We have chosen easy riding for our migration south. The terrain has been flat and the routes have been reasonably straight. Ahead, we have about 250 km more on a canal route prior to arriving by the Mediterranean.
Actually, the fall weather has been unseasonably warm on our ride, and we have been seeking shade for our rest stops. The Mediterranean is having unseasonably wet weather which we hope passes before we arrive.
The Last of Atlantic Coast (Royan to Lacanau 83km, 1 day)
Sandy paths on forested sand dunes and closed seaside resorts dominated this day’s ride, which we did with Nick, an ex-London cabbie whom we’d met on the ferry from Royan to Pointe de Grave on the Medoc peninsula. The day passed quickly with much conversation. That night, because no hotels were open, we camped in the woods near a small pond. Unfortunately just before setting up camp we saw fresh footprints of wild boar, so we had a bad night’s sleep hearing noises in the forest.
Rail Trails (Lacanau to Bordeaux 67km, 1 day)
Within 5 km of camp, we joined a newly paved trail that headed into Bordeaux. Once onto pavement and off the soft sand of the tracks we’d ridden near our camp, we immediately cleaned our chains and drive train so as to enjoy the smooth ride into Bordeaux, where we were greeted by our warm showers hosts Hans and Bernadette. Hans is a landscape architect, who has worked on transforming the city landscape, including the bike paths that we much enjoyed.
Like Vancouver, Bordeaux has reclaimed its water front, transforming it into a planned urban landscape. Of special note is an installation called “the mirror”, a rectangular pond that periodically fills and drains itself, with the water never more than a few millimetres deep. We spent a day enjoying the waterfront and getting lost in the old city, which is very pedestrian and bike-friendly.
More rail trail (Bordeaux to Toulouse, 287km 3 days)
In the morning, Hans led us across town by bike and we took up again rail trail. This led us gently to the Abbé de la Sauve-Majeure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its position on one of the many pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. It is a ruin, but the ornate capitals on the top of the remaining columns are great fun. We continued from the rail trail onto Canal Lateral a la Garonne path that goes to Toulouse. Soon we stopped at a camping municipal beside the river. We had little option as it was getting dark, but the site was excellent.
In the next two days we rode about 180km on paved bike path along the canal to Toulouse. We enjoyed good food and reasonable weather. Despite being late in the year we were often in the presence of other cyclists and walkers, and we even camped and enjoyed an evening and good bottle of wine with a cycling “pilgrim.”