Day 6: Lucon – Rochefort. 84km.

Day 6: Lucon – Rochefort. 84km.

Photograph of a canal and towpath with country landscape.

What a glorious start to the day. Set off early and travelled along a canal side cycle path across the flat plains of Loire-Atlantique towards the sea. Herons, storks, rabbits and a stoat all fled at our approach. It was magical, but very bumpy.
Photograph of two bicycles leaning up against a churchyard wall with a church in the background.

We passed into Poitou-Charente, probably one of my favourite parts of France which has beautiful, pale stone houses and white gravel drives. Proper ‘French’ country style. Charentais melons are the thing here at this time of year and they are bloody lovely. You can tell a melon that’s been grown in the sun rather than a greenhouse: properly ripe and they smell like a melon when you buy them. Melon sniffing has been a long standing habit of mine. I remember once decreeing that I wanted to live in a place where I could have melon for breakfast every day. Now I know that is technically possible in Worthing, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

Photograph of French market stalls with produce

Photograph of a box of tomatoes on a French market stall.

 

Close up photograph of a box of red grapes

At 383km we reached the sea for the first time since St Malo. Very exciting.

Photograph of Sarah pointing at the sea behind her.

 

We cycled along possibly France’s nicest stretch of cycle path.

Photograph of a cycle path running alongside the coast in Western France.

 

Chateillon-place is a really pleasant, sedate holiday town with a gorgeous beach and some excellent ice cream. We had lunch and I had a swim. You have been spared a photo of that.

Photograph of various picnic food items spread out on a beach in France.

Photograph of Keith's legs and feet on a sandy beach with the sea in the background

The accommodation problem is a persistent one which I had anticipated but not known how to solve as I didn’t know how far we were capable of cycling each day (so couldn’t book anywhere in advance). We’re in an Ibis Budget in Rochefort tonight as all campsites we called were full. Sticking to our budget is going to impossible at this rate but we don’t have much choice.

Just before reaching the hotel, it started to chuck it down with rain and we biked really fast over a grassy piece of land to get to the dry. Keith somewhat enthusiastically cycled up a steep slope with a fully loaded bike and snapped his chain. Dinner in McDonalds because that was all there was (rain and only one bike).

Photograph of French countryside

Day 5: Lucon. Rest day.

Day 5: Lucon. Rest day.

Photograph of a tent, washing and bicycles on a campsite in Lucon, France.

318km cycled so far. Enormously satisfying to know we have arrived under our own steam at no cost to pocket or environment, and perhaps even looked after our own health into the bargain. Even when I wish each km was the last, I still love it.

We’ve realised that we haven’t exactly planned the Spanish leg of our trip well. Google Maps very helpfully provide bike routes across France, but not Spain. We use these routes as a basic guide as to where to quiet roads and cycle paths and then plot our own on a map. I love maps. We also weren’t able to find a map of the Spanish section that is as detailed as the French maps. In essence this means that we don’t know where we’re going, how we will get there or how long it will take. And it all looks very wiggly on account of a bunch of mountains called the Pyrenees.

Photograph of a lake with a sailing boat on it in Lucon, France.

Cold, weird pizza for breakfast in our tent in the rain. Keith had a dream that Dolly Parton was sharing our tent with us. It is officially a 3 person tent, so that would be fine so long as she doesn’t have any luggage, or personal space issues. Keith and I had a difference of opinion regarding a stain on my shorts which he said was poo and that I was taking up all the space in the tent. It was mud and I was. A 6′ x 3′ home in the rain is no place for petty domestics. No food so had to go shopping. In the rain. Don’t like it here. Toilet block and one plug socket is commandeered by youth straightening their perfectly fine as it is hair. Dolly wouldn’t stand for that shit.

Photograph of Sarah standing in a field in Lucon, France.

Our day off got worse as I left my phone literally momentarily charging in the toilet block (I had been sat in view of it previously) and someone stole it. This totally threw the rest of my day, both in blocking the phone, changing passwords and generally telling people I was out of contact. And just a general disappointment that that’s just not what you do on a campsite. It was obvious we were English (adapter plug) and obvious that we have no other means of charging a phone. I’ve been camping all my life and it’s one of those places where special rules apply because you’re all in the same boat. I know; naïve and deluded, but its just not what you do.

Not a great rest day but we’re here, we’re fine and after a period of serious self-talking to; I’m over the phone.

Day 4: St Philbert de Boutaine – Lucon. 80 km.

Day 4: St Philbert de Boutaine – Lucon. 80 km.

Photograph of Philbert de Boutaine Hotel breakfast

The one star breakfast wasn’t so bad.

Back on the road again. The landscape has flattened out now to constant minor inclines. Much harder work than they sound. There is no respite and no payoff, only a rollercoaster of emotion. The ups bring despair, the downs: elation. Sounds a bit dramatic but that’s the way it feels when it continues for hours. Tiny slopes, unperceivable to the motorist, become sources of hope and doom to the knackered cyclist.

Photograph of a field of sunflowers
Today we saw our first sunflowers. Fields and fields of them replacing the corn which had dominated up til now. What is it about sunflowers? Find me a person who is not warmed by the sight of a vast expanse of waving heads facing into the sun (mind your eyes, little flowers) and I’ll find you someone who needs to get out more. Or something.

Camping tonight in Lucon (missing a circumflex) at a proper holiday village, Domains de Guifettes. It has chalets, mobile homes, a bar and a lake. Woo hoo! We’re on holiday! But before we can hurl ourselves into the hedonistic world of the French holiday village, we have domestics to do. Clothes to wash and bikes to maintain. Just what you fancy after cycling 50 miles.

Photograph of Keith doing some bicycle maintenance.
Sat by the lake on the fake beach in the evening. The lake is unswimmable, probably due to being an almost fluorescent shade of green and somewhat gloopy with algae, but it looks nice. The landscape now is flat as a pancake and that fills us with a little joy for when we next hit the road.

Photograph of Keith sitting on a sunlounger on a sandy river beach in Lucon, France.
Had pizza in the beach and learned something new: it is possible to fuck up pizza. Who knew? I love French pizza. The base is super thin and they quite like chucking crème fraiche on them, which is fine by me. Sadly, these pizzas has a bizarre range of toppings,most of which were not on the ones we ordered and several of which were missing from the ones we ordered. Tuna, potato and bacon pizza, anyone?

 

Photograph of two pizzas in boxes side by side.

The bar was basically a gay disco pumping out techo Cher at 8pm whilst people are ordering ice cream for their kids, staffed by a large man with a lot of chest, chain-smoking and talking constantly on his mobile. He reached another pinnacle of achievement: it is possible to fuck up ice cream too. Bubble gum flavour ice cream on a waffle. My fault, my French wasn’t good enough to know exactly what delight from the menu I had ordered, but I wrongly assumed that all ice cream is good, whatever the concoction. Well, you know what they say in crap training courses about assuming (ass-u-me), turns out its true.

Day 2 : Iffendic – Blain. 80 km.

Breakfast in super pretty house and back on the road.

Photograph of chairs, fireplace and dining table in dining room of chambres d'hote, L’Etang de L’Aune, Iffendic, Brittany, France.
Hilly, hot and struggling in places. Already the love – hate relationship with the bike begins. The love of being outdoors, on the road moving along under your own steam contrasting with the discomfort, effort and desire to get it over with.

Keith says I have a bizarre cycling style of flat out 30+km/hr on the flat which rapidly decreases to about 6km/hr at the first incling of an incline. I think it’s an ADHD/AS combo where I have to go as fast as possible at all times (efficiency and impatience) and I never seem to tire, but when I have to slow down to go up even the slightest hill, I lose all motivation and interest because I am immediate bored by the tedium of travelling so slowly. My mind and my legs simply give up. Keith as ever is moderate and consistent.

Photograph of Keith cutting a tomato whilst sitting at a picnic table which is spread with ham, cheese and lunch foods.
Lunch by river in Besle-sur-Villaine. Standard ham, cheese and bread affair usually followed by chocolate, which we replicate the world over.

Random picture of a goat. Just because.

Photograph of a goat in a field.
Night in municipal campsite in Blain. These are local authority run and in many towns across France.  Cost us €7,80 for the night. Total spend for today was €34 including tomorrow’s breakfast. Worked out we could live on about £500 a month including accommodation and food. Today this seems like brilliant idea.

Photograph of tent and bicycles in campsite in Blain, France.

 

Gloriously happy to be outdoors and have nothing to think about apart from where to sleep and what to eat. No headaches, migraines, kidney pain, anxiety: I need to live in a tent in France.