Nine Million Bicycles

Well, the time has come. This trip has been a long time in the planning but suddenly it’s here. I leave tomorrow for Durban and then, next Saturday, Alex and I fly out to meet Kiera and James in Beijing. Kiera’s year at Pentravel has definitely paid off as she has planned an amazing trip for us through China and Thailand. All I’ve had to do is pay! Since I’m going to be travelling with three youngsters, all of whom have no income (Kiera and James have just ended their contracts in China), we are doing this trip on a really miniscule budget (you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you Pete? It’s all relative!). Kiera and I agreed that there is nothing worse than cheap hotels (ones that have dreary rooms with suspect bedding, leaky toilets, carpet on the doors and windows that don’t open). Since we can’t afford, and don’t really want, 5-star hotel or generic, resort type accommodation, Kiera has managed to book us into some really nice youth hostels, b&bs and chalets.

To give you an idea, in Beijing we are staying at the Red Lantern House, a hostel located in one of the hutongs . It’s costing me about R260 a night for a twin private room ensuite and they do airport transfers. Not bad I think, and it looks quite promising. Anyhow, I will tell you all about it when I get back in 4 weeks time.

Kiera and I are good travel buddies.  In June 2004 we spent a wonderful couple of weeks together in Paris. We rented an apartment in the Marais district which Kiera found on the internet.

One day we took a trip out to Giverney to see Monet’s garden. We set off in sunshine but the weather deteriorated and it became quite cold. We were totally inappropriately dressed and had to sort of make do with what we were wearing. We travelled to Giverney by train and then caught a bus to the village where Monet’s garden is. We warmed ourselves with some delicious hot chocolate before spending a sublime day wandering around this amazing garden and house. In the afternoon we decided to go back to the station for a bite to eat. The restaurants around Giverney were outrageously expensive as it is such a tourist trap. It had by this time started to drizzle and Kiera and I huddled under some trees, shivering with cold, waiting for the bus. When the bus eventually arrived, we clambered on; wet and cold and looking like something the cat had dragged in. The bus driver asked for our ticket, which was a return. Kiera was a French student so she knew these things! I scrabbled about in my bag, turning it inside out, but could not find the bloody tickets. I was holding up the works and getting a bit embarrassed. I was wearing a red bandana (bought at a shop on the Midlands Meander, as it so happens). The more the bus driver jabbered at me in French, the more self conscious I became. In frustration I pulled the bandana off my head and Kiera dissolved into fits of laughter. Totally embarrassed by this stage I threw my hands up in what I thought was a typical French expression and said something along the lines of “I fucking give up”. The bus driver apparently then told me to sit down and not worry about the tickets. It was only when Kiera managed to control herself that she told me the bandana had left a dark red stain across my forehead. At which point we both disintegrated into fits of hysteria. We got back to the station and found a bar across the road; we ordered Croque Monsieurs and a glass of wine each (ok, a bottle, it was cold and I was humiliated!) and had a very pleasant wait for the train back to Paris.

I love travelling with my daughter and I hope Alex will enjoy the experience too. This holiday has really been planned around the youngsters and I feel privileged to be included in the jol.


chocolat chaud at Giverney

Kiera on Monet's bridge

Kiera on Monet’s bridge

waiting for the bus and the dreaded bandana

waiting for the bus and the dreaded bandana

Kiera and I on the Seine

Kiera and I on the Seine

view from our apartment

view from our apartment

Kiera, by the Seine

Kiera, by the Seine

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3 Responses to Nine Million Bicycles

  1. Lex says:

    The one word that made some sense was. JOL. Well have one.

  2. Cathy says:

    I will do, thanks.

  3. Adam Rice says:

    Have a great time Cathy and don’t forget to take lots of photos. I guess it will be great to spend time with Kiera after you have been apart for so long. I will miss your blogs but will check FB in case you get near a computer.

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