Day 24 and 25 – coming back

Bordeaux, Caen, Ouistreham, Portsmouth, Clapham Junction, Twickenham

Trip dist: 51.08 km
Total dist: 1800 km
Ride time: 4.18.26 hrs
Tot ride time: 106.29 hrs
Avg speed: 11.86 km/h
Max speed: 29.90 km/h
Alt Asc: 118 m
Tot alt asc: 18574 m
Dist Asc: 4.10 km
Tot dist asc: 515 km
Down: 130 m
Tot down: 18828 m
Dist down: 4.72 km
Tot dist down: 558 km
Max Alti: 116 m
Calories: 466 kcal
Total calories: 82773 kcal

After a practically sleepless night in the hotel I started my way back to London on the train at 7.08.

It was just a strange night that was supposed to bring thunderstorm and rain through the whole of the night, instead it was just hot and still calm before the storm. The air-conditioning in the room was working but was a bit noisy and sleeping in bed after more than 3 weeks in the tent was rather strange as well. Could have been my experience from last year when I nearly lost my train because the alarm didn’t sound. I tried the alarm several times during the trip and it worked fine but maybe just something at the back of my mind.

Anyhow, I managed to catch the train without any problems. The switch of the train was very smooth as well. Didn’t have to even change the platform. Which was great as the first train was delayed by about 7 minutes and I had 19 to start with.

The first train was TGV so it was very fast at moments. The second train was an InterCity. It was the slowest the train could go. I wasn’t rushing really so I was happy enjoying the landscape. Suddenly the train has become the busiest thing I have seen since times of communist Poland when people were jumping through windows to catch a sit. There were groups of kids coming and going to holiday camps. Suddenly there were 10 or 15 bikes. Luggage everywhere. And yet they managed to get to Caen on time.

I decided that I will take the overnight ferry from Ouistreham to Portsmouth. Arriving after 22.00 in Portsmouth would have me stranded there. So another sleepless night it was going to be. I had a ride around Caen, and then popped in to Lidl on the way out to get some food for the afternoon.

Then I had the slowest ride to Ouistreham. Stopped at some place that looked like some old bath place to have my lunch.

Got to the Brittany Ferries and had the ticket printed. Then went for a ride around Ouistreham. Visited the D-DAY landing places. Went back to the town and had 3 very strong coffees. Then it was just the wait for boarding.

On the ferry found a nice sofa and set up the camp in there. Was asleep before I remember. Woke up at 2.00 to the sound of snoring. Had to put earphones in and then woke up at 5.00. Washed myself and changed the shirt.

Got to Portsmouth train station and took the 7.28 train to Clapham Junction. Then had a ride from Clapham Junction and to the shop to get some food for later.

Feel absolutely exhausted from the travelling but I had some fantastic holidays. I think I might do it again.

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Day 23 – 12/08 – Bordeaux

Camping Bel Air – La Sauve, Bordeaux on cycling path

Trip dist: 37.69 km
Total dist: 1749 km
Ride time: 2.12.36 hrs
Tot ride time: 102.11 hrs
Avg speed: 17.05 km/h
Max speed: 44.27 km/h
Avg power: 54 W
Alt Asc: 85 m
Tot alt asc: 18456 m
Dist Asc: 2.69 km
Tot dist asc: 511 km
Down: 174 m
Tot down: 18697 m
Dist down: 6.62 km
Tot dist down: 553 km
Max Alti: 139 m
Avg HR: 104
Max HR: 137
Calories: 821 kcal
Total calories: 82306 kcal

Very short trip today.

I have passed through Bordeaux twice in the past trips but never stopped to see the place.

Woke up early this morning – 6.00. I didn’t want to rush through the morning as I had the check in at the hotel from 12.00 only. So I just pondered around the pitch and the camp. Started getting my stuff together. By 8.00 I had nearly everything packed. Just waited for the tent to dry down from the morning dew. Had my breakfast and the gas cartridge gave up on me very close to boiling another cup of coffee. It wasn’t going to be. Had part of the baguette, prepared snack for later. Packed the tent and was out of the camp by 10.00.

There was no point in rushing through the ride today. I had around 40km to go and plenty of time. The cycling path to Bordeaux was really nice. Plenty of places to stop have a coffee or just visit a little village. I stopped in Lignan had a coffee and a Coke. After yesterday’s drive the back break was playing a bit so sorted it out in there. Getting better at this thing I think.

There was only one bit of the path that wasn’t well marked and I found myself on a very busy road to Bordeaux. Checked the map and the phone and decided to go back to last roundabout and there was a sign for cycling path. I just didn’t go enough through the roundabout last time. After this point I got through to Bordeaux relatively easy.

I booked a hotel room in Ibis Budget close to the train station. I didn’t realise it was opposite to the train station. Perfect as I have 7.08 train to get me to Caen.

After checking in and a shower I went to visit the Bordeaux. It was very hot. 35°C +. Had a 10km + walk around the centre of the city. Some very interesting architecture, loads of places to visit, galleries and museums. It is Sunday so quite a few places shut.

I didn’t know why I wasn’t so keen on Bordeaux before. One thing that struck me today was how dirty the streets are. There was a small of urine and poo in quite a few places.

French don’t clean the dog shit at all.

Sadly the city is full of homeless people. Met a few Polish guys in the shady entrances to the shop or a tenement houses (kamienica).

The place is absolutely cycling and walking friendly. Loads of roads are just for pedestrians and cyclists only. I think I would have to come here in autumn or spring to enjoy the city to full extent. It was just a touch too warm for a longer walk. Maybe coming with someone the knows the place would help. It was a strange experience in Bordeaux again. I can see the beauty of the place but it is just too dirty for the weather that they are having.

Got some provisions from a small shop round the corner and came back to the hotel.

Another shower. Packed now fully dry tent and the towel. No washing today. Hopefully early night as well. Air-conditioned room for tonight. It doesn’t work perfectly but it keeps the room definitely cooler.

Will try not to make it as difficult as last year my trip to the train.

Day 22 – Pines, heather and cicadas

Camping Bel Air, Creon, Langoiran, St-Morillon, La Voile, Hostens, St-Symphorien, Guillos, St-Michel-de-Rieufret, Portets, Creon, Camping Bel Air

Trip dist: 121.08 km
Total dist: 1712 km
Ride time: 5.25.25 hrs
Tot ride time: 99.58 hrs
Avg speed: 22.32 km/h
Max speed: 37.67 km/h
Avg power: 71 W
Alt Asc: 402 m
Tot alt asc: 18371 m
Dist Asc: 12.82 km
Tot dist asc: 509 km
Down: 391 m
Tot down: 18.523 m
Dist down: 14.39 km
Tot dist down: 547 km
Max Alti: 131 m
Avg HR: 129
Max HR: 153
Calories: 4491 kcal
Total calories: 81485 kcal

Couldn’t have been so close to Gascogne and Le Lands and not step in. Remember my first encounter with Le Lands in 2010 on my way to Santiago de Compostela. I travelled through Bordeaux and went to Mimizan. Then the following day took a main road down to Bayonne.

I came back in 2012 on my tour de France.

What got embedded in my mind after both times of travel through the region: the smell of pine trees, the heather by the roadside and the sound of cicadas.

I had about 40km round trip to get in and out so I knew it will be a bit more kilometres today.

Had a coffee. The gas still lasted. I think I might be very lucky if the water boils tomorrow as well.

Had the baguette, croissant and the coffee of course for the breakfast and was out about 10.00. After crossing the river Garonne I was going through the last vineyards and getting into the forests.

I decided to take the straight as an arrow road from St-Seive to Hostens. I realised that it was Saturday and there were loads of cars and motorhomes. People finishing holidays or starting maybe. So just before Cabanac I went for a pee stop and after consulting the map I found a cycling path next to the main road. Found the path and before I knew it I was in the beautiful forest and had cycled 50 km.

Followed through the forest to St-Symphorien. I have done 35 km in the cycling path. It was great but very little happening. Counted cyclists I passed by. 16. 3 groups of 3 and 7 single individuals.

Recorded a short video

Pines, heather and cicadas

Then went through Hostens. Stopped at cemetery to get some fresh water and was off again. In St-Symphorien I went back to the road. A little bit more of excitement and things to see. I was riding through kilometres of the forest. Loved It. It got quite warm as well. So the smells were just unbelievable. Let Lands of the Gascogne never disappoints.

It was yet another beautiful cycling day. Total change of scenery and topography of the terrain. The only problem I have with cycling on flat is that I have to pedal constantly. I don’t think I pushed the pedals as many times as I did today on any other day of this trip. The cycle path was on a small slope all the time. I went up about 40m in 30km. So I had to push slightly harder there.

Apart from this the land of Le Lands is as flat as a pancake. The only uphill or down I had it was in the first and the last 20km between Creon and Portets.

Got my food from Carrefour, now chilling out. Found a little bottle of Bergerac on shelves of the supermarket.

Day 21 – 10/08

Camping Bel Air, Loupes, Croignon, Jonqueyres, Nerigean, Port de Genissac, Moulon, Tizac-de-Curton, Rauzan, Frontenac, Courpiac, La Sauve, St-Quentin-de-Baron, Creon, Camping Bel Air

Trip dist: 90.41 km
Total dist: 1590 km
Ride time: 5.12.30 hrs
Tot ride time: 94.33 hrs
Avg speed: 17.35 km/h
Max speed: 50.87 km/h
Avg power: 111 W
Alt Asc: 947 m
Tot alt asc: 17968 m
Dist Asc: 27.31 km
Tot dist asc: 496 km
Down: 956 m
Tot down: 18.132 m
Dist down: 30.16 km
Tot dist down: 532 km
Max Alti: 110 m
Avg HR: 116
Max HR: 145
Calories: 3179 kcal
Total calories: 76993 kcal

Great day in the land of wine.

Got my baguette at 8.15 and managed to prepare a coffee and some scrambled eggs. Prepared a sandwich for later and after the usual preparations I was out about 10.00.

Decided to stay all day in the vineyards and just cycled through some beautiful forests, chateau, villages, small towns and loads of slopes with vineyards. Some of the chateau totally out of the fairy tale, some very humble. Same with villages: some were just postcard pretty and some well aged.

Some beautiful little churches but I found only one that was open in St-Quentin-de-Baron. This one showed some old frescoes on one of the walls. The rest of the church was just restored.

Managed to come back to visit the river Dordogne in Genissac. Sat on a bench and had a gianormous nectarine watching the water flow. Behind, what looked like the whole of the village, had a Friday lunch by the river. Getting out of Genissac stumbled across the U-Coop. Stopped for water and some hydrating drinks.

Stopped a few times to check the quality of the grape. Every time I stopped the grapes tasted different. Sweeter, more bitter, warm – those are my favourite, all very juicy. I realised as well that they keep only the grapes at the bottom of the vine. Towards the top of the vine there are only leaves that are trimmed constantly. Some of the vines were old and weathered, there were some new vineyards being set. There is a hope for the future.

Slopes – some of them killers. 11-12%, standing like a walk in front of me. I got up as much today as when I was riding through the mountains. On some of them my legs were burning.

Fabulous day all the time round. Got lost couple of times in small roads with names of winemaker and not the place. Beautiful.

Came back to the camp and most of the people around me were gone. I guess Friday. Now the place is getting filled up with new people.

Let’s enjoy the evening.

Day 20 – 09/08

St-Laurent-des-Hommes, Montpon-Menesterol, Castillon-la-Bataille, St-Jean-de-Blagniac, At.Aubin, Guillac, La Sauce, Creo, Camping Bel Air

Trip dist: 83.94 km
Total dist: 1500 km
Ride time: 5.00.01 hrs
Tot ride time: 89.20 hrs
Avg speed: 16.78 km/h
Max speed: 35.72 km/h
Avg power: 97 W
Alt Asc: 553 m
Tot alt asc: 17020 m
Dist Asc: 17.39 km
Tot dist asc: 468 km
Down: 528 m
Tot down: 17176 m
Dist down: 17.79 km
Tot dist down: 502 km
Max Alti: 57 m
Avg HR: 118
Max HR: 142
Calories: 3305 kcal
Total calories: 73814 kcal

I don’t plan my trips in advance anymore. It is just about enjoyment of the environment and the unknown roads opening in front of me. Never know what I will find round the next corner.

I was waiting for thunderstorm last night and it came. It was going to happen at about 6.00 but it came at midnight.

Prepared all I could beforehand. Nothing directly on the floor in front of the tent. Everything stuck snuggly.

The first wave of thunderstorm wasn’t particularly long or noisy. I can’t remember when it stopped raining.

Then at about 3.00 there was just one huge thunder very close. More rain came.

I woke up at 6.30 and to my surprise the only rain I had was coming from the tree above me. The sky looked rather peaceful.

After a few moments of deliberations I decided to start packing slowly. Let the tent’s roof dry a bit.

There were couple of chairs and a table in a little guy with WiFi area. Had my breakfast there. No coffee again. Just a baguette and some jambon. Couple of white nectarines.

Had a shower and realised that every time the wind comes new drops fall in the tent. Packed up the wet bit separately from the rest of the tent and was ready to go at 9.35. After cleaning the rubbish cycled away. Did about 1.5km when remembered that I left my phone on charge in the utility room.

Back to the camp. Picked up the phone and as I was there went to the toilet as well, and then started the day again at 9.50.

No nasty insects since the moment 0. Perfect. Can go at my own pace. The first part of the road was along a beautiful forest. Got to Castillon-la-Bataille in no time. As I looked at the map last night I had option to go on the D936. Just before Castillon-la-Bataille I was on this road and I didn’t like it a bit. Very busy with loads of lorry traffic. So I went for the second option. Went to the other side of the river Dordogne and cycled along. Very poor road but views were magnificent.

Then there was a bit of tricky navigation. This is why I thought of going along the main road before. It turned out that the navigation problems weren’t that important and I soon realised why. I was in the wine land and there are no signs to places and only to chateau this chateau that.

To get St-Aubin I had to go through a 10% with all bags and stuff and I didn’t mind at all. The views of the vineyards on slopes were just so stunning. And I was in the middle of it on the tiniest of the roads.

I realised that the placement and the orientation of the vineyard changes depending on the orientation on the map. The at some point in the middle of nowhere I went to try some grapes. The first one was warmed up by the sun already. Sweet and very juicy. Then I stopped 6 or 7 times trying different grapes and all of them tasted different. I am sure that one of them had the aftertaste of herbs. The only one I saw with the name of the grapes was a Merlot.

As I was getting closer to the camp I didn’t want the cycling for the day. I was so enjoying the road. Will be back in the vineyards tomorrow.

Very civilised campsite. Set up the tent went back to Creon to get the shopping. About 4km cycle. Finally found in Carrefour a screw-on gas container. So got some pasta and loads of salad for today and some eggs for tomorrow. Came to camp tried the cartridge, it bloody doesn’t work. Fitted fine but no gas out. So it was for the special moment with my old cartridge. I managed to cook the pasta and there is a bit more left. Might cook eggs tomorrow and maybe there is a room for the coffee.

Day 19 – 08/08 – Little mosquitoes, little flies and normal size horse-flies.

St-Laurent-des-Hommes, St-Michel-de-Double, St-Andre-de-Double, Lake Jemaye, La Jemaye, Ponteyraud, St-Aulaye, La Poste, St-Michel-l’Ecluse, La Grave, Echourgnac, Mussidan, St-Laurent-des-Hommes

Trip dist: 96.08 km
Total dist: 1416 km
Ride time: 4.55.46 hrs
Tot ride time: 84.20 hrs
Avg speed: 19.49 km/h
Max speed: 46.79 km/h
Avg power: 121 W
Alt Asc: 842 m
Tot alt asc: 16467 m
Dist Asc: 26.72 km
Tot dist asc: 451 km
Down: 822 m
Tot down: 16648 m
Dist down: 25.92 km
Tot dist down: 483 km
Max Alti: 119 m
Avg HR: 122
Max HR: 162
Calories: 3530 kcal
Total calories: 70508 kcal

Yesterday I thought I would explore the forest around Foret de la Double. Couple of scenic routes, some view points on the map. Looked interesting.

Forgot that yesterday when I was coming here on the border of the forest, whenever I would stop by the woods hundreds of little mosquitoes would be on top of me in a split second.

I didn’t get anything for my breakfast today so decided to see if there is anything in the village of St-Laurent-des-Hommes. The only shop that had anything edible was the boulangerie. Got a pain aux raisins and a croissant. Eat both and set of for the day. All of the rural roads were actually really nice. Some up and downhills through the day. Quite a few little settlements full of character. Nice little old churches, and lovely architecture around.

Then I decided to get to the lake Jemaye. It turned out to be a spot for the day for local and some kids group holiday. Wanted to get a panini. There were 2 shops already open. The man looking like the manager told me I had to wait till 12.00. It was 11.45 – so I got back on the bike and went away.

Few kilometres later in the small town, very picturesque as well, St-Aulaye – I found a bar that was open. Got myself my favourite sandwich jambon, beurre, gruyère, Coke and a coffee. Satisfied that I will survive the road now I decided to go through La Poste and then through a scenic route through La Grave.

Only then at the first stop to get a sip of water I remembered my fights with mosquitoes yesterday. At any time I would slow down or try even to stop they would be on top of me. There were not only mosquitoes but little flies that were trying to get in to my nose and ears, and to top up there were the horse-flies too.

The whole trinity of nasty little insects.

Through the trips that I had in the past I know that I have to go around 15km/h to escape the flying nasties. I’m rather a slow uphill goer but today I was flying. The moment I would slow down I had them on top of me straight away. From km 43 to km 82 I was riding like a possessed man.

Recommend Foret de la Double if anyone wants to practice uphill going skills. I never knew I could go that fast for that long.

It wasn’t all bad news. The forest was beautiful, lush, green, full of beautiful smells. I just didn’t stop to take any photos. It will remain as a memory only in my mind.

Then did the shopping in Intermarche. Got some stuff for tomorrow morning. It might be a late start as thunderstorm is predicted for tonight. From around midnight. So I got a small baguette some ham and couple of nectarines to get me through the morning.

It was a great day in the saddle again. Some great little places and in spite of the little buggers totally enjoyable.

Chicken, coleslaw and a red pepper for supper with some very nice white grapes. The solid variety.

Now waiting for the thunderstorm.

Day 18 – 07/08

Nontron, Brantôme-en-Perigord, Riberac, Sourzac, St-Laurent-des-Hommes.

Trip dist: 102.66 km
Total dist: 1320 km
Ride time: 5.43.12 hrs
Tot ride time: 79.25 hrs
Avg speed: 17.94 km/h
Max speed: 43.10 km/h
Avg power: 86 W
Alt Asc: 601 m
Tot alt asc: 15624 m
Dist Asc: 18.12 km
Tot dist asc: 424 km
Down: 721 m
Tot down: 15825 m
Dist down: 25.20 km
Tot dist down: 457 km
Max Alti: 252 m
Avg HR: 126
Max HR: 144
Calories: 4471 kcal
Total calories: 66978 kcal

Last night thought to move the camp around Riberac. 60km of the road and the camp looked ok on the website.

I was up 7.15. After the breakfast. The baguette and some bacon, goat’s cheese and nice, fresh little cucumbers. No coffee. Running out of gas. Just keeping the last bit for one special occasion. Whatever it might be.

I was out of the camp around 9.20 and heading towards Brantôme-en-Perigord. As beautiful as Dordogne is with spectacular views and some really pretty towns and villages the state of roads is just appalling. This is between towns. The towns themselves are even worse.

So riding much slower especially downhill.

The first bit of the trip took me to the town of Brantôme-en-Perigord. What a place full of character and some stunning architecture integrated with the caves. Very picturesque. To the point of being picture perfect. Loads of tourists around. I had a quick round around the town and set of towards Riberac. This bit of the road was going along the river La Dronne. Some spectacular views around. Clouds came as well and the temperature dropped. I was doing really well in the saddle and the distance was just disappearing. I got to Riberac before 13.00 and done 60km. A bit early to settle. I was full of energy and ready to go again. So I checked for campsites around and the one in Mussidan, actually in Sourzac looked like it might be interesting. Without any further thinking I set of for the third leg of today’s trip. The road wasn’t marked as main one. It was rather busy. Quite a few tracks of the heavy gauge. Got to the camp and noticed that the office wasn’t open on Tuesday. Stood there for a while and then picked up the phone and asked Google for the closest camping place around.

There was one at 11km on the other side of Mussidan. I got ok to Mussidan, spotted a Super-U and did some basic shopping just in case. Some cooked chicken, salad, some fruit and tomatoes. Couple of beers for the evening. After the stop asked Google again for the route. It took me through some village roads, off road, to a point of no return. Always remember – Google maps for cycling are in beta. Somehow managed to get to the closest better road and cycled with Google to the camp. It turned out to be a very small intimate place run and owned by English. Apparently they have got loads of Dutch people coming but this year even they stayed at home in Dutch camps as the weather was so perfect. I noticed that there weren’t as many people on any of the camps I have stayed.

Beautiful place for the camp on the river with access to a small lake. The guys here do mainly gites, there are only 6 places for caravans and a small field for tents. Nice facilities.

A day full of riding as the weather got a bit cooler. Enjoyed a bit of a flatter roads. Not too much because it gets boring and doesn’t make space for downhill and rest.

Washing done, the thunderstorm predicted for today didn’t happen. They moved it to Wednesday/Thursday night. Might be stuck at the camp on Thursday.