August 30, 2013

The Plan

Promenade along the Garonne River. Between here and the roadway and tram are extensive gardens.

In keeping with my habit, I spent the first full day in France getting my bearings after the long trip, doing a few errands, learning something about the region I will be travelling through and exploring a beautiful city. Bordeaux is full of bicycles: mostly town bikes, kids bikes, bike-share bikes, commuter bikes, but also bikes pushing wheelchairs, bikes with multiple kids seats, cops on bikes, and even a few roadies in full kit, riding the streets. Inadvertently, bikes were in so many photos that I include some here. The one of Papillon at lunch was of course intentional.

There is a fine museum on Aquitaine history in town, called the Musée d'Aquitaine and because I will be in Aquitaine for the first part of my trip, I spent several hours there. It starts with early prehistory, continues through recent prehistory (don't scoff there are more than 25,000 years of humanity here) continues with the Romans, the Gauls, then Medieval, Renaissance and modern Aquitaine.

The idea for this trip began with a notion to explore the world of Aliénor (Eleanor of Aquitaine) and I hope still to find some of her heritage. Much of her world, though, must wait for another visit: it is too far north for now. But I begin in a part of her world: Bordeaux, where I arrived yesterday. I will ride east, following the Dordogne River, visiting the Vézère River, and the Lot River. In some fashion this is a trip of rivers. Human settlement has followed rivers, trade and wars have followed rivers, and so history has followed rivers. Since my adventure follows history, I too will be following rivers.

This is a land famous for its prehistoric painted caves, a land which has been inhabited for perhaps 35,000 years. It was (much) later settled by the Romans, and traces of their civilization also remain. Later, it was the border between the French and Englishduring the 100 Years War, and the Dordogne has castles of both sides facing off against each other on opposite sides of the river.

The Lot River will lead me into the Cévennes, a mountainous area (which is a national park)  that I completely enjoyed riding through 3 years ago. There are dolmens and menhirs (standing stones) to be found in those mountains, and a rich history of its own. The Cévennes are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ride will finish in Montpellier, a Greco-Roman city on the Mediterranean, after a few days in Nimes, another Roman city.

A highlight of the trip, hopefully, will be getting to meet three cyclists I have only known through the internet world. The first will be Double J, to whom I owe a big debt of gratitude for charting several rides for me in the Cévennes. His site, Vélo en Cévennes,  offers so much information that for a long time I believed it to be an official cycle-touring site. If you dream of riding in France, visit it. Even if you don't, visit it for his beautiful photos and prose (in French.)

The second: finally I hope to meet Gerry Patterson, in Nimes. Many of my readers are familiar with Gerry, have read his interview on this site, and/or read his blog at The Vicious Cycle. And the third ... is a surprise!

Tomorrow I get on the bike, and start east. That is a good thing: this is rightfully famous food and wine land, and otherwise I risk returning larger than when I left.

If you would like an overview, on maps, of my planned route, go to my post entitled Maps.



  1. Looking forward to our imminent meeting at the Hemingway Bar, Suze!

  2. Me too ... for a present I bought myself a little book on Roman art and ruins in Nimes. It looks beautiful!


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