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The South of France

Adventure - - #209 - with Glo­ria Crow­ley

Two of our Ad­ven­ture read­ers re­cently trav­elled to the south­ern parts of France and Por­tu­gal for a cy­cling hol­i­day. Glo­ria Crow­ley self­toured through the South of France while Ruth Jillings chose a guided tour through Por­tu­gal. Both cov­ered some se­ri­ous miles and had share with us their jour­neys.... Our three-week cy­cling ad­ven­ture through South­ern France be­gan with metic­u­lous plan­ning of the route and ac­com­mo­da­tion along the way. We were very for­tu­nate the friends we trav­elled with had al­ready done three pre­vi­ous cy­cling trips through France so were very happy to or­gan­ise this trip. A very use­ful guide is Lonely Planet Cy­cling France which is in­valu­able for routes, dis­tances sights and ter­rain. Our friends took their own bikes but we hired ours from an ex­cel­lent com­pany in Bordeaux called Bike Hire Di­rect. They went above and be­yond good ser­vice and were happy to meet us along the way with a re­place­ment moun­tain bike as I found the road bike too highly geared. We each had two pan­niers on our bikes which held enough, as long as you were happy to travel light and wash out your cy­cling gear each night.

We started cy­cling up the At­lantic Coast to Ar­ca­chon us­ing the cy­cle ways pro­vided. We con­tin­ued up the coast through forests and cy­cle paths with stun­ning ocean views and a side trip to Dune du Pi­lates, the largest sand dune in Europe. We caught the ferry at Le Ver­don -sur Mer across to Royan where we cy­cled along the wa­ter­front to Saint Palais sur Mer. Each morn­ing we bought de­li­cious and so cheap baguettes, pâté, cheese salami etc to have a pic­nic lunch along the way. Shops and su­per­mar­kets all close for two hours from noon so we soon learnt to stock up early. From there we headed up the Gironne Es­tu­ary stop­ping at beau­ti­ful old towns along the way.

We av­er­aged about 15 km/h and usu­ally cy­cled be­tween 45 and 60 km per day. We ex­plored the stun­ning chateau of Biron, where it is ru­moured the chateau is haunted by Count Biron on the 31 July, the an­niver­sary of the day he was be­headed. We then headed East to the Dor­dogne fol­low­ing the Dor­dogne River stop­ping at St Cirq for a guided tour through the caves there that fea­ture pre­his­toric draw­ings and also a mu­seum con­tain­ing pre­his­toric bones, fossils etc. From there it was a wel­come three­day respite in the beau­ti­ful town of Sar­lat. We loved Sar­lat so 3 days was great to re­lax and make merry, give the bikes a rest and our legs. Eat­ing and drink­ing wine is al­ways a high­light in France so we took full ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered!

With con­tin­u­ing great weather we headed fur­ther into the Dor­dogne where ev­ery tiny vil­lage/town is un­be­liev­ably old but each time dif­fer­ent. Rides each day were spec­tac­u­lar and al­ways chang­ing. Lime­stone hill­sides are dotted with ex cave habi­ta­tions and the smaller roads we used were not too hilly. An ex­cep­tion was the road to Ro­ca­madour but so worth the ef­fort when you got there. We spent a few days cy­cling through the Lot Val­ley which has to be up there as a top cy­cle. Flatish (truly!!) and spec­tac­u­lar, fol­low­ing the river and dwarfed on both sides byc­sreep lime­stone cliffs. Had a cou­ple of nights in a Gite across the river from Saint Cirque La Popie...had a win on that one! St Cirque also beau­ti­ful but dif­fer­ent again.

We had one night in a real chateau...Chateax de Saint Dau. Was fairy­tale amaz­ing from the out­side but, with the ex­cep­tion of the first level liv­ing, din­ing and guest rooms...a crum­bling mess of about 30 other rooms over 5 lev­els. It was cob­webby, filthy and fall­ing apart ev­ery­where. We also ac­cepted the of­fer of din­ner in the 'Grand Din­ing Room' which was ac­tu­ally ex­cel­lent, es­pe­cially with low light­ing, huge fire go­ing and a 24 seater din­ing ta­ble! Af­ter 4 ex­cel­lent bot­tles of cham­pagne and red wine be­tween us, pro­vided by the owner who also acted as the chef it was a place to re­mem­ber for many rea­sons. Our jour­ney sadly ended in Ca­hors where we parted com­pany with our friends who con­tin­ued cy­cling for a fur­ther six weeks while we took the train back to Bordeaux to re­turn the bikes.

The trip was amaz­ing, cy­cling was the best way to en­joy the jour­ney and I would rec­om­mend it to any­one, even those who are not very fit as E bikes are a very pop­u­lar op­tion. The French driv­ers are so con­sid­er­ate to cy­clists and we never once felt in any dan­ger from mo­torists.

TOP: A gite for sale near Biron, our friends were in­ter­ested! MID­DLE: The pic­turesque town St Cirq Lapopie BOT­TOM L to R: Rail trail at Calviac-en-Perig­ord Our apart­ment in Sar­lat

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