Day 1: Charlottesville to L'Etang-La-Ville (Paris suburb). My travel day; after some adventures getting to Gabe's (non-related) aunt and uncle's house, we went to Versailles, where I took this shot.
Day 2: L'Etang-La-Ville to L'Etang-La-Ville. More adventure than that really, but the basic gist is that we trained into Paris and spent the day walking around. This is from a random museum (?) across from the Pantheon, where we stopped to use the bathrooms.
Day 3: L'Etang-La-Ville to Chartres. Finally, we actually did some cycling! This shot is of Chartres' famous cathedral at dusk.
Day 4: Chartres to Blois. A random church we stopped at in a small town. This is before I started to get impatient and make Gabe feel guilty for stopping at the Cathedral of every single town in France :)
Day 5: Blois to Azay-le-Rideau. This shot is from Chenonceau, one of the Loire Valley's best known (and most crowded by the dreaded tourist bus) castles. It sits on top of a river; I took this shot out the window from the hallway extending to the other bank of the river.
Day 6: Azay-le-Rideau to Cunault. Our first real struggle with finding a place to stay: we got tangled up in circles (France's favorite traffic pattern) in Saumur, and Gabe got delayed with a flat, forcing us to scramble to find something in the tiny town of Cunault. This shot is from inside an abbey along the way.
Day 7: Cunault to Chateau-Gontiers. We stopped in Angers along the way, checking out this castle, which features a vineyard on its roof. Only in France...
Day 8: Chateau-Gontiers to Le Mont-St-Michel. Crossing three regions (Loire, Brittany, and Normandy) before miraculously finding a place to stay at Mont-St-Michel, we stopped at an old, untouristed abbey maintained only by a very old woman, and a middle-aged chain smoker we could hardly understand. In the middle of nowhere in Brittany, it was a cool little site to wander around.
Day 9: Le Mont-St-Michel to Dinan. Our first day riding less than 100 KM (62.5 miles), we checked out Mont-St-Michel in daylight, visited Saint-Malo, and had the traditional Indian food dinner in Dinan. This shot is from the courtyard of Mont St Michel.
Day 10: Dinan to Auray. A long day of riding on rolling hills into the wind, crossing from (near) the northern coast of Brittany to the southern coast. Our bikes needed a good break midway through, and they found one in this small stretch of forest.
Day 11: Auray to Quiberon. The shortest ride of the trip so far, and the least pleasant. It was pouring rain as we rode the 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Auray to Quiberon, and we decided to scratch our plan to take a ferry to Belle-Ile and instead just get lunch and stay at a hotel in Quiberon. Of course, within an hour, the rain had stopped, and beautiful views of the coastline taunted us for not making it to the island.
Day 12: Quiberon to Nantes. The longest ride of the trip: 208 Km (130 miles). Not an incredibly exciting ride, but lots of quiet, pastoral farmland in the southeast corner of Brittany.
Day 13: Nantes to Les Pineaux. We decided to stay at a random Chambre d'Hote (Bed and Breakfast, essentially) in the countryside. It wound up being a good decision: comfy, charming, and with the full allotment of roosters to wake us early in the morning.
Day 14: Les Pineaux to Rochefort. We stopped along the way in La Rochelle, an old seaside town with some impressive watchtowers from the 17th (Gabe?) century.
Day 15: Rochefort to Bordeaux. Gabe's final ride - a long one - which started with a ride across the river on this old transbordeur bridge, featured a ferry ride across the Gironde in the middle of the day, and ended with a long, flat stretch through the vineyards surrounding Bordeaux.
Day 16: Bordeaux to Bayac. My first solo ride, and a very rushed one. I toured Bordeaux with Gabe in the morning, and was supposed to be in Bayac at 7:30 for the Chambre d'Hote dinner at 8. I made it at 7:50, which wound up being fine. The ride featured my first big hills in France, and lots more vineyards.
Day 17: Bayac to Sarlat-le-Caneda. A relaxed day: only 74 Km through charming Dordogne, with stops at a neolithic cave and a bike museum. The cave, from which this shot comes, was really amazing - just something this guy dug up (with three other people) beneath his house. He gave the tour to me and one other person, and it was way more interesting than some huge attraction that thousands of people go to every day.
Day 18: Sarlat-le-Canada to Cordes-sur-Ciel. A beautiful, but hilly day as I went from river valley to hill to river valley to hill, several times over, earning my second 200K ride of the trip (201). This shot was from the first hill of the day: the gate to Domme, in the clearing fog of the early morning.
Day 19: Cordes-sur-Ciel to St-Rome-du-Tarn. I'd randomly stopped in Cordes-sur-Ciel as the next decent-sized town as it was getting dark, but it turned out to be a great find. It's an old medieval town on the top of a hill. A great riding day, with one exception. I had to go through four tunnels as I was riding along the Tarn, the first three of which were fine, when using my bike light. The fourth was one lane, unlit, and you could only go through when the traffic light turned in your direction. After waiting a few minutes for the light, I started to go through, barely being able to make my way through, thanks to the reflectors my light was illuminating. Suddenly, though, the reflectors disappeared, and I had no idea which way to go. I crashed into the side of the wall and feared for my life, knowing that cars would soon be coming from the other direction. After gathering myself, I moved my light around, and again found the reflectors on the road, and slowly made my way out of the tunnel. As I exited into the light, the traffic signal changed, and cars started making their way through in the other direction: I had barely made it through in time.
Day 20: St-Rome-du-Tarn to Anduze. Probably the most beautiful day of riding so far: along the gorges of the Tarn River, up into the plateaus of the Cevennes in Languedoc-Rousillon.
Day 21: Anduze to Bedoin. This is the bridge crossing the Rhone into Provence. Ah, Provence: beautiful landscapes, wonderful sunshine, great food with olive oil and vegetables (both nice changes), and terrible, terrible winds.
Day 22: Bedoin to Bedoin. A "rest day": only 45 Km of riding. Of course, that included a climb up Mont Ventoux, whose 1912 meters (I started at 450 or so) made it challenging, and whose winds made it downright scary. Coming down, I was knocked off my bike once, and off my feet another time. One of the most frightening experiences I've ever had.
Day 23: Bedoin to Arles. Another very windy day in Provence (though not enough to get knocked over). Arles' main claim to fame is its Roman buildings; this is an amphitheater which is pretty well in tact, and still used today. There are metal bleachers inside, which somehow seems wrong, but very cool to see nonetheless.
Day 24: Arles to Grenoble, by train. Between the harsh Mistral winds and some (literal) pain-in-the-butt saddle sores, I realized I needed to take a day or two off my bike, so I gave in and took the train to Grenoble. First, I got to check out the inside of the amphitheater (stadium), which I found quite impressive.
Day 25: Grenoble. I didn't get on my bike at all, choosing instead to rest, and allow my saddle sores to heal. Instead, I walked around Grenoble, venturing up into the foothills on the city's edge, and visiting its art museum. The city's landscape - surrounded by rivers and mountains - is quite spectacular.
Day 26: Grenoble to Ambrieu-en-Bogey. I got up in the morning intending to take the train from Grenoble to Dijon, allowing my body one more rest day. Upon arrival at the train station twenty minutes early, I discovered that the machine would not take my American credit card. Alas, I got in line - and waited, and waited, and waited. Twenty-two minutes later, I got to the front of the line, realizing I'd missed my train. When the clerk told me the next train wasn't for another five hours, I decide the best course was to set back out on my bike, heading north over the hills and toward Paris.
Day 27: Ambrieu-en-Bogey to Chalon-sur-Saone. Back in the swing of things, I started the day at my dumpy little hotel near a train station in an uninteresting town near the Rhone, and managed to finish it in one of the poshest cities in the wine country of Burgundy. This is an evening picture from that town of Chalon-sur-Saone.
Day 28: Chalon-sur-Saone to Corbigny. Climbing up through the Morvan natural park area, I found beautiful scenery and lakes. Corbigny was a small town just over the hills, where I had the pleasure of meeting a friendly French travelling salesmen. He'd seen much of France, and it was interesting to hear about all the places he'd been. Beyond France, however, his knowledge was a little less extensive. Upon learning I was American, he asked -- not jokingly -- whether I spoke American or English.