Back to the old fashioned method of doing this; I have no data coverage here on the Camping Municipal in Rochefort – my pitiful campsite WiFi allowance was frittered away listening to half an hour of Radio 4 earlier and my mobile coverage is teetering between GPRS and one bar of 3G, neither of which are capable of sending or receiving so much as a knat’s chuff of data – so here I am typing away in the iPhone’s ‘notes’ app with a view to uploading to the Internet tomorrow morning when I reemerge into the real world… (I will try tonight but don’t hold your breath and pictures certainly won’t appear until tomorrow.)
Let’s keep this simple. I left the hotel – nice couple run the place (I mentioned I’d written a couple of books about cycle touring before saying my goodbyes, she went back inside, Googled my name and then came rushing back out with her camera to take my picture with a view to hanging it on the wall; fame at last!) – and made my way the short distance back into the centre of the concrete jungle (which in the case of Royan is perfectly true) for a croissant and pain au chocolat. I was interested in having a closer look at the cathedral which from a distance looked like the Space Shuttle on its landing pad. Hideously ugly building up close and for some reason the authorities are currently in mid-renovation project? Why? Knock it down and start again for God’s sake. I’m sure He would prefer it that way. On a board outside the grey monstrosity a large picture showed Royan in rubble after the war (see below). The quotation from the ‘local council and population of Royan’ under the photograph refers to the ‘l’inutile et tragique bombardements’. Tragic, yes. Useless? Interesting choice of word. More research needed.
The coastline to the west was in complete contrast to to Royan; several picturesque seaside resort towns consisting predominantly of detached Belle Époque residences, many recently and colourfully renovated and each sporting a name painted in curly letters above the windows on the first floor.
The cycle path of the Velodyssée followed the shore until past La Palmyre and the Baie de Bonne Anse which is where I paused to take the pictures in the previous post. Stunning location! From there it was more windy paths through the pine forests. Not quite as dense as had been the case further south but my patience with the uneven surface didn’t last long and I chose to spend the rest of the journey as far as Roncesvalles-les-Bains (the most northerly town on the finger of land to the north-west of Royan) on the quiet D road which wound its way from side to side as well as up and down for about 15km.
Roncesvalles wasn’t quite in the same league as the smarter seaside towns from earlier in the day so I cycled over the bridge to continue my cycle in the direction of Rochefort. The quickest route was a busy road so I chose instead to follow some minor roads across the flat reclaimed land that makes up this little corner of France. Stumbling across the isolated fortified town of Brouage was a real bonus. It had once been on the coast but now its defences were most definitely landlocked. There’s a story to tell regarding the teenage girlfriend of Louis XIV pining for her loved one on the ramparts but of greater interest to me was… Le Musée du Vélo! Alas the sign said ‘fermé le mardi’ which did at least save me €5. I peered through the window to see some mannequins dressed in Edwardian outfits riding old style bikes. Perhaps it was a lucky escape. Just before the northern gate to the walled town I noticed a sign advertising three books written by a woman who had travelled around the world with her young children in a camper van. A few metres away the woman herself was standing smiling outside a shop dedicated to her travels. What is it about people who go off on their travels, think that everyone else will be fascinated by what they did and then bang on endlessly about the books that they have written?
The final section of the ride had a surprise in store. I could see a modern bridge looming in this distance. This would presumably take me over yet another waterway – there are many in these lowland parts of western France – to Rochefort… But what’s that second structure on the other side of the bridge? Could it be… Yes, it could! A transporter bridge, or, as its know here, a ‘transbordeur’. How exciting! I’ve never been on the one in Gateshead(?) back in the UK but here was a chance in France. Curious thing. Think of one of those office gadgets with the swinging balls, without the swinging balls, well, just one that slides rather than swings from one side to the other. Better off not thinking of one of those office gadgets come to think of it. See the pictures below… Built in 1900 it stopped being used in the 1960s only to be brought back to life as a tourist attraction in 2001. Great fun.
The municipal campsite was straight down the road for the transbordeur. It’s my cheapest night yet of paid accommodation – just €6,30. Finally, a campsite that recognises that a traveller with a bike deserves to pay less than one with a car. I walked into the centre of the town earlier to buy food to cook back at the campsite but will return in the morning for a better look around. And then to my final destination on the coast before heading inland to the Loire, La Rochelle. Did I keep it simple?