A coffee table book of my Musings and lots of tandeming Christmas gifts!

My new Matildas Musings blog book outlines my latest European tandeming adventures!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Monday when Christmas Day finally arrived! The “old git” – who should really be re-named Santa over the festive period! – made sure everyone had their ‘ho! ho! ho!’ on, whether they wanted to or not!

On Christmas Eve the “old gal” even put on her Christmas jumper to signal she was in the mood for Santa’s arrival! She had whispered to me that I was getting a present or two all for myself so I could hardly contain myself!

And I knew the “old git” had been planning something with my blog as a present for the “old gal” so it was an exciting time! I could hardly sleep and I am sure I heard Santa’s jingle bells as he and Rudolph delivered his presents around rural Perthshire …. presumably in #tandem!

The “old git” was up early on Christmas morning making sure that Santa had arrived – and he certainly delivered … filling the “old gal’s” stockings to overflowing … and he even dropped a few presents in the “old git’s” stockings too! (Yes he does have some …. weird or what!)

Then it was time for my dynamic duo to tear open their presents. The thing the “old git” had been secretly scheming away about was turning all my Musings about our tandeming  tour adventures across Europe during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee-table style book.

My Musings of our European trip turned into a glossy coffee table book.

I must say even I was impressed at the what the “old git” had achieved – and you know I’m not easily impressed! … and as for the “old gal” well she thought it was brilliant! There was even a wee tear in her eye as she read the “old git’s” soppy dedication at the front of the book! Awh shucks!

Each page is in glossy colour and the book is essentially a full record of each day of my blog – including all the photos – as they appeared on my on-line blog! A great permanent record of a fabulous trip! And great fun to flick through and bring back those memories of my dynamic duo’s days in my saddles in warm sunshine … oh and not forgetting those amazing picnics and wines and champagnes!

And as a special festive season treat for readers of my blog you can take a look at the complete book (in a pdf version) by clicking on the title of the book here: Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem

I do hope you enjoy re-reading it all again, as much as me and the “old gal” did!

A bundle of tandeming presents from my good friends John and Jane.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a bundle of presents from my dynamic crew’s tandeming friends – and fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! They have a stable of no less than three tandems – Siggy, Henry and their original Bluebird.

The presents included a fabulous cushion cover which captures the good life my dynamic crew enjoy en France! Perfect! There was also a lovely Matilda sign – ideal for the garage door at Matildas Rest!

The garage at Matildas Rest now proudly bears my nameplate!

The “old git” said that I must have been a “very good girl” as I am reliably informed that only “good girls” get presents from Santa! And there was more in the present from John and Jane! My handlebars now bear a pretty mini vase – especially for bikes!

Tulips from Amsterdam! My new handlebar vase proudly in place!

Regular readers of my blog will remember that Team Matilda enjoyed magnificent hospitality from team Bluebird during Le Tour de New Forest back in July, which followed an equally memorable Le Tour de Perthshire the year before.

So naturally my dynamic crew had organised a present on my behalf for Team Bluebird and designed a personalised Nutty Tandemers Club 2017 calendar – with each month having a great memory from our wonderful week together touring the New Forest.

Calendar time – our European Tour on the left and Le Tour de New Forest on the right.

Now these two tours have been such a success that Team Bluebird and Team Matilda are already planning a joint Le tour de Hebridean Way in June 2018. This will be an attempt at completing the Hebridean Way  – a simple matter of 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. I may need some lucky white heather in my new handlebar vase for this trip!

John and Jane are riding Siggy the tandem on this trip – and it looks like the Outer Hebrides won’t ever have seen anything like the two tandems as we will both be carrying that highly sophisticated must-have accessory for tandems – eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carriers.

You see my dynamic crew have long been extolling the virtues of  La Bouclée to Team Bluebird – as Scottish ambassadors for the product no less! So they decided that it would make an ideal Christmas present for John and Jane – complete with a bottle of champagne specially selected and brought back from our tour of the Champagne area!

Henry the tandem sporting his new la bouclee wine carrier!

John and Jane were so impressed with the product that they immediately attached it to Henry (Siggy was too dirty it seems!) – well they did after watching the Youtube video how to do it! It’s only easy when you know how!

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one for me from the “old gal”! It was a replacement gel saddle cover for my front saddle as the “old git” had worn thru the previous one!

My new gel saddle cover – a replacement for the “old git” to sit on as Captain!

My dynamic crew even bought each other tandem t-shirts! The “old gal’s” had the wording: “It takes two to tandem” on it while the “old git’s” said: “Complete Tandemonium” They will certainly catch the eye on future trips!

My dynamic crew happily wearing their new tandeming t-shirts!

Now you know that my stoker, the “old gal”, has a bit of a quirky sense of humour … well she excelled herself with one of her presents for my captain – the “old git.” He was delighted to receive tandem cuff links … but not just any tandem cuff links – specially commissioned hand-made silver cuff links … the only ones in existence!

The “old git’s” very exclusive specially commissioned hand-made silver tandem cuff links!

Another present for the “old git” which he loved were a new pair of trainers to match the “old gal’s”! He had secretly coveted her day-glo orange trainers ever since she bought a new pair for our European tour. And when he delved into his stocking a pair was there for him!

So now my dynamic crew will not only be matching but totally unmissable! I guess he must have been a good Captain throughout the year then!

The “old git” got a pair of day-glo orange trainers to be a match with the “old gal”!

Last but not least was some wonderful soft bamboo silk socks from seriouslysillysocks – complete with bicycle patterns.

Great soft bamboo silk socks with cycling patterns.

Matildas Musings Strava

As the year comes to a close my dynamic Matildas Musings crew have had a great time during 2017 in #tandem! Our Strava app recorded every one of our 43 tandem adventures during the year – which incredibly saw us clock up approaching 1,000 miles.

The nice people at Strava have compiled a little video which pulls together all our statistics which is fun to view. Just click on any on the images below to watch – it only takes 60 seconds!

The blog is great fun to write – and I am delighted to report that over the year that according to host WordPress, my Matildas Musings blog has published 35 new posts which has attracted nearly 5,000 views from nearly 60 different countries around the globe.

The most popular countries are the UK, followed by France then the USA. But my worldwide appeal sees my blogs being red as far afield as the Philippines, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

So, to everyone who has read a blog post – a huge thank you!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds. If you want to follow me on social media hit any of the images below to access my pages, and then hit follow or subscribe.

Matildas Musings Facebook feed

Matildas Musings Twitter feed

Matildas Musings Youtube feed

Team Matildas Musings sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

Finally for the moment, I hope all readers of my Musings had a lovely Christmas and that Santa brought you and your tandems what you wanted! If not then the only explanation is that you were on the “naughty” list!

And if we don’t speak until after the bells – on behalf of Team Matildas Musings – let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2018 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Here’s to more adventures in 2018 for Team Matildas Musings as “it’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

Cheers!

Here I am at Matildas Rest waiting on the weather to improve to get put on some 2018 adventures!

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Christmas greetings to fellow tandemers who know its always better together!

Jingle bells, jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
On a tandem made for two …. !!! 

With the big day fast approaching and thoughts turning to turkey and tinsel and mistletoe and wine this “old lady” decided it was time to wish readers of my Matildas Musings blog, and fellow tandemers everywhere, (and even solo cyclists!) a very merry Christmas on behalf of Team Matilda.

The “old git” being a huge fan of the Christmas period is in a festive frenzy – while the “old gal” is enjoying the festive spirit (and wine!) while trying to exert a calming influence!

However my dynamic crew are hoping to squeeze in at least one ride over the festive period – including a potential “blow away the cobwebs” tandem trip to welcome in the New Year in the first couple of days of 2018. So stay tuned for that! Weather and temperature permitting of course as I have to protect my extremities!

In the meantime my dynamic duo – the “old git” aka my Captain and the “old gal” aka my Stoker – would like to thank you all for reading my Matildas Musings this year and following our adventures in #tandem, naturally!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings Facebook, Twitter or Youtube feeds.

Team Matilda sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

With a bit of luck – and no major mechanicals concerning my ageing frame or the fitness of my dynamic crew – there will be many more rides and Musings during 2018.

This hopefully will include the build-up to – and the day-to-day reports of – an attempt on the Hebridean Way in June – a 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. The trip is planned to be a joint Le Tour de Hebridean way with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of  who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! So special festive greetings to them and thanks again for their magnificent hospitality during the Le Tour de New Forest back in July.

For anyone wondering, the Christmas card front image at the top of this blog post is a snow-sprinkled image of me and my dynamic duo from our Team Tandem Ecosse 2017 Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem – which included some memorable tandeming along the dykes of Holland and the Alsace vineyards and canals, as well as some unforgettable climbing in the mountains of the Champagne region of France.

As a Christmas treat here’s another chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great tandem trip – split into three parts. Just click on any on the images below to watch.

So here’s to a wonderful festive season to all. And on behalf of all captains and stokers everywhere – lets hope Santa fills your Christmas stockings with all the good things you have put on your present list!

Mind you, that does make an assumption that you are on the “good tandemers” list rather than the “naughty tandemers list!”

And remember: It truly is always better when you’re together on a tandem”!!

So have a “twice the fun” Merry Christmas from Matilda, Colin and Diane!

Ho! ho! ho!

Matildas carol singing reprise – in dulci jubilo 2

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – “it might be more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing!” … but he was trying – very trying as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century. My dynamic crew make a point of going – and it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by candle light and torches.

In a reprise of last year the “old git” decided it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and my twinkling festive lights! And I even had the extra addition this year of sporting a pair of Rudolph reindeer antlers and a very fetching flashing red nose!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers and flashing red nose!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the second time ever that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

Ready to roll! My dynamic crew in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families out walking and doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise!) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be back out in the fresh air.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there was any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes (or so they claim!) … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their arrival – which as luck would have it was recorded on video which you can view here:

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar who led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing.

So after the practise – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving and lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singng carols by torchlight!

The “old gal” and the old git” enjoying the carols at Tullibardine Chapel.

My duo had got a bit chilled sitting inside the chapel as the temperature dropped, so after the service we quickly pedalled off in a bid to warm up! My crew tandemed at a rate that Strava later confirmed was their 3rd fastest time on the tough Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder!

The Carols by #tandem trip was a great way of getting Team Matilda into the festive spirit!

A rapid pedal then took us downhill and  we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up – accompanied by some very tasty sloe gin mince tarts.

Warm coffee and yummy sloe gin mice tarts helped my dynamic crew thaw out!

While thawing the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … a 2nd bests and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of just 6.2 miles with a moving time of 51.2 minutes – but as always it is the Smiles not the miles that count. Average speed was 7.3 mph and the elevation was 340 feet. The maximum speed was 21.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 444 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had fun – and felt it was a great way to get into the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” from her bath!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post just before the big day! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Back at Matildas Rest and a chance to show off my Christmas lights!

Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to our picnic destination of Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

After tandeming back thru the dockyard, it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Sneaky Monday ride from Tay Bridge to the home of golf St Andrews on NCR1

The “old gal” at the stunning West Sands beach at St Andrews.

So the “old git” and the “old gal” have been suffering from the “tandem blues” – missing their days of togetherness in the saddle pedalling across the scenic dykes of north Holland and thru the spectacular vineyards of Alsace and Champagne. To counter that my dynamic crew decided that an outing was required back at home – just to get the feeling of the air between my spokes again!

Not sure that the weather was going to be quite as good – but no matter the “old git” took a sneaky Monday off work and all three of us were packed into Matilda Transport and heading for the Tay Bridge. A new route to St Andrews had been identified – with the promise of some beautiful cycle paths thru the middle of a forest and along parts of the Fife Coastal Path.

Heavy rain was falling as we drove towards the Tay Bridge and it would need to be said that the “old gal” wasn’t hopeful of us getting out for a ride as my dynamic crew had seemingly left their ponchos at home. But as always the “old git” had done his weather forecast check and it promised the rain would dry up with bright clear skies from about 11am. And amazingly as soon as we drove into the bridge car park across from Dundee, the deluge stopped and the sun emerged from behind the clouds! Result!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The route is part of of Sustrans Scotland NCR1 and the bit Team Matilda did was a 17 mile section which saw the three of us initially tandem from the the Tay Bridge thru Tayport, passing its attractive harbour. After a fairly potholed section of about half a mile near Kinshaldy Beach the route continue don fantastic traffic free tracks thru the Tentsmuir Forest nature reserve.

As the Forestry Commission Scotland website says: ‘Tentsmuir is a magical combination of forest trails that dip and weave between tall trees and open sand dunes that change constantly with the wind and tides. The coast here is one of Scotland’s most dynamic landscapes: parts of the shoreline are growing out into the sea at a rate of five metres a year.’

And it lived up to its billing as a magical ride emerging out onto a cycle path past the former Leuchars Air Force base – now used by the Army. After heading thru Guardbridge my dynamic crew enjoyed an excellent cycle path separated from the busy A91  by a wall and hedge which hugs the edge of the famous St Andrews golf courses – past the landmark Old Course hotel – right to the sea front … where the sun appeared again, as if on cue! The only thing that was missing was a vineyard for a wine tasting along the way! Oh how my crew are missing France! 

Selfie time! My dynamic crew arrived in St Andrews as the sun came out right on cue!

As you know It’s all about the Smiles not the miles for Team MatildasMusings! So when we arrived in St Andrews my dynamic crew found themselves with the backdrop of the magnificent West Sands Beach where the iconic slow-motion running sequence for the brilliant Chariots of Fire movie was filmed. Naturally my dynamic crew decided they had to film a short remake! You can view the 7 second remake here!:

After my dynamic crew had attracted attention from foreign tourists wondering why on earth the “old git” was doing slow-motion running at the edge of the beach, it was time to get the required photo at the historic Old Course at St Andrews – the recognised home of golf.

Me and the “old git” and “old gal” at the historic Old Course – the home of golf.

St Andrews, being a mecca for golfers from across the world, plays host to the British Golf Museum – which houses the largest collection of golf memorabilia in Europe.

St Andrews – as the home of golf – is home to the British Golf Museum.

After the exertions of making a remake of Chariots of Fire and visiting the golf landmarks, my crew were feeling a bit peckish and headed up into the town where the “old git’s” research yet again paid off as they enjoyed a memorable lunch at a wonderful fish restaurant called Tailend, which has just won the Best Restaurant in Scotland award!

It seems the multi-faceted business has their own fishing boats and then has premises in both St Andrews and Dundee which have a wet fish shop, a fish and chip takeaway, and a luxurious sit in restaurant. From sea to table in one operation – and the freshness of the fish was obvious in my dynamic crew’s sampling of the menu. They enjoyed some battered tiger prawns with chilli; seared scallops with haggis; and a traditional fish and chips – before an indulgence of chocolate brownie and salted caramel ice cream Yum! And the gorgeous food was washed down with a Tail Royale cocktail – made from locally produced Eden Mill gin topped with prosecco!

My dynamic crew just had to sample a Tailend gin and prosecco cocktail!

Refuelled by lunch it was time to start the return journey and with a rain shower forecast my dynamic crew picked up pace and headed out along the coast towards Guardbridge. As we pedalled past Leuchars the rain started, but fortunately didn’t get too heavy – and soon we had the protection of the trees of  Tentsmuir Forest to protect us.

As the rain stopped, we came across the welcome oasis of The Crepe Shack where we had a memorable stop with Pablo who made as an amazing apple, cinnamon, caramel and Lotus biscuit crepe! A fabulous crepe in a fabulous location – right bang in the middle of the forest! Brilliant!

My dynamic crew loved the amazing Crepe Shack in the middle of Tenstmuir Forest.

Energy levels replenished by a crepe, the “old git and “old gal” pedalled on along the path thru the forest – stopping briefly at an old ice house which dates back to the 19th Century and was used to keep locally caught salmon fresh. It is now an important artificial bat roost.

The ice house where fishermen used to store their catch after dragging it up from the sea.

Emerging from the forest we tandemed back along the coast thru Tayport and back to the car park at the Tay Bridge – with me being loaded into Matilda Transport in record time to beat a heavy shower which started as soon as we began the drive home.

On return to Matildas Rest my dynamic crew had time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 34 personal bests! I will repeat that … 34 personal bests! However this seems to be a change in the Strava app which now gives you a personal best for the first time you do a new route – as a kind of benchmark! But a personal best is a personal best!

Strava showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.1 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 38 minutes. Average speed was 9.4 mph and the elevation was a 1028  feet. The maximum speed was 19.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1733 calories and produce an average power output of 119 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All in all some much needed smiles on a great new route on NCR1 for me and my dynamic crew! We’ll certainly be back!

Reflections on Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017

It’s always better when we’ve tandemed 300 miles together on Le Tour de France et Holland

Back home at Matildas Rest there has been plenty of  time for Team Tandem Ecosse to reflect on what was an incredible three legs of their two week Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017 – and an amazing sense of achievement in completing the 300 mile route.

Although it was hectic, and very full-on, the “old git” and the “old gal” are already suffering from the “tandem blues” – missing their days of togetherness in the saddle while on the the quiet cycle lanes and back roads of the beautifully scenic dykes and towns of the North Holland peninsula, followed by tandeming thru the vineyards and villages of the Alsace, and Champagne.

The scenery throughout the trip was fabulously eye-catching and a real joy to experience and provided real brain food with stunning images to store in my dynamic crew’s memory banks as we  tandemed along – experiencing an incredible contrast between the serenity of the windmills and vineyards to the bustling towns along the route – while all the time being at one with nature.

Team Tandem Ecosse managed to experience their target of ticking three bucket list items – eating Edam cheese in Edam; sampling Alsace wine in the Alsatian vineyards; and quaffing champagne in Champagne. So mission accomplished!

Sampling Edam in Edam – first bucket list tick!

Sampling Alsace wine in the Alsatian vineyards – second bucket list tick!

Sampling champagne in Champagne – third bucket list tick!

Before we set out my crew always said that “the journey” was going to be the holiday – not racing from place to place. Sticking firmly to that agenda all three of us on Team Tandem Ecosse enjoyed long warm sunny days on the road in both Holland and France – giving a fantastic in-depth experience of the local geography and the friendly people along our route.

As always our journey was so much more satisfying for my dynamic duo being self-propelled at the slower pace of a tandem – rather than travelling by car. Every view of a windmill, vineyard or eye-catching village lasted so much longer – as did the amazing picnics and many wine and champagne tastings en route!

Amazing picnics are de rigueur for my dynamic crew!

My dynamic crew more than fulfilled the remit on their t-shirts!

I think it is also fair to say that Team Tandem Ecosse more than fulfilled their remit on their Euro Tour 2017 t-shirts – which had them on a tandem quest to find the best wines and champagnes en route!

Travelling by the relatively fragile mode of transport that a tandem is certainly exposed us not only to the warm sunshine – and on one day fairly heavy rain – but to the physically demanding exertions of progressing from place to place … especially in the mountains of the Champagne region!

It also brought us into close interaction with lots of local people, many of whom tooted their support and issued friendly “bonjours” as they passed Team Tandem Ecosse – unmissable in their multi-lingual day-glo cycling shirts.  And of course the many other cyclists we met along the way – with whom we shared a special bond. Amazingly we did not see any other tandems along our route.

But perhaps the most important thing is that my dynamic duo of the “old gal” and the “old git” did the trip as a real team – laughing and smiling all the way even when frustration levels increased as energy levels fell! And that was the case even when at confusing signposts my crew had to pedal back to the previous junction to take the “correct” turning; or over the course of many meaningful “discussions” as to which direction to take!

Confusing signposts! 12km to Dambach-la-ville to the left and 13 km to the right!

After all my dynamic duo firmly believe in their twin mottos of: “It’s the Smiles that count, not the miles!” and “Its always better when we are tandeming together!”

And this “old lady” is proud to say that my dynamic crew resolutely supported each other every pedal and every kilometre of the way – and emerged from the experience even more together, and in love!

And I am even more delighted to say – as are the “old git” and the old gal” – that this classic tandem managed to get through the two weeks without a squeak … and even managed to avoid the dreaded p-word! And honours too for Matilda Transport which clocked up a not insubstantial 1850 miles on the Euro Tandem Tour 2017.

So after some 300 miles and 35 hours in the saddle over 10 days all three of us on Team Tandem Ecosse experienced another fabulous adventure – and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Euro Tandem Tour 2017 was another unmissable adventure!

In conclusion our brief overviews and thoughts on each of the three legs of Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017:

Euro tour 1st leg – tandeming along the dykes and thru the windmills of north Holland

Team Tandem Ecosse really enjoyed their first venture into Holland with a three-day taster tour of the North Holland peninsula. Everyone said my dynamic crew would love Holland for at least two reasons – its impressive cycling infrastructure – and because it was so flat!  Well they were correct on both counts! My dynamic crew could have tandemed all day on the amazing cycle paths. Our route took us in a triangle from Amsterdam out along the dykes to Marken and Volendam then thru Edam before turning inland to Alkmaar and back to Amsterdam. The highlights were seeing the fabulous picture postcard windmill area, and tandeming thru the centre of the red light district in Amsterdam with its pretty canals! We covered around 100 miles and despite the minor mishap of getting lost – which to be fair was probably the fault of my dynamic crew! – I am told we will certainly be back!

One of my crews favourite shots as it sums up the Holland experience!

The pretty canals and bridges offered a sharp contrast to Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Here is a video montage of the images form the Holland leg set to music – watch by clicking here:

Euro Tour 2nd leg – tandeming the vineyards and canals of l’Alsace à velo

Team Tandem Ecosse had some amazing sights and experiences on their four-day 125 mile tandem trip in the Alsace – pedalling thru the scenic vineyards and wine towns on ‘Alsace à vélo before heading along the fantastic canals on EuroVelo 15. Despite hitting the challenging hills of the Vosges – let’s just say the downhill stretches were great! – it was a spectacular trip made all the better for my dynamic crew by the many wine and cremant tastings along the way! Our self-guided Tour d’Alsace du Tandem covered 125 sun kissed miles in a loop starting in Strasbourg, France with overnight stops to enjoy gourmet meals and luxurious chambre d’hôtes in Obernai, Beblenheim, and Colmar before returning to Strasbourg. The highlights were filling my bidons direct from a vat of newly made wine, and tandeming along the flat canal paths! It seems canals could be the way forward for future tours!

Filling my bidons with nouveau vin direct from the vat!

This sums up the blissful Alsace for Team Tandem Ecosse.

Here is a video montage of the images form the Alsace leg set to music – watch by clicking here:

Euro Tour 3rd leg – tandeming (and pushing) up the Montagne de Reims vineyards to drink champagne en Champagne!

Team Tandem Ecosse saw some amazing sights and enjoyed fabulous experiences on their challenging 75 mile three-day tandeming trip in the heart of the Champagne region, thru the wonderfully scenic vineyards and villages of Montagne de Reims Regional Natural Park! Yes the word montagne means mountains … and my dynamic crew faced no less than four category 4 climbs (or walks!) en route in their quest to sample the best champagnes! It would be fair to say that we definitely underestimated the terrain which resulted in my crew overstretching their cycling ability in places. But again there are some fantastic memories in the memory bank and the “old git” and “old gal” enjoyed many tastings of the different varieties of champagne along the way – purely for research purposes, of course! Our self-guided tour started in Reims and taking in a loop around Epernay – the champagne capital. The highlights were visiting the wonderful hilltop village of Hautvillers, which is the cradle of champagne making, and a crazy ride along L’Avenue de Champagne – one of the most expensive streets in the world kitted out in full King and Queen of the Mountain gear! Would my dynamic crew return? – yes, definitely – but probably taking in the views of the champagne vineyards from the luxury of a hot air balloon … in tandem, of course!

Hautvillers – said to be the cradle of champagne – was a charming village.

Not many better places to be than the headquarters of Moet & Chandon on the Avenue du Champagne!

Here is a video montage of the images form the Champagne leg set to music – watch by clicking here:

Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017 certainly was a Bon Voyage! Cheers!

Time to celebrate in style – with champagne obv! Over 300 miles and over 300 smiles along the way!

Euro Tour 3rd leg – tandeming (and pushing) up the Montagne de Reims vineyards to drink champagne en Champagne!

This sums up the hilly (mountainous!) tandem tour of Champagne for Team Tandem Ecosse.

After Team Tandem Ecosse’s fantastic tour of the Alsace – and ticking off the bucket list item of sampling Alsatian wine where it was made, in the vineyards of the Alsace! – it was time for another bucket list item … this time the task was to quaff champagne in Champagne! So there was a non cycling day on the itinerary for the three of us to reposition from Strasbourg to Reims to begin the third and final leg of our two week Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017.

So as our tour t-shirts said – the “old git” and the “old gal” were determined in their quest for le vin et champagne! A three hour drive along the fabulous French toll roads flew past and soon Matilda Transport was pulling up at Le Clos des Roys, our chambres d’hote in Reims – marking the start point for a three day tour of the vineyards of Champagne.

And what a fantastic location – the beautiful old fabric trading town house was located in the heart of the historic district, just 30 metres from the forecourt of the city’s magnificent Cathedral. We received a warm welcome from hosts Marie Ann and Gerard and shown to our luxurious room.

With both me and our car parked safely in an internal courtyard, my dynamic crew didn’t waste any time in exploring their new base, so headed out for dinner and their first taste of champagne! Our hosts had made a booking at the highly recommended Brasserie de Boulingrin – an art deco sea food restaurant dating from 1925 which we later discovered is an institution in Reims.

First ever champagne in Champagne – accompanied by a fisherman’s basket! oh if you insist!

The menu was mouthwatering! Pop went the first of many champagne corks to be popped over the next few days and “the old git” and the “old gal” toasted what they knew would be an epic trip with their first ever taste of champagne in Champagne! It really was one of those special moments to savour and remember – even more special as it was accompanied by a fisherman’s basket of gorgeous seafood including oysters! OOh la la!

All in all, a promising start to Le Tour de Champagne!

Day 1  Climbing and climbing from Reims to fab champagne vineyards at Verzenay and Bouzy as phone died at epic moment!

Smiles at the lighthouse in the middle of the champagne vineyards!

An early alarm and after another wonderful communal petit dejeuner, it was time for my dynamic crew to get me kitted up to depart on our 35 mile adventure on Le Route de Champagne. The schedule being to tandem from Reims to the other main town in the region called Epernay – which lays claim to be the champagne capital. Team Tandem Ecosse are staying there for two nights – with a short ride on the day in between – before heading back to Reims on day three.

With three days tandem touring – and given that Team Tandem Ecosse was going completely self sustained and self-guided with no luggage transfer as they had enjoyed in previous years – my four panniers were again packed full to the brim, adding substantially to my weight!

Heading off from our stylish Le Clos des Roys chambres d’hotes in Reims.

In bright sunshine and in high spirits all three of us pedalled off from our stylish base and headed towards Epernay in our quest to find out lots more about champagne. Check out the details of our Day 1 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The start was idyllic as we tandemed out along the cycle path along the banks of the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne out towards the town of Sillery and then head towards the first of the villages with names which resonate, Mailly-Champagne.

It was at this stage that the realisation dawned on my dynamic crew that the champagne vineyards are hilly. Maybe the “old git” and “old gal” should have realised when the route description said: “You will be touring through the villages of the Montagne de Reims!” For some reason the word montagne hadn’t hit home … but let’s say it did as we left Sillery behind and started to climb … and climb!

Climbing (and climbing) in the Champagne vineyards towards the famous windmill.

My dynamic crew – who were a bit less than dynamic with the effort required on the hills – have subsequently realised (with a bit of basic research) that the best grapes for champagne require long roots to give them the best flavour – and long roots means they grow on slopes on the hillside! Doh!

Did someone mention hills? The view back to the canal showing the sudden elevation!

The views across the vineyards were stunning however. A quick glance at the guidebook for the area there are more than 15,000 wine growers in the designated Champagne area, 5,000 small champagne houses and over 100 well-known houses. We pedalled thru a welcome flat part at Mailly-Champagne – one of the over 300 picturesque villages which make their living from the fizz and were amazed to see winegrower’s houses at every turn … all offering their own name champagne. All fabulously scenic!

The amazing high axled tractors which mechanically pick the champagne grapes.

Leaving the village and back into climbing mode, my dynamic crew were fortunate enough to see one of the eye-catching high axled tractors which amazingly pick the grapes mechanically. It is a sight to be seen and obviously cuts out a lot of back breaking work!

Our target – and hopefully where the mountains would plateau – was firstly a landmark windmill and then a lighthouse at Verzenay. I got to feel a real VIP by posing at the gates of the windmill which is owned by the world-famous GH Mumm. The windmill – officially known as Le Moulin de Verzenay  is unfortunately not open to the public – but it is used by the company as a corporate reception area. The next day we discovered that Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt had flown in by helicopter in his role as brand ambassador. Obviously he wasn’t fit enough to cycle up the hills to get there either!

Posing at the gates to the windmill owned by the Mumm champagne house.

A final climb took us over the next ridge to the village of Verzenay and a welcome stop at Le Phare de Verzenay – a lighthouse which incongruously sits overlooking the vineyards. It was built in 1909 by Joseph Goulet to promote his brand of champagne – shining its light all over the vines. It turned into a bit of a folly but now combines a role as a promotional area for champagne tasting and museum.

Relief for the “old gal” when finally we reached the plateau at Le Phare de Verzenay.

Le phare offers the chance to sample up to 50 different varieties of  champagne – which was just what my dynamic crew needed for recovery after their exertions. Well they sampled a glass each – not 50! And they were able to chill and relax and enjoy their tasting in a fabulous sun-kissed garden area overlooking the vineyards under the lighthouse.

Le phare offered a perfect tasting area in a garden overlooking the vineyards! Cheers!

The “old gal” reflecting on those energy sapping hills!

After that reviving refreshment – my crew climbed the 120 odd stairs to the viewing platform of le phare to get a magnificent vista. The “old gal” recorded a short video to show it is hilly and the view from the top of the lighthouse over the champagne vineyards – which you can view by clicking here:

Before leaving the lighthouse the “old git” purchased a  bottle of champagne using his new found knowledge of the different types of the fizz. It’s not just any old champagne you know! Oh no! There are three different grape varieties used in champagne – white Chardonnay grapes and the red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

The “old git” selected a bottle of blanc de blancs – which is  made entirely from the white Chardonnay  grapes. The tasting notes said: “With its elegant and lithe style this is the Champagne of choice among serious oenophiles.” After googling oenophile and discovering it meant wine connoisseur – he wholeheartedly agreed!

On leaving the lighthouse we were approached by a photographer, Karine Lhémon. who wanted to take some pictures of me and my crew! Karine introduced herself as being the official photographer for the Office de Tourisme du Grand Reims and was looking to take some shots of visitors to the area for their publicity purposes.  Obviously the “old git” was hesitant and had to be persuaded – jokingly saying: “Only if you twist our arm and give us champagne!”

Pose for publicity shots? Only if twist our arm and give us champagne!

My dynamic crew even had to sign an official form giving permission for the tourist agency to use the photos in their marketing. Given that the “old git” works in communications, he was suggesting some ideas for shots – and cheekily took a photo of Karine taking a photo of Team Tandem Ecosse!

Taking a photo of the photographer from Reims Tourisme snapping us!

The photographer wanted me involved in the photos too!

All the photos had le phare in them and after taking some of my dynamic crew, the photographer wanted to get me involved in the photo shoot as well! Well after all as a classic tandem, I am the star of the show! It was all good fun – and produced lots of laughs. After Karine promised to email some of the pictures, we bid farewell with her determined to capture us tandeming off for posterity!

“3-2-1-Go” Our start-up routine captured for posterity!

My crew immediately hit another hill but had to battle on to save face as they were still being filmed! One more short climb at Mount Sinia marked the peak – before the road through the vineyards started to go steeply downhill. It was a good long stretch so we were able to pick up speed rapidly.

Unfortunately it was at this very inopportune moment that the “old git’s” phone decided it would have a battery fail – but this wasn’t discovered till a few miles further on. Therefore Strava didn’t record the epic moment when my crew hit a new top speed – as recorded by the good old-fashioned handlebar speedometer – of 38.9 mph. Weeeeeh! It was our Chris Froome moment!

Full of high speed adrenalin my dynamic crew soon arrived at the village of Bouzy, famous for its red wine as well as champagne! Heaven for the “old gal” who has a fondness for both!

Tasting Bouzy Rouge – the wine of Kings – at the champagne house in the well-named Bouzy!

Bouzy is a Grand Cru village on the south side of the Montagne de Reims and we found the perfect spot for a tasting at the combined home of Paul Clouet and Bonnair champagne. To celebrate our new record high speed, naturally my crew had to sample both types! In addition the champagne house is famous for its Bouzy Rouge. This is known as the ‘Wine of Kings’ as it historically was served at the Court during the grand banquets of the coronations. The red wine is made exclusively from Pinot Noir grapes from the village. The “old gal” deemed it as living up to its regal reputation! A bottle was bought for the Christmas table and safely stored in my panniers!

After sampling the best of Bouzy – and feeling a teensy bit bouzy themselves! – my crew decided that an ice cold soft drink was required to fuel them for the final hour pedal to our overnight stop in Epernay. Happily for the “old gal” and the “old git” it was downhill to Tour-sur-Marne and on to the cycle path running alongside the Canal latéral à la Marne which took us direct into the city.

Amazingly just as we were pouring over a street map of Epernay, on the edge of the world-famous Avenue de Champagne, a car stopped and asked if we were looking for Les Epecuriens chambres d’hotes. I think the tandem was a bit of a give away – but it was our host Laure and my crew eagerly pedalled after her car to the front door.

I was parked up safely in a very colourful indoor courtyard while my crew were shown to their room – the Noble Equestrian Suite. More about the amazing chambres d’hotes later, but suffice to say for the moment that Laure had thought of everything and there were luxurious touches everywhere.

Glad to see standards being maintained at Les Epicuriens!

The “old git” was particularly impressed with a sign which said it was forbidden to drink champagne from a plastic glass! So glad to see standards being maintained! He knew my crew were in the hands of an expert!

Having arrived fairly late my crew enjoyed a welcome glass of fizz from Laure before showers and heading to dinner at the recommended Au Petit Fourneau restaurant for dinner where the speciality was les patates – effectively baked potatoes! But these were rather special – cut into slices and smothered in an amazing array of toppings. The “old git” had the Bretonne with prawns and emmental cheese sauce; while the “old gal” indulged in the Fromages one with reblechon, emmental, blue cheese and goats cheese. Oh and there was a bottle of champagne – just to sample the local produce of course! They told me it was rather yum!

Not surprisingly after a long day on the slopes of the vineyards, sleep wasn’t far away! So a somewhat challenging but still sensational first day of the Champagne leg of Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem covering an actual total of 35 miles (with only 26 of them recorded on Strava!) As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Day 2 – KoM climb to Hautvillers – home of Dom Perignon – and whizz back down to tandem along L’Avenue de Champagne in style!

Not many better places to be than the headquarters of Moet & Chandon on L’Avenue de Champagne!

My dynamic crew wakened after a deep recovery sleep to find there had been unexpected heavy rain and thunder overnight! Tell me about it! I was soaked thru as the lovely internal courtyard was open to the elements! All my bits were sopping – including my front panniers which had not been removed!

Heavy rain overnight and into Saturday morning left me a bit wet in my colourful courtyard!

After a hearty breakfast – including freshly baked bread – my dynamic crew had to reorganise the day as rain stopped play! The original plan was to leave early for a short loop of the scenic villages around Epernay followed by a more relaxing afternoon. A quick look at the weather forecast said heavy rain all morning – suddenly stopping around lunchtime turning to warm bright sunny conditions. So the schedule was turned back to front – as were my panniers in an attempt to dry them out! As for me the “old gal” gave me a good rub down with a towel! She is good that way!

Borrowing big umbrellas, my dynamic crew ventured out to the local food market and had a wonderful morning ooohing and aaahing at all the gorgeous fresh produce on display. The “old gal” was in her element and quickly secured some provisions for today’s picnic – which was going to be an indoor picnic! Funny how there is always one day the picnic has to be inside on these trips!

There’s always one! Each of our tours seems to have one indoor picnic!

Amazingly, bang on cue as per the local forecast, the rain clouds rapidly cleared just after lunch and the sun came out to play. So, with more hills on the route, my crew donned their King (and Queen) of the Mountain jerseys and got me kitted up before heading off on today’s loop.

Check out the details of our Day 2 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

With the sun on our backs it was a real joy to be back out on the cycle paths for Team Tandem Ecosse. We weaved our way thru the city heading out along a long flat stretch towards Cumieres before heading uphill to our destination of the pretty village of Hautvillers. My crew had been warned that the climb would get their hearts racing! That was a bit of an understatement!

Well the climb turned out to have two Tour de France category 4-rated climbs (or in our case walks!) – which means it was steep! Very steep! As the “old git” and “old gal” struggled for breath they were at least able to tick off some of the world’s most famous champagne houses as the vineyards were all clearly labelled and were like a who’s who of champagnes.

It was quite a climb – but worth it as like a who’s who of champagnes!

It was so steep that even when pushing the “old git” thought my brakes were on! But the panoramic views overlooking Epernay and the Marne river were stunning – with champagne vineyards stretching before us as far as our eyes could see. Truly beautiful!

The trip to magical Hautvillers involved two category 4 climbs! Just a bit steep!

Finally we crawled (almost literally!”) into the village of Hautvillers – causing quite a stir among the tourists who had arrived by car and coach! Can’t think why! A couple of people even asked if they could take pictures of “le doublé vélo” – maybe they thought we were mad arriving by bike!

Hautvillers – said to be the cradle of champagne – was a charming village.

The charming champagne producing village is recognised as the cradle of champagne as it was here in the ancient Benedictine abbey at Hautvillers that the monk Dom Pérignon discovered the champagne wine-making process in the 18th century.

My crew also discovered (via good tandeming friends Jane and John) that Hautvillers is twinned with the town of Beaulieu which we visited in our Tour de New Forest back in July.

After recovering their breath my crew sought out the sanctuary of the highly recommended Le Cave et Jardin antique shop. It really is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of all things related to champagne! While enjoying a fascinating browse, the owners offer the chance to visitors to indulge by buying a glass of fine local product – which naturally my crew thought would have been rude to refuse!

A visit to the fascinating Entre Cave et Jardin antiques shop is a must at Hautvillers.

Le Cave et Jardin offers a chance to enjoy a glass of fine champagne while browsing antiques.

My dynamic crew sat in the jardin (garden) part while quaffing their bubbly – establishing some kind of equilibrium after their mountain pedalling exertions! They even had a toast to Dom Pérignon before purchasing a Moet Chandom champagne glass set for two as a momento!

We then tandemed along the cobbled streets to find the Saint-Sindulphe abbey church – which houses Dom Pérignon’s black marble tombstone.

Dom Perignon, the monk who invented champagne, is buried here.

At every turn in the village there are links to Dom Pérignon – including a photo opportunity to turn yourself into the champagne inventing monk – which the “old git” obviously couldn’t resist!

The “old git” posing as Dom Perignon in the village!

Leaving the village my dynamic crew enjoyed a fab whizz back downhill – retracing our pedals to the city with plenty of time to explore the ‘Champs Elysees of Epernay’ –  the famous L’Avenue de Champagne which hosts the glitzy headquarters of the main champagne houses.

It offered a fascinating insight into the luxury world of champagne – with the whole avenue simply oozing money and opulence. An interesting fact is that the 19th century buildings sit above some 110 kms of underground cellars, built into the limestone, used for storing the champagne at temperatures of around 10 C.

Moet & Chandon is the most famous champagne firm and honours its links to Dom Pérignon with an impressive statue at the entrance to its headquarters. Each of the champagne houses were trying to outdo each other with eye catching displays – which offered a real spectacle.

The “old gal” at the Dom Perignon statue at the Moet & Chandon headquarters in Epernay.

The Boizel champagne house offered a good photo opportunity on L’Avenue de Champagne.

Things you never thought you’d ever do! My dynamic crew always had drinking champagne in Champagne on their bucket list! But how many people can say they have tandemed down the glitzy L’Avenue de Champagne in Epernay – the capital of Champagne ?!

Well we did and the “old gal” recorded some video footage for posterity which you can watch here:

It would need to be said that a tandem cycling down the L’Avenue de Champagne with a crew decked out in polka dot cycling jerseys was always going to attract quite a bit of inquisitive attention – and after we had finished we even received a round of applause! After all that fun and frivolity my dynamic crew headed back to the sanctuary of Les Epecuriens chambres d’hotes.

My crew were looking forward to the evening as they had booked a private steam room session in the property’s hamman on their return, and later, a private champagne dinner a deux – home cooked by our host Laure – served in our suite! Told you it was classy!

I was parked back in the internal courtyard, and this time our hosts covered me with a huge plastic sheet – just in case the rain returned. The “old git” and “old gal” thoroughly enjoyed relaxing in the heat of the steam room – ideal to help them get over the tail end of their heavy colds.

Our fabulous dinner in our suite at Les Epicuriens home cooked by our host Laure.

The dinner which followed was a culinary delight, as it turns out one of Laure’s main interests is cooking – and has even produced her own cookbook. My crew eagerly ate up their four course dinner – which was naturally accompanied by a fine bottle of champagne from a nearby vineyard.

So two epic category 4 climbs today on another brilliant second  day of the Champagne leg of Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem covering just 8 miles – with the route brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Day 3 – Grand finale Euro tour 2017 up mountains to Reims from Epernay as we clocked up 300 miles in 10 days

The scenic reward for the climb of tree tunnels in the Parc Naturel de la Montagne de Reims.

This was the final ride of our brilliant two week Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017 and the schedule today had us tandeming back to Reims from Epernay – a distance of just over 30 miles. That’ll be easy at this stage in the tour then for my dynamic crew who were now finely tuned athletes! Let’s just say it didn’t turn out that way! …

My dynamic crew were reluctant to leave the luxury of Les Epicuriens chambres d’hotes.

After another gorgeous and tasty petit dejeuner at Les Epecuriens chambres d’hotes Team Tandem Ecosse were a bit reluctant to leave their luxurious surroundings. We sadly took our leave from the wonderfully hospitable Laure and headed thru Epernay for the last time heading out into the country towards the ancient town of Ay.

Check out the details of our Day 3 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had both looked at the maps and knew it was hilly so were suitably kitted out in their King and Queen of the Mountain jerseys! But they didn’t realise the emphasis today would be on the word mountains! Mind you, the fact that one of the villages very near our route was called Rilly la Montagne should have been a bit of a clue!

The first few miles were great and we soon picked up speed along the flat roads thru the vineyards. This was giving us a false sense of security … but then it happened! My crew hit the Montagne de Reims like a brick wall! A very high brick wall at that!

Team Tandem Ecosse huffed and puffed their way up the first climb (slowly) before resorting to taking me for a walk on the second – which was the first of another two category 4-rated climbs of the day! Since I was fully laden the “old git” had to use significant effort to push me up what seemed like an almost vertical incline, while the “old gal” – who suffers from asthma and therefore finds hills difficult at the best of times – puffed along behind!

Ab fab! We ticked off names of many champagnes including Bolly!

The only break my dynamic crew (who were feeling somewhat less than dynamic at this stage) had from the relentless climbing was ticking off more names of the major champagne brands, including Bollinger and Mercier. Let’s just say that my crew were now acutely aware that the best champagnes need the best grapes and they grow on steep slopes!

Mercier was next to be ticked off on the climb to Germaine.

A local guide book informed my crew that the term “mountain” is justified for the Montage de Reims by the brutality of the change of relief between the plain at 80 meters above sea level and the slopes where the vines produce the champagne some 200  metres higher. That made them feel so much better … not!

To be honest, we overstretched our ability on this route – and on the next big climb, which was a category 4 between Germaine and Ville-en-Selve it became less than fun for the first time on this trip. With my heavy panniers weighing me down, it was little wonder that the “old git” kept looking to see if my brakes were locked on as he slowly pushed up to the summit. This was by far the toughest route we have ever tackled! … Or ever want to tackle!

The Route de Champagnes offered some fascinating glimpses of past and present.

After taking an energy sapping 2 hours 45 minutes to travel 14 miles, we finally reached the plateau just  after Ville-en-Selve- a fantastic forest area which is part of the Park Naturel Regional de La Montagne de Reims. This gave my crew a bit of respite. The smiles returned as they enjoyed some scenic tree tunnels and the beauty of the leaves changing colours.

The climb was worth it to see the colours change at Ville-en-Selve.

The beautiful scenery helped restore spirits as did the sight of the first downhill stretch for some time which saw my dynamic crew whizz down into the village of Ludes. It was Sunday and our experience tells us everywhere is closed – but we came across a patisserie which was open. Coffee and yummy apricot tarts restored energy levels for the “old gal” and “old git”

The “old gal” at the picturesque Mairie (town hall) in Ludes.

After a much required stop to restore equilibrium after my crew’s mountain climbing exploits, we headed further downhill and saw a signpost for Chigny-les-Roses famous for its rose champagne – made from the Pinot Meunier grapes. Just at the entrance to the town is an old barrel used in the champagne process – which provided a fun photo stop!

The “old gal” was happy to see the town of Chigny-les-Roses famous for its rose fizz!

The “old gal” was happy to see the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne ahead of us and we pedalled off – enjoying some welcome freewheeling to reach the canal cycle path at Sillery.

The Sillery French Military Cemetry contains graves of over 11,000 soldiers killed in the first World War.

Just before reaching the canal my crew stopped at the impressive Sillery French Military Cemetry which contains graves of over 11,000 soldiers killed in the first World War during the battles of Champagne.

Final picnic of le tour! Sadly all good things have to come to an end! Last one on canal at Sillery.

After paying our respects at the war cemetery, my dynamic crew found a nice seat by the canal for our last picnic of this year’s Euro Tour du Tandem. By now readers of my blog will know that the picnic is one of the key points of the day for the “old git” and “old gal” and this one was no exception.

After a late picnic lunch we tandemed along the canal path – again in awe at the fabulous surface and how everyone respects the cycling culture. This for Team Tandem Ecosse is what tandeming is about! My crew were enjoying themselves so much they deliberately pedalled on past the turn off into Reims in order to clock up 75 miles on the Champagne leg – to break the 300 mile total for the 10 days cycling on the three legs of Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017.

The Cathedral Notre-Dame in Reims marked the end point.

The magnificent frontage of the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Reims was the official end point of our tour – and the “old gal” purchased a bottle of champagne in one of the gift shops in the square to allow my dynamic crew to celebrate when we we arrived back at Le Clos des Roys, our chambres d’hote.

Job done! Celebrating arriving at Les Clos des Roys after 75 gruelling miles in Champagne.

It’s always better when we’ve tandemed over 300 miles together on Le Tour de France et Holland

After I was secure in the inner courtyard, it was time for my dynamic crew to enjoy some end of tour celebrations! And how do you celebrate when in Champagne! Yes in the only way that is possible here – by drinking champagne in Champagne!

Time to celebrate in style – with champagne obv! Over 300 miles and over 300 smiles along the way!

… even if it was just a tad knackering on some of the uphill stretches! Time for relaxation!

As my crew enjoyed the feeling that their legs wouldn’t have to pedal up any more hills, they were buoyed when the “old git” checked Strava on his phone and discovered that they had achieved their highest every placings in the league tables! Amazingly Team Matildas Musings were in third place in the Tandem Club UK table for tandemers in Britain having clocked 154.2 miles over the last seven days; and 14th in the league table for tandmers around the world!

.. and 14th in world tandemers in last 7 days!

Delighted at 3rd place in UK tandemers over last week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My crew had a most welcome shower and a bit of relaxation before heading out for a celebration end of tour dinner. Our hosts Marie Ann and Gerard came up trumps with a wonderful recommendation – La Paix which is a bustling brasserie known for its fish and seafood specialties. It was a perfect spot for a gala meal and my crew decided to splash out on the menu gourmand which saw them enjoy six fabulous oysters as a starter followed by a sensational meal – and all washed down with a perfectly chilled dry local Rieseling. Quite simply a sensational way to finish!

So although we hit the Montange de Reims like a brick wall – overall it was still another unmissable ride on the final day of the Champagne leg of Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem covering 30.7 miles, with the route brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

As a quick overview of the third and final leg of our Euro Tandem Tour 2017, Team Tandem Ecosse again saw some amazing sights and enjoyed fabulous experiences on their cycling trip in the heart of the Champagne region. The total distance covered over the three days was just 75 miles – but it felt most of these were up hills and mountains. We definitely underestimated the terrain which resulted in my crew overstretching their cycling ability in places. But again there are some fantastic memories in the memory bank and the “old git” and “old gal” have ticked off that bucket list item of quaffing champagne in Champagne! The overall conclusion from my dynamic crew is that they wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Would they return – yes, definitely – but probably taking in the views of the vineyards from the luxury of a hot air balloon!

There will be a blog reflecting on Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017 overall. For now our European tandem adventures were over for another year but before the three hour drive to the Eurotunnel service back to the UK, there was time for my crew to sample some of the sights of Reims and pick up a few supplies and presents.

The magnificent 13C stained glass rose window in Reims cathedral.

We paid a visit to the magnificent Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame, which is where French Kings were traditionally crowned.  More than 2,300 statues decorate the exterior and one of the key highlights is the 13th Century stained glass rose window. There is also a plaque marking the spot where Clovis, the king of the Franks, was baptised by the Bishop of Reims.

Clovis, King of the Franks, was baptised in the cathedral.

According to legend a dove brought a phial containing holy oil, which was used to anoint Clovis. It was then used for the coronation of every King of France from the 11th Century to 1825 – the most famous being King Charles V11 in 1429 at the height of the Hundred Years War in the presence of Joan of Arc. A real history lesson then for my dynamic crew.

The roll call of French kings who were crowned at Reims cathedral.

After being steeped in history my crew walked around the market and bought a few presents – while noting the slightly alarming high level security presence of armed police even for a local market, which underlined the high state of alert in France due to recent terrorist atrocities.

Then it was time for the “old git” and the “old gal” to have fun stocking up on supplies of champagne to take back home! My crew carefully selected their bottles which marked key spots on our Tour de Champagne from the more than 700 different varieties on offer at Le Cave des Sacres – a fabulous champagne cellar situated in the shadow of the cathedral. Purchases made, the “old git” then needed to borrow a trolley to get the boxes back to Matilda Transport!

The “old git” needed a trolley to get champagne supplies to the car!

Time for a quick late lunch burger before Team Tandem Ecosse had to head to Calais for our Eurotunnel connection back to the UK and then an overnight drive back to Matildas Rest.

A fitting setting for the final toast of champagne in Champagne!

The courtyard of the cathedral provided a fitting setting for my dynamic crew for their final toast of champagne in Champagne – bringing to an end an epic Le Tour de France et Holland du tandem 2017.

These tours are what memories are made of! Cheers!