Leg 22, 23 & 24: Mountains!

Dear Friends,

leg 21 finished in Argeles sur Mer with a lovely dinner and in the morning we had a great breakfast and like pseudo-athletes we ate as many scrambled eggs as we posssibly could to prepare ourselves for the mountains.

"Le  Cottage" in Argeles sur Mer

“Le Cottage” in Argeles sur Mer

Coullioure

Coullioure

The first steep uphills were not far away and up we went and after that down until we reached the sea again in the gorgeous Collioure. After a short break dedicated to photos (Claudia) and navigation checks (Olli) we continued in the best of moods. The stretch we had just completed would have been one which I would not have been able to do only four weeks ago without pushing the bike. Now we both happily roamed across the hills.

Last views on France

Last views on France

And so it went on all day: Up and down in an impressively steep manner. The landscape was spectacular and I really did not expect to hear myself saying that: It was an unbelievably beautiful bicycle day! On one of the highest points of our journey we entered Spain. After some 1700 kilometers cycling from Bonn.

Spain!!

Spain!!

To reach Llança, our destination for the day there were another 20 kilometers of hills to do, but we were over the moon what a wonderful day we were experiencing! If anyone ever visits Llança please do not forget to go to the restaurant Fornall Mari. It is an excellent little place with caring and knowledgeable service and brilliant food – a real highlight.

From Llança we started stage 23 to Palamos – overrall a rather flat stage compared to the day before. Well… it started actually with a last steep climb of which ended the Pyrenees for us. Then there was flatness…! In Castello Empuria we had a brief stop to admire the mediaval village centre and the church before we continued our journey. Our route joined the Pirinexus ever so often which runs through the Pyrenees away from cars and other traffic. Whenever we met it though the route was in really bad condition and it became our hobby to actually try to avoid this bikeroute which has been awarded the bicycle route of the year 2014!

Castel with Catalan flag

Castel with Catalan flag

Castello de Empuries - Church

Castello de Empuries – Church


With Palamos we eventually reached that part of Costa Brava where mass-tourism feels at home. Looking from the positive side on it mass-tourism means that you easily find a place to stay in off-season and restaurants are prepared to feed you at times no local would ever think about eating (in Spain: between 5 and 7 pm … at that time we are just freshly showered and a bit rested and REALLY hungry…). Therefore… no complaints – it all has its own advantages!
Old bridge on day 23

Old bridge on day 23

Palamos was the starting point for our leg 24 and there we went further south and approached the second hill-stage. While Olli seemed to hardly sweat I had a hard time on this leg. We had to do more breaks to get over the Costa Brava hills – and yes… there is a very good reason to call it Costa Brava. It is a very wild coast! We met a Swiss lady on her bike tour as well – Maja. She has just become a pensionist and decided to take on her bike and cycle to Malaga from Zürich. Impressive. Despite of tired legs it was a great day again – over and over we were rewarded with excellent vistas after a climb. The stretch between Sant Feliu de Grixols and Tossa de Mar is known as well as the “Road of the Year”: 365 curves each presenting impressive vistas! Today`s destination is Blanes and tomorrow it will be Barcelona!

Vista from "Road of the year" - Costa Brava

Vista from “Road of the year” – Costa Brava

So it is Good Bye from us – Bye Bye (and Adeu!)

Claudia & Olli

Leg 20 & 21: Indulgence-Rides through Rouissillion

Dear Friends,

our last 2 stages have presented the South of France in all its beauty. We have enormously enjoyed the cycling which might mean as well that we eventually got used to the sometimes slightly imperfect road surfaces (if there is a surface to speak of) and that we have to stop rather a lot now to double check the route. In addition to the map we keep looking into an offline-App for French cycling routes and Google-Maps to keep us on track. Leg 20 went from Sete to Gruissan. A lovely, peaceful stage which allowed us to get over the pain of leaving Chez Francois….

Gruissan

Gruissan

Gruissan Village live

Gruissan Village live

Gruissan is a pretty and charming little town. I fell hopelessly in love with its surrrounding landscape (direction Port la Nouvelle) which we crossed on the morning of stage 21. On the horizon the Pyrenees, the marshes and brilliant cycling roads – what an indulgance! I did not want to leave.

Between Gruissan and Port la Nouvelle

Between Gruissan and Port la Nouvelle

Beautiful bike road after Port la Nouvelle

Beautiful bike road after Port la Nouvelle

Behind Port la Nouvelle we found ourselves in a road closure: they were filming for a movie. The friendly security guard asked us to be fast to do the closed strech. “Well” he said when looking at the bikes and the full panniers “as fast as you can…” And so it came that we had the street we thought might be the busiest of our leg all to ourselves.

All day the Pyrenees came closer bit by bit and and reminded us that tomorrow we will have the first of our two mountain stages. We will try to cross them with as little inclination as possible following the coast – we will see how that will feel in real live. But as our legs have improved a lot by now the feeling of panic when thinking about the Pyrenees has vanished. What we feel now is respect – which seems adequate, somehow. It will work out somehow!

So tomorrow we will be in Catalunya and this is the last blog from France from this journey. So it is Au revoir from us from here and it will chant Benvinguts fromCatalunya tomorrow!

Claudia & Olli