Wind has been the theme of the day, at times quite cold but thankfully the rain petered out after a few short bursts in the morning. There ends today’s weather report.
Rochefort wasn’t at all what I expected it to be which was a west of France version of Dieppe. Built to a grid pattern, that’s where the similarities end. A bit scruffy, lots of potentially interesting buildings laying empty and gradually falling into decay and the only thing that caught my eye in the Rough Guide – La Maison de (explorer) Pierre Loti – closed for renovation. I cycled here and there for a bit, around what used to be the naval docks now housing a few modern boats and the tents under which is being rebuilt the boat that took Lafayette to America, then along the river next to which the buildings of the Corderie Royale still stand. It wasn’t to long before I headed north in the direction of La Rochelle.
Initially following the cycling route suggested by Google Maps, it wasn’t such a nice ride along poor quality back roads that shadowed the dual carriageway. I took the wrong turning on at least two occasions before I noticed a sign for the Eurovelo 1 and at least my route finding could be transferred away from Google. I bumped into an English guy – he’s the one on the left in the photo – who was cycling from his home in Cornwall to Scicily. The usual cycling-related chat ensued but then two more cyclists arrived on the scene; a couple, she was from San Francisco, he from Guernsey. They had met the English chap earlier in the day and yes, the cycling chat continued. Interesting people.
Within minutes of going our separate ways I began fighting the wind and was to continue the battle all the way to La Rochelle. If you look at the route in the link at the top of this post you’ll notice that I was cycling west almost as much as I was cycling north. With a strong wind from offshore it was, at times, hard work. Tomorrow when I start my cycle east towards the Loire Valley I will be seriously unimpressed if the wind has changed direction. Expect a 140 character rant on Twitter if that’s not the case!
The route of the Eurovelo 1 was a little tortuous at times, especially in the final 20 or so kilometres where it roughly followed the line of the railway – which I crossed multiple times – but seemed to take in ever nook and cranny of the coastline south of La Rochelle. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very attractive little spots. It’s just a pity that they couldn’t have been constructed a little nearer to the cycle route. I think I’m hoping for too much on that one.
I entered La Rochelle at around 3pm via what must be one of the largest ‘ports de plaisance’ (I don’t know what we call them in English – a harbour full of yachts!) in Europe. Not so much a port, more of a vast car park (without the cars). I wandered for a while (in French, ‘j’ai flâné’ – my favourite French verb – and one in which I excel when it comes to doing it) before grabbing a bit of food and listening to some jazz at a free concert beside one of the town’s famous harbour entrance towers.
Tonight I’m staying with my first French WarmShowers contact – a young couple who I suspect might be British – who live near to all the yachts just outside town. We have arranged a rendez-vous for 9pm in the car park of the apartment block where they live. Perhaps they were referring to the place with all the boats… Probably not. In the meantime I’ve found a curious and very atmospheric bar [la Cave de la Guignette] in which to write this and have a nice glass of wine. It’s all very civilised.
[Update: neither of them are British, they just speak very good English! Chris works as a computer scientist at La Rochelle University and Audrey in a water quality laboratory. They are both originally from the Avignon area.]
Tomorrow, as mentioned above, I’m heading inland towards the Loire Valley. I’d like to meet it at Saumur (a town I know very well because I worked on the campsite there for six months back in 1993) on Saturday so that will mean two overnight stops in between. I’m not yet sure where, however… Earlier today on the Facebook page (you haven’t ‘liked’ it yet?!!), I was alerted to a new cycle route called La Vélo Francette (yes it’s feminine!) which goes from Caen to La Rochelle… via, Saumur! It officially opens in June but all the details are there on the website. I need to investigate more and will do so later this evening. The other thing that is on my mind is finding accommodation tomorrow evening that will allow me to follow the election back in the UK. Despite not being able to vote (entirely my fault; I thought a postal vote would suffice but it won’t…) I am keen on following the drama as it happens. I don’t mind if that’s in a tent. In a way I think I’d prefer a tent as I never seem to get much sleep in one anyway… I would have voted for 5(£::buds£(:/6;??c);; (there seems to be a problem with the mobile connection…).