No names on the map, the left spot is Lastours, the one on top is Pradelles-Cabardes and the one on the right is Cabrespine.
Let’s take off. I’ve already done 140km since I last filled up. I rode easy (back from Toulouse on a new tire), the fuel light will probably come on around 170km. Don’t want to make a detour for gas straight away. “meh, surely I’ll find gas in the next 30km!”.
Famous last words.
As I’m leaving some roadworks make me miss a power center of sorts where I knew there was gas. No biggie. I’ll fill up later.
Next village, “this must be big enough for gas”. Nope.
I’m now in the mountains, Lastours. “This is touristy, there ought to be gas here”. Nope.
I keep pushing on … but this is not good. Villages keep getting smaller, and if the gas light comes on now, I won’t have enough to go back. Dammit.
In addition, the road sucks, very bumpy.
Fuck it, turn around! The road isn’t fun enough to keep on going, and I’m not sure where I’ll find a gas station.
A bit later the gas light does come on, as predicted at the 170km mark. Shortly after, I go by a sign saying Carcassonne – 11km. Good thing I turned around.
So no, I did not run out of gas, managed to fill up and all. But this is the first time I actually had to turn around due to lack of gas stations. I didn’t like it.
Anyways. The road to Lastours sucked, I’m going up the other way, towards Cabrespine.
And thankfully, it’s much better. Not as perfect as the picture makes it appear, but pleasant. And it’s pretty.
As I’m stopped and taking pictures, I hear noise in the woods. Canadian habits kicking in “oh crap! Bear! To the bike! No! Act dead! No! Run downhill! … wait a second.” Turns out it was a family walking in the woods picking up these. They’re delicious.
I keep on going. Much further, a sign. Pic de Nore. Oh, I’ve heard of that. As you may or may not have noticed, I have a tendency to look for altitude. That thing sounds like it’s high up.
The road is rough, it’s moderately fun. It’s getting cooler, as well. And once up top at 1211m, it’s 9 degrees and windy as fuck. Still comfy with all the gear and sun.
I take a picture of the giant pen… antenna.
And what a view. All the way at the end, sort of in the sky, those are the Pyrenees you can see.
I took this picture to illustrate how windy it was. I failed. But it was very windy.
It is autumn indeed.
The village of Pradelles-Cabardès. Had I not turned around in the beginning, this is where I was hoping to find gas. LOL!
End of the mountains.
Sun hiding away.
Also, I made a quick video.
Little pause by the Canal du Midi. I was hoping to see some boats go up or down the locks, but no such luck.
The Cote Vermeille is another of my “ooooh, I have to go there” destinations. FYI, it’s the mediterranean coast as France turns into Spain. I went “all the way” to Cadaqués, as per a friend’s fantastic recommendation.
But first, I have to get there. It’s 150km away, and this Sunday morning greets me with 11 degrees. Sure it’s warmer than Montreal and sunny, but still. Quite chilly for the first hour or so, especially as I make my way via fast main roads.
Soon enough, I get to St Paul de Fenouillet. This is where I’m leaving the main road, to head right across the southern Corbieres area. It’s dry, rather desolate garrigue and rough terrain. It looks pretty.
The road is brand new, snaking its way through grapevines, with super picturesque villages here and there. No pictures of any of that, just a video.
I stop at an observation point, overlooking a dam and lake. There haven’t been many people observing from here in quite some time.
Shame because the views are nice.
This is the way out. See why I said “not many people come up here”?. You do.
More twisties and twisties. How much twisty? This much twisty.
Soon the road ends up on a flat valley, leading to the sea in the (long) distance.
Cue in an hour of boring villages. Lots of roundabouts. Some pretty castles, churches and cathedrals, but that’s about it.
Until … THE SEA!I’m clearly very excited.
I get lost all the time. Too many villages, too many roundabouts, and never one indication saying “Pretty road by the sea -> this way”.
I ride by a sign saying “Tour de Madeloc”. Oh! I know that! It’s a XIII century tower overlooking the area, from 650m high. Let’s do this.
The road is narrow, steep, rather rough and no railings whatsoever. Intimidating. The camera angle makes it look like I’m really close to the cars when we cross (@1:05 & 1:16). It’s quite an accurate representation of reality. Must be fun when two cars do the same!
Unfortunately, I bailed from walking all the way to the tower itself. Walking an hour in full moto gear … blah. But the view is still quite spectacular. Again grape vines in the foreground, and the cities of Argeles, Port Vendres or Collioure by the sea. Nice.
The hillside road. You can see the tower up top, there. No, not there. There. There, got it.
Very nice. It makes me completely miss the towns of Port Vendres and Collioure. Whoops. Too bad.
With all these shenanigans, it’s getting quite late. Time to find food. Well, that’s not too difficult. Village, central plaza by the sea, plenty of restaurants. Well, by plenty I mean 2. And one’s closed.
Everyone looks at me like I’m some sort of alien. Which is fair, with the GoPro on the helmet, the back protector and all the gear, it takes a bit of time to undress enough to sit and eat comfortably. ATGATT has its limits.
What do I eat? Well I’m by the sea! Fish! And mussels. They’re quite good, but nothing compared to the dessert, a Creme Catalane, which looks suspiciously similar to a Creme Brulee. And it smells. So. Good. I stood there 10mins just smelling the burnt and crispy sugar (well, caramel now) before digging in. Yum. Drool now.
After a hefty and delicious lunch, time to push on further, towards Spain!
I’ve been advised to go all the way to Cadaqués. It’s Salvador Dali’s town, did you know? I’m saying this to look cultured, but I don’t care much about his work. So screw you Salvador, I’m not here for you.
First, I have to get there. Same as France, sleepy villages and towns hidden in the landscape by the water. Actually no. They’re towns. Bigger. More people.
Also, Spaniards drive like assholes.
I make a wrong turn and get lost in a tiny village. The streets are ridiculously narrow. Sorry guys, I woke you all up.
Gas light comes on. As it often does. I rode by a gas station 2mins ago, turn around. Usual process, select expensive fuel, top up, pay. I walk to the old man in the station, he greets me.
“Buenas tardes senor, quince y cuarenta y dos”
I forgot I was in Spain. What do I do now? People speak spanish. Panic! Run! No. Wait. Right. I can answer this adequately. I can speak spanish, sort of. I got this. Let’s answer this gentleman politely, and show him I’m not a philistine. I can’t just mutter “striungeblhe no entiendo fniniowenf” and hand him money, that’s what savages do. Big fat lazy tourists with cameras around their neck. I’m not one of those people. I should greet him back. Perhaps I could slide in some sort of fine pleasantry in my response? Some refined pun reflecting the current state of Spanish politics? That’d be a beautiful victory for civilized man. Come on, me! Come up with something good, modern, engaging, polite, clever yet casual.
Yep. That’ll do.
After this brilliant piece of international cooperation, I take pictures with my big camera and my hawaian shirt.
Towards Cadaqués now! The road is cutting through the hills. It’s fantastic. No picture can do it justice. Neither does the video. It’s undoubtedly the best part of today’s trip. There were many bikes, another sign of its goodness.
Coming down on the city.
The town itself is easily the most crowded today. Quite touristy, yet very nice. As previously mentioned, I’m immune to the whole Dali thing, so I don’t waste time with the fellow.
Enough of this Spain thing! It’s getting late and I do have to get home eventually.
The roads on the way back are quite crowded, cars, busses, bikes. Easily dealt with, but they make stopping for pictures slightly more arduous.
Coming back in France at the abandoned customs station. It’s pretty derelict as you can see. I really like the shitty Bar sign.
More pics on the way back. I love evening light. And the subject doesn’t suck. In this creek hides the town of Cerberes, where I had lunch.
The roads are … well. Twisty. Hillside, vines to the left, sea to the right. Beautiful.
Cap Béar in the distance.
Shortly after, I head back inland, home. And I’m reminded how great this bike is on smooth roads. After the sun does set, I’m reminded how much the headlights suck.
A good day, but a bit disappointed by the scenery. Perhaps too crowded and inhabited? The roads were absolutely fantastic though.
So this week I had to go to Montpellier. I don’t know much about the city. The area I stayed in was brand new, very Vegas-ey. Kinda chintzy with shiny new buildings awkwardly emulating ideas of grandeur.
I spend all evening walking about, and the old city is much more to my liking. I didn’t take a single picture. But it’s all old plazas and buildings, with cafes and whatnot. Very very pleasant. Pretty young and vibrant artsy city from what I can see.
At least I’m next to the canal, it helps a bit with the heat. On my way even at 140kph on the highway, I could feel the air was hot. And once in the city … I remembered how much of a nightmare the 1098 is in these conditions. Every traffic light, the seat becomes a toaster oven. After a mere 15mins of city traffic I get to the hotel, and I’m sweating like a pig. Stupid bike. Mind you, it was 33 degrees.
Morning, got stuff to do. Alarm 7am. I’m up before sunrise? Suddenly feel like a real man. I may or may not have stood there shouting “rise before me, my son, riiiiiiise!”
Stuff done, time to visit the area a bit. I want to see Camargue a bit. The area is famous for its small white horses and big black bulls. No corrida for me, though. Don’t like that.
On the way, I ride by the super touristy Grande Motte. It’s a lot of beach, and a lot of hotel. But it smells like pine. I like that.
Camargue! Right, it’s marshes. I forgot about that. It smells like marshes. Also, pink flamecos!
Why are they pink? That’s why. Not photoshopped. The water was damn pink. No idea why.
I also passed by these. They look very similar to snow piles we have in Montreal. Except it’s salt. A lot of salt.
In the distance, the city of Aigues Mortes appears. Big fortified walls and all. But so touristy and organized I just don’t feel like stopping for pics of the ancient walls.
I keep on going, towards city center. A sign appears. Interesting. Is it today?
Now before you get all excited, this isn’t a Pamplona style bull run. Camargue is about both the horses and the bulls. It’s called a manade (french word, no idea if there’s an english equivalent) andif done right, you have a handful of bulls contained by badass horses and their riders forming a moving circle. It’s very very impressive, actually.
Now don’t think this is somewhere in a random field. That’s central plaza. Streets are closed off with 6ft tall steel bar walls, you can see them in the distance. Although I like to think it looks like a zombie area closed off. Ah!
People can (and do) walk between the bars. It’s only hitting me now that I did like everyone else. I walked into a bull cage, of my own free will. Great.
Actually, I lived in the area as a kid (couple years old) and I do remember these. Way cool.
Right, so I’m in the bull “cage”. The announcer is following the bulls “and they’re coming to blablablah street, and now to some other street”. And here they come. The intensity is almost overwhelming, as the horses are constantly pressed against each other, keeping the bulls in control in a horse-sized bee swarm. I saw the bulls’ legs, I assume the rest of the animal was on top of them legs.
After several groups go by, I decide to take off. I have things to do, I’m on holiday you know!
It was easier said than done. French cities are already a mess on a normal day, now imagine with the main street closed off. One ways, delivery trucks, people … I end up riding the wrong way on the sidewalk for a while. And people don’t even mind.
Next stop is the obvious one for a mid-october day. The beach. It is 26 degrees after all.
I think I know where this leads to.
This looks like an alright spot for a nap. And to your dirty minds, I had planned it all, had jeans for the ride (not tooooo squiddly) and swimtrunks for the beach.
And the crazy crowd. Ah!
And the sea. It wasn’t very warm, I will admit.
That nap was great. Waking up at 7am is unusual for a holidayer like myself.
Heading back home. I opt out of the boring highway, and go for the backcountry instead. Yeah, it’s quite alright.
It’s all complete with picturesque hillside villages.
And crystal clear rivers
I keep pushing on, and as I take a small shortcut through the mountains … road closed! Argh! There’s a paper on it that I don’t read. Eh, I’m on a bike, I can probably sneak through. Let’s see what this is all about.
A nice lady comes up, I can’t really hear what she’s saying with the earplugs on. Take 2. Citroen Sport. Testing the DS3 for WRC. Whaaaaaaaaaaat. Can I take pictures? Sure, just be careful where he turns around *she points at huge skidmarks on the tarmac. Yeah, not getting anywhere near that.
Now that’s a road closure I can get behind. This also means this road is as good as I think it is.
As they put the car on stands for some checkups, they wave us through. “The course is 4km, don’t stop or loiter about, we can’t have other people on the road during the tests. Go go go.” Yeah, I don’t want to be run over by a rally car, thank you. Unfortunately, he screwed it all up by throwing debris all over the place. Carefulness.
We’re through the testing section. It’s pretty. I take a picture.
And another. I’m sorry to say the pic doesn’t do reality justice. It looked better. You all missed out. Sucks for you.
Getting to the viewpoint. It’s surprisingly windy, and chilly. From 30 down by the sea just a couple hours ago, I’m now seeing 11 on the dash! I love brisk mountain air.
The view is rather nice.
And I look at it.
It warms up again as I make my way back to Carcassonne. Long day. This is when I wish I was riding a Goldwing. When the roads are rough and I just want to get home … it’s impossible to relax on the 1098.
Oh well, the views are still alright.
And I get home after a long day, but somehow under 300km.
Finally! I’ve been wanting to head to Andorra for a bit. Not that the whole tax heaven or shopping is of much interest to me, it’s just a way of saying “Mountains!”. A classier way.
To get there, all I had to do was cross some mountains. I’d found out about the Col de Pailheres, culminating at 2,001m … wait. Do passes culminate? Not sure. You know what I mean.
That seemed high enough, and a quick Google StreetView glance revealed hairpins and small road. Let’s do this.
All I had to do was cross Georges’ Gorges (yep, actual name, still giggling), a very short but essentially vertical gap in the moutains.
And very quickly things get interesting. By interesting I mean the treeline stops, the air becomes brisk and the sun shines hard. Also, cows appear.
Now the road looks narrow, doesn’t it? It was narrow. How narrow? This narrow.
I filmed the whole ascent … absolute blast as you could imagine.
Getting to the top you get an amazing view of the road you just went up, as well as the early stages of the mountain range.
Look at that contorted little bit of tarmac!!! Sweeeeeeeet!!!
Those cyclist guys were doing a ton of cols/passes in the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, in a week! This was their last day, headed towards Perpignan. Mad respect to them, that’s some hardcore cycling right there.
Worth mentioning, around here cyclists are not motorcycle-hating hippies. We had a pleasant chat, ending with the dude going “come on, let’s hear those Termis!”. I was shocked, used to the North American standard for cyclists.
Well that’s official now. 2,001m, Col de Pailheres. The sign doesn’t lie. Very few stickers, surprisingly enough. I would’ve thought it was a popular pass.
I decided to go back down the way I came up for some pictures and videos, the other side wasn’t as pretty.
Now look at this picture. Look at it. Have you looked at it? Ok, good. Do you know how much effort it takes to run up a damn mountain, wearing full gear at 2,000m elevation? I thought I’d die!!! So look at that picture. And say it’s nice. I’m waiting.
As I was lying down gasping for air, I did notice a flower. It’s not very pretty, but it made a fancy “oh, look at this bokeh” picture. So there. Prettier purple flowers were all over. I stepped on them, but no pictures.
More pictures of the road going down, this is pretty close to the top of the pass.
Again, I’m taking random pictures, catching my breath. And trying to devise a plan to not have to run about so much for my damn shots.
I failed the whole “let’s stop running far away all the time” thing. I added an extra “let’s park the bike real close to the edge and climb up that little cliff, it’ll look great”. In my defense, it does.
Let’s zoom in a bit more. More better! And yes. I’ll be ripping up that perfect curve in a few.
Beauty shot!!! I do fancy this bike.
Oh! That’s me! Riding up the hill! Magic. I’m on both ends of the camera. And no, I did not set the timer, run downhill with full gear on like a maniac and ride back up. Witchcraft, that’s how it works.
A bit lower, I stopped to say hi to Mama Horse and Baby Horse. They weren’t very friendly … there again, I was walking around in their lunch plate. I’d have been unhappy too.
That video you watched at the beginning of the post? That’s when I filmed it. After making it back down and going up again. Useless timeline fact, but I like to be accurate.
Going down the other side of the Col was a major PITA. The road was covered with fine gravel, almost sand. On purpose, by the DDE (DOT equivalent) for no other reason than fucking up awesome roads, I presume. It was sketchy, and maddening. Very unpleasant.
Thankfully, things improved and I made my way in Ax les Thermes. The descent on the city is spectacular. And the town itself is chock full of bikers. Every cafe, bar, restaurant has dozens of bikes lined up in front.
I struggled a bit to find some much needed gas. I usually hit reserve around the 140km mark. Yeah, that’s 80 miles, I guess I’d run dry shortly after 100 miles. Anyways. Fuel was found, and poured in the tank. Let’s make it disappear again.
Leaving Ax les Thermes is a major fast-ish road with lots of traffic. I love how cars almost always move to the right to let you through. It’s almost embarrassing not to ride like a maniac “no thanks, I’m really comfy taking it easy behind here! thanks, no, I’ll stay behind”. Again, a totally new to me habit, you’d never see this in America. I love it.
Then, the much anticipated Pas de la Casa, the climbing road leading to Andorra. So much fun. A bit of traffic, quickly dealt with with a swift twist of the throttle.
It’s Saturday, Pas de la Casa is busy as hell. Like a giant mall. Overcrowded for my liking. I just ride through the mallvillage town. The road keep climbing, great. Maybe I can find a peaceful spot for lunch.
I had no idea I was climbing the Envalira Pass, apparently the highest of the Pyrenees at a quite impressive 2,408m. That’s 7,900′, for the metrically challenged.
Please note the prankster Andorrans called it a port. Clearly that’s bogus, there were no ships in sight. Funny guys.
And indeed I found a nice place to have lunch and ditch the gear a bit.
Baguette, saucisson and Opinel knife. Yeah, we’re in France alright. Oh wait. In Andorra. Shit. Nevermind.That’s me! I tried to look menacingly funny towards the saucisson. I think I failed. Screw you, I ate it anyways. I win.
Coming back down, I had to stop at the ski lift. You know. For ski related purposes. That was a bad call, I lost my earplugs somehow.
Rode back down a bit, and headed up the Col de Puymorens. Nothing special, other than I’d been there a couple years back when going to Spain.
A bit more boring road, with a few too many cops (2) and I’m entering Bourg-Madame. Why is this important you ask? This is why.
Unfortunately, it turns out Spain is full of Spaniards. So I turned around, towards Font-Romeu. I was too late to see the giant solar toaster, might have to do that at a later time.
Villages have funny names here.
Yeah. Those are real names, apparently. Either people are really lazy, or they steal letters off signs. Or they just have a funny language. Oh crap. Now all the Catalans are gonna go after me. Well … it’s been nice knowing y’all.
This being said, the roads were quite nice at times. Quiiiiite nice.
There were gliders all over the sky, I even raced one as it was landing. It won, disappointingly enough.
I stopped at the Matemale dam. Turns out it’s where the river Aude starts. The same river going through Carcassonne where I’m staying. Funny, no? No? Really? Okay.
Then followed 40km of painful sand covered bumpy tight roads. Fucking nightmare. I’ve been out since the morning, not exactly “fresh and focused”, I’m not liking this at all. And by gravel, I don’t mean a patch here and there. It’s patches. All across the road, in the middle of a corner. Hate.
I did ride by this village. Escouloubre. Yeah, another funny name. Pretty funky, as you have the road, lined with a cliff on one side, a small gorge on the other … and houses on the other side of the gorge, with bridges leading to them. I wouldn’t call those driveways. very cool though.
Shortly after, one of those houses was very nicely restored, and it just looked fantastic. I only took pictures of the derelict one though.
I clearly remember thinking “ooooh, that was a good break from this gravel stress”. The road was still shit, but I was a bit more relaxed.
Eventually the gravel finally ended. Turned into a bumpy-as-fuck (yep, that much) tight road. Not pleasant, but at least I can start breathing again.
Crossing Georges’ Gorges again on the way back. Giggled again.
I was unusually happy to see a main road, straight and smooth. I wasn’t even tempted to hurry! Set cruise on 110kph, use tankbag as a pillow and head home after a grueling but fantastic 350km.