Cycling Day 36: The Pilgrims’ Nest (Near Villardebelle) To Perpignan

Eddy wasn’t just good, interesting company; he was useful company. Before the combined effects of the food, cycling and two glasses of local white wine (I know, sorry, I’m a lightweight) had had their effects, he talked to me about his own experiences of cycling through Spain and how he had taken some of the ‘Vias Verdes’. Literally these are ‘green ways’ and the expression echoes the French term ‘Voies Vertes’ which are commonly used to refer to formal cycling paths. The Vias Verdes in Spain are a network of cycle routes that have been built upon disused cycle tracks. He showed me a leaflet that he had which showed three long cycle paths that could be very useful to me over the next couple of weeks. Let’s face it, I’m running out of time. I still have over 1,500km to cycle and today is the 13th August. I would like, if at all possible, to arrive at the Cape St. Vincent in Portugal by the 27th August. This leaves me with sufficient time together myself sorted with a flight (or perhaps train-ferry combination?) back to the UK. But do the Maths… That means I only have two weeks of cycling remaining. Tomorrow I will be in Spain. I’m spending tomorrow evening with fellow Yorkshireman Dave Cocker (who has promised that if I arrive before 4pm I can go sailing with him!) in Esteril. Thursday I’m due in Barcelona to meet up with fellow cyclist Lewis Fox-James. He is cycling in the opposite direction to me having started his journey in Valencia a few days ago. Another three days of cycling after Barcelona will get me to Valencia… And it is at this point where the Vias Verdes kick in. Three routes could help me speed my way from Valencia all the way to Cadiz (the official finishing point of the Eurovelo 8). You can probably guess which three routes I’m referring to from the picture below. If I were able to reach Cadiz by the weekend of the 24th/25th then this would leave me in a very good position to scoot along the Algarve and make it to my destination by the 27th. Or am I being too optimistic?
That’s my current thinking of the remainder of the trip. But what about the rest of cycling day 36? Well, it was a delayed start as I was happy to spent most of the morning chatting to Eddy, James (an American who is currently helping out for a couple of weeks at the retreat in return for free lodgings) and a Parisian family who were staying in the barn that Eddy let’s out to those wanting an escape from the stresses of modern day life. It wasn’t until past 11am that I made my excuses and left. Although the trek into the mountains had been a deviation from my route, I’m thoroughly glad that I made it. The people I met were very good company and the information about cycling in Spain may be the key to my success in the little venture. We shall see…
My destination was Perpignan and to a certain extent it was a reverse of the cycling the previous day moving from the relatively cool, darkly-wooded uplands to the warmer, drier lowlands of the Pyrenées-Orientales. The thing that was upmost in my mind as I cycled down towards the coast however was food. I hadn’t brought breakfast with me to the Pilgrims’ Nest and was on the lookout for a boulangerie as soon as I left Eddy’s gate. It was a long, frustrating wait. At Maury (not very imaginatively named after the river that runs through the town), everything was closed apart from a café, elaborately painted upon the gable end of a building. Wonderful! Thanks for rubbing it in folks. The next town, Estagel, I am considering setting up a Facebook group to boycott the place. It was three thirty in the afternoon for goodness sake but every shop (apart from the hairdressers) was shut. We are talking about a place with quite a few shops. The brasserie was open; great! But when I say down to order a sandwich, I was told the the kitchen was closed. Not so good, and actually, does it require a kitchen to make a sandwich? I strutted out expressing my disgust in English. Would Cases-de-Pène come to my rescue? Kind of… The boulangerie was open so I walked it. I had planned to congratulate them on being the first boulangerie open in 60km but when the obese owner ignored me when I entered and continued to watch the dubbed American film showing on the TV I didn’t feel like trying to humour him. I chose a limo sandwich which looked nothing like the sandwiches on the sign outside, a drink and asked for two pains au chocolat. Fatso continued to be more interested in the TV. At this point his wife appeared and there was some discussion about taking the daughter somewhere in the car. “Don’t worry, I can manage…” he reassured his wife. She did seen reluctant however. Manage? I was the only one in the shop! Eventually he looked at me and told me the price and I handed over the Euros. His wife drove off in the car, I sat outside to eat my late lunch and he resumed his position watching the TV. Three minutes. Later she returned, minus daughter and friends to relive him from his arduous activities tending the shop…
Now slightly replenished with food it was a simple case of cycling into Perpignan. The 4,000km point was approaching but I was on the lookout for a laundrette and I found one in a drab suburb. In return for helping me fold her own washing I was allowed to use some of my fellow washer’s washing liquid (although the arrangement wasn’t in that order) and about an hour later I was able to enter the centre of Perpignan triumphant with a clean bag of clothes.
So, tomorrow is Spain, potentially sailing and an evening with a Yorkshireman. Some might describe that as heaven.








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