Cycling the Languedocby Jo - Thursday, July 5, 2012
From the moment I climbed on my bike and began pedaling through the streets in the heart of French villages, I was giddy—this is too cool.
With sweeping panoramas, Cathar castles perched on limestone cliffs, countless vineyards (and delicate croissants), this tour will not be one quickly forgotten. Amidst blooming poppies and mountain meadows, we pedaled through gorgeous farmland, wandered in historic villages, and gazed at Gothic architecture.
The Languedoc was stunning; we were welcomed by hospitable shop owners and hotel managers, and in awe daily of the variation in landscape. While one day was spent along canals, creeks, and rivers, the next we were surrounded by grapevines thriving in deep red rocky soil. The colors of dark green in the vines and the stark blue of the sky and expansive Lac du Salagou provided for the perfect backdrop in our biking adventure.
Animals abounded—horses and cattle served as spectators on our mountain climbs, with the bleat of an occasional goat or sheep chiming in to create a marvelous serenade as we weaved through shaded lanes not much wider than a bike path. Dogs and cats greeted our arrival in each village. Butterflies accompanied us the entire way; they may have been enjoying the flowers in full bloom even more than us.
The sun shone daily and we all left healthfully sun-kissed, some more so than others (most sported the tan that distinguishes you as a cyclist…white hands and attractive mid-thigh line ).
Several moments defined this trip:
- Chalk dust arrows directing us past farmhouses, stone buildings surrounded by lines of grapevines, and over bridges with moss-covered guardrails
- Hours of quiet riding on roads with minimal traffic
- Ordering yet another Nutella crepe (recovery food?)
- Quaint villages with tolling bells and locals enjoying mid-morning and afternoon cafes.
- Forgetting to check your watch and enjoying a multi-course meal
- Hot showers post-ride
- Sipping on pastis (anise-flavored liqueur popular with the locals) and witnessing a Critical Mass bike ride in the shadow of the Archbishop’s Palace in Narbonne
- Laundry time each afternoon with jerseys and bike shorts hanging out windows and on balconies
- History and language lessons from John and Gwendal
- Sips of local wine in a home vintner’s cave
- Falling into step with the pace of life in rural France
On tour, I remembered that the essence of travel is found in wandering, observing, and the experience, not the photos of landmarks, jostling around with other tourists, and overpriced meals. A knowledge of history punctuates the sites, an understanding of the language augments the overheard conversations and interactions with locals, but an open mind and flexible attitude is the key to fully appreciating the time spent on tour. The tour leaders took care of the details so our focus could be on these essentials and freed us to have a memorable trip.
If you would like to look through additional photos from this trip, head to our Languedoc album online.