October 2, 2011

Pyrenees Tour: Lodging

It turned out to be a good decision not to camp on this trip. I made this decision in order to carry less weight. The lighter I am, the easier climbing uphill is. Also, I suppose,  less weight means less stress on the bike and more control on steep fast downhills, though that never was a problem in the Cévennes. I didn't anticipate how much, how very much, more enjoyable my days would be without any concern as to where I would stay at night, or wondering whether or not I would find a place for dinner. I was pleased to have a more fixed, structured itinerary, and scheduled lodging. It did slow me down (a good thing) and offer me more time to enjoy my surroundings. Only for a few of the days do I (with hindsight) wish I'd made a different plan and incorporated more miles.

Here are the places I stayed that I would go out of my way to visit again. They are located from west to east, as I discovered them on my route.

Auberge du Relais. http://www.auberge-du-relais.com/. Berenx. This Logis hotel was a find. My cycle was no problem, locked into a storage/workroom. My room was perfect for this cyclist and everyone there was welcoming and helpful. The restaurant featured deliciously prepared regional cuisine, both at dinner and breakfast. Take a look at the breakfast table.

Maison Carriquy. http://sites.google.com/site/lamaisoncarriquy/. Located in Barcus, this was a fabulous B&B, the room extremely comfortable, my hosts gracious, friendly and helpful, fun to spend time with. I would quickly stay there again, using it as a base to explore the Basque country and Pyreneean foothills, an area that I think deserved more time than I was able to give it. The chambres d'hôtes is in a farmhouse built in 1852 and beautifully renovated. The town's main restaurant (in walking distance) was absolutely delicious.

La Lantern Rouge http://www.lanternerougecycling.com/. Irish expats Paddy and Olive Sweeney run a wonderful cycling lodge in St. Savin. The area is a cycling paradise and this is the perfect place to stay.They are both always helpful and full of information, the rooms are more than comfortable, dinner and breakfast perfect for hungry riders, and the location can't be beat, with six Tour de France cols nearby. Check out Paddy's blog for loads of information and great photos of the Pyrenees.

Au Chat Ronfleur. http://www.bagneres-chambredhote.com/. If you are in or near Bagneres de Bigorre, this is a great place to stay. My room was large, the tub and shower great (a highlight for cyclists) and the owners terrific. Breakfast was delicious, and I lingered until late in the morning, visiting with them and another guest. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo.

La Souleillane. http://souleillane.free.fr/default.htm. St. Laurent de Neste. A fabulous, luxurious, chambres d'hôte that I lucked into, having been unable to make reservations where I expected in St. Bertrand de Comminges. I rode slightly out of my way to find it La Souleillane and was very glad that I did. It was a highlight of my trip, the family generous and engaging, offering real conversation and insight into their part of France and recommendations for local sites to visit. My room was large, extremely comfortable and with a fabulous bathroom.

Les Deux Velos. http://www.lesdeuxvelos.com/. Between Biert and Massat. Run by Dutch expats Elma and Mark, it is fabulous, and they are wonderful hosts. The cycling from here is amazing, and equally amazing is Elma's food. Dinner was absolutely delicious, as was the morning's breakfast. They pay attention to every detail that makes a cyclist's stay perfect ... and the shower in my room was classier than I have ever seen anywhere. I took Mark's advice to climb Port de Lers instead of Col de Port and couldn't have been happier about it.

Les Trois Graces. http://lestroisgraces.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Lagrasse. The restaurant was closed, so I didn't have a chance to eat there, but based on my excellent room and the good breakfast, I imagine it offers very good food. The B&B is located in a building probably built in the early 16th century, in the medieval village of Lagrasse, in the Corbieres. The town itself, with its abbaye, was fascinating to visit.

In retrospect after making this list, I see that I have included every châmbres d'hotes (B&B) that I stayed in, and only one hotel. It is true that they were my favorites, but here's an extra piece of advice. Many of the châmbres d'hotes do not have restaurants, which can be a disadvantage on a cycle, so plan ahead. I stayed also in many Logis hotels, which were always fine, sometimes quite nice, with the advantage of a restaurant. Plus, this could also make the overall price of lodging and meals lower, important and necessary to my budget. But they rarely offered the personal interaction or character that the places listed had. You can find them listed by town online at the Logis site. The one I have included here was unusually comfortable, with unusually good food.


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