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Part 2: Cluny - Barcelona

Description
This second part of the route, which comes after Part 1 from Amsterdam to Barcelona, describes the sections through the South of France to Catalonia. There are two possible routes from Cluny to the South of the Ardèche. These two options are so much different in nature that they are both described in more detail, so that the traveler can select one for him/herself. The third option will lead you all the way through the Rhône Valley to Avignon and the sea.

Green option
The green option runs through the Forez-Livradois national park, and through the volcanic mountains near Le Puy. After Le Puy you climb up through the landscape along an old railroad track with lit tunnels. After cycling along the upper course of the Loire and the Allier Rivers, you enjoy 40 kilometres of gradual and quiet descent through the splendid Chassezac Canyon. This option is all but flat. However, it is doable, as the climbs are always gradual. The views are beautiful.

Beaujolais and Ardeche option
After Cluny, the Beaujolais option first follows a nice cycling path east toward Mâcon. This is where the Beaujolais region begins. This region boasts beautiful castles set among vineyards, and imposing hills such as the Solutré Rock. Scattered around the region are villages centred on wine, with sonorous names such as Pouilly, Fuissé, Morgon, St. Amour, and Moulin à Vent. At the point where traffic gets heavier along the western bank of the Saône, the route crosses over to the other bank. From here, country roads and cycle paths lead to the beautiful river bank near Lyon. Lyon is a beautiful city, lika southern version of Parijs, elegant but more enjoying the good things of life than stress. A 20 km south of Lyon we do reach the Via Rhona, a cycle path that leads all the way to the Mediterranean. It feels like a highway for cyclists, especially when the mistral wind is blowing from north to south, pushing you a high speed through the valley. You keep following the river, and cycle through peach orchards until close to Tournon. From here you either continue along the river to Avignon or you climb very gradually through the Doux Valley up to Lamastre, which lies in the Vivarais, the green part of the Ardèche. Over here, there is also a cycling path along an old railway track. After the river it is called the Dolce Via and it did win an award in 2020. After Lamastre, the road climbs a little further, before descending down to Le Cheylard. After that, there is another light climb up to the foot of the pass near Mezilhac. At the top, you are rewarded with superb views of the peaks of the Massif Central, and with a little luck you may even be able to see the Alps in the distance. After this, there's a wonderful descent into the Ardèche Valley. In summer, people will be splashing about in the river's cool waters. This is a touristic area, and there are many campsites. All the way through the Ardèche Valley you will find a cycle path now, built on an old railway track. you will reach the more quiet valley of the Chassezac, and a small tranquil road through the Païolive Forest. At this point, the Beaujolais route option meets back up with the Green option. For those who desire to cycle a shorter route, there is a branch off the route that leads to Avignon.

The main route now leads into the Languedoc, through the Hérault Canyon. It also takes you past St. Guilhem-le-Desert. For those who like an extra challenge, we have also included a short alternative route that leads through the splendid Buèges Valley. Further South, the route winds through vineyards, past Pezenas, and on to the Mediterranean coast at Agde. After Agde, the route follows the cycling path along the Canal du Midi, which takes you, amongst others, by the fine series of locks in Beziers. The canal also takes you past the Oppidum d'Enserune, where you can see the remains of the old settlement. When going from the Languedoc to the Rousillon regions, you go across a low mountain ridge. Here you go.

through the Col d'Extreme, which is an easy pass despite what its name may suggest. It is also near here that you can see the first of the Cathar castles. The Roussillon hinterland is a beautiful hilly area with views toward high mountains such as the Canigou, and with the Pyrenees in the distance beyond. This area also has beautiful villages and towns. The route passes through vineyards and peach orchards. You enter Spain via a low and unknown pass. The last part of this pass, before the border, is closed to cars, so that you enter Spain in quiet. Smooth asphalt lets you whizz down. After this, you can head South through forests, or go by the Dali museum in Figueres. After the two options have reconnected, the route takes you through the Baix Emporda. This region has an extensive network of cycling routes. Tiny roads and paths take you through an area that has a strong resemblance to Tuscany. At the end of this area you can turn right toward Girona, and cycle on toward Andalusia from there, or you can turn left toward the ocean. Several kilometres of cycling path take you to San Feliu de Guixois, after which you can follow the beautiful coastal road for another ten kilometres or so. The official route ends at Blanes. If you wish to go on cycling until Barcelona, you can ride on the wide shoulder of the main coastal road. However, I would not like to call these final fifty kilometres a real cycling route. There is also an excellent railroad connection, and you can take your bike on the train.


Map



General information
Edition/Year: 6th edition, 2020
Language: English
Distance: 790 km. (Cluny-Girona), 880 km. (Cluny-Barcelona)
Detailed Maps: 79, scale 1:100,000
City Maps: 10, scale varies
Difficulty rating: The Green option has several climbs, but mostly these are mild and gradual. Lots of nature. The Beaujolais option does not climb as much, but there are a few short but stiff climbs (eg. near Arbresle and Mezilhac). The route through the Languedoc and Rousillon is easy. The pass across the Pyrenees is low (700 m) and short, but still a bit tough.

GPS available: Download GPS-tracks


Map samples - Part 2
Sample pages with detailed maps and height profiles.



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