Figueres to Port-Vendres - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

May 26, 2024

Figueres to Port-Vendres

Leaving Catalonia

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Today was a day when we were seeking to make lemons out of lemonade. I originally had a big day planned. We planned to leave early, ride to La Jonquera and stop and visit the Museu Memorial de Exili , a museum which recounts the story of the Spanish refugees on the losing Loyalist side that fled Franco’s regime in 1937-39. (La Jonquera was a common exit point for those fleeing north to France).  After that we planned to ride Eurovelo 8 over the Col de Pannisars and into France. (I had done a ton of research on the route because of the notorious journal entry by Scott and Rachel Anderson a few years ago; as a practical matter if the Andersons’ get in trouble on a route Jill/Dave will really be sunk. Many cycleblazers have gone that way since and I've reviewed many of your reports to figure out the precise way that made the most sense.) After that we planned to ride to Argeles in France and catch a TER train to Toulouse that night. The packed schedule was a result of needing to be in Paris by Monday June 7 to meet friends for the French Open, necessitating a more aggressive travel week. 

I had understood that on a TER train you don’t need a bike reservation and so was not thinking the train ride from Argeles to Toulouse would be a problem as there were several TER trains leaving Argeles in the afternoon and evening. I didn’t book the train ahead of time.

However, a few days ago I checked the train schedule on SCNF (the French national train site)  and Argeles was reporting zero space on trains for bikes. The nearest train where you could reserve bike space was Port-Vendres. So, given that Port-Vendres is south of Argeles on the French coast - and nowhere near La Jonquera or the Museu Memorial de Exili, or Col de Pannisars, I sadly bagged all of that and planned a direct route to Port-Vendres from Figueres, which was now only a 43 k ride but with a three and a half hour train ride at the end of the day to Toulouse. A simpler proposition to be sure-at least on paper.

We took off at 11 am and the ride turned out to be special. The route cut directly through the Parc Natural de la Albera; few cars, a few cyclists and a wonderful climb through interesting nature. Note the weird pictures of cacti Dave took.  At the top of the climb of Col Banyuls, which represented the border crossing into France, there was a bit of the history I had been seeking at the Museu: many of the Catalan refugees that fled Spain after the Spanish civil war migrated over Col Banyuls and settled in France.  In addition WW2 broke out right as the Spanish Civil War was ending and this col was a place in the Pyrennes where French refugees, POWs and Jews crossed over to Spain to escape occupied France. Finally, there is a plaque commemorating Charles deGaulle who fled after the fall of France in 1940 and eventually lead the Free French in the liberation of France.  Jill was digging the whole history vibe. 

OK, let's see. It's a drop dead gorgeous day, the roads are perfect, and I'm riding with Jill through the beautiful Catalonian countryside. Is there anything Iˋd prefer to be doing? Nope!
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Karen PoretNot even laundry? ;)
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1 week ago
Komoot does its best to avoid busier roads sometimes sending us on less than ideal paths! We've learned to adapt and when to bypass some of the suggested gravel sections.
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The cacti were just starting to bloom.
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The countryside was awash in wild flowers.
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Bill ShaneyfeltBig white ones are rock roses.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/57010-Cistaceae/browse_photos?place_id=6753

Blue ones are flax.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/51306-Linum-usitatissimum
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2 weeks ago
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After 20 minutes at the top gawking at the various memorials we descended a very steep multi-switchback descent into Banyuls sur Mer, a lovely beach town.  Suddenly we were on mental higher alert. Komoot tried to route us through the town on a super steep pitch that dead-ended, so we wound up riding all the way around the town to the main coast road. We then had to ride up the coast road for 7 or 8 km in Sunday afternoon traffic with a pretty small shoulder. It was a shock to the system after the mellow, low-trafficked day we had had.  Komoot then wanted us to take a steep, gravel road into Port-Vendres, which Jill rejected, resulting in an additional 3 or 4 k ride into this harbor town. 

Top of the col.
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One of the monuments to the exiles.
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The view of our descent back into the valley.
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These wine growers are very determined to use every square inch to plant grapes . . .
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. . . no matter how steep the hillsides.
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And if you were wondering what grapes were being planted, now you know.
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Laura ClarkLove Grenache!
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2 weeks ago
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We had time to kill so we found the harbor area and a restaurant that was still serving tapas as many other places were closing for the afternoon break. The simple tapas meal exceeded expectations but the owner wanted to close so we left and had a cafe and tea at a place down the way before heading to the train station.  Port-Vendres had none of the charm of Banyuls: too bad I hadn’t booked our train ticket out of Banyuls! Banyuls is a charming, upper income tourist resort area with beautiful beaches, many luxury yachts and all the beautiful people sunning themselves on the beaches or dining in the myriad cafes. Port Vendres, on the other hand, is more of a commercial port with little charm to it. Instead of yachts there are fishing trawlers, seamen instead of sun bathers.

The port scene.
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Stuart GarrettThis part of the ride would have driven me crazy.....in trying to ID the flowers!
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1 week ago
Dave perusing the tapas menu.
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Karen PoretOblivious to the “construction” occurring on the sidewalk..:)
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1 week ago

 The three hours we had to kill before our 5:36 train ride was difficult for us mentally. We had time to stew on the whole train bike-loading thing and whether in fact we really did have a reservation for our bikes. Nowhere did our SCNF online tickets confirm a bike reservation. Although the initial SCNF email mentions we have bikes, it says they don’t guarantee the right to load them on the train!  Ugh. Not to mention the ticket said we only had one minute to board…. All this stupid stuff stressed us out.

Not the fanciest of train stations.
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Me fidgeting with gear in nervous anticipation of the boarding process to come.
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Of course, boarding turned out to be no problem. At the small, down-and-out Port-Vendres station we successfully boarded in one minute (with the help of a thoughtful person). We were lucky to have boarded on the route's third stop. Our train was quiet for an hour and then mobs of people boarded at Narbonne, including tons of kids, and everyone wound up sitting in the aisles or standing.  It was a long slow, ride, and we felt sticky from our bike ride. We arrived in Toulouse at 9 pm and had the usual challenge of  disembarking in a crowd, finding the two lifts and making our way out of the station. Our Ibis hotel was right across the street, and… there was, unexpectedly, a tub in our room! Simple pleasures. The Ibis does not have a parking garage so all the bikes were parked in the lobby!

It got very crowded by the time we reached Toulouse.
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Disembarking in Toulouse.
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We are sad to leave Catalonia. We learned a lot about the history of this area of the world, not to mention tomato bread! Spain is a great place to cycle tour due to its awesome cycling and the wonderful inexpensive food and wine. We will be excited to come back. 

Today's ride: 43 km (27 miles)
Total: 948 km (589 miles)

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Scott AndersonI’m so glad this all worked out for you. I got worried for you as soon as I read about your train connection. Congratulations on acing the test!
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2 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetIt seems we were a day ahead of you over Col Banyuls. It was a beautiful ride and nice to relive it as I catch up on your journal. It was also your journal I was thinking of when I asked myself where I’d recently seen the Croix des Sept Frères the day before yesterday.

People think we do aggressively scheduled tours but I think you win in that department! Glad your train worked out.
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2 weeks ago