Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book review of Cycling North by Steven Herrick

Advent has arrived once more and following on from the success of my French Food Alphabet advent calendar last year I thought I would challenge myself once again to a post a day between now and Christmas. I've seen a great idea on social media where 24 books are wrapped up in sparkly Christmas paper and one is unwrapped every day during advent. So, without the pretty wrapping but hopefully with the same excitement, here is my #FrenchVillageBookworm advent calendar. Everyday I will feature a different book; some will be Christmas themed, some factual, some fiction and some food related. I hope there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

French Village Diaries French Village Bookworm Advent Calendar book review Cycling North Steven Herrick
Cycling North by Steven Herrick

My first post is a review for Cycling North: from the French Mediterranean to the fjords of Norway by bicycle (Eurovelo Series Book 5) by Steven Herrick, a travel memoir of an epic cycling holiday in Europe. In this book we join Steven, his wife Cathie and their two bikes on what is now their annual cycling holiday to Europe. I have been following them in spirit over the years from Steven’s first trip baguettes and bicycles: a cycling adventure across France (Eurovelo Series Book 1) where he cycled from St Nazaire on the west coast of France following the Loire Valley and the Saone River east. His writing never fails to make me smile and wish I too were joining in their fun. Links to the other books in this series and my reviews can be found at the bottom of this post.

In this latest trip (of epic proportions) Steven and Cathie start in Marseille on the French Mediterranean coast and head north, a long way north, to the fjords of Norway. This was a 4000 km trip that many would balk at attempting in a car and included some extremely horrid weather, battering winds, freezing fingers, serious hills, mountain tunnels but also stunning scenery, breathtaking views and lots of the all important refreshment stops.

Sometimes their itineraries seemed to verge on total madness, like the day Steven decided to detour up Mont Ventoux, just to cycle back down again, despite the weather being bitterly cold, wet, icy and very windy. The long, dark mountain tunnels shared with lorries didn’t sound much more appealing, but their sense of adventure and Steven’s descriptions of the many stunning sights they saw kept me page turning. Their accommodation varied from self-catering, small hotels, Airbnb private rooms and even included a Christian retreat centre, and as you would expect from a month on the road, some were good, some less so. Some of their hosts (especially in France) really went the extra mile to ensure these two nutty cyclists had everything they needed during their stay.

As a cyclist I know how important food is to fuel you on a bike ride and Steven and Cathie never missed an opportunity to indulge in a slice of cake, a patisserie or a three-course meal and every mouthful is generously shared with the reader. In fact I would go as far as to say their food experiences were just as important as their cycling ones and certainly left me feeling hungry. If you can’t visit Europe by bike, this book will certainly whet your appetite for the slower paced travel and may even persuade you to get out and cycle a bit too. He certainly gave me itchy bike wheels!

Cycling North: from the French Mediterranean to the fjords of Norway by bicycle (Eurovelo Series Book 5) and the four other cycling memoirs by Steven are available in ebook and paperback versions and links to Amazon can be found below.

To read my France et Moi interview with Steven, see here.

To read my reviews of his first two books set in France see here and Cycling to Bohemia here.

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