Friday, 2 November 2018

Cycling around Carcassonne

Late last year I sent my deposit off to a Breeze ride leader for a trip she was organising - the aim was to meet up with a small group and ride into the Pyrenees. Morning cycling of 30-35 miles a day on any old bike...

As summer approached and I'd had little chance to ride I grew increasingly apprehensive about my fitness but the lady who was then already in France assured me I'd be fine... So I left my friend's house in Bradford at 3am to cycle to the wrong side of Leeds for the coach pick-up. Phew. Made it. A few hours later joined by another lady I discovered our organiser wasnt venturing into the mountains! Which it turned out she had already decided before reassuring me to go.

When I landed in France I had the hiccup that although my bog standard non-smart phone switched to another network, my smart work phone did not. So I was without mapping. Although it seemed the online maps weren't much help as our leader struggled to find a good route to the campsite to meet the rest of the group. We ended up on something akin to the M65 and my steel tourer with 26 wheels was in the dust of carbon bikes. After 26 hours of travelling and the build up of my apprehension of the trip I had a panic attack on the roadside. I asked for directions saying I'd take it my own pace but the organiser refused to leave me on my own, which made me very stressed out.

Once we got to the campsite it turned out everyone else already there had had disagreements with the organiser and a very frosty atmosphere was apparent.

I had no idea what to do for the best. The other ladies were lovely, but all on road bikes. I didn't want to feel I was holding anyone up and I know that slogging yourself on a bike just a few miles an hour more than your comfort speed is never fun. So I decided not to join them on their route to the mountains.

I had some time being civil with our organiser for a couple of days before picking up a brochure of the region. I pulled out an A4 page which had the equivalent of motorways & A-roads and some towns and folded this up for my map. I'd seen somewhere lovely looking, Lagrasse and decided to head out that way.

The solo cycling was a mixed bag. I had no proper map, no idea where any campsites were and pigeon French would be an over-statement.
I literally winged it. Some bits ended up being fantastic. Some bits slogs. I felt I missed the best of the area - if I'd planned it myself it would have been much better.
Nearly 3 months have passed since the trip and I think about the highlights more than the negatives, but it left a bitter taste after I sacrificed a family holiday for something that was not as advertised at all.

Would I go back - yes at a cooler time of year and with personal planning rather than relying on someone else who it transpired didn't know the area well or have an idea of what to suggest when it went awry.

My solo trip boiled down to - Med coast, wine region and mountain foothills. I had a cracking time camping in thunder storms with the noise echoing around the mountains. Fantastic! I dont think I would have ever got sick of pain au raisin & cafe au lait every mid-morning for brekkie.
And I'd go back to Lagrasse in a heartbeat - most certainly the most beautiful campsite I've stopped in. 

Click to scroll through - they're best enlarged :-) 

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