Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Day of climbs (Slovenian, Italian, Austrian cafes)

Slovenian 'High Altitude' training camp
Day 1
Today was the first day of a 3 day trip to Slovenia for some mountain based altitude training. Base camp is at only 810m which apparently isn't very high in altitude training terms but it is a lot higher than Norfolk so it will have to do. I have been joined but Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as cycling guest for the trip in order that I can do some cafe cycling reviewing on la continent as well. 

Today was to be our climbing day, 3 climbs planned and 65 miles that should get us in the right high Altitude mindset.
View at bottom of first climb
We started by heading straight up the iconic 11km ride to Vrsic with it's 24 hair pin bends is the most famous climb in the region. I hadn't got very far up when I was asked to stop by men in hi viz so a that number of coaches full of cycling fans could get by. I asked if there was a big race on today but I was told they were just making a TV commercial featuring cycling. When I was allowed to set off again I rounded the corner to find the road lined with pretend cycling fans practising their cheering. They were clearly very good pretend fans as I found myself waving and punch the air as I cycled past. This had the desired effect as the pretend crowd started to cheer back, sound their hooters and wave their flags. In return I waved and air punched back even more. Andrew, who hates this sort of thing, was a little way behind me but by now I had whipped up the crowd and I could hear behind me that they were now cheering him too. I was pleased with my work as I'm sure he would have hated it.
Pretend cycle fans preparing to line the road for a TV commercial
I go up quicker than Andrew so we were soon some way apart and knowing this would be the case had agreed to meet at the top. It was hard work as it takes about an hour of constant uphill pedalling to reach the top. As I approached half way I went past a cafe and saw behind me an old bloke in a checked shirt and flannel trousers pull out on his hybrid style bike. I expected to soon be leaving him behind as I continued grinding my way up hill. After a while I looked round and to my horror he was catching me up. I was both impressed on how fit the old people in Slovenia were and disappointed with obvious lack of fitness. I was sure he would fade so tried to pedal a bit harder in order to distance him but as we went round each hairpin he was closing in. Although I was now on my last legs I dug deep and just beat him to the top by a couple of bike lengths. 

I collapsed by the summit picnic area exhausted but was happy that no old Slovenian cyclist, especially one in casual clothing had beaten me up a mountain. I lay on the grass panting for breath and waited for Andrew when the old bloke wandered over and offered me some Slovenian sausage. He looked as fresh as a daisy and I now had huge respect for him so was about to accept his sausage based gesture of friendship, when I noticed there was something strange about his bike. I realised he was riding a motor assisted e-bike. He was a cycling fraud and not the type of cyclist I would want to be seen with so I asked him to put away his patronising sausage and left him to get on with his ill-gotten picnic. 
Old Slovenian bloke with his electric bike getting out his sausage
When Andrew eventually arrived we went to the cafe at the summit for a coffee and a hot chocolate, perfect drinks when you have just cycled up a 14% hill for an hour in 20 degree plus temperature, but I do have standards. I didn't bother doing a cafe review as I did it last year (see Surprise extra) and it is nothing special. Andrew did tell me how he had surprised himself as to how much he had enjoyed cycling through the cheering pretend crowd, which I was not pleased about.
Outside cafe at top mountain
From here it was now down hill all the way. Whereas I'm a lot quicker up hill so had cycled up by myself, Andrew is a lot quicker down hill so disappeared off into the distance down the remain 26 hairpin bends on that side of the mountain. It became apparent we did not make ideal cycling companions in the mountains as, apart from the cafe stop, we didn't see each other all morning.
49 th of the 50 hairpin bends on the mountain road
When it flattened out at the bottom of the mountain near Bovec, Andrew waited for me while I caught up. We were now at the bottom again so, in the words of Yazz and the Plastic Population, the only way was up.
At the bottom ready to start Climb up again
However before we started up again we stopped for lunch at The Encuan grill. It had some dramatic views but we were surrounded by bikers of the full motorised variety. The only trouble with cycling in these parts is the number of bikers. For some reason, despite the fact you are hardly moving when cycling uphill, the bikers insist on accelerating past you as if it was a great achievement to be able to overtake a push bike. I'm told they love the mountains for their bends but they do scare us cyclists and also take up all the room in cafes. Despite the bikers welcome sign I still awarded a very high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score
Outside the Eucuan Grill and it's amazing views
As usual I would be using the EU approved European cafe cycle review system which just rates drink, food and AAA (as Johnny Foreigner doesn't really understand tea and cake). Things got off to a bad start as Andrew ordered an orange juice and I was told I couldn't have a hot chocolate as they only did them in winter. In protest I went for water instead so a poor drinks score. However the food, gnocchi for me and Greek salad for Andrew, was very good and when Andrew then decided to have an espresso coffee, which he wanted to award 10 for, then the overall score shot up to equal the best for any European cafe to date and this was the 17th European cafe that I have reviewed.
Slovenian food but no cake or hot chocolate
We set off again and within 100 metres were on the next climb so once again found ourselves apart. At the top was the old Slovenian Italian border crossing which meant I was now in Italy. I didn't wait for Andrew as I now knew he would catch up on the way down. 
Welcome to Italy
We eventually met up again and continued through Tarvisio in Italy all the way to the Italian Austrian border for our next cafe review.
Outside cafe on Italian, Austrian boarder
For once there were no bikers here but the view just over looked the deserted border crossing. Andrew decided he liked the deserted border crossing vibe and decided he might start his own cycling deserted border crossings blog and have all the photos in black and white to generate the right mood. Good luck with that.
Deserted Italian, Austrian deserted boarder crossing
Despite it being summer this cafe was prepared to serve me hot chocolate and it was excellent. Both thick and chocolatey, although the waiter was surprised by my drinks choice on such a hot day. Sadly Andrew thought his cappuccino was poor but the averaged out mark was still good. I ordered some profiteroles which were excellent too. Andrew announced his lunchtime Greek salad was now causing him issues and popped off to sort himself out. He made me then reduce the high food score we had awarded at lunchtime.
Excellent food and drinks on the boarder
Overall this cafe had scored highly too and near the top of my European list.

We pressed on and past my favourite named cafe which I felt was the spiritual home for all the holidaying bikers.
Bikers would feel at home here
We now approached the final climb back over to Slovenia and once again we were soon separated and also spooked by the motor bikes who appear to think going round a hairpin bend was like being in a race, when clearly it isn't. This was not only the hardest climb of the day but hardest I have ever done especially when we saw sign saying it was 18%. My cycling GPS goes on auto pause if you go below a certain speed as it assumes you must be pushing you bike or have stopped. It did this several time on the way up despite me never actually stopping pedalling.
Frighteningly steep
When 15 minutes later Andrew appeared at the top he did not seem in the best mood but kindly passed on today's cycling guest top cycling tip.

Cycling guest cycling Top tip no 30. Never cycle up a hill with an 18% hill
sign at the bottom but if you do make sure you re-plan any other routes, that might also be going up this hill again, if you want to avoid doing those rides alone.
Italian Slovenian deserted boarder crossing in black and white
When we got back I compared our 65 miles and 2400m ascending with a typical Tour de France mountain stage to discover they go twice as far and twice as high in half the time (not including cafe stops) which sort of put our ride into perspective

Later when we told the waiter in a local restaurant where we had gone he said, you didn't want to do that, everyone else cycles that route the other way round as it's much easier. This didn't help Andrews mood. I have promised him a longer flatter ride tomorrow but I have no idea if it is. It's just a theory.

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