When we posted the last blog we were just leaving Switzerland. Since then we have been in France and now, as I write this final blog, we are on the train back to the UK.
After spending a week in Geneva, we crossed the border into the Rhone Alps and headed south west. The onset of autumn was suddenly very apparent, with the trees turning from green to brown and some fallen leaves already on the ground. However, we continued to enjoy warm temperatures as we cycled along the Rhone River, camping on route at Seyssel and St Genix. We then headed to Voirons and on to St-Nazaire-en-Royans, where we came across the first tourist groups we had seen in France visiting its famous aqueduct. The cycling, scenery and routes were all great.
As we descended into the lower Rhone valley the landscape and vegetation changed from alpine forest to mediterranean pines and olives, and we were serranded by the chirrip of cicadas. Rain ‘stopped play’ for a day when we were Couchsurfing in Allex, giving Julia the opportunity to make jam with fruit gathered directly from the host’s garden; it was a success but she has no plans to join the WI anytime soon!
We spent a night in the lovely medieval town of Viviers before heading to Vallon-Pont D’ Arc to visit the Ardeche Gorge. We decided that the best way to see the gorge was from a canoe on the river in the bottom of the gorge rather than from a bicycle on the road along the top and so we spent the day canoeing the 30km route through the most stunning scenery. It was really picturesque and great fun, despite a quite dramatic capsizing incident on one of the rapids. By this time the temperatures had started to drop and after a couple of chilly nights in the tent on the banks of the Ardeche River we declared the camping season over!
The next stop has been in our diaries since the beginning of the year. We had arranged to join Aussie friends holidaying in a Chateau near Le Vans as a 50th Birthday celebration of one of Barry’s Sydney University friends. We had a wonderful week enjoying the fantastic chateau and the lovely scenery, plus lots of great food, wine and company. The guests were staying for differing lengths of time and numbered between 10 and 17 for the period we were there. After spending our first day there doing nothing but relaxing, we then hiked or cycled most days in the surrounding countryside and Barry jumped at the chance to do some hill cycling without luggage.
Having decided that we would return to the UK by train rather than flying, we planned the last leg of our trip based on places that we wanted to visit and rail connections, as opposed to good cycling routes. From the Chateau we cycled via St Christol-de-Rodieres to Avignon, then to Nimes and on to Montpellier.
We had a great time in each of these destinations but the cycling options between the cities were uninspiring and the cycle routes into the cities were mostly chaotic. It has made us realise and appreciate just how fantastic the cycling has been on the rest of the trip and the advantage of touring without a specific plan. For the most part our route choices have been based on the best cycling opportunities; it has been about the journey as opposed to the destination and this is definitely the right way to cycle-tour.
When it’s about the destination not the journey:
We took the train from Montpellier to Bordeaux as the west coast has better train options if you want to travel to Paris with a bicycle, plus we were both keen to visit the city. We loved Bordeaux and our stay there was the perfect place to end the trip. The Warm Showers hosts we stayed with took us on a great bicycle trip through the nearby vineyards to the medieval town of St Emilion to enjoy a long lunch and sample some local wine.
St Emilion vineyards:
Barry in Bordeaux’s fountain of mist:
So, after 4 months and 4,000kms we are on our way home. It is going to be rather strange returning to ‘normal’ life after so long on the road. We have had such a good time. In so many ways the trip has exceeded our expectations; nothing went really wrong and so much went really well. We have enjoyed great weather and great cycling, visited so many wonderful places and enjoyed so much wonderful hospitality. A huge ‘thank you’ goes out again to the Warm Showers and Couchsurfing hosts who welcomed us into their homes and lives; this experience has really added so much value and pleasure to our trip and given us many extra happy memories.
We haven’t yet made any specific plans to our next cycle tour but one things certain – there will definitely be one!! So until next time….
Take care and we look forward to catching up with you all over the coming weeks and months
Jules & Barry xxx