Le Grand Tour: Day 41 – Chateauneuf-Du-Pape To Montélimar (93km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Camping L’Ile Blanc, Montélimar

Today has seen some of the best cycling of the trip so far. I had, in my mind, relegated the Via Rhôna to a fill-the-gap route that I would have to endure in order to get me from the Mediterranean to the Alps. If today’s cycling is anything to go by, it’s no fill-the-gap route. Far from it… There is real geographical drama in the Rhône valley and I can only see that increasing. I (almost) feel sorry for the hoards of touring cyclists passing me heading south to that roundabout in Sète which has about as much geographical drama as your granny’s pond. I’m heading to the Alps and the drama can only intensify the further north and east I travel. After the relative disappointment of the Canal du Midi, I have embraced – and am loving – the Via Rhôna after just two days. Montélimar? Mmm… Keep reading.

My day started with a chat with the owner of last night’s campsite. Why did there appear to be two Via Rhôna routes on either side of the river? It comes down to local politics and a big wig in a neighbouring town wanting a share of the €650,000 that were on offer to improve the route. (Hear more about all this in the next podcast.) Irrespective, that money has been put to fabulous use in creating a cycle way that might even surpass the splendour of the voie verte heading south out of Bordeaux. For about 10km this morning there was not one raised curb that poor Wanda had to jump or endure. Raised curbs are a personal bête noir as I see them as being evidence that the people designing the cycle way are not cyclists. I’m tempted to write a  PhD thesis on the correlation between raised curbs on cycle paths and the number of cycling journeys made each week by the person designing them. My theory is that there is an unequivocal indirect relationship. Come to think of it, I don’t need to write a thesis as it’s bleeding obvious. There we go. Proved. 

I digress… You can see some of that cycleway in the video. You’ll also notice a theme of bridges; impressive bridges. I didn’t include video of all the bridges that I crossed (I’ll submit all of them later to lest you get tired of them but there’s some serious engineering going on when it comes to crossing the Rhône. Then there were the solar farms, the cliff-top castles and statues, the distant mountains, the vineyards, the parched fields of sunflowers… and aside from one deviation the signage was spot on. 

Every day needs its negatives for purposes of comparison. The boulanger in Chateauneuf-du-Pape desperately needed to attend a customer service course. The woman I chatted to for a while made me smile in a ‘strewth…’ kind of way in her insistence on speaking English: 

“What do you do for a job?” 

“I’m a French teacher.” 

“Why don’t you do the route of the tower of France?” 

“The Tour de France?” 

“Yes, the tower of France…”

…and Montélimar. The Rough Guide says the following:

“If you didn’t know it before, you’ll soon realize what makes the attractive town of Montélimar tick: nougat.”

Well I did look but had to resort from buying my nougat from the local Intermarché. (At least my bar cost me €1.50.) And ‘attractive’? I’ll reserve judgement on that. The campsite isn’t going to win any prizes anytime soon but it’s a friendly enough place.

But these things aside, a great day of cycling and, if the remainder of the route heading north is in a similar vein, I’m in for an interesting week. 


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