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.

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