Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:46 am

Here's a little video (not high quality, it was taken on my cellphone... edited on my cellphone... soundtrack done on my cellphone... etc etc.) Does give you an idea of what some of the driving was like though!

http://bvardi.smugmug.com/Other/francet ... 5H8GL-A-LB

Mostly shot along the Naberge Gorge... an amazing road. (With unique protection from going off edge... shin high stone walls or occasionally some small bits of shrubbery. Probably special safety shrubbery I imagine.)

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:46 am

Just as an aside.... scooters and motorcycles are definitely popular in France (especially Provence). Everywhere you go you see people buzzing about on scooters (and with the small streets and limited parking in most of the older towns, I can see why they'd be a big advantage!)

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I have some more... but you get the picture. Lots of bikes. And impressive driving skills.... like the guy who went through the Roundabout at twice the legal speed, weaving in between cars.... while running from the police.
And he still took the time to wave at us. Gotta observe the niceties you know.

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:47 am

Food was a big part of our trip.
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Meals in France work differently than here. You go for lunch around 11 - and usually take 2-3 hours for it. (Don't expect to be served if you arrive too late... the restaurants basically stop serving so they can get their own lunch.)

After that, places open for dinner around 6:30-7 - and you spend another 2-3 hours having dinner. Fast food isn't nearly as popular there as here.... there you sit, socialize, eat and savour. It's a different lifestyle - but I can see some of the advantages.

There are quite a few more photos, and stories from Provence.... but with a few final images - I think it's time for us to drop off the Ural, hop onto a train... and go to Paris where we will meet up with the WW2 typhoon pilots for the whirlwind tour of Normandy.

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Our hotel room in Paris, near the airport..... small, but it'll do the trick for a night.

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We did have a minor setback on the trip to Paris - our camera got swiped in the train station. Fortunately 70 percent of the pictures were saved to our laptop... but we did lose some good ones. CBesprit was nice enough to even give us a lift to the train station after we dropped off the bike (all in all I can't say enough about how good they were - they are highly recommended should you consider visiting the area)

So that is it for the Ural side of things.... but I will continue later with the Normandy part of the trip

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:48 am

Ok.... so on to Normandy (yes I'm late on that, but what more appropriate time of the year to tell you about the part of our trip with 4 WW2 typhoon pilots and one Code and Cipher vet (my grandmother)

We arrived in Paris a day before meeting up with the group. We decided to go in and just wander around for a while - first going to see the Louvre (closed on that particular day it turns out). Then we went to another museum (too long of a lineup) followed by the french military museum and Napoleon's tomb (for a little guy, he sure did get a big tomb.)

First thing to remark on about Paris.... two wheels (especially scooters) are the way to go in this city.

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I could go on, but you get the point. At every stoplight, scooters and motorbikes would filter up to the front and take off from there. Everything from sportsbikes, to little 50cc runabouts.

Piaggo Mp3's seemed quite popular.

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Also a novel solution we spotted - what do you do in an ancient city, with no room to retrofit full on gas stations?

Sidewalk gas pumps of course.... with card payment.

http://bvardi.smugmug.com/Other/SmugSho ... 1287-M.jpg

No hunchbacks were harmed in the taking of the below photo....

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Standing in the courtyard of the Louvre.... impressive place, even from the outside.

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The french military museum....


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jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:48 am

Just a few more random shots of Paris - then on to meeting up with the group and visiting Normandy.

The Metro.... the only way to get around the city. (Unless you have a scooter or rent a bicycle.)

http://bvardi.smugmug.com/Other/SmugSho ... 1291-M.jpg

Napoleon's Tomb..... just the sarcophagus (his tomb itself would be a cathedral here)

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About as close as we got to the Eiffel tower

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Looking out over the river.... Paris is definitely a city partly defined by water.

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No need to bore you guys with every shot of our one day in the city..... on to the next day.... and off to Normandy

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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:49 am

A few comments before the photos.

When my grandmother asked us to go on the trip - there wasn't much question we'd go. Aside from the chance to visit France - something I'd highly recommend you do if you ever get the chance - this was the woman who had a large part in my raising as a child. I used to spend summers up at the cottage - all summer, while my parents taught in an arts program in Haliburton I'd be on the lake with my grandparents next door keeping an eye on me.

She's probably the reason I have what limited social skills I do - and she's worked hard all of her life, doing everything she could for her family. She is a veteran herself - as I mentioned before, Code and Cipher and she also worked in the motor transportation division. After the war she did corporate sales - at a time when women in the workforce were not particular common (and not always well received.) She did this while raising a large family as well.

I would also be retracing the steps of both of my grandfathers. My grandfather on my father's side, Jack, was a Despatch rider.
(We did a ride from Toronto in his honour, riding out to Victoria BC in the Ural for his memorial. The ride report on that went into another forum.... yes Berger, it should have gone here....

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthre ... asing+jack

My grandfather on my mother's side, Bob, was a fighter pilot during the war. Flying several types of aircraft - but his favourite was the Typhoon.

Typhoon pilots did ground attack - taking more than their share of fire, risking crashing, risking themselves just from various quirks of the plane itself.

And we'd be going along with 4 of these pilots - and seeing several dedications in their honour.

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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:49 am

This trip would also be a chance to get to know a side of my grandfather I didn't really see. He didn't talk about the war a whole lot (except apparently when he got together with the other pilots.... as is common with those who went in harm's way, he had a special bond with them.) He did talk about flying.... planes and flight were always a love of his. He'd tell you how the Typhoon few, how it danced and responded to his inputs on the controls.

That feel for the plane got him through some rough spots from what I understand.

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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:51 am

I've heard a few of the stories from the time of the war.... mostly the lighter hearted ones. My grandmother told me about one time - while my grandfather was in training on the east coast, prior to going overseas. He took her up one afternoon in the two seat trainer for a flight. After flying along for a while, he asked her if she was ready. She took him to mean ready to head back in, so she said yes.

He then (having misunderstood her) proceeded to do a series of acrobatic stunts. (I still chuckle at that.... funny when you realize your grey haired grandfather was at one time a bit of a reckless dare devil.)

She remained silent at this (she's tough, but I suspect surprise was a good portion of that) - and he took them down for a landing shortly afterwards.

Moral of the story - if a pilot asks you "are you ready?" - make sure to ask "For WHAT?"

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A few of the stories from my other grandfather and great uncle made their way into this article I did for CMG a while back...

http://cmgonline.com/content/view/2458/57/

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:51 am

And so - on to Normandy.

We left our mini hotel room, hopped on the airport shuttle and made for the paris airport to meet up with the group. Once we got there, we frantically searched for the car rental place - which took a while, caused us to run up and down the airport several times, but finally we spotted the office. We checked out one of the Peugeot vans we'd be renting for the week and then waited for everyone else to arrive. And waited. And waited. After a while we got a phone call - and then figured out there are TWO offices for this particular rental place... on totally different levels. (Not sure why they didn't mention this when we rented the van.... but ah well.)

After a bit more confusion we were off to Bayeax, our home base for the week. (The home of the Bayeaux tapestry as well.)

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This was to be a week of running around from WW2 site, to historical site, to "Vin d'honneurs" - which I am probably mispelling, but they are basically a wine and snack celebration in honour of someone... in this case the vets.

The French have not forgotten Canada's role in their liberation.... to this day you visit a WW1 graveyard for Canadians and each grave is meticulously gardened, with different families looking after particular graves. In every village people came out to thank the vets... and to tell stories they had from their parents, grandparents, or occasionally things that the older villagers had seen with their own eyes.

I've decided to tell this one not strictly in chronological order.... I'll split things up into little moments and memories and tell it that way.

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:52 am

Here's one... this was at the site of a plaque dedication... in a field, off in the middle of nowhere - where a plaque was being placed to show where an allied airbase had been.

An airbase in which my grandfather had served.

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Looking out over the fields... green green plants waving in the cool breeze... I pictured the sounds. The fields pounded into mud and dust. Metal grids laid down upon the earth to make a runway. Planes with jury-rigged filters, still needing rebuilds in half the time due to the abrasive dust getting into the engine.

Now quiet, empty... once full of noise and fury. With just a few reminders of what had been.... like the metal fencing made from the grids that used to make up the runways. These which had launched men to war...... now turned to a quieter purpose.

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I wrote this standing there... staring out at an empty place.... that yet was full of something important. Staring at a single poppy, red among the green.
A reminder.


Those flawed and perfect boys
Linger in the flaxen rows
Dancing blue
Slipping metal wings free of dust
To touch a well stormed sky.

Shadowed faces on edge of sight
Never gone while
Hearts remember.
Still dancing blue
To a burning sky.

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