I am writing to you from Paris and we depart for Istanbul tomorrow.
The last 10 days or so have been hectic but fun. I flew out of Toronto on the 24th and landed in Vienna. Then I lugged all my gear and tour supplies on the bus to Bratislava. I spent about four days there gathering my staff, vehicles and supplies. Piotr my mechanic (tour veteran) and Jon the chef, joined me there to help sort out the logistics. As expected, nothing ever turns out to be as simple as planned. Dealing with language barriers, foreign currencies and just locating everything was trying at times. My memories of the Slovakian capital from OE 05 were only of the industrial sector of town we rode through and the shopping mall. I spent most of my rest day there getting a couple of last minute clients decked out with a complete cycling kit. But this year my experience was far different. Henry put me in touch with some of his childhood and family friends who acted as translators for us. They invited me into their home for a traditional meal of roast chicken, potatoes and kale soup. Their home was an apartment in an old communist style high rise which was becoming decrepit from the outside but beautiful on the inside. After our feast we went into the old city and walked through the cobbled pedestrian mall. The historic architecture, cafes and bars lined the narrow entangled avenues. We stopped to sample some local ales, and I entertained them with stories of previous cycling expeditions. If you truly want to experience a foreign culture you must hangout with the locals.
Our road trip from Bratislava to Paris was about 1800km in 3 days. We scouted the route, picked up the last of our provisions and tested out all of our new gear. Our chef Jon spoiled Piotr and myself with bbq’ed meats, homemade soups and fresh squeezed OJ. I think Miles might have some competition. There wasn’t much time for us to enjoy Paris as we were busy meeting our clients and briefing them on the adventure that awaits them. Everything has fallen into place nicely and other than the wet weather forecast I think we should have a great first leg of the tour.