Yet another 6 hours going south on a train.

Bike bagging in 20 minutes

I woke up and rode to Barcelona Station in yet more heavy rain 🙁 stopping for an excellent breakfast at Granier where I ate last night.

I booked the €40.70  ticket to Valencia on last night it arrived as a pdf that they said needed printing out at the station ticket machine. However, the RENFE  lady by the machine said I was OK with the pdf and wonder of wonders the train would depart from Platform 11, leaving me oodles of time to dismantle the bike by the escalator. I now have it down to a fine art, so 20 minutes later it was beautifully encased in the nylon bag, with even the derailleur tied in. The train guys were suitably impressed even letting me first down to the platform.

Bike on a luggage shelf.

The train 1111 duly arrived and I was by the wrong door so a bit of a dash to find the pokey little luggage space was nearly full.  I just couldn’t get the bike to fit in until a kind passenger showed me how to lift up the top shelf thus allowing the bike to squash in vertically, the rack is only 50cm wide by 1.2metre high thank goodness I had taken care to strap the wheels and derailleur to the frame!

Whilst travelling along I noticed the coach on the screen showed it terminated in Alicante which looking at my map was only 80km away from Murcia, my ultimate goal. A look at the app showed I had 15 mins to cancel my hotel booking in Valencia at no charge, which I did 🙂 On I booked an additional ticket for Valencia to Alicante at only €16.40 and then booked a hotel in Alicante all done from my seat – modern technology is magic although the train less so, as it kept coming to juddering halts!  So just after  6 hours and 350 miles later I alighted in THE SUN at Alicante to reassemble the bike.

The Esplanade Hotel is a bit faded but OK especially for €42 a night although the shower is only 2-foot square which is very tight for me and my scrubbing techniques.

So that should be the end of the trains for a while. It’s been an illuminating experience but I don’t think I will be in a rush to repeat it! Easy to see why people flock to planes with there generous luggage allowances, cheap & very fast flight times.


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Back on the trains with my bike.

I woke up totally refreshed and the sheets hadn’t moved out of place all night. Today rain was scheduled and duly delivered 🙁

Ibis served an excellent buffet breakfast and I was soon on my way in the heavy rain to the main station just over 3 miles away according to my Strava. Once again the poor iPhone’s touchscreen struggled when covered in water, it always happens when I’m homing in on a destination, must get an umbrella for it!

I had left it to late to buy an online ticket so I at to pay the full €120 for the 3 hour trip to Barcelona (the online price one week ahead is €69 for comparison 🙁 )  one huge benefit though was that I could specify the lower deck so I didn’t have to struggle up the coach internal stairs.

Montpellier station is very pleasant built above the tracks with lots of eateries. Bike size lifts take you down to the platforms, once again you only get to know which of the 4 platforms it will use 15 minutes before it arrives, of course in Japan the platform is a given with clearly marked coach door numbered lines on the platform!

After my previous experience, I removed the pedals and released the mudguards before going down, leaving me 10 minutes to take the bags and wheels off and strap the wheels to the frame before dropping them into the nylon bag. Just made it when the train hoved into view, then a dash down the platform to the packed train.

Bike just fitting in luggae space on a TGV

The bike just fitted (1 metre in disassembled length) against the luggage rack halfway down the coach very neat and out of the way but blocking the folk’s suitcases in, fortunately, the seat was just in front so I could bob up and down at stations.

In Barcelona, I reassembled the bike on the platform so I could bike to Hostal One where I managed to convince the guy that my bike belonged in the bedroom not in the municipal car park down the road 🙂

Going out later I realised how much I love Spain with its shops that sell everything including plugs and adapters 🙂 plus great fruit shops.

Tomorrow it’s back on the train to Valencia, poor bike must be getting fed up being taken apart so frequently!


To Barcelona

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Biking from Avignon to Montpellier down the Rhone & Camargue

Lifeday: 25759 (70.525 yrs)
Date Sun 4 Feb 2018
Location: Lattes, Montpellier, France

A bit of a monster day especially with very limited food & drink (missing the ubiquitous 7Elevens of Asia)  plus going astray several times.

I left the hotel pretty late as I didn’t get to bed until after 1 am due to my late discovery that my home-brewed power cable to the 5 port USB charger still had the US flat pin plug that I fitted for Taiwan 🙁 so I ended up having to dismantle a converter plug to wrap the wires into its innards.

The planned route wanted me to go through a building so my diversion had me go around where folks just dump their rubbish and broken glass in the roadways 🙁 I wandered around the pretty historic centre for a while looking for food, alas nowhere open.

I then made the error of following the first river not realising I was in the confluence of two huge rivers, I eventually escaped over a bridge and discovered the Via Rhona cycle path a good track not tarmacked but OK, although a big worry is puncturing or breaking one of the fancy spokes. I went to Vallabregues and found a tiny supermarket open so I made do with a croissant and bottle of milk.

Flooded vines

Unfortunately, past Beaucaire I followed the cycle track signs and ended up going the wrong way down a dead end track through flooded vineyards 🙁  I went back and returned to the planned route on the Elemnt, but thank goodness I good navigate with the iPhone as the maps on the Elemnt are useless once you are off route.

In Arles all was deserted apart from old men drinking strong coffee & no bread shops open, making me remember just how awful biking in France on Sundays is 🙁 I spied an open bar in Gallician and ended up with a tin of peanuts and coke. It was then onto a gorgeous cycle path along the Canal du Rhone a Sete with great views fo the Camargue even the famed wild white horses.  The track continued to varying degrees all through the seaside towns such as La Grande Motte. In the summer these places must be so heaving as to render the pathways unusable but today was pretty quiet apart from rollerbladers and a few kids on bikes.

I at last found a bread shop open at La Levade and managed to devour some pies. Finding the Ibis Budget in Lattes proved hard as there are half a dozen hotels in a hodgepodge development but I made it just before dusk.  92 miles in just over 7 hours of riding through some very pretty villages a bit reminiscent of places on the Norfolk Broads with all the boats in town centres I found the Camargue a bit disappointing but maybe I didn’t find the truly wild spots.

The hotel is OK but I couldn’t face walking a mile to get some dinner so I stayed in with some M&Ms and hot choccy from the vending machine outside the room.

Tomorrow is the train to Barcelona, in the rain!

The days Strava:

Today’s photos on Flickr:


To Montpellier

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A day on the trains with my bike.

Lifeday: 25,758 (70.523yrs)
Date: Sat 3 Feb 2018
Location: Avignon, France

At Cambridge Station

I’ve been pondering where to go for my next bike trip now I’ve finally recovered from the dreaded lurgy.

My swimming pals keep going on about the excellence of European high-speed trains and also Tony has been saying how much he enjoyed Lisbon, plus I discovered a 200km Audax from Murcia which is around 10deg warmer than the UK. I also read a piece on a cycling tour from Grenada to Seville. So I thought a little tour cycling across Spain from Murcia to Lisbon, getting to Murcia by taking the bike south by train.

Richard kindly offered to get me a cut-price Eurostar/TGV ticket to Avignon via Lille so that’s where I’ve been today. The huge worry about European rail is carrying the bike! Whilst in Taiwan I bought an ultra lightweight nylon bike bag so I thought I should be OK.

I managed to get the prime cyclists seat, by the loo, from Cambridge to Kings Cross then a quick walk across the road to St. Pancras to find the Eurostar ticket machines, these worked incredibly well. Next stage was to check the bike in at Eurodispatch (nicely hidden behind Boots in the station). After the usual pitch of how it would have to go on another train, they eventually saw sense and said because it was an ‘old’ train it could carry 8 road bikes no bag required, the new trains have to be bagged up. After charging me £25 and signing bits of paper the bike was wheeled away 🙂

I had previously arranged to meet my friend Tony for lunch, very pleasurable too, but his remarks about Lisbon being expensive & very hilly I found a bit disconcerting.

The train left on time after the usual palava a la airports, except laptops can stay in their bags. The highest speed was 182mph but the channel crossing is only at about 90mph the ride is nowhere near as  smooth as the bullet trains with quite a bit of ear pressure in the tunnels and swaying at speed. However, excellent seat service food way better than in Japan 🙂

At Lille I helped the guy get the bike out of carriage 10 and he said that the TGV could carry bikes similarly, he was wrong! When the platform was finally announced at Lille (why don’t they know it in advance?) I dashed down with the intact bike to be told it had to be in a bag, so I pulled out my bag and with that I was bundled into the train whilst still trying to get the bike in! the space available for luggage is tiny even in First Class so it should really mean taking both wheels etc off.  I just took the front one off and propped the bike up against the end rack, the inspector didn’t moan although it was disconcerting when we arrived at Disneyland and the carriage filled up with folks and suitcases!

No service on the train as it was a double height carriage, it’s highest speed seemed to be 170mph and I managed to reassemble the bike before getting into Avignon so a quick exit. The F1 Hotel was quite close but I was pleased I had put the route on the Elemnt as I would never had found it. I have a room for disabled guests so quite large but no soap, towels or loo paper but then its only €35 a night.

After today I don’t really rate long distance rail travel in Europe especially if I was travelling with Sally, way simpler & probably cheaper at regular prices to put the bikes in a box and fly 🙂

Tomorrow it’s a ride alongside the Rhone and then across to Montpellier.

Today on Flickr:

On The Trains

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