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Back to Bordeaux - the long way round

why take an hour train when we can cycle 150km to get back to Bordeaux

ferry Arcachon to Cap Ferret, bike the rest

Monday 30th Sept 13 (day 30)

It was a very mild night again last night. We woke about 8.30 and it looked like it had not rained overnight, but a few drops were starting to drop which did not last very long. We had a cooked breakfast with some left over potatoes from last night and eggs - a bit flash for a weekday, but what the hell.

After we put all our stuff together and loaded the bikes it was around 10.30 when we left the campground. We took the short cut track into town but still had to walk it down as the sandy downhill trail needed extra restraint to stop our bikes from just rolling down the hill.
First to the supermarket to buy some supplies for the next few days. We have decided to take the long way back to Bordeaux - 200 km loop instead of the train straight back. Another one of my brilliant ideas so hope it does not turn into another wet and hilly adventure.

2 minutes from the market was the jetty where we were going to catch a ferry from Arcachon to Le Cap Ferret - 30 minutes across the basin. Then ride up the peninsula along the Atlantic Coast then head back inland to Bordeaux, from where we continue east to the Med. It started to rain lightly just before boarding the ferry then got heavier as we made the crossing. We met an Aussie couple also taking bikes on the ferry but just our for a day ride. They had hired a car in England, purchased bikes and a rack and were staying in hotels, so not really on the same comfort or should I say discomfort level as us. Luckily it was not too rough on the boat as one of us is not too good on moving boats in rough seas (not me!). It still rained lightly as we took off to find the bike path but soon cleared up to a beautiful, hot, blue sky day!

The bike path here is fantastic. 85% of it was bitumen pathway and the rest was a sealed surface, so smooth pedalling today. There were a couple of little ups and downs but thankfully we did not do much pushing of Sofia and Fonsi today. You cannot see the ocean from the pathway as it is all through forest which is nice protection from the hot sunshine. We stopped for a picnic lunch (last of that smelly cheese) at Le Grand Crohot, 18km north of Cap Ferret, where Lyn could not resist the opportunity to hang out our wet nickers to dry in the sunshine. A few double takes from drivers passing by, but at least they did dry.

We rode on about another 10km to Le Porge-Ocean where we saw a sign for a camp ground. I went looking but could not find it. There was a park that had a sign which read motorhomes were allowed to park for 24 hours for free so we thought if they can, we can. So tonight we are free camping, next to the dunes on the Atlantic Ocean. We set up the tent, filled it with all our luggage off the bikes, donned our swimming cozzies and headed up over the numerous sand dunes to the ocean. We were determined to have a swim to mark the start of our coast to coast bike ride. I'm not sure how long the west coast of France is but you can guarantee we chose the only stretch that was a nudist beach. Thankfully there were not many people on the beach but the 2 blokes we could see from 100m away definitely were a la natural. So we decided when in Rome .... and did a nudie swim also. This saves Lyn having to try and dry them later on as well. And we were at least 200 m from the nearest person on the beach. It was around 5pm but the sun was still high in the sky and warm but the water was cold. However we did brave it and skinny dipped in the Atlantic Ocean!

As a small reward for this heroic dip and the fact we have no camp fees tonight we shouted ourselves an overpriced drink at a little cafe near the dunes. Cider - 10 euros thank you. Disappointingly, French Cider has a very low alcohol content at 2.5% but it was nice and cold. Cheers to us.

Back to the tent we cooked and ate dinner just before light rain fell at 8pm. Looks like a very early night for us tonight, and it's not even dark yet!


Tuesday 1st Oct 13 (day 31)

We fell asleep to the thundering sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the beach at least 100 meters away. The night was almost hot, we did not even need to pull up in our sleeping bags until early morning. And no rain during the night. Of course it did start to shower lightly as we packed up.

A Swiss guy came over to talk to us while we were breaking camp. He is walking the St James pilgrim trail to Santiago and has been at it for a 2 weeks already. I guess he was starved for company as he stayed talking while we loaded up the bikes. Kept telling us we should visit Switzerland.

Showers continued for the first hour of our ride. The path was a little rougher than yesterday but still pretty good. And although the sky stayed overcast all day we did not have much rain. We rode about 12km to get to Lacanau-Ocean which seemed like a ghost town now but again a place that would be packed out in the summer time. Here we stocked up on a few extra food items and took our last look at the Atlantic before heading inland.

Our stop for the night was going to be Lacanau near the Lac de Lacanau but the campground was already closed for the season so we just rode through. Stopped for lunch just outside town and decided we might have to free camp again tonight as there is not likely to be another camp open on the track we are follow. We are riding along an old railway line that they have converted to a bitumen bike track.

18km after leaving the ocean front we were stopped on a little bridge over a little stream having a breather. There was a grass clearing and tiny sandy beach and clear running water so I said to Lyn this looks like a great place for us to free camp tonight. It was only 3pm but who's in a hurry. Our only problem was we did not have any water with us. Problem solved I rode a further 4km to the next village, Saumos, (and 4 km back) and retrieved some fresh water from the water tower, meanwhile Lyn stayed back at camp and took this opportunity to do some washing in the little stream.

On my return less than an hour later, with water, I could see our clothes hanging from the bridge. Now this train track that we are on is quite popular so a steady stream of cyclists were able to view our smalls (and bigs) while cycling by. See the entertainment we provide!

At least we could wash off any left over sea salt from our dip in the ocean yesterday and there are no signs saying camping was not allowed. So that was our day today, time for me to go wash in the stream so if you hear a far off gasp it's me proclaiming the water is chilly! Lyn wrote: There was no gasping only screaming. I did not think the water was that cold but Cindy obviously thought otherwise!!


Wednesday 2nd Oct 12 (day 32)

We woke just before 9 - obviously all this strenuous exercise is assisting in us being able to sleep 10 - 12 hours every night as we go to bed when it gets dark just after 8. Not that we have completely fitful deep sleep - being woken up quite frequently during the night trying to get comfortable or hearing noises or call of nature. Again last night it was quite mild and we slept to the sound of the trickling stream - hence the call of nature in the middle of the night. Two things went down last night, the air mattress has another puncture (I was the lucky one on it last night) and Lyn's back tyre was flat.

Not long after we were dressed and having breakfast we realised we were pretty much surrounded by various people combing the forrest for mushrooms. Some just looked, other said bon jour and one guy actually came over to the tent and started rabbiting on in French. Of course we could not understand him, but he was very happy and gave us the thumbs up for camping out. He showed us the giant cep mushrooms he had collected, unfortunately did not offer any, gave us a big grin and left. As he passed the washing still hanging on the bridge he gave an extra chuckle and a last good bye wave.

Only after we had packed and loaded everything onto the bikes did we realise that Lyn's tyre had a puncture. I had given all the tyres a little pump up this morning and noticed it was low, but now it was flat. So off with the bags and back tyre and out with the repair kit, which luckily we had with us. And lucky we had the little stream to be able to dunk the tyre to locate the hole. All fixed and back on our way.

We rode about 4km to yesterdays water source Saumos and filled up our water bottles. Then another 9 to St Helene where we were hoping to buy some bread for lunch, but as is typical in France the shops close between 12.30 and 3pm - and we were here at 1.15. Bummer, not to worry - ever the resourceful - we stopped at a picnic area outside town and cooked up some pasta to have with our tin of tuna.

After lunch we slogged on another 12km to St Medard en Jalles where we were hoping to find a camp ground to spend the night. But the bike track was too far from the centre and we did not pass the camping so decided to continue on and take our chances.

The old railway track we were on today was a little boring and at places a long slog. 15km of dead straight track makes for a little dull riding, although it was all flat it was just continual peddling. This is also the busiest bike track we have ever been on, we shared the track with 100+ other cyclists today. Not so many were pleasure riders, mostly older gents on speedy narrow wheeled bikes dressed in their favourite multicoloured lycra bike outfit.

Around 5pm we reached Bruges which is a out skirting suburb of Bordeaux. The signage on this track from Lacanau to Bordeaux had been faultless up to now, but here the track was under some repair and we missed a little detour and ended up riding about an extra 10km trying to find the path back again. At one stage we decided just to stay in Bruges but could not find the camp or a hotel. Time was getting on and we were both getting frustrated at riding around aimlessly in circles, then finally we found the missed detour and were on our way again.

By now it was getting close to 7pm and when we rode past a hotel great minds thought alike and we rode in not caring what the cost for a room was - we'd had enough. And as we had free camped the 2 previous nights we were up in kitty money. I went in to book the room while Lyn held the bikes outside. There was just one young guy in front of me at reception and when I was advised he took the last room, I took off my hat and hit him with it. Called him a bastard and walked out. Sorry but it was a necessary outlet at the time. He did apologise, but did not offer the room to us. Luckily when I asked I was advised there was another hotel just next door, so we headed straight there and managed to get a room - a little over budget but by then did not care. Hot shower and soft beds were all we could think about.

Dinner consisted of duck pate, smelly mouldy cheese, olives stuffed with anchovies and baguette - couldn't be happier.


Thursday 3rd Oct 13 (day 33)

Woke feeling refreshed after a comfortable night's sleep in a hotel bed. Check out was not until 12 noon so we lazed around and got our money's worth. We've only a short distance to go today to no rush as per usual.

Finally on our way at midday, it took less than 30 minutes for us to ride into the centre of Bordeaux. The sky was usual was grey but no rain, however it was very windy as we rode along side La Garonne river, but thankfully not cold.

I wanted to find the tourist office to see if they could offer any further information with regards to our next bike trail, but they could only give me the map that Noelle had already sent me earlier in the year. Our next job was to find a hotel as we decided to spend the day here and no campground near the city. Tourist office advised the budget hotels were near the St Jean train station which was only 1 km from the centre. We rode the short distance and Lyn stayed with the bikes while I did a quick sweep of the surrounding hotels. Lots were full, lots more were empty buildings and lots were out of budget. We settled for Ibis budget at 60 euros for the night.

After unloading the bikes and depositing our bags into the room we again went out to explore more of the city. Not a great deal to see in Bordeaux. We bought a picnic lunch and sat by the river which did not offer a lot of entertainment as only one ferry boat seemed to be operating.

We rode around the cobbled streets on our bikes, so much more enjoyable without the weight of our luggage, but still not a great deal to see. Lots of shops and cafes. There seemed to be lots of people around but I don't think many were tourists. I guess a lot of tourists come to this area as it is a great wine area of France, but not many would have reason to stay or visit Bordeaux.

We purchased a couple of supermarket beers and found a small park where we could sit and people watch which killed some time.

A relaxing day, with another night in a hotel room. Tomorrow we start our ride to the Med starting on an old train line converted to bike track called the Roger Lapebie Path.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:32 Archived in France Tagged bordeaux cap ferret arcachon lacanau Comments (8)

Dune du Pilat - largest sand dune in Europe

very civilised steps to the top

Sunday 29th Sept 13 (day 29)

I was first woken by the sound of birds chirping - noisy little bastards. The second time by the campers next door arguing about if it was going to rain or not. The third time by the sound of rain drops on the tent - but they were only light so no panic. We had the best nights sleep in the tent to date - mainly due to the mildness of the night. Much easier to sleep camping when it is not so cold.

Being Sunday we had a cooked breakfast of poached eggs. The day does not look too promising for no rain but we potted around and then finally headed off for the afternoon on our bikes to explore around a little. We rode about 6km south out of town to Dune du Pilat. This is the largest sand dune in Europe - 3km long by 117m high - and would you believe there is a staircase for you to climb to the top. Hats off to the French! Much easier climbing 160 steps (although a bit lopsided) to the top of a sand dune than trying to struggle up the slope of the giant sand mound. Pretty cool from the top we could view out into the Atlantic Ocean and inland across a great forested area. We saw parasailers jumping off the dune and riding the thermals over the sand and ocean.

Back down at sea level we had just ducked inside a touristy shop - one of many which line the pathway to the dune - when it started to rain. Came down heavy-ish for about 10 minutes then when it had just about stopped we decided to brave it and head back to the bikes for lunch was waiting in one of the panniers. Well we thought it was, but alas we had forgotten the bread and all we had was a round of very smelly cheese. Don't be put off when I say smelly cheese cause the smellier the better tasting. But it would have to wait until we returned to camp as being a Sunday afternoon there was no hope of finding any kind of shop open to buy bread. Luckily we also had a banana each - which had been sharing the bag with the smelly cheese and although tasted alright did have an aroma which did not relate to banana! Much the same as our jumpers which shared the same bag. Which I guess was transferred to our bodies when we donned the jumpers. Oh well, there are worse things to smell of than smelly cheese, isn't there???

It was still raining when we wanted to leave so we just put on our rain capes - which are still keeping us dry but really do need replacing as all the tape inside on the seams has come away - and rode back towards Arcachon. The rain soon stopped and we were able to dry our capes in the wind as we stood beachside watching the many kite surfers do their stuff.

The bike paths here a fantastic - would be even better if people did not use them for walking when there is a perfectly good footpath right next to it. But so far we have not hit anyone, very close a few times, but if you choose to walk on a velo path, ignore my bell and me yelling 'hello, get off the bike path' well then you deserve to be hit my me on Fonsi - whose brakes are not what they used to be.

We rode along the shore and boulevard and up to the port for about an hour. The rain had stopped so there were lots of people out walking also. Around 4pm hunger got the better of us and we rode back to camp to eat our left behind bread and smelly cheese (which was magnificent by the way.) It rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon and evening with the sun showing its face at about 6pm like it always does. It's like a little tease to say hey maybe you will see more of me tomorrow! We have taken shelter on the veranda of one of the cabins (which are not available for use due to them being closed for the season) as there is nowhere else for tent campers to be out of the rain unless we want to sit in our tiny tent or stand in the toilet block. We decided we will cook dinner here as well until someone shoos us away. So hot shower, cook dinner then bed - should be dark by then - gets dark around 8pm. Not much else we can do and we need the rest after our strenuous day.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:09 Archived in France Tagged du dune arcachon pilat Comments (2)

Sarlat to Bergerac, rest, to Arcachon

finishing one adventure, revving up for the next

above route shown on map traveled by train

Thursday 26th Sept 13 (day 26)

Waking up in a soft bed we were grateful we did not tent last night as it rained. We had a task to get all our stuff back in bike panniers and bags to carry on the bike.

I walked down the shop to get baguette and cheese for breakfast which we ate before loading Sofia and Fonsi up, paid the bill and again thanked the owner for letting us leave our bikes and bags with them for a week. They did not charge for this which was a bonus.

We only have 6.5 km to ride to Sarlat train station but after sitting in a canoe for a week our hearts soon knew what it was like to work again, and the relaxed lazy legs were feeling it also. It's warm again today, but a little cloudy - nice riding weather. The distance took us less than an hour. We stopped at supermarket for lunch supplies which we ate at the train station. Had some time to kill there at the train does not leave for Bergerac until 15.09.

Waiting around the couple of hours for the train is actually more exhausting than doing something physical. We had lunch in the station room and then went and sat outside on the platform to wait for the train to open. Our actual train had already arrived but so was sitting there waiting for a few hours also.

Just 5 minutes before departure were we able to load our bikes and bags - this had to be done separately as the panniers need to be removed from the bikes so they can be hung - the bikes not the bags. We sat and enjoyed the hour and a bit train journey crossing over the rain bridge where our canoe trip ended just yesterday. Onward to Bergerac.

We are spending the next two nights back with Jean and Christine our couch surfing hosts from 2 weeks ago. We only just met Christine today as she was away last time. An easy ride from the station through town, across the river to the familiar street. Wow we are almost local, we know our way around here.

The day was still warm and we spent the next couple of hours sitting outside on the terrace enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Jean even went for a swim in the pool but it was still too chilly for me. Christine cooked a lovely dinner of cep mushrooms (local delicacy that Jean's son Matthew had collected from the nearby woods) omelet, green salad and finished off with cheese. Oh so French - love it.

Tomorrow we need to do some washing, fix the bloody air bed (or buy a new one), do some minor repairs/adjustments to Sofia and Fonsi; all in preparation for our next cycling adventure.

Dry, warm bed for tonight again. Weather tomorrow is supposed to be fine, but there is rain forecast for the weekend, hope we travel far enough to miss it.


Friday 27th Sept 13 (day 27)

Another beautiful sunny day in Bergerac. We did absolutely bugger all today except sit out on the terrace and enjoy the sunshine. Tell a lie we (or at least the washing machine) did a load of washing which we hung on the fence to dry.

Just before lunch we had a visitor, young bloke Elliot who is wanting to move to Australia in November. His father is a Kiwi so he has a Kiwi passport but he just wanted to ask us a few questions. Think we talked Aussie up enough as he seemed super keen by the time he had left - good luck to him.

Our host Christine had been to the fish market this morning so we had yummy sardines cooked on the bbq for lunch.

Late afternoon Jean drove us to the supermarket and we bought quails to have for dinner again. Very nice. Jean's son Matthew and his girlfriend came round for dinner. Matthew had been out at crack of dawn collecting cep mushrooms again and these were a perfect complement to our roast quails as was the pan fried potatoes cooked in duck fat. OMG how good is the food - finished off with some amazing cheese - very enjoyable evening.

It seems all we did was eat today and I guess that pretty much sums it up. Perfect day all round really.

Oh Lyn did have another go at fixing the flat bed. We got some superglue from the supermarket and used that to attach the patch. This seems to have worked better but we will tell in the morning after we have left it overnight and give it a pump up. If not it will be in the bin and a quick trip to Decathlon will purchase another air bed.

Tomorrow we catch the train to the Atlantic Coast - unfortunately the weather forecast is for rain , but who knows we may have some luck up our sleeves.

We have had a great time in France so far, which is thanks to our lovely hosts who opened their home and lives to us. This is the real way to experience a country - with it's people.


Saturday 28th Sept 13 (day 28)

Woke up to a cloudy overcast day, not a good sign but it may get better.

We spent the morning reloading our pannier bags and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Christine and Jean and ride Sofia and Fonsi to the train station. It had rained a little in the morning but not enough for us to put on rain poncho and we still were wearing t-shirt and shorts.

20 minutes later we were at the Bergerac train station and I was waiting in line to purchase tickets to Arcachon - a town on the Atlantic Coast and our destination for the next few days. There was a line up and it took almost 25 minutes to get a ticket. The lady behind the counter was helpful and I had no problem purchasing tickets this time. Only a short wait and then the train arrived. Many people were getting in at Bergerac to we had to be quick to get the bikes and bags on after they had all got on and moved out of the way.

Bike hung and bags stored, we took a seat and watched the scenic landscape pass by out the window. The trip from Bergerac to Bordeaux took just over one & a half hours and most of the scenery we saw out the window were grape vines for as far as the eye could see. Not surprising since this is one of Frances major wine producing areas. As we headed closer to the west coast the sky looked a little like it was clearing. A one hour wait and a change of trains in Bordeaux and the weather there was clear and hot.

The train ride from Bordeaux to Arcachon took only 50 minutes and the weather changed dramatically during this time. Suddenly the train windows were being pelted with heavy rainfall and we could see lightening strikes and hear thunder. Oh shit, not a good sign as we had planned on camping tonight. However, by the time we arrived at our station and had to disembark the train, we had passed the bad weather and it was dry. Still cloudy overhead, but did not look like we would encounter a fierce storm. :-)

The tourist office was just down the street where I received a map that showed us the way to the campground. Looked like the weather was going to co-operate so we decided it would still be ok to camp. On this occasion the campground was not close to the waters edge as you would imagine but up on a hill in a forest area. Nice setting but the uphill was murder pushing the bikes. Reaching the reception we were panting and the lady behind the counter recognised the out of breathiness we were experiencing. You are on a bike - she smiled.

We were given a camp site and chose the one next to it instead - looked flatter. Set up the tent, drank a bottle of white wine that we had with us and was still cool enough to drink. Had to have it now as it was not going to get any cooler, the wine that it. That done, and as it was only around 5ish we decided to head back into town to have a look around - this time taking the short cut track. On the way down we accidentally came across an old belvedere (a lookout tower for those not in the know). 75 steps up a spiral staircase to the top which was 25 meters high. We had a quick look up there but could not linger as the old structure could only take 8 people at a time.

Arcachon is obviously a touristy town, which sits on the shores of the Arcachon Basin. Lots of big grand old houses in the streets off the shore front which is now lined with ugly modern looking hotels. It really has a holiday destination atmosphere. There were still a few people around but I imagine in summer this place would be packed. The beach looked nice - sandy and very big and clean. Yep, bet it buzzes here in summer.
We walked along the boulevard until light rain had us running for cover under a tree. Didn't last long and then we stumbled across a supermarket just before its 7.30 closing time. We bought some fresh supplies for dinner - spag bol tonight, made with some very odd mince we bought at the market, and started the walk back up to the campground.

Rain did not interrupt the el fresco cooking of dinner (which somehow Lyn conned me into doing) and it was still dry even after we had showered and retired to the tent. Yippee a good sign. Also the temp seems to be a bit warmer here.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:02 Archived in France Tagged bergerac arcachon Comments (4)

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