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  1. #1
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    alternative bike culture / back in Roussillon

    After 10 days back in Roussillon, my feelings deel mostly with an alternative culture whether it be bike oriented or not. What a rush of feelings one has from last being in Los Angeles with what -17 million people to now Palau with 2100 .
    IT is not so much seeing the moring commuters in jeans but 80 year old ladies on city bikes with bagettes sticking out of their panniers. This is like 'Green Acres' but surrounded by vineyards and now blooming peach/cherry trees.And the dialect is not rural New England.
    But, so appreciative of the friendly life of "Roussillon peasants' as they call themselves. Sardane dancing is the nightlife along with local soccer rallies at the town bar. Church bells toll from 9 am to 9 pm on the quarter hour. The local bike club in this town of 2100 is 55 members ! We have our own club house adjacent to the Mairie. Next major club ride will be in early May across the south of France.
    Easter Monday will see an entire community share in one large omelet. Noon finds the retired element playing petanque and drinking patis. As to my new bike club; Their Catalan ears are very tolerant of my lousy french and they wish me well at getting better. An American member of the town's 'Velo Club Palauenc' is so rare, after joining ; they provided me at not charge with full club kit, and now I proudly ride about Roussillon in Catalan Red and yellow. The clubs members took up a collection to buy me this gift, as I awkardly accept; but intend to recriprocrate with a party of California wine and cheese.
    As to the rides; in thirty five minutes time I am in the beautiful coastal town of Collioure. Last Thursday's ride was up the steep slope of the Pyreeness adjacent Collioure from which vista allowed one to see north along the Mediterranean 50 miles and south overlooking the beautiful Costa Brava of Spain.
    But the greatest thrill of all. Watching the French drivers showing their traditional disdain of fellow motorists, yet when encountering a covey of cyclists- they slow down with due caution. So far at least. NOw that is an alterntive life style.
    Anyone get to Palau. Just ask about the American cyclist in the bar. in such a small town they will direct you my way. Just bring your bikes and I will guarantee you some splendid riding.
    Question. Do you want to head east towards the Pyreeness and ride over the Roman bridge in Bou Lou & drink a cherry beer; head east to the beach and drink a Roussillon wine degastation at at beach wine bar, or go to Collioure and drink a coffee au lait with armanac at an artisan bar on a beach adjacent an ancient sea side chateau preceded by a twisty ride to Spain.
    just sharing some observations living in an alternate bike culture and cycling is second only to soccer.

  2. #2
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    Thank you for writing this from your heart. I was born and raised here and know most of the areas you described (not for riding them though, but some ). I have been a roadie since the age of 13-14 and left France at 23 for other greener pastures.
    I love New England, but gosh when I read something like this, I feel seriously homesick ... where is my passport?

  3. #3
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Cycliste. What I want to talk to the priest about. Why so many bells toll between the quarter hour. We live 5 blocks from the church. Weather is pretty nice, so I have better things to do on a Sunday morning that sleep.
    The trick. RIde to Thuir.See how many bottles of Dubonet and Soho you can safely carry in your panniers. Think a good nites sleep can be related to the quality of wine you have with your dinner. A good thing. So much good wine about and so much emphasis on good food and drink. Good thing a good vin ordinaire is just a couple of euros. have friends over not uncommon to go through a case per dinner event.Just remember, france now has sobriety tests and you can get a dui on a bike, even here.
    Cycliste. Think your hometown is too far east to be considered the "Aude." ? Have biked about the Dordogne region. Incredible. Must be similiar.
    Last edited by cyclezealot; 03-24-06 at 06:00 PM.

  4. #4
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    Stop it, I can't stand it anymore. Where the eck is this frickin' passport?

    About the bells: it may be a cultural thing. Here in a small town in Mass, they are trying to quietened down the bells of a recently renovated church steeple. Most residents complaint they cannot sleep or concentrate on anything. I grew up with those ringing the "angelus" at 6AM, noon, 6PM and every hour plus a small "ding" every quarter. They are part of the "ambiance".

    Here in NE you hear the horn of the fire station at noon and of course for every single emergency. The last time I heard something louder was in Morocco from some mosks for the call of the prayer

    I guess it's cultural and all the things you grow up with.

    Well, I guess the dui is a good thing, but I wouldn't worry too much about getting caught on your bike , just be careful though.

  5. #5
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I have been told by those who know. You are in an accident on a bike and have a high alcohol content in your blood, it is treated as if you are driving your car. But, cyclists are not stopped at sobriety check points.

  6. #6
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    All in moderation is my moto. I lived in Ireland for a long time and it wasn't uncommon for a few of us to stop at a pub, have a little grub and a couple of pints. Only thing is that the hills seem so much longer on the way back It's part of the things you can't miss

    I like this thread, not too crowded. A bit like the town of Roussillon after the market. Makes PM an overrated feature

  7. #7
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    I was in Girona and Cadaques, Spain, and Perpignan and Moltig les Bains, France last summer. My wife and I were traveling w/ folding bikes and rode at each stop. I understand the feeling.


  8. #8
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Was riding about the beach area today. Asked about why the church bells ring so often. My town. They are supposed to ring two times an hour. I have heard them ring like 2 times in ten minutes. Guess could go to mass and find out by talking to the priest.
    But, today. I was informed . Bells toll whenever someone dies or a funeral is taking place.( Likely have to be a church member?) But anyway. While riding about Argeles sur Mer, heard the bells tolling almost constantly. In riding about saw several funerals going on about a couple of different cemeteries.
    I know lots of older people live in Palau. But, gosh, not that many can die in the course of day. Or esle the towns' 2100 people will soon take a swan dive.

  9. #9
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    The funeral bells are called the "glas" ("sonner les glas"), it's usually a low and grave tone with a slow tempo, reminding of a funeral march. It can last for half an hour to an hour, and be heard several times following the death of a resident.

    Other than the glas, there are wedding bells, baptisms, communions, memorials, etc. the angelus at dusk and dawn, and the time with the hour, quarter and half, each with their own sound and tempo. One I have never heard, called the "tocsin", calls for mobilization in case of a disaster.
    A catholic mass requires several bell tunes within the same hour (just to remind the rest of the population ). Daily masses are still said in some towns, usually around 6 or 7 AM. So any combination of the above can make a lot of bells.

    Bells are an old tradition throughout France, after a while you will bearly notice them but everyone will wonder what's going on if they don't ring. Many people still rely on them to know the time, like in the old days when most people worked in the fields.

    Many steeple clocks have been preserved to their original mechanism and size (huge), and some still have bells activated manually by ropes (rare though), others have a semi-automatic mechanism whereby some sort of a keyboard can be used to activate bells for specific occasions, but the majority have been replaced by electronic ones, some controlled by sattelite (similar to atomic clocks).
    The bell schedule is programmed in advance and the priest doesn't do much else than saying the mass. Often a volunteer or a professional maintain the system.

    How do I know this?
    My father was a clockmaker and master artisan in the restoration of antique clocks and did several restorations of old steeple clocks, some classified as historical still bear his name on their faces in several villages and towns close to where I grew up. As a kid I got to climb inside some of these steeples and hear these large bells from real close. It's also full of pigeon poop and rather unsafe to walk around, but I have great memories of those days.

  10. #10
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Gotta post some of my pics , I am taking throughout the region. Not far from home had to wait like 15 minutes. Did not mind. Sheep crossing. Sheep dogs did a pretty good job. Those sheep can have a mind of their own. Spring time. The new lambs were adjusting to their new sway, they were really straying about. Ah, what's the hurry. Cycliste. thanks for the definitions.

  11. #11
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Gotta post some of my pics , I am taking throughout the region. Not far from home had to wait like 15 minutes. Did not mind. Sheep crossing. Sheep dogs did a pretty good job. Those sheep can have a mind of their own. Spring time. The new lambs were adjusting to their new sway, they were really straying about. Ah, what's the hurry. Cycliste. thanks for the definitions.

  12. #12
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Today our bike club rode from Palau to Thuir and on to Mallas. Club is really dedicated. No stops on Sunday but for a ROussillon bike custom. Each city has a bike club. All the clubs form together an association.
    All the clubs descend upon one village's club house for refreshments. All of Roussillon's clubs descend upon that village, today Millas, at about 10 am. Looks like swarming bees.
    Have to stand in long lines to get toasted bread covered with Nutella. ( that will give you a sugar high, so as to get you home.) But, this custom goes on all year. Today's rush was to get home to watch Paris- Roubaix in the television.
    Everyone is cheering for Boonen. It was a difficult ride for me today. Was like 50 US miles. Was out late last night. My wife's birtdhay. Drank and ate too much. Five hours sleep, 50 miles seems like a lot.
    But, to celebrate my wife's birthday. Got her satellite dish installed and a NEW bike. Hurray. Get her familiar with the bike, maybe the car can stay in the drive five straight days. Gas is like $5.20 a US gallon. Good idea. Her new bike is an urban bike, built by BH of Spain. Basket and panniers , who needs a car. Within close proximity the land is flat.
    Instead of sleeping, maybe out getting her familiar with her new bike this afternoon. Certainly I see elderly women in dresses, low pumps and trench coats on bikes, carrying a days worth of groceries, lets hope my wife will get the biking bug. 70 year old ladies can ride, she can.

  13. #13
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I think we are really going to appreciate our new alternative semi car free life style. I hope.
    Just got back from my wife's training ride to adjust to her new bike. She liked it. Asking what are the trails like to get to the beach. Been hoping the bike bug would get to her for years now. She will particularily like the wine degustation open air bar at the beach.
    Nice ride with her today. Local older lady came up and complimented us on several counts. 1-Liked Gina's bike. New , shiny- very common to utility bikes here abouts. 2- Liked my Sun glasses? 3- Liked Gina's jersey I bought for her. We have two Bonjour jerseys. She only gets to wear it when she rides. I bought it , my rules. The lady started out the conversation. 'bonjour.'

  14. #14
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    The utility bikes that caught my eye in France were the older three and four speed derailleur-equipped Peugeots, Bobets, etc. I guess they were the French answer to the English internal hub three speeds.

  15. #15
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Gina's bike has 7 in the rear and three in the front. While nearby is flat. Not too far away are some decent hills. Just hope we are planning for the future. Not many hills between here and the beach.

  16. #16
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    How far from Perpignan are you?

  17. #17
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Randa. We are like 15-20 miles from everything. Perpignan. like 18 miles. Rode to Collioure the other day. 11 miles. Collioure = Tresejollie. And foothills of Pyrnees- Ceret is 20 miles. Argeles Plage =12 miles. All great rides. Perpignan has some interesting museums. AN old town. Riding there is ok. Bike lane standards not up to some other European cities. Been treated ok in riding through Perpignan, tho.
    Randa. I really do miss Bullwinkle. Why do they stop producing the good stuff.
    ps Do you remember or hear of the fact. During the 70's gas shortages. Pottsdam, a suburb of Philly.right? Was it not the city that had a full fledged riot due to gasoline rationing? people just were not going to take it anymore.!
    Last edited by cyclezealot; 04-10-06 at 01:54 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Pottsylvania is a fictional town in Eastern Europe where Boris and Natasha live.

    http://www.urbangeek.net/dictionary/...ullwinkle.html

    I was in Perpignan, Prades and Moltig les Bains last summer. Rode a little bit in Perpignan. The old city was very confusing to navigate, and the city in general seemed to be dominated by cars, but the drivers were reasonably courteous.

  19. #19
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Pottsylvania. of course. have not seen bullwinkle in years. You are from Philly.
    my bike group did show me this past week how to enter Perpignan. There is a bike path coming in from the east. From Perpignan one of the best rides starts near the Gare heads south west to Thuir. a regular bike freeway. Have not made it out as far as Prades, yet.
    MOst tourists favor the routes out towards the plage- Argeles to Collioure.
    town I mean't to refer to was Norristown. How I'd get from Pottsylvania.? late nights ! World's first gasoline riot in the 70's. Alternative day fueling was toooo much for the locals.

  20. #20
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Actually, I grew up in the metropolitan NYC area, not Philly.

    Have you been inside the Perpignan train station to see the Dali mural on the ceiling? It's pretty awesome! The center of the Old Town in Perpignan is really nice, too. Many streets are closed to motor vehicles, nice marble sidewalks, many cafes and restaurants. One unusual thing I noticed about Perpignan was the extremely large number of lingerie shops...I wonder what's up with that?

    Prades is in the valley and there are nice rides into the Pyrenees leaving town to the Northeast, towards Moltig de Bains. The Romans originally developed the hot springs there, now it is a resort/spa, very nice! When I was there I took in the spa and bombed the 6km hill from MdB into Prades on my Strida (and walked most of the way back up!).

    Pics from Perpignan.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  21. #21
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Randya. Yes. We took the train from here to Paris for New Year's. Impressive sight. Might go up to Perpignan tomorrow. Easter pagents. There is an Easter march from Perpignan to Collioure. By the time it gets to Collioure, as I understand it, it will arrive in the dark with torches, crucifixes, etc. for Good Friday. Monday is a big Easter event too. Catalan tradition is to gather ingredients from the citizenry of any given town for a community breakfast on Monday. My wife is to help in those preparations.
    We had thought of going up to Hungary for the holidays. Maybe later in the week, Provence to see the blooming lavender.
    Instead want to stick around and see how locals celebrate Easter.
    Can't say we go to Perpignan regularily for shopping. In the whole region I see lots of Lace shops. Lingerie. Will Have to take note. When shopping in Perpignan at Christmas time, mostly went to the big department stores.
    Special Christmas 'Marches' were interesting, with local artisans selling off their handicrafts at temporary booths in the two major public squares.
    Come back you have to take in the Chocolate factory near the train station, which sits on the bike pathway heading out to Thuir and the incredible liqueurs of Cave Byrrh. Chocolate at the end of a 35 mile ride, along with a little Dubonnet at Thuir . What a great ride.
    Chocolate and fortified wine. great incentive for a medium sized ride.

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