Villandraut to Barbotan-les-Thermes

An 8 am breakfast hosted by an irrepressible Frenchman who had  quickly figured my name out and kept calling me “Madame Sharron”. He was keen to talk to an Aussie as his daughter is studying economics at the University of Melbourne.

As we were leaving  I had great fun trying to get him to pronounce “ooroo”.

Ronan the friendly Frenchman

Wet weather gear was the order of the morning with light drizzle. Leaving Villandraut at about 9 am with the ultimate destination being the spa town of Barbotan-les-Thermes.

We rode through Prechac (7.1 km) and just before Les Gilets (11.9 km) we noted Chateau Cazeneuve on the left.

Not bad!

To try and string the day out we planned to stop for coffee at the very first village that had something open. We had been on some gently undulating roads through woods arriving in Bernos-Beaulac (16.6 km), Cudos (21.1 km) and then Lerm et Musset (31.4 km).

We noted the Bike Adventures van with Mike aboard outside a small tabac. 2 cups of coffee later we were back on the road in continuing drizzle.

At Goulade (33.8 km) there is an interesting old church. It looks bigger front on as it has an impressive facade.


After Ciscos (40.1 km) we were riding through miles and miles of Gascon forests for some 15 km. During that time it stopped raining!! Hooray!!


We found Mike on the side of the road in Saint Gor and whilst chatting had some snacks and told him we would likely stop at either St Justin (76.3 km) or La Bastide D’Armagnac (80.3 km). I was keener on the latter, based purely on name alone!!

St Justin was a quaint village but asleep. No one was to be seen! The few shops that existed were closed ( very common in France this time of day).

St Justin
The dungeon at St Justin, assume no longer in use!

La Bastide D’Armagnac was only 4 more km up the road. Wow, what an impressive old bastide town from the 1100-1200’s.

The 1200’s church dominates the square



We had lunch under this arch

We had a very tasty lunch at a crepe cafe. Raw egg, cheese, ham, mushrooms on the lightest crepe I have ever tasted.

The shop next door sold a wide range of Armagnac. If it had been open I may have been tempted to have a taste!


Just as we were finishing up the tandem girls rocked up with Jonno. He was hungry, but the girls don’t eat whilst riding. We followed them up the road to the Notre Dame Des Cyclistes.

I was really looking forward to this visit. Unfortunately it is closed on Mondays so we walked around the outside.



It was only another 14 km to our accomodation in the spa town so off we went in search of a warm shower.

Barbotan-les-Thermes is a curious village, with a very large spa facility. It seems to attract old people ( and I mean people significantly older than me!) to their so called therapeutic waters allegedly capable of curing everything!

I watched a man limp out! I thought, well he is not cured! But then maybe he could not walk at all when he went in.

Looking through the windows, we noted exercise bikes in the thermal waters. Obviously not popular! 
Barbotan ancient gateway


Reverse view of the gateway 

So now we kill some time waiting for dinner! Looking forward to some tucker but we are not due to be seated until 730 pm!!

Today was a 97 km ride, at touring pace. It was very pleasant as we work our way south towards Spain, and hopefully, no more rain!

Today’s route

Here we go again!

Nervous anticipation? Crap pillows? Hot room? Whatever the reason I slept very badly last night. I could not get comfortable and tossed and turned so I was relieved when daylight arrived and I could justify getting out of bed.

As is the case with most Bike Adventure trips we were first to breakfast. We knew that we would be stringing breakfast out as we would all depart together. Here we are, clean, eager and pristine!

Left to right: Jamie, Barbara, Elizabeth, Gordon, Sharron, Martin, Lisette, Suni, Johnno, Tony and Mike

We all departed Bordeaux together, with Tony and I leading out due to the fact that we ‘knew’ the area and because we were familiar with the way around the roadworks that impeded the route instructions.

As you can see from the photo, we all have wet weather gear on. It was about 10 degrees Celsius, so quite fresh!

Mike has asked us to take our time today. In Europe check in to accomodation is quite late, and tonight’s was 4 pm. Today was a short ride of 74 km meaning we would take it really easy, and not push at all, otherwise we would be there late morning and make ourselves unpopular on day 1!

Reality is this will happen each day as the distances are shorter than previous trips such as London to Venice.

We pootled out the bike pathway passing Latresne and heading into La Sauve, up last the Abbey we had visited only a few days before. The rain was a steady drizzle.

The road undulated through vineyards and beech woods with a couple of short but steep little pinch of climbs.

Passing through the village of Capian at the 37 km point we continued with the theme of undulations and vineyards.  The following pictures are from near Cardan (41.8 km)



We descended into Cadillac where we planned to have lunch. We found Andy in the Bike Adventures van and we entered the bastide village via one of its remaining ancient gates that had a marker showing flood heights from Garonne inundations.


In the village centre we were fortunate enough to find a bloke selling hot chickens from his portable rotisserie. A bargain at five euro! Tony bought himself a half baguette for 47 cents!

Sitting in the market square eating our five euro chicken

The village shops were quickly shutting down for the day ( being a Sunday) and we could only see one option for a coffee. 4.90 euro for one coffee! You can buy a chicken for that!

We then hopped on our bikes and cruised around checking out the village.


This chateau seemed deserted and also has a interesting moat

After dragging our heels for as long as possible we were actually getting quite cold. Back onto the bikes and head towards our destination.

Just past Pujols-sur-Chiron we past this ruined chateau surrounded by a lovely, thriving vineyard.


By the time we arrived in Budos we had warmed up, and no longer needed our rain jackets! Hooray!

Rain jacket off in Budos

From here the road descended crossing a stream, continuing through a small hamlet and into some woods that continued for about 6 km.

Shortly before entering Villandraut we could not help but to notice this hotel promotion.


Looking towards Villandraut from the gaudy statue

Fortunately we were able to check into our rooms a bit early. After storing our bikes, laundering our riding gear and showering we wandered through the village.

There is a very impressive chateau that was built in 1305 both as a residential palace and for defensive purposes on the orders of Pope Clement V, who had been born in the village.

Impressive exterior

The chateau is undergoing archeological work as well as extensive restoration. It is free to visit. We did not take any photos of the interior. Whilst architecturally and historically impressive I was turned off by the plethora of modern, gaudy art that has been placed over the 13th century walls, detracting from their simple magnificence.

So day one done and dusted. We will meet for tea in just over an hour together.

Today’s route 

Finally, some may think this is the appropriate place for me! Certainly a Frenchman was having a good old laugh at my expense. No matter what is happening in life, you can always find a smile!



Wandering, pondering and hula hooping!


This jetlag is a nuisance. Your body is so totally out of whack and you don’t know whether you are Arthur or Martha. Well ok, I’m Martha, but for those who have done long haul and not slept for 48 hours, they will understand.

A solid sleep of 7 hours was interrupted by an out of whack body. So I gave in and rose early and we hit the streets to check out Bordeaux.

Did I mention coffee? We sat down near La Bourse, overlooking the Garonne. I ordered an espresso but when I saw Tony’s coffee I ordered a second coffee.

Now that is a decent coffee, ketogenic friendly with scrumptious whipped cream too.

Next thing I found myself sitting on a horribly sloping, slippery wooden seat, in a confessional box in a lovely church I wandered into. I do have a fascination with churches from around the 11-13th centuries, marvelling at how they could achieve such brilliant stone vaulting and arches.

Surely the could have designed better seating in the confessional box? I’m mean if I am going to be there for a while, make me comfortable with a nice leather recliner?

Not the most comfortable seat in the house!

Bordeaux has some beautiful old buildings and fountains.


I was particularly impressed with the Monument to the Girondins.

0E1F1A94-801E-4CC1-B172-C31B1BF0DC63I sat on the edge of the fountain for some time, legs dangling, enjoying the sun, mesmerised by the sound of falling water. I allowed my mind to wander, thinking about life and some of its challenges. I think I could easily have fallen asleep but I was aroused from my deliberations with the site of a young bloke.


I have long held a fascination with Aquitaine, and the region of Bordeaux forms one of its five departments  known as Dordogne. Around 400,000 BC, the first hunters arrived, living in rock shelters making flint tools. Whilst that is cool, my real interest is far more current.

I have a few heroines I favour. My favourite is Eleanor of Aquitaine, an extraordinarily strong woman who lived an extraordinary life. I like her because she  did not take crap from anyone and did what she wanted. She was Queen of France before marrying Henry Plantagenet. Together they ruled England as King and Queen, parents to Kings Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland.

She was a rebel. I admire her ‘ I don’t give a stuff’ attitude to ‘it can’t be done by a woman’ scenarios. She was told a woman can’t rule Aquitaine on her own – but she did. She was told she could not possibly go the The Crusades. But she did and she personally ‘won over’ Saladin.

A few years ago I was so excited when I was able to trace my genealogy to her as my 24th great grandmother, and since then I have traced multiple links via my genealogical research. I like to think I have some of her spark, spunk and zest for life!

So it was natural that I wanted to visit St Seurin’s Basilica, church where she married Henry, right here in Bordeaux.

However after walking there I found out Monday is the only day it closes. So after all that, I will return after one of our day rides, but here is the side door. 5097C33E-F8FE-40C2-9780-D855A95167B4

Below the church the crypt was open, with tombs going back to the second century.


Heading back to our Air BNB accomodation we passed by the local Cathedral and has a quick squiz.


To finish on a light note, there are lots of naked men in Bordeaux. I found this fellow ( he is one of many!)


I also tried hula hooping today. One of my Zwift buddies Brian ( Betty) made me believe this was easy to do. So here I was, in a shop giving it a go. I am sure Eleanor would have applauded  me. I can hear my daughter Hannah saying ” Oh mum!”.


So next up is a bike ride! Stay tuned!

Are we there yet?

Long haul travelling is not fun, by anyone’s definitions.

Travelling from Devonport to Bordeaux is a long way…a seriously long way, seemingly visiting as many airport as possible en route to maximise the number of handling transfers on the previous cargo.

Oh the precious cargo is not me! I am quite ‘what will be will be’ with me when I fly, although I do have a little ‘superstitious’ routine when boarding the long haul planes..I touch the side of the plane, giving it a quick tap and rub.

The precious cargo is my bike!! Unlike me, it is 100 percent replaceable, whereas I know I am not. I am unique, one off, never to be repeated, they broke the mould when I was made, type of woman. So I know it seems a little incongruous.

Devonport airport, the young buck at the check in counter suggested possibly I would like to pay $972 AUD for ‘excess baggage’. I very politely declined, quoting terms and conditions, showing him where on the website the terms and conditions were located.

HIs final question ” so you are absolutely sure about this?” I nodded and bang the charge was wiped.  If i had been wearing my heart rate monitor it would have revealed one very fast heart beat!

Melbourne to Dubai was via Singapore and the worst part of the whole trip. Just a seriously long time. The upside was that by the time we reached Dubai I had watched a very interesting movie about the King of Norway during WW2, and 8 episodes of the historical drama on the young Queen Victoria.

Leaving Dubai

Dubai to Madrid was ‘my turn’ to have a window seat, and for me, the most interesting part of the trip. It was daylight and clear and I was able to see just where we were.

Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Suez Canal, Nile River were all clearly visible and I was fascinated.

Sinai Peninsula
Here we have Egypt on the left, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all in one shot. It also shows Eilat ( top left lake) a southern Israeli port and resort town on the Red Sea.
Suez Canal at Port Tawfiq.
Nile River mouth past Rashmeed, Egypt

Arriving in Madrid was interesting. Dry and barren topography where olive trees seem to be able to grow in really dry shale


After clearing passport control in Madrid you then walk for ages, catch a train to go to a different terminal to collect your luggage. Tension was high as we had another flight to go but needed to source our bikes, that often arrive well after ordinary luggage.

Heathrow airport are excellent for bikes, arriving before ordinary luggage. Madrid is the opposite, ensuring nerves are frayed to the maximum! Some 30 minutes after all other baggage had been collected the bikes turned up, appearing to be in excellent condition.

Liberian Airlines insisted that I pay an additional 130 euro for the two bikes. I negotiated that down to a total of 90 euro! They don’t do bike bags as ordinary luggage and I was not confident on that aspect, in Spanish, so pleaded for mercy instead.

So the bikes are now in Bordeaux, reformed into their complete state!


No bike riding today. Need a day to recover from jet lag for safety reasons. I also have a less serious form of epilepsy that is triggered by extreme tiredness so seems like a sensible idea.

We have one week in Bordeaux, 6 nights in an Air BNB apartment opposite the Aquitaine Museum.


But as I stand on the apartments little Juliet balcony and look right, just over there on Rue de Victor Hugo is that little cafe now open? I smell an espresso!! Priorities!




Post Script Day 2: Chianti – 62 km, 1052m


We awoke to blue skies today, despite it still being 4 degrees Celsius at 9 am. The breakfast spread was impressive and after the Manager insisted on taking our photograph (as he had never met anyone who had ridden over 2000 km in 3 weeks) we walked up to the tower behind the hotel to see what the view was like.

One view



And another showing some of the remaining 13 chimneys

The manager offered to give us food to take with us (little does he know most of us do that anyway – today being no different – but it was the first time any hotel has offered that). He will get an awesome Trip Advisor review from me.

The narrow alley walking back to the hotel. That is our bedroom window on the top level above the narrow alley.
The little courtyard behind the hotel. Our bikes had been stored up in the area beyond the couple of steps and the side gates were locked from the inside.

Leaving San Gimignano we were scheduled to do a 79 km ride through the Colle di Val d’Elsa, down to Monteriggioni, then heading up towards a series of towns in Chianti.

We rode through Poggibonsi where a man cheered us on from the side of the road. He was obviously a BMC supporter as that is what he kept calling out and clapping. We laughed.  About 5 km past this point Tony said that faithful Garmin said we had 130 km to go. Hmm…that was weird so we stopped and found that he had two different Gpx files for today’s ride and they differed. We pulled up my file ( we had on both Garmins as back up is one failed) and I only had one.

Either way, we were not on the original planned route and were on an ‘alternative’ route and well off course. The good news was that I could see that we were heading in an easterly direction that should intersect with Castallina in Chianti and bring us back on course, but losing around 18 km in the process.

The downside was that this road had serious hills. There were three sections warning of 15% climbs. Not too bad with no luggage but the extra weight made them hard!

First warning sign

The area was nice interspersed with olive trees and vineyards.



San Gimignano in the very distant background

Eventually we arrived in Castellina in Chianti and had some lunch noting some of the unusual cars the crazy Italians drive.

This can be parked anywhere.


Funky and small.
Small and useful.
Not sure that there are side airbags in this one!
Nice views.
Sitting in the sun, even though it was only around 11 degrees by now.

After a nice break car watching, we headed off towards Radda in Chianti, my favourite for the day. Scenic, nice views, rolling hills to ride over and a great little art gallery where I made a purchase, direct from the artisan, which he is shipping back to Tassie for me. Wish I had photographed it, but he uses the curved panel from an old wooden wine barrel and attaches a miniature metal bike he hand makes, along with a couple miniature metal handcrafted Tuscan trees. It will be a nice momento.

The artist also does a series of bike posters.
2 cyclists and 1 rooster in Chianti
Chianti scenes
Another rooster, this time in a field of lavender.
More roosters.

We arrived in Montivarchi  disappointed to have left the beautiful Chianti countryside as Montevarchi seems a bit daggy. But we did find a few little gems including this church of San Lorenzo.

Nice church in the older section of Montevarchi
Exterior of the San Lorenzo church
One of the “nicer” looking homes – but I found this a bit “creepy”.

Starving hungry we could not find one restaurant. The hotel staff told us of one that opened at 730 pm!!! A few hours away. So we asked where the nearest supermarket was. I was happy to find something I like to eat.


So tomorrow is our final day riding. We head back to Florence on a scheduled 74 km ride, with over 1000m climbing for the third consecutive day.