Tag Archives: solo female cycle tour france

4 days in the Pyrenees

Leaving Plateau d’Lhers 4 days ago

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Top of the pass between Val d’Aspe and Val d’ Ossau. There were a ton of Spanish road cyclists at the top – at least 15 – 20 in the time I was there, training for a big race coming up. This isn’t the highest pass, but one guy said it’s one of the steepest in the area. I asked him about the passes to the east (which ended up being closed) and he said if you can do this, those are no problem. Yes!

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Camped in a trashy trailer park/campground in Laruns with beautiful views of mountains in every direction

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French fast food to go with my trailer park!

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The next day I biked UP a very steep 4km from the highway to a lake, packed a backpack, hid my bike and hiked to Refuge d’ Ayous. Still closed for the season, as I knew they would be, I slept in the winter room. WOW!

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Biking up into the storm yesterday. Heading back south towards Spain over the Col du Portalet: 1972 m

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My feelings when the rain first started. It got a lot worse. Cold headwind and pelting rain. This is me working through it

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Gorgeous even in bad weather

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And here’s Spain! Beautiful!

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Leaving a parking lot at Formigal, Spain’s (arguably) biggest ski resort

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About 10 km from the border is Sallent de Gallego. A beautiful little Spanish mountain town. I almost passed it by, but there was a sign for municipal camping (the best, because it’s usually cheap, in a park setting and not overrun with caravans, like most campgrounds in Europe), plus, at the top of Col du Portalet, I stopped at a lovely historic hotel for a coffee and the woman recommended I check out the town. I SCORED on muni camping. Free and right behind the town sports complex. 2€ for a shower and they even had wifi I could use! Plus, the guy in charge, Angel, is a cycle tourist! Ha! I couldn’t choose the best angle for a photo of my camp spot…

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Passing through Sabiñago on my way to Huesca today, I spotted this! I unintentionally did all except for Hoz

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I made up for that, however (and 10m +!!) by summitting this beast between Sabiñago and Huesca. No idea this existed due to shitty, free tourist info maps that I’m using. This was one long climb. I think it took me at least two hours. Raining the whole time. Then fog. So not fun. I screamed in frustration a couple times. Then laughed at myself

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On the other side of the pass the storm really happened. Thunder and lightening and driving rain, and about 15 km from here, a crazy hailstorm. I rode my bike as fast as I could to the nearest shelter, which turned out to be a flimsy piece of shade netting covering a driveway – it barely held!Hail the size of pennies came flying from every direction for a solid 5 – 10 minutes. I stood, dripping wet and freezing cold, glad I was wearing a helmet, and waited it out. Then I rode the last wet wet wet 15km here in less than a half hour. That storm also provided an awesome tailwind. Now I’m in Huesca, staying in a simple pensión, with great retro furnishings and a color television set, for 20€ a night. I have my own room and my saturated belongings are strewn across the room drying. Thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow too. Maybe I’ll stay here another night and catch up on my Spanish telenovelas…

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Pamplona y Les Pyrénées Occidentales

I’m about to ride down a long winding hill that I rode up two days ago. Out of this amazing alpine valley and Plateau de Lhers where I have been camping for two nights at a perfect campground at the end of the road, and where I happened upon the amazing Pic de Labigouer yesterday.
The Summit

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Me at the summit and my new backpack that I made out of a big stuff sack with neckties for straps.

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On the way down

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I lost my hat somewhere on the road heading back to the village and rode up to find it in the evening. Found it in the middle of the road, and then this dude found me, while taking pictures of the herd and the illuminated mountains in the distance

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I woke up to frost on the ground the last two mornings. Yesterday I had breakfast in bed

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30 km ride, all uphill from Jaca, Spain to the pass of Somport and the border between France and Spain the day before yesterday

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The top! At the old border station pre- European Union

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Between Donosti and Jaca I stopped for a day in Pamlona and stayed at a pilgrim’s hostel, for those hiking the Camino de Santiago. I followed the route backwards to the aforementioned pass. Pamplona is an awesome spot to eat and drink.

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Pilgrims in the morning about to head out.

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Just like me! Off to ride down to the main road, then over the Col de Marie Blanque into the next valley!!!

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Last Day in France

I’m sitting at a picnic table at my campsite – I never get a picnic table! My mantra as I look for a paid campsite for the night: “less than 5€, picnic table, less than 5€, picnic table…” Well, got one of those! Drinking a half bottle of Alsace riesling and I’m about to indulge in my pasta, last cube of veg boullion, red pepper, tomato and arugula feast. Rye cracker with brie on the side. I hadn’t had any brie since coming here and it seemed I should check out the real thing – unpasturized milk of course – before I cross the border to España! I’ve been wiggling steadily southwest since leaving Paris and tomorrow I’ll be in San Sebastian, where I’ll be staying with my old roommmate Asier, who I lived with the winter before last in the Catalonian Pyrenees!

Update, now that I’m actually in range of internet: I’m in San Sebastian – Donosti – in Basque! It’s almost midnight and we just finished our dinner with Asier’s awesome family. Vive “not Spain!”

Some photos from between here and Paris…
My first day south of Paris I happened upon an ancient route between there and Orleans. Old road marker.

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Riding one evening amongst the fields. So pretty.

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A quick bite

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Riding along the Loire river, there are limestone cliffs and caves carved into them where wine is aged and sold. This spot had honey and chevre cheese too.

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Chateaus that I would barely catch glimpses of beyond the outer walls were all over the place!

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One of the hundreds of vineyards I’ve passed in the past week and a half.

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I took a wrong turn and this was my dead end.

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A turret?! Stop it, France!!

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I took another wrong turn that day and ended up at this crumbling chateaux

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Why you don’t go to the grocery store hungry. This brioche is literally the same size and weight as my tent. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a tent!”


Irony

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Castle and vines

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Long, straight roads with no cars the day before yesterday.

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Some sammies I’ve made along the way

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PARIS!

Paris is huge and bustling and beautiful and has great food and it’s really fun to ride a bike here. I’ve ridden more than 100km in the city these past few days. I get lost constantly because no streets are at a right angle and street names change a lot. An awesome way to get to know the city. Get lost.

I’m always hesitant to do the tourist thing and see the big attractions in a city, prefering to visit the neighborhoods and check out the “real life” thing. But hey. I’m in Paris. My first day here I rode to see the Eiffel Tower and was so impressed. What a beautiful work of art. I rode all around it and from every angle had a new appreciation for it. Humans sure can create some magnificent things.

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On the flipside, we make a lot of trash too. But I think that’s also pretty. Maybe the person who decided on these clear bags sans container feels the same way about trash that I do.

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Street scenes…

Bike lane

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Ripped poster

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Broken window

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Bar. Closed on a Sunday.

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Tuula’s toilet at her flat in Paris. Literally a water closet!

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À le marché

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Later in the market day, close to noon. Terrines.

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This is a horrible picture of an amazing traditional dish. Tartiflette – basic ingredients: potatoes, cheese, onion, lardons. All cooked on this huge skillet and scooped to order. Simple, rich, delish. Breakfast for me today at the market.

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My market purchases today. Ingredients to make fried egg sandwiches tonight for Tuula and her roommate, Hugo (eggs and fancy butter were purchased prior).

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An American version if Croque Madame, I suppose. Pictured here.

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I hear it’s now passè to take food pics. Oh well. I am in the motherland of modern American cuisine!!! It’s so exciting.

Tuula and I enjoyed some delicious fondue and a salade nicoise.

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The next day I enjoyed a leisurely, traditional French lunch. I ordered the menù – set menu that changes daily. Pouilly-fumè to drink and to start a salade de chevre chaud (warm chevre salad – this is called the entreè here). Bavette grilleè, sauce poivre, frites maison (grilled beef, pepper sauce, pommes frites – the plat, or main cource). Créme bruleè for dessert. The first two were simple and perfect – like the tartiflette! Dessert was not the best example I’ve had, but I had to try this dish in its homeland!

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Today I also tried my first macarons – little, light, delicate cookies with different fillings and flavors – a Pariesenne specialty.

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I visited one museum in Paris. Le Grand Palais. Tuula and I went to a Robert Mapplethorpe photo exhibition. Why not check out an American photographer when I’m in possibly the greatest art capital of the world?! Yeah, I took a photograph of photographs. Everybody’s doing it…

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And speaking of the must-do in Paris. Sit outside a traditional cafe where almost all the chairs are facing the street. Watch people. Drink coffee. Smoke cigarettes. I don’t have any desire to inhale cigarette smoke, or I would get myself a “city pack” so I could really partake in these scenes…

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I leave Paris tomorrow and head south towards Spain! I love this city. And just when I can finally ride “home” without looking at a map, it’s time to go. Tuula has final exams to concentrate on and I am ready for the country roads again. I have most of France to go through which is perfect. France is so great. I’m studying French along the way, learning more by the hour, and yearning to have a better grasp of this language that I have always wanted to learn but have never had a real reason to. I should be riding along the Loire river valley in a day or two. Wine country awaits!!!

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New Zealand – UK – France

This post is a tad belated…

After arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 21st from Antarctica, I began a 5 week cycle tour of the South Island, first with Susie, my roommate from The Ice, then I headed up north to meet up with Dylan in Marlborough wine country. From there we rode south to Wanaka, met back up with Susie, rode up to Mt. Cook and back to Christchurch.

Wine country!
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On the road…
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We picked lots of apples

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And camped under some bridges

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And in awesome spots like this

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Shoe fence that kept going and going…20140424-101526.jpg

New Zealand was so much fun. Dylan and I parted ways at the airport – he back to the long quiet roads of Australia where he had been riding for the past 5 months, and I decided to return to Europe. This time, riding my bike from France to Romania (or that’s the “plan,” but we’ll see where to roads take me)!

I flew into London and took a train to Eastbourne to hang with Lillian and her fam for a couple weeks. It was so nice to be in a house (not a dorm room or tent) for a little while and be able to cook! It was like coming home.

Tea time! This tea house has been around since the 1700s.

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And now I’m in Paris! I took a ferry to Dieppe, FR 6 days ago and took the very long way to Paris, riding on mostly winding back roads the whole way. Along the coast to Ètretat, to Rouen, to Gournay en-Bray to here. Now I’m staying with my friend Tuula who I couchsurfed with in Finland 2 years ago. She then came up to Alaska last summer and now is studying in Paris – perfect timing! I just arrived yesterday evening and in moments will go off to explore the city!

Lunch my first day in France. Baguette, rillettes de beouf, camembert, pomme

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Velo avec baguette à un cemetière

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Me and a field of rapeseed – canola oil plant. These brilliant yellow fields are all over the place!

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Dinner two nights ago, camping in a forest (not many forests left here). I picked tons of fiddlehead ferns and stinging nettle and made veggie soup. Dèlicieux!20140424-120058.jpg

Croissant and a random gorgeous castle.

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La vie est belle!

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