CURRENT LOCATION: Camping Municipal de La Réole
There’s no mistaking that I have now arrived in the south of France. Not only has it been hot (in fairness, it’s not been in the least but cold since Brittany) but there have been a long list of things that tick the Southern Europe boxes; lavender, a lizard, terracotta roofs, parched fields of crops, hilltop villages, towns that shut down in the heat of the day… No cicadas yet but they will come in the next week I imagine.
Within an hour of leaving the centre of Bordeaux on the eastern side of the Garonne river, I was on another disused railway line. You might think I’d be a little jaded of them by now, and I was prepared to be so but… Remember me extolling the wonders of the first bit of the Avenue Verte a few weeks ago? I honestly thought that it couldn’t be bettered when it comes to adapting a former railway line into a greenway. Well, I stand corrected. The Piste Roger Lapébie is even better. Here’s a bit of French for you:
“Cette ancienne ligne de chemin de fer, declassee en 1979, a longtemps contribue au développement économique de l’Entre-deux-Mers. Le Department de la Gironde la rachete et la tanstome en piste cyclable reliant Bordeaux a Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. Elle foot son nom à un coureur cycliste girondin qui remporta la Tour de France en 1937.”
I spent the first hour or so of my cycle along Roger’s track re-listening to the podcast I recorded with Declan Lyons earlier this year. He wrote the Cicerone guides to cycling the Canal de la Garonne and the Canal du Midi. You might want to have a listen yourself. Here’s the link:
In that podcast, Declan mentions one good reason why the cycle routes around Bordeaux are very good. Former French prime minister Alain Juppé was the mayor of Bordeaux in the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a great advocate of developing the cycling network and he had a clever ruse up his sleeve. He categorised the cycle tracks as official D-roads (with no motorised vehicles allowed of course) and in doing so, ensured that they were treated the same as any other D-road and this maintained to a high French standard. Genius! You can see the sign in one of the pictures below categorising the Piste Roger Lapébie as D803. It’s basically 50km of high quality tarmac from one end to the other. Local innovators have taken over some of the stations for cycling-friendly business as you can see in the video. Another ambitious transformation at La Sauve will allow you to stay overnight in an old railway carriage. Again, it features in the video.
Shortly before I arrived in Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, I reached the half-way point of my trip in terms of time: 4 weeks, 3 days and 12 hours as the church clock rather idiosyncratically struck 12. (You’ll be able to hear it in the next episode of the podcast.) But am I half-way in other respects? Watch (and listen) to the video…
I should basically have told you to watch the video and left in there…
The 20km after Sauveterre-de-Guyenne were a little more standard, if nice, cycle touring, up and down the hills of rural Gironde, the cycle finishing at the campsite opposite the small town of La Réole. There is a story to tell about this place but I don’t know what it is yet. It’s all a bit Cinema Paradiso, crumbling grandeur that saw much better days at least 50 years ago. I need to do some digging. It’s very un-French as most towns and villages are not in such a state of disrepair. It does have, however, a wonderful bridge spanning the river. You guessed it; watch the video!
(And once you’ve done that, remember that the next part of the ‘Grand Tour’ podcast was published yesterday: all the details at CyclingEurope.org/Podcast)
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