Today was a good day.
The usual routine at the campsite this morning with one addition; I spent about 30 minutes attempting to remove all the accumulated gunk from the bike’s chain and mechanism that has developed since the start of the cycle but especially in the past few days cycling along the sandpit that is western France. I can’t say that my efforts were spectacuarly successful but there did seem to be an improvement as I cycled away from Lananau-Ocean in the direction of… well, I’d had it with the Velodyssee, the rough paths, the sand, the debris from the trees. I needed some good old-fashioned roads upon which to cycle; ones which wouldn’t have me jolting in the saddle every few metres and ones which wouldn’t clog the chain etc… with the things that I had just spent a significant amount of time trying to remove. So, I took the D6(E1) road north to Maubuisson…
Monday isn’t a great day to get things done in France as the country seems to shut down, or rather stay shut from the weekend, especially shops. That was certainly the case in Maubuisson which was a lakeside town crammed with bars, restaurants, boutique shops and the like, most of which were shut. Apart, that is, from Fun Cycles run by cheery Christophe and Francois – see previous post for the pictures. I asked if they sold products to clean bike chains and they did! Great! But rather than just take my money and politely tell me to shove off, Christophe and Francois did the job for me. They exuded positivity asking questions about the bike and where I was going and set me up in a good mood for the rest of the day.
From Maubuisson to Carcans where I initially continued my journey north on the D road before realising that there was a high quality cycle track just a few hundred metres to the west of the road that would be far more pleasant to cycle upon. It wasn’t the Velodyssée (which was still continuing its own way north but on the other side of the lake much nearer the coast) but it was the continuation of the disused railway track that I had been following on Sunday. Arriving in Hourtin I paused to buy lunch and struck up conversation with an English guy who was cycling in the opposite direction. His name was Nick and he too was a teacher – in his case music – and he had come to France for a year to try and learn French. He was based in Orléans but was taking a break and had decided to head south on a bike. His ultimate destination will be Bordeaux but we exchanged contact details and hopefully when I pass through Orléans later next week we will meet up again. It was turning into a busy day.
More pristine French small towns appeared and then disappeared. The French really have mastered the art of making such places very ‘liveable’ in a way in which the British have failed miserably. Everything is there; post office, shops, bar, church (should you need it), town hall, primary school… The blueprint is copied throughout the country and it’s difficult not to admire them for maintaining these little communities. I put it down to local mayors; someone who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on a civic level in a local community. The rest of the world, especially Britain, take note!
My journey continued north along the ever-narrowing piece of land that is the northern portion of the Gironde department. At Soulac-sur-Mer I was reaquaninted with the Atlantic Ocean and then just north of the seaside town, the Velodyssée cycle route that guided me to the ferry at Pointe de Grave. I was expecting a small boat but no, this was a sizeable ferry capable of carryng a good number of lorries and cars as well as me and my bike. Think of a slimmed down cross channel ferry and you are more or less there. Waiting to board I chatted with another couple of cycling tourists – one from The Netherlands and the other from Ireland – about their respective trips south to Morocco and to Seville. I gave them a few tips. Perhaps 30 minutes after departure the boat docked in Royan, a town that is built of white concrete. The original place was flattened by the Allies during the war and almost nothing remains. That said, it’s not unattractive (which is a bit like saying that someone is ‘not ugly’ i.e. you can’t quite bring yourself to say ‘beautiful’). The hotel where I am staying adds a spalsh of colour – see below. I am told there is an old part of town; I shall try and seek it out in the morning…
My encounters with fellow cycling tourists weren’t quite over. As I paused to investigate accommodation options on the wall separating land from sand along the blustery seafront I was approached by a middle-aged man (he turned out to be a retired lorry driver and has clearly benefitted from France’s generous early retirement ages) who greeted me like a friend! Had my fame stretched as far as the haulage community of western France? Well, no, it was clearly just his manner. We chatted at length about our respective journies although I slightly outdid him on length. Nice chap. I noticed him later eating a burger not far from where we had chatted. Perhaps he was waiting for the next passing cyclists.
But with Norwegian Pizza – it seemed the obvious choice in the restaurant opposite the hotel – laying heavily in my stomach, the urge to sign off and go to sleep is too much. Or is the half carafe of Bordeaux? Who knows? Who cares? Sleep well!