I have written this in 3 parts, as there is so much to tell. Also because I didn’t get a chance to do this when I was overseas….usually due to being too tired to make the small shuffle to the library.. So now here it is. It’s like a story book!
It’s so many years since I have been in France, and when the plane touched down in Europe I immediately felt that I had come home…
The journey is a long one, Australia seems so far away from everywhere except New Zealand! Our flight over included stops in Hong Kong, Munich and then to our final destination in Lyon. Hong Kong airport for anybody who has not been there, is huge! When you see gate numbers 501 + you know there is some serious walking to be done! Lucky, we were in the 40’s but with 3 hours until our next flight we found ourselves exploring the airport. Our venture around the airport landed us in small coffee shop where we ordered a couple of lattes.. They were made and came out so quickly that we both immediately came to the conclusion the coffee was going be average. But to our amazement it was one of the best coffee’s that we have had and it ended up being so for the rest our holiday!!
Arriving at our final flight destination in Lyon we still had bus trip to endure to our final destination in Le Cheylard. Le Cheylard is a small town in the Ardeché region of southern France approx 160km from Lyon. The one thing I realised when we were travelling to Le Cheylard in the final 50km is that we were travelling along a long winding uphill road and every road off this main road seemed to go up! It was truly quaint; the little villages that we passed through were nestled into the ridge line and the stone buildings were built so long ago… I found myself drifting off into my own little dream world trying to create a vision of what it must have been like so many years ago. On the way to Le Cheylard our host pointed out an old railway line that has been converted into a multi purpose trail for mountain bikers, trail walkers and runners.. It goes for miles and passes right through Le Cheylard. Even though we were here to ride our road bikes, I knew I wanted to come back again to run that trail!
Our base in Le Cheylard
So our main base for our trip was going to Le Cheylard. Russ and I had joined a bike tour “Danny Le Gatt Tours” however, the majority of the people on the trip where friends and people we knew. So we were looking forward to catching up and getting in some exciting rides. For both of us our main goal trip was to ride as much as possible and get some cycling base mileage into our legs. Looking at the terrain and riding options, it wasn’t going to be a problem!
We seemed to have arrived during a bit of cold snap, the weather wasn’t as warm as it usually is at this time year. One of our first rides we found ourselves layering up, given the mountain region there was a possibly to experience inclement weather however, this time of year was usually quite warm. With the group we made our way up a climb to Mezilac and then onto Gerbier de Jonc. The young guys were flying up the climb, Russ was there with them and then I was chasing …..trying to hold on a little further back. It was a bit chilly at the top, we had climbed to 1,475m and like all good cyclists do found ourselves a great little spot for food and coffee. The one thing that we learnt quickly in France was……there is no such thing as good coffee. Seriously you French people need to get it together! It tastes like tar... Admittedly the coffee warmed me up, and we were off again for the decent back down. We made our way through another 3 small towns, Saint Martial which has beautiful large recreational lake and then eventually back into Le Cheylard.
Our first 5 days were spent riding around the surrounding areas of Le Cheylard. Every day we started with our croissants at breakfast, made our way up and out of Le Cheylard to many small towns in the region such as Lamastre, Saint Agreve, Chalencon, Les Nonniers, stopped for lunch and then made our back home again. All the shops in most towns close between 12.30pm and 3pm however, restaurants are still open serving meals. All the riding making us super hungry, we found ourselves consuming large meals in the middle of day.. Pizza became my meal of choice :-)
Part of our trip was also staying 3 days in the small town of Vif which is not far from Grenoble and 50km to Bourg Oisans. Our bus trip to Vif was not without humour… A decision to take a small country road which eventually became tight rocky road resulted in the bus driver having to turn a bus coach around and head back in the direction we had come. Reversing into a grassy area when it was steadily raining was probably not the best idea. A few minutes later the bus was bogged and everyone was out digging, gathering branches and yes…. pushing the bus. Like we had the strength to push a large coach?!! To the bus drivers credit, she managed to reverse some more, get a bit of momentum going and out of the boggy ditch that had been created. Finally at our destination a cute little hotel :-)
Vif was now our base to experience the famous mountain climbs that the Tour de France travels through each year. And lucky us we were going to be able experience the craziness of Alpe D’Huez and the time trial in Grenoble!