The team of three – Bicycle touring Southern France

Cycling Spain can be confusing

Wrong way! We better return. 

The team of three – Bicycle touring Southern France
Country
: Spain and France
From Barcelona to Avignon
Lesson learned: Rivers grow after the rain
Most wonderful miracle: Picnic with friends at the beach
Animals we saw: earthworms and flamingos
Days on the bike: 7
Kilometers cycled: 413
Average kilometers per day: 59
Total kilometers cycled: 31,189

Missed the last entry? Here it comes: Bicycle touring in Spain

Blog auf Deutsch: Radreise durch Südfrankreich

Bicycle touring Southern France

It was my third and Roberto’s second visit in Barcelona. Therefore we left out the city’s highlights and rather spent some quality time with our friends. We had met Justin back in Guadalajara.

Justin Moreno in Spain

Daytrip with Justin

. His parents were from England and Spain, but Justin had lived many years in Mexico and now simply feels like a world citizen rather than a member of a certain nationality. He was a very talented artist and a minimalistic bike traveler and was just about to fly back to Mexico, where he already had some orders for paintings waiting.

Benjamin and Ursula were on their honeymoon. They weren’t quite able to decide where to go to, so they simply travelled through Eurasia for a while.

Cycling Barcelona is fun

Ursula, Benjamin and Diego on the left, Roberto, Rebekkah and Justin behind me.

Benja developed a delicious Tequila called Corazon Maya. It was a surprise to us all that after a couple of weeks of honeymoon there were still some drops left. We shared the last bit right there at the Rambla.

Rebekkah from New Zealand was the group’s youngest. She spent the time travelling through Europe and had a great timing with her Barcelona visit. Rebekkah used to work with Roberto at World Vision New Zealand. Her new Mexican friends called her Monica.

Beach picnic in Barcelona with friends

Picnic at the beach

Nobody really knows why, all I remember was that she got that name around 1 am in a “Terraza”, a Catalan style beer garden. She leant little about Catalan culture in her days in Barcelona, but a whole lot about Mexican culture.

Diego from Guadalajara had chosen Barcelona to be his home some seven years ago. He studied sommelier only to find out that in fact he rather prefers beer over wine. Now he rents out his place at airbnb.

Sightseeing in Barcelona

Sightseeing in Barcelona

In our team of seven we spent some days cycling through town, had a picnic at the beach and toured the bars at night. It was just like a proper vacation and we had a great time.

Good times with the group at Barcelona beach

Fun time at the beach

We spent our last days in Barcelona getting ready and helping Diego with his travel preparations. He had always loved to travel but for some reason never considered the bike as a means of transport. This would change now, as Diego had decided to accompany us all the way to Lyon, France. We absolutely loved that idea.

At Diego's place in Barcelona

Preparing the dinner at Diego`s

So Diego bought a helmet and some panniers, borrowed a bike and some waterproof bags and that was about it. Of course the first day passed quite slowly, especially for Diego. Every now and then he claimed “Don’t worry for me, I can go a lot faster than this, you know?”

Cyclists at the Sagrada Familia

Start just by the Sagrada Familia.Photo credit: Diego.

But we tried to stay close to the coast and therefore biked through some muddy and rocky paths. We stayed at our rhythm and all we biked by sunset were some 55 kilometers.

Cycling Catalunia

Little break at the beach. Photo credit: Diego

It had been a very late start and next morning we started an hour earlier, at 10 am. We biked inland and the cycling got a lot easier. From today on, Diego took over my job to read google maps. That took a lot of responsibility from me but it also meant that every now and then we biked through some bumpy paths since it was hard to distinguish an empty river bed from a proper bike path just by the google maps line, since apparently the app believes that both were very appropriate cycling routes.

Museo Dalí in Figueres

Museo Dalí in Figueres

We stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant between two villages, where we had a little chat with Paco, the place’s owner. Before we got back on the bikes, Paco surprised us with three bocadillos, some sausage and plenty of sour soft drinks for the way – just like that!

Bocadillos in Girona

Our Bocadillos only lasted until Girona, then we just had to eat them. 

Girona was a very beautiful town and our route led us right through the center. Unfortunately it was getting dark earlier with every day, so we had only little time to enjoy this beautiful town. After a little climb we pitched the tents next to a gas station. Two Korean cyclists stopped to say hello.

Catalan landscape

French landscape just o the other side of the Pyrenees mountains. Picture credit: Diego.

They had been biking more than 100 kilometers today but they only stayed for a short chat since their plan was to spend the night in a hostel in Girona. They would have never said so but I read in their faces that it confused them a lot to see us camping next to a lonely gas station.

Korean Cyclists on the way to Barcelona

We weren’t the only winter cyclists!

Since this wasn’t the most comfortable spot to camp, we managed to leave yet an hour earlier. Diego by himself would leave by noon but pedal until late night, while we would start with sunrise and finish with sunset.

Annika cycling Spain

With little sunlight during the day, we biked faster than usual, Picture credit: Diego.

So we agreed for something in between. Nevertheless Diego felt pressured to rise early, since we were wide awake every morning by 7.30 or earlier.

Cathedral of Girona and the river Onyar

Cathedral of Girona on the other side if the Onyar river. Picture credit: Diego

After two rather cold days we biked in shirts today. It was November and we weren’t cold! Well this is how I imagined Spain! We were on the way to the Eastern Pyrenees but since we were so far east, all we had to climb were some 260 meters.

Cycling Spain can be confusing

Wrong way!

On the border we stopped for one last bellyful of Spanish delicacies and before we even realized we entered country number 30: France. We had barely passed the welcome sign when the shoulder disappeared. The drivers passed us in a very risky way and we felt quite surprised by these rapid changes.

Cycling from Spain to France

This is how we like it! Picture credit: Diego.

Naturally we cycled as far to the right and as close to each other as possible and checked the mirrors constantly. Between cars we watched the pretty autumn landscape around us. There were vineyards and fields and every now and then we crossed a village with a few houses, a bakery and a tiny shop.

Cycling France

France!

We spent the last hour of daylight cycling along the fence that surrounded a lake, until finally we found the entrance and pitched our tent. It was a cold evening and there wasn’t much chatting.

Panorama Camping at the Lac de la Raho

Camping on the sandy beach of the Lac de la Raho

We reached Perpignan with growling stomachs. Two little benches on the riverside looked as if they were made for our breakfast. We used one to sit on and the other one to prepare our food. It was muesli with apples and bananas plus a Pain-au-chocolat each as well as a mini-croissant.

Roberto cycling southern France

Relaxed cycling between vineyards

I was lucky both Diego as well as Roberto remembered more from their French classes at school than I did. There wasn’t much more left than „Bonjour mes élèves“ and „Fermez les bouches!“ (if you would please shut up) from five years of French classes.

Roberto, Annika and Diego

Great campspot and great mood

So we decided that communication-wise I would do my part once we made it to Germany and they would do theirs here. Diego was happy, many street signs were written both in French as well as Catalan, a language he had studied his career in.

Coastal Bike Path Eurovelo 8 in Southern France

Eurovelo 8 in parts is a coastal bicycle path. Photo credit: Diego.

We tried to follow the Eurovelo Cycling Route 8 through the countryside and along the coast, but we lost it again and again. Local bike paths existed (finally!) but had such complicated routes, arrows, signs and names that we were lost most of the time.

Diego, Annika and Roberto

Happy cycling. Selfie-credit: apparently Diego

It was a late afternoon on a narrow but rather quiet country road when Diego speeded up on 25-30 km/h and kept that speed for a good 10 kilometers. Roberto and I had to pedal pretty hard not to lose him.

Cycling Southern France

Salty air, lots of wind – it feel a bit like home. Picture credit: Diego

We usually don’t do exercise parts during the ride and were quite sweaty when we finally stopped at an Aldi parking lot. “What was that?” Roberto asked Diego, who was just as out of breath as we were. “I don’t know, I think I missed road cycling”, Diego responded as confused as we were. He doesn’t ride with a bike computer and was very surprised when we told him about his average and maximum speed. I don’t have to mention that we all had muscle pain on the next day, do I?

French bike route signage

If we knew where we were and where we wanted to go and if we also knew some French I hink reading the signs could have made quite some things easier

It wasn’t easy finding a spot for the tent tonight, but eventually we found a little space next to a narrow path that led in between two bays. There was wter all around us, but we had space for poth tents plus the picnic blanked. It was the first mild evening since Barcelona.

Perfect wild camping spot in France

Perfect camping spot. Picture credit: Diego

Our sommelier Diego had picked a nice bottle of wine and we drank, ate mandarins and baguette with nutella, and chatted until late. I might have to mention here that the term “until late” meant until maybe 10 pm. Sun had set at 5.20 pm and we were all a bit tired.

Camping Dinner Party

Yummy dinner and yummy wine. I think we deserved it both. Selfie-credit: Diego

Finally we had an early start. The golden shimmer of a late sunrise looked pretty as it reflected on the bay. Our shadows were long and dark. We enjoyed the ride to the maximum and nobody bothered to interrupt – not even to check the map.

Pretty landscape for cycling near Narbonne

Np time to check the map. We had to enjoy the view first, Picture creiut:  Diego

We had nearly reached Narbonne’s center when we realized that we had just made a 16 kilometers detour. Well, it had happened already, so now that we accidentally were in Narbonne we might as well have a good look around.

Cycling Southern France

Early morning cycling. Photo credit:Diego

After a visit at the marked and a good lunch we watched a local parade, drank a coffee in a café so we could charge our phones there, blamed each other for the detour, argued a while, got into a huff, were in grumpy silence for a while, laughed about the ridiculousness of the situation and finally planned the route for the rest of the day together in peace.

Market in Narbonne, France

Market in Narbonne. Photo credit: Diego

It was a mix of secondary roads and bumpy dust roads and by the late afternoon we even reached a bike path. Good teamwork planning that route! To our right there was a large group of flamingos standing around on a field. In France. In November.

Flamingos in France

Flamingos in France! Photo credit: Diego

That was quite a surprise to us. We reached Adge, lost track of the route one last time and finally reached the apple plantation of a nice lady who gave us permission to pitch our tents. I had just unpacked the tent when the ground started to vibrate and a train rushed by less than twenty meters from our tent. My ears were about to fall off my head.

Cycling through rollercoasters

No rollercoaster for us today. Photo credit: Diego

So we packed our stuff again, moved a couple of hundred meters further and spent a quiet evening with another “very good choice” of wine from the region (chosen by Diego) and some Bolognaise (made by Roberto and me).

Wild camping in France

Cooking in pajamas and jackets. Picture credit: Diego.

It was only afternoon when we reached Montpellier. The ride had been flat but we had quit a cold headwind. The first raindrops fell on us just when we arrived at a “F1”, a cheap motel with shared bathroom on the outskirts of town. There were heavy storms forecasted and this was where we wanted to wait them out.

We celebrated Diego’s 34th birthday in town with tapas, pizza, wine and beer and decided to add an extra day in the F1 – officially to make sure we’re on the safe side about the storm, unofficially because we woke up late, lazy and with a little headache.

Cycling the Catalan coast

Back in Spain. Picture credit: Diego

Since we had lost some time, we decided it was a good idea to squeeze the entire ride to Avignon into only one day. The headwind had grown a little stronger even and no possible lunch spot seemed good enough for us. For the first time I experienced a slightly grumpy and hangry Diego.

Lunch break with Roberto and Diego

With food in his stomach and more food in his hands, Diego is happy again. 

The six days in the saddle had been more challenging than he had expected. Nevertheless the food filled not only our stomachs but also our motivation and we continued in a pretty good mood. Master google sent us through the most ridiculous route over train tracks and through mud.

Diego pushes his bike over the railway tracks

In Master google we trust

We took an hour and 40 minutes for 13 kilometers and swore one more time never to listen to google maps’ bicycle route advice again. But eventually we reached the river Rhône. The rainy days had left their mark and the river had swollen to about double its size. The power just behind the locks was absolutely impressive and although we had quite some time pressure, we had to stop and have a closer look.

Railway track cycling

Sometimes the train dosen’t connect people but separates them. Picture credit: Diego

We were at full speed when the sun set. In order to avoid the high traffic road we changed onto the parallel bike path. But all the rain and storm made it rather muddy and bumpy. Diego’s front light fell off twice and eventually he and Roberto declared we should change back onto the road.

Wild river Rhône after a lot of rain

The wild river Rhône 

I wasn’t so sure. “That’s why we git good lights, right? To be able to cycle in the dark!“ He won the argument with my own best phrase. In general I am the one who wants to continue when it is dark. “But we’re in France! Remember the traffic?” But I had to admit that cycling on what was left of the bike path wasn’t an option either, so we returned to the road.

I had the strongest headlight and I knew the route, so I went first. Diego’s lights weren’t really made to see anything but to be seen by others, so he went in the middle. Roberto made the rear end, as apart from his back light he had a reflective orange vest strapped onto his bag.

River Rhône in France got real wild

It looks like there’s one under-water-explosion after the other

I wanted to get this dangerous part of the route behind me, so we went full speed on the white line. The only way through was full concentration and full speed. A few people checked the oncoming traffic before they overtook us, but most just sped by. Unfortunately most of them miscalculated our speed as well as the length of our 3-bikes-combo and they cut back in line long before they had passed us, which was hardest for the first one in row. There were several occasions when I was about to just let myself fall into the bushes in order to save myself. My heart raced and the adrenaline level was on 100%.

There were many trucks on the road and while everywhere else the truck drivers are a cyclist’s best friend, here on France they were just as terrible drivers as everybody else. It was only the white vans that had even worse drivers inside. My arms and legs were about to fall off my body when we finally reached the bridge. I was scared to death and it took me a while to breathe normal again. In my opinion in terms of driving ability and respect towards others, French drivers share the last place with Cambodian and Indonesian drivers. That makes them worse drivers than the Chinese.

Yummy grapes for French wine

Diego the wine expert introduces us into the world of grapes and wine. Photo credit: the expert himself

After 109 kilometers we reached Avignon. Our host Anne wasn’t ready yet, so we biked to the next shop, got some beer and sat down on the floor in front of the shop. It was Diego`s first day of cycling more than 100 kilometers and we shared three beers and several high fives before we returned to Anne’s place and tried our luck again.

Roberto at Robert Cycles in Montpellier

Cycles Robert. Photo credit: Diego

Anne was home now. She had her own music studio inside her house and while she recorded French Hip Hop we cooked dinner for all of us in the biggest pot we could find.

warmshowerer Anne from Montpellier

Our host Anne

Later Anne showed us the studio and Roberto and Diego, who used to spend their students days singing and playing the guitar, did just that. Anne recorded it. Here’s the product: David Bowie’s “Five Years” by Roberto and Diego.

Roberto and Diego sing "Five Years" from David Bowie

“Five Years” by David Bowie quickly turned into our theme song for the rest of the travel

The next day was another full-on-rain-day and Anne offered us to stay another night. So we walked through the historic old town, visited the palace of popes, ate some quiche and enjoed a day without the bike saddle. From here on everything would be easier. We reached the Rhôna and 50 kilometers from here the Via Rhôna bicycle route would begin. We would finally be off the roads.

Roberto and Diego at the Palais de Papes

Diego und Roberto auf dem Dach des Papstpalastes

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  1. Jeff rassier. San francisco says:

    Looks awesome. I’m going to be in Germany in September. Will you guys be around?

    • Get yourself here bro! send us a message through Instagram so we can What’s up brother! You always have a home with us. It will be awesome to see you again man!

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