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Previous trips: Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands 2004

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Diary of our trip from Barcelona (Spain) to Arnhem (the Netherlands) in July / August 2004

Starting off from southern Barcelona going north isn't easy. Hectic traffic means it takes us a few hours to leave this beautiful city behind us. Via the rail tracks we land in Badalona and from there we follow the really busy coastal road north to end the first day in Sta. Susanna, just south of Malgrat, were we camp at Camping Bon Repos (€ 23,33 per night / 1 tent, 2 adults, €3 for a f**ing bicycle)
On day two we stay on the B682, past Lloret and heading towards Sant Feliu. This road is beautiful, but it's hot! We take every opportunity to stop and drink and drink and drink and find a decent bit of shade. It is the first big test of climbing as well, but the heat takes everything out of us (and of the two Norwegians we overtake several times). We finally make it to Platja d'Aro and set up camp at the nice Pinell site (€15,90 per night).

On the 18th we plan to cycle to l'Estartit, where we will have a drink with my sister and her family. The ride is easy enough, the campsite very nice (Camping Estratit € 13,91 p.n., in the middle of town) and the beer isn't bad either; so after a pleasant evening we have to stay another day to rest our tired heads.

From l'Estartit we cycle to Figueres, to visit the famous Dali Museum. It is just a short trip and the campsite is just north of the city, simple, but very nice indeed (Camping Pous, € 15,80). We meet another Helsport-tent-owner, which is pretty rare. Figueres has a nice city centre, with some nice places to sit and have a drink. The museum is too busy and not worth taking the trip to Figueres for, we think.

So we leave the next day to leave Spain behind us. Via a small road (GIV 6024) we cycle towards the border, which means climbing gradually. This ends in the beautiful little town of Espolla; from here onwards it is only steep hills! Up to 13% when leaving the town over the newly paved road (no traffic on it except us!) But the really breathtaking views make it all worthwhile. After Mas Corbera and Mas Pils there are some unpaved stretches, but although the last two kilometers are +10%, we make it up Coll de Banyuls (357m).

And we're glad that we're not going the other way, because going down takes everything from the brakes. Kilometers long 14% downhill. After a few spots of rain and some patches of fog we end up in Sainte Marie de La Mer, where we set up camp for the night. (Camping de la Plage, € 22,40).

From Sainte Marie we cycle north along the coast towards St Pierre, which is not a particularly nice stretch. This has tourist area written all over it. We are glad we can escape all this when we take a shortcut from Port-la-Nouvelle to Gruissan. The cycle/foot path runs in between two lakes, which makes a nice change. We have to do some off-roading as well, and then Son's lowrider comes off. We tighten all the screws and bolts and continue to end the day in St. Pierre-s-Mer. The campsite (Municipal, € 17,40) is very bad (I'm not gonna tell you about the toilets...), but the only one in town, so... We set up our tent using the snow flaps for the first time (no snow though), because we can't get the pegs in the ground. Rock solid. The neighbour is nice, she feeds us some brilliant figs, yummeee!
So from here we will try and use the maps and directions from our bicycle route "the Green Road to the Mediterranean".

It follows small country roads and leads us trough some nice areas, perfect for a relaxing cycle trip. But unfortunately it is really really hot, almost unbearable. Temperatures rise to 40 degrees, which means we have to buy a few cartons of beer to cool us down when we end up in Pezenas, on the peaceful Camping Municipal (€ 11,29).

We would like to go to to the Camargue region next, a further 80 or so kilometers. After a few very busy roads along the coast, especially near La Grande-Motte, we end up in Aigues Mortes, an old castly like town (still don't know how to pronounce it) and we find out that there is a camping spot a few km's back. We set up camp at La Petite Camargue, definitely not our scene (bingo night, pizza parlours etc), but because we want to see the Camargue, we decide to stay two nights. Next day set off without luggage to Stes Maries de-la-Mer, to see if we can circumnavigate the nature reserve. But it's too windy, it's starting to become a storm on the way back. We reckon it's the Mistral and so it is. Northerly winds from the Alps flow into the Rhone-valley towards the Mediterranean Sea, creating incredible strong winds. We leave Aigues Mortes the next day (they charge two cyclist with a small tent € 38,24 per night !!!, rip off) and would like to end up in Avignon the same day. So we do, but not without a struggle. The ever increasing winds make it very hard to cycle and at Camping Bagatelle in Avignon (€ 13,00 not worth staying too long) a sandstorm is blasting it's way through the site. How long will this last for?

Well, definitely the next day. It can't get any worse. We average 14,7 kilometers per hour, have to get off our bikes to get over a bridge across the Rhone (or be blown away); at some point we are going downhill, peddling hard and managing 12 km per hour !? It is a major fight against the elements, but we get to Grignan and put up our tent at Les Truffieres (€ 15,90), just before town. It is hardly anything, this place, but there are some shops and pubs, so we'll survive. The next day, the 28th of July, it all seems to be a bit better. The wind has died down a bit, and we make it to Romans-sur-Isere easily. We have to drop in at the very nice Tourist Office in town to find the camping municipal, which is situated next to the small airport, way out of town. There's nobody there to check us in (the guy who runs the place is running the airport as well, so he is pushing some planes around), so we just pitch our tent and go shopping. We buy some ice cubes from the nearby restaurant to cool our beers and then go to the front-desk (wooden shed) to go and pay the bill for the day (€ 5,85 a night including fresh nectarines! Thanks).

Next day off to Meyrieu les Etangs, which means serious climbing. Around Arzay we have to conquer 13% hills, but we get the support of half the primary school, shouting us up the road (Allez cyclists! Allez cyclists). It helps and we end up in the Bonnevaux forest, which is extremely quiet and beautiful. It has several lakes and they are in the fairytale category. We end up in Meyrieu and set up camp near the lake (€15,30 for the night). There is nothing in town, so we cycle another 10 or so kilometers to do some shopping at St. Jean de Bournay.

Poncin will be our next stop. It will be another 90+ kilometers ride, but we will be dropping down to the Rhone valley again. After Loyettes the landscape and fields are pretty boring (growing corn everywhere), but we have landed in cycling territory. We must have met 30 or so cyclist going south, and they all seem to be Dutch. We end up in Poncin, you can hardly call it a town, and after some jokes from the camp site owner (there is no room on camp sites for the next 100 km due to a festival, sorry) we settle for a spot in the sun underneath highway A404.

The next day -the last day of July- we rise early and start following the beautiful road along the river Ain, through the magnificent gorges. There is nobody on the road, and the scenery is breathtaking and after a very pleasant 90 km ride we put up our tent at Chatillon (€ 10,60 per night). We cycle some more to do some shopping in nearby Doucier -no shops in Chatillon- and decide that it's off to Gy the next day, some 113 km further. The density of campsites in the regions to come is low, so the stages to travel are getting longer.

Gy has a camping municipal with standard toilet facilities and long grass which is nice to sleep on. It only costs € 1,50 to stay, but the keeper of the grounds doesn't rise as early as we do to collect our donations. (Gy has a few shops, that aren't open on a Sunday and a pub, which is! We spend some time here with another cycling couple staying at the camp grounds).

Off to Darney, another 112 or so kilometers. It's overcast all day, which makes it easy to cycle, but the region looks like it's carrying all the weight of the weather. It's all a bit down, but we get to Darney to find the camping municipal filled with other cyclists. And again, we don't get charged for using the grounds, although € 1,- per night wouldn't have crippled us.

Luneville is our next stop, where we find the nice camping grounds (€ 6,30) at the back of the Versailles-like palace in the centre of town. Unfortunately half of it has burned down recently (the palace), but the view from the pubs opposite is still nice. We meet up with a couple we met in Gy the day before and have a few nice and cold beers before rain spoils the day. Fortunately it doesn't the next day, so we can travel an enormous 122 km and 1260 alti meters in 7 hours cycling... We're happy to see the camping sign in Volstroff (€ 7,50) and we're so tired, we can't be bothered too much about the terrible state of the toilets, yak!! Definitely not a place to go back to.

We're getting close to Luxemburg now, and that will be our next stop. Cycling in this small state is relaxing enough, especially when we get through the capital. It has cycle lanes everywhere and there is a route through town, which means we hardly ever hit a busy road. After town it's really easy cycling and we finish our 106 km stage in Bourscheid Moulin. We set up camp (€ 16,50) at "Um Gritt" on a tiny little island along the river Sûre. It's a busy camp site, but the scenery is pretty enough. We get our first (and only) puncture this trip, because we must have put Son's bike on a nail when tying them up near a tree. We only notice the next morning, when we're almost ready to go. So 15 minutes later than planned we set off on one of our last stages in our Barcelona-Arnhem trip.

We visit the town of Esch-sur-Sûre on the way to get some breakfast and travel along the N15 (busy) towards the Belgian border. At Oberwampach we encounter our biggest hill (16%), just when we get into Belgium. The rest of the roads are quiet and comfortable and although it's overcast all day, we surely enjoy it. In Lierneux we finally find the campsite after the 95 kilometers and a lot of climbing and we almost have the whole place to ourselves. We even have a party tent, which helps the next day, when we have breakfast under a cloudy and rainy sky. But fortunately it dries up during the day and after a few steep hills near Spa and a VW Beatle show at the race track of Francorchamps we sail down towards the Dutch border. Maastricht is our first big Dutch town on our way to Geulle and camping "De Boskant". We've been here before, it's a nice place to stay for a few days, so we do. We relax a whole day, our first in a few weeks, before setting off for our final stage: home to Arnhem. Almost 170 kilometers on flat terrain isn't that hard, but the last hills towards our house are still difficult. We buy some groceries on the way and than, after three-and-a-half weeks, set foot in our house. Nothing really has changed, except the ones that have just returned...

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