We have reached Toulouse, and the end of this particular ‘Trip’ chapter … I think I’ll call it Southern France (Take one). In a couple of days we are taking the train back to Paris and then we head north to sample the delights of Germany, the Netherlands etc. We are not really sure about the details yet as firm plans only include the purchase of the train ticket and booking of accommodation in Paris. But I’ll update you as we go in the usual manner ….
The journey since Bordeaux has been lovely in it’s scenery as we have been cycling along the Canal de Garonne, which is beautiful and very pleasantly flat. This was quite welcome after the ‘rolling’ terrain of wine country, which incidentally is only ‘rolling’ on the down-side of the hills … it’s bloody hard work on the up-side.
Along the canal, the camping sites have been a bit more scarce but we have managed quite well and encountered some really lovely sites. A stand-out would have to be the completely free campground, with 6 pitches and the best and cleanest facilities around, at Sérignac-sur-Garonne. A very pleasant and much needed surprise as we were heading to a campground at Saint-Hilaire-de-Lusignan on the other side of the river and the Husband had omitted one small detail in his planning … a bridge! We were therefore left with the decision of whether to go up river or down river about 15km to cross, then the corresponding 15km to get back to where we were … but on the other side (where the campground was). We concluded that beer was needed ‘immédiatement’, and as luck would have it, we discovered this lovely free campground a couple of hundred meters from the bar! Lucky … especially for the Husband!
Booking accommodation for the cities is a bit more involved as we are using Airbnb, as you know, which is really excellent. However, we have discovered a couple of key questions to ask before pressing the ‘book’ button. A couple of important questions for us is ‘what floor are you on’ and ‘do you have a lift’. We have discovered how important these questions are quite recently as the accommodation we have booked in Toulouse is on the 3rd floor (no lift) and in Paris we will be on the 5th floor (you guessed it, no lift). Our ‘system’ of bikes and trailers works excellently on the flat in both bike touring and ‘people with bags’ mode but as soon as you add elevation, things become a whole lot harder! Essentially the luggage that needs carrying up the stairs is bikes x 2, trailers (with duffle bag out and wheels in) x2, duffle bags x2 and front bags x2. That equals 6 trips up and down the stairs; however, given that someone has to stay with the remaining bags on the street for security purposes and it’s the Husband that has the muscles, it equates to 5 return trips for the Husband and 1 single trip for me. The Husband has tried to wriggle out of this arrangement … but it’s pretty watertight as far as I can see! Other important questions to ask are ‘where shall we put the keys when we leave?’ ‘Where do we put the rubbish?’ and ‘What is the wifi access name, ID and password?’
This week has been a difficult ‘missing the offspring’ week for us. Both Daughter number 1 and Daughter number 2 have been doing exams of one sort or another and we feel a very long way away and unable to deliver the usual nagging, support, food and hugs. They are both brilliant people and totally capable (and I’m sure quite relieved to have avoided the nagging) so we have no doubt that they are doing fine, but sometimes Snapchats and Skype just don’t cut it from a ‘mum’ angle.
Unfortunately, a few pieces of our equipment have failed only 3 months into the Trip … although granted most of the have been labouring under the unnaturally punishing wear and tear subjected by the Husband. I have threatened that the replacements must be army surplus as all this high tech, light weight gear is just not up to the task of Husband survival.
His mug has taken on water between the layers of plastic and the handle is now precariously attached, his shorts have become permanently stained in a quite indiscreet place due to some kind of colour leeching from his saddle – this is strange as the same has not occurred to any of my clothing. His silk sleeping bag liner is holding together by mere threads and his sandals have completely disintegrated – although he does have an unexplainable habit of leaving them outside in the rain through the night. I would have thought that the aversion therapy delivered by spending the following day squelching around in wet shoes would be enough to curb this behaviour … but apparently not. His jandals have also bitten the dust … after only a couple of weeks of wear, and his hat has faded to a light pink/mauve colour (not his fault, I agree). So apparently shopping is in store for Paris. I, on the other hand, am quite careful with my stuff so I don’t get to go shopping 😦
Another item that is not doing it’s job is the small cooler bag that we have with us. It was fine in the cooler weather we had but it just isn’t up to the job of transporting butter and cheese (essential items) in the ridiculously hot weather that we have been cycling through in the last couple of weeks. Thirty four degrees in the full sun requires something with a bit more grunt so we will also be searching for a (small) chilly bin in Paris. Although, I have to say that some of the cheeses we have been eating have actually improved, and certainly increased in strength, after a good couple of days in the trailer! I don’t know if it is an approved cheese maturing method but it could be an opportunity for someone out there … “matured in a bicycle trailer for 3 days” … it’s got to be up there with “matured in a limestone cave for 12 months”!
Another item that became so obviously necessary when we were dealing with the incessant rain of the Loire leg, was some kind of tarp that we can cook and sit under at camp. It is very very difficult to cook a meal and spend an evening in incessant rain as you can only sit inside your tent and eat cold uncooked stuff … it isn’t fun!
Just to keep you updated … in the proper cycle-touring blog style …
(FYI: I have stopped reporting average speed and maximum speed because it was getting boring, and I can safely say that we generally do an average of 13-15kph depending on the conditions and a maximum of 30-45kph depending on whether there are any big hills to go down)
I have also added these to the map
19th June, 2014
Bordeaux to Bazas
Time: 5:23 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1345km
20th June, 2014
Bazas to Meilhan sur Garonne
Time: 3:00 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1384km
21st June, 2014
Meilhan sur Garonne to Sérignac-sur-Garonne
Time: 3:47 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1440km
22nd June, 2014
Sérignac-sur-Garonne to Valence
Time: 2:45 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1479km
23rd June, 2014
Valence to Grisolles
Time: 4:45 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1541km
24th June, 2014
Grisolles to Toulouse
Time: 2:15 mins
Total ‘Trip’ Distance: 1573km