This cycling story started in Amsterdam, I cycled through the Netherlands, Belgium, France to Spain and back, the journey was similar to the one I did in 2014, Cycletrippin Amsterdam to Sant Hilari Sacalm in Spain. This time around I chooses to take a different route on my way down to Spain, my return trip back to Amsterdam I followed the route I took from Lyon to Spain back in 2014 just the opposite way.
The journeys I take on my bicycle, I occasionally due to weather or a time contain use the service of a train ride. I don’t camp out, it saves packing on my bicycle, I book a room in a hostel or hotel on the same day I of arrival in a location where I will stay the night, I do occasionally use AirBnB you have to book in advance so you will often get stuck on a schedule if booking with Airbnb, and I like the spontaneity of having the flexibility of changing my route or go shorter one day when I don’t feel that great and cycle longer on days when I’m feeling great.
For finding hotels, hostels I use booking.com, I don’t always book through booking.com, sometimes I just use it as a reference of what is available near me, and then I just go to the hotel or hostel and book directly. This style of cycling touring I define as Cycletrippin having all the comfort after a day of cycling with a purpose, staying in people’s homes through Airbnb or at motels, hotels.
I do some planning, primarily a rough outline of the route that I will take, for this specific trip I planned to go straight down towards Paris, just passing on the outskirt of Paris and towards Toulouse, the distance of this route is longer than taking the route I took in 2014, Cycletrippin Amsterdam to Sant Hilari Sacalm in Spain
Amsterdam to Péronne-en-Mélantois France Day 1
My schedule was tight, I had to be in Sant Hilari Sacalm Spain by June 6th, I left Amsterdam on May 27th, I had 10 days to get to my destination Sant Hilari Sacalm in Spain, a distance of 1,600 kilometres. My initial plan was to cycle about 180kilometerss a day, to compensate for any delays during the journey. That did not work out, I did not count on a massive rainstorm that flooded areas I was going to cycle through.
I left Amsterdam on the 27th, my goal for the day was to get to Lille France, to make that happen I jumped on the train down to Vlissingen in the south of Netherlands, I did not get further than Rotterdam as I was kicked off the by the train conductor as you can not take your bike on a train during the morning rush hour.
I got started by cycling to
In Vlissingen next to the train station is a ferry terminal for Westerschelde Ferry, this ferry took me across to Breskens. The Westerschelde Ferry is a bicycle and pedestrian ferry, and does not take cars. From Breskens to my overnight destination in France the ride was 132 km and took me through the whole of Belgium to France.
The ride over from Vlissingen was smooth, I was ready to put some real kilometres down, I got off the ferry and approach the bike lane that goes along the coast, which took me past some beautiful beaches. I said to myself that has to come back to this area again, just having a few days relaxing on a beach on a beautiful sunny day. I’m not all about just pushing me through a day of cycling, I do stop and explore a place a few minutes, I did stop at the Breskens Lighthouse to take in the sight of this cast-iron lighthouse built in 1897.
In Nieuwesluis I stopped for ice cream, it was a hot day and I needed to keep my internal and external temperature under control. I moved on from Nieuwesluis following the coast on the bike lane towards Cadzand. I did not stop for a swim, which could have helped me, this is who I am I just don’t give myself enough time for the fun stuff as a swim is.
I got to the beachside of Cadzand, from here I headed inland away from the beach on a very flat landscape towards the city of Sluis.
The city of
Damse Vaart Oost
Now in Belgium I followed the canal Damse Vaart to Bruges, the canal is about 14 km long and provides a connection between the cities of Bruges and Sluis over Damme, Oostkerke, Hoeke and Lapscheure. Canal Damse Vaart is known as Damme Canal in English and was commissioned by Napolean.
In Bruges, I cycled through the old town. I like Bruges, it gives away such a nice vibe, it seems there is a lot of tourists like myself that come here every year, I did not stay too long as I had something else in mind for a longer stop.
From Brugges I followed the N32 to Roeselare for a visit to the cycling museum in Roeselare, it was a Friday afternoon and while navigating through the street in Roeselare to the museum, I passed by a few bars with people standing outside, cheering me on, one guy shouted out Tom Boonen Tom Boonen, I knew then I was in an area of Belgium where they new their cycling heroes.
The cycling museum in Roeselare is a must-visit when you are in this part of Belgium, I spent an hour in the Museum before heading out on the road again. Here is my story about the visit to the cycling museum in Roeselare.
My stop for the night was in Péronne-en-Mélantois in France, a small village outside of Lille France. This was an Airbnb booking, I did not arrive that late I think, it was 20:30 when I showed up in Péronne-en-Mélantois. After Roeselare, I crossed the border of Belgium to France, cycled past Roubaix’s real traditional cycling territory and the finish line for the spring classic cycling race Paris to Roubaix.
I cycled past Lille and the Lille airport before reaching Péronne-en-Mélantois. I was offered a nice airy room, it was warm so I kept the window open, in the middle of the night I was woken up when the house cat returned through the window in the room I was in. Got a
Péronne-en-Mélantois to Le Meux Day 2
The next day, Saturday I got up early, my plan was to be out on the road by 07:00, I had a long bike ride in front of me. I kept my schedule, skipped the breakfast that my host had offered, as I had something else planned for food. I was in France, I took off from Péronne-en-Mélantoism followed a cycling path that took me through a wildlife park. The first life I came to pass was a rabbit running away from the path I was coming on, the weather was nice in the morning around 20 Celsius.
My idea for breakfast was to get some freshly baked bread from a bakery, in the small town of Templeuve I stop at the local bakery, one of my favourite food is an egg salad in a freshly baked baguette, and that was what I had. I found a park where I sat down and ate my egg salad baguette. After eating my breakfast I jumped on the bike and headed towards Douai.
In Douai, I found a farmers market in full swing, which was great as I like to get my food from the farmers market, so I purchased food for the rest of the day’s ride. On this day, so far I have been on open roads, without bike lanes, extra precaution is required. I don’t like to bicycle on a Saturday morning on the open road, I’m ok on bike lanes. If people have been out to party on Friday night and they are out driving a car on Saturday I rather stay safe, on a bike lane. As I wrote this I did not run into any issues on the road.
From Douai I cycled to Palluel, Palluel I checked Google Maps and discovered that there is a Canal named Canal du Nord and that there was some type off-road following the canal, so I decided that it would be better If I could cycle along the Canal, than being on the road with cars. I like cycling canal systems, they are built in the days when horses or donkeys were used to pull barges along a canal system. I cycled from Toronto, Canada to New York City, For part of that ride I cycled along the Eire Canal System. The road along Canal du Nord was a dirt road with a decent surface, not exactly a road for a bicycle with narrow tires, I took the risk and it worked out. No punctures.
Canal du Nord
Canal Du Nord Tunnel
Canal du Nord has 19 locks on the route, and one of the interesting parts. the canal goes through a hill and the boats go through the hill in a tunnel, you can’t cycle through the tunnel you need to cycle over the hill to get to the other side to continue along the canal.
Canal Du Nord Ytres
The tunnel comes out south of the town of
My end destination for the day was in Le Meux, and the last 30 kilometres took me a long time, I got off the Canal du Nord service road a bit too early, I did a few navigation mistakes, I took the help of the Google Maps on my mobile, with the option of a cycling route to my destination of Le Muex. I ended up on a really bad road, according to Google it’s a cycling road, it was not bikable. I took an image of the road. I don’t call that a cycling road.
I could not cycle it as it was more a dirt road for forest machinery, really bumpy and full of water holes. Not the first time I have used the Google Maps cycle route option and ended up on something which was hard to bike on with my bicycle.
I got to Le Meux late, long day, the house I was staying at was located in a cul de sac, the room I was using for the night was excellent, as I arrived late, I had a chat with my host. He was a teacher working in
Le Meux to Montargis
I got up just when the sun was breaking the horizon, had breakfast, got everything ready and headed out, the ride would take me from Le Meux to Montargis a 195 km ride. It was Sunday, and it was very quiet on the roads. This day I did not cycle on any bike lanes, I keep myself on backroads.
Just kilometres from Le Meux I cross over the river Oise, I did that at Verberie. This time of the morning I was almost alone on the roads, the sun was coming up and I had a great view from the bridge crossing the river Oise. Cycling through Verberie, I had a climb out of town, it was a great warmup for the rest of the day, which would be a mix of rolling hills and some steps short climbs.
I headed down towards Rully, passing farms fields and a golf course on my way, also a large estate, with the longest driveway I have seen in a long time. I was headed towards Baron.
On my way to
In Le Plessis-Belleville I stopped to have food, I found a bakery with ready-made sandwiches. I just loved this newly baked baguette with egg salad. It’s so yummy. After I finished my baguette, I continue on towards Claye-Soilly.
Getting closer to Claye-
I headed towards Annet-sur-Marne, as I now had to find a way to cross the river Marne, after crossing the river I had a really steep climb, this one stung my legs at the end. I pushed on, towards Chessy.
I got to Chessy and I continued on towards Melun. Little did I know that when I passed Chessy I was close to Disneyland Paris, I did not learn about that tills later that day, when I was checking the route I had recorded.
I got to Melun in the afternoon, the day is not yet over. Melun is a southeastern suburb of Paris 41.4 km from the center of Paris. In Melun the river Seine is passing through, I crossed over the Seine and continued south towards Montargis, but first I had to go through the area of Fontainebleau.
On my way to the town of Fontainebleau, I made some wrong road choices which added some extra kilometres to my ride. The area around Fontainebleau is a forest with a criss-cross of larger and smaller roads. I was cycling down one road, that had many small side roads about every 500 meters, and on many of these roads was a white van parked. In some places, another car was parked next to the van.
First I was thinking why so many vans, then I saw that a person came out of a van followed by women when I realized that these vans were used by women to sell sex to people passing by. This is not the first time I have seen the sex trade along roads I cycled on. In the South of France and in Spain just across the border from France, I have seen women sitting alongside roads waiting for a passerby to use that women service.
I also was close to getting hit by a fridge, my life could have ended near Fontainebleau. I stood at a traffic light when a car pulled up next to me, while the car was slowing down the fridge that was on the roof rack came shooting forward onto the road in front of the car. There was no car in
Luckily to me, I was on the shoulder, which was wide so no harm came to me. You have to be aware of what going on around you, still, you can not prevent incidence to happens. After this scare, I got on to my ride.
I got to Nemours, when the rain started, it was a light rain. Nemours is located on the river Loing. A cute little town, which I passed in a swift towards my end stop of the day Montargis.
I arrived in Montargis in the early evening, I got a nice room for the night. After I settled in I went out for a walk to look at Montargis, a cute small town with narrow streets. I stopped at the Main Hotel and had a nice meal.
Montargis to Bourges
I follow my routine, get up early and get going, after I left Montargis it started to rain, in the beginning, it was not that bad, it started to increase, after 10 km on the bike it just poured down and it was windy. I had cycling glasses on, with a clear lens, to protect my eyes against the rain, the wind was so hard that it pushed water behind my glasses into my eyes and cause me some vision problems.
It got darker as well as the rain clouds just increased, the road was wide and with a nice shoulder, I
My plan for the day was to ride to Montluçon, about 214 km ride from Montargis, due to the rain and flooding that started to appear, I rode 121km to Bourges. I really noticed the flooding when crossing the river Loire in Briare. Everything got funky in the rain, the mobile that I used for navigation gave up on me, I did have a spare I tried to not use that one as I did not want to lose my backup mobile as well, at least not on the same day.
As much as you plan you never know how the weather will be and how much rain there will be, unfortunately to me this was a big rainstorm that lasted for many days – the European floods of 2016
I got to Briare completely soaked, I had lunch in a local bar which was frequent by local handymen, the food was great. I changed my clothes, as they were wet, even with the right rain weather clothing you can get wet underneath in your layers, either from water coming in, our you heating up from the ride you do.
I liked Briare, a small town located on the banks of the River Loire, the Brivodorum of the Romans is situated at the extremity of the Briare Canal, which unites the river Loire and its lateral canal with the river Loire and so with the river Seine.
Canal latéral à la Loire Briare
My initial plan was to ride a large part of the Canal Latéral à la Loire, I changed my plans due to the rain and the flooding that had just started, I just crossed over the river Loire from Briare and headed towards Bourges, one day I would like to ride the Canal de Briare at Briare and the Canal du Centre at Digoin, a distance of 196 km.
I got to Bourges without any incidence, as I did not have anything booked for Bourges. I cancelled the AirBnB that I booked in Montluçon for the night. I did not get a refund, as I cancelled less than 24 hours from arrival, you don’t get a raincheck for bad weather. I had to let the people that were expecting me know what happens to me and that I was not coming. In Bourges I got a hotel room near the train station, I was just planning to stay one night.
I woke up early, switched on the news it was all about the flooding, on the news they were showing a news reportage from towns that I had passed through, the day before. They showed one news story about Montargis, the town I stayed in the night before. The streets were all flooded, I was lucky I passed Montargis on the day I did.
The rain had not let up, there were traces of flooding in parts of Bourges, I checked the forecast and I decide to take the train out of Bourges to Toulouse, from where I was I would have three days to get to Toulouse cycling, so I cancelled my AirBnB bookings all the way up to Toulouse.
The flooding had affected the train service as well, with a lot of cancellations, I got a booking the day after, which gave me a full day to discover Bourges.
Bourges was not on my radar when I was planning my trip. I was surprised by the architecture in the old parts of town and the grand, Gothic-style Bourges Cathedral that features 13th-century stained-glass windows. I spend a great amount of time looking at the intricate work of the stained-glass windows they were amazing. You can get a good picture of it, it’s best to see it in person.
I keep myself busy as there were more things to see than just the Bourges Cathedral, I visit the Jacques Coeur Palace which was the home of a 15th-century nobleman. There were exhibits at the Musée du Berry, I had a good time in Bourges.
I also got time to wash up some clothes, it’s always great to have freshly washed clothes on you.
The weather forecast
Bourges to Toulouse
I woke up early, prepared my packings and put it all on my bike, and went to the train station in Bourges. The train I was going to take was running, it was delayed a few minutes. Eventually, the train came and I got on it with my bike, I would get off at Châteauroux, and catch the southbound train to Toulouse. I got to Châteauroux without any further delays, during the trip you could see outside the effect of the flooding, at one point there was water over the track and the train was crawling slowly past it.
I got into Châteauroux, in time to get on the train to Toulouse, while on the train to Toulouse I passed by Limoges, Cahors, Montauban to mention a few towns that I had planned to bike through. After Limoges, the weather got better, the rain stopped and the traces of flooding disappeared.
I arrived in Toulouse in the late afternoon, I went to Hotel Ambassadeurs that I had booked a room. It was not far from the train station and the Canal du Midi that flows through Toulouse and which I would follow south the next day.
My hotel room was big, there were four beds in the room, they called it a family room – I guess no families this day. Outside on the corner was a coffee shop which was frequent by north Africans, drug dealing was prominent outside the cafe, the police nearby did not bother, so I asked the receptions in my hotel about what is going on and said police don’t bother them as they are just small peddlers of soft drugs. I chatted with a few of them outside the cafe, they were all nice people, willing to talk, greeting me. There was a hierarchy as the older men were sitting inside the cafe and younger men were outside conducting the business.
I decide to walk around Toulouse, Toulouse is amongst many things a University town, it’s one of the oldest universities in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 100,000 students. Toulouse is in the south of France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The city had it all, it was buzzing with life, mixing new with old, the social disparity, while I was walking around I was approached by an elderly woman, and she was offering sex, at another place near the city center people was queuing outside a Starbucks, while a group of young people sitting in a doorway next to Starbucks was begging.
After I walked around the town, I got back to the hotel as I had to get up early and get ready for the next day cycling along Canal Du Midi.
Toulouse to Castelnaudary
On schedule I was up, packed up everything and got everything on my bicycle, before heading out of Toulouse. I decide to take a ride through town, I spend an hour cycling around Toulouse and taking in the sights that I did not get to on my walk yesterday. It’s a beautiful town, really like it. I headed out of Toulouse, I followed the Canal Du Midi to Castellaundry, which was my stop for the night.
It was not a long ride today 80 Kilometres, In my Initially planned route, I would not have stopped in Toulouse, I would have bypassed Toulouse and gone straight to Castellaundry.
Canal du Midi
The ride to Castellaundry, was along Canal Du Midi, from Toulouse Canal Du Midi runs for 240 kilometres, between Toulouse at Port de l’Embouchure and Marseillan, at a place called Les Onglous, where the canal opens into the étang de
This is not the first time I’m cycling the Canal Du Midi, in 2014 I cycled part of the Canal Du Midi from Béziers towards Narbonne. The Canal Du Midi locks at Béziers are very grand and I highly recommend a visit.
On my way to Castellaundry, I had an accident. I crashed hard on my bike, I was alone not cars no other cyclists. As I was cycling on a bike path along the canal, I was crossing over a road, and to enter the bike path again I had to navigate past a gate that was there to stop cars to drive on the bike path.
There was a bit of dirt on the ground, but enough for me to lose control as my front wheel skidded on the dirt and crashed. I hit my left hand on the gate really hard, I think that I cracked a knuckle as I lost the power in the hand, I could not use the break on my handlebar, the hand issue bothered me for the rest of my this trip. I also got a knock on my right ankle and knee, it was not too bad I could continue.
Castellaundry is a quint small town, sits on the banks of Canal du Midi, on arrival I sat on a bench near the canal and watch people that were boating. There is a type of houseboats you can rent, and travel on the canal with.
I watch a group of people in their 50s, trying to turn a houseboat around, it was hilarious. I sat on the bench for a while, as the place I was staying for the night was just a few kilometres south of Castellaundry and I was early for check-in.
Castelnaudary to Els Agullons
I did not have a great night, woke up in the middle of the night with asthmatic feelings, had a really hard time breading. I’m asthmatic and it can be triggered by dogs and cats, there were no animals in this place, not sure what triggered. I found my puffer and took a few puffs and that eased the feeling, I was wondering if it had to do anything with my accident
I pushed that out of my head, got an early start. It was a long ride over 200 km ride, the weather was great not too hot and not a lot of wind. I enjoyed this day. The bump I took to my knee and ankle yesterday did not bother me, the hand I could not use with the break-level as it hurts too much. I have to see how it goes.
If there is one place to visit on this day route, it’s Carcassonne. Carcassonne has the most beautiful medieval citadel, La Cité, with numerous watchtowers and double-walled fortifications. It’s just magnificent. I stopped and took a tour of the La
I meet a few other cyclists on the road, we greeted each other, there were 4 Dutch cyclists passing by, I knew they were dutch as they had the Netherlands flag on their bikes, and when they talked to each other, they were not friendly at all and did not acknowledge any of the other riders.
After Carcassone I followed the road towards Narbonne, in Fontcouverte I turned off the road onto a smaller road to follow a more direct route towards Perpignan.
In Ferrals-les-Corbieres I stopped for lunch, had a great meal, I continue down the road towards Portel-des-Corbieres.
I was getting closer to the mediterranean sea, in Portel-des-Corbieres I started to see the sea on the horizon. My next stop for the day would be in Port-la-Nouvelle.
I have reached the sea in Port-la-Nouvelle, The day was still many hours on the bike. Over the next hours, I bike through Perpignan and the old town, I had a problem finding a cycling route into Perpignan did go in circles for a while, was advised by the Google Maps bike route to take a dirt road I ended up in a gypsy camp and they were not too happy to see me so I turned around. Eventually, I got into Perpignan and out of it to my overnight stay in Els Agullons.
I reached the Els Agullons late evening, which is just a small community near the city of Le Boulou, at the foothills of the Pyrenees. I stayed in a nice townhome, the family that stayed with are farmers, they do not have a farmhouse on their land. So they live in this community of townhomes and commute to the land where they farm and keep sheep.
Els Agullons to Girona
I had a great sleep, the breakfast was really good with a variety of options, I needed a heavy breakfast on this day. The day was an 80 km ride with long climbs and long downhills, some climbs were really steep at parts. It was a fun ride, it got hot in the afternoon after I passed Figueres in Spain, I used the tactic I used when riding Toronto to New York by visiting fast-food restaurants or gas stations with air condition to cool down so I could make it to my planned overnight stop in Girona, Spain.
When I headed out of Els Agullons, I passed by Le Boulou and started the first long climb for the day to Le Perthus, it’s a border town with a lot of shops on the French side and it was already filling up with lots of people. After you pass the border crossing you have a really nice long downhill run, it flattens out and then there are rolling hills to Figueras, past Figueras you start getting steeper hills.
Girona was the end of the day for me, I have been through here before this is the first time I’m stopped for the night, which gave me time to go and explore the city of Girona. The best part was the old town alongside the river Riu Ter that floats through Girona on the way to the Mediterranean.
Girona to Sant Hilari Sacalm
Got up early, I only had a short ride today of 43 km from Girona to San Hilari Sacalm, it was the biggest test, the first 18 km is flat after Angels the climb to San Hilari Sacalm starts and it does not ease up before you reach San Hilari Sacalm. It’s a tough climb.
I was not in a hurry, heading out of Girona. I had the whole day to bike the 43 km. I set out slowly, it was warm outside stopped on the way to drink. I have done this ride before, I knew that when the climb starts, I would be mostly in the shade.
Halfway up the climb, you come across the village of Osor, to me, it’s one of the prettiest hill villages I have been to. I stopped here had something to eat and drink. After my meal, I headed out for the last 10 kilometres.
Sant Hilari Sacalm
I reached my destination, I spend a few days in San Hilari Sacalm eating, conferencing and resting before I started my journey back to Amsterdam. I stopped at the bar Thane in Sant Hilari
Sant Hilari Sacalm Sant Hilari Sacalm
I stayed a few days, got enough rest and food and socializing, it can from time to time be lonely on the roads. Got to connect with people.
Sant Hilari Sacalm
During my stay in San Hilari Sacalm, I got the time to explore the town, try out the local food.
Sant Hilari Sacalm to Figueres
It was time to head back to Amsterdam, I did leave alone two of my colleagues were cycling with me to Girona, one colleague is heading to Switerzland and the other to Greece.
For me, today’s ride will be 83 km, as I was going to end the day in Figueres, as I wanted to visit the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres. My colleagues had other destinations on the same route for this day.
We got to Girona pretty fast, we had a long downhill to Angels and the flat, the Swiss colleague set up a pretty good tempo. In Girona my Greece colleague chain broke, luckily I had a spare in my bags, I always carry extra parts you never know. I helped my Greek colleague to change the chain, while the Swiss colleague took farewell to us as he had a long ride to his stop for the day.
After we changed the chain, we were up on our bikes heading towards Figueras, about 15 km from Figueras I took farewell of my Greek colleague. I continue on to Figueras, just on the outskirt of Figueras I bumped into my Swiss colleague.
He had run into a mechanical problem, his crank arm on the left side had broken so he was looking for a bike shop to get a replacement. We had a double jammy on this day with mechanical failures, only my bicycle survived the day without an issue.
Figueres -Saint-Pierre la Mer
I spend the previous evening visiting the Salvador Dali museum and exploring the town. I stayed in a small apartment that I had for myself. Woke up early, got ready and headed out for today’s ride of 160 km.
On the route from Figueras I was cycling back the same roads that I took to get to Girona, just in reverse so to say. As you know I had a nice downhill from Le Perthus towards Figueras, now I had the climb up to Le Perthus. The border town was on this day as busy as on the day I passed it last. After Le Perthus I had a good downhill towards Le Boulou.
When I came past Le Boulou last time, I just cycled on the outskirt this time I cycled through the town. Nice town, and busy lots of people moving around. I continued through and headed towards Perpignan.
This time in Perpignan, I did not go through the old town, I stayed on the outskirt of the city centre just passing by. The interesting part is that some road signs in this part of France are in French and Catalan. My next location for the day was Rivesaltes for some peaches.
From Perpignan to Rivesaltes the road is flat, there is a lot of farming going on around Rivesaltes, among the crops are peaches and they were selling them at the roadside. I stopped and got a bag of peaches.
My stop for the night was in Saint-Pierre-la-Mer, I stayed in a resort for the night, got a room on the ground floor I could put my bicycle in. Saint-Pierre-la-Mer is a beach town, this time of the year seemed to be mostly older people like myself and retirees. Very quiet place, I got great sleep that night.
Saint-Pierre la Mer to Sete
The day started great, got up as usual early, got some breakfast in me and headed out towards the goal for the day Avignon about 190 km ride, in the end, I only managed 70 km. My first stop of the day would be in Agde, heading out of Saint-Pierre La Mer the route was flat, I passed by fishing villages before turning inland to connect with Canal De Midi, I followed the Canal to Agde.
In Agde, I stopped to eat and continued towards Sete, I started to feel sick in my stomach and when I got to Marseillan Plage I could not keep anything in anymore, I found a toilet along the bike path to stop at. There is a great bike path that goes from Marseillan Plage to Sete along the beach, and so often along the path, there are toilets/showers. In reflecting, I was lucky that I got sick here.
I realized that I would not be able to push on to Avignon, so I made arrangements to stop in Sete for the night. thanks to the booking.com app I found a hotel room. I took my time to get there along the bike path to Sete.
I like Sete, it’s built on a hill around a harbour, you can great meals here from fresh produces from the sea, on this day I was not in the mood for a meal. I did not have the energy to walk around Sete, I spent my time in the hotel room.
There was only one flaw with my hotel room, the hotel was housed in an old building and they had built a toilet in the room without a ceiling, in principal it was open into the rest of the room through the top. Whatever you did in the bathroom, you could smell in the rest of the room. Not good when you are having an upset stomach. Not the best place I stayed at.
Sete to Avignon
I felt better when I woke up, and I decided to push on to Avignon, it was a ride of about 140 km, on a fairly sunny hot day. I made sure I had plenty of fluids with me.
Canal du Rhone
The route I took was to follow the Canal du Rhone a Sete as much as the roads allowed me to, as you noticed if you read this story to this point. I spend a lot of time cycling canal systems. The Canal du Rhône à Sète connects the Étang de Thau in Sète to the Rhône River in Beaucaire, Gard. In most parts of the canal system, there are bike paths to follow which is very nice, as you don’t need to be in traffic with cars.
Many of the canals cycling paths that I followed were built in the time when horses or mules were used to drag barges along the canals.
On the way to La Grande-Motte, in the sea town of Carnon there had happened an accident a cyclist had been hit by a motorcycle, lots of people gathered the ambulance was there even a large motorcycle gang was there.
I guess a member of the motorcycle gang had had the accident with the cyclists. I did not stay I continued, and pushed aside the idea of an accident in my mind. In La Grande-Motte there was a festival, with people doing line dancing. I stayed for a while to enjoy the festivities.
Mas de la Tour Carbonnière
After La Grande-Motte I headed towards Mas de la Tour Carbonnière, where I again joined the Canal du Rhône à Sète, before I joined the bike path, I just went up the road for 500 meter at Mas de la Tour Carbonnière to see the Tour Carbonnière. Tour Carbonnière is an old watchtower guarding the road to Aigue mortes. It is situated right in the marsh landscape, worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.
After I checked out Tour Carbonnière, I got on to the bike path at Mas de la Tour Carbonnière, and headed towards Gallician.
When I reached Gallician there was a local festival with a display of older cars, on display was Golf GTI 1981 an exact copy of the Golf I had once. I really enjoyed walking around and watching the cars on display. While eating a hamburger that they sold at a kiosk nearby.
After Gallician I did not have the canal to follow and cycled on regular roads, it was a quiet day not many cars were out on the roads. In the afternoon it got hotter, I had to stop a few times before I reached Bellegarde.
After Bellegarde, I headed to Beaucaire, which is where the Canal du Rhône à Sète connects with the Rhône River at this point the temperature was way over 30 celsius. I just had to remind myself to drink more water with electrolytes to keep the balance in my body.
Beaucaire is on the banks of Rhône River, I crossed over the Rhône River to Tarascon on the other side, in Tarascon there is a beautiful medieval castle, unfortunately, I did not have time to stop as I still had some distance to go to Avignon.
In the early evening, I arrived in Avignon, by this time I was just interested in finding the hotel I had booked, first I just rode into to the old town went to a bar got a pint and sat down on the patio in the square to relax for a while looking up where my hotel was located.
I have been to Avignon before, the first time in 1974 when I interrailed across Europe. It’s a beautiful old town that you can really spend a day enjoying walking around. I got to my hotel and bunkered down for the night.
Avignon to Lyon
The next morning, as usual, I got up early, had breakfast as it was included. My plan was to cycle to Lyon, about 240 km up the River Rhone. I’m familiar with this route as I have done it before, it’s mostly flat, I did not count on the weather and that I was physically weak. I only got to Orange 33 km on the day.
My first stop of the day was the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is the name of my favourite wine. I spent some time touring the vineyards around the village, stopping and tasting some wine in a wine cellar.
Maybe I spent a bit too much time in the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and maybe I had tasted too much wine or that the temperature had gone up to 35 celsius or a combination of all. I started to feel that I would not be able to make it to Lyon, so I started to look at alternatives. I said to myself to head to the next town, and take it slowly.
I got to Orange, and I got a message from some old colleagues that I worked with in Sweden in the 1980s, they were in Paris and wonder I was planning to pass by Paris. My plans were to cycle north towards Luxembourg, I had not seen them for a while and they were only going to be in Paris for 2 days to watch a soccer game, as the European Championship in soccer was underway in France.
I looked at the options I had, I would not make Lyon on my bike today or Paris the following day. The distance was far too long to cycle in such a short time. I could take a train to Lyon overnight in Lyon and take a train to Paris the next morning. That became my plan, I booked a seat on the train from Marseille to Lyon, and I got a hotel room booked in Lyon and I got the ticket to Paris from Lyon with my bicycle.
I sat and waited for the train to come, it was delayed there had been some disturbance to train schedules due to the European Soccer Championship and many trains were delayed on the day, I also learned that there was a game that night in Lyon. Finally, when the train came it was 5 hours late, I got onboard loaded my bike on the train.
I went and sat down on my designated seat, the train was packed. I struck up a conversation with a man in my age group, it turned out he was from Canada he was also on a cycling holiday in France. He told me that he would camp out that night as it was very difficult to find a hotel room in Lyon, so I offered him to stay in my hotel room for half the cost, which he accepted. Due to the soccer game, I had overpaid for the hotel room I booked and this way I recovered some needed cash.
We arrive in Lyon at midnight, I and the Canadian took our bikes and rode over to the hotel. A nice boutique hotel, with two separate beds, it worked out fine.
Lyon to Paris
In the morning I and the Canadian took a ride around Lyon, in Lyon two rivers meet up the Saone and the Rhone. In total, we rode 25 km around Lyon before I got on my train to Paris.
There is a lot to see in Lyon, a cycling-friendly town with many bike paths. I highly recommend a visit, then cycling along the Rhone towards Avignon is a very scenic and beautiful ride.
On my way to Paris, I changed train in Vichy, I got some time to cycle around Vichy before my Paris train. While waiting for my train I also got time to book a place to stay in Paris for the night, I booked a hostel to stay in a room for 8 people. That was ok, after the costly hotel room in Lyon.
I arrived in Paris at Gare de Bercy, I got on my bicycle and rode through Paris to the hostel I was staying at that night. The ride was 10 km through the streets of Paris. At one place near Moulin Rouge, Irish football fans celebrate that their team had won a game.
Paris is not the most bike-friendly city, there are bike paths in various parts of town. I meet up with my Swedish friends that evening, and we went to a sports bar and watch some soccer before I went back to the hostel to sleep.
Paris to De Panne
I did not have the greatest night of sleep, felt very tired when I woke up. I headed over to where my friends were staying to have breakfast with them. After we ate and talked for a while, it was time for me to leave. My plan was to head towards Dunkerque.
Before I could leave Paris, I needed to ride around Paris and do my victory lap around Arc de Triomphe and down the Av. des Champs-Élysées like the real Tour de France cyclist do, I also want a lap of the Eiffel Tower before I jumped on the train to Dunkerque.
I rode around did my laps, almost got slightly bumped by a car at Arc de Triomphe, No damage, I managed to ride 22 km around Paris.
I got to Gare De Noord, got a high-speed train to Dunkerque that allowed cycles onboard, not all high-speed train routes in France allow cycles onboard. The train travels super fast through the countryside tills we were in Dunkerque. I rode around Dunkerque before heading towards the Panne in Belgium.
From Dunkerque I followed the coastline and crossed from France to Belgium, the ride was 24 km. I stayed in a bed and breakfast, got a big room and took some time to walk around to see the town. Went to a restaurant to have a nice meal. I was just one day away from being home. I only had a day ahead to ride along the Belgium coast to the Netherlands.
De Panne to Amsterdam
Last day, I’m going to ride the length of the Belgium coastline, before taking the ferry at Breskens over to Vlissingen and jumping on the train back to Amsterdam. The ride to Breskens was 98 km.
In Knokke-Heist I stopped, Knokke-Heist is bordering the Netherlands. It’s known for its beach and the Zwin Nature Park, an area of salt marshes and mudflats that shelters birds like storks and oystercatchers. On the edge of the Zwin is “Hospitality,” a bronze sculpture of a giant hare.
The end of my cycling trip, was where it started. I had only a ferry ride over to Vlissingen on this sunny day, I went to a shop and got a few beers, Heineken of course.
To celebrate that I safely had made this trip, I had a few bruises here and there on my body. If you read the story you may wonder how my hand was, I still could not grip my handlebar, so from the accident, I basically cycled with one working hand for the breaks. Update: It actually took a year before my hand was good again.
I was not going to cycle all the way to Amsterdam, I did not have that mental strength when I was so close to home. I took the easy way and jumped on the train to Amsterdam in Vlissingen.
I’m home sound and safely after being away for a month, it was good to sleep in my own bed again.