To Limoux - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 22, 2022

To Limoux

Looking ahead

We’ve got plans - we’ve always got plans - but who knows how well we’ll stick with them this go-around.  We’ve always been uncertain how this last chunk of the tour would play out, but with the abrupt turn in the weather in Sainte-Enemie it felt like a sign.  Time to leave the high ground and head for the coast.  We’ve booked our accommodations as far as Sete, but beyond that we’re keeping our options open to see what the rain and mistral hold in store for us.  

The one thing we’re sure of though is that it will be a pretty leisurely month-plus, with plenty of short easy days and multi-day stays.  After cycling over six thousand miles with seventy vertical miles of elevation gain in over seven months on the road we feel like we’ve earned the right to coast our way to the finish line.

Limoux to Nice: six weeks on the slow road.
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Bruce LellmanYour usual wittiness.... "coast our way to the finish line." But, of course, we expect this wittiness from you now.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanSuch a perceptive reader! You give me too much credit though. Accidents do happen.
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1 month ago

To Limoux

We’re notoriously rain-averse, but we didn’t just change our plans because we were afraid of a few days of damp/wet/soggy/miserable riding.  Equally or more important was the realization that if we were considering hopping a train anyway, we could ride the rails to Limoux easily enough and visit our friends Rich and Robin.  You’ll recall that they were generous enough to drive down to have lunch with us in Narbonne last spring, and we’ve wanted to follow up with a visit to their home ever since.  

It was our intent earlier in the tour that we would route ourselves through Limoux in the fall, but this idea fell off the table when we decided to spend a month in the gorges.  It’s always nagged at us though that we’d chosen this trade-off, and once it finally sunk through our thick skulls that we could revive the idea just by hopping a train the decision was an easy one.

There are two trains on Saturday with connections to Limoux - one that leaves about 5:30 AM, and one at 1:30 PM.  That too was an easy decision to come to.  With our 11:00 checkout time at our hotel, we had a wealth of time to make it to the train station just a mile away.  We talked about heading over there straight away and finding some place to hole up for an hour or two, but as we biked across the river on the passarelle I looked west up the river, saw the world’s tallest bridge, and talked Rachael into biking a mile or two west to get a closer view since we were just killing time anyway.

One mile turned to two, and then three, and then four; but finally we got to a clear view of the central pylons bracketing the river, and looked up.  Wow.

It’s so close! Let’s bike west a ways for an even better view!
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Crossing the Tarn on the passarelle, we get a nice view of Millau’s impressive surroundings.
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The surviving remnants of the old bridge (Pont Vieux) and its mill. The bridge dates back to the 12th century but most of it was washed away in a series of floods in the 18th.
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Nearly four miles later, and we’re getting really close. The bridge is just around the bend.
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The Millau Viaduct opened in 2004 after a three year construction period. It’s consistently regarded as one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times. It’s astonishing seeing it perched up there on those atoll pylons, but it’s also astonishing imagining the project that got it up there. That would have been a wonderful thing to witness.
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The Millau Viaduct is currently rated the tallest bridge in the world, with a structural height of 336 meters. It’s only the 26th highest bridge though. The difference between tall and high bridges is too complicated to explain here, but either way it’s pretty impressive.
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Tall pylons, small wheels. It would take a very unstable tower of about 662 Bike Friday wheels to match up to the tallest pylon of the bridge.
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Jen GrumbyThat's a lotta tyres!

Very helpful description for capturing the tallness of this beauty.
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1 month ago

So we ended up putting about ten miles in before finally making it to the train station.  We were in plenty of time, with our train not leaving for another 50 minutes.  With no other trains than our own arriving for the next several hours, we had the platform to ourselves while we waited until a small crowd finally converged at the last minute.  I sat in the shade and waited while Rachael set off on an ice cream quest.

Millau Gare is quiet today.
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Our trip to Limoux borders on the complicated, involving two connections - one in Beziers and the second in Carcassonne.   Three trains - two regional and one an intercity - each with the usual assortment of possibilities for something to go wrong.  If we miss any of them we’re out of luck until Monday, but Rick generously offered to come to our rescue if we get stuck.

Fortunately nothing went seriously wrong, though our Beziers connection was tense enough to make us anxious.  We have a short connection - 23 minutes - made shorter when our train from Millau is nearly five minutes late pulling into the station.  The Beziers station has no elevators, so we have to rush down the stairs to the underpass with bike and baggage and then climb back to the correct platform, once we’ve managed to find out which it is.  This train is an Intercity - which, as Susan warned us, means that the doors are too narrow to enter through without removing your panniers first.  The platform is crowded.  The train is only in the station for 2-3 minutes.  There’s a bicycle car, but we also have assigned seats on car #4.

We could have done better with the Beziers connection, but considering the rush and the crush we did well enough.  We managed to get ourselves and our bikes onto car #4 with a minute to spare, but unfortunately car #4 is not the bicycle car so we stood with them at the end of the train all the way to Carcassonne.  Awkward, but not terrible.  Definitely better than our experience on the TGV last month.

On the TER (the regional train) from Millau to Beziers. Very easy.
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Jen GrumbyBeautiful!
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1 month ago
On the Intercity to Carcassonne. Not ideal, but not bad. Intercities have much more room at the entrance than TGV’s.
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It was super-easy to board the train from Carcassonne to Limoux.  We had nearly an hour layover, and this was the initial stop for the train and we were able to board it nearly a half hour early.  It’s nice too that the car has hangers for two bikes; but unfortunately our wider-wheeled bikes wouldn’t fit into them.  So we leaned them against the wall and stood for this short run also.

On the single-car train from Carcassonne to Limoux. It looks like those bike hangers would work for us but we couldn’t manage it.
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So all in all, a success - a test we passed with flying colors.  We congratulated ourselves once we were safely aboard and texted the good news to Rich and Robin.  Twenty minutes later we came to Limoux, the end of the very short line for this very short train.  With plenty of time as this was the final stop, we started deboarding when we came to town.  Too late - with Rachael on the platform with her bike and the panniers but me still on board with mine - I looked around, noticed that most of the passengers were still seated, and remembered that Limoux has two stops.  We’re not at the end of the line yet.  There’s no time to get Rachael and gear back on board again so I hop off too and we bike an extra mile into town.  No biggie, but I felt sheepish and mentally downgraded our rating.

We’re in Limoux for three nights, staying in a decent apartment just a five minute walk from Rich and Robin’s home.  We quickly settle into our new home de jour, clean up our act, walk over to Rich and Robin’s, and enjoy the delicious spread they’ve prepared for us tonight.  And their company, of course.  It’s wonderful to visit them again, see them in their home, and get a feeling for the wonderful life they’ve built for themselves here.  We’re very envious.

Butter chicken!
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Catching up with the Frasiers.
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Jen GrumbyMakes me smile a big smile!
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1 month ago

Today's ride: 12 miles (19 km)
Total: 1,116 miles (1,796 km)

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