Exploring Vancouver – Spanish Banks Bike Routes

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which I live and that I write about here is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

For the last month or so, I have started at least a few mornings a week with 10k worth of walk or bike riding.

It is a Summertime ritual for Vancouverites who know that the rain and darkness will settle in all too soon.

This morning, I rode out to the tip of the UBC Endowment Lands.

On the way back, I stopped at the beach to enjoy the gorgeous light.

There, I received a message . . .

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I am lucky enough to live on the West Side of Vancouver in a gorgeous neighbourhood called Kitsilano, which runs along the waterfront. So, accessing this incredible beachfront trail is pretty much just getting on my wee Schwinn and hitting the road.

I love cycling around town, and believe me when I say I am no athlete.

Vancouver is an absolutely magical city for cyclists, with routes literally from end-to-end, protected lanes, and for all sorts of levels.

The city even has a public bike share system that is used by thousands of people every day.

People visiting or wanting to bike the beachfront, but are not familiar with the route, the City of Vancouver has paper or downloadable Cycling Route maps.

However, I wanted to share a short map of this route from Tatlow Park, which is at the edge of Point Grey Road. Despite the controversy around it, the road is for pedestrians and cyclists only other than traffic from residents along the street, and it is a stunning location to start your ride.

The rest of the route is along the water and very accessible for people of all fitness levels.

The trail is quiet before about 9 a.m., with the occasional jogger or walker to pass. Mid-day and on the weekends, it gets quite busy. However, because Vancouver is so cycling friendly, most people are quite courteous as long as you are courteous to them.  There is the random hot dogger who likes to fly down the path with their headphones and no clue about the rest of humanity. So, keep your wits. Otherwise, enjoy this sweet route and even take a quick ride through the forest in Jericho Park to cool down.

Slow Travel

I’ve been circling around this concept of slow travel a lot lately.

It’s not shocking to anyone who has spent literally even one day with me that I am a bit of a doer. Chilling is not my thing.

I’ve got lists and then lists for the lists.

I survive on accomplishment alone.

It’s my insecurity, I get it.

To do is to have purpose. To chill is to, well . . .

Yet, upon reflection, I’ve begun to understand how my urge to do, do, and then do some more is based almost entirely in the fear that I will somehow be thought of as less, miss out, that I only get one shot at things, and that everyone else is staring at me thinking I’m an idiot unless I am superwoman mounting the to-do list like the queen of everything.

This leads me to France and THIS ARTICLE from Quartzy.com.

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I am taking myself to France in October to, well, chill.

No, do.

No, chill.

No, do.

See, it’s a problem.

I am taking myself to France in October to research The Woman On The Wall. For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a novel about the true identity of the Mona Lisa that is half epistolary love story and half Indiana Jones-style thriller.

I know, in my head, I am going to Paris and Amboise to chill and get to know the places where the novel is set as well as possible in 14 days. I’m not going to play tourist.

Then, the other part of my head goes bananas. I have like a billion to-dos in Paris in my Google Maps. I can do 12 hours a day in the first two days I get off the plane, right?

This article killed all of my need to do Paris (in a good way), giving me permission to just wander through my quick 72 hours there.

Yes, me and La Gioconda are hooking up.

We’ve already texted.

She’s expecting me.

However, I have now basically just thrown my crazy to the wind and decided that everything else in Paris can just happen.

We’ll see how I fare.

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As I ring in my 48th year today, I find myself truly cherishing this place in my life.

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B-Day gift from my oldest daughter. I love her artwork. 

A Canadian In France – This Week: Trains, Podcasts, & Private Tours

This past Tuesday marked 90 days until I leave for France.

“Three months!” most people say. “You must chill!”

“Only three months!” I tell them. “So much to do.”

Queue a wee bit of dramatic arc because, well . . .

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Our heroine continues to plan her solitary sojourn to France, and realizes quickly she cannot do it on her own.

She turns to her friends who, in their 40s and 50s, do not suffer from the I-have-not-been-to-Europe affliction. In fact, many of them went in their 30s and only return to North America out of professional and familial obligation.

They clue her into the modern world.

The big thing they helped me realize this week is that the phone is my friend. I’ve never been a HEAVY phone user. My apps are limited to voice dictation for when the muse strikes and I left my notebook in my other bag, Podcasts on archeology, and Moon because I am an astro nerd and like to check out the phases of celestial bodies.

I was having a TERRIBLE time resolving issues around a day trip from Amboise to Saumur when my pal Erin from Erin at Large  popped onto my Facebook feed and suggested Trainline

Boom. I’d found my solution to more than Saumur and downloaded the app to store the tickets. That’s when I realized I could app my way to storing a whole lot of things without paper ticketing. I’m the sort of person who will have copies of documents in multiple places (ease, emergency, back-up). So, this was a big, obvious win for me.

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A lovely friend of mine is traveling to France at the same time, and we’ve been trading bits and pieces on French life for the last little while.

Yesterday, she reminded me that one of our mutual loves – podcasts – would be a great way to brush up on traveling tips, learn more about the regions we are going to, and ignore people on transit during our daily commutes. 🙂

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I have totally fallen in love with The Join Us In France Travel podcast.

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Annie and Elyse are amazing guides, and now I’m plowing through far more than the handful of podcasts from them I “thought” pertained to my travels. Love them. Go check it out.

My first one was Episode 224 on traveling solo as a woman in Paris

Finally, I’ve been contemplating how to best manage my whirlwind 48 hours in Paris. I first considered going full-on tourist, but realized that defeated the purpose of my trip to research Renaissance France, da Vinci, and the sentiment surrounding that time period.

A friend from my early years as a newspaper journalist recommended a private tour, something I hadn’t considered since I don’t usually roll that way. The person she recommended never got back to me, but I am not easily defeated once I’ve decided to explore a certain avenue.

Then, a browse through the indomitable Messy Nessy Chic sent me to  City Unscripted out of the UK, where I began corresponding with a great crew about landing a guide who could show me more off-the-tourist-trail sites around Paris that pertain to my research goals.

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They’ve been wonderful, and while I haven’t booked my tour yet because we’re not done planning, I’m looking forward to a mix of tourist and the unusual as a result.

Ah, France.

A Longing For Places You’ve Never Been

The Germans got it right with their word for wanderlust.

Fernweh, or farsickness, is the perfect description for the longing I’ve held within myself for as long as I can remember.

I get super swoony over the wonderment brought on by thoughts of heading off to other places. It’s where I go when I read, but even more so when I write.

Like that moment in Out of Africa (#2 on my top 5 swoony movies of all time list) when Meryl Streep says to Robert Redford, “I have been a mental traveler.”

(Pretty sure I was Karen Blixen in another life)

I recall the very moments of when this all began. As a child, I spent my days announcing to my parents that I would travel the world as a biologist or an archeologist. I would speak ten languages. I would seek out the elephants of Africa, the ruins of South America, the ghosts of Medieval France.

My father, a bit wanderlusty himself, first gifted me with a subscription to National Geographic. I pored through the pages, careful never to crumple or tear the stories within them, as I believed they would serve as my travel guide to all of the places my soul longed to take in.

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I got on my first plane when I was 8. Back in the prehistoric ages (1979), it was totally cool to put two young kids on an airplane in Denver, let them change planes in Chicago, and let their auntie pick them up in Toronto or Buffalo so they could stay the Summer with their cousins. We did that every year until I was probably 12. When people freak out about me traveling alone as an adult, I tell them that story and we never speak of such fears again.

Since then, it is an unsatisfied ache that I cannot contain.
I’ve lived and traveled all over North America (43 states, 8 provinces) on my own and with my family. We, as a family, camped our way across Canada twice, deliberately left our lives on Vancouver Island in order to spend a year in Halifax just to experience the Atlantics. As a younger adult, I moved every 18 months from the time I was 22 until I was 35.  I married a Canadian, immigrated to another country.

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Looking back as I write this, I realize how much traveling I have actually done. There’s just one hiccup in all of that – I have never left the continent. I didn’t even have a passport until I was 30.

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My tendency is to lean toward a willingness to exaggerate the rationale behind this little crimp in my fernweh in order to avoid my underlying shame. Really, though, I spent a lot of my life as a bit of a sissy.

Big dreams.
Limited action.

Well, that shit is all done.

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In three months, I wave goodbye to my family, honouring that 8-year-old little kid and the Medieval French ghost hunter inside me as I head to Paris, then deep into the Loire Valley on my own.

It’s about healing an old wound I inflicted upon myself so very long ago –  the one where I didn’t trust in my own ability to travel the world.

Yes, I’ve dressed it all up in a romantic package of researching The Woman On The Wall. However, all of the museums, countryside explorations on my bike, backroom castle tours, and cafe writing with espresso and a slab of brie serve an even higher purpose than tapping into the magical world of da Vinci.

They give a little girl back her dream, and then let her see it through.

I’ll be journaling about bits and pieces surrounding this trip for the next few months or so. Follow me to see how this all plays out.

My Bucket List of Novel Settings

I’m a bit lusty in the travel department lately, not really able to get my mind off of the frolicking in France I’ll be doing this September. However, my family will report that wanderlust and I have been BFFing hard since I got my first National Geographic in the mail at age six.

Novel writing provides the perfect excuse for exotic explorations. Geist is set in a Prunières, France, deep in the Cévennes Mountains. However, it also explores the ancient magic of Moldavia. I loved weaving the two and building on the myth of each place.

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Outside Prunières, France on the Margeride

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Outside Iaši, Romania (formerly Moldavia)

I’ve got a crazy pile of novel concepts floating around and so many fictional landscapes to explore.

Here is my Top 10 Bucket List of settings I want to use in novels:

  1. Kiev, Ukraine.

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2. El Jem, Tunisia

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El Jem is home to the second largest colosseum ever built by the Roman Empire

3. Ephesus, Turkey

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The Library of Celsus was destroyed by an alleged earthquake in 262 A.D. However, the contents of the library vanished. 

4. Wroclaw, Poland

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One of the most haunted cities in Poland, Wroclaw is steeped in legends including that of a demonic dwarf.

5. Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery, China 小河墓地

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Before the desert, this incredible place was the site of an enormous lake and the kingdom of Shan Shan.

6. The ancient city of Merv near Mary, Turkmenistan

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Thought to be an ancient Scythian fortress, Merv is one of the most ancient sites on Earth

7. Gobekli Tepe, Turkey

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Gobekli Tepe, Turkey is considered one of the most ancient temples in the world. Remnants of 

Read THIS about it.

Dreaming of France

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth. In the last half a millennia, there is hardly another human who has seen as much praise heaped upon him. To say his body of work is admirable is a mild statement.

So, when I set my sights on writing a novel about the true identity of the Mona Lisa, I knew I could not miss a chance to travel to France this year to take in all of the fanfare.

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For the last month, I’ve been cruising websites and consulting my lovely friend Celia who is a fabulous travel agent about this journey of a lifetime.

At first, I thought I might take my oldest daughter on the adventure. In the end, though, it looks like I will be traveling solo, and I’ve never been more excited.

I’ve busted out the Duolingo to make sure I can communicate with ease.  Phrasebooks and maps are starting to pile up as well.

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I’ve pulled out my Kate Mosse collection to re-read for inspiration.

 

IMG_1833-minOf course, I will be diving deep into the history, preservation, and stories surrounding Mona Lisa. A trip to the Louvre is definitely in the mix.

I’m most looking forward to a week in Amboise, France—especially Clos Lucé where da Vinci spent his final years.

Amboise is my kind of vacation town—a local open-air market for food, quaint house vacation rentals, the ability to walk everywhere, and evenings along the Loire River.

Of course, Chateau Amboise and the history of that magnificent place makes me swoon.

 

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Chateau Amboise