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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Bonjour!

    Hello! I've been reading Bike Forums for months and have to say this is the most comprehensive, friendly, and knowledgable community I've ever encountered on the web.

    I'm a doctoral student studying medieval art and I'm going on a 6-month research trip to southern France next year. I'm going to cycle my way down one 11th-12th century pilgrimage route, ride into northern Spain, and then cycle back up another pilgrimage route, through wine country. I'm new to cycling (in any sort of serious way) and have been trying to add mileage to my daily ride in addition to taking nice long (for me) rides on the weekend. I've got a year to get my act together. My trusty steed is a brand spanking new Kona Dew Deluxe, stock at this point with a couple of additions. His name is Morpheus (after Neil Gaiman's Sandman) and I love him.

    Living in southern Indiana gives me plenty of opportunities to get out there and challenge myself as well as hone my climbing skills. I'm hoping to give the Hilly Hundred a shot this year. I'm looking forward to learning even more from everyone here!

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    Positio, ergo sum! Bécane's Avatar
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    Bienvenue!

    You know now that you will have to give an exact account of your trip to Europe. We will want to know everything. The roads you will take, the wines you will taste, ...

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    I'm trying to figure out a way to blog the entire trip without bringing my laptop. Even considered a BOB Yak trailer to haul all the wine!

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Bienvenue et bon chance! Est-ce-que vous parlez la langue Francais?
    ?Y hable Vd Espanol?
    While English will get you by in most parts of Europe it is still nice to know a few words, or more, in the local tongue so you are not viewed as the 'ugly American' who just speaks louder to be understood . . . in English, of course!
    Have ridden the Hilly Hundred course on a tandem tour several years ago. Suggestion: You'll encounter hills that are a lot worse in France and Spain than the Hilly Hundred area. So ride all the hills you can, and often!
    While in that part of the world, be sure to visit my hometown in Bruges (Brugge) Belgium . . . as medieval as it gets in both architecure and history.
    Keep a'pedalin' and enjoy your Euro sojourn!

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Bienvenue et bon chance! Est-ce-que vous parlez la langue Francais?
    ?Y hable Vd Espanol?
    Oui! Je parle un peu Francais, mais je le lis mieux que je le parle! (I'm working on that). No Spanish at all, but only planning to rest in Roncevaux before turning around and heading back. I'll try to pack a few Spanish niceties in my brain, though, to thank the monks for their hospitality.

    Have ridden the Hilly Hundred course on a tandem tour several years ago. Suggestion: You'll encounter hills that are a lot worse in France and Spain than the Hilly Hundred area. So ride all the hills you can, and often!
    Ugh. Deep inside, I know our hills are teeny in comparison, but my brain doesn't want to accept it. The Massif Centrale is going to be a killer. I envision myself having to walk the hill to Conques.

    While in that part of the world, be sure to visit my hometown in Bruges (Brugge) Belgium . . . as medieval as it gets in both architecure and history.
    Bruges is one of my favorite historical places and the Early Netherlandish painters are my favorites. What a wonderful hometown!

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    Senior Member arboc!'s Avatar
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    je parle francais aussi.
    JE SUIS LE JAMBON!

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtjumpP.1
    JE SUIS LE JAMBON!
    I used to be, but I got better!

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    Being a doctoral student in medeival art, you probably are well-versed in Latin and some Middle Age language like Middle French or Langue d'Oc or Chaucer's English. Sounds like a wonderful 6 months upcoming on the route de St. Jacques! Kinda makes me want to go back to school in some wonderful esoteric subject. Too bad they didn't have bikes back then. We will all want to know about your trip!

    Amuse-toi bien et bonne chance!

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    Being a doctoral student in medeival art, you probably are well-versed in Latin and some Middle Age language like Middle French or Langue d'Oc or Chaucer's English.
    You'd think so, but because of the period I study (9th-12th century), most everything is related to the church in some way and nearly all of it is in Latin. No wonderful Chaucer tales in middle English for me (although I've always wanted to have a go at Anglo-Saxon just to try and tackle Beowulf in its original language). Being an art historian, I get most of my text from the art itself-- in most cases, people weren't writing much about art during those centuries (although certain things are mentioned from time to time).
    Sounds like a wonderful 6 months upcoming on the route de St. Jacques! Kinda makes me want to go back to school in some wonderful esoteric subject. Too bad they didn't have bikes back then.
    This trip to France is a preliminary survey of architectual sculpture all along the routes I've chosen- it will form the core of my dissertation. I thought my perception of the sculpture would be different if I attempted to recreate the pilgrimage in some way besides renting a car and driving from place to place. Where's the fun in that? I think cycling is a happy compromise between walking and vehicle transportation. Wouldn't the Medievals have loved the bicycle? I wonder how history might have turned out differently if there had been bicycle messengers and commuters in the middle ages. As for the esoteric subject matter-- yeah, I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that there's not a whole lot I can do with this degree. Fortunately, I love to teach!

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    Positio, ergo sum! Bécane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velomedieval
    This trip to France is a preliminary survey of architectual sculpture all along the routes I've chosen
    What routes have you chosen, if I may ask?

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bécane
    What routes have you chosen, if I may ask?
    I'm going to start on the eastern chemin (this is the most rigorous of the four routes in France), running through the Auvergne region, beginning at Clermont Ferrand. I'll work my way down the chemin, through Conques and Moissac in the Midi-Pyrenees, heading southwest. When I get to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I'll cross over the Pyrenees and head to Roncevaux. I've always wanted to make a pilgrimage there for weird personal/medieval reasons. After a day or two in Roncevaux, I'll head back up the western pilgrimage route that leads from Tours down to the Pyrenees, swinging over to the east a couple times to hit a couple sites in Limousin and eastern Aquitaine. I'll end up in Poitiers (eventually) and will probably spend the longest time in the Poitou-Charentes region. Most days I will ride 30-40 miles, but on parts of the eastern route, I'm going to have to pull a few 60 mile days.

    Right now, I'm trying to plot exactly which churches I want to document and work out a reasonable itinerary. A lot of people do the chemins by bicycle and some have been good enough to put some very helpful information on the web. Have you traveled in these areas at all, Bécane?

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    Positio, ergo sum! Bécane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velomedieval
    I'm going to start on the eastern chemin (this is the most rigorous of the four routes in France), running through the Auvergne region, beginning at Clermont Ferrand. I'll work my way down the chemin, through Conques and Moissac in the Midi-Pyrenees, heading southwest. When I get to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I'll cross over the Pyrenees and head to Roncevaux. I've always wanted to make a pilgrimage there for weird personal/medieval reasons. After a day or two in Roncevaux, I'll head back up the western pilgrimage route that leads from Tours down to the Pyrenees, swinging over to the east a couple times to hit a couple sites in Limousin and eastern Aquitaine. I'll end up in Poitiers (eventually) and will probably spend the longest time in the Poitou-Charentes region. Most days I will ride 30-40 miles, but on parts of the eastern route, I'm going to have to pull a few 60 mile days.

    Right now, I'm trying to plot exactly which churches I want to document and work out a reasonable itinerary. A lot of people do the chemins by bicycle and some have been good enough to put some very helpful information on the web. Have you traveled in these areas at all, Bécane?
    Quel beau parcours! À Roncevaux vas-tu sonner du cor?

    Je n'ai pas vraiment visiter ces mêmes régions, j'ai plus fait la vallée de la Loire, le Poitevin et le Périgord-Gascogne ... et pas en vélo. Je n'ai jamais fait les Pyrénées non plus. J'y compte bien un jour. Cet été je vais faire la Provence et le Languedoc-Roussillon pendant 2 semaines (toujours pas en vélo ... because les enfants) et puis je vais passer 1 semaine à Royan.

    Petite suggestion: lorsque tu feras le trajet de Conques à Moissac prends le temps d'aller dans la région des gorges de l'Aveyron. C'est magnifique et la région est truffée de bastides. La bastide de Cordes-sur-Ciel dans le Tarn vaut le détour. Elle date de 1222 et ce n'est pas une bastide tel que l'on les décrit dans les livres (rectangulaire comme celle de Sarlat-la-Canéda). Celle de Cordes est bâtie sur un piton rocheux et est entourée de 6 ou 7 remparts!

    Une autre suggestion, si tu aimes les châteaux, celui de Angers (circa 1230) dans le Maine-et-Loire est très imposant. Un des rares châteaux de la vallée de la Loire qui n'a pas été détruit ou modifié lors de la Renaissance. Un vrai château médieval avec douves et machicoulis!

    Bonnes vacances!

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    J'aime bien que Becane a commence ecrire en francais. Comme ca tu commences apprendre le francais toute-suite. Mais fais attention a ce message parce que je fais plein de faute grammaticales.

    Moi j'ai passe un mois a Royan, qui n'est pas une ville historique parceque les Alliees l'ont bombarde pendant la guerre (helas!). Mais c'est une ville tres fleurie (rose-tremieres/hollyhocks partout!). Les autres villages dans le coin sont tres jolis--Saintes, Cognac, La Rochelle (une ville, pas un village). La region est tres bon pour faire le velo.

    J'ai etudie l'architecture medievale quand j'ai fait mes etudes universitaires, mais je n'ai pas fait le doctorat (mon BA est en histoire de l'art; j'ai deux maitrises dans le domaine d'architecture). L'eglise a Moissac est formidable, et ces sculptures sont tellement emouvantes.

    La cathedrale a Clerment-Ferrand est interessante parcequ'elle a ete construite en pierre volcanique--elle est noire comme la nuit.

    Si tu vas traverser les Pyrenees, puis-je t'encourager d'aller a St Michel de Cuxa a la frontiere espagnole. Le Cloisters a New York viennent de ce monestere, alors le cour n'est plus intact, mais l'eglise et les reliefs des capitaux sont tres beaux (en marbre rose).

    Je connais un couvent pres d'Angouleme. Envoie-moi un PM si tu veux le nom. Les Soeurs ont un tres beau gite a un prix interessant. C'est pres de Juignac dans la Charente.

    Ah, j'ai envie d'y aller avec toi! T'as besoin d'une assistante??

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    Positio, ergo sum! Bécane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    Moi j'ai passe un mois a Royan, qui n'est pas une ville historique parceque les Alliees l'ont bombarde pendant la guerre (helas!). Mais c'est une ville tres fleurie (rose-tremieres/hollyhocks partout!). Les autres villages dans le coin sont tres jolis--Saintes, Cognac, La Rochelle (une ville, pas un village). La region est tres bon pour faire le velo.
    Bonjour velogirl,

    Effectivement Royan a été bombardé, en fait rasé, par les Alliés. À deux reprises et la deuxième fois avec des bombes incendiaires! Des membres de ma famille sont décédés lors de ces bombardements.

    La ville a été reconstruite après la guerre et c'est ce qui lui donne son aspect architectural unique. Les maisons sont blanches avec tuiles rouges et d'une construction très simple.

    La région autour de Royan est magnifique. Avec ses plages, ses villages paisibles et bien des sites historiques à visiter.

    À ta liste, je me permets d'ajouter Angoulême, Brouage, Pons, Jonzac, ... la liste est longue.

    Il ne faut oublier non plus de goûter au pineau des Charentes.


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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Oops! I've been away for a couple days- missed these wonderful replies. Forgive me for responding in English- my "French to English" translation skills are far better than my "English to French" (I'm working on that).

    I'm excited to have the feedback from both Bécane and velogirl! First, Angers is actually my "base station." One of my colleague's in-laws live in Angers, so that's where I'll stash anything I won't be taking with me. I will definitely have to visit the chateau (I would love to do the whole Loire chateaux tour). Tarn-en-Garonne is on my list, as well as Sarlat (although I hear that Sarlat is a real tourist spot, which is kind of disappointing). The Gorges Auveyron is also a region I want to see, not for the research, but for the scenery itself. The eastern route's monuments are far apart, so I will have some long travels days where I'm just going to be riding hard and taking in the scenery. Are the kids old enough to start cycling yet? ;-)

    Velogirl! Your recommendations are like a checklist of my itinerary. I did not realize that the cathedral at Clerment-Ferrand was actually black- I just thought it was darker than average. This is good to know, since I will be photographing. The Cuxa cloister (now in NYC) figures into my dissertation, so I will definitely be stopping by its place of origin. I'm also glad to hear that the Poitou-Charentes region is good cycling territory. Let's see, there I'm planning on visiting Aulnay, Saintes, La Rochelle, Poitiers, and some smaller towns that are near these I've just mentioned (it's hard to narrow all of them down!). It's out of my planned area, but I'd also like to see Cunault, as well.

    What I find the most unsettling about the whole trip (besides the size of those hills), is the alleged threat of wild pigs on the southern part of the eastern route. I've read this in a book about cycling in France, and have also seen warnings on cycling websites. From what I understand, they will bite, can knock you off your bike, and are a rabies threat. Have either of you heard this (or anyone else reading this)? Ever encoutered cochon sauvage? And are we talking cochon or sanglier? The odds of being attacked by a wild pig are minute, I know, but I just wonder how many cyclists have really encountered them on the road. And if anyone were to be attacked by one, it would be me.

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    Positio, ergo sum! Bécane's Avatar
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    Hi velomedieval,

    Angers is a good choice as a base station, especially if you want to do la Vallée de la Loire (not very medieval but nevertheless a fantastic region). If you like wine, do not forget to stop by Sancerre. Another interesting thing to do is to visit some caves (pas des caves préhistoriques mais des habitations troglodytiques) in Montrichard - fascinating!

    It is true that Sarlat is a tourist spot, so is Rocamadour. That is why I mentionned Cordes-sur-Ciel; of course like anything in France it attracts tourists but it is nevertheless worthwhile to see. My kids are still talking about this place and it's been 3 years. The region is gorgeous. However, you'd better be in shape before you venture there.

    Regarding wild pigs, I never heard of them. Mind you I never cycled in southern France.

    Bécane.

    P.S.: make sure to include in your budget enough money in the "food & beverage" category to gratify yourself at the end of the day. There is nothing like french cuisine and several glasses of wine to complement cycling and sight-seeing!

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    Spandex Disaster velomedieval's Avatar
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    Bécane,
    It's for streets like these that I'm going to be thankful for my wider-than-road-bike tires (and the disc brakes, if it's raining).

    Cordes-sur-Ciel looks beautiful. And, oh look! It's on a little hill!

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    I woudn't worry too much about the wild pigs. If you were going mountain bike riding off-road, then maybe (maybe) you might see one. My only run-in with a sanglier was a mighty tasty civet de sanglier in the Pyrenees (it marked the end of my vegetarianism, oh well).

    Let me know if you want the name of the convent close to Angouleme. Nice guest house and beautiful setting. The convent itself is a 15th century chateau (small one), but unless you are a nun or are seriously thinking of becoming one, you can't get into the cloistered part. I tried to convince them to let me work in the gardens one summer, but it was a no-go. I did get to help with the post-harvest preparation of lots of peaches.

    And as Becane mentioned...Pineau des Charentes! It's a sweet wine, served cold. Very refreshing.

    Oh, and for St Michel de Cuxa--unless you are in super-douper climbing shape, you might want to investigate renting a car or going by bus. It's way up on a Pyrenee in French Catalunya.

    Are you SURE you don't need an assistant?? (I speak French, know a bit about the art you are researching, been to the area... )

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    Senior Member (Retired) gmason's Avatar
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    We have a lot of sanglier around here - they are hunted during the winter. We feel very lucky to ever be able to see one! We saw five a year ago November. They were running along the side of the road, and passed across it just behind us. Absolutely wonderful!

    Unless you try to mess with the little ones in the spring (should you even see one), I suspect that you have nothing to fear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bécane
    That is why I mentionned Cordes-sur-Ciel; of course like anything in France it attracts tourists but it is nevertheless worthwhile to see. My kids are still talking about this place and it's been 3 years. The region is gorgeous. However, you'd better be in shape before you venture there.
    I second this (also because I grew up a couple of hours from this area ). You can also trace your route through some of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" that are all of great medieval interest. I particularly recommend St Cirq, Conques, Bruniquel et Puycelsi, yes they were all built on steep hills to keep an eye on the invaders Once there, check the wine from Gaillac, one of France's best kept secrets! .

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