After being home for a few days now and catching up on other things, I would like to recap on my trip:
It was a wonderful experience with lots of encounters, different impressions and a feeling of freedom and “finding myself”. I was EXTREMELY lucky with the weather and most people were very friendly and helpful. The cliché about French people not speaking foreign languages is definitely not true. After my trip to England 2 years ago, when I travelled through northern France, people told me it would be different in the south. I always attempt to speak the language of the country I am in, which I found that the French, just as any others appreciate, but that they are always willing to reply in English or German if you want. My French, which I had learned at school, came back gradually and improved from day to day. I did get a little confused after crossing the Spanish boarder and attempting to use my little Spanish, followed by Italy and trying to remember my to Italian.
On the whole I found drivers very courteous towards cyclists and in Switzerland and France it is quite OK to use pavements if there is no cycle lane.
I was very glad I had taken the tent. Although this had initially been planned for emergencies, I enjoyed camping so much that I didn’t even attempt to look for a room, the only exception being in Barcelona, where I stayed in a youth hostel. Even in the town of Narbonne, where I went into the tourist office, I opted for a campsite on the outskirts, rather that a hotel in the centre.
Of course I am extremely grateful to all my warmshowers hosts, Isa & Rebecca, Dominique & Ursula & Christian, Leo & Carlitos, Maud & Lionel, Rainer and Maciá & Steve who all made me feel very welcome.
All the difficulties I overcame on my trip contributed to the overall feeling of success and strengthened my self-confidence.
Would I do it again? YES, definitely. However I did opt to do this now at 60, while I still have my own knees, hips etc. If I am lucky enough to remain fit and healthy I will almost do another trip, although it will probably be a slightly shorter and easier one.