In the last 4 days I have cycled….
95km from Beziers to Lattes (near Montpellier) on 5th Sept.
170km to Aix en Provence on 6th Sept.
35km to somewhere near Rians on 7th Sept.
110km to Frejus on 8th Sept.
I have done 5872km so far and I have over 1200km to reach Vienna.
The last 4 days in the South of France has been a story of triumph and minor failure. I have been cycling fast and far along flat roads all day and then cycling slowly and well, not far at all, up and down hills on others. Nights have been an even bigger contrast; from sleeping wild to sleeping in a comfy bed in a hotel.
On Thursday, I woke up in a field in Beziers.
Jaume and Ian, my new Spanish friends woke up shortly after me at around 6.30am and we grunted a few incomprehensible man noises at each other before getting dressed. It really doesn’t matter what language you speak at that time of the morning, every noise means “ok we may be awake but it’s early, and my brain isn’t working yet”.
Beziers looked impressive from far away but the centre of town was disappointing. We took some photos of the cathedral but the view from the hill was nicer than the buildings. We went to a cafe for a coffee and a sandwich of ham and cheese. It was another flat day of cycling along the coast. We went to Agde which has a very old church which dates from the 1st century but also one of the most dull and underwhelming spaces for praising the Almighty that I have ever seen. And then on to Sete. It was bicycle heaven…. a huge cycle lane stretches all the way, alongside the beach and is in places the only way to access the beautiful soft sandy beaches. There were places to park your bicycle and we used one so we could sit on the beach for lunch.
At Montpellier we had a beer to celebrate and said our goodbyes as they headed North towards Hamburg and I headed south towards the coast so I could follow it East towards Italy. I was sad to see them go as they are great lads.
I stopped at Lattes for the night at a campsite.
The next day apart from more beautiful coastline and beaches, the only noteworthy places were Aigues Mortes and Arles. The first is an idealic walled city which is full of quaint houses and shops and restaurants, You can walk the ramparts too if you like that sort of thing. Arles was a perfect example of how influences from other countries spill across the South of France. Firstly, they have a Roman amphitheatre and secondly they now use it as a bullfighting arena. There was a fiesta on when I was there. The theme was all about their Spanish influences, and bullfighting. They had a bullfight on that afternoon and were selling tickets. I am just not into that at all but I found it fascinating how cultures mix and spread. And I enjoyed the music. After 100km I saw a campsite but I wanted to keep going towards Aix en Provence. After 170km I still had not seen a campsite or anywhere to sleep wild. It was too late to do anything other than book into a hotel. I considered it a failure and a huge waste of money but I did enjoy having a shower and being in a bed again!
The next day, a late start and a fixing a slow puncture were bad enough. But then all the hills started. They were actually brutal. it was 5pm and I had only done 35km and I was feeling deeply fatigued but I was in a nature reserve and I chose to take some rest. I slept behind trees and on rocks. It was a lovely view and quiet. I used the bike on one side and a tree on the other to spread the tent above me like a roof. And I used the mosquito net to keep the bugs away. My mat was great and I slept despite all the rocks. I only realized in the morning that everything was covered in ants. Lucky they didn’t bite!
And today has been hills all the way to Frejus. But I’m just one day from Monaco and the Italian border. And the campsite is nice. I might stay another day 🙂