成程 (Naru Hodo) - IC in Japan^H^H Cote d'Azur^H^H USA

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day in Nice

Today I went for a long walk through nice. First stop was of course the beach. Not a white sand beach, but white and really big rocks.

The sun twinkled over the sea and was really strong, even though it was the last day of October. With green palms all over the place there was no sign of fall.

After that I went through the old town and found a nice market. A part of it was a huge flower market that reminded me of Grasse "the town of the perfumers" from the movie. As said town is maybe 1 hour by bike from here I will visit it tomorrow.

Other things offered were flawless vegetables.

And many many different olives.

Then I climbed the hill of "Parc de la Colline de Chateau" where one has a really nice view over "Baie des Anges", the sea in front of Nice, and was impressed by its nice blue colour.

On top of the hill was a small sports field and an old man was doing some elegant really slow and really impressive ThaiChi in the morning sun.
On the other side of the hill you could watch "Eglise Notre Dame du Port", the harbour of nice. One interesting thing to note is that there were cacti instead of trees growing at the hillsides :-).

After that I strolled through the city aimlessly, had a nap and started to learn some French from my textbook ;-)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Trip to INRIA, Nice

With the very accurate description of the way I got from the people in the hotel, I quickly found the Skewed Tower. And did it right before the police could install their detour signs to lure tourist drivers to the huge parking spaces far away from the tower. They were just pulling them out of their trunks...
Luckily I found a spot, just large enough for my bike with the tower in line of sight :D.

I parked the bike and walked around like a tourist. In the light of the rising sun the tower looked really bright and of course I made my tourist picture :P.

I tried the extremely crowded SS1 towards Nice but it is one endless city area with stop&go and my air cooled Q suffered big time. So I took the expensive autostrada to Genova.

I didn't see enough of Genova to decide whether I like it or not. The hills are overcrowded with buildings and there are not many trees, what I don't like, but many different and old buildings. For sure it is interesting and I need to have another look at that city.
Traffic in Genova is really crazy. Apparently nobody cares about rules, maybe red lights are honoured if they shine for quite a wile. But everybody takes a little bit care of himself and much to my surprise it works and traffic flows. A strong engine and strong brakes help a lot...
The overall impression of Genova is that the city feels very alive. Much like an anthill. I blended the stream of motorised ants for half an hour without the slightest chance of finding a parking spot, gave up and returned to the "auto strada"...

Meanwhile the sun reached her full power. According to the electric signs on the auto strada, up to 29°C. So I stopped, removed the lining of my jacked and switched to my summer gloves :D
As I could see the Rivera from the highway I gave it another try near a place called Pietra, some 50 kilometres after Genova. The traffic was still lively, but at least there were little spaces between the villages. And those spaces were pretty much how I imagined my trip to be:
Nice curvy roads along the Mediterranean :D. Only some palm trees once in a while between me and the beach or the cliffs ... :D.

After a nice ride along the coast, frequently interrupted by towns with stuffed roads and traffic jams, but still nice for the most part, I finally reached France. I don't know what I expected of the "border" between Italy and France, but two small deserted white cottages and a few lines on the road were the only indication that I just entered a different country. A little bit odd and way to quick to realise it and take a picture ;-). At least some colourful village came into sight and invited me to take a picture. I think it is called "Menton."

The only obvious change from Italian traffic was that the roads appeared deserted. Way less traffic than in Italy. Maybe the fees for the highways in France are cheaper than in Italy :P.
Minor changes include licence plates that now had yellow background (at least the ones on the back of the cars. The one on the front still appear to be white?!) and the drivers paid more attention to speed limits and traffic rules in general. The closer I got to Nice the more the last observation faded away...
Also French cars appear to have more buckles and dents than the cars in Italy :P.

At 18:00 o'clock, after almost 10 hours on the bike, I finally reached my Bed&Breakfast hostel. And got a map of Nice from the owner, which would have had simplified finding the hostel in the first place ;-).
My first "French" dinner came from the local supermarket: Roquefort cheese, Cornicons and Cidre :D. I will sleep like a stone.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Trip to INRIA, Pisa

With some help of the change to winter time I managed to leave Riva del Garda at 7:20 and headed towards Parma. As there was thick fog, I didn't see much of the Po-plains, that were described as rather boring to me. What I could see were lots of green fields with some trees and some sleepy cows (I suppose they were sleepy as they didn't move much).
When I reached Parma, most of the fog was gone and the sun came out. As I already was slowed down by the fog and I didn't want to spend a fortune for fees on the "auto strada" to move on quicker, I left Parma without searching for the famous ham and cheese.
As I am not used yet to the strange places Italian people put their street signs, of course I got lost. Lucky me. Seriously.
I ended up on a very small road with almost no traffic, winding its way through some mountains. If anybody wants to look on a map, I passed "Langhirano", "Corniglio" and finally crossed the "Paso die Lagastrello".
My Q loved that road. More so as she got bored by all those straight roads before. The over engineered chassis of the Q is truly amazing and makes you forget about all that luggage. I love it and never want to ride anything else :D.

With a big smile (and a little bit tired from all those curves) I stopped in a small restaurant at the side of the road. I would not have noticed if it weren't for the 20 motorbikes parking in front of it. Apart from a "small blue Yamaha R6" none of them had less than 1 Litre engine :D. Big Buels, Ducati and even an old MotoGuzzi.
While I was entering the restaurant, a herd of Qs joined the crowd. Maybe 10 of them and only Qs. Lots of GS, some KT but no other S like mine :D.

Again I was faced with an older lady, obviously the waitress, talking to me in Italian without taking time to breath. As she noticed that I didn't understand anything, she said something else and I heared the word "Coke", so apparently she asked me what I wanted to drink. Coke is not bad, so I ordered "Si, Coke".
After that she continued talking a lot and I understood "Salame". Food is not bad, I thought, and nodded. She continued talking something about "mista". I heard that before ("insalata mista" meaning mixed salad) and nodded again. She looked at me, wondering for a moment (without talking) and said something I didn't understand, but I am 100% sure it meant "Ok. You sit and wait. I (am the big mamma and) will decide what you will eat and it will be fine"...
I sat and waited.
A Coke arrived.
And minutes later some freshly fried bread(?)
And some Salami and two kinds of ham.
And a piece of cheese.
As Parma was still close, I assume it was Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. What ever it was, it was delicious.

After I eat up, I got coffee and paid. "un dichi" euros and I am quite proud that I understood that it meant 11 :D.

The only bad thing of the Q (apart from the hard seat, to which I get used) is the small tank. Shortly after lunch the gasoline low light lighted up.
After a long search I found a (automated) gasoline station, put 10 euros into the machine, pressed a button, went to the pipe indicated and noticed that there a was a small lock. And a piece of paper with some Italian text on it. Apparently it meant "Nr. 1 out of order"...
Thanks for telling me after eating my money :-(
As nobody was around to complain to, I put 5 euro in, tried with a different button and finally got some gasoline.

With all those curvy roads it became 17:00 o'clock until I arrived at my hotel in Tirrenia (just near Pisa) so it was getting dark and I was too tired to search for the tower. Maybe tomorrow morning.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

In the mountains around Riva del Garda

For some reason I woke up really early this morning (7:30). As the mountains were glowing really friendly.

As I haven't been climbing on a mountain for about two years and I stopped doing sports regularly in Japan ^^;; I thought, that small chapel in the middle of the mountain (500 something meters) would be a nice start to move a little again.

After a short walk through the sleeping city I started climbing around 9:00.

Much to my surprise I reached the chapel at 10:00 straight and was a bit faster then the recommendation of 2:00h...

After enjoying the view and sweating quite a bit, I decided to go a little bit further. The arrival of several noisy (of course German :P) tourists, aided in a quick decision...

The way got a little bit more difficult (especially for my sneakers ^^;;) but I just wanted to go a little bit further. The distance to the top was given with additional 3:00h, but I didn't want to go that far anyway without water, food and stamina...

After about one hour I found a sign promising water, solving one of my three problems...

And indeed it lead to a fountain of nice, cold and really clear water.

After a short refreshing break I went on and at 12:00 o'clock I reached the top. The last few meters were a little bit advanced, but no problem with the provided ropes and climbing aids ^^;;

The incredible view down on Riva del Garda was worth every drop of my sweat and pictures can not describe that impression at all:

I choose a different way down, but it was in the shadow of the mountain and pretty muddy. So no nice pictures as there was not much nice to see :P.
Down in Riva del Garda I bought a huge Gelato to treat myself to my accomplishment, went to the lake and put my feet into the really cold water.

To make everything complete here a pic of the mountain side with the chapel and the top marked.

And the "map" I used to find my way on the mountain...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trip to INRIA, Riva del Garda

Finally my trip to the south of France has started. Packed into thick protective clothes like a modern knight I mounted my Q. (Note to non bikers, BMW motorbikes are referred to as a cow made of rubber for various reasons. The German term is "Gummi-Kuh" so the shortcut "Q" (In German "Q" sounds like the word "Kuh") is used frequently).

Anyway I mounted my Q, made a farewell picture and rode off. Even with luggage for half a year, my Q is quite calm. The only complaint is, that the seat is quite hard...
After 6 hours I reached Italy. I really missed all those mountains.

So even if a geared up Q is not the ideal instrument to ride roads with lots of curves I gave it a try. And the Q did not let me down. With a wide smile I arrived in "Riva del Garda". As the name suggests it is right at the Garda lake :D. In the back of the village (actually quite a bit away) are huge, steep rocks. It is a really strange feeling if you walk though the roads and the buildings pass by, but the rocks don't move...

Maybe I am just too tired. I went to a small restaurant called "El Condor" to eat. I was completely unable to communicate with the waitress and felt a little bit helpless. For some reason I always wanted to talk in Japanese to the poor girl... :-}
In the end I resorted to good old communication by hand and feet and managed to order a huge pizza Capriciosa. After that I ate the best Spaghetti Carbonara on the planet in combination with a cheap but very nice red wine.
I think I will go there again tomorrow for the Spaghetti :D. Now I am stuffed and need to sleep as I want to explore more tomorrow...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Master Thesis at the Cote d, Azur :D

My last exam in Japanese is done! Finally :D.

The next step will be the Master Thesis (German Diplomarbeit). I got the chance to do it in the South of France. I don't speak any Franch,yet, but I for sure will be forced to learn some quickly there :P. The place is called Sophia-Antipolis and the intitute is called INRIA an according to some pictures it is right between the Cote d' Azur and the south-west end of the Alps :D.

As I lack on the side of French geography, my French friend Guillaume provided me with a map: