Europe


Sunday, November 28, 2004

 

Through the vineyards

We left Carcassone on a sunny Monday morning and cycled down the Mer to Mer canal valley towards Toulouse. However, we decided to skip the urban life and headed for the hills winding up in the very sleepy town of Revel. The next four days were spent freezing our butts off in dense fog packed valleys. The temperatures were not so bad, between 5-12° C; however, the thick fog was that damp seeping cold. The view was also a bit boring, as we could only see 100-500m around us. Don't worry though, the traffic saw us; we have a great light system!

Those nights were spent in:
Gaillac, Montauban, Agen, and Marmande. Agen was by far our favorite, with a young and fun atmosphere.

The following day we set out for Bordeaux and managed to escape the fog into a beautiful sunny day (I think it coincided with leaving the hills and valleys). So now we are spending a day off in Bordeaux! As a sunday it is pretty boring, however we did get free entrance into the musée du Beau Arts, and cruised a xmas craft fair. They were selling xmas trees for enormous prices. Sixty euro for a 6' tree! Most of them were 2' at 13 euro.

For now we have decided to keep cycling towards Paris (ahh the adventurous spirit); however if the weather sucks we may end up training.

A bientot!
Emillie






The centre-square fountain in Gaillac.







On the road bordering the Midi Canal towards Bordeaux.







Chilling at the Xmas market boulevard with Pablo the donkey.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

 

Pays Cathare

We left Barcelona on time after our last blog... we were having doubts, what with the urban tales of never leaving Barcelona if you drink from a certain fountain and all. We even managed to find a relatively different route for most of the way to the French border. But we again stayed a night in Girona ( they recognized us still!) then the next night we were just across the border in La Boulou.

The next day, we wanted to avoid Perpignan (no hostel, and we thoroughly investigated that town last Sunday we were there) so we went inland through the mountains as a 'shortcut'. Except the maps failed to make note of the nickname of the area... the 'home of the valley of the winds'. The first part of the day was gorgeous, but as soon as we started over a ridge into the valley, it hit us hard. We got stuck in a village called Estegel. We tried to continue up the valley, but the 70\80 km\h winds struck us still. The next morning, we got up early early and tried to beat the winds, which were at a paltry 30\40 km\h. But the views were amazing. The valley has castles in the peaks all the way to the pass. Very impressive. After crossing the mountain pass we descended into a very narrow river gorge. The view was absolutely astounding. The descent was quite fast so, we even managed to catch up to our original schedule and arrived in Carcassone last night. We stay here a full day to check out the huge and well preserved (and touristy) old town. The castle walls, turrets, etc. are all in perfect condition, so we're off to be touristy!!

Aurevoir,
Brad






Provence and the Carmague, then into Spain... and back up to the Midi Pyranees after Barcelona.







Sculpture by Dali in Figures.







On the road through the Midi-Pyranees (we're tough, we're on the Tour de France!).







Carcassone, definitely a must for castle enthusiasts. Oh, and our hostel was located in the centre of the castle walls.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 

Barcelona II

Still in Barcelona! We can't leave this city it seems...

Yesterday, we decided to catch a train to Granada and cycle to Lisbon in Portugal. Only two things put a wrench in our plans. First, we were unable to change our plane ticket to fly from Madrid. Not a big deal. We decided just to train up to Paris. The biggest thing was that the trains would not let us take our big without paying for a 3 person private room. Officially bikes are free, but ours is too big.

Then we tried the bus, but they wouldn´t let us take our bike either. So we are cycling up to Paris. We are spending an extra day in Barcelona to gather up all the appropriate winter clothes. (Things are cheaper here than in France).

So our itinerary is as originally planned... leaving Paris in the morning and arriving in Vancouver in the afternoon on December 15th.

Adios!
Brad






Paella and Black Rice at La Fonda in Barcelona.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

 

Barcelona

We liked Girona so much that we decided to stay a second day. Spain has some Greenway cycle routes on old railway beds, so we left Girona on a cycle route for the coast thinking that the coast would be less mountainous. We were wrong; I have never done so much continuous up and downs. The whole coast was fiord-like cliffs, but the curvatious road was empty of cars, and the sun was shiny so we had a pleasant cycle. Exhausted at the end of it, we spent the next night in Canet de Mar, a rather dead tourist town. The following day we had a short cycle into Barcelona!

Barcelona has an amazing amount of life. It is their lowest month for tourism, but still everything is packed with people. We are staying out of the main city center in a gorgeous hostel in a restored palace. We have been exploring all aspects of Barcelona. We´ve cruised La Rambla, the busker mecca of the known world. I have seen a cowboy, 2 cleopateras, 2 fat ladies, tumblers, breakdancers, clowns, Charlie Chaplin, Che Guevera and more. We went to see many Gaudi buildings, and the Picasso museum. Most importantly, we hunted through all the tourist bars, and found a modest pub where we enjoyed tapas and sangria in a hopping atmosphere void of other tourists.

Enjoying the inexpensive food and internet! (Infact we found a restaurant where the internet comes free with the food!) So we have posted some photos.

Adios,
Emillie






Girona's beauty.







The road to Barcelona.







A building by Gaudi.

Monday, November 08, 2004

 

Hola! Espania

Well... we've covered quite a bit of distance in the last few days. To start off, I want to back track to Hyeres. In Hyeres we saw a display of Ex Votos. It was my first time ever seeing anything like it! They had over 400 pictures, the earliest from 1611 and the oldest was from the 1930's. Each painting depicted the incident of someones death. Like a tombstone, they had the date of birth, death and the name of the individual. The paintings were done by individuals with varying degrees of skill. Most of the pictures showed people getting run over by carriages! Anyways, back to Aix...

From Aix we set off to cycle to Arles, but the weather was not in our favour. We stopped early and spent a night in the very cute town of Salon-en-Provence. Salon gets it´s fame from being the place where Nostradamus lived.

The next day we had a short and sunny ride to Arles, where we spent the day gazing at the Roman ruins. Then we set off to Nimes. We spent the whole ride with a storm cloud chasing us. It broke as we entered Nimes and we literally rode into a mall to hide from the rain. It was a torrential downpour like I have never seen before! I don´t think it was too common around Nimes either because the mall roof was leaking, and some of the town roads flooded. It was fairly exciting. Luckily no one kicked us out of the mall. So we hung out there for an hour until the storm passed. Nimes was another pretty town of roman ruins, but we spent most of our time hiding from the rain.

The following morning was sooo beautiful that we just had to go for a nice long bike-ride. So we decided to skip Montpellier (had been given a few bad reviews) and went to the sea side resort town of Sete. Sete was not that great, but the ride there was awesome. We went along the coast through salt water marshlands. There were tons of birds! We saw egrets, commorants and Pink Flamingos!

The next two days we fought against winds coming down off of the Pyranees and stayed in Narbonne and Perpignan. Both nice (ish) towns, with Narbonne having a massive cathedral/palace/cloister building. Then today we set off towards the snow covered mountains. The actual crossing wasn't so bad. But the foot hills afterwards were a pain... over and over and over... Tonight we are in Girona. Spain is fun! It is less expensive (we figured that out right away as we crossed the mountains with a bunch of French who were only going to the liquor store directly on the other side of the border). Again we are in the land of girls lining the highways. Only now they are seasonally dressed in wintercoats and pants. We are clearly tourist in our shorts. The hard part is going to be getting use to the timing of Spain. Nothing opened until 4-5pm this afternoon. Dinner was served at the hostel from 8-9pm. (We couldn't wait though, we hopped off the bike starving, and are use to eating dinner by 7pm at the latest!) The other interesting thing about this region of Spain is that they have a large separatist movement which we see grafiteed all over. The Catalan flag is everywhere and that is the language of preference.

Adios,
Emillie






Arles Roman amphitheatre.







One of the estuaries of the Carmague.







Vineyards!

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Provence

We are in the heart of Provence now, in Aix-en-Provence.
We followed the coast all the way here from Frejus. Beautiful terrain, and a huge variety. The ride from Frejus to Hyeres went through a national park that was nestled in the hills... primo grape growing area. A little rainy, but it was so incredibly lush! Hyeres had at its core a perfect old town, with windy old streets and loads of vendors selling olives, tepanades, and aromatic breads. I love Provence!
From Hyeres we booked it to Cassis, another absolutely gorgeous village situated between cliffs. Our hostel here was only accessible via rugged hiking roads... it sits on a cliffside overlooking Cassis and the massive cliffs above the village (those pics we will definitely post). Really interesting hostel too. It's fairly isolated on the cliffs, so only solar energy and rain catchement for all water (so no showers, and only hot water in the kitchen). It rained the whole next morning (that's why they use rain water!), so we took refuge at the hostel till noon along with around 50 hikers. But that was ok for us since there was a marathon from Marseille to Cassis and our only road through was shut down (poor runners!). We flew down the hills into Marseille and cruised it a bit, but it wasn't as definitive as I thought it would be. Turns out it was nearly completely destroyed in 1943. So, we left early this morning for the short trip to Aix-en-Provence. Really cool city from what we've seen so far, with loads of fountains.

Cheers to everyone enjoying snow back home! (for anyone interested, our average temp is around 20deg :> )

Aureviour,
Brad






The French Riviera and Provence.







The market street in Hyeres. MMmmmmmmmm...







View from the steps of the Cassis youth hostel.







Aix-en-Provence old town square.


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