September 7, 2012


This bit is timed to post when my plane lands in Toulouse on Friday morning. Ahh, Toulouse! I haven't travelled so very much, but for me it is the very most beautiful, historic, vibrant, liveable and cultured city I have ever spent time in. I can't go back enough. Love it!

First thing I want to write, and think, about when arriving back in France, is how many people I have to thank, and how lucky I am to know them. So, thank you et merci!!! Of course, to my husband Roy, who somehow gets it that it is good and ok for me to spend hours and hours and hours pushing pedals around, and doesn't mind when I arrive home after work and riding, just tired and hungry ... or when I leave the country to ride some more. Et, Georges, je vous remerci mille fois pour m'enseigner la belle langue francaise et aussi parce que vous êtes tellement patient avec moi! That was in my poor French, a million thanks to my teacher and friend George who teaches me the language.

And to Kenny, who has taught me effective cycling techniques and helped enormously ... and the entire Arcadian Shop bike staff for their support and encouragement. I've ridden this summer with groups from the Arcadian Shop, in Lenox, and Berkshire Bike and Board, in Great Barrington.  Both stores have worked miracles in making the Berkshires more bike friendly. They have changed the culture here. Thanks to them both and all the riders involved in both groups. Visit both stores if you visit the Berkshires.

And to my friends Catherine and Matt, always a wealth of information about France, and to Hélène and Pierre, Catherine's brother and belle-soeur (literally beautiful sister, isn't that more lovely than sister-in-law) in Toulouse, where Catherine grew up.

Finally, not lastly, a big-time thanks to you, readers. Your input is most appreciated; I am inspired by your riding and adventures,whether it is touring, or randonneuring, or racing, or climbing, or riding for fun around home; and hope to hear from you! Please do comment if you feel like it.

This trip will be a little different from my past three rides in France. I'm not so much travelling from one place to another as exploring the region of the Pays Basque and the Bearn, both in the Pyrenees. I loved this area last year when visiting, and want to learn more about it. The plan is to stay in one place for two or three days at a time, riding small roads in the area before moving on. It will keep me higher in the mountains, attempting more difficult climbs and harder routes. This is gorgeous country, it provided fabulous riding last year and tempted me with routes that intimidated me then. And of course, it's France. There is sure to be delicious food, beautiful architecture and an incredible long history at every step along the way.

Here's a list, from west to east of possible climbs in the next 3 weeks. And I mean possible, I will only ride a small number of them. Altitudes are all in meters. The list is made from my yellow Michelin map ... these maps are full of useful information. One favorite is the little chevron marks, the direction of the arrow indicates a climb or descent.

     > = 5-9%.
     >> = 9-13%.
     >>> = 13%+.

Sometimes the steepest climbs have a little number next to them, a little number that it is important to notice. For instance, the ride to Col de Méhatché (844m, on the border with Spain) features two sets of >>, and four sets of >>>. The little numbers are 21%, 17% and 19%. This isn't  a long ride from Espelette, maybe only 6 or 7 miles. Now 844m is not so very much, but 17, 19 and 21% are very much, at least in my book.

After a few days of exploring the coast and the foothills just inland, I'll start riding my way from the ocean at St. Jean-de-Luz to Col du Tourmalet. I certainly won't see all of these passes, but will get hopefully experience a number of them. If any of you readers, who I know include way seriously stronger riders than me, have suggestions or favorites, do please add them in the comments box.

Col de St.-Ignace 169
Col d'Ibardin  317m
Col de Pinodiéta 176
Col de Méhatché (border) 844m
Puerto de Oxtondo (Spain) 602
Col d'Ispéguy 672
Col d'Aharza 933
Col d'Arnostéguy (border) 1236
Col d'Orgambidé 988
Col d'Haltza  782
Col de Burdincurutcheta 1135
Col Heguichouri 1284
Col de Bagargui 1327
Col de Erroymendi 1362
Port de Larrau 1573 (border)
Col de Suscousse  1216
Col du Soudet
Col de la Pierre St-Martin 1760 (border)
Pas de Guilhers 1436
Col de Labays. 1351
Col de Lie
Col d'Ichere
Col de Marie-Blanque 1035
Col d'Aubisque 1709
Col de Soulor 1474
Col de Bordères 1156
Col du Tourmalet 2115


  1. Ah! Travel, exploration, adventure by bicycle in France! Fantastique!

  2. Ahh, oui....that's exactly my plan!

  3. Beautiful pictures. Looks amazing. I might just have to nip on a ferry and head there next Spring :-)

  4. Hi Georgie,

    It is sooo beautiful! Not only you could nip on a ferry, but that lovely bus and bike combination could bring you both! I envy you the smart, easy public transportation and access! Thanks for commenting.


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