Posts Tagged With: I’m a Gran!

Day 67: Canizar de Olivar to Molina de Aragon – 120k

5,339km down: 886km to go  (Up 1,424 metres, and down 1,130)

I had a good start to the day as I got a reasonable sleep last night. The local rooster must have slept in because he did not start until after we got up. I have rationalized my panniers down to one which Brett has very kindly offered to carry for me. Every bit will help get through the next three days.

I rang home to get the update regarding how Lizzy and Xavier are getting on. They are both going well, and Lizzy was taking Xavier for his first walk, along the beach near our home. Not that Xavier knew – he was fast asleep! After having a chat to Lizzy, I spoke to Kelly and got some fantastic news.  Kelly is 12 weeks pregnant, she had the scan today and all looks good. So I will be a Gran again at the end of March. It put a big smile on my face. I also shed a few tears, and had to explain to my fellow riders that they were happy tears, as they weren’t sure what was happening on the other end of the phone, they just heard me shriek and then start crying!

So off we went, and of course we first of all had to climb up the 2k we had gone down to camp the night before. Then it was 2k up a 5% gradient – ouch on tired, unwarmed up legs. However this was followed by an 11k downhill 🙂

Heading up a hill early in the day

We had rollers for awhile then a 4k up but then a 6k down. Brett said they are honest hills – they give back more than they take. The bugs going up the 4k hill were a pain, trying to get in my eyes, it was very odd seeing them walking across my sunglasses. Plus there were a few I had to spit out, and one I nearly swallowed, yum.

After 20k I had a quick stop and my legs were wobbly and tired, I did not see how they would make the day. Thankfully they loosened up. Overall it was a great ride until lunch. There are lots of small towns perched on the hillside, often they don’t have a shop but they all have a church. We passed a town called Caminreal, it had heaps of Piggeries, there was building after building of them however it looks like the  pigs never get to go outside 😦

As I said, it was a great ride until lunch, and we set off with 55k to go feeling really positive and looking forward to an early day. You know that saying don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched?! Well the afternoon was mostly up; at one point there was a hill that was 15k, with a hideous head wind. The afternoon went on and on.

The ride goes on and on

Thankfully we are staying in a hotel tonight so no putting up tents and listening to noisy campers. It’s a really nice hotel we are staying at, the Parador de Santa Rita, established in 1826. I have a hotel room to myself with three beds and a bath 🙂 But it does have a low ceiling  that I have to look out for, so far I have only banged my head three times.

We had dinner at the restaurant, it was really nice: salad, meat and pasta. I think they were surprised by how much we ate given that we are not enormous people.

Tomorrow we are riding 109k, the same uphill distance as today, and the weather forecast is for the wind to be at least as bad as today.

The Shepard and his dog were walking along with the sheep, they probably cover quite a distance each day. Not much food for the sheep though.

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Day 63: Rest day two in Barcelona

Due to the interrupted sleep, and then not getting back to sleep until quite late, I slept in until just before 9. I went down to the lobby to Skype home, unbelievable – not only do you have to squeeze into a very public place to have a conversation but the moment I connected, the hotel cleaner spent 10 minutes vacuuming the lobby!

Anyway that aside, it was great to see Xavier in person. He was happily asleep having just been fed. He looks a lot like his Mum did as a baby, very beautiful. It was good to catch up with Shellbe, Lizzy and Dan as well.

After Skyping, I had breakfast then went out to catch up on sightseeing. This is the biggest city so far I think for this tour. Richard the tour guide who brought us into Barcelona says the population is 4 million! The football stadium seats 99,000. Football is big business here, the city is awash with stores selling football paraphernalia! There were tourists everywhere, in most of the places we have been there are a couple of tourists buses half full, here there are heaps of tourist buses, I saw at least 12 with a huge queue to even get on one.

I started with a visit to the La Sagrade Famila. This church was started in 1882 and is not finished yet, the expected finish date is estimated as 2020! There are 18 towers, and they are big – over 100 metres tall. 12 of the towers represent the 12 apostles, 4 represent the 4 evangelists, 1 represents Mary and the final one is over 170 metres and represents Jesus Christ. There are also lots of smaller towers and on the top of these columns there is fruit, flowers etc. There is also a tree halfway up one wall with flying doves.

La Sagrade Famila

We had a drink at the park across the road by a nice rose garden, which could also be called the mouse garden – while we were sitting there a little mouse came out a couple of times and climbed into a chippy packet. Plus we saw a least another dozen either darting around in the garden or out to under the  tables.

Mouse darting out of the chip packet

We went past a children’s shop called Juguijuga which was close enough to Jiggly (Xavier’s nickname while in Lizzy’s tummy) for me to decide to buy my grandson a gift there. It is a very different thing to buy a present for the real baby rather than the hypothetical one, I got a bit emotional – in a good way – while doing it.

JuguiJuga toy shop

In a toy shop buying the first present for my grandson since he was born

Next we headed to the Arc de Triomph then to the La Rambla, Spain’s most famous boulevard. The Lonely Planet says there are street artists, vendors and markets selling everything from mice to magnolias, which is correct. The Mercat de la Boqueria (markets) were insanely busy, and not only did we see mice for sale but also hamsters, lizards, turtles, and guinea pigs. The markets had fruits from Thailand, South Africa, North America, and we even saw wine from Australia.

Arc de Triomph

We then went to the old port. We had gotten a good look at the new port coming into Barcelona in the convoy the day before.  We saw the statue in honor of Christopher Columbus called the Mirador de Colón. We looked around the old port and took a couple of photos including the Port of Barcelona Building.

Port of Barcelona building

Then we headed back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow, and I wanted to finish my book and update the blog.

Street performer in Barcelona

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Day 60: Colera to Sant Feliu de Gulixols – 90k

4,791km down: 1,434km to go 

Not a great night sleep again, the camp site restaurant pumped up about 9pm and was still noisy until about midnight, at which point a camp site dog took over keeping people awake by barking every few minutes. I have not been using my ear phones as they seem to set off my inner ear imbalance (though that could of course just be coincidental), so it’s a dilemma – risk setting off and suffering from inner ear imbalance, or suffering from lack of sleep. The worst thing is finally going to sleep then waking up and checking the time and finding it is only 12:30am! And then 1:30am, 3am, 5am etc.

On a positive note the bugs that have plagued us up until now have just about all disappeared. It is too hot and dry, so at least when you get up during the night you are not set upon. Also the average temperature has dropped. Yesterday was pleasant all day, today was great in the morning but it was hot after lunch.

I rang home this morning to check on how my daughter and grandson were. Lizzy was asleep but Shellbe said all was going well. I also had a text from Lizzy overnight saying Xavier was eating and sleeping well. I got some great pictures this morning of Xavier with his mum and dad, another reason to be really pleased that I bought the iPad  – especially as during the rest days I will be able to skype!!! 🙂

Leaving the campsite this morning the first 10k had some climbing then it was flat or a slight incline until lunch. I was riding with John, Brett and Michele. As we came into lunch which we nearly missed the truck as we were watching the traffic and looking at a sculpture, and the lunch truck was on the other side! We were alerted by Ester yelling out, but John was too far in front to hear. Luckily we had a bunch of Spanish riders behind us who heard us yelling at him and when they passed him they said “Companions lost amigo” which alerted him that all was not right and he turned back to look for us. The Spanish riders are a lot more friendly than the Italians, if the Italians had have said anything they would have shouted “Smarten yourself up” as they glided past in their glistening and matching outfits.

Just after lunch we missed a turn and rode to the top of a hill we didn’t have to (all good training for the Taupo bike ride). We rode back and found the place we were meant to turn, we were pretty sure there was no flag but this does not always mean anything, as they often get removed. The next town was 15k away. We went up a fairly substantial hill and then down a steep and long decline, so I was very pleased to see a flag at the next town to know we were on the right track.

It was a fantastic bit of riding – even with the uphill – through the forest, and we only saw one car the entire time. Then it was a bit like when we came out of the tunnel into the small village on our way to Genoa – all of a sudden we were in a built up busy, busy shopping area, with people and cars everywhere. I was pleased to get to the campsite. Brett was even more pleased as he had felt unwell yesterday afternoon and had vomiting overnight. He had ridden today but felt not great, and was feeling nauseous again at the end. Hopefully he will be better tomorrow.

We are camping again tonight, and we have the return of the toilet seat yay! Plus toilet paper yay! And there is a shower that has good pressure and does not have to be held on with one hand while you shower with the other, yay! Still no soap but the rest is a big improvement! On the negative side we are still camping on hard dirt and my tent pegs now resemble sculptures with many different twisted and interesting shapes. Geergo was so fascinated by them that he took a photo of them all lined up together. I will definitely need to buy some more during the rest days in Barcelona. We get there tomorrow and then have two rest days.

Three of our riders are leaving us in Barcelona
Phil – Danya’s dad who joined us in Montpellier
David – who joined us in Vilnius
John – who has been with us all the way.

It will be sad to see them go. We are going to send John a tape of a barking dog, Italians partying, traffic noises and people expelling wind so when he misses us he can put up the tent in his back yard and play it through his ear plugs. Of course first he will have to have dinner in a metal bowl smelling slightly of bleach and drunk a glass of wine out of a plastic tumbler (also smelling slightly of bleach). We will have some sort of farewell dinner tomorrow in Barcelona.

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Xavier Parker

Introducing my first Grandchild, Xavier Parker. After a very quick labour, Xavier was born at 11:13am on Monday the 3rd of September, weighing 3.3 kilos (7 pounds, 4.4 ounces).

Xavier Parker Andrews

His Mum Lizzy and his Dad Theo are both doing really well. Xavier is a happy, healthy baby, who is already feeding well. He is being well looked after by his Aunties and Uncles, and I can’t wait to get home to meet him.

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Day 59: Le Balcares to Colera – 76k

4,701km down: 1,524km to go (3/4 of the way there!)

I never sleep well in a tent but last night I was awake for a few hours and could not go back to sleep. I feel very conflicted being over here with Lizzy just having had a baby. I rang Lizzy before leaving camp this morning; it was evening there so I got to speak to Lizzy, Theo, Shellbe and Kelly.  It was reassuring as it sounds like everything is going along very well.

I got some great photos of the aunties and uncles with their nephew, my grandson looks a lot like his Mum did as a baby – long and thin, with a red tinge to his hair, and very beautiful.

Today we rode through more deserted holiday parks and shopping centres, and closed amusement arcades. Although they look quiet and deserted now that school has gone back, the places must have been humming in the midst of the season. We made our way through the south of France and went through a couple of towns too beautiful not to mention.

Collioure had an old castle, old walls, a nice harbour, interesting looking houses and old boats.

Collioure

The next town, Port Vendres, had a great big ship in the middle of the harbour unloading, and lots of other small and large boats.

Port Vendres

From about 40k we hit the foot hills of the Pyrenees Mountains so we had couple of significant climbs, including the one to the Spanish border.

Just before the climb up to the border we stopped in a really pretty little town, Cerbère, for a cold drink and tried not to look at the climb ahead.  At least today the wind was behind us and we had a bit of assistance up the hills, however we also nearly got blown over the sides a couple of times, especially up by the Spanish border.

There was a really pretty little bay with people swimming, unlike France with its long sandy beaches, this was pebbly with a rugged coast line (a bit like Makara).

John, me and Brett at the Spanish border

The Spanish border is at the top of a big hill, on the way coming down the hill we came across a small snake on the road, it was smaller than I expected snakes to be, it was more like a large worm! I will have to watch carefully for these in the grass at toilet stops!

Coming down the Pyrenees mountain foothills just past Spanish border

The place we are staying was just after the bottom of the hill, San Miguel Camp Site in a town called Colera. We rode past the campsite and had a look at the town, it was very much like Cerbère – a pebbly beach with a rocky foreshore, the water is so blue.

Beach where we are staying in Colera

The campsite has toilet paper and a shower that stays on, but still no soap and still no toilet seats!  This is the third country with toilets at camps without toilet seats, but on a positive side there were no squat toilets to be seen 🙂 The last couple of camp sites that we have stayed at have been set up for mobile homes rather than camping and the ground is like concrete. I have had to borrow some tent pegs as mine have turned into tired and bent squiggle shapes, and some of them can no longer be knocked back into shape with a mallet.

Tortured tent pegs, or art?

Tortured tent pegs, or art?

We must not have been able to cook here as we had dinner in the restaurant tonight. We had paella, it was really nice.

Paella (pic stolen from another riders blog)

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Day 58: Day Valras Plage to Le Balcares – 88k

4,625km down: 1,600km to go

After my phone being silly last night, I woke up at 12:03am and my phone was not going – damn!! I should have found out where to charge it, as now all the other rides were asleep so I couldn’t ask anyone. I reassured myself that Lizzy was not due for another two weeks. I spent the night waking up every hour or so (checking the time on the iPad but the Wifi was not on).

I woke up at 6:10am and asked straight away where I could charge my phone and I put it on to charge. I was thinking to myself that it’s unbelievable that the phone chooses now to play up, so late in the trip. At lunch time I planned to send through a list of alternative numbers just in case it played up again. I put my charged phone into my bag at 7:30am, with no messages showing, and we set off.

It was a really windy ride; at times we were only going 8kph, into a headwind blowing so strongly at times it was threatening to push us into the middle of the road. We got to one village and could not find the way out, a group of eight of us spent about 40 minutes unravelling the directions (it turned out later that the local cop had removed all the flags). We finally set off again, 5k back into the head wind, followed by a totally glorious 15k dirt track along a canal with the wind behind us. We could get up to 15kph without pedalling, and the highest we got up to was about 28kph.

After we got out of the canal we were back into the head winds and slow going until the lunch stop. I had been going to text Lizzy the alternative numbers at lunch but it was so windy I decided to wait for another 5k. We had a planned stop at 65k to eat oysters, the boats go out and catch them and sell at small restaurants along the shore. I thought “at least I will be inside and be able to hear myself think!”.

So we got to the oyster restaurant and I checked my phone and I had 3 missed calls and about 20 messages! Starting with:
Mum it’s happening, Lizzy is in labour
Mum, you awake?
Mum, please ring when you get this
Mum, Jiggly* is here!! He is healthy, Lizzy was amazing, all is well.
Mum, please ring when you get this message!!!!!!

So I am a Gran!! Lizzy and the baby are both doing well which is the main thing.

Where I was when I found out I was a Gran!

It was 20k from there to the camp, I could not wait to get there to see if there is Wifi available (I had my fingers and toes crossed!) – I was thinking hopefully there will be a photo!! And there was: Oh my gosh Jiggly looks just like his mum did, ginger hair and long and lanky. Next stop was the supermarket to get three good bottles of French champagne to celebrate the safe arrival with the rest of the tour riders.

Proper French Champagne to celebrate the arrival of my first Grandson

I was so relieved, 95% of women have perfectly normal deliveries but I know way too much about those that don’t. I had a few moments of thinking “What am I doing here! I should be there” but I am not. At least he is here, and safe, and Lizzy has lots of support at home.

The other riders celebrating with me

(* Jiggly is the nickname we have had for the baby the whole time Lizzy has been pregnant).

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