We caught the 10am ferry from Arcachon to Bélisaire on Cap du Ferret in pouring rain. The crossing, on a small boat, took about 20 minutes. It continued to rain for the next hour or so and, apart from a nice, new Gortex jacket keeping my top half warm, the rest of me was cold and wet, and wondering how much of this I’d want to tolerate in a day.
These days, my cycling trips are about enjoyment, rather than endurance. If the going gets too horrible, I’m happy to change plans at the drop of a hat. I did this last year when the ‘Beast from the East’ brought snow to parts of Spain (and much of the rest of Europe) in late March. Then, I put the bike in a cardboard box and flew to Tenerife, where it was more like 20C, rather than 2C.
However, by just after midday, the rain eased and we started to dry out a little.
We ploughed on until we noticed a Centre Ville sign to the left of the cycleway. It was a fortuitous diversion because we found a great little restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.
Looking at our progress, we realised we had a good chance of catching the 7:30pm ferry from Le Verdon-sur-Mer to Royan and kept up a good pace on the cycleways with the odd diversion to smaller roads where we could cycle a little faster. At one point, we were directed onto a single-track concrete path. It had seen better days and slowed us down for a few miles but we were soon picking up the pace again.
At one junction we spotted a couple of other cyclists and ended up following them along a stretch of cycleway. They had panniers on their touring bikes but were keeping up a good speed. As we pulled alongside and started chatting, it turned out that Colin (from Wells) and Neil (from Bristol) had set out from Bilbao and were heading the Cherbourg for a return ferry on Saturday evening. Their goal was to ride 120 miles per day, a very long way when fully loaded for touring! Within a few minutes of meeting them, Neil had a puncture. Andy and I agreed to go on ahead but to call when we arrived at the ferry to let them know the time of the last sailing of the day.
We saw the 6:15pm ferry departing as we pulled into the terminal, which gave 30 minutes for a beer at a bar across the road before boarding the 7:30pm ferry. We’d contacted Colin and Neil to let them know that the 7:30pm sailing would be the last of the day but they arrived in good time, so we went across together on the 20 minute trip and then all checked into a nearby hotel. We didn’t see them again because we were dining separately.
Andy and I then had the best meal of the trip so far in Le Petite Bouchon, just across the road from the hotel. We then enjoyed a night cap in the bar above the restaurant before heading back to the hotel.
We’d covered around 77 miles and the plan was then for a shorter, 48-mile ride, from Royan to La Rochelle, the following day. But plans don’t always work out…