May 15th, 2006

Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Pyrenees Day 4: Peak and pique

Today's route was scenic, and there were plentiful stops to take photos both of the view and of fellow-bikers bombing round the curves. Often the road curled back on itself as it rose, so that I could see the bikes ahead or behind me and think what a brilliant picture it would have made if only I'd known in advance it was coming up.

We stopped at the Col d'Aspin for view-gazing and photography, and met two cordial German bikers taking photos for their tour brochure. They advised against the Nürburgring (too expensive, crazy drivers) and invited me to join one of their tours of Croatia, but unfortunately I've mislaid their business card. A little further on my bladder demanded I make a private unscheduled stop among what turned out to be a nest of wood ants, only for me to find the rest of the party had stopped for lunch five minutes down the road at a restaurant with proper, non-hole-in-the-floor toilets.

Learning that the road ahead was blocked by snow, we stopped at the base of the Pic du Midi and took the fifteen-minute ascent by cable car, which was as terrifying as it was stunning. Logic demands that the car always shakes like that and is perfectly capable of making it through the tiny gap between two pylons, but I was unsure enough of the latter to shut my eyes briefly. More beautiful views at the summit, choughs enjoying the thermals below us, and an observatory which delighted me by looking just like the one in Tintin: Destination Moon.

Our return journey to the Hotel des 2 Nations mirrored the ride out, and it was at this point I finally managed to shake off my workaday commuting vibe and start to throw the scoot around a bit. I stopped assuming that I'm a worse rider than everyone else in the entire world ever and jockeyed for overtakes, although admittedly preying on the slower and tireder bikers.

Dinner was delayed due to bike and accommodation troubles on various sides, my iPod decided to go tits-up for, as it turned out, the remainder of the holiday, and I spent some time outside the next-door bar nursing beers and grievances against the returns of the inconvenienced parties and drinking Campari and orange juice (soda being apparently unheard of in France).

But the waitress was just as charming.

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Everything About It Is A Love Song

I've just illegally downloaded Paul Simon's new album, Surprise, in its entirety, simultaneously with preordering it from play.com (which took almost as long). I'm not repentant at all; he'll still get my £8.95 and I'm buggered if I'm waiting till June 5th while all of North America is groovin' to it already.

If you want to sneak a listen while remaining respectable and above board, paulsimon.com has three complete tracks for your pleasure and samples of the rest (thanks for pointing that out, insofox!).

Paul's still in the same mellow, contemplative key he used for 2001's You're The One. He's not an angry beatnik any more, nor an insecure troubadour; he's a thoughtful bloke with very little hair left who's looking back at his marriages and his kids and wondering if he did OK, worrying about the ozone layer and God.

Midway through my second listen now, and my favourite new track so far is 'Another Galaxy':
There is a moment, a chip in time, when leaving home is the lesser crime.
When your eyes are blind with tears, but your heart can see: another life, another galaxy.

I say 'new track' because the single, 'Father and Daughter', has actually been knocking around for a good four years since he wrote it for The Wild Thornberrys Movie. cybersofa, appropriately enough, sent me an MP3ed copy on its first Radio 2 appearance and I've always loved it; the line about 'standing guard like a postcard of a Golden Retriever' always chokes me up for reasons I'd be hard put to explain.

When are you going on tour again, Paul? My You're The One T-shirt is almost worn out.
  • Current Music
    Wartime Prayers - Paul Simon