Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Vacation

Andon, March 31 - April 9, 2012

Given that I am in retirement, my choice of the title for this blog post may appear frivolous (shouldn't I be on permanent vacation?) It is true that, according to people who think they know, I have always been unclear on the concept of vacation. My definition "Work is when you would rather be elsewhere; vacation is when you can do what you want" didn't mesh with the understanding and the expectations of my surroundings. But it allowed me to assert that I really worked only very rarely, and that I had vacation time even more rarely. Then again, the more profound and more embarrassing question is: What do I actually want to do? All I can say is that there is no single answer; my priorities for "vacation" have been changing a lot over time, and certainly continue to be changing.

This time, I owe my vacation time entirely to my wife Ghislaine. She took the initiative to reserve a week in a somewhat remote gîte, a little bit over an hour in the backcountry of the Côte d'Azur, at an altitude of around 4000 ft, with super clean air (no coughing all week long!) and unlimited opportunities to hike (together) and to ride the bike (alone).

Given that I am still very far away from a decent conditioning, my bike riding was necessarily limited: after 20 - 25 miles my legs were tired enough, and I needed a day off to recover - only four rides with barely 80 miles total! In my defense, the area does not offer many flat stretches, and I actually sought out the climbing because I like it. What counts much more than impressive distances and elevation gains, however: It was a week that made me (and my wife) happy. We tried to extend our week, and managed to add two extra days (because of reservations, there was no availability beyond that). And we decided to come back for another week at the end of this month.

Come to think of it, maybe a reason for our happiness lies in those *short* biking distances: only about two hours every other day. And because my ambitious (even though pathetic) climbing gave me sore and tired legs, I was perfectly happy and not so routinely impatient with Ghislaine's more contemplative approach to our daily hiking experiences. Not that I don't want to regain the ability to ride long distances and get back into good shape again; but there could be a lesson in it for me ...

Here are some pictures:

The house where we stayed

Looking over to Caille from the Col de Cornille 

My bike just loves to get its tires onto snow!

First "col" of the week (220m in well under 3 km)
Great views and very easy 

One of my favorites (not quite 300m in 4.5 km - fairly easy) 
Buffalos in Haut Thorenc - not far from the Col de Bleine. "Wild and Free"

Gréolières village - ruines are always good for a photo

To recover from bicycling, I took Ghislaine on hikes: here above the Col de Bleine
In the background: the ruines of Castellaras where we hiked up a couple of days earlier

We hiked on the flats between Andon and Caille when the weather was rainy

The friendly and pretty cows of Thorenc looked at us in disbelief
But we got to see marvelous rainbows in exchange (here looking towards Castellane)
Last day: ride to Gréolières-les-Neiges, view from Vista Point. Fresh snow in the Alps!

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