Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Day 24 Aramits to Hendaye

Our longest climb in the Pyrenees was first thing in the morning. On his trip to Bilbao 10 years ago, Richard had written on the map at this point "I felt like collapsing". It wasn't that bad and was in a strange way enjoyable.

We had lunch in St Jean Pied a Port. The food was good, the service not. Twice we asked for water for our bidons and were directed to the toilets. Nice.

The day ended at a campsite just outside San Sebastian. Only 80 miles and a short day by our standards but I was knackered. Fatigue is getting the better of me. We had to cycle a couple of miles for our evening meal but the food and wine was worth it and cycling without luggage was a joy.

Tomorrow to Bilbao.

81 miles
12 average
38 max
6 hours 40 mins

Day 23 Carcassonne to Aramits

The train from Carcassonne to Tarbes was interesting. Nice train but ruined by the tripping/stoned youf who sat with us and our bikes with their two dogs on bits of string. The dogs were nice but the yoofs stank. It reminded me of work.

It was a depressing experience.  I've never seen such a collection of pharmaceuticals.  Our travelling companions couldn't have been much older than 20 but I wouldn't bet on them making it past 25.  The guard should have kicked them off the train for at least not having a ticket.  It was not "d'accord" and asking them  not to smoke the largest spliff in the world until they have left the train isn't going to help.
The cycle from Tarbes to our current campsite has made up for it. By far the best cycling we've had. I like the Pyrenees. 

And there are plenty of opportunities for Richard to pun....

on the road to Tarbes


The campsite is perfect and I'm about to eat a salad accompanied by some very nice local wine.

And it gets better.  The campsite has its own bicycle cleaning and maintenance area.  The owners know the way to a girl's heart.

49 miles
12.7 average
40 max
4 hours 30 mins

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Day 22 Mirepeisset to Carcassonne

That wind again. It's 80 kph according to the local paper. We've taken a picture if case we are not believed.....

We even resorted to riding along the Canal du Midi to find some shelter. 

If you look very closely, you can see Richard

Its quite remarkable, starting in Toulouse and finishing in Bordeaux.  The riding is pleasant but slow and if we continue on this route we're never going to get anywhere.  The only option is the train from Carcassonne to Tarbes. Unfortunately, or not, there isn't one until tomorrow morning. So we are staying in the municipal campsite within sight of the medieval city. It's very nice and we have 2 bottles of Languedoc wine. The only downside is that we have to get up at 5am to catch the train.

He's more obvious in this picture


And now he's in the way.  And he needs a shave

The view from the campsite without Richard's head


40 miles
10.5 average (its windy)
46 max
3 hours 30 mins

Day 21 Montpelier to Mirepeisset

Why are there no easy days in the tour de catchweasel?

Today should have been one instead we are riding into a block headwind. Again. We may be punishing ourselves with the riding but there's no reason why we can't enjoy ourselves in other ways. A nice lunch with a glass of the local tipple in Bezier is in order. Perfect.  And the scenary is quite nice.

After 70 hard, hard miles we call it a day when we see a sign for a campsite. This is more like it. It's quiet, not windy, next to a river, no Mosquitos, and 5 mins walk from a restaurant. Richard treats me to steak, local Chardonnay and calvados. Heaven.

74 miles
11 average (it was windy)
46 max
6 hours 30 mins

Day 20 le Muy to Montpelier

Today was hell.

It started off badly and went from bad to worse.

It rained. Torrentially. I can deal with rain, as can Richard, but when a passing lorry caused him to take in a mouthful of something disgusting and he started to projectile vomit (think the Exorcist), we threw in the towel. Par le train.

The train journey to Montpelier was reminiscent of India according to Richard. People, babies, buggies, bikes, luggage everywhere. No chickens though. We arrived about 6pm which should have been plenty of time to find a campsite. Of course not. We spent 3 hours going round in circles trying not to join autoroutes. I'm sure Montpelier is a beautiful city but it's not designed to be navigated by bicycle. We finally arrived at a campsite 3 miles from where we started after cycling 15 miles. It was shut. The next nearest site was 15 miles away and it was dark. I nearly lost it with the particularly unhelpful waiter in the campsite restaurant, which was open, when he refused to help.

We decided the only option was to break in. Which wasn't difficult as the entrance was only blocked to cars. We found the least obtrusive spot and set up camp. Most annoying is that each pitch had its own private shower and toilet. Except they were locked. We peered in threw the window

A trip to the bar complex was the only thing to do. They had stopped serving food. We couldn't go to the restaurant due to our earlier altercation. So crisps and the worst red wine I have ever tasted accompanied by bizarre Butlins style entertainment.

We planned an early morning escape attempt so went to bed early. By 7am we were packed and ready to go and in disguise so we wouldn't be recognised by the French camping police.

We were free and things can only get better.

22 miles (we were on a train most of the time)
40 max
2 hours 40 mins (mostly cycling in concentric circles)

Day 19 Menton to le Muy

At last, a day on the bikes and a ride through some of the richest parts of Europe. It was spot the facelift time. I spotted the most around Nice but Richard believes its more a case of inbreeding among the rich than surgery that creates the hung from the cheek bones look. 

Monaco was a strange place especially cycling through the tunnels that one sees when watching the Grand Prix.  We can cycle fast, but not that fast.


The last part of the ride was along the corniche between Cannes and st Raphael. We stayed in a gite in St Raphael a few years ago so knew this route well. Then I was feeling strong and could leave Richard for dead along the coastal road. Not so this time. I blame the luggage.

In true Cavendish style I was saving myself for the town sign sprint but we took a short cut and missed it. Foiled again.


Cycle path in Nice.  Too safe to be interesting

 81 miles
13 average
45 max
6 hours 20mins

Day 17 & 18 Finastra to Menton

We've done well covering well over 300 miles in 2 days.

Most of it by train.

somewhere on the French coast
We're now in a hotel in Menton after not being able to find the mythical campsite marked on the town map. It seemed to indicate that it was slightly inland but after climbing for 5 miles in the semi dark (recurring theme no 2) we gave up and went down the hill to a hotel.

We've gorged ourselves on the 9 euro breakfast buffet (have to get value for money) and are now ready for a day on the bikes. We're heading towards St Tropez via Monaco, Nice and Cannes.

Day 17
51 miles
13.5 average
38 max
4 hours

Day 18
41 Miles
10 average
31 max
4 hours