To Saint Antonin Noble Val - The Bordeaux Loop - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2008 to June 10, 2008

To Saint Antonin Noble Val

We faced a strenuous day riding from Estaing to Villefranche-de-Rouergue: almost 45 miles, 0ver 4,000’ of climbing, and warm if not outright hot as I remember it now.  And, looking at the distance and elevation log now, I see that it wasn’t as I’ve been remembering it.  I thought we started the day by following the Lot upstream to Espalion, but that would have added another 10 miles and another 1,000’ of climbing.  Maybe that was my original plan but we changed our minds when considering a 60 mile day; but in any case we never made it to Estaing, which would explain why I can’t find a photo of  at least its 11th century pink sandstone old bridge.  All I can scrape up from the day is a single photo of the beautiful country near Marcillac.

West of Marcillac
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France is so phenomenal, especially in the most contoured parts of the country - one fantastic gorge follows another.  A dozen favorite gorges quickly come to mind when I start inventorying them, and I’d love to see them all again.  I remember a magical day climbing up the Ardeche on our first ride to Europe almost thirty years ago.  I’ve wanted to return and repeat that climb ever since, but we’ve never fit it in.  There are just too many choices.

And now, add the Averyron to the list.  A slighter and less well known river than its more famous neighbors the Lot and Dordogne, but definitely a two star attraction - ‘worth a detour’, as Michelin would say if they rated gorge rides instead of their much less interesting restaurants.

On this second day we followed the Averyron for a ways and then climbed up to the eyrie-like village of Najac, with its ruined castle crumbling away on the side of a cliff.  And here again, the distance and destination log corrects another misrememberance.  I remembered us walking through the town to the castle at its end and then having a restaurant meal there; and I’d been thinking it was at the end of the day and we stayed overnight in Najac.

But once again, not the case.  We locked up our bikes at the edge of the pedestrian zone in Najac, did our tour, ate lunch, and then returned to the bikes and coasted back down to the river.  At the end of the day we climbed back up to another dramatic hill town, Cordes-Sur-Ciel (Cordes in the sky), where we spent the night.

The Averyron Gorge.
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Looking up at Najac. Do we have to? Yup. No pain, no gain.
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Najac - it’s worth the climb.
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In Cordes-Sur-Ciel. Oh. Well, no, it’s in Penne I see, after looking up the name of this street. We don’t get any photos of Cordes. Sorry.
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And the next day I can’t figure out at all.  From the log, we apparently biked 44 miles  with 1,800’ elevation, starting in Cordes and ending in St. Antonin Noble Val.  We passed through Penne on the way, but that only accounts for about 25 miles.  I don’t know where the other 20 came in - maybe we just got lost.

I do remember arriving in St. Antonin though, because it’s one of those afternoons when we arrived just as a thunder and hailstorm broke out.  We raced along the river from Penne trying to beat the storm, along with another American couple we’d been hiding out with beneath an overhang.  As I remember it, the hail started pounding on the streets just a minute after we entered the door of the inn.

Penne
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The Averyron Gorge.
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The Averyron Gorge.
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St. Antonin Noble Val. I’m pretty sure this photo must have been taken the following morning when we walked across the bridge for a view. On the night we arrived the sky was dark and menacing, and nothing like this.
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The bridge over the Averyron at St. Antonin Noble Val.
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Today's ride: 128 miles (206 km)
Total: 924 miles (1,487 km)

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Susan CarpenterHey Scott,
I love biking in France and am really enjoying this journal. It rekindles fond memories of places I've visited and added to the long list of those yet to come. Thanks.
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6 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Susan CarpenterThanks, Susan. We can hardly wait to go back ourselves, it not this year I don’t think.
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6 months ago