Another summer, another tour, once again via an advertisement in the CTC Magazine.
The route took us all the way from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea, along the way taking in the flat lands of the Loire Valley, cols of the Massif Central and Puy de Dome area, followed by the magnificent Tarn Gorge, before finishing with the Carmargue regions in Southern France, the total distance being 850 miles in two weeks, camping in a group of 12, luggage transported each day by van, route sheets were provided taking us along quiet scenic country roads, with one rest day half way through the Tour near the Puy de Dome.
Breakfast; as a much food as you could eat, many of the sites were as pretty as the one on the right. The first weeks was spent in the flat area of the Loire Valley, I was expecting the flat country side, but one difference from the Surrey lanes that I am used to at home is that the farms all mingle into one, with the early summer crops covering vast areas swaying gently in the breeze, with no hedge rows to seperate them the vastness seemed far more apparent. I also noticed a distinct lack of people, at least in comparison to my local Surrey rides, in France we would go for miles without seeing anybody, I can’t do that for long here at home even on an early Sunday morning.
Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley is one recognised as one of the best in France!
The Fades Viaduct Viaduct on the way to Pontgibaud is apparently the highest (in terms of construction from bottom to top) in Europe and designed my none other than Mr Eiffell (as in Eiffell Tower) himself. Actually obtaining a picnic lunch had to be planned as well – it’s interesting to note that many French retailers close for two hours at lunch time and work through until 6.00pm instead of 5.00pm, a stark contrast to here in the UK where retailers often work 9-6 and are often so busy we do not even have time to eat lunch let alone take a lunch break, the pace of life seemed much more relaxed than here in the UK. Sunday closing made also made a Sunday feel like a Sunday (most closed Monday as well), in Surrey with everything open it feels just like another day with everyone rushing around at a million miles an hour; it really was like stepping back in time twenty years or so to when the same was common place here.
This was typical of the lanes in France, South of the Loire the route became increasing hilly as we headed into the Massif Central where the terrain is mountainous with some long steep climbs and descents; the transformation happened very quickly, we seemed to turn a corner and that was it, hills every where, five days of flat cycling then wallop… these big bumpy things turn up and I had to get all puffed out and unnecessary in the leg hurting department.
I hardly saw any Graffitti in France, except for this place! Through the Massif Central and the Puy de Dome the route remained hilly although spectacular as we headed towards the Tarn Gorge, which for me was one of the highlights of the whole your, pictures simply can not do it justice, in some areas a collection of perhaps twenty or so houses were built into the gorge with no road access; they were serviced from the opposite bank by a cable car type of arrangement, except I could not see any cable car and I was sure the cable would not support anything heavier than a canary, but hey that’s the French for you; the cheeky dare devils who live on the edge, in this case literally!
The Tarn Gorge was superb, those houses on the right had no road access, they were serviced from the opposite bank by a cable car type of arrangement, except I could not see any cable car and I was sure the cable would not support anything heavier than a canary!
I am writing this on the following Tuesday sitting here typing away at 11.00pm ( I am no journalist, these take hours, longer than the bike ride sometimes) in my office in Croydon while it is all still fresh in my mind and the wind burn still noticeable on my skin; wishing I was just off to the local Restaurant with me new mates for a slap up meal, fish fingers and chips when I get home does not seem quite so appealing some how!