Saint Gilles

While the French proletariat was out on the street protesting today, I just couldn’t pass up the first sunny day in recent memory (with me, that’s really recent), so I went for a long ride to the south. My hope was to reach the Camargue, but I’ll need a longer afternoon off to get that far down, I think. Not a lost cause though, since I found sound really great riding.

I’m happy to report that, unlike Montpellier, Nîmes has something to offer down south. Once you get past the suburban growth there are a bunch of tiny hills that plateau after a bit, then, after 10 km or so, descend down into the flat Camargue. The area is given over to vineyards, mostly (Costières de Nîmes), with the occasional donkey to break the monotony.

This is also an encouraging sight when you ride a road for the first time – other cyclists.

After about 30 km of this I turned left on a ‘red’ road that was thankfully quiet and wind assisted. This brought me to Saint Gilles, a very, very old town and relatively famous for being the first stop on one of the main pilgrim roads that run to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. Its 11th century abbey church is a pilgrimage site in its own right, and the Romanesque iconography of the portal is something I haven’t seen in the south very much, if at all. Here is a site with a good explanation of these icons.

I’ve made a cycling route for part of this pilgrimage route (the Languedoc part) here, if you’re interested.

After Saint Gilles, it was a straight, mad dash back home. But first, a stop by the train station to see how the manifestation was holding up – and to lend my support. Someday I might be French enough to demand a pension (one can dream…) and I’d like to think I could receive it while I can still peddle a bicycle!

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