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Old 09-11-2011, 01:53 PM   #1
duibhceK OP
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Cool2 Transpyrinaica and beyond - a cultural voyage

Some of the stories I have read on here have been nothing short from inspirational. And after reading and enjoying so many of them I figured it was about time I gave something back.

This ride report will not be as adventurous as many of them and definitely not as epic as some. But I hope you'll enjoy coming along for our trip nevertheless.


In a little under 3 weeks, starting form our little flat in the center of Belgium we'll be riding south through France. Passing through the Bourgogne and the Rhone valley, through the Cevennes and the Gorges du Tarn. Then further South towards the eastern most tip of the Pyrenees, to the Mediterranean beaches close to the Spanish border. Sticking as much as possible to the most beautiful
départementales roads the frog country has to offer.
Then crossing the border into Spain and riding west through the Pyrenees towards the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Biscay. From there it will go back into France, riding the mountains back east until we're just south of Toulouse. We'll turn back to the north at that point to enjoy the Cantal and Puy de Dôme regions. Meander through the Loire valley, across the hills of the Morvan national park and through the Champagne region back into Belgium hopping over the Ardennes.

Along the way we'll be making some cultural stops: architectural master pieces, art centers and museums of modern art. 5500km of French and Spanish countryside, taking us from 1 steel and concrete temple of modern culture to the next. And we'll be camping for most of the trip.


Laouen is riding her trusty FZ6 and I'm on my 2008 XT660Z Tenere.


Here's already some pictures to get you in the mood.





















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Old 09-12-2011, 01:50 AM   #2
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The background

Laouen and I have been riding for a couple of years now. Our motorcycle trips have taken us around most of Western Europe: Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK. The trips have been very varied: shorter and longer, with more and less comfort, camping B&B's full blown luxury hotels, ... Basically we've tried out all kinds of formats. From picking a single base camp hotel doing local tours, over large 2 week tours riding from B&B to B&B, or stuffing the bikes in the back of the van to get to a camp site and day-trip from there .
What we hadn't tried up until now is taking the tent on the bikes for a multiple week tour. So that's what we'll do this time around.

The idea for this trip started to grow during the cold winter months. Usually we start planning our summer holidays around December. This time around we really did not have a clue yet were to go. All options were open and we couldn't really decide. Until one day an email from a friend arrived. For the past couple of years he has organised trips to the Vosges region in France for us and some other friends. Traditionally during the Pentecostal weekend. For 2011 he wanted to do something different.

During one of our previous Vosges trips we had visited the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut at Ronchamps, designed and built by the famous 20th century architect Le Corbusier. At the time the structural engineer of our shady club informed us there was a big convent near Lyon that was designed by the same man. So the plan for the 2011 Pentecostal weekend was to ride there on Saturday, pass the weekend in the convent and ride back to Belgium on Monday. About 750km there along French D-roads and then the same back again. It would have to be a very early departure but obviously we would be game. And so were the other usual suspects.

Coincidence has it Pentecost falls rather late this year. Around the time laouen and I normally take our summer holiday. So a more elaborate and cunning plan starts to brew. What if we didn't come straight home on Monday, what if we just kept riding for the next 3 weeks? Now that would be something to look forward to. But where to go?

Last year's plan to spend a few days in the Cevennes before exploring the French side of the Pyrenees literally fell in the water. The weather forecasts for the Cevennes national park forced us to divert to the Ardeche at the last minute. We continued South from there to the Pyrenees. This year might be a good opportunity to finally explore the Cevennes. And since we stuck to the central French Pyrenees last year, this time around why not ride the entire Spanish side and the parts of the French side that were still unexplored?

We are starting off with a visit to an iconic 20th century architectural site, and there's some interesting cultural centers in Northern Spain, so let's make that a running theme and plan this trip along some major cultural and architectural highlights. The route will take us passed not only the convent, but also Firminy, the viaduct at Millau, the Dali Museum in Figueres, Guernica, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Garabit viaduct.

Don't worry, it won't be boring all the time, we'll do some riding through amazing landscapes as well. But at least we have a plan to stick to, right!?

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Old 09-12-2011, 09:41 AM   #3
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This all sounds very promising!
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:24 AM   #4
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The preparations

We have plenty of camping equipment, but not all of it is very well suited for a motorbike trip. So we'll need to spend some time preparing the bikes and the equipment.

Our current Quechua 2 seconds tent folds up to about the size and shape of a giant UFO. It could probably double as a hang glider as well, but it's rather unpractical to carry on the bike. Also, laouen insists on a tent she can stand up in and that has some living space in case it rains.
Yes, we're sort of luxury campers.
We got ourselves a big ass Quechua T4.1. It's huge and heavy, but still just about manageable to carry on the back of the FZ.

We also upgraded our cooking equipment with an MSR whisperlite that can run on the same fuel as the bikes and a Trangia stove and pots. Light My Fire provides a handy meal kit. And we have a couple of tiny fishing chairs. Folded up they are only 10 by 7cm and not even 1cm thick.

To go with all of that, a simple home made design for a pick nick table. A sheet of aluminum cut to size so it fits nicely in one of the Trax panniers. Corners folded to slot into the tabs on the Trax lids. Like this:









As you can see it makes for an excellent table for romantic home dinners as well. Only the spaghetti and meatballs are missing.

The Tenere will be carrying a pannier with my clothes, a pannier with the cooking gear, some tools, food and drinks. Sleeping bags and air beds are going into a Givi top case. The FZ takes laouen's clothes in a Givi top case and the mansion-sized tent in a waterproof luggage role.

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Old 09-13-2011, 01:17 AM   #5
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Day 1: Waterloo (B) to Eveux (FR) - 778km

In the days before departure we pack as much of our clothes and other stuff as possible so we don't lose any unnecessary time Saturday morning.

And when I say morning I do mean morning. Rendez-vous today is at 5AM under the Lion's Hillock at Waterloo.

One of these half-wits must have thought it would be fitting to ride from Lion to Lyon. Were it not for the ungodly hour I would probably be able to appreciate the symmetry of it. But that would require a more lucid state of mind.

We are meeting up with this bunch of low-lifes, parias from the darkest corners of society linked only by their common love for motorcycling. 6 bikes carrying 7 nitwits with a low enough brain cell count to convince themselves this trip would be cool and fun.

When we meet up the morning is still quite chilly and a quick glance at the sky is not particularly promising. A grim sky is gradually revealed by the rising sun, occasionally hidden from view by the odd mist bank.

The bikes don't seem phased by it though.



And even with the rather dreary weather the Lion's Hillock is a beautiful place to depart on a ride like this.




For the first part of the ride, at least until we get out of Belgium, we'll stick to the highways and major A-roads. Once we pass the border in Couvin the roads get smaller and more interesting. From here on it is mainly smaller départementales through the Champagne-Ardennes and Bourgogne regions.


By the time we cross into France around 6:15AM the sun is trying hard to pierce through the clouds and fog, but so far without much luck. A first refuel stop at Signy-l'Abbaye provides a chance to nibble on an early morning snack and take a sip from the camelbag. That will have to do until we find a bar where we can grab some decent breakfast.

We get that chance in Le Chesne about 1,5 hours later. It is not even 8AM but the lights are already on in the town's small Bar Tabac.


We warm up on hot coco and enjoy some fresh croissants from the bakery down the street. Laouen is getting in the mood for our stay in the convent tonight, practising her prayer muscles.


Meanwhile, Pepijn was also experiencing a philosophical moment outside, staring across the river.




We can't lose too much time though, so we are back on our steeds quite soon. I won't bore you with a description of the ride itself. You know how it goes. 2 wheels, a set of handle bars. You work the throttle and the brakes. Once in a while there's a bend to negotiate, and then another and another. And before you know it you have forgotten where the last stretch of straight road was. Nothing too interesting about that, right?


Anyway, towards 11 o'clock we're getting rather thirsty and bored with all the cornering that is required. We're passing very close to Bar-sur-Aube, so a quick detour through the city centre brings us to the little terrace of "Chez Bernard". The sun has finally broken through the clouds, making it all the more enjoyable.

We're not the only ones taking a break here. The table next to us seats a group of Brits on Triumphs and Ducatis. They came from Calais, are heading for Switzerland and had already suffered a rain shower of biblical proportions. It seems we were a bit more lucky with only some cloud cover and fog. When we part ways our little gang turns its noses back towards the South.

It is almost 1PM when we make another stop. Moloy is a tiny but very idyllic French hamlet where we find a quiet and attractive pick nick spot next to a pond.




After lunch it is time for a short siesta.


With a little effort we are finally able to convince Stef to get up and mount his inferior oil-guzzling BMW GS. I wouldn't be very enthusiastic to get going again if I were driving such a German piece of crap, so I can relate to his hesitation.
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Old 09-13-2011, 12:50 PM   #6
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Back on the bikes we're heading towards gorgeous Bourgogne. A region with a wonderfully varied landscape and winding roads to enjoy it from. Despite a few navigational follies the ride is pleasant and fast. At least until we reach Bligny-sur-Ouche. Navigating the small streets of the village our guide is separated from the rest of the group by a large flock of Pan European riders coming from a alley on the right. By the time we're out of town we've lost sight of him. He seems to have taken a different turn somewhere. We decide to head back to the town square and wait for him there. He'll return when he realizes we're no longer on his tail.

It's a good opportunity to soak up some sun on a terrace in front of town hall anyway.


After a refreshing drink and a good deal of basking we're on the road again, through the Ouche valley. It is still as much the motorcycling paradise as I remember from our stay here in 2006. Nice and fluent roads with flawless tarmac through an ever changing landscape of woodlands, corn fields and grassland around a small meandering river. We're making good progress like this. Just one more fuel stop before we arrive at the convent in Eveux, a few clicks West of Lyon.

Riding up to the building it does not look particularly inviting. There is only one way to approach the convent and that's from the North. Its North wall is one big concrete expanse. It looks more like a bunker than the open religious institute of learning it is supposed to be. But once you get closer and turn the corner to the front of the building all of that changes. Despite all of the concrete it even looks quite appealing. The initial impression of a big boring concrete block makes way for a new appreciation of its subtlety and graceful simplicity.

At the front door we are met by Brother Touristique -at least let's call him that for narrative purposes as that seems to be one of his responsibilities. He lets us park the bikes in front of the main entrance, within reach of a motion sensor and then shows us to our cells. Even though it is already 7:45PM and we were expected around 6PM some food was kept aside for us. We don't waste any time enjoying it with a bottle of local wine.


After dinner there is some time to wander around the building and enjoy the views. Inside and outside.




Inside it shows immediately what a master Le Corbusier was at bringing in and playing with natural light. But he does once in a while come up with some quirky ideas for artificial lighting as well.


Unfortunately it is already a bit too dark outside to get a good shot of the entire building. That will be for tomorrow.

The cells themselves are quite small but do offer all the basic mod cons. A little desk with a chair, a single bed, closet and washing basin. You do need to make your own bed before going to sleep. Every cell block has its own sanitary block with showers, toilets and some more washing basins. Not that different from the accommodation we'll be using in the coming weeks on various camp sites.
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Old 09-13-2011, 01:39 PM   #7
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Looking great, guys. I love seeing the architecture and countryside in Europe.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:12 AM   #8
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Day 2: Couvent de la Tourette, Eveux (FR) - 0km

For a good night's sleep it doesn't matter how large or luxurious a room is, so I do feel well rested in the morning. We had arranged to meet in the dining room for breakfast and once there it becomes clear we are far from the only ones staying at the convent. The room is filled with German students of architecture.
We place ourselves at the only remaining free table and share a baguette.

The Germans will be leaving after breakfast so we'll be able to wander around the convent and its domain in all tranquility.

After the overdose from yesterday we don't feel much like riding so we'll keep it quiet and slow. Starting with a strole through the woods around the convent. There's a map of the domain at the entrance of the woods. Identifying some interesting sites to visit we first go have a look at the cemetery where the convent's brothers are buried.

The burial ground is very basic. And I assume the brothers prefer it that way.


A bit further down one of the many paths that cross the woods we pass a curious structure of stones at either side of the path. They seem to be oriented East-West and the map had it down as the "alignement". The stones don't really look like they have been around for a long time though.
East:


West:


Continuing our walk we come along the spot where the map said was a "temple d'amour", a temple of love. It turns out being not much to look at, and seems a rather recent addition as well. But it's a nice spot for a little rest nevertheless.


We're almost done with philosophizing and solving all of the great world problems when it is about time for lunch. Forced to leave the solution for some other time we start our walk back. Along the way passing by this quirky little building.


It turns out to be an ice cellar. Over 7 meters deep and pitch dark inside. The built-in flash of my DSLR is not strong enough to reach to the bottom of the pit.

While walking back up the hill towards the convent we pass what must be the fattest tree in the domain. Let's see how big it really is.
First try to reach around the tree.


Then measure the circumference in steps. How big is the tree? Well, now it's official: over 3 idiots big.


Getting bored yet? No worries, tomorrow we start riding again. Then the real trip starts.

But first there's still a guided tour of the convent coming up and a little bacchanal dinner party. Stay tuned!
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:39 AM   #9
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On Sunday afternoon there is a weekly tour around the convent, organised by Brother Touristique. The tour doesn't start until 3PM though, so there's still some time to kill. We spend it lying in the grass around a little pond, just enjoying the sun.

Shortly before 3 a group of tourists starts gathering near the main entrance of the building. We join them and Brother Touristique starts with his explanation. Despite it being built entirely out of heavy reinforced concrete the building seems light and airy and sort of floats above the hill face it was built upon. The entire building, except for the church part is standing on a few thin concrete pillars.



The large glass windows, seperated only by thin concrete lines give the building an elegance you would not expect from what is basically a fifties era concrete bunker. There's no window frames, the glass is fixed directly into the concrete walls.
With all that glass there is hardly a need for additional artificial lighting.


And even inside the church, which has almost no windows at all, the light is playfull and atmospheric. Thanks to a few very cleverly placed light tubes, bringing in a different type of light dependent on the time of day.



On this picture you can see where the light tubes are placed on the south-east side of the church. These are nicknamed the "mitrailettes" by the brothers. On the north-west face there's 3 very big ones they lovingly call "canons".


The rest of the building is well thought-through as well. All measurements in the entire structure are based on Le Corbuisier's "average man", a man of 1m83 he called Mr Modular. This structure at the front entrance shows you the heigth and width of a professor's cell. The height of the ceiling is just high enough for Mr Modular to touch with the tips of his fingers when reaching for it. The width between the walls allow Mr Modular to just touch both walls at once with his arms spread out. Think of Da Vinci's drawing of his average man. The Professor's cells are 23cm wider than that. That's exactly the depth of a library rack for their books.




Le Corbuisier, being a fan of "form follows function" has made no effort at all to hide any of the water pipes or electric wiring in the building. It is all in plain view.



And with a few small concrete blocks and some slabs of glass even a blank concrete wall can look stylish.



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Old 09-16-2011, 02:33 PM   #10
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On Sunday the convent does not offer dinner to its guests, so we'll have to get that sorted ourselves. The brothers don't mind us having a pick nick on the little wood benches in front of the main entrance. So we decide to get some pizzas from a take away and a couple of bottles of red wine. During one of our visits to the Vosges we had already found out that the top case of a KTM adventure can take up to 11 pizzas. So our regular pizza guy goes on the hunt for a pizza place while our guide on his Pan European will look for a night shop where he can get some wine. This being France on a Sunday night and a religious holiday to boot that is not as easy as it sounds. It eventually takes a detour of 45km to get everything sorted.


The pizzas are very tasty and there's also some home-made cake for dessert. There's 7 of us and all of those bottles of wine will be empty by the end of the evening. No further comments required.


For a second it looks like Stef already wants to sleep off a possible hangover, but in fact he is only illustrating the size of a convent cell and bed.


The dirt area is the bed, the grass is the size of a cell. If you have paid attention to the rest of the story you should be able to guess where the ceiling and the walls are from this pic.


It was a great evening to end a wonderful weekend, but tomorrow our trip starts for real.

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Old 09-17-2011, 11:20 AM   #11
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Day 3: Eveux (FR) to Florac (FR) - 350km

Today is the day we say goodbye to our companions from the last 2 days. While they will be returning to Belgium we'll ride further south, towards the Cevennes national park.


On the recommendations from our BMW-suffering friend we will slightly deviate from our planned route for a visit to Firminy, where there's some more buildings from Le Corbuisier to visit.

After breakfast we are loading up the bikes and getting ready to say our goodbyes when we are joined by one of the brothers. He stops to admire the Tenere and admits that he rode one of its ancestors in a past life, the XTZ600. He does look like he must have had quite an interesting life before he joined the order, so I call him Brother Legionair.

He never got to realize his dream of riding his bike through the desert, I do hope I will be able to take my little Ten there some day. Seeing the twinkle in his eyes when he asks to have a sit on it I simply can't deny him that pleasure. It clearly gives him great pleasure to be able to swing his long legs over a motorcycle once again.

I'm too afraid to ask whether he still wants to try to make his dream come true. Not sure whether that is still an option for a brother at the convent. But if I ever say a prayer I'll pray for that.

He keeps watching as I start the bike. He should very much like to hear the roar of the thumping single cylinder.

A final wave to our former companions and we're off!

About 15 minutes later we see a group of motorcycles coming from the other direction. They look vaguely familiar. It appears our guide from the weekend is following a rather creative route of his Garmin. I do hope they get home safe.

In the first village where we pass a bakery we get a baguette and from there it's straight to Firminy. Le Corbusier built an athletics stadium and a church there, and there is supposed to be one of his apartment blocks with social housing there as well. Very similar to the Cité Radieuse he built at Briey. We'll limit it to the church and the stadium.

But first there's some twisties to negotiate. It is a pleasant surprise that the roads around here are so much fun. Especially since we are still so close to Lyon.


Most folk, including us, usually just try to get past Lyon as quickly as possible. It is one of those necessary evils on the road to the south. It turns out we are all wrong. The region has a lot to offer and the riding here is nothing short from fantastic. Even under these rather dreary skies.

Arriving at the stadium it appears to be mostly covered in scaffolding for a restoration. We still manage to get a few nice shots though.





The church is only a few hundred meters away. The touch of Le Corbusier immediately stands out, but it is still a very different concept from the chapel at Ronchamps.


The strange looking gutters on the front face are part of an ingenious drainage system. The placement of the cross is very similar to the one on top of the church at La Tourette convent.


And like at La Tourette the architect is also using primary colors supplemented with green to bring some life to the greyness of the concrete.

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Old 09-18-2011, 01:04 PM   #12
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The pictures from today already show the overcast skies, but so far we've been able to stay dry. We make a stop at Geant to fill up on petrol and water. After that the route dives into the Gorges of the Loire river. A few hundred twisties later it's time for lunch. An "aire" as the French call it in the middle of the Gorges provides the perfect spot for a pick nick. Our traditional favorites are baguette with saucisse and Baby Bells. But while we are eating the clouds are getting darker and darker. By the time we finish the bread the first drops of rain hit the pick nick table.


Packing up gets to be a bit of a rushed affair while the rain really sets in. Fortunately it is only a short shower. So far the French départementales roads have offered us loads of riding fun. The short stretch through the industrialized suburbs of St. Etienne was the only exception. And the rest of the route for today promises to be even better.

Although the weather lets us off easy the road between Pradelles and Villefort looks like it has ambitions to grow up to be a river. The slippery road, combined with the occasionally very tight corners seems to have taken its toll already. First we pass a sports car that has been carefully parallel parked against the cliff wall. Emergency services are already at the scene. A bit further down the road, a van lying on its side in the ditch next to the road. The occupants are standing around it and seem to have gotten away unharmed. No help is needed but the experience does keep us on our toes.

A few kilometers short of Villefort the sun breaks through for the first time today and temperatures are rising quickly. At a vista above a large artificial lake we take a short break from riding and get rid of the rain liners in our suits. I immediately take the opportunity to open all the ventilation my vest and trousers offer. It has gotten quite warm very quickly. The view is not too shabby either.


A bit further down the road we dive into the Cevennes, following already part of the river Tarn until we arrive at Florac. This is where we planned to come last year. This time around the weather seems to be more cooperative.


There's already quite a pleasant bustle on the camp site even this early in the season. Our neighbors are a German couple that have brought their SV650 and CBF1000 on a trailer behind the camper. They are kind enough to lend us a ax to knock the tent pegs into the ground. Due to the many rocks in the soil doing it by hand or with a motorcycle boot does not seem to be the most effective approach.

The woman shares the SV with their son back home, but it is all hers for the holidays. They are planning to ride on towards Prades in the French Pyrenees. More or less the direction we'll be going as well. But first there's some local attractions we'd like to visit.

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Old 09-22-2011, 12:12 PM   #13
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Day 4: Florac (FR) to Florac (FR) - 293km

We didn't really feel like cooking yesterday so we tried out the little bar on the camp site. That was not really an unqualified success. But at least one could not fault them for not delivering what they advertise. Steak haché with chips is exactly that. No sauce, no veg. Pretty dry. We'll be doing the cooking ourselves tonight. Not before we went for a little ride out though.

The plan for today is quite simple:


And after that we'll make a little detour passing over the Corniche des Cevennes.


First on the menu are the Gorges du Tarn. The advantage of coming our before the real tourist season starts is that the roads are all virtually deserted, allowing us to enjoy the views and the twisties to the fullest. And there's no lack of either.




This has to be about the straightest stretch of road in the entire Gorges:


We road through the Ardeche last year and back in 2006 as well, but this is really on another level. The roads are tighter and more twisty and you are really riding close to the pretty impressively sized cliff walls.


The Ardeche is nice, but the Gorges du Tarn I could spend the rest of my life in.

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Old 09-23-2011, 01:50 PM   #14
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Coming out of the Gorges we continue along the banks of the river Tarn. The roads are getting wider and more importantly busier as well. Approaching Millau the road has almost grown to the size of a small nationale. If you've been to France you'll be familiar with them, the typical 2-1 road with alternating 2 and 1 lane in each direction. It is this road that takes us into the valley where Millau is located. Coming over the ridge the road makes a slight bend, hiding the valley from view. Until suddenly it is there, right in front of us. The first look at the magnificent bridge spanning the entire width of the valley.


We work ourselves through the bustle of Millau itself and ride straight to the tourist office right underneath the bridge. From this point of view the suspension bridge looks even more impressive. The supports just seem to tower above us endlessly.




And the biggest miracle of all this is that the chauvinist French contracted an Englishman to build what they must have known would become a major tourist attraction.

To our great amazement access to the tourist center is free of charge. Inside there's a few scale models and the inevitable gift shop. One of the scale models is perfectly positioned for a direct comparison with the real thing.


Meanwhile we're starting to get a bit hungry. On the way here I noticed a small sign pointing towards a "Point de Visionair". What exactly would be wrong with an ordinary point de vue is beyond me, but it does sound like a potentially very nice place for a pick nick.

To get there we do need to negotiate a tiny road up the steep valley flank. At the turn from the main road interdiction signs for campers and caravans already look promising. A bit further down the road signs warning about the steep gradient and the many bends. Followed by a sign indicating the right of way for traffic climbing the road. The Tenere can hardly contain its excitement.

It indeed turns out to be a very beautiful, but also quite hazardous. the road is very tight, not too nicely paved and there's very steep cliffs only centimeters from the edge of the road. About halfway up the climb we end up behind a group of Goldwing riders. In one of the many extremely tight switchbacks it suddenly goes all pear shaped for one of the mastodons. We see a red Goldwing rolling backwards uncontrollably together with its rider and pillion. Just before the bike threatens to roll off the road into the abyss the rider throws it on its side. Not the most elegant solution, but undoubtedly the smart thing to do.

They are quickly helped back on their feet by some of the other club members. We get a sign that they are all ok and a signal to pass and ride on.

My guess is the bike stalled halfway through the corner, the rider panicked and pulled in the clutch. On a hill this steep that's just a recipe for disaster.

Upon reaching the summit we want to go inform the rest of the Goldwing riders about the incident and tell them everyone is ok. But that turns out to be unnecessary, the technobeasts are all equipped with intercom systems. So the buddies in front were already informed long before we reached them. Eventually the rest of the group makes it to the top unharmed as well.


It turns out to be a British club taking their holidays in the region. After exchanging some stories we are asked to tkae some pictures of the gang.


Luckily the Point de Visionair itself is worth all of the excitement of the climb. The view on the valley and the bridge from up here is stunning.


It is the ideal spot for our pick nick (yes, saucisse and baby bells again). Meanwhile the bikes are enjoying the view as well.


There's still plenty views we should like to enjoy today so we make our descent and turn our noses towards the Corniche.

Evidently not via the most direct route, we pick a few more twisty detours to get there. Not that there's a challenge in finding those around here. The succession of winding roads is endless and this time of year the small mountain passes are almost entirely deserted. At least from any human presence, there's plenty of birds of prey hanging around.

We pause once in a while to take in the landscape. When we rode the Corniche on a day-trip form the Ardeche last year there wasn't much of a view due to the weather. There's nothing inhibiting our views today though.


From the highest point of the Corniche des Cevennes Florac is only a stone's throw away. We make a short stop in town for some groceries, then its straight to the camp site. A mixed salad to start with, pasta for mains and a most gorgeous panna cotta for desert. Accompanied with a nice bottle of red wine, naturally.

The Whisperlite-Trangia combo makes that the food is ready in no time at all.


After dinner we pack up what we can. Tomorrow we'd like to find a camp site somewhere south of Perpignan, where the Pyrenees disappear in the Mediterranean. A pretty decent ride ahead of us.
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:36 PM   #15
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Day 5: Florac (FR) to Banyuls-sur-Mer (FR) - 433km

We're up early today and on the road not much later. First the first stage of our ride we can still enjoy the Cevennes roads and landscape to the fullest. After that we plan to further stick to the départementales until we near the coast. There a short stretch of highway should get us around the busy neighborhood of Perpignan without too much fuss. It should be too hard to find a camp site a bit further South along the coast. Last year a German couple we met in the Ardeche recommended the camping municipale at Banyuls-Sur-Mer. So that is the first we'll aim for.



Our first stop is at the top of Mont Aigoual, one of the highest peaks in the area.


here's a big parking lot up here and there is something that looks like a small fort at the summit. It turns out to be an observatory. No doubt it can get pretty crowded up here during the peak season. This morning it is nice and quiet. A camper that looks like it has lost its way, a couple of bikers and a ham radio enthusiast who has set up his antenna on the highest spot he could find. Silently hoping for a clear signal to the other side of the world, I'm sure.

We pause a while to take in and enjoy our final views of the Cevennes.


Laouen can't wait to get back on the road though and she knows were to go.


On top of the mountain it is hard to imagine, but it promises to be a hot day. Our supply of water diminishes rapidly once we get to the warmer, lower altitude roads. Except for the baguette we scored at the camp site this morning we still need to find some lunch. Unfortunately the roads we are on are small and we only occasionally pass through a village. No shops so far though. And when we finally come across a "P'tit Casino" it turns out to be closed... for lunch. When we stop at the side of the road 100m down the road to decide what we'll do for lunch I open up all of the remaining ventilation zippers on my suit. While I'm doing that I see some movement in front of the shop from my rear view mirror. The little shop has just reopened! No time is wasted and we're filled up on water and food for lunch in minutes.

We eat the lunch in the unsightly village of St-Maurice-de-Sorges. It is hot enough already to force us to choose a spot in the shade of a tree.

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