Saturday, December 27, 2008


Today,I saw the Pyrenees for the first time. I came up over a hill and in the distance I could them in all their glory. The excitement of facing into mountains of this size was immediate,but it was quickly followed by a fear that made me almost weak in the knee(and they are weak enough at present). From there I powered on down a hill into the city of Carcassonne. I have been looking forward to getting to this place for more reason than 1,but I might tell ye more about that later...........Anyway,I'm gonna park up here for a few days and ring in the new year in this town. The OD(Overall Distance) on the bike computer is now reading at over 2000kms and the body wants a rest and maybe around the 3th or 4th of January, I'll select a low gear and head out the other side of Carcassonne


That morning:I dont want to get out of my tent this morning. Its snowing..........

That evening:You have good days and bad days. This day would not be filed under a good day. Its been about 15 or even 20 years since a valve on a tube snapped while I've been pumping it,so it was a bit of a surprise for it to happen this morning.But I always carry a spare tube. It was an even bigger surprise when the valve snapped on the spare tube.These aren't cheap or old tubes(Continental 650A/B). I not sure,maybe its the cold,but its very frustrating.I had no option but to hide the bike and bags in the snow and leaves and walk back the 8kms to the nearest town to go looking for bike tubes. Because I was on a designated bike path there were no cars to thumb a lift and because it was snowing there were no cyclists to get advice on where I might get a tube. It was 3pm when we finally started pedaling today and we only biked 35 kms down the road. I should have stayed in my tent this morning.


Whereever I was going to be today, I knew I wouldn't be as warm and comfortable as anyone reading this, and such was the case. I'm camped up by a canal.Although its full of ducks,I didn't have roast duck for dinner. Last night I wheeled my bike down a muddy path to my camp site overlooking the river Vern. It was a cold night and when I had everything packed up, I couldn't get the bike moving as the muck was frozen solid from the wheels,mudguards and brakes. Eventually I made it into the next town,visited the local church and was half-hopeful someone might be on there own for Christmas and invite me back.Not the case. I proceeded on through the towns and was quite suprised by the amount of traffic and the amount of shops open on Christmas day.Every bakery,many florists and bars and even some of the small supermarkets were open. I made my way into Toulouse which is beautiful. I wandered around here for a bit. and eventually followed the Canal du midi, which is a super 100km bike path that follows the canal that conects Toulouse with Carcassone. I'm presently camped up 'down the nal'(no sign of PK Bud)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


To get a tasty 9 year old bottle of red for under a fiver aint bad.
Today was a day of sorting out things.I replaced the old tyre,cleaned and oiled (meticulously) the bike,finally got to dry out the tent (and also got to give it a good wash)-did a bit of shopping(everyone else is,so I might as well). Considering I'm back on the small roads tomorrow,I stocked up on food for the next few days.I not too sure what way the shops are open over the coming Christmas days. The hostel I'm in now in Cahors takes guests 365 days a year.I also got myself a new fluorescent jacket. Up until now anyone would think I was been sponsored by Ascon.Then I went for a ride around town in my shiny,freshly greased new wheels to check out all the impressive sights;a 15 century bridge, a cathedral and a amazing market full of all the local produce, including that "tasty 9 year old bottle of red".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Woke up usual time(early) and packed up all and set off in the fog. But this morning I rearranged how I generally pack the panniers(bicycle side-bags). While I generally put most of the heavier stuff on the back axle, this morning the bike was nose heavy to keep the pressure off the rear axle. After getting 2 punctures in the spaces of 12 kms yesterday evening after a rear tyre blowout,it was a case of nursing the bike to the nearest big town to find a new rear tyre. I pedalled 73kms to Cahors(mostly standing to keep the weight off the rear axle). The tube was visibly sticking out of a 1cm split in the rear tyre and my eyes were glued to the road to make sure I didnt come into contact with any loose stones, Everything went according to plan. I made it to Cahors,checked into a hostel,found a bike shop and I think I have found a perfect tyre for my rear axle. Today was mostly uphill,-Im only in the hills of France but if I was to continue east of Cahors I would start into the Alps,while if I was to head to the west I would be in the flatlands of the Bordeaux region,but my plan is to head south towards Toulouse and Carcassonne(I cant wait to get to Carcasonne)


Today got off to a great start. I went and visited the "prehistoric Cistine chapel"-ie the Lascaux caves. When you consider that the pyraimds in Egypt were been built around 2500 B.C. and the Poulnabrone dolmen in the burren in Clare in 4000B.C, its a bit of a treat to witness a repicla of the graffi of our great,great,great(multiplied by 250) grandparents.The walls are covered entirely with raindeer,oxen,horses,deer,mammoths as well as humans.The origional cave was painted approx 17000 years ago but because of condensation/body heat no tourists are allowed enter,so it took 20 artists 11 years to painstakingly copy the cave artwork to this other cave closeby.The next few hours were spent pedalling in the sunshine by the river Vezere with limestone cliffs at either side. All was going grand till a bang from the back tyre. A major bummer. The result was a puncture and a 1cm crack in the tyre wall. This was gonna be trouble-a puncture is not a problem,but a crack in a tyre is. I fixed the puncture and 12 kms down the road, another puncture. Its 75kms to the nearest big town and my rear tyre has one foot in the grave. I'll keep ye posted.


"Its times like these you learn to live again"

I'm having a blast.I must admit,I'm really enjoying this.
Today was the kinda day you wish was every day on the bike. This morning I awoke to a dorm room to myself. In fact I think I had the entire hostel to myself. So I got outta bed and collected my laundry (it was scattered around various radiators throughout the hostel-ie, where I left it),packed everything up and made my way into downtown Perigueux. This town is really something else. Its the first town I've visited since leaving Ireland that has loads of Roman building(I must be getting near Italy). So the morning was spent taking photos of a 2000 year old amphitheatre,an 11th century castle,a really old cathedral (date unknown to me) and massive towers that were a world heritage site. Its so cool coming to these places when theres not another tourist in sight. I could have parked my bike in between 2 coach parking spaces and no-one would have cared.Around 11 bells I was leaving town heading in my usual direction (south,south-east) when I was riding by a McDonalds.'Free Wi-Fi',I thought and called in to send off a few emails and update this website with saved diary notes.It was a saturday morning so it was starting to get busy and I couldn't wait to get pedalling.The next few hours were spent riding by the most beautiful terrain;-cliffs,streams,empty villages.old deciduous forests etc etc. It was nearly all up-hill but I just kept surprising myself by how much I was loving this. "I'm loving it".I stopped in some town that had an supermarket and stocked up on goodies for lunch,dinner,breakfast,tomorrows lunch and tomorrows dinner(I think the front axle is overloaded) and then made my way downhill to Montignac.(the cradle of european civilization-it seems)I'm presently camped up in a small forest by a river.Earlier I could hear the sounds of owls in the trees around me,but presently, the farmers' dog from across the river is barking himself hoarse. When you fly-tent you need to generally keep away from from all dwelling as dogs will pick up the new scent and often bark till sunrise. It was getting dark when I noticed this camp spot and I never copped the farm the other side of the river.Oh Well, I'm tired so I'll still sleep but that dog is gonna need the canine equivalent of lemsip for breakfast.This morning I passed busy streets filled full of frantic shoppers(its the 20th of december and I heard my first Christmas song of this trip today.) I crossed into an 11th century castle,a Roman amphitheatre where gladiators would fight to the death and tomorrow I hope to visit the Lascaux caves,where the cradle of european civilisation (more or less) begun.The first people arrived on Ireland 6000 years ago. There are paintings in this cave that are almost treble that time.
As I said at the start,I'm having a blast.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I wouldn't have bothered jumping into the mountain stream on Thursday morning,if I had known I would have been able to get a 20 minute,piping hot shower that evening. At this time of the year,most of the hostels are closed, cause I'm avoiding a lot of the cities and sticking to the country roads and if I'm serious about heading off for a 1 year or more ,then I cant stay at hotels or there will be nothing left in the kitty in no lenght. But after 3 days of "head down,legs turning" and sleeping in ditchs, yur main concern is when am I gonna get my next wash.It turned out to be a mountain stream. It was a quick wash, packed up everything fast and pedalled like mad, till the numbness when out of my feet.That evening I made to the town of Angouleme.I was down by the river just as the evening was setting in. I was sussing out my next fly-tenting spot,when I got chatting to a really sound French man with perfect English named Jerome as he was out walking his dog,Drop. Even though, there was lumps of muck falling off the bike and I (mainly from the continual spray of passing vehicles), Jerome invited to his home for food,shower and a chat.It was too good an offer to turn. We loaded the bike and gear into the back of his van and made it bit outta town to his place.After many plates of great food, Jerome talked me through his extensive travel book collection, but the cyclist tourist was his main interest. I didn't even realise there was so many books in french on the topic. I marveled at the photos and the evening was spent by the fire mulling over Jerome's map collection which included everything from Ireland to Everest. The next morn (after a great breakfast), I was up and ready to head off south before the sun came up. We said our goodbyes and Celia even left out a chocolate Santa and sweets for me for Christmas day.If ye are reading this,Thank you so much.After that I biked on into Periguex. After a quick ride around,I decided this place was too good too miss and so when looking for the tourist office. I must have been the last tourist of the season and was getting the royal treatment. The wonderful tourist office assistant gave me no less than 6 free maps of the region and enough recommendations to keep here till new years. I checked into a hostel and went for a wander around this roman/medieval town.
This trip is going well

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Nothing to read here.Since leaving Nantes I've just been pedalling. Last night I was camped up by a stream, tonight its a forest.The best thing that happened today was that I turned my map over. Which means I've moved from north to south France. Tomorrow,I'll continue with today and take the back roads and keep the compass facing South and keep the head down while the legs are turning...........


So I'm back on the bike after a great weekend with family in Nantes.Arriving into Nantes a few days back was quite a treat. I wasn't 20mins in the city when,while sitting on the steps of the cathedral, a local man with poor English but great character and full of chat insisted I come to his home to meet his family.Only for the fact that my brother(Paul) and Dad(Jim) were due over in a few hours I probably would have gone. Then on the way to my hostel, I met another chap, who complained endlessly about everything(to the point of it being hilarious). But he jumped into tour guide mode and pointed out all the worthy sights while giving a bit of local knowledge.Nantes was looking good from the start.The weekend with family in Nantes was just swell.We checked out everything, from the best Indonesian 5 course dinner to having breakfast at a bus-stop(Because nowhere else was open on a Sunday morning), from 15th century castles to 40ft high man-made walking elephants in the Machinists Gallery(Unbelievably good) to the prehistoric museums to the coolest jazz bars and late nite clubs.It was all good and while dad and Paul are back in Ireland, I'm back in my tent 100kms south of Nantes with my balaclava on to keep me warm.The coming days are just a case of putting up kms.Put the head down and keep the compass facing south.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Let no-one say a bad thing about Ronald McDonald.He's my new best friend.After spending the last few nights camped up on hill-tops with sea views,in a valley by a stream filled full of fallen autumn leaves or silent forests next to a park bench by a lake (they are all glorified ditches according to some people;-Hi Frank), you really begin to want a bit of normality. After a few days of fly-tenting, you start to want the things we take for granted i.e. running water(a tap preferably,rather than stream water), a plug socket(can you remember the last time you went through a day without using a plug socket???) and Wi-Fi.(Just in case ye think I cycled off the face of the earth). And then at a big roundabout approaching Nantes you spot a McDonalds.Today, for the price of a Mccoffee, I charged up my computer,camera battery,ipod and head shaver while also checking my emails,updating my website(look at all the new photos) and checked out 'Google Earth'(How do I get into the centre of Nantes without using a motorway).And then of course there was the McToilets.(Even the best of views can't top a toilet seat) and I don't think I'm a vain person but you can see yourself so much more clearer in a mirror rather than an inverted saucepan lid.A word of advice for anyone reading this who works at senior level in McDonalds. If ye just made your sinks slightly bigger,I would have been able to wash my pots,pan and cutlery. And then I filled up my water bottles and went looking for a 5* ditch Tonight I'm camped up by a library in the suburbs of Nantes.Tomorrow,I'll head on in to the city centre. Its great,my dad,Jim and brother,Paul will be in the city this weekend, so the Doherty clan can met up in a nice spot.I'm tired. I think I'll adjourn to the wad...............

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


They say that red wine is best served at room temperature, but it doesn't help when your room/tent is colder than a fridge.I'd have to say that last night's bit of "fly-tenting"(pitching a tent where its illegal to do so) was possibly my best bit of fly-tenting ever. I thought it couldn't get any better than Iceland, when I set up camp by a lake full of icebergs at the end of a glacier. As I was cooking my dinner a bunch of seals swam over to see what I was doing. But last night's camp was just exceptional. Soon after the sun set, everyone cleared away and I cooked up dinner while 1 km in front of me stood the Mont St-Michel,one of the most amazing structures, I have ever seen.Maybe everyone had the right idea,when they cleared away, cause last night was very cold. I had to shake the frost off the tent this morning before I folded it away. I was just leaving Mont St-Michel as the first coaches were arriving and I made my way into the town of Pontorson to stock up on groceries. One thing I love in France is my daily visit into one of their patisseries. The French love their bread and so every village has a bakery and I'm already in the habit of getting a few of those "pain au chocolait" each morning.The other thing the French love is their wine, and when almost half the bottles in the supermarket are under a fiver, its hard to resist.I continued along the coastal road and around lunch time I arrived into Cancale. Considering this is supposed to be the oyster capital of France,I stopped in at a seaside restaurant and had a half dozen oysters and a bowl of mussels and a white wine for lunch. Its too hard to resist. If I'm really serious about this global tour, I'll be Uzbekistan in 6 months time eating mutton fat with grizzle sauce and a side order of weeds so I'll take it while I can. Leaving Cancale via a big hill, my next stop was Port Mer.I had hopped to fly-tent out here, but because it was a sunny Sunday,the area was full of French day-trippers. It would have been cool to set up the tent on the roof of a 1940's German bunker,but in the end I rode just 2kms up the road to a hill top and am peacefully camped up with some super sea views but already the chill is setting in. Its gonna be another cold night.

DAY 18. MONT ST-MICHEL(overall distance cycled since Day 1 IS 997KMS

Well it was late last night when sound two English lads (Mark and Guy)arrived into the hostel. They had lived in France for about 10 years and got the train from Paris over to Granville to do a 2 day bike ride around the north west coast before returning to Paris.We ended up going for a beer in Granville and the following morning we toured a bit from Granville to Avranches(amazing town with a brute of a hill going in).Today I probably had the best day since leaving home. I cycled across a lovely flat meadow landscape until I came to one of the most classic sights in France.This afternoon, I parked up and brewed myself a coffee and had a bit of lunch away from the crowds and stared up at Mont St-Michel. This abbey was initally built in 708 but it was in the 11th century when it was turned into the fortess we see today. I met Guy and Mark again at the entrance and we sat on the wall eating oysters,bread and tasty cheese. While the lads made their way on to their hostel for the night, I biked along the beach around Mont St-Michel and just as the sun was setting, I set up the tent at a location that guaranettes me the best view of the abbey for the evening. The bells from the catherdal rang out as I sat out on the grass and cooked up a sweet chilli veg stir fry with rice.P.S.-Not 1 drop of rain today..........

Friday, December 5, 2008


After all the amazing sights and history of the D-Day beaches, I decided it was time to head back inland and head towards the next major sight of Mont St-Michel. So I was zig-zaging my way across northern France. When you "zig-zag" your way around anywhere, the great thing is you get to see everywhere. The bad thing is (especially when you're cycling) the wind is bound to be in your face at some stage. And for a fellow who has a rough/hopeful plan to cycle around the world, he really wouldn't want to be zig-zaging too much. Every one says the world is getting smaller, but when you're trying to get around it using a bicycle as your main method of transport, its not too small. And that super strong wind that helped me to witness the D-Day beaches, was now refusing to let me leave. My camp on that French beach was cold and I really didn't sleep that well,and so I pedalled on the next morning in the hope of getting a degree or two closer to the warm Mediterranean climate of south France. That wasn't the case. It was about 3pm when the cool afternoon in St Lo took a bit of a turn and the sky looked like it was going to drop Antarctica on us.Up till now, I've been talking about camping along side the sea,rivers,12TH century churches,beaches,lakes and so on, but yesterday it was a case of put up your tent quick and get shelter because the sky is falling. I had just got the tent up(on a building site) when the heavens opened. The rainstones were so heavy, I thought they would take the tent down. But after a while it calmed down and I slipped off into a huge sleep and didn't wake till 11 hours later.I have worked for 2 years on building sites but never have I slept so soundly on one. It's so hard to get out a warm sleeping bag and put on that wet rain gear, but if biking the world was easy then it wouldn't be worth doing. After a while you warm up/wake up and before you know it you're enjoying all around you as you wonder what today has in store for you.And today was a relaxing enough day on the saddle. I only did 65km to the lovely town of Granville. I'm in a hostel again. When I checked in they asked would I like a dorm or a single. I replied DORM,and sure who else would come to France at this time of the year. I have the dorm to myself


I had a right long cycle today. I generally dont like pushing myself too hard but today I did over 100kms(average day for some touring cyclist but a long day for others).So I arrived into Cherbourg at about 7.30pm local time yesterday evening. I almost always avoid coming into a new country at night fall,but the evening ferry was more than half the price of the morning one and I only had a 30min cycle to my hostel. My hostel was about the best thing in Cherbourg. The town was full of empty bars and kebab shops but the hostel and clean, modern and empty. After a good sized breakfast of bread and jam and coffee out of a soup bowl, I made my way out of Cherbourg in a easterly direction. My plan was to head over to the D-day beaches in Normandy to witness what remains of the largest military operation in history.It was here on the 6th of june 1944 that 135,000 allied troops poured onto the beaches of France in an attempt to stop Hitler's campaign in Europe. I'm presently camped up on a beach which is littered with bombed out bunkers and monuments to that faithful day. Biking through Normandy today has been such a pleasure. I still have that super strong north-western wind at my back and the weather was a beautiful cool day which is ideal and while Wales was quite hilly and also England to a lesser extent, Normandy is almost completely flat. I feel like I've been on the road for more than 15 days. Today I was thinking when will I be back riding on the left hand side on the road or when will I get to a country whose main language is English. Wherever it is,I hope its not Ireland


My trip through England has worked out fine. After camping on the river Severn,I continued into Bristol and eventually Bath, where I stayed 2 nights in a hostel. It was pretty cold camping next to the Severn.The following morning as I was making my way out of the village, I noticed most of the cars had a morning frost and so decided, I'd treat myself to a bit of comfort and spend the next night in a hostel.Bath is a beautiful city,a real treat, but the hostel was packed with some kids rugby tournament.I was lucky(ish) to get the last bed in the hostel.It was a twin room and I was sharing with Jason, a self-confessed manic depressive who was covered in self-inflicted scars.His life story was not 'easy-listening'.On Saturday, I wandered around Bath which was heaving with Christmas shoppers.I strolled around town,enjoying all the street entertainers and the highlight of my shopping was a very tasty Cornish pastry.By the time I got back to the hostel,it was heaving with hen/stag parties and noisy kids wearing rugby shirts. I stayed out of Jason's way and went to bed early.On Sunday, I woke up early and made my way into the centre of Bath to get some lovely photos of the now, empty city.I then gave my legs a massive wake up call by climbing a monster hill out of town and on over beautiful rolling hills, past Stonehenge and eventually down to Salisbury. After spending 2 dry days in a hostel, it was a bit of a bummer to spend all day Sunday pedalling in the rain, but then Salisbury is a town so beautiful,its worth a day of any weather to see. Its been almost 2 years since I stayed in this town, and I so I made my way toward the YHA(youth hostel) and after checking in, I made my way down to the Cathedral.This 750 year old Cathedral had the highest steeple in the UK when it was built and still has to this day.I basically wandered around here (staring up at it) till my neck hurt. I decided beer and food would sort me out for the evening.I made my way back to the hostel and was delighted to find that,although it was practically empty, everyone in the place was real sound. I was up till 1am yapping to different folk about different things.The most interesting being 2 Pakistani lads who raved frantically about Pakistan and that I must visit. I agreed it was the new "no.1 on my next destination list" as I was very tired and needed to get some sleep.£18 is far too expensive for a 10 bed hostel dorm bed in the winter season, so this morning I did my best to eat £18 worth of "all you can eat breakfast",(not to mention making myself a good sized packed lunch as well).I was barely able to move, never mind cycle out of Salisbury this morning, so it was just as well, that North-Westerly wind is still blowing strongly at my back. Today's ride was a pleasure,riding along quiet roads over gently rolling hills, past massive meadows . I boiled up a coffee and had lunch on a picnic table by the river. And now, I'm camped up by the sea,after watching the sun set and ready to start cooking dinner. Tomorrow afternoon I get a ferry into country no.4, France.