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Single Frames - France

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Single Frames - France

Sometimes the journey is so eventful that it’s impossible to recount even a fraction of it. Especially with my attempt to make each blog post about one specific subject. And due to skipping ahead in the last post, there are many untold tales from France. So to return back a little, here’s another edition of single frame stories.

On a side note, this update is probably the only one so far without any nature photos.

In the quaint little town of Cluny, we stayed several days at the home of a lovely madame called Elisabeth. She was in her sixties and enjoyed traveling, so was happy to host a couple of exotic nomads. After all, meeting people from faraway lands is the next best thing to being on the road. Her home was one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever seen, with very zen-like decor. She practiced Tai Chi and meditation with calm music in the background.

Outside was less relaxing, because we happened to be there during the Festival of Light:

Blessings be upon thee!

On our third day in France we were desperate about finding a place to sleep. We were stranded in the city of Metz after sunset, and cycling in the dark without bicycle paths wasn't an option. We even called some hotels, without any luck. By the Metz cathedral we discovered a Christmas market with a huge Ferris wheel, and forgot about our homelessness for an hour to drink mulled wine and take some photos.

As is sometimes the case, you find what you need only when you stop searching for it. Because soon we met Nora, a Moroccan girl with a constant smile on her face. She was working as security for the market, and didn't speak English, but used Google Translate to talk to us. Explaining that she liked to help travellers, she invited us to stay in her home nearby after her shift. We ended up having long conversations with the help of the app, and it really opened up a whole new world of communication. English isn't widely spoken in France, so this tip has saved us many times since then, and will be priceless in the future.

Metz.jpg

When Swedish people travel the world, they have an advantage that the rest of us don’t. It’s called Ikea. Apparently there’s a grocery store in every Ikea store selling genuine Swedish food. Isabelle nearly fainted from sheer joy when she saw one near Metz in France. Then spent what felt like three hours shopping for delicacies from back home while I guarded the bicycles.

Later we stopped so Isabelle could cook some of her new-found treasures for lunch. It’s nice to have some special food every now and then. But I do like traveling with someone who doesn’t require things like fancy restaurants and swimming pools. With bicycle touring the surroundings can get rather unluxurious. If you can be happy cooking Swedish meatballs with frozen fingers in an abandoned warehouse, life is pretty easy.

Kira is also happy wherever she is.

Then again, it's mostly not dirt floors and spray-painted walls when we stop. Along the Voie Verte bike path we had lunch with a nice view of the fortress of Berze. The sky was mostly overcast, but I noticed a sliver of light passing through the hill and got a picture just in time. In the second photo I took only ten seconds later the light on the castle was again flat and boring.

In hindsight, we should've asked if we could stay there for the night.

Earlier I wrote about Dutch hospitality, but I must say the French are no less generous. We've spent almost every night in warm beds after eating three-course dinners (with cheese and wine) with the family we just met. Even when I was cycling without two cute girls for a week people still opened their doors and welcomed me inside when I asked for help. And in the mornings they offer breakfast and even pack us lunch. If there's one thing the French consider important to share, it's food. Below we're eating lunch baguettes prepared for us by a cheerful old lady who hosted us in Chainens.

One of the challenges we’ve had while traveling together is our different speeds. I’ve been much faster with my lighter bike, which sometimes results in me being bored or cold while waiting. Or Isabelle can be stressed about feeling too slow. To balance out the weight and our speeds, we finally came up with a decent solution. All it took was a little rearranging:

The main reason I wanted the trailer is because now the colours match so much better.

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Single Frames - Norway

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Single Frames - Norway

So here’s something a little different.

Usually I try to write about one topic per post. Although I end up taking detours in my text just like with my cycling, that’s the general idea. Which means that when I write down (or form in my head) snippets of text that can’t be stretched to an entire blog post, they end up unused.

Also the photos in every blog post are often of things only vaguely (or not at all) related to the topic and may or may not be from the same day or place as the events in the text. This is out of necessity. If I always put up pictures that are exactly of the things I talk about, the quality of photography would plummet, since it’s impossible to get decent photos of every sight and location.

So to mix it up, this post will only include those small snippets, with no general theme. And the photos are all on topic.

Incredibly colourful sunset in Salsnes, Norway.

Somewhere near Salsnes the evening sky suddenly turned into flames. It was incredible, just fire and brimestone all over. I can’t remember ever seeing such a red sky before in my life. If I’d only seen it in a photo I would’ve said it looks too fake.

I was by the sea, which was great, but the heavy foliage blocked my view. Normally it’s nicer to avoid sweating on the bike, but this was an exception. I started hauling ass up the mountain to get to a photogenic location. Eventually I found a spot where I could get a photo by lifting my camera high above my head.

I took a few quick and shaky handheld shots (like the above). That is the least edited image in all of my blog posts - practically nothing has been done to it, except reducing saturation slightly to make it look more realistic.

Sadly by the time I found a place suitable for a tripod and a time-lapse, the colors had already faded a little. The annoying part about photographing on a bicycle is that it takes far too long to change locations when the light is great. I’ve missed a whole lot of sunsets just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Wind turbines on a hill at sunset.

When I visited Steinkjer, I came out of the grocery store to pouring rain. While waiting for it to stop, I chatted a bit with a Syrian refugee, who offered me a place to sleep in his home. It was late evening already, but with my current sleeping pattern I had only just had breakfast and would stay awake until at least 7am, so had to decline the generosity. I don’t have any expertise on Syrian customs, but it could presumably be considered awkward to hang around at someone’s place while they sleep. Or to wake up at 5pm as a guest.

It ended up raining for six hours, which I spent at the 24-hour gas station, and then at a hotel lobby. I almost never take photos in cities, but on my way out I noticed the rain had created nice puddles, so I made an exception and stopped to shoot this one:

Touring bike reflected at night off water in Steinkjer.

“Sorry, I’m not really religious.”

“But what if Hell is real?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Bridge to hell in Norway.

In Verdal I was tired and wanted to camp. The road looked to be going from town to town with nothing resembling decent camping spots. I made the rare decision to head to the nearest camping ground to sleep, for only the second time on this trip. But just a few hundred meters away from it, I discovered a beautiful forest and quickly changed my plan.

The ground was thick with luscious green moss. Thick spruce trees blocked all but a few beams of bright sunlight. Silvery drops of rain glistened in the branches. It was a gorgeous sight, but sadly marred by the sounds of the terrible industrial area I had passed on the way.

Constant clanking of machinery, whirring of turbines, and metal gnawing and grinding against rock. Whistles and honks and beeps and alarms. An avalanche of dreadful noises symbolising human consumption. The few birds remaining in the forest sounded quiet, tired, departing. There was not much left of their home.

Sometimes I worry our species will destroy everything natural and beautiful.

Camping spot in a spruce forest in Verdal.
 

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