On arrival in Lapalud we escaped intense and nightlong rain with thunder and lightning only marginally. It started raining big drops when we saved ourselves into the Chambre d`Hote and got worse from that moment on. Luckily we had reserved the dinner option in the farm house and oh boy how well we ate again (www.ferme-terrebioprovence.com)!
We sat with 3 couples at the table – one English but living in Switzerland for about 30 years, one from France and us. After a while we realised that the common language amongst all of us was actually German. The English couple both spoke good German and the French gentleman mastered the language impeccably as he came from Alsace where they speak German a lot (his wife understood everything but spoke less) and Olli had the chance to practise as well. It was perfect and the evening turned out to be a lovely experience.
We were frightened to death looking at the weather forecast for the next 2 days which predicted severe weather in the region we wanted to cycle through. And indeed Montpellier which we wanted to pass by on stage 19 suffered from heavy floodings after that particular night. Still, we were lucky. We did have 2 beautiful and sunny bike days – the weather actually turned out to be that well that I ended up with a sunburn on my arms – not bad for bad weather days!
Stage 17 led us from Lapalud to Aigues-Mortes. While we anxiously kept watching the sky everything stayed wonderful and we enjoyed the vistas and the terrific and peaceful route. Lunch we took in Avignon with its gorgeous old walls (Avignon has been papal seat during one of the more “dynamic” eras of Christian history around 1400) – before we continued with slightly overfilled but happy bellies towards Theziers. One of the challenges of the leg was that it was impossible to get the distance between Lapalud and Avignon right – what we had found as information was 35 kilometers but we actually had 60 on the clock when we arrived – slightly disturbing for the planning I have to say… The second stretch luckily was as expected and we reached our destination after a total of 80km. This time we stayed in a vineyard which offered rooms and to Olli`s utmost pleasure a sauna. We hardly cared that we had to hike down into the village to find ourselves something to eat due to that.
From Theziers we turned towards Aigues-Mortes and again the forecast threatened us with nightmarish prediction. Which again turned out to be wrong – good for us! We noticed more and more horse stables and bull farms which we had not seen before on our trip and yes – we actually had entered the Camargue! During this stage we intensified the discussion on the term “flat”. Well, for me flat landscape signifies that I can move forward without experiencing significant elevation change. I got the impression that that was not the case as I had to change in very small gears to labour myself up the hills and shot down on the other side. NOT flat…! Haha, Olli said to that, all wrong – compared to Pyrenees this is flat.
Aigues-Mortes was a really delightful experience. The city has been the starting point of the 7th crusade in the 13th century and still has a complete mediaval city wall and a lovely ambience in its narrow streets. We had an excellent dinner in “Le Dit Vin” and Olli found a little pearl in an oyster. It will join our tour from now on :-). So we went to bed in a very happy state sure that the leg to Sete and the sea would be an nice and easy stroll. Guess we have been there before that things were not exactly as expected, weren`t we? The 55 kilometers of the leg were indeed flat and the wind was either with us or it was windstill – so ideal for an easy day cycling. But no! The stage was the most challenging one we have done so far. Right after leaving Aigues-Mortes the bike road changed from gravel to a dirt track and then into a construction site for a road. The deep and rain soaked sand slowed us down a lot and made the stretch very demanding. After we had overcome that part of the route we were on a normal road with cars which converted into a highway. It was clearly faster to cycle now but pretty stressful… And as we were at it we had the dirt track/road construction and then highway combination another time a bit later on. After 50 km we were completely done. But: we are in Sete and did pay our visit as planned to “Chez Francois” where we will eat lovely sea food tonight as well. And Sunday is our rest day – a treat after a cycling distance of 1,551 kilometers since Bonn.
And that is Bye Bye from us again: Bye Bye!
Claudia & Olli