After deciding to put the brakes on our cycling trip in Cremona, a decision we were both comfortable with, we needed a fun little city to catch up on R&R before commencing with the Camino de Santiago, which was our next endeavour.
Enter Narbonne, one more touristy, cafe-filled small-ish French city…and the cool thing here??? We were 15 kms away from the Mediterranean Sea!!!
In order to get to Narbonne, we had a crazy 24-hour train adventure, which made both Shawna and I feel like we were on The Amazing Race (if you are reading this, Phil… pick us…we will rock your world – even if we aren’t American!)
Narbonne – Milan: 90 minute ride then wait 3 hours
Milan – Ventimiglia: 4 hour ride, then sleep on the floor of the train station for 3 hours in the middle of the night
Ventimiglia – Nice: 50 minute ride, then 20 minutes to change trains
Nice – Marseille: 2.5 hour ride, then 14 minutes to switch trains
Marseille – Avignon: 90 minute ride, then a 1 hour wait
Avignon – Narbonne: 3 hour ride….finally here!!!
We had reserved a double room at the Auberges de Jeunesse for three nights, and then decided to play it out from there and see how we were feeling. In the end, Narbonne ended up being home for 6 nights…which is actually a pretty long time for us to be in one place so far (we hope to change that – still waiting for the time to relax in one place for a full month)
The hostel staff were really friendly, but it wasn’t a typical hostel which we were used to. While we were there we were sharing the place with a about 40 young people here for a drama camp, and then about 40 special needs adults. It wasn’t exactly the easiest way to meet other travellers…
As this was our last (and only) major stopping point in France, we did what we could to spoil ourselves with French cuisine (although we both agreed – it is still second place to the gastronomic richness of Italy), croissants, wine, gelato, cheese, and chocolate were common things found on our dinner table.
And oh yes, did I mention the Med!?!?
A quick 15km cycle brought us to the Mediterranean shores, where we spent two afternoons together on the beach (and I went back for a third, one day when Shawna was tired) trying to remove our farmer tans we had picked up while cycling!
Truth be told, the wind also decided to visit the beach when we did, and there was a while there when we were chewing quite a bit of sand as we laid on the beach….ahhh, the price we have to pay….
One quick story here -our first night out there, we thought we would stay out for a late night Burlesque show which was taking place…however as the sun started to set, we realized we would be screwed, cycling home in pitch darkness on a bumpy, disorganized cycle path with plenty of room for error (especially for us).
We skipped the show and pedaled back as fast as we could….like any gentleman, I let Shawna take the lead so that she could give me advance warning of any sudden turns or potholes which she encountered in the blackness. She did however get an additional surprise, when on a few occasions she had bats (yes, BATS!) swooping down at her as they were attracted to the headlight on her helmet. Fortunately her shrill screams (or were they mine??) seemed to scare them off and everyone was ok.
We also spent a little time sampling wine, as this is a great wine-making region within the country (although obviously not the only one, so trust us, France…we will be back!)
Terra Vinea is an old mine which has been converted into a winery and wine storage facility ….Although the entire tour was 100% en Francais (as one would expect in France)they put so much into the presentation with light shows and videos it didn’t matter that we barely understood anything. We loved it!
The eight wine samples at the end didn’t hurt either!
And so there you have it, Narbonne – our last little stop before slugging it out on the Camino…