Monday, December 22, 2008

Biker WE - Wind Check

It was all set to be a glorious, sunny weekend this weekend, so my TWDB and I decided to go on 2008's Last Ride of the Year. Looking around the internet for a hotel open with a view of the sea near Perpignan, we found Thalacap in Banyuls-sur-Mer.

A word to the wise: don't go there unless you are basically unsound, need medical treatment and are preferably over 75.

It looked very pleasant on the internet, in flattering photos which discreetly hid its utterly hideous aspect. See what I mean here in the photos. They are tiny photos for a reason... It's a three-star hotel, in theory. There are lots of rooms which are sparsely furnished and decorated. True, they all have views of the sea, but it's a huge, imposing, ugly building, smelling of hospital, and attracting the plouc end of the population. It's at the opposite end to the Verchant Spa which is beautiful, luxurious, sweet-smelling and unmedical.

To say we were disappointed is putting it mildly, but luckily we are possessed of a healthy sense of the ridiculous, and had a good laugh.

We had got there via a circuitous route which included wine tasting at Domaine Henry, being blown along the coast towards Sète, then up inland to taste more wine in St Chinian, at Domaine de la Linquière. First though, we had lunch at La Calèche in St Chinian which we found by chance, and had a seafood salad, followed by grilled bar (fish) and finishing up with lemon tart. All for a very reasonable 16Eur pp plus half a bottle of local wine.

Thus nicely full, we went to taste our recent discovery - La Chant des Cigales cuve of Domaine de la Linquière. We tasted the 2003 which is no longer on sale, and then the 2005 which was so delicious we said we'd be back to buy in bulk, and took two bottles just in case.

From there we took the highway to Narbonne and then came off to take a series of more minor D roads down to Argeles-sur-Mer and on to Collioure and finally Banyuls-sur-Mer. It's quite tricky keeping track of roads and not getting lost on a bike because you can hardly have a peek at where you are on the map when riding. So you either have to memorise everything, or keep stopping, or get lost regularly. On our way down, we opted for the third choice, but on our way back, we were battling against the wind and had less desire to faff about, so we went for the first two.

After we had checked into the hotel, looked about aghast, nearly checked out, but opened one of the bottles instead to drown our 'sorrows', we went back to Port Vendres for dinner.

Having been blown about quite a bit, we thought the aptly named Tramontane restaurant looked promising, with its comfy chairs and happy-looking diners. We supped on local specialities - Leucate oysters, anchovies, chorizo, then confit de canard, washed down with a local red, and I had a fresh fruit salad for pud. I rounded it all off with a glass of 40° Vieux Banyuls which was very tasty and warming!

My TWDB was a bit worried about the next day's weather as the forecast warned of 100km/h gusts of wind so we decided to leave early and take it slowly. We kept as near to the coast as possible as the Tramontane blows from the west. It buffeted us about like balls in a pinball machine but there were only one or two really dodgy moments. Mind you, I wasn't driving! I think my TWDB was having to use all his strength to keep the bike under control despite the fact that it's incredibly stable and safe. Luckily, we made it into l'Herault where the wind died down, and could thankfully stop for lunch in Sète.

For those who are interested, the best bits of the road were the stretch from St Cyprien to Canet where we had the lagoon on one side and the sea on the other, the Corniche from Collioure to Banyuls, and the D627 between lagoon and sea from Port Leucate to Leucate. We didn't do it yesterday, but the road from Peyriac-de-Mer to Bages is also a stunner. The old N9, now the D612/6009 after Béziers follows the Canal du Midi for a time which is especially lovely in the summer.

Of course, it helps to have recent maps which have all the new numbers for roads since they were all revised... Just off to the shops...

1 comment:

  1. Love that part of the world. Last summer I walked from Canet to St Cyprien (through the lagoon area), spent a couple of hours on the nearly-deserted beach, then walked back along the sea to Canet.

    I was absolutely knackered.

    And now I'm depressed cos it's winter and summer is such a looong way off :-(


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