Day 3 on Eurovelo 8 in France: We reach Narbonne

On Day 3 of our short DIY bike ride along Eurovelo 8, we pedaled from Beziers to Narbonne.

The first question of the day: how do we get back to the Canal du Midi?

Oh sure, we’re ready to hop on a sidewalk to avoid the down-up-and-around route that Google suggests. But can we avoid going all the way back to the train station to cross both the tracks and the river?

We thought we’d found a way. And our landlady for the night told us that a connector path had just opened. We were set. We thought.

You know it’s never that simple, especially when there’s no signage. We crossed the river with the Vieux Pont, then biked under one bridge, then a second. The paved path soon turned rocky. Were we really going the right way? Shouldn’t we have reached the canal by now?

Here was a reminder that things just aren’t that far apart compared to what I’m used to. We backtracked. But where is the canal?

I scrambled up a long set of steep steps. There’s the canal! Crossing the river via an aqueduct. But we need to haul our bikes up those stairs? There’s no other way using, oh, a road?

Rose tried to get directions out of a local who kept suggesting the stairs before finally shrugging and offering up some vague route to where boats dock.

We hauled our bikes up the stairs.

Soon after we come to a set of locks .. and this sign pointing the way to the bridge we’d crossed.

It wasn’t the only time we’d struggle with signage that day. Eurovelo, can you convince Herault to stick with those white signs that include the town and distance instead of some generic bike routes sign with maybe a tiny 8 tucked in there?

True, getting lost is part of a bike adventure. But between regularly looking at maps and yet still taking the wrong turn more than once (despite the canal!) plus a surface that was getting rockier, we were admittedly getting a bit fed up. Tempting signs for wineries and degustation (tastings) couldn’t offset that. Yes, I should have brought my Garmin.

At one of those debating-the-map moments, we knew we had to decide: continue on the route or switch to the road?

We took the road.

French D roads generally have less traffic, which was the case here. Our trick for finding water on this hot day failed us, however, and Sunday meant that just about everything is closed. Fortunately we’d found a boulangerie early on, so we’d eaten plenty and had a water-bottle refill. Now we could push on for the final 10 kilometers or so — or we could stop at a bar that looked … just ok.

OK, I was wrong. All the outdoor seating was taken, so they brought out another table and chairs. We ordered some drinks but mostly we kept asking for another carafe d’eau (a pitcher of tap water, so free). And still asked for a water bottle refill before we left.

Who thinks the French are mean?

The final part of our route was back on a canal, then the streets of Narbonne. I’d hoped to take a quick look at the town, but we decided to first check on trains and buy our tickets. (TER trains are bike-friendly.) And a train was due shortly.

Tip: leave yourself plenty of time to get your bike to the platform. No escalators or elevators in sight, so thump, thump, thump down the stairs.

Then there’s the challenge of getting bikes on the train. Like with some Amtrak trains, we faced the difficult challenge of hanging our bikes on a hook. I can’t imagine doing it with an e-bike, which would be even heavier than the bike I was riding.

I admit I’d have wimped out and done what others did — just leaned my bike against the windows.

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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