It was getting close to the jolly season (or more like winter) so we split the time we had left with October for Italy and France, November for Spain and Portugal. Whatever is left we can enjoy in Lisbon as a reward for finishing the trip. It has worked out perfectly for the cold season because we got to head down south to the wonderful coasts of Spain and Portugal.
Arranging our rest stops
Usually we like to camp but recently we've been concerned about freedom camping in Western Europe. Not about safety, but about being fined for camping somewhere we're not allowed. So our preference was to arrange a host somewhere along the route.
We have mentioned this before, but it never hurts to spread more awareness about these awesome travel communities: WarmShowers and CouchSurfing. In Europe where cycling is very popular, the WarmShowers community are full of seasoned tour cyclists like us. Everyone had impressive tour experiences: around Africa, pan-America and also New Zealand too! Some couple even toured with their young child, as young as 6 months old.
So with a little planning and preparation, we arranged for a place to stay each night along the route. It was about 600 km with towns and cities conveniently placed. They were spaced apart enough for us to find someone each night. It took about an hour or so to communicate with our hosts, but it is worth the time! We are so grateful for people opening their home to us, the experience of staying with a local and getting to know them is priceless. We've learned that staying in a paid accommodation can be private, peaceful and relaxing, but we have been travelling together for so long now we would rather seeing new faces and have new topics to talk about. Also there is something special and satisfying about staying in a home.
Here's a short blurb about these two communities:
The WarmShowers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. All members agree to host others either now or in the future, but for some members hosting may be in years or even decades in their future.
CouchSurfing is a homestay and social networking service accessible via a website and mobile app. The platform is a gift economy; hosts are not allowed to charge for lodging. It is based on the idea that people are generally kind.(Text blurb source linked)
Both communities have an application which can be downloaded for Android and iOS.
Each point saved on this map was basically where we stayed each night. It was tough on some days because the distance was more than 100 km and we would arrive after sunset. In situations like this we aren't worried cycling at night because we are glad knowing there'll be a safe place to sleep.
Sightseeing on the way
Although it might seem rushed doing 100 or more kilometers a day, we still had time to enjoy the things on the way. It's extremely unfortunate though that we couldn't detour to somewhere nearby that maybe extremely famous or important like Cacassone - a town famous for it's medieval fortification. We always say "next time we go there" but basically there are so many things to see in the world, the "next time" list has become very long!
Some awesome things we saw included the extensive French canals (9 lock gate system for lifting or lowering boats), flamingos in the wetlands near Montpelier, and Game of Thrones filming location in Girona. Although we had a rushed schedule, if there was something not too much of a detour we would give some time to go see.
The best weather we could ask for
We couldn't complain about the weather we had. It was pretty good for October, we were told the rainy season is generally October and November! It was 4 days of perfect clear sky and 2 days of short showers. We had a wet morning on the fourth day but after 10 am it stopped so we were able to get going. Even then we managed to arrive by 6 in the afternoon after cycling through some beautiful coastal cycleways.
We've made it to España (country № 18)
There was one weird thing we noticed after crossing the border. At every rest stop on the highway there was a beautiful lady standing around. It was a weird sight until we figured out what was going on. These ladies are working as prostitutes outside in the awful cold weather, wearing barely anything and probably has to stay there until their boss come pick them up. It was sad to see this kind of work, hopefully they aren't being trafficked from East Europe.
Getting closer to Barcelona!
Girona at night
We tried our first original fresh churros… in Spain!
>> Guess where in Game of Thrones this was?
>> Braavos (1,2) and Kings Landing (3,4)
First time we saw a wildlife bridge over the highway
Very windy coastal road to Barcelona
See our last day ride to Barcelona