(Sorry about the formatting, it doesn’t seem to want to work)
Tuesday 14th April
Today we said goodbye to La Rochelle, which really was fantastic, I hope I’ll be going back there again at some point.
We were on the road by 11AM after an especially lazy start. We joined the cycle path “Veloddeseye”, which should take us all the way to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, over 300 miles away.
It was another incredibly hot day. Thank you to Richard Barton, who gave us the tip that every French graveyard has a tap with drinking water… That piece of information has come in handy no end!
The cycle path took us along some beautiful sandy beaches and sunlit canals. And as the path was coastal… No hills!
We camped up beside a river, a few miles outside of Marennes, and I am currently in the tent listening to some very loud frogs.
Wednesday 15th April
Miles on a boat: 5
We arrived at Royan by mid-afternoon, so that we could take the ferry across the estuary to Le-Verdon-sur-Mere.
Without this ferry ride we would have had to cycle about another 100 miles, with the ferry it was a 5 mile crossing, taking about 30 minutes. My butt sent a general thank you into the cosmos.
We also got talking to some other cycle tourists on board, a retired couple who are cycling to Spain. The guy pointed to our tandem and asked me: “Is it hard? Don’t you want to be alone sometimes?” I love French peoples’ small talk, it’s a lot less small than British peoples’.
We camped up by the side of a seldom-used cycle path, just on the edge of a pine forest (a few miles outside of Montavilet-Les-Bains, which we will be heading towards tomorrow). We were having a nice relaxed evening until dusk hit and the mozzies emerged, at which point I hot-footed it into the tent with many loud complaints, realising I’d already been bitten several times. Now I am in the tent, really hoping that I don’t need to pee in the middle of the night! Damn you mozzies!
Thursday 16th April
As we were packing up in the morning a jeep pulled up by our tent and Monsieur Forest Commissioner stepped out. He told us that “camping sauvage” was forbidden here because of the risk of forest fires. Oops!
The morning started with some long, straight quite dull roads, but things livened up in the afternoon. “Veloddeseye” led us up twisty, hilly paths through the pine forests, which was a lot more interesting, and allowed us to work on our Alps training (we finally seem to be making some progress with the hills).
A photo for the record, but quite dull scenery to be honest.
We met another cycle tourist today, a lady from Germany, whose bike is emblazoned with “The Vegan Team” (we didn’t get to ask about that). She has been travelling for about 3 weeks, and plans to travel around the world on a bike for 2 or 3 years, with a husband waiting at home!
55 miles in we decided to call it a day, but as we were near a campsite, and I was a bit worried about Monsieur Forest Commissioner and his pals, we thought we’d just head there instead, to “make things easy”. Over the next hour we visited about 5 campsites, and were turned away either because they were private or closed to people with tents! Finally (feeling quite grumpy) we were admitted to a bare piece of ground (all we wanted!!) and 10 miles after we’d intended, had found our place to stay in the small town of Ares.
Anyway, there are some perks that come with a campsite, including a much needed hot shower. Plus as much water as you like. And toilets! Oh wow. We have been placed right beside them, which I thought was a very handy spot until a man walked by our tent doing some enormous farts (I am sexist-ly assuming it was a man. Let’s face it, it probably was).
Friday 17th April
After yesterday’s unexpected extra 10 miles we were both shattered, and couldn’t seem to summon up any energy in our legs.
There was a mix of scenery today, in the morning we cycled through flat, unremarkable little towns, and then as the afternoon wore on we once again hit the hills and the pine forests.
The most interesting thing we saw today was an enormous sand dune, which – strangely – rose high above the pine forest which we were cycling through. I went to investigate (Eric was too tired – poor Eric). I scrambled up the dune, which was steep enough for me to use my hands (luckily there was a ladder).
At the top was an amazing dramatic view: the sea on one side and the pine forest on the other, and in between this strange dune snaking a steep line through the landscape.
I wonder what natural phenomenon caused this odd landmark? The Internet would tell me in about 30 seconds, but I am currently wifi-less (which I think is good for me, I’m getting a lot of reading done!).
We also passed through here today:
We stopped at another campsite today in Biscarrosse – you can tell we’re getting soft already. The thought of not having to sneak about was just too tempting.
Saturday 18th April
Today we were making excellent time and had done about 50 miles by 3.30, when we got caught in a massive thunderstorm.
We tried waiting it out for about 40 minutes (which essentially meant standing in the pouring rain getting soaked for 40 minutes) but as the thunder boomed on we decided that we might as well cycle through it.
I was a bit worried about riding a large metal object through a thunderstorm until Eric pointed out that we had rubber tyres. So we did not get struck by lightening, but everything was soaking wet, and not just wet but covered in bits of soil, sand and pine cone, and general filth.
We arrived at a campsite just outside of Leon and quickly established that staying in a tent would be soggy and miserable, so instead managed to get a mobile home for the night. We turned the tiny heater up to maximum and put everything on/by it, peeled ourselves out of our soaking clothes, had hot showers and a big dinner. So not so bad in the end!
Sunday 19th April
Today we hit 1000 miles! How do I feel? Achy.
The sun made a reappearance today after a couple of days of rainy weather. The landscape also started changing: for days we had been going through arid pine forests and areas where trees had been chopped down. Today we rode through deciduous forest and by the coast (which doesn’t sound exciting, but after several days of staring at pine trees, gorse bushes and tree stumps it makes a refreshing change).
We also got our first look at the Pyranees in the far-off distance, and as we rode through Biarritz we saw the Atlantic Ocean, looking azure blue and endless. Even though we were still in France, I suddenly felt like we were in a whole different country.
Only one incident today: some slight flooding on the cycle path from yesterday’s storm led to us getting very wet feet!
We dithered when we saw the puddle, but unwisely decided to go for it. Wrong decision! This puddle was followed by 3 more, but as we were already soaked we cycled on through. Afterwards we purposefully averted our gazes from the very easy detour we could have taken to avoid getting wet. We went through a very similar incident on the Bristol to Bath cycle path with our friends Andre and Sylvia… We have clearly learned nothing. Maybe third time round we’ll manage to avoid getting wet feet.
On the advice of an old French man that Eric apparently had a chat with we are spending tomorrow exploring Biarritz. We are checked into a campsite (the wild camping seems to have gone out the window for now) and I am looking forward to NOT cycling tomorrow.
Monday 20th April
Not a lot happened today so I will keep this short and put the best photos up.
The weather was warm and sunny. The ocean was stunningly beautiful. We explored a bit in the morning, and then lay around on the beach, had some icecream and did some reading. It felt very good to have a rest, and to not be wearing cycle shorts!
Thank you old French man for recommending Biarritz.