REHUMANIZE THE P.I.G.S.
part 3: Toulouse - Pont Saint Esprite - Troistorrents
June is about to end, same as my stay at Barcelona. I load once more my bike early in the morning trying to skip the heatwave and I am already full of sweat before hitting the start button. I take the C55 heading North without anything special on the way. Via C16 I continue North and fortunately I leave the heat behind as I go up the Pyrenees. After a point though as I was approaching the beautiful “Cadi-Moixero” National Park, I actually start feeling cold as I wear nothing under my summer jacket. As I start thinking about stopping to wear something more it's already too late: I enter a tunnel that I hadn't noticed earlier in the map which is actually a 5km long fridge where I froze my ass off and felt like it took me an age to make it to the other side following the speed limit while ducking behind the windscreen to keep me warm.
I continue on N152 in a pleasant and flat scenery with nice contrasts of white and blue in the sky. The architecture of the houses shows me that I must be close to France and a bit later I pass the French border at Bourg Madam. It is time for the Ν20 now to take me North and while the weather seems to get worse with dark clouds in the sky the route gets more and more beautiful following a river for a while. If you are not in a hurry after Porta don't do the mistake to continue on N20 and enter the toll tunnel. Take the N320 instead which follows a much more scenic route going up the mountain through Porte Puymorens. I make one more deviation a bit later and take the Ν22 in order to go to Andora. This road leads high up to Pas de la Casa at 2400 m, the watershed of Pyrenees. Interesting route but not under this heavy rain that wets me now hence I soon take the road back to Toulouse.
Here I am on the N20 again, leaving the cold rainy mountains behind for a more friendly landscape. After a lot of km in flat cultivated fields without any bends I arrive at Toulouse. Now I have to find my connection there, Clement, who runs with his family a youth hostel there and offered to host me. Being too busy at their overbooked place in the center of the city his father takes over to lead me to their other hostel. He on his tiny scooter, me following on my full loaded bike. He drives like a maniac flat out all the time filtering cars like crazy and I had to undust my Athens heavy traffic skills to catch him after so many civilised km in open roads. On every red light I managed to stop beside him he always gives me the "put you in trouble eh? haha" smile. To add more on how funny the whole thing is, his son is the perfect opposite of him. We arrive in one piece after this time trial style riding and he shows me my bed. Before I put my stuff in place he hands me a beer straight from the fridge. I can't spare you the spoiler fact that he kept doing that every single time he met me during my stay. What a guy!
As I'm unpacked and ready I leave the hostel to walk the city. And beautiful she is!
The local cathedral of Saint Etienne impresses me, especially at night with this blue light glowing behind its large windows, unfortunately not showing in this picture:
Outside the cathedral I spot this wonderful Porsche - such a time machine scene:
This city is really very beautiful and personally speaking maybe she was the one who touched me the most. Really felt like "she" to me. Could be the old part of the city to blame for this, or the nice parks, or even more the Garonne river offering unique colours day and night.
You can start your walk close to the sunset when colours are more warm:
Then pick a bridge of your choice (mine was Pont Neuf) to watch the sun flooding the sky with purple:
And for dessert enjoy the smart lighting:
One night, as I walk back to the hostel solo I see cars with flags of Ghana waved by screaming passengers who were almost upset that I look so indifferent to their happiness. Next day I learned that Ghana had won USA in football so I could finally partially understand their excitement. The world football championship was still going on and I was experiencing screaming fans from town to town but this was the last thing that I was interested in.
My days at Toulouse are over, June is over too and I have to thank Clement and his father for their amazing hospitality before I continue my way East. The route is easy with low traffic on D888 and I enjoy the shade as there's lots of trees on both sides of the road:
The route is crossing lowland fields and beautiful villages for long but later the scenery changes, especially as I leave A75 on exit 39 to take the N88 driving east:
Higher altitude, more trees, less heat and the first dark clouds appear in the sky. I take the N106. This road crosses the Cevennes which is a very beautiful forest making the route more exiting. Somewhere in the middle of this forest I hear a thunder so loud as if it ignited just an inch above my head. This was the starting gun for a heavy rain that doesn't allow me to enjoy the whole scenery as much as I want to. It goes on on for quite a few km when I finally leave the mountain and the cold back for more friendly lowland places once again and via D6 I arrive at Pont St Esprit where I decide to stay overnight. Definitely not because I am attracted by this town - it's actually by far the least attractive I've seen in France. However, I had already a lot of km on my back and some of them under heavy rain so I needed a rest and this place is like a hostel village. I pick a mediocre hotel and when I ask the owner for a place to park my bike he leads me to his house's yard where his cute kids are playing. Fortunately they didn't play with my bike while I wasn't there so I am able to leave that place next morning.
It's a new day, it's a new destination and I'm feeling good. Perfect weather definitely helps for the latter. My goal is to make it up to Le Mutaret, a village North East of Grenoble. The first km didn't have anything special to remember except some lavender fields which I couldn't pass without a necessary photo:
Next interesting moment was after Puy Saint Martin where D6 follows a very beautiful route that goes uphill and after some bends behind the trees I see a forest of wind generators. I experienced an even greater surprise later on D70 after Mirabel et Blacons. This is a relatively narrow road that crosses a full green forest where you often drive under the shadow of the trees which is really a joy on a hot sunny day.
That's the beauty of riding in the Vercors National park: