Thursday, September 17, 2020

Another birthday, another milestone

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
The birthday girl in the frame

My stomach and head are a whirl of emotions at the moment. It would seem that although I am fitter and (hopefully) healthier than I have ever been, and certainly weigh in at the lightest I’ve been as an adult, time doesn’t stand still. Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday and I’m hoping there will be a long, slow twelve months ahead of me before I find myself crashing into the big five-o. 

 

For an unremarkable mid-week day in mid-September, it turned out to be a pretty momentous day. Ed had been home since Saturday, so it was a real bonus to have all of us together on my birthday, that falls at a time of year when activities normally resume after the summer holidays and we are rarely all in the same place. If the best gift a Mum can ask for is a happy, confident child young adult, making his own way in the world, then I got my wish. Yesterday, for the first time, Ed packed his bags, loaded them into his car, gave us both a hug and kiss, and drove off to Poitiers university, alone. No more am I needed for school runs, after-school activity taxi services, or uni drop offs, although I do still hold the franchise on his laundry service. It is now very much up to him how often he comes home and how long he stays for. As much as it is marvellous to see him become his own person, I can’t lie, it felt rather strange to watch him drive away. The house seemed unusually quiet for the first ten minutes or so as Adrian and I both tried to look busy (on Facebook) as we wondered what to do for the rest of my birthday, and indeed, the rest of our lives.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone Niort
Birthday flan in Niort

It didn’t take too long before a bike route had been planned and we set off to our start point in Prahecq, knowing that as Niort town centre was our destination, a patisserie stop should soothe our emotions and refuel us on the mid-point of the thirty kilometre bike ride. We have now cycled (in stages) all 75kms of a brand new cycleway, the V93 that runs close to home as it makes its way through the southern part of the Deux-Sèvres. In Niort it joins the Vélo-Francette that runs from the coast in Normandy to La Rochelle and from the Deux-Sèvres/Charente boarder it heads east towards Limoges. Our plan now is to follow it across the Charente and on towards the Haute-Vienne.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
Sharing the courgette love

Yesterday evening we dined with some of our fantastic friends, who not only put up with our quirky cycling addiction but came up with some amazing birthday gifts too. From the courgette cushion that could only have been designed with me in mind, to the wine glasses that left me speechless and the delicate handmade key ring that has been added to the collection on my bike, I was truly spoiled. 


French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
My new golden leaf key ring

Yes, I do know the key rings add weight to the bike, and tinkle and clink as I cycle along, but I don’t care.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
An original birthday gift

When one friend realised there wasn’t much available in Brompton-themed gift ideas, she only went and hand etched a detailed Brompton bicycle onto four wine glasses, just for me. I am overwhelmed to be surrounded by such talented and great friends. They even managed to raise my spirits with fun, laughter and fine food, so I almost forgot Ed’s departure earlier in the day.

 

Next year’s birthday will have to be quite extraordinary to even get close to this year.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book review of Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

 
French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

Someday in Paris

 

'An epic, sweeping romance about soulmates and second chances' Holly Miller.

 

'An absolutely unforgettable love story' Mandy Baggot.

 

'A deeply moving, richly evocative story of love, loss and the power of hope' Miranda Dickinson.

 

Finding the one is only the beginning... 

1954. Zara is fifteen the first time she meets Leon. During a power cut in a small French museum, the two spend one short hour in the dark talking about their love for art, Monet and Paris. Neither knows what the other looks like. Both know their lives will never be the same. 

 

1963. In Paris, Leon no longer believes he will ever find the girl he lost that night. After dreaming about him for years, Zara thinks she has already found him. When they meet at an exhibition, they don't recognise each other – yet the way they feel is so familiar... 

 

Over the course of twenty years, Zara and Leon are destined to fall in love again and again. But will they ever find a way to be together? 

'It's about dreams and taking chances. Missed opportunities and mistakes. Loss and sacrifice. But above all, it is about love. The kind of love that survives time, distance... even death. The kind of love I wish for you.' 

 

A magical new love story about star-crossed lovers, perfect for hopeless romantics and fans of One Day and The Notebook

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

My Review

An unusual revelation in the opening chapter, that involved a mysterious cemetery visit, instantly had me hooked. I had no idea where this book would take me, but I knew I had to dive right in.

 

The book then jumps back in time and we meet Leon and Zara when their relationship begins with a chance meeting in a museum library, during a power cut. Despite not seeing each other’s faces and almost forgetting to ask their names, they know they have a connection they can’t let go. They begin writing to each other, pouring out their feelings and thoughts, not knowing if they will ever get the chance to meet in person again. What follows is a love story that keeps us hanging on for decades, that is deeply emotional and gives you all the good, and the bad, that love can throw your way. You get a hint about the unusual dreams and dramas the women in this book experience at the beginning, but nothing quite prepared me for what was to come.

 

Museums, the art world, books and libraries all have their part to play in this novel and this added an extra depth for me, as well as a release from the heavy emotions. I also enjoyed the locations we visited, and the descriptions of Colmar in the Alsace in particular made me want to plan a visit. 

 

This book might not be one to lift your soul in troubled times, but it will certainly pull you in to its rollercoaster ride of emotions and give you a lot to think and ponder on, even when you are not reading it. 

 

Someday in Paris is currently only 99p on kindle UK and you will definitely get your money’s worth from it. 

 

Purchase Links 



Amazon US 

Kobo US 

Apple US 

Barnes & Noble 

Google 

Kobo UK 

Apple UK 

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Olivia Lara Someday in Paris

Author Bio 

OLIVIA LARA was born and raised in Bucharest in a family of booklovers and storytellers. Since university she has worked as a journalist and marketer in Romania, France and the United States. She is currently a marketing executive in San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, young daughter and four cats. Someday in Paris is her first novel.

 

Social Media Links  

Twitter 

Facebook 

Instagram 

Author website 

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

Goodreads Giveaway

Olivia Lara is running a Goodreads giveaway for 50 kindle copies of Someday in Paris. As per Goodreads latest rules, this is open to those in the US only. 


Click here to enter.


What readers are saying about Someday in Paris

'I absolutely adored this book and stayed up late at night to finish it!! I couldn't put it down. This was a truly epic love story' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Magical, all-encompassing and timeless; an unforgettable romance' NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Without question 5.0 Exquisite Stars!! There are not enough magical adjectives to describe the beauty of this story!! Someday in Paris moved me beyond words and to quite a few tears' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Some books leave you a print in your heart which make them difficult to forget ... Emotive, sweet and unforgettable ... The most beautiful book I've read in a while!' NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'This is a book for hopeless romantics, for those who dare to dream, and for those who believe in true love everlasting ... I could not put it down' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'This book left me speechless. I haven't read such an amazing story in a long time' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

'I absolutely loved this book ... The story kept me hanging on and reading late into the night' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, September 4, 2020

La Rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal

French Village Diaries la rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal
2020 back to school picture

It has been a testing week. My sixteen-year-old car had to have its CT controle technique (MOT) and unbeknown to us, the test centre itself was being checked and tested as it put my car through its paces. As if that wasn’t enough, at exactly the same time, but in a town forty kilometres away, Ed was taking his driving test. She (for in France it is la voiture) passed her CT but it was a few days anxious waiting to find out about the driving test. Ed had come home from Poitiers at the beginning of March for a long weekend, a last lesson and to take his driving test on the Monday morning, when lockdown scuppered all his plans. The weird thing is that on the eve of him returning to independent life in Poitiers, the news we’d hoped for was in; he’d passed his test. Well done Ed, that’s another tick in the major life events box and the beginning of a new chapter for us all.


French Village Diaries la rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal
Ed in his car with his A plate (new driver marker for three years)

 

September signifies the return to school, or la rentrée and even if you don’t live here, just being on holiday in France at the end of August or beginning of September is enough to know that it is big business. Supermarkets dedicate aisles to back to school supplies, frazzled mothers search out the required items on the seemingly never-ending lists and bored kids squabble over pencil case or school bag designs. I am relieved I no longer have to worry about buying the correct size of exercise books, or why it is some teachers request paper with small squares, some large, some A4 sized, some foolscap. This year I’ve baked him a cake and will stock up the fridge and cupboards with tasty treats, as I’ll miss not having to cook for him. Having had him at home with us for almost six months, taking him back to Poitiers today felt quite odd and the house will seem quiet without the backdrop of his guitar and music.



French Village Diaries la rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal
Ed off to school 2004

 

This year it is our 17th rentrée in France, and it has never been my favourite time of year. My Facebook memories this week have shown me it was five years ago when we first left Ed at lycée, where he was boarding from Monday to Friday, and two years since we set him up in the flat in Poitiers. I should be used to it by now, but this year feels as hard as leaving him in 2004, aged not quite four, for his first morning in a French speaking nursery school. I’ve no concerns on the language side of things now, but it’s the realisation that letting him return to Poitiers and the lecture halls at university will well and truly burst our virus-free bubble, and there’s nothing I can do to keep him safe. This week he went to a meeting on campus, that was well organised and has left me a bit more reassured. Obviously, masks will be worn, but there are also one-way circulation systems inside corridors and staircases, plus a contingency plan in place to split and rotate classes between online and onsite should the need arise. La rentrée this year is a return to a normal that’s not quite normal, except for the swallows.

 

The September weather has a fresh edge to it, especially overnight, and every morning the swallows gather in large numbers on the electric wires, enjoying the warmth of the sun, scattering into the sky like confetti when a car disturbs their chatter. It’s a magnificent sight, more spectacular than the excitement of seeing the first swallow arrive in March or April but tinged with sadness as I know they will soon be off for a winter in Africa.


French Village Diaries la rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal
My new notebook

 

September is also when Adrian would normally return to travelling away from home for work, but all is eerily quiet on the work front. For me, at least this has offered a gentler rentrée than the abrupt end of summer I am used to. I still see it as a time for new beginnings and I didn’t totally avoid the back to school aisle, seduced (as usual) by a pretty pack of notebooks, offering a fresh new page to release the tumble of words that have been bouncing around inside my head all summer. It is also time to return to the writing projects I lost confidence in over the last few months and get back to regular blogging.

 

If you or your family are also heading back to a new normal, I do hope it’s as safe a rentrée as possible for everyone.

 

 

French Village Diaries la rentrée 2020 a return to a new normal
Ed back at his flat giving me a goodbye hug

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic

 

French Village Diaries Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic anthology
Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic

STOP THE WORLD: Snapshots from a Pandemic

 

I had some exciting post this week, a real paper book, Fed-Ex’d over from the US. Book post is always exciting, but this book is a little bit more special for me; my name (along with forty other names) is on the front cover.

 

Way back during life in lockdown, American author and editor, Lise McClendon, asked me if I would be interested in submitting something for an anthology she was putting together, called Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic. I was honoured to be asked and delighted to be part of something that has recorded such an unexpected moment for social history.

 

Lise McClendon felt it was important to bring together writers from all over the world (she has contributions from forty writers in ten countries) to ensure what we were thinking and feeling during lockdown is preserved, even if it is a period in time we may all wish to forget. 

 

French Village Diaries Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic anthology
You'll find me on page 36

My contribution is factual, about our way of adapting and coping to life in lockdown and alongside other personal essays, there are also short fiction and poetry pieces, all based on experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

With its bite-sized reads for whenever you have a moment, it is an easy book to dip in and out of and I found it interesting to see how many different emotions and reactions there were to something that we all experienced, wherever in the world we were. My copy proudly sits on the coffee table in the lounge, a permanent reminder of an extraordinary year.




French Village Diaries Stop the World: Snapshots from a Pandemic anthology
A book with my name on

ISBN: 9780578717753

Thalia Press pub date:  August 4, 2020

Contact: Lise McClendon, 406-698-5268

Email: StopTheWorldAnthology@gmail.com

 

July 1, 2020

 

Thalia Press is pleased to announce the release of a topical, up-to-the-minute anthology of personal essays, short fiction, and poetry based on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in this unique year. Forty writers from around the world took time during this spring of lockdown, contagion, and uncertainty to explore and share their emotions and creative impulses for the record. 

 

STOP THE WORLD: Snapshots from a Pandemic, a brainchild of editor Lise McClendon, was shepherded by her with her co-editors— Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, and Gary Phillips— to bear witness to the events taking place all around us, and especially within us, as we grapple with disease, isolation, death, and, yes, a healthy dose of chaos. 

 

Some writers chose to mine their own psyches and experiences, whether the challenges of life in lockdown or their struggles with productivity and focus. Others felt called to dystopian and wry, dark fiction.  Across the globe the reactions portray a similar anger, pain, and struggle from writers from the US, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Northern Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Romania. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Book review of 365 Days of Gratitude Journal by Marielle S. Smith

 
French Village Diaries book review 365 Days of Gratitude Journal Mariëlle S. Smith
365 Days of Gratitude Journal Mariëlle S. Smith

365 Days of Gratitude Journal

 

‘Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.’ Rumi

 

Being grateful is easy…

…when everything goes according to plan.

But how do you keep at it no matter what life throws at you?

Enter 365 Days of Gratitude, the undated daily journal that will help you stay on track.

 

After years of barely surviving her own emotional minefield, writing coach Mariëlle S. Smith discovered the transformative power of practising gratitude. But, like no one else, she knows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done.

 

Complete with inspiring quotes, daily prompts, and recurring check-ins, the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal encourages you to create a sustainable gratitude practice too.

 

Ready to commit to the life-changing power of gratitude? Order your copy of the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal now.

 

French Village Diaries book review 365 Days of Gratitude Journal Mariëlle S. Smith
Publication Day Push for 365 Days of Gratitude Journal

My review

Having enjoyed, and got a lot out of, Mariëlle’s 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, I was looking forward to learning more about journaling and interested to see how gratitude journaling would work for me. This year has been a difficult one for so many, looking for the positives and things to be thankful for at the end of the day, can only be a good thing.

 

In Mariëlle’s own words “I’m hooked on gratitude because it enables me to perceive everything in life as magical again”.

 

In the diary we learn to focus on three good things that happened during the day, rate the day, giving it a score, pick out something we want to remember about it, and think on something we could have been more grateful about, before moving on to tackling tomorrow. Every week, month and quarter Mariëlle adds in some extra prompts to help us look back at the bigger picture, think things through a bit deeper and look at what we have learned from what we have written. 

 

Ending my day with a moment of mindful mediation about how the day has been, brought a calmness to my mind and helped me to relax. Writing things down gives them a permanence and they become a reference point to look back on in order to help us to move forward in a more positive way. This can have many benefits on our health, state of mind and performance.

 

I had high hopes for this book, and I wasn’t disappointed, but it did take commitment and effort from me and as with everything in life some days were more difficult than others. I liked the layout, which is clear and encouraging, I enjoyed reading the inspirational quotes at the end of every week and although I am a long way from perfecting the art, the dabbling I have done has whetted my appetite to keep going.

 

I’m certainly grateful I had the opportunity to review this book and keen to keep up the good work I’ve started.

 

Purchase Links 

Get 50% off the printable PDF until 6 September 2020 with the following discount code: HAPPYLAUNCH. Go to Mariëlle’s website here or here to claim your copy. 


Amazon US 

 

French Village Diaries book review 365 Days of Gratitude Journal Mariëlle S. Smith
Mariëlle S. Smith

Author Bio

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a (ghost) writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, and island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count. 

 

Social Media Links

Facebook 

Instagram 

YouTube 

 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Challenges and milestones

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
Sometimes it's difficult to keep going


Looking back to the pre-pandemic glory days of 2019, I note that ‘challenge’ was the word I used to describe the year. If only I’d known what was just around the corner, as 2020 has certainly been the year of challenges so far. Some were expected, like the ones I set myself on the bike, some were not. Covid-19 rocking up and locking us all down, and the knock-on effects hampering Adrian’s ability to travel and work, were not what I expected, but then neither was losing our nephew Ben to suicide, and the huge hole that he has left in our family. 

 

There are some days when I still struggle to fully comprehend where we are now, and I find it quite difficult to think about what lies ahead. Which might explain the lack of recent blog posts. I’m not sure that the three of us have grieved properly for Ben yet, and not being able to spend time together with our family in the UK (many of whom are vulnerable and still self-isolating) hasn’t helped.

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020 #ForBen
Cycling #ForBen Team Kharma

During lockdown it looked unlikely that I’d see any of my cycling challenges come to fruition, but as restrictions were lifted, we realised that in this extraordinary year, we owed it to ourselves to seize every opportunity that came our way. Cycling has given us the focus and motivation to keep going, and that started with us taking part in the virtual cycling challenge From Loughborough to Istanbul; For Ben. Being just a small part in this amazing event, which has raised over £30,000 for charities working to prevent suicide in young people, was very humbling but also a great help.

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
Triumph at climbing my first Col, on the Côte d'Azur

The challenges I set myself this year were in two sets of twenty. The first being to ride in twenty different French departments (states/counties), and as August draws to a close, I've managed a respectable thirteen. 


The other twenty was made up of:

Climbing five mountain cols (passes).

Five consecutive days cycling over 50 km a day. 

Five 100 km in a day.

Five shopping trips using the bike instead of the car.

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
Conquering the Cols in the Pyrenees

Living somewhere flat meant the cols were conquered whilst on holiday in Provence and the Pyrenees, and earlier this month I smashed my target having climbed thirteen cols and got to the top of Mont Ventoux. 

 

August has been a month of milestones. Last week I clocked up a pretty impressive 418 km, making it the furthest distance I’ve cycled in a week this year, as well as completing my five consecutive days cycling over 50 km, and the second of my 100 km in a day. 

 

This August I have also beaten the 2019 mile (3250 km) target I set (and achieved) last year, despite hardly using the bike for the two months of lockdown and I’ve hit another first; cycling over 1000 km in a single month. 

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
In the Marais Poitevin, August 2020, 1000 km cycled

Yes, you did read that correctly. Almost 49 year old me, with my short legs, small frame (me and the bike) and little wheels, has cycled over one thousand kilometres this month, almost three thousand five hundred this year so far and nearly seven thousand since buying my Brompton #KTTinyTourer at the end of 2018.

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
Market shopping in Montbrun-les-Bains

The one I'm struggling on the most is the shopping, which I thought would be the easiest. Thanks to Covid-19 we have stopped popping to the shops for a few bits but have been more organised doing a regular big shop by car and eliminating some of the risk of going to the supermarket. We have, however, managed to reduce the amount we use the car by making the bikes our main mode of transport for social journeys and tasks like picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy and even parcels from the local delivery point. Friends are now so used to seeing us on the bikes we’ve had a few comments when we’ve been spotted out in the car, along the lines of “not on your bikes today then?”

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
I've climbed Mont Ventoux, all the way up there

Some of the things we have challenged ourselves to, including climbing Mont Ventoux at an altitude of 1912m, the Col d’Aubisque (1709m) and the Col du Tourmalet (2115m), have been hard work on the body and the mind and I’m still amazed I did it. One thing it has taught me is that there is something quite cathartic about pushing my body to its limits, hearing my heart pumping and feeling my lungs bursting with air, knowing it is a privilege to be alive in a year when so many have been lost.  

 

French Village Diaries challenges and milestones of 2020
A family bike ride at the end of a hot summer day

I may not be quite there on all my challenges yet, but for a weird year, I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far. I do have a niggling worry though, what if I have peaked too soon achieving all this in the year I turn forty-nine, rather than in the run up to my big 50? I’ll just have to hope that 2021 has something much bigger and better waiting for me to achieve.

 

Our next challenge is to get Ed back to Poitiers for a safe university rentrée and to adapt once more to life as empty nesters. 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Book review of The Misadventures of Mistress Soul by Jan Hartley

French Village Diaries book review The Misadventures of Mistress Soul by Jan Hartley
The Misadventures of Mistress Soul by Jan Hartley


Jan, Gaz and their car Mistress Soul set out to see if life in France is for them in retirement. They plan a year’s rental in the south, thinking this should be enough to sample life, the sights, the food and the wine. For Gaz, it’s love at first sight, for Mistress Soul it’s the perfect opportunity to play up and demand attention, but for Jan it’s more of a challenge.

 

This is her humorous account of trying it out and trying to settle in, despite her homesickness for the grey skies of Blighty, and her family and friends left behind. We join them and the seemingly never-ending stream of visitors who come over and enjoy days out, meals, local festivals, road trips and more with super hosts Jan and Gaz.

 

I live some distance from where Jan and Gaz are based, however, many places she writes about are familiar from our past holidays and it was lovely to back, refreshing my memory, with Jan proving to be a great tour guide. We didn’t see eye to eye on everything though; she’d much rather hop on those funny little tourist trains than let her feet do the work and many of my favourite foods were those she’d (virtually) run a mile from. I envied their freedom and ability to set off on a whim, but many times she left me wanting more. More detail about a day out or a visit to a favourite spot would have been lovely and felt more relaxed, before being whisked off onto their next adventure. They certainly found lots going on localy and were not afraid of joining in, taking part and it was great fun sharing the laughter and hilarity that often found them.

 

I am sure there are many of you who dream of giving life in France a try-out, so let Jan guide you through her adventures and misadventures this autumn and enjoy a slice of retirement in France. You are certainly guaranteed a fun read.

 

The Misadventures of Mistress Soul is published by Linen Press and will be available in kindle and paperback editions from 10th September. You can pre-order from Amazon now.



Saturday, August 8, 2020

Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Col du Soulor 1471m Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

Pyrénées Cycl’n’Trip 2020

 

This time last week we were having a blast in the Pyrénées, stretching our legs in the most extreme way; climbing mountains on our Bromptons. 

 

It was a lucky chance that I stumbled upon an advert on Facebook for the type of organised event that France does so well, Pyrénées Cycl’n’Trip 2020.

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Col du Couraduque 1367m Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

This in an annual five-day event that allows amateur cyclists to experience riding up the best cols (mountain pass climbs) that the Pyrénées has to offer on partially closed roads. Having enjoyed a traffic-free climb up Mont Ventoux earlier this year (thanks to road works) this seemed too good an opportunity to ignore, even if I’m still a little cautious about my mountain climbing abilities.

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Col du Soulor 1471m Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

On each of the days, from 9h to 12h, up to three different cols are closed to motor vehicles, but open for cyclists. The choice of cols each day includes a biggie like Hautacam (14.5km closed road at an average gradient of 7.4%), and a not so biggie, like Couraduque (7km closed road at an average gradient of 5.7%). You don’t have to book, or even put your name down in advance, just turn up at the start of the climb, at any time during the morning road closure. You are free to do as many or as few climbs as you choose, at your own pace, and although you can book a full accommodation or luggage transfer package, there is no obligation to do so. 

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Volunteer-run fees zone Col du Soulor Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

At the top of each col was a feed zone where cake, fruit, water and electrolyte drinks powder were on offer, along with a souvenir (a handy neck tube) and a stamp for your col-collector passport. The best bit; all of this was offered by the Hautes Pyrénées tourist board for FREE.


French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
The first stamp in our passport Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
 

We joined in three closed road climbs in two days (Col de Couraduque 1367m, Col du Soulor 1471m and Col d’Aubisque 1709m) and then went on to do another two (Col des Bordères 1161m and Col du Tourmalet 2115m) on our own before heading across the mountains to the Pays Basque. 

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Starting the Col d'Aubisque 1709m Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020

Everyone is welcome and we saw couples, clubs, groups of friends, families, electric bikes, tandems, road bikes (from all price brackets) and hybrid bikes. The only Bromptons we saw, however, were ours. Everyone we met, from other cyclists, to the Gendarmes (joining in on their electric bikes), to the volunteers at the bottom and top of the closed roads, were friendly and encouraging. I’m so glad I saw the advert and that we decided to act upon it. This year we are all about seizing the moment and an extra, unplanned week away was magic.

  

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
The cycling equivalent of playing football at Wembley Stadium

As an organised event, with such great flexibility, and all for free, I give it 5 stars and I’d certainly recommend next year’s event to anyone wanting to try out the Pyrénean Tour de France greats in a safe and friendly way.

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Stunning views cycling in the Pyrénées

You can read more (in French) on the Hautes Pyrénées tourist board website here and on the Cycl’n’Trip website hereMore Pyrénean cycling information can be found on Freewheeling France here.

 

French Village Diaries Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020
Big bikes and little bikes at the top of the Col d'Aubisque 1709m Pyrénées Cycl'n'Trip 2020