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Pyrenees - June 2011- see pictures below

 

My tour always starts with the ride from Lincolnshire to Lauries' where Alan and I enjoy a night of kind generosity before catching the ferry the following morning from Newhaven (they do special deals for the more mature rider you know!) where we met up with Christine and Tony for the crossing to Dieppe followed by a short, pleasant ride to Forges les Eaux.

The second day was another pleasant ride on to Beaumont sur Sarthe expertly navigated by Christine and her inbuilt compass. Along the way we gathered up Mike and Sheila at a coffee stop, then later at our hastily found picnic stop we nearly gathered up Vince, but he rode on by! Whilst eating a Frenchman stopped - absconded with Laurie and drove off, Alan collected 3.50Euros for the expected ransom demand but thankfully Laurie was returned having been shown a newly constructed picnic area around the corner beside a river but, with no sign indicating where it was! Only in France! The hotel at Beaumont was as welcoming as ever with its specially printed menu for the Mojocar welcome dinner. Lots of chatter, a very short speech from Laurie and, finally to bed in my very hot loft room, windows wide open and a short nights sleep thanks to the Harley rider who gave it everything it had, as he roared away from the lights below my window at 5am, bless.

Day 1 of the tour proper started well and ended in a downpour for our crew somewhere south of the Loire, Bill, Kate and I got separated from the rest of the 'Knitting Circle' and ended up sheltering from the most horrendous downpour in a drunken Frenchman's cottage together with four other drunken Frenchmen who were obviously having an afternoon session complete with bottles of whiskey (mostly empty!) and cote du boeuf cooked over an open fire! Rainfinally stopped so we left them all to their food and set off for Montlucon. Day 2 was wet again, but nevertheless a very pleasant ride down to Pont de Salar in the slowly drying conditions. Day 3 to Quillan started well with a visit tothe Millau Bridge - what a structure. I live near the Humber Bridge, another famous and graceful bridge and I would hate to choose between them for their grace and beauty. The day ended with rain again, and it was cold rain, I completed the last part of the trip arriving at Quillan by myself having stopped to put on more layers. We were here for two days which gave ample time to discover about the Cathars, thank you Kate for the lessons, I had been wondering about the castles we passed on the way down! Thursday 9th was decision day for me having not ridden the passes very well two days earlier did I really want to attempt another with a fearsome reputation. I decided to set out on my own route accompanied by John Swainston, we had a great day starting off down the beautiful rocky pass out of Quillan and ending on the fantastic coast road down to Roses. The hotel at Roses being right on the sea front was a great location and I thoroughly enjoyed the three day break beside the seaside, I did nothing other than walk a lot down the beautiful promenade and generally chill out. Laurie and I were lucky enough to meet up with some friends with a place just above Roses so it was great to spend some time with them one evening at their beautiful villa. I think that the three day stop over was a stroke of brilliance and allowed people to rest or ride out to see some of the local sites as they pleased.

The hard part of the tour now commenced for me, Col after Col then more Cols (oh and lets not forget the Gavillons just for good measure!!) we stayed at Encamp (thank goodness the duty free queue was going in the other direction!) then on to Ainsa and then to Navarrenx The weather improved enormously and everything just got better and better. The final day to Hossegor  came as a bit of a shock, I saw the low mileage and thought an easy day, how stupid can I be – no, this is a Laurie Shephard trip, so it was back into Spain and a few more b --- dy Cols, these strewn with mad cyclists who get their thrills by riding as fast as possible down Cols, sometimes on the wrong side of the road! Didn't see many of them riding up (mini buses with bike racks spring to mind!) Hossegor was our Atlantic destination, and the 'Knitting Circle'visited the sea in the evening some even dipped a toe in the water, and so the coast to coast trip was completed. The sad day finally comes when the good - byes have to be said but, we all leave each other with many brilliant memories of France and Spain and, having shared some great laughs together.

The Memories

Lowest Point: Mike Lacey breaking down again. Everyone was most concerned that you got home safely Mike and I trust you did, unfortunately we didn't get chance to finish our conversation about Moto Guzzis.

High Point: The ride out of Ainsa down the absolutely stunning gorge where the rocks eventually nearly touched at the top and the river fell away further and further below the road to be a hundred or so feet below us. I was stunned by the saxifrage longifolias (thank you Suefor the information) clinging to the rock face above the road, with their great long cream flowers drooping down, absolutely marvellous.

Funny Point: Can't make my mind up between the drunken Frenchmen in their cottage or Alan Simister pulling his shoes out of his bag only to find he had brought two left shoes! Then again was it Kate getting her braces caught on the toilet door handle therefore finding it impossible to reach the loo! Just can't decide! Many thanks Laurie for a brilliant 2011 Tour, everything so well thought out and planned, great hotels,fabulous scenery and friendly company, can it get any better? The only improvement I could suggest would be for better weather on the Channel crossing on the way home (still convinced the ferry should have stayed in port!!) but I guess even Laurie can't control the wind and the waves!

Hope to see you all again soon

David Goose.

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