Two weeks to go until I fly out to Perpignan for the start of my next cycle tour. It feels a long time since I was pootling along the North Coast of France back in March of this year. I have to confess that the bike hasn't seen a lot of use since then - a few local trips and just a couple of reasonable size (30 miles +) rides under the belt, so some last minute training is definitely in order.
Thankfully, route planning for this one has revealed nothing too arduous (I hope?) and I should have time for a bit more tourism. The planned route is as follows;
- Saint Tropez
The route cuts inland to Carcassonne on the second day (I've been told it's one not to miss) before heading back to the coast and following it along to head inland a little just after Montpellier to Nimes. Arles and Aix-en-Provence before returning to the coast at Toulon and following it into Nice via Saint Tropez and Cannes.
In theory, the average daily stage is only just over 35 miles, so it should allow me to hit a campsite or hotel just after lunch and give me the late afternoon and evening for exploring. This is a conscious decision. When travelling down the Rhine last year I was averaging into the 70 mile bracket per day and whilst I passed through some amazing scenery I didn't have a lot of time to explore the towns before dark.
Cookware has been reduced to the bare essentials - a mug, coffee boiler and a tiny solid fuel stove. The only thing I have left to do is to test that the tiny stove can actually boil the coffee.
In previous years I'd taken enough to almost cook a meal but the campsites are so well provisioned in France that it wasn't really necessary. Some of those in Germany weren't so handy, but with the route I have planned, I'm not far from any of the main towns, so should manage ok. The only thing I can't do without is coffee in the mornings...
I'm reducing the amount of clothing I take too - the temperatures in the South of France don't warrant long trousers for the evenings so a pair of shorts and a couple of t-shirts should do the job nicely.
6 of the 12 nights on the tour are on campsites where I should be able to wash and dry my cycling gear quite easily. As we go further east I ran into difficulties finding sites close to the towns I want to visit, so have pencilled in some hotel/hostel stays on the itinery, however I think first stop in each of those towns will be the tourist information to see if there are sites which Google doesn't know about. I'd much rather camp in general.
For once there is very little new technology on-board, other than the addition of a second mobile phone. One phone to keep in contact with the UK and one purely for google maps. The dynamo solution which I employed earlier in the year seemed to work well, so I shall stick with the through-charging power banks which I can hopefully boost at campsite receptions.
Other than a new inflatable sleeping mat, new shoes and a new mud-guard, there has been very little expenditure so far. The main expense on this one is getting to the start and home from the finish. The tour will begin with driving up to Stansted on the Friday evening and staying at a hotel with secure parking (£240 for the two weeks all in), before a flight out to Perpignan (£120) at 6.30 the following morning. The return is a late evening flight back from Nice (£90) to pick up the car and drive home.
I love the bit of the south of France I have seen so far and work commitments are looking like I won't be able to get away anywhere else for more than a weekend until April next year so, despite the lack of training, I am immensely looking forward to this one.
Posts and photos to follow en-route, connection allowing.