through India,” the GF nonchalantly pips in.

“India!” the husband exclaimed.

“Oh do shut up!”, the wife speaking for the first time throws at her husband.

Dropping the F-Bomb


The F-Bomb has been dropped. Yep, after nearly three weeks in the seat we finally got a flat tyre. I was never prepared.

When we first bought the bikes, having told the assistant we were planning on spending at least several months on tour around Europe, he gave us plenty of helpful tips on bike maintenance. To be fair, his customer service was immaculate, and I was happily upsold into anything he suggested to make our trip a success. I asked many questions and confidently he assured us both that with a blue thingy to remove your tyre, a pump and a couple of spare inner tubes we had all we needed to fix our bikes on the road. The only thing he couldn’t sell us was an out of stock 15mm for the bolt holding the back tyre. The GF easily picked one up at the thieves market in Alfama the next day.

Before we rode out if the shop, I innocently asked how to change a flat tyre. The assistant erupted with laughter, slapped me on the back and called to his colleague.

“Ha! Imagine starting a bike tour around Europe and not knowing how to change a flat tyre on your bike.”

“Ha! That WOULD be funny!”, the colleague chipped in.

I didn’t think it was funny at all, but decided not to push the point at this period of time. 

Nor did I think it wise to push the whole ‘flat tyre’ point whilst on tour. I figured just speaking about anything to do with a flat tyre would only throw the possibility of it occurring into our universe. I’m a karma kinda guy this way.

So it was to my shock and awe that the GF asked me where the 15mm was whilst packing. This was her terrain. 

“Umm. In the bag near the blue thingy?” I guessed.

“Nope.”

“With the wrench?”, surely I was getting closer.

A smirk spread across her face.
“What’s the difference between a 15mm and a wrench?”, she asked me straight out.

“14?”

She laughed hard, and when re-telling the story to her family, they all laughed harder.

Anyway, travelling is all about learning new things and I now know a 15mm is a wrench, the 15 pertaining to its size. I also can’t help but admire the way the universe works for it was the GF that got the flat tyre, not me.
Photo @ nickisalwaysonholidays 

4 Nights in a Nudist Camp

It’s not that we are afraid of a little rain, it’s just that we ARE afraid of a lot of rain. Precipitation was not part of the plan on the bike tour. The GF, determined to keep peddling like a true champ, took a look at my face and suggested a coffee stop. We pulled into Sagres on the SW tip of Europe, ordered two beers and contemplated our next move.

“A tent in the rain is pain”, I rhymed.

“Wet feet ain’t neat”, the GF replied chirpily. We are cute this way.

Out came the I-Pads and house hunting we went. A few minutes searching the www and an apartment was located 20km up the road being both in our price range and above our current standards, constituting a bargain in our books. A quick check of the BBC weather satellite map. It seemed just possible, by jumping back in the saddle now with the apartment being close enough and the clouds far enough away, to beat the next downpour. We will have the feet up in no time. 

 
Situated inside an Eco-camp ground, with a restaurant and bar on-site, just a kilometre off the beach, the apartment seemed the perfect ark from the forth coming flood. So, finish up the brewskis, put the helmets on and away we go.

Almost.

“Ummm…it says here the Eco-camp has a ‘nature zone’ “.

“What, like a zoo?” I ask innocently.

“Nudie bums”, my GF corrected me.

Well, when in Rome…..(or Salema for that matter)

(Look! Everybody is naked!)


Monday at the Nudist Colony

Weather report: Rain

To be fair it was the first night out of the tent and in a bed for over a fortnight so we over slept and then some. The gray, drizzly weather was a blessing for these conditions. We spent much of the day in the apartment re-familiarising ourselves with a working stove and cold fridge. Went to the on-site bar at dusk, no people there except the (fully clothed) wait staff.

Tuesday at the Nudist Colony

Weather report: Heavy rain

Would of hated to of been in a tent today. The Eco-camp looked eerie quiet. Nobody about except some workman fixing a broken drain (fully clothed).

Wednesday at the Nudist Colony

Weather report: Cold snap and rain

Getting a little stir crazy. Sampled a broad selection of Alentejo wines. 

No nudie bums, except for one in the middle of the night, me, crashing into the walls disorientated trying to find the bathroom.

Thursday at the Nudist Colony

Weather report: More rain

Couple of night caps at the bar before we head off in the morning. In the men’s room an old bloke stood fairly close whilst urinating. Is he the nudist??
 

(All photos @ nickisalwaysonholidays )