Day 11: Mimizan – Hossegor. 81km.

Day 11: Mimizan – Hossegor. 81km.

Every morning, Keith starts his day by lifting each bike to check that he is carrying more weight than me. This seems to make him happy. I have convinced him that the weight of the responsibility of organising our route and food is equal to him lugging around an extra few kilos. He appears to have bought this.

We’re definitely in the Basque region now. There are places names that don’t belong in France: Kometeykoborda, Xapatainbaita, Larrerxeberria. Not a clue. My paltry French surrenders.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 01
Buildings and churches are more Spanish, more Alpine (or Pyrenean) rather than southern French.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 02

Today we got rained on heavily, saw plenty of lightning and got roasted on the beach at Vieux-Bocau, one of the many dune-backed Atlantic surf beaches along this coast.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 03

Finally managed to get Keith to come swimming today (Keith 1 – Sarah 4). He’s only went in the sea for the first time about 7 years ago (he hated the idea of it as a child) and forgets every time how much he loves it. Properly forgets and gets all uppity when I try to remind him. My Dad was a big sea swimmer (my Mum never went in) and I grew up mostly in the water on holidays. I try and persuade Keith over and over again, he eventually he gives in (although on the previous 3 swims I had on this trip, he didn’t) with a ‘do I have to say yes to everything you say?’ then spends the rest of the time laughing his head off and saying how lovely it is. I need to video him so he can remember.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 04

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 05

Had another food blog fail. Bought local Landais brioche which is traditionally flavoured with rum, vanilla and orange flowers and ate half of it before remembering we’re supposed to be documenting these adventures.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 06

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 07

Rest assured it was incredibly good, despite a serving suggestion of having it with custard, sand seemed to be more than an adequate accompaniment. On the subject of beach food, I resurrected a melted bar of chocolate by taking it into the sea to cool it hard again. This worked a treat despite water getting through the wrapper and leaving an undeniably salty taste to the chocolate. Not enough to stop us eating it though.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 08

More storms predicted and looming this evening. We’re in a motel. Campsites and most hotels completely full. Luckily this room has space for 2 bicycles (and a washing line).

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 09

Tomorrow to Biarritz, to hang our pants with the glitterati.

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.

Day 7: Rochefort – Hourtin. 94km.

Day 7: Rochefort – Hourtin. 94km.

Photograph of the sea at Royan, France with boats in the distance.

Today we crossed the Gironde estuary into Aquataine – after a very late start due to Keith having to go and find a new bike chain following his off-road antics and fit it in the hotel car park.

The ferry departs from Royan, which is a sizeable city and port on the west coast. We didn’t have a chance to visit its striking and interesting church, the Notre Dame de Royan, which is made from rough concrete and was built in the 1950s after Royan had been razed to the ground by German bombs during the Second World War. The concrete has degraded badly over the years (I’m sure I read somewhere that this was due to the salty sea air affecting the steel reinforcing, but that might be wrong) and the place is currently being restored. The inside, which I’ve visited previously, is equally stark and bare, but huge in scale and presence.

Photograph of Royan Cathedral

 

Weather was blisteringly hot and we biked too far. Turns out I’m not very good at adding up distances on maps and we had to cycle farther than expected.

Photograph of ferry docking at Royan ferryport

The ferry trip from Royan only takes about half an hour and cost less than €10 euros for 2 people and 2 bikes but its like entering another country. The deciduous trees are replaced with pines and the earth turns to sand. It feels like the beginning of the south of France. The coast is Atlantic, the sea is rough, turquoise and full of surfers. Its a wild stretch of coast extremely popular with tourists at this time of year, and for good reason. It is stunning.

 

Photograph of Sarah on the Royan ferry looking out to sea across the estuary.

Cycling wise, there are many forested cycle paths, all well kept and well signposted. The roads are flat and very straight. We were doing stretches of 20+km with no bend it roundabout to break it up. At the end of a 94km day, the monotony of a long, straight empty road disappearing into the distance is like some kind of torture.

We booked into a campsite in Hourtin, called Les Ourmes, which was big but well run and had a good feel to it. It was late, we were exhausted. We ate good pizza and drank wine while watching the evening’s entertainment at the bar, which was zumba. Keith are I are not your natural audience participation types, but we love to people watch and ponder what in earth makes a bunch of people decide that demonstrating your special brand of Northern European lack of Latin American coordination in front of an audience is the thing to do. But we’re mighty glad you did. Half a litre of wine and I was beginning to think it was a ‘good idea’ myself.

Photograph of an outdoor bar with tables and chairs and a small stage with some people dancing.

Today’s achievement was reaching 500km. We burned over 5000 calories cycling. Why aren’t I thin yet? Zumba, anyone?

Photograph of Sarah holding a cycle speedometer. It says '500km' as the distance travelled.