Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Days 22-25: South France

                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2019 Days 22-25: South France
Portugal, Spain & France: Days 22-25 Sunday-Wednesday, 17th-20th November - Toulouse & Lourdes
This is part of a cycling tour of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain) & part of France, covering Barcelona, ToulouseMonclar-de-Quercy, & Bordeaux:
Cycling Distance: N.A.     Level: N.A.
Time : N.A.
Time Taken : N.A.

This is page 19 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D21 Barcelona 3                |     Other Days   |          Go to D26 Barcelona 4 >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions & Cycling Lanes!
     On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.
     Monclar-de-Quercy is a quiet rustic commune about an hour from Toulouse, the streets have light traffic and a good place to cycle is around the around the lake/dam.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is a short ride around the lake at Monclar-de-Quercy, it is fairly flat and shady with beautiful views of the lake and also of the tourist railway that loops around there.

3. Weather
Day temperatures in Barcelona averaged 11°C. Morning & evening temperatures in Toulouse averaged 8°C & 9°C respectively. In Lourdes & Bordeaux, afternoon temperatures averaged 11°C.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather; and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed,  use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Travelling by Trains, Buses & Trams
    I traveled one way by inter-city bus from Barcelona to Toulouse. Initially I booked a ticket  from Flix Bus at €14.99 with an additional of €1.49 (for a total of €16.48) to book a firm seat.
    But as Flix policy on sports equipment regarding folding bikes was uncertain, I also booked a ticket from Oui Bus at €16.99, which includes for folding bicycles without additional charges. The only thing about Oui Bus is that one cannot book a firm seat and seats are only allocated an hour before departure.
    With concerns about stolen luggage at the bus terminal, I decided not to bring my bicycle along and used Flix Bus (Although there was a bicycle for me to use in France, I did regret not bringing my own bike - there's nothing like riding one's own bike).

5. Places of Interest
    Enroute at ToulouseLourdes, and Bordeaux were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time (Note: click on GPS coordinates for directional map to respective places):

     At Toulouse & Monclar-de-Quercy:-
  1. Fortifications romaines des Cluses (Roman fortifications of Cluses(GPS: 42.48207, 2.84076).
  2. Église Notre-Dame-des-Miracles (Notre-Dame-des-Miracles Church) on a hill at Avignonet-Lauragais (GPS: 43.36656, 1.78892).
  3. Cité de l'Espace (Space City(GPS: 43.58662 ,1.49335).
  4. Gare de Toulouse Matabiau (Toulouse Matabiau train station) (GPS: 43.61131, 1.45371).
  5. Église Notre-Dame du Taur (Church of Our Lady of the Bull) (GPS: 43.60559, 1.44281).
  6. Place du Capitole (Capitole de Toulouse, Capital Square) (GPS: 43.60438, 1.44337).
  7. Barges on the Garrone River (GPS: 43.66165, 1.40554).

     At Lourdes:-
  1. La Grotte de Lourdes (The Grotto of Lourdes, Grotto of Massabielle(GPS: 43.09758, -0.05870).
  2. Collecting & bathing in the Lourdes holy water within and the sanctuary church.
     At Bordeaux:-
  1. Centre Nucléaire de Production d'Electricité (EDF C.N.P.E) (Golfech Nuclear Power Plant) (GPS: 44.10673, 0.84507) near Golfech.
  2. Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas (Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge) (GPS: 44.85830, -0.55171).
  3. Eurasie Bordeaux, Asian supermarket (GPS: 44.87618, -0.55808).

6. Meals
Day 22:
a. Breakfast: Take away pastry from El Pa Bakery in Bonpreu Supermarket Eixample (GPS: 41.39971, 2.16791).
b. Morning Tea: French pastry at Brioche Dorée at Rompetrol-Arzens Nord (GPS: 43.21978, 2.21695).
c. Lunch: At Pizza Pino (GPS: 43.60520, 1.44697) in Toulouse - Avocet (avocado} Salad, Spaghetti Bolognese,  Chocolate Mousse.

Day 23:
a. Lunch: French pastry at Boulangerie Pâtisserie Dirasse (GPS: 43.10331, -0.04257). on the outskirts of Lourdes (note: at off-peak season, most of the food outlets were closed by 2pm for lunch).

Day 24:
a. Lunch: Wellman Restaurant & Bar in Radisson Bordeaux Hotel (GPS: 44.86461, -0.55865) which included Creme de lentil, Rôti de dinde (roast turkey), Rutabaga Gâteau Basque, & Caribbean Sandwich Burger.

Day 25:
a. Lunch: Bar Surreyes (GPS: 42.29518, 2.91227) (at Llers, just within the Spanish border) - Potato omelet with pork, Fried egg with Bacon, Sandwich with Spanish olives & Fuet (dried sausage).
b. Tea: Pastry, coffee and chocolate at El Fornet, Eixample (GPS: 41.39651, 2.16797) in Barcelona.
c. Dinner: Los 4 vientos (GPS: 41.39819, 2.16873) -  Fideuá de Marisco (Valencia seafood noodles), Paella Arroz Negro (Black Squid Ink Paella rice), Chorizo Sausage Tapas, Mussel Tapas Anchovies Tapas, Olives, Beer and Red Sangria.

Other meals were complimentary at the Logis Hostellerie des Lacs, and dishes include: Beef rendangGyoza
sambal, Roti Canai & Roti Canai Telur,  Chicken Curry KapitanFiore grasChinese Baozi with Kaya (cocounut-egg jam), Confit de Canard (Duck Confit), MacaroonsEscargot, foie grasand bottles of excellent French wine.

7. Accommodations
a. Days 22-24: Three nights complimentary stay at Logis Hostellerie des Lacs (GPS: 43.96626, 1.58658) in Monclar-de-Quercy.
    Address: 12 Avenue du Lac, 82230 Monclar-de-Quercy, France.
    Phone: +33-563264264
b. Day 25One night aPrimavera Hostel (GPS: 37.17224, -3.59256) located in the L' Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona which we had pre-booked through; bed in 4-bedder dorms (at about € 20.84 per bed per night). Do pre-book earlier as this hostel is a favorite.
    Address: Carrer de Mallorca, 330, 08037 Barcelona, Spain.
    Phone: +34-931752151

8. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

9. Communicating with Locals
    In Spain, except in rural areas, many young locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants. In Barcelona, it would be good to pick up some Catalan as it will warm one up to the locals as most of them speak this instead of Spanish.
    In France, although some locals may speak English, it would be good to learn some basic French as the locals warm up more to people who speak their language.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

10. Navigation
     Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty.
    Kevin was using a Beeline navigation unit that synchronized with pre-planned routes on his phone app. Sin & me were using the Garmin GPS units and had pre-plotted our daily routes into respective GPX maps usable in these units. We had pre-loaded the PortugalSpain & France Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. Do ZOOM out to look for turning points further ahead; and ZOOM in at complicated junctions, otherwise one may make a wrong turn (it did happen to us sometimes).
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. In Spain, Google Maps does work in Cycling Mode.

11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


The previous day, was a non-cycling day with us taking the Barcelona Metro to visit several flea markets and also Park Güell. These next few days will also be non-cycling days (except for a very short stint at Monclar-de-Quercy). But I am looking forward to it as I will be crossing over to France to stay a few days with my sister Kheng and her husband Phil. Later, we made day trips by car to Lourdes & Bordeaux, and visited some sites there including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.


Cycling Distance: N.A.     Level: N.A.
 These are a few non-cycling days except for a short stint at Monclar-de-Quercy. Travel was by inter-city bus from Barcelona to Toulouse and later by car to Monclar-de-QuercyLourdes., and Bordeaux.
(Zoom in to see the cycling route at Monclar-de-Quercy).


8:00 am - Arriving at Barcelona Nord, after checking on my Flix Bus, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Sin & gang (they had parted ways with us at Granada a few days earlier) and had just arrived at Barcelona via a overnight bus from Valencia (see Sin's blog), so one must excuse them for looking tired & sleepy.

En-route, just as we left Barcelona, a nice silhouette of trees, heralding interesting days to come. Our driver Chauyah, was a Spaniard, although he did not speak much English, he did try his best to be helpful.

 At the Spain-France border, on one side, sitting on a low hill, was a monument which although called the Ancien Duanes landmark, looked rather new. Couldn't find much info about it on the net though, so I am wondering what it stands for.
On the other side, looking very tall were the Pyrenees, the mountain range that divides the two countries. For the most part, the main crest forms a divide between Spain & of France, with the microstate of Andorra sandwiched in between. I was hoping to be able to visit Andorra, however it seems that a cold front had made roads leading up icy, and the car which I were to travel in later was not fitted with snow tires. The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. Andorra is the 16th-smallest country in the world by land, the smallest being the Vatican City.

10:55 - Near Le Perhtus our bus was directed into a lay-by by French Immigration where an officer boarded to check our passports. Although the European Union is supposed to be border-less, often there are these checks for security purposes.
Further along was a another interesting thing, a fleet of cars, with yellow vest hanging from their wing mirrors, suddenly swung in front of us and slowed down to a crawl forcing us to slow down too. These are the Yellow Vest protesters: "This is a movement that spans the French political spectrum. According to one poll, few of those protesting had voted for Macron in the 2017 French presidential election, and many had either not voted, or had voted for far-right or far-left candidates. Rising fuel prices initially sparked the demonstrations. Yellow high-visibility vests, which French law required all drivers to have in their vehicles and to wear during emergencies, were chosen as "a unifying thread and call to arms" because of their convenience, visibility, ubiquity, and association with working-class industries."
They did not let us pass, but after fifteen minutes with a toot from the bus horn, they gave way and let us pass. I think their intention was not to delay us much, just enough for us to notice them to make their point.

After that our journey went along smoothly and I laid back to enjoy the ride and observe the scenery:
-  Inland along the hills around Rivesaltes, wind farms with their giant turbines reminded me of my cycling trips in Holland where we say many of these.
- Nearing the coast, at Port Leucate, the scenery changed from white snow-capped mountains to blue coastal ports.

1:00pm - At Arzens, the bus swung into the Boulangerie Pâtisserie Dirasse, where we had a short break for lunch. Since we were into France, I pampered myself with some French pastry and was happily not disappointed.
More change of sceneries after this as we passed by:
The fortified city Cité de Carcassonne, with its medieval buildings medieval citadel and buildings sitting atop a hill on the right bank of the River Aude, located in Carcassonne. 
- and as we neared Toulouse, the Cité de l'Espace (Space City), scientific discovery centre focused on spaceflightwith it's futuristic display of full-scale models of the Ariane 5 rocket, Mir, and Soyuz modules. There is also a 140-seats planetarium that presents shows throughout the day.

2:30pm - Arriving at the Toulouse main bus terminal, I was met by my niece Anna and we took a short walk towards the city old town center, passing by lovely rustic scenes of boats on the 
Canal du Midi, which looked like it had jumped out from on of the Masters paintings. It's no wonder that the Canal du Midi is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Then, a walk on a postcard like photo as we headed for the Place du Capitole (Capital Square), Toulouse old town square.

It's here in Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France that I witness the French Arcdhitecture. En-route to the was the grand-looking Gare de Toulouse Matabiau (Toulouse Matabiau train station, bottom photo above) which was built in the early 20th Century. At the Place du Capitole, the largest building was the stately Toulouse Town Hall (top photo above).

We met up with my sister Kheng & hubby Phil at the Pizza Pino for a late luch. After sentimental hugs, we sat down for lunch which included - Avocet (avocado} Salad, Spaghetti Bolognese,  Chocolate Mousse, etc.

After lunch, we did a short tour of the old city centre viewing more of ye olde buildings before taking a one hour's drive to Monclar-de-Quercy where Kheng stays.

Japanese Gyoza and super yummy Beef Rendang.
Monclar-de-Quercy is a small commune with a quiet rustic atmosphere and lots of greenery around. The warm locals were quick to give smiles to visitors and I felt very welcomed and very at home staying at the Logis Hostellerie des Lacs, a small hotel that Phil and Kheng runs.
Later in the evening, Kheng spoilt me with her good cooking of nice Asian food. Although for the past weeks we had been enjoying good Portuguese and Spanish food, and did not really miss Malaysian food, her authentic cooking brought about a bit of home-sickness and had me salivating, especially her beef rendang that went very well with her roti canai.

After dinner we adjourned to a quite corner to slowly chat over glasses of la Goudale Ambrée, from the Goudale brewery. This is French beer which is an amber-bodied Bière de Garde with a fine white head, and a rich malty, fruity bouquet full of caramel and plummy notes.

À votre santé!
(That's Cheers! in French)

(For more photos of the Day 22, Click Here)


Good Mornining!
The next day, I woke up to a beautiful and serene view seen from the hotel. After a few hectic weeks, this calmness was most welcomed as I lazily pushed myself to get up from being snugged in the cozy, warm bed.

After a quick cup of coffee and some croissants it was time to ride.
There were several bikes available but the most suitable was a racer with the seat position set a tad tall for me: my feet could just reach the pedals and every time I stopped, I had to hop off. But my itchy cycling feet were not complaining, and off I rode for a quick ride!
MC is a small rustic commune, the roads a very quiet and surrounded by lots of greenery. And as I rode off, ahead I was surprised to find a railway station!  It's the Monclar-de-Quercy tourist train, but the tracks looks overgrown, perhaps in late autumn and winter it's closed. The small, quaint station did make a good backdrop for photos though.

So were the old green locomotive and carriage coaches!

Soon I reached a road that looped round the Monclar-de-Quercy Lake. At one far end of the, I stopped to take a mood photo, one of a serene lake with trees slowly turning autumn brown and a blue sky with squawking birds. It's this rustic, quiet atmosphere that attracts tourists from the surrounding busy towns to come here and relax.

More photos of the railway:
- a signpost indicating that London was about 110km away.
- tracks running through the light forest.

At the southern end was a dam; an outlet drains into streams which would eventually lead to the Tarn River that connects to the Garonne River and ultimately discharging into the North Atlantic Ocean at Gironde Estuary in Boudeaux.
The dam was the highest point of my short ride and from there I zoomed down and headed back.

Breakkie was a simple but mouth-watering Roti Canai served with sambal and Chicken Curry Kapitan.
Oooooo.... la LA! Yummy, and my sister was sure making me home-sick for Malaysian food!
Tummy happy, cycling legs happy, it was time to make a road trip.

Two & a half hours and 250 km. away later we arrived at Lourdes. It's a pilgrimage of sorts for me to visit the sacred church here called Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. Many relatives and friends have visited this sacred place and brought back with them the Lourdes holy water with it's miraculous healing power. And I hoped to do the same.
Although it was late autumn, cold and off-peak and the town was surprisingly more quiet than expected. Parking a short distance away from the church, we walled in crossing a peaceful looking Ousse River with its turquoise water and medieval looking houses sitting on the slopes of the hills in the background.
On one wall of a house was a large poster of the young Bernadette Soubirous. From 11th February to 25th March 1858, she and some friends experienced a total of thirteen Marian apparitions at the La Grotte de Lourdes. "On 25 February she explained that the vision had told her "to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there," as an act of penance. To everyone's surprise, the next day the grotto was no longer muddy but clear water flowed".

Some buildings we saw along the short to the church, clockwise from top-left: Lourdes town hall, castle, two views of the Hôtel Saint Etienne.

Crossing a bridge we entered the church via the Esplanade, this is a large compound with the a good introductory view of the church which sits on another compound higher up.

Fronting this lower level is a couple of shrines, from their artwork, they look relatively new. There are a couple of ways to get to the top level, either via flights of stairs on both sides of these shrines OR via a sloping road accessible from the archways on the right.

Inside, view of the altar and the dome ceiling above the aisle of the nave

On each side of the nave are shrines, one is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, while the other is dedicate to St,. Bernadette of Lourdes, the canonized Bernadette Soubirous. Here I lit candles and said prayers for friends who need healing, and prayers of thanks for having kept other friends and relatives in good health. 

Exiting & taking a short walk to the right we visited the Grotto of Massabielle. It is in this cave that, in 1858, Bernadette Soubirous. said to have seen 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary. And here is the spring source of the Lourdes holy water which since has been considered miraculous by believers. Daily short mass are said several times a day at the Grotto, we attended one of these mass and after that went into the Grotto to view the holy spring which is now covered by a piece of glass.

The masses at the Grotto are recorded and posted on YouTube, here's a YouTube video on our attendance for that day - we (in red & blue at the right) can be seen at Minute 21:00 and at Minute 35:17, bowing to the priest.
Visiting during this colder off-peak period does have it's perks. In the church we went into a room where we lined up, prayed and attending nuns poured Lourdes water over our head to bless us, for most this was an adequate alternative to bathing in Lourdes water. According to Phil, I am most fortunate - during summer peak visiting months, one would have to queue at least an hour for this.

Nearby are taps where one can collect the Lourdes holy water. I filled the three statues which I had bought earlier with this holy water to take back home for some friends.
These plastic statues can be bought at the many nearby shops in the town.

View of the church from the top compound, and view of the town from there too.
The large golden crown and cross that sits on the far end of the top compound was donated by the people of Ireland in 1924.

A closer view of the Golden Crown & Cross.

3:30pm - At the Boulangerie Pâtisserie Dirasse, on the outskirts of town we finally had our late lunch. The food okay, but it was the lovely desserts that won me over, they were French pastry at their best (to me anyway).

A pleasant view of autumn shades on our way back; it had been a long 500 km. journey but it was a worthwhile trip as it fulfilled a pilgrimage -  it was something I had wanted to do for a long time and have done now. Prayed for the healing and recovery of friends, and gave thanks for all in good health..

Back at the hotel, I was treated to another round of good food that included foie grasMacaroons ,,,,,

..... and a beautifully done Confit de Canard (Duck Confit), accompanied by Château Moulin de Gauriac (Côtes de Bourg), an excellent French wine.

bon appétit!

(For more photos of the Day 23, Click Here)


After a nice, hearty breakfast, we leave quiet Monclar-de-Quercy and head out on another 500 km. road trip to Bordeaux. This time, unlike Lourdes, it will not be a pilgrimage for me; but for Kheng & Phil it will be a sort of regular "pilgrimage"; to see their son Mev who is interning at a hotel there. And unlike Lourdes which still retain it's old and slow charm; 
Bordeaux being the fifth largest city in France, is a busy metropolis.

Just out of Monclar-de-Quercy, at a quick refuel stop, I noticed this sigh which seems to be selling "PAIN" 24-hours daily. Damn! (pardon my French) Are the French masochists, wanting so much pain?
No, there are not; it's my limited French language that's causing my misunderstanding - see, "PAIN" is French for "BREAD"...... Oops!
My short trip here has become rather educational and interesting, en-route we passed a town called Moissac. Is this the place where the mosaic art started? And further along is the town Semens, sounds a bit kinky - perhaps this is where the French Cap originated? Yes, French Caps are condoms which hold the semen in; which bring us to the point that there is a town called Condom in France. Ok... ok... I better stop this naughty allusions or risk being hit on the head with a long French Loaf!

As we headed away from the agricultural commune, slowly the views of the bare autumn grape vines to wheat fields with a large plume of white smoke coming out from a industrial chimney somewhere ahead. The white smoke is not from a factory, and actually it was not smoke but steam coming out from the cooling towers of the Golfech Nuclear Power Plant.

Around Bordeaux saw these attractions (clockwise from top-left):
1. Place Des Quinconces Bordeaux,
3. Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas (Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge) - vertical-lift bridge over the Garonne in BordeauxFrance. Inaugurated on 16 March 2013 and with a main span of is 110 m (361 ft), it is the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe. It is named in honor of Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a former Prime Minister of France and a former mayor of Bordeaux.
4. Grand Arena Bordeaux - multi-purpose indoor arena in Floirac, near Bordeaux in France. Opened in January 2018, it offers a capacity for all types of shows and events from 2,500 to 11,300. The arena is mainly used for concerts and sporting events.

1:00pm - We dropped by the Radisson Bordeaux Hotel to visit Mev.... actually we had lunch at 
Wellman Restaurant & Bar, the hotel's restaurant where he was interning. Part of his duties is as a waiter there, fortunately he was serving at another section and did not have to serve us; would be rather odd as was we were here to visit him and not for him to serve us 😂!

The hotel overlooks a double inlet of water which is adjacent to the Garonne River, small boats and large river cruisers could be seen moored at it's piers, all seems so serene and peaceful. But these inlets were once a Submarine Pen known as BETASOM used by the Italian Navy during World War 2From this base, Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic from 1940 to 1943 as part of the Axis anti-shipping campaign against the Allies.

From the hotel it was over to the Eurasie Bordeaux to do some shopping; this place sells a good range of Asian foodstuff. This is where Kheng will replenish her hotel larder, she often cooks Asian to provide a change of cuisine for the hotel patrons, which I think they will find authentic.

It's a fairly large supermarket and it's shelves were lined with packs of rice and rice flour, rows of different types of chilli sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and other Asian condiments.

Well, it's time to say goodbye to Bordeaux, but the city still had one last thing to show this AhPek. As we were driving away on a road running along the Garonne River, I could see houses on stilts, sitting right on the banks and overhanging onto the water, sort of reminds me of the houses at Pulau Ketam. They don't seem to be large luxurious houses, in fact they looked rather Spartan. These are Carrelets, the fishing huts on the Gironde estuary.

Back in Monclar-de-Quercy, another small feast awaited me; this time a Western meal that included yummilicious roast beef and Escargot coupled with a good Domaine Martinelli Crozes-Hermitage 2017 wine - 
A full bodied red wine with flavors of orange and cherry that pairs well with mushrooms or meat.

(For more photos of the Day 24, Click Here)


It's my last day in France, the last day in Monclar-de-Quercy, and the last day being pampered with good food and wine by Kheng and Phil.
After another good breakfast we will head out on a drive back to Barcelona. After that hearty meal, I admired this painting of a fortress city. There are many such cities, most are remnants from Medieval days and are still occupied. Most are situated up on a hill with a defensive wall protecting them.

Enroute, we did pass by one such city, Cité de Carcassonne (Cité Médiévale De Carcassonne). It looked very impressive sitting up on a low hill with its tall castle walls an sharp turret roofs. Founded during the Gallo-Roman period, the citadel derives its reputation from its 3 kilometres long double surrounding walls interspersed by 52 towers. The town has about 2,500 years of history and has been occupied in different ages by RomansVisigoths, and Crusaders.

Just into Spain and at the first opportunity, Phil made a right turn to get off the highway and swung into Llers. It's a very small town, just across the border, and here we stopped for lunch at Bar Surreyes. I guess they must have missed Spanish food which is also much cheaper on this side of the border. Our meal here included olives, which oddly is not so common in France; and also Fuet - a Catalan thin, dry-cured, sausage of pork in a pork gut. It was eaten raw and was flavored with black pepper and garlic, and sometimes aniseed, but unlike Chorizo contains no paprika.

Back in Barcelona, after a light meal of Pastry, coffee and chocolate at El Fornet, instead of staying a night, Phil decided to drive back to Monclar-de-Quercy. The round trip journey would mean that he had driven 1,200 km.! What can I say, he loves to drive!
At the hostel, I met up with my buddies (Fenn, Jo & Sin) - here's Fenn play-acting that she's sad.... why? Well tomorrow will be the last day of our three-week tour and we will be flying back home.

After that long journey, I was most glad that my buddies decided not to ride out and instead have our dinner at Los 4 vientos, located at the ground floor of our hostel.
 Although a small place, we did have a fine meal that included included Fideuá de Marisco (Valencia seafood noodles), Paella Arroz Negro (Black Squid Ink Paella rice), Chorizo Sausage Tapas, Mussel Tapas, Anchovies Tapas, Olives, Beer and Red Sangria.

Bona nit i agradables somnis!
(That's "Good night and pleasant dreams!" in Catalan)

(For more photos of the Day 25, Click Here)
This is page 19 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D21 Barcelona 3                |     Other Days   |          Go to D26 Barcelona 4 >

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