France 2017 #03 Atlantic Coast

It was quite a thing to actually make it to the coast.

Kapow, and there we were. Clicked over the 1000km mark and all that junk.

But that arrival in itself signalled a bit of a shift.

"Are we there yet?" "How far until..." Which is different from how we'd viewed the Loire, where it just seemed to drift past with no distinct starting or ending points of anything.

Margot's knee had settled down a bit, so we were booking our accommodation a day in advance instead of waiting until lunch time. That was nice, because the days could be given more to riding and less to planning.

If baguettes are a cliche, there's a good reason for it. Fricken baguettes are unavoidable. We didn't mean to buy in to it. For maybe the first two weeks I'd think, "Strapping baguettes to the bike AGAIN today, Dave? - lack of imagination much?" But when you're stopping off to get yet another almond croissant, not also getting baguettes is sheer stupidity.

Almond croissants, by the way, are the perfect cyclist food. Just the right balance of proteins, sugars, and cycling enhancers.

All the farm animals had Margot pegged as a soft touch.

The horizons were bigger, too. If it hadn't been so green it might have seemed like home.

We got chatting with a French cyclist who became our chum; Oliver. He told us about crossing the Passage du Gois, where the sea covers the road except at low tide. It was a stage of le Tour a couple of times and they crashed on the slippery surface.

I didn't crash, but my rear wheel developed a crack on le Gois; "une fissure!" How's these guys pulling out a second-hand wheel and fitting it for me on a Sunday morning? I don't know what's more heroic - them doing the repair, or putting up with my French to conduct the negotiations.

That night we had mussels. Early in the season, so they were small, but they were very tasty.

We both had mixed feelings abut the coast. To my mind, a coast gets better the less people you put on it, but here we had levels of density I could only imagine by conjuring a nightmare.

But it was empty. Not only was it vastly developed; high rise going on forever, tractors grooming the sand, marinas stocked with pleasure craft as far as the eye could see, but it was empty.

Waiting.

An inferno of close-packed fat French flesh, gleaming suntan oil, children, inflatable boats, beach umbrellas and grit-laden towels filled my imagination.

Au contraire, these French school kids on a nature excursion were very cute. We rode on.

Margot has not tired of the French farm animals, nor they of her.

And once we made a special effort and stayed up for sunset.

The costal hinterland is drained marshland. We saw lots of canals.

We bumped in to Oliver again. See - he is talking with his hands while riding his bike. This proves he is French.

I'm a sucker for canals. These huge earthworks were carried out in the very early 1800s as part of a plan to link La Rochelle with Paris. I think wars with the pesky English got in the way.

And then the historic forts all started to look like sand castles. Could this mean it was time to move on? We rode down from La Rochelle to Rochefort. Rochefort was beautiful - there was some kind of maritime festival on the coast, and that, coupled with a holiday weekend, exposed the shortcomings of our laissez-faire attitude to booking things. A 35 degree day and a headwind for the last 30km into Rochefort also exposed us as softarses.

So we overcame the lack of accommodation, and bought ourselves a rest day by catching the train down to Bordeaux.

It was 38 degrees when we arrived, and the locals were making the most of it.

So: a peaceful afternoon, a long sleep, and now a day to kick back and drink strong beer while thinking of the next stage. More canals.

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Created By
David Hume
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