Our epic bike trip

The post below is a repost of something I wrote back in 2012, just after I started the blog when basically only my Mum was reading it. A few of you may have read it since (in which case, come back later this week) but for some people it may be new. It was one of my biggest adventures and definitely one of the best things I did in my entire life, so I’m taking a chance of annoying you and republishing it!!! Hope you enjoy it!!


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.

When you break your leg, be sure to get your companion to take loads of photographs of the rescue operation.
We were just kids! Leaving Toulouse airport at the start of our trip

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!!

Day One down the Canal du Midi
Amazing Carcassonne
Beautiful Arles
Market in Aix-en-Provence
Clock Tower in Aix

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.

Gobsmacking rock formations near the village of Remuzat
Me at my happiest, climbing the Col de Rousset

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.

Paraglider outside Grenoble – alas it wasn’t me.
Lake Geneva
Lovely wooden bridge outside Interlaken
Breathtaking Lauterbrunnen
Muerren chalet

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.

Lake steamer outside Interlaken
My much adored bike Liesl by the SarnerSee
Walensee, Switzerland
Made it to Liechtenstein (Also…I remember that pre-child waist)

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.

Golden Roof in Innsbruck
1187 miles down and we finally made Salzburg
Because the Husband hadn’t carried enough weight during the past month…
My favourite place on earth – Salzburg

1200 miles in four weeks. I look back on those days 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.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Angela says:

    Ahhhhhh OMG I totally want to do this now!! (Which is saying something, as I am terrified of bikes.) Your pictures are GORGEOUS & remind me how much left of Europe there is that I need to see (on a bike or otherwise)!!

  2. Nic J says:

    I remember following your trip – what an adventure! You’ll have to find some mini over-nighters for you and the Dude to do., and get him warmed up for that kind of holiday some time! Xx
    Having read and loved Kate Mosse’s books (set around the Carcassonne area) we definitely have that on the list as a destination for next year!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Carcassonne is so stunning AND it was in Robin Hood 🙂 Planning a mini tour for the Dude this summer. He is less keen than I am.

  3. Cathryn says:

    Thank you!!
    I don’t mean to self-promote (more than usual) but if you have a spare hour and a glass of red, it’s worth reading through the long version of our trip on the crazyguyonabike link.So many pics, so much gorgeousness.

  4. bt says:

    Sigh. How badly I want to do this…

  5. Sherry says:

    That sounds like an amazing trip! And so many precious memories with your man!
    I totally get that sense of freedom too, I travelled through India/Nepal for several months just ‘following my nose’. It doesn’t fit with modern life and its responsibilities though!

    1. Cathryn says:

      No, it doesn’t. Which is why I think I cherish the memories so much. I know we’ll do this again one day, but not for the moment. I just comfort myself that there are ‘seasons’ in our lives and this isn’t the bike touring season at the moment.

  6. Michaela says:

    Taking a trip like this is my dream. Hopefully I will be able to make it a reality one day!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Do it do it do it

  7. Layla says:

    I left this unread in my feed for soooo long. And now I see that this is the abridged version. I love your comment earlier about sitting down with a glass of wine and reading it — currently planning on doing that ASAP.

    Anyway, I have two takeaways from reading this. First, you will be just fine on your century ride. I had no idea you’ve done so much cycling! What an amazing trip you took!! Second, I want to do this. I’ve only been to Ireland, which was stunning, and now your pictures confirm my hunch that I would love a long trip through Europe. I’ve never even thought about doing it by bicycle until now!

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