First self-guided Electric-assisted mountain bike trip : May 2019
Four of us regular Big Foot Tour members decided to try self-guided mountain bike trip for the first time (actually with electric-assisted mountain bikes). We have been on mountain bike trips before but all have been guided.
We booked though FRANCE BIKE TRIP https://www.france-bike-trips.com/ and they are very organized, very professional, and the bikes that were provided were very good and well maintained.
On DAY 1 : We flew from Bangkok to Frankfurt and connected to Lyon, France in the morning. We picked up our rental car and drove 100 Km to Valence, France for lunch. I have never heard of Valence before but it turned out to be a nice quiet small city with a beautiful park and convenient underground paid parking right in the middle of the city.
After lunch, we drove another 70 Km into the mountainous area Drome toward the town of Die to our B&B. “ Le Saule Reveur” https://www.lesaulereveur.com/ is a really nice clean family run B&B. The rooms were large are airy with a huge bathroom. The breakfast was a bit light but fresh.
For the eMTB trip, we used Velorizon’s DIOIS SINGLETRACK TRAIL ( https://www.france-bike-trips.com/mountain-bike-mtb-tour/france/southern-prealps/CY2B-mtb-singletrack-france-trails-drome-provencale.html ). The staff from the company came to meet us in the afternoon to deliver the bikes and provided us with detailed maps with trails marked and commented.
Unfortunately, during the briefing, I did not pay muchh attention to it because the company also provided GPX files that I loaded into my mobile phone. It turned out that the GPX files are of the main tracks and did not contain several optional routes that were marked on the paper maps. If I have paid a bitt more attention during the briefing, the rides would have been quite a bit easier, especially on the descents. Totally my own faults.
The late May weather in Drome was perfect. Sunny and cool (15-20 Degrees C) and had enough sunlight hours to allow us to relax after the day’s biking. Also we were there during the shoulder season, we did not meet any other bikers on the trails in all 3 days.
DAY 2 : As I mentioned earlier, the weather was gorgeous, sunny and cool. We took off around 9 am . There are 2 versions of the routes and we decided to take the longer and more difficult route (Version 2)
At the beginning, the trails were a mixed of quiet roads and wide off roads. Then later we got to the the mountains. The trails become narrower and eventually turned into single tracks, and the scenery become even more beautiful as we got higher in the mountains.
We reached the top, there was a marker for several options to go down. As I mentioned earlier, I neglected to consult the map and just followed the way down that the GPX indicated.
It turned out to be a very difficult descent where at certain spots, we had to walk the bikes down very steep sections and pushed the heavy eMTB up very steep trails. But we survived.
Finally we got the very nice B& B Les Paons du Jour ( https://www.les-paons-du-jour.com/ ) in Châtillon-en-Diois. It is a really nice clean with a really friendly lady owner, who despite the fact that she speaks almost no English, she made every efforts to make us feel at home and greeted us with ice cold beers.
On DAY 3, I studied the printed map in minute details, and after a pretty hard day, we decided that we will try the easier Version 1. It was another gorgeously sunny and cool day. Despite getting lost some, the morning ride was mostly uphills, so with the eMTB, it was a lot of fun.
By lunch time, we rode into a small quiet town Treschen-Creyers and found a great friendly restaurant in Le Mont Barral Hotel ( https://www.hotelmontbarral-vercors.com/1/home/ ) so we had a good rest and fill-up. The only drawback was that the beer was not very cold.
After lunch, we took off for Archiane ( http://www.archiane.fr/ ) on top of another hill. To get there, it is mostly downhill but ……. We met a few hikers coming the other way and they were trying to tell us something that sounds like a warning. After a good bout of charade, we finally figured out that they were telling us to go down slowly as it is quite steep.
We found out that it was not only steep but in many sections, the single tracks were literally 2-feet wide, sloping, rocky trails with very sharp drop on one side. I think we ended up walking our bikes about 50% of the 10 Km to get to Archiane.
Archiane was stunning with panoramic views of the mountains and valleys. The lady at the B&B said that Archiane is “manifique” and she was not exaggerating.
We stayed at this very rustic, but clean, Le Refuge ( http://www.archiane.fr/ ) which is really rustic with shared bathrooms. It seems to be the only lodging in Archiane because the few other buildings we saw there were just homes.
Dinner was prepared by the owner and being my wife’s birthday, he also baked a cake for her.
DAY 4 : At the risk of being totally boring, the day was another gorgeously sunny cool day.
We rode down and really nice relatively easy route back to Die and the B&B that we stayed on the first night. The trails were a mix of traffic free roads, wide gravel tracks, and some single tracks along the cliff along the Drome River.
Compared to the rides on the first two days, this was a relaxing ride.
DAY 5 : The original itinerary for today was to ride the trails around Die and to be back at the same B&B again for one more night. However, rain was predicted. We did not want to ruin our perfect record of riding in sunny cool weather (boring !!!) so we decided that we would not bike but to drive around to look for places to visit instead.
I researched and decided to drive 120 Km to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc to go kayaking with Loulou Bateaux ( https://www.louloubateaux.com/ ) which is kayaking on a fairly gentle river to pass beneath the natural stone arch, Pont-d’Arc.
Before kayaking, we stopped in the town for lunch at La Pause Bistrot. As it was before the tourist season (June-August), the restaurant, like all around town,was empty. This place had great food, good price, and the owners are one of the nicest couples we have met. Also we were the first Thai group who ever stopped there.
DAY 6 marks the end of the bike trip and the beginning of our road trip south toward Cote d’Azur which will end in Nice and flying home.
One of our member is a devout Catholic, and when we are on trips, if we can find a church for her for Mass on Sundays, we would go join in. Previously we had attended Sunday Mass in many languages like German, French, Italian, and even Lithuanian. So I searched the internet and found that the church in Valence, on our way has Mass at 10:45. But when we got there at 10:30, we found out that the time posted on the web was not correct and the Mass was finishing up. A bit disappointed, but at least we tried.
We then continue on to Aginon to visit the Palais ddes Papes (Pope’s Palace http://www.palais-des-papes.com/en ). The uniqueness about this palace visit is the deployment of the augmented reality to add life and tell stories behind all the exhibits. Definitely a worthwhile place to visit. We spent about two hours here and found that it was truly educational with the use of this leading edge technology.
Regarding the Sunday Mass, it turned out that we hit the jackpot in Avignon. Just as we came out from Palais des Papes, we heard the bells in the church tower on top of the hill rang repeatedly. My friend said that it could be an afternoon Mass and we should investigate.
It turned out that it was not just a simple weekly Mass but and ordainment of a new monk and was presided by the Arch Bishop of Avignon and attended by more than 60 monks. It was a real big deal and we were so lucky to get to attend.
By the way, as the new monk is a Vietnamese-French, there were many Vietnamese relatives in attendant so for once, the 4 Thais blended in nicely.
On DAY 7 we did some shopping today and then visited the town of Bonndieux to walk around. In the afternoon we were planning to do some kayaking near Verdon Gorge but it was raining hard so we just had a relaxing afternoon.
On DAY 8 : After reading all the blogs, we decided against driving Verdon Gorge and decided to visit an island that we still cannot pronounce the name to this day, Porquerolles Island ( https://www.hyeres-tourism.co.uk/the-golden-isles/porquerolles/ ).
We drove to the ferry terminal at La Tour Fonndue and took a 30 minutes ride on the ferry to the island. Right near the ferry terminal on Porquerolles, in the only town on the island, there are many bicycle rental shops. We rented Electric-assisted Mountain Bikes (eMTB) to ride around for the day. All were in quite good conditions and allowed us to cover both ends of the island in about 4 hours.
At the risk of becoming monotonous, we had a really cool sunny day and very few tourists (almost exclusively Europeans).
Plenty of restaurants near the ferry terminal as well. Food was good but a bit pricy compare to the prices on the mainland.
My son is a wine collector and when we asked him if he would like us to bring back any wine from the region, he was excited as asked us to get “Bandol” wine which is produced where we were and very difficult to find in Thailand. The day before we found 4 bottles that were not exactly the vintage year that he wanted but close.
After we got off the island we found a great wine shop that had 3 bottles of the exact ones he wanted so we bought them
The problem is that now we have 7 bottles while Thailand’s Custom only allows us to bring in just one bottle per person, so on the last day, we will have to drink 3 bottles in one day. (to be continued)
DAY 9 is another day of “I hate cities” and had trouble trying to figure out what to do for the day. Thought about visiting St Tropez but after we got there, we had difficulty finding a parking space, even during the low season so we left after driving around a few minutes.
Luckily we found a place that we can rent kayaks https://www.basedurocher.fr/ so we were able to spend a pleasant afternoon paddling around.
As I mentioned above that we need to “get rid of” 3 bottles of wine today so we took a bottle with us and finished it on a little beach before we had to turn back.
We then drove to Nice wher we are to spend one night to fly out the next day. Even just 20 km away, I can tell that this will bee a very stressful part of the trip for Big Foot Angel. We hit traffic with all driver honking their horns and weaved in and out rudely.
Anyway, we finally got to our apartment and decided to stay in to finish the two bottles of Bandol wine that night. The next morning, some of us were rather hungover, the first time in a long time.
Last day, DAY 10, Big Foot Angel hates all cities and we could not get out of there fast enough to fly back to Frankfurt to fly home.