Trip to Barcelona:
Other cycling trips (in Dutch only):
Description of our cycling trip
from the Netherlands to Spain - Part 2
In april/may of 2003, Eric and I cycled from Eindhoven (our
home city in the Netherlands) to Barcelona, Spain. You'll find
our "live" travelogue, written at internet cafes along the
way, on these pages.
You can find a map of our route on this
page. We followed the route described by Paul Benjaminse.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me
through the email address on my
Nederlands (Dutch version of these
Day 9 - Tuesday 6 may 2003
Destination: Vittel (France)
Distance: 45 km
Total dist: 598 km
Ave speed: 17.7 km/hr
Max speed: 50 km/hr
Despite a friendly sun and wind from behind, the going was
tough today; must be yesterday's mega-kilometers that are still
weighing us down. We gave up
in Vittel, found the campground, and did our laundry.
That makes this a half day of rest, but we feel like we
deserve it. Let's let those legs rest for a few hours!
This is where the mineral water Vittel comes from. Apparently,
there's a place where you can fill your bottles with it straight
out of a spring - we're going to go find it lateron.
People have asked about our health, so here's an update: Eric
is doing fine, apart from sun-burnt arms, and Judith is still
walking with a limp, but can manage very well as long as that
leg is favored. Our behinds are not hurting too much from the
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Day 10 - Wednesday 7 may 2003
Destination: Chaudenay (France)
Distance: 116 km
Total dist: 723 km
Ave speed: 17.8 km/hr
Max speed: 61 km/hr
Boy, this was another long day! We were in excellent shape today
and had the wind from behind, even though it wasn't much. Eric
even felt like he had super-legs today! It was sunny and warm,
and we enjoyed our two lunches of French bread and cheese, somewhere
in a field. We're permanently hungry by now, and have increased
our meals to two lunches a day!
We cycled through an incredibly empty area, there's nothing here.
For example, we tried to get groceries all day, and did not succeed!
There are simply no stores here! A baker visits the villages every
day, a grocer comes by three times a week, but that's no good to
us. In other words, we didn't succeed in buying either dinner for
tonight, or breakfast for tomorrow.
But the cycling was great, we enjoyed the views and moved along
rapidly; this was exactly the kind of day we had imagined before
we started on this trip. Until about 4 pm, that is. That's when we
should have arrived at our campground, but it was nowhere to be
found (that was in the village of Pisseloup)! People in the village
knew nothing about a campground. Now what? We decided to head back
about 10 km, to another village that should have a campground
(Voisey). It was uphill, and very hard, and when we got there, the
campground turned out to be closed. It was after 5 pm by then, and
we were stuck in the middle of bumblefuck with no food, no campground,
and no hotel. The first signs of civilization were 45 km further on.
Shoot! [our exact words were somewhat different...]
We had no choice, but remounted our bikes and took off, at high
speed, to cycle the 45 km to Chalindrey. We were half dead about
6 km before Chalindrey (in Chaudenay), when a hotel showed up along
the side of the road to save us (Hotel No Man's Land, how
appropriate). We didn't have to think about that for very long!
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Day 11 - Thursday 8 may 2003
Destination: Montigny-Mornay Villeneuve sur Vingeanne (France)
Distance: 45 km
Total dist: 771 km
Ave speed: 16.3 km/hr
Max speed: 37 km/hr
Today is a holiday in France, "le huit mai." We asked a cashier what
this holiday is all about, and she answered, very simply, "c'est
le huit mai," as if that should explain everything. Yes, but what
are you celebrating, we asked, but she didn't know! Further inquiry
taught us that they're celebrating the liberation of France in the
second world war. Anyway, so it's le huit mai, and the stores are
closed this afternoon. After yesterday, we were not willing to take
any risks, and did some extensive shopping in the first town we
came to, including tonight's dinner and two bottles of wine. That
was quite a load on our bikes, we dragged those bottles up and down
a lot of hills!
We wanted to have an easy day today, and stopped in M-M VsV (see
above), at the campground. And, of course, this campground was closed!
We did encounter a very friendly man, who was celebrating France's
liberation with a considerable amount of alcohol (it took a lot of
understand just a little of what he was saying), and he suggested that
we go ask the village mayor for the key. So we went to the mayor's
house, but nobody answered at the door. The same drunkard, who had
followed us up there, told us that the mayor's wife was in the yard.
So Eric started up the path into the back yard, "bonjouring" away,
and found the mayor's wife catching some sun in her underwear!
Madeleine, which is her name, explained that her husband, as well
as the campground caretaker, were on a business trip. She got
dressed, made a few phone calls, and found out that the campground
doesn't even open before may 15th. And the nearest campground was
90 km further on! Luckily for us, she had an excellent alternative:
we were allowed to pitch our tent in her garden, and use the toilet
and shower in her house! Wow, how generous! So we spent the night
in their garden, and cooked there as well.
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Day 12 - Friday 9 may 2003
Destination: Beaune (France)
Distance: 102 km
Total dist: 873 km
Ave speed: 16.7 km/hr
Max speed: 46.5 km/hr
We were off at a quarter to nine this morning, our record so far!
We've had enough of the small villages, with no stores or campgrounds,
for a bit, and dashed right on to Beaune, a reasonably large city.
Facilities and internet, finally! It was cloudy all day, and we
caught a rain shower, and we had a head wind as well, so the weather
was just so-so today. Our behinds are also starting to feel pretty sore.
Something changed today, in the villages we came through. Upto now,
the villages have all been pretty much deserted, but suddenly we're
seeing people everywhere! However, up north that one sporadic villager
that we saw, would greet us very enthusiastically, often even stop
working to wave to us; over here people don't even reply if you
greet them. Looks like they're used to tourists over here. This area
also looks a lot wealthier, with villages that appear to be well kept
instead of rundown.
For the first time since Maastricht, we also saw a terrace! We
stopped there immediately, and treated ourselves to a large sorbet.
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Day 13 - Saturday 10 may 2003
Destination: Beaune (France)
Distance: - (resting day)
Beaune's in the Bourgogne, or Burgundy. You can get good food over
here, and very good (and expensive) wine: Burgundy. That made us
decide to take a day off, physically and mentally, and stay here
for one extra day. About time, too, after eight days of cycling!
Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and there was a constant threat
of rain. Right now it's 5:30 pm, and we haven't done an awful lot.
We're going out to dinner again, because it's too cold to sit by the
tent all evening.
This is worth mentioning: Eric cleaned our bikes today, and gave them
a small checkup, oiling the chains and such, so hopefully they'll
last another 1200 km without any problems!
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Day 14 - Sunday 11 may 2003
Destination: Cluny (France)
Distance: 84 km
Total dist: 972 km
Ave speed: 18.5 km/hr (no hills and no wind)
Max speed: 39.5 km/hr
We had a visitor last night! As Eric played the largest role in this
incident, we'll describe it from his point of view...
In the middle of the night, a rustling noise in the outer tent woke
me - it sounded as if an animal was rummaging in the plastic bag holding
our breakfast. Remembering the cat we saw on the campground in the
afternoon, I slapped at the tent cloth a couple of times, to chase
it away. The sound, however, did not stop, so I opened the inner tent
door, and lifted the bag of food in, placing it at the foot end of my
I turned around and tried to go back to sleep, but to my surprise I heard
the bag rustling once again! I sat up and slapped at the bag. Judith had
woken up in the meantime, and was removing one earplug. "What is it?" she
asked, and I answered that the bag stung. "What do you mean, it stings?"
Judith asked, "were you bit?" No, it was more like stinging. "Well, get
it out of the tent!" Judith cried, in a panicky voice.
I threw the bag out of the tent, and turned it over carefully, and out
came a porcupine! The two of us were staring at it with open mouths, while
the poor animal figured out that it was free, and ran into the
We had another beautiful route today - Benjaminse really did a great job!
The route was really varied today. We started out cycling through the
endless vineyards, Burgundy, passing beautiful old villages such as
Meursault and Puligny. In the early afternoon, we followed a towing path
along a canal, watching small boats, out on a sunday afternoon, passing
Further along, we followed a beautiful bicycle path for 40 km; it's an
old railway track covered with asphalt. On the way, you pass small
stations, sometimes with platforms! The cycling was smooth and relatively
flat, the sun was out, there was hardly any wind, and the brie tasted
excellent, what more could you want! Incidentally, this (cycling) path
is also very popular with rollerscaters.
We had barely put up our tent on Cluny's campground, and it started
We're not getting down to doing a lot of cooking like this, as we
went out for dinner again. But let's be honest: I'm sure our meals are
a lot better this way, we're starting to appreciate the French cuisine
more and more!
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Day 15 - Monday 12 may 2003
Destination: Charlieu (France)
Distance: 72 km
Total dist: 1046 km
Ave speed: 17.1 km/hr
Max speed: 42.0 km/hr
We had to take an important decision today, as we had to choose one of
the three route options that Benjaminse proposes. Actually, this needed
very little discussion, as we agreed immediately. The eastern route,
through Lyon, is not an option for us, as it requires taking the train
for a bit, and we don't want to do that. The western option was also
dropped, as this one has lots of tough climbs and descents, and there
are few campgrounds. This left the middle option, through the valley of
the Loire, and that's the one we're taking!
The flat section of the route is now behind us, we're heading into the
hills. We started the day with a challenging climb, followed by our
first real "col"! We climbed to 600 m. Judith, in particular, had worried
about this beforehand, but it wasn't so bad at all. Just stick to low
gear, keep your gaze focused on the horizon, and go, slowly but surely!
After this climb there was a long descent, and we were in the cute town
of Charlieu, our destination for today, before we knew it. It's a "town,"
officially, but with less than 3800 inhabitants it's pretty small. On
the way we also came through another beautiful town, La Clayette, that
looked like it's probably worth a visit. It has a big castle. We don't
have time though, we have to keep going!
We stopped in a hotel, in Charlieu, just for a change...
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Day 16 - Tuesday 13 may 2003
Destination: St. Germain Laval (France)
Distance: 72 km
Total dist: 1121 km
Ave speed: 16.5 km/hr
Max speed: 57.5 km/hr
It was raining cats and dogs when we got up, so we were glad to have
grabbed a hotel last night, and did not hurry in leaving. We cycled
toward Roanne underneath heavy skies, but by then it had stopped
raining. In Roanne we hopped into MacDonalds for a warm lunch. With
temperatures of around 12 degrees Celsius, and a cold wind, we didn't
feel like a romantic picnic outdoors. We had the feeling that people
sort of laughed at us in the MacDonalds. What could have been so funny?
Our cycling shorts, in this weather? Judith's bare feet in slippers,
in this weather? Or perhaps Eric's beautiful combination of black
socks in slippers? We'll never know...
Just as we were cycling out of Roanne, we saw a man cycling the other
way, with a trekking bike and bags identical to Eric's. He waved at
us and shouted "are you going to Barcelona?" from the other side of
the street. We stood by the side of the road for an hour, just talking,
exchanging all sorts of information. He's doing the same route, but the
other way, so he came from Barcelona a few weeks ago. We were particularly
interested in hearing that he actually did cycle out of Barcelona itself.
The description of our route ends in Girona; according to the author,
it's almost impossible to cycle from there, and you're better off
taking a train. However, if possible we'd like to cycle all the way
into the centre of Barcelona. Well, we'll see by the time we get there.
Just south of Roanne we crossed the large dam in the Loire, climbed a
ways, and then had beautiful views of the Gorges de la Loire (Loire
canyon). There's a small castle in the river, on a rock (hence the
name, La Roche, the rock), it's like something out of a fairy tale.
This was a beautiful place to cycle.
Once again, we had trouble finding food and a place to stay, but
hey, what else is new. Another non-existent hotel (St. Joddard), and
a village that had no store and whose restaurants were shut that day,
so that we couldn't find anything to eat (Pommiers). We ended up in
a hotel in St. Germain Laval, about 5 km off the route. However, the
food in this hotel has been the best of our entire trip, so far, and
the service was excellent! We usually go for 3 or 4 course menus, for
about 10 to 14 euro, and with a bit of luck you get to eat some pretty
By the way, we've found a new goal for this vacation: we're aiming to
eat 7 kilograms of French cheese, each (we should make it if we keep
on going like this!).
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