Not so Gruffy

We awoke to another beautiful day. Blue skies. First to breakfast 😳.

The roads were busy and after we cleared the first few km we started climbing on a decent cycle path, on the verge of the main road.

As you can see from the graph below, most of our climbing today was done in the first 28 km.

At the top of the first climb the land really opened up. The area is known as the Bauges Valley.

We descended through a Gorge, Les Gorges du Cheran, and there was an interesting 75 metre length bridge, Pont de l’ Abime. Literally translated, this means Abyss Bridge. It was built in 1887 to link the villages of Cusy and Gruffy.

The Cheran River is a lot further down than the photo makes it appear. The river is 96 metres below.
From the bridge looking up to where we will ride
We are at that point looking back at the bridge
Now we have climbed further and Tony is standing on a picnic table to get a shot clear of some trees.
The cliffs above the bridge

After another shorter climb the land flattens again.

Just finishing that climb
Options, but great that there is a cycle route to Aix-Les-Bains and Annecy

I had to get a photo here, I loved the name of this village. The French do not pronounce it like we would in English.

Numerous villages are badged Village Fleurie. It is a French contest organised annually aiming to encourage communes to adopt and implement policies that improve the quality of life of their inhabitants and enhance their attractiveness to visitors. Communes are awarded the right to display a badge with one to four flowers depending upon their annual result.

Lovely open vista
Climbing again….

As we get higher there are signs that we are about to see some really nice mountains.

A glimpse
Ooh, now we are descending and look, it is promising.

After that final climb to 751 metres we started descending. We do not stop as the traffic is fast and we are more concerned with holding our line and staying safe.

The traffic in central Annecy is chaos. We head straight to the lake thinking it will be really relaxing to ride around.

The lake is certainly beautiful, but seriously I have never seen as many people on bikes ever! There is a literal conga line/queue. All ages and skill levels.

It is very slow (ie 15 kmh and less), lots of braking as people weave around, and then you get some Ritchie Porte wannabes overtaking in both directions.

The views were great and Tony took a few photos on the fly.

A fair way down the lake, we pulled over for refreshments. We spent about an hour here. The next three photos are from our lunch spot.

We made a clean getaway from lunch, a temporary reprieve from the conga line.

Noticing many parachutes in the skies, we headed off track to have a better look as many were landing in a nearby field. The picture below does not show them but around the top of the mountain there are maybe 20 plus people just hanging around.

A closer up, you can see some specks

Heading back towards Annecy in our continuing anti clockwise route, the crowds cycling picked up again, but on a narrower path. The views were just glorious and there were more opportunities to pull over.

There was a nasty little climb thrown in for good measure too. Steep with cycle path hair pin bends, where collections of younger youth stood (the worst spot possible is to take up all the space on a narrow, steep hairpin). Cuss and curse.

We were delighted to get off our bikes at our accomodation. The bikes are very very safe tonight.

Our balcony

After showering and washing our gear, we followed a canal/creek into centre ville but were overwhelmed with the crowds.

We have since found out that yesterday was a French public holiday and that it is common practice to also take the Friday off, making a four day break. Hence the crowds.

We will retire earlier tonight as whilst tomorrow is only 80 km, it is our Queen stage, where we climb to Morzine. About 1700 m climbing in the 80 km.

We bought some items for our dinner and returned to eat in our room, and chill. Tony has cleaned the bikes whilst I have been doing this blog.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, smile on 😊

Todays route

Wow

Today was a day full of superlatives. We deserved today!

Early breakfast and this was the view out our front door. Blue sky, no wind.

We walked our bikes out of Perouges as it is hard enough walking on the raised polished stones with our mtb cleats, let alone trying ride as they are extraordinary uneven.,

We descended into the next village that was quite busy and once we cleared that, we were on open road. In the background the hills are becoming bigger.

There was minimal traffic on this road.

We passed a lovely chateau.

The hills are growing.

We then left the open road and joined Via Rhona, a wonderful cycle path. From this point Geneva was about 170 km away.

At the same point, this was our first view of the Rhone River. The colour was incredible. Turquoise.

The Rhone River starts high in the Swiss mountains in the Valais region at over 2200 m. The river is 813 km long and empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

The ViaRhona path is of excellent quality. Agricultural land to the left, and the river to my right.

The views kept us focused. Chateaus, gorges, the colour of the river….

We did deviate from the path a few times on a more direct road ( as rivers weave around), and the backdrop kept our interest. The French and Italian Alps are over there.

We saw plenty of water based activity including swimming and canoeing. I think there must be school holidays here as there are school aged children everywhere on the path.

A bridge crossing the Rhone.

This couple were cycle tourists, towing their family dog. Fair sized dog too, not sure if it was a Labrador or Golden Retriever, or similar.

This placard was on the side of the cycle path in a village. Quite a loop.

That gorge on the far side is where we are heading, as the river winds its way there, but it will be on our right hand side soon enough. We need to get over that lump too.

The river bulged out at this point and had a beach and lake like appearance here. There were many families here enjoying the water. I cropped out the male sun seeker

The gorge wall is getting closer. I look at the map trying to figure out where we go.

The agricultural fields are full of new growth

Interesting, note the gap over there? Our map route seems to line up.

Here we are riding in that gap, which in fact is quite a narrow gorge. The Rhone River splits into two, coming together further on.

We rode through this short tunnel and there was an amazing gorge, with sheer rock walls either side. There was no verge and no stopping as there were lots of cars buzzing through.

Out the other side, the landscape broadened significantly. We are heading towards that pointier rocky outcrop. We discovered something interesting last night and re routed todays proposed route.

Getting close

We discovered that a cycle tunnel opened here in 2019. It is 1.5 km long, and it is only for bicycles (although I presume walkers use it too).

It is the most extraordinary piece of cycling infrastructure I have ever seen. It must have cost bucket loads.

As you can see below it is well lit. We took our cycling glasses off (as they are tinted) and the vision was very clear.

There is some water here and there, and that is a cyclist way ahead. We caught her and we were pedalling minimally because ….it slopes down.

There is art work on the wall in places (not graffiti, looks to be legit).

Popping out of the tunnel was akin to being teleported to another world. It was ‘wow’. We had been saying ‘wow’ through the tunnel as we were super impressed, but the view was amazing.

The big town on the shores is Aix-les-Bains, and the lake is Lac du Bourget. The lake is the largest natural lake of glacial origin in France and the town is a famous spa town, boasting the largest French freshwater marina.

We descended down from the tunnel (see the elevation graph below, you can see the climb up to the tunnel, then the descent). The 1.5 km in the tunnel does not show due to the fact that our bike computers rely on satellite technology. That is hard to achieve in a tunnel!

So here we are. The end of Day 18, 100 km today and over 2200 km ridden in our holiday cycle odyssey.

It was seriously warm today (32c), and we showered and washed our clothes and headed off to find a glace. It was a trois boule kind of day (three scoops).

Food options in France generally start at 7 pm and we could not be fussed hanging around so we headed into a Monoprix, grabbed some food to make our tea.

Today rates very highly in all the rides I have done. Great route, quality paths, signage, the tunnel and the views.

The ViaRhona path interests us for for future rides as it starts in Geneva and ends up on the Mediterranean coast, and a mere 800 km.

To finish with tonight, this is the view out our bedroom window. The church is named, Notre Dame. I think the great percentage of French churches have that name! It has a different repertoire of bell ringing. It finished up at 7.10 tonight playing for three minutes.

Our route, zoomed out, shows you just how close we are to Italy, Switzerland and Monaco. I rode in the Italian Aosta region in 2018 during the Giro d’Italia with Italy Bike Tours, and it is very spectacular.

Tomorrow is another day, more adventures. Thanks for reading, stay safe, smile on 😊

Angels and Demons

The day started off idyllically. This is the view from our bedroom window at Chateau Matel. The view is towards the Loire River which borders the Chateau property.

We were staying on the third floor. The Chateau is like a maze, with multiple stair cases (some with barriers saying not to enter). Then near our room was an ascending staircase to the top floor and a curtain half way up. No security cameras were obvious here, so I could not help myself….up I went and peeped behind the curtain. It appears that the chateau is not fully renovated.

Breakfast was a very pleasant affair with the same French guys present as at dinner. They were happy and chatty and curious about our ride today.

Bidding all au revoir, off we headed, knowing today was tough as we had previewed the climbs. There were four that were over 4 km long, with very steep sections (ie above 15% gradient).

This car sits outside the chateau

Heading into the city of Roanne there was a bit of traffic as you would expect at the time of day. We arrived back at the Loire, having last seen it over a week ago as it discharged into the Bay of Biscay.

Here the river was much nicer and prettier.

The first 50 km today was far, far tougher than we had envisaged. We were mentally prepared for another tough day but we were not prepared for some things that had not showed up mapping.

There were four longer climbs today (4-5 km each) with a couple having an average of around 8%. That is tough going for 4-5 km, particularly with a loaded bike.

We found ourselves faced with climbs in excess of 20% pinches, and on narrow paths. That is a thumbs down from me. I know my limits. I walked the steepest sections today (not easy to do pushing a bike).a few of the sections pulled Tony up too.

Worse still were a few of the descents. One we could not believe. It was over 20%, unsealed, rocky, cow pats and as I walked down it, lined with stinging nettle which swiped against my leg. Not happy.

It is these kind of challenges that define you. You do not go into a 3000 km unsupported odyssey like we have without expecting that there will be shite days. It is your reaction to such physical and mental challenges that builds character and strength and resilience in ways you did not necessarily know you were capable of.

If we wanted less challenges, we would do a supported tour, or use ebikes. The strength we gain as individuals knowing what we achieved in challenging conditions is what we talk about down the track.

So we climbed a lot, and the camera did come out.

That is one steep village street.

The bonus was this sign. We laughed as we are pretty sure we did not get there by the conventional route.

After stopping at a supermache for some food supplies, we decided to ditch the route planned and take the road route to Villefranche sur Loire. Yes there were some climbs, but less severe gradients.

This turned out to to be a great decision as we knocked off the last few climbs and our confidence returned.

There was also an awesome 400 metre descent. I was riding my disc brakes very hard all the way. The elevation shows the descent from around 57 km to 70 km.

We were able to ride easier after that, despite a now present headwind. Our confidence was back and we pushed on to get to our destination Perouges, a medieval city.

Perouges is regarded as a perfect example of a city of the Middle Ages, existing from the 1200’s. Movies have been filmed here including the Three Musketeers.

Arriving at our accomodation ( walking again as the rocks were very difficult to ride on) I was despondent when told there were no food options in the village, and we would need to cycle or walk to the next one.

The look on my face….I questioned the pizza and galette places we had seen entering. Galettes were sweet only and about to close. Pizza though…oh yes, they are open.

So this was dinner. We were joined by one old dog looking for offerings, and four seemingly stray cats. Then the owner asked…did we want glacé? He had little tubs for 4 euro each.

After eating we wandered around the small village. Having walked through quite a number of old villages, this one is particularly interesting.

I borrowed an aerial shot to show the relatively small size.

Our bikes are stored in this building behind the large door.

Guess who has their washing hanging up on the curtain rod in their bathroom? No shame, just a desire to wear cleanish and dried cycling gear each day.

We have climbed over 5000 metres and ridden over 400 km in three days, and each of those days have had reasonable challenges.

Tomorrow is another day and what adventures and challenges?

Until then, off to bed I go. Thankyou for reading, stay safe, smile on 😊

Bikes and trucks

The sky started off blue but quickly changed. The weather forecast showed zero possibility of rain!

Breakfast was lovely with our own little cloche. Yes that is chocolate, one piece each. I did offer to trade my prunes for Tony’s chocolate but I failed.

Today was to be another hilly day. Look at the graph below and note how the day started off. We rode 600 metres on the flat leaving our accomodation and then straight into a climb with cold legs. Eek.

At the top of the climb (5 km climb, plus the 600 metres we started off with), we had climbed 169 metres. So for 5 km that is an average gradient of over 3%.

I have taken four photos from my Hammerhead (bike computer ) showing just some of the data I have at my fingertips as I ride.

First screen shows speed ( I was stopped when I took the photo!), the average at the time (12.6 kmh after climbing 5 km), distance (5.6 km), ascent climbed since the start (169 m), elevation (above sea level), the temperature (12C), and the time (8.55 am).
This screen tells me what the next few km holds climbing wise. This is a broad overview. I have another screen that tells me precisely what each climb holds ( eg. 1.2 km long, average gradient of 3.0%, total ascent 36 metres). It also countdown the remaining distance in the climb (Length and ascent)
This screen shows where I am heading per the route map previously uploaded. It says in 4.0 km I will go straight ahead at a roundabout. I can zoom out and get a broader view too.
This screen says I have 129.5 km to ride if I stick to the route map, how long it might take me to get there including breaks, current temperature and elevation, how much of the Hammerhead battery remains, and what grade I am climbing (0 % indicating I was on a level plane).

Now whilst we put time into planning routes, they are not all successes. Todays route falls into the fail category. On the positive side, we went through some lovely villages when we deviated from the main route. The weather was kind.

The downside, we spent about 80% of the day on what we now know is a National Road 7. This caters for trucks over 25 tonnes.

At times (mainly climbing) there were two lanes and a verge. Flat and descending there was no verge. We held our line best we could on the white line and cussed and cursed.

We deviated where we could but there were a general lack of roads to support that in the direction we were heading.

Truck drivers on the whole are good. They hold their line well. The issue is the suction pull/vacuum they create as they whizz past. at times, they are less than a metre from you.

We did deviate where we could and here are some photos. As you could imagine we did not stop on the busy road, and these photos are from deviations.

Our total ride today was 143 km with over 1500 metres climbing. We have had two big days.

The photos below are predominantly agriculture and villages. France certainly has lovely open spaces.

Check out the rest of sirens on the top of the building. Not sure if they are still used or old air raid sirens?
This is looking south. Those are mountains in the far distance.
That is me cycling towards the village
Saint Georges de Bransat, in a tiny village. This church, in part, dates back to the 11th century.
Loved this. There was a sign that said it was constructed for the 2013 Tour de France, 100th anniversary.
These made me laugh. What do you think happens in the middle toilet? I did look, but the door was locked.
Parts of this abbey dates back to 971 AD
Great wall mural

On one of our deviations, we were low in water. I recalled reading a blog that said cemeteries in France were a great place to get potable water.

Seems strange to me that all their fountains in villages have non potable signs (around the living) yet in a cemetery (around the deceased) you can get potable water.

Yes I do realise that the water is there to water flowers but non potable water could do that too, and surely it would be better to give the living potable water?

We arrived in Roanne after an adrenaline charged day, thankful to have made it safely. Something may have happened in Roanne back in history but we did not arrive via centre ville. Who knows!

This is our accomodation. Chateau Mattel, a 15th chateau. You can see our room. It is on the third floor, windows wide open drying our clothes!

Tony took a couple of other photos around the grounds. The land goes down to the Loire river. Yes we will see it tomorrow albeit briefly again.

We had dinner here tonight with the owner Olivier. There were three other chateau guests joining us for a large dinner table gathering. all French but very curious about our cycle odyssey. The guys stay here often for work.

Our route map shows we are getting close to Switzerland and Italy. Aosta is a beautiful area that I rode in 2018 during the Giro d’Italia.

Bedtime! 10.30 pm and I’m getting latter and latter to bed.

Thanks for reading, smile on 😊

Wet, windy, hilly and long

In all cycle tours you have these days. After over two weeks of hot weather and close to no rain, the time had come for the weather gods to dish it out.

We knew it was coming. We had looked at the weather rain radar multiple times hoping that the awful weather crossing France from the Atlantic Ocean had either miraculously disappeared or changed course.

Around 2 am we listened to the huge thunderstorms, lightening and thunder.

When we awoke, it was overcast but not raining. We’d take that.

After bidding our host farewell (another English family that have settled in France, formerly from the Isle of Wight) we set off.

Within 4 km the raincoats went on. So the day would continue with constant stops taking gilet off, coat on, coat off, gilet on and so on.

We had a day of climbing. Our Hammerhead Karoo (bike computer) had 24 rated climbs, plus there were other lesser climbs.

This is our climbing graph for 140 km. Over 1800 metres climbing with that distance, with loaded bikes is a big effort. We have similar tomorrow. Not because we want to do such distances with lots of climbing but more out of necessity.

We are heading east and you have to ride to towns that have decent accomodation plus somewhere to eat. Such towns are less plentiful compared to say the tourist hot spots in the Loire Valley. We carry only snacks with us (replenishing those at supermaches).

That means you sometimes have tougher days.

The camera did not come out as often today. It comes out when it is not raining. Here are photos that we did take en route. The photos are in order from the start.

After turning off major arterial roads, we were generally on local and agricultural roads
Our route took us through many villages, some just a few homes, others larger. At times, you just see the edge of other villages, often noting the church spire.
That is me coming up to finish a climb. There were 24 rated climbs today.
Rain gear still in, checking out a village arch, probably an old village entrance from the Middle Ages when most towns had fortified walls.
Not sure what this is
We upset these two dogs, as we chose to take raincoats off here.
The big promise…blue sky. It amounted to nothing.
Overlooking a farms and distant village
Another distant view
My favourite picture today. The growth in the river are white flowers in full bloom. It is quite pretty.
Raincoat on, just about to hop off my bike and take the coat off.
Green fields, ominous skies
Nice bell tower
Ooh blue sky again 🙏
Village church and war memorial. Note the rooster on top.It is quite gruesome as it has slain an eagle.
Super green fields
Imposing chateau
Nice old bridge

We arrived in Montlucon by a nice descent down a major arterial road, bit of city shuffling, arriving at the river Cher. Locating our accomodation, we showered, washed our clothes and headed into the old city quarters.

The chateau, fee paying, closed when we arrived.
Most of the houses in the old quarter are circa 1500’s
This is where we ate our dinner. Our view. The city was nice and quiet with most tourists having departed.

A few more views before we headed back so I could write this blog and sleep.

I have a thing for gargoyles. I like their whimsical nature

That’s it for today. Tomorrow is not dissimilar to today. Climbing and length. We are hopeful the weather will hold out for us.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and smile on 😊

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.

https://www.facebook.com/tony.yaxley/videos/1812673198903038/

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!

Ile de re

The view out the window revealed it had rained overnight. The sky was quite grey.

We were first down to breakfast yet again. Surprise. The French news channel was on the tv, and we listened (or rather watched) the weather and we thought we might just be ok, particularly apres midi (after noon).

Our route out of Les Sables d’Alonne was surprisingly good for a busy city. Within a few km we were riding along the ocean boulevard with minimal people or cars around.

The tide was much higher, and the beach looked nicer.

Looking north towards the river channel
Looking south, the direction we were heading
Here this was the bike lane, as wide as the car lane.

We were then on a series of crushed gravel paths winding around the coastline.

As with yesterday, we rode through areas of the famous Marais also referred to as Green Venice. It is an area of marshland covering 45,000 hectares. It is part of the ancient Bay of Brittany which was once speckled with islands. Only one island remains.

The first drainage ditches in the marshlands were dug by the Romans as early as the 1st century and these were expanded upon by the Benedictine monks from the XI to XIII centuries.

As a result of the building of the digues (dikes) the canals that control and allow sea water to enter the marshes, oyster farming is prolific and a major contributor to the regional economy.

Ecologically it is a haven for a huge variety of wildlife, and of course, walking and cycling trails.

I have enlarged part of todays route showing you one small section we rode through.

Lush growth abounds, and there were a variety of stock held including sheep and donkeys.

An old fortification

We were following a variety of routes as can be seen from the sign, but one also named King Richard Coeur de lion. He was better known as Richard the Lionheart, son of my Eleanor of Aquitaine. He lived in the area for many years (Tailmont) also close to where Eleanor was born.

Passing by this garden we could not help but to smile at the keen gardeners attempt to keep birds away. They were all moving wildly as the wind had picked up.

We had a bit of fun with the lady below, and her partner. He is ahead of the guy on the right. We first met them on a narrow forest trail. She is on an e-bike and had entered the trail and we were climbing a small rise. When we saw her behind us on an ebike we pulled over to let her pass as she was trying really hard and her partner was ahead.

Her helmet is on her luggage. Very useful in an accident 🙈

We stopped and waited a bit, had a drink and something to eat so she could clear out. However, we caught them quickly. We stopped again but caught them.

By this time, she and her partner were riding side by side, and they had no interest in letting us pass. They were well aware we were there as we noted their cadence lift. We were all doing 25 kmh.

So we sat right behind them. We could not pass as they would not move into single file. They had upped their cadence significantly again and her body was swaying from side to side. She would not last long. Her partner was trying to get her to go faster.

We just sat and waited…..

Then there was a sealed road section. We just upped the pace to 30 kmh and cruised past, as I said ‘ G’day’ 😊. We kept the pace up for a few km and laughed. Kept us entertained 🙈😝

Then we stopped at a boulangerie.

We sat on the wall overlooking this inlet. It looked like the sand had just been groomed.

More of the Marais Marshland and a lock.

Pretty flowering crops.

Tony liked this car

Our destination today was Ile de Re, an island off the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle. It is an Island about 30 km long and 5 km wide.

In history, it was once three islands, but with silting over time, they became one. The Islands became English when Eleanor became Queen of England but King Henry III (her grandson) returned them to France.

In 1987 a 2.9 km bridge was built connecting the island to the mainland. We rode across that bridge today. It was challenging as the last 40 km of our ride we had a driving headwind.

Approaching the bridge. Cars pay a toll.
Looking back up the bridge as we descended
The view from the Island

Some kite surfing on the northern shore. Once we crossed the bridge, we still had 28 km to ride. The wind was awful by now and we were hoping it will stay the same for tomorrow to aid us off the island. You can guarantee it will turn!!

The church in the village off Ars de Re.

We are staying in a cabin park tonight. Cheapest accomodation of our trip at $89 but quite satisfactory. It is clean and functional with a huge bonus I will reveal shortly.

We went for a walk to the nearest beach, out the back gate. We were told to follow the blue paint on trees.

There was no clear path and the blue paint was like a scavenger hunt.

We started to wonder if we were on the wrong path when we saw the barbed wire and French military signage.

Then there was this bunker. Subsequent research revealed the Germans realised the strategic positioning of the island and occupied it during WWII and build many bunkers.

Finally we made it to the beach, a bit of a slog over sand dunes. Cycling is far easier.

Getting my feet wet in the Atlantic. I quite like this photo.

Back to the park and I noted a bit of Australia. Callistemons flowering (bottlebrush). Lots of hire bikes available.

The big bonus. The park has bike racks outside each room however guess where our bikes are?? A picture tells a thousand words…..

Yes, that’s our bedroom. Tony has since rearranged them as that is his side of the bed 😝😝

Day 12 done and dusted. I do feel better today only having cramps for a few hours. We have done 133 km today, and nearly 1500 km for the trip so far.

We have reached our most westerly and ( nearly) southerly point and tomorrow we start our next lap across France at a lower latitude.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, smile on 😊

A day to chill, smell sea air and recover

The day started with two big questions. Firstly, were the bikes ok? I had woken before 5 am but felt I could not sneak out due to a tricky and noisy lock on the door, so I waited inpatiently for Tony to awake.

Per the picture below they were there. Many hosts do not understand the value of bikes. I often do not understand why our bikes cost so much either. Without the value of the contents we carry the bike and fittings is over $10,000. Add the cycle clothes, and other bits and pieces we carry it would be $12,000.

Travel insurance will cover a maximum of $5,000 plus clothes. If stolen, apart from a financial deficit, your holiday comes to an abrupt end. Hence our care for their safe storage.

My new bike weights 7.9 kg. Very light, very transportable, very demountable ( eg wheels can be removed in a matter of seconds, not minutes).

The second question, the pot plant. The very first picture is of the deck, plant removed at 7.20 am, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Here is Tony enjoying his breakfast. Shortly thereafter I was sick with a tummy upset and did not finish eating, and later ended up,with a very empty stomach.

We left with me experiencing stomach cramps and nausea unsure how far I could go before experiencing another ‘stop’. I was dizzy (not ideal on a bicycle) but needed to try and push on best I could.

The area had lots of lower laying land swamp like. My bike computer showed the altitude to be below sea level in parts.

At Bouin I needed to stop urgently. Finding a Tabac open, Tony ordered coffee whilst I used their toilets. Poor Tony received two coffees, one with milk and one espresso. I was not in a position to assist him, so he was very perky.

The church over the road from the Tabac in Brouin.

At the next village, Saint Gervais, I found a pharmacy open and had a chat to the pharmacist and purchased some anti spasmodics. Around the corner was this statue of Saint Gervais. We snapped it as we have a friend in New Zealand with the same name, and I vaguely recall him saying something about being named after a Saint.

Whilst Tony waited for me, he saw this car.

Back into the forests again. I do enjoy these trails.

Another village, another Saint. This one being Hilaire. We stopped and purchased a hot chocolate each, and I kept mine down. Good sign. I was starting to feel a heap better with something in my system. At this point we had ridden 60 km.

Saint Hilaire
Another baguette dispenser

We followed the coastline along a variety of surfaces including compacted gravel, paving and bitumen.

The tide was low, heaps of exposed rock in this section.

A variety of various village and town views.

Ah back onto a forest trail, our happy place.

Good information is a available on the region known as the Vendee (formerly Poitou).

Here there are two tracks. The broader one is for cyclists, the narrower for walkers.

We stopped on a bridge to take a photo but we were distracted by ‘something’ heading our way, taking up most of the path. What on earth were we looking at?

The guy stopped. He only spoke French but we understood he made this himself, and it floats. He pedals it in the water and goes fishing. Really interesting.

The view that we stopped to photograph as we crossed the bridge
The other side of the bridge view

Ah back into the forest 😊

We arrived into Les Sables d’Alonne a few hours before check in (shorter days ride at 90 km), and fortunately we were given access to our room.

After showering and washing our clothes we walked around Port Olona ( Port de Plaisance) adjacent to our accomodation.

Following the waterway down Quai George V we boarded a little ferry (after paying 1.10 euro each) to cross over to the far side. The ferry takes all of about 90 seconds.

We wandered to Grande Plage (Beach). It is a long beach with lots of 10-12 story buildings overlooking the beach. we wandered down the Promenade.

Tough way to earn a living. Beach art. He had a mat out for donations.

Walking back to the ferry we entered a nice old church. Hard to photograph as it is in a narrow street, but the door was open. Music was playing and there were people seated. To my horror I realised I’d walked into a funeral. I did a very quick about turn.

A borrowed photos below sans funeral.

This boat is in dry dock, looks to be a bit of a challenge.

Back on the ferry, last few shots.

Thanks for reading, I am hitting the sack a bit earlier tonight. we have a bigger day tomorrow.

Ooroo,smile on 😊

Nasty Nantes and other navigational technicalities

Up bright and early, looking out the window of our accomodation. I note the boulangerie is closed. We were first to arrive at breakfast. Surprise 😲

Today we rode 122 km. On paper it looked straight forward but it was far from it. I do not think I have ever got on and off my bike, cleat, un cleat, walk crossings, avoid moving people, fast moving traffic, turned left, right, left quite as much as today.

One of the main reasons was the large city of Nantes, Frances sixth largest city with a larger metro population of around one million. We stayed on the southern side of the Loire to try and avoid the worst of it.

Before the Nantes urbanisation, there were some lovely vistas.

Beautiful field of red poppies
Onion farm, with a sign promoting a new cycle path through it

Photos around Nantes were not a priority. We just concentrated on getting in and out of urbanisation as safely as possible. Notwithstanding that, I actually did not spot one interesting thing. It was an ugly conglomeration of industry from todays perspective.

This was looking back at the main bridge between north and south Nantes. What you can’t see is that the traffic is barely moving. Lots of trucks just crawling.

I did do some quick research on Nantes tonight and the older area does have some redeeming qualities and history.

Sadly during WWII the Germans destroyed 2000 buildings and rendered another 6000 unsafe. The city wins awards for it’s innovation.

Some 10 km after the city, things calmed and we joined a canal path. Finally some piece back in nature.

Moi on said canal path

Looking ahead, that bridge is the last one that crosses the Loire before it empties into the Bay of Biscay. I have read reports from riders, mostly saying it is awful to ride across as it is exposed, windy and has a narrow cycle lane.

Here is the bridge to Saint Nazaire as we rode closer. The river has become muddy and quite ugly. Man has stuffed it up. In addition there is significant siltation, part of which I understand is the result of a competition between the incoming tide, and the outflowing Loire.

The incoming tide reaches 30 km up the Loire as far as Nantes.

There are numerous of these fishing jetties and huts, all privately owned. They are maintained to varying standards but the jetties look wonky in many cases. Low tide does not add to the appeal.

Finally we reach the west coast of France. We have successfully completed our second crossing of France laterally, at different latitudes. Our first was in 2016 en route London to Venice, albeit a more direct route.

Time to head south for a few days.

The first highlight was the Serpent of the Sea, an interesting metal sculpture. It is very long (130 m) and was made by Huang Yong Ping in 2012. It is installed in the intertidal zone at Saint Brevin, at the mouth of the Loire ( southern side).

It was low tide when we visited, but at high tide, most of times covered. The intention is that marine fauna and vegetation will invade it over time.

By coincidence, my neighbour Dayle sent me the picture below this morning, courtesy of David Attenborough. At higher water levels and a drone camera, it shows the magnificence of the serpent.

We followed a walking path along the beach. It was very pleasant.

Then there were areas where there was more extensive vegetation verges.

Food options had been scarce today, without deviation. We hung on and shortly after turning south, we found a village, with a boulangerie so we grabbed some lunch and sat under a nice shady tree of the church below. You could just see the ocean. We had ridden just under 100 km at this point.

It was hot again with 34C so we moved onwards. We were only about 28 km from our accomodation.

We rode into Pornic, an interesting town crawling with tourists. This had been our original overnight stop but due to issues with bike storage, I cancelled and moved us further south.

Again, the tide is low, and it is a very muddy river, boats stuck on the mud. You would need to time your boat trips well here.

We are now in the town of Le Bernerie en Retz, boasting a long sandy beach and lagoon. The water is part of the Bay of Biscay, that is part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The beach
Man made lagoon to swim in
Looking south

Our accomodation is nice but we are not happy re the bikes. The owner has insisted they stay in his front yard, adjacent to a 3 foot low fence. He says he has a 300 euro bike and it’s never been touched….I told him the value of mine, his eyes popped. He moved his bike and put ours in his rack, and we have our locks on them. Reality is a two minute job and they would be gone. 🙏

The annoying thing is we have a back deck. They could easily go there as the fence in the backyard is typical of many European homes. It would be about 10 foot tall and solid rock. It would be safe as.

Our little deck

However this guy won’t budge on the issue of our bikes. On breakfast I did score a win. Instead of 8.30 am he agreed to 7.30am.

At that time he will move a pot plant that stands between our deck and their deck and we may move about the back garden. It was stressed, not until the pot plant is moved!

The pot plant barrier 😊

Time to get some shut eye. It’s now 9.30 pm.

Thanks for reading, smile on 😊