We have just had a very lovely nine days cycling the Lyon to Sete section of the Via Rhona veloroute 17. We had lots of lovely experiences and AirBnB made the trip so easy to plan, so did booking the trains via the Trainline which is nice and easy as the tickets are on the phone so no need to bring paper tickets: trying to keep the bike weight down! John (the strong man and bike fit compared to me) carried the two panniers with all our stuff on his bike and I was left to peddle freely, lovely.
Day one: We cycled 21 miles to Newhaven to get the 11 pm ferry, a few hours sleep on board and then a short ride from Dieppe port to the train, the French are unfazed by bikes on trains it seems. A quick change of trains at Rouen and onto Paris St Lazare. Then the fun started with a frantic and very busy ride across Paris to Paris Gare De Lyon station, we got there in plenty of time (having decided before we left home to change the time of the second train so as not to cut it too fine). We got to the barrier to board and were told ‘non velo sac, non-board la TGV’! We didn’t know we needed a bike bag for the TGV train! There was no way the guard was going to budge so we missed our train, changed it to a later train and went velo sac shopping! After spending 110 euros (ouch), taking the bikes apart, bagging them and then presenting ourselves at the barrier for the train the guard was all smiles.
A quick change at Lyon to Givors station and then reassemble the bikes and finally start our next cycling section at 3pm. It has already been a long day with not much sleep and now we need to cycle 69.8 miles to the velo gite we had booked in Valance! We arrived a bit late, with only one or two wrong turns and the lovey host ordered us pizza. Crashed out at about 11pm in our lovely basic but clean room. No pictures of this section, it was either too hectic or spent sleeping!!
Breakfasted by our host and on the road by 10am we cycled 45.2 miles to Montlimer and had a room at an Ibis Budget which was ok but not exactly the French experience we were looking for, but it did the job as a pit stop. We cycled over the river and canal many times on different bridges and the roads and cycle ways are excellent.
Day three: A quick and basic breakfast at the Ibis and then a scenic ride to Avignon which was 65 miles. Lunch was at a little family-run restaurant called La Providence with a cheeky carafe of wine to oil the wheels for the next section. We arrived at our lovely little studio in Avignon, it had everything we needed, including a washing machine, and was by the old walled section of the city.
Day four: Breakfast and off to Arles which was 43.2 miles of sunflowers, vineyards, beer stops and lunch. With a selfie by the famous vineyard…
Our apartment in Arles was also lovey. It was on the corner of a little road right in front of the ancient amphitheatre, so we had fab views from inside. We had a wander around the town and found the Vincent Van Gogh café (he spent 15 months here and this is where he cut off his ear!) where had an amazing and tasty paella.
Day five: Arles was a day booked in for sightseeing around the old historic town. Luckily we weren’t scheduled to ride at all as it was a proper rainy day so we lounged about and enjoyed some red wine and snacks in the apartment while watching the rain. We popped next door and had a nice steak and chips for dinner.
Day six: Today we ride to Sete which was 75.2 miles, again lots of lovely scenery, beer stops and lunch, the scenery changed from fields of sunflowers to small fields of market garden vegetables and then we saw the sea!
We then rode along the coast for a while and through a bustling town full of beach-bound holiday makers. We arrived in Sete and met our landlady who despite me saying several times that my French was poor chatted happily to me about the town, her and her husband’s trip to Australia, the best food to be had in Sete and much more. The apartment was right on the harbour above lots of inviting looking seafood restaurants and cafes. We were hungry so wasted no time and tucked into a delicious dinner two minutes from the apartment.
Day eight: Sete to Montpellier which was 32.3 miles. The cycle paths and tracks hardly ever let us down, the route is well signposted and usually on excellent surfaces. We had lunch in a little café on the way and had plat de jour which was huge and very tasty. Our apartment in Montpellier was yet again lovely with a little balcony so we eat our dinner outside.
More amazing graffiti art in Montpellier, it’s hard to tell it is even painted!
Day nine: Time to go home, the bikes were packed into the velo sacs and we carried them the short distance to the station and began the return journey. Montpellier to Gare de Lyon ride across Paris to Gare St Lazare. We had three minutes to spare, all good fun when it works! Then Paris to Rouen, Dieppe and the ferry home.
A great trip with lots of beautiful scenery, great food and wine, 362.3 miles ridden and a great time with my other half. Just got to plan the next one now…