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2005 Tour
Bordeaux to Narbonne Plage

Day 1. This ride started on June 15, connecting with the Bike Express coach at South Mimms just before noon. We picked up at several more points before embarking on the cross channel ferry, drove across France, round Paris, to Orleans, Tours, Poitiers, Saintes and on to Bordeaux, where we arrived at 7.30 am on a beautiful sunny morning. We unshipped the bikes, along with about eight other passengers and set off into the morning traffic. We were soon into smaller roads, leaving the noise and smell behind and cycled happily along, glad to be back in our favourite countryside. The first stop was naturally the first café we came to, with a welcome cup of coffee and a croissant.
Day 2. After a very late breakfast and fond farewell to our lovely hosts, we set off with the heat of the morning sun on our backs, and were quickly into very hilly terrain. Had coffee at la Reole after some very stiff climbs, then settled down to some easy cycling close to the river for about ten miles into Marmande. A very pretty town and nice hotel, le Lion D’or in the centre. Found a most unusual restaurant – Japanese – but they had no Saki !!!
Day 3 Left Marmande in light cloud, but very warm. Stopped at Tonniens for ‘pique-nique’ supplies. Very easy ride into Serignac, then stoped at tiny riverside village of Monlee for lunch. Met an interesting American living here who kindly filled our bottles, and saw a huge flying insect that we could not identify. Booked into le Colombier du Toulon, a nice hotel on the edge of Brax. Walked round the few shops and streets, had a wonderful meal in hotel restaurant and then, after a few glasses, to bed.
Day 4. Set off in slight cloud which soon cleared into a scorching hot day. After a number of very stiff climbs we arrived at Auvillar for coffee, and found the village in full festival mode. There were little bands playing in groups around the square and people with wheelbarrows containing huge casks of wine, which they were distributing liberally to all and sundry. We were sorry not to be stopping!! We purchased a few things for lunch and pushed on to le Pin, a pretty village, where we picnicked on a convenient seat. We sat for an hour at this spot without seeing a single vehicle. Cycled on into Montech where we found the l’Hotel Notre Dame, very old fashioned, but nice. Had a nice walk after dinner along the canal du Midi.
Day 5. Found local supermarche for lunch supplies, then very easy ride on flat ground by the river to Pibrac, where we had coffee. Slight cloud again until nearly noon. Very close to Toulouse now and the small villages are ugly with ‘modern’ housing estates. Pushed on to Muret where we hoped to find a bed, but the only hotel in this quite large town was full. Phoned ahead to a Chamber D’hote and found a place at Autorive, about another 18 klm. down the road. The owner met us outside the local supemarket and led us out to the B&B; on the edge of town. Had a wonderful evening meal and after cycling 65 miles we slept like logs.
Day 6. A clear bright and very hot day, and we were straight into big hills, but gorgeous scenery for most of the day. Stopped for coffee at Nailoux, where there was a wonderful covered market. Found a pretty spot beside a stream at St. Michelle de Lanes for lunch. Then more hills to Castelnaudary. A nice town on a hill where we booked into l’hotel du Centre. Had a nice meal in the fading light and then went for a walk. The mystery of who set off the hotel fire alarm is best left untold!
Day 7. Very hot day, but thankfully a fairly flat ride to begin with. Stopped at Bram for coffee, the on through Alsonne, St Eulalie, Moussonlens to Ventenac and found the ideal picnic spot by the river. On through Villemoustaussou and by devious routes (all right, we were sort of lost) into Carcassonne, via an extreamlly long steep climb. Found a nice hotel, l’Ocital just outside the cité walls. Explored le cité for an hour, had a couple of beers then some dinner in a restaurant next to the hotel.
Day 8. Stayed in Carcassonne for the day, toured the cité and the town. The sunset over the ramparts was unbelievable.
Day 9. Another very hot day, but the wind had risen slightly and was ahead of us. The lanes here are almost deserted and nicely undulating, with views of the Pyrenees over to the right. This idyllic scenery went on for mile after mile, through Olonzac and then a large loop into Narbonne. The traffic here was a rude awakening after our peaceful lanes, but it was a nice town. We booked in at l’hotel du Paris, which belied its name, as it was a bit on the run down side, but cheap and clean. Had a nice walk, a few beers and a nice meal before retiring to bed.
Day 10. Cycled out of the town on a rather busy and mostly uphill road, then found a cycle path for the rest of the way to Narbonne Plage. A typically ‘seaside’ town with miles of sandy beach but found a reasonable hotel with a nice balcony view. Went for a very long walk along the coast then came back to do some shopping, then some well needed clothes washing in the hotel sink. Found a really nice restaurant, well away from the seafront, and also a wine shop with ‘give away’ prices. Needless to say, as it was our last night we partook rather liberally on our hotel balcony before falling into bed!!
Day 11. Left hotel about 9 am and decided to go back to our pick up point at Narbonne via the coastal route. Found an excellent cyclepath which took us all the way to Gruissan, a pretty village on the edge of the Etang du Bages. We stayed here for coffee, then found the path again, all the way back to our destination at Narbonne, ready for the coach journey home.

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The beautiful rolling hills near Bordeaux

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The start of a wine festival in Auvillar.

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The peaceful village of le Pin, near Montech

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Wonderful open country near Castelnaudary.

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le Cité at Carcassonne in late evening sun.

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Inside le Cité at Carcassonne.

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Escalles, on the road to Narbonne

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Journey's end - on the beach at Narbonne Plage.

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