Spring in France!

So this time we went to Monts d'Or, which is a famous hiking spot for people living in Lyon. If you come here and have time, you'd certainly love to walk around a bit there, though you must be careful, because you may dump into different problems, as stated below.

Next week I'll be in Germany. Hopefully there'll be a lot of photos from there, too.

...continue reading

April 6, 2015

Good morning everyone, to say finally winter is over. I'm very happy that you have still not abandoned this website, even though last update was almost a year ago.

Besides after this horrible winter in which I did pretty much nothing in terms of sport, a colleague of mine from Iran, Yasin, decided to buy a bicycle. So we'll try to organize small trips around France on week-ends and we'll camp there. Finally I could find someone to do it with :) While waiting for his bicycle I decided to do small preparations around Lyon (cf. map on the right side).

There's something horrible called "Jägermeister" in Germany that I took to my friends' place (from Spain), who loved it. To be physically fit for this small trip I wasn't planning to stay at their place for a long time, but we ended up with almost finishing the bottle. Have I ever been able to start a trip without being drunk in the previous night? Besides, this morning, the temperature was around 0 degree celsius. Not very easy to ride a bicycle (where is the spirit that crossed Kyrgyzstan in winter). At least the weather was perfect, even though until today it had always been bad weather. Winter is now over, so it must get better anyway.

If you are familiar with the geography around Lyon, you certainly know that Lyon is located in a valley. I have already seen a lot of stuff around Lyon by bicycle, but for a good start, I decided to stay in the mountains around Lyon for the first trip today (and probably it's better to look at the terrain on google maps).

Just after I left Lyon, I saw a sign "covoiturage" (shared car, which is now also called "blablacar" in France). This usually functions in the internet in France (as probably in many other countries), though I have already seen a sign like this in France.

Being really intrigued, I followed the sign for 250m as written (which was a small street perpendicular to the main road), and I ended up being in an impasse with parking slots. This was clearly outside of Lyon, with maybe a couple of cars passing by on the main road. Here in this impasse it's hard to imagine any car would on purpose. But I still think it's great that the state tries to systemize it.

Today, the temperature unfortunately didn't go very high. This is essentially related to the fact in Lyon, that it strongly depends on where the wind comes from, namely from north or south, as the valley allows only these two directions. It's been almost a week that the north wind is blowing.

Still, the nature has understood that spring is nearing. Everywhere I could see blossom.

Well, maybe not everywhere, though I also like this contrast between blossoming flowers and bare trees. And there's something that we can look forward to.

It is meanwhile really hard to associate me with Tokyo but essentially my entire childhood consists of that gigantic city that offers nothing in terms of nature. And when you see nature in Japan, you see forests or the ocean. A particularity in France is that instead of forests you see more fields. So if you go up a hill, you can see everything at once. It's a tragedy that I'm never able to take decent photos which would show the beauty of fields around you. Since it may be improved by having larger lens (according to Eduard), I may buy a different camera, though I still think it's probably impossible to fully reproduce it.

Since I was not heading for anything in particular, I took a lot of roads that were even not depicted in maps. People often love to use a mountain bike but in reality you can do almost everything with a trekking bike like mine.

Also in the middle of a mountain with pretty much nothing nearby, you may be able to find a monestery like this one. Again, you can see only the monastery but this faces a huge valley in front where you can see an elongated city along the river. It reminded me of Castle in the Sky.

I don't know who cares about these fields but they were so well maintained as you can see on the photos. Everywhere in this region is like this. Doesn't this ocean of grassland remind you of Heidi?

Down in Lyon it was already pretty cold, but here on the top of the mountain (at about 800m), the temperature dropped so quickly that my hands started to tremble while cycling. At least the sky was blue and clear.

I could also see the Rhône from there, though it was more than 15km away from there, though it was unfortunately not Lyon. It's interesting to see this busy valley (though not to compare with Tokyo) from this calm place.

Maybe "calm" isn't the right word. The sound of breeze that is heard across the grassland, that flickers simultaneously.

And so was my first bicycle trip this year. I'm having my birthday party this Friday so I'm not sure if I can have another one next week end. Anyway, I managed to write a code for slide shows so there'll certainly be a lot more photos on this website. And there's still a lot of things to discover around Lyon and spring is anyway beautiful here. Whether I can write an interesting article or not, I'll look around and see what I can put here. So for now, please just look forward to it.

My birthday party

Last year I could not even celebrate my birthday, since my apartment was way too small at that time. This year, with my current apartment being 7 times as large as the last one and Eduard from Göttingen waiting for my birthday party before he goes back to Germany, we celebrated our joint birthday-farewell party at my place.

We invited in total more than 100 people and I don't know how many appeared. Anyway my apartment seemed to be very small in the end. It was particularly interesting to see so many people drunk. Everywhere in the apartment there were people lying, with my bed temporarily overcrowded.

Anyway, it was a brilliant party. I guess until Halloween there would not be another one (and even not sure whether we organize a Halloween party because everyone else does, too), but I'm anyway looking forward to your participation again.

By the way there's still one jacket remaining there (as always).

April 12, 2015 Pérouges

Two days after my birthday party, on Sunday, I decided to go to Pérouges, an ancient medieval city, that was about 35km away from Lyon.

Now it's been more than a week that it's sunny. In a couple of weeks they will find it horrible here in France (if ever this may happen in Germany).

When I left Lyon, it was alreay 2pm, so I had to take a main street. Not much to see, unfortunately, but I could charge my phone with my bicycle's dynamo. This picture is by the way not meant to represent an example of the main street. :)

Pérouges turned out to be a city inside a fortress on the top of a hill, as many other historical cities in Europe, though usually there's the new part of the city growing around the fortress (e.g. Avignon, Göttingen etc.), which was not the case in Pérouges. Just field extending to every direction. Maybe it's better to look at a satellite image on google maps.

As this was the first warm and sunny week end this year, there were a lot of tourists there (though maybe it is always like this all over the year). And it was a pure touristic city, with pretty much nothing for locals, even not a supermarket (like many other places in France...).

I could find a pillar, on which was written 1870-1871 (3rd photo). It must have been the Franco-Prussian war. It's actually fairly rare to see a monument on this event or maybe it was the first time for me. This was an important war that created the configuration of pre-WWI Europe. Even in Germany no one seems to be interested in it. Such a funny folk. While saying "it's important to look at history objectively and indepenently", there's such an important issue that is totally missed out.

I walked around once and left Pérouges. In the end, it was a nice stop for a cycling journey but probably not much more than that. Still I found it lovely that this city isn't a huge capitalistic tourist attraction. A calm and peaceful corner of Rhône valley, which will probably stay just as it is.

I still had much time when I took a way home so I cycled small streets, like this one for example, with the name of "Grande rue (=large street)".

On the way back to Lyon, I saw a sign saying "German military cemetary".

There appeared a huge place with a horde of gravestones, for German soldiers who passed away during WWII. This particular guy, Adolf Bösinger, who bears a forbidden name in current Germany, may have fought against his will, but whether it was the case or not, his decease certainly allowed us to build this lovely peaceful place called Europe. Somewhere, this simple German graveyard in France reflects what is now Europe, and what is now Asia. If we had ever been able to think about our future, we might have been able to demolish Imperial Palace to build a graveyard for innocent Chinese and Korean citizens.

Near Lyon, what happened to these cranes? :)

Next week I'm probably staying in Lyon but the week end after that we (the Iranian guy and I) may go to the south of France by train. Anyway there may be photos for other occasions meanwhile :)

April 19, 2015 Villar les Dombes

I thought while getting older, there would be less activities around me, with for example passing a week end by reading books or so. I just don't understand how wrong I had been. So, looking back at the last five days, which started with badminton with my colleagues, then Japanese language exchange evening (4 days ago), to Chinese language exchange evening (3 days ago), Friday spending at my friend's place for Chinese raviolis party, which left me totally powerless on Saturday and forced me to cancel the road trip planned on this day, though it turned out to be a bad idea again since we had a movie session on Saturday, which went on even after midnight...

There are probably not many people who know me since 2011, the first time I did a long bicycle journey from Göttingen to Lyon, where I did 1000km in 6 days. So most of you I have always been a specialist in cycling, who I certainly wasn't before. The city that I had in mind today, Villars les Dombes was around 35km away from Lyon. So even for Yasin, for whom a cycling trip like this was the first time, and especially who bought a bicycle last week only to travel with me, I thought it would be still not too complicated, which later on this day turnes out to be totally wrong. Well, actually not only for Yasin. Obviously God didn't love a day like today, or people like us, or maybe both. Anyway you'll see the problem in the following...

The bicycle Yasin bought (at Decathlon, a chain store for all sorts of sport stuff) was a simple, but good one, similar to the one I had when I cycled from Göttingen to Lyon. He paid something like 300 euros, which is enough to buy a good one to cross different countries.

However, as we found out, it was not easy to get along with hilly suburban area of Lyon for Yasin. For my future reference, it was very important to know how difficult it actually is with no training beforehand.

Do you see this strange house? It's probably hard to see it on this small photo but this entrance does not have a door. We were going down a modest slope as this house appeared. I braked, to take a photo. Yasin, just behind me, did not have enough space to react, braked promptly, besides the front tyre first, spectacularly performing a sensational somersault before bouncing on the concrete street.

The braking system depends on where you buy a bicycle. In Japan, the left brake is always the rear tyre (at least I learned it this way and I have never seen anything else). So left hand first, then right hand. In Europe, on the other hand, you cannot know which is which in advance (I've seen both of them). Therefore, when you buy a bicycle, which brake acts on which tyre is one of the very first things you have to check.

Another thing is also when I cycle with someone who is not used to doing long journeys by bicycle, I often feel a little bit uncomfortable with the distance he/she takes. Maybe in the city center it's okay to be at 2 or 3 meters away, but once outside the city, where you can cycle much faster with less paying attention after a while, it's better to have at least 10 meters. Anyway, nothing complicated happened, with minor injuries for Yasin, fortunately :)

Still he seemed to be devastated right after the accident. Poor guy :)

We still cycled further, looking for adventures (?). After a while, we saw vast fields, though the weather was simply miserable and it was cold. By this time I totally regretted that I didn't bring my jacket with me. Week end and bad weather. Good afternoon Mr. Murphy.

Whatever Murphy would have wished the world to be like, it certainly did not correspond to my expectation when I got an SMS, saying "code to enter for your purchase of 419,90 euro is: xxxxxxxx".


Clearly, my credit card was misused (usually I get an SMS like this when I buy something in the internet). And I got several SMS like this. I called the customer service and blocked my credit card. I had 20 euros in cash at the moment. And I know the French post system never works. Let's see what I can do until I really get another card.

Update: a couple of days later, despite the security with the SMS, it turned out that a certain Mr or Mrs Wu succeeded in spending 419,90 euros with my credit card info. I don't understand the use of the SMS I got (or was that a different purchase?). At least no purchase could be effectuated, as it seems :) Now I'm going to the police station to finish all the process to get my money back. (If you are interested: I've used my credit card at amazon.fr, SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, Apple Store, booking.com, British Airways, Lufthansa and couple of hotels in France so far in the internet. Otherwise physically I use it everywhere though it's probably hacked directly in the internet somewhere)

We had done almost 20km more than we had planned when we arrived in Villar les Dombes. I was still okay. Yasin, on the other hand, looked like a memento mori on a bike. Clearly, he was not enjoying cycling anymore. Remind me of smashing the dreams of physics students in the very first semester with a lot of hope and ostensible bright future. Poor guy, he certainly had thought a cycling trip would be much more fun :)

And to celebrate the Finale Grandioso: it started raining. At first we stayed at a factory (cf. photo) under a simple roof. French-Persian exchange. I'm refreshing my Persian, what a great moment!!! Anyway, an hour later, we recognized the fact that it would not get better. In this freezing temperature, we had simply nothing in mind than going back home. Since I cycled much faster than Yasin, who was actually getting slower and slower, I had to wait for him every now and then, though in the end, I completely lost him. I still waited for around half an hour at a bus station where there was a roof. Yasin was nowhere to see. Hm, pity. I went back home alone.

Back home, I could even not prepare a meal since I could not move my cold fingers. After a while, I called Yasin.

He was still on the way...

Following day, which was a normal working day, the sun was shining, as if nothing had happened on the previous day. I arrived at 8am, as every day. Yasin, the tragic hero of the previous day, arrived quite early despite my expectation, at 5pm.

Starting with the horrible preparation after a movie session, we enjoyed the day with Yasin's somersault and my credit card hacking, that finished with a horrible weather. It will certainly remain in our memory, especially for Yasin, for whom it was the first cycling trip, and the first trip ever in Europe. Next time is Monts d'Or. I hope he'll still look forward to it :)

April 23, 2015. Monts d'Or

Spring in south France, a marvellous place, if it does not rain. With this very simple principle in mind, that we learned last week end, we decided to do a road trip on Thursday this week, since this week end would apparently be even worse than the last one. And also students and professors have holidays at the moment, so no course to give for now, though we, poor Ph.D students, have no official holidays, of course.

Brilliant weather, with temperature skyrocketting, Yasin arrives with his 1l bottle. Hm. I was a bit worried about that.

Today's destination was Monts d'Or (link French wikipedia). The distance between Lyon and Monts d'Or was something around 20km. I didn't want to make it too long to avoid the nightmare of last time. And as the name indicates, it consists of several mountains ("Monts" is in plural) so for someone like Yasin it was anyway going to be a hard challenge.

Essentially we had to cycle along the Saône. Even if the Saône is regarded as somewhat less important in France than Rhône, there are still famous things there. Here, for example Paul Bocuse. Has anyone been there?

Actually cycling used to have a lot of breaks that were very important but not exciting either. I usually had books around and lay in a shadow for a while etc. Now, with Yasin cycling with me, we can talk about a lot of things, and especially we have plenty of time to teach each other's languages. If we can keep up with this pace, we'll certainly be able to speak them by the end of the season. Fantastic. (There were also other interesting discussions related to cultural differences that I'll speak about below).

Right before Monts d'Or, we had lunch in the nearby city. We left the city and started climbing up the mountain, then Yasin's brilliant question: "Can we get water?"... Ok, we are in the middle of nowhere, we don't want to go back to the city. This is a kind of same problem with Asian people. They are simply too polite to ask something until the very last moment. Unfortunately it's not very easy to get water if you leave a city in France, since in the afternoon here, essentially no one is around. They often have something like siesta, for example.

In the villages in Monts d'Or there were still things that are not used anymore, for example this bath (?), where women washed clothes before. Unfortunately, this water was not potable. :(

As scientists, we are always interested in describing nature (though it's not quite the reason that we cycle), as one of the greatest physicists, André-Marie Ampère, who discovered (?) electromagnetism, who actually was born in Monts d'Or (and wikipedia says boldly enough that he comes from Lyon). In honour of his achievements, this museum was created. (I should have asked for water here)

The weather was brilliant. Warm and no cloud (with Yasin suffering hard), when we bumped into a sign "Military zone. Photos forbidden"... Military zone?

As I mentioned above, there are several mountains in Monts d'Or. Essentially, we took a wrong one. Since my very bad experience in Uzbekistan, I really follow this kind of rule. It's always the same, the military takes the best places of the world, as if it was something so important. On both sides of the road there was military base. The main one, apparently, was in an ancient castle. If you were me, you would have sincerely loved to take a photo there, not to mention how serious it looked at the same time.

Anyway, the nature was wonderful, even though Yasin was totally drained. The best part of the view could not be photographed, but still we could enjoy it (I hope for Yasin, too).

Again, from Monts d'Or (even not from the top of the mountain), we could see Lyon. Can you recognize the Crayon, the symbol of hatred and ugliness of Lyon, on the photo? With Lyon being more air-polluted than Tokyo, it's often difficult to see it from outside.

As mentioned above, there were other mountains in Monts d'Or, but since we could not find water in the end, we had to go back to Lyon. Still, compared to the last time, there was a great progress we made. Certainly we'll enjoy it a lot more from the next time on.

(From here, there's nothing about the nature in this region so if you are interested in southern France, you'd better skip it). I often find it very interesting to talk to Iranians or Chinese, namely rather materialistic people (I'm not saying it in a negative way), because when I asked Yasin, why he wanted to do road trips, essentially he said "I want to feel refreshed to be able to work better". So are you traveling for your work? "Yes".

In terms of girl friend, he had a similar point of view, which strongly reminded me of the conversation in Langzhou with tracy, whose mother did not allow him to have a girl friend until he gets a job. What counts is the "success in life", whatever it means.

The human society, that had always looked for making the harsh life better, made something that is certainly not very humane out of it, which may be represented in the form of materialism or capitalism, for example. Ironically, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet union, which stood for (their) socialism, the capitalism collapsed, making it evident that this society of looking for "success" is not sustainable.

However, let's suppose we find a perfect system that would support all possibilities. I still wonder whether this tiny little planet of 510 million square kilometers with little resource can promise all the inhabitants of exploding human society to achieve the success they dream of.

"Happiness" is surely something that has to be defined individually. In front of this reality, the future we will sooner or later be confronted with might be much tougher than we think currently.

May 9, Aix-les-Bains

As my stay in Germany was not quite of a success I had expected and good things that I experienced there not quite being about the travel but related more to my feeling of past, I decided to skip it to my travel report of Aix les Bains. This time, as the distance to do was more than 100km, I didn't even ask Yasin to come with me.

As always here in Lyon, there was a party the previous evening, pizza evening. Whoever coined the term, it was litterally "pizza" and "evening", since we ate pizza. in the evening.

I didn't intend to stay out for a long time but in the end I came back home at 1am, though I can fairly say it was relatively early.

As every weekend these days, it was not as sunny as it usually is. But if I think of my hayfever it's maybe a good thing. I don't think I would be able to cycle in the coming weeks.

There was a medieval city, Crémieu, near Lyon. The city itself was interesting but there was also a Salon du vin (wine fair) taking place. The entry was 2 euros so I didn't mean to get inside, but actually there were people near the entrance who were distributing vouchers. Whether it makes sense or not, I could enter for free. :) I would have loved to try out local wine. Pity that I was cycling.

Yesterday was the 70th VE day, which happens to be a Friday, but the weather obviously did not want to contribute to the surprise, so I did not cycle and did not see any ceremony in the villages. Anyway, it does not have so much of importance here in France, as I saw this year. I don't even know whether it has been important anyway, except in Russia maybe.

Anyway, WWII is now used to strive for peace in Europe, whereas it's used to produce new conflicts in Asia. In this sense, with Europe now being a peaceful place, it's maybe a natural thing that it's fading out.

As you could see on the photos so far, the weather was not quite good until noon. However, when I had a short siesta, the sky was suddenly entirely blue. It's France here, the weather cannot be always bad.

This guy must be strongly regretting something. Thank you, message received. I'm still daring :)

As the weather was perfect, my hayfever could not be worse than in this moment. Essentially I was not really seeing anything anymore. So nice that the photos were still so beautiful (and for sure the larger version of this photo is much more beautiful. Check it out!).

France is a country of immigration. Not very rare to see foreigners here, like for example Arabs, Spaniards or Italians. Accordingly, whenever there's something written and you can see translations of the text, the first language is maybe English, then Italian Spanish and so on. Here, this time, after French and English, it was German and Dutch, probably because these Germanic people certainly cannot drive slowly, even while cycling.

Actually you can cycle to Aix-les-Bains just by following the Rhône. Easy, you may think. It actually isn't. Because along the river, there's always a cycling road, that is full of beginner cyclists, and these are the most dangerous autonomous creatures that move in developed countries.

On the way, there was a sign "Attention: Canadian barrier". Canadian barrier? I googled. Obviously there's nothing that may be called Canadian barrier in English. In French there is. And what is meant is the barrier in the photo. I don't see the relation to Canada but especially, it's too dangerous... I just wonder if there aren't accidents related to these "Canadian barriers"...

There was a monestary near Aix-les-Bains, a famous one, for whatever reason. If you don't have a particular reason to visit it, I think it's better not to make too much effort. There're certainly better things to do.

For example you can also enjoy this clear water in the lake.

Whenever I see this beautiful nature in Europe, I just think it's maybe not a bad thing to be religious. In front this astonishing landscape, I would like it probably even more if there's something I can be purely grateful for.

In the end I did not want to stay in Aix-les-Bains so I took a train back to Lyon, where my lovely flat was waiting for me with another evening, that I was actually also looking forward to. From next week on I'll travel with someone else I guess.

June 23, Paris

It was almost a tragedy that I could not cycle since Aix les Bains, due to my horrible hayfever. I'm leaving for Brazil on July 1st, so I won't be able to do another cycling trip now, but at least I could go to Paris on a business trip, as I have to get a visa for Brazil.

Cycling trip: