Montpellier - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 18, 2018

Montpellier

We had a relaxed morning here at our apartment in Uzes, enjoying a scrambled egg and muesli breakfast and proudly exercising our newfound skills with the espresso machine.  We’re feeling Frenchier by the day.

We feel a bit conflicted about the ride ahead of us though, alternately feeling like we should be leaving sooner because it’s a long ride and rain is threatened late in the day (and darkness, which is a promise, not a threat); or later because it is quite cold this morning, not much above freezing.  

In the end, the later argument won the morning, and we finally hit the road about 11.  With almost 50 miles of road to be covered, we’ll need to stay on task.  We won’t have time to stop for lunch anywhere, so first we need to make a run to a store for lunch materials.   We take the long way there, circling the town clockwise to see if there’s anything noteworthy we missed yesterday.  

There is.  We missed the cathedral, and maybe the most important site in Uzes - the Fenestrelle tower.  With no time to spare for anything but a few quick photos it’s clear we will need to revisit someday, so we add Uzes to our already overlong revisit list.

The eleventh century Fenestrelle Tower is probably the most iconic image of Uzes. I think I read somewhere that it’s the only circular bell tower in France.
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Looking toward the center from the cathedral. I’m not sure which of the four towers of Uzes this is, but I think probably the Bishop’s.
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The long view to the southeast from beneath the cathedral. I’m not sure, but I think this is the course that the aquaduct to Nîmes must have run.
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One last stop before leaving town, to provision for lunch.
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Jen GrumbyThat tree looks pretty nice with those bikes leaning against it.
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2 weeks ago

Finally, we’re out of town, heading south.  It’s still almost bitterly cold, so we’re both well layered up.  It is very helpful that we have a bit of a tailwind or else we’d be seriously cold.  There’s no sun either, so we can’t expect it to warm up much throughout the day.  There are though a few scattered drops of precipitation that almost feel like ice when they hit our faces.  They alarm us a bit, but end almost as soon as they begin.

About two miles out of town we leave the busy main road for the quiet route I’ve mapped out for us.  Soon though, the pavement ends.  Rachael gives an audible groan, and we stop to consult our GPS more closely.  We see it is marked as a ‘track or path’, but becomes pavement in about a mile.  It’s not a bad surface, so we bike on rather than reroute.

Here we go again.
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‘Track or path’ apparently covers a broad range of surface conditions.   This one gradually worsens, has a few large watering holes to be avoided, and then after about a quarter mile we find that it also includes a quaint arched stone bridge.  Ooh!

It’s too steep and rocky to ride over, but we can portage.  The big question though is what lies beyond.  Rachael scales it to scout out the situation, and reports back that she thinks she sees the road resume no far off in the distance.  Hoping we’re making the wise choice, we team up to carry our bikes across, taking it very slowly and cautiously so that we don’t fall over the edge.

We make it across safely.  Sorry there’s no photo of the crossing, but we had our hands full.  We needed a third party to do the honors.

Scoping out the path ahead. Do we cross, or turn back?
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Once across, we almost immediately find our third party, plus a fourth and fifth.  Three guys on mountain bikes charge down the road and head straight up the bridge, abruptly stopping at the top and dismounting when they see how rough the other side is.

Odd - these are the only other bikers we will see all day, and it’s here.  I minute earlier we’d have had a traffic jam and have to draw lots or swords to see who had to wait for whom.  But then too, I’d have had a photographer available to document our passage.  

After pushing our bikes through a few hundred yards of grass we get back to the good old rough, puddly surface we’d ridden before the bridge; and then a half mile later we really are back on pavement.  A good thing, too- we got a late start as it was, and we’ve just been crawling for the first hour.

Mad Max and his friends meet us at the bridge. Check out that helmet position!
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Jen GrumbyToo bad there wasn't a sword fight. That cockeyed helmet guy definitely would have lost!
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2 weeks ago
It’s not often that we eagerly anticipate reaching a worn, rutted path.
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More like it. We’ll really fly now! Check out the video and see for yourself.
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After this though, finally we start making respectable time.  Good time, actually - our route is generally a bit downhill, we have a modest but helpful tailwind, and we have the road to ourselves for most of the way to Sommieres.  

The day gradually warms up just a bit as we ride, and the grey sky stays dry - until it doesn’t.  About an hour past the bridge a light drizzle begins, just as we come to a village - Saint Mamert, I think it must be.  It’s just big enough to have a bar, which we’re happy to see is open.  We might as well have our lunch here, thaw out a bit, and hope for conditions to improve.

They don’t have any food at all, but they do have tea; and they seem fine when we break out our bread, meat and cheese.  For the next twenty minutes we eat our lunch, use the WC, and puzzle over the French news broadcast.  The two featured articles are about the road blockades, which are still on and into the third day; and the weather - this is the first real cold snap of the year.  It’s freezing further north, and people are standing around looking cold in warm wooly coats.

When we emerge, we’re relieved to see that the rain has stopped and the day looks a bit brighter.  We press on, and make excellent time all the way to Sommieres, the only notable stop on the day’s route.

It’s a gray day, but still very colorful. The color is draining away fast though. There’s a lot of yellow on the ground in the vinyards.
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Yow, here we are approaching Blausac already! It’s just noon, and we’ve already covered five miles. At this rate we’ll reach Montpellier at about, er, three hours past sundown.
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Crossing the Gardon, again. The aquaduct is about twenty miles downriver from here.
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The big question in this scene is those rays streaking from the clouds. Is is sun radiating through a break in the clouds, or rain?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesOur vote is for sun.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesOurs too, of course. We hit the jackpot, and got both.
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3 weeks ago

I really like Sommieres, at least to look at and stroll through.  We passed through it last autumn too, on our tour from Bilbao to Sete.  We liked it then, we like it now.  It looks like it would be a nice spot for an overnight stay.  We only have time for a few photos today, but here’s a photo gallery from last year’s tour to give you a longer and sunnier look at the place.

In Sommieres
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I like all the colors and textures here. I should submit it to Bike Friday to post on their website.
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The Vidourle River, in front of Sommieres’ walls.
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Beyond Sommieres, most of the fun is gone from the ride.  In a few miles we lose our quiet lane and merge into busier roads that carry us the last fifteen miles to Montpellier.  This is a big city, one of the largest in France, so we face the usual several miles of unpleasantness until we reach the core, which is well supported by a network of bike paths.  We arrive at our apartment in the heart of the large, pedestrianized center cold; a bit wet, because it began lightly raining soon after reaching town; and a bit later than usual, arriving at 4:35.

We love our apartment.  Spacious, well furnished, well located.  Its only negative is the elevator.  The unit is on the fourth floor (meaning, since this is Europe, on the fifth floor of course), and the elevator is excruciatingly small.  It’s the first time I’ve encountered one that wouldn’t fit a bike in unfolded.

Oh, good. We’re getting late in the day and I was starting to wonder where we’d find our plane tree shot.
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Castries Castle, another site worth more than a bike-by shooting
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The walls of Castries Castle
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Here’s another situation where the Bike Friday proves its worth. This is the tiniest elevator I’ve ever seen: 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 foot floor space. I could barely squeeze myself in with the folded bike.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesOr you could remove panniers, tip the bike up on its rear wheel and head on up.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonYou could, but you can’t. It almost fits that way, which we’ve often done, but not. I think it would have gone if I removed the handlebars, but folding was easier.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyGreat shot to capture how small it is .. crazy!
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2 weeks ago
Montpellier looks like a great place to visit. This is taken on the Place d’Comedie, right in front of our apartment.
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Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 2,661 miles (4,282 km)

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