Biking Through Southern France

These pages describe the bike trip I took through the Lot Valley in Southern France in May 2006. My dad arranged the trip through a company he stumbled across on the Internet -- Mundo Tours (I highly recommend them, by the way). They arranged breakfast, dinner, and lodging for six nights, five days of biking routes, and the transportation of our luggage every day from hotel to hotel.

There were nine of us: Mom and Dad, Chuck and Susie (who had done many bike rides in Europe, but never with any support), Hugh (who spoke pretty good French), Jim (my uncle from Boston - very strong bicyclist), Evie and George (who had biked 30 miles before, but not much longer), and me.





Getting There

I won't describe the familiar horrors of long distance international travel, beyond saying that the shuttle to the airport picked me up at 9 am on Monday, and I finally arrived at my hotel room in Gordon at 9 am (Seattle time) on Tuesday without having slept. This did involve an interminable six hour layover at the Toulouse train station. In total, I was awake for 32 1/2 hours hours.

I got off the train in Gourdon, I was met by the tour organizer, Christina, who drove me to the first of many excellent (and lovely) hotels. (Bruno had convinced Dad to opt for the 3 star hotel package): Hôtel La Bouraine - an old farmhouse on the edge of town turned into an inn.

A short time later (after I had time for a shower!), Mom & Dad showed up (they had flown via New York and Paris). As I greeted them in the hall, more doors opened - seven of the nine people on our tour were there, all in various states of jet lag.


At 8, we went down for dinner. I think we all were planning on something light - a salad, or appetizer. However, with the room came the menu - a price fixe meal including appetizer, entre, cheese course, & dessert. The food was fabulous - and beautifully presented.

We had our first goose of many at that meal (fois gras as appetizer and goose breast for dinner) and our first taste of the wine of Cahor. The wine was dark red (it's often described as black), and rich - I didn't drink as I usually do because it was so good. The dinner lasted 2 1/2 hours, and we finally staggered to bed a short time before 11.


The Bike Ride (May 2 - May 9)

The first order of business was assembling my bike. (I had S&S couplers installed on my Bianchi so I could travel with it on airlines without paying extra. However, this involves seriously disassembly & reassembly. I have gotten more comfortable with it, but I always hit a point when I think it is just not going to work.)

Of the nine of us, three were renting bikes from the tour company.


In the afternoon, after we had met with Christine and been given our route guides & a map of the area, five of us decided to bike 19 miles to Rockamador - "the second most visited site in France," according to our guide book. It is part of the pilgrim's route to Santiago.) There were more hills than I was expecting, so I didn't explore as much of the town as I would have liked (I missed the twelve stages of the cross). But I did get home in time for a shower before dinner - another 2 1/2 hour menu (with fish rather than goose for the main dish).

Next day, we biked from Gourdon to Puy L'eveque. It's always easier to talk about disasters - people understand that - but this was just about a perfect day of biking. Open countryside, farms, sunshine. We didn't have a lot of flats, but we had an equal number of downs as ups, and all the hills were an easy grade. We all rode leiesurely, and met up in a couple of towns - including a lovely old town (Cazals) where we bought some bread, cheese, & sausage and had a picnic lunch by a small artificial lake.

If I hadn't been jet-lagged, and out-of-shape (I haven't biked more than 75 miles since November), and suddenly sneezing so much (allergies or a cold?) perhaps I would have wanted the ride to be longer than 45 kilometers (28 miles), but I was quite happy to be done.

The Hotel Le Bellevue was very different from the one the night before. It was a modern building built on a cliff overlooking the Lot river. The rooms were much smaller, and they were somehow in the cliff, below the lobby (I was on floor -2), but the view was fantastic.

The food, once again was perfect.

The next day, we had a choice of a short or long route. They all crossed paths in ..., and we decided to meet there for lunch. I was with the long group. Once again, a beautiful ride.

However, there was a flaw in the route guide, and we ended up going down about four kilometers off route (we kept going forward because we didn't want to turn around and go up the hill. But when we found where we were on the map, we realized we really had no choice.)


...more later...

Traveling Home

I was supposed to be at the airport by 4 am (for a 6 am flight), so I checked into an inexpensive airport hotel, and tried to get some sleep. I had just dreamed that I was home, when I woke up and discovered it was 3:30 - the beginning of my trip. The trip home was much easier. (Left at 6 am, arrives home at 2 pm - the wonders of international travel.)

What next? I am starting my remodel - painting walls & ceiling, new carpets, and on from there - and next week I start training for a (short) triathlon and the Tour de Blast. In the longer term, Sheila wants to hike the Inca Trail (4 day hike to Machu Picchu) and then visit Manu National Park. That's planned for August 2007.)

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