I Made It

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I arrived at Tarifa just after midday today and after 185 days and 7,985km this journey is at an end.

The ride from Seville was exhausting and I will leave it for another time. Needless to say, all I want to do now is go home.

The bike has a new home and job (running errands for the hotel in Algeciras), everything I no longer need has been tossed away, and my train and plane tickets are booked.

A large pizza awaits me next door while I wait for morning to arrive in Bendigo and can chat to Rose, whose constant encouragement saw me through.

It has been an amazing experience but I am glad it is finished. Not sure if I have too many more hills in my legs.

To those I have met on my journey, I thank you for your kindness and enthusiasm.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with my cyclist’s tan!

Stephen

In Bejar

Well another week has past and I have had some great rides as I have made my from Burgos to Bejar. 7298km down and 657km to go, each day is becoming another skip in the countdown.

First stop after Burgos was Castrojeriz, a lovely little village and my last stop on the Camino de Santiago. Food was great, people were friendly and buildings and vista beautiful. Then it was Palencia (hmmm!), Toro, Zamora (where I joined the Ruta del la Plata) and Salamanca – all three I would recommend as must see places.

Salamanca in particular was fantastic, not just for the beauty of the buildings, but because of the number of them. At times you could turn around 360-degrees as see magnificent architecture. An afternoon did not do it justice and it is a place where Rose and I will return (oh yes, it also has heaps of great show shops).

After Salamanca is was then a tough ride to Bejar. Over a 1000m of hill climbing over the tail of the Sierra de Gredos before finally putting the high plateau behind me and starting the decent to Bejar.

Not quite the end of hills though as I still have the Sierra Morena to cross before Seville, but the pass above Bejar at 1200m was the highest point of the ride.

As much as the days riding between coffee shops in idyllic villages is a great way to spend a day, it has been a week where I feel tired. It’s been a great adventure but I am looking forward to it ending, and with luck after ten more rides it will.

Huge congratulations to Rachel on the completion of her thesis. The world now has a definitive account of Christopher Lambert’s affect on Scottish National IdentityūüôÉ ¬†OK, maybe that’s Highlanders in general. We are all very proud of her.

Time for another stroll to loosen my legs for tomorrow, though as I lose 500m of altitude it will mainly be a matter of hanging on and enjoying the ride.

Best wishes to all.

Castrojeriz

Palencia

Toro

Zamora

Salamanca

Bejar

 

 

Along the Camino

Hello All

It’s coming to the end of my rest day in Burgos, a small city some 250km down the road from Pamplona.

It has been quite a leisurely ride, flanking or riding along the Camino de Santiago as it goes from village to village. It’s a very picturesque route but I can understand some of the criticism about it being included amongst the world’s great treks.

As a pilgrim route it obviously developed in a time before leisurely (let alone challenging) trekking and is essentially a walk from town to town on the way to a destination. While there are a few sections of “trail” much of the route is along roads – some dirt, some sealed and in some stretches the main highway is the only path.

For the many pilgrims this  is not really an issue, but for those seeking a trekking experience, I can understand the disappointment. The many towns and villages are definitely worth seeing but well-cushioned walking boots are highly recommended as there is a lot of bitumen and crushed rock tracks in between. A bike is ideal Рthough I have only seen a handful of other cyclists.

Contrary to the warnings the pilgrims haven’t thrown any stones!

While I followed the Camino through the parks and along a few dirt roads, most of the the time I stuck to the secondary road that flanked the main highway. The climbs were a lot easier than anticipated and the days short leaving plenty of time to stop wherever I saw a coffee shop and to explore the town at the end of the ride.

I must admit that the alleyways and cathedrals are beginning to blur, but it’s still a pleasant way to stretch your legs after a ride.

Tomorrow I head to Castrojeriz, where I will leave the Camino and head southwest via Palencia to meet up with the Ruta de la Plata in Zamora. By tomorrow night the odometer will have past the 7,000km mark and the distance to go dropped to three digits!

I’m at that point where I am starting to wish it was over. Physically I feel great, but mentally it is becoming increasingly difficult not to focus on the destination and see each day’s journey as one step closer to this.

But the remaining journey will take me through some amazing places РPalencia, Toro, Zamora, Salamanca, Càceres, Seville and Càdiz Рto name a few, with a chance to see remnants of the Roman and Moorish history of Spain.

Enjoy the photos (WIFI here was painfully slow and it took three hours to load them).

To Estella

To Longrono

To Santo Domingo de la Calzada

To Burgos

 

From Arcachon

It’s Saturday morning (just) and eight days, eight rides and 628km from Nantes I am having a day off to rest my weary legs; and ensure I get a chance to get some food before “sorry we’re closed, just starve Sunday”.

From Nantes I resumed my ride along La Loire à Vélo, which was now sharing its route with La Velodyssey, which in turn is the French leg of my old friend Eurovelo 1 that I had last seen in Bergen (3,368 km ago on the 5th of July).

Makes for very confusing signage but my friends in Local Government will be familiar with the process where a local initiative is rebranded by “higher” levels of Government as a substitute for activity. So basically I have followed La Loire, Ouystre, Vend√©e and other local trails which from time to time include the National or Supranational Logo. Nice to know that democracy is being well served by three levels of Marketing Departments!

A very enjoyable ride along an increasingly wider and busier Loire; along long stretches of the Atlantic coast; through the maze of little backroads that crisscross the marshlands and the lovely forest trail that runs through a 100km stretch of Pine Forest planted in the sand dunes (that apparently has stopped the whole area being reclaimed by the sea).

After 5 months I also finally saw the sun set over the Atlantic, instead of it just teasing the horizon and resuming its ascent.

Spain beckons. The architecture is changing, donuts have been cast aside for churros, and in three more rides (hopefully) I will say au revoir to France and begin the climb up to the Spanish Plata and the final leg of this adventure.

For now, it’s time to stretch my legs, get some lunch and enjoy a lazy afternoon. The empty chair across the table is the low point of the resumed ride. But not too long now!

Time to Hit the Road

Well Rose headed off on the Train this afternoon, made her connection in Tours and in an hour or so will be flying back to Australia. A wonderful three weeks is over and tomorrow morning I hit the road again to finish my quest.

I hadn’t really finalised my route after Nantes until a few days before first arriving here, but after finding a good website on a potential Spanish leg, I am opting for the central Spain route.

Between me and my goal lies 60km to the mouth of the Loire, 800km along the Atlantic coast to the Spanish border and 1300km across Spain joining the Camino de Santiago between Pamploma and Zamora before switching to the Ruta Via del la Plata to Seville and then on to the coast at Càdiz before the final leg to Tarifa.

So still 2,167km and at least 5-6 weeks to go. (My 7,000 km estimate was a bit optimistic – it will be 7,875km in total!)

The new improved biker-me will be up to it though. After Nico’s subtle digs at my riding attire, Rose responded with a burst of laughter at a shot of me in my daggy attire! OK I get the point.

So (sorry Rachel, Alex and Lachie) the trekking pants are being packed away and a yellow TdF shirt from Mont Saint Michel and Orange Runners and cyclist sunnies from Nantes have been added to the wardrobe.

I will understand if you tell your friends it must be ¬†someone else and that your Dad would never be a fifty year old (very soon to be 57) in Lycra! But …….

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(Hopefully a few days in the sun will fix the white legs.)

So time to pack up and get an early night for an early start. Mind you after all the walking Rose and I have done a ride along the river will probably be quite relaxing!

Best wishes to all.

 

Back in Nantes

Bon soir mes beaux amis! Je suis de retour à Nantes, or to be precise I am back in Nantes for the third time!

While the original plan for Paris and Nantes was fine, I had felt that Rose needed more than just the big cities so the past week has been one of holidays within holidays – a day trip back to Blois from Paris; and the past two days at Mont Saint Michel.

Our time in Paris was marvellous. 20 Rue Barbette was a great base, and while with Paris being so big it it is hard to call it central, it was roughly equal in distance to the Perifique in all directions. Our six walks covered much of Paris and a mix of the well known landmarks, “secret” gardens and less travelled ally ways; with the odd metro train, tram and canal boat to rest our feet.

Lunch and a stroll in Blois was a far less energetic day. It had been my favourite stop on the Loire and it was nice to return and see a bit more of it. There was much I hadn’t seen before, particularly the Ducal Palace that I had walked around but it had closed to visitors by the time I had arrived first time.

Nantes is also a great city and having avoided looking first time through it was all new. A brilliant concept – a long green line – marks a walk around Nantes and we followed it (with only a few detours) over three days.

The highlight was definitely the second day’s walk around √éle de Nantes, its wharf redevelopment and Innovation Park. ¬†We strode beside a mechanical elephant; rode inside fish and ballast spheres in a triple-decker Merry-Go-Round; and watched mechanical inchworms, spiders and birds as they were put through there paces. ¬†A magical place.

The past two days we have been in Mont Saint Michel (rightfully) rated as the number 2 place to see in France after Paris (and inspiration for Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings movies). A truely magnificent structure built up over 800+ years.

We climbed to the top of the abbey, walked the length of its walls, and returned this morning to walk the perimeter of the island at low tide – would be Conquerers face a very depressing view from down there! (And very muddy shoes for someūüėČ)

We arrived back in Nantes at 7pm, grabbed a cooked chicken and some salad at the supermarket and had a lazy evening watching Planet of the Apes in French! It’s 11pm now and Rose is asleep.

One more full day and Rose is off and Friday morning I hit the road again. Thankfully things have cooled down a bit in the three weeks. It’s still low-30’s in southern Spain but that shouldn’t be the case by the time I get there. More on that Thursday evening.

Lots and lots of photos!

Mellieurs vŇďux √† tous.

Paris Day 7: Edith Piaf, Quarry Park, Canal Ride, Wholesome Meal

Day 8: A day trip back to Blois

Day 9: Luxumbourgh Gardens, Tram Rides, and Old Railway Line

Day 10: First Afternoon in Nantes (with Rose)

Day 11: Mumakils, Merry-Go-Rounds and Spawns of Ungoliant

Day 12: Completing the Green Line

Day 13: Mont Saint Michel

Day 14: A walk around the island and a stroll in the mud

 

Life in Paris

Well here I am on my seventh evening in Paris and after almost five months on the road 20 Rue Barbette is beginning to feel like home. It’s a great location. I would say central, but Paris is such a sprawling city and we have done an awful lot of walking.

The train to the airport turned out to be very straight forward and so I arrived there at 6:45am – an hour or so before Rose’s plane landed and almost two before she cleared customs. We probably should have made a quick exit but went for a cup of coffee and then got held up at a security cordon. Twenty minutes later, a whistle followed by a detonation was a good reminder that it is not a good idea to leave your bags unattended in Paris these days!

A train ride back to Rue Barbette, a shower for Rose and the de rigour baguettes for lunch and we headed off for a wander down to the Seine and around Notre Dame. Dinner at a local bistro and an early night ended what had been a very long day for both of us.

Thursday was a day of much walking: first to and around the Louvre; though the Place de Concorde; along the Champs Elyses to the Arc du Triump; across to the Architecture Museum; to and up the Eifel Tower; and then back across town to our apartment via a restaurant and steak dinner.

Since then it has been days of walks, some short and some long; with lots of “hidden gardens” from the book I found for Rose.

Rodin’s statues; Picasso’s paintings; beautiful architecture and tranquil gardens. Quite a city.

The highlight – a home cooked Roast Chicken and best meal for five months. The lowlight – a chocolate eclair, but at least Rose is now a witness to the fact that they just don’t make them properly.

Tomorrow we head to the east of Paris to explore the canals before a lazy day trip on Wednesday back to Blois to give Rose a break from big cities.

Hope everyone is well.

Day 1 (a wander down to the Seine)

Day 2 (lots of walking – Louvre, Arc du Triumph, Eifel Tower)

Day 3 (Oops! Forgot camera) – shopping

Day 4 – Rodin’s garden, Invalides, Left Bank

Day 5 – Picasso, gardens and Roast Chicken!

Day 6 – a long hike to Sacre Cour and back