Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Last night, we arrived at Hendaye and this was our journey's end. It was 39 miles and there were two colls but they were getting smaller. The excitement of our achievement was subdued because it was raining hard and we were soaked. Also the traffic on the very beautiful Corniche from St Jean de Luz was relentless and many cars overtook missing us by just a few centimetres. So here is the end point at the Atlantic Ocean.

My thoughts on this journey across the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are remembering children and families playing in the squares of the towns. The evenings seemed to be times for families to go out. Sometimes they were playing football, others on their bikes but always the cafes seemed to be places to meet and talk.  I was frustrated at being unable to speak the language.  Dagmar can speak some Spanish and did very well.
While cycling, birdsong and colourful wild flowers were always with us while the farm animals could often be heard by ting a lings from the bells around their necks. I loved finding the old towns where the church, a cafe and the square were the centre pieces. Motorists did not demand the roads and it felt safe and enjoyable in all these towns.
None of the hills were steep by British standards but they were often very long with many hairpin bends. In many places people were on motorbikes.  They too were careful with cyclists and on several occasions we talked to motorcyclists.  We marvelled how they had to wear such enormous and very hot leather gear while we were in shorts and tee shirts.
Today we left our bikes behind and travelled by train to St Sebastian, European Capital of Culture for 2016. We discovered a city where the streets were filled with inquisitive people and, like elsewhere in Spain, it felt safe to walk and discover its beautiful old world charm.  People were encouraged to come by bike, bus and train so the roads were not busy.
Dagmar and I are already making plans for our bike adventure in 2017. This is her story

Sunday, 29 May 2016


This was our penultimate day in the Pyrenees. We cycled 54 miles, climbed 1,280m and dropped over 2,000m. We could no longer see the snow line and our route included one of the harder climbs.
We departed from Jaurrieta before the mountain bike event started but there were some early arrivals for the juniors.

Our route today crossed two trails and we stopped to talk to some interesting people. Better known is Camino de Santiago, the Pilgrim's Trail. The other is European Cycle Route EV 1
We saw many pilgrims walking the trail and this man was from the USA.

A Pilgrim's Pension is behind and I liked the boots hanging from the balcony. We spoke to others from Germany and the USA. It seemed that all were hiking 800km over 5 to 8 weeks. We saw many cyclists also, mostly road bikers but there were some long distance tourers. This couple were German and were cycling EV 1 from Faro in Portugal to Bordeaux.  They said that they had experienced many hills. I thought that we had too.  In fact I could not remember any flat cycling

This coll, although lower, experienced a tough climb and massive descent. The low level countryside was in many ways comparable to Dartmoor with its rushing streams, steep slopes and woodland. However on the north side, the architecture was completely different to what we have seen before

This journey continues to be an uplifting experience and the regular protests from the legs are kept in check by many coffee breaks and soothing words.  This is Dagmar's blog and also my twitter

Saturday, 28 May 2016


We asked for sandwiches for lunch today and were given gargantuan fresh baked rolls each half metre long filled with bacon. This was food for lumberjacks and into the bar walked a man with muscles that oozed strength. It looked like we were eating his snack. As usual, the cafe was on top of a hill in the old centre and this time we were at Vidangoz, a little village not on tourist trails. The cafe looked like a house but the bar was full with locals talking away.
We cycled 90 miles over the last two days and climbed 2,400m over hills that just kept coming. The bike continued to go well but the brakes were squealing on the downhills.  I could not see anything wrong with them but kept my speed down just in case.
We arrived at our destination, Jaurrieta, to find a bike race in progress. It was the Vuelta a Navarra.

This started at 1pm and the riders had covered 125km by the time we saw them at 5.30pm. Tomorrow, a mountain bike event starts here.
On route, Dagmar encountered some cattle and we found a street market in Jaca's old town selling plants

We have two full days left on this tour and, when done, we will have cycled Coast to Coast from the Med to the Atlantic through the Pyrenees. We have already started planning our tour for 2017.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


We left Tamarite de Litera 3 days ago and are now in Sabinanigo. On route, we spent two nights at Ainsa, a pretty town on the south edge of the Pyrenees. We followed a farm trail out of Tamarite through poppy fields.

The problem with this was that our average speed was just 8mph.  After 5 miles, we joined a tarmac road and headed north. The road was very quiet and the hills started to reappear. After 2 hours, it was time for coffee and we discovered the best coffee stops were always at cafes in the old part of towns.  In Aragon, the old part is always on top of a steep hill. This morning a stork looked down at us from its nest in the church tower.

I tried to photograph the stork flying but failed. Our route back down to the road was so steep, we had to walk. When we met the road, a shepherd was leading his flock of sheep. They were so well behaved and I was very impressed. In Britain, dogs would be needed to keep control but not here as they just followed.

We met two German motorcyclists at lunch and fell into amicable conversation about the open road. Somehow being British with three German people felt very normal and I enjoyed the experience. After 3 miles, my bike reaches 30,000 miles. Dagmar and I wanted to celebrate with champagne but we only had water.
We cycled 54 miles to Ainsa and, as usual here, the old town was on top of a steep hill. We met the German motorcyclists again.
We stayed two nights in Ainsa and Dagmar found the most amazing circular route. Let me set the scene? there was one hill 22 miles long that almost reached the snow line. The was one hill back 31 miles long. One hill in Britain does not take long.  Here, it might take 3 hours to climb it. This one was through one of the most stunning gorges that I have ever seen.

At the top of the 22 mile hill, we hope to find a cafe in the village but there was none.  Instead a local person offered us a cigarillo and told us that sport is good for you. We enjoyed a break in the tiny square

Today, we cycled 51 miles from Ainsa to Sabinanigo.. We crossed a coll at 1,291m and continued to marvel at the wildlife.

Every day, I enjoy the wildlife. The flowers are everywhere and very beautiful. Everyday, we hear a cuckoo and most days we see vultures. Birds sing all the time and strange looking butterflies flutter in front of us. Surely this is what cycle touring is all about?

Monday, 23 May 2016


My bike continues to purr along on this trip. Today a dark shadow moved across in front of me.  I stopped.  I looked up to see a vulture flying low.  Higher in the sky flying gracefully was a stork, all shimmering white in the sun with its long neck outstretched in front.  More vultures were gently gliding above us.
I was on a long straight road that stretched almost far as my eye could see. The scenery continued to be magnificent but my mind wanders on roads like this and I became conscious of a deep drainage gully beside me. I would do serious damage to myself if I carelessly moved to my right. My attention is grabbed by a motorist going in the other direction who waves cheerfully as if encouraging me on. He did not wave at Dagmar who was a long way ahead. This was probably because his girl friend in the car would have given him a smack.
This was not the only motorist who has given signs of encouragement.  Three times motor cyclists have raised their hands as if saying "respect". Riding bicycles and motorbikes share a common theme with love of the fresh air on the road. I just happen to think bicycles are best.
We cycled 55 miles today into Aragon and our destination was Tamarite de Litera. Here are a few images of today's journey

This is the long straight road with few cars and Dagmar is just a dot in the distance

Dagmar's navigation skills are excellent on this trip and her device which she calls "her little lady" is very accurate. Tomorrow I will sit in my saddle being guided by the "little lady" and at lunchtime I will watch my bike's odometer click to 30,000 miles.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


Dagmar and I are now at Ponts on the southern edge of the Pyrenees and still in Catalonia. In the towns, we always find old parts with narrow lanes, a church and a square. There are usually trees that give both shade and beauty. Catalan is widely spoken here. In the evenings children are always out playing and often with their parents. Regularly we see a parent with children on bicycles. It seems very safe.

Yesterday we cycled 56 miles and climbed 970m when the sun was very hot. We decided to stay two nights at Ponts and today had a day tour on the bikes without panniers.
We left La Seu d'Urgell on a main road going south. It was wide, downhill, fast and passed through several gorges.  Much traffic was going in the opposite direction but it was not distracting to look at the scenery.  We stop to look at vultures gliding low over the valley.  When tunnels appeared, we joined the old road which for some obscure reason  was often closed even for cyclists but which we ignored. This is how one gorge appeared

The temperature rose in the afternoon as we left the main road to follow little roads where we saw no cars and only one cyclist. The scenery was no longer mountainous and a huge reservoir was to our left while small fields surrounded by poppies was typical.
This morning we both wanted an easy day.  We set off on unmade farm tracks to discover the local area while in the afternoon we followed a rural route south and enjoyed many cafes. We still cycled 45 miles but it was at a leisurely pace except when a storm appeared and we raced to reach a cafe just in time before it broke

Tomorrow we resume our journey and head north west

Friday, 20 May 2016


We are now in La Seu d'Urgell cycling west from Perpignan to Hendaye. We have cycled 99 miles, climbed 2,800m and summited 5 colls in the last two days. We have been over a mile high and passed the magnificent Pedroforca

This stands at 2,506m high and has two parallel ridges. It is reported  to be one of the emblematic mountains of Catalonia and enjoyed by hikers and rock climbers.  Our highest altitude was at Coll de Josa at 1,620m.

We have found ourselves high in the Pyrenees. The weather is now sunny and our very wet day is almost forgotten.  My bike is purring away much like a cat who has enjoyed a juicy mouse for breakfast.  My legs are gaining strength while Dagmar who trains in the Alps has a fitness that I have not seen on our previous trips.

There have few cars on these roads and, apart from tyre noise, the sounds have been birdsong and cow bells.  In fact, sheep and goats all have bells and there are frequent ting a lings all day.  We come across a shepherd with a very long beard and 3 dogs. We greet by saying "Ola" but I know no Spanish so no conversations follow.  Dagmar can speak a little and I am easily impressed.  These are some scenic views

Dagmar's blog can be seen here and you can follow me on Twitter

Wednesday, 18 May 2016


My journey today with Dagmar started to the south of the Pyrenees and wound west to Girona, then turned slightly north into the Pyrenees and finished at Olot. The distance was 61 miles. The morning sun rose to 24C. I knew nothing of these places. My knowledge of Spanish architecture was from trips to Cuba and South America over 10 years ago. Back then, I loved the faded grandeur of their cities built in colonial times but I have never seen them in Spain. Figueres, our start, is worthy of a longer visit and Salvador Dali's museum would be the first place to explore. Last night, we sat in a courtyard of old stone buildings with narrow balconies and deep windows while eating our meal.  Architects strive to create atmosphere and in this courtyard they succeeded 400 years ago. Every town so far has a grand church.  This one is at Girona.

Every town  has squares as their centre points.  Sometimes they are open where people can walk around, sit or talk such as this at Figueres while others have beautiful gardens and water features such as at Olot.  This was at Figueres

There was no cycle route to Girona so we cycled on a main highway. We doubted that this was a great idea and had stopped at its start on a major roundabout. A local highways van pulled up behind us and the driver, understanding our dilemma, got out and explained that the road had a wide shoulder and little traffic. He felt that we should not worry.  The road had a good surface and gentle hills so the miles rolled away fast.  We gazed at the distant Pyrenees to the north getting closer.  Girona came and went and we now followed one of the most scenic paths on an old railway that I have ever seen.  Views started with allotments, then poppy fields and we peddled alongside a clear stream through forests, spotting red roofed villages as we went.

On several occasions, seeds like dandelions floated through the air and landed giving the appearance of snow

We peddled on to the summit of the railway path and dark clouds started to appear. A group of about 70 school children came the other way, a few oblivious of us and we both just avoided several head on crashes. The clouds grew menacing and at the summit the weather changed to thunder and a ferocious rain storm. My suncream poured off my forehead into my eyes which combined with the salt from my perspiration made my eyes sting. I had to keep wiping my eyes on the descent which at the same time had turned from a cycle path into a torrent of water.  We reached Olot an hour later completely soaked, checked into a hotel and was greeted as if it is perfectly normal for guests to arrive like this.  Today was a good adventure

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


Travelling is to be enjoyed and not endured. I am now with my cycling friend, Dagmar, from Germany who I meet up each year for a 2 week journey to somewhere new. This year we are on a tour cycling from Perpignan on the Mediterranean Sea to Hendaye on the Atlantic. We always try to find quiet roads away from traffic and don't mind dirt roads. These are easy to find with Dagmar.

We are now in Figueres, a delightful ancient town in Catalonia and birthplace of Salvador Dali, the artist.
I have cycled just 97 miles and the rest was by ferry and train. Here is a quick guide for making an otherwise dull journey from England to Spain both interesting and cheap.
An overnight ferry from Plymouth sailed to Roscoff in Brittany arriving at 09.30. This allowed enough time for a mini cycling tour of Brittany to Morlaix where a TGV train whisked me to Paris on the same evening. A 3 mile bike ride along a segregated bus/bike lane took me from Gare Mont-parnasse to Gare d'Austerlitz where I boarded a night sleeper train to Perpignan. The cost was £110 including the sleeper birth on the train. My arrival found me invigorated and ready to go. When Dagmar joined me 6 hours later, I had made a mini tour of Perpignan.
Having devoured a delicious sandwich each, we made an afternoon trip along some of coastal scenery beside the Med.

It was easy to see why the Med is so popular. The beaches stretch for miles, it is warm and cafes abound.  Our first night was at Collioure, noted for its scenic qualities at the foot of Pyrenees, castles, artists and possibly because 39" of snow fell on 21 January 1870.

Today was our first full day and we made tourist's progress so went very slow stopping to take in the views and climb some hills. Dagmar's blog can be seen here.

These are more images from today

Monday, 16 May 2016


I have just arrived and this is from the train coming into Perpignan at 6am this morning

Saturday, 14 May 2016


Tonight, I leave for a long trip south as on Monday I will be joining a friend in Perpignan.  We will be on a 2 week tour to cycle along the Pyrenees to Hendaye.  It will be coast to coast from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. I am not too sure of the route as my friend is planning it.

My journey south starts in Plymouth where I catch the overnight ferry to Roscoff in France.  I have time for a morning's tour in Brittany tomorrow as I am catching a train from Morlaix in late afternoon.  There will be plenty of time for a 30km bike ride alongside the Rade Morlaix (estuary) to the train station.  The overnight train arrives in Perpignan at 6am.

Thursday, 5 May 2016


I am just returned from Mayo in Ireland. I have been there before and wanted to go again. It has everything for the touring cyclist from amazing scenery, excellent roads and welcoming people.  Like Donegal, Mayo is on Eurovelo 1.  These are some views in Mayo and neighbouring Connemara all on cycle routes.

This is how the routes are signed

I also like that motorists are told to give cyclists space such as with this sign

Mayo's scenery offers splendid isolation but also you are never far from a town or bar for refreshments.  Westport is successfully creating itself into a smart town with cycling encouraged as this image

My plan is to return sometime soon and find more exciting bike rides and stunning scenery