Ruth and Liam go places… without the bikes.

After leaving the Air B&B in Lake Maggiagore, the next month of our trip became very random as we’ve wrestled with what to do next, changed our plan completely several times (sometimes several times a day…no wait… hour), and worked towards a return to my full health. We’ve finally accepted that despite wanting to cycle in the mountains, it is actually just too difficult long term on touring bikes in Europe with a small budget. It is amazing for a month or so, but at least for Liam and I, you cannot maintain that level of exertion for very long. Even if you want to. Mountain passes drain you. So… what have we been upto!

We’ve cycled around Lake Como and stayed in four campsites, treating ourselves to some luxury rather than spending our time hiding in lay-bys! Highlights include a lovely Swiss-German couple lending us their tables and chairs one evening when they went out for dinner. We also took a Ferry most of the way across one part of the lake, and it was really fun to put the bikes on a boat. Then, we had a week in an Air B&B in the mountains where we did nothing but watch Rick and Morty, films, Netflix, read and have short walks. We enjoyed watching the first snow of the season falling on the surrounding hills, going shopping in the valley below and then hitch hiking back up the mountain, sleeping in, talking to each other a whole lot, planning our future and reflecting on our trip so far.

Warmshowers has also come through for us twice; we stayed in a gorgeous room in the Trento valley full of antiques, and met a lovely family who educated us about World War One fortifications in the Italian mountains. We also stayed with an amazing guy called Mike, an American studying for a MSc in Milan, but living in a lakeside town called Lecco. Mike kindly let us stay two nights and told us about an amazing day hike in the mountains near his house. We had a great day out scrambling up a ridge line, getting lost (classic Ruth and Liam) and then went out for an Indian meal with Mike in the evening. Mike also joined us for a cycle in the morning, which helped us back onto our route.

Just to experience something a bit different and have some city time, we spent one night in Verona, and a night in Venice. I had never been to an Italian city before! In Verona we stayed on a hillside at a great campsite, and we could hear a concert in the amphitheatre below. We ate grapes from the vine which were growing above our tent! It was great to wander round a city again, even though I felt out of place with my grubby trainers not matching my bedraggled dress. Venice was a particular highlight of the trip for me. I kept walking around with my eyes wide open with wonder! The canals and old buildings are so beautiful, and I kept thinking of Shakespeare, and the history of the place. We treated ourselves to some epic desserts, gelato, appertivos, dinners and well… whatever we wanted, for a change! Proper luxury, including actually staying in Venice itself at a quirky Air B&B. We visited the Biennale and got to see some very interesting art, finally actually doing a touristy thing rather than just cycling past it.

Then… we went home for a week because I had applied for a research job and got an interview (a very long story). During the week at home, I had all my blood tests done and was given the all clear for any health issues. It was really lovely to see our families again, and although I spent most of the week preparing for the interview (I didn’t get the job), Liam got to go climbing and to laser quest with his nephew. It was Liam’s sisters birthday too, so well timed to join in on a great family meal with a trio of desserts. Yum. We squeezed in a walk in the Peak District near Sheffield after my interview, and got excited about our plans to move there when we return home for good. I felt rejuvenated after a cuddle from my dad, mum and sister, and being back in the comforting familiarity of England. I also loved seeing a couple of friends! After a week we were ready to be home and carry on with the trip.

Boding well for continuing on, we enjoyed a couple of days of cycling through a valley to the Dolomites too, and pulled off our first 100km day. It is amazing how far you can go when you aren’t riding up  successions of 10-15% gradient hills. A couchsurfing host picked us up just before we went to the UK, and looked after our bikes for a week. This is the second time we have been rescued by a couchsurfing host. This time, Roberto kindly drove us up the massive hill to his house so we could avoid cycling up that delight. Roberto is going to get a post all of his own as we’ve spent such a lot of time with him now…! 

So, as you can see, we’ve been up to all sorts. It was hard for us to accept that we couldn’t cycle in the mountains anymore, but that decision has led to lots of different adventures. Sometimes travel is not easy. You have to make hard decisions, you get stressed, you become unwell, you want a change, you don’t know what to do. That is just life – you cannot escape from it – it follows you everywhere. And, what a life we are living. I am not complaining.

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