09/21/22 – Border~line

I wanted to do this trip since last summer. The planning got underway during the winter but when I realized my Brompton would remain stuck in Saudi Arabia I thought this trip would have to be postponed. Luckily, Julie’s Brompton is here and although it isn’t a perfect fit for me I gradually began using it: at first, just for short rides but before long I went on a couple multi day trips to Cognac and then Champagne. Following that I became confident the bike would survive a longer, more grueling trip and I would be comfortable enough to ride it for a few weeks.
That is how this trip, winding through several of the Most Beautiful Villages of France, stretching from the Italian border to the Spanish border connecting them in a jagged line, came to be.

Day one – Castelnau to Menton (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)
I got a plane ticket for the last flight of the seasonal route between Brive and Nice, which cut my travel time by 10 hours or €230 whichever way you want to look at this. From Nice airport I hopped on a train to Menton, just a dozen kilometers from Sainte-Agnes, the starting point of this cycling trip. Regrettably, even though the journey from home to Menton was short, the arrival time was late, so there was no sightseeing. I will have to do it tomorrow either before going to Sainte-Agnes or on the way from there to Cannes, squeezing more into an already busy day.

Today in numbers:

1.9 km — distance cycled, only to get from train station to camping
1 h 10 m — flight time
€80 — plane ticket cost

Day two – Sainte-Agnes to Cannes via Cote D’Azur
I got up very early to have time to do a quick overview of Menton. There aren’t many attractions but it’s a quaint little colorful Mediterranean town. From there I took a bus to Sainte-Agnés one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France and my starting point. I could have cycled there but the elevation was 850m asl and the distance about 10km, in other words – very steep. So, I chose to leave masochism for another day.
Upon arrival I left the bike at a cafe and went on foot to check the village and château’s ruin. Sainte-Agnés is a perfect spot to have a view of the whole Menton area. When I was ready to go down someone at the cafe asked me if I have good breaks. I definitely hoped so.
In about twenty minutes I was back on Menton’s seaside and then headed west.
First stop was Monaco I snapped a few pictures, made a couple of wrong turns and moved on (it wasn’t my first visit there).
Although the road was winding along the coast, it wasn’t an easy ride; because mountains, like in that song, fell into the see, so there was a lot of ups and downs.
After that there was a series of pretty coastal villages with beaches and many yachts, as well as with many luxury cars on the road.
Descending to Nice signaled beginning of a flat part of the road and dedicated cycling paths. I didn’t stop there, again not my first time there.
I continued towards Antibes which I wanted to see but by the time I got there I was tired and the ride took longer than expected so just crossed it over.
Passing through Cannes brought back nice memories: it was here we finished wee-long celebration of my 50th birthday.
My campsite was a few kilometers past Cannes city center. I got there, pitched the tent and went for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea to cool off.
It was intense but good day. Tomorrow I will move inland.

Today in numbers:

91 km — distance cycled
1886 — year the term masochism was coined by Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing
75th — annual Cannes Film Festival was held earlier this year

Day three – Cannes to Callas via Fayence and Seillans
Today I went inland. I opted for a quieter, safer and as a result more challenging route. Although the Alps are behind there’s still plenty of hills around. The first thirty kilometers were grueling; by the time I got at the foothill of Fayence I was quite tired. Still, I went all the way up to the village, albeit on foot pushing my Brompton. I had no particular reason to go there but it’s a pretty village, I was nearby and the only other village I was going to visit today was Seillans.
From Fayence to Seillans I cycled on a former railroad track. In fact, getting to Seillans was quick and painless.
Yes, it is on the list of those villages (the most blah-blah) and it really is. The streets are pedestrian only, not by law but because they are so narrow and winding.
Max Ernst, famous painter and poet, spent several years of his life here and there’s a small museum with his works.
I passed a few other villages that aren’t on the list but look pretty from distance, all perched in the mountains, including Callas near which I found a camping for tonight.
Everyone takes their siesta seriously here and the grocery stores were closed when I passed them on my way to the campground. Not wanting to cycle anymore, I walked 8km once they reopened to stock up for tomorrow. Maybe I should have rested instead.

Today in numbers:

73 km — distance cycled
8.5 km — distance walked
12 — years Max Ernst lived and worked in Seillans

Day four – Callas to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
I was awakened by a very loud donkey bray, just a few minutes before my alarm went off. Once again I didn’t sleep much; hopefully I’ll get used to sleeping in a tent rather soon. Between the lack of sleep and cycling for the last couple of days, my legs felt very heavy right off the bat today. The distance was quite tame by my standards but there were long uphill climbs. Halfway through, when I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, miraculously at that very moment the long descent to Lake Verdun began. I was saved. I stopped at the lake for a quick rest. Because of the drought the water level was much lower than usual. The river that feeds it looked more like trickle. There were a couple of campings at the lake but they were 10-12 kilometers from the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie where I was heading. As much as I wanted to take advantage of resting on the lake I continued further. I found a camping next to village, pitched the tent to get it out of the way and went to visit the village on foot.
The village is known for its faïence; it was a case in olden times and nowadays the fire is rekindled. One would think that the village of Fayence, which I visited yesterday, should be known for it but no, it’s Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. They even have a Museum of Faïence.
I climbed all the way up to the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir that is perched above the village, did a pilgrimage so to speak. I walked around aimlessly and after a quick dinner I went back down to the campsite. I liked the village but there was a lot of tourists and I really wanted to rest

Today in numbers:

66 km — distance cycled
852 m — altitude I climbed on the bike today
5th — century A.D., when the village was funded by monks
1873 — last faïence oven was put out, before the tradition was renewed in the twentieth century

Day five – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Cucuran via La Tour-d’Aigues and Ansouis
It was the easiest and less saturated day until it got more complicated. The route was mostly downhill and there was only one village to visit. Although I ended up visiting three, it was by coincidence instead of planing.
I covered eighty kilometers in just over four hours. I arrived at the campsite around 1pm but the reception was closed (siesta again) and nobody answered the phone. Because there was a relatively big town nearby I decided to go there meanwhile to buy an adapter for camping electricity and some food. The town happened to be further than expected and I could not find the adapter I was looking for. When I return to the camping I was shown where I could pitch the tent: it was gravel and the ground was too hard to put the stakes in so I opted to go elsewhere. The other camping was close by, I don’t know how I overlooked it while researching. So, finally around 4pm I pitched the tent, had a shower and ate something.
Now for the villages I visited: Ansouis, one on the list of the Most Beautiful Villages of France and my original destination, La Tour-d’Aigues which was on the way and Cucuron, the one closest to the camping I ended up staying at. All three of them are pretty with a château, church, narrow streets, small cafes and stores. Not all villages in France are pretty but many of them are, particularly in the south. Tomorrow I will see more of those. It may get to a point when I will have enough of them but not yet.

Today in numbers:

105 km — distance cycled
168 — villages enlisted in The Most Beautiful Villages of France association
1002 — first written mention about La Tour-d’Aigues

Day six – Cucuron to Robion via Gordes, Lourmarin, Ménerbes, and Roussillon (Provence)
Last night was one to remember: around midnight there was a two-hour light show that culminated with an hourlong rainstorm. The ground was hard, so I couldn’t get the tent’s stakes deep enough. As a result, when the storm and wind came through, a couple of the stakes dislodged themselves causing the vestibule to collapse and water to get inside the tent. My shoes that were in the vestibule were completely soaked and everything inside was “moisturized”. The bike with the saddle bag was outside, so it got a thorough wash. Packing and getting into wet clothes wasn’t pleasant at all this morning.
Today I passed through four villages on my list and each time I had to go uphill for a few kilometers to reach them. Luckily, the overall distance wasn’t too long; I even managed to go to a further campsite to cut on tomorrow’s mileage.
When I arrived to Lourmarin, the fog descended on the village, causing me to leave even quicker than I would normally do (not that I spent a lot of time in the villages I visited, they are quite small). I liked Ménerbes, not so much Roussillon. It was busy; I preferred it when I was there off season ten years ago. Although I got within a few hundred meters from Gordes I didn’t go inside: I had already been there, the view from the opposite side of the ravine is gorgeous, and I didn’t want to drag my Brompton through the village’s narrow streets.
There was a small village I passed today that was, in my opinion, as nice as the other four but wasn’t part of the list. The name was Bonnieux.

Today in numbers:

82 km — distance cycled
4 — listed villages visited in one day, a record I doubt I will be able to beat

Day seven – Robion to Arles via Les Baux-de-Provence
I may say it was a relaxing day. The distance was reasonably short. No major uphill battles. Visit to Les Baux-de-Provence was short and sweet. Arrived in Arles at noon, had a lunch with friend who happened to be in the area. Visited an art gallery. Wandered around the town. They had a bull run before tomorrow’s bullfighting but I somehow missed it. The day felt like a vacation. Tomorrow should be similar, at least I hope so.

Today in numbers:

59 km — distance cycled
300+ — painting was produced by Van Gogh during his stay in Arles
1,5 — million visitors assail Les Baux-de-Provence annually

Day eight – Arles to La Grande-Motte via Camargue (Wetlands)
Easiest day. Breathe in – Arles, breathe out – La Grand Motte, or almost like that. The road was as flat as it could be, there was no sightseeing on the way (I missed a bull run again by just 15min, this time in Le Grau-du-Roi). I Initially thought to go a bit further to cut on tomorrow’s ride (I will have to ride up) but upon consideration I decided to stay La Motte and take advantage of a full day at the beach. I will worry about uphills tomorrow. Sea+Sun=Paradise!

Today in numbers:

66 km — distance cycled
150 000 ha — are occupied by Camargue, an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Day nine – La Grande-Motte to Le Pouget via Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert
After I skirted the sea shore I headed inland once again. Today’s point of interest was Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, a village on one of the routes of Santiago de Compostella. On the way I passed through Montpellier, where I could meet up with a few of my Cirque colleagues but owning to my forgetfulness I failed to notify them that I’d be passing through, so it never happened. Past Montpellier the road was steadily going up but nothing too outrageous. I arrived in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert around noon, went through seemingly the only street it has but which in turn had numerous shops, did a very short hike over the village, and that was it for the visit. Then I returned to the Devil’s Bridge that I passed going to the village. Almost under it there’s a small beach on the Hérault River where, as a bonus, I enjoyed refreshing swims and a bright sun for a couple of hours before heading to my overnight stay.

Today in numbers:

83 km — distance cycled
245 — habitants in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert
11th — century the Devil’s Bridge was constructed

Day ten – Le Pouget to Prémian via Olargues (Haut Languedoc)
Yesterday I was unexpectedly invited to spend the night at my friends house in the small village of Le Pouget. As a solo, slightly introverted traveler it’s nice to interact with other people from time to time. This trip isn’t long and I had been cycling for only ten days but it felt good to have a conversation over a shared meal. Catching up on sleep in a real bed felt good as well.
Today there was only one village I wanted to see: Olargues, situated in the valley of the Jaur River in Haut Languedoc. To get to the valley I had to get over the mountain range, not very high but nonetheless it offered quite a few climbs. Halfway through I was done with it and the rest of the route was easy enough. There was a cycling path along a big chunk of the route but it wasn’t paved, so I stuck to the regular road: I am pretty comfortable riding in traffic, moreover the traffic wasn’t all that heavy.
When I arrived at Olargues the skies were grey and so was the village. As I already did on several occasions, I climbed to the top of the village but in this case I could not see much of it. I got the best view of the village when I was leaving, on the other side of it.
It’s harvest time for grapes but I have yet to witness it: today and during the whole previous week I passed many vineyards where grapes were either already collected or not collected yet but haven’t seen the actual process in motion. Maybe in the next few days.
When I got to my overnight spot, the village’s only small grocery store was closed – it’s Monday. Luckily, the village’s only cafe was opened, so I could have some food for dinner and thankfully the bakery will be open tomorrow at 6am. I won’t starve.
Today I got over the hump physically to get to the valley but I am also over the halfway mark of my trip by distance and by time. It’s all downhill from now, albeit figuratively speaking only.

Today in numbers:

73 km — distance cycled
8 — days left to cycle, if all goes well (fingers crossed)

Day eleven – Prémian to Castres
When I checked the weather forecast it predicted rain overnight and in the morning. Before I went to sleep, I quickly relocated my tent on the covered veranda: I really didn’t want to pack wet gear particularly while it’s still raining. When I got up the skies were dark grey and air was humid, there was no sign of rain. I am not complaining, though. I fetched a couple of croissants at the local bakery, had a breakfast if I can call those croissants breakfast, packed up and off I went, still no rain. Meteorology isn’t a precise science after all. I, on e again, chose the road’s asphalt over the greenway’s hard packed gravel, although traffic was much heavier than yesterday.
Today’s ride was one of the shortest and definitely the quickest – I made more than sixty kilometers in less than three hours. Not because I am so fit but because there were long descents and for once wind blew hard in my favor. So, I arrived at Castres before 11am. I could have gone further, the aim was village of Lautrec but there ain’t no camping in fifteen kilometers radius. Hence, I chose Castres which is on the way rather than another campsite that was out of the way and past Lautrec. I practically had a day off. I may benefit from it as tomorrow going to be a longer and possibly harder day.

Today in numbers:

64 km — distance cycled
2 h 40 m — cycling time
1859 — Jean Jaurès, famous socialist leader, was born in Castres

Day twelve – Castres to Montricoux via Lautrec, Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Puycelsi, and Bruniquel
It was a long day. When I thought I left the mountains with the climbs behind me, I was faced with small but innumerable hills. There were barely any stretches of flat road – up and down, up and down. On top of everything I had four of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” to visit today. All of it resulted in a long ride that took a long time.
Lautrec was the first village on my way. Many of us are familiar with the name because of the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was also a character in the movie Moulin Rouge. He wasn’t born in Lautrec or in Toulouse for that matter but he held the title of Count of Toulouse-Lautrec. One of the attractions in Lautrec is a windmill or “moulin” in French but it isn’t red/rouge either.
After that there was a long stretch of just roads until the second stop, Castelnau-de-Montmiral, another pretty village almost deserted at this time of day (early afternoon) and this time of year (off season).
Soon after I had to ascend for three kilometers to get to the third village, Puycelsi, which became one of my favorite villages so far. The view from the approaching road is beautiful and the village itself is very well kept. I think it’s a first that I could cycle through the whole village, because when you reach the top it’s almost flat.
Not far from Puycelsi was my final destination of the day: Bruniquel with a château hanging off a cliff with a small village around. By the time I got there I had already cycled for ninety kilometers and I needed to go to a campsite that was another ten kilometers away, so I didn’t dwell there long but I liked it.
It’s the end of the season and campsites are starting to close their doors, which is why I had cycle further than expected. Hopefully tomorrow I won’t get greeted with the sign “We are closed “.

Today in numbers:

100 km — distance cycled
5084 — drawings and posters created by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec during his short lifetime, besides paintings and watercolors
1950s — saw almost complete abandonment of Puycelsi, it has obviously recovered well since

Day thirteen – Montricoux to Valence D’Agen via Auvillar
After yesterday’s marathon, today’s ride could be called leisurely: the distance, albeit respectable, was still shorter and the route was going along various rivers and canals (L’Aveyron, Le Tarn, La Garonne, Canal des Deux Mer, Canal Golfech), therefore practically flat. It was a relatively straight trajectory, from point a to point b – in fact it was the inverse: from B(runiquel) to A(uvillar) without any stops for sightseeing. The road was weaving amongst apple orchards on both sides. I allowed myself to take a couple of apples. It’s been years since I ate freshly harvested one. Hopefully I won’t get sick eating fruits off the tree.
When I arrived in Auvillar I was slightly taken aback as the village is in large part built out of bricks but after a few minutes there I thought it has its charm as well. I still prefer stone houses.
Tomorrow I will start going south towards Spain and the Pyrenees. I hope the climbing will not start too soon.

Today in numbers:

78 km — distance cycled
3500 — apple farms in France
7th — largest exporter of apples, France exports around half a million tons annually

Day fourteen – Valence D’Agen to Castéra-Verduzan via La Romieu
My wish didn’t materialize: as soon as I turned off La Garonne River there were ups and downs again. Some descents were so precipitous I couldn’t pedal out of it and had to push my Brompton back up a steep hill. The road was going through rural areas with a lot of fields but as most everything has already been harvested the paysage wasn’t all that attractive. Two thirds of the way I entered La Romieu, the smallest listed village I visited, it seemed. There’s one street that cuts the village in two an one that circumnavigates it. There’s a cathedral and cloister next to it, one cafe and a gift shop. I didn’t go inside the church or the cloister, I have seen enough religious monuments.
On this trip I crossed paths with many people walking the Compostela route, because by coincidence a few of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” are on this route, including La Romieu. Not many people do it for religious reasons, for some it’s time to ponder, for others it’s a sport.
Right out of La Romieu there was a stretch of rocky road close to a kilometer long, so once again I pushed my bike. After another hour of hill country I arrived to Castéra-Verduzan where, to my surprise, I found a thermal spa next to a casino. Go figure. Without hesitation I took advantage of the spa, it did me good. I skipped the casino, though.
La Romieu was the second to last on the list of villages I wanted to see. The last one will be my final destination for this trip but it is far from where I am now, so for the next few days I will slowly be approaching the Pyrénées and the village. I hope the road will be gentle on my legs, the landscapes will be enticing, and the villages along the way will be pretty, even if they aren’t part of the association.

Today in numbers:

76 km — distance cycled
3 — of “Most Beautiful Villages of France” visited on this trip are also on the Camino de Santiago or St. James Way

Day fifteen – Castéra-Verduzan to Rabastens-de-Bigorre via Mirande (Armagnac)
Last night was the first time I was cold while sleeping; I need to up my base layer as the weather is finally cooling off. As the distance wasn’t very long and there was no sightseeing planned, I started my day a bit later, even went to a bakery to have a croissant and a coffee before starting to pedal. After a few minutes of cycling I realized I forgot something at the camping – I had to do a U-turn, not a big deal but an extra five kilometers I would have preferred not to add.
Halfway through, with roller coaster hills torturing my legs, I turned onto a national road hoping it would be less demanding. Alas, the only difference was it was in a straight line, thus shorter. Once again on a few steep hills I had to push my Brompton uphill. I think I could have managed it physically but I guess my mental capacity to push myself harder and further is drained. Unfortunately, I still have three days going deeper in the Pyrenees. Hopefully having an ice cream today after cycling will help boost my toughness level and it will be easier tomorrow.
P.S. Yesterday and today I was cycling through the Armagnac region without visiting any of its distilleries. I did it on purpose because I am planning another cycling trip here next year.

Today in numbers:

69 km — distance cycled
70.1 km/h — my max speed today, on 10% downhill gradient

Day sixteen – Rabastens-de-Bigorre to Lourdes via Artagnan
Last night I didn’t get much sleep – the temperature dropped to just 6° C and even my merino wool base layer didn’t prevent me from getting uncomfortably cold. Luckily, I only have a couple of nights left.
I had to do a small detour to stop by this place but I couldn’t resist because it is linked to a popular literary personage that bears its name – Artagnan. Besides this connection, it was a rather unremarkable place.
From there I beelined to Lourdes, using D(epartmental) and N(ational) roads to cut the mileage. To my big surprise there were no hills on the way. I arrived at the piedmont of the Pyrenees that are stand high above Lourdes. I was relieved – one less day battling gravity.
Now, Lourdes. How to describe it? Short, it is akin to Disneyland but religious. The main cathedral looks like a Disney castle, there are lines to get to various religiously significant places, statues along the Road of the Cross (which by the way I walked) illustrating Jesus ascension to Golgotha, religious boutiques and hotel upon hotel catering to pilgrims. It’s a big industry, religion.
Lourdes has a big fortress sitting on top of a rock from where you can see the whole city. There were daredevils walking on a slackline stretched for a few hundred meters from a church to the fortress over the streets thirty or so meters high. That made my day.
Tomorrow’s route should go more or less in parallel to the mountains. By no means I should take it for granted that it will be an easy day.

Today in numbers:

49 km — distance cycled
18 — times the Virgin Mary “appeared” to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 in Lourdes

Day seventeen – Lourdes to Oloron-Sainte-Marie (Béarn)
Although I was ready to cycle up and down the whole way, there weren’t many steep hills today. The road mostly hugged the mountains without really going into them. There was a long stretch of outright flat road. Of course, being so close to the mountains I got a small portion of uphills but I didn’t push my Brompton up even once. When I was in the hills the views of the Pyrenees were amazing. They were worth a few climbs I had to suffer though.
Oloron-Sainte-Marie wasn’t my intended pit stop but the camping where I wanted to stay shut its doors for the season… today of all days. So, I had to stop a dozen kilometers short of my planned destination. That means I will have to cycle a bit longer tomorrow.
Once again I crossed paths with pilgrims because here in Oloron-Sainte-Marie two routes to Santiago de Compostela converge, the Arles route and the Piémont route. I guess I’m bound to do Camino de Santiago. Maybe next year, on the Spanish side.

Today in numbers:

63 km — distance cycled
1925 — year a local baker invented a delicacy, a pastry called “Le Russe”; unfortunately it’s Monday and I wasn’t able to try it, maybe next time

Day eighteen – Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
The last couple of days I was thinking: “I am going towards the Pyrenees, it’s going to be a hard day” or “Although I will go parallel to the mountains, there will be those obnoxious little hills”. But the road was flat on the first day and there were a few hills on the second day but nothing to cry about. Today I thought that I would struggle because according to my map, I was going deeper into the mountains towards those dreaded never-ending climbs. And there were some: several small ones and one long steep climb of 5.3% gradient on average but at times up to 7.3%. That was it. My fears were overblown.
I arrived at Saint-Jean-Port-de-Pied – my final “Most Beautiful Village of France” on this trip – unharmed, in good spirits, not even particularly tired. I did the ritual of pitching the tent, checking out the village, going to its highest point – in this case it was the citadel. The village looks a bit different from the others: there are many white and red buildings. It is still encircled by the ramparts. There are many hostels and shops for the pilgrims. Here, most of the French routes of Camino de Compostela converge, becoming the one going into Spain.
For me, however, it’s the end of the trip. I did what I wanted to do. I am happy and a bit tired. Like everything else, “The Most Beautiful Villages of France” in big quantities were a little redundant… but still pretty. The end of this trip signals the end of cycling season for me. But… I have plans for next year, so stay tuned!

Today in numbers:

75 km — distance cycled
129 — mountains of 3000m or higher in the Pyrenees
3404 m — the height of Aneto mountain, the highest in the Pyrenees

Day nineteen – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Castelnau via Biarritz (Basque Country
I woke up too early again. While passing the time I looked at the map and realized that the Atlantic Ocean is a mere sixty kilometers away. Instead of waiting for a train here in Saint-Jean, I could catch a train in Biarritz. What a wonderful idea! I have never been to Biarritz. I started this trip at a seaside town in the Mediterranean, why not end it at another seaside town on the Atlantic side of France.
Said – and done. I packed up my gear for the final time and left before the sun came up. As with the past few mornings it was cold today as well but the anticipation of being on a beach in a couple of hours and sleeping in my own bed tonight warmed me from inside.
When the happy end was just an hour away – “Bam!” – I took my eyes off the road for a second and saw a fallen road sign too late. I swerved trying to avoid it, then slammed the breaks but couldn’t control the bike and like a seasoned stuntman I rolled over my head. I quickly got up, dragged my Brompton off the road and then I started to curse, because it was painful and what happened was stupid. In all seriousness, I got lucky: there weren’t cars immediately behind me… my Brompton could have easily been smashed or both of us. Just thirty seconds later the water bottle that fell from my bag was crushed by passing car. I got away with a scratched knee, frayed jacket and twisted ankle. While I was warmed up I was able to pedal, albeit with a discomfort. By the time I got to Biarritz my ankle was swollen but I was able to walk, that means it’s not broken. Phew!
I first heard the name Biarritz from classical Russian literature: in those books as well as in real life, the Russian aristocracy would come here for vacation. There is even a Russian church here. Like in many seaside towns the main attraction is the sea and if it happens that there’s something else to see – it’s a bonus. In the case of Biarritz those attractions are few and minor.
Soon I’ll board the train to return to the comfort of our home by midnight and tomorrow the life of a homeowner will resume but the memory of this trip will linger.
I could have called this trip “From Italy to Spain”, “Between two seas”, both equally suitable. However, as the excuse to do this trip was to see some of the prettiest villages I’ll stick with “The Most Beautiful Villages of France”.

Planned (purple) vs Done (blue)

The Most Beautiful Villages of France trip in numbers:

1341 km — distance cycled, including detours, u-turns, grocery runs, and sightseeing
12 362 m — elevation gain
18 — “the most beautiful villages” visited, maybe overkill for a single trip
€215 — total camping cost
1 — twisted ankle
0 — punctures