Downhill All the Way Paperback – 9 Jul 2002
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|Paperback, 9 Jul 2002||
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"A charming and witty work!"
-- Destination France, autumn 2007
"Would make an excellent read when sitting around the pool this
-- About my generation.com, July 2007
"a plucky pensioner... an engaging writer given to only the occasional burst of pomposity" -- Park and Holiday Homes, July 2007
"a witty and extremely entertaining book... a delight from start
to finish... charming and above all very funny."
-- sixtyplusurfers.co.uk - online magazine for the over 60's, June 2007
'Charming anecdotes... Retiree Enfield recounts his north-south crossing of France in a humorous, heart-warming fashion' -- London Cyclist magazine, Aug/Sep 2007
'Hilarious... This book is sure to delight a lot of its readers'
-- Kirriemuir Herald/Forfar Dispatch, 8 May 2008
'he encountered many wonderful and eccentric people, and he writes here with warmth and wit of his great adventure.' -- The Good Book Guide, February 2009
The wit and enthusiasm of this book makes it easy to see where
Edward Enfield's son gets his comic talent
-- Mature Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
'He encountered many wonderful and eccentric people, and he writes here with warmth and wit of his great adventure.' (The Good Book Guide) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product description
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France is equivalent to Britain and despite good attempts to scene paint and describe the mores of the French nation this trip ultimately fails to excite or wrap itself in the reader's heart and mind with picaresque quaintness. I also detected the usual polite but cold attitude towards the French and much less nthusiasm for the people than the Greeks. After all we cycle through the people as well as the places...don't we? Too many negative comments I thought.
There's the familiar amount of the mundane here, too similar to the territory we have to tread or ride in this country.
However, the author is (I think outside his odd comments on the French) accurate and sharp. "I dawdled the evening away in Avignon, to which city one warms a little but not a lot on a second visit." How true and God forbid a third or fourth visit!
It's a lengthy read - a little compression would have helped. Also the lack of a simple map showing Mr Enfield's route (surely couldn't the editor see the value of a convenient basic sketch map?) to assist the text is such a huge oversight I found it a source of irritation that undermined my enjoyment of the book. The Greek book, by contrast, is well mapped - so they obviously learned something!
France is a large country and distances multiply as compared to Greece. In his final "planning and equipment" section for any would-be French cyclists a daily distance of 30 miles is proposed. At this rate not much of an itinerary in a reasonable amount of time (say a week or even two weeks) can be achieved. Mr Enfield's French trip which achieves a complete north to south traversal takes place over a whole calender month (in September) which is luxurious by any standard and also stretches the limits of any normal person's capacity to find themselves good company within the concept of a "solo" trip. Whatever they say, cycling like this is better done alone. (Unless you and your friends or partners get along like peas in a pod and never argue about anything!) But not that much alone.
The emphasis on camping I found unrealistic. I felt sorry for both the bicycle as well as the cyclist's legs when it emerges Enfield's luggage weighed in at 30lb on rear and (groan!) front carrier racks. (And for ease of cycling - which Enfield makes a great play on in his choice of bike - is really ruined by placing weight over the front forks) Half of this was camping stuff, a tent etc. Clearly, this is an arduous way of going about - better to aim for hostels or budget hotels and leave the campsites to caravans and motorhomes for which these sites are increasingly set up for.
One might feel I am nit picking this interesting book. But I am simply turning the same obsessive eye over these pages as the author possesses. For example, there is another logistic chapter somewhere at the beginning " Getting Organised" and a final chapter "The Beginners Trip" which might be described as a taster to tempt the reader in. Enfield clearly has an idea this book will inspire copy cat adventures.
Not likely! Not following this "plan" which reveals something idiomatically "British" about the author - it's a hotch potch, a jumble, a not very logical way of holidaying in France by bicycle.
Anything but this!!!!
Fly and hire bikes;
put bikes on a car or carry in a motorhome;
take your bike on a plane and do focussed circular routes.
A final word about hot weather and leisure cyclists from the UK in the Enfield age range who might be inspired: BE CAREFUL!
August is certainly very hot in the Med and south of France - September can be equally roasting. Skins and brains not used to prolonged exposure can end up severely (arms and legs extended) SUN BURNT which could bring the whole thing to a painful stop - or worse, end up in a fatal lapse of concentration or other accident on the road!
There's a lot to enjoy in this book, but also a lot to to take with a pinch of salt.
I have bought another of the authors books ... I know it was on offer and hope its a bit more enjoyable than this one was for me .
I finally read it on my return to the UK and was so glad I 'saved' it until after the event. Reading the book beforehand would have solved some of the mysteries of the experiences that I had in France but more often than not, it rekindled memories of events that seemed trivial at the time of riding. A substantial part of my route coincided with the writer's and I shared many experiences with the author. The gentle humour of the book is wonderful and I only wish that I had managed to experience the plate shuffling ritual witnessed by the author.
Anyone wanting to experience a Channel to Med ride without having to do anything more vigorous then the effort to turn pages are well served by reading this book. Anyone wanting inspiration to 'Getting out there and doing it' will also benefit by buying the book.
If you buy only one travel book this year make it this one....and if you buy two make sure you also buy Greece on My Wheels!
As a good read, entertainment and an inspiration to do something similar it hits the spot.
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A gentle read