Trip to Barcelona:
Other cycling trips (in Dutch only):
Description of our cycling trip
from the Netherlands to Spain - Part 3
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 17 - Wednesday 14 may 2003
Destination: Aurec-sur-Loire (France)
Distance: 82 km
Total dist: 1203 km
Ave speed: 18.5 km/hr
Max speed: 40.5 km/hr
Today's trip started off with a slightly boring section, through
meadows, under a heavy grey sky; in the afternoon, however, the
sun came out, although it remained cold at about 12 degrees celsius.
We had another pretty serious climb today, to 633 m, followed by a
fast (and freezing) descent to the Loire. Luckily there were beautiful
views during this descent!
As we were drinking some water along the side of the road somewhere,
a car stopped, and a man approached us, asking all sorts of stuff
about our bicycles. As it turned out, he's also a long-distance
cyclist, and he wants to have a bike like ours, except that - apparently
- they're not for sale in France! He gave us his address, and 10 euro,
and requested that we send him information on these (and similar)
bikes from the Netherlands. Wow. [Afterword: we did send brochures,
and addresses of bicycle stores in Belgium, and hope we have helped
While we were warm, in the sun and sheltered from the wind, in Aurec,
we decided to go camping, despite the predictions of very low nightly
temperatures. Once we were at the campground, and the sun went down,
however, it was way too cold to hang around the tent. It turns out
it even froze at night, a couple of degrees; we're surprised that it
even gets this cold in the south of France. We went into a restaurant
for a cup of tea, to warm up, and ended up staying there for dinner.
We were the only customers in the restaurant, and chatted away with
the very friendly co-owner all evening. She even gave us a candle,
which she told us to light briefly in the tent, as it would dispell
the moisture and some of the worst cold. She also told us the
remarkable story about the Loire. Rivers as we normally know them
start in mountains or hills, and flow toward a lake or the ocean,
but the Loire is a "different kind of river." You see, the Loire
starts in the Atlantic Ocean, and then flows to the Massif Central.
When we asked her what happens to it in the Massif, she said it
"just stops there." Well, that's certainly very remarkable. Apparently
they don't spend a lot of time watching the river's direction of
flow in Aurec-sur-Loire?
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Day 18 - Thursday 15 may 2003
Destination: Le Puy-en-Velay (France)
Distance: 67 km
Total dist: 1277 km
Ave speed: 16.7 km/hr
Max speed: 55.5 km/hr
Ah, this morning we were greeted by the sun! How about that! There
was no calm warming-up for us today: we started a climb with two
arrows right off the campground. Next came a descent with an arrow,
another climb with an arrow, and so on, somewhere above the Loire.
There were a few more tough ascents, but the final 30 km to Le Puy
climbed only very gradually, along the Loire. We felt a little weak
in the legs today, perhaps because of the steep climbs we started
off with; the going was slow. All of our usual discomforts grew into
pains. But we took a few extra breaks, in the sunshine, kept on
going, and made our goal. Oh, well, such days are also part of the
We set up our tent on the Le Puy campground. One of our tent poles
broke as we zipped the tent shut, but we have a repair piece, and
used it to fix the break. Now we'll just have to hope that it lasts
us for a few more weeks!
At last, we finally spent the evening at the campground again, and
cooked. After dinner, we had some company: a cycling German, who was
very happy to accept our offer of a few glasses of wine. He is something
of a bike-enthusiast, and his bike looked more like a truck! It was
amazing, the amount of gear (and junk) he had dangling off it. From
cans of pepperspray (to keep off dogs), to rearview mirrors, to little
plastic signs sticking out of the side of the bike, that force the
traffic to keep a distance.
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Day 19 - Friday 16 may 2003
Destination: Le Puy-en-Velay (France)
Distance: - km (day off)
We're really ready for a day off. In the morning, we slept in, did the
laundry, worked on the travelogue, went to an internet cafe...
Although we had never before heard of Le Puy, this, too, turns out
to be a beautiful town, so we're going to have a look around lateron.
There are two remarkable mounds in town, which are both of volcanic
origin. A statue of Holy Mary towers on one of them, and there's a
chapel on the other. Quite a sight. When we first spotted them as we
came cycling into town, yesterday, we were completely taken by
We're going to get our hair cut here this afternoon: I wonder how
that's going to work out!
We've probably got the toughest day in the entire trip coming up
tomorrow - we'll have to climb all of 1200 m with our heavily loaded
bikes! Let's just we succeed!
By the way, we've noticed that Judith always descends faster than
Eric, if both are not pedalling. Judith thinks that this proves that
her bike is loaded more heavily; Eric claims it's because his shoulders
are so wide.
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Day 20 - Saturday 17 may 2003
Destination: Langogne (France)
Distance: 64 km
Total dist: 1352 km
Ave speed: 13.4 km/hr (mostly climbing)
Max speed: 43.0 km/hr (descents were too steep to go fast)
This was the day of our largest ascent. We climbed about 1200 m, in
total, but there were also a few descents. The maximum height we reached
was 1245 m, and that should be the highest point of our entire trip.
It was raining when we got up, but stayed dry for the rest of the day.
We started off with a steep climb of about 300 m. Then we descended,
climbed again, and again, until we were on a high plateau, with beautiful
views. We then descended all the way down to the Loire, climbed again,
and again, until we reached an even higher plateau, with nearly 360 degree
views. This was a beautiful day, with respect to the views, and all of
the climbing was not as bad as we had feared it would be. And, as promised
by the author of our route description, there was a cafe just beyond the
highest point of our trip, and it was open too! What luck! We celebrated
with a beer, and descended carefully to Langogne (1000 m).
From what we heard, the Langogne campground isn't very good, and we were
freezing after our descent, so we hopped into a hotel once again. Langogne
itself, like most other towns in the southern Massif Central, looks like
its best days are long gone. There are supposed to be 7 (!) hotels, but
we got the impression that only 2 or 3 of them are open; the rest is either
out of business, or is for sale. It all looks a little sad. But that
doesn't spoil our cycling pleasure!
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Day 21 - Sunday 18 may 2003
Destination: Les Vans (France)
Distance: 63 km
Total dist: 1416 km
Ave speed: 18.2 km/hr
Max speed: 42.0 km/hr (descents were too dangerous - and too beautiful -
to rush down)
It took us a while to get going, this morning. Today, we pretty much
descended out of the Massif Central. Cycling out of Langogne, it was a
bit flat for a while, and then we descended for 40 km (!) through a
beautiful National Park. We twisted through pine forests and rocks. The
landscape is very wild, it even reminded us a little of the lower valleys
in Nepal. There
were deserted villages scattered here and there, ruined houses, and a
couple of hydroelectric power stations. Another remarkable fact is that
we haven't seen Dutch license plates for several days now. Where could
they all be??
After having squeezed the brakes for a long time, and having cycled high
above rivers, through beautiful canyons, we arrived in Les Vans. We had
actually planned to go about 30 km further south today, to St. Ambroix,
but we were tired, and it was getting late, so we stopped in Les Vans.
We're at the Les Vans campground, among a few semi-permanent, elderly
campers in caravans. Les Vans has a good restaurant, La Rose des Vans,
which has internet. It also has an outside terrace, and... we even ate
outside, it seems to be a lot warmer over here than in the Massif
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Day 22 - Monday 19 may 2003
Destination: St. Hippolyte du Fort (France)
Distance: 100 km
Total dist: 1518 km
Ave speed: 15.8 km/hr
Max speed: 47.0 km/hr
Wow, there was a beautiful blue sky this morning, when we got up,
and we were convinced that we've finally made it into some good weather.
But alas. It was overcast by 11, and raining by noon.
But that didn't lower our spirits. The cycling went well, we felt
physically strong, and we had started off our day with a steep climb
above Les Vans, and a wonderful view of the town. In the early afternoon,
as we were having a "sanitary stop" just south of St. Ambroix, two
Dutch cyclists approached us. The man was towing a cute little cart,
with their baggage (now that's a good idea!). They're also on their
way to Barcelona, but after that they're continuing on to Portugal,
and they're also cycling back! They do have half a year planned
for all of this.
We kept on going, steadily, while it either rained or threatened to
do so, through hills and fields. Apart from the climb near Les Vans,
there were only short but extremely steep ascents today (south of
St. Ambroix), where our speed dropped down to only 5 km/hr!
We arrived in St. Hippolyte in the pouring rain. There are no real
hotels here, but 2 people offer rooms; one of these was not yet open
for the season, and the other didn't really want us. Luckily, however,
the second took us in after we pleaded for a while. It's a
beautiful old house, with a room with a four-poster bed!
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Day 23 - Tuesday 20 may 2003
Destination: Pezenas (France)
Distance: 88 km
Total dist: 1607 km
Ave speed: 16.8 km/hr
Max speed: 53.5 km/hr
The landlady wanted us out of the guest-house by 8:30, so we had
an early start. In the morning, we climbed to somewhere above the
Herault river, and then we wooshed right down to it! We had lunch
in St. Guilhem-le-Desert, "one of the prettiest villages in France,"
and it really is very scenic. We spent most of the afternoon
cycling through the Languedoc/Rousillon vineyards.
Today was dry, and mostly sunny. In the Languedoc, there was also
a ridiculously hard, howling, stormy wind, that we sometimes had
to battle into. However, we absolutely flew the last 20 km
or so to Pezenas, when we had the wind from behind. We were leaning
back casually, on our saddles, and going 35 km/hr without any effort!
That was wonderful!
We're at the campground in Pezenas now, and getting ready to go out
for dinner. We had actually planned on cooking this evening, and
spending a quiet evening next to our tent, but we can't even get
our stove lit in this wind.
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Day 24 - Wednesday 21 may 2003
Destination: Colombiers (France)
Distance: 59 km
Total dist: 1672 km
Ave speed: 16.2 km/hr
Max speed: 36.5 km/hr
It was a rough night. Yesterday's wind kept up all night, and it felt
as if we were attached to Eiger's North Face by a few anchors only.
In the middle of the night, two of our tent's pegs were yanked out of
the ground, and the entire tent collapsed. It took us a while,
floundering about in the dark, with the tent cloth in our faces, to
find the door and get out. We felt in the dirt near the tent and
found a rock (we couldn't find the flashlight), and then somehow
managed to beat the pegs back into the ground.
We had the same wind in our backs all morning, and sped toward the
coast. And so, we stood on the beach of the Mediterranean, at Vias
Plage, around noon, with 1640 km on our odometers! Quite an
achievement! It was too cold to relax on the beach, but we had a cup
of tea at a beach bar, to warm us, as advertisement billboards and
candy dispensers were blown over all around us. It was pretty
Next was a fabulous bit of cycling, westward along the Canal du Midi.
In Beziers, we watched pleasure boats going through a series of nine
(?) sluices, and we saw the canal crossing over the river Orb. It was
a lot of fun to watch.
In the evening, we stopped at a campground in Colombiers. It was
almost deserted, and we found a nice spot out of the wind, behind a
bush. It was also a lot warmer than it had been recently, and we
cooked, and had a great evening lying in the grass next to our tent!
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