Monday, May 3, 2010
What makes for a great vacation? There are as many answers as there are fish in the sea. For me, last week's journey to the Languedoc combined many of the elements on my list -- cycling on virtually traffic free byways, delicious food, great weather, happy kids, and no stress. Add to that, the company of my husband who had been gone the 10 days before our departure on an extended business trip in the U.S. Tired as he was, after that trip and a pretty solid month of travel even before he headed across the pond, he got off a plane at Charles de Gaulle at 6:30 Sunday morning and stepped onto a train at Gare de Lyon at 2:00 that afternoon without missing a beat. Everything went seamlessly, a harbinger of a wonderful week ahead.
We started out in Montpellier and over five days, cycled an easy 200 kilometers in a loop that took us north and then back to the start. Part of the journey was on rails-to-trails paths (relatively infrequent in Europe where train travel is still de rigeur) and canal towpaths. So with the exception of a somewhat hairy entrance into the city of Nîmes, we had no cars or trucks to worry about, and just the sounds of chirping birds and sights of vineyards and orchards. It was the right mix of physical activity, relaxation, and sightseeing with highlights being the Roman amphitheater in Nîmes and the walled city of Aigues-Mortes, built by King Louis IX (later named St. Louis)in the 13th century as the jumping off point for his crusades to the Holy Land. And what a pleasure it was to visit before the heat of summer and the onslaught of throngs of tourists. For me, there was the extra thrill of accomplishment of making myself understood in French; not one hotelier, restauranteur, shopkeeper, or local to whom I asked directions broke out in English in response to my questions.
If you're thinking about a biking trip in France (or for that matter other places in Europe), consider using the services of France-Bike. They made the hotel and dinner reservations, provided the bikes and the maps, and carted our luggage from one place to another so all we had to carry was our picnic lunch.
The beginning of the Voie Verte in Sommieres where we stayed in a hotel that used to be the train station.
The Constance Tower in Aigues-Mortes. We could see it from the canal towpath for quite a few kilometers in advance of our arrival.
I always get a big kick out of errors in spelling and translation.