Le Grand Tour: Day 29 – La Rochelle To Saint-Fort-Sur-Gironde (Train + 39km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Camping Port Maubert

They certainly packed them in at the municipal campsite in La Rochelle. As predicted, it was a noisy evening, including fireworks at one point. Things did quieten down after midnightish but then at some point in the early hours the couple in the text next to mine decided to have a, err… loud romantic interlude. I’ll leave that there. 

I glanced at my phone in the morning and it said 6:20am. My train was due to leave at 7:53am from La Rochelle station so it was a quick pack-up only ever beaten in speed by the one necessitated by the arrival of a herd of black cows in my wild camping spot last August on the Outer Hebrides. I was trundling back into town by 7am and at the station far too early. 

Before I did leave the campsite this morning I had a brief second chat with a chap from Salisbury who was cycling to Santander to attend his sister’s wedding and then embarking on a cycle over the Pyrenees in the direction of southern France. He had an interesting bike; an Icelandic Lauf (I assume it means ‘leaf’ in Icelandic looking at the logo). A novel suspension set-up for the front forks, electronic gear changing and a bottle opener. Charging the battery for the gear changer wasn’t a bit issue. Is this the future of cycle touring? Have a look for yourself:  

It was two trains rather than one: La Rochelle to Niort then Niort to Royan. On the first, the conductor told me to remove the panniers and hang up the bike. He’s the only conductor to tell. E to do so in six train journeys on the TER’s. Just as he was spouting his jobsworth instructions, another cycle tourist – a woman in her 60’s called Françoise – arrived and she did my job for me by complaining. His argument was that other cyclists could get on the space might be needed. Well, yes, but it was Sunday morning at 7:53. Again, I’ll leave that there… 

Now that we had bonded over a common loathing for the train guard we had a good chat about cycle touring. She was an inspirational woman who had been travelling on her bike for 25 years all over the world, including through Russia, on her own. This trip was more modest; just a few days down the Loire à Vélo with a cycling novice friend from Paris but she had future plans that included heading off to Italy and over the Alps to visit her daughter in Lake Garda. A nice way to start Sunday. 

Upon arrival in Royan, a town that I had previously visited on 2015, I secured a cycling map from the tourist office and set off down the northern side of the Gironde Estuary. I had thought that the ‘Canal des Deux Mers’ cycle route wouldn’t get a mention until Bordeaux where the Canal de la Garonne starts but I was wrong; the signs kicked in in Royan and I was soon heading out of town on the mainly coastal path. 

A few days ago I asked on Twitter if anyone could explain the purpose of the net on these fishing huts:

I now have the answer courtesy of an information board: 

“Ces cabanes de pêche sur pilotis tirent leur nom du filet carré reposant sur la vase et que l’on remonte de temps en temps avec l’espoir d’y voir frétiller une prise. Dans cette pêche de hasard, sans appât, seul le poison de passage au moment de la relève du filet est capturé. Aujourd’hui, ces installations sont devenues des lieux de convivialité pour une pêchè de loisir.”

Basically, lazy fishing. And I like the final line about nowadays them being ‘places of conviviality’. Places for men to go and hide for a drink.

Today’s stretch of cycling beside the Gironde was undeniably beautiful and included caves, pretty villages, vineyards and a wind from the west. But after yesterday’s 140km I was knackered and although it would have been good to make it as far as the ferry at Blaye, that was never going to happen. I happily crawled into a great little site near Saint-Fort-Sur-Gironde and called it a day. I suspect it might be a quieter night than the one spent in La Rochelle yesterday… 

Tomorrow: that ferry – still 50km away – and onwards to Bordeaux where I will probably take a day off to explore. 


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1 reply »

  1. I like the way the videos show how the scenery in just three or four days’ riding has changed completely from a distinctly northern-looking Brittany to a really southern-looking south-west France. I’m particularly enjoying your videos of this part because I think essentially the south-western quarter (so the new mega-region of Acquitaine, I guess) has always been my favourite part of France, notwithstanding the attractions of other regions.

What do you think?