Friday, November 30, 2012

A Finnigan Friday

On High Street Northcote in the northern suburbs of Melbourne is one of those old time bike shops that have a historical background.
There's lots of upmarket new bike shops that are glitzy and have the most modern state of the art carbon fibre frames.
Back in the very early days the riders rode heavy steel bikes with single gears - the riders were gladiators of the road. I love this history, the riders, the bikes and the races of that time.

The Austral Wheel Race is a track race that like the Warrnambool Road Race has a history of over 100 years. In 1898, Tom Finnigan won the Austral - Alf Middleton was second and so was I in the early 80s - That's commonly known as the 1st loser.

Alf was actually the winner in 1894 so he was far from being a 1st loser.

Back to the Friday story - Thursday I was driving past the old Finnigan Bike Shop. All over Northcote, there is lots of graffiti but this graffiti is wall art in my mind. It visualises a moment in history when Tom Finnigan won the Austral Wheel Race.

I know graffiti doesn't last in time but I hope this one does. I remember Sue and I walked across the Pont de Gard near Nime in the south of France where graffiti still exists from the 1700s.

The Austral Wheel Race is the oldest continual track race in the world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time with Celestine

We left Le Grand Pressigny on our way to meet for the first time, Simon and Susan from Preuilly-sur-Claise. How did we get to know them, I'm not sure! Bloggers just seem to meet, don't they?

Simon and I have similar interests with classic cars and music. We both have a passion for Citroen Traction Avants, Maybe it was Celestine that brought the four of us together.

Susan and Simon welcomed us to their home with a glass of wine, and a wonderful spread of local cheeses and other nibbles before taking us for a drive in the local area.

This particular visit, their local stone double story home was in the middle of renovation and yet that didn't affect their warm welcome. Three years on, we discovered that they have progressed much further since 2010. Check out their Blog - It will give you an insight of the challenges of integrating into French rural life - They have been very successful in their connection to the local life.
Yes - the weather was cold but the welcome was warm.

Once inside Celestine, she hugged those who rode in her rear seats.

Susan and Simon took us on a little drive through their local countryside - you could tell that they  took pride in their piece of heaven where they will spend much of their future life.

Strange how when you spend time with people and you ejoy that time - you forget to take more photos. This was one of those times. Susan and Simon with Celestine run a business taking tourists to the grand Chateaux of the Loire.
After the very generous hospitality of Susan and Simon, we had to pop back into our disappointing modern retal car to pop off to meet Carole and Michael for a two night stay. We met them both on our previous visit to the Loire after renting their lovely cottage in Thenay.

Strangely our visit to France for my 60th year seemed be shaping up to meet people rather than sight seeing. In a way it was adding a new dimension to our travels.

Carole and Michael welcome us to their home for a two day stay.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cars - Past and Present

I'd previously posted on Rob Roy Hill Climb before. For Motor Racing hill climb events, its our equivilent to the famous UK hill climb venue of Prescott run by the Bugatti Club.

Rob Roy is run by the MG Car Club of Victoria. It has since its resurrection back in 1992. The hill ran from 1937 to 1961wuppertal until bush fires ravaged the hill country north of Melbourne. Sunday was the 21st historic and classic hill climb meeting since the MGCC took over the hill and brought it back to life. There was another significant celebration as well. It was 75 years since the first hill climb event at Rob Roy and Clintons Pleasure Grounds. That first event was run by the Light Car Club of Australia.
The photos below are from the day's event, mixed with a few from my collection that were included in my book on the history of Rob Roy hill climb. The black and white show the same cars as they were and mirrored with the way they are today. It's good to know that there are enthusiasts out there that have a sense of pride to preserve our motor racing heritage.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Saturday That Was.

6.55 am Saturday morning and I'm out on Beach Road, Mentone. Its about 18 kms from Melbourne's CBD and the temperature at that time was a pleasant 16 degrees. The sun had been up for about an hour and we were expecting a 35 degree day. The day's ride took in the prettiest beach side scenery over 110 km.

At 7.00 am overlooking Port Phillip Bay, I just had to stop to admire the place that we sometimes take for  granted. This is  our usual cycling surroundings. It changes with the seasons and the time of day. Did I say that we sometimes take it for granted - it never never ceases to offer a feeling of calm.
Many artists including the Australian Impressionist, which later formed the Heidelberg School movement painted around Port Phillip Bay. Plaques depict the local area, many of the paintings are well known as are the artist. Streeton, Condor and McCubbin to name three. This painting shows Keefer's Pier where until recently we would buy mussells and  further along is the Great Southern Hotel, now the modernised Beaumaris Hotel. It was a very grand hotel in years gone by.
I found this photo from the local Historical site and it is almost the same as the painting.

The hotel was built in 1889 and judging by the way the people to the front are dressed, this photo may not be much later. The road was still a graded sandy surface.
Possibly taken in the 20s or 30s  judging by the cars and the now surfaced road.
Today the modernised hotel lacks the charm of the past. I must ride or drive by it several times a week. Further down  Beach Road is our local pub and it retains its old world charm due to being heritage listed. Its a shame that the Great Southern Hotel no more than a few kilometres was renovated during the 60s when we were pulling down "old" buildings.

Les Omara started Corsair Cycles in the local area many years ago. My father and he raced during the same period. His grandson has paid tribute to Les with this great early photo of him.
My morning ride finished with a cool drink rather than a coffee - the temperature was threatening to climb into the 30s later in the day and I'm sure it was close by 11.00 am when I arrived home.

Just another little bit of history regarding the large photo in the background of the smiling cyclists. The bike shop/cafe is the revamped Omara shop. Its been in existence in the local area for more years that I can recollect. I do now the founder, Les Omara who sadly passed away not long ago was a cycling colleague of my father Jack. I believe that the shop basically has only ever had three locations in all these years. Jae Omara, Les's grandson took over the shop and sold me my first modern bike on my return to the sport in 1999.

After a great ride with my friends this morning, the rest of the day was taken up with a little nap before Sue I headed out to do some shopping. Tonight we join friends for dinner and tomorrow, I'm off to the Historic and Classic hill climb meeting at Rob Roy in Melbourne's northern hill country of Christmas Hills, near Kangaroo Grounds.

I'll tell you more about our Sunday watching classic cars tomorrow.

Way back in the early 90s I started writing a history on the Hill and after 12 years, we finally self published the book. We even collaborated on a DVD that mirrored the book. I expect tomorrow I will be meeting more people that can add to the history of the Hill and I will enjoy listening to their stories. I also hope to sell some more books.
And just in case you're interested - here's my website:
I'll post on the 75th Anniversary of Rob Roy Hillclimb tomorrow night.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Funky Friday and Cadel Evans

Don't Fridays come around quickly or maybe they don't for some, those who are retired probably don't know what day is actually is.

BUT I DO!!!! Why? You may well ask. My work week has been very busy for the last three months but I guess that says something about the Australian economy. My posts lately have been a little fragmented but as we draw closer to the Christmas break, I expect we'll find more to post.

During last week, my MacBook chucked a bit of a fizz. So Sue booked me in to the Genius Bar at the Apple shop. Having said that, the laptop decided to repair itself before the appointment. I did go and I lean't a few things about my MacBook.

I'm going back to book in how to use the Mac system better - they were excellent. iCloud, iPod, iPad, MacBook, and my iPhone - here I come.......

On the way out of the Apple shop and down the escalator I met one of my heroes - Cadel Evans. He was outside a chemist shop. With recent media coverage on the past of cyclists medication, its probably not the best place foe a cyclist to be seen.
OK, I fibbed - he was on a poster outside a chemist shop!!!

Cadel is the figurehead amongst other clean Australian athletes that have their name associated with vitamin  supplements.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Le Louroux & Le Grand Pressigny

We left Tours after a discovery walk along the market area and some of the back streets to find some really nice shops. An overnight stay was not long enough and one day we need to return to appreciate this city more.

Our day would eventually take us on a journey to catch up with an English couple whom we rented a little cottage in the village of Thenay, near Pontlevoy. Further down the road is Montrichard and the Cher river.
Our Tom Tom took us on a drive that went by a village of Le Louroux - we didn't know this at the time but with a little research on Google Earth, I only now just rediscovered the place that we explored by chance.
What did capture our interest was the Prieure du Louroux, which seemed to be deserted or at least being brought back to life as the buildings seemed to have some minor restoration happening.

We were the only two there and we wandered through the grounds and peeked inside the buildings without any other company. It was a little strange, very quiet except for the occasional flapping wings of a pigeon or bat being disturbed as we poked our heads inside doorways. I wish we had more knowledge of the property and I guess it had many stories to tell of its past history.

Could this have been a local cycling event and my bike was in the car - but alas, we would be in Paris on April 5.
We also wanted to visit the village of Le Grand Pressigny, a place where fellow Bloggers Jean and Nick spend there every moment when they can, however on this occasion they were back in the UK. I can understand why they love their second home as we explored the village and even enjoyed a coffee in the square. As we sat there in the square, we watched the locals buying produce from the mobile vans that were selling their wares. Later we went up the hill to view the Chateau that has been under restoration. It was a short visit as we then needed to find our way to visit more fellow Bloggers, Simon and Susan, oh yes and to meet Celestine, their Citroen Traction Avant.

We left by way of Rue Saint Martin and as luck would have it, and much to Sue's surprise, I found the local cycling velodrome, just by chance. Who would have thought that Le Grand Pressigny would have both a Chateau and a velodrome.
Leaving Le Grand Pressigny, I discovered this velodrome and sports ground - I wonder if it's used any longer. Maybe Jean and Nick could enlighten me.
Funny how certain similar interests can draw people together. I'm not sure now how we stumbled upon Simon and Susan's blog or maybe someone recommended it. They were kind enough to take us for a drive in Celestine and even offer us a glass of the local wine and nibbles - a very pleasant afternoon it was. Since that visit in 2010, we continue to follow their adventures in France, their business of taking tourists to Chateaux in Celestine and the project of restoring their home.

Celestine sits outside her barn behind the home of Simon and Susan.
We actually stayed longer than we expected as we had to meet up with our friends Carole and Michael.
I'll post some pictures of the drive they took us on next Wednesday and our following two days.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Funky Friday

Dance like no one is looking?

I have a feeling that its going to be a great weekend.
Why do you say that?
Well its been a long week - my car crapped itself in peak hour traffic.
Had to get a tow truck and a taxi home.
And I feel like dancing!!!!!!!!!!
Just like Billy Elliott

Doesn't that shed the frustrations of a busy work week?
Might just turn on the CD player right now - no one's looking and do the Billy Elliott shuffle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Walk in Tours

We can't believe how busy this last week has been. Really sorry about missing our Wed/Fri/weekend posts. I read about Bloggers slowing down, even retiring - Blogging is my relaxation, meeting new friends, sharing life experiences - enough of my indulgences.

We promised we would take you with us on a walk around Tours. It was such a short time in Tours so we really just followed our noses. You see things that maybe you normally wouldn't see on a guided tour, then again you might miss something that a guided tour would show you.

For Sue and I, we prefer to be together and not be rushed with someone waving a flag above their head (the tour guide) with lots of other tourists.
An example of our way: We were feeling a little peckish on our walk, so we popped into a little cafe for a little brunch. I can't remember what we ate, but I pretended to read the local news paper. I still have some of them in my study to remind us of our travels - do you collect stuff on your travels?

Tours actually has a modern feel to it with its long wide boulevard near the station - it was the National Capital for 3 days in 1940 when the French Army fled the Germans to the Loire river. It sustained a great deal of damage from the enemy and subsequently after the war was rebuilt in many sectors. There are however many original buildings still standing over the many hundreds of years that have been restored including the Place Plumereau. This is square attracts locals, students and tourists. 

We didn't realise at the time but Tours has many Mulberry trees and this is because of the silk industry in years gone by. Silk workers from Lyon set up business in Tours and had the Loire river to pass their trade on to other areas of France. The Loire was both a benefit and a disadvantage to Tours in those early years as invaders from the far north used the river to attack the city in those early years. 

From memory we did have breakfast at the B&B before our day long walk. The breakfast area was very welcoming. So out the door of Hotel du Manoir, through the white pebble courtyard and out on the street which took us down Rue Jules Simon to Cathedrale St Gatien with its Gothic towers visible from most points of Tours. From here we turned towards the restored old town of Tours.

We passed a plaque that explained the presence of Jean d'Arc being in Tours. Its believed that Tours was where her suit of armour was made which she wore in the battle of Orleans. I'm a mad keen devotee of the maid of Orleans if you had not noticed - I have photos of almost every where she has been in the Loire.

Look through any doorway - and you might just see a sight.

Walk the streets - absorb the city.

Years of history that survived many invasions.
Where Jeanne D'Arc had her armour made before the battle of Orleans.

I think maybe this was a site of either the earlier inhabitants of Tours or ruins from the Roman occupation - can anyone tell me?

Another view of the ancient site.

Our long day walk was drawing to a close as we returned and the sun was lowering or maybe it was just cloudy in the late afternoon. We looked for somewhere to eat that night and we did find a restaurant but it wasn't one of those that sticks in your memory. Tours generally did stick in our memory as a place we should, could have spent more time exploring.

After our morning breakfast the next day we strolled into the main drag of Tours and guess what, a market day. Unfortunately we couldn't stay but we did take a quick walk before hopping into the hire car to meet Simon and Susan - well Celestine as well - have you been introduced to Celestine?
She's a lovely Citroen Traction Avant. She has a lovely coat of black and two adoring owners that we will introduce you to next Wednesday.