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Touring Department

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Touring Department ...

    Parklands we could find (not necessarily the most direct). If we spent too long in a Railton Road museum or snoozing over a picnic lunch, we would catch up on a bit of Guildford fast N road. We chose this route because it was reasonably flat, had a Surrey GU2 9JX parallel railway line (in case of illness, injury or we just needed to get a 0844 736 8450 move on and have a lift), the Bike Express could drop us off in Bordeaux,

    and we could return from Toulouse. There was no problem finding cycling@ctc.org.uk accommodation by phone mostly in French in June and we planned our TOURING www.ctc.org.uk daily route from C d‟H to C d‟H using The Guide National Chambres et

    Tables d‟Hôtes. It costs about ?12, weighs over 1KG so photocopy DEPARTMENT relevant pages and mark potential C d‟Hs on your IGN maps before you go. Ditto France Rough Guide info.

    It was very hot. 2/3 cycled in helmets, 1/3 in a long sleeved shirt, 3/3 in

    (1) Bordeaux to Beziers black lycra cycling shorts and Teva sandles. 1/3 wore a two litre Camel

    Bak water container. All 3 used earplugs and wrote their diaries every

    night! We drank tap water and panache (shandy), and no-one was ill (2) Bordeaux to Perpignan

    inspite of gorging on wild roadside cherries, plums and almonds most days. Nor were our bikes, Hybrid Claude Butlers, ill (probably because

    we had a pannier full of first aid for us and our bikes). We took a dog dazer which was used twice, but gave us immense confidence. No

    mosquitoes. English uncommon. Wonderful food - fruit growing region. (1) BORDEAUX TO BEZIERS

    Beware all village shops shut on Monday. It was a brilliant adventure. along the Canal du Midi in June 1999

    TOTAL DISTANCE 420 miles Seventeen day holiday from Bordeaux to near Béziers by three GETTING THERE Drive to Dover, European Bike Express coach to noncycling 50+ females with sailing husbands. Four days continuous rain Bordeaux. Train Narbonne to Toulouse. EBE back from Toulouse. at the beginning - very glad to have Ortlieb panniers and bar bag which did not leak. Cycled an average of 33 miles per day, 44 maximum, 21 MAPS Michelin 989 1/1000000. IGN 55,56,57,64 and 72. minimum. Stayed mostly in Chambres d‟Hôtes (C d‟Hs), which we booked daily before setting off after breakfast. If your French is not up to GUIDES this ask your C d‟H hostess or s/i to do this. C d‟Hs much more fun, 1) Guide National, Chambres et Tables d‟hôtes (in French) from cheaper, better for the French speaking than Logis or small hotels, and French Government Tourist Office, 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AL nearly all were persuaded to give us an excellent evening meal - ?8-?10 2) France, The Rough Guide. for three courses including wine and coffee. 3) Canal du Midi et de la Robine Tourisme Fluvial from Comité Départmental du Tourisme de l‟Aude, Conseil Général, 11855 We aimed to follow the River Garonne then the Canal du Midi, but were Carcassonne cedex 9. always tempted to visit villages, museums, churches etc off and en route. 4) Guide du train et du vélo en Midi-Pyrénées and Guide régional des We found the Canal du Midi beautiful but boring, with an unreliable Transports TER Languedoc-Roussilon from Publication SNCF surface (except out of Toulouse), so we tried to follow the smallest roads

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    Direction de Toulouse, Délégation Régional Voyageurs, 9 Rue C d‟H = Chambres d‟Hôte

    Marengo - BP5209, 31079 Toulouse. Cedex 5. (for local train with

    DAY 1 + 2 + 3 DOVER TO BORDEAUX bike timetable).

    5) Carte des Itinéraires cyclables Toulouse, (essential for navigating in European Bike Express to Bordeaux*. Do spend time here in this

    Toulouse) from Association Vélo, 2 rue de la Daurade, 31000 fascinating city. B&B Motel EBE at Lormont Genicart. Bus Ligne 3 to

    Toulouse. or velotise@multimania. com centre. Musée d‟Art Contemporian. Nôtre Dame. St Michaels. Pey-

    6) Bordeaux bus timetable - for sightseeing from the EBE hotel. Plan Berland Tower. etc

    de Ligne 3 et 4 from Transports en Commun, Communité urbaine

    DAY 4 BORDEAUX TO ST MACAIRE 35 MILES de Bordeaux, 25 rue Commandant Marchand, 33082 Bordeaux

    Cedex. Exit via Avenue de Paris to D10 Bouliac. Quinsac. Langoiran (Lunch - 7) Internet. Travel with Bicycles (Rail) - France by George Farnsworth heavy rain Logis Le St Martin by Garonne*). Rions. Cadillac (sport and

    - 12 very helpful pages. Bike Touring List by Judy Colwell - 9 bike shop). Verdelais* (Stations of the Cross*). D19E to St Macaire*

    pages. Résidence Hôtelière Les Tilleuls, 33490 Saint Macaire. Tel 05 56 62 28 8) Navicarte No 11. Voies Navigables Canaux du Midi. Editions 38 Book for dinner at L‟Abricotier or crêpes at Le Pampaillet.

    Grafocarte. (navigation for boats, detailed with roads and towpath,

    DAY 5 ST MACAIRE TO TONNEINS 40 MILES interesting with local history in English but not essential). Ff 129 and

    p+p from VNF. Service de la Navigation - exploitaion principale, 2 N113 fast traffic but no lorries to La Réole. Abbey*. Marmande. Tonneins.

    Port St-Etienne, 31000 Toulouse. Cedex 7. C d‟H at Hunet

    9) Autorisation de circulation sur les chemins de halage. Towpath 4km South Tonneins. De Tapol Hauviette, Mon Lerin, 47400 Tonneins.

    permit from VNF. We obtained one of these (free) but never had to Tel 05 53 79 09 36 *

    show it.

    DAY 6 TONNEINS TO AGEN 37 MILES 10) The CTC Rep. Steve Jackson, 130 Rue de Jarlard, 81000 Albi.

    France was very helpful and sent us a Vital up-to-date route guide Back roads to Clairac. Musée des Automates. D271 Aiguillon. N113 Port

    (in French) called Guide No 1 Toulouse - Agde à vélo le long du Ste Marie. Crossed the Garonne to St Laurent. D436 Béquin. D286

    Canal du Midi from Velo. See 5) - 20 pages. crossed the Canal Latéral à la Garonne. D119 to Sérignac. Brax. Agen. 11) The CTC Entre Deux Mers Touring Guide was also very helpful. Musée des Beaux -Arts. Back road to Bon-Encontre. Long uphill North to 12) Blay foldex pocket plan of Bordeaux for getting around and out of C d‟H. De La Vaissiere Bernadette, Chateau de Labatut, 47240 Bon-

    Bordeaux - Vital as the EBE hotel is in the suburbs at Lormont. Encontre. Tel 05 53 96 26 24 *

    Ff20 from 40-48 rue des Meuniers, 93108 Montreuil. Cedex

    DAY 7 AGEN TO MOISSAC 31 MILES 13) Bordeaux plan (free) from Office de Tourisme, 12 Cours du XXX

    juillet, 33080 Bordeaux. Cedex. e-mail otb@bordeaux-tourisme.com Sun shining at last. Crossed Canal Lateral at La Fox and at Prézat the 14) Book. Cycling along the Waterways of France by Tony Roberts. Garonne which is very wide with narrow wooden one way suspension

    ISBN 0-933201-90-7. This book is now out of print but may be bridges. D308 St Nicolas. D284 St Sixté. D12 Donsac to Auvillar* -

    obtainable via Amazon.com at a high price. stunning medieval town. D12 Laparquère. D15 St Nicolas de la Grave

     (Good looking C d‟H). N113 Moissac. Here our planned accommodation -

    The Trip Itself a gîte* on an island which looked wonderful and had been booked by the Underlining = Accommodation s/i in Auvillar was full. (Book more in advance if this gîte appeals). * = Strongly recommended by us Eventually found rooms at the Hôtel de Luxembourg but noisy by train

    s/i = Syndicat d‟initiative or Tourist Office and road

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    DAY 11 ST MARTIN-LALANDE TO CARCASSONNE. 25 MILES.

    DAY 8 MOISSAC TO LARRA 38 MILES Crossed Canal. D33 Ancient Roman Road. Pexiora. Bram* medieval Moissac full of tourists but do visit the cloisters* and church*. Left via the village on circular plan. Looked at Chemin d‟halage (towpath) but not towpath along Canal over spectacular aquaduct* over Garonne. Surface passable. Continued on D33 Villesquelande. At Sauzens took towpath to pebbly and slow (3mph) to Castelsarrasin. Decided to return to D12 St Carcassonne via Ville Basse. 7 pm crossed to La Cité via small cobbled Aignan. Belleperche. Bourret. D26 Màs Grenier. Verdun. Aucanville. lit bridge. Crowds of tourists, mostly leaving. Auberge de Jeunesse, rue D58 St Cézert. D29 le Nan. Cantegril. C d‟H De Carriere Brigitte, du Vicomte Trencavel, La Cité Médiévale, 11000 Carcassonne, Tel Chateau de Larra, 31330 Larra. Tel 0561826251*. This was an 0468252316*. Modern, clean, cheap ?14 B+B, EM, sheets, and unmissable adventure if La Baronne is still there. membership. Reserve in advance for this one. Brilliant place to stay so

     you can explore La Cité* by floodlight when the coachloads of tourists DAY 9 LARRA TO MAUREMONT 44 MILES have gone.

    D87 Merville. Aussonne. Then very complicated navigation (nearly on the

    DAY 12 CARCASSONNE TO VENTENAC-EN-MENERVOIS. 34 Autoroute at one point) via D1, D2 Blagnac into Toulouse. Masses of

    MILES traffic but some cycle lanes. Just head for Blagnac Centre Ville and then

    go downhill ie towards the Garonne and cross via Le Pont de Blagnac D383. D610 Trèbés. D610 Marseillette. Puichéric. La Redorte*. Homps and then you are home and dry on the piste cyclable along the digue - Keep Fit course by Canal*. Argens Minervois. Roubia. D124 Paraza. (embankment). At the Ponts Jumeaux WALK. The Canal du Midi is the Chemin de halage. Slippery viaduct. C d‟H Dominique. Les Soleils

    middle canal (which you can‟t see at first - but look for a line of plane Bleus, Route de Canal, 11120 Ventenac-en-Minervois. Tel 04 68 43 21 trees going East). S/I provides a Carte des Pistes Cyclables and you can 65*. Nightingales in beautiful garden by canal.

    cycle mostly on the path, but it is confusing about which bank to be on -

    DAY 13 VENTENAC-EN-MINERVOIS TO VALRAS PLAGE. 32 MILES cars parked one side or other - look for other cyclists. Also you have to

    dismount and cross on the traffic lights at all the bridges. Keep going and D 124 visited churches* in St Nazaire sur Aude, St Marcel s/A, Sallèles you can‟t get lost. Eventually onto a beautiful shaded flat tarred route (the s/A. D118 Cuxac s/A. Coursan. D31 Salles s/A. Fleury. Lovely route on mayor is a cycling fanatic). Watch out for other cyclists, joggers and roller bank of Aude. D618 St Jean de Birouste, and into the Med at Valras bladers. At Négra (Montesquieu - Lauragais) leave piste on D11 via Plage ( where one son was working as a watersports instructor for PGL). Villenouvelle to a gem. C d‟H De Rigaud Benedicte. Chateau de Logis Hôtel de la Plage, Valras Plage, because C d‟H at Villeneuve les

    Mauremont. 31290 Mauremont 05 61 81 64 38.* Béziers was full.

DAY 10 MAUREMONT TO CASTLENAUDRY. 31.5 MILES DAY14 VALRAS PLAGE TO CAPESTANG. 21 MILES

    Our most interesting day. D11 to St Rome*. N113 to Villefranche de Hardest day but shortest distance. Very hot, uphill and into the headwind. Lauragais. Good market. Back on to piste cyclable. Aire de Port-D64 Vendres. D37 Lespignan. Nissan-lez-Ensérune. Oppidum Lauragais. Exhibition about the construction of Riquet‟s Canal*. Col de d‟Ensérune* Roman Hill Fort and Museum. Etang de Montardy*.

    Naurouze - the mechanics of the Canal*. N113 into Castlenaudry. Followed Canal from Malpas Tunnel to Poilhès. D11E. D39. C d‟H

    Vivaldi‟s Gloria and Deruflé‟s Requiem in St Michael‟s Church* (with the Fouissac Christine, La Bastide Vieille, 34310 Capestang. Tel 04 67 93 46 aid of Encores Taxi back from our C d‟H). Delcroix Gustave, Domaine 23*

    Escourrou, 11400 St Martin-Lalande. 04 68 94 98 41.*

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DAY 15 CAPESTANG TO TOULOUSE 32 MILES

    D39 To Capestang*. Great market. D16. D413 Cuzac. Narbonne. Train

    to Carcassonne. Not allowed on TGV. No problem on TER local services, but you have to make sure the station official knows you need the luggage van opening, and then you have to load the bikes yourselves. Make sure you have a bungy or rope to fix your bike to the wall. Changed trains at Carcassonne for Toulouse train. Got off at Labege, to avoid Central Toulouse. North 3 miles on piste cyclable to Ramonville St Agne, Pouvouville. Then ghastly, narrow, windy, hilly road ( the worst and most

     dangerous in two weeks), very busy with buses and lorries going South

     along the East bank of the Garonne. Looks innocuous on the map. The

     Garonne is difficult to cross as the bridge to Portet sur Garonne, which was marked on our map, had been washed away and the passenger

    ferry service which takes bikes finishes at about 5 pm. We had to go

    down to Lacroix Falgarde and cross the River Ariège. N20 to Pinsaquel (good leafy bar stop). Back to Portet-sur-Garonne EBE Première Classe Motel next to Carrefour Supermarket. DAY 16 TOULOUSE Explored Toulouse without our bikes using the bus and Métro. Fascinating city - Les Jacobins, Market, Bridges, but we ran out of time

     and vowed to come back. Carrefour. EBE.

DAY 17 DOVER

    This information has been kindly supplied by Member Jane Willard. She

    also provided some 20 pages of useful notes in French about the route,

    including details of camp sites, a number of town plans, points along the canal where care is required with navigation, when it is necessary to cross to the other bank etc. Much of this information has been provided by the Association Velo pour le développement du cyclisme urbain based in Toulouse. Their web site is www.mygale.org/07/velotlse. A copy of these sheets may be obtained from CTC HQ by submitting a further SAE (A5 or A4) with 33p of stamps. Ask for the information in French about

     the Canal du Midi.

     For another account of this popular ride, go to the following website: http://www.battewell.freeserve.co.uk/france.html

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    reward for our labours. This left only a relatively short distance to travel

    (2) Bordeaux to Perpignan to the pick up point at Perpignan, affording an opportunity to dawdle

    along and see all the seaside resorts in between. An ‘off the beaten track’ and tranquil journey, taken in June 2002, It was beautifully hot and sunny for most of the time. We estimate that through Gascony, Armagnac, Haut Garonne, Pyrenees and we had 8 ? sunny days out of 11. When the sun wasn‟t out, it was still Roussillon offering forest tracks, picturesque countryside, a stay warm. It didn‟t rain – we know we were lucky. in a fairytale castle and the chance to relax by the seaside.

     Accommodation 700 kms = 437.5 miles 9 days cycling 2 days off We pre-booked all our accommodation by telephone. The hotels wanted only to receive some confirmation from us, which we either

    Summary and information faxed or sent. The price of hotel accommodation in France is set by the

    authorities, being displayed in each room, on the back of the door.

    Breakfast is always an optional additional cost. The cost detailed is the Our aim in planning this route was to be able to cycle as much as

    cost for both of us for room only. The price of table d‟hote or chambre possible on minor roads side by side. From previous positive

    d‟hote accommodation is also set by the authorities and is available in experiences, the route was specifically planned so that we would stay

    each room. Breakfast is included in the price. in small [or very small if the accommodation could be found] villages.

     [The maximum group size that could do this tour would be 10 as that is

    the limit of the accommodation at Ansignan]. Apart from leaving and Indication of degree of fitness required for this route approaching the EBE pick up points at Bordeaux and Perpignan, only

    4 kms was on N roads. For approximately 95% of the remaining route We are of average fitness and had not been out on our bikes at all we were able to cycle side by side as the route was almost entirely on since the previous June. There obviously were hills but we did not very minor roads. [This may not be possible in the French holiday have to get off and walk. [The steepest hill was a short one leaving season, July and August]. Collioure]. We seem to find that we cycle approximately 2/3 of the time.

     We often wonder what happens to the other 1/3 but it is stopping for As the route was invariably in countryside and through very small whatever reason, taking photos, looking at the views, taking water etc. villages, we did not always find a suitable café for lunch. On these The longest day was Auzas to Foix which was 6.16 hours cycling time. days we would purchase supplies for a do-it-yourself option. The However, we do not cycle very fast, our average speed varied between majority of small villages still have boulangeries [often more than one 13.5 kms and 16.3 kms. [Our first one and a half days were almost even in a small community] and a village “alimentation”. However, entirely flat and our average speed was 16.2 kms per hour a leisurely

    most village shops close for lunch, often from 12 noon to 3 pm. [Other start to the holiday].

    than the last day approaching Collioure, this route does not pass any

    out of town shopping centres which are invariably located near large

    Maps required communities]. Included in the detail for each day is the location where

    lunch can be taken, either in a café or food purchased. There is often We used the six maps covering the route of the IGN 1:100,000 series water available at or near a tourist information centre. verte, nos 47, 56, 63, 70, 71 and 72. [No 47 is not essential].

The route was planned to finish at the very picturesque and famous

    seaside resort of Collioure where we awarded ourselves a day off as a

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    Detail of accommodation and dinner

    Hotel Cap les Landes. Tel: 00 33 5 56 65 64 93. Room is 36 euros. Day 1 Bordeaux to Capiteux 92.4 kms

    Scheduled drop off time is 6.00 am which is why a fair distance is Note planned. To leave the city as quickly as possible, an N road can‟t be Obtain map of Bordeaux from TIC it‟s called Bordeaux Metropole and avoided but this early in the morning thankfully there isn‟t too much marks cycle paths and recommended routes for cycling. traffic. Holiday cycling only starts having left the N113!. The

    countryside is flat with vineyards all around and signs indicating this is

    Day 2 Capiteux to Eauze 83.0 kms the Graves region. The town café at Landiras provides breakfast

    including delicious bacon omelette opposite the village church set in Initially, straight, flat, empty, forest roads, the dense forest occasionally the square surrounded by plane trees. Budos offers an interesting giving way to the odd farm which seems to be successfully growing ruined chateau it looks perfect on approaching, but on rounding the corn. The few villages are built in large clearings just a few houses

    corner you‟ll see it only has two walls! Another castle can be toured at around a church but with an amazing airyness, each of the houses Villandraut. The tiny road is mainly straight and flat and through having its own large grassed garden, with large communal grassed reasonably dense forest growing in incredibly sandy soil. There are lots areas as well. The auberge at Saint Gor provides the most of huge wood processing plants, giving off a heavenly, slightly peppery scrumptious food, presented with care. At lunchtime it seems to be a smell of the freshly worked wood. Prechac is very pretty it‟s majestic focal point and meeting place for the local woodworkers. Gentle hills old church lies at its heart surrounded by meeting space under plane begin at St Justin, the old town square has many beautiful medieval trees. Time permitting, detour at Prechac [total detour 4 kms] to the buildings. Labastide d‟Armagnac is an even finer example of a fortified Gorges du Ciron and the ruined Chateau de la Fue. medieval town square. All the buildings seem to be ancient. The town

     hall nameplate shows the building to have originated in 1291. Hills Our hotel provides a lovely big room [we suspect the majority are begin to be less gentle after La Bastide d‟Armagnac. The scenic route similar] overlooking Capiteux‟ church which is set in the main square, is through tiny settlements [they can‟t really be called villages] in the

    surrounded by plane trees and shaded benches. La patron is most country.

    welcoming and friendly. Le patron is the chef who creates one of the

    most delicious dinners of our holiday. Our large room at Hotel Henri IV overlooks the cathedral. The hotel‟s

     restaurant is closed. [As a matter of interest it was 35 degrees Detail of route centigrade at 8 pm!]

    To leave Bordeaux, initially follow the detailed map provided by EBE

    showing the quiet route south on the east bank of the river Garonne. Detail of route

    Then use the map from the TIC [see below] and cross the Garonne to Initially D114 from Capiteux to Maillas. From Maillas D379 via St Gor the west on the cycle path alongside the Pont F Mitterand. Then follow to meet D626 into St Justin. D626 via Labastide d‟Armagnac and at TIC map to take Avenue des Pyrenees [this is the N113] south out of Pemoura take D33 via Monclar and continue on D33 until it meets D30 Bordeaux. R onto D108 towards La Brede, 1 km then L onto D109 at T junction. L towards Eauze. 3 kms before Eauze, D30 joins D626 to through St Selve, then Jeansotte. From Jeansotte take road marked to enter Eauze.

    St Michel de Rieutfret. This joins the D115. Continue on D115 through

    St Michel and exit south on D115. L at T junction with D116 to Landiras. Detail of accommodation and dinner

    Leave Landiras on D125. Via Budos, then D114 through Villandraut, Hotel Restaurant Henri IV. 00 33 5 62 09 75 90. Room is 45 euros. Prechac, Lucmau to Capiteux. [Pronounced Capsieu]. Their restaurant was closed but there are several places to eat in

     Eauze. We choose Pizza Resto which is satisfactory.

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     R to Parre then D102 via Lupiac, Peyrusse Grande, Mascaras to St Note Christaud. D156 towards Laas and into Mielan. D3 from Mielan to Trie Map of Eauze useful, not essential. sur Baise.

    Detail of accommodation and dinner

    L‟Hotel de la Tour 00 33 5.62.35.52.12. Room is 39 euros. Day 3 Eauze to Trie sur Baise 79.2 kms

     The land, as far as the eye can see, is a tapestry of hillocks and vales

    folded at random, presumably when the Pyrenees were formed. A few Day 4 Trie sur Baise to Auzas 78.0 kms river valleys cut their way through to create some sense of formal

    pattern. The whole day‟s cycling follows the nearest thing to a ridge The route follows the valley of the river Baise towards its source in the given the underlying terrain. The land slopes away on both sides but Pyrenees, initially through low lying farmland and then it ventures the road is forced to follow the ups and downs of the major folds. further up the valley. At Montastruc, it begins to climb the valley side Initially these are very gentle and create the impression of cycling over and to cross the pass into the next valley. Shortly after, in the foothills rolling hills but as the route is directly south towards the Pyrenees, the of the Pyrenees, is the first demanding climb. 130 metres in 2 kms to overall incline is up and the individual inclines steeper. Demu would Castelbajac onto the plateau. However the upward incline of the provide breakfast if its hotel were not closed for cleaning. Demu‟s plateau continues all the way to Lannemezan, another 130 metres over shops provide the refreshment required to eat later. Just past Parre, 10 kms. A café in Lannemezan provides a late breakfast. The road the ridge road overlooks a massive valley to the west [the perfect from Lannemezan, initially the D75 runs along a 30 km ridge. Surely breakfast/lunch spot]. The village of Lupiac [claimed to be the this is one of the most picturesque areas of France. The views go on birthplace of D‟Artagnan!] is extra-ordinary, built on a true ridge with for ever and are punctuated by the almost foreboding black silhouette land falling away steeply on either side. St Christaud is home to a of the closest Pyrenean peaks and the imposing grandeur of the even thmassive 12 century church, built on an escarpment that one can see higher snow capped peaks behind. In the foreground lie the patchwork for miles and a chateau [rather in need of repair]. The whole day‟s quilts of fields so typical of the French farming system every second

    route to Mielan is a tiny track, latterly with several hills. The first 12 kms or third house seems to be a working farm. The ridge ends and having from Mielan is relatively flat and the last 3 kms into Trie downhill. The crossed the D5 the remaining route is made up of many ups and whole day has been 100% side by side cycling. downs crossing the north/south valleys but the scenery is spectacular.

     The magnificence of the scenery dulls the transitory pain of late Unfortunately our room at the only hotel in Trie, L‟Hotel de la Tour, is afternoon climbs. There are many pretty, almost inaccessible villages tiny. [This was the only disappointment of our holiday we suspect of which Auzas is one. Another day spent cycling side by side virtually that they have larger rooms]. The hotel‟s restaurant is also the only all day.

    restaurant in Trie. The food is very nicely presented and tasty.

     Our accommodation was a real find. Our room is one of a number of Detail of route modern studios built as an extension in keeping with the old village Take the road leaving Eauze SSE marked towards Pleou, continue house. The facilities are first class, including a swimming pool with towards Bascous to join the N124 for the few hundred metres into extensive views over farmland. Dinner is lovely tasty farmhouse. A

    Demu. South from Demu on the road marked to Ladrege, Barre and communal event at a long refectory table. Most visitors stay for a few Rechet [care this road is blocked off where it used to join the N124. days at least and this seems an excellent holiday location. Auzas is To access, take D263 immediately past the hotel for just a few metres very special. A picturesque tiny village in the bottom of a valley all

    and then turn left to find the road and the signs] to T junction with D157. the roads out are up. It‟s in a terrific location, mid-way between the

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    Atlantic and the Mediterranean, has easy access to the main east/west to its head where a stream from the northern mountains feeds rivers motorway and is conveniently located for day visits to both the going both east and west. The road goes over the abutment between mountains and major tourist attractions e.g. Carcassonne and the two valleys and begins a long descent to south of Le Mas d‟Azil, Toulouse. which is famous for its Grottes. Climb and descent estimated at 200

     metres over about 7 kms. Descending towards the town, you see the Detail of route amazing sight of a wide fast flowing river, l‟Arize, disappearing into the

    Initially D632 southwest from Trie, then 1km from Trie L onto D939 for mouth of a huge cave. Even more interestingly the road itself is also a few hundred metres and R onto D39 via Tournous-Darre and at swallowed by an adjacent huge cave. We wheeled our bikes along the Bonnefort R onto D21 then L onto D17 via Montastruc and Castlebajac narrow footpath inside the tunnel to see the “in-cave” river bed, well

    to Lannemezan. East from Lannemezan on N117 but after Pinas L floodlit to show the now sparse surface water flowing through. As a onto D75 to Franquevielle. At Franqueveille, south onto D34 for 1 km cyclist you see for free! After Le Mas d‟Azil, there‟s a gradual incline then east onto D75 via le Cuing and St Ignan where road changes to over 6 kms before a relatively flat 6 kms along the side of a valley in D69. Through Bessou and cross D5 taking road marked to Latoue. the shadow of a massive rocky crag above. Perfect cycling. A final Then D69 again to Sepx, Proupiary and Auzas. descent into Foix with its magnificent castle towering above the town.

     Another day when we‟ve been able to ride side by side virtually all day.

    Detail of accommodation and dinner The Hotel Lons is on the river l‟Ariege in the old town. The hotel is Chambre d‟hote. Angeline Schmitt. 00 33 5 61 90 23 61. Room and great, particularly nice welcoming staff. Our recently refurbished room breakfast [great breakfast including fresh honey, straight from the hive, overlooking the river is so huge that initially we lose our bearings in the part honeycomb and part runny not at all oversweet] is 38 euros for room looking for the separate toilet! We have dinner at the hotel in its two. Dinner, including wine, is 11 euros per person. What value! superb conservatory hanging out above the river. The quality of the

    food is exceptional at an incredibly low price. We don‟t know how such

    a quality meal can be produced for the set price charged. Day 5 Auzas to Foix 87.7 kms

    The lovely town of St Martory is a bridgehead on the Garonne with Detail of route remnants of its fortified walls and a very cosy atmosphere inside. A Leave Auzas to take the D52 through St Martory to Mazeres sur Sarlat. magnificent suspension bridge crosses the Garonne. The D26, with a Continue east taking D26 via Belbeze, Cerisols then D135 towards few changes in number is effectively today‟s road from St Martory to Fabas, continue east on D35 to join D627 turning R to Merigon. Foix . On the map it looks spectacular initially running in the lee of the Continue east on D15. L at T with D119 through the Grotte and then massive escarpment of the Petites Pyrenees. It‟s an almost straight through le Mas d‟Azil. After 2 kms take D1 east via Gabre, Aigues track east across the many river valleys running south from the Petites Juntes. D1 turns south at la Plane for 3 kms and then east again to Pyrenees. There‟s quite a lot of climbing up the sides of valleys only to Vernajoul and on into Foix. plummet down very quickly to begin the process again. The well farmed landscapes have been replaced by mountain pasture and Detail of accommodation and dinner increasingly dense forest. The many farms are mainly dairy farms, Hotel Lons 00 33 5 61 65 52 44. Room is 48.80 euros. looking poorer and unkempt in comparison with their lower-land neighbours. There‟s a café at Merigon for late breakfast/lunch. From Note Merigon, although the road goes effectively straight on, there‟s a Map of Foix from Tourist Information Centre useful. significant geographic change the road is sandwiched between two escarpments of the Montagnes du Plantaurel. The road climbs a valley

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    upholstered in medieval style, the walls are hung with tapestries and Day 6 Foix to Couiza 74.3 kms shields, the tables have linen draped to the ground and the straight An initial climb out of Foix of about 100 metres, then some relatively high backed chairs are also upholstered in tapestry. The food is first level peddling along two head to head valleys, both less steep than class. Breakfast is a buffet of gourmet proportions. Weather permitting, yesterdays. La Roc de Maride Fille overhangs the road menacingly as dinner is served in the courtyard to the sound of choral music and in the route turns away north through a gorge descending quickly until very old fashioned but very effective low lighting. It is hard to imagine a turning east again. There‟s a café at the traffic lights in Laroque-more romantic setting. d‟Olmes which serves lunch. The route continues through Laroque and up to its church to access the extremely tiny road [at times with grass Detail of route growing in the middle] to the Lac de Leran. A long gradual descent To avoid even 1 km on the N20, take the first road [old, steep, little goes past a couple of access points with lovely views along the length used] which bears off right from the N20 after the Pont Vieux [going of the lake. A further gradual descent into the town of Chalabre which north]. This leads directly to the D1 going east about 1 km north of Foix. has a café, where refreshment may be appropriate before tackling the Keep on D1, turning away north at Rapy, then via Lieurac, Sautel to Col des Toughnets [558 metres]. The first 4 km of the climb is a very Laroque d‟Olmes. At Laroque, take the C road east which leaves pleasant gradual ascent along a river valley. The main climb of 140 Laroque opposite its church, L at T junction with D16, then 1 km and R metres in 4 kms is far easier than you may think [36 minutes] but it‟s onto D28. Keep on this road [it changes to D18] to Chalabre. D12 from disappointing to reach the top of the Col to find no sign! Straight ahead Chalabre via Villefort, Col des Toughnets, Rouvenac, Fa, into are the most magnificent views down the whole length of the valley of Esperaza and then Couiza. [Consider optional tiny detour to view the River Faby. There‟s luxuriant bright yellow gorse and huge poplar Montazels]. trees growing in the valley bottom and the cycling from the Col to Couiza is fantastic 19 kms of level or downhill track. Detail of accommodation and dinner Chateau des Ducs des Joyeuse 00 33 4 68 74 23 50. Room is 75 We treated ourselves to a stay in a chateau [our first!]. We could never euros. Dinner and breakfast is 35 euros. thafford this in England. The Chateau des Ducs des Joyeuse is a 16 century fortified chateau on the banks of the river Aude and a listed historical monument. We are shown to our room up the stone spiral Day 7 Couiza day off staircase. The only tell tale signs of modernisation are the discreet signs stencilled on glass and set against the stone and the inevitable

    Note: The Chateau has a swimming pool. electrical conduit. The internal courtyard has three Romeo and Juliet balconies, a cloister and endless arched doorways. Our room is

    magnificent. It has all the facilities of the ultra modern international hotel but with a grace and refinement that only comes from a mature Day 8 Couiza to Ansignan 53.0 kms building. The chateau wears its 500 years lightly. There are signs of The route, a tiny road, follows the valley of the River de Sals, climbing wear and repair everywhere but it has clearly never suffered any gently out of Couiza. At the Chateau de Blanchefort, a ruin on a hill, devastating damage save perhaps being uncared for until its recent the valley turns more than 90 degrees and the incline increases. There restoration. Various ornamental additions have been made within the are old [Regency era?] thermal baths at Rennes les Bains consisting of courtyard including a small selection of the pillar designs known to the about 8 rooms each with one or two baths fed by the spring. The ancient world adjacent to the windows. From the outside the castle is people of that time must have been very much smaller than the fully four square symmetrical walls with towers in each of the four average cyclist of today! The road is getting gradually steeper although corners and two arched entrances. The restaurant is decorated and

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