#Parlis: Hills, Pilgrims and Cobblestones along the Atlantic Coast

Before I already embark on my next big cycle tour this Monday, I wanted to make sure I’ll finish the story about my first trip. So here we go…

After cycling through Paris and having cooked with Maelle the other day, I started the journey to Lisbon on September 6th early in the morning. Rush hour was already gone, but the city was busy and I was happy to finally leave the outskirts of the city more than an hour after I first started.

Even though, it’s not my first time exploring roads I didn’t know before, this experience was very different – I don’t know French and relied heavily on my Garmin and my GPS on the phone. Never turned me down in the end, but can be a bit tricky sometimes. Additionally, it was my first time ever doing warmshowers, as well as not having much couchsurfing experience until then, the idea of knocking on peoples doors and just spend the night at their place, sometime made me feel a bit strange. All my hosts were amazing, each and everyone made me feel at home and I was always well and so thankful for the experience in the end.
Knowing that the preparation for this year’s trip through Germany and the Netherlands have been much easier and quite relaxing – still I hope for the best.

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The next stop from Paris was Mérèville at Arnaud and Agnies place with their little daughter. They live in a beautiful little house close by the town and behind the house you’ll find a big garden and some sheeps as well. That day I did nearly 90k. Something I already started on that first day of cycling was having a second breakfast at a French patisserie. mmh- so delicious and a brilliant ritual no matter the route or the weather, you’ll always find a bakery and a good croissant. I missed that a lot once I left France 😉

From day three, when I arrived in Orléans, I turned West and cycled along the Loire for several days – visiting cities along the way, meeting some cyclists and following rather flat streets it was pretty easy to make my way. In Blois I stayed with Benoit, Alix and their son and in Bourgueil I was brave enough – encouraged by Alix – to go there without having a place to sleep for sure. Luckily I met people who owned a restaurant and had a little room above the place, they rarely used. That’s been a really special occasion to remember for me! And I can definitely recommend visiting this beautiful little town at the Loire – it’s really nice 🙂

After that night I turned more southwards again and the route got much hillier. Some exhausting days were coming along and the weather changed from sun to rain and back. Fortunately, it stayed quite warm and I could dry my clothes while cycling on. A few nights later, right at the Atlantic Coast I visited my friend Charlotte in her surf camp. They were staying on a campsite in the woods next to the beach and for a few bucks I had a spare tent all to myself and dinner, as well as breakfast were included. We had a blast that night and it was good craic sleeping in a tent again since I love camping.

Mutriku
Mutriku – Spanish North Coast

Only two days later, I already crossed the Spanish border in Irun. That day was quite a hassle since it rained heavily in the morning and when I was finally dry again, I had two punctures in Irun. Fixing them, already took some time, then I looked for a cycling shop to buy a new tube and when I made it on my bike again to cycle the last few km to Bilbao, I took some very big and busy roads right during rush hour. Those main roads are definitely not made for cyclists even though it’s not forbidden to cycle there. The alternative was a scenic but very hilly road along the ocean and I only opted for the other version due to time reasons. However, in the end I was very happy to arrive in San Sebastian safe and sound . That evening I stayed with Erika, a Scotish girl who teach English in the Spanish city and travelled to Asia by bike.

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Getting to know Spanish road the next couple of day, I had to climb many hills and slept in countless pilgrim hostels. Therefore I didn’t stay with local warmshower hosts and met a lot of international pilgrims along the way. Looking back the atmosphere in all three countries has been totally different – not just because of the various languages, changing landscape and inhabitants but much more where I slept. In France I met a lot of locals and was served French dinner, got to know their culture – it was so lovely. In Spain I spent the evenings with people from America, Germany and many other places – almost like in a youth hostel, when I travel elsewhere but still different since we were on the camino.

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near the wonderful pilgrims hostel in Güemes

In Portugal, however, I stayed at some hostels and sometimes I stayed with hosts which made a it strange mix of feeling like a traveller and actually getting to know the personal culture. Another big differences was the weather. Whereas the Spanish North coast was still pretty wet and windy, Portugal got hotter and hotter every day I cycled.

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Spanish West coast near Vigo

Besides my bed hunt in Santiago de Compostela on a Saturday evening, because I didn’t pre-book anything, a lot of cobblestone-streets in Portugal and a two night stop in Porto – a much needed rest – most of the way down to Lisbon went very well. Oh, but by the way, you cannot use GoogleMaps to plan your cycle trip in Portugal. For any reason GoogleMaps doesn’t have any cycle routes for Portugal at all and I had to navigate via my Garmin and the streets signs. It’s not a problem, but it can be hard to plan distances sometimes 😉

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During the last few days of my cycle I got a little cold and the heat made it pretty tough to manage all the climbs even on short distances. Finally, early October, I arrived in Lisbon and met Sofia and her daughter. Sofia and I did and online class on Entrepreneurship together earlier in 2017 and for this reason, we had talked before and I had sent her my bike bag to store it while I was on the road. It was very nice to stay with her and I had some great days exploring the city and relaxing a litte before I went back to Germany  – and to a new city and a new degree.

In total, I had cycled more than 2300km in 24 days, adding two rest days in between and two days in Lisbon, I had been gone for exactly a month.

This time, I’ll start cycling right in front of my door, be on the road for five weeks and plan to post updates on facebook and on a weekly basis over here. So watch out for some news if you’re interested – leave me a like or a comment and happy travels everyone!

See you soon, Anna!

Lisbon
arrived in Lisbon: in front of the Torré de Belem

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