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Diary 2005

October

Work commitments have prevented me from exploring more routes around the West Norfolk area this year, but I have now made a determined effort to scan the maps for two more rides to research and publish before the winter sets in.

The month of October has so far been wonderfully warm and dry and I have taken every opportunity to grab the odd hour for a ride. The colours in the lanes are gorgeous at the moment and with the pleasant temperatures it is a real pleasure to be in the countryside.

My wife and I, with a couple of good friends, have had a short trip to Amsterdam, which we thoroughly enjoyed.   What a wonderful country to be in where the whole society revolves around the bicycle.    Tony and I cycled to Amsterdam a couple of years back on a charity ride for Breakthrough Breast Cancer (raising just over £1000 between us), and we both fell in love with the country and determined to return.    A couple of the pictures below show a bar which we found by chance in the myriad narrow streets of the city on our charity trip.    It is the oldest 'tasting bar' in the city and four of us from the ride spent a happy couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere (and some of Bas's wonderful liquers) while we listened to the remarkable history of Amsterdam.   We found it again on the evening before we came home and Bas and Riny, the owners remembered Tony and I from the previous trip.    They really are a wonderful couple and are a mine of information on the city.  The variety of liquers they make up on the premises are out of this world and we have one 'special' bottle of Kirsten Bonbon (cherry and chocolate) to open with the family over Christmas.They also organise conducted tours of the old city, details of which can be found on their website at   www.olofspoort.com


It is now possible using the 'One' train service,to travel from any station in East Anglia to any destination in Holland for the amazing price of £25 single or £50 return. Called the AMSTERDAM EXPRESS, it runs two services daily, using the new high speed ferry from Harwich.  It isn't the fastest way to get to Amsterdam, but it certainly is the most relaxed, and you can take your bike.

For details of this service go to  AMSTERDAM EXPRESS WEBSITE


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Floating Flower Market
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Buildings 'on the tilt' by the Amstel
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Dam Square and Royal Palace
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Inner harbour and Railway Station
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Our wonderful bar - In de Olofspoort - with Riny, Jo, Grace, Tony and Brian behind the bar.


Below are some of the pictures from our 10 day French tour in June, cycling from Bordeaux to Narbonne Plage, about 450 miles of wonderfully quiet roads, with a 'touristy' two day stop-over at Carcassonne.

Our tours in France are not about speed or attaining long distances( we average about 15/20Km per hour on the move), but of breaking new ground very day, with only a vague idea of our final destination. This gives us time to stop to admire a view, or poke around little villages and markets to buy food for our leisurely picnics. We carry with us a list of available chambre d'hôte (B and B) and Logis de France (a group of small private hotels) which we can phone in the late afternoon. There is vary rarely any problem with accommodation in June and a lot of the B and B's serve wonderful evening meals if you ask nicely. We only have three know factors, a departure date, a return date and a general direction of travel. We map-read on the hoof, looking for the smallest lanes and pretty routes, rather than direct roads. Our tours are therefore a mixture of relaxed adventure,good excercise and fresh air, and best of all, plenty of good French food and wine!

Some useful accommodation and travel information websites can be found at the bottom of this page.  A good map to carry is the Michelin 'LOCAL' series at 1/150000 (1 cm : 1.5 Km), which shows good detail.

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The Festival at Auvillar
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Ruins of 'le Chateau' Auvillar
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Our picnic stop at le Pin
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The steep valleys around Nailoux
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Canal du Midi at Castelnaudary
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Another busy highway!!
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Montech - 8.30 pm and still hot - time for a cold beer!
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A whole field of purple near Autorive
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Carcassonne - le Cité in the early morning
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And in the gold of a glorious sunset
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Escales - on the way to Narbonne
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Two old codgers at Narbonne Plage - mission accomplished
OUR RIDE FROM BORDEAUX TO NARBONNE PLAGE

MON 1ST JUNE
Bike Express coach from South Mimms (Mid-day)

TUES 2ND JUNE
Arrive Bordeaux 07.30 a.m. Creon, to Villeneave-de-Rions (Pre-booked B and B)

WED 3rd JUNE
Gornac, St. Martial, St. Andre du Bois, Caudrot, La Reole. to Marmand. Booked into Le Lion D’Or (Very central – nice town – good restaurants)

THURS 4th JUNE
Tonniens, Serignac to Brax. Booked into le Colombier du Toulon – lovely little hotel in quiet setting with wonderful restaurant.

FRI 5th JUNE
Auvillar (a very attractive hilltop village where we arrived during a festival, with wine flowing like water!!) le Pin, a pretty village where we had lunch, Castelsarrassin to Montech. Booked into l’Hotel Notre Dame, an old but pleasant hotel. A good selection of restaurants in the town.

SAT 6th JUNE
Merville, Pibrac to Muret, a large and busy town where we could find only one hotel, which was full. After an unsuccessful search I rang a B&B; on my list and we moved on to Auterive, where we found wonderful accommodation, food, and company.

SUN 7th JUNE
Nailoux, St. Michelle-de-Lanes (a lovely picnic spot with a seat by the stream) to Castelnaudary. Booked into l’Hotel du Central, a friendly hotel in the midst of renovation, with a pretty young waitress who kindly took our picture during dinner on the terrace. Not much to see in the town, but a lovely walk along the footpath of the Canal du Midi.

MON 8th JUNE
Pexiore, Bram, Alzonne, Moussoulens, Mentegnac Cabardes, (another peaceful picnic by the river) to Carcassonne. Booked into l’Hotel Ocitol, (about five minutes walk from the ‘Cité’ walls). A very nice hotel with a lady owner who never stopped smiling. Although the hotel was about fifteen minutes walk from the main town, it suited us well, as we both wanted to spend time exploring the old Cité. After a good meal in a cheap and cheerful local restaurant we stood on the ramparts and watched a glorious sunset.

TUES 9th JUNE
A relaxing day spent exploring the main town and the Cité and walking along the riverside.

WED 10th JUNE
Trebes, Escales, Argent Minevois, Marcorignan to Narbonne. Booked into l’Hotel de Paris (not as grand as the name suggests, but clean and cheap). A nice town, but with very busy narrow roads. A lovely old ‘Roman’ street and attractive riverside area with good restaurants.

THUR 11th JUNE
A short and not very scenic ride to Narbonne Plage and the end of our journey. Booked into a typically seaside hotel in this typically seaside town. Had a very long walk along the sea front, did some ‘picnic’ shopping, then found a nice restaurant for a celebratory meal.

FRI 12th JUNE
Found a very good cycle path out of Narbonne, which we followed round to the very pretty town of Gruissen. After the usual coffee stop, we crossed the bridge and found a tiny lane which took us all the way back to Narbonne and our return coach to England.


EUROPEAN INFORMATION

Chambre d'hôtes   (B and B)
Web address: www.gites-de-france.fr/eng   A user friendly site where accommodation can be found and booked online, or by phone, directly with the owners.  Books and guides which cover specific areas can also be ordered online.

Logis de France   (Small hotels)
Web address: www.logis-de-france.fr/uk  Accommodation can be booked online with a central reservation office in Paris or with the hotels direct,online or by phone. A book covering all hotels in France can be ordered online.
ACCOMMODATION PRICES QUOTED ON BOTH WEBSITES ARE PER ROOM.

CROSS CHANNEL TRAVEL FOR CYCLISTS
EUROPEAN BIKE EXPRESS   Web address: www.bike-express.co.uk   A very clear brochure is published every year containing full information on prices, routes covered and dates available for travel.   This can be ordered on-line or by phone (01642 308800). They use the very latest air conditioned coaches, specially adapted for fast long distance travel (reclining seats, toilet and kitchen) and tow a custom made, covered bike trailer. This means that riders arrive fresh and relaxed and the bikes undamaged. Highly recommendedd as a comfortable and hassle free way into Europe, at very reasonable prices.

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