A later than normal start to the day; I was up at the same time and packed and ready to go well before 9am but then got chatting with the other three cyclists who were camping in neighbouring pitches – two French men and Pete, the English lawyer. All three of them talked about their journeys south along the Velodyssey / Eurovelo 1 and I was eager to hear what they had to say. Pete noted how quiet the campsites had been and that many were still closed – not a good sign – and all three mentioned just how up and down the route was, despite it following what you would think is a long flat piece of coastline. I would find out later in the day.
Even once we had gone our separate ways I didn’t set off cycling immediately choosing instead to head into the very pretty town centre of Capbreton; well kept – almost too well kept – and on message in terms of being nice to tourists such as my good self. The charming lady in the boulangerie almost jumped for joy when I asked if she had any croissant aux amandes (?!!) and once I had paid for one thanked me in English through a beaming smile. She wins today’s medal for the best customer service but also one for being a bit Stepford wife. I had coffee while sitting through dome admin before searching out the post office to send a small package of documents back home. Further up the road along a smart street which wouldn’t have looked out of place in Saint Tropez I found a bike shop who kindly pumped up the tyres on the bike (I suspect the air might have been shipped in from an expensive resort in the Alps) despite a lorry blocking the cycle lane (see picture below). It’s good to know that it’s not just in the UK.
I picked up the Eutovelo 1 again at the end of the posh street and followed it for much – probably 90% – of the cycling day. I cannot remember ever having cycled along such a good quality segregated cycle path. It was the future! Yes, much of the route was through the forest where a wide path had been forged through the trees and been tarmaced. In itself, not that difficult as long as you have a JCB. However, when making its way through more urban areas, many of the roads had been turned into one-way streets with the remaining 50% of the space given over to a wide mixed usage two-way path for other road users. A great model for others to follow.
All in all it made for a very pleasurable day of cycling away from the potential danger and above all the noise of traffic. Once I joined the long sections of the route through the pine forests all that could be heard over that of the purring of the bike was the nearby crashing if waves along the shore. I didn’t see the sea incidentally – it remained well hidden behind a thick band of trees – but the hilly terrain up and over the dunes was the physical clue as to what remained beyond the band of green. Occasionally significant parts of the forest had been chopped down for renewal leaving bare scrubland ready, presumably, for a fresh batch of trees. Despite first appearances, this is a forest that works for its living.
I paused for a mid-afternoon coffee in a place called Léon. Not quite as Trueman Show as Capbreton earlier in the day but still a smart, quiet little town with a penchant for timber-framed buildings, albeit timber that appeared to be more 20th century than Tudor. As I did a little research as to accommodation options, two locals shouted at the horseracing on the TV inside the bar. I don’t think they won. Meanwhile outside on the terrace I managed to locate a municipal site a little further north in Saint-Julien-en-Born. It would be another 20km in the same pine forest vain as the first part of the day before a lurch back inland to find the site; open but almost deserted apart from a man with a static caravan and a love of making lots of noise trimming his hedges and vacuming the grass around his tin box. I shall be making a complaint in person to the local mayor in the morning. If the man trimming and vacuming is the mayor it could get tricky.
Tomorrow I continue through the pine forests – I suspect the cycling will be an almost carbon copy of today’s – before heading to Bordeaux on Saturday and a day off on Sunday. Stay tuned!