Saturday 1 October 2016

The Canal Crew

We assembled at Napton on the Hill for our latest adventure. The normal pick up time was 3:00pm but Black Price allowed to pick the boat up at 1:00pm. In the end traffic delays on the M6 delayed the arrival of everyone apart from myself. The heavy rain when I arrived cleared just before 1:00pm as I loaded my luggage into the boat. After the safety briefing we set of just after 2:00pm.

We turned out of the marina towards Braunston on to the Oxford canal. 10 minutes into our journey Lyn and sat down for lunch and Lyn a realised the freshly made bread and homemade cake had been left on the back shelf of Louise's car! It was a 5 minute walk to the marina entrance on the far side of the canal and then a 14 minute walk to cross the canal and go round the roads to the marina entrance. Bread and cake retrieved and we set off again. At Braunston we turn onto the Grand Union Canal and have to negotiate 6 locks and a long tunnel.
Mooring is limited between the locks so we stopped for the night just before the turning and will negotiate the locks and tunnel in the morning.

The forecast rain stopped just after 1:00pm and so far has stayed away.

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Saturday 3 September 2016

Le Neubourg: ,Velo Vert

We selected Hotel Acadine becouse of its close proximity to the velo vert that runs from Le Bec Hellion to Evereux . The hotel was a good choice as we could be flexible on our arrival time. it is modern and functional but lacks some of the charm of the other accommodation we have stayed in on this trip

We were in breakfast for 8:00 and cycling by just after 9:00 having obtained an hour extension of the hotels normal midday check out time. We had cycled the velo vert on a couple of previous occasions. This time we selected the direction of Bec Hellion about 22 km from the old station.

It was surprising cool as we set off. Gilets were put on and the start and once on the ride Lyn stopped to add arm warmers as well. A lot of the path was in trees and in shade and the heat of the sun had not started to warm the air. The ride to Bec Hellion was mainly downhill so the return was a little slower. We were back at the hotel at 11:35 having stopped in the town to buy lunch and fruit for the journey.

After a much needed shower were started the 3 hour trip to Calais at 12:45.

A Brexton lunch stop broke up the journey and we arrived in Calais without any delay. The 8 euro toll being a pleasant surprise as we expected more of the journey would be on a peage. The plan was to buy beer and petrol from the shops just of junction 3 but we found assess from the motorway to the port blocked.
A bit of excellent piece of human navigation on Lyn part took us round on the minor roads and to the back of the industrial estate.
Beer and some more wine was purchased and whilst Lyn sat guarding the luggage Robert repacked the car. Should we have tried to put in a third box of Budweiser.
We ignored the motorway and drove thought town to the port. We had plenty of time and after a long queue we had made it though the UK boarder controls.

When we reached the PO desk we were told that the ferry was running 30 minutes late. By the time we boarded it was more like an hour. Good job we have a hotel booked for this evening.

The Castle fish and chip shop on Dover provided our customary supper when we arrive in Dover on a late ferry. The M20 was closed but after we needed to exit for the hotel. Oh we arrived in Dover to the first significant rain we had seen for 2 weeks. A customary welcome to the UK.

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Friday: Lac de Vassiviere

We eat in Hotel La Bellerive. It's was English owned and the owner was very friendly. However is is disappointing to note we found the food average and overpriced for the quality.

We had a good night's sleep once we had rearranged 9 pillows and cushions that had be placed on the bed in a attempt to ensure our comfort. After an average breakfast we drove the 7 km to Lac Vassiviere. Lyn had picked of the leaflet on the bike path that circumnavigates the lake on one of our previous trips to France. The Circuit Raymond Poulidor named after a French cyclist is also known as the circuit des legends and boards around the route describe the endeavours of some of the heroes of the tour De France including Poulidor, Miguel Indurain , Bernard Hinult and Greg Lemond.

Rather than following the shore the route was on roads found the lake and would have been too billy for Louise. As we were both wearing pants we could not cut down to the shoreline.

We did however divert from the route to go too the island in the middle of the lake.

We did not have time to explore the whole of the wood of sculptures but did find sn artisan baker who baked his bread on a wood fired oven. Lunch sorted and a midmorning snack taken with a small coffee overlooking the lake and it's " submarine". Were were back at the car and off on the 6 hour journey to Le Neubourg . Kate stated us off on a a scenic tour of minor twisty roads and our estimated arrival time had extended by 10 minutes in the first 30 minutes of driving. This time was slowly pulled back and a late Brexton lunch taken at a picnic spot. The artesian bread was very good snd well worth the price. Kate excelled in the centre of Chartres when we avoided the ring road and queueing traffic and went on a cut though round the centre. We arrived at hotel Acadine just after 7:30 just in time for a quick shower and to cycle into the town for our evening meal.

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Thursday 1 September 2016

Heading North

We left our accomadation on Genos at 10:00. We practiced our best French again saying goodbye and after a trip to the post office we were off. The market in Arreau after 30 minutes of driving was our first stop.

Market in Arreau

These cakes cooked on a skewer are a delicacy of the region but the taste does not justify the cost.

A Brexton lunch was taken north of Toulouse. We stopped later for a Brexton coffee and cake and arrived at our accomadation just after 6:00pm.

The B+B is run by an English couple who served us a welcome pot of earl grey outside in the shade before we unpacked the car.

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Put me back on my bike

We awoke to sunshine and a clear view of the mountain tops. Robert selected a ride the 19km ascent of Port De Bales and by 10:20 we were in the car for the "40 minute" drive to the start. As we wound our way up the Col De Peyresourde on our way to Baguettes De Luchon it soon became clear that the estimated journey time was very optimistic and we would not have time to do the ride a make it back in time to visit the spa in Genos.

After s little deliberation we turned round and decided to climb the Col De Peyresourde for a second time , this time by bike.

669m of ascent is completely in 9.8km of climbing and even with a slow ascent would allow plenty of time to visit the spa.
The km posts helpfully countdown the distance to the top and give the average gradient for the next Km. After a gentle start the gradient increased to 9% . Most of the climb was at 8℅ with the last couple of km averaging 6℅.

The cafe at the tops offers fresh crapes for 50 cents or 12 for 5 euros and was doing good business from the constant stream of cyclists and other tourists.The menu was limited but we shred and omelette and plate of chips before having a couple of crepes each. The descent back to the car was completed in under 30 minutes including stops for photographs. A one point a few bird of prey circled low above us. They eventually decided better picking could be had elsewhere and moved accross the valley.


The spa "balnea " was excellent. The 15.50 euro admission gave 2 hours in the spa with additional time charged at 4 euro for half an hour. We spent two and a half hours in the spa, lots of different areas. The outside Japanese hot pools were particularly good. You moved though a series of pools that steadily incresed in temperature to 40 degrees centigrade while looks at the surrounding mountains and watching the paradescenders slowly descend .
We returned to the gite for a leftover tea. The sweet potato and peppers we had brought from England providing the base for a vegetable curry .

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Wednesday 31 August 2016


Still in Genos . Another climb a D the a visit to the spa today . Full post to follow.

Tuesday: Col De Azet

It had rained in the night but this has stopped before breakfast however low cloud look like it would spoil today's ride. After breakfast we cycled the short distance round the Lake to Louderville to visit the supermarket. Our best French was practised when we rode past our accommodation owners uncle and wife. By 11:30 the low cloud had started to clear and after an early lunch we were off.

The climbs 7.4 km at an average gradient of 8.3 %. We slowly climbed above the village with breaks in the trees providing the occasion view of the village and lake below. The best photo opportunity was just before the road splits for the ski station a couple of km from the top. We did not stop intending to take pictures on the descent. After a little unlady like language we were finally inside the last km and improvised markings on the road counted down the final few hundred metres to the top. The summit was reached after about an hour of climbing.

Rather than descend back to Genos we changed our plan and instead descended towards Sa Lary Soulan .

We turned off just before the valley bottom onto the D25 a minor road that hugged the valley side. The continuation to Grecian provided an unexpected climb much to Lyn's displeasure. The alternative route would have stayed on the valley bottom. We continued the ascent to Lancon and after a
short break started the rapid descent to Borderes Louron.


We then had the final 6 miles along the main road back to Genos. The first few miles were mostly downhill but the turn off to Genos provided some unwelcome undulations. We arrived back just after 6:00pm a round trip of 25 miles with lots of ascent.

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Monday: The rain in Spain (well France)

Breakfast in Hotel Food Rios was acceptable but average. We had been spoilt for the previous 2 nights. One of the reasons for choosing to stay in Ainsa was to cycle upto the Lac De Cap Long about an hour's drive away on the French side of the boarder. I had planned to do the climb on our last trip to the Pyrenees 2 years ago and we were thwarted by the weather. This year turned out to be the same with a high probability of heavy rain all afternoon we changed our plans and decided to do a ride front Ainsa instead where it was not due to start raining according to the forecast until 2:00pm. 1 euro was invested in a VTT cycle guide from the tourist information and having applied sunscreen we checked out of the hotel just after 11:00 am to set off cycling in light rain. The rain stopped a few minutes later and stayed away until until our drive to Genos.

It was like a treasure hunt spotting the route marking but we made it out of town on a minor road and after a couple of miles turned off onto a dry river bed. We cycled for a few hundred yards but really needed mountain bikes to make any serious progress.

We retraced out steps and followed the road instead and slowly climbed above the valley. We followed a couple of signpost places but these turned out to farms a dead ends. A few mountain bike paths were signed off the route but were not included in the guide I purchased.

Having run out of road we returned to town to try another route. This time we were more successful with the off road sections not requiring a mountain bike to cycle.

The route was meant to be suitable for families but after a section following the river and then looping back to town but were soon steeply climbing upto a couple of small villages and then descending on a gravel track past a small quarry.

Ainsa Old town.

We arrived back at the car just after 4:00pm. Robert sorted out the bikes whilst Lyn ordered a late lunch from the hotel. It turned out the kitchen was closed but the waiter offered to make us a sandwich.
I was a 1:40 minute drive to Genos. We had some heavy rain as we approached the Bielsa tunnel and we emerged the other side into low cloud. We arrived at Genos at 6:30pm, 30 minutes ahead of our estimated latest arrival time. It turn out that the GPS coordinates and map of how to get the the accommodation were wrong. Finding the right house was not helped by the fact that none of the roads in the small village had any Street names displayed and the 2 locals we asked did not know where it was. Kate and Google maps only displayedWe the names of the main rosds.We eventually drove past the right house having checked the pictures on the website. We were meant by the owners uncle who lives next door. The accommodation is splendid had has been renovated to a high standard. We have full cooking facilities and also a dishwasher and washing machine. Our bikes are safely stored in the uncles adjoining "garage". We eat in the apartment and the Supermarket Rioja was better than some we had sampled.

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Tuesday 30 August 2016

Now on Genos

Full post to follow.

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Sunday 28 August 2016

Sunday: Rioja tasting and a drive to Ainsa

Another good evening meal in the restaurant was followed by and excellent breakfast. Full post to follow. Now in Ainsa. We arrived at around 6:30 after a 4 hour drive including a couple of stops.

The day in pictures below.

Bodegas Puelles


Marques De Riscal

Sampling more Rioja

A dip in the pool still hot at 7:00pm

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Saturday 27 August 2016

Via Verde Del Oja

Dinner in the hotel yesterday evening was excellent. Three courses for 26 euros excluding wine. A marked contrast in quality to the 12 euro menu of the previous 2 nights.

The day started with a late breakfast which was served from 9:00. Again excellent quality. We were presented with a plate of fried eggs, cheese and cured ham with a side plate with small cakes and croissants. Then a plate of cut up fresh fruit and natural yoghurt. Finally a large tortilla was placed on the side.
board. If we wanted anything else we just had to ask!

The start of the bike ride was a 30 minute drive away. We started in the small village of Castanares De Rioja and followed the via Verde for 22km to Ezcaray. The first mile was a rough stone track alongside the road. The path then moved away from the road and the surface changed to a tarmac surface for the rest of the way. The gentle climb and constant headwind slowed the pace. The scenery only started to change as we got closer to Ezcaray . The fields field s were growing a mixture of vines, vegetables crops and wheat. A cafe in the town provided a late lunch. Although we ordered 2 courses only one arrived.

The tomatos and tuna salad was good but when we got the bill it turned out to be very expensive.

The return to the car was a lot faster. A coffee in the small bar excellent value at 1.20 euros.

We then drove to Haro and selected a bodega for a tasting, Lopez De Heredia
A tasting glass was 2.1 euros but we were allowed two small samples for the price.

The cheaper Rioja was 12 euros a bottle and the most expensive 23 euros. We enjoyed the samples but decided not to buy some wine.

We arrived back at the hotel in time to book in for dinner and catch up on the blog / holiday diary.

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