Escaping Europe… In Europe: France / Albania

In a week when the news here in Europe has been dominated by… well, let’s not go there other than to note that Putin needs to ride his bike a bit more often and shed the macho persona he so loves, I have been transported off to France and then across a large swathe of the continent to Albania and Greece courtesy of two conversations that I have recorded for two upcoming episodes of The Cycling Europe Podcast.

The first conversation was a follow up to the talk that Irish journalist and cyclist Declan Lyons gave at last week’s online Cycle Touring Festival. It was my job to ‘host’ the event, introducing him and then asking a few questions at the end. He was talking about his experiences of cycling the Canal de la Garonne from Bordeaux to Toulouse and the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Sรจte on the Mediterranean coast. He’s written two guide books for Cicerone about cycling the routes that, combined, are referred to as the Vรฉloroute des Deux Mers (as the signposts call it…) in France – the ‘cycle route of the two seas’ – or Le Canal des 2 Mers ร  Vรฉlo (…as the official website calls it). The full recorded chat with Declan will be published at the start of March in episode 044 of The Cycling Europe Podcast but here’s a short extract in which he talks about the history of the canals and how they became popular with cyclists:

As you can see from the map below, the route links the EuroVelo 1 / Vรฉlodyssรฉe to the EuroVelo 8 along the Mediterranean. There’s even a section along the Canal de la Garonne which forms part of the EuroVelo 3 ‘Pilgrims’ Route’ across France.

My second recorded interview this week was with the British cyclist Candy Whittome. She’s based in St. Albans and is a psychology lecturer at the Open University. Whilst recovering from cancer treatment, she was given a copy of Anne Mustoe’s book ‘A Bike Ride: 12,000 Miles Around the World‘. As a result of reading the book she was inspired to set off herself on a long ride, if not quite all the way round the world, then a good portion of it. Her doctors were supportive (although, as a woman in her late 50s, her family needed some convincing) and in 2021 she set off on the first leg of her journey cycling from Britain to southern Greece during the second summer of the COVID pandemic. In this extract of our chat – recorded in the gardens beside York Minster yesterday afternoon – she talks about her impressions of Albania:

Candy hopes to continue her travels later this year with planned cycles in South East Asia and northern Europe before, in 2023, heading for Africa. The full interview with Candy will be the main feature of episode 045 of The Cycling Europe Podcast published later in March.

In both episode 044 and episode 045 there will also be a monologue from Ian Yarroll (talking about cycling his trike) and Chris Atkin (reading an extract from his audio book about cycling through southern Spain) respectively. And if all that weren’t enough, in early March I’m heading off down to London to interview a very well know cyclist about his travels across Europe. That will probably be episode 046 of the podcast. Episode 047 will probably see me catching up with a chap in Leeds who is still at the planning stage for his round-the-world trip. Plenty to look forward to so keep listening to this space!

In the meantime, I am promised that my new commuting bike will be delivered before the end of the week (see earlier posts…). I’m looking forward to returning to the two-wheeled daily commute. I have, basically, four months during which to get fit for the cycle around the Baltic (or as much of it that I can manage). I’ll leave you with a gallery of images from my own visit to Albania in 2013. It’s a fascinating place!

Visit the dedicated Baltic Sea Cycle Route / EuroVelo 10 page of to discover more about the planned cycle around Europeโ€™s other big sea.

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