The Plan - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

January 29, 2024

The Plan

Last Fall we set out from the German - Belgian border at Aachen, and then wandered through Belgium and into France. We headed South, paralleling the Atlantic coast until near Bordeaux, before striking off on the Canal du Midi and reaching the Mediterranean, near Narbonne. Then we hopped over the Pyrenees and 3500km beyond Aachen, ran out of visa time at Valencia, Spain. We didn't feel ready to quit, but we would have to leave the Shengen zone for 90 days. We trailed on back to home, but within a month we set off to spin around Yucatan for about a month. Now that we are back from Yucatan, the Plan is to return to Valencia, where we had left the bikes, and to carry on where we left off.

But carry on to where? In a sense our trajectory was already set. Since Spain and Portugal make up a peninsula, once you are on the peninsula you will pretty much swing around it, unless you "cheat" by shortcutting across.

Because it is still Winter in the northern hemisphere, we think the best plan is to stay South and beside the Mediterranean as long as possible. That puts us on the way to Malaga, from Valencia. From there we could go to Gibraltar, and even we could jump across to Morocco, but no, we've chosen Cordoba and Seville, and on to Portugal. 

The track below shows the route we used in making bookings, from Valencia to Malaga. A kind of distressing amount of it is shown with dotted lines, indicating unpaved road. We do expect to find sandy beach to bog down in, or bluffs to climb overlooking the sea, but right now in the comfort of home we are telling ourselves "We're Tough!". Hah.

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By following the coast, to Malaga, we are missing out on Granada. And then from Malaga the plan is to take the train to Cordoba, before carrying on to Seville.  We decided these things long ago, before leaving for Yucatan, and can no longer quite remember why we are doing it this way. But the die is cast because the Bookings are made.  It will be fun, any which way!

After Seville, we will hop to Huelva and hope that the bridge that stymied the Classens is back in operation. We are intent on going that way, because the route passes through a bird sanctuary.

After Huelva, we will soon enter Portugal. Portugal is where we were last Spring, but we liked it a lot and are glad to go back for a second look. But this time we'll avoid the Algarve, which was very developed, and we'll take a route through the "Alentejo" north of that. We'll go more the way the Classens did, and not retrace many Grampies steps.

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Once around the middle of Portugal, we'll bypass busy Lisbon and will  end up following the Atlantic coast North, toward Santiago de Compostella. In this, we will again be on the "Camino" and will no doubt join lots of walking pilgrims. Along the way we will pass Fatima, where the Virgin of Fatima was repeatedly sighted in 1917 by three children.  We'll certainly visit the sanctuary there.

We aim to land up at Santiago right at the beginning of "Semana Santa", and hope to see some processions and such, as we had at Seville last year.

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From Santiago we have some uncertainties and choices. In general we will try for a train out of hilly Galicia, so we can more quickly leave Spain and  get into France. If the bikes and us can get onto a train to Pamplona, that would be great. We can also try to ship the bikes to Pamplona, and we'll follow by train. If forced, we'll just pedal to Pamplona! 

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We really want to go see our old friend Michel, near Nantes. So from Pamplona we'll take the "Velodyssee", EV1, the Atlantic Route, up to the mouth of the Loire. From the past, I recall this as slightly boring, with endless and somewhat confusing pine forests. In 2022 this was the scene of major forest fires, so there is no telling what we will find there now.

Up to the mouth of the Loire on EV 1, but not in to Brittany!
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From Nantes, the route takes us along the lovely Loire, past chateaus and other castles. This is the famous "La Loire a Velo" (EV 6). We are incubating some plans to bring grandchildren here in the Fall. 

Beyond Orleans is the spot to jump off EV6 onto EV3 (The Pilgrim Route) and to head on in to Paris. Our actual stay before flying out is at Boubier, a little town 60 km north. We are thinking to take off from Orleans itself and head on up, past Chartres and Versailles!

Nantes to Orleans on La Loire a Velo (EV6)
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The jump up to and beyond Paris.
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It will be about 800 km from Valencia to Malaga, 800 km from Malaga to the middle of Portugal, and a further 800 km up to Santiago. From there it depends on what train we can get and how far we ride it in Spain, but from the beginning of France (such as at Hendaye) to Nantes is another 600 and Nantes to Paris another 500 km. So that's... 3500 km. We should be able to manage that!

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Karen PoretI admire your foresight for fun! Looking forward to following along from the armchair!
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2 months ago
Kristine OvensYou both are so inspirational! Have fun!
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2 months ago
John FlecknerWishing you a splendid trip. We are still hoping for Spring in Burgundy and surrounding areas.
The Cyclingsantas
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonAmbitious! I hope it all works out for you, and we’ll look forward to following along. I don’t remember if you’ve taken the train in Spain before, but do your research - it’s not France.

Also, I see you’re planning on some birdwatching on the way to Huelva, which I assume you’re hoping for in Doñana National Park. Don’t get your hopes up too high though, because the birds are all down in the delta near the sea, and you can’t bike there. It looks like you’re staying in El Rocio though, which birds or no birds is an experience not to be missed: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/iberia2019/el-rocio/. You should watch the video so you know what to expect.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonLast time in Santiago we failed to find a train out and had to throw the bikes under a bus. This time we think we have found a ship bikes service that could take them to Pamplona, and we'll follow by train. But we are most likely to trip up with Malaga to Cordoba. We are Booked on either side of that gap and could not afford the three days if we had to pedal it.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI was going to say this should be easy, because we took the same journey by bus in the other direction four years ago: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/iberia2019/to-malaga/. But then I looked at Alsa’s baggage policy (they’re the carrier on this line), and saw this:

From January 10, 2024, access to the bus with electric scooters is prohibited on all Alsa services. This prohibition applies not only to electric scooters, but to any other mobility device equipped with batteries.

So you might want to contact them to see if this includes e-bikes. Another possibility would be a one-way car rental, but you need to have an international drivers permit. Easy to get from AAA, if you haven’t got one. I should probably do that myself, just in case.
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2 months ago
Janice BranhamThis looks like a dreamy trip. I'll have to he content with drooling along while we pedal around the good old US of A this year.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Janice BranhamToo bad you won't be in the same area as us (at the same time). A meet up would be great.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonGood points, all. We have found a bike shipping service through the Correos, Post Office you know, that goes between points in Spain. Only problem is it takes 3 days and you know how fast we move. Still, there is always a workaround and we have the concept to build on.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThat’s really interesting, and good to know. It’s not a place that would have occurred to me to look. It seems like it might work quite well for you for getting east from Santiago.
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2 months ago