Le Dorat

Great view out our bedroom window overlooking our hosts and her neighbours rear yards. Ours is the one with the pool, and our bikes are in the garage at the rear.

This is our apartment, very spacious indeed. I highly recommend staying at Maison le trefle.

Breakfast included bacon, mini sausages and black pudding cooked up by Frank.

Niamh and Frank
Ready to roll, saying goodbye to Niamh, who very kindly gave me an Irish three leaf clover magnet to take home.

The first 30 km was a bit of a battle with very strong headwinds. Only 4.5 km in we donned our rain jackets, sweltered and took them off as the big drips of rain disappeared. After 30 km the wind disappeared too.

We were conscious today of the weather forecast. Thunderstorms were forecast at our destination later afternoon, but as the day went on, the weather improved and just kept getting hotter and muggier.

Niamh had warned us that most shops would be shut by midday so when we saw this boulangerie we stopped for a coffee and snack. It was to be the first and last place open until our destination so a good call in hindsight.

The first part of the day was dotted with wind turbines.

Lots of hills today with the first part of the day being a series of gentle 2-3 percenters. the afternoon featured steeper and longer climbs.

Another typical village view. Today we went through many little villages, mostly very quiet and no noise anywhere.

Descending out of one village there are typical high stone walls.

A nice little creek system including a lock, in what we think was someone’s private backyard.

A cute church scene.

A renovators delight on the left.

Whilst we were on some busy arterial roads (D roads) we were always relieved to turn off onto the quieter local roads servicing villages and farms.

As we approached Saint Martin l’Ars we saw this lovely old chateau. Not sure of the history but it does look like it needs some work.

This made us smile. We presume that Romain and Audrey were married yesterday.

Another old church, no history plaque obvious, but it does look like there was a former large door in the bricked in arch on the left.

My favourite photo of the day is of the Viaduct de l’isle Jourdain. quite an impressive structure.

Church of Saint Gervais

Water was running low, no shops open, so we resorted to public toilet sinks as there was no ‘non potable’ sign. Time to put more sunscreen on too.

After 100 km we arrived in Le Dorat, a town of around 1500 people. We were too early to go direct to our accomodation so we did a cycle around the town scouring for dinner options. We found a bar open, run by an English couple. We ordered some cold drinks and sat and chilled.

The village has some interesting buildings and a link to Australia. during WWII the Germans occupied the local Dunlop factory keen for intel re tyre making. As a result the Allies bombed the village.

War time resistance heroine Nancy Wake had a resistance stronghold here, and after her death her cremated remains were spread in a local forest.

Some views around the village.

Many shop windows had painted images of sheep pertaining to their business. I quite liked them. Here are a couple of samples.

We headed off to find that church spire.

Voila! La Collegiale Saint Pierre. It appears from my translation that there was a pre existing church here around 940 AD. Something happened in 1080….but construction of the current church started around 1110 with the crypt and transept. There were major fortification additions in the 1500’s.

Much of the outside of the church is covered with scaffolding as they try to replace old timbers and the damaging effects of water. There is a fundraising campaign for more than 2 million euro to support the renovations.

I am always amazed in these old churches at how high the domes and arches are. The engineering all those years ago was brilliant. The amount of men over many years involved in the construction would have been significant.

One of the lead light windows
A very old door

Leaving the church we wound our way back up into the centre of the village via this pretty laneway.

In the 1500’s there were four gates to enter the fortified walled town. Today only remains, Porte Bergere.

Porte Bergere

This little electric car caught our eye. We watched lady hop in, with her child and drive away. The child was deposited behind the drivers seat.

Another day done, 14 completed now. We rode 100 km today and it is getting hillier at a bit under 1000 metres climbing. I zoomed our route out to show where we are relatively within France.

The next two days are a bit more arduous again. Thunderstorms are predicted shortly. We are hoping the weather blows over before we start.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, smile on 😊

Hot and windy, Aussies and the Irish

You know that saying, you get easy you pay for? Yep, I remembered it too during the night as my back ached on an awful mattress in the cabin park.

We got up early and packed and headed off to leave the Island and search for food.

Below is a map of our route off the Island, heading out the northern side (as we’d arrived on the southern side).

It was nice pootling along the bike tracks without all the tourists weaving around on their e-bikes. We enjoyed the crisp air, passing by many salt producing ponds. Salt is sold at multiple places on the Island.

Nice smaller fortification
Grapes are also widely grown
La Couarde- sur -mer

Then we rolled into the main town on the island, Saint Martin de-Re and found a boulangerie. Nice views.

We had a nice unhealthy breakfast as an be seen here in the video.

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Interesting fortifications as we left town go back to the 1620’s and the Huegenots.

Remains of an old moat

Rivedoux plage is the last village. Posers!

Seagulls farewell
The bridge ahead
Getting closer

The bridge as I mentioned yesterday is 2.9 km long. It has featured in the Tour de France. Ritchie Porte did it in circa 4 minutes 30. We were a few minutes longer I am pretty sure 😝🙈. We decided it is steeper from the western end but who knows what is factually correct.

Once back on the European mainland we needed to stop and have my domestique inspect my e-tap as it was not changing between rings. I knew I would like my granny gears a bit later in the day.

Out came the tools and he played around, we rode the bike up and down the street and he fixed it. Tony told me that my bike had actually crashed to the ground at the caravan park in a gust of wind. 😢 it sports a scar! He thinks the issue may have been as a result of that. I am fortunate that Tony has self taught himself many bike mechanic skills.

Getting through La Rochelle was another pain in the butt. City shuffling, in and out of the cleats, walking across crossings, dodging everything.

We did stop in this central area as there was lots of old stuff! A few photos below.

This guy made mousse famous I think….chocolate is my personal favourite 😝

We were glad to eventually hit dirt. This track below was the scene of a near nasty accident with Tony and a young teenager on an mtb. A bunch of boys were riding through, runners behind and in front and he decided to flex muscle and overtake his friends with the sure fail way of looking at his mates rather than what is ahead. We both shouted very loudly and he may have received our first DH call for the trip. That is a river on the right and Tony’s default bail out.

It was stinking hot as the morning progressed. In Clavette I popped in to get a cold drink. This boulangerie does free samples of different items, so how could I refuse? I also got some froid boisson(cold drinks).

Adjacent to,the boulangerie was this oyster seller from Ile de Re. The lady pulled up in her car, bringing her own bucket. Scratching the bum helps I think? Curiously these oysters are not refrigerated. There is no ice either. I like oysters but I hate side effects if not properly refrigerated.

Surgeres was a busy town, and quite large. We stopped at a supermache on the outskirts for drink and bananas. We took a wrong turn in centre ville and found this.

Map of the old village
One of the remaining buildings
And another

The day was a scorcher at around 34C plus we had a lot of wind to contend with. Wind in front is hard work as it requires more physical effort. As we are not used to the heat we try hard to be conservative with our energy use to ensure our fluid lasts long enough to be replaced.

On the other hand, the wind helped to cool our body temperature. My legs were wet with sweat, not something I am used to in Tasmania. I have heat rash in patches as my body tries to adjust to the conditions.

We passed through an area of hundreds of wind turbines. Wind must be a frequent visitor.

We liked this scarecrow, on a bike!

Nice old church and cemetery.

Lots of great and varying signs warning of kids crossing the roads.

The afternoon was quite hilly, up and down. At the top of one climb was this old German bunker and wind turbines. An interesting mix.

Finally a few shaded roads in between climbs. By now we were stopping every 5 km to have some fluid to counter our liquid loss.

Tonight we are in Chef Boutonne, having ridden 135 km. We are only 400 km from the Spanish border….3 days away it our journey will take us east.

At our accomodation we were greeted by Niamh, a lovely Irish lady who has lived here for many years. She also has some friends staying from Dublin (Valerie and Ben) so it was great to sit and converse in English.

Cyclists touring I can recommend this accomodation. Good bike storage too. Will put pic up tomorrow of details.

We have an apartment on the top floor of her home that is huge, and includes a washing machine. So instead of hand washing our gear, it has been through the machine.

We went up the street to an Italian restaurant for dinner and I am now ready for bed as it pushes 10 pm.

Another day of adventure awaits tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and smile on 😊

Being a goose….that comment is dedicated to Patrick Watson!

Eleanor

A simple title – I’ll get to her later.

At our Amboise accomodation we did have a lovely breakfast and our hosts son turned up very bright, chatty and curious about our trip. He tried so very very hard to do everything right for our petite dejeuner and I could not help but to like the guy.

He told me his mothers is ‘as old as the Queen of England’, that she is in hospital just having had a hip replacement. When she was younger she was a mountaineer and climbed the Eiger! He asked us to come back next year and stay so we could meet her.

Leaving Amboise we headed to the bike path adjacent to the river, and found these giraffe? Last look back to the monk cut out and town.

The river was quiet and serene.

A winery using a bike to advertise.

As we headed up a small hill we had wheat growing on one side and grapes on the other. We have seen so many wheat fields and this does not surprise given how much bread is consumed. When you sit outside the boulangeries people are walking out with 3-4 baguettes each.

A lovely shady road.

In Switzerland water fountains are potable. They pride themselves on that. I’m France they are not. Pity as they are often placed in villages when we are thirsty.

We had a big city to navigate today. Tours Cathedral can be seen in the far distance.

More cliff s with various activities and caves.

I am not a fan of cycling in busy cities. I have ridden through London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona to name a few and today we shuffled through Tours. You need eyes in the back of your head.

We pulled over when we our route took us straight past the Cathedral. I did go inside, but the photos are not great. It was quite dark but did have the typical gothic high vaulting and beautiful rose lead light.

We also rode past a bike store. Tony had a flat tire yesterday courtesy of a thin slate like needle, so we took the opportunity to pick up a replacement. He has his full compliment of three again. While I waited, I noted just how dusty our bikes are.

Poppies are widely grown and here are a few stray amongst the wheat.

The heavily trimmed trees have started to shoot.

We deviated from our route to head into the village of Villandry where we found a boulangerie. A few other cyclists were there. We also found a foot air pump. Tony thought his rear tyre could do with some more air. However, it was not working properly and he ended up with no air in his tube. Out came the hand pump.

They have a baguette machine. One euro for a baguette.

Back on the road after lunch and another bike being used to advertise.

Cute village by the river.

The village had a large bike shop offering a wide variety of bikes to hire including this e-bike.

Random statue

We passed through many little villages all with their own churches.

This park had an electric bike charging station.

At the top of a climb Tony photographed this curio. Not sure what it is.

In the distance we can see our destination Fontvraud Abbey. I have wanted to visit here for a long time. For me, this is a special place.

Eleanor of Aquitaine lived her final few years here and was buried alongside her husband, King Henry II of England, her son King Richard ( the Lionheart) and other family members.

The Plantagenets had been strong financial supporters of the Abbey and its establishment.

Eleanor is a heroine of mine. She was a woman ahead of her time. strong willed, intelligent and articulate. She had been Queen of France before marrying Henry Plantagenet, who through his mother Matilda, became King of England.

Eleanor is also my 24 x great grandmother. If you have an Anglo Saxon heritage, it is likely she is yours too. Maths and probability are in your favour here. I have traced my heritage to her via around 8 lines currently.

Our accomodation is inside the Abbey grounds. We are able to wander around until 2 am!! The public left at 7 pm. We wandered when the public were here, but they were milling around Eleanor. I wanted her to myself.

We came back after dinner and had the cathedral to ourselves. It is quite surreal to be walking through such a large structure all alone.

Eleanor and Henry II

Whilst Eleanor and others were buried in the Abbey, during the French Revolution their mortal remains were interfered with and scattered. However, her soul rests here, and I am sure her bones would not be too far away. This is where she wanted to be. I wanted to be here to get a tiny morsel of her in my soul. 💕😉

Below are a variety of photos from the Abbey.

Post the French Revolution, Napoleon ordered that the Cathedral be turned into a three floored prison! It remained as such until around 1960. It is this fact that has probably ensured the buildings survival. The prison damage has since been removed and rehabilitated.

It is very late for me. Nearly 10.30 pm as I’m trying to get the blog done before bed. We have a bigger day tomorrow. Our last full day following the Loire as we head to the west coast of France.

Thanks for reading. Smile on and Ooroo 😊

Rest day – Superbagneres!

Today was scheduled as a rest day, but for anyone who knows me, they would know that term does not sit easily with me. I can’t do nothing!

Originally we had hoped to do the classic Tourmelet climb, weather permitting. Thunderstorms were forecast to hit Bagneres between 12 noon and 1 pm rendering this ride and climb as being in the ‘ not too sensible’ bucket.

Instead we opted to do the Superbagneres climb which starts right in Luchon.

Luchon is another spa town so you can guess what breakfast was! Yes, bread only! Hardly the food for a cyclist! So I supplemented this with some coconut cream I had purchased from the local supermarket.

We dropped the paniers for this ride given it was an out and back ride.

The views were simply stunning!

Below are a range of photos from the climb.

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The climb is 17 km long. At the top is a currently closed ski village. Great views over Luchon. I managed to fall off my bike whilst sticky beaking and now have quite a nice range of bruises on both legs and gravel rash on my buttocks and thigh! No photos, ha ha!

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I am concentrating on the descent!

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Today’s route

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The climb

It was a very fast and fun descent back into Luchon where we went straight to a creperie for a nice galette and coffee.

Being our third spa town we thought we had better visit one and see what all the fuss is about.  15 euro for us into the level with an extraordinary sauna network in a cave that was founded in Rome an times. There is a network of 150 metres in the cave.

After extensive showering and cleaning procedures you enter the complex tunnels where the humidity is 100 percent with air temperatures of between 38-42 Celsius.

You find a seat somewhere in the darkened chambers and sweat profusely. back out for showering before entering the jet pool. We did this cycle 3 times and decided we could not cope with a 4th session in the stunning and incredible cave.

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File photo of part of the cave

We then caught up with Annie for coffee. We met her in Tasmania a few years ago when she was doing a ride around the state with Prickles. They are about to head off to ride together for 6 months! Annie is now based in Luchon.

On the way back to our accomodation we dropped into a small restaurant recommended by Lisette and Sumi. What an extraordinary hour we spent there.

Bruno is the owner and chef. He was very loud and very, very drunk. He was very keen to impart many thoughts with us. It was difficult to get away from him, but he had a kind heart and although he is jaded with the politics in France, terrorism and yearns to live in a chalet in the mountains, he is a good cook and we had a nice meal!!

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Very sober Sharron and very drunk Bruno. What is not showing in the photo is that Bruno is caressing my hands endlessly!!

So tomorrow we say au revoir to France as we are only 10-15 km from the Spanish border.

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I love this photo! Hence it appears twice so that it is the lead photo when I “press” this to Facebook !! 

 

St Gaudens to Bagneres de Luchon

What another brilliant day! But before I get into that, a few little oddities from our accomodation in St Gaudens. The accomodation was run by two very strict ladies. You darned not cross them. They swore prolifically in French. They had unusual taste in light fittings!

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There were a number of these! The big fluffy balls were ‘curious’

They also win the prize for the smallest bath award:

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Yes I know you bath with your clothes off but this photo was merely for ‘illustration’ purposes only.

Notwithstanding that they did take good care of our babies:

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Yes the bikes are in their breakfast room.

I think they may have underestimated the eating power of cyclists. We were strictly allocated one croissant, one piece of cheese, one slice of ham, one tub of natural yoghurt, 2 pieces baguette. I did manage to obtain a second coffee but that was because I had not had orange juice. I noticed the older lady carefully counting grapes too… but they were a bit soft and most of us passed.

When we packed up our room to depart, this was the view.

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We left St Gaudens via the same roads we had entered and headed off towards Valentine. It was cold at 9 degrees and we had bare legs, but well rugged up on our top half.

We ideally would liked to have dumped our front paniers for today’s climb. However it was an unknown factor as to whether the van would be at the top for us to grab warmer clothes for the descent. So we erred on the conservative side and chose to carry provisions for the full day.

We rode through Valentine (6.1 km), Ardiege (8.9 km), Cier de Rivière (9.8 km) arriving at Col de la Hountared at 12.6 km.

We turned right climbing through woods ( what a surprise) but what a nasty little climb this turned out to be, with a 17 % section!

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That is me climbing the last hundred metres or so.

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A close up would show me grimacing!!

Around the area of Labroquere (17.1 km) we noted the old Roman funeral pile looking more like a section of a fence.

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Saint Bernard de Comminges was an impressive village with a cathedral overlooking ancient roman ruins.

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Remains from an ancient Roman village

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Just over the road, unexcavated Roman ruins

We continued through a number of villages including Sarp (21.6 km), Aveux (22.7 km) travelling through narrow wooded valleys along the side of a river.

At Mauleon Barousse (29.1 km) we stopped as the Bike Adventures van was there. After a chat with Andy we motored on as I was not keen for my knee to cool down.

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Mauleon-Barousse

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Mauleon-Barousse

We turned right at this village and came across this sign, indicating the commencement of our 19 km climb.

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The sign indicates that our current altitude was 576 metres but we were heading to 1775 metres over 19 km of climbing

As with all climbs, Tony has a leave pass to do what he wants. I like to climb on my own, cognisant of my knee and asthma. Today it was to be my back though that would cause me pain!

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The views were great

As you climb it is important to stay mentally focused. Each km there is a sign indicating what exactly average incline is for the next km. The first few were only 3 -to 4 percent. Then they increased to 7,8,9 and 10 percent!

About half way up a couple of ‘young’ cyclists from Canada passed me and cheered me on, in French. Around one of the hairpin bends Tony was waiting to take photos of me grimacing!

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I must be hot as I have unzipped my clothing. Sorry Hannah!! Modesty goes out the window in favour of ‘comfort’

I followed Tony for a bit and we came across these cows. They were so cute, with the adults having bells that were ringing. It explained all the cow pats on the road that I had seen too. They seem to just wander and go where they want.

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Also note the TDF road markings

 

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Nice view looking back 

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Can you see me? I am a speck climbing up

This next photo is as I entered the last km of the climb.

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Looking back down 

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Only a few hundred metres to go

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Made it! 

I was very glad to get to the top. My back had been having muscular spasms for over half the ride. I lay down on the grass and did some stretching.

There were numerous cyclists at the top all congratulating each other!

Time to descend. More clothes back on as it is always colder when descending.

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The view on the descending side

 

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Descending 

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Some friendly random cyclists who were also descending

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View from one of the villages descending 

We had a fast descent into Bagneres de Luchon. We were the first of the cyclists to arrive and knew we had a bit of time to kill before the van arrived. We stopped at a restaurant and had lunch and then pootled to the accomodation where we did some bike maintenance and enjoyed the sun.

Tomorrow is a rest day. The weather forecast is not brilliant putting a dampener on our previous plans, but we will wait and see what the day brings!

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Today’s climb

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Today’s route 

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Marciac to Saint Gaudens

What a brilliant day in the saddle! It was a day full of “oohs” and “wow”! It was not an easy day riding up and down hills, ending up 300 metres higher in altitude than the start.

It was only 9 degrees Celsius  when we left Marciac. As we climbed out of town, the mist was rising above the paddocks.

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As we climbed a little further and rounded a bend, our first BIG wow occurred. The Pyrenees were straight ahead, snow capped and very inspiring!

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Still a fair distance away, but we will be there within two days.

We past through many heavily wooded forests today, always climbing. Spinning in our small chain ring, constantly thinking about the days that lay ahead, conserving energy and my knee as much as possible.

We past through villages of Mazous ( 21.7 km), Estampes (24.3 km), and Estampures (27.4 km) and Mazerolles (29.5 km) all very quiet and sleepy.  I think we had seen 3 cars at this stage, and about 8 barking dogs!

At 38.6 km we rode into Trie-sur-Baise a large bastide village. We felt it was too early for coffee but picked up extra water and some Lindt 90% chocolate!

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Trie-sur-Baise, from outside the supermarket!

The road descended and it was great to ride on some flat!

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We crossed the river and climbed into the woods, arriving at Campuzan (49.2 km) to then descend.

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At 51.3 km we crossed another river and rode past this flash looking chateau.

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Flash looking chateau!

The omnipresent Pyrenees kept us very focused view wise! They are getting bigger!! All the time I was wondering which bit we would be climbing through.

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Leaving Lassales at 61.2 km we rode up the steepest pinch of the day with a short 20% incline! Nasty! Granny gear engaged!

Brief deviation: Here is a photo showing page 3 of our route notes from today. Leon, who works with Tony at Caterpillar, asked why my km overall each day are less than Tony’s. ( He has noted this from our strava file uploads, being quite observant!). The answer is simple. It is to do with navigation. We are using my Garmin to try and match route notes. That means if we deviate off course ( eg in a village looking for food, drink, just looking around), if that is not in the course route, I will stop my Garmin and start again when on route

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Look at all the ‘climb into woods’

Below is the church at St Plancard. We stopped just around the corner and had a light snack before yes, climbing into the woods.

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St Plancard (74.8 km)

Another inspiring Pyrenees view!

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Far less inspiring, me having just climbed out of the woods!

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The view I had after climbing out of the woods! This is why I ride my bike!

We eventually ran out of woods to climb, arriving in the very busy town of Saint Gaudens. We are now happily ensconced in our hotel, having arrived quite early. Fortunately we were granted an early check in.

There is a very curious art ‘installation’ just outside our hotel. It is moving. Plank by plank this curious structure is moving with the aide of about 20 helpers!

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Today’s route. 92 km and over 1600 metres climbing.

Finally, the view out our bedroom window is just awful! I am sure you will all agree! A reminder of what is to come in the next few days! Tomorrow is another tough day but the weather forecast is promising!!

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Barbotan-les-Thermes to Marciac

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The little blue squiggle indicates where we rode today in France

 

Barbotan is a thermal spa town full of ‘old’ people. Last year we stayed in another spa town in France, Bourbonne-les-Bains. That town also was full of ‘old’ people. I discovered another commonality today, they have meagre breakfasts designed for ‘old’ people, not cyclists.

Unfortunately not one healthy option available only high sugar cereals and bread and jams. I did ask for ‘fromage’ but got a big shake of the head!! At least the company was good!

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Left to right: Martin, Mike, Lisette, Suni, Andy and Tony

We were first to depart the town riding down the main pedestrian strip. I was quite taken with this fruit and vegetable shop, particularly the colours and presentation.

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The baskets of product front left are a type of dehydrated mushroom.

Riding out of town we rode past Lac d’Ulby where there were lots of people camping. We did not stop as the temperature gauge was showing only 9 degrees Celsius. Whilst we had plenty of clothes on our top half, our legs were bare and we were keen to keep them rolling over, albeit slowly as today was short in km and we could not arrive too early!

From the Lac we rode through undulating fields and vineyards. Grapes and maize were the main products.

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Small quiet roads passing through farmlands.

 

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More grapes, plus Tony

Villages past through included Cuxtan (9.0 km) and Ayzieu (15.8 km). The next two photos show the views in this area.

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At the entrance to a chateau

One thing we always notice in the sleepy hamlets and villages are just how quiet they are. It is like the people have all been spirited away. They are often ghostly quiet. If the silence is broken, it is generally in one of two ways. The tolling of the local church bell ( and every town has an ancient church) or it is the local dogs we upset.

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When the day is short ( km wise) and you can’t arrive at your destination too early you cruise on your bike. You also look for places to stop, take photographs, have a coffee. However today towns with coffee were light on.

The route continued to be undulating with a couple of shorter climbs having 14 percent pinches. That is when you would like to dump the extra kg hanging off your handlebars!

By about the 25 km mark I had dumped my long sleeve jacket and had arm warmers on! It was a balmy 14 degrees!! Ha ha. But the sun was nice.

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More of today’s route

At the 25 km point we entered Ste Christie D’Armagnac, a small hamlet. The instructions said to “BL, road climbs through arch and then descends steeply (Caution rough lane).

However, the route was totally blocked with fencing closing the road. What to do? That is the advantage of having a Garmin satellite showing local roads. We re-routed and within a few km rejoined the original route.

We planned to stop at Aignan (38.6 km) hoping to find some sustenance. It did not disappoint. Aignan is another bastide town with the all familiar squares. I popped into the small supermarket and found some nice local diced cheese to nibble on. We sat in the sun!

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Yet another 12th century church

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The view from our spot in the sun

Leaving Aignan we noted the sunny blue skies had become ominously dark in spots, and rain was threatening. The wind had picked up as well.

The rest of the route was as it had been so far, undulating up and down with occasional shorter pinches.

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I have just come out of one of those steep pinches here!

On the outskirts of Marciac is this lake.

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Look at that dark cloud! It motivated us to move on!

We arrived in Marciac well ahead of the Bike Adventures van. We knew we would and had planned to kick our heels up somewhere! After a visit to the boulangerie, we sat in the square enjoying the sun ( that dark cloud having moved on).

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View from the square

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Marciac is also a bastide village

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And again!

After showering and laundering we went wandering visiting the historical buildings.

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Looks like I got caught reading about this building whilst enjoying the sun

We then wandered down to the second spire that dominates the local skyline. St Augustine was an ancient convent.

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St Augustine

Enter the arch shown on the left and this is what we found!

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An archeological dig with skeletons!

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Broader overview of the dig

So another day done and dusted! Tomorrow gets a bit more serious climbing wise as we continue through the foothills of the Pyrenees to Lannemezan.

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Marciac

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”.

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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.

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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.

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Goulade

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!!

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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).

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St Justin

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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.

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The 1200’s church dominates the square

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Barbotan ancient gateway

 

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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!

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Today’s route

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Entrance

The day before…

The meteorologists got it right. We woke up to shite weather. Pouring with rain, black skies. It did not take long to decide to have a day off the bike.

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Besides we we needed to pack up and clean the apartment that had been our home for 6 nights.

We wandered off in the rain for coffee and then had an early lunch at Wok to Work, our third visit. They recognised us. I had been giving my name here as “mink” so that when our order was ready they would call out ” Mink” Mink”.

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Good tucker! Vegetables with prawns and beef.

I found a brilliant shop that sold the most wonderful quality chocolate moulds, at significantly cheaper prices than home.

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Check out the bicycle mould!

Then went for a wander up Cours Victor Hugo to the Porte de Bourgogne.

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Porte de Bourgogne

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Found a turtle to sit on, check out the photo bombers!! Ha ha!

We also managed to upset a French soldier who questioned Tony re his camera use. We decided maybe we would move on out of the square as we were being watched very closely!

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He does not look happy.

Back at the unit we received the call from Mike and Andy ( Bike Adventures) to let us know that they were on their way over to collect us and transfer us to our Bike Adventures accomodation.

Our bikes are now stored with the other riders bikes just off the restaurant.

A final wander of Bordeaux to check out a few other ancient monuments.

Check out the entertainment at the traffic lights. She was talented.  She then went from car to car seeking money.

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Juggling at the lights.

The first ancient abbey is the Eglise Saint Croix, constructed in the 11-12th centuries, attached to a Benadictine monastry from the 7th century!

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Next up was the Basilique St Michel, a newer church built between the 14th-16thncentury! So much history in one city makes you a little complacent. The pilgrims stop here on their long walk.

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Free to enter the church but fee paying and massive queue for the tower.

Checked out another confessional box. The seat was marginally better, just!

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Beautiful wood work though

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Looking like a naughty school girl here plotting her next misadventure

Heading back to the hotel we came across a children’s scooter race event. What really attracted our attention was the event mascot, a kangaroo!! An Australian animal for a French event.

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Kangaroo lost in France

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Another curio we passed

Finally we ended up in another supermarket. All week I have been trying to source shaved coconut for snacking on. Coconut seems to be a rare product in these parts and I left empty handed again.

One of the things that has surprised us in the supermarkets is the availability and pricing of a wide range of alcohol. Here is the red wine section, with many bottles for only 3-5 euro.

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A section of the red wines

We have now met all our fellow riders and we know three. In addition to Barbara and Jamie their friend Martin is also here, whom we know from last years London to Venice. They all live in London, with Barbara and Jamie formerly from Glasgow, Scotland.

We also have Jonno ( Cornwall, England), Suni and Lisette ( Durbin, South Africa) and Elizabeth and Gordon ( Ottawa, Canada, formerly also Glasgow).

So it is goodnight from Bordeaux. Tomorrow our adventure to Barcelona commences, and my fingers are crossed for improved weather.

Entre-deux-Mers

Same as yesterday…jumped out of bed at 7 am, ran to the balcony to check the weather ( before my coffee). Well I was a tad excited to be met by this!

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Sunshine!

The plan today was to check out some of the bastide towns. Between 1220 and 1370 the  counts of Toulouse and King Edward 1 of England ordered nearly 300 fortified towns ( bastides) be built in southwestern France. They were laid out to a highly rigid formula, established for military, political and economic reasons.

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Ready to walk out the door modelling all things Rapha.

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Then there are over 50 steps to carry the bike down! Coming up is worse!

So we undertook the getting out of Bordeaux crawl, crossing the Garonne. After about 5 km we located the bike track and headed out to Creon ( 25 km) , where we had visited a few days before. The plan was coffee and we found a lovely cafe in the town square.

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Whilst sitting there enjoying our coffee we notice a very lone figure in a window opposite us. Using the zoom on the camera this is what we found.

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The ghost of Creon

There is also a nice little church adjacent to the square.

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Next stop was the village of La Sauve-Majeure, which has a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1079, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The abbey is also located on the pilgrim route Santiago de Compostela. Predominantly ruins after a chequered life, the abbey remains majestic in both Romanesque and Gothic styling.

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The ruins. Surprisingly you can still climb the 157 stairs of the bell tower.

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One of 6 remaining ‘capitals’ located in the ruins

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The stairs up the bell tower

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Peaceful surrounds

I was quite blown away by the Abbey. There is a link to Eleanor of Aquitaine who was a generous donor of funds in the 1100’s towards the construction costs.

Back onto the bikes and off to the next planned stop, Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, founded in 1283 by Edward II of England. The village is sited in the heart of Entre-deux-Mers, the region between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne. Human settlement has been traced into pre history.

Sauveterre no longer has its ramparts which were destroyed in the early 19th century, but it does still have the 4 corner gates.

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One of the gates

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And another gate

We met three groups of cyclists here, including an older group from England, a couple from Australia and New Zealand and two younger guys who were making their baguettes up ready to eat.

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The guy on the left is from Ireland, the guy on the right London! I told them I would blog their photo! Hopefully they find it.

After lunch it was about 2.30 pm and the weather had started to close in, dark clouds threatening rain. We decided to beat a retreat back to Bordeaux, some 55 km away.

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116 km done and dusted today.

In the morning we transfer accomodation to Bike Adventures hotel about 1.5 km away. We are unsure if we will get a ride in or not for two reasons. Firstly, we need to see about the transfer of our gear and secondly the weather forecast is uber shite.

Thunderstorms are predicted and I can’t see the point of riding, as it is not a lot of fun! Anyway I am sure when the 7 am alarm goes off I will do my dash to the balcony to check!

Oh, one other thing! We have found out that we will know two of the riders on our ride to Barcelona. Barbara and Jamie from England are part of the group of 10. They were on our team last year from London to Venice.

That is what I love about touring with Bike Adventures, being able to renew acquaintances and share cycling adventures and stories!

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Yet another old church, this one being Sauveterre