We’re spending the next three months traveling from Singapore to Bangkok, riding up the west coast of Malaysia and then cutting across to ride up the east coast of Thailand.
Everything you need to know about Singapore’s relationship with food is explained when I tell you the above photo was our breakfast.
Sleek, futuristic, food-obsessed Singapore. A city of billion dollar skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls and rush hour expressways, built on the foundations of hundreds of buffets, hawker centers and restaurants. A leader in the world economy of banking, shipping and cutting edge technology, all of which are powered along by huge helpings of hainan chicken rice, nasi lemak and wonton mee. We spent most of our time in Singapore in a self-induced food coma but every now and then we did engage in a few things not found on the usual list (menu).
Our time in Europe had ended and we flew from Madrid to Singapore to begin FOUR birthday celebrations. My mum, dad and brother had already arrived and were well into the shopping, eating and catching up with family. Thank goodness we had bought some new clothes, jeans for Cleave, dress for me in Madrid, because in less than 24 hours of arriving we were scrubbed up and presentable*, ready for the first one off the rank. And this one was pretty special. It was my Mum’s 60th birthday. Happy Birthday Mum!
As we are spending a year bike touring, we will have flown with our bikes as baggage six times, which means we would have set them up and broken them down twelve times as follows:
From no-nonsense simplicity to gastronomical science, Madrid takes its food reputation, and by food I mean meat, very seriously. Whether it be a slice of jamon between two bits of bread or tender slivers of beef blowtorched to the minute level of char, you can be sure this is a city where meat in all its forms, cuts and history, is glorified to an almost revered state.
As we rode into Madrid one of the first things we saw was a gigantic banner hanging from City Hall simply stating “Refugees Welcome”. It was a heartwarming yet sober reminder of the Syrian crisis on the forefront of the international arena, that is currently dividing countries, politics and people.
Bárdenas Reales is a semi-desert landscape covering over 42,000 hectares in southeast Navarre. Made up of clay, chalk and sandstone, years of erosion has sculpted almost lunar effects, full of gullies, plateaux and cliffs. The first thing we came across were abandoned cave houses cut into the cliffs, now housing swallows in the hundreds.
“This Spanish city holds the second highest Michelin stars per capita in the world with fifteen stars awarded across eight restaurants for their exceptional and outstanding cuisine,” Cleave paraphrased as we researched which direction we should next cycle to. My ears immediately pricked up. Say what now? How soon can we get there?
After our unconventional night we rode off into the sleepy morning for the final push into the bustling sophistication of Bordeaux. Despite our sleeping arrangements we were in good spirits and looking forward to smashing out the last 25km so we could find breakfast. Flying over the bridge and onto the River Garonne promenade we were greeted by the stuff of foodie dreams. Bordeaux’s Marche des Quai, a fresh food market on every Sunday, selling everything from freshly shucked oysters to stacked piles of warm baguettes to char-grilled prawns.
It’s amazing when travelling without plans, how your luck can turn in an instant. Sometimes it’s an unbelievable cup runneth over with golden moments and lucky breaks. Other times… well. This was definitely a cup not even remotely runneth over moment. We started in the lap of luxury and ended 12 hours later squatting in a car park. Yup. But let’s start this from the beginning…
Six months on the road! Six months of travelling on two bikes, eleven countries (thirteen but we’re not counting our two hours in Bosnia or Vatican City), over 5,000 kilometers and 417 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds, give or take, with our butts in the saddle. For two people who didn’t ride bikes, who didn’t even own bikes, we are absolutely loving this way of travelling.
We were excited to get straight to a week of holidaying with the family we ended up riding for eleven days straight without a break, arriving at Sennen Cove TWO days earlier than expected. Awesome! However since we didn’t have wifi or a phone we had no way of letting our family know this. Small detail. Our plan was to set up at our campsite, have a well-earned shower, ride onto their holiday cottage and see if they were home. If not we would hang out on their doorstep until they turned up. We were going to surprise them good.
London engulfed us as we stepped off the platform at St Pancras, commuters pouring out the train doors and through exits, swirling around us as if we were stones in a fast flowing river. We waited on the side until the ebb slowed, making our way single file, following wheelchair access signs to lifts that would take us above ground.
We had signed up to TrustedHousesitters, a house sitting website in the hopes of meeting new people and experiences while being able to slow down with some home comforts. After a few applications, a flurry of emails and a Skype call later we had secured our very first housesit in the east of England in the small town of Beccles. Meet our adorable housesitting charges, two very cute furry faces: Emmie and Oscar!