"When good Americans die, they go to Paris." - Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thank You, May I Have Another?

My entire body is sore. My arms are scratched, my hands have blisters, my ass is throbbing...and this is why:

Lien suggested Ashley, Adrianne, and I do the Loire à velo, which is a bike path that winds through the Loire Valley. It starts across the bridge in Angers and you circle around. I hadn't ridden a bike in Angers yet since the streets are narrow and the drivers are heinous. But my family offered me theirs when I first arrived. This morning I tested it out and drove to the Saturday open-air market to buy food for breakfast, our picnic lunch, and dinner. Like any other girl, I dressed for the occasion and wore a crop top, skinny jeans, and wedges. All went well. I arrived at my destination sans sweat and without aching feet, though my host father looked at me funny when I mounted the bike with my ambitious shoes.

We ate our picnic at the chateau d'Angers and started to ride. It was absolutely beautiful and I hate that I forgot my camera. We drove through the French countryside and along the river. The sky was cloudy, but it was warm and the treecover kept us cool. Fields of green, sprinkled with daisies and wildflowers, stretched before us on our left, and the French kayaked and fished at the river. It reminded me of my home in Appalachia. I was so happy and so awed. I'm riding a bike through the beautiful French countryside. Who am I?

However, Lien's tire goes flat. A nice elderly man uses his bike pump and fixes it. Or so we thought...two minutes down the road, and her tire is flat again. There's obviously a hole that needs to be patched, but we made a reservation at a nearby winery so we move on. On our way, Lien hits a curve at a diagonal and crashes. Pas de probléme.

We get to the winery and walk around the grounds. Stunning. Everything is green and the manor is stone. There are white iron-cast tables and chairs for picnicing and the surroundings are quiet. After our tour, we have a wine tasting. This region produces the best white wine, so we sampled that and the rosé, which is famous in Anjou. Apparently the winery is owned by a family, and the owner is so passionate about her wine. She speaks about it like poetry. We buy a bottle of rosé to go with our dinner and have a second picnic in the vineyard. We eat baguettes stuffed with brie, gruyère, and salami, fresh fruit, and tiny madeleines. Then we repair Lien's bike...

Multiple men walk by and comment on our attractiveness but don't offer any help (I miss my Southern boyfriend.). We borrow a bike pump from the owner's nephew, but that's it. We sit on the ground for an hour tearing off the wheel, finding the hole, and patching it. Once finished, we scream and congratulate ourselves on our bad-assness. I chant, "Yes, we can!" like the obnoxious American I am, and someone makes Rosy the Riveter references. The men walk by again and I'm tempted to ask, "I've got a spare pair of balls. Would you like them?" I mean, they didn't even offer to help! Rude.

It's fixed, right? Wrong. Lien gets on the bike, and it goes flat. Zut. It starts to rain and we're about an hour's ride from Angers. She powers through and we make it to the same roundabout where Lien crashed earlier. I hit the same curb diagonally and zig-zag before jumping ANOTHER curb and landing straight.

"I did it!" Everyone was impressed until I realized my pedal was stuck in my shoe. Without anyway to support myself, I fall to the ground and landing on my arm in the gravel lot. I lay there, my bike on top of me, for a good minute or so while people take pictures and laugh.

Adrianne asks, "Do you regret those heels yet?"

"Never regret."

We take a different trail home and stumble across a sheep pasture. They must be attracted to Asians because they rush toward Lien and nudge the fence. We feed them apples, but the ram gets excited and starts pounding his head against the fruit like it was a wild animal it needs to dominate. No, fool, you bite it. We get frustrated with their stupidity and leave.

Finally, we see the chateau d'Angers in the distance and cheer. No matter how many times I travel in Europe, I can never wait to return to my home in Angers.

We're totally sore from the bumpy dirt roads. We can't even sit down. But we make our dinner with the ingredients from the market: salad with balsamic vinaigrette, pork and beef kebabs (these bitches were 20 euros for FOUR, but totally worth it.), zucchini bread, and tiramisu and chocolate for dessert. Oh, while the ladies are cooking, Adrienne goes upstairs to retrieve our wine. On her way down, she trips, tries steadying herself against the wall, and shatters the wine bottle in the process. I'm on my way upstairs when I stumble across her laying on the staircase in a puddle of rosé. Would you mind cleaning your dignity off the stairwell, please?

Dinner was delicious, as always, and I return home with my bike. Berry asks how my day went and I told her it was a catastrophe. Dramatic much? Peut-être, but we biked for six hours and I believe the final score is:

Two collisions = 2 pts.
Flat tire = 1 pt.
Aching bodies = 4 pts.
Broken wine bottle = 1 pt.

Loire Valley: 8; American girls: 1 (for "repairing" the bike and looking damn cute while doing it).

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