Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that on the 1st July I set off from Greece in the direction of Portugal on my bike. My mission is two-fold. Firstly because I want to. Secondly because I will write my second book about the trip. “Crossing Europe in a Different Direction on a Bike Called Reggie.” I think the title will need some fine tuning, no? My flight is booked for the 30th June at an ungodly time of 6:30am but I am at least flying British Airways so Reggie The Bike will be in good hands. That said, they probably outsource their baggage handling to companies with far less lofty reputations to maintain. I haven’t yet booked a flight back to the UK from south-west Portugal and won’t do so before I get anywhere close to my destination; it would be tempting fate to do otherwise. My journey will take me through nine countries (ten if I am allowed to include Monaco although I’m not sure whether I will cycle through the tax haven anyway) bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It should be quite an adventure.
What I haven’t yet mentioned on here is that I have another couple of trips planned for earlier in the year; one for ‘business’ and the other for pleasure although both should, I hope be pleasurable. The first is a school trip, an exchange visit to the town of Falaise in Normandy, France. Falaise is the twin town of Henley-on-Thames where I teach and the school exchange has a long history. The teacher who normally runs the trip and escorts the students to France is currently on maternity leave so I have taken up the temporary responsibility of being the lead teacher. Twelve students from my own school are taking part alongside another twelve or so students from a nearby school. I will be living with a French school teacher for a week so it will be a good opportunity to give my linguistic skills a workout; the language that I am called upon to use when teaching doesn’t exactly have me reaching for a dictionary very often. (I sometimes feel that if I have to discuss the likes and dislikes of a particular teenager yet again, I may not be responsible for my actions.) I’m a great believer in school exchanges; it was through my own participation in an exchange programme when I myself was a teenager that first gave me confidence to speak French. I’ve been doing so ever since. Forget language learning guides, CDs, online courses; go and live with the people (and try to do so before Mr. Cameron has whipped us out of Europe in order to appease the ageing Eurosceptics of the Tory party…).
A few days after my return from Normandy at the end of March, I fly with two friends to Bratislava in Slovakia. One of the friends has family connections via his partner to the Tatra mountains which dominate the area east of the capital (which, when you look at the map of the country is most of Slovakia). I recently bought a guidebook about walking in the Tatra mountains and one of the first things I read in the book was that the least best time to go walking in the area was at the beginning of April. This is due to the risks of avalanches. Oh well, the flight is now booked. I’ve also been told that there are bears in the area so if the avalanches don’t get us, perhaps the bears will. In fact even if the avalanches do get us, it will just turn us into ready-frozen meals for any passing bears. They may need a human-sized microwave oven to defrost us first.
So, with all this travel, expect a few non-cycling stories on here before the serious job of crossing Europe again on a bike called Reggie starts in earnest at the start of July. If, that is, I survive the avalanches, bears and a week living with the French.