Cycles, Wars & Wines

Frites all over Belgium.  All. Over. This was a shop in Antwerp that we enjoyed.  They have frites shops/stands like we have hamburger joints in the US.  Word has it that fries were invented in Belgium, but were given that name “French fries” because WWI soldiers got confused because the people in the Flanders part of Belgium speak French.

AGMA loves to travel.

But then you knew that.

Surprisingly, I’m getting a bit burned out on travel. Actually more than a bit.

WTF? Yes…

AGMA’s sure it’s just a temporary condition. AGMA HOPES it’s just a temporary condition.

But seriously….six weeks after I got back from a 2 week trip to Spain/Portugal with a friend, Hubs and I left for a two week trip to Belgium & France. Two days after we got back from Belgium/France last week, we left for a wedding in Nashville.

It was a beautiful wedding by the way…

We got back on Sunday and leave next week for 5 days in Chicago to visit the grands. And their parents. Of course.

Too much travel – definitely a 1st World problem and a really good one at that. But as Hubs can attest to, when AGMA gets pooped, she gets pooped.

And I’m pooped.

Today Hubs suggested a short getaway to NOLA in June because airfares were on sale. I told him to take Son #2, who will be soon unemployed (his choice – he took ‘the package’) and available for junkets. I hope they go.

I’d actually love to have the house to myself for a few days.

So before AGMA turns into a total travel troll, for your entrainment and delight (I’m sure…), I’m sharing a few of the best pictures (not the ones of the ground, my lap, my fingers, etc…) of what I like to call our Cycles, Wars and Wines trip.

I promise it won’t be the 240 pictures that Hubs shared on Facebook. OMG….

First for the Cycles. And you know AGMA loves those young men in spandex!

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So the famous Cobbled Classic bike race, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde Van Vlaanderan) is a one day race that takes place in Belgium.  And it starts in Antwerp.  And at the frite shop that we went to in Antwep (pictured at the top of my post), this was ALL the sauces that you could put on your frites!.  Ketchup is so yesterday…

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Night falling on the Grote Markt (main square) in Antwerp.  AGMA loved Antwerp (over Gent, Brussels and even Bruges!)  The construction in the foreground became the main stage of the start of the Tour of Flanders where the riders signed in.

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A day of spring sunshine brought Antwerpians (??) out to the Groenplaats in Antwerp.  The sunshine didn’t last….

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We’re now in the tiny village of Kwaremont, Belgium where there is a very narrow , steep hill full of cobblestones (called The Kwaremont) that is one of the famous climbs in the Tour of Flanders.   Riders have to ride up not one, not two, but three times! AGMA could barely walk up it….  Oh – and the sunshine and mild temps of Antwerp did not show up in Kwaremont,

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Though a wonderful Belgian organization called Inter that promotes accessibility to sporting events and festivals, we had a GREAT view of the goings on at the top of The Kwaremont.  You know the riders are close when their team cars pass though.  AGMA’s excitement was building….

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My fav rider, World Champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia.  You can tell it was a cold day because the riders are somewhat (for professional cyclists) bundled up.  And so is the crowd.  And so was AGMA.  And Sagan didn’t win – he finished 6th.

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The main square of the town of Oudenaarde, Belgium.  The finish line is just outside of town.  We visited Oudenaarde the day before the race to explore the town, go to the Tour of Flanders Museum (yes there is!) and see the riders in the Tour of Flanders Sportive.  This event takes place a day before the ‘real’ race and allows any cyclist who thinks they have the right stuff to ride part of the course (some ride the whole course – 273km!) There were 3000 riders who rode the Sportive this year.  And I think they all stopped in Oudenaarde for a beer afterwards.

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The official finish line with Sportive riders coming in.  Son#2, the cyclist, rode the Sportive a few years ago and says the vast majority of the Sportive riders are MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Latex.)

Sunshine, mild temps, riders not bundled up…  Dorothy, I don’t think we’re at the Tour of Flanders anymore.  And you would be right!  We are in a tiny town in France called Maing.  This is another very famous one day Cobbled Classic race called Paris Roubaix.  We drove 100 minutes from Epernay, France and 100 minutes back to watch 5 minutes of bike racing in Maing.  Hubs is a total saint for indulging AGMA’s weird cycling compulsion!  Here’s Peter Sagan again.  And yeah – we were that close to the riders.  And he won!

The guy in the pink helmet is Taylor Phinney, the only rider from the US who was in Paris Roubaix this year.  One thing I adore about cyclists is how incredibly tough they are.  In 2014, at the age of 23, at the US Nationals Road Race, Phinney totally shattered one of his legs in a horrific crash.  He’s worked incredibly hard to come back from that near career ending accident to ride in the Tour de France last year and finish 8th at this Paris Roubaix.  And he is a total character.  When he’s interviewed, he sounds like a laid back California surfer dude, and has a never ending supply of wise sayings and smiles.

Sooo…yikes…this post has gotten way longer than I had intended so I’m going to give you a breather.

And let you heave a sigh of relief that that cycling “stuff” is done. Heathens…

Just kidding.  Not really.

Wars and Wine shortly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wanna Hold Your Musette!

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I was young when “Meet the Beatles” was released in the U.S.  Just barely ten years old.  I’m pretty sure I watched the Beatles on The Ed “really big shoo” Sullivan Show in February, 1964. But I’m also pretty sure I didn’t understand Beatlemania, and why all those girls were screaming and crying and ripping their hair out.  But the Fab Four faced some pretty stiff competition for attention in my ten year old life – the formidable likes of Julie Andrews, Colorforms and my Barbie!

A couple years later, I got it.  The Monkees exploded onto TV in 1966.  I was totally smitten.  Beatles smeatles – THESE guys had talent and no funny accents.  Classic!  I used to pass notes – a quaint, ancient form of texting – in school with a fellow Monkee lover.  We drew little pictures in the corners of our notes of Mikes’ cute little wool hat, ever present on his head.  Now I wonder if his head ever got hot.

I even saw them in “concert”.  I’m still not sure who actually played the instruments, but ignorance is bliss and I screamed until I had no voice.

I’d forgotten how it felt to have that primitive, star struck, visceral response that reduces you to squealing mass of tongue tied tween.  Until last summer…

I went to the Tour de France.

I’ll pause for a minute to let that sink in…

If you’re not a professional cycling fan, you won’t get it.  I’m not even sure I get it.  I don’t even ride a bike.

All I know is that I became a quivering, teeny bopping mess all over again.  I saw, live and in person, the professional cyclists I greatly admire and knew only from my Mac and flat screen TV!   Incredibly talented, world class athletes in the most grueling endurance sporting event in the world, and some of them were standing right beside me.

On the outside, I played it cool.  Most of the time.

Inside, I was a roiling, tumultuous, star struck twelve year old who just wanted to squeal, “OMG, is that Marcel Kittel sitting over there?”  and  “OMG, there’s Peter Sagan!!” and “OMG…Jens! Jens!! JENS!!!”  And sometimes, despite attempts to control myself, it just came squealing out – quietly – anyway.  I couldn’t help it.

My 36 year old Australian TDF roommate didn’t know what to make of me.  I think I scared her a little.  So, okay…you know you’re really kind of nuts if you out-crazy an Aussie cycling fan, right?  I think I scared myself a little.

But boy, did it feel good to be so thrilled and excited and passionate about something on such a gut level!  To give yourself the permission to feel that innocent joy and limitless possiblity of your youth again after so many years.  Catnip for the soul.  Fountain of youth for the spirit.  Definitely NOT aging gracefully!

Amgen Tour of California this year anybody?  I promise, I’ll try to control myself.

Or not.