Although I’m cycling on the west coast of Malaysia right now I couldn’t help but intersperse my Asia blogs with this one. On the last day of 2016 I went for a bicycle ride near my home in SW France. It was 13 or 14 degrees C and perfect. Here are a few photos.
In mid-December we spent a night in Lalinde, a town on the Dordogne River east of Bergerac. As so often happens here in SW France, it turned out to be yet another charming medieval place, but this one has a canal that goes past it. The Lalinde Canal is a mere 15 km in length and was built in the mid 1800s to by pass a particularly rocky section of the Dordogne River. Today, there isn’t a lot of boat traffic but there is a lovely, paved towpath beside it on which to walk or ride a bike. Even in the dead of winter the charm of it all can put a smile on your face.
About a week later, we loaded our bikes into the car and once again drove past Marmande about five km to cycle the Canal de Garonne towpath. This one was also built in the 19th century to join up with the 17th century Canal de Midi, completing the Canal de Deux Mers from the Mediterranean near Beziers and the Atlantic at Bordeaux. Once again, it was a glorious place to be, even in the dead of winter.
This is the Aquitaine Region of Southwest France where we now have our home. It was the aesthetic of the area that drew us here originally. Between rolling agricultural land, perfect medieval villages, and endless country lanes to cycle on, we’re sold on the place. Then there’s the food, the wine, and the people. We’ve settled here.
Panjim or Panaji is the main town in the Indian State of Goa. Goa was part of Portugal until the early 1960s and the colonial architecture remains, some of it decaying and some restored. The centre of this is the Fontanhas Quarter also known as the Old Quarter. Panjim is a little sleepier, a little cleaner, and a little quieter than other Indian towns of a comparable size but that isn’t to say it’s quiet. Horns still blare, just not so many of them. In urban Indian scenes it’s always the colour amid the dust and chaos that grabs you and the bulk of this colour is women’s clothing with a few fruit stands and pastel-coloured buildings thrown in. However, one day a year, the end of the lunar winter, is the Holi Festival where people paint their faces and there is a festive flare to the streets. We were fortunate to witness this, and have colours smeared on our faces in Panjim.
I guess a trip to the tropics wouldn’t be complete without a stay at a beach. The original plan was to stop at Agonda Beach in Goa but just south of the Goa border in Karnataka we got waylaid at, wait for this, Om Beach where we stayed at the Nirvana Cafe. The thing that set this and probably many other Indian beaches apart was that a significant part of the scene were the cattle, mostly very docile bulls. They were no trouble and often seemed to just want to soak up some sun themselves.