Thursday, January 22, 2009

A few days in the Languedoc-Roussillon


Eglise La Madeleine

Bruce in the place de la Madeleine

We just arrived home from 2 night (3 days) in the Languedoc-Roussillon, a region in south central france, it's actually just next to our region the Midi-Pyrenees. We went for 2 reasons. The first was to check out hotels and map out the rides for the tour we are doing in July, through our new business Two Wheels Good Tours and the second was in search of a bit of sun and warmer weather. We accomplished both!

It's only 3 hours south of us and a lovely drive. You can take 2 ways, one takes you east and then south through Millau (over the beautiful viaduct) and the second takes you west to Toulouse and then south. We took the first way down and the second way home. It was crazy, about 2 hours into the drive the weather was different and so was the landscape. Gone were the gorges, big hills, deep valleys, green green everywhere Aveyron, we were now into more brownish scrub landscape, but it was also beautiful. And the sun, there is was, smiling at us so strong that for the first time in a long time had to put on our sunglasses. soleil. We also haven't seen the ocean in 4 1/2 months, something we took for granted in Los Angeles (we basically road along the pacific ocean 4-5 times a week). When we turned a corner and saw the Mediterranean it took my breath away. I didn't realize how much I missed the sea. We stayed in Béziers, a small city just south of Montpellier. We chose Béziers because during the tour de france, one day will be a time trial in Montpellier and then second day the race will go through Béziers and head south towards Perpignan. It's about 1 hour south of Montpellier and we loved it, perfect location.

We stayed in a lovely 15 room boutique hotel, the same one we will stay when we do our tour. It's quaint, clean, beautifully decorated, across from the lovely Parc des Poetes and centrally located but not on a busy street. The owners are lovely too and have been very accommodating for our july tour. We took the dogs with us, but B&A babysat the chickens and Maillot, well I built a shelter for her and left her plenty of food and water, she's a cat, a stray cat, so I knew she'd be fine for 2 nights outside. We arrived and saddled up the dogs and went for a long walk around the city, stopped and had some coffee and chocolate chaud and planned our next couple days. It was a Monday, so most restaurants were closed. We ended up eating at the brasserie down the street and had an excellent dinner (sometimes they surprise you).

Parc des Poetes

The next day we hopped in the car and headed towards Montpellier, but we couldn't take the autoroute - - no no, because we needed to find a good route for bikes. For our July trip we'll be biking up to Montpellier. We found a beautiful route with views of the Pyrenees, the sea and many wineries. When we got into Montpellier we headed for place de la comédie, which is a big open square with loads of restaurants, a park, the office tourism, stores, the opera is where the team time trial for the tour de france will start. We had some lunch walked around a bit and then headed back to Béziers.

La Opera at place de la comédie

place de la comédie

The next day we had to find a route from Béziers south towards Perpignan, so back in the car we went searching for smaller roads. I must say, it's exhausting trying to read the map in the car, my eyes were spinning by the end. But we found another amazing route that's we'll do the 3rd day. We also stopped to visit the Canal du Midi and the Écluses de Fonseranes, where you have to "help yourself" to 7 locks to get up/down the river. It was amazing to watch this huge barge navigate into the lock, with only a couple inches left on each side. There is also a lovely bike path that starts in Béziers and follows the Canal du Midi all the way to Toulouse. It could be a perfect ride on the first day.

huge barge going into one of the écluses

the water came rushing out and the boat rose so fast

Before dinner we went to Les Chameau Ivre a Bar a vins just down the street from our hotel. It was really nice and their wines were amazing. Great selection of tapas too. We have already decided to bring our friends K&E to Béziers for 1 night when they come and visit in July, because K would so love this place. We had dinner at Le Patio and I went with a pasta dish that I thought was vegetarian, but when it was put in front of me realize it was some type of seafood. What though....when we came home realized it was cuttlefish "seiche" in french. Non mon favori!

I really liked Montpellier and would love to spend more time there and Béziers was lovely as well. We had good weather and it was nice to get away. We didn't have to make a fire for 3 days and I must say, it was wonderful. The hotel was cozy warm and the bed so so comfortable. It was a great trip. We will be going back in April or May so that we can actually ride the routes we have mapped out. Want to make sure they are good and that we know them well. We'll also be visiting Andorra and the Pyrenees so we can ride the routes there too. Ben our business partner already went there last week to check out the hotels, so that's taken care of and there is only 1 route into Andorra and then we'll be doing one of the great climbs "Col du tourmalet" in the Pyrenees, so we don't need to map out routes there, but we do want to ride them before our trip.

So now we are back in the Aveyron and guess's raining! argh. I guess that is why this area is so lovely and green in the spring/summer. I must say we are both missing sunny Béziers, but Maillot is one happy cat, laying in front of the fire right now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

4 Months in France

So, we've been here for 4 months and it seems to be going really fast. We are anxiously awaiting printemps (spring) and looking forward to many visitors. My sister, her 2 kids and my mom are coming in March. Our friends S&L are coming in April and we'll be going up to Belgium to watch some of the spring classics (bike races), our friends A&A are coming in May, we are going to Paris for 4 days (my sister will be there with some students of hers), we'll celebrate Bruce's 40th birthday in June and in July is the Tour de France (so basically the whole month is shot) , our great friends K&E (and their daughter K) are coming over in July and our friend L is coming in August. Once March hits it’s going to be very different around here.

Here are some thoughts, things we have done and things we have seen in the 4 months since we have been here.

1. We have visited the following cities/villages; Albi, Montabun, Cordes, Cajarc, Caylus, St. Antonin, Najac, La Fouillade, Toulouse, Gaillac, Rodez, St. Cirq, Figeac, Millau and probably 10-15 other smaller villages.

2. We became the proud owner of 1 cat (Maillot) and 3 chickens (Fanny, Rhoda and Lefty). And I just love them.

3. We have rode our bikes a total of 1,098 miles (so far)

4. We have road our bikes in 30 degree weather

5. Saw snow for the first time in 15 years

6. We have started more fires than I can count (agrh!!!)

7. We have learned that 45 degrees can seem pretty warm (I can’t believe that I just typed that)

8. We started a new business venture Two Wheels Good Tours

9. I don't wear a watch anymore and don't set my alarm anymore

10. Sometimes we forget what day it is

11. We have 2 of the happiest dogs, they love it here...the door opens and off they go running in the meadow or woods

12. We have made some really great friends

13. I take french lessons 2 x a week

14. We have drank X number of bottles of wine (actually it's best if we don't keep count, let’s just say it’s a lot)

15. We have learned that a Kerosene heater is your best friend on cold days/nights

16. Have woken up to frozen pipes 4 times (that's a first for us)

17. Am so happy that I brought my UGG boots

18. We have not had television for 4 months (I so miss Grey’s Anatomy)

19. My husband cuts and colors my hair (oh my!)

20. One of my favorite words is SMARTWOOL (socks, leggings, shirts, hat, gloves)

22. Found a great sports store - Decathalon

23. Love the Thursday & Sunday morning markets

I can't believe that we only have 7-8 months left. The first month was lovely but November & December were a bit challenging, the rain and cold has taken us a bit by surprise and we had an especially hard time in November (since it basically rained the entire month). The wood burning stove (not too cook on but to heat us) has been a nightmare, we finally have it sorted out (by keeping a fire going all the time) so that the house doesn't fill with smoke when we open the door to add more wood. I do have to sweep and mop every day or every other day because it's muddy outside and we have 8 little dirty paws running in and out, but that's ok. Other than that, it's great here and we are so relaxed and loving every day. Life is good or should I say "juicy".

Friday, January 9, 2009

Come ride with us

Many of you might know this...some of you might not, but Bruce and I are avid cyclists.  We have been cycling seriously for about 6 years.  Seriously means about 100-130 miles per week, taking our bikes wherever we go on vacation and making all of our holidays based around cycling.  

About a month ago we were on a ride with our friend Ben and started talking about how great it was to cycle here and how everyone should experience the beauty of france by bike. That's all it took, please allow me to introduce to you "Two Wheels Good Tours". We were born from 2 passions, riding bikes and the beauty and culture of france. After a number of years travelling and cycling around france we have decided to invite you along for a ride.

The endless roads, charming villages and fine cuisine provide the perfect ingredients for an amazing cycling adventure. We are committed to providing an intimate and personalized experience to our guests, centered around our passion for cycling and love of the french countryside.

France has a long and rich history of cycling tradition and of course hosts the biggest cycling race in the world, the Tour de France. We have chosen the 2009 Tour to launch our first official trip. With the return of several stars of cycling, most notably 7 time winner Lance Armstrong, this year promises to be one not to miss. Let us take care of the work and hassle of planning every detail of the trip, so you can fully enjoy your cycling experience.

This year we will spend 7 nights and 8 days, from July 6-13, 2009, taking in 5 stages of the Tour. We will start with the TT in beautiful Montpellier we will follow the race through the Pyrenees, culminating with the legendary giants the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet. We will enjoy 6 days of riding some of the most beautiful roads France has to offer, sampling delicious food and wine and staying in 3-4 star hotels.

With a maximum group size of 15 people, we offer a personal and intimate experience tailored to your interests and ability level. Our team is made up of wonderful personalities who are caring, fun, and easy going. All of us here at Two Wheels Good Tours know how important it is to pick good travelling partners. Who you travel with is as important as where you go and what you do, and we never forget that.

Tour de France 2009
Montpellier - Pyrenees Trip 2009

Here's what we put together for you.

Trip Details
Duration: 8 days/7 nights
Dates: Monday, July 6 - Monday, July 13, 2009
Start: Montpellier Finish: Lourdes-Toulouse
Accommodations: Selected 3 & 4 start hotels
Group size: Maximum 15 (3 staff)
Cost: 1350 euros
Deposit: 200 euros

Tour stages you will see
- Tuesday, July 7: stage 4, Montpellier (TT): 38km
- Wednesday, July 8: stage 5, le Cap d'Adge - Perpignan: 197km
- Friday, July 10: stage 7, Barcelona - Andorra Arcalis: 224km
- Saturday, July 11: stage 8, Andorra-la-Vieille - Saint-Girons: 176km
- Sunday, July 12: stage 9, Saint-Gaudens - Tarbes: 160km

Tour cost is 1350 euros per person (twin share) and includes the following:
- Transportation for you and your bike
- Services of 3 experienced cyclists and guides (fluent in French and English)
- Transfer on July 6 from Toulouse Airport to Béziers
- Transfer on July 13 from Luchon to Toulouse Airport
- 8 days/7 nights in the beautiful Midi-Pyrenees
- Excellent accommodation during the tour (twin share with private facilities)
- 3 nights in Béziers
- 2 nights in Andorra
- 2 nights in Luchon
- Buffet breakfast daily
- 3 dinners
- Mechanical assistance with your bike
- Seeing 5 stages of the Tour de France
- 6 days of riding
- Cycling jersey
- Tour map
- Cycling route map
- Snacks, water

Not included: Flight to Toulouse, Hotel extras (phone, laundry, drinks)

Don't stay home and watch the Tour on TV...come ride with us!

We will also be adding another tour in May (details to come in a couple weeks). This tour won't focus on a race, but on an area, you will be based in the Aveyron(our region) and you will visit 3 other departments (the lot, tarn & tarn-et-garonne) as well. We'll have time for wine tasting, visiting beautiful villages, sightseeing and even relaxing by the pool.

You can keep up to date on our tours at Two Wheels Good Tours blog. If you or someone you know have always wanted to come to see the tour de france live (this year will be especially exciting with Lance's return) or if you have always wanted to have a biking holiday, but didn't know how to put it together, come ride with us, we'll do all the work for you. It will be a vacation you'll never forget.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Our best new year's day

New Years Day - 2009....a beautiful day in the Midi-Pyrenees.  We decided to go for a nice long ride in the Lot (the department just north of us).  All I can say is if you come to france to have to visit this area.  It was actually the most beautiful ride that we have ever taken.  Every turn was a new amazing view.  The valley we road in/around/above was so beautiful.  The limestone walls (we are x-climbers) were stunning.  We took the camera and took so many pictures, we just had to share them with you.

such a beautiful old house (not habitable)
here is the same house - with the waterfall next to it!

heading UP
a house with the river going through the bottom of it

just another chateau

this was amazing...notice the ancient building built into the rocks

the most beautiful valley (and a hard climb up to take this photo)

me heading up, again

the beautiful St. Cirq-Lapopie

if we move to france (for good), we need to live near amazing limestone

me too

this adorable little donkey that I just had to get a shot of