May 7 – June 22, 2007
|Hang those onions on|
your handlebars; stick that baguette right into your armpit and get that
pout right. After all, when in France…!
|Having crossed the border from|
Spain, olive groves gave way to vinyards and restaurant terraces on the
beach were designed for leisurely Pernod apperitifs or
café au laits. We rustled up all the French we could and quickly
launched into pomme frites!
is a charming town once described by
Salvador Dali as the centre of the world. Like most French cities the
grid planning is absent and getting lost in its little lanes and
alleyways is as easy as it is enjoyable.
|The quiet road to St.Paul de|
Fernouillet was dotted with impressive hilltop
towering above the vineyards and pine forests. The stunning Galamus
gorge en route was a spectacular backdrop for an afternoon spin, with
views right down into the abyss.
the setting for ‘Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves’, is one of the biggest
fortified cities in Europe with double walls, dozens of turrets and
impressive rampart views. It’s well worth the detour if you can close
your eyes to the Disney caper inside.
|One of the classics for cyclists in|
France is to follow the Canal du Midi, joining the Mediterranean
and the Atlantic. The bike lane varies from a beautifully paved route to
a narrow, muddy foot track, depending on the rain and the departement. However, overall it’s pleasant traffic-free cycling.
Canal over the Garonne
|In Agen the canal actually crosses|
the Garonne River on a bridge… and so did we!
|We tended to get off the canal for|
shopping, accommodation and variety. Lovely medieval villages in the
area are a perfect excuse.
Picnic area ahead
|France is a campers’ paradise with|
well-equipped 2 and 3-star municipal campgrounds in most villages and
towns, where prices range from 6 – 12 € for 2 adults and a tent / night.
On the roads every so often there are convenient picnic areas to polish
off a few baguettes and delicious cheese!
|However, a lot of campgrounds don’t|
open until mid June and so we were a little pre-season. On the positive
note, with campgrounds closed, we were sometimes forced to spend the
night in the luxury of a charming château dating back centuries.
seemed to be quite the city, but as we were hit by a very wet, cold
front and wintery weather, it was miserable enough.
|Showers followed us all the way to|
Bordeaux, but then the sun came out and we really enjoyed this
magnificent port city and the surrounding vineyards.
Pine forest trail
|Out of Bordeaux we had a bicycle|
route tucked in between sand dunes and pine forests that brought us
north along the Atlantic coast.
|Only in France! Naturist campgrounds and resorts dot the coastline…|
but it was just a tad too cold for our liking…
Unusual river crossing
|We availed of an unusual bridge|
just outside Rochefort. This pedestrian and cyclist transbordador
dates back to the year 1900 and is one of the few still in operation.
|On this stretch we met Gerry|
(USA) on his lightly packed recumbent bicycle, touring from Bordeaux
to Amsterdam. Gerry has bicycle touring down to a fine art. He
can concentrate on pedalling and swinging stories while his GPS
system dictates his route and turns, thus taking the burden of geography
off his mind.
is a lovely place to wander around the old medieval harbour and
|After a 130km day we were delighted|
with the wonderful hospitality offered by Josette and André (Darina’s
friend Nathalie’s parents) in St. Gilles Croix de Vie. A swim in the
pool, followed by an exquisite dinner in great company was just what the
Sunday lunch at the campground
|On Noirmoutier Island we|
joined the locals on the beach to harvest oysters for a simple but
delicious entré. Camping meals on the coast can be quite a treat!
|Bike lanes abound… and are pretty well|
signposted in France. From Noirmoutier Island we had the novelty of
cycling to the continent!
Another 12-hour wait
|For an hour or so either side of low tide|
it is possible to take a short cut back onto the mainland. The tides
didn’t suit us that day… pity we had sent our snorkelling gear home!
|Crossing the Loire Estuary|
involved a long climb on a very spectacular 4 km long bridge, bringing
us just short of Brittany.
Beautiful stone houses
|Magnificent old stone houses abound|
in Brittany, making villages seem like open-air museums.
Brittany is not without its climbs
|Another treat worth the detour was|
the megalithic site on St. Just with standing stones, dolmens and
various burial chambers dating back to 4500BC. It is amazing to see
stones even older than the great Pyramids of Egypt.
Standing stones, St. Just
Anita, Martina, Kurt, Thomas, Dominick & Markus
|Kurt’s brother, Thomas and sister,|
Anita and family drove over from Switzerland to meet us in Plancoet.
|We had a wonderful 4 days with them|
exploring the medieval, coastal towns in the area.
Harvesting on the beach
|We sampled oysters and mussels, …|
|… squished barefoot in the tidal|
flats, collected shells and ate like lords. The persistent rain did
little to dampen our spirits and we were delighted with the visit.
Fort de la Latte
|The rain continued and so did we…|
but the beautiful coast of Brittany had lots of treats in store
and even a few sunny spells for the odd cheerful Kodak moment.
Even the postman is on the bike
|The pink granite coast of Trégastel|
was our favourite.
|It was in Brittany that we came|
across 2 pedal-powered oddities. Alain (France) was touring on
his recumbent tricycle.
|Meanwhile, Lutz and Michaela|
(Germany) were speeding around on their back-to-back recumbent tandem.
|Having reached Roscoff we|
jumped on the overnight ferry to Cork, Ireland.
remains high on our list of bicycle-friendly countries. Distances are
short between attractions, and scenery and cuisine varies greatly from
region to region. After 17 months of Spanish, it was a novelty to speak
French again and we thoroughly enjoyed our month’s stay.