Le Grand Tour: Day 33 – La Réole To Agen (89km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Café des Arts, Agen

There were times this morning when I thought this particular day – the whole trip perhaps – were being derailed… It all started by me heading over the bridge back in the direction of La Réole. Oops! Wrong direction. No big problem; I’d only cycled perhaps 50 metres across the bridge and by doing so made a nice video clip (yep, you guessed it – watch the video…).

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I turned around and started following the Le Canal Des 2 Mers signs. Back on track, literally. After about 10 minutes, I found – finally – the Canal de la Garonne. Cue great moment of satisfaction! After a day and a (very small) bit of cycling, I’d reached one of the two canals in the name of the cycle route. I watched and smirked knowingly as a couple and their son cycled over the bridge and passed me. “Bonjour!” The fools were heading in the wrong direction… I wondered when they would realise the error of their ways. 

Two kilometres further along the canal I noticed a village being signposted to the left. Although I’d had a coffee on the campsite, my skills have not yet graduated to baking myself a croissant and a pain au chocolate on the gas burner so I turned away from the canal and in the direction of the village in the hope of finding a boulangerie or at least a ‘depot de pain’. I was soon confronted by a hill, a long hill. I kept going but was fighting the urge to turn back. I’d gone too far up the hill to give up, no? A quick glance at Google would soothe my worries that I wasn’t heading off on a mission to a village without a shop. 

Err… That can’t be right. Google appeared to be telling me that I was heading back in the direction of the west coast. Stop. Examine maps carefully. #%*^! It would appear that I had headed off in the wrong direction along the canal. Those earlier ‘fools’ were no such thing. They’d clearly just studied the map more closely… 

I did find the shop, did buy my croissant and pain au chocolate and then cycled past all the people on the canal who I’d already encountered a few minutes earlier. The man fishing under the bridge looked up and smiled. “Quel idiot!” he was thinking… 

The rest of the canal cycle was, well, canal cycling. Near catastrophe was averted shortly after flying the drone under the bridge as I dropped the controller and my phone while cycling. For a few moments I did think that my ability to communicate with the world might be torn away from me but fortunately the iPhone had survived and I’m still able to write this tonight. Phew… 

It was a delight meeting David and Christine Naylor. David had tweeted me earlier in the trip about campsites along the Veloscenie and again a couple of days ago when he realised we would be crossing each other’s paths today. And, finally, something today went to plan. We did indeed meet and I had a very enjoyable 30 minutes or so chatting to the couple from Brighton about their career-break cycle around France, the Canal de la Garonne and the Canal du Midi that they have nearly finished cycling (they kindly let me record their thoughts for the next episode of the podcast)… and the horrors of Brexit.

Admittedly the first half of today’s cycle along the canal to Agen was much prettier than the second half but all things are relative. It was a good day of cycling 89km (which would have been much nearer to 80km had I not set off in the wrong direction…) 

There appears to be no campsite in Agen. David and Christine had stayed at one around 7km away and that would have been my destination had my last-minute WarmShowers request fallen upon deaf ears. It didn’t, and once I finish writing this, that’s my destination; to the house of Thierry and Marick in the suburbs of Agen. 

Tomorrow? It’s 113km to Toulouse… (if I set off in the right direction).


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