Winter touring Croatia: Heading south on the Eurovelo8


Spirits were high as we sat in the minibus chatting with Dražen about the cheapest and tastiest food we had to try in Zagreb. We had perfect flying conditions (no turbulence, enough gin and sake) for my first flight since completing a fear of flying course and long story short it was a big success, so I was excited to get stuck into the trip.

Čevapi was the first recommendation – a Bosnian dish, delicious oil soaked chewy open-crumbed flat bread bun with pork. Then we started our Burek quest. Everything in Croatia is delicious.

From Zagreb we were due South to be in Split by Christmas Eve so we considered our routes to get there. We could take a train to Ogulin (the furthest station that we could reach with our bikes fully assembled) and ride over the Velebit mountain range, or we could take a bus past Velebit to Zadar and go from there. We reached out to the bicycle touring Croatia Facebook page and asked the community who pretty much unanimously suggested going past Velebit as the winter conditions could be terrible. The next day we got ourselves to the bus station and got a coach, bikes fully assembled, via cash in hand to the driver. Getting your stuff delivered cross country via coach, unaccompanied, is popular here. You’ll see drivers swapping bags of potatoes, TVs etc at various stopping points along the way.

Camping and cycletouring in Croatia in winter doesn’t happen much, so campsites are generally closed in the off season. We found one insanely expensive one that was open in Zadar where we stayed for one night to get our camping kit sorted. The ground here was entirely covered in small, very sharp, stones so we had to guy the tent out with our bikes. One ‘plus?’ was the 24/7 euro party music in the VIP bathroom that was heated. Kinda like torture, you come for the heat but suffer the beat. Chlo loved it, though.

The next day we took the ferry to from Zadar to Ugljan ‘the Olive Island’. We made the mistake of going to the foot passenger ferry port but they don’t take bicycles so we paced it to the car ferry port Gaženika and made it with minutes to spare. On Ugljan we rode up to Sveti Mihovila (St Michaels) fort and explored the normally off limits ruin. We met a young couple of amateur olive farmers and got permission to camp on their land where they had a decent fire burning the olive wood cut backs. Fresh signs of wild boar kept the night exciting, and very close gun shots fired in our direction got us packed up quickly. Hunting is extremely popular in Croatia for both leisure and commercial activities – be wary of this when wild camping.

Hilleberg Allak3 wild camping
Wild camping on Ugljan in Hille

We rode to the southern tip of Ugljan to get the ferry to Biograd na Moru from where we would leave the Eurovelo8 and ride inland to Skradin and Krka. It was a day of solid headwind, steady climbs. Super hard for a 50km. In the outskirts of Biograd na Moru we were surprised by the huge piles of fly-tipped waste that lay to the sides of the double track we rode on, sometimes making up the composition of the track itself. Was this the dark side of the pristine coastline? As we got away from the coastal outskirts and further inland there was less fly tipping and the landscape returned to its rocky self. In the Šibenik region we saw the first signs of the 1991 war of independence.

We had 2 days to explore Krka national park, totally out of season and with less than a handful of other tourists there.

Back on the EV8 now towards Grebaštika. A casual day of riding. Greeted at our apartment with rosehip tea. Grebastika to Trogir section of the Eurovelo8 was great. Finally some off-road, deep in olive trees and dirt over headlands, islands in the distance. Our tubeless tyres finally gave in to the ardours of cycletouring and the sidewalls split and leaked air. A decision was made to switch to Schwalbe Marathons when we arrived in Split the next day. The EV8 run into split was pretty poor. A particularly shit section was the flooded, littered grassy double track airport perimeter road. The sort of flood that has a yellowing, stinking, oily sheen over the top.

Chloe had sorted an amazing apartment to spend Christmas in Split. We had to be here at this time to fulfil our onward travel commitments. Christmas and Advent in Croatia is refreshingly wholesome and festive compared to the UK. Here, it felt like it was more about friends, family and time together and without the trashy decoration, rushing to consumption and over indulgence that we experience in the UK. We had a lovely time in Split but we’d not choose to be away from family or friends next year. We ate tons of Burek, sorted our tyres (thanks Extremshop 2) and planned our route to Dubrovnik.

Split to Omiš – best riding yet. A long, steady climb with increasingly awesome views. At the top we came across House of Soparnik where, unsurprisingly, they make Soparnik. A sort of unleavened flatbread pie filled with chard, onion and soaked after baking in olive oil and garlic. It’s delicious and only made in this region. We were extra lucky because they were officially closed but allowed us in for a private viewing of the whole process and tasting on national TV! More excellent Croatian hospitality. Topped off by a killer descent into lovely Omiš, so-called adventure capital of Croatia.

Double hill day to Baška Voda. Awesome Biokovo mountains, 2 draggy climbs, and general weariness left us both knackered. The next 2 days were easy, luckily.

Easy rolling along the Makarska Riviera to Ploče where we spent NYE in a 1950s period-corrected apartment. We needed those easy days. Big roads, easy gradients. Reminded me of scenes of the Tour of California. This section of the EV8 was great.

On New Year’s Day we took the ferry from Ploče to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula. The climb from Trpanj to the top was super hard but the descent down the other side was incredible, some of the most amazing riding we’ve done. Didn’t stop to make any photos as it was too good to miss the moment. This region produces amazing wine from the indigenous Plavac Mali grape. Being New Year’s Day, everywhere was shut and we stupidly didn’t have any food, but our host cooked us dinner! 😻

Another day in paradise. It’s so beautiful here it hurts, it’s nuts. We left gorgeous Trstenik and rode the coastal route to Zuljana – 6km of respite before another beefy climb on our way to Ston. We diverted off the EV8 for what was described as ‘awesome gravel descent’ into Ston on Komoot. The mountain we descended was indeed awesome, but the track was not. Recently laid stones made for tricky slow riding. Made it without falling and could see the wall fortifications of Ston from the top. These walls are some of Europe’s best preserved examples and NOT the world’s second longest wall fortification as some say. They were built in the 14th century to protect the lucrative salt pans which are still used today. The area is also known for its excellent seafood and we had an awesome cheap dinner in Barkus.

We jumped on a coach from Ston to get to Dubrovnik, avoiding the block headwinds that day and the next.

Thanks for reading! Coming next…Montenegro.

The best travel insurance for cycle touring.


We think the best insurance is Navigator Gold travel insurance for cycle touring world trip. Here’s why:

Price. We found that Navigator is the best value specialist adventure travel policy. Our policy was far cheaper than World Nomads who wouldn’t even cover this type of trip! Travellers on forums recommend Navigator and it has sufficient emergency medical cost, evacuation and repatriation(£10m).

Home visits. Our policy covers us for home visits during the policy term. Once we flew home from Lisbon because of Brexit but with Navigator there are no worries about invalidating our insurance.

Altitude limits for cycling. There is no limit to the height you can ride at. For example, in central and Eastern Asia you may be above 3000m frequently. Sometimes your route option leaves you with no choice. Freedom!

Cycle touring as a specific activity. Make sure that you are specifically covered for cycle touring. Navigator does, but not all do.

Timescale. Our policy covers us up to 18 months AND it’s renewable.

Travelling against FCDO advice. We are covered to travel against FCDO advice, including red listed countries because of COVID-19 restrictions. It’s worth checking this is still the case with Navigator as it may have changed. If anything there will likely be fewer restrictions now.

The best insurance for cycle touring

So there you have it, 6 solid reasons for choosing Navigator. Or, 6 things to look for in a policy. A final word: if you’re taking out insurance, don’t skimp on the cheapest option. Navigator helped immediately when we needed advice and we trust them to help if we need it.

To The End Of The Earth: Exploring The Ancient Costa Da Morte


3 weeks in A Coruña was enough for us. We needed to get back on the road, get travelling again. Adela told us about the Camino dos faros – how bonita is was, how unrideable it was. We couldn’t resist the challenge to explore this trail and cruise it towards Finisterre.

The region goes by ‘Costa da Morte’ because of the perilous rocks that armour the shores. I think about this when we stop to make breakfast just meters from the sea. Shipwrecked seafarers might have clambered, sodden and shivering, onto these very rocks.

Evidence of agriculture tames the jagged coastal trail for most of the sections that we rode. Small stone walls make irregular 4 and 5 sided shapes that I assume were probably fields, or at least private land, who knows how long ago. Within these walls the land is boulder-strewn and it’s hard to imagine anything being cultivated here, but the signs of humanity are undeniably clear.

The trail itself is a double track which has collapsed to the most basic bedrock layers of a presumably Roman road. Hulking great boulders that once would have been covered by layers of sand and smaller rocks and finally paving stones. It’s not dissimilar to other ancient tracks I’ve seen in the Pyrenees and the bedrock found on Stane Street in the UK. Most sections are quite rideable, some require effort and others need a MTB. But, everything we rode was indeed rideable. Looking at the map, I wonder if the sections further south west may be more severe.

Just out of town from Laxe we camped up on a cliff overlooking a bay with a view out west into the Atlantic. Sunset and sunrise were spectacular. We left the spot very early in the morning, found some beach showers en route and had our breakfast 20km into the ride by the coast.

Wild camping Sunset over laxe

The following day we stayed at an empty campsite with a private beach. We got some long delayed jobs done: topped up the sealant in Chlo’s tyre, that had leaked when she ran over glass, serviced our pump, which was feeling grimy because it lives outside of a bag, cleaned the stove fuel line that builds up gunk because we’re burning petroleum, which is full of stove-unfriendly additives.

With about 70km to Finisterre we knew that we would comfortably reach the milestone on time. We reflected a little on the journey that we had taken to get here, thinking of the various terrains and provinces we’d been through. Tarmac, shingle, gravel, mud, sand, boardwalk, loam, rock. We’d covered a lot of ground on these bikes and we were full of admiration for our Bokehs. ❤️

Mason bokeh on tour

We rode the Camino de Fisterra from Camelle to Finisterre and after checking in at our hostel, we walked the final Kms to the lighthouse which marks the end of the world, as the Romans thought. You can relate to this when you’re there. The Atlantic horizon is profoundly far away and it’s unnerving to think that there is more out there. It was busy: pilgrims, tourists, gift shops and runners hummed about, everyone speaking in hushed voices in reverence for something.

On the way back to the town we met Pedro del Camino, a sculptor from Roncevalles and true Pilgrim. By handing out free postcards but with a suggested donation he’s raising funds to sail to Japan to protest the development of nuclear weapons.

Pedro del Camino

Today we are riding to Santiago de Compostela. Our Camino has taken us a long way round, and much more time, than the traditional routes would normally take. We’re meeting Tom, who is arriving a day late, tomorrow. Think me and Chlo will grab some pizza tonight.

One month and 1000km across Spain: Reaching A Coruña


For a short while on our southwesterly heading we smuggle ourselves across the far north western edge of La Rioja province. Passing through Foncea and serene Treviana, we snake up through wind eroded valleys onto vast plateaus that span far in every direction. It is exceptionally dry here, the dirt is orange and I imagine wild-west scenes; true enough many of the classic western scenes were indeed filmed in Spain. So sparsely populated it is here.

We’re happily cruising on our gravel bikes, slightly descending with a tailwind for about 30km. Conditions of a cyclist’s dream. The roads are mostly straight except for corners that we can take without braking. The ambient heat is showing its teeth and the weary road is patched up where the tarmac has given up and melted under many days of being baked by the infernal sun. Riding at these speeds we skim across the uneven surface like pebbles on still water.

It’s hard to believe we’re just a day’s ride from Basque Country. Here is the Spain that we have been dreaming of. We’re riding to Burgos and eventually we’ll be in A Coruña which lies on the Atlantic coast. 

We’re riding in the Castille Y Leon province, a relatively flat and dry province in central-north Spain. The winds are fair, it is probably very hot and the landscape is repetitious: vast fields of sunflowers, unlikely beds of spinach and broccoli and a rolling downland-esque vista. Soon we’ll be on the Camino Frances – we never intended to travel on the Camino Frances and we’d undertaken no research into the terrain. It just happens to be a waymarked route that goes in the same direction that we need to go.

In 2019 350,000 pilgrims reached Santiago de Compostela and at times 2000 pilgrims can pass through a single village. That is to say it is a really popular route throughout the year and as such it’s well used and reliable. The camino is not a cycling route per se but it is 100% rideable. We’re on our Mason Bokehs – drop bar bikes with 40mm tubeless tyres. These are known as ‘gravel bikes’ and they’re perfectly suited to this ride. We can cruise at speed over the long flat gravel sections, descend the rockier trails with confidence and still climb the gradients because our bikes are relatively light for touring bikes. Although we have a Garmin with us you don’t need to have a GPX of the route – it is that well marked. What is essential is a super reliable set-up or at least decent tools and repair skills because bike shops aren’t in abundance along the route.

Thankfully, water is easy to find on the Camino. Fountains of varying size and decor can be found frequently along the route, especially so for cyclists as we cover the distances rapidly. Only on the hottest day where we hit high 30s did we need our individual 2.2l water capacity. 

Despite asking ourselves the question “are we pilgrims?” several hundred times during our time on the Camino we still don’t have an answer. When wished a “buen camino” by many locals we could have denied this status assigned to us, but we certainly could not state our uncertainty of this identity with any eloquence in our basic Spanish. It just felt wrong to try and deny the simple act of kindness from a stranger. Days passed and the buen camino kept coming from locals, peregrines, signposts and murals. Soon enough we found ourselves saying it, too.

After a 101km day, which included a mountain climb, waiting for a storm to pass at the peak, making a new friend while we put on all of our wet weather gear, and then descending through a cloud, we finally arrived at our destination. Casa Susi was a name Chlo had heard for a while, a mysterious place on the Camino, owned by an old family friend that she’d never met, it sounded like a sanctuary. Because riding the Camino was never our plan, we hadn’t thought about stopping by until we realised that it would work out perfectly, and we are so thankful that it did. We arrived late but were welcomed into the beautiful albergue with warmth and love.

We joined the other pilgrims who had stopped for the night, and were immersed in traditions immediately. Whilst still sweaty, soggy and in our bib shorts and spd sandals, we listened to the pilgrims share their stories, who they were, why they were travelling the Camino, and also, most surprisingly for us, why they had stopped at Casa Susi. It was amazing to see that it wasn’t only us making the journey just to stay in this particular albergue. Most of the other travellers had been before and wanted to return, been recommended Casa Susi by friends and family or even heard about it online via podcasts and social media. It was fascinating learning about the story of Casa Susi and how it has become a place to aim for and look forward to on the Camino Frances.

We ended up staying two nights and especially enjoyed the meal times. Listening to and sharing stories of past, present and future adventures, meeting incredibly interesting people and being surrounded the true “Camino Spirit”. We began to realise that we were pilgrims, of a sort, and our opinion of the Camino began to change.

The time we spent at Casa Susi was relaxing, nurturing and filled with love. From the meals, lunch as well as dinner, to the journey to the shops (in a car, that felt weird!) Our time there was precious and we will think of it fondly for years to come. 

Leaving Casa Susi we felt reinvigorated and strong: a 75km day would be cake for us. Bus after 26km in intense rain, cold and lots of ascent, we were done. Welcome to Galicia. We spent the bulk of this day climbing up to the O Cebreiro mountain pass via an ancient road which is now unused. The small town at the top is interesting enough and had some good food but we were keen to press on the next day. We’d done plenty of climbing and were keen to get descending.

Our reward upon reaching Serra dos Ancares: Descending on perfect roads from 1250m to 580m, our touring bikes flying through the corners with effortless stability and composure. In the periphery is a constantly changing flash of green and ochre, ahead we’re fixated on the quickly approaching apex and carried on the rushing wind is a sweet aromatic perfume of some delicate unidentified flora. Even at this speed the descent is gleefully long – almost 20km of it. When we checked our gps data later that day we see we hit 45mph on the descent. We’re deep into the Serra dos Ancares mountain range and have deliberately left the Camino Frances in search of our own route to the coast. The cycling here is hard and rewarding. Long climbs, challenging gradients and fairly few places to stop. The valleys are severe, green and an intense contrast to the drier, flatter Castille Y Leon region just a mountain pass away. We were in Galicia now, we felt we were in an entirely new country not just a new province. The final km of the day followed the Rio Navia, a serpenteos route on a level gradient headed to our stop, A Proba. It’s the capital of the Os Ancares region and an incredibly old town. It’s lost the population size that it once had but it’s kept a tangible pride. It is spotlessly clean, the noticeboards were recently updated and there’s an atm.

In A Proba, there is a restaurant dining room that appears, from its size, to be expecting far more people than will probably ever arrive. They serve an excellent menu del día in aforementioned dining room and we ate alone, though we could hear lively drinking in the main bar room separated from us by a floor standing divider. Chlo had jambon and tomatoes followed by roast chicken. Cal had the chickpea stew and albóndigas. We shared the torte De Santiago. Everything delicious. That night we stayed in a Galician townhouse that had 4 floors, a mostly wood and brick construction, wintergarten on each floor except the first, and plenty of decor from India. Pictures of an unknown – to us – couple were set about the place on each floor, watching with a welcoming gaze, old magazine radio times and worn drawer handles. Important details defining this empty property as a home. We had the whole thing to ourselves.

In the morning, over a breakfast of our remaining oats, we considered our forward direction. We had planned to ride over another mountain pass to A Fonsagrada which we had heard good things about. But, this meant riding over another mountain. At this point we were well embedded into the Os Ancares range and we wanted to head to Lugo, which we had also heard good things about including its Roman wall. So direction: Lugo was the flatter choice and thus an easy decision. We checked out the medieval castle and bridge before committing to our new route. It was a short day of 32km to a halfway point O Cadabo, but it included a fair climb (basically a small but incredible mountain) and that day it rained heavily. We were in the Biosfere do Miño and we noticed the landscape and villages become surreally similar to West Country/South Gloucestershire and the grey skies reminded us of home. Another menu del día saved our stomachs and spirits that lunch. That evening we were overcome by laziness and we ate cereal for dinner.

More Galician West Country cycling – smooth, smooth tarmac, shouty dogs and good corners – and mostly a downhill route took us into Lugo the next day. The inner city is indeed walled by an impressive Roman-built wall and inside it’s heaving. Lugo felt like the busiest Spanish city we’d been to, but it also felt like more of the same. Bars, butchers and value shops. We did have some awesome scallops for dinner and we stayed that night with Pablo, a WarmShowers host. Sometimes warm showers accommodation gives cycle tourists a glimpse into the real lives of the locals where you are. Other times, you get a bed, a shower and a sleep. Pablo provided us with the essentials and quickly left us for an important TV show he clearly didn’t want to miss. Fair enough.

From Lugo we knew we were on the home stretch, the final run in to A Coruña. After 1400km we finally started to feel that we’d make it to our first destination. We had a 101km route to Miño with no planned stops. We hadn’t wild camped by this point and we really wanted to, so we decided that we would opt for this if we couldn’t do the whole ride in one hit. We took the Camino Primitivo for a short while. No mountains, but consistently up and down and with a lot of rain, too. It was a hard and beautiful day and we threw in the towel around 7pm. We’d agreed to stop when sunset began because we’d only pitch the tent in the dark – it’s illegal to wild camp in Spain and discretion is advised. Cal checked the route and saw we had a big descent ahead of us and with the weather closing in on our high point, we descended at speed, in the pelting rain, finally reaching O Chao da Viña. It was Sunday, 7pm, and our hopes for food/help were not high. Like an oasis through the deluge, the first bar we came across “Bar Sordo” was open and a hive of music, singing and happy locals. 

We got our orders in quickly: two hot chocolates. They came served with tapas by the delightful bar owner whom we warmed to immediately. When she came back to take our plates Chlo explained to her what the hell we were doing here and asked if there was anywhere that we could pitch our tent for the night. Without a moment of hesitation she said “Yea, of course! Right over there, in the car park, under the shelter”. We’d hit jackpot and swiftly got some beers in and spent the rest of the night discussing the directions to A Coruña and learning the important details that distinguish the French from the Germans from an old dude. We felt cared for and would have slept soundly were it not for the incessantly howling dogs that night. In the morning we learnt that it was a family business and we met the mother, father and daughter. We left there riding high.

We still had 10 days until we need to be in A Coruña for the Raid Gallaecia, so we split the 60km journey into two parts, stopping halfway in Miño to three days of chilling out, eating well, cleaning stoves and beach-combing. This felt very luxurious as we had decided to spend 4 days in A Coruña doing almost the same thing before our work started. We had a cheap campsite that was officially closed, but open casually, all to ourselves so we saved a whack of money and enjoyed this pocket of Spain free of tourists.

So, here we are in our rented flat in A Coruña. We actually feel like we’re on a ‘normal’ holiday and we’ve got time to think about this website, about Cal’s normal work, about our route down to Portugal, and mostly about our excitement for Raid Gallaecia! We’re going to be eating some good food over the next few days then heading to the adventure race world champs for 2 weeks starting on the 28th. We’ll fill you in on how that goes next month! Woah.

Lots of love, C + Me xxx

Total distance: 1171.01km

4 trains, 3 ferries

Road Fare: Tasty Pintxos and more in San Sebastián


Some of you may know we are pretty obsessed with Anthony Bordain, and ever since we saw his Parts Unknown episode on San Sebastian we knew we had to go. (Although, we do think that about almost all of the places he goes on that show).

San Sebastián is known for its food. It has an incredibly high number of Michelin starred restaurants per square metre, coming second only to Kyoto in Japan. The people and chefs of San Sebastián and the basque region really care about food, they use quality ingredients and the results are almost always outstanding. That is even true with the food you get at a bar. This even has its own name, pintxos. 

Pintxos literally means spike, and these delicious bar snacks get their name from the cocktail sticks that are usually popped in the top. Typically pintxos are pieces of bread with different toppings, but they can be way more than that. Think of it as Northern Spanish tapas. We had a few pintxos stops during our stay in SS but most notably would be the one night we bar hopped and ate as we went. This is arguably the best way to eat pintxos and see San Sebastian’s old town. 

We made a list of all the places we wanted to go, taking inspiration from Parts Unknown as well as local recommendations and online reviews. Our list looked something like this:


Bodega Donostiarra

Cervecerias La Mejillonera

Goiz Argi

La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Viña 

There’s also some bad food in San Sebastián. We had terrible tortillas from one bar, for example.

Its not all Pintxos though. Our best meal came from a restaurant called Casa 887. Small plates of delicious simple food, brave chefs putting together dishes that showcase ingredients in their simplest form with little extravagance or dressing up. You’ll rarely find herbs used here basque cookery. Perfect seasoning, a little olive oil and heat – although not always – is all that food sees before being served to you.

We had our hearts set on eating at Etxebarri but we were far too late with booking. Honestly we’re pretty gutted about it and even the delicious food we did eat has not snuffed that flame. This just means we need to return to San Sebastián one day, with a hefty amount in our bank account!

Our food highlights were:

  • Tomatoes @ Casa 887
  • Cheesecake @ Casa 887
  • Txipirones @ Bar Valles
  • Tuna and anchovy pintxos (found everywhere, best at Bergara)
  • Everything at La Cuchara, but especially the morcilla with honey and veal cheeks
  • Prawn spring roll @ La Viña
  • Famous cheesecake @ La Viña

If you want a visual here is a “reel” of our pintxos bar crawl on our Instagram @candame_adventures

The first 2 weeks of our big adventure…


Dieppe to San Sebastián in 15 days.

  • 467.6km. 2 trains. 3 ferries.

11 days into the rest of our lives and we have finally found the time to start writing up some of our experiences. Seriously – we’ve been busy.

Thinking back…how did we get here? Oh, yeah – it started with McDonald’s and a ferry. 

We’d agreed to meet Nick and Gav at the Newhaven MaccieD’s for a ceremonial last McMuffin before we left our great friends for some time. Nick laughed at the weight of Cal’s bike as we quickly inhaled our breakfast and joked about incoming big quads (Chlo’s). Time went fast, 8am came up quickly and we headed to the port. Our 4 was made a 6 when Katie and Arthur pulled up to the port just in time for a huge hug and farewell.

From Newhaven to Dieppe we took the ferry. It’s a journey that we had made many times before and we knew the interiors of the ship intimately, but the feelings we shared were new for this crossing of ours. 

Boarding was easy because there were literally about 20 passengers on total for this ships payload. We practically walked through the customs, locked our bikes, and in a cinematic crescendo of emotion we watched our friends gloriously cycling along the port edging as far as they could go and when they could go no further we cried and laughed and waved them ‘Goodbye! See you in Japan!’. A multitude of emotions settled on a short lived sadness before we were soothed by an empty, silky smooth passage to Dieppe.

We stayed at BnB in Dieppe which allowed us time to decompress after our travelling day. We made a trip to our favourite Patisserie for a special macaron before making lunch for the next day and winding down.

We had planned to ride to Barcelona via the Dordogne then head south to Morocco where we would meet some friends who were racing the Atlas Mountain Race. In the back of our minds this race was likely to be cancelled because of COVID-19 as the land border with Spain is closed, and as it happened it was cancelled. So, as we have subsequently done many more times, our plans changed. 

Chlo had never been to Paris and we were so close to it! In a matter of minutes we’d made new plans to go there in 4 days of about 60km per day via the Avenue Verte, a railway line converted to a flat and mostly straight cycle path to the outskirts of Paris. We don’t really have much more to say about the Avenue Verte…it’s a little boring. But, good to get into the riding and it’s traffic-free.

The first day of riding went OK although it was a little short of our target distance that day because the campsite was unideally placed. We made a good tuna ratatouille pasta for dinner. The following day was misty, a little rainy and unwelcomely familiar. The day after the first day of riding is always hard and usually leads you to question your ideas, plans and thoughts about your life decision in general. But that aside we pushed on, riding over-distance for the day – which was a mistake. The damp conditions and long ride opened up some lingering saddle sores which meant we wouldn’t make the ride to Paris in the 4 days. Now, we’ve both cycled in Normandy quite a bit so we weren’t too fussed about the riding to Paris, rather we wanted to be in Paris. So, we diverted our route to a campsite in Dangu near Gisors from where we would take the train to Paris for WarmShowers host and a BnB.

This proved to be a good decision. Gisors has an impressive cathedral which we looked at and went in, a ruined castle with pleasant grounds to walk in, and a truly spectacular La Poste. If we can submit our recommendations for the meilleux La Poste it would unflinchingly be this one. Cal went in to send his heavy laptop home because he can do all his work from the iPad. Upon entry a gent of a lad greeted him and personally assisted him through the whole process including being kitchen roll holder as Cal shamefully packed the box with this stand-in for proper packaging. Even when Cal joked about it being “sans-plastique” the assistant maintained true professional form and did not laugh, oh no. He just nodded, looked away and effortlessly dropped a “oui, monsieur”.

Feeling light and – through virtue of La Poste – unencumbered, we enjoyed our day in Gisors and had dinner at our campsite. Our pitch was next to a large fishing lake where 5 mute swans and 4 Coypu lived. Coypu are an invasive, large, beaver-like rat species that live near water and can cause problems for plant life where they over feed on vegetation. You can catch ‘nutria itch’ which sounds like and probably feels like nuclear itch. We opted out of that one. Cal was hissed at by a pair of Swans which had cygnets. In marvel we watched 3 gaggles of geese take flight into skeins. It was a good camp.

We took the train to Paris on the following day.

The train was sparsely populated for most of the 2hr journey from its beginning at Gisors but quickly filled up one stop from its termination at Gare Saint Lazare. Getting on with loaded touring bikes was easy, and we had an entire carriage to ourselves. Indeed the entire ticketing and boarding process was stress free and we made use of the lift access at each station. With all of this in mind, it was therefore troubling and surprising for both of us that Cal was experiencing something akin to a panic-attack after we had boarded. Instead of fear and tight-chested worry, though, it was a smouldering rage and nervousness, origin unknown. On reflection we think it was a self-assigned pressure that built up in the preceding weeks to make this trip happen and the combination of slight fatigue and changing of plans blew one metaphorical rivet. Or, maybe, it was none of this and we still don’t have an explanation and, maybe, never will. Now, he’s more relaxed.

Friends, family and acquaintances had given us advice about Paris. “Parisiennes are NOT like the other French!” they warned. We tried to responsibly ignore this with the view of entering Paris unbiased and non judgemental, but our plan to stay the first night in Paris with Bertrand, a WarmShowers host and essentially a stranger, was seasoned with trepidation. Navigating from the Gare to Bertrand was easy and we discovered for ourselves that cycling in Paris is not only safe and enjoyable but it is one of the best ways to see a city of this scale. There are many lessons for the UK to learn and implement in its own cities.

“Boulevard Richard Lenoir” sounds best straight for the mouth of a Parisian but Cal kept repeating the name of our rendezvous spot with Bertrand in his best imitation of our extremely hospitable host. Bertrand lives in a ‘Bis’ apartment which is where an assigned block of property is sectioned in two – Bis is Latin for 2 – and one half is suffixed with ‘bis’ e.g. 47bis. You can see ‘bis’ and ‘ter’ (3) often in Paris. He shares an apartment with 3 other young people, 2 of which work full time, well paid public sector jobs.

We stayed with him and his GF Marion for an excellent dinner and we learnt a lot from them about living in Paris as a 30y.o, where to go for croque, the difficulty of buying a house and the reality of Paris – from their long experience and our short time there it’s probably no more dangerous than any other city. Our trust in these strangers was well-placed and once again gave us an insight in the Paris you don’t see as a ‘tourist’. It goes without saying that you trust your gut in these situations, you don’t blindly trust just anyone. It was lovely to stay with them and we will always be thankful for their hospitality and welcome.

We were in Paris in the quiet season and, of course, during a Pandemic. As a result there were very few tourists and little traffic and this only enhanced the romance of Paris’ Haussmann charm and elegance. After saying goodbye to Bertrand and Marion we rode across town to beautiful Montmartre to our Haussmann BnB where we washed our dirty kit in the tiny bathtub. We ate much viennoiserie, queued up for and enjoyed classic, inexpensive French food and saw all the sights. We spent almost 5hours walking everywhere north of the Seine in an attempt to Flâné. Big thanks to Robin who gave us excellent recommendations for wine (Le vin au vert) and food (Bouillon Pigalle) and loads of other tips, also to En Selle Marcel for the chainring bolt. We loved our time in Paris.

2.5 hours later we alighted the TGV in Bordeaux, and our stay in the city was almost as fast a the journey there. We ate a good dinner, then quickly retreated the heaving old town. By 11am the following day (22nd August) we were on the road again and joined the Eurovelo 1 ‘La Velodyssée’ cycling route which starts in Brittany and continues to Hendaye where we would leave it for San Sebastián arriving there 7 days later.

The riding for these 7 days was almost all traffic free and on the purpose built cycle path. The highlights for us included: YES Day (watch the video), seeing the vast Biscarosse lake with glassy water, having a 3 hour lunch break and swim in Cap de L’Homy, and riding through the hot pine forests that hug the Atlantic coast through which a hot air carried an aromatic and sweet scent reminiscent of honey and rosemary and vanilla. We stayed in camps ranging from so called eco-sites complete with ‘Mongolian’ throat singing sessions to large resort style campsites. On an evening that we reached camp relatively early, we had a chance to do a systems check on our Bokehs and kit. We met some old surfer dudes and a New Yorker in Moliets but only stayed there for one night.

Up to this point we hadn’t seen many other cyclotouristes on the road which surprised us, but we came across one in a relatively unlikely place. We met Hans-Peter at the large “Les Bleue Pins’ campsite. Immediately it was obvious that he was a seasoned long distance rider: German touring bike, nicely worn panniers, solar panel, linen trousers, the right tan-lines. We said “Hello” and conversed in English (his is excellent, but he’ll never admit it) for the rest of the night, sharing wine and hearing with absolute focus and engagement about his extensive travels across the world on bicycle, motorbike and Land Rover, and about his home life in Austria. Being at the start of our own big adventure, it was inspiring and exciting for us to hear these stories from someone twice elder. Hans had recently sold his part of his Architect practice in Austria and was living life in his way.

We learnt that he was taking a similar route to us and we shared the road for the next two days to San Sebastián. The few days we had with Hans were the best days of our journey so far and we felt so lucky to have met him in the Basque Country, making a mark on our trip and carving the milestone of reaching Spain.

We crossed the border from Hendaye to Hondarribia by taking a small ferry where we loaded our bikes on the bow of the boat. Once there we we temporarily departed Hans as he was taking the short route to San Sebastián but we were going over a small mountain ‘Jaizkibel’ at 470m – climbed in entirety from sea level with some near 20% gradients. Tasty. This was Chlo’s biggest and hardest climb to date and for both of us the first proper climb on a fully loaded bike. It wasn’t easy, but it was a hugely satisfying climb and the views over the Bay of Biscay and Donostia/San Sebastián were incredible. And the smooth descent from the top was worth it alone. By taking this route we entered the old city via a very old village called Pasaia and another tiny ferry. We pretty much entered Donostia directly from a mountain top which was our reward for getting off the well-known cycle routes we try to avoid, usually.

That evening we met up with Hans again and as a 3 we met Niklas. We made contact with Niklas through WarmShowers and although he could not host us, he generously offered to meet us for Pintxos and welcome us to San Sebastián. He is studying a PHD here in which he manipulates molecules at atomic levels with an incredible machine to measure their magnesium and structure. We shared a few bottles of local Sidra which he taught us how to pour properly (as to effectively incorporate air into the cider and make it fizzy) and we asked many questions about living in the old Basque town. 

Hans and us stayed out for another drink before saying our own emotional goodbyes. Going forwards, he was to take a slightly different route from us. Perhaps we’ll see him again on the road, but we’ll be staying up to date with his adventure on his blog

This morning we had coffee, charged battery packs and did some laundry – ‘normal stuff’ – to get it out of the way so we can eat, eat more and eat even more pintxos for the next 2 days. Vamos!

Our Gear: Hilleberg Allak 3 Tent


We’ve just got our tent, a Hilleberg Allak 3. It’s freestanding and it’s light. It packs down small yet it has plenty of living space. This tent pitches the inner and outer tents really quickly and simultaneously. It’s super durable and 4-season rated. And, it is a really cozy place to be. We can imagine spending a lot of time hiding out all sorts of weather in our little home. We love it.

There are plenty of well-thought out features that we’re excited about. It has these super doors which are split in the middle and have various mesh sections. We’ve got a clothes line built into the inner tent ceiling. There are these neat rain gutters on the outer shell to stop water dripping into the vestibule. The zip can lock down. It just feels beautifully, lovingly, expertly made.

In this post we’ve deliberately not explored the various reasons why you would, for example, choose a freestanding tent vs. non freestanding. This is only because there are already some excellent articles about this very question and many more:

This Is It!

Oh my goodness. This is it! 🥳 C and I have both handed in our notices and we have started planning our adventure!
This summer, we will be packing up our house, loading up our bikes and heading out on a truly incredible adventure: bicycle touring around the world (or wherever we can go to begin with!)
We are both excited and nervous and we can’t wait for this dream to become a reality!