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2017. Little cycling girl in France – Mont Ventoux

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It is high and there’s a lot of wind… Guess! Right! The Mont Ventoux. In september three friends and I departed for a climb of the legendary mountain.
With the weather forecast being promising, we started climbing, from Malaucène to the top. I had in mind not to stop while climbing, but even after less then one kilometer I gave up on that idea. My heart was about to jump out of my body…! So, I stopped and restarted…
It took a while and the most friendly cyclists encouraged me. The views were splendid, the cookies that I had with me were heavenly, and the water in my bidon… oh, it was the best water I ever had!

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After *uhum* only two hours and a half I could see the famous red and white mast. But then I also saw one of my companions, with a flat tire. A FLAT TIRE… on one kilometer from the top! Well, try to stop those friendly cyclists when they smell their sweet victory. Lucky for us, one of them came back from his victorious reach to the top, with a spare tire. So, at the end we all reached the top together.IMG_0039ventoux
During the climb I thaught I was a very crazy cycling girl. It was as if I was cycling through hell itself. Hell with a nice view. But hell is quite amazing when you reach the top!IMG_0040IMG_0036
Vaucluse is of course more then Le Géant du Provence. There are markets with the fullfilling joy for nose and eyes. Deepyellow melons, large basil leaves, blue-purple dried lavender, golden honey, juicy nectarines…
And a delightful nature which brings pleasure to hikers and cyclists. If you climbed the windy mountain (or not) make sure you treat yourself with a (cycling) tour of Gorges de la Nesque. Take the short climb, have a picknick and then descend for more or less 16 kilometers at a percentage of around 3%.
Extra for the readers of De bekeerlinge van Stefan Hertmans: you pass by Monieux!IMG_0041IMG_0042

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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from Paris to Reims

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Most remarkable animal on our route was the dog that made me reach 30 km/h while climbing a hill.
As for the weather in the North of France we had it all. And for all kinds of weather and situations I had my outfit. From left to right: on a rainy day I looked like a drowned cat, on a sweaty hot day I looked like a tomato that was dressed up for cycling, on the day we arrived in Paris I hided my cycling shorts by wearing a black dress, and on the day we drove to Laon I looked like winter was coming.IMG_0029
Day 10. Paris – Compiegne (by train) and Compiegne – Noyon 30 km
Day 11. Noyon – Coucy le Château – Laon
When the cathedral of Laon was built, oxen provided the import of rocks from the quarry uphill to the center of Laon. On one day one of the oxen fell dead. It was a disaster. But on that very moment an ox with wings flew through the sky and took the job of the death ox. As an honour for the animals who helped building the cathedral stone carved oxen look over the city of Laon.
Apart from the cathedral Laon isn’t really attractive. Where Noyon is a quiet and charming town, Loan is quite dirty and unpleasant.IMG_0030IMG_0031
Day 12. Laon – Chemin des Dames – Ville Dommange 75 km
We left early in Laon. It was a misty morning. Covered in silence we crossed the Chemin des Dames. The name referring to the daughters of Louis XV who took this route to visit their governess. But the surrounded landscape we saw was made by World War II. On April 16, 1917 a large offensive was planned by the French army. Soldiers were sent uphill were the German soldiers lay waiting and easily shot them.
On Chemin des Dames we visited the Caverne du Dragon (the Dragon Cave). Both the German as the French army had a camp in the cave. Both armies called it the Dragon Cave. The Germans gave the name Drachenhöhle because of the smoke from the kitchen came out of the cave, as if it came out of the mouth of a dragon.
The French soldiers saw the four tunnels of the cave as four necks of a dragon and there for called it the Caverne du Dragon.IMG_0032
Last cycling day, last kilometers, last rainshower… and that meant a slippery road! With a crash as a result (with no harm aside for a painful ankle).IMG_0033
And last but not least: a visit to the cathedral of Reims, a candle for Jeanne d’Arc (and for us) and a cool bottle of Champagne.IMG_0034

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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from Rouen to Paris

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Day 7. Rouen – Giverny – Cherence 63 km
Swallows high in the sky, no rain on the menu today. A beautiful route along the Seine brings us in Giverny. The little place is crowded with tourists who are seduced by umbrellas, tin boxes, framed posters, handkerchiefs, fridge magnets… all with a print of an impressionist painting. Claude Monet is all over this idyllic little town.
The garden of Monet is really worth a visit. The vibrating scent of the flowers and the million shades of color, are intoxicating.
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Day 8. Cherence – Le Vexin – Versailles 78 km
The Seine is our guide through this very French landscape. Le Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin Français is a pituresque and protected scenery with woods, forests, meadows, fields… You can feel the inspiration that in earlier years also inspired painters like Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Daubigny.
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Day 9 is a rest day which we spent in the Château de Versailles. Even with tickets bought in advance, we have to queue for a long time. For an illustrator that means a lot of models who don’t run away *grin*.
After a visit to the palace and it’s enormous gardens, we took our bike to Paris where the Nôtre-Dame rang her clocks for our arrival (or was it because of the Assumption of Mary, August 15?).
Versailles – Paris 25 km
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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from Dieppe to Rouen

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Some heroes and their story:
Jehan Ango (1480-1551) was a great heroe in Dieppe. In the 16th century Jehan became captain of a ship that ventured into the spice trade with Africa and India, just like his father. The trade had made him rich and with his fortune he settled in Dieppe. Jehan had become a close friend of King François I who allowed him to hijack the Portuguese fleet.
Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431) is a heroine of France because of her role during the Hunderd Years’ War. After she is captured, she’s found guilty of witchcraft and convicted to death by burning on 30 May 1431, in Rouen.IMG_0023
Rollo (846-933) was a Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy. He was the leader of the Vikings during the siege of Paris in 885. Rollo killed the count of Normandy and took his daughter to be his wife. Plusside of this marriage was that he became the new count of Normandy.
Willem the Conqueror (1028-1087) was duke of Normandy and a man with a plan. He invaded England in September 1066 and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Afterwards he was crowned king of England.IMG_0022
Day 6. Dieppe – rain rain rain – Rouen 63 kmIMG_0026
Aître Saint-Maclou (Rouen) is an ancient ossuary and a curieus building. The wooden frames were ornamented with skulls and bones.regen
Rain in Normandy, they have it in all types and sizes: rain that falls hard-and-fast down, rain by three drops on a square meter, soft drizzly rain that’s good for the plants but bad for the biker’s mood, rain that’s going to stick for a day…
And like the wise saying predicts: if the swallows fly low to the ground, rain is on it’s way.

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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from St-Valery-sur-Somme to Dieppe

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We even saw real living seals! And a bunch of other animals, some definable, some not.
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Day 5. Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme – Le Tréport – Dieppe 75 km
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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from Boulogne-sur-Mer to St-Valery-sur-Somme

IMG_0006IMG_0007IMG_0008Day 3. Boulogne-sur-Mer – Etaples – Fort Mahon – Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme 105 km
Day 4. Rest day in Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme
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2017. Little cycling girl in France – from Poperinge to Boulogne-sur-Mer

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Day 1. Poperinge – Cassel – Saint-Omer: 48 km
Lets say we didn’t make a glamorous start for our first cycling trip. While Tijl wrecked his back, my bike fell between the train and the platform. And thus our trip began… with a sore back and less red paint.IMG_0002IMG_0003
After a stiff climb up to Cassel hill (de Casselberg) we tried their very famous, greasy and odd looking Potjesvleesch. In Roman times they maybe ate more refined food, since Cassel was a quite large Gallo-Roman city. In my children’s book Slakken en potscherven the main character Marcus lives in Cassel. We imagined where Marcus could have lived in the old days. Somewhere just outsite the center, because Marcus and his father had their own pottery and due to the heat of the oven and with it, the chance of starting a fire, potteries weren’t build inside the city centers.IMG_0004
Day 2. Saint-Omer – Eperlecques – Boulogne-sur-Mer 74 km
A historical monument that is worth a visit is definitely Le Blockhaus d’Eperlecques.IMG_0005

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2016. Little travelling girl in Vietnam – Mekong Delta & HCMC

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2016. Little travelling girl in Vietnam – Can Tho

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2016. Little travelling girl in Vietnam – Hoi An & My Son

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