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Posted on 27 June 2016
in Stories

From Andorra to Albania Part 2

Miss part 1? Read it here


Day 6 - Couch Potato


It's much easier to overstay your welcome at the place of people you know, rather than with a random host on CouchSurfing. I seized the opportunity, just as Louis XIII seized Montpellier to crush the Huguenot rebellion. I am staying in Montpellier at Valentin's, my newly acquired French relative, for an extra day to relax and recharge. Being off the saddle for a while feels good. 

Tomorrow is a big day: a 120 km ride with a couple of stops along the way.


Day 7 - Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse


Early morning when I said au revoir to Valentin and Emy and set off for a long riding day. I wanted to visit Nîmes, often referred to as the French Rome, and Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct and UNESCO World Heritage site, and then finish the day in Avignon.

The ride started smoothly and in one hour I covered 25 km. But then strong wind suddenly came and the struggle began. It seemed that whichever way I was going it was always blowing right in my face. I made it to Nîmes, wandered there for a while and saw a few very well preserved Roman buildings. Unfortunately, most of city center streets were under construction, so I left sooner than I otherwise would have planned.


Then there was a grueling 20 km to Pont du Gard, with stronger wind. This time, it was worth the effort: the structure is impressive and in very good shape for something build almost 2000 years ago. Seven hours later I finally arrived to Avignon, once a Papal city. There is a very well preserved city wall that encompass the old part, as well as a Papal Palace and the Pont d’Avignon. While I was taking pictures of it, a gust of wind knocked my bike down and broke the kickstand.


Today was the first time Warm Showers came through: I found a host who agreed to let me crash on her couch. Anne is a sound engineer and has a small recording studio at home. She showed me some music of artists she recorded, explained how sampling works, fed me and even called her neighbor Alain who fixed my kickstand with a piece of pipe and silicon.


Today in numbers:

8h24m - time it took me to get to Warm Shower

114.8 km - distance covered

64.2 km/h - fastest speed

2 - UNESCO World Heritage



Day 8 - Google drove me nougats


I woke up early morning and Hallelujah - no wind! It promised to be a good day, sunny and calm. 


After saving about 20 km yesterday by following Google instead of Strava, I decided to rely on Google again. The route looked appealing, following the riverbank of the Rhône. The first half hour was good, then I ended up in the woods, where according to Google there were roads. In reality, it was barely discernible tracks in tall grass. Twenty minutes later I was back on a paved road and back on track. My Brompton is a well built bicycle, but it wasn't meant to be used as a touring bike, let alone as a mountain bike. Once I got back on the main road, my day became nice and easy.


I passed Pont-Saint-Esprit where, according to urban legend, the CIA conducted a science project with LSD. I stopped a dozen kilometers short of Montélimar to camp for the night. I put up the tent and went to Montélimar to check out their famous nougats. I wasn't disappointed, I bought a couple of packets with different tastes to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Upon my return, I went to a bar and cheered for France in their opening match at Euro 2016.


Today in numbers:

88 km - distance covered

5h02m - riding time

200 g - nougats bought

2 - beers while watching the Euro 2016 France-Romania football match

2 - times off-road, courtesy of Google



Day 9 - À Valence le Midi commence


Best day so far. Sunny, calm, flat, quiet, short, no rush. I followed Via Rhona, the bicycle path along the Rhône. River to the right with grapes vines and fruit trees to the left and birds singing.


I arrived in Valence around 4 pm and went straight to the Valence Atelier Libre, a workshop space for a community of 150 professionals of all walks of life. My initial contact on Couch Surfing was with Jay, an American, but I was greeted by a Brazilian named André. They offer courses on auto mechanics, bicycle repairs, wind turbine, beer brewing, etc. On the second floor they have a couple of rooms and a bunch of mattresses. This is going to be my shelter for tonight.


Today in numbers:

74 km - distance covered 

4h52m - riding time

1 - flat tire

4 - ice cream sticks eaten



Day 10 - Grelibre


I started the day later then I planned, because right as I was going out the door, I realized I had a flat tire again. One hour later, with a replaced tire, I left Valence for Grenoble.

I anticipated a hard day as it's about 100 km and uphill. However, except a bit of wind, it wasn't all that bad. The elevation was gradual and long stretches of the road were on dedicated cycling paths along the Isère river. Closer to Grenoble, the scenery was stunning: mountains towering over the river with lush vegetation.

Once I arrived in Grenoble I weaved through city streets, which were charming but mostly deserted; it's another Sunday after all. I ended up going to Bastille, one that survived the French Revolution. From here, the whole city and its surroundings can be seen for many kilometers.


Today in numbers:

105 km - distance covered

6h56m - riding time

1 - time ended up on a highway where people were honking either to cheer me on or shoo me away



Day 11 - The actual Belle Époque, not the disco divas


Waking up to a drizzle ain't pleasant but sleeping longer than any other night on this trip - priceless. By the time I was packed, the rain had stopped and off I went. The first part of the road followed the Isère river, then it strayed closer to the mountains. I can't tell you how many times I missed a turn. Nothing too serious that would lead me to another city, but it seemed that every time there was a fork in the road, I chose the wrong direction. Logged some extra mileage as a result.

Made it to Aix-les-Bains, a leading town of the Belle Époque, where the rich and famous of the time would come to take thermal baths. You can still see remnants of the splendor of the epoch. It is situated on beautiful Lake Bourget, where the water seems to be turquoise. Canoes and sailboats splattered the surface. It was quiet and calm, with the surrounding mountaintops covered by clouds.

My Couch Surfing hosts, Olivier and Marion, were busy climbing the nearby mountains when I arrived, so I had time to enjoy the lake and a bit of the city. Aix-les-Bains is my last stop on the French portion of this trip. Tomorrow, another 75 km on French soil and Au Revoir Belle France! Off to Switzerland!


Today in numbers:

86 km - distance covered 

5h29m - riding time

6 h - sleep time, the longest so far on the trip

1 - sleeping pill to achieve the above

1 - cold pizza eaten on one of those wrong turns

½ - packet of Nougats gone



Day 12 - Swiss Time


The last day of French part of the trip was gloomy but never produced more than a drizzle. The ride was mostly uneventful except for a small crash. It involved a wet surface and railroad tracks. It wasn't spectacular and resulted only in minor bruises. I was lucky there were no cars behind me. 

After that, the road was quiet until I reached the small village of Frangy, where a long 15 km ascent began. You could hear me huffing and puffing and asking myself if it's going to end after this turn or if I have to suffer some more. Then, at last, there was the long awaited descend that led me straight to Switzerland.

Before I realized it, I was in Geneva. I was greeted by Lucie (my wife's aunt), her daughter and son-in-law and little Olivia. Hot shower, nice family dinner, and bed.


Today in numbers:

76 km - distance covered

4h41m - riding time

1 - small crash, from which both Greengo and I walked away with only minor scratches



Day 13 - Maintenance


A day of rest and maintenance for Greengo and I. Greengo needs some TLC after almost a thousand kilometers, and I might have sprained my knee when I fell yesterday.  I found a Brompton shop for Greengo’s maintenance, and some Voltaren gel for me. Hopefully both of us will be ready for tomorrow’s ride.

Meanwhile, I strolled along the lakeshore and adjacent streets. Geneva isn't a particularly charming city, but I like it more than my previous visit a few years back, mainly because it was a sunny day. I visited a couple of landmarks and snapped as many pictures.

Back home from his maintenance, Greengo looks and sound much better. My knee is feeling better as well.

Allons y, donc!