Cycle Touring. UK to Barcelona
Monday, 2 September 2013
From the South of England to BarcelonaHere are some stats:35 days1209 milesAverage 35 miles a day (this includes all rest days)No punctures (touch Wood)One damaged Achilies tendón (hence the amount of days taken(more about that later))30 quiches and 30 Pain aux Raisin eaten ? bottles of BordeauxAverage cost of camping 10 euros (cheapest was 3 euros 50, most expensive was 20) per nightBrief Info about bike, camping ítems and extras:Thorn Sherpa standard 2013 model with Deore brakes/gearsTyres are Panaracer tourguard 1.75 tyres and Schwalbe innertubes( i change them to Schrader so i´d have more availablity of pump if mine broke/got nicked)Upgraded to Hope hollowtech Bottom Bracket(as my last Shimano BB51 one only lasted just over 1000 miles)Lock is a Kryptonite D lock with cable.Pump is a Topeak roadmorph GStove is a Higear collapsable stove with an Eldrid adaptor for using Camping gaz cartridgesTent is old Alpha 200Matress is Thermarest (with chair kit)Sleeping bag is basic 3 season eurohike jobbyMaps i´m using are the yellow Michelin ones that show cycle routes but although these are only bought last year a few of the routes aren´t shown. In addition to these maps i would get some other cycle path (or Voir Verte) info, along with campsite info, from the Tourist Info Centre(TIC) once i had a rough idea of my mileage i´d be doing.One rock peg which has been invaluable for some site as some of the pitches are more like hardstandings than anything.
i knew from previous experience that during this route down through France, even though it could be 30 degrees and sunny, at this time of year i could have problem with campsites being open. There were issues with this so i would have to think ahead and go to the TIC(Tourist Info Centre) earlier in the day to get a heads up for my next campsite. This would sometimes mean i would have to adjust my mileage significantly to make it fit.
=============================================================================Day 1 Tuesday 10th Sept 2013 Poole to Brockenhurst27 miles (total 27)Thought i´d done a half decent job of packing light and keeping things fairly minimalistic but for some reason my bike weighs 47kgs.I wanted to get an early arrival into St malo and the best ferry for that was one going out of Portsmouth so day 1 and 2 is getting to Porstmouth. I had thought of doing the 61 miles straight off but decided in the end to make it a more relaxed start to the trip.I met my friend Bob at Bournemouth Pier and used the promenade to Christchurch. Using the NCN route 2 through Christchurch and the New Forest to Brockenhurst where we camped using the website “campinmygarden”Camping was 8 pounds each Day 2 Wednesday 11th Sept Brockenhurst to Portsmouth34 miles (total 61)Continuing on the next day and through the New Forest using NCN 2 to Hythe and the old train that takes you to the ferry across to Southampton. Still using NCN 2 and taking the very small, quirky and very pink ferry at Hamble –Rice to Warsash and onto Portsmouth via another ferry not quite so small, quirky or pink. 📷Stopped by Portsmouth harbour and had a few drinks with Bob until his train was due to take him back home.Got on the ferry at Portsmouth which would leave at 8pm and ge tinto St Malo at 8amCamping in France out of season: Day 3 Thursday 12th Sept St.Malo to Loyat72 miles (total 134)Off the ferry bright and early and headed over the Rance dam to pick up the “Voir Verte” cycle path that goes from Dinard due south to Dinan. it´s a little tricky to find. Head west over the main bridge(dam) in the direction of Dinard until you get to the first big roundabout on the main road, then head south towards Pleurtuit where it´s easier to find as it goes through the south end of the town.This “Voir Verte” takes you all the way to Dinan. From there i used the D793 to Broons for a Leffe stop, onto Merdrignac and then the D6/D304 to Mauron where youfind another Voir Verte heading SSW. I used this all the way to Loyat where i stopped at Camping “Le Enchanter” which is a nice place right off the Voir Verte and is 9 Euros for the night. It has a heated indoor pool but i was running a bit late and just wanted to eat, drink and flop. Day 4 Friday 13th Sept Loyat to Fegreac52 miles (total 186)Back on the Voir Verte to Malestroit where i picked up the Brest-Nantes canal which is great (all flat, no cars and beautiful scenery) . 📷📷 📷 Dropped into Redon to the TIC to get camp info and was told there was one in Fegreac which wasn´t quite true as it was in Bellion, which i passed by on the canal only to climb a steep hill to Fegreac , do another 5 miles and come back full circle to the campsite (that wasn´t marked)i passed an hour previous.Well, the good side is that is was really cheap and quite good. Very basic as it´s a Municipal site but perfectly decent place especially for 3 euros 40 cents. Day 5 Saturday 14th Sept Fegreac to St.Michel Chef Chef42 miles (total 228)De-camped in heavy rain. The English guys in the camper next to me made me a cuppa. Amazing the spirit lifting ability of a cup of tea. As my tea was being diluted by the rain i decided to head off. As they sat in their nice dry camper i waved them goodbye and into the downpour.I was going to follow the “rest of the Brest” into Nantes but with the rain i went for the shortest route south and over the St Nazaire bridge which isn´t the nicest bridge to cross, being that it doesn´t have a cycle path and with a side wind and some rain thrown it wasn´t that pleasant but it did it´s job in getting me south quicker and to my campsite at St Michel Chef Chef.I camped at la Bord su mer where the woman at reception , after asking the price, wrote 15 euros on a bit of paper. I asked about anything cheaper and she wrote 10 euros on a bit of paper which i accepted.📷 Day 6 Sunday 15th Sept St.Micheal Chef Chef to St.Jean de Mont48 miles (total 276)Woke up to sun and remembering it was sunday made for the Supermarket before 12 to get supplies so have lugged my beer, wine and supplies the full 48 miles.Using the “Velocean” route which is really nice but does take you out of your way quite a bit. So much so that during my ride south i could often find the route taking me North. Nice scenery but i prefer it in the direction i´m more or less going.About 20 miles in i´m starting to feel some pain in my achilies tendon area. After 30 miles it´s a lot worse. i´ve pressed on and i´m at a campsite in St Jean de Mont called les Salines which is virtually empty. i´m the only one in a tent.Camping Les salines 9 euros 70 cents Days 7, 8 and 9 are rest days(although i seemd to have managed to do 29 miles in total on these rest days) as tendon isn´t good which is a shame as the winds are northerly.I console myself with menu du jours each day at 13 euros for 3 coarses with wine. Day 10 Thursday 19th Sept St.Jean de Mont to Les Sables D´Olonne32 miles (total 337)grey and cool so good for riding. Tendon a bit better but taking it easy and riding with mostly right leg.St Gilles was nice and a better feel than St Jean.Onto Les Sables D´Olonne and checked TIC and used their free Wifi to find campsite which i found just outside to the S/E of Les Sables called Les Fosses Rouges which was 10 euros with a nice guy running the place , free wifi and a cover from the rain to eat and drink my own suppiles. Day 11 Friday 20th Sept Les Sables D´Olonne to La Tranche sur Mer29 miles (total 366)nice ride along Vendee cycle routes by the sea.
📷 📷 Camping in a place called La Griere Plage just outside La Tranche sur Mer. 2 star camping called “la Grande Vallee” and it´s really good. 9 euros , clean , free wifi and a patio in the sun. Day 12 Saturday 21st Sept La Tranche sur Mer to L´Aiguillon sur Mer15 miles (total 381)after starting out and thinking tendon was slowly on the mend i get a bad pain and have to stop. I camp in L´Aiguillon sur Mer at the municipal campsite where i seem to be sharing space with a large squadron of mozzies.And.... i managed to drop my 1.5 kg lock on my bad foot . Oh, that´ll help ! Day 13 Sunday 22nd Sept12 miles (total 393)another rest day and tendon feeling better. Went to the local naturist beach near La Faute sur Mer which was quite good.
📷 Day 14 Monday 23rd Sept L´Aiguillon sur Mer to La Rochelle40 mile (total 433)📷 After rest day my tendon is better and say goodbye to the resident campsite mozzies cycling through the marshland(that´l explain the mozzies then ) and checked out the campsite at Esnandes but as i would have been the the only target in an even more mozzie ridden campsite i decided to move on and found my way to the outskirts of La Rochelle where i saw a campsite that didn´t allow dogs (which is always a good sign) . Went into la Rochelle to get supplies and got back to find someone had parked next to me with their dog so not happy.Camping les Trois Lys 9 euros 50
Day 15 Tuseday 24th Sept La Rochelle to Marennes47 miles (total 480)popped into La Rochelle TIC and nearby bought an awesome Pain aux Raisin and an amazing salmon quiche.Stopped at Chatelion Plage which was nice and had one of the best coffee´s and watched the world go by.Stopped at Rochefort TIC for camp info and headed south to the “transborder bridge” which is over 100 years old, only 1 euro 50 cents and is a total “must”.
Not only is a really nice crossing instead of the large bridge to the west but it also takes you straight onto the best road heading due south to the next cycle path along the canal de Seudre. This wasn´t the easiest to find but with some very bad French i found it and glad i did too as it was a lovely ride. Then onto a cycle route though marshland which was signposted fairly well all the way to Marennes where i´m camping in a place called Au Bon Air which also seems to have it´s fair share of mozzies which were attacking as i decamped the next day. Day 16 Wednesday 25th Sept Marennes to Grayan-et-L´Hopital41 miles (total 521)foggy start which was nice and cool.Over bridge to Tremblade and picked up 2 nice quiches.Easy riding down to Royan using some quite D roads and cycle paths.Missed the 2pm ferry at Royan by 2 mins but because of that met nice French and Spanish guy cycle touring.Got the 3.45 ferry.Landed at port bloc and used the coastal cycle route to Euronat (great site) near Grayan-et-L´Hopital where the French guy(Thierry) and myself shared a camp spot so halved the cost.
📷 Euronat camping 6.40 (when sharing emplacement) Day 17 Thursday 26th Sept6 miles(that´s how big the campsite is as i didn´t go anywhere but to the beach ) (total 527)chillout daycamping on my own cost me 12.40
Day 18 Friday 26th Sept Grayan-et-L´Hopital to Lacanau Ocean40 miles (total 567)Despite forecast of blistering sun it was pleasant with quite a bit of cloud. Flat and on the “piste” all the way . Got into Lacanau Ocean and there was only one campsite open that was unfortunately a 4 star. My experience of 4 star campsites isn´t 4 star and this was no exception. It was called the “air hotel” and was 20 euros for the night. i´m not sure why their ground cost more than the others but when i asked the woman said it was because i was by the ocean. Telling her that i´d been by the ocean for 2 weeks and my normal price for camping was 10 euros didn´t seem to have much effect. Day 19 Saturday 28th Sept Lacanau Ocean to Mios44 miles (total 611)i hit the TIC in Lacanau for more info and some Wifiing.Using the road down to Ares i experienced some disrespectful driving which isn´t my general experience of being in France. Got back on the Piste at Lege and it was really nice. Stopped in Biganos for supplies but found all there was were large USA style mega-shopping malls.On to Mios where i found nice quiet(at the time of arriving) campsite called “camping L´Eyre”. Despite it being a municpal site i found it better than the 4 star one previous.Mega loud disco music started up at 9pm and went through to 3 am.Camping 8 euros 50 Day 20 Sunday 29th Sept Mios to St. Symphorien31 miles (total 642)i hit the TIC at Mios which surprisingly was open but the woman their was bordering on useless so i figured i was just going to wing it finding a campsite later that day.Got supplies from a deli and the most incredible”Basque quiche” which was as tasty as it was expensive. Using the Piste was easy going from Mios through Salles and Belin-Béliet and beyond through milea and miles of pine trees with virtuall nobody around. On some stretches i would do 10 miles without a soul.
📷 I took this route , heading towards Langon and the Canal Du Midi as i wanted to avoid going through Bordeaux as i´m not the fan of the big city and had the feeling this would be a more pleasant route even though it would put more mile to the trip.Found nice quiet campsite just south of St.Symphorien for 8.50 with free wifi.Before going to sleep i unlocked one of the closed bathrooms with my multitool and charged everything over night.Cycling off in the morning i felt so happy with the simple fact that i had all my electrical goods charged. Day 21 Monday 30th Sept St. Symphorien to Meilhan sur Garonne40 miles (total 682)more empty, monotonous Piste to Roallin and then road into Langon where, this time , got very good info from the TIC. Picked up 2 maps that showed the Canal du Midi with all it´s campsites along the way.Got on the Canal path where it starts at Castets en Dorthe. Very nice cycling even in the rain.
📷 Arrived at Meilhan sur Garonne where i found the “lock keeper” to be from the UK and running the empty municipal campsite next to the canal.
📷 Connection to wifi there was 50 and they have cheap cans of beer of which i purchased a few and sat chatting with a few Kiwis and Ozzies.Campsite was basic , good , quiet and cheap at 3.70 plus a euro for the shower which didn´t work so i had to have a cold shower but didn´t mind as it was a warm evening. Day 22 Tuesday 1st Oct Meilhan sur Garonne to Valence D´Agen65 miles (total 747)usual “first light” start and quiche/Pain aux Raisin stop in town which was up 8% hill(too early for that) and back on the canal Piste. Lovely riding and beautiful scenery.Camping at Valence D´Agen which is only 6 euros but seems to be full of mozzies. Having to employ ninja style techniques to get in and out of tent without bringing half the insect population in with me. So humid and the “Silence after 10pm” sign seems to mean nothing.
Day 23 Wednesday 2nd Oct Valence D´Agen to Grissoles41 miles (total 788)no camp coffee as too many mozzies .Moissac was a nice town where i stopped early for the usual Quiche and P.A.Raisin and also to check the TIC early for camp info.Got to campsite in Grissoles which is good . I have my own “backpacker” section above the other campsite with own picnic table.Internet is 50 centsit was 31 degress today and 20 degrees at night . Camping at Grissoles 10 Euros Day 24 Thursday 3rd Oct Grissoles to Deyme32 miles (total 820)de-camped just intime before rain started.Quiche and P.A.R stop in town and into head wind towards Toulouse. Coming into the outskirts of the town there are people living next to the canal in either tents or make-shift sheds. Some of the dwellings have been there so long that they now have their own post boxes.Centre of town was all the usual trendy and expensive shops. What a diference.Stopped for very nice menu du jour , by the canal on way out of town , mainly to get out of the rain. It was 20 euros with 2 coarses , wine and coffee.Camped up at Deyme for 8 euros.Initially the woman at reception said it was closed to tents but maybe out of pity she allowed me to stay there.There was supposed to be a big storm so i was shown to a emplacement that shouldn´t flood.During the night we didn´t get a drop of rain and i de-camped in the dry.Camping les Violettes 8 euros
Day 25 Friday 4th Oct Deyme to Alzonne43 miles (total 863)back on the canal and getting into Castelnaudary the towpath has really deteriorated. I head into the town and just as i stop outside a bar the heavens opened with such ferrocity i had no choice but to stop and shelter.... and have a couple of beers. The roads turned into rivers within a couple of minutes. After the downpoor had stopped i headed to the TIC, then attempted to get back on the tow path. Bad idea as the surface has now, along with the tree roots, has turned to a clay/mud mixture which nicely fills my mudguards to the point that i can´t even push my bike along. At which point i abandon the tow path and hit the road where for, not the first time, i´m not getting the respect i´d had in previous rides through France.Camping at “la Pujade” in Alzonne which is good. Free wifi and 10 Euros .
Day 26 Saturday 5th Oct Alzonne to Rustiques28 miles (total 891)
as forecast the wind is westerly and the sun is out. Using the small roads was really nice wi wonderful scenery . Into Carcassonne and went up to the “Cite” which is definately worth a visit despite it´s touristic feel.
📷Out of Carcassonne and through Trebes and onto Rustiques where i camp for the night.The place is a 3 star(whatever that means) and empty.Camping Rustique 10 euros with free wifi
Day 27 Sunday 6th Oct Rustiques to Narbonne40 miles (total 931)keeping to the quiet roads and it´s really nice with vineyards either side.
📷 📷 📷 On the odd occasion i´d cross over the canal bridge i´d see that the path hadn´t got any better and was glad i´d made the choice to use the roads.Into Narbonne which is quite nice and stopped for a beer talking with some more Ozzies.Onto the campsite(Les Florays) just S/E of the city on the canal de la Robine. it´s a 2 star campsite but is´nt that nice. There is , however free wifi.Met an interesting guy at the campsite that was originally from the U.S but was working in Africa and on a cycle holiday in Southern France. He made comments about how France was changing, what with all the large American style shopping malls etc. saying that it was a shame that the French were copying the "evil state". we talked politics but mainly bikes which always made me laugh as to how much of a bike nerd i´ve turned into. My tent porch poles have broken and the campsite guy gives me some tent poles he´s got lying around. Unfortunately they´re not the right type. Despite my attempts at modification i have to just make do with tape for now.Camping Les Floralys 10 euros with free wifiDay 28 Monday 7th Oct Narbonne to Bacares47 miles (total 978)using the back gate of the campsite i´m straight onto the canal. I was given a code for the gate but not sure why as there was no keypad and the gate was wide open.The canal and path is really good. A bit lumpy in places but generally very good with fantastic views inland over the water to the West and to the Pyrenees to the S/W and out to the Med to the East.
📷 📷 Into Port la Nouvelle to get camp info at the TIC and headed south past a massive lake near Leucate where windsurfers and kite surfers of all nationalities were gunning it across the water.Trying to find my way through the smaller roads i got a bit lost in a naturist village near Port Leucate and then to Port Bacares where i decided to camp up as my tendon was complaining a bit again. Camping at Le Bacares is 4 star and not that good and 20 euros.i´m not sure who or how they are rating these campsite but who ever it is i´d only give them 1 star at most.The only thing the star rating system seems to imply is that 2 star is 10 euros or below and 4 star is usually about 20 euro. It has very little to do with the quality of the site or, indeed, if it has it´s own toilet paper.One good thing about this campsite is that each plot gets it´s own, albeit old and without toilet paper, private bathroom.The ground though is almost like hard standing and i´m so glad i brought my rock peg. Day 29 Tuesday 8th Oct Bacares to Argeles Plage29 miles (total 1007)because of strenghtening one of the other broken tent poles i now have another broken pole to deal with . Finding somewhere to buy tent poles in a place where hundreds of thousands of people camp should be easy you would think. But not so. I can´t find a camping shop or a hardware store very easily at all.Heading through Canet plage and into St Cyprien plage and had a nice cold beer where i met some English ex-pats that told me of a camping shop. I found it but they didn´t sell poles. I had to buy a beach tent at 20 euros to rob the poles.In Argeles Plages which is quite nice and staying at camping Bouix which is 14.50 euros which is very central and has free wifi that doesn´t work.Made up and fitted “new” tent poles and made some spares (why didn´t i do it before i left(well, i remembered everything else)).Camping Bouix 14.50 Day 30 Wednesday 9th Oct Argeles plage to Roses14 miles (total 1021)having rest day before the hills of the Pyrenees start in the hope my tendon will be ok.Found naturist beach just 4 miles up coast.Day 31 Thursday 10th Oct44 miles (total 1065)📷 almost straight away out of Argeles the hills start. Through Colliere and a 500m tunnel to Banyuls sur Mer and to the border at Cerbere. The hills are hardwork with the tendon. The downhills are great with lovely scenery.One one of the downihills at around 35 mph i hear something snap and slow up and look back to see my rear wheel reflector shattered in pieces across the road behind.Stopped in Llanca for my first beer(bigger and cheaper) in Spain.Onto Roses which seems nice and camping at La Salata. Another 4 star. Got told i´ve camped in the wrong bit and asked to move which i don´t.Met a nice German couple at the TIC in Roses that are cycle touring around the world.Camping la Salata 17 euros and 2 euros for wifi. Day 32 Friday 11th Oct Roses to Palafrugell42 miles (total 1107)on the road early and stopped just out of Roses town at Castello for coffee and croissant for 2.20 euros. i´d propped my bike on the doorway to the bar and i was about 2 metres away from it but the barmaid said i should bring it into the bar or something would be stolen off it.I didn´t bring it in but went out to put my bike movement sensor alarm on.Using some smaller roads heading south that weren´t very interesting. I got the odd glimpse of EV8 but i stuck to the roads as they were easier and more direct.Bumped into the German couple again.Found nice campsite in Palafrugell called La Siesta which is massive and a large outdoor pool with a sad looking lifeguard without anyone to guard.Camping La Siesta 14 euros
Day 33 Saturday 12th Oct Palafrugell to Blanes44 miles (total 1151)after probably the best nights camping of the trip i head to get supplies and am missing the Pain aux Raisin and Quiche already and grab a snickers instead.On the C31 into Palamos and the C253 through Platja dÁro which is mega touristy.Then i hit 14 miles of some serious hill and switchbacks similar to the Basque country.More great views of landscape to the west and the med to the east with glimpses of sandy coves and turquoise sea.
📷 📷 Arrived in Blanes and going from one campsite to another all were noisy and between 15 and 17 euros. I went further out of town and found a great little campsite , imaginatively called “camping Blanes” that was quiet, clean and only 5 euros 60 . it was right on the beach too(wish i could tell the woman at Lacanau beach campsite). Wifi 1.50 for an hourCamping Blanes 5.60 euros Day 34 Sunday 13th Octrest day and off to a fantastic naturist beach between Blanes and Lloret de Mar called la Boadella which is hard to find but is on the Net. it´s in a great little cove so very sheltered from the wind(not that i needed it that day as it was very hot and sunny). Water is calm and turquoise and ideal for snorkelling.
📷 Back at campsite and met with my friend Merce and went for some drinks and nice tapas in Blanes town. Day 35 Monday 14th Oct Blanes to Mollet de Valles45 miles (total 1209)left Blanes and one of the best campsite so far based on location, price and lack of dogs and hit the N11 coast road which i thought might me too heavy with traffic and not nice but in actual fact it was quite good with an adequate “hard shoulder” virtually all the way and generally flat. Passing through one town and the next made it more interesting too.I stopped at Calella at a bar to use their wifi which meant i had to order a beer. Ah , never mind. Onto Mataro where i stopped for a menu del dia which was 8.50 euros and fairly good.Out of Mataro on the C60 to Granollers and through 2km tunnel so “vizzed up” and dug my rrear light out. Not sure if the car drivers were tooting me for encouragement or to tell me to get off the bloody road you stupid man. Well, at that point i didn´t have much choice.On the whole i have to say i´ve had a lot more respect from the Spanish drivers giving me the full legally required 1.5 metres when passing.After some dificulty i found the road to Mollet and now stopping with my friend Merce here in Mollet.