To Melvieu - You lead me away from home, just to save you from touring alone - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2022

To Melvieu

WThis morning the skies had a heavy overcast and we wondered if rain would be far behind. We asked our host at breakfast about the weather and she said that it does not look good today with rain in the forecast for this afternoon. Further, the weather network indicated that it will rain at our destination of Melvieu at 4pm today. We thought that it would be a good idea to attach the bike fenders  that we have been carrying around with us today before we began our ride.

Our hotel long before it was a Logis!
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Often we pass on hotel breakfasts that require an additional charge.   Our appetites in the mornings are not so large that we can justify the costs. In these cases we will stop at a local store for some fruit and yogurt. But today we welcomed the breakfast at our hotel as there were no other places to purchase food nearby and the restaurant will make us an egg dish. We had scrambled eggs for two and they were a delicious change from our usual meat, cheese and bread fare.

With the bikes loaded and fenders firmly in place, we set off just after 10 am for our first stop, Brousse-le-Château. It was about 30 kilometres up the river. The riding was wonderful as we crisscrossed the Tarn in several different places. In fact, we crossed over the Tarn on seven bridges today! The road was a mix of divided highway and most often on single lane roads where the bike route follows an old railway line. The traffic was very light and we cannot recall a car passing us for at least the first five kilometres. The riding was mostly on  flat ground as we followed the meanders of the Tarn and the river was never  far from our sight. It has a very remote feel to it as the only village that we rode through on route to Brousse-le-Château was the town of Trebas, about 10 km from Ambialet. 

The bridge back to Ambialet and the first Tarn crossing of the day.
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Second crossing of the Tarn along the hydro electric dam.
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If you are not riding a bike, this is a pretty decent second choice. Would you not agree Brent B?
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Another random bridge. We did not cross this one but they are so magnificent that they are worth stopping for a picture.
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The Tarn and surrounding fields.
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On the straight and narrow. It was a very quiet road.
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Old railway bridge crossing the tarn
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More of the Tarn.
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The town of Combradet. These small villages in France are so beautiful.
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Barry DevlinYes indeed - small villages in France are quite special.
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1 week ago
Looking back at Combradet.
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Brousse-le-Château had come to our attention as it was one of the few places that had a place that you could stay the night on the  route between Ambialet to Millau, which is about 90 kilometres away. This is too far for us to ride in a day. The problem was that Brousse-le-Château was too short  a distance and we wanted  to overnight a bit further along, but there were few choices. After agonizing over this routing decision, we decided to stay in Melvieu, a small town off the river and up in the hills  about 55 kms from Ambialet.  This is a good distance for us and it splits the disatnce to Millau roughly in half. In the end, this was the right choice but we  enjoyed our visit to Brousse-le-Château.

is a very important historic village on the Tarn and also happens to be a "les plus beaux villages".  The town is built around an 800 year old castle. We enjoyed our coffee beside a stream that runs through the town. There were very few  visitors in the town.  As we explored the antient building toward the castle we did not see another soul. Unfortunately the castle itself did not open until 2 pm and we needed to be moving along well before then. The day was warming up and the sun had now appeared making it very pleasant as as we headed back across the bridge to the road.

Brousse-le-Château. The castle dates back at least 1000 years.
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Brousse-le-Château.
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Bridge from the 15th century built in the roman style. We crossed over the local stream on the way up to the castle.
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The tour guide.
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The happy client.
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The castle.
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The church in Brousse-le-Château.
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We had been looking forward to the next section of the ride as it included riding through several tunnels. In anticipation, we ensured that our front lights were in place before our departure today.  I am not sure what it is, but riding through tunnels gives us a bit of a thrill. It is a bit like riding into a cave not knowing what to expect. The first couple of tunnels had coloured lights on the walls and were quite easy to see and to navigate. But the last two, one was 470 metres in length, were completely dark. We both smiled and laughed as we exited them. It was fun to ride along in complete darkness with your lights illuminating the tunnel walls and them seeing, ¨the light at the end of the tunnel¨ as you make it out the other side. Very cool.

A great section of the ride.
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Scott AndersonWe biked this amazing road back in 1997, not knowing about these tunnels and without lights. I’m not sure any of them were lit then. It was a very lonely road, and we had to wait for a car to come and illuminate the worst of them with its headlights.
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2 weeks ago
One tunnel experience.
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This tunnel had a light system for cyclists to use to let cars know when they are in the tunnel.
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Scott AndersonI’m pretty sure this is the one. There were no lights or alerts then. We got about 20 yards in and it went completely black to we retreated and waited for a car.
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2 weeks ago
Out the other side,
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We found a nice picnic area after the last tunnel when we experienced a very unusual sight. Coming down the road was a man on a tractor leading about 200 sheep and they right passed right in front of us toward the tunnel where we had just emerged. We wondered if they, too, would go through the tunnel but the man took the flock just left of the tunnel to an nearby farm. The things you witness when travelling on a bike!

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Rachael AndersonHow amazing. We’ve seen a lot of cattle crossings but none rhat large.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Rachael AndersonAnd these aren’t even cattle! We’ve seen this large of a goat drive though. Remember Albania?
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2 weeks ago
Scott FenwickTo Scott AndersonI remember. Those were great shots that you took. In fact I believe you dedicated a stand alone page.
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1 week ago
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Traffic jam. You can see the tunnel at the far end of the sheep. They turned left there.
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Hydro electric dam on the Tarn. There were a number of power plants on our ride today but this was the only one that spanned the whole river.
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With only 20 kms remaining we  crossed the river toward Broquiès  and began some short steep climbs into the hills beside the Tarn. The skies on the horizon were getting grey and concerning as we rode past le Truel, the last town on today`s route. It was starting to feel like rain and we knew we should hurry along the last 4 kms to Melvieu. But these were not to be easy kilometres as they were about 200 metres of continuous  uphill riding without a single flat section. Needless to say,  it was at the end of our day! Every once in a while Scott would pull over and Pat would catch up and she would say, ¨this is so hard¨. To which Scott would compassionately say that he understands.  Ha ha. So not!!

The church in Melvieu. The skies are very menacing now but we are still dry with one kilometre to go.
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The skies were now full of thunder and lighting as we made our way up the hill in our lowest gears. Taking a corner we could see the church directly above us but by road we still had another kilometre to go to reach the entrance into the town. The very steep road into the village of Melvieu required pushing our bikes and it was now starting to rain. We knew we needed cover and to find our accommodation quickly. The problem was that we did not really know where it was located. We had no GPS coordinates and it was not showing up on Mapsme. Ditching our bikes under a covered area we both set out in different directions in the rain to find ¨la Charmeraie¨.   Fortunately it was within 100 metres and as it turns out we were arriving by the back door. The last push up the hill was not necessary at all. We met our host and then settled into our guest house suffering only mild dampness. We had arrived in a nick of time, and the time now was exactly 4 o`clock. Soon the skies turned to solid rain.

It is now raining but we are safe and dry.
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The host  at la Charmeraie is Nadine CARRAT. She was an absolutely delightful lady who spoke very little English and that was an equal match to our very little F,rench. In the end it was amazing how long and involved our conversations were. As La Charmeraie is a chambres d'hôtes, Nadine  also prepared a most memorable, over the top, four course dinner which we thoroughly enjoyed before returning to our guest house. Really just another great day.

Our steak cooking over the coals in the livingroom fireplace.
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Nadine, our host extraordinaire!
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Local products exquisitely prepared!
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We each had our own selection of local cheeses.
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And then there was dessert!
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Today's ride: 54 km (34 miles)
Total: 155 km (96 miles)

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Scott AndersonSound like an epic day! I’ve been looking forward to seeing your experience on this remarkable road. We stayed in a wonderful hotel right on the river below Broquies but it looks like it no longer exists.
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2 weeks ago
Scott FenwickTo Scott AndersonIt has lived up to my expectations so far. Your tunnel experience sounds thrilling - maybe a bit too scary for me. I felt good with lights front and back. It is likely all your tunnels were dark as the coloured lights look new.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Scott FenwickThis is one of the big advances over when we started touring over here - the accessibility of detailed road information. We were working from the most detailed Michelin paper maps available back then, but there was nothing on minor roads like this to warn you of tunnels.
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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonBeautiful photos! Sorry the last part of the ride was so hard! I’m glad you got in before the rain and got such a great dinner.
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2 weeks ago
Anne MathersWhat a great day you had, and to have a lighted tunnel is a treat. Riding unlit tunnels is like a rite of passage for cycle tourists... we all have the stories, don't we? Your day is exactly how I fell in love with cycle touring in France all those decades ago and I daresay that goes for many others, too. Seeing the photos and reading your blog transports me right back. Looking forward to more... AND, we might even join you for a ride in Mallorca.
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2 weeks ago
Scott FenwickTo Anne MathersHi Anne - just getting caught up today. Sorry for the slow reply. It would be great to meet you on Mallorca. We will be in Alcudia from May 17 -20. Our email is sfenwick at telus.net - all one string together where ¨at¨ is the symbol.
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1 week ago