One of the greatest things about cycle-touring as opposed to touring by bus, train or car, is that one is very close to the action when it comes to activities going on along the road. One of the most significant things missed by those whizzing along is the aroma of a plant in flower, the sea or perhaps the smell of something a bit less pleasant!
Surprisingly, there are a large number of smells to be experienced as one rides a bike. These range from the early dampness (and perhaps a mist) giving rise to an earthy smell that is quite invigorating. Village bakeries emit welcoming aromas fresh baked croissants and baguettes that vie strongly with the enticing suggestion of coffee in a nearby restaurant. Along the roads, plants compete with each other – producing and emitting their perfume in perfectly designed ways to entice a visit from as many insects as possible.
In August this year, I found myself in the Rhône Valley with my partner, my son and our bikes! Travelling from Lyon in the north to Nîmes (further south) we got to experience lots of smells of the European summer. In one place where we camped, our tents were pitched on a soft bed of what I think was catmint. It smelt just lovely and so did all our camping gear for a few days afterward!
Our visit had luckily also coincided with the harvesting of the fields of lavender flowers. It was not unusual to come around a corner in a road to be met with the sudden overwhelming fragrance of lavender and then to come across a farmer busily cutting and retrieving these heavily scented blooms.
Where the paddocks had yet to be cut and windrowed, the flowers were large and their smells quite pungent – particularly in the late afternoon as the heat of the day started to wane.
Being able to cycle slowly past these fields and to inhale the heady fragrance is one of my favourite memories of this cycling trip.
This is the first of two things that came to mind when I read Ailsa’s suggestion for a travel theme this week – fragrant. The second will take you to the south of the African continent: Bush fragrance. You can read some of the other posts that were put up in reply at ‘Wheres my backpack‘.