EuroVelo 8

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EuroVelo 8 is a cycling route that is as well known as the Mediterranean Route. And not for no reason! It stretches across the whole Mediterranean Sea for a good 7500km. From Gibraltar to Cyprus, roughly. I only biked the part from Pavia in Italy to Béziers in France, a total of 1143km. Here are my experiences.

The EuroVelo 8 somehow just happened to me, I hadn't done any research. I started in Italy following the EuroVelo 5 to turn then West towards France. But I am glad, that I ended up on the EV8. From the days that I spent on this long-distance cycle, I can only recommend it. I was excited to get to France, as my French is definitely better than my Italian and I was glad to be able to communicate with people again. And it had a lot to offer! Getting glimpses of the Alps, parking before the Casino in Monte Carlo, the Côte d'Azur with all its glamour, the hills with its beautifully winding roads, lavender fields en masse, and the Camargue. So many different impressions, on such a short distance. Not to forget all the great French treats!

Two parts are officially not recommended to bike on, the one across the Alps I saw, and the other one I didn't and regretted it. I will point it out below.

One note, there was a LOT of wind. I'm not sure whether it was the season, March/April, but at some stages, it was very hard to deal with, so hard that I had my first cry on the tour. Nevertheless, I would recommend the EuroVelo 8, judging from the parts I've seen. I hope to extend it in the future!

Now on to the stages!

Stages in Lombardy and the Piedmont

Eurovelo 8 - Pavia on the Ticino River
EuroVelo 8 - poplar groves in Piedmont
Eurovelo 8 - road in the Parco Naturale di Stupinigi
EuroVelo 8 - train station in Cuneo
EuroVelo 8 - beehives in the Piedmont, Italy
EuroVelo 8 - Beautiful view on Sanremo

The first days in Lombardy and the Piedmont were pretty flat, and definitely not too spectacular. But they definitely had their charm. There was a lot of farmland and many poplar groves. They're quite interesting to look at, so much geometry! But obviously not very natural.

Not having ascends has the advantage that you can go far, at least for me. That is what I did on one stretch, 101km to Turin. Turin, outside of the city center, was great for biking. There was a long stretch along the river leading to the city, first mainly for bikes, later more populated with pedestrians. I had to slow down but given that I had my goal almost reached, no problem.

In Turin, I stayed two nights to get my bike checked, and I did not regret that. It's a beautiful and diverse town, where I could have spent easily more time.

On the way out of Turin, I was pleasantly surprised by the Parco Naturale di Stupinigi. A great park, a straight street, and no cars. The following streets were super enjoyable as well, passing many apple orchards in starting bloom. Another surprise waited for me on my way to Monastera, a railway that was transformed into a cycle route. I heard about them but never rode one. A very welcomed change!

Nearing Monastera the Alps came into sight! I always get so excited to see them!

From Cuneo to Imperia it is not advised to bike. I was a bit sad about that, especially as it included a mountain pass, the Col de Tende. I accepted it though, as the pass might have been closed at this time of year anyhow. And to be honest, I was still at the beginning of my tour, and a wintery Alpine pass was not yet my level.

I had to switch trains two times to get from Cuneo to Imperia. Not my favorite, especially when the elevators don't fit bikes. But well...

Sanremo was not my favorite either. Lots of great views, but I found it rather unwelcoming and dirty. Might be because of the hotel that I took, really bad, won't list it here. The bike road to Sanremo from Imperia was absolutely enjoyable though.

Stages in Alpes-Maritimes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Eurovelo 8 - Monte Carlo
EuroVelo 8 - bike tunnel near Sanremo
EuroVelo 8 - Bike route near Cannes
Eurovelo 8 - Viaduc du Rayol
Keeping your bike safe on a campsite
Eurovelo 8 - french tartes are the best

Sanremo to Nice was a fabulous stretch! Along the coast and even with a tunnel for bicycles. These are so enjoyable and definitely an experience, plus many bikers on the road, which was great to see as well.

And then France! One of the best things first, public toilets everywhere! God send! I believe everybody can imagine that it's great to cycle along the Côte d'Azur, passing Menton and then getting into Monte Carlo. A slightly odd experience. Very clean, with very big cars and tourists everywhere, especially before the Casino. But the policemen were very friendly, they smiled at me when I was rolling in front of the casino and told me in a very nice tone, that I would need to unmount. In Monaco, I got a bit lost, because I didn't dare to go through the car tunnel. But I eventually had to, wasn't that bad. One note, I diverged from the official road here and the road along the coast was definitely not a calm one, but not problematic either.

In Nice, I was back on the original route and really enjoyed the city! Really great hotel as well, with super friendly staff and very affordable.

The next day was through Antibes and Cannes, well connected with bike routes, but within the cities hard to bike. Cannes was under construction, and Antibes had so many parts that were hard to access with the bike. The beach promenades are nice, but not very exciting, with many pedestrians. So I was glad to get away from the coast and to get into the mountains. The stretch on the Avenue du Peygros was definitely easy, as the surface was more for hiking, but the views were great. I again diverged a bit to get to my accommodation and the next day to Grasse. That was definitely a good decision, to bike that stretch was like a dream! Sunny morning, tiny and winding streets, absolutely beautiful!

The last few days I biked through pretty populated areas, so it was a great change to have a stretch to Taradeau that felt quite remote. There has been even a wild boar on the very unbusy road. But the wind was very strong, which made it hard. Specially on the Viaduc du Rayol. 159m long and 40m high. I'd say roughly 5m wide. In the middle of it, I was ready to give up and just throw myself down. I really thought I would not be able to get over it. Obviously, I did.

More stages in Alpes-Maritimes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

EuroVelo 8 - on the way to Avignon
Eurovelo 8 - my Surly Disc Trucker in front of my dream townhouse in Provence
Eurovelo 8 - beautiful mountains
EuroVelo 8 - fragrant lavender fields of the Provence
Eurovelo 8 - cycling past CEA Cadarache
Eurovelo 8 - sweet treats of France

After Taradeau the lavender fields started, so many of them! And even though it was definitely not the season, their fragrance was still in the air. The stretch to Rians was beautiful, a little bit hilly, and quite diverse.

Rians to Brunet started very similar until it changed. All of a sudden I was in a very different landscape. A big canal, a big street, and a landscape that was less picturesque, but nonetheless enjoyable. This is the part though, that is not advised to bike on. Honestly, I didn't mind it. There were very few cars, when they were there, they were fast, but very little of them. And you're passing Cadarache, which is the largest technological research and development center for energy in Europe. Some signs were 100% from the 50ies or earlier, hand-lettered and showing quite some optimism about nuclear energy. I'm always fascinated by these sights. What was bad though was the stretch from Volx to Oraison. It's not on the official route, but it was not always possible to stay on it for accommodation. If you do this part, be careful. I'm not easily spooked by cars, but this was terrifying.

The stage to Apt, again beautiful. Calm roads, some ascends, but nothing tragic. And a highlight: Forcalquier. What a cute town! I would definitely plan a stop there.

The next day to Avignon, again a bit off the official route, but I was meeting an old colleague. And this day was my absolute nightmare. The last few days had quite some ascend, and I was glad to roll down to Avignon. The road was beautiful, but that wind. Having a headwind is the worst. Everybody that comes toward you is smiling, enjoying the tailwind. They can't see your pain. It's like fighting ghosts. I first started out on a busy road, again, don't mind cars too much. But I had to change plans. The wind was coming from the front, but miraculously as well from left and right, so I could hardly hold the bike. Which is dangerous on a busy road. Afterwards, it was better, but the wind remained and I had to do quite a detour.

Stages in Occitania

Eurovelo 8 - Just out of Avignon
EuroVelo 8 - black bulls in the Camargue
Eurovelo 8 - mediterranean coast
Eurovelo 8 - cold water swimmers on the french riviera
EuroVelo 8 - a beautiful house in Béziers
EuroVelo 8 - Aigues-Mortes

After Avignon, I went South towards the Camargue. The wind got a lot better, actually, I had sometimes a tailwind. But frankly, I don't remember too much of that stage. That is often a sign of a good, uneventful day.

I stayed two days in Saint Gilles and decided to do on my rest day a little tour through the Camargue. Without luggage! Very beautiful, very flat landscape! Lots of bulls, flamingos, and white horses. Unfortunately not wild ones. Saint-Marie-de-la-Mer was a bit touristy, but they had great oysters! I think it was actually nice for a change to not have luggage with me, and I do recommend that tour for a little rest day.

The next day the landscape changed again completely! Back on the coast! But before that, I had a little rest in Aigues-Mortes. It's a beautiful town, within town walls. There are many tourists, but it's worthwhile to go in and have a quick look. On the coast was a beautiful road, partially for bikes and pedestrians only. This stretch is disrupted by La-Grande-Motte though. Absolute terrible beach town, and I felt often fooled by the people who put up the bike route signs. The streets were huge and were not populated, but the signs pointed me to all kinds of crazy bike paths. If you find yourself in La-Grande-Motte, ignore these and get out of it as quickly as you can on the big car street.

Vic-la-Gardiole was my one and only night on my trip when I was attacked by mosquitos. I think I killed a hundred of them but still got bitten so much. No problems with them in the Camargue, but here. Really don't know why.

The last stretch to Béziers again has very enjoyable coast roads. Béziers marked my last day on the Eurovelo 8, I headed towards Bordeaux to go up North. But I will come back and will explore other countries on the EV8, especially towards the East. There's so much more to explore!

Mood: happy :)