20 November, 2014

Bicyclist Abroad Reviews a Film: The Triplets of Belleville

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The Triplets of Belleville is a 2003 animated movie that I remember seeing the trailer for and at the time, had very mixed feelings about. The animation looked frantic and grotesque, and frankly, I was a little terrified of watching it. I think I went to see the third Lord of the Rings installment instead, and forgot all about The Triplets of Belleville.

Over a decade later, my taste in movies has significantly changed. I have an unfortunate preference for B-horror movies, Hallmark movies, and dark comedies. While I don’t always “get” David Lynch, I appreciate his films. That sort of thing. So when I saw that the Triplets of Belleville was on Netflix, I decided to give it a watch.

Now, there is an opening sequence that is sort of a flashback and it sets up the rest of the story. In it is a dancing Josephine Baker wearing only bananas, the aforementioned (fictional) triplets, and Fred Astaire, who is somehow eaten by his own shoes. (I’m sorry if that was a spoiler, it’s not a major plot point.) If you can get through this portion of the film, you can handle the rest of it.

The main part of the story revolves around three cyclists, the French mafia, an old woman who can true a wheel atop a miniature Eifel Tower, and her dog. The triplets only have a part in the third act of the film. It takes place in France and New York, but they somehow bleed together into a place that approximates neither of those. There is no dialogue, but that aspect adds to its appeal in my opinion. It is beautifully illustrated and does a good job of straddling the line between charming and downright creepy. The characters and buildings and vehicles are all disproportioned to an extreme degree, except for the bicycles which were impeccably illustrated.

Since there is no dialogue, much of the comedy is through slapstick or sight gags, but you’re not beaten over the head with it. The parts of the movie I found myself laughing at the most were Bruno the dog’s dream sequences, where we are shown surreal, black-and-white images involving the things he thinks about the most, mostly being the train outside his home and his food bowl. There is so much to be said about this movie, but I will defer to the late Roger Ebert’s review:

There is not even a way I can tell you what the film is "like," because I can't think of another film "like" it.

The trailer is below, but if you have Netflix I would recommend just going ahead and watching it. Action, suspense, old ladies with grenades, bicycles… it’s got something for everyone.

 

- Bicyclist Abroad

15 November, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014: The Final Chapter (Waypoints #6 and #7)

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So this season of coffeeneuring has drawn to a close and I’m left with having to write about things other than getting coffee. That’s alright though, it’s been a fun event and definitely behooved me to visit some establishments that I might not have otherwise patronized.

My final two excursions were in two different countries, the first being in the town of Montfort in the Netherlands.  I had actually planned on venturing out to the city of Roermond, but found a cafe en route and settled for a cup of coffee there in case no other opportunities came my way.

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Like many cafes around here, the ‘t Kefee ane Kerk is suited for everyone, but is particularly accommodating to bicyclists. It is just off the main cycling network road that I was doing my best to follow, and has a bike-parking lot in the adjacent to the outdoor dining area on the patio. There I sat and ordered a coffee as a group of middle-aged German men showed up on their bikes and took a seat on the patio as well. 

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As I enjoyed the sunshine and waited for my coffee to cool, I took out the trusty bike map and plotted the next leg of my journey towards Roermond. From the looks of it, I was a third of the way there. Inside the cafe there were maps for sale as well as a kiosk of mostly cycling-related literature, sight-seeing guides, and local attractions. This place gets an A+ in bike-friendliness.

Little did I know however, (though at this point I should be keenly aware) that a map was really not necessary at all. There were signs indicating the bike route to Roermond literally around the corner from the cafe. And of course, bike paths for almost the entirety of the way. Where there weren’t segregated bike paths there were clearly marked bi-directional bike lanes. Even the roundabouts were suited for bicycle traffic.

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One place of note nearby is the Roerdriehoek museum [website] that features stories and memorabilia from the Allied liberation of this part of Europe during World War II. I didn’t go inside, but I would like to check it out eventually.       [Note the British and American flags being flown]

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I continued on my way, reaching Roermond city limits, but it was getting late in the day so I decided to stop at a Jan Linders grocery store, get something to eat, and return back. I had a pretty significant mechanical issue happen just as I was returning, but I’ll touch on that in a later post.

The final coffeeneuring stop for me was on Veterans Day, at the Cafe am Rodebach in Gillrath, Germany. I had actually been here once before with the Mrs. when we had first arrived to Germany. Its location is convenient if you are coming or going to the NATO base in Geilenkirchen and while not directly on a bike path, it is a dozen meters or so away from one.

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There was a large group of older men and women there when I arrived, all apparently having cycled there. I parked my bike next to theirs, which were predominately Dutch-style bikes with electric assist. These upright e-bikes are wildly popular amongst the older population here, and if having an electric motor to supplement your pedaling is what gets you on a bike, then it’s fine by me.

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Since the weather was drizzly and cold, I opted to sit inside here and found a table by the window. Advertised were freshly-made Berliners so I could not resist having one with my coffee.

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It was pretty delicious and the little carafe held another cup’s worth of coffee, which was just right. It was a pleasant escape from the dreariness outside and a nice finale to my first coffeeneuring experience. I would have to say that this, along with every other stop I made these two months, were places I’d visit again if I had to redo the whole thing. In fact, now that I’m officially done coffeeneuring, I’m looking forward to re-visiting some of the establishements I’ve coffeeneured to.

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So this year’s coffeeneuring event for me has spanned two countries and three bicycles, something I’ll try to top next year (Belgium is the next closest candidate). I’ve been both on and off-road, in the sunshine and in the rain, and had a great time throughout. Thanks again to the orchestrator of all of this, MG from Chasing Mailboxes, and to all the other people out there that participated.

- Bicyclist Abroad

Coffeeneur Quick Stats:

Location:

't Kefee ane Kèrk
Aan de kerk 2
6065AS Montfort Netherlands [website]

Date: November 2nd
Drink: Coffee
Distance: 33 km/ 20 mi.

 

Location:

Café am Rodebach
Knuppstr. 9
52538 Gangelt-Stahe Germany [website]

Date: November 11th
Drink: Coffee
Distance: 29 km/ 18 mi.

10 November, 2014

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (Coffeeneuring Waypoint No. 5)

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For my fifth coffeeneuring destination, I decided to head into the city of Heinsberg, which is the center of Kreis Heinsberg, or in American terms, Heinsberg County. There are plenty of restaurants and stores there, so I figured I would wander around and find a good place to get some coffee. The weather was especially nice in the afternoon with plenty of sunshine and very little wind.

It isn’t very difficult to get to Heinsberg from anywhere within the vicinity, because its tallest structure is the Gothic church of St. Gangolf (not to be confused with Gandalf who is a fictional wizard) whose green-patina copper steeple looms over the city. Since it is roughly the same color as the Statue of Liberty, the Mrs. and I often refer to it as such.

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Coming from the northwest, you enter a roundabout which takes you either around the perimeter or into the heart of the city where many historical structures, including the Torbogenhaus  from the 16th century, reside. The archway in the picture below is two-way for bicycles and surprisingly, a one-way for automobiles, though I would not want to try and squeeze anything bigger than a Smart car through that.

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Just before the archway, Cafe Samocca sits on the right. There is indoor seating and a cafe terrace with a nice view of St. Gangolf’s and the fortifications surrounding it. Opting to take in the sunshine (and because this is Europe, cigarette smoke) I sat outside next to a stone wall that served as parking for my bike.

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The coffee menu was extensive, offering beans from all over the world and accompanying tasting notes. I went with the Yellow Bourbon which promised to be something along the lines of “bright” and “nutty”. And just in case you forgot what you ordered, atop the saucer is a little card reminding you of what you were drinking.

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After enjoying my coffee, I rode around the city for a while getting to know where the different avenues lead and what infrastructure was in place for bicyclists. Like many old cities, there aren’t bike lanes so much as automobile-restricted areas which provide plenty of pedestrian and bicycle zones to get where you’re going without finding yourself in the middle of traffic. On one of the main avenues, lined with small shops and cafes, there was an e-bike charging station which is becoming a pretty common sight around here and in the Netherlands.

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Since I started out on my ride in the afternoon, it wasn’t long before the sun began to set, so I decided to head back home before it got too dark. I chose a different route than the way I came, but again, if you know the general direction you need to go, it isn’t very difficult to find your way there… eventually.

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It turns out the route I had chosen was a bit lengthier than I anticipated and it actually got pretty dark out before I got very far. Between villages, there are sometimes no streetlights and especially dark are the paths that lead through the woods. Add the seasonal fog to that and your vision is pretty well restricted. Luckily, the lights I had on the bike were bright enough to get me home.

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I enjoyed Cafe Samocca (as I have most of the destinations I’ve coffeeneured to this year) and will probably return there with the Mrs. when she gets back. Though with the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder, I will be sure to leave a little bit earlier next time.

- Bicyclist Abroad

 

Coffeeneur Quick Stats:

Location: Cafe Samocca
High Street 19, 52525 Heinsberg, Germany
[website]
Drink: Coffee
(Brazilian Yellow Bourbon)
Date: Saturday, 01 November
Distance: 16.2 km/10 mi.