A Travellerspoint blog

October 2013

And into Spain, Barcelona - home of Gaudi

Couple of days in Barcelona soaking up the warm sunshine (yes they still have it here in October) and a bit of culture (yes they have that too)

Tuesday 22nd October 13 (day 52)

Our hotel receptionist managed to print off our bus ticket so that was a relief. We had our last French breakfast in our hotel room after Lyn had visited the supermarket and purchased our last French baguette. We finished the last of the cheese for breakfast and making a sandwich to take with us on the bus.

Carrying our bags downstairs it was farewell to Sofia and Fonsi, who will be collected by Jean next week. We slipped Dracula's assistant 20 euros to pay for the storage of the bikes for a week and the printing of the bus tickets. He may have been a little creepy but he sure did help us out.

Struggling with our luggage, it was easier to move all our stuff on the bikes than it is carrying it all, we walked the short distance to where the bus would be collecting us. Just to make sure I walked a bit further to the train station and checked with a taxi driver who confirmed we were in the correct place to get the bus. We were a little early but we did not want to risk missing the bus so thought a short wait at the bus stop was better than having to hurry to catch it.

The bus was due 10.45 and did not drive up until 11.15 by which time we were starting to doubt we had the correct place to catch it - but we did and it was a quick embarkment when it finally showed. The bus drove out of Narbonne and we said goodbye to this town and this country. As we drove close to the coast visibility was not so good due to what looked like sea fog. The Australians we met yesterday said they had the same fog yesterday when they had been to the coast and also did not see anything.

The border crossing from France into Spain was almost invisible and before we knew it we were in a different country.

The bus stopped in Figueras, Spain for a 30 minute lunch break. We went to a small park opposite the bus station to eat our French sandwiches. The Spanish sun was out and it felt like it was welcoming us to this country. Wow, sure is a lot warmer weather here in Spain - it was a good sign.

We rolled into Barcelona Sants bus station a little earlier then scheduled just before 4pm. The lady at the tourist desk at the station advised it was best if we headed into the centre, which was just 3 metro stops away, to find a hotel. We managed to buy tickets and find the correct line and before long we were exiting the metro at Cataluyna Place.

As per usual, Lyn stayed with the luggage while I did the leg work to go find a hotel. I visited about 10 different hotels along the La Rambla until I decided on the Hotel Cortes. Over budget but we are in a big city and most of the places I visited were full or just too divey. At least this one included breakfast in the 85 euro tariff but was only available for 2 nights and we want to stay 3, but we took it anyway and will find another place for our 3rd night.

We checked in. The guy at the reception was really helpful, giving us a copy of our passports and advising we shouldn't carry any valuables on us due to pick pockets. Wow.

After taking our bags to our nice room we decided to go outside and have a wander along La Rambla. It was so weird to see so many tourists, the street was really crowded. After all the places we have recently been in France that seemed like ghost towns this was so strange. And so many different languages being spoken all around us, it was just such a contrast.

Best part was, it was warm. We were out on the street after dark and still had just shorts and t-shirts on. This is why there are still so many tourists visiting here - the weather is still lovely and mild. And it was a Tuesday night and all the shops were still open when we returned to our room after 8pm.

We had been to a supermarket and purchased a bottle of champagne (or at least sparkling wine) to celebrate the end of our bike adventure. Dinner was an assortment of cold meats, cheese, olives, pate and bread in our room, that we had also purchased at the supermarket.

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Wednesday 23rd October 13 (day 53)

Breakfast was fresh rolls, croissants, cold meats and fresh coffee. The waiter was a little amazed when I asked for my 4th cup of coffee but they were only little cups! He claimed my heart would be racing all day.

Last night I booked us on a Gaudi free walking tour with Runnerbeans Tours. Of course this is not a free tour as you are expected to tip at the end, but I have been on a few of these free tours in different cities and they never disappoint. Now of course you all know who Gaudi is (if not don't - shame on you google it).

Meeting point was about 10 minute walk down La Rambla and started at 11am. Weather was beautiful. Perfect blue sky as you will see from my photos on FB. And again warm enough just for shorts and t-shirts. We visited the main Gaudi landmarks (again see photos on FB) and when the tour finished at Sagrada Familia the tour guide, Miguel, advised how to get to Park Guell - another famous Gaudi landmark. Miguel advised we visit the park within the next 2 days as from then on they Barcelona government is going to start charging an 8 euro entrance fee.

We had no trouble following the metro directions getting to the park and then followed the outdoor escalators up to the lookout. Fantastic views of Barcelona from here.

As the day was warm we decided to treat ourselves to a beer in the small cafe in the park.

It took the rest of the afternoon for us to walk back slowly to La Rambla where we had a very late lunch, which was actually dinner because it was 6pm by the time we sat down to eat. Good thing we filled up at breakfast this morning at the hotel. We found a cheap restaurant actually on the Main Street that offered 3 tapas and paella for 8.95 euros. The food was good and we washed it down with 1/2 carafe of house rose. Definitely a lot cheaper to eat out here in Spain than it was in France.

Before returning to our hotel we stopped at a few other hotels as we needed to find another room for tomorrow night. Not having any luck finding another hotel we opted to take a room at a pension 2 doors down from our hotel that was recommended by our receptionist. It was pretty expensive for what it was but it seems we have little choice as everywhere else was booked out. Seems tourists are still flocking in for long weekends to enjoy the Spanish sunshine. Not that I blame them one little bit.

Tomorrow we are heading to the beach and will take our swimming togs just in case it's warm enough for a dip in the Med.

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Thursday 24th October 13 (day 54)

What a beautiful sunny warm day Spain greeted us with again today. We had a late breakfast - delaying our checkout until the last minute. We had to move into a cruddy place a few doors up which is only 10 euro cheaper but 50 euros worth more crappy and no breakfast. But everywhere else was booked or over 100 euros per night so we had to suck it up if we wanted to stay another night in Barcelona - which we did.

It was just after midday as we strolled the 1km down La Rambla towards the beach. We stopped briefly at the tourist information booth to ask how we can get to the bus station tomorrow and also asked with is the nicest beaches around the area. The lady laughed and said none of the beaches here are nice, you need to drive for about an hour north to get a nice beach. Ah, we said, ok we will just dip our feet in then. She advised not even to do that much. I know its a city beach but how bad can it be?

We strolled in the sunshine enjoying every minute of it. Actually it felt quite warm even though the outdoor temp gauges were only reading 24, I'm sure it was hotter than that.
We stopped to watch some street buskers - mainly the statue type who move when you drop a coin or coins into their tin.

There seemed to be a quite a few people (tourists) around as we meandered around the port which was home to very few flash yachts. The foreshore around the port was nice with lots of space for walking, bike riding and benches for sitting or cafes to enjoy a refreshing beverage.

I spotted a supermarket so we grabbed a couple of cheapy alcoholic beverages and found a nice bench within metres of an overpriced cafe and enjoyed their same view for a third of the price.

Thirst quenched, we continued on to the beach where a surprising amount of people where baking the day away. Although it must be wall to wall skin here in the summer time as the locals and tourists crowd the sand and cool off in the water when the weather is hot. I was pretty keen to have a dip in the sea until I dipped a toe in and almost froze it off. No matter where we have travelled the Mediterranean Sea always is too cold for swimming no matter what the weather. So I was contented with a toe dip to say we touched the Atlantic and crossed to the other side and touched the Mediterranean!

A little while later we found another shady bench and a near by supermarket to purchase our picnic lunch and another cool bevvy. We were not the only ones with this idea as the park benches seemed to be more crowded with lunch time picnicers than the nearby cafes. It was a beautiful day as we sat ate and watched the passing pedestrian traffic passed by on foot, bicycle, rollerblades and skateboard. Nice relaxed beachy atmosphere here.

After lunch we continued our strolling to the southern end of the beach that soon became obvious that this was the nudist part of the beach. Now I have absolutely nothing against nudists (having myself just recently done a naked romp in the ocean) buy why is it that nudist on a crowded beach, up close to everyone, are always wrinkled leather skinned men of a certain age (60+) who are not afraid to let it all hang out for the world to see. My god, I just had lunch! and this was no eye candy for dessert I can assure you.

We averted our eyes and walked on quickly. At the end of the beach was the huge W hotel - not sure why we didn't stay here during our visit in Barcelona. Lyn and I as usual casually walked inside and used the lobby toilets. Wow this place was nice, must be 5 star. We sat in the lounge bar for about half an hour enjoying the air con. When a waiter came up to take our order I just told him the usual spiel that we were waiting to meet someone - this works every time and they don't come back again until they see us with someone - which of course is never. Just out of curiosity I checked on the internet to see the price of the room, and then is became evident why we did not stay here during our visit to Barcelona. Rooms ranged from super cheap 330 euro to 10,000 for the penthouse suite. Yes this was the price per night!!!

So after a bit of a relax and watching rich folk for awhile be moved on and returned to the real world - our world.

I'm glad we spent the extra day here in Barcelona just to have a walk around the beach and have a bit of time to sit and people watch. Tomorrow we are heading towards Madrid, however breaking the bus journey with a nights stopover in Zaragoza.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:18 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (3)

Last days on the Midi and Robine Canals

good, good, good, good vibrations - gotta stop sometime.

Saturday 19th October 13 (day 49)

I stood at our hotel window eating breakfast looking out over the Canal du Midi and just beyond it at the Gare du Carcassonne. The train station was less than 100 meters away from the hotel, how easy would it be to just get on a train to our final destination - Narbonne. It would be bloody easy, and given the colour of the sky outside very bloody tempting. A few days off the bikes and in a hire car have made me lazy. But would that be a cop out to quit now when we are so close to finishing? Yes and no, I think we have done a pretty good effort and from what we hear about the rest of the track it's unpleasant traveling.

I keep my thoughts to myself as I have a inkling that Lyn would jump at the suggestion and could always say it was my idea. So we pack up our things and make our way down to the hotel garage and load up the bikes. As predicted the first couple of pedals were extremely painful as the body started to remember these movements from a few days ago. Within half an hour bums were numb, knees were cracking and it was like we had not been off the bikes at all.

As expected the track was utter shit, rocky, bumpy and rough. I had a second of regret for not walking to the train station. Rough ground made for slower speeds and having to keep our eyes on the track at all times to try and avoid hitting jutting out tree roots and sharp stones. Not that there is a great deal to look at anyway, this half of the canal is definitely not as scenic as the first half we did and the path is crappy to walk on, so horrific to cycle on. To top it off we were also hit with a head wind for most of the day, but at least it did not rain, although the sky stayed grey- we have had luck in that department. Although we have had lots of grey and gloomy days there were not many where we got wet or even had to put on rain capes since the beginning of the trip.

Today was the first time we saw evidence of the trees along the canal being cut down. We had to take a few detours off the canal path and on roadways in the places where there are currently taking the trees away and what looks like poisoning the stumps. At least the detours are on sealed roads but it makes the distances longer.

We stopped for lunch at Marseillette, where we decided we would ride on until Homps and look for a place to stay the night. The sky was just getting darker as the day grew on and a night in the tent did not look like an option.

As it turned out it was our only option as the two b & b's in Homps had closed for the season and it was getting too late to ride on. The days are shorter than when we started our trip with it getting darker a good hour earlier than a month ago - of course. This was probably going to be our last night in the tent and we were happy to have a last night in it as a farewell, although the weather still did not look promising.

Getting to our night stop did not go unhindered as on a particularly narrow pathway Lyn got a puncture in her back tyre - again. This is the 3rd puncture this tyre has given us. So
glad we purchased spare tubes in Toulouse and as Lyn is becoming very experienced at changing this back tube it delayed us for less than 30 minutes.

We had to set up the tent on a grassy patch just next to the canal. No camping ground here, it was ok but the wind had really picked up and fears of the tent blowing into the canal were put to rest only once we had our pannier bags into to hold it down.
When we went to bed the rain still had not shown itself, and the wind had died down just a little so that the noise from the flapping tent was quiet enough for us to get to sleep.

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Sunday 20th October 13 (day 50)

The night turned out to be a warm one, with me unzipping the sleeping bag at some stage as it was too hot to be inside it. A few times I heard a sprinkling of rain, but not enough to be concerned about. Until....

At about 8.30am the heavens opened up and the rain poured down. This was the heaviest rain to date we had experienced inside the little tent and to tell the truth I was just waiting to be swept away into the canal. The wind was so fierce that the tent poles looked like they were about to snap. I hoped like hell that I had bashed in the pegs far enough into the rocky ground to hold the fly down, because if that flew off we would be drenched as the inside layer of the tent is only netting. I looked across as Lyn, the wind had changed direction from last night when it was blowing towards me, this morning it was blowing in on her. She snuggled down further into her sleeping bag probably having the same thoughts as me as she tried to hide from the sides of the tent which were now blowing in making the tent concave instead of convex. It was like an inside out dome tent. It continued to pour with our little space being lit up with lightening strikes and deafening thunder claps.

Then 20 minutes later is was all over!! And that was the last we saw of rain all day.
Gingerly we looked outside and there were peeks of blue coming through the clouds. Must have just been a freak storm, well it freaked us out, but the little tent stood up to it all and we (and all our belongings) were perfectly dry! What a magnificent experience to end our camping holiday.

After breakfast on a nearby bench, we hit the road for what we knew would be the last day on the bikes. Just 10 minutes on the dirt track and we knew we would not make it if we had to travel on these conditions the last day. We noticed there was a little road that seemed to also follow the route of the canal that ran just beside the canal so we opted to ride on that instead. Technically it was still riding along the canal as it was always in sight and if the road veered away too far we would get back on the canal side track. This made for much better timing and a more comfortable ride on our last day.

Stopping for a break in Le Somail we feasted on a personal favourite of mine pain de raisin which I had purchased with breakfast this morning. Obviously not a favourite of Lyn's as when I went for a walk across the bridge she was feeding hers to a gaggle of geese and ducks. The quack or hiss was soon out as these feathered creatures were coming down the canal in great speed hoping to perhaps get a morsel or crumb.

A little further along and we came to the junction of Canal du Midi and Canal du Robine. We were heading south so we took the Robine pathway, bidding farewell to the Midi. Unfortunately the path was not much better.

Lunch stop was in a wooded park just outside Salleles-d'Aude. This was also where the bike path mysteriously ended and someone forgot to tell the map printer. For about an hour we followed every possible path but they all led to a dead end at the river. The canal joined and crossed the river Aude which was passable if you were in a boat on the canal but not on land. We had to ride the short distance back to town and follow the road signs which directed us to Narbonne.

About 5 km out the bike path magically reappeared next to the canal and it was actually smooth riding all the way into town. Great path and lovely way to end our cycling adventure!
Once in the centre we followed the signs out to the railway station as this is usually where the cheaper hotels are. I only found one that had a vacant room but I said to Lyn I would rather pay top dollar elsewhere than stay at this place, definitely the wrong vibe. While I was scouting for a hotel, Lyn met a couple of Aussies who were also on a bike ride along the Midi but they were on a 'just ride and your luggage will be waiting at your 3\4 star hotel at the end of the day' sort of riding tour. And they had the cheek to say we had crappy bikes!
Anyway they recommended the place where they were staying and although did not know the price because everything on their tour was prepaid (hate to think how much) we thought it was worth a look. Yes well 90 euro a night is out of our budget so I found another nice hotel around the corner for 50 euro a night. Ok not as flash but clean and well suited for us!

We settled in, did the usual stuff, washing etc and then went for a little walk around town. Sunday evening and the place is deserted.

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Monday 21st October 13 (day 51)

We are going to stay another day and night here in Narbonne as we need to organise a few things before leaving for Barcelona.

Everything is now off the bikes, Sofia and Fonsi, and has been transferred to backpacks and carry bags. We are leaving the panniers with the bikes as we have no further use for them and they are just a burden to carry.

Sofia and Fonsi will be returning back to their home in Bergerac. Jean our couch surfing host who originally organised the bikes for us will be down this way next week and is going to pick them up and take them back home. This is a win, win situation as he gets to keep the bikes and we don't have the trouble of trying to get rid or them or dumping them. Hopefully they will live on and bring transporting joy to others like they have us. The hotel has agreed to store them here for a small fee until Jean arrives next week.

I went to the tourist office, which is conveniently located 20 meters away from our sensibly priced hotel, to enquire about transport to Barcelona from here. 2 options: train or bus. Train ticket one way per person costs: 47 euro for early train or 49.50 euro for later but faster train. Bus ticket one way per person costs: 34 euro but takes longer. Perfect since we are not in a hurry we can get the 10.45am bus and arrive in Barcelona at 4pm. Had to book the tickets online as no bus office in this town. Big problem being that they require you to print out your receipt and ticket and the only cyber cafe in town could not print. Not sure why, he did explain but my understanding of French is not so good. So I returned to the tourist office to ask where else I might be able to print out ticket and was advised, sorry no where else is possible and please could I move on as there was someone else with an enquiry behind me. mmmm thanks great help!

So back at the hotel the lovely little man behind the desk (who Lyn and I secretly think is an assistant to Dracula - I dunno he just looks the type) said that if I emailed the ticket to him he would print it out. So fingers crossed that by morning he will have a copy for us to take to the bus stop as it says no printed ticket and receipt no seat!

We did another bit of a wander around town to kill some time. Hopped on a free circle bus which would have actually been faster to walk the circle than travel on this bus, but it wasted some time.

So now we are all packed an ready to leave France and move into Spain. It's been a good trip and I think we did quite well. The riding, the camping, the eating - it's all been good and we managed to survive it and still have a smile on our faces. Although Lyn has advised that this is the last non motorised holiday that she is doing. But I have been hearing so many good things about the bike ride along the Loire Valley - apparently very flat and all paved!!! lol An idea for next time perhaps? Maybe I'll need to advertise for a new cycle sucker - oops I mean partner!

(Mmmmm flat and no tent might change my mind and cycle again!!!)

Anyway, look out Spain here we come!!

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So after kayaking the Dordogne, cycling around the Dordogne and cycling from the Atlantic to the Med would I recommend this trip to anyone??? Some parts yes, some definitely not. Do not cycle around the Dordogne - this area is absolutely beautiful but very hilly - I would love to (and will) return with a car and explore a little more.

The kayak trip we did was great but really only the last 2 days were what I call scenic as far as villages go and this was evident by the number of boats we saw on these days and not on the others. But I also enjoyed the parts where we had the river to ourselves and saw no one all day. I'm glad we did the long trip even if the first days in the rain were horrific, the sunny days soon made up for it.

As for the cycling: the railway route we took from the coast to Bordeaux was great. Track was sealed and it was an easy ride. With regards to the ride along the canals, I would only recommend the track along the Garonne Canal from Bordeaux to Toulouse. This was sealed track all the way and a much more scenic ride. The path along the Midi was utter shit and if we had started from this side we would never have continued after day 2 I am sure.

10 things I liked most about France - in no particular order:

I loved the cheese!

I loved the great bike paths - when they existed

I loved the cheese!

I loved the French people - all but 2 train station workers were more than happy to assist with my non French and their limited English

I loved the cheese!

I loved that everybody we passed on bike paths or saw on the canals greeted us with a bonjour while we were riding

I loved the cheese!

I loved catching up with my French friend and her cooking skills

I loved the cheese!

I loved that it felt safe everywhere while riding around and free camping

I loved the HUGE variety of cheese available

ok so that is 11 things, but had to mention the cheese!

A couple of things I disliked about France:

I disliked that campgrounds and accommodation facilities close for the season
I disliked crappy bike paths on a so called famous bike route
I disliked shops that closed for 3 hours in the middle of the day
I disliked campgrounds and public toilets did not have toilet seats

Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:17 Archived in France Comments (4)

Off the bikes and into a car.

Sofia and Fonsi rest up for a few days while we drive around the countryside.

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Tuesday 15th October 13 (day 45)

I booked a hire car over the internet (using the hotel computer) as this worked out much cheaper than the price we were given at the Avis office across the canal from the hotel. Only problem was that we had to pick up the car from the airport.

I had asked the receptionist at our hotel if it would be possible for us to leave our bikes here in the hotel garage for 3 days while we hired a car and that we would be coming back to stay the night again on Friday. This was not a problem, so we locked them up and had our bags ready to catch a taxi out to the airport.

I said to Lyn just go over to the city office and see if they will give us a car from here, you never know, just play dumb about having to go to the airport to collect it, which would save us about 10 euro in taxi fare. She had success and after about 30 minutes (Lyn had a bit of a problem finding her way back to the hotel in the car due to the one way streets) we were loading up our bags and we were motorised for the next few days.

The day was not as bright as yesterday, but we cared very little as we were in a covered transport and would be sleeping indoors tonight.

Driving through the countryside was similar to the view we could see from the canal. Obviously all fields were ploughed ready for the lull of winter so not much in the way of colour except the colour of the soil. I guess when things are in full bloom here the rolling hills must look pretty lush.

It was fairly easy to find the small village of Limbrassac where Noelle lived but to find her exact location was a little more difficult. And having a language barrier it's a little difficult to stop and ask directions. We were keeping a keen eye out for a yurt and a white van. Funnily enough I spotted a yurt behind a building and there was also a white van parked nearby. Thinking we found it we stopped and I got out of the car to investigate. Obviously the people there were not the friend I was looking for so I tried to ask if they knew a Noelle who lived in a yurt. I thought surely there could not be too many locals with that description. I said to this man - 'I am looking for Noelle who lives in a yurt' and he replied ' yes, I am Noelle and I live in a yurt!' What are the chances of meeting a person with the same name and house description - funny. But alas this was not the Noelle we were searching for and we were given broken English directions which we managed not to understand and ended up back in the village to ask directions again.

The second lot of directions were much easier for us to understand as we knew the road well now as we had travelled up and down it a few times already. Up the road on the right, first path on right and we spied the blue mail boxes, now we were at the correct place.

Found the yurt and inside my friend Noelle. It was great to see her, we had not seen each other since living in Morocco and I had been following the progress of the yurt building and living on FB. Now you may think yurt and primitive, but not so this is a flash yurt with all the mod cons. Very comfortable.

We went for a short walk in the late afternoon to the top of a hill which offered the most amazing views of the Pyrenees Mountains. We managed to time it well when there were no clouds to hide the view. So quiet and peaceful here.

Noelle cooked us a great meal that with just the description I gained 2 kilos. ALIGOT. Creamy mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic and melted TOME cheese - loaded with cheese. Lots of cheese - just the way I like it. It was delicious!

We watched a movie before going to bed. It was warm in the yurt with 3 breathing bodies and I even kicked off the sleeping bag during the night it was so warm.

Wednesday 16th October 13 (day 46)

It was still dark when I woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Sleep soon returned when I realized where I was - inside a nice warm yurt.

We had a lazy morning while Noelle was supposed to be starting to pack up her things. She did a bit but I think maybe we are a distraction she does not need. She is hoping to have the all her worldly possessions and the yurt packed up and stored by the end of the month. Like I said we are a distraction and have slowed down this process for a few days which means Noelle will be very busy next week after we are out of her hair.

Most of the morning the weather remained grey and drizzling rain. It started to clear towards the afternoon so we had a short outing.

After lunch, in the late afternoon, we took a drive to Castle Montsegur. It is a ruin that we had to climb up a mountain path to view. It was not a too strenuous hike up and once up there we were rewarded with an amazing view was of the surrounding mountains and countryside. The ruins themselves were not that impressive except for their position. How the hell did anyone ever build anything on this small mountain top so long ago. Apparently 500 people lived up there in it hey day. Bloody incredible really. Of course nearly every mountain top around here has a castle or ruins of one. Very beautiful area.

The weather played nice for us and gave us a blue sky for our visit, but there were dark rain clouds lingering in the distance and when the wind started to pick up we started our decent.

We had another wonderful dinner thanks to our personal French cook Noelle. TARTFLETTE Another potato, bacon, cream and lots of cheese masterpiece - a bit like an overcheesed potato bake. Finished off with an assortment of cheeses and then an apple pie (which Noelle just whipped up) with ice cream. These French dishes all have names which go straight over my head but the taste lingers, and that is the most important bit.

We finished the night laughing while watching a couple of episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother'.

Thursday 17th October 13 (day 47)

We set the alarm for 8 this morning as we have a big drive planned. Quick bucket showers outside the yurt - back to nature here - breakfast and then we were off.

Today we went to Andorra!! About a 2 hour drive though small towns and villages and wonderful mountainous scenery. Wow - it was so cool.

Andorra is a tax free country so the town that we visited which was just over the border was not much as it was just streets of shops selling very cheap alcohol, cigarettes and just about everything else. However the drive to get there was spectacular.

Border control waved us through on both our entry and exit. They do have controls here which limit the amount of duty free goods you can purchase, but they seemed pretty lax and waved most cars by just stopping the odd one and asking a few questions.

We purchased lunch supplies from a supermarket and drove higher up the mountain out of the town to have a picnic in a grassy clearing surrounded by horses roaming free. Fat, stocky looking animals that were tame enough to allow Noelle to pet them.

We were surrounded by chair lifts and ski fields and although there was not much happening on this Thursday afternoon I can imagine when it's all covered in snow that this is a very popular and crowded destination. It was nice to be able to enjoy it without all the snow and although the sun was out the wind enough to put quite a chill in the air. I guess we still were at quite an altitude so the cold was to be expected.

We took a scenic drive back, amazed at how good the back roads are in the middle of nowhere.

I am really happy that we hired a car for a few days as we would definitely not have seen any of this mountain region. Definitely not a terrain that we would even contemplate attempting on the bike. And although we could see the mountains in the far distance when we were on the canal it was really nice to be able to see it up close. And of course many thanks to Noelle, because if she was not here we would not have deviated from the canal path.

Dinner tonight was a real treat. RACLETTE which of course involved more cheese. This time the cheese is melted under a grill in individual little pans and when the cheese is hot, gooey and molten you pour it over vegetables, meat, well just about what ever you want.
It's probably a good thing we are off tomorrow as all this excessive rich food eating would soon counteract any and all of the exercise we have done up until now. However I have totally enjoyed the experience, as have my taste buddies.

Friday 18th October 13 (day 48)

We hugged Noelle goodbye and were back on the road just after 10 am. We didn't leave empty handed as we were given little packages of goodies to enjoy later. I wonder where we will be next time we meet up the my French friend as I am sure there will be a next time.

The road back to Carcassonne was easy to find as it was well sign posted. We took a slightly different route back to the one we came on a few days ago and actually drove along the stretch of road that we had cycled on days before when we were heading into Carcassonne for the first time. Clocking the distance I was surprised it was 7km.

Once in the city limits it was not too much trouble to find our way back to the hotel. All we had to do was follow the signs directing traffic to the train station. Stopping outside the hotel we unloaded our luggage and then Lyn drove around the block and over the bridge to the AVIS drop off office. As it was the middle of the day so of course the office was closed, but we had been advised of this and were told we could drop the car keys off at the information desk at the train station.

The rest of the day seemed to fly by without us doing anything. We did wander out at about 5pm for a late lunch at the restaurant next door for some mussels but were told to come back after 7pm. So a baguette and some cheese was good for now.

Around 9pm we did go out again and this time were successful in being invited to sit at a table and order a pot of 5 euro mussels. This was such a bargain! And served with a plate of chips what could be better? We ordered a carafe of house rose and were as happy as. The waiter was a little surprised when we passed on dessert, but he did not know that we had Noelle's chocolate cake and apple tart waiting for us back at the hotel.

Having a TV with only one English Channel - BBC World - we were kept up to date all day with the terrible fires that are currently burning in NSW.

It's almost with a little bit of dread that we have to return to the bikes tomorrow. We didn't even go down to the garage to make sure they were still there!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:10 Archived in France Tagged aligot Comments (2)

Continuing on the Canal du Midi

Shake, rattle, let's roll - litterally!

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Friday 11th October 13 (day 41)

It was cold last night, really cold. And the trains did sound like they were travelling through the middle of our tent, not 20 meters away from it. The fact that we were surrounded by water at the lock did not help the cold situation or the need to pee when I first woke up. Hardest thing about free camping on the side of a well used track, trying to time a bit of privacy between the passing traffic is a little tricky. But when you gotta go you gotta go and that guy on the bike could have just as easily looked away instead of copping an eyeful.

Anyway, we managed to scratch together breakfast, most importantly hot tea and coffee and we were on our way at about 11. Yeah I know, but still no rush.

The sky was blue-ish, but always cloudy, however we had no rain overnight and turned out all day it was dry also.

Our destination today was to get to Toulouse which we figured was less than 20 km away from our free camp as we had ridden a long way yesterday. The path again was good, but not very exciting, not much to look at and very soon we were in the outskirts of Toulouse. Like any bigger town the outskirts are industrial so like I said not much to look at.

In just over one hour of riding we came to the intersection of the canals ie Garonne and Midi. Lucky for us someone had hand written a name and arrow to show us the way to go. We don't really have the urge to go to the centre of Toulouse and know that the cheaper hotels are on the outside of the cities usually.

Cycling along the pathway next to the canal and the busy city traffic who do we run into but Frank - our Canadian friend we met a few nights ago. He had made it to Toulouse yesterday and was on his way out to find a tent pole he needed to replace. He told us about a cheap F1 hotel he was staying in about 10km out of town and this is where we decided to head to.

The cycle path through town did not go directly through the centre which suited us but was good enough to keep us out of the traffic. We just had to dodge pedestrians and other cyclists. Riding along I spotted a Velo shop (bike shop) and suggested we stop to see if they stocked the size tube we needed for Sofia and Fonsi but were having so much trouble finding. To their credit they did and we purchased 2 so that we had a back up in case of a puncture or flat tyre in the days to come when the track gets rougher. This was a relief to finally get them.

We rode and rode, stopping to get some lunch supplies as we started to head back out the other side of town. Frank had said the hotel was about 10 km out but we were starting to think we had somehow missed it. We stopped just before a highway underpass and Lyn asked a roadside food van if they knew where the F1 hotel was. Ironically it was on the other side of the underpass and had we continued on for another 20 meters we would have seen it for ourselves.

It was only about 2pm, but we had finished cycling for the day and yes they had room and it was a cheapy at only 32 euro - with shared bathroom facilities. But this was fine, after the last 5 nights free camping all we wanted was an indoors bed!

We had lunch in our room and basically rested the rest of the day. I went out at some stage to look for milk and bread for the morning. I rode for about 30 minutes back in the direction of town trying to find a supermarket which I eventually did after riding through a giant university campus. Wow this was the size of a small town.

We caught up with Frank later and we all had dinner together at Buffalo Grill an American restaurant that was next to the hotel. Not very French I know but it was all that was around and it was ok for a change. We had no problem chatting the evening away with Frank, nice bloke.

Returning to our room (which smelt like smelly cheese due to our breakfast cheese waiting for the morning consumption) we went to bed.

Saturday 12th October 13 (day 42)

Lucky we put the alarm on this morning as we had closed the blind which made the room very dark. Outside looked cloudy and cold and it was cold. Seems like the temperature has suddenly taken a nose dive. Not only the night temp but the day time temp also seems to have dropped dramatically.

We loaded our bikes, via exiting the bags out the window, great when we get a ground floor room. Riding off this morning was the hardest day yet due to the drop in temperature. The sky was cloudy with blue trying to come out. It had not rained overnight and did not end up raining all day, but we had a fair bit of wind which also added to the chill factor.

Path was good this morning and we were starting to wonder what everyone was on about that the path on this half was shit. Trees lined the canal most of the way which hid the sun from us but did make for pleasant outlook. Fields and fields of dead sunflowers just made me wish even more we were here earlier in the season to see them all in bloom.

We were making good time and stopped for lunch at Gardouch. With no end destination decided on for today we were just going to ride until we found somewhere suitable to stay.
Just after lunch around 2pm we hit the shit track at Avignonet-Lauragais. Suddenly our wonderful wide bitumen pathway turned into a goat track. 10 minutes later it got even worse as it turned into a very narrow dirt walking track. Tree roots and stones some of which were impossible to miss made for a very uncomfortable and bumpy ride. Enough to make our teeth shake loose. 20 minutes after we had hopped off the bikes our wobbly bits were still giggling around. OMG here was the pathway from hell that we had been warned about. There was no way we would be able to ride the rest of the canal on this sort of surface.

After about an hour it did get better much better. Not as good as the previous pathway but certainly enough to keep out giblets intact. And we had a long stretch that was on road shared with cars (although we only encountered a few) so it was manageable.

Somehow today we ended up riding the distance I thought would take us 2 days to do, because before we knew it we had arrived in Castelnaudrey - which meant we had come about 50km today without even noticing the distance, rough track and all. So as a reward we found a nice hotel - although we have a 3rd floor room without a lift (20 euros cheaper than a 1st floor room). The day was so cold we didn't even want to think about camping tonight.

We settled in (leaving our camping luggage on the first floor) and then went for a look around the town. Lyn was chatting with a fellow on the street while I was checking into the hotel who claims there are a lot of Australians living here but we did not encounter any. There is a large basin here where a lot of the hire canal boats depart from, a huge church and an old windmill - which are the major sites of Castelnaudrey. We walked around the basin, found some unusual passionfruit growing on someones fence which we sampled, soft orange skin and bright red inside, but the distinct taste of passionfruit. Wandered up to the old windmill, where there was also a great panorama looking out over the countryside, and then headed back to hotel.

We have a TV but of course no English channels. Surprise, surprise the Simpsons can speak French!

Sunday 13th October 13 (day 43)

Our room was cold but no way as cold as it would have been if we had been camping. Not sure if the tent is going to get another airing, but we will carry a little longer just in case. Of course being October the hotels have not yet turned on the heating which we would have had cranked up last night if they had. But the quilt was enough to keep us warm.

As is our usual routine, we woke around 9, had breakfast etc and let on the bikes around 11. The day looked blue skied, sunny and a little warmer than yesterday.

We rode out of Castelnaudary with a mission as I booked a hotel in Carcassonne for tonight, so this is the first time we have to be somewhere at the end of the day. Was not a hard task as the distance was only 45km which we have covered in a day easily, however we did not count on the poor state of the cycle path.

Our exit along the canal was not too bad but it was not long before the track turned bad and we were soon bumping our way along at a slower pace than usual to try and avoid damage to us and or the bikes. Less than a hour in we passed a fellow Aussie cyclist going the opposite way who gave us welcomed information regarding what to expect on the path ahead. He advised there was a particularly bad patch of track between Bram and Carcassonne which he seriously suggested we take the road instead. We did get to this part and there was a sign which actually said the walking/cycle path had ended. When we looked at the thin path that continued alongside the canal we decided to take the advice given and we rode along the road for about 5 km.

Lunch stop was at a roadside picnic stop near a village called Villesequelande. About another half hour on the road and we came to a bridge that crossed the canal again. The path looked passable again so we decided to take it for 2 reasons. The road ahead looked hilly and the pathway was shaded from the sun that was now beating down.

Another hour or so of bumping, dodging and weaving (our bike handling skills growing with ever near miss of a rock or tree root) and soon we were riding on a road on the outskirts of our destination town - Carcassonne. The hotel I booked was on the canal and opposite the port so easy for us to find. We glided in at about 3pm with bums and knees feeling the last 2 days ride.

Checked into the hotel, Lyn did a bit of sink washing and then we went out to explore the town. Being a Sunday afternoon of course everything was closed, but that was fine. We walked up to the old medieval city. This is an amazing sight with its giant walls and ramparts which were built to protect the city inside. The buildings inside are now tacky tourists shops and restaurants, so it is better to see it from the outside as the narrow cobble streets lined with these shops do the medieval city no favours. Although the giant basilica did have some awesome gargoyles. We did however have a wander around and a peek in a couple of the shops. Tomorrow we will explore the outside more extensively as we are having a rest day (not sure if our old bones can take another day in a row of rattling around on bumpy tracks) and will spend another night here.

Monday 14th October 13 (day 44)

Lyn went out for this mornings baguette, to the supermarket just across the square. We had a very comfortable night in the hotel.

Rest day is the plan for today, with washing hanging in the bathroom that also needs the day to be able to dry.

Mid morning we head out to go explore the medieval city that we had visited yesterday.

We were walking down the main pedestrian shopping street which was very quiet due to it being Monday not many shops are open until the afternoon. No idea why, but Monday seems to be just half a day, it was the same in Holland.

We were heading in the direction of the tourist office first to find out some information about a hire car, when who do we bump into but our mate Frank. He had just rolled into town - funny how we keep catching up with each other. So we walked together to the tourist office as he was looking for maps for this onward journey. We then all walked up to the old city walls where Frank bid us goodbye as he wanted to get his maps and get on his way.

The day was giving us another beautiful blue sky as Lyn and I walked around between the two ramparts of the town. I would guess that a bit of this has been resorted and is kept up but it was still pretty impressive that something like this was built in the 12th century. Deciding not to do another round of the tourist shops inside the walls we started to make our way back to the hotel at a slow leisurely pace. I must admit it was nice to have a full day off the bike to be able to get our bums back into normal shape (extra large) and to give time for the wobble to subside.

Stopping at a supermarket we bought some supplies for lunch and sat in a park to eat and watch the passing of traffic - auto and pedestrian. Who should roll up next to us but Frank! Having found his necessary maps and had a restaurant lunch he now decided it was too late to depart today when we spied us. Knowing we would have the best hotel deal in town he came over to ask where we were staying. As our hotel was just around the corner we pointed him in the right direction and made arrangements to meet up for dinner later that evening.

We relaxed the rest of the afternoon, enjoying the only English channel we could get on the hotel tv. BBC world where everything is repeated every 30 minutes, but at least it was in English. The hotels wifi was non existent, so there was little else to do.

Dinner time came around quick enough and Frank came knocking on our door. We chose a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel as earlier in the day we had spotted a flyer on a car that advertised mussels and chips for 5 euros. What a bargain, and they were very yummy. The portion size was a lot more than we expected also. It was a most enjoyable night, we all had a few laughs. Frank bid us farewell for the last time as it is doubtful that our paths would cross again as he was now heading inland over the mountains and we would definitely be sticking to the flat ground of the canal. Although we are going to be taking a few days off the bike as tomorrow we are going to hire a car for a few days to visit a friend of mine who lives near by. I met Noelle when we were both living in Azrou, Morocco and she is now living in a yurt not far from here. Seemed crazy to come so close and not go visit her and have a bit of a drive around the country side here.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:29 Archived in France Tagged canal du midi Comments (1)

Finally on the canal - Bordeaux to Toulouse

Great paths, free camps, warm beds, hot days, cold nights, new friends, beautiful sights - it's all good!

Friday 4th October 13 (day 34)

On waking this morning we looked out the window of our 5th floor hotel room and saw that the street below was very wet like it had rained a good part of the night. Unfortunately the rain was still coming down, but we had a few more hours until check out so crossed our fingers.

The TV in our room actually received ONE channel in English, out of 52 channels in French so we had spent most of last night and again this morning watching BBC World News. All very good but this is not an entertainment channel and the news updates are repeated continuously. But we had not seen telly for a few weeks so anything in English was better than nothing - almost.

The time had come for us to check out so we had no choice but to load up Sofia and Fonsi, don our rain capes and get on our way. At least it was just light rain and not cold or windy. A quick stop at the supermarket a block away to restock our camping gaz, forgot to get it yesterday, but turns out they did not stock it anyway. However, by the time I returned to the bikes the rain had stopped and we had no more for the rest of the day. The sky remained grey and threatening but we did not get wet today.

Crossing over the Pont St Jean we bid farewell to Bordeaux whose buildings today blended in very well with the depressing sky.

Less than an hour on the bikes and we came to a Decathlon store, which of course is impossible for us to pass without stopping and having a look. And we were also still in need of camping gaz. Also we are in the market for a new air mattress to replace the flat bed the we just cannot seem to repair satisfactorily. This particular Decathlon store did not stock camping gaz but we did not exit the store empty handed. We purchased a couple of the worlds biggest travel towels - almost as big as bed sheet! Fantastic at only 10.95 euros, they fold up small but god knows where we are going to carry them - but had to have one each. :-)

Not a total waste of time at this stop as there was also a huge department store which did stock the gas so we were happy with our now not wasted hour delay by stopping. We also bought a spare inner tube for the bikes, after the puncture the other day we decided it would be easier just to replace the tube rather than fix a hole on the road. We were fortunate we had water to find the hole last time but if it happens again (fingers crossed it doesn't) we may not be so lucky.

Continuing on bike trail along the Garonne river it was not long before we turned inland and started riding on the old railway line track. The path is nicely bitumen but tree roots make it a bumpy ride in some (a lot of) places. The old train station buildings along this route have been converted into an assortment of useful buildings. Most of them have a picnic area around them, providing picnic table and chairs and water tap. Some are cafes, some are tourist information offices and some are private residences. We rode past a few today: Latresne (cafe), Citon-Cenac (private house), Lignan (cafe), Sadriac (some kind of Nature meeting place??) and Creon (tourist office). We stopped at one of the picnic areas at Citon-Cenac for a lunch of bread and a very ripe brie cheese which I had been smelling all during the ride and tasted absolutely devine!

Todays destination was Creon which is 21 km from Bordeaux and we arrived just after 4pm. The girl in the info office advised the camping was 2 or 3km's (which usually means 4 or 5 km's) down the road. Our only other option was the one hotel in town which she advised was 50 euro for the night. I went for a little walk around town to confirm there was no one offering rooms or any alternate accommodation and came up empty handed. It was now close to 5pm, the sky was only getting darker and as it had not rained for hours it was promising a downpour if not soon definitely overnight. So an executive decision was made that we would head for the hotel. Neither of us were up for a wet night, and the weather forecast for later in the week is much better so we will save our camping until then.

Across the road from the hotel was a supermarket where we purchased dinner which consisted of a hot bbq chicken and baby potatoes, we added a can of spinach and as we ate dinner in our hotel room we listened to the heavy downpour of rain and agreed 50 euro for the room was well spent.

The bike path today was fairly easy, we had a few inclines but not enough that we needed to get off and push Sofia and Fonsi up the hills. Riding through forest, countryside and vineyards - it's a beautiful part of the country.

Unfortunately for Cindy I snored very loudly last night. I,myself did not hear a thing so all good as far as I'm concerned. Not looking forward to our next camping stop as I can not find the leak in the blow up mattress.

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Saturday 5th October 13 (day 35)

Outside the hotel window this morning all we could see was mist - visibility was only about 30 metres. But it was only early, too early to tell what the day is going to be like. The day does not reveal itself until about 10.30.

We had breakfast in our room and it was about 11am when Lyn started passing the bike bags out to me via the window. This was easier than carrying them out thru the foyer to the back of the building to where Sofia and Fonsi were kept in a wooden shed overnight.

The sky was telling 2 stories, blue & warm, and grey & wet, so who knows what the weather was going to deliver us today.

First stop was a photo in front of Creon station. Being a Saturday I expected the track to be a little busier today, but we encountered maybe a handful of walkers and fellow cyclists and all at the beginning of the day. The track was a little harder today than yesterday, with a little more uphills, long slow climbs followed by long coasting downs. But no rain.

Stations passed today: La Sauve (bricked up, unused), Espiet (under renovation as ??), Daiganc (cafe which was closed), Frontenac (unused). Westopped in the small village of St Brice at a stone bench by the church for lunch. Compared to yesterday there were not so many picnic spots, but of course as soon as we left town there was a picnic table right next to the bike path. Last stop was Sauveterre de Guyenne, where the station is now a public toilet (very clean by the way yes we used them).

This was where we were hoping to find a hotel for the night as we had cycled 29km today and this was the end of the bike track. We rode into the centre of the village where surprisingly they had a tourist information office and it was still open at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. I went inside and experienced the best tourist info office ever. Not because of the fact that the handsome man-child spoke perfect English but he gave me maps of how to continue our bike trail, booked us a B & B in a local hamlet and did not charge for the phone call. Then showed me on a big flat screen TV via google maps street the exact directions, the road and buildings I was to look for. Wow best tourist office ever - and I told him as much also. The hotel in town was closed (not sure if just for the season or permanently) so all accommodation was out of town, so we headed 2km to a hamlet called Saint Leger de Vignague to an old water mill house converted to a B & B.

Just as we were about to leave town rain started to fall. We waited for half an hour and then had a nice dry ride to our B & B.

Very nice place we are staying for the night. The hostess did not speak a word of English and we not a word of French but we still managed to communicate. What a lovely setting, and the sky turned blue for the rest of the afternoon which we spent on the terrace drinking a local (Bordeaux) bottle of Rose. What a wonderful afternoon, this is how our French holiday should be. After a tough couple of hours of pedalling this is a great way to unwind.

Thanks to the information from my informant at the tourist office tomorrow is going to be a very hard day on the bikes, so what better way to prepare for it than a comfortable night in a beautiful place.

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Sunday 6th October 13 (day 36)

We were up really early (for us) this morning as breakfast was being served at 8.30. A quick look out the window revealed a misty morning but the sky looked promisingly blue. We ate breakfast, which was croissant, bread, butter and jam, with the other B & B guests (who were French). Tea and coffee are served in huge wide bowl like cups because it is the French way to dunk your breakfast in our morning beverage. This is a custom we have not taken to. Soggy croissant and wet bread and jam do not appeal to us but it is the norm here.

We'd had a good nights sleep but the days ride ahead was looming in front of us as we loaded Sofia and Fonsi. We needn't have worried cause the ride did not turn out to be so bad after all. We had a few hills and a few pushes, a missed turnoff and ride in the wrong direction where we had to U-turn and retrace our path. But the country side was beautiful and the back country roads had hardly any traffic on them.

Our host had given us a map that showed a short cut at the beginning of our trip and a detour at the end that would be kinder on us as it was a flatter road. We left the B & B with a waving send off by the owners and the other guests all wishing us luck. It was 10.30am when we rode out of St-Liger de Vignague and by 12.30 we had stopped for lunch in Girode sur-Dropt, after pedalling the back roads through St-Martin de-Lerm and Camiran. A bakery was just taking out freshly cooked baguettes just in time for our lunch stop, but alas they were all pre ordered and did not have a spare one for us. Today is Sunday so there are no shops open so when he offered to cut a piece off a 2 foot long giant loaf of bread I was very grateful. He then proceeded to weigh the bread as it was charged by weight.

We were now down by the Garonne river at Girode-sur-Dropt but had to travel to the next town to get a bridge to cross the river as the cycle path is on the other side. La Reole was only a short 4km away and as we rode into the centre I stopped to look at road signs which might indicate which direction we needed to head to get onto the bridge. Lyn stopped beside me and asked "we stopping for a beer are we?". Sounded like a good idea to me as it was quite hot - the day was beautiful. As we sat enjoying our cold refreshment, at the next table were another couple of cyclists. English couple with impressive (expensive) looking bikes who lived in France but were cycling around for a week staying in B & B's and eating at restaurants enroute. They were polite enough not to laugh at our overloaded aged bicycles and even said they envied the trip we were doing. They said we were brave and adventurous, but I think they were really meaning we were unfortunate and poor - but what the hell.

After finishing our beers, we found the bridge and crossed over the river. A little further along the road we came to Fontet and the Garonne Canal which is where the cycle path follows next to. Lyn immediately started to head in the wrong direction and I yelled out to her if you continue that way you will end up back in Bordeaux. Ooops, u-turn and we were off in the correct direction.

The path here was excellent and we both knew there would be no more uphills for us to push the bikes up. Trees lined the canal providing much appreciated shade as the sun was still very warm. Cycling here is easy, flat, paved with just the bumps made by tree roots lifting the bitumen path. At around 3pm we saw a sign that read camping 1 km ahead and decided to check it out. Most campgrounds are closed now, it being October, but we stopped to check and the caretaker (an English guy) said yes it's closed but we could still camp as the council has not come and locked up the toilet/shower block yet. The weather was still on our side and as it was still early in the day we did some much needed clothes washing hoping they would dry by the end of the day.

After hanging out the clean washing and setting up the tent for the night, we retired to the cafe for a afternoon beverage. The sun was still warm and it was lovely to sit by the canal and have another tasty rose. We saw quite a few canal boats along the way today and here at the little port near the campsite there were some moored also. We met some of the owners of these boats and spent the afternoon having a few drinks with them. Nikki & Tim - couple from UK who now live in France and also own a boat, Carole and David - couple from UK who live full time on their boat and a couple from Australia Carole and David from Hamilton Island who also own a canal boat.

We had an enjoyable afternoon, which turned into the evening. Lyn & I got a wee bit intoxicated due to a few too many drinks entered into a tired (we had a long cycle today) body and we were having so much fun we forgot about dinner. I think we may have gotten a little loud (surprise, surprise) and perhaps said 'fuck' too many times but our new friends must not have been bothered too much as they suggested we stay another day and tomorrow evening we would all have a bbq together. Or perhaps they too had indulged in a few and were amused by our sick humour.

It had been an enjoyable day, and nice finish having a few laughs.large_9BF0F9432219AC6817284802393C075C.jpg9C0048042219AC6817F1191F833FBCEB.jpg9C0F15622219AC6817EF320E4F79E1D4.jpg

Monday 7th October 13 (day 37)

On waking to a beautiful sunny day, we decided we would have to stay another day so that our washing would dry. Had nothing to do with the fact that we were feeling a little seedy after last nights wine intake - mmm no nothing at all we were both fit and well and very happy not to be riding today. It had been a little chilly last night so mental note to wear more clothes to bed tonight. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and was amazed by the clear sky and amount of stars - it was a beautiful sight. Lyn slept on the flat bed, we cannot seem to find where the leak is so we are on the scout for a new bed.

Today, not a cloud in the sky and the washing dried perfectly. We spent the day enjoying the surroundings doing bugger all. Oh we did walk up the 121 steps to the little village to have a look around and of course being a Monday everything was closed, not that we wanted anything but a look around anyway.

On our way back we were met by another English guy - Derek - whom we had met briefly last night. I think we may have insulted him yesterday by calling him a poof as we was drinking ice tea when the rest of us were intaking wine. Anyway he could take a joke and was on his way to the supermarket and asked if we needed anything. I asked to go along with him so I could buy some meat for the bbq we were going to later in the day. Yep all good, we drove in Marmade to a huge supermarket and I was able to get a few supplies.

Back at the campground Lyn had retrieved all our dry clothes from the line and we had a full bag of clean clothes to travel with again.

We had a little rest in the afternoon and then met up with the others at about 7 for the bbq. It was a little cooler outside tonight compared to yesterday and the bbq did not want to burn the wet wood we had collected. David (from Oz) came to the rescue with a charcoal barbie so we were still able to eat. We were a little lighter on the wine this time as we have to ride tomorrow, which meant the night was a little more subdued, but still enjoyable with our new friends.

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Tuesday 8th October 13 (day 38)

It was pretty cold last night, even with all possible clothes on. Again on waking the day seemed to be blue and bright. We had a leisurely breakfast as we packed up and loaded the bikes only to find Lyn's back tyre was down again. This is the same tyre with a puncture a few days ago and we have been keeping an eye on it and keeping the air up to it but today it was flat as the air bed so our departure was delayed as she replaced the rear tube with the new one we had bought.

Derek showed up before we left and offered us an air bed that he no longer uses. Very kind of him, sorry Toni Lemon means your lent one will be in the bin tonight, we can replace when we get back to Oz.

Slight delay, but after a goodbye to our canal boat friends we rode off at about 12 noon.
The canal path really is quite beautiful with trees lining both sides of the canal. Unfortunately, these trees are being removed as they are all diseased and I guess they have to take them down before they fall down. Sure will make the canal and path very bare and in the summer a very hot place to travel as the trees give lots of shade. I guess we are lucky to see it while its still beautiful.

We are definitely out of grape growing territory here, with not a grape vine in sight today. The main crop we saw growing was corn, fields and fields of corn.

The path is good, again only they tree roots making it bumpy in places. We passed a few cyclists (going the other way) today as well as walkers strolling along the path. The canal was also busy with a few boats moving about. Towards the end of the day most of them being hire boats.

We stopped for lunch at 2.30pm at Lagruere. After not being able to get bread, the village where we shopped earlier the shops were closed for lunch (still can't get over that), we managed to scrape together a lunch of tortillas (thanks David for that donation) and a can of sardines. We are like Boy Scouts always prepared, managing to carry a couple of meals with us when shops are not readily available.

We rode on for a few more hours and then just outside Buzet Lyn's back tyre was suddenly as flat as the air bed - same tyre again!!! I rode the 200m back to Buzet harbour and dumped by bags next to the lock masters house, rode back to Lyn and took hers so she could push/carry her bike back. Where the puncture happened was on the narrow path so we could not attempt to try and fix it there. When she arrived the man that mans the locks was more than happy to help fix the tyre. He did not speak a word of English but came back with a bike tyre which he proceeded to remove the tube from which he was going to give to us. So nice, but the bloody tube was too big, so then he just proceeded in taking out our punctured one and found the leak - and a nice pointy thorn which had gone through the tyre - patched the leak, put the tube back in tyre and put tyre back on bike. Not that Lyn would not be able to do all this, she had a few days ago but this guy was faster and let him get chain grease on his hands. Ok quick pump up, and we thanking him in the only French word we know - merci, merci, merci!! Load the bikes back up and we were again on our way - it was now close to 5pm and we were wanting to find a place to camp asap.

2 minutes back on the path and I advised Lyn to stop as the tyre was going flat again. Shit, back we turn, no point in going further on as we did not know what was ahead. Earlier the guy who had helped us had indicated that perhaps the port shop would have a tube, so I headed straight over there to check. I did not have high hopes as if they even had spare tubes they would not have our size as we have had difficulty in finding the correct size elsewhere. I should not have been so negative thinking as it turned out the only size tube they had was ours!! Yippee and more good news when I asked her if there was a campground nearby she said we were allowed to camp in the port grounds, double yippee.

I set up the tent and started cooking dinner as Lyn again changed the tube on Sofia. She checked the punctured one and it seemed to be leaking at the patch so she put on another patch and we will keep as a back up. Fingers crossed the new tube will still be up in the morning.

The afternoon had turned grey and cloudy, we are expecting to maybe experience a bit of rain tonight.

So a funny up and down day today, literally up and down for that bloody back tyre. But all worked out ok in the end, we have a nice place to camp and it does not feel as cold as last night. I think we will both sleep well tonight after todays ride - especially Lyn as she has the super duper new huge air bed that takes up almost all the tent.

Rode approx 34km today.

Thanks very much to Derek, my new bed is fantastic!!! Sorry Toni yours is in the bin could not find the third leak.

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Wednesday 9th October, 13 (day 39)

Waking up at 9am just as the toilets are being unlocked is a relief in more ways than one. We were also able to have a shower using the tokens we bought the other day but did not need to use from the last camping ground. It did not end up raining so the tent was dry when we packed it away.

I rode the short distance into the town to the Spar to see if I could find a baguette for breakfast. Just as I entered the shop a fresh batch were being taken out of the oven, so we had a fresh hot baguette with butter and vegemite for breakfast - delicious.

After being on the road for a couple of weeks it is amazing that it still takes us an hour and a half to get packed, loaded and on our way in the mornings. It was 11.30 before we started off today, but that is not a problem as we have the time so we are not stressed about our late starts.

Today the sky stayed grey and cloudy for the whole day, with the sun showing its face every so often to warm us up a bit. But it did not rain so we are happy about that.

The path was good again with the only struggle is the slight inclines when the path leads up to the road level when there is a lock in the canal. Less corn fields today, but many apple orchids with the rows of trees covered by netting to keep the birds off the fruit perhaps. Then we passed loads of kiwi fruit farms where the only thing stopping me from stealing some fruit was the abundance of people walking and cycling on the path. Bummer the fruit looked so good too, yet we saw only kiwi fruit from New Zealand for sale in the supermarket.

We stopped on the side of the path for a quick smoko at about 12.30 and ate the raisin scrolls I had bought from the shop this morning. Lunch was later, after we had visited the supermarket at Boe (thanks David for telling me about this market, may not have seen it otherwise). We ate lunch at the picnic ground at Boe Port.

Just before riding through Agen, a fairly biggish town, we crossed over the Le Pont Canal. This is a bridge built to carry the canal across the river. Pretty bloody amazing. Built in the 1800's and its 580 metres long.

A few more hours riding in the afternoon and after it turned 5pm we had resigned to looking for somewhere to free camp for the night. Covering more distance than expected we ended up at Valance-d'Agen at the old Public Abattoir which has been turned into a free camp stop for motor homes. As we pulled up to have a look we were greeting by campers who had already set up their motor homes and claimed it would be ok for us to put out tent up on the little piece of grass. Free hot showers and cooking facilities were on offer here so we did not go any further.

We met a nice English chap, Brian who is travelling up the canal in the other direction to us who tweaked Lyn's bike so she now has the ability to stop. He did also mention that the front wheel was about to fall off as the wing nut was loose. Big thank you to him, what a nice person to help us after 10 minutes of meeting us.

Lyn cooked dinner, with the supplies we purchased earlier in the day, in the kitchen provided after we had both had nice hot showers.

One of the other lady's in another motor home came over to warn us that rain was forecast for the morning so we should store our bikes in the shed provided.

Lots of people have warned us the track ahead gets a little nasty: rocks, roots and ruts, so we are likely to be knocked around a little on poor old Sofia and Fonsi. Hopefully it should be ok, it just means we will be travelling a little slower and watching more of the track rather than our surroundings.

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Thursday 10th October 13 (day 40)

Had a not too bad nights sleep. Was awoken at some ungodly hour by the dickhead who parked his motor home one meter from our tent. That was not the problem, the problem was when he started his engine this morning it was still dark! Dark that is until he turned on his headlights which almost blinded me because the only thing between his high beam and my retinas was a thin layer of tent nylon and 10 cm of space! Where the hell is anyone going to at that hour?? The baguette shop is not open yet!!

We had stayed up after dark last night chatting to a Canadian guy Frank who is doing the same route as us. Perhaps slightly faster and on a pretty good bike he brought with him from home. Nice guy, funny how people who travel alone get starved for someone to talk to, Lyn and I obviously don't have this problem.

Must have been about 8am when I heard rain on the tent, we had expected it and were glad to hear it was not too heavy. Nature called at 9 am and as the rain had stopped I got up and went for a walk into town to find a baguette and as it was a more reasonable hour the baguette shop was open.

Just about to have breakfast when Lyn suggested we pack up the tent as it had not rained since earlier and the slight wind had now dried out the fly. Just in the nick of time we brought it all in under cover when the rain started again. Good timing as we were able to pack it all away dry. Breakfast was no rush as we did not want to start out in the rain fall.

About an hour later we were all loaded up and ready to go and the rain had stopped. Luck was with us today as although we kept them handy we did not need to put on the rain capes all day. It was however a little chilly and we both spent the day in our cycling leg warmers.

The path was smooth and easy going again today, we have not yet hit the rough track yet. Lyn's serviced bike was much easier to manage and actually stopped when she applied the brakes - just like a new one, thanks to Brian.

Less than an hour into our ride Lyn had a head on collision - with a bee. Unfortunately for the bee it was fatal, unfortunately for Lyn the bee left its sting in her nose. So for the rest of the day she had a swollen nose and a fat lip and Lyn had much the same.

Scenery today was not very exciting. Of course we travelled along the canal and saw a few boats, passed through a few towns and crops today were apples and corn again. Later in the afternoon we passed fields and fields of sunflowers all black with bowed heads. A month or so ago they would have been an amazingly beautiful sight, but we are too late to see them with their yellow heads held high.

We had no particular goal or destination to reach today but thought we might treat ourselves to a room somewhere if we could find one. Like I said the path was good going today and we were making good time with a few km's behind us.

We stopped at Castelsarrasin for lunch after a quick visit to a Lidl supermarket for supplies. As we were eating 4 men rolled in on hire bikes, ironically they were Australians. Doing it tough (not) riding with a back up van who was supposed to be meeting them with lunch. Van was a little lost and they chatted with us for a little while, very curious as to what the hell we were doing with loaded up, clapped out bikes. They are only doing Toulouse to Bordeaux with no luggage and no camping. Guess they will be laughing at us tonight when they recap on their day.

So we rode on and at about 3 started to look for somewhere that had a hotel or rooms. No luck, every village or town we came to we could find nothing. So we rode on, and rode on, and on, and on. Still no accommodation so come 6pm we gave up and we are now just free camping by the side of the track at lock number 5. I set up the tent while Lyn cooked dinner of pasta, salami and sauce, while people rode and jogged by on the track. No one said anything except bonjour and bon appetite, so we presumed it was no problem we camp here. Didn't really matter, it was going to be dark in less than 2 hours and we did not want to still be riding in the dark. And we were buggered. We are right next to a railway line but I bet once we are in bed and its dark we wont hear a thing. (Lyn: We did hear the trains during the night, sounded like we were in a airport landing field with the planes taking off just over our tent. The French very fast trains are very loud.)

At a guess we are only about 20km out of Toulouse, and guess we pedalled about 55km today. Lucky for us the track was smooth and flat, but it's still pretty hard on knees and bums. Tomorrow definitely in the comfort of a hotel.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:07 Archived in France Comments (4)

Back to Bordeaux - the long way round

why take an hour train when we can cycle 150km to get back to Bordeaux


ferry Arcachon to Cap Ferret, bike the rest

Monday 30th Sept 13 (day 30)

It was a very mild night again last night. We woke about 8.30 and it looked like it had not rained overnight, but a few drops were starting to drop which did not last very long. We had a cooked breakfast with some left over potatoes from last night and eggs - a bit flash for a weekday, but what the hell.

After we put all our stuff together and loaded the bikes it was around 10.30 when we left the campground. We took the short cut track into town but still had to walk it down as the sandy downhill trail needed extra restraint to stop our bikes from just rolling down the hill.
First to the supermarket to buy some supplies for the next few days. We have decided to take the long way back to Bordeaux - 200 km loop instead of the train straight back. Another one of my brilliant ideas so hope it does not turn into another wet and hilly adventure.

2 minutes from the market was the jetty where we were going to catch a ferry from Arcachon to Le Cap Ferret - 30 minutes across the basin. Then ride up the peninsula along the Atlantic Coast then head back inland to Bordeaux, from where we continue east to the Med. It started to rain lightly just before boarding the ferry then got heavier as we made the crossing. We met an Aussie couple also taking bikes on the ferry but just our for a day ride. They had hired a car in England, purchased bikes and a rack and were staying in hotels, so not really on the same comfort or should I say discomfort level as us. Luckily it was not too rough on the boat as one of us is not too good on moving boats in rough seas (not me!). It still rained lightly as we took off to find the bike path but soon cleared up to a beautiful, hot, blue sky day!

The bike path here is fantastic. 85% of it was bitumen pathway and the rest was a sealed surface, so smooth pedalling today. There were a couple of little ups and downs but thankfully we did not do much pushing of Sofia and Fonsi today. You cannot see the ocean from the pathway as it is all through forest which is nice protection from the hot sunshine. We stopped for a picnic lunch (last of that smelly cheese) at Le Grand Crohot, 18km north of Cap Ferret, where Lyn could not resist the opportunity to hang out our wet nickers to dry in the sunshine. A few double takes from drivers passing by, but at least they did dry.

We rode on about another 10km to Le Porge-Ocean where we saw a sign for a camp ground. I went looking but could not find it. There was a park that had a sign which read motorhomes were allowed to park for 24 hours for free so we thought if they can, we can. So tonight we are free camping, next to the dunes on the Atlantic Ocean. We set up the tent, filled it with all our luggage off the bikes, donned our swimming cozzies and headed up over the numerous sand dunes to the ocean. We were determined to have a swim to mark the start of our coast to coast bike ride. I'm not sure how long the west coast of France is but you can guarantee we chose the only stretch that was a nudist beach. Thankfully there were not many people on the beach but the 2 blokes we could see from 100m away definitely were a la natural. So we decided when in Rome .... and did a nudie swim also. This saves Lyn having to try and dry them later on as well. And we were at least 200 m from the nearest person on the beach. It was around 5pm but the sun was still high in the sky and warm but the water was cold. However we did brave it and skinny dipped in the Atlantic Ocean!

As a small reward for this heroic dip and the fact we have no camp fees tonight we shouted ourselves an overpriced drink at a little cafe near the dunes. Cider - 10 euros thank you. Disappointingly, French Cider has a very low alcohol content at 2.5% but it was nice and cold. Cheers to us.

Back to the tent we cooked and ate dinner just before light rain fell at 8pm. Looks like a very early night for us tonight, and it's not even dark yet!

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Tuesday 1st Oct 13 (day 31)

We fell asleep to the thundering sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the beach at least 100 meters away. The night was almost hot, we did not even need to pull up in our sleeping bags until early morning. And no rain during the night. Of course it did start to shower lightly as we packed up.

A Swiss guy came over to talk to us while we were breaking camp. He is walking the St James pilgrim trail to Santiago and has been at it for a 2 weeks already. I guess he was starved for company as he stayed talking while we loaded up the bikes. Kept telling us we should visit Switzerland.

Showers continued for the first hour of our ride. The path was a little rougher than yesterday but still pretty good. And although the sky stayed overcast all day we did not have much rain. We rode about 12km to get to Lacanau-Ocean which seemed like a ghost town now but again a place that would be packed out in the summer time. Here we stocked up on a few extra food items and took our last look at the Atlantic before heading inland.

Our stop for the night was going to be Lacanau near the Lac de Lacanau but the campground was already closed for the season so we just rode through. Stopped for lunch just outside town and decided we might have to free camp again tonight as there is not likely to be another camp open on the track we are follow. We are riding along an old railway line that they have converted to a bitumen bike track.

18km after leaving the ocean front we were stopped on a little bridge over a little stream having a breather. There was a grass clearing and tiny sandy beach and clear running water so I said to Lyn this looks like a great place for us to free camp tonight. It was only 3pm but who's in a hurry. Our only problem was we did not have any water with us. Problem solved I rode a further 4km to the next village, Saumos, (and 4 km back) and retrieved some fresh water from the water tower, meanwhile Lyn stayed back at camp and took this opportunity to do some washing in the little stream.

On my return less than an hour later, with water, I could see our clothes hanging from the bridge. Now this train track that we are on is quite popular so a steady stream of cyclists were able to view our smalls (and bigs) while cycling by. See the entertainment we provide!

At least we could wash off any left over sea salt from our dip in the ocean yesterday and there are no signs saying camping was not allowed. So that was our day today, time for me to go wash in the stream so if you hear a far off gasp it's me proclaiming the water is chilly! Lyn wrote: There was no gasping only screaming. I did not think the water was that cold but Cindy obviously thought otherwise!!

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Wednesday 2nd Oct 12 (day 32)

We woke just before 9 - obviously all this strenuous exercise is assisting in us being able to sleep 10 - 12 hours every night as we go to bed when it gets dark just after 8. Not that we have completely fitful deep sleep - being woken up quite frequently during the night trying to get comfortable or hearing noises or call of nature. Again last night it was quite mild and we slept to the sound of the trickling stream - hence the call of nature in the middle of the night. Two things went down last night, the air mattress has another puncture (I was the lucky one on it last night) and Lyn's back tyre was flat.

Not long after we were dressed and having breakfast we realised we were pretty much surrounded by various people combing the forrest for mushrooms. Some just looked, other said bon jour and one guy actually came over to the tent and started rabbiting on in French. Of course we could not understand him, but he was very happy and gave us the thumbs up for camping out. He showed us the giant cep mushrooms he had collected, unfortunately did not offer any, gave us a big grin and left. As he passed the washing still hanging on the bridge he gave an extra chuckle and a last good bye wave.

Only after we had packed and loaded everything onto the bikes did we realise that Lyn's tyre had a puncture. I had given all the tyres a little pump up this morning and noticed it was low, but now it was flat. So off with the bags and back tyre and out with the repair kit, which luckily we had with us. And lucky we had the little stream to be able to dunk the tyre to locate the hole. All fixed and back on our way.

We rode about 4km to yesterdays water source Saumos and filled up our water bottles. Then another 9 to St Helene where we were hoping to buy some bread for lunch, but as is typical in France the shops close between 12.30 and 3pm - and we were here at 1.15. Bummer, not to worry - ever the resourceful - we stopped at a picnic area outside town and cooked up some pasta to have with our tin of tuna.

After lunch we slogged on another 12km to St Medard en Jalles where we were hoping to find a camp ground to spend the night. But the bike track was too far from the centre and we did not pass the camping so decided to continue on and take our chances.

The old railway track we were on today was a little boring and at places a long slog. 15km of dead straight track makes for a little dull riding, although it was all flat it was just continual peddling. This is also the busiest bike track we have ever been on, we shared the track with 100+ other cyclists today. Not so many were pleasure riders, mostly older gents on speedy narrow wheeled bikes dressed in their favourite multicoloured lycra bike outfit.

Around 5pm we reached Bruges which is a out skirting suburb of Bordeaux. The signage on this track from Lacanau to Bordeaux had been faultless up to now, but here the track was under some repair and we missed a little detour and ended up riding about an extra 10km trying to find the path back again. At one stage we decided just to stay in Bruges but could not find the camp or a hotel. Time was getting on and we were both getting frustrated at riding around aimlessly in circles, then finally we found the missed detour and were on our way again.

By now it was getting close to 7pm and when we rode past a hotel great minds thought alike and we rode in not caring what the cost for a room was - we'd had enough. And as we had free camped the 2 previous nights we were up in kitty money. I went in to book the room while Lyn held the bikes outside. There was just one young guy in front of me at reception and when I was advised he took the last room, I took off my hat and hit him with it. Called him a bastard and walked out. Sorry but it was a necessary outlet at the time. He did apologise, but did not offer the room to us. Luckily when I asked I was advised there was another hotel just next door, so we headed straight there and managed to get a room - a little over budget but by then did not care. Hot shower and soft beds were all we could think about.

Dinner consisted of duck pate, smelly mouldy cheese, olives stuffed with anchovies and baguette - couldn't be happier.

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Thursday 3rd Oct 13 (day 33)

Woke feeling refreshed after a comfortable night's sleep in a hotel bed. Check out was not until 12 noon so we lazed around and got our money's worth. We've only a short distance to go today to no rush as per usual.

Finally on our way at midday, it took less than 30 minutes for us to ride into the centre of Bordeaux. The sky was usual was grey but no rain, however it was very windy as we rode along side La Garonne river, but thankfully not cold.

I wanted to find the tourist office to see if they could offer any further information with regards to our next bike trail, but they could only give me the map that Noelle had already sent me earlier in the year. Our next job was to find a hotel as we decided to spend the day here and no campground near the city. Tourist office advised the budget hotels were near the St Jean train station which was only 1 km from the centre. We rode the short distance and Lyn stayed with the bikes while I did a quick sweep of the surrounding hotels. Lots were full, lots more were empty buildings and lots were out of budget. We settled for Ibis budget at 60 euros for the night.

After unloading the bikes and depositing our bags into the room we again went out to explore more of the city. Not a great deal to see in Bordeaux. We bought a picnic lunch and sat by the river which did not offer a lot of entertainment as only one ferry boat seemed to be operating.

We rode around the cobbled streets on our bikes, so much more enjoyable without the weight of our luggage, but still not a great deal to see. Lots of shops and cafes. There seemed to be lots of people around but I don't think many were tourists. I guess a lot of tourists come to this area as it is a great wine area of France, but not many would have reason to stay or visit Bordeaux.

We purchased a couple of supermarket beers and found a small park where we could sit and people watch which killed some time.

A relaxing day, with another night in a hotel room. Tomorrow we start our ride to the Med starting on an old train line converted to bike track called the Roger Lapebie Path.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:32 Archived in France Tagged bordeaux cap ferret arcachon lacanau Comments (8)

Dune du Pilat - largest sand dune in Europe

very civilised steps to the top

Sunday 29th Sept 13 (day 29)

I was first woken by the sound of birds chirping - noisy little bastards. The second time by the campers next door arguing about if it was going to rain or not. The third time by the sound of rain drops on the tent - but they were only light so no panic. We had the best nights sleep in the tent to date - mainly due to the mildness of the night. Much easier to sleep camping when it is not so cold.

Being Sunday we had a cooked breakfast of poached eggs. The day does not look too promising for no rain but we potted around and then finally headed off for the afternoon on our bikes to explore around a little. We rode about 6km south out of town to Dune du Pilat. This is the largest sand dune in Europe - 3km long by 117m high - and would you believe there is a staircase for you to climb to the top. Hats off to the French! Much easier climbing 160 steps (although a bit lopsided) to the top of a sand dune than trying to struggle up the slope of the giant sand mound. Pretty cool from the top we could view out into the Atlantic Ocean and inland across a great forested area. We saw parasailers jumping off the dune and riding the thermals over the sand and ocean.

Back down at sea level we had just ducked inside a touristy shop - one of many which line the pathway to the dune - when it started to rain. Came down heavy-ish for about 10 minutes then when it had just about stopped we decided to brave it and head back to the bikes for lunch was waiting in one of the panniers. Well we thought it was, but alas we had forgotten the bread and all we had was a round of very smelly cheese. Don't be put off when I say smelly cheese cause the smellier the better tasting. But it would have to wait until we returned to camp as being a Sunday afternoon there was no hope of finding any kind of shop open to buy bread. Luckily we also had a banana each - which had been sharing the bag with the smelly cheese and although tasted alright did have an aroma which did not relate to banana! Much the same as our jumpers which shared the same bag. Which I guess was transferred to our bodies when we donned the jumpers. Oh well, there are worse things to smell of than smelly cheese, isn't there???

It was still raining when we wanted to leave so we just put on our rain capes - which are still keeping us dry but really do need replacing as all the tape inside on the seams has come away - and rode back towards Arcachon. The rain soon stopped and we were able to dry our capes in the wind as we stood beachside watching the many kite surfers do their stuff.

The bike paths here a fantastic - would be even better if people did not use them for walking when there is a perfectly good footpath right next to it. But so far we have not hit anyone, very close a few times, but if you choose to walk on a velo path, ignore my bell and me yelling 'hello, get off the bike path' well then you deserve to be hit my me on Fonsi - whose brakes are not what they used to be.

We rode along the shore and boulevard and up to the port for about an hour. The rain had stopped so there were lots of people out walking also. Around 4pm hunger got the better of us and we rode back to camp to eat our left behind bread and smelly cheese (which was magnificent by the way.) It rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon and evening with the sun showing its face at about 6pm like it always does. It's like a little tease to say hey maybe you will see more of me tomorrow! We have taken shelter on the veranda of one of the cabins (which are not available for use due to them being closed for the season) as there is nowhere else for tent campers to be out of the rain unless we want to sit in our tiny tent or stand in the toilet block. We decided we will cook dinner here as well until someone shoos us away. So hot shower, cook dinner then bed - should be dark by then - gets dark around 8pm. Not much else we can do and we need the rest after our strenuous day.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:09 Archived in France Tagged du dune arcachon pilat Comments (2)

Sarlat to Bergerac, rest, to Arcachon

finishing one adventure, revving up for the next


above route shown on map traveled by train

Thursday 26th Sept 13 (day 26)

Waking up in a soft bed we were grateful we did not tent last night as it rained. We had a task to get all our stuff back in bike panniers and bags to carry on the bike.

I walked down the shop to get baguette and cheese for breakfast which we ate before loading Sofia and Fonsi up, paid the bill and again thanked the owner for letting us leave our bikes and bags with them for a week. They did not charge for this which was a bonus.

We only have 6.5 km to ride to Sarlat train station but after sitting in a canoe for a week our hearts soon knew what it was like to work again, and the relaxed lazy legs were feeling it also. It's warm again today, but a little cloudy - nice riding weather. The distance took us less than an hour. We stopped at supermarket for lunch supplies which we ate at the train station. Had some time to kill there at the train does not leave for Bergerac until 15.09.

Waiting around the couple of hours for the train is actually more exhausting than doing something physical. We had lunch in the station room and then went and sat outside on the platform to wait for the train to open. Our actual train had already arrived but so was sitting there waiting for a few hours also.

Just 5 minutes before departure were we able to load our bikes and bags - this had to be done separately as the panniers need to be removed from the bikes so they can be hung - the bikes not the bags. We sat and enjoyed the hour and a bit train journey crossing over the rain bridge where our canoe trip ended just yesterday. Onward to Bergerac.

We are spending the next two nights back with Jean and Christine our couch surfing hosts from 2 weeks ago. We only just met Christine today as she was away last time. An easy ride from the station through town, across the river to the familiar street. Wow we are almost local, we know our way around here.

The day was still warm and we spent the next couple of hours sitting outside on the terrace enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Jean even went for a swim in the pool but it was still too chilly for me. Christine cooked a lovely dinner of cep mushrooms (local delicacy that Jean's son Matthew had collected from the nearby woods) omelet, green salad and finished off with cheese. Oh so French - love it.

Tomorrow we need to do some washing, fix the bloody air bed (or buy a new one), do some minor repairs/adjustments to Sofia and Fonsi; all in preparation for our next cycling adventure.

Dry, warm bed for tonight again. Weather tomorrow is supposed to be fine, but there is rain forecast for the weekend, hope we travel far enough to miss it.

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Friday 27th Sept 13 (day 27)

Another beautiful sunny day in Bergerac. We did absolutely bugger all today except sit out on the terrace and enjoy the sunshine. Tell a lie we (or at least the washing machine) did a load of washing which we hung on the fence to dry.

Just before lunch we had a visitor, young bloke Elliot who is wanting to move to Australia in November. His father is a Kiwi so he has a Kiwi passport but he just wanted to ask us a few questions. Think we talked Aussie up enough as he seemed super keen by the time he had left - good luck to him.

Our host Christine had been to the fish market this morning so we had yummy sardines cooked on the bbq for lunch.

Late afternoon Jean drove us to the supermarket and we bought quails to have for dinner again. Very nice. Jean's son Matthew and his girlfriend came round for dinner. Matthew had been out at crack of dawn collecting cep mushrooms again and these were a perfect complement to our roast quails as was the pan fried potatoes cooked in duck fat. OMG how good is the food - finished off with some amazing cheese - very enjoyable evening.

It seems all we did was eat today and I guess that pretty much sums it up. Perfect day all round really.

Oh Lyn did have another go at fixing the flat bed. We got some superglue from the supermarket and used that to attach the patch. This seems to have worked better but we will tell in the morning after we have left it overnight and give it a pump up. If not it will be in the bin and a quick trip to Decathlon will purchase another air bed.

Tomorrow we catch the train to the Atlantic Coast - unfortunately the weather forecast is for rain , but who knows we may have some luck up our sleeves.

We have had a great time in France so far, which is thanks to our lovely hosts who opened their home and lives to us. This is the real way to experience a country - with it's people.

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Saturday 28th Sept 13 (day 28)

Woke up to a cloudy overcast day, not a good sign but it may get better.

We spent the morning reloading our pannier bags and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Christine and Jean and ride Sofia and Fonsi to the train station. It had rained a little in the morning but not enough for us to put on rain poncho and we still were wearing t-shirt and shorts.

20 minutes later we were at the Bergerac train station and I was waiting in line to purchase tickets to Arcachon - a town on the Atlantic Coast and our destination for the next few days. There was a line up and it took almost 25 minutes to get a ticket. The lady behind the counter was helpful and I had no problem purchasing tickets this time. Only a short wait and then the train arrived. Many people were getting in at Bergerac to we had to be quick to get the bikes and bags on after they had all got on and moved out of the way.

Bike hung and bags stored, we took a seat and watched the scenic landscape pass by out the window. The trip from Bergerac to Bordeaux took just over one & a half hours and most of the scenery we saw out the window were grape vines for as far as the eye could see. Not surprising since this is one of Frances major wine producing areas. As we headed closer to the west coast the sky looked a little like it was clearing. A one hour wait and a change of trains in Bordeaux and the weather there was clear and hot.

The train ride from Bordeaux to Arcachon took only 50 minutes and the weather changed dramatically during this time. Suddenly the train windows were being pelted with heavy rainfall and we could see lightening strikes and hear thunder. Oh shit, not a good sign as we had planned on camping tonight. However, by the time we arrived at our station and had to disembark the train, we had passed the bad weather and it was dry. Still cloudy overhead, but did not look like we would encounter a fierce storm. :-)

The tourist office was just down the street where I received a map that showed us the way to the campground. Looked like the weather was going to co-operate so we decided it would still be ok to camp. On this occasion the campground was not close to the waters edge as you would imagine but up on a hill in a forest area. Nice setting but the uphill was murder pushing the bikes. Reaching the reception we were panting and the lady behind the counter recognised the out of breathiness we were experiencing. You are on a bike - she smiled.

We were given a camp site and chose the one next to it instead - looked flatter. Set up the tent, drank a bottle of white wine that we had with us and was still cool enough to drink. Had to have it now as it was not going to get any cooler, the wine that it. That done, and as it was only around 5ish we decided to head back into town to have a look around - this time taking the short cut track. On the way down we accidentally came across an old belvedere (a lookout tower for those not in the know). 75 steps up a spiral staircase to the top which was 25 meters high. We had a quick look up there but could not linger as the old structure could only take 8 people at a time.

Arcachon is obviously a touristy town, which sits on the shores of the Arcachon Basin. Lots of big grand old houses in the streets off the shore front which is now lined with ugly modern looking hotels. It really has a holiday destination atmosphere. There were still a few people around but I imagine in summer this place would be packed. The beach looked nice - sandy and very big and clean. Yep, bet it buzzes here in summer.
We walked along the boulevard until light rain had us running for cover under a tree. Didn't last long and then we stumbled across a supermarket just before its 7.30 closing time. We bought some fresh supplies for dinner - spag bol tonight, made with some very odd mince we bought at the market, and started the walk back up to the campground.

Rain did not interrupt the el fresco cooking of dinner (which somehow Lyn conned me into doing) and it was still dry even after we had showered and retired to the tent. Yippee a good sign. Also the temp seems to be a bit warmer here.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:02 Archived in France Tagged bergerac arcachon Comments (4)

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