Today, we’re talking cycle-touring, so get a cup of tea, sit back, make yourself comfortable. This is going to be a long (LONG) post as I tell the tale of the best bike tour EVER!!
Before we had a baby, before we had a cat, before we lived in California, we took a month off work and cycled across Europe. This had been a long term dream of mine – and was the one thing I absolutely had to do before we started a family. I had been planning the route for about a year on a mammoth spreadsheet, investigating roads, accommodation, things to see. I’m one of those people for whom planning is as much a joy as the trip itself,
We left in the May. However, in the January, I broke my leg skiing. My physiotherapist and I worked so hard to get ready and I have never been so flipping focused on anything in my life. So, come May, even though I couldn’t walk very well, we put our bikes on the plane and headed off.
We started in lovely Toulouse, the pink city, in the South West of France, and cycled the gorgeous Canal du Midi, visited the amazing castle at Carcassonne and the Roman Arena in Arles before finishing in beautiful Aix en Provence, where, in my youth, I spent six months as a student!!
From Aix we entered the hill country so life got tougher but SO much more beautiful. We crossed the Luberon, saw Mont Ventoux, cycled up 4 ‘cols’ (mountain passes) and through the amazing Vercors National Park before plummeting like stones into the cool, Alpine University city of Grenoble.
From Grenoble, it was lake-tastic. We started with beautiful, lakeside Aix les Bains and then cycled along Lake Geneva before spending an incredible day in the idyllic Alpine countryside along Interlaken. We then had a wonderful rest-day in the car-free, fairytale village of Muerren.
Our next leg crossed over the Brunig Pass to Luzern and its lovely lake, and then on to Rapperswil, a little lakeside town where frankly I could have stayed for the rest of my life! And then, in one day, we had breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Liechtenstein and dinner in Austria! We then slogged slowly up the Arlberg Pass and along the Inn river in the rain to damp but beautiful Innsbruck.
Our final leg followed the River Inn for a day or so before veering briefly into Germany for a night and then somehow we made it to Salzburg and our trip’s end.
1200 miles in four weeks. I look back on those days, we both do, and all we remember is the freedom and the happiness. Yes, we had tough days, our legs ached, we squabbled about map-reading, I had awful hay-fever, we got wet some days. But years later, all we remember is freedom. The freedom to choose the only clean clothes you have in your panniers. The freedom of the road, where map-reading is the only issue you face. The freedom to feel the rain in your face and the sun on your back. There is nothing like the buzz I got from the morning ritual of putting panniers on racks, swinging my leg over the crossbar and heading out into a new world. Just writing this makes me ache for that freedom. I totally don’t regret having our little man, but those happy days cycle-touring are the one thing I ache for.That season will come again before I know it, but for now, I miss it.
There’s a MUCH longer write up of this trip HERE at crazyguyonabike.com – a fantastic cycle-touring website where hundreds of cyclists write the journals of their epic bike trips around the world. It’s quite addictive and inspirational…proceed with caution.