Ceret, and The Incident at Port Bou - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

December 2, 2018

Ceret, and The Incident at Port Bou

The ride to Ceret

We’re in Ceret tonight, on a two night stay.  It’s the end of the road for us here in France this year - when we leave Ceret, we’ll follow our new best friend EV8 across the border into Spain.

Today was astounding.  After biking back to Argeles-sur-Mer we picked up EV8 again, following it inland generally along the Tech River all the way to Ceret.  This was a pretty short ride, so we continue on the EV8 a ways longer, to Amelie-les-Bains, before turning back and heading to our room for the night.  The weather is perfect - warm, sunny, great visibility.  We spend almost the entire ride biking straight at Caginou, watching it steadily grow before us until it seemed to fill the sky.   The colors are almost overwhelming - the Tech Valley feels a bit like Shngri-La, it’s so warm and pleasant.  It feels like it’s a full two weeks earlier in the fall than the country we’ve ridden through for the past week.  I can’t imagine how the day could be better than this.

It would take a long time to tire of this view.
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The Grumby bottle opener managed to get itself out on our ledge for a better look at the lighthouse before we leave town. An impressive feat, considering it has no feet!
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Jen GrumbyThat is a rascally bottle opener .. a little monkey!!
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Canigou comes into view for the first time as we cross the low rise between Collioure and Argeles-sur-Mer.
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Crossing the Massane, Argeles-sur-Mer
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An anxious crossing of the Massane
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I can’t say enough about how impressive the EV8 has been in this part of France. Here, we are even alerted to the correct exit from the circle ahead.
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On the EV8, heading inland along the Tech
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It doesn’t really get any better than this, does it?
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Cool bike shot of the day
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A pair of paired horses
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If this doesn’t inspire you to get out the door and on your bike, I don’t know what would. A video, perhaps.
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Olive press or wine press? We don’t know for sure, but I point out to Rachael that I see olive trees around, but no wine trees.
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Keith KleinHi,
Wine press. When you get to Spain DO go to an oliera (sp.?) You'll see the real thing in olive presses and more importantly TASTE the oil where it was made. One of nature's most perfect foods!
Cheers,
Keith
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinI assumed so too - we saw the massive granite stones for the olive crush earlier in the tour. I just liked the idea of pointing out the absence of wine trees nearby.
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1 week ago
🎵Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.🎵
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You can get plenty of upper body exercise on a bike tour if you approach it the right way.
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Jen GrumbyTremendous! Your forearms might be bigger than Mr. Grumby's calves!
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A view worth stretching for
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Better and better. Incredible.
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The audacious Chateau d’Aubiry was allegedly one of Walt Disney’s inspirations for Cinderella’s castle.
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It’s a pretty impressive chateau, well worth a bit of neck strain.
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This is the last of the really good views of Caginou for today. As we near Ceret, the foothills start blocking the sight lines.
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The Pont du Diable (Devil’s Bridge) crosses the Tech at the entrance to Ceret. At the time it was built in a the mid 1300’s it was the largest single span bridge in the world.
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The view north from Pont du Diable
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Under the lucky horseshoe
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Crossing the Tech again, a bit south of Amelie-Les-Bains
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The Incident at Port Bou

We didn’t take many photographs when we rode through Port Bou in 1996.  It was the predigital age of course, so I got by on a small stash of film rolls.  I didn’t waste many shots because film takes space, adds weight, and costs money.  On these early tours I had no idea what was on our rolls until we returned home a month later, and was generally disappointed in what turned up because I wasn’t much of a photographer either.

All I came back with from Port Bou was a single photograph, as I recall: a portrait of our two Cannondales, locked together in a deadly embrace by our kryptonite lock, to a tall metal post beside the sea.  I don’t have that photo at hand now, so you’ll have to imagine it: two blue Cannondales T900’s, locked together, the photo shadowy and underexposed.

We began the day’s ride in France, in Argeles-sur-Mer, where we had stopped short of Collioure the night before to escape a rainstorm.  The next morning we biked to Collioure for breakfast and a too-quick look around, and then biked the beautiful Cote Vermeille (mistranslated as the Vermillion Coast, as Keith informs us) that we showed you yesterday.  For two decades, I’ve remembered that ride as one of the best coastal stretches I’ve seen anywhere.

We reached Port Bou midday.  It was a beautiful, fair day in early September.  We were ready for lunch, but first we decided to indulge ourselves with a break on the smooth, sandy beach.  We locked our bikes to a nearby post and spread out on the sand in the midst of a number of other sun bathers, soaking up the sun for a half hour or so.  Rachael stayed on the sand, but I went for a swim in the warm sea.  It felt wonderful.

Afterwards, we dried off and walked over to the nearby restaurant for lunch.  We ordered paella, not really knowing what was in store for us.  It arrived, an enormous spread in a searing cast iron pan, with hundreds of antennae, eyes, shells and tails protruding from a mountain of saffron rice.  We hardly made a dent in it, partly because it was was too much for us, but mainly because neither of us viewed most of the main ingredients as food.  Personally, I don’t really care for meals that stare back at me.  We’ve never ordered seafood paella since.

Back at the bikes, we were traumatized to discover that the key to our kryptonite lock was missing.  In a bit of a panic we went back to the restaurant and thoroughly searched our table area, with no luck.  We went back outside, checked in futility on the ground around the bikes, and then turned to the beach.  Hopefully we dropped it there, and could find it.

Unfortunately, our spot on the beach had been claimed in our absence by a pair of well endowed, bronzed French women lying topless on a blanket.  We had to have the key of course, so I summoned up the courage to ask them to move so we could look for it - pantomimed it, actually, without looking at them too directly, since neither of them spoke English.  They kindly helped us out, walking across the sand on their hands and knees, looking for the lost item and themselves looking just a bit cowlike.  It made for quite a spectacle of course, leaving us with the memory of a lifetime but still no key.

Out of ideas, we gave up on the search and moved on to rescue options.  We walked to the nearest hotel, explained the situation, and asked for ideas.  We were told there was only one service station in town, so we hopefully walked over there. An undated sign on the door said they were out of town for a week to attend a wedding.  Devastating.

It was getting late in the day at this point, so we decided to stay overnight and hope that we could somehow find help in the morning.  Worst case, we imagined carrying our bikes half a mile uphill to the train station and moving on to Barcelona where we could presumably find the help we needed.  Fortunately, our bikes were locked to each other, but not to anything - the lock just encircled a tall metal post, but we were able to lift the bikes over and free them.  We carried them to the hotel, checked in to our room, and then retired to the lounge to console ourselves over a pitcher of sangria.  

After breakfast the next morning, we walked back to the service station without feeling much optimism.  Amazingly though, the note was gone from the door and the shop was open again.  Not believing our luck, we hurried back to the hotel, picked up our bikes, and carried them four or five blocks back to the service station (you might consider at this point how awkward it is to carry a pair of bicycles locked together for a significant distance).

Not surprisingly, the mechanic on duty spoke no English either, so we pantomimed our situation and need.  He surveyed the bikes, nodded, and pulled out a cutting tool of some kind.  For the next several minutes he cut through the lock, with sparks flying everywhere, his eyes completely unprotected.  I can think of few times that we’ve felt more elated and grateful than when he handed our liberated bikes back over to us and asked for a pittance in return.

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Ride stats today: 35 miles, 1,600’

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 3,056 miles (4,918 km)

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Suzanne GibsonGreat story! You were luckier than our friends, also touring on the French Mediterranean, who returned from their swim to find their bikes and complete touring gear gone!
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1 week ago
Keith KleinHi,
Oh how I wish you had taken a video of that incident. Not at all funny at the time, I know, but the Laurel and Hardy aspect of the scene would be great fun in hindsight. Great story complete with slapstick and salaciousness.
Cheers,
Keith
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1 week ago
Ron GrumbyAhh, the old "I lost my keys right under your boobs" trick! Good one!
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1 week ago
Jen Grumby"looking a bit cowlike" .. I just nearly peed my pants.

Great story!!
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1 week ago
Rachael AndersonTo Ron GrumbyI knew he volunteered to quickly for the task!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron GrumbyA bit surprised you know of this one, Ron. It doesn’t come often. I’ve only had the one opportunity to use it, myself.
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1 week ago
Ron GrumbyTo Scott AndersonYou have to take opportunities as they present themselves!
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1 week ago