Monday, 31 August 2015

Packing for our ACE ride. Saturday 18th July 2015

@suukii and I are packing ready to catch Ferry to Santander.

This is everything I need to get into my two panniers - everything we need for cycling and living in hotels for three weeks as we ride back from Spain through France to Caen/Ouistreham to catch ferry home. 

We have done a few practice runs staying in pubs overnight over recent weekends. And our packing list from #LEJOG in 2012 was still pretty good - although we are taking less winter clothes for a mid summer ride through France.

Ready to go!

We are intending that this trip  will be a little more sedate than the LEJOG, and hopefully the weather will be a little better! We intend to travel around 80km/50 miles each day, and we are choosing quiet cycle routes rather than more direct but busier roads.  We are staying in pre-booked hotels each night, and have scheduled 4 rest days on the three week trip (actually 19 days). Given that we will be traveling in some popular holiday areas during August, we pre-booked all the hotels for the whole route in April.

Here's my packing list for this trip

Hugh Clothes
1 pr Sandals with cleats
1 pr deck Shoes 
5 pairs pants/ Padded pants
3 pairs socks - wicking/merino
2 pairs shorts
2 smartish trousers
2 smart linen shirts 
1 merino jersey
2 short sleeved merino T-shirts 
1 long sleeved merino shirts
1 polo
swimming trunks
Swimming hat
Web Belt
Silk dressing gown

Waterproof top
Waterproof trousers
White Reflective jacket
Cycling Gloves

Inner tube
Blow-up cylinder (Get you home instant tyre inflation)
Tyre Repair kit
Gaffer Tape
Cable Ties
D-lock and cable
Chain repair link
and for this trip we had to take the following as we were require dto pack our bikes for the coach trip from Santander to Irun.
Bike Bag (we bought 2 new mattress bags - but the CTC bike bag would have done as well)
Parcel tape 
Pedal removing tool

iPad and lead
iPhone and charger lead
Technet 10,000 mAmp-hr Batteries (keeps a handlebar mounted iPhone going all day with no trouble)
USB plug and converters
Lightweight extension lead

Water bottles
Lightweight mugs 
Bamboo Spork 
Water Boiling Element (French hotels do not usually give you tea or coffee making kit)
Lightweight rucksack
Plastic bags
Wallet including euros and our French Carte Blue
Shower bag and shampoos
Wet Wipes
Small First aid kit (Elastic bandage, Melomine, antiseptic)
Deep Heat or equiv.
Sun Cream
Nose cream (50 SPF)
Talcum powder
Mosquito repellent
Clothes Hand Washing liquid
Penknives Swiss  army
Camping towel
Washing line
Sewing kit
Tea Bags and coffee sachets
Body glide
Zeros (Electrolyte sports drink tablets - 3 per person per day)
It looks quite a lot, but it all packs up nicely in Eagle Creek Pack-Lite bags and fits easily into my two 20L Ortleib bags, and comes in at around 12kg.  Its certainly not a minimal set-up, but it does mean we have all we need to keep the bikes on the road, the technology working and to be presentable at hotel restaurants in the evenings!

Getting to Spain: Sunday 19th July

Today we drive from Southampton to Plymouth to catch the 1545 ferry to Santander.  It's a shame we had to do this but it was impossible to get a pedestrian/cycle ticket in any of the ferries out of Portsmouth. It turned out to be more reliable to take a one-way rental than to get tickets on the train with no guarantee we would be allowed to take our bikes on, on a busy summer weekend.

Here's our bikes in the van

And here we are getting on the ferry.
There was a nice community of cyclists heading to Spain.

And bye to UK!

We had an excellent meal in the restaurant this evening.

Monday, July 20th.Arriving in Spain and getting to the start of ourride.

After an excellent dinner on board the ferry we slept we slept well on our bunk beds, and we're up for a leisurely breakfast, giving us just enough time to pack before disembarkation at Santander. Lovely sunny summer day.
Su and other cyclists leaving ferry at Santander.

The next bit of the journey is by coach along the hilly north coast of Spain. We have booked on to the 1700, and have been told we need to pack our bikes. Checked our luggage into Left Luggage and time for a Pinchos lunch and a walk round town.

Here we are about to board our coach

And putting our bikes together at the other end!

We stayed the night in an AirBnB where Sandra, who spoke no English looked after us well using a voice driven translator program on her phone.  Three course meal, a bottle and a half of wine, two bottles of mineral water and coffees - €25.  

Tuesday 21st July. Irun - Hossegor

We Left Our BnB at 0930. Overcast and close day.

Rather bad picture of Su riding across the border into France.

The route today took us through St Jean du Luz, Biarritz ( for lunch), Bayonne, then into Cap Breton and onto Hosegor, where we are staying in the Relais du Lac hotel tonight - on the edge of the eponymous lac. 

It was thundery at lunchtime today and we got a bit wet - but it's still very warm.

Day 1 track
77.05 km
Average speed 16.86 km/ hr

The route from Irun to Biarritz was up and down quite a bit - down to sea level, up onto cliffs. Often the road was quite busy and there was no cycle path. Biarritz itself has all the signs of a city council that doesn't give a toss about cyclists. You could not have taken an inexperienced cyclist on this. Through Bayonne the route quickly became excellent dedicated cycle path, and after Bayonne the now level dedicated path went off on its own through the forest. In Capbretton and Hossegor there are proper two way cycle paths parallel to all main roads - could be Holland! The only issue here was the main shopping area where there was not enough pavement for the pedestrians so they all spilled over the cycle path.

Wednesday 22nd July. Hossegor to Mimizan

ILast night we had supper in a logis hotel in Hossegor. Excellent meal - I particularly enjoyed a main of Tagiatelle in a cream, tarragon and orange (Grand Marnier?) sauce with Fois Gras and Scallops. Brilliant! Local oysters were rather fine too!

On the bad side the hotel was not so good - very noisy road right outside our room. The window would keep the nice down but it was too hot and close (and no A/C) to close.  In the end there was a massive thunder storm and Su plated the hero and went out to put covers on the bike seats.

Left hotel at 1000 after leisurely breakfast - did not want to be too early in Mimizan as our hostest would not be back.

Today we have bicycled over 80km almost entirely on dedicated cycle tracks through the forest - keeping an average speed of 23km/hr most of the way. ( average for whole day 20km/ hr and 450m climbed - surprisingly as the slops were gentle)

It rained a little at the beginning and end of the day but it was mostly just a bit overcast and not too hot.

We had lunch at a place called Saint Girons Plage at the Restaurant de la Mar- and took a leisurely 2 hours over a three course menu. For €12.50 I got Bulots and langoustines, followed by sea bass with julienned vegetables and sea cucumber I think,, followed by Panna Cotta with red fruits coulis. Washed down with the house Rosė.  The ingredients were fantastically fresh, and it puts most Ènglish pubs to shame on both quality and price.

Tonight we are staying at an AirBnB on the outskirts of the town of Mimizan.

Very quite and has a swimming pool.

Today 87 km
Average speed 19.71 km/hr
Height climbed 450m
GPX of actual route

Thursday 23rd July ; Mimizan to Arcachon

We overslept this morning and only awoke in time to wish our hostess thanks as she went to work. We left at 1030!

Nearly all day today we were on dedicated cycle paths through the forest. Pleasing lunch at Bicarosse-Plage - this salad as started followed by salmon and Panna cotta. Pleasing trancy music in background.

On through the woods all day -this was our first day it did not rain all day and it was in the low 30's. Lovely smell of hot pines, and they provide much appreciated dappled shade.
New Forest council please note - THIS is what a forest cycle path looks like. The thousands of people we have passed are travelling through quietly and with minimal environmental impact and not disturbing your precious cars and lorries and coaches, but spending good money at cafės and hotels and campsites.

Tonight we arrived ar Arcachon - a humming seaside town famous for its giant dunes. Actually there is a parallel hill behind the dune which the road and cycle path go up - it was a dare ascent at the end of the day!
We were in the Yatt Hotel on the main beachside

- and our room had an enormous bath with which we were pleased after a hot day!

Supper tonight in an upmarket white table cloth restaurant on the beach
I had the shellfish platter
And I have rarely seen Su so excited as she was by her starter of coddled egg in truffled cream and smoked salmon.
We enjoyed Arcachon Plage - although we went quite early to bed the party went in all night in that happy way that the French (and UK festival goers) seem to do so much better than UK towns.

Today's track was 83 km at an average speed of 18.45 km/ hr, and ascent of 349 m

Friday 24th July . Arcachon to Lacanau Ocean

We made a 0930 departure just in time to catch the 1000 ferry from Arcachon centre to Cap le Ferret.

Today was another easy day rambling along through the forest, alongside lakes and the coast on dedicted cycle paths. Weather mixed. We could have pushed it and made it to Lacaneau for lunch but instead chose a beachside stop 10 km short.

Our hotel is the Vitalparc, a spa hotel,, just up the hill in the country behindthe town.  We have a rest day here. Spent the afternoon at the pool, and supper on the veranda.

Today's trip was 60km, at average speed of 19.4 km/hr and 327m ascent.

As we go into our first rest day we have cycled 307 km (192 miles) and ascended 1693m (5555ft)

At this stage a find myself reflecting on our first rest day on our #LEJoGgently trip in 2012. We were much more tired, rather dehydrated, in need of dry clothes and already fed-up with pub meals lunch and supper. And we had been scared silly by a lorry that nearly ran Su over trying to overtake her on a corner on the brow of a hill in Exeter. There had been no dedicated cycle paths and the roads out of Cornwall and Devon are mostly not fit places for bikes. Not to mention the constant hills!  I have enjoyed this trip much more so far!

Sunday 26th July: Lacaneau to Soulac-sur-Mer

Today was another fantastic ride through the forest between lakesides and seasides. But the best bit was the ride along the Route Forestiere between lac hourtin and the sea. It was a "proper" road , although currently closed to cars, and it had a surface that assures you that at some stage La Tour must have come here!  It felt like it was slightly down hill all the way, but the logs show that we were at 10m above sea level for 15km here, and trucking at 25kph 😀

Not many photos of today. Lunch in Montalivet, and when we were 8km out Su remembered that she had left her bag in the resto - so back to collect it.  Added a few km to what was supposed to be quite a short day.

In Soulac we stayed at L'Ėcume du Jour, a pretty little sea side themed hotel, with a worthy Restaurant - La Table Corto. We ate well - although I was cautious - still recovering from my bug yesterday.  Madame, on receiving us in to the resto, did not recognise us us the two cyclists she had given a room two hours earlier and demanded our reservation!

We did 86 km at an average speed of 20.33 kph and climbed 296m

Monday 27th July, Soulac to Rochfort

After four days of trucking along dedicated cycle paths through the forest today was a day of variations  starting with a ferry - and ending with a FLYING bridge 😀

The ferry from le Verdun in the extreme North of the Medoc to Royan in the Vendėe is rather like a 1980's IOW ferry.  We followed the train track from Soulac and thought we would be on a 1025, and arrived at 1000 - just caught the 1005 ferry - clearly wrong timetable!

The mouth of the Gironde.

The train!

Once over the ferry, some urban stuff along beaches then more forest paths then rather unsatisfactory lunch in Ronce-les-Bains where the waiter was too busy drinking with his mates to be bothered with his clients ( food was fine though)

Crossing the river Seudre - It's all salt marshes here as far as you can see!

After this the paths were far less good - partly right at side of main road, partly gravel track and partly seriously potholed roads.  We cut the corner at the end - but this gave us the added delight of discovering our first flying bridge!  I am quite familiar with floating bridges, but this bridge is suspended from above and the platform flies across the river! Fantastic way to enter Rochfort!

Today's Route was 89km at an average speed of 18.2 kph and we ascended 276m
GPX of Actual Route

Tuesday 28th July, Rochfort to La Rochelle

Easy day today. Meteo  fair morning but rain in afternoon. Most of today's ride was along the coast - much of which was well occupied beaches and coves. We made it to La Rochelle for a Latish lunch when we first arrived at the enormous Port de Plaisance - then it started raining as promised and we scooted on into the old town where our hotel was the Jean d'Acre. Fine hotel - much better than expected for the price and completely at the centre of things!
We had a bit of time for some tourism and urgent needs shopping - and then a cocktail at a South American styled Rhum bar, before eating at a recommended resto.

Distance today 44.2km
Average speed 17.92kph
Ascended 556m
GPX of Actual Route

Wed 29th July, La Rochelle to Niort

POToday we had a longer ride (although I did optimise the route a little to cut some of the distance.

To start with the route followed a canal inland for some distance from the coast. 
La Rochelle is where we pick up the new route "the Francette" of V43 which goes from La Rochelle to the ferry at Caen.  But for this first bit of the route the V43 followed the route of EV1.  It was quite sad to leave the EV1 ("Velodycée") after following it seven and a bit days of riding. At the end I'll add a blog on these French long distance routes. They are fantastic :-)

The EV1 signs

And the parting of the ways - from now on its the V43 - which only officially opened this summer. Interestingly I cached all my open cycle maps in April, and it turns out that Su's which were cached much more recently are quite different.

Later parts of today's route involved quite a lot of unmade surface, but it was surprisingly good. Most of the second part of the route was alongside rivers and was picturesque - but there was no pubs or cafés or anything, We ended up leaving the route to go to a small town (Maillé) - and even that had no eating place- but there was a shop/café, and Madame allowed us to buy some food and some beer and eat on her pavement. Actually quite surreal!

The late afternoon ride along the river into Niort was pleasing, although Su a little saddle sore. Then up the hill and out of the city to LaGrange spa hotel, where we are staying for a rest day.

The LaGrange was odd. It has a sauna (2 seater?) and a jacuzzi both in the middle of the exercise room. It had a lovely pool and a pretty garden and was itself a fine conversion of an old manor into a modern hotel. But it didn't have a resto - out in the sticks in the middle of nowhere! And it didn't seem to have any staff.  It took us ages to find anyone and we had believed we were getting a room with access to the garden, but the room the offered us was pokey. The young woman however sorted us - changing our room so we had a garden room, finding a safe place for our bikes, and tussling up a very acceptable tray of food which we ate at a table poolside, washed down with plenty of cocktails and wine.

The bath was big though!

Distance 94km
Average speed 17.52kph

LaGrange hotel
Our room

Thursday was a rest day, and luckily the forecast was quite good. We got plenty of sun, book reading, and discovered that the somewhat seedy looking Bar des Jeux that we had seen on the main road on the way in actually had a quite acceptable resto, where we walked for lunch and supper.