Monday 24 September 2012

All Done

That’s it – Pierre and I have now cycled all the way from London to the Mediterranean – just short 1,900Km in three trips
Route map below
Quite a trip – now the dilemma is what to do next.

Previous Sections

Complete Cycle Trip

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Day 7 Argeliers to Gruissan Plage (Mediterranean) Friday 14th September

Sun was shining today but the wind was still blowing strongly – again fortunately it was mostly a tail wind so would help us a lot.  We were also able to leave the baggage at Argeliers so for the first time didn’t have the 18Kg of weight on the bike.  Set off along the roads towards Narbonne and with a good tail wind we were making good progress.  We had a look at the path along the Canal du Midi but it was a bit too rough and bumpy so stayed on the roads to Narbonne.  There wasn’t an obvious cycle path through Narbonne (possibly due to the roadworks so we passed through the town centreand then just south of Narbonne we joined the path alongside the Canal de la Robine.  This was unmade and pretty bumpy but it added another “canal” to the list. 
After a while we went back on the roads as the canal path was beginning to turn in the wrong direction.  The area before Gruissan Plage is a salt marsh with flat roads and with a strong tailwind we let the bikes go.  Fairly soon I was well over 40km/h and Pierre was up towards 50km/h.  Fantastic fast run with great scenery and the Mediterranean just visible in the distance.  At that speed we soon approached Gruissan Plage where the wind was making it impossible for cyclists going the opposite direction to us – they were all walking.  On through the town and finally towards the beach.  Had to be done – we pushed our bikes out onto the sand and down to the water’s edge despite the sandblasting we were getting.  A couple of quick photo’s and a rapid retreat to the bar. 

Sitting in the sun with a cold beer in hand it was a bit weird thinking we had done it.  Cycled from London to the Mediterranean a trip of nearly 1,900km and here I was at the end of it. 

Fantastic stuff.

Canal du Midi - near journey's end

The Mediterranean at Gruissan Plage - trip complete

Last bit of the route - 38Km

Day 6 Carcassonne to Argeliers Thursday 13th September

The morning at Carcassonne was very windy, cloudy and spiting with rain.  Still we managed to get our tests away reasonably dry and were soon packed up and ready for the road.  The traffic was busy and as we headed out past the old Cite there was an enormous crunch behind me.  Pierre stopped as he thought I had fallen off or something.  Looking round a Campervan which had been following close behind me had got stuck under a bridge.  Nothing we could do so headed off on the busy roads out of Carcassonne.  This is the first time I had encountered aggressive French drivers.  Some were using their horn at junctions and one driver deliberately didn’t stop at a junction and very nearly ran me off the road.
Soon we were out of Carcassonne and onto the back lanes which were much more quiet and pleasant.  It was still raining a bit which was actually pleasant after the heat of the previous days.  It wasn’t practical to follow the Canal du Midi at this stage so we basically took the most direct route available on the minor roads.  We were making great time as the wind was behind us and was helping us along.  At Puicheric we re-joined the Canal du Midi for a short while and then cut straight across a loop on the canal to join it again at Argens- Minervois.  The canal path was too rough to cycle on so we had to stick to the roads.
We left the Canal again at Vertenac-en-Minervois where we turned into a headwind and straight up a hill.  This made progress a lot slower and the gusting wind was blowing me around a bit so needed to take care.  We also crossed the river Aude a few times – very scenic river.  Still we made good progress and arrived in Argeliers just after lunchtime.  First thing I did was grab a cold beer, head for the shower and settle down for a bite of lunch.  Penny (aka Joe’s support assistant) was arriving at Montpellier that afternoon so soon we were all getting stuck into some chilled local rose leaving Pierre to fall asleep on a chair.

Crossing the River Aude

Crossing the Canal du Midi

The Route - 57Km

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Day 5 Toulouse to Carcassonne Wednesday 12th September

Fans in the rooms helped them to sleep, and so after breakfast they made a good start on the cycle routes of Toulouse. The cycle paths around Toulouse were dis-jointed but basically ok, though at one point they almost cycled onto the Autoroute des Deux Mers, just stopping in time!

The cycling was fantastic to Port Lauragais, and they were cycling at about 22km per hour. They were able to cycle faster due to the quality of the route, the fact that it was cloudy and cooler, it was spitting with rain and there was a slight tail wind. The canal path ended at Port Lauragais, which is also a service station on the Autoroute des Deux Mers which just happens to serve excellent Cassoulet.  Over Cassoulet for lunch (of course) they decided that they’d made good progress and could get further than the planned evening stop at Castelnaudary.  So they spoke to the Tourist Office at Port Lauragais who cancelled their Castelnaudary Hotel and told them of a campsite at Carcassonne, which would be open. They got the directions and headed off again. They really turned up the speed – to 30Km and made good progress following small roads alongside the motorway. They joined a main road at Bram and had panaches. They had cycled 84 Km so far. They carried on following the main road until 8km outside Carcassonne. There they turned back onto the Canal du Midi as they had plenty of time to come into Carcassonne along the Canal. They exited the Canal at the Railway Station and walked through the pedestrian town centre to avoid having to make a big circle. That brought them to the old town and they then turned into the campsite which was not far from the old city.

It was windy when they put their tents up. When they had finished setting up they needed some beers and food. There is a restaurant at the campsite, or they had a choice of walking into the old city, or into the rest of the town.  After a couple of beers as aperitifs, they had steak frites and two litres of rose and hoped to sleep well.  They had cycled 111 km today and it had been a good day. Their total Kms cycled so far was 422km.

Canal side bar on the Canal du Midi


The route - 111Km, longest one of the entire trip 

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Day 4 Moissac to Toulouse Tuesday 11th Sept

Overnight, it was very hot and Joe had to evict ants from his tent.  At around 3 am it rained. They had pitched their tents and parked their bikes under trees as rain was forecast., Although the tents were a little wet this morning, they’d been protected from the worst of the rain.
It was cloudy when they got up, but still hot. They had breakfast (coffee and croissants) beside the canal path and pushed on.

The canal path first thing in the morning.
The clouds broke as they cycled, the sun burned through and it got very very hot. They didn’t pass any chemist’s temperature displays till they got to Toulouse but it was extremely hot.
When they stopped for lunch, they sat in the shade and when the sun moved round they had to move inside as it was unbearable. Other tables followed suit. Lunch for Joe was a Salad de chevre chaud and for Pierre, a ham and cheese sandwich. They had two carafes of water with their lunch.
They noticed that the canal side was markedly cooler and the trees provided some shade – it was not cool but more bearable. Today there were lots more locks - for them it was a matter of cycling up bridges but not coming back down the other side! They passed a few boats but not as many as the previous day.
Pierre grabbing some shade.
Throughout the day, they stopped for liquid, ensuring that they stocked up with water and having panaches and oranginas in cafes. Sunscreen was also important to protect them from the sun.
The canal was full of fish – they saw lots of them. Lizards basked on the path, dashing away when they approached. A duck who was sat on the path was very reluctant to move and only did so when they were about to run it over! Water voles splashed in the water beside the bank.
The cycle path took them into Toulouse where they had to cross a busy road junction to get from the Canal de Garonne to the Canal du Midi. Their hotel was close to the Railway Station and the Canal du Midi so easy to find and in the midst of cafes and bars.
They checked in, drank lots of water, showered and had some cold beers and panaches and two carafes of water. Their bikes chained up in an inner courtyard of the hotel, they explored Toulouse on foot, walking 3-4 kms. Toulouse was very busy with restaurants and hotels full. Cold beers in Le Capout next to a fine water sprayer in Place Wilson was a welcome stop
At 6pm this evening, it was 38 degrees and by 10 pm, the temperature had only dropped to 28 degrees.
They headed off for dinner at a Creperie in Place St Georges. Joe had a buckwheat complet (ham, cheese, spinach, mushrooms and eggs), Pierre had a similar one with meat instead of ham, and they washed them down with 1 litre of rose wine and a carafe of water. They then had more crepes – Joe choosing one with lemon and sugar and Pierre one with ice-cream.
Then it was back to their rooms in the hotel and another hot night, but this time not under canvas.
70 Kms covered today, and a total of 311 km so far this trip.

Monday 10 September 2012

Day 3 Colayrac Saint Cirq to Moissac Monday 10th Sept

Firstly, Joe and Pierre were able to send through photos from Day 2 and update Sports Tracker this morning, so here are those first....

Day 2 Sports Tracker

The cycle path along the towpath, with welcome shade

Lunch and a drink on Day 2 at Le Mas D'Agenais

Pierre "Three Roses" trying to pretend that he's only been drinking water...


They woke early this morning and set off to Agen for breakfast in a café bar near the canal and river. Then they dropped onto the canal towpath again. It was cloudy and looked as if it would rain. It was also relatively cool – but that didn’t last as the clouds burned away and the heat returned. Soon it was roasting hot again. They were careful only to stop when there was shade, not when they would be in full sun!

They stopped for lunch at a bar/hotel/restaurant at Valence and fortified themselves with Saute de Boeuf avec l’oignons.  It was a lovely town, with a covered market area and lots of flowers. They had come off the canal towpath (and up a hill) but returned to it after lunch and followed the path to the outskirts of Moissac. There were a few locks, and they overtook some more boats and the heat continued to intensify.  They estimated it to be in the high thirties again.

They saw very few people or cyclists except near the towns. Except for when they were in Agen and Valence, cars were a rarity until they approached Moissac.  Nordic walking appeared to be very popular with elderly Dutch tourists.

They reached Moissac and headed for the campsite, which was on an almost island.  A kingfisher flew along the Tarn, along past the site. They pitched their tents overlooking the River Tarn, checked into reception when it opened, got some refreshment and headed for the pool! They then sat and wallowed in the children’s pool for a while before drying off in the sun. Then it was time to jump in the pool again to cool down!

They picked up a bottle of chilled rose from reception, had a glass and then headed off for food. Joe had an egg and lardons salad and a lemon and sugar crepe and Pierre opted for a large pizza. A couple of beers and just one carafe of water and then they returned to the tents.  They finished their now warm bottle of rose overlooking the Tarn, sitting on a metal bench. It was a one rose evening, not a three rose evening! The actual pitch was small and the tents had to be fairly close together . Hopefully nobody will snore…  55 Km today

Sunday 9 September 2012

Day 2 La Reole to Colayrac Saint Cirq Sunday 9th Sept

No Sports Tracker info through yet - will post when available.

They awoke to fog and found that dew had made the tents and gear wet. Pierre had slept well but Joe had found it difficult to get to sleep. It was a hot night, there were trains running nearby and there was a late party on the bank opposite – at 2 am, Joe heard the strains of “Happy Birthday”!  He didn’t join in.

Grateful for the cooler air, which was due to the fog, they went into town for croissants and found the streets covered in dead insects from the previous night – it was like a covering of snow.

They headed back on the tow path and it was a joy to ride along  - flat, well maintained, with fabulous views along the water and along the banks. They even passed a garden with a statue of a bear in it. There was shade, trees, cool air and a nice path – definitely one of their best cycle rides.

Mindful that it would be hard to find anywhere open to eat on Sunday evening, they opted for a larger meal at lunchtime and stopped at Le Mas D'Agenais, after 32 Kms. Confit de canard for Joe and steak and chips for Pierre, washed down with two panaches each and two carafes of water. It was getting hotter, and they were grateful for the shade of a market cover in the town.

They met up with two other people who had been at the same campsite the night before – two dutch cyclists who were also travelling along beside the water.

As they travelled along again, it continued to get hotter and there was less shade as the trees thinned out. On the path, there were a few trees roots but these had been painted red so they could be easily seen. They stopped for a panache at a canalside bar and topped up their liquid. There were lots of boats moving slowly along the canal so they overtook them easily  - a nice change from tractors. People were very friendly, waving and saying “Bonjour”.

It got very hot but it was still flat and they had to get the kilometres under their belts. They had to go into Agen as there was no way over the water except by the bridge there. The canal went high above the river and as they entered Agen there were lots of walkers sharing the tow path. They then had to take a busy major road on their way to Colayrac Saint Cirq and then it was onto the campsite, which was in the middle of the countryside.

When they got to the campsite, as it was the end of the season, most facilities were closed. They were aware of this when the booking was made but had hoped that the hot weather would mean that some would still be open. The pools were closed, the bar was closed, the shop was closed and the snack bar closed. There were no restaurants, bars or cafes open nearby. They got the tents up, and managed to charge their phones and devices thanks to other campers who had electricity.

Joe and Pierre went back to the campsite hosts to see if it were possible to buy anything at all to eat or drink. They took pity on them and sold them a chilled bottle of rose and some chips- Joe and Pierre were very grateful for this.  Another two bottles of rose were purchased and armed with two borrowed chairs and a small table, they headed back to their tents to relax. A better day, and another 89 kms down.

DAY 1 Bordeaux Airport to La Reole Saturday 8th Sept

Joe’s flight arrived on time but Pierre was delayed so it was around 11.40 before the bikes were loaded and they were away. It was very hot and they were in full sun. They went astray in Bordeaux and although they got back on track, they’d added additional kilometres to an already tough first day.

Neither Joe nor Pierre had managed to get in the training that they’d hoped for prior to the trip so they both found this first day hard. The temperature displays on the chemist shops showed 38 degrees in the shade and the heat was reflecting back from the black tarmac. They had a snack at a café for lunch but it was thirst that was the main driver. They finished their water bottles, stopped for a panache at a bar and bought lemonade in a supermarket to keep up their liquid intake.

After being mainly on roads, thankfully the last 15-20 kms were on a cycle route along the Garonne. It was a wonderful cycle path alongside the water and led straight to the campsite. Finally there was some shade and it was good to cycle along. If they had had to continue on the roads, they may not have reached the campsite that evening.

The campsite was clean and basic and after putting up their tents, they headed off to a nearby brasserie for food. Whilst they were there, thousands of white insects exploded over them – like mayflies. The bar switched off their lights so that they wouldn’t attract the insects. The locals said that it happens from time to time. For 1-2 hours they hatch, fly then die.

So after that excitement, it was back to the campsite and to bed. It was an interesting run, but a hard first day, at 97 kms.

Thursday 6 September 2012

It seems as if the last 10 days have been all taken up with Big Wheel. Accommodation is booked and we'll be off to Luton tomorrow eve ready for Joe's flight to Bordeaux at Sparrow o'clock on Sat morning....Pierre and Krissy (with Henry the mad dog) are already on their way, driving through France with the bikes and the equipment. Rendevous at Bordeaux Airport at 10 am for the start of this stage.

Monday 3 September 2012

Getting Ready

Yesterday I delivered my Bike and all the baggage to West London to be taken to Bordeaux.  Plan is we meet up at Bordeaux Airport at approx 10am on Saturday 10th Sept and then set off on the trip.
Planned Route

Sat 8th - Bordeaux Airport to La Reole - 71Km

Sun 9th - La Reole to Colayrac Saint Cirq - 79km

Mon 10th - Colayrac Saint Cirq to L'lle du Bidounet, Saint Benoit, Moissac - 60Km

Tues 11th - St Benoit to Toulouse - 72Km

Weds 12th - Toulouse to Castelnaudary - 62Km

Thurs 13th - Castelnaudary to Argelliers - 89Km

Fri 14th Argeliers to Port de Brossolette, Mediterreanean - 35Km

Actual routes are always a bit longer than estimated, so total distance is approx 500Km.   An approximate point to point route is shown on the Google Earth map below.

Watch this space for updates on how it all goes.