The long green road to the Mediterranean Sea

What do you do when you have two weeks of vacation and don’t know yet how to spend them? You start flipping through the atlas.

While doing this it occurred to me that friends of my parents own a little castle (Château de Pierrefitte) in the middle of France, about 500 km straight South from where I live in Antwerp. And we have an uncle and aunt who own a holiday home in the Cévennes, again about 500 km straight South as the crow flies. And if I reached their place, I could as well continue to the Mediterranean Sea.

A naive estimate was that the distance over the road would be about 1300 km. I had never undertaken a multiple-day bike trip before but since I don’t have a drivers license I do everything by bike. I figured that should be able to cycle 100km/day which left me the last day to come back by train.

View The initial plan for my cyling holiday in a larger map

A few days later I had booked my Thalys ticket from Montpellier to Antwerp, bought a good trekking bike, bought the cycle guide “De Groene Weg naar de Middellandse Zee” (which contains a route that follows mostly secondary roads and avoids the big mountain passes of the Vogezes, Jura and Alpes) and set off.

At night I slept in a small one-person tent, mostly on campings but sometimes in a field, hidden from sight from the main road.

I hadn’t even left Belgium as disaster struck. I was testing the limits of my new bike, going downhill as fast as I could. If I just freewheeled I reached speeds of around 50 km/h. Crouching myself over my handlebars and making myself as aerodynamical as possible increased the speed to 55 km/h. And if I started peddaling while going downhill I pushed my speeds up to 60 km/h … 61 km/h … at 62 km/h the frame of my bike started to shake so violently that I couldn’t control it anymore and made a big slide on a hillside near Saint Hubert. Result: the iron frame of my front pannier completely plied.

I also had scratch wounds on my left palm, on big parts of my right leg and I had to go to the hospital to get seven stiches in my elbow. (Click the image to see a video of the damage. Warning, video shows my naked butt and opens in a new window.)

After a day of rest I decided to continue anyway. Because I had now lost a day in my schedule and because the total cycling distance was in reality closer to 1500 km, I had to cycle way more than the 100 km a day initially planned. This, however, didn’t stop me from taking pictures of all the fauna

and flora I met underway (one of the advantages of cycling solo).

When my friends saw the above photos, they started making jokes about how I managed to incorporate my bike in almost every picture. That’s then one of the disadvantages of cycling solo, I didn’t have a girlfriend to put into the frame, so my bike became my muse. After cycling over several mountain passes,

and visiting charming villages,

I finally reached my destination: the warm water of the Mediterranean Sea.

The route I followed can be seen on the map below:

View The green road to the Mediterranean Sea in a larger map

If you still haven’t had enough, you can see the rest of the pictures in this slide show (captions in Dutch):

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