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!

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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.

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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.

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Sinai Peninsula
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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.
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Suez Canal at Port Tawfiq.
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Nile River mouth past Rashmeed, Egypt
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Spain!

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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