Day 10: Arcachon – Mimizan. 65km.

Day 10: Arcachon – Mimizan. 65km.

Jess asked if I was enjoying myself and I found it hard to answer conclusively one way or the other. It varies literally from moment to moment. Some moments every rotation of my legs feels like too much effort and I just want to stop, cry and go home. A few seconds later, the sun comes out, we go past a pretty house, buy a cake, pick up speed down a hill and I feel like I could do this forever. And back and forth it goes minute by minute. Keith feels the same at different moments.

Today started as a bit more of a ‘please can I go home now?’ day. We were sluggish and took ages to leave the ‘non-smoking’ design hotel with ashtrays on the balconies so you can puff your fag smoke into your neighbour’s bedroom. Grumpy? Never. It was wet, grey and the joy of flat, straight roads turned into utter tedium a couple of days ago.

We ended up in Gastes, which is on the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route and seemed a popular place to pass through. We had lunch in the rain under a tree by the lake.

Photograph of lake beach at Hourtin, France.

Photograph of Sarah sitting under a tree next to a lake and two bicycles in France.

This lake had the two most bored looking, female lifeguards I have ever seen. Someone must have sold them the idea of California, surfers, Baywatch, and they got the short straw of an empty, rainy lake in France. Although, the dead-looking woman having a nap could have given then something to do. I am at least tidy when I sleep.

Photograph of Sarah lying asleep on the ground next to a lake and bicycles.

We headed to Mimizan and ate cake. Realised we are rubbish food bloggers as we keep eating things before we photograph them. Not today. Ta dah! Cake:

Photograph of two French patisserie cakes in a box

They were so good. I once tried to blag my way on to a Level 4 Patisserie course at college as I just wanted to know how to make this kind of thing without learning the boring cooking stuff. Surprisingly, my claim that I had had a student vegetarian cookery book published (true – check link) didn’t cut it. Another scheme bites the dust and I have to pay for cakes like everyone else. Bugger.

Photograph of Sarah eating cake with a plastic spoon.

We stopped after 65km today which was weird because we could still walk and function, unlike every previous day. Stayed at a chambres d’hotes, La Renardiere, run by an Irish family. Gorgeous place in the countryside. The style of the house shows that we are now in Basque country, where the roofs are flatter and the buildings timbered.

Photograph of Aquitaine France country house

Photograph of French country house in Aquitaine France

It was nice to have a whole evening to just sit, even if it was spent, like so many others, in the frantic and frustrating search for mobile data signal and then accommodation for the next few days. Both are proving time consuming and difficult to find.

The business of life takes up a lot of time when everything has to be carried and there are no cookers, fridge or spare clothes. We have settled into a daily evening routine where I sort the food and plan the next day’s route and bed, whilst Keith has taken on the clothes washing with gusto, fashioning a washing line in every place we stay like some kind of industrial laundry. Makes you realise how little stuff you need. But then everyone knows that. It’s been a least a week since I’ve used my waffle maker, and I’m surviving. Sometimes you just have to be brave.

We steal soap, sugar and washing-up liquid to fill our little pots. In only 10 days this is what we have turned into. Come Armageddon, we will be ready. Keith will be a non-anti semetic Mel Gibson. I will be Tina Turner. I shall paint my bike matt black in preparation. Oh… my bike is already matt black. I am ready… I have washing-up liquid. Let the games begin.

 

Day 9: Arcachon. Rest day.

Day 9: Arcachon. Rest day.

Photograph of sand dune and blue sea beyond

This is the Dune de Pyla. Its just fantastic. About 117m high and almost as long. A great slab of sand on the Atlantic coast of France. It shifts inland every year. I know someone who came on holiday here as a kid and stayed in one of the campsites which back on to the dune. He remembers swimming pools which are no longer there having been swallowed by the sand. I’ve been on holiday here a couple of times and both my kids have had birthdays here. Jess got to leap off the top strapped to a complete stranger with a parachute canopy. Its a thing here.

Photograph of Sarah standing on Dune de Pyla with trees in the background.

The dune is extraordinarily steep on one side and brings out that innate human instinct to run headlong down things knowing that its only sand and won’t hurt. It has to be done and is worth every moment of looking like a squealing idiot. Rare moments of freedom of movement for the physically cronky and unadventurous are to be snatched without hesitation.

Photograph taken from top of sand dune at Pyla looking out to Arcachon Bay.

 

Keith being artistic with his sandals. I said artistic.

Photograph of brown leather sandals on top of sand dune.
The dune is on the edge of the Bassin d’Arcachon, a huge natural bay famous for its oysters. These photos don’t do the place justice for its scale and general stunningness.

Photograph of Pyla sand dune with the sea in the background.

Photograph of Pyla huge sand dune with people climbing up it.

Apart from climbing up and running down an enormous sand dune, we happily filled our fridge with food that has to be in a fridge because we haven’t had one for a week. Small pleasures are appreciated when they have been absent. Cheese that’s not sweating more than I am, for one.

We also took a trip to Decathlon for more inner tubes as I keep getting punctures. I’d like to say that Decathlons in France are one of my favourite shops. Where else can you buy a 14′ canoe, full horse riding kit and a fishing rod all in one place? English Decathlons are rubbish as we don’t have the environment to do all these brilliant outdoor activities just as a matter of normal existence. Loads of people in France have 14′ canoes. Why not? Plenty of rivers.

Photograph of Keith eating yogurt on hotel balcony in Arcachon, France.

And like the classy hotel clientele we are, we have dinner, hang up washing and change tyres (and explode tyres as Keith pumped this one up too far) on our 4 star ‘design’ balcony. Note the juxtaposition of the urban industrial metal with the organically arranged bamboo and the plastic washing line.

Day 8: Hourtin- Arcachon. 116km.

Day 8: Hourtin- Arcachon. 116km.

So, it turns out that I really can’t count distances on maps. Way too far today, we were wrecked.

Started the day with a measly breakfast of peanut butter and jam bread. We’d never had both together before, but today, in the spirit of adventure, we gave it a go. It was better than expected but I won’t bother again. How many times have I said that in my life?

Photograph of canal entering Lake Hourtin with small motor boats lining each side.

Pretty much all cycle path today. Most of it through pine forests.

Photograph of a long straight cycle path through a forest with a signpost to various villages.

Some crazy stretches barely wide enough for a bike and so rough we were bouncing about trying not to come off into the sand.

The paths are busy near civilisation but are virtually empty in between.

Sarah cycling along a narrow cycle path in Aquitaine, France.

Two punctures for me today. Mid-forest repairs by the resident mechanic. My job is to feed him biscuits while he works.

Photograph of Keith fixing a bicycle puncture in a forest in France.

 

Photograph of Keith fixing a puncture in a shaded forest in France.The route south ran along the edge of this inland lake (its not the sea) near Hourtin.

Photograph of Lake Hourtin river beach and lake in background.
It also runs parallel to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline with some well known surfing beaches, such as Lacanau where we had chorizo and cheese sandwiches for lunch as a variation from ham and cheese coz we’re just crazy like that.

Photograph of Arcachon seafront with promenade.

The last part of today’s ride was horrible. We had blown the budget by booking into the last room in the whole of Arcachon, which was a 4 star nonsense affair on an industrial estate outside of town on the other side of a dual carriageway. Not fun. Arrived at 7.30pm after 10 and half hours on the road. Never have I been so happy to see a weird plastic moulded wall in my life.

Interior photograph of Best Western Arcachon hotel room wall which is white moulded plastic.

Don’t ask. The rest of the room is purple. We’re at the Best Western Design and Spa Hotel. I am always suspicious of anywhere that states so definitively that it is a ‘design’ establishment. It means its going to be tacky and have tried too hard. This place is no exception. Someone has written a review on Tripadvisor wondering if the owner had a plastic moulding factory that was low on business as the place is full of Gaudi-like wobbly walls. My first thought was what a nightmare they’d be to dust. I don’t know why, its not as if I ever dust.

Most excitingly, our new home has a fridge. As of this moment, we have nothing to put in it.