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« on: March 30, 2016, 01:48:39 AM »

March 24-28, 2016



Another holiday weekend was upon us, this one being a full four days! And with me being in between jobs, I had no issues with adding an extra day. Luckily, neither did Dan. And as a bonus, my nephew Matt, who is stationed in Germany, was able to get leave as well. It was time to plan something fun!

This was the most challenging holiday that I planned to date. I had two other people to take into consideration, weather, daily distances and the fact that hotels tend to book up during holidays. I opened up Google Maps and Trip Advisor and went to town – literally. Eventually I had hotel reservations for three of the four nights and a list of “possible sightseeing options” at the ready. The weather looked tolerable and the mileage was…well, I wouldn’t mind it at least.
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2016, 01:51:21 AM »

Matt arrived Wednesday evening from Germany, as the departure from Basel was slated between 8 and 9 Thursday morning. The weather wasn’t bad, but it could have been warmer. We packed up our bikes and headed south. My plan was to get us out of Switzerland as soon as possible, saving the roads closer to home for shorter trips in the future. We borrowed a third Sena SMH10 communication unit for Matt to use on this ride, as it is much easier to travel when we can quickly exchange ideas and requests.



A quick stop to adjust our gear


Hazy morning


Happy Easter!




A trailer full of Maseratis

The transition from Switzerland to France was supposed to be a transition from motorway to secondary roads. Unfortunately this was easier said than done, and we ended up following the motorway for a while longer.

Matt is from Ohio. He’s seen the Appalachian Mountains, but those are the biggest hills that he’s ever experienced. Due to the thick clouds, I was sorry that he wouldn’t see the Alps today, but once we got south of Geneva, the clouds pulled back and the mountains came into view. It was fun to listen to his excitement ring through the intercom.
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2016, 01:52:30 AM »






I hate toll booths on a motorcycle



We eventually abandoned the motorway and took to the side roads. The wind was harsh, constantly blowing us around, and taking the secondary roads gave us some respite. Not to mention that they were much more interesting. Matt continued his audible appreciation of the mountains, much to my delight.
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2016, 10:25:23 AM »




Matt and Dan behind me


One of many small towns we rode through


Lo and behold! The sun came out!


Springtime has hit this valley already


Saint-Nazaire-en-Royans, France


Have I mentioned how much I hate toll booths?

Finally, after ten hours of riding (including breaks, fuel stops and lunch), we arrived at our first night's destination: Nîmes. I chose this town primarily for the location: getting us far enough from Basel so that we could enjoy the next few days sightseeing. However, when I looked more into what the town had to offer, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was full of ancient history. The Arena of Nîmes, built around AD 70, is the center point of the town. But more than that, there are also gardens, temples and churches to explore.


(if you want links to stuff, then you have to go to my website  Razz )
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2016, 11:48:17 AM »

Subscribed. :popcorn:
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2016, 12:06:01 PM »

Very nice.  I really like that area; last time I was there--later than this--it snowed, so well done!  

I hate toll-booths too.  hate them, hate them.
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2016, 12:47:24 PM »

Our hotel, Hotel des Tuileries, was centrally located and easy to find. The owners, a nice British couple, were very pleasant and helpful, including offering us space to our park our motorcycles in their garage. Our rooms were small and comfortable, but they showed their age. The toilet rocked precariously when I sat down, and the tub was about just the right size for a child. But the bed was comfortable, the water was hot and we had a place for our stuff. Since we got into town later than I had hoped it was already dark by the time we parked the bikes and changed out of our gear. Oh well; this just meant that we'd enjoy the sights as lit by the city lights.


Arena of Nîmes


Still in use!




A full moon, visible through one of the arches





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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2016, 12:51:51 PM »

We circumnavigated the arena and then struck off through some of the many side streets of Nîmes, enjoying the bustling night scene. We came across another temple, the Maison Carrée. The Maison Carrée isn't quite as old as the arena, but the details and architecture are amazing.


Maison Carrée


Dan for scale



We found Les Alizes, based on the recommendation from our hotel's hostess, and took a seat inside. Fortunately for Matt and I, Dan has a rudimentary grasp of French and was able to help us order our meals. The food was great and we enjoyed watching the steady stream of revelers passing by the big windows.


Les Alizes





It had been a good but long day and we eventually wandered back to our rooms to prepare for the next day's adventure!


Day 2 - coming soon!
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2016, 12:53:04 PM »


Very nice.  I really like that area; last time I was there--later than this--it snowed, so well done!  


It was a concern of mine, to be sure!



I hate toll-booths too.  hate them, hate them.


We all agreed that they should be free for motorcycles. I mean, it isn't like we cause much wear with our little bikes  Embarassment
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2016, 01:04:01 PM »

I have been to Nimes. Stopped there on the way to Avignon. It was Feb and damn cold though and we were pushing for Greece. But I remember a very amazing aqueduct somewhere near there. Amazing history in that area and was there so very long ago.
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2016, 01:12:09 PM »


I have been to Nimes. Stopped there on the way to Avignon. It was Feb and damn cold though and we were pushing for Greece. But I remember a very amazing aqueduct somewhere near there. Amazing history in that area and was there so very long ago.


Sadly, we saw the sign for the aqueduct on our way into town, but didn't stop. As it was at least half an hour back the way we came, we didn't go back to check it out once we learned more about it.


Too bad, too, as I just googled it:

Pont du Gard
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2016, 01:49:30 PM »

Day 2 - Friday



Friday morning dawned bright and clear. We decided to get an early start on the road so that we could enjoy a leisurely romp through whatever roads we could find. But first we wanted to see a little bit more of Nîmes.


View from our hotel room the next morning

I had my "list of suggestions" handy and on it for Nîmes were temples, gardens and the arena. Ok, we did one of those, but there were more temples to see, as well as the garden. We checked out of the hotel, packed up our bikes and I programmed the GPS for the Jardin de la Fontaine, a garden on the other side of the city center. Unfortunately, I didn't have an actual address, so it was a bit of a hunt for the actual garden gates. But I found it and we parked the bikes so we could explore in the morning sunshine.




Plenty of road construction in Nîmes


Inside Jardin de la Fontaine




The spring that the supplied the Gauls, and later the Romans
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2016, 02:00:45 PM »

Along one side of the park is another Roman structure, the Temple of Diana. Full access was granted to this thousand-year old structure, although a sign did request that people not climb on it.


Temple of Diana





We looked around a little bit more but with full gear and a day ahead of us, it was time to get back on the bikes. Someone had told me about a quiet little beach on the Mediterranean and I thought it would be a great place to stop for lunch. We hopped on the motorway, as the secondary roads would have more than doubled our time and quite honestly, the thought of the stop-and-go riding through so many little towns alongs the coast didn't sound appealing to me. It was windy again...



At one of the toll booths, while I waited for the others to come through, I saw a van with a trailer full of adventure bikes. What's this? It turns out it is an Edelweiss Tour on their way to Málaga, Spain. I know this because I also saw this van at a gas stop later and I asked the driver about his destination.


Edelweiss Bike Touring

Traffic was thick but generally moved well. The wind noise made it a little difficult to use the communicators, but they worked well enough. A couple of police motorcyclists made their way passed us and naturally I took a photo. He immediately raised his hand, but it was unclear if it was a "don't do that" or "hi there!" motion. Eh, at least he didn't pull me over.


Traffic


Hello, Mr. Policeman
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« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2016, 02:19:37 PM »

Finally it was time to get off the motorway! It was just a couple more kilometers until we reached our destination: La Franqui. The clouds were heavy and the winds strong as we coasted down the quiet town streets. This was obviously a seasonal resort town, and the season hadn't quite begun. Fortunately for us, at least one restaurant was open (the only open one we saw!) and we had a fantastic meal next to a nice heater. Yes, the summer season wasn't nearly here and the temperatures reflected just that.


La Franqui


Getting ready for the season

Matt wanted to see the Mediterranean and I can't say that I blame him. Unfortunately, as we sat inside eating it began to rain. It was a light rain, but rain nonetheless. It almost stopped by the time we were done so we decided to at least ride down to the beach and see what was there. I previously had great thoughts of sitting on the beach and resting my eyes while listing to the waves lap at the shore. Nope, not today. It was windy, which is obviously a constant thing based on the windsurfing businesses we saw, and the cold and damp air made me glad for my motorcycle gear. Others, however, were enjoying the day:





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« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2016, 02:21:55 PM »

It was time to go. I had a hotel reserved inland and I was hoping that the wind would die down and maybe - just maybe - the clouds would blow away with the wind. We rode back through La Franqui and crossed over the motorway. Ha! No more of you for the next couple of days!

The vegetation had changed since we reached Nîmes. It was much more Mediterranean-feeling (no big surprise there) and now it changed again. After we left the motorway behind the road began to rise into the mountains. We were in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a band of mountains that mark the border between France and Spain.


Into the mountains!


Treilles, France


Feuilla, France




We haven't left the Mediterranean too far behind yet


The infrequent village
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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2016, 04:07:47 PM »

Really beautiful pictures. One thing about the area is the architecture and things we don't have here in the states.

How can you take pictures of objects behind you?
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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2016, 04:10:55 PM »

Special Powers. The Den Mother has eyes in the back of her head.  Smile
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« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2016, 05:19:19 PM »


How can you take pictures of objects behind you?



Special Powers. The Den Mother has eyes in the back of her head.  Smile


 Lol Lol Lol


I hold up the point-and-shoot, face it backwards and guess at what it is aiming at. It took a while to be consistent, but I still get photos of my top case  Embarassment
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« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2016, 05:22:25 PM »

We had entered Wine Country. The villages we saw catered to the growing, production and marketing of wine. It was relaxing to ride through the vineyards and villages, especially as the road was in excellent condition. And not just the surface, but the engineering that went into the corners and the cambers was spot on. I could easily ride this all day.






Tautavel, France


Snow covered mountains!

We reached the town of Maury. On my list of fun things to do was to visit a castle. The problem was, I wasn't sure where the castle was. I could see something up there on the hill, but the name on the signs we passed didn't match up (I was actually looking for Chateau-Peyrepertuse, but I only saw signs for Château de Queribus). I voiced my concern and they voiced their desire to visit whatever it was up on that hill. That took care of that and off we went in search of Château de Queribus.


Castle visible as the bump on the mountain on the far right side




Looking back down the road to the Chateau
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« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2016, 05:25:28 PM »

At the parking lot at the top of the mountain we parked our bikes and the guys immediately started for the trail to the top. I wasn't happy about this, as I wasn't keen on hiking up in my gear. In fact, I was prepared to wait for them by the bikes, but I realized that I'd regret not making the trip, so off we all went together.


(Diagonal) Trail to the top

It wasn't as bad as I expected and it was a quick jaunt to the top. The winds were extreme and the view expansive. Built on the highest mountain in the area, I could see a great distance in every direction. Unfortunately the skies were not clear enough for a good view of the snow covered peaks to the south, but I could imagine the views on a blue sky day.


Mountains barely visible in the south


View to the north




Arch details

The day was waning. It was time to retreat down the mountain and get to our hotel. The ride was a pleasant one and we made quick work of the fast roads - until we reached the area near Vinca, France. From here, the road changed drastically and our progress reduced considerably.


Quick gas stop





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« Reply #20 on: March 31, 2016, 05:28:41 PM »

We were entering a steep, mountainous area and the road was narrow and twisting - and full of traffic. But the views outweighed any inconvenience that the cars brought on. Hillside villages and trestles lined the roadway, and in between those were steep, tree-covered mountains.


Sirach, France


Walled town of Villefranche



The drivers were getting crazy. So many people trying to make insane passes and shoving themselves in front of other cars. We did our best to stay out of the way, but too many times the cars expected us to pass on corners that were inappropriate and then they drove slowly when it was impossible to pass. It was with relief when we reached a point where the traffic thinned and it was just us.



We found the hotel but only through the wonders of technology. I had an address in the town of Font-Romeu but the street would not show up on my GPS. So while I was still enjoying the comfort of my couch I did a Google map search, which at least showed the road. I used Street View to look at the corner, found a building and moved the camera around until I could see an house number. I then put this address into my GPS, knowing that when I got there in person I could look for the hotel signs I saw on Street View. Hooray for the digital age!

We parked the bikes and took in the view: it was almost sunset but there was enough light to give us a sense of where we were. In the distance were the peaks of the Pyrenees and in the foreground was the Odeillo Solar Furnace. This was another item on my list but I admit that I had no idea it would be in our front yard!


Hotel Le Romarin



We opted not to eat at the hotel and instead made our way into the town of Font-Romeu. This was not as easy as it looked on Google (I guess technology still has some work to do). We ended up getting on the bikes, as Font-Romeu is basically one massive hill town, and the town was far above us. We parked the bikes in a little grassy area and went off to find dinner. Pizzas for everyone! By the time we were served, ate our pizzas and paid our bill, it was very late indeed. We walked back to the bikes to go home when Dan called out "Colleen, your bike fell over". It turned out that the soft grass wasn't enough to support my beastly BMW and it had tottered over. There was no damage done and unfortunately, it was the first time in days that I didn't have a camera with me. Looks like I'll have to wait a while longer to get a shot of the amusing stickers I put on the bottom of my panniers.


Day 3 - guess I need to get writing!
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« Reply #21 on: March 31, 2016, 06:27:58 PM »

Somehow it made me think you might like this: Guédelon Castle
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« Reply #22 on: March 31, 2016, 08:10:47 PM »

Edelweiss!?   We don't need no stink'n Edelweiss!









Not when we have DD and Dan!
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« Reply #23 on: April 01, 2016, 01:19:32 AM »


Somehow it made me think you might like this: Guédelon Castle


That's cool! I had heard of it, and we even discussed it on our trip, but I couldn't remember any of the details - only that I'd seen a couple of minutes of it on the TV a while ago. Thanks for the link  Bigok
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« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2016, 12:54:37 PM »

Day 3



The plan was to sleep in, except for Matt who stated that if the morning was sunny, he was going to run down to his bike for a "beauty shot" (he just bought the bike, so he's still in the "Honeymoon Stage"). Fortunately (?) for him, I woke up at dawn and saw that the sun was already making progress into a blue sky. I woke up Matt (and Dan too, in the process) to let him know that his beauty shot was waiting outside.

And so began our day.


This is who greeted us last night at the hotel




A better view of the solar furnace

The plan was to go to some local Roman hot baths last night, but because we had arrived so late and it was dark, we decided to put them off until this morning. We packed up the bikes and made short work of the fifteen minutes it took us to get there. I really do like this area of the country...





The baths were in the town of Dorres, a tiny village further up the mountain from slightly less tiny villages. Fortunately there were signs for "Les Bains Romains de Dorres" as we had to travel through the village and out the other side before we found the parking lot. Sorry: no photos, since I had to concentrate on the GPS and the narrow roads.


Dorres cemetery

The baths are claimed to have been used by the Romans, but if so, there isn't any evidence. And while it had great reviews on Trip Advisor, I admit that I was surprised that it was such a small place. Fortunately it was more so "quality over quantity", as the setting of the baths were outstanding. The bathhouse could have used a little attention but it was clean and there were lockers available for my gear.


A bath with a view


Granite bath carved in the 1840s


One of the smaller pools

The sun was bright, the water was about 37 C and the view was captivating; it was all very relaxing. Unfortunately about twenty minutes into our soak, half a dozen children came to the pool and proceeded to play. Despite the mothers' frequent admonishments to stop splashing, they continued to splash. Eventually we decided that we'd had enough of the sun, the water and the kids, and crawled out of the water. My desire to wash off the sulfurous water was quickly squashed when the realized that the showers had no hot water. Nope, I'd be just fine the way I was.

We got dressed, walked back to the bikes and planned our trek to Carcassonne. Based on the GPS, we would arrive mid-afternoon and could spend the day walking around the city. As Carcassonne was rumored to have a large castle at the top of a hill, I figured that we would have plenty to do.


Leaving Dorres


Post-thermal bath ride
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« Reply #25 on: April 05, 2016, 01:27:57 AM »

Detour!

Just minutes after leaving Dorres and heading for Carcassonne I saw the sign: "Llívia."  During my research for this trip I had seen that there is a small "island" of Spain within the borders of France. What?

I had no idea that we were so close but naturally we had to go, considering that it was just down the road. And what a road!





The transformation between the quiet, sleepy French villages and the bustling, cheerful Spanish town was impressive. Traffic filled the main street, people filled the sidewalks and the market was filled with local goods. We had to stop. Besides, it was almost lunch time; what fun to "stop in Spain for lunch."


Bikes parked for lunch


Llívia







After a quick stop at the market, where we picked up some very tasty and fresh vegetables, we crossed the street for lunch. We went from trying to communicate in French (with Dan's help) to having to communicate in Spanish - which none of us knew. We fumbled our way through lunch - which was very good, by the way - and then fumbled our way out of Llívia. The GPS wasn't clear and we ended up going the wrong way on some one way streets. Oh well - we have tiny little motorcycles, right?







My god but the day was perfect! Just cool enough for the gear we were wearing, a brilliant blue sky and fantastic scenery. And our bellies were full after a good Spanish lunch. It was time to head north!


My fan club


Some skiing was still happening!


Lac de Matemale
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« Reply #26 on: April 05, 2016, 01:31:13 AM »

Pretty soon the valley became a narrow ravine. We had left the Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes behind and were now rolling through the French countryside - albeit a very mountainous countryside. There was very little traffic here and I enjoyed leaning into the corners much more than I have in a long time.



Oddly enough, for as remote and desolate as this stretch of road was, there were frequent habitations along the way, although to what purpose I am not sure. Often there was a small house or two, and then a large, stone structure wedged between the ravine wall, the river and the road. Are they still in use? Are they just closed for the season? Are they operating and I just can't tell? What are they operating as? I need to do some more research...

Ok, a little research later and it appears that they were thermal spas, used up until the 1960s. These big buildings seem to be former "établissements thermaux", hotels for people willing to enjoy hot mineral baths that were popular at the end of the 19th century in the region. Up until the sixties people would come there to enjoy the sulfurated water from the nearby sources. But with the change of vacationing habits and the construction of a motorway to bypass this road, the spas fell onto hard times. Some of the, however, appear to still be in use.






Historical view of the same hotel



Sometimes there was more of a community, but as you can see, even then the cluster of buildings was quite small.



And for long stretches there was nothing at all, except for the trees, the rocks and the river.










ok - too many pictures. For the rest of the trip, you can find it over here   Bigok   I still have to put Day 5 together, but that should be done tonight.
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« Reply #27 on: April 06, 2016, 03:33:53 PM »

Ok, all done.  Smile
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« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2016, 04:02:35 PM »

Great ride report. Thanks for posting.   Thumbsup Thumbsup
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« Reply #29 on: April 18, 2016, 12:12:36 AM »

Thank you for the pictures and ride report.  I lived in France as a military brat, sometime ago.
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« Reply #30 on: April 25, 2016, 12:06:07 AM »

Very enjoyable to see and read about an area like this I may never get a chance to visit.
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