Cycling in France, Part Deux

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In love with my bike.

Alert: If you haven’t yet read part one, stop and read the first part of my #CycleinFrance trip before you begin this post. Read part one here.

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Imposing Najac Castle

The Chateau which we visited the next morning is actually more beautiful from the outside as it’s basically a ruin. After visiting the Chateau de Najac I asked Patrick if I could ride in the van for the first half of the voyage on day 3, his only mistake of the cycling in France trip was to ask us to ride up the extremely steep hill to Najac that morning and I got lost and wandered around in the heat for about 30 minutes with my bike going every which way but the right one. The GPS, which the bike comes programmed with outlining your trip had us going slightly off route near the Chateau so a bit of frustration set in.

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A picnic with a view.

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An Idyllic picnic spot, I stuck my feet in to cool down after lunch.

After an hour’s ride in the car with my fellow lady blogger, Amanda, who was as exhausted as I was, we stopped for lunch along the river and my hope was restored. The picnic lunches that Patrick put on were a thing of beauty. Chorizo, 3 kinds of cheese including a delicious comté, cherry tomatoes, sardines, smoked salmon, walnut bread, baguette (bien sur), jambon and a myriad of fruits and desserts. He always had local wine to offer which Erik and I imbibed in. Somehow after a few glasses getting back on the bikes was no trouble at all and very quickly I’d loose my lunch buzz as the hills came at me.

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Always pay attention to road signs!

The afternoon took us through a delightful village called Mouzieys-Panens where Erik spotted a sorbet bio sign. Of course we had to stop (it was hot and sorbet was definitely going to really hit the spot).

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Erik is pretty pleased with himself that he found organic sorbet in the middle of seemingly nowhere!

We roamed around the darling yet near deserted speck of a village and almost gave up hope until Erik spotted another sign and sure enough behind a medieval door was a lovely lady selling five kinds of gourmet organic sorbet as well as her own paintings and postcards of her watercolors.

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Melting sorbet on a hot day + postcards

It was as cute of a place as one could have dreamed up and since it was a surprise to all of us, it was probably our happiest moment of the trip. It’s always those unforeseen marvels that make a vacation and of course the sorbet was delicious.

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Cordes-sur-Ciel

That night we finished in Cordes-sur-Ciel at the Hostellerie du Vieux Cordes. Another magical medieval village, built by Cathars in the early 1200’s this town was one I had visited a number of times previously as its not far from my sister’s house.

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Some darling shops in Cordes, here I bought several gifts

Yet, it was good to see the village again which now has many more shops and restaurants making it a vraiment destination.

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A deep dark red gaspacho, Hostellerie de Vieux Cordes

Our dinner on the terrace of the hotel as the sun set was the best of the trip so far. The ambiance felt like quintessential summer-in-France and the food was excellent. I had gazpacho followed by duck and I split it with Erik who ordered the cassoulet, famous in this region.

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The dappled light of magic hour, Cordes

Our final day was my favorite, by now my muscles and body were somewhat used to this exercise and I climbed the hills and coasted the valleys with ease. I felt alive and younger than I had in years.

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French flag flying high over our van, photo by Tiphaine Perrier

We stopped for our final picnic in another PBV, Monestiés, which was not as significant as the other two we’d visited but non-the-less lovely. Patrick presented us with champagne and foie gras for our last picnic as well as wine from Gaillac (nearby), which had become our ritual.

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Refreshing rivers abound in this region, photo by Tiphaine Perrier

It was then that I was secretly happy that our other two fellow bloggers Kevin and Amanda, were not drinkers. Erik, Patrick and I did our best to finish the delicious wine and pate’s and even though I wanted to nap after we, chugged on.

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Me riding uphill! photo by Patrick our guide

The afternoon ride was exciting. As we rode we began to see the huge cathedral of Albi from a distance, which was to be our final destination. I seemed able to pedal faster and faster as I saw the famous red brick city of Albi approaching, yet I didn’t miss stopping for wildflower photos, and other shots along the way.

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I adore the faces you find over the doors of many old buildings in France

The only conflict that occurs during the biking experience is the desire to stop and photograph everything that you see versus the desire to arrive at the destination ahead of time so you can enjoy the new village or town. As soon as I got to Albi, first I might add (yeah me) I grabbed my room key at the Mecure hotel right on the river Tarn and headed for the terrace with a beer. I was truly proud of myself.

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Erik Trinidad can cycle anything apparently.

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Kevin and Amanda looking cute, as per the norm.

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Taking a rest, hay-side.

Leave it to the French to get me back into exercising, something I hope I’ll take a new shine to after so many broken promises of the past. Our last evening together was spent drinking a Lalande de Pommerol (my favorite) and enjoying a spectacular meal, yes the best was saved for last. Noix St. Jacques for starters, then a delicate line-caught hake followed by a local cheese plate at La Table du Sommelier in Albi.

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Could be the most delicious scallops I’ve ever had.

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A colorful plate of fish and veggies.

After all the exercise you get each day you feel able to eat your meals guilt free, which is a welcome change. As with any press trip or organized trip that I’ve been on, the first day you meet strangers and you depart as friends. The hard part is the parting. Lucky for me, Erik of the Global Trip lives close to me in NYC so I’ll be looking him up as well as Tiphaine from Atout France who left us early in the trip to visit her parents in Provence.

Shop sign found in St. Antonin, I guess its my shop!

Shop sign found in St. Antonin, I guess its my shop! Photo by Patrick.

I hope to go on another bike trip with my own family, considering the existence of the electric option, it’s now something we can all do together. I’d probably upgrade the hotels where possible and do a full week and perhaps pick a region I am unfamiliar with, but I can’t wait to go back and enjoy another bike trip with either friends or family. It’s a very special way to experience the glorious French countryside in spring, summer or fall.

View of Albi from our hotel

View of Albi from our hotel

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Tourist boat on the Tarn river, Albi

Links:

Discover France

Atout France

Plus Beaux Villages de France

Hotel du Commerce, Montauban

Bistro des Capucine, Montauban

Hotel Le Belle Rive, Najac

Najac

Cordes sur Ciel

Hostellerie des Vieux Cordes

Mercure, Albi

La Table du Sommelier

The Global Trip

KevinandAmanda

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