Some of the most common questions people ask about the bike trip are about food. I’ve found that people are often more concerned about the things we ate and our cooking methods than the places we actually visited. This is only natural though. After all, food is fuel, and if don’t have any gas in the tank, you certainly won’t be able to ride very far. But food served a far greater role than just mere sustenance, it was also served as our primary way to socialize. Meals gave us a chance to relax and reflect back on a days riding, and of course, meet new people. We met some of the coolest people around a dinner table or at the end of long bar. It seemed that Europeans were always quick to share a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and a good story.
Lidl, with its easy to spot blue and yellow signs, was our shopping center of choice. It’s a huge chain of discount grocery stores that sells generic brand food at ridiculously low prices. Items at a Lidl tended to be 40%-50% off the price at big name groceries. By pooling our money together we were able to take advantage of some of their bulk items and make some pretty cracking meals. At a Lidl can easily eat like a king for 3 Euro. These stores are often at the edge of town or in between cities, so it can be a mission to find them, but for the amount you can save the extra trip is definitely worth it. As I liked to say on the road, “You can get a lot at a Lidl.”
Meet Musli, the breakfast of champions. It’s granola, corn flakes, yogurt, bananas, and if your feeling fancy, a bit of honey. Mix it all up and feast on a meal that is guaranteed to keep you going until lunchtime, if not longer. Because it’s so thick and dense, it’s the only meal I know of that not only tastes half decent, but can also double as tile grout.
One of the great things about riding 70 miles a day is that you can pretty much eat whatever you want and not have to worry about gaining any weight. We would often finish off one of our special creations, “The Lidl Bagguette” and then top it off by eating a whole chocolate bar. No Weight Watchers for us. The only drawback was that sometimes we would slip into a food coma and would need a half-hour nap to sleep it off before getting back on the road. That whole thing probably cost around 3 euros.
Ravioli with bologniase sauce, chopped onions, and basil leaves. The best meal I’ve ever made on top of an electrical box in a municipal park.
Pesto Pasta and a little bread. Not bad, not bad at all.
We met a lot of great people through the sharing of food and drink. Above is a guy named Andre, whom we met at a campsite just outside of Sete. He was by far the craziest, most free-spirited person we met on the trip. He said he was 60 years old, but he behaved more like a little kid. He was a retired auto mechanic who, when not making homemade booze in his bathtub, spent his summers hopping from campsite to campsite throughout France. We were at this campsite for two days and the whole time Andre was either drinking, smoking cigarettes, eating cheese, or trying to pick up women. He said he hated American music but the only CD he had – the one he blasted on his car speakers in a continuous loop – was a Bruce Springsteen greatest hits collection. In the picture above he is showing me his homemade concoction he called Pruno, which I think was hard alcohol distilled from prunes, you know, for those who want to get smashed but also need that extra bit of fiber in their diet. It was about 7 in the morning when he took out the bottle and coerced me into trying some. The stuff was absolutely vile. You could probably have stripped paint with it. Andre didn’t seem to mind though. By the end of the day he had finished off the whole bottle, and several others just like it.
Above is a picture of Dantiza and Alejandro, two students we randomly me who let us crash at their place in Montpellier. They were Chilian natives who were studying business in France. They were fluent in three languages, which made me feel remarkably ignorant for only knowing English and some Spanglish. We spent the night drinking Leffes and eating cheese before heading out into Montpellier’s vibrant bar scene.
We met Manu and his wife outside a bar in Burjols, a small town in Southern France. Unable to find a campsite after 115 miles of riding, we had pitched our tents in a park and headed into town for one beer. It was about 11pm when we met them. Upon telling our story, Manu, feeling either sympathetic or extremely generous, or probably a little bit of both, immedietly offered to let us stay the night at his house. Not only that, but he and his wife also made us an amazing meal, let us use their showers, and helped us plan our course for the next day. Due to all the wine and cheese and sorbet he offered us, we didn’t get to sleep until around 3am. The next morning he made us breakfast and espresso and gave us a bag to pick cherries off his massive tree in his backyard. We hit the road well rested, well fed, and with 2 pounds of the most amazing cherries strapped the back of our bikes. It’s like the old saying goes, when you travel, “It’s not where you go that matters, but the people you meet along the way.”