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Old 04-23-11, 04:52 PM   #1
michaelofnsh
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A month to kill in France and Spain on a tandem

We're taking the tandem to Spain in July. No itinerary, looking for 50 mile days, packing light, Staying in towns along the way. Anyone know how to kill a month in Spain and France? Route suggestions would be helpful. Thanks,
Michael
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Old 04-24-11, 01:12 AM   #2
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Google "El Camino de Santiago" and look at http://www.csj.org.uk/
It is a network of pilgrimage routes across europe that all end in Santiago Spain.
You can start back as far as Paris to make it a 1700 Km ride. Three weeks would do it nicely. There is a network of gittes in France and hostels called Refugios in Spain.

Test the local wines and cheese along the way.
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Old 04-24-11, 02:03 AM   #3
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Tour de France is scheduled to run across Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees on Bastille Day, 14JUL11. Seems like a great spot for a tandem visit, just over the border from Spain. AFAIK the stage is scheduled for end time of 1730 hrs, should leave plenty of time to scoot back down the hill & off to a pre-arranged hotel room before dark. Enjoy the trip but to me "kill a month" sounds a bit negative, sound more like a dream!
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Old 04-24-11, 06:01 AM   #4
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One month should be enough to ride the Pyrenees and Northern Spain. Start in the East and head West. I wouldn't advise the route of the Raid Pyrenee which is a bit of a dash, there are better routes that take in local loops and scenic but not spectacular passes as well as the big ones. Northern slopes are greener and cooler than south-facing ones.
In Spain you can use the Camino but take a trip to the Picos de Europas, a very pretty little mountain range. The coast is also very good with little fishing villages.
July is peak tourist season so you may find some of the local hotels and pensiones booked up. The Tour de France will suck up every hotel room for miles around. If you decide to camp, you can pick up a tent and some bags locally at one of the discount sports stores such as Decathlon. There is no need to cook if travelling light is your priority.
A note of warning when camping in Pyrenean valleys. Flash-flooding is a serious matter and campsites have warnings and procedures. Note them down and be prepared.
This is classic cycling country with excellent bike shops in every town and a strong local cycle racing and touring scene. Sounds like a great idea.

There are some off-bike attractions such as cave paintings in la grotte de Niaux, well worth the visit.
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Old 04-24-11, 06:31 AM   #5
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Most of Spain will be exceedingly hot in July. Northwestern Spain, however, is much cooler, wetter, and greener. The Mino/Minho valley along the Portuguese/Spanish border is very nice, and eastward when the river is entirely in Spanish territory is a lovely vineyard region. I second the suggestion about the Picos de Europa. There is a gorge area in a valley on the north side of the Picos which was great for cycling.

In SW France, the Dordogne valley east of Bordeaux and its tributary the Lot river have some of the best cycling you can find anywhere.
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Old 04-24-11, 12:39 PM   #6
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Great Suggestions

Great suggestions. We mostly want to take it easy, eat well, start late, soak it up.
Ms. Stoker is slightly concerned about the mountains. Are some routes flatter (more tandem friendly)?
Anyone ride Paris to Barcelona?
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Old 04-24-11, 02:36 PM   #7
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As long as you have low gears, the Pyrenees are OK. The roads are well graded with few really steep sections so you just spin up. In the Pyrenees I only had to bust a gut over one 50m section. I met riders who said that smaller ranges to the North had far steeper sections.
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Old 04-24-11, 03:26 PM   #8
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I mostly tour France and haven't toured Spain yet but anything I've read about Spain said it's the hilliest country in Europe. Also when I get around to doing Spain it won't be in July. Spain in July can be hot and I mean HOT.

I'd stick to France. Would suggest the West coast up from Biarritz near spanish border thru. the Landes Region (flat, cyclepaths thru. pine forests), Bordeaux (nice city) up coast to La Rochelle and into Brittany. Along La Loire river for the chateaus. Down the Rohne valley. Along the Med. coast to Carcassone. Along the Canal du Midi back to Bordeaux.

Nothing too challenging hill-wise in the above. Plenty of opportunities along the route to divert into hillier terain if you feel the urge or if it's a particularly hot summer (they happen every few years) continue north into Brittany and Normandy. South of France, Spain and Italy can be very hot in summer months, for me anyway.
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Old 04-24-11, 05:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
As long as you have low gears, the Pyrenees are OK. The roads are well graded with few really steep sections so you just spin up. In the Pyrenees I only had to bust a gut over one 50m section. I met riders who said that smaller ranges to the North had far steeper sections.
I don't really agree with that. In general, roads in France are extremely well graded. And while that's usually true even in the Alps and Pyrenees, it doesn't apply to all of the roads in the mountains. The Pyrenees rise more abruptly than the Alps, and some of the passes there can get quite steep. I simply haven't seen 10% or higher gradients in France except in the mountains. The riding I've done elsewhere in France has always been easier than the Pyrenees or Alps.
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Old 04-25-11, 02:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
As long as you have low gears, the Pyrenees are OK. The roads are well graded with few really steep sections so you just spin up. In the Pyrenees I only had to bust a gut over one 50m section. I met riders who said that smaller ranges to the North had far steeper sections.
Were you on a fully loaded touring bike? Are you a super fit young guy?

I did the Col du Tourmalet when I was 56 on a fully loaded (camping gear) bike. Took me four hours and had to stop about 10 times on last km. I'd hate to do it even without camping gear on a tandem.

You definitely need low gears but that doesn't mean it'll be easy.
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Old 04-25-11, 08:11 AM   #11
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Becauswe of the noted heat, I would avoid Andalucia in July. The interior (i.e., away from the coast) is a lovely place to ride. Spent 7 weeks riding there in '00. But July and August can regularly produce temps. over 100, especially in and around Sevilla, called "Europe's frying pan" by some.
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