So we have been offline on our blog for a while, some due to being busy and the other due to a non-functioning article writing machine a.k.a. laptop. However, we are back on borrowed time, and a borrowed Laptop.
The past month and a half has, as with the rest of this trip, been incredible! We keep thinking it’s gotten the best it could, and then something even better happens. Picking up from where we left off in Barcelona, we have since travelled (see map for route through the countries) through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and to Bonn, Germany. A lot has happened.
Close to Lyon, France Inka took a nasty fall, putting her out of action for nearly a week, meaning we had to take a train to Nevers to make up for lost time. We were then picked up by an extremely generous lady, who insisted we stayed at her home until Inka had rested enough to keep cycling, and even when we left she was dubious of how recovered I was.
After that we cycled along the Loire river towards Orleans and then straight North to Paris. There again we took a train from Etampes to central Paris to meet our incredible hosts, who we would be staying at for the next 5 nights.
Just worth a mention, our hosts in Paris (as with a lot of our other hosts through Warmshowers) cycle toured, but they didn’t just travel, they TRAVELED. Scott and Sarah spent three years touring through a bit of Europe, and then all of Africa. They were pretty inspiring, not just in the distance they travelled but also their environmental awareness and they are also both vegan/vegetarian.
So we spent a little while in Paris, and during this time *thanks Climate Change* we experienced a blistering heatwave with temperatures coming up to around 40 degrees Celsius, and one night coming to 31 degrees Celsius at 11pm at night. It was ridiculous and a firm reminder of the ticking clock that is climate change.
Otherwise, we also met with two figures; Charlotte Cristofari Climate Change Advisor at Paris City Hall and representatives of a small start-up company called WeNow.
They were both very interesting and with Charlotte we learnt a lot about the Paris agreement, what Paris itself has planned and what has been done. She said that the biggest obstacles are transport and heating efficiency (insulated housing). Currently the plan for public transport has been very successful with their Velib bicycle program (which we used ourselves to get around Paris http://en.velib.paris.fr/ ), along with the electric scooter and car programs (http://www.cityscoot.eu/?lang=en https://www.autolib.eu/en/ ). However, the work with the energy efficient houses has not progressed too much, as many people do not want to invest the amount of money required for this, as a large majority of them are students or tourists not living there for years at a time. They said they are working on subsiding the process and making it more accessible but it is a lot of work. One of the Paris’ most ambitious goals that we discussed was rinning completely renewable by 2040.
WeNow is a very interesting startup, copied from their website (https://www.wenow.com/en/wenow-drive-carbon-free/), is a French greentech startup that develops and markets connected solutions for cars, to help individuals and companies become more energy- efficient and reduce their environmental footprint.’’ In basic terms, they have a small dongle that you fit onto your car and it then connects and communicates with your app on your smartphone when you are driving for realtime statistics. These include your carbon emissions after each ride, and then the app has small tips and tricks, or “eco” driving tips as they call it, that train the drivers to drive in a eco-friendlier way. It was really interesting, and made us wish we had cars just so we could have them! We also did a video interview with them - https://www.facebook.com/europeonfourwheels/videos/760718077465364/ .
After Paris our journey took us north to Belgium! Along the way we met some super neat people, one being a couple from Brussels and the other a guy from Aachen! We cycled with them for 3 days and had a blast of a time! We then stayed with the couples’ families and theN in Brussels for around 4 nights.
In that time, we got the pleasure of meeting a newly founded group called Climate without Borders (http://www.climatewithoutborders.org/) , we did an interview with the founder Jill Peeters, who explained what they’re doing very well - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHzHmir7sDg . It was very cool to meet her, and hear about what they are doing for climate action.
We then travelled slightly west towards Ghent and Bruges and then up the coast towards Amsterdam. When in Amsterdam we met with Harry Verhaar, head of global public and government affairs from Philips Lighting and Lina Ruiz from Fairphone.
Speaking to Harry was very interesting mostly because we discussed lighting in a way we had never discussed it before. We had obviously known of the importance of energy efficiency, but hadn’t known exactly how much LED lighting has overtaken regular energy wasting lightbulbs. http://www.lighting.philips.com/main/home
Fairphone was incredibly funky and the vibe within the working office was very relaxed and friendly. We learnt a lot of fairphone as a company (https://www.fairphone.com/en/), but also about the circular economy (https://youtu.be/oAgCZsF6PPI). We were both super keen to buy a fairphone right there and then, but then found out it a 3 month waiting list because their demand is so high! The company is expanding incredibly fast, but with only 60 odd employees. We think that their take on phones, and consuming in general, is a very important one, and look forward to the success in their future!
After that we travelled to Bonn, and now here we are! It has been interesting and enlightening the past few days, and it definitely warrants a separate article in itself! So hold your thumbs for a relatively quick update, see you soon!