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 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.