Two weeks in southern France & northern Spain.
Sunday: We drove to Barcelona and went to a jazz concert with Tom and Carrie (who organised nice seats) in the Teatre Grec to see the Chuchu Valdes Quintet with a guest appearance of Chuchu's dad Bebo. ¡Que Bien!
Monday: Left Sally in Barça, I rode to Placa de Catalunya station to take the train to Ripoll. Seeing my bike a railwayman engaged me in conversation. When he discovered we were both ex-Ironmen he spent 20 minute detailing his bike splits in various races around the world - just about made it onto the train. From Ripoll rode on to Ribes de Freser, got another train to Puigcerdá then rode into France and on up over the Col Quillane to Formigueres. Total for the day - 60km.
Tuesday: From Formigueres to Castelnaudary. This was *supposed* to be all downhill but was advised to take a short cut that was on little roads and had much less traffic. It certainly had less traffic (see below) but was v hilly. Many hours later found a hotel in Castelnaudary (dined on Cassoulet famous regional dish of beans and pork), 120km for the day.
Wednesday: Very long day (8 hours, 150km) from Castelnaudary to stay with friends Brian and Maureen Wilkins who live near Lalbenque in the Lot region of France (was welcomed by their dog). Sally drove up from Barcelona.
Thursday: We all went to a local village for an open air gourmet evening. Excellent food - seen here a half eaten plate of maigret de canard - duck and fried potatoes (cooked in duck fat, delicious!).
Friday: We drove to Cahors to see start of Tour de France stage 18. Saw lots of skinny brown cyclists posing and men wearing Tour accreditation being important. Then to a village called Bach for luncheon.
Saturday: We left chez Wilkins and had a weekend in very chi chi hotel to celebrate wedding anniversary (40). Sunday got the bikes out and rode 60km out-and-back beside the river Lot.
Saw fields of tobacco (no government health warnings) and a delayed train.
Monday: 9am by car via Cahors, Toulouse, Pau. Over the Pyrenees to Zaragoza, Spain. There we parked in the railway station car park and with minutes to spare, caught a regional train to Logroño. From Logroño a 17km uphill ride arrive at 9pm in Laguardia (Pais Vasco). There we met up with a group of Spanish mountain bikers, led by our old mate Chus, who are following the Rio Ebro from one end to the other.
Chus (above) runs a bike tour company called Pangea. We went with him on a tour of Spain's Vias Verdes a few years ago and then I did the Ruta de Cid from Burgos to Valencia, 8 days mostly on tracks. This time we are going to ride on the road parallel with the group, meeting up for dinner and hotel each night.
Tuesday: Sally and I rode Laguardia to Alfaro 110km. Mostly quiet roads except for the last 10km on 'N' road which was full with high speed trucks. Had a convivial evening with the mountain bike gang. There are a couple of dozen of them taking 8 days for their trip from top to bottom of the river Ebro.
Chus has two guides; Juan (who is the one rebuilding a wheel on the pavement) and Antonio (who has just stuck his fingers somewhere unpleasant).
Wednesday: Alfaro to Zaragoza. We had no choice but to ride for the first hour to Tudela on the N232 that was more like a motorway in the rush hour but narrow because it was also under construction. Unpleasant. We rode another 65km into a headwind. Then did a sneaky trick and caught a regional train into Zaragoza, so avoiding another bout of motorway madness. 85km days ride.
Thursday: Our next stage was mostly in the car from Zaragoza to Monasterio de Rueda. We did a bit of riding (40KM) and sightseeing. Monasterio de Rueda is an ancient monastery converted into a luxury hotel - not the sort of digs us cyclists are accustomed to so we made the most of it, lounging and dipping in the pool.
Friday: One last lounge and one last look at the River Ebro and then we drove home.