In Collioure: day ride to Port Bou - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

December 1, 2018

In Collioure: day ride to Port Bou

Today’s day ride is an out and back to Port Bou, the first town across the Spanish/Catalonian border.  We’re passing up the option of touring Collioure’s castle for this ride, and for the chance to reminisce.  We rode this stretch on our way to Barcelona, and I remember it as a spectacular coastline.  Mostly though, we both remember that day for the Incident at Port Bou, one of our most often repeated bike stories.  We have relived this day so many times since then, and have probably shared it with some of you once or twice over the years.

We’ll come back to the Incident later, and describe it one more time.  First though, let’s ride.  We have a fairly short distance to cover - about 36 miles, allowing for a detour to see the lighthouse at Cape Béar.  We don’t get started until 11 though, and we should plan on being off the road by 4:30; so we’ll need to keep track of time - especially since the ride looks like one hill after another the whole way.

We get off to a slow start though.  Not two miles from Collioure we come o the first of the string of scenic coastal towns we’ll pass through today: Port-Vendres.  It is a lovely place, and looks like it would be a fine place to stay if it weren’t competing with its neighbor Collioure.  It’s Saturday, and there’s a lively market scene on when we bike into town.  As an added attraction, the magnificent Belem, a French cargo ship built in 1896, is overwintering in the harbor. Ordinarily we would stay longer and look around more, but we’ll never make it to Port Bou and back that way so we just pause for a few quick photos and move on.

Port-Vendres, just across a small headland from its neighbor Collioure
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The Saturday market, Port-Vendres
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Andrea BrownI would have stopped just for the accordion.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownThat was the main draw for me also. They had a fine selection of cookies too, but to my surprise Rachael didn’t bite.
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1 week ago
The Belem, the only surviving ship of its type from the 19th century, is still seaworthy.
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Port-Vendres lies at the base of Cape Béar.  There’s a fine old lighthouse at its tip, and I love fine old lighthouses, so of course we have to go.  It’s about a five mile out and back ride on a narrow, rough but scarcely traveled road - probably the most enjoyable part of the day’s ride, since we don’t have to worry much about traffic.  The ride is especially scenic, giving great views east along the coast.  At one spot there is a good sighting of the edge of Canigou and other snow-crested nearby peaks in the Pyrenees.

The lighthouse is everything I hoped for.  Built in 1836, 27 meters high, it’s a beautiful structure.  Well worth the trip out, and worth the time to walk around and view it from every angle.  It’s the best new lighthouse I’ve seen in years.

But, we’re not making progress, distance-wise.  It’s afternoon already, and we’re only about seven miles into the ride when we return to the coast road.

On the ride to the Cape Béar lighthouse
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The Cape Béar lighthouse, now retired. It’s been replaced by a much less scenic but automated lighthouse just uphill.
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I included a second shot of the lighthouse because it includes Rachael to give some perspective, and to remember the flock of Swift’s swirling around the light.
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Mont Canigou is briefly visible, behind Port-Vendres.
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The ride from Collioure to Port Bou is spectacular the entire way.  It follows the short Vermillion Coast, the naming for the coast from Argeles to the frontier.  I haven’t seen the background on its naming, which isn’t obvious because it’s not particularly reddish.  It really is great though.  In several spots it reminds me of the deeply indented stretches on the California coast.  Thrilling to cycle, the whole way; but narrow, shoulderless for the most part, and even this late in the year it carries more traffic than we’d wish.  As great as it is, I don’t know that I’d care to ride it in a busier season.  I note that the EV8 does not follow the coast here, but takes a presumably quieter route further inland (as we will also, once we move on to Spain).

The Vermillion Coast - one breathtaking bend after another for fifteen miles.
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We stopped for lunch here just east of Cerebre, sitting on the shoulder beside the highway.
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After a pause for lunch, we looked at the time, thought about the remaining distance, and decided we were cutting things too close.  It’s always better to leave room for something to go wrong, and we don’t want to be on this road after dark even with our lights.  We start biking back toward Collioure; get about two hundred yards, and change our minds.  How can we be this close to the scene of The Incident, and not see it again?  We turn back west again, and pick up the pace a bit.

Rather, we pick up the pace as best we can.  The scenery is just too spectacular to not stop occasionally, and there are a few not insignificant headlands to surmount.  The ride is phenomenal though, and not to be missed.  I love biking it a second time, coming across viewpoints again that we were awed by over twenty years ago.

Cerebre, the last stop in France
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Looking back at Cerebre as we climb toward the frontier.
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The train yards, Cerebre. As I recall, this is the end of the line in France. I don’t think the rails continue on into Spain.
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Jen GrumbyBienvenidos a España!
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1 week ago
This is such a spectacular ride, but the descent into Port Bou might be the best.
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And so, after twenty-two years, we return to Port Bou.  We don’t have much time, but there’s at least enough to loop through town, revisit the scene of the crime, and refresh our memories as much as we can through all that has changed here in the intervening years.

But, that’s all the time we have.  We turn back, and bike straight through to Collioure, arriving right at 4:30.  It’s getting dusky, traffic is getting worse, and we’re happy to be on the road.

And, that’s about all the time I have this morning too.  Rachael is antsy to get out of town and on to Ceret, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear about The Incident.  I won’t forget though.  Promise.

It was here. I’ll never forget the curvature of this small beach.
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Andrea BrownWell, now you have us intrigued.
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1 week ago
And the restaurant was here, or maybe right behind me. I’m sure of the street, right here by the beach.
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Image not found :(
Enough of Spain, already! Back to France.
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The farthest promontory is Cape Béar. If you zoom in you can see the lighthouse.
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The Cape Béar lighthouse is visible from far up and down the coast.
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Back in Port Vendres again
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For dinner, we’re back at the same restaurant we dined at last night, and one of the few places open in town at this quiet season.  The waitress remembers us of course, and remembers it’s my birthday today.  We have a lot to celebrate: we passed the three thousand mile mark today, and our hundredth day of the tour yesterday. 

And, we can celebrate that I’ve survived another year.  This is possibly the best birthday I’ve had as an adult, although with my poor memory I’m sure I’m forgetting some great ones.  I do know that it’s the only one I’ve experienced while on tour, if you don’t count our working vacation in Melbourne years ago.  And, we received a performance by The Singing Cowboy in this morning’s post!  And, it’s been one of the best years of my life.  At 72, who’d have thought that?

Let’s celebrate!
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Keith KleinHappy Birthday. From one old fart to another.
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1 week ago
The whole meal was great, but who wants to look at four straight food photos. Here’s the appetizer plate though, which was especially colorful.
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Keith KleinHi,
Well, there's me and Greg Garceau who will always look at food. Even when we can't eat it.
Cheers,
Keith
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1 week ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesWell, you know we have an unlimited appetite for food photos also.
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1 week ago
Fireworks! A great way to start a new year.
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Shawn AndersonHappy Birthday Dad!
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3 days ago
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Ride stats today: 38 miles, 3,800’

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 3,021 miles (4,862 km)

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Keith KleinHi Scott,
Blue skies! Boy am I jealous. Its been raining here for what seems like days, and there is not much sun forecast for the coming week.
Um, Cote de Vermeil is not red. Vermeil is the name we give to an alloy of silver and gold. And you are quite right about the trains not going from France to Spain. The gauge changes in Port Bou, so either the axels have to be changed as they are on the Talgos or you have to get off the train and onto another of the proper gauge. There is a new line from Perpignan to Barcelona that is all French gauge, but that's rather limited to TGV's and some freight.
Cheers,
Keith
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinI thought I remembered that about the different gauges from our first pass through, but ran out of time to look it up; so thanks for the clarification. And thanks for explaining the coast name. It’s always puzzled me. Oddly enough, I’ve seen tw9 different tour books that name it the Vermillion Coast, so I assumed they knew what they were talking about.

So sorry about your weather, but delighted for us. Today was incredible - sunny, almost 70F. The forecast is for two weeks of the same, so we may finish off with a wonderful streak.
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1 week ago
Keith KleinTo Scott AndersonHi,
Ah, yes , tour guides. Well, what can I say? They are not always reliable, especially about cultural matters. I overheard a young lady telling her tour group that the Pont Neuf in Paris was "the ninth bridge" and another one explaining that "brasserie is a kind of chain restaurant" . I suppose that guide book proof readers can have similar ideas.

Cheers,
Keith
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1 week ago
Jen Grumby3,172!!

3,000 miles

100 tour days

And 72 years!

Quite a bit to celebrate, I'd say.

Happy Birthday to you!!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyAnd, the 111th entry in the journal!
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1 week ago
Suzanne GibsonHappy Birthday! What a great trip and so much to celebrate 🎉! Blue skies for the final days of your trip as well. Perfect. Best wishes from Janos and me, now in Córdoba.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThanks, Suzanne. Córdoba! I love Córdoba. I almost lost Rachael there though, when I forgot my wallet at the hotel and we couldn’t pay for our evening meal. I ran off in the dark, leaving Rachael at the restaurant as collateral, but soon realized I couldn’t find the hotel and didn’t remember its name. I finally stumbled on it, and then realized I couldn’t find my way back to the restaurant and didn’t know its name either. Awesome white gazpacho though!
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1 week ago
Suzanne GibsonTo Scott AndersonWell at least you hadn't lost your wallet. That time.
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1 week ago
david alstonScott, Happy birthday! You are catching up, now I am only nine years older than you. That will soon change. In the meantime thanks for letting me celebrate our mutual good fortune with you through your journal.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo david alstonThanks for the sentiments David, and thanks again for tagging along. And happy birthday, in advance. When we were young men, who could have guessed that being older could be like this, eh?
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1 week ago