Cycling trip 2012

Calais – Dijon – Grenoble – Laffrey – Col Bayard – Gap – Sisteron – Aix-en-Provence – La Grande-Motte – Carcassonne – Toulouse – Bordeaux – Pauillac – Le Verdon-sur-Mer – Royan – Rochefort – Beslé – Le Mont-St-Michel – Caen – Dieppe – Calais.

France trip – a short summary

Total distance: 3248.7 km (2018 miles)
Total time: 176.39 hrs
Avg speed for the trip: 18.4 km/h
Avg dist per day: 112.02 km (70.0 miles)

  • Equipment: bike – Ridgeback – Velocity taken care by Moore’s Cycles guys in Twickenham, with Specialised Avatar Geometry saddle – here.
  • Back panniers – Altura – Dryline – they are waterproof – tested. Couple of Specialised cycling bibs, 2 cycling shirts, Chamois cream – Butt’r and Ozon – both great. One winter and one summer cycling jersey. Clothes change – one shirt and one pair of 3/4 trousers that I could use in the evening after the cycling. Leg warmers. Waterproofs – jacket. Sunblock – SPF 30
  • Camping tent – Terra Nova Voyager Superlite – here, Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus mattress – here, Eris 250 Sleeping Bag by Gelert – here,
  • Nokia N9 – fantastic navigation through more difficult moments, photos and blogging. Absolutely great! (Orange France – pay as you go card – got internet connection following these instruction from internet – have to add French sales men in Orange shops didn’t know about the internet max option for pay as you go cards)
  • Fujifilm EXR 770 and Nokia N9 – photography

I set off for this trip to get the 2000 miles mark (3200 km). Half way through the journey, I have to admit, I felt that my plan might have been too ambitious. But as kilometres piled up and I was getting further and further into the trip my goal became more realistic to achieve. Positive mind set, never mind what the road throws at you, pure joy of seeing all of the beautiful landscapes and setting up smaller goals every day, helped me in accomplishing the whole Tour.

Examples of my route directions thought the evening before. Some of them happen. Some of them are just a starting point for the day ride:

Few of my navigation papers

Few of my navigation papers

Day 1 16/07/2012

Twickenham – Dover – Calais – Saint-Omer

Route map

Dist: 85 km
Time: 4.56
Avg speed: 17.2 km/h
Max speed: 42.9 km/h
Tot time: 4.56
Tot dist: 85km

It is this part of the year when I get to explore new places, meet new people and get saddle soars.

First part of the trip to Waterloo East – not too bad. I just never realised how many people cycle to London every morning.

Ticket to Dover and was on the 8.36.

Waterloo East – Dover

Ferry 12.05. And we are off.

Waiting for the ferry

Embarking from Lane 212

A sandwich and a coffee later I was feeling much better

On the ferry

After a great start – didn’t get lost getting out of the ferry – came the rain and the wind. There was a railway crossing – I went through the first track bike stopped on the second I followed. A bit of skin lost on right elbow, burn marks on nose and chin, and really sore left thumb. Somehow managed to pick myself from the road. Assessed the damage on my body. Thumb the only concern.

Bike – front break all twisted and turned. Managed to unblock front wheel and was slowly off. The landscape around really beautiful but with the wind, rain and the hand couldn’t enjoy as much as I would like to. All the way to Saint-Omer very strong crosswind. Had problems keeping bike in straight line. Had first small hills.

A few injuries after the accident in Calais

Got to St Omer at about 6. Shopping: new mobile card. Few bits and pieces, bike sorted. Hotel, shower, washing, Chinese. Got a feeling my left hand will hurt tomorrow.

St-Omer

My Orange France sorted out

Fixing the bike. front break’s cable had to be changed after my accident

First supper on the road

Hotel in St Omer

Day 2 17/07/2012

Saint-Omer – Arras – Cambrai

Route map

Dist: 119.12 km
Time: 6.24
Avg speed: 18.6 km/h
Max speed: 44.6 km/h
Tot time: 11.20
Tot dist: 204.1 km

I know I said it before but: what a difference a day makes.

It was cloudy in the morning but not too cold. After a quick breakfast I was out at 8.30. Surprised how many nasty little hills there are in here.

Had to take it slowly as the thumb wasn’t working properly. Had Ibuprofen in the morning but I could hardly put left hand on handlebar. Had to change gears with the right hand on both sides. Rather tricky changing left gears with the wrong hand.

Landscapes on the route

First 60 km at average speed 16.4 km/h. Slow and easy, so I was really surprised when at 1pm I had 75 km done. After the km 60 route went a bit smoother and hills weren’t so steep. I had a nice sandwich in Arras and decided to cycle a little bit more. Direction Cambrai – very nice and quick ride.

Lunch in Arras

Earlier on steeper hills were in Colonne Ricouart and then Divion. Got to the hotel at 4 and went out after washing my cycling gear and a shower.

It is sunny!!! It is warm!!! Whole day kept dry. Couple of raindrops – literally – on whole route today.

Soon supper and then rest.

Supper in the Hotel next door.

Hotel F1 – unfortunately they are placed out of centre of the town and on motorway. Otherwise an excellent option

Day 3 18/07/2012

Cambrai – Bohain-en-Vermandois – Ribemont – Crecy-sur-Serre – Laon

Route map

Dist: 106.19 km
Time: 5.57.51
Avg speed: 17.7 km/h
Max speed: 45.9 km/h
Tot time: 17.19
Tot dist: 310.4 km

Another great day on bike. Slightly more difficult than yesterday due to constant head or cross head wind. I had to work a bit harder. Loads of up and down hills as usual.

Started at 8.15. Sky all cloudy but dry and warm. Slowly the temperature started rising and by 1 pm I had sun again. I might have to put on sunblock tomorrow. First sun tan today.

Cycled through smaller villages as the thumb was still sore. A bit scared of joining bigger traffic. The route was great. Nice changes of scenery. Good fun. Shame the wind. It reminded me of the time when I cycled through France couple of years ago.

Nice little Château on the route

Windmill in Dehéries

On the road

Staying at camping in Laon (€6.85). Nice and relatively quiet. Had nice French plate with choice of cheese, pate, salad, sausage (€10). Glass of wine… More coming soon.

Day 4 19/07/2012

Laon – Fismes – Eperney – Chalons-en-Champagne

Route map

Dist: 122.49 km
Time: 6.38.06
Avg speed: 18.2 km/h
Max speed: 49.3 km/h
Tot time: 23.57
Tot dist: 431.9 km

Another great day for a ride. Weather was great – cloudy but warm. Sun came out after 2pm which was great considering yesterday’s sunburns. I had to put sunblock on for the first time this year :-) .

Breakfast at camping. Can of tuna, biscuits and nice fresh apple juice. Was off at 8 am. First 80 km on secondary roads. A few really steep uphills.

View from the hill in Longueval-Barbonval

The whole part of the route was marked as a scenic and it means hills. The memorable stretch was between Crugny and Pourcy.

Another hill to go through

After planning the route last night I thought that even with the scenic route and all I will try to get to Eperney. Got there at 1.

View of first vineyards on the route

Great ride through – Parc naturel régional de la Montagne de Reims

As always great views from hills

After a nice lunch and reality check: legs, mind, thumb. Decided to follow to Chalons-en-Champagne. Took the main route. D3 and it was fantastic. Great tarmac, so fast and not too much traffic. Did last 30 km in no time.

Was out of the camping at 5 for a little shopping. Camping in Chalons-en-Champagne was €10.80.

Thumb is getting better by day. I could grip properly the handlebar on steeper parts of the route – the importance of opposable thumbs. :-D

See what tomorrow brings.

Day 5 20/07/2012

Chalons-en-Champagne – Montier-en-Der – Bar-sur-Aube

Route map

Dist: 107.61 km
Time: 5.33.26
Avg speed: 19.3 km/h
Max speed: 42.7 km/h
Tot time: 29.34
Tot dist: 539.9km

Today the route took me through relatively flat area. Only the last 15 or so km were tougher. I think there was a a little hill about 300m.

The ride would have been totally enjoyable if it wasn’t for headwind. Blowing all day.

Sunflowers on Tour de France

Wheat fields

Always great to see the road that I travelled uphill from the top

Stopped a few times on the route to have a small break when my legs were getting tired. As it was flat route I had to push all the time. The surface of the road wasn’t helping either. Really slow.

Supper was really nice

Got to Bar-en-Aube before 3pm. Staying at the hotel tonight. It started raining about 1 and it hasn’t stopped yet. Hotel La Pomme D’Or was €42.

Beer tasting evening

It looks like I will have more hills tomorrow. And they are getting higher.

I have to choose sensible route for tomorrow. Need to find overnight place before I get to Dijon.

Day 6 21/07/2012

Bar-sur-Aube – Montigny-sur-Aube – Chatilion-s-Seine – St-Seine-l’Abbaye

Route map

Dist: 119.38 km
Time: 6.21.46
Avg speed: 18.7 km/h
Max speed: 51.0 km/h
Tot time: 35.56
Tot dist: 659.3 km

It was the best day of the ride during this trip so far.

… Bur first. Yesterday I had a cricket hitchhiker riding with me for about 10 km. Don’t know where it came from, suddenly was there on the handlebar. Good to have company although there was not much of a conversation.

I was really scared of the route today. Wherever I looked on the map last night there were hills and more hills and I felt a bit tired last night too. Probably the rain and the road.

Last night had a beer tasting in the hotel and this morning felt much better. Toss of a coin which road to take. And I got onto a great route all day.

Very smooth, simple navigation, beautiful sites. Smells of freshly cut grass took me back to childhood times when was going out with my grandfather. What a great time! He would put me on the back of this beautiful, big, white horse (‘Sokół’ – ‘Falcon’) and take me with him to check all of the things around the farm and fields.

Had a few hills just towards the end of the day.

A few hills ahead

All those smells from my childhood

Ampilly-le-Haut

Staying at a camping that is practically empty. Just one camper-van.  No office, just take your spot, set up and enjoy. Keeper comes after 7 to get the fee and that’s it. Camping was €5.70.

Camping this time

Went to have a shower – just one handle – pulled – cold water. Oh no…, I thought. then as I started to have a shower, water got warmer and warmer. It was perfect. Now – about 6 – couple more cars came in. There will be a bit more life in the camp tonight.

Let’s see what the little village has to offer.

Great little place. Sitting on the camp sipping nice beer, last rays of sun.

Great relaxing evening at the camping

Tomorrow hell of a hill to start with to get to Dijon. Then will see. :-D

Day 7 22/07/2012

St-Seine-l’Abbaye – Dijon – Beaune – Chalon-sur-Saone – Tournus

Route map

Dist: 144.85 km
Time: 6.57.47
Avg speed: 20.7 km/h
Max speed: 54.0 km/h
Tot time: 42.56
Tot dist: 804.3 km

Yesterday, I passed by and stayed near sources of river Seine. Some people say there are healing powers there. So I put my thumb in. :-)

As I passed by one of the farms – cows had bells on them. Different tones as well – nice music. It was really great day yesterday.

Well. This morning slower than usual. Started 8.50 after breakfast and all preparations in the morning.

Tent was soaking wet from condensation but I was dry inside. First few km nice uphills, steep around 2 km each. Slow going up, then the route came down to Dijon. Really nice town. I thought it was bigger. Couldn’t leave the place of my favourite mustard out of the trip.

Start of the long hill

Great view of the road ahead

View of Dijon

Dijon

After Dijon everything changed. I had broken the cloud barrier. The wind came from the back. Sun was up. Road was flat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was cycling 35-40 km/h for 40 km or so.

Great lunch

Great lunch

Great lunch

Then when I got tired I stopped for a lunch.

Menu:

Terrine
L’Escargot
Steak with chips and red wine sauce
Fromage, old camembert nice and ripe
Cassis ice cream.

Then I was off in a search of a place to sleep.

Car park on the route

Views from the rode

Shaded area on the road – great comfort

I had in mind Chalon-sur-Saone but there was a Hare Krishna conference and all of the town was orange, nice but not very useful for me. So I had to head down south.

Then I passed by closed hotels in-existent camping places, and all the time km were piling up. I went off the road looking for camping – one of the posh ones – nothing – not even space for a small tent.

Back to main route. I got to Tournus. First Motel – I was in. I got my private garage. :-)

Supper at the restaurant next to Motel

Motel with private garage

As it was sunny on the road I had to re-apply sun cream. After getting to the room I realised that my ear was peeling off. I mean off big time.

During the whole adventure of the day suddenly I realised that I was on the road for a week already.

It’s been great adventure-wise. Probably would have enjoyed more without the day 1 accident. Weather made such a difference in past couple of days. I was much more lively on the road. Having my thumb back – almost – is another great bonus.

So many aero clubs around. French must be obsessed with flying small planes.

Day 8 23/07/2012

Tournus – Cuisery – Pont-d’Ain

Route map

Dist: 78.24 km
Time: 3.54.23
Avg speed: 20.0 km/h
Max speed: 51.0 km/h
Tot time: 46.53
Tot dist: 882.8 km

After yesterday’s long hours in the saddle my bottom was begging for a bit of a shorter day. I have to consider that I’m about to enter some taller hills. So I settled for the overnight in Pont-d’Ain after 80 km of ride. Found really nice camping so I felt there was no point of rushing any further.

It was sunny all day. Not even little cloud, so had to hide into shade of a tree from time to time. The whole ride just great. After a few km I realised that there are some higher hills on the horizon. And they are getting taller with every km I get closer to them. I guess tomorrow I will see a bit more of Alps.

Getting into Alps

Great views of Alps ahead

First road-sign to Grenoble

Landscape changed again. Yesterday’s vineyards have gone and it was very rural again. Little flowers by the roadside had such a great scent. There were a few more trucks than usual on the road.

Camping was set at 1pm. Really early. Washing and shopping done. A bit of time off.

Camping at Pont-d’Ain

Camping at Pont-d’Ain

Shopping list – fruit, cereal bars, beer, and some other stuff

Camping at Pont-d’Ain

Yesterday, I passed by the place where “Niepce – discovered photography”. It was St-Loup-de-Varennes. Can’t remember which one was first to fix a photographic image – Talbot or Niepce – there was a bigger story there.

Day 9 24/07/2012

Pont-d’Ain – Amberieu-en-Bugey – Morestel – Les Abrets – Montferrat – La Veronniere

Route map

Dist: 84.77 km
Time: 4.29.15
Avg speed: 18.8 km/h
Max speed: 52.1 km/h
Tot time: 51.28
Tot dist: 968.00 km

Well, where do I start. I think last evening.

I set up the camp and then had a long lay under the trees chilling out. Then had a great pizza and couple of beers and it was time to retire. As I was settling down in the tent I looked up and… I just haven’t seen so many stars so close and so bright. So I listened to some nice jazz and fall asleep gazing at stars. This morning I had a coffee, fresh baguette – great start to the day.

As I left the camp site at 8.30 sun was already coming strong. First 50 km were nice and soft. Then slow climbing started with small downhills – practically till I got to Montferrat.

Great opportunity to have a little shower on the road

Getting into Alps

Getting through hills in Alps

Getting though hills

Bless the sun – it was warm! all the way. Had to stop more often to get a break, get a sip of water or just simply get into a shade. I went up slowly and judging by the time I was cycling up and the gradient – I think I got somewhere in the regions of 600 – 700 mt.

Views of the lakes and hills – chocolate box

By the time I was passing by Montferrat I was ready to set the camp. There was a sign to camping in the middle of the village so I decided to have a go. Got to the camp site and got a place. I set up for the night, had a shower, washed all the dirt from the road, and there was loads of it. Water was running black for good few minutes. Washing off sun cream and road’s dust can be quite a challenge.

Now sipping beer and enjoying the view of the lake. What a great day. And it is not over yet.

Camping in La Veronniere

The guy from the reception gave me a nice route to go to Grenoble tomorrow.  Then Napoleon’s route is waiting

The lake looks great. Spent some time hiding in shaded areas. Decided I had enough sun exposure for one day. Then came supper. Now back in the camp. My next door neighbour – spends in the camping 5 months. He is from Lyon. Told me they had really bad weather here too. Loads of rain. The whole camp was flooded.

They – the next door guys like 6-7 big tents got a party today. It is 80th birthday. The guy is Italian and cooked for the whole big family. I am ready for bed. Temperature is slowly dropping and I hope there will be a star spectacle soon.

Day 10 25/07/2012

La Veronniere – Rives – St-Quentin – Grenoble – Vizille – Laffrey

Route map

Dist: 91.64 km
Time: 5.43.32
Avg speed: 16.0 km/h
Max speed: 44.10 km/h
Tot time: 57.15
Tot dist: 1059.90 km

So the stars weren’t as big as the night before. Camping was nice but at 1.30 some French kids started a party. All neighbours came out and there was a drunken argument till 2.30. Then the guys moved to the lake and followed the party until they collapsed at about 3.00.

The guy in the office on the camping gave me yesterday a cycling route to Grenoble from St-Quentin. I had to get to St-Quentin. It wasn’t as easy as it looked on the map. I set off and it turned out that the most obvious routes were closed off. Tried one – quite often when the route is closed bikes can go through. Today it wouldn’t. Gracefully accepting defeat I cycled back and managed to find an alternative route.

Going to St-Quentin

Going to St-Quentin

Going to St-Quentin

First 1000km

Got to the cycling path and it was just what doctor ordered. Beautiful cycle by the river Isere. Landscapes – I seen pictures like this on chocolate boxes. Today it was there for me. All 20km of chocolate box views. Magnificent. And the best thing – most of this ride was on nice shaded path.

Beautiful cycling path along the river Isere

Beautiful cycling path along the river Isere

Beautiful cycling path along the river Isere

Chocolate box views

Getting to Grenoble!

Couldn’t believe my luck. Still, due to temperature I was expelling masses of liquid. So I took more in. When I got to Grenoble it was 1.00 and scorching hot. Stopped at a petrol station and had a sandwich and replenished all the water.

The road to Vizille was relatively easy and I was there in no time. Then there was a decision – Napoleon’s Route or some different one. I was warned by people and signposts that the road to Laffrey won’t be easy. It is marked at 12% and goes on for about 7km or so.

As I started going up I realised it won’t be easy. First few hundred meters and all of the water reserve had abandoned me in a sudden burst of perspiration.

I had to stop every km or sometimes even less to get some liquids in and have a little rest. Slowly and slowly, I was going up – higher and higher.

Going up to Laffrey

Going up to Laffrey

Going up to Laffrey

Finally, after good, long cycle I was in Laffrey. 904 mts up. My first Col.

Set up the camp, washed – stuff and myself, and was ready for a beer.

Camping in Laffrey

The restaurant at the camp is really great. Tried some French specials: Andouillette de Troyes and some nicely prepared grenouilles.

Tomorrow direction Gap. See what is awaiting round the corner.

I’m definitely closer to stars tonight, and it will be really dark. I’m kind of in the middle of nowhere.

Day 11 26/07/2012

Laffrey – Col des Festreaux – Col Bayard – Tallard

Route map

Dist: 105.33 km
Time: 6.39.02
Avg speed: 15.8 km/h
Max speed: 61 km/h
Tot time: 63 56
Tot dist: 1165.4 km

Day 2 in Alps.

I was a bit tired yesterday so decided to sleep a bit longer. Was up around 8 and out of the camp by 9.

But first let’s finish the story from last night. It turned out that the froggies we were having were Polish. I didn’t have any patriotic feelings though and in they went. They were really good.

Now, let’s go to what happened today.

It was a fantastic day of cycling. Beautiful weather – still hot and sunny. Loads of up and down the mountain.

At first there was a series of uphills. Practically till the first Col it was all slowly going up and up and up. Views were magnificent. All the way. Stopped for a photo a few times but could have been taking pics every few hundred meters.

In the Alps

Breakfast time

Breakfast in La Mure

Nice water feature

My gear in Alps

My gear in Alps

After the first Col came a descent that tested breaks and as the road looked really clean I went down. That was when I got the max of 61 km/h. The fastest I have gone on this bike.

Constant beautiful views

Constant beautiful views

Constant beautiful views

Constant beautiful views

Cycling in Alps

Cycling in Alps

Great views all the way

Great views all the way

Great downhill

Then there was a series of relatively flat ride roads. I didn’t realise I was going up again. There are slow slopes that kept me guessing – is it up or down the hill. There was no problem telling the difference. My mind was saying – it’s down and my legs were saying – hold on. There is something wrong here. It happened on several occasions.

I had a breakfast in La Mure, then stopped for lunch in La Fere. It was 14 km from Gap but my body was running out of juice.

Had couple of Cokes and quiche with chips. Wise decision.

Great views all the way

Next after La Fere till Laye it was a hell of an up the mountain. Then the gradient was a little bit more friendly. I was on my way to Col Bayard. (1246 mtrs).

Getting up Col Bayard

Getting to Col Bayard

Col Bayard 1246mtrs

It was funny how I was bargaining with my body and my mind to get through this one. It was marked at 12 % as well. Same yesterday. Maybe shorter on steep bit. It went on for about 3 km and then it was a bit more friendly.

When I started going up I thought I won’t be able to make it. Then bit by bit the distance from the top was getting less and less. I was arguing with my mind and legs for another few hundred meters, till next shaded area, till next curve and then to safe stopping point.

Then after Laye the slope started getting milder. And I did get to the top.

Nobody would prepare me for the downhill I had to take afterwards to Gap. 5 km of a steepest serpentine I have been through. All the way marked at 12%. Terrific and terrifying. In Gap stopped at the tourist info and as I prefer quieter places I cycled out and found Hotel. There was supposed to be a camping but I missed it. So Hotel it is tonight.

Shopping list

Went to supermarket to get few bits and pieces. Toilet paper (wet wipes), sun cream, fruit and sparkling water.

Can see the tops of the Alps from the hotel. It has been a short but fascinating adventure. Great food by the way.

There was a very good restaurant at the Hotel

Now let’s head down the sea. Where? Tomorrow somehow will tell.

Day 12 27/07/2012

Tallard – Sisteron – Manosque

Route map

Dist: 92.71km
Time: 4.30.43
Avg speed: 20.5 km/h
Max speed: 48.3 km/h
Tot time: 68.29
Tot dist: 1258.3 km

After great supper and nice wine I didn’t set up the alarm – so was up 8.35. I set off after breakfast close to 10. By this time sun was really high up and really nicely hot.

Route was really easy as I was coming down hill most of the time.

Landscape was changing constantly.

Apple orchard

Last views of Alps

Sisteron turned out to be a very picturesque old town. By the time I got there the temperature started to be a bit too high. I was ok but the road started melting down and I started to slow down.

Getting to Sisteron

Sisteron

Decided to get only to Manosque give my body a bit a a break and hopefully start much earlier tomorrow.

After Sisteron landscape changed again and there were some olive plantations and then just before Manosque vineyards started again.

Near Saint-Auban

Near Saint-Auban

I bet there is a name for this hot, dry wind that was blowing on the road – coming from south. The scent of hot pine trees was really strong most of the day.

When I got to Manosque it was either hotel with air-conditioning or camping. Found the camping first so here I am.

It was so nice and warm that it took me good time to set up the tent and settle down. Then there was a very long shower. Got the body temperature back to something reasonable and then headed back to the town for some provisions.

Diner al fresco. Some nice salads, fresh baguette and good cold beer. Sky is cloudy now so temperature dropped down slightly but the air is still – not a tiny breeze. Everybody on the camp and in town is acting and moving in slow motion. Like it. :-)

Manosque – very old town as well. Nice narrow streets with a lot of tiny little shops. All very old but well kept. Wondered around the old town for a while got my supper and headed back to the camp. Quite a few tourists,

Nearly forgot. Wherever I saw a water feature on my way I had a go. There were couple of showers in the field, (great French way of watering crops), then in couple of towns they were watering grass in central square, even stopped by a flower shop that was spraying water onto hanging banquets.

Really impressed, and admiring more and more the guys that do Tour de France professionally. There are no tricks to beat the weather on the road. Even on drugs.

Cyclist’s sun tan

Day 13 28/07/2012

Manosque – Aix-en-Provence – Marimas – Istres

Route map

Dist: 111.54 km
Time: 5.42.01
Avg speed: 19.5 km/h
Max speed: 41 km/h
Tot time: 74.13
Tot dist: 1370.1 km

Great decision to stop and settle a little earlier yesterday. This morning I was up 5.50 just for a couple of minutes and then I was up and having breakfast at 6.50. In bed :-) .

There were couple of very small showers in the morning but at the start of cycling at 8.15 the sky was clean and ready to beam on me.

On the road again

On the road again

Le Pont de Mirabeau over the river La Durance

Le Pont de Mirabeau over the river La Durance

The ride to Aix-en-Provencewas nice and relatively easy. The sun was calmer and I managed to ride nicely hill about 12. I had a first smell if sea when I was going through Payrolles. Just for couple of hundred meters.

Chateau Virant

Then when I went through Aix-en-Provence I knew that behind one of the curves I will find the sea. And there it was. It was an emotional moment. Part of the trip was accomplished.

View of the Sea

View of the Sea – my gear

View of the Sea

View of the Sea – special place for me, although it didn’t seam so for other people.

View of the Sea

The water was really salty

Then I cycled through Miramas and deciced to take a quieter route along the coastal line tomorrow.

Staying at a hotel in Istres tonight. Supper soon.

Supper – some pasta tonight

Hotel Etap

Day 14 29/07/2012

Istres – Port-St-Louis – Arles – Aigues-Mortes

Route map

Dist: 110.55 km
Time: 5.45.31
Avg speed: 19.1 km/h
Max speed: 37.2 km/h
Tot time: 79.59
Tot dist: 1480.7 km

Really tired today. I went in all of the directions today and somehow had to pedal against really nasty wind all day. Even with my positive mind set it was a challenge.

Had really good breakfast this morning at the hotel and was off relatively early at 8.30.

Never get surprised enough by the variety of resources France has got. I started cycling through swamps. Rather strange smell. There was nothing on the horizon and suddenly I saw fields that looked like rice plantations. I had no idea they produced rice here, but they do. They were selling local produce all along the road today and rice was there. Stopped a few times to eat couple of peaches or some really nice apples.

It was a good Sunday ride.

Very windy day

Then – a few km later rice was growing on one side of the road and on the other I started to see more and more vineyards. Loads of ‘Mas de …’ Then there were only vineyards. I think the most popular variety here is Moscat.

Then of course sunflowers and flat, really flat terrain. I think they produce salt in this region as well.

The wind was coming from the Grand Rhone. Another great French river on my way.

Liquid intake in the past few days has increased really drastically. I think by 1 I have gone through 4.5 liters. By the time I got to the hotel (€78.80) in the afternoon (couldn’t find camping around) I was through 6 ltrs or more.

Went to the town – nice old marketplace and loads of tourists. Got myself roast chicken and some fresh tomatoes for supper. There is nice Merlot waiting as well.

wyprawa_2012 img_0942_1

Beautiful little streets of Aigues-Mortes

Let’s see where can I go tomorrow. If the wind doesn’t stop I will be off the coast to mainland in no time :-)

Oh, was forgetting, I read somewhere that cicadas can produce noise around 100dB. After riding with the constant noise of this guys for 4 days or so. They’re really very noisy and constant and consistent.

Day 15 30/07/2012

Aigues-Mortes – La Grande-Motte – Palavas-les-Flots – Pignan – Montagnac – Pezenas – Valros

Route map

Dist: 101.65 km
Time: 5.57.32
Avg speed: 17 km/h
Max speed: 47.6 km/h
Tot time: 85.57
Tot dist: 1582.5 km

Day of two completely different rides.

First part on the sea side – more difficult to get around and find my way.

Part 2 back to mainland and hills.

The first part took a little longer. I wanted to visit La Grande Motte. Went around the town reminiscing one of the trips we had with a dancing and singing group 24 (25) years ago?

I managed to find familiar places. Took some photos. It took a while to find my way around. So I did additional few km in the town itself.

La Grande Motte – after all these years

La Grande Motte – it all seemed so modern 25 years ago

La Grande Motte

La Grande Motte

La Grande Motte – the stage

La Grande Motte

Even though I’m not the best remembering things there were a few places that stayed the same all these years. The stage, the library with writing on the building, squares on the beach were the group performed, dunes we had our space on the beach, showers all around.

La Grande Motte – little squares we performed on

La Grande Motte – great to have a shower

La Grande Motte – dunes

Although nice and more bike friendly I decided to abandon the coastal ride and get into the mainland and proper roads. There were too many tourists and not enough information how to cycle around.

As soon as I hit the normal roads hills started. I have to say I missed them. Flat runs are not as exciting. Soon after I was climbing the hill I was looking at when cycling along the beach. There was an up and then long and fantastic down hill. Just great.

Hills again – I missed them

Getting into hills

I am sure it wasn’t a mirage. As I was cycling slowly up the hill before Villeveyrac I saw a massive cat crossing the road. Puma or something similar? I’m pretty sure the thing was real.

Then I went through Pezenas. It was around 4.30 and I wanted to get to Beziers. Another 20 or so km. Went through first few km and suddenly this strong headwind started again. As I struggled through the wind and uphill there was a sign to camping. Took the little road. I found this great camp in the middle of the vineyard Montrose. And there was 1 pitch left. Got to be a sign.

Loads of residents so nice and familiar – my tent – way away from the main place so it will be quiet at night.

Glass of wine

Nokia N9 charging from Powermonkey Extreme

As it is a vineyard got to taste the wine. Maybe even two different ones.

Camping Montrose

Camping Montrose

Day 16 31/07/2012

Valros – Beziers – Nardonne – Carcassonne

Route map

Dist: 103.78 km
Time: 5.39.42
Avg speed: 18.3 km/h
Max speed: 40.2 km/h
Tot time: 91.38
Tot dist: 1686.4 km

Another very hot day on the road.

Started very early this morning. Was on the road by 7.50. It was already very hot. The temperature didn’t.drop much during the night. It was really warm in the tent.

First part to Beziers – a lot of uphill and slow rise. Then after the trip to Nardonne landscape changed again. I was I the vineyard valley.

Landscapes on the way to Beziers

Getting through more hills

Between Nardonne and Carcassonne

As I was getting closer to Carcassonne ride became more and more difficult due to temperature. Had to stop quite a lot to cool down.

Got to the hotel, washed my stuff and was out to see the castle.

Another night in Hotel Etap

It looks and smells exactly the same as 25 years ago. There is the same smell of urine. It brought back memories. :-D

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Carcassonne – view from the castle

Now to plan for tomorrow.

Day 17 01/08/2012

Carcassonne – Toulouse (Aucamville)

Route map

Dist: 122.34 km
Time: 6.26 37
Avg speed: 18.9 km/h
Max speed: 49.8 km/h
Tot time: 98.07
Tot dist: 1808.9 km

Woke up at 7.05 this morning. Looked out of the window – nice and sunny. Went for breakfast and suddenly sky turned completely grey. Let’s hurry, I though, and was on the road by 8.40.

On the way to Touluse

First few km went very smooth. I stopped for a drink at km 30 then at km 50. There I had couple of peaches and drank a lot of water. Checked the map and realised that there is a cycling path to Toulouse nearly from the point I was standing along the canal.

The easiest option would be to catch it at km 75. So I set of again hoping that the path will be nice.

There was nothing to moan about. Well, there was a bit of head wind after km 50 but really nothing major.

I managed to find the path OK and soon was cycling along the Canal de Midi.

Cycling along the canal

Cycling along the canal

Path was really nicely laid out along the canal. Had a look at the map again and realised that it goes through Toulouse and further. On km 90 felt some snap at the back of the bike. It was Toulouse already, and I decided to go through the town. I could always stay in some hotel in the centre. Cycling through the town went really smooth. I saw quite a bit of Toulouse and was out by 2.15. As it happens on km 110 I saw a sign to camping.

Set up the tent, checked the bike – two spokes broken. After the shower went to the reception and as it turns out on this trip – there was a Decathlon 5 km from the camp. Got on the bike, found the shop, Christofer – very nice guy, after checking few bits and pieces, gave me 30 min sorting out time.

Repair at Decathlon

I went to Quick – for a chicken and bacon sandwich with loads of chips and coke.

Quick snack at Quick

Came back and the guy was finishing to true my wheel. Couple of minutes later I was sorted. Christofer told me they don’t do this jobs normally but as the manager wasn’t there he could.

19€- great and he insisted in giving me couple of spare spokes. Wouldn’t know what to do with them anyhow but got couple of spare spokes. The problem with spokes is not to fix them but to sort out the tension afterwards.

Anyhow, was back to the camp 7.15. Now sitting on the loan, sipping cold beer and watching the sunset.

Camping Le Rupe

Camping Le Rupe – A bit of pasta and a beer to finish off the day

Ah, forgot to say – as I got to the camp the sun came out to dry my washing.

Wasn’t it a perfect day? I think I will continue to cycle along the canal tomorrow as well. Direction Agen. Cycling path along the canal all day. :-D

Day 18 02/08/2012

Toulouse (Aucamville) – Moissac – Agen – Prayssas

Route map

Dist: 122.19 km
Time: 6.31.43
Avg speed: 18.7 km/h
Max speed: 34.0 km/h
Tot time: 104.43
Tot dist: 1931.4 km

The day woke up at 7.15 for me and I was out of the camp by 8.30.

Had my breakfast by one of many canal features. Then it was just pure pedalling and enjoying the scenery.

Had a look at the weather forecast last night and I knew there will be a head wind. 10 km/h – fairly constant. So today it was about beautiful scenery and taking time as the road and the wind wouldn’t let me develop higher speeds.

Breakfast spot

Few minutes after the breakfast which was on km 10, sun started coming through clouds. I had two options: steady pace on the canal sheltered from the sun or slightly faster ride on the road in full sun. Went for the canal.

It was very hot so the smell came to me far before I saw the field

Stopped at km 40, in Montech. Had a large coffee, coke and the best ham sandwich ever!

Beautifully made – really nice French bread (kind of massive baguette), loads of nice butter, thick and many slices of ham, lettuce leaves and to enhance the flavour a few slices of cornishons. Oh, it was heaven!

Around Moissac – canal went on top of the river

Then I went back to the canal route as sun was rather strong. Stopped a few times mostly to give my bottom a bit of rest and have a few sips of water.

At km 95 I run out of energy so I dug out a little saussison out of my bags and slowly restored some energy.

A few km later found a restaurant open by the path. All day I was thinking: there are so many cyclists on the path and not even one drink or food sale point?

After a coke and nice ice-cream I was ready to follow, with my energy levels fully restored.

Got to Agen and the closest camping was another 10 km away. Slowly cycled my way to the camp. Had 2 pizzas and a very large beer.

Very nice spot for the camping but it was on the expensive side. I think about 20 Euros

Now planning my route for tomorrow. Getting close to the next seaside. :-)

Day 19 03/08/2012

Prayssas – Colayrac-St-Ciro – Damazan – Casteljaloux – Bazas – Hostens

Route map

Dist: 123.45 km
Time: 6.10.39
Avg speed: 19.9 km/h
Max speed: 46.8 km/h
Tot time: 110.58
Tot dist: 2055.7 km

There are 3 parts of the trip today. Well 4, if I count the flat tire.

After cleaning the tent, I pushed the bike to toilet area and realised I had a front tire completely flat. At first couldn’t find the puncture. Then, I think I found a reason. Some glass or metal cut a bit through the tyre and left a bit of a wire sticking in. Managed to clean it, put new inner tube and then had a shower and all preparation for the road. I think I was out of the camp by 9.30 or so. Didn’t check the watch.

First 30 or so km took me through the most amazing plantations I could think of. Apples – all sorts, pears – all sorts, peaches, nectarines, think of a fruit it was there. They there were even plantations of kiwi fruit.

After km 32, I entered the hills. I was going up and down till km 85 or more. A few really nice and steep ones. First to Cap-du-Bosc and the 2nd – on the way to Poussignac – marked on the map as a down hill. :-)

Going up to Cap-du-Bosc

Just before Antagnac

It was long straight uphill around around km 60 of the ride

At km 60 I stopped for lunch in Antagnac at ‘O Lusitano’. Very nice Portuguese restaurant.

After lunch I had a few more hills to go up and then the road started going flat as I entered Landes de Gascogne. I went along the Lands couple of years ago when I travelled to Santiago de Compostela (north to south). This time I started going across and I will change the direction tomorrow. North – into the land of Medoc. :-)

2000 km mark

Shower in the field

Pinus Enormus

As I was getting tired and restless on the bike, I came across camping in Hostens. I can hit the route up north straight from here tomorrow.

Camping is really massive. I think they have got the exchange of groups time – so it is really quiet. Hope it will stay this way for the night. There is a party (fair) in the town but I don’t think I will be able to make it.

Supper on the camp side.

Good life in the camping

Feeling good

Front tire looks OK at the moment. We will see in the morning.

Got to double check the ferry going from Le Verdon to Royan. Do they run on Sunday as well?

Day 20 04/08/2012

Hostens – Le Barp – Gradignan – Decathlon Villenave-d’Ornon – Bordeaux – Pauillac

Route map

Dist: 121.07 km
Time: 6.30.23
Avg speed: 18.5 km/h
Max speed: 37.4 km/h
Tot time: 117.36
Tot dist: 2177.8 km

Just shows how I cannot plan my days on a trip. :-)

Woke up in good mood at 7.00. First there was a church bell ringing, then the main square one and then some other – rather erratic.

Took down the tent checked tyre pressure, all ok. Shower and I was getting out by 8.30.

As I was pushing the bike out of the camp there was this rubbing noise coming from the back wheel. Another spoke gone and wheel tiny bit out of true. So I spent first 60 km going in direction of Bordeaux looking for and hoping to find a bike shop.

Finally, managed to ask somebody that knew and I was off to Decathlon again.

Guys in there told me – it will be better to fix my wheel again.

Second time in couple of days trying to get my back wheel sorted.

This time I had 1.5 hrs break. Had my breakfast/lunch and by 2 I was on the road again.

The shortest way to Medoc was through Bordeaux. I put the navigation on and was off. I have been on part of today’s route couple of years ago when I was going to Santiago de Compostela.

Bordeaux – looked better this time. I cycled through the town centre. Soon I was out of Bordeaux getting into the land of Haut Medoc.

France amazes me every day and this part of today’s trip was yet another surprise as well. From Bordeaux to Pauillac there are vineyards all the way. Chateau after chateau. One can see such a difference in affluence of people from this area. Maybe chateau’s are not bigger than the ones I passed on my way already but here they really show off to the public.

Got to Pauillac and found camping straight away, but there was notice – no more tents. Waited for the guy from the reception that saw me arriving and nicely gave me space for tonight.

As it turns out, there is a big reggae festival in the town. Loads and loads of tents on the riverside, people everywhere, supermarket nearly empty. Spliffs of such a size that Bob Marley would be proud. :-D

Camping really great – far enough from the town to hear some music but not too loud. There is even toilet paper.

Camping in Pauillac

Wine tasting in the evening

Day 21 05/08/2012

Pauillac – Le Verdon-sur-Mer – Royan – Rochefort

Route map

Dist: 109.08 km
Time: 5.18.06
Avg speed: 20.5 km/h
Max speed: 38.4 km/h
Tot time: 122,56
Tot dist: 2287.1 km

It was going to rain at night – not even a drop. Was out of the tent at 7 and enjoying the sunrise. Pretty cool.

Sunrise in Pauillac

Packed quickly and was out of the camp by 8.30.

Cycling first km was a pleasure. Really nice road, not too much traffic. All the rasta world landed here yesterday. People were camping in vineyards, by the roadside, in tents, in cars, on the grass, on the beach. It went on, and on – more then 6km. I met a few totally spaced out people even 15 km from the main event.

Beautiful fields on the way to Lesparre-Medoc

Got to Lesparre-Medoc really nicely and without problems. It looked on the map like a good place for a breakfast break unfortunately all coffee shops were closed yet, so I went to the next village and got some croissants there.

All the morning the sky was getting darker and darker. When I came out of the bakery first drops of rain came down. As I was leaving the village – rain got worse so I stopped on the bus stop. Had my breakfast and put waterproofs on.

From there on (km 32) it didn’t stop raining and it got really heavy at moments. Stopped couple of times on the route. Very short breaks – otherwise it was constant pedalling in pretty intense traffic. Got to Le Verdon absolutely soaking wet. Got ticket to the ferry and went to change shirt and socks. Got a warmer jumper on and waited for the boat.

Ferry to Royan

The trip was really short 1/2 hr – maybe. Had couple of large coffees and a sandwich.

Out of the ferry in Royan – it was still raining. Put my ‘waterproofs’ on again and started the route to Rochefort. It rained all the way through. It was a bit warmer than the Medoc part of the trip. The last bit of the route turned out to be a very busy road. I just completely ignored all of the drivers and went on to Rochefort.

Found few camping places on the entrance to the town but I thought I would get better a hotel tonight. Far too many things to wash and dry.

At the hotel – it looks like a battlefield. Wet stuff everywhere – drying.

All my stuff out and drying

All my stuff out and drying

All my stuff out and drying

When I came out to get something to eat, sun came out it was really great and warm for a few moments but it started raining again when I was coming back to the hotel. The sky looked much more friendly though.

Ibis in Rochefort

Hopefully it will stay like this for tomorrow.

Day 22 06/08/2012

Rochefort – Aigrefeuille-d’Aunis – Andilly – Villedoux – Puyravault – Champagne-les-Marais – Lucon – La Roche-s/Yon

Route map

Dist: 117.15 km
Time: 6.36.28
Avg speed: 17.7 km/h
Max speed: 40.2 km/h
Tot time: 129.39
Tot dist: 2405.6 km

First a little reflection upon the carnage I saw on the road yesterday and today. There was the usual hostile reception from the guys and girls on the road and masses of sprayed water landing on me.

For the past few weeks it was really hot. There were loads of road killings. Due to the level of heat tarmac was melting down and many animals were embedded in the road.

Due to amount of water that has fallen yesterday all of these poor creatures got unstuck and were flying all over the the road. I went on more important roads yesterday and loads of little roads this morning.and it didn’t make much of a difference. Today there was the vile smell of decomposing flesh added. I had nightmares last night thinking of these creatures. I have seen most of the samples of the local fauna by the roadside or in it.

Another thing I was going to mention for a while and I always forget. What is this story about? Most of the French roads between villages and cities are relatively good to very good but… in most of villages and cities – roads are just diabolical!!!

Today, I thought I will take a few secondary roads to relax a bit after yesterday’s ordeal.

I woke up later this morning. It was 7.50. I was out of hotel at 9.30 after breakfast and the usual preparations. Soon I realised that there was really strong wind coming from the west. I was going north or north-west. I planned to move more to the west but decided not to go against the wind. I really don’t like cycling against the wind!!!

Give me rain any-time!

Applying steady and relatively firm pace I was going though little villages and a countryside that looked very much like part of Holland. Loads of canals. I think it is the part of France that was claimed from the sea? Another thing I didn’t know about France.

Km 30 of the route today

Panorama around Verines

Then, because of the wind direction rather than going towards the seaside I went through La Roche and got to the hotel just on the outskirts of the town.

It was really windy out there

Uphill before La Roche

The route was relatively flat to Luçon and then got more difficult with a really steep uphill after Mareuil.

Ah, nearly forgot. The bridge to enter Rochefort yesterday – very steep. Have to check the gradient when back on computer.

Etap Hotel in Roche s/Yon

Tomorrow towards Nantes.

Day 23 07/08/2012

La Roche-s/Yon – Le Poire-sur-Vie – Machecoul – Port-St-Pere – Le Pellerin – Couëron – Blain

Route map

Dist: 116.54 km
Time: 5.56.34
Avg speed: 19.6 km/h
Max speed: 41.8 km/h
Tot time: 135.37
Tot dist: 2522.6 km

May every day for cycling be like today!

Woke up 7.15 – thought it was like 9 or so. Was out of the hotel by 8.50. Kind of lazy morning. Just sitting on the bed doing nothing, getting completely lost in the train of events and thoughts, I will never know what I was thinking about. :-D

Back to the ride. Absolutely fantastic. The route was great, varied – a bit of up and down hill all in great proportions. The navigation was just flowing from one place to the next. And so did the road. I didn’t nearly get off the saddle till km 80. It was a pleasure going through the countryside today.

Breakfast view

At km 80 I got to Loire. Had to take the ferry to cross to the other side. It didn’t cost anything. Great service. I guess cheaper than building a bridge.

Ferry through Loire

Ferry through Loire

Ferry through Loire

Ferry through Loire

I had a very short break on the ferry, had some water couple of bananas and off I was again. Got through St-Etienne-de-Montluc, the really steep hill today. The rest was really nice and really enjoyable.

Then I had a blasting 20km to Blain.

Difficult to single out just one place from the route today. I think a little village St-Etienne-du-Bois was just great as an introduction to ‘Historique Britagne’. It is totally different part of the country. The village had it all. Couple of ponds with fish, camping, hotel, cycling paths, nice architecture, few coffee shops, supermarket

The weather was fantastic as well. There was a bit of a wind coming from west but nothing compared to yesterday’s ‘cyclone’. Great mixture of clouds and sun, fresh breeze, sun warning my back.

There was a moment I was being followed by a cloud for about 20 min. I was trying to get out of the shade but the cloud was moving at the same speed. So I was seeing the sun but couldn’t cycle fast enough. There was 100mtrs between the shade line and sunny road. Finally the cloud let me free.

Camping by the canal Best – Nantes. Loads of people cycling along the canal. My next door neighbours on the camp are a cycling duo father and son(13 years old). Didier and Michel. Got a nice coffee from them after setting up the tent. Had a chat about the canal route.

Bought some nice fruit – and then we shared on the camping with Didier and his son

Cheapest camping yet on the trip at €5.20 camping – in the south you might pay for a night €20 for something similar. :-)

Great camping and really good price

Day 24 08/08/2012

Blain – Beslé – Pipriac – Maure-de-Britagne – Plelan-Le-Grand – Iffendic – Becherel – Tinteniac

Route map

Dist: 122.98 km
Time: 6.56.08
Avg speed: 17.7 km/h
Max speed: 45.0 km/h
Tot time: 142.39
Tot dist: 2646.7 km

Different day – different ride.

Woke up this morning as usual when I stay in the camp – 6.50. By the time I left it was 8.50. Had a coffee with Didier this morning as well.

Getting in to beautiful forests – Forêt du Gâvre

Getting in to beautiful forests – Forêt du Gâvre

Getting in to beautiful forests – Forêt du Gâvre

First 20 km great – 1 hr and it was a blast.

Beautiful heather garden

Then it started. The roller-coaster of up and down hills. Those uphills that were killers and this went on nearly to km 112. This is when I arrived to Becherel. It was really difficult to get rhythm into cycling. Downhills were too short to give a rest or to get a momentum to go up. Then there was slow cycle uphill.

Bretagne – reminded me so much of Monet’s paintings

If there are wind farms it means that it will be windy on the road. 😉

Bretagne – reminded me so much of Monet’s paintings – there were many of these little ponds with Water Lilies

Celtic cross – there were many of signs of historical background of the province

Celtic cross – there were many of signs of historical background of the province

This morning I was thinking of getting to Dinan, but on the road I realised that adding extra 20 km to today’s ride might be a bit too ambitious.

The road took me through beautiful forests, great countryside, picturesque little villages. All was there.

Last hills of the day

I decided to stop in Becherel. I think one of the nicest towns on the route today. Getting there took good 5 km of tough ride constantly uphill.

I went to the tourist office and it turned out that there was no camping in Becherel and the closest option was to get to Tinteniac. Another 9 km of cycling.

And I had my reward for all hard work put today. The route was great. Again very well balanced with really nice downhills and uphills that I could take on the run. Great tarmac that didn’t’slow me down. Oh, it was great experience.

Camping €3.49 – and they have got good facilities. Went to a restaurant near by and had great meal. Really well prepared veal.

Veal for supper

Tomorrow will try to get closer to Mt-St-Michel. And then head east.

Day 25 09/08/2012

Tinteniac – Combourg – Pontorson – Le Mont-St-Michel – Ponteaubau – Avranches – Villedieu-les-Poeles

Route map

Dist: 95.63 km
Time: 5.46.24
Avg speed: 16.5 km/h
Max speed: 45.7 km/h
Tot time: 148.30
Tot dist: 2743 0km

Once more the ride was completely different from previous days. Today I really had to work hard.

But let’s start from the early morning. Around 5 there were cats fighting on the camp for a good few minutes. One of them escaping nearly fell into my tent.

Then there was the familiar (from Twickenhan) noise of the refuse collection track at 5.50. They were compressing and gathering stuff for good 20 min.

Then a few minutes later came another track -the one that gets all the recyclable stuff.

They kept me awake for a long while, so no wonder when I got back to sleep I was in bed till 8!

Got the tent down relatively quickly and was out before 9.

First 20 km were very slow. Back to the hills. Had to stop and have a breakfast. I chose really beautiful spot in small woodland and enjoyed the meal. Bought food and drink last night so had enough to last for a few hours today.

First hills of the day – getting to Combourg

First hills of the day – getting to Combourg

Castle in Combourg

Great views from Trans-le-Foret

The only place on the road partnered with Polish town

Great breakfast spot

Great breakfast spot

The road was hard going till km 30. Then it got better and it was plain sailing to Mt-St-Michel. Haven’t seen so many people in one place for ages. Scary!!! Didn’t realise how touristic the place was. Massive tourist infrastructure build around.

So I had a look and took off.

Have to admit that arriving to Mt-St-Michel was quite emotional. Another coast touched during the trip. Don’t know if it was the fresh breeze or it just me.

First glimpse of Le Mont-St-Michel

Le Mont-St-Michel – rather a beautiful view

Great spot for a quick lunch

Getting to Mt-St-Michel and having lunch there gave me energy for next few km.

Somehow I managed to find all little roads and then it was time to get into hills big time. It was like being in the Alps again. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me.

Avranches – oh my God. It was Gap in miniature. Still, it took good 1/2 an hour to get up the hill. Views were magnificent again.

Going up the hill to Avranches

Going up the hill to Avranches

After Avranches I knew I was getting myself into a trouble. Little stretch of 20 km of straight road with quite a few gradient marks on the map. It was a call for trouble.

Last hills before Villedieu-les-Poeles

Somehow I got to Villedieu-les-Poeles. Then I saw a camp sign – and was quickly setting up the tent. Anything close to Mt-St-Michel is freaking expensive. Camp today €20. They were serving mussels and fries – so I went for it. They were advertised in all bars and restaurants along the way. I just had to have some.

Got provisions for tomorrow in a little Carrefour Express in the village. Beautiful – by the way.

Somehow I missed the pass from Britagne to Normandie. I guess it was when I started seeing all the carts with flowers and beautiful houses with loads of flower baskets hanging everywhere.

Now got to figure out the route to Calais. It is a tricky one.

There is a live performance at the camp tonight. Elise – she ain’t bad and that is good. Actually she was much better as Edith Piaf than Lisa Minnelli and definitely shouldn’t have gone for “My Heart Will Go On” – she sunk like the Titanic.

Mussels and chips 😉

Expensive – but there was toilet paper and music in toilets.

Have to add – it was great to read comments and messages from many friends this morning. Very energising and motivating. Thank you.

Day 26 10/08/2012

Villedieu-les-Poeles – Mt-Robin – Villebaudon – Torigni-s-Vire – Caumont-l’Evente – Caen – Dozulé

Route map

Dist: 115.03 km
Time: 6.47.09
Avg speed: 16.9 km/h
Max speed: 46.8 km/h
Tot time: 155.18
Tot dist: 2858.2 km

This trip will never stop amazing me with what is hidden behind the next corner.

This morning got up as usual – about 7. Had a little chat with people on the opposite pitch and then went for breakfast.

Yesterday whilst cycling I passed a couple on bikes. Said hello and went on. I was getting ready for the big hill to Avranches. Then I met them at the camp had a quick word and went to do my shopping.

This morning I met the guy after the breakfast. I was about to leave the camp and we spent a good hour chatting by the gate.

It turned out that Francois, Belgian guy was on the road since May. Started this particular trip in Instambul. Biologist by profession, on sabbatical. His partner Julie, joint him in Avignon, and they cycled through France together. These were his last days of the trip after 4 months on the road. Next week he was back to work. Got his blog. Will have to check later. It is in French.

http://frankysurlaroute.over-blog.com/m/

After an inspiring chat it was time to say – till next one, and get on the road.

And it was a fantastic ride again. I think, stopping before the 6hrs in the saddle mark yesterday has helped the recovery. I felt much more lively this morning. It could have been the chat with Francois, can be the comments I got last night from the blog.

Anyhow, first part started with an uphill, then it was the Mt-Robin, nice and steady uphill. It took be good 1/2 hrs to get there.

Great views of the motorway – Just after leaving Villedieu-les-Poeles

Long straight roads, great views, long uphills

Long uphills to Mount Robin

If you are around this part of France do the route I did today. Not a single boring moment.

After the hill there was a bit of down and then I turned into D13. My gosh, absolutely great few minutes if cycling. Really great downhill. Then of course came the hills.

There were quite a few of these old petrol distributors on the route – reminding of the past days

There were quite a few of these old petrol distributors on the route – reminding of the past days

Lunch spot

I really don’t mind uphills if they are long and if there is a nice downhill afterwards. And there were loads of them. Unfortunately I hit stronger head or cross winds. These were slowing me down, but not to the point of being a nightmare.

There was a strong uphill to Caumont-l’Evente, stopped there in a little bar. The lady in the shop spoke perfect English and we had spot of a chat with her.

Great roads today – Getting to Caumont-l’Evente

Caumont-l’Evente – highest point on the route today

Caumont-l’Evente – It was windy. Quite a few names of villages had a strong reference to wind

After Caumont-l’Evente the road went down and down and down. Well maybe there were a few uphills but nothing major.

By 3 o’clock I was going through Caen. Missed the town couple of years ago, so went to see what was it like. Really pretty. Great landmarks: castle, little streets. The navigation, or rather lack of signposts, tricky single direction roads, some letting bikes in some not, and road closures – was the downside.

As I felt still quite strong I decided to go ahead. Got to Troarn. At the exit from Troarn I got a quick look at the landscape in front of me. There was a liitle spot on the busy road that offered the preview for a very short time. Again it was like a magic. All hills and slopes, forests and fields, and was still feeling good so I went ahead to Dozulé.

Found a nice hotel and did all of shopping for tomorrow. All stuff is dry and clean.

Although the lad running the place was very dry, the food was very tasty

Logis Hotel – had to try this chain as well

An Extra

Today’s conversation topic (with myself on the road) – things and people that scare, annoy and make me swear or laugh on the road

1. Lorries (the massive and the smaller) – they shouldn’t be allowed on most of the roads, No respect for anything or anybody on the road.

I hear them coming and riding position changes, grip changes, breaks on and so on… I can feel the blow for the next 200-300 mtrs.

2. Drivers overtaking coming in my direction knowing that there is no space on the road. Had to stop and get into a ditch few times to avoid collision.

3. Barriers on the side of the road– there is no space to escape.

4. Road kills

5. Speed bikers – Purely because they disregard all traffic rules. Wearing Lorenzo or Rossi gear doesn’t make you god on the speed track. I quite like the big – Harley like – bikes if they go at 50-60 km/h. Really nice slow rhythm – sounds great. They know that and if they go faster they loose all their charm.

6. The Judas Iscariot of cycling world, the double faced, the traitors – cars and motorhomes pushing me away on the road carrying bikes on the rack at the back. No balls to get on the road by bike, just going to use it on a camp site?

7. Vans pulling motorhomes during the weekend trying to overtake another motorhome with a 10km queue. This is just purely hilarious. :-)

Day 27 11/08/2012

Dozulé – Pont-l’Eveque – Pont-de-Normandie – Pont-de-Tancarville – Quillebeuf-sur-Seine – Port-Jerome – Fauville-en-Caux – Cany-Berville – St-Valery-en-Caux – Sotteville-s-Mer

Route map

Dist: 143 30 km
Time: 7.54.16
Avg speed: 18.1 km/h
Max speed: 49.8 km/h
Tot time: 163.12
Tot dist: 3001.5 km

Woke up really grumpy this morning. I guess it was the noise from the main road that really never stopped, so I had shorter sleep last night.

After the breakfast, slowly set up – to what would be a search for bridges to cross Seine.

On the way to Pont-de Normandie had couple of nice hills to go through. Then the view of the bridge itself only to be told that during holidays there is no access for bikes.

First view of Pont-de-Normandie

So I set off for the next bridge across the river. Pont-de-Tancarville – half as impressive as the previous – and only for motorised traffic, again.

I checked for options before going to the Pont-de-Tancarville and there was an option to cross the river by ferry next. Had to cycle another 10 or so km.

Ferry across Seine

Ourville-en-Caux – I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was …

Ferry worked and it was free of charge again. Then it was a cycle across the Normandie.

First I had to get to the top of the hill. Then surprisingly I had really smooth run till I hit another hill just before St-Valery-en-Caux. Went through the town, and soon was out looking for camping.

I guessed that there will be loads of them on the seaside. The first I tried – posh 3 or 4*. No chance. All full. Got a list of camping places around and that was it.

I was getting really tired and I was going to set up in some field tonight or even by the sea. But cycled another couple of km and found a place. Lady sold me a piece of grass and I set up the tent and had a shower. Lady from the camp cooked some food for me. I had a beer and I am feeling a bit better now.

Supper – beef, chips and beer

Now, I was getting a bit frustrated with the issue of the bridges. On the other hand after being on the road for a month I knew that something good must have been planned for me.

Well, I have been through the most beautiful places around this part of France. Not a boring moment. The Pont-de-Normandie absolutely majestical.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pont_de_Normandie_-_IMG_1350big-edit.JPG

The Pont-de-Normandie

Plan – I really can only set some sort of route for the next few km but this is as far as planning goes. The ride always just adjusts itself. ;-)

If you have got a chance – take the route. You will be amazed.

Well, now I have set in the tent and got my bottom in horizontal position – world looks so much brighter – although it is pitch dark out there.

Camp doesn’t have any special or spectacular facilities but … I haven’t been greeted by so many people on the road as here in couple of hours. There was this little girl that came over and gave me kisses, then the father – nice handshake and the kisses from the mother. All so friendly and smiling without false pretences. Just what I needed to finish off the day.

They have got some sort of lottery/fair this evening – not too noisy though.

Just before Sotteville-s-Mer I had 3000 km on the route mark.

Day 28 12/08/2012

Sotteville-s-Mer – Dieppe – Eu – St-Valery-ss-Somme – Waben – Cucq – Etaples

Route map

Dist: 135.37 km
Time: 7.10.31
Avg speed: 18.8 km/h
Max speed: 43.5 km/h
Tot time: 170.24
Tot dist: 3137.0 km

Again, not a day is the same.

Last night I had a little celebration for crossing the 3000 km mark. A few whiskeys in the bar on the camp. Went to bed around 1.

Woke up at 7 with a bit of hangover. Not good if there were all these hills waiting for me. And they were coming thick and fast. One after another.

First 2 hrs of cycling and I had 30 km. It was a hard work. As always stunning landscapes along the way. Getting from one valley to the next was just great.

By km 30 all the toxic input from the whiskey last night was gone. I was feeling really thirsty, so I stopped in Bracquemont and got myself a massive bottle of Coke and had half of it in one gulp.

Saint-Martin-en-Campagne – Old car show. I passed loads of them on the route and there was a meeting in the village

Saint-Martin-en-Campagne – Old car show.

Top of the hill after Saint-Martin-en-Campagne – stopped for a drink and some food

After Eu hills stopped, road flattened and wind started. This time I got quite lucky. It was pushing me. It was coming from the back or across but still from behind. It was really strong so keeping the bike in a straight line was quite a challenge. For moments I was all over the place and had to concentrate really hard on the road.

I think just before St-Valery-s-Somme cycling path started and it went along the route to Le Crotoy. Seems like a Sunday place for people from Boulogne.

Sometimes after the first 60 km, I was going up the hill to Eu, I saw a signpost 60 km to Berck. It became a good target for today. Then I saw a little shortcut on the map so decided to change the route and do extra few km and I went to Etaples.

I think I was tired. I got through the main roundabout twice checking for camping sign. Didn’t see any so stopped at a Hotel.

After the shower and washing I went for a walk. I passed by the roundabout again and the first thing I noticed was – the sign to camping. :-)

Had couple of great meals today. I stopped for lunch in Lancheres at a place called Café de l’Epoque. Had a crab for starters and then beef tongue. It was exquisite, with some well cooked veggies and really tasty and warm apple cake.

Great lunch – very well cooked

In the evening to top up calories I went to a bar called Le Roulis. Had something called Welsh. Being in France and not having a fondue would be a crime. The Welsh is basically a fondue. I had a chat with a local couple (the husband spoke English) and they said it was the best place to eat in the area.

Had supper in Etaples -Great fun

There were very friendly waitresses in the bar creating really nice atmosphere. They gave me as a desert an eclair (really tasty) in a shape of a penis. We had a good laugh and a chat. Maureen and Nadia. If anybody passes by, leave greetings from Zig, please.

Etaples – sunset by the river Canche

Apart from this – my bottom really has had it, left knee playing up a bit today, right Achilles is a bit sore, legs a bit heavy, left thumb still not 100%, no hangover, cyclist’s tan, face burned by the wind.

Last Hotel on the rode

Day 29 13/08/2012

Etaples – Boulogne-sur-Mer – Cap Blanc-Nez – Calais – Dover – Twickenham

Route map

Dist: 111.7 km
Time: 6.14.26
Avg speed: 17.9 km/h
Max speed: 54.3 km/h
Tot time: 176.39
Tot dist: 3248.7 km

And to wrap everything up a great trip on the coast line.

First part of the trip relatively flat and easy. Very nice cycling path to Saint-Etienne-au-Mont. Well, as the name suggests – there was a hill there and then another, and another, and another, culminating in Cap Blanc-Nez. 100 or so meters up but for moments I felt like being in Alps again. :-)

On the way to Boulogne-sur-Mer

Getting to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais – slowly getting to the end of the trip

Boulogne-sur-Mer – sandy beach

Nice cycling path for good few km before and after Boulogne-sur-Mer

The road kept me guessing all the way. Beautiful end to a great trip.

D940 – if you don’t mind a bit of a traffic (nothing heavy) – take the road. I think the side to go up the Cap Blanc-Nez is coming from Boulogne-sur-Mer. From Calais side the slope isn’t as steep and there is no serpentine. :-D

Really great uphill to Cap Blanc-Nez

View from Cap Blanc-Nez

Cap Blanc-Nez

Downhill from Cap Blanc-Nez to Calais

Back in Calais

There were quite a few bunkers from WW II by the route today. I have passed so many cemeteries from the time of  the war in the past few days. One doesn’t really have a notion or doesn’t remember how many people have lost their life in this area until you don’t see the thousands of graves on every one of War Memorials.

Snack waiting for the ferry

Ferry back to Dover

I got well to the ferry – out to the train in Dover and then waiting for 40 minutes to enter London Bridge station. Signal failure. Arrived 1hr late to Waterloo East.

Getting back to London – Loads of waiting at London Bridge

I decided to ride back home in all of the nightmare of the traffic. It was a madness of cyclists and cars around. I got home, took a deep breath and decided to extend my holidays and leave for Poland as soon as I could.

Summary II

It has been a great experience to be able to get through France this year. The experience of riding longer trips in past years has helped a lot, as nothing can prepare you for the hardship that the road will throw at you. It has been a great adventure!

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