STORY OF A BICYCLE ODYSSEY BY CORENTIN WARO
WHEN FRANCE CLOSES ITS BORDERS, OR HOW TO TRAVEL DIFFERENTLY
Let's take the positive side of this pandemic, of the closure of these borders, so let's take the time to discover our great country. This is what we chose to do last summer with my partner Mathilde. Aware of how lucky we are to live on the Basque coast, we feel that the population is much more sensitive to the protection of our environment than people living in large cities.
Originally from Lille, I admit that seeing someone throw their cigarette butt into a gutter didn't really alert me, just like taking a plane to travel cheaply to the other end of the city. 'Europe and enjoy the sun that we miss in the north.
Since 2012 and my arrival in the Basque country, I have learned to be aware of the importance of protecting our environment. All the more so thanks to the association of Flocon with the wave with which I am involved. That our consumption choices directly impact our environment. We therefore took the bull by the horns, both having a taste for adventure, we were looking for a stay in France combining roaming, adventure, physical efforts and discovery of local gastronomy for a period of 2 weeks .
Our choice therefore falls on 2 potential circuits:
- The descent of the Rhône from Lake Geneva to its mouth in Marseille
- The crossing of the Odyssey bike between Cap Ferret and Pornic in order to join friends there to end the vacation.
Once the various information had been gathered for the establishment of these stays, we realized that we did not have the skills required to go down the Rhône. So here we are, preparing for our bike trip.
After reading different feedback experiences, we decide to take large steps, which I absolutely do not recommend for families, limit yourself to a single step. You will find all of these steps on the site: https://www.lavelodyssee.com/
For equipment, we had 2 good quality VTCs, we also bought a second-hand trailer to attach behind the bike to transport our belongings. So we had no luggage on the bikes, only one of the 2 bikes that pulled the trailer. We took care to buy spare inner tubes as well as puncture sprays. In terms of food, we planned to dine in restaurants and have lunch as we wished. However, for snacks, we had planned dried fruits as well as fruit compotes.
After having had a few days of rest at the edge of the Arcachon basin, we are ready to leave. My parents-in-law decided to accompany us to Lacanau during the first stage, the first 25 kilometers.
FIRST DAY: LÉGE-SAINT PALAIS SUR MER 133 KM
The first day promises to be complicated knowing that we have never tried our mounts over long distances. We take the road around 8 a.m. assisted by Jacques and Françoise (Mathilde's parents) after 1 hour 15 minutes in the pines we arrive at Lacanau, the final destination of our guides. We are still in great shape for the moment.
After 4 hours of cycling on great cycle paths in the pines, we come across the Montalivet market. We then decide to buy cold meats and cheese in order to have a snack on a city bench in order to recharge the batteries and set off again for more beautiful adventures through the pines under the blazing sun of August and in particular the crossing of the Gironde estuary via the ferry between Verdon sur mer and Royan. It was very simple and I found the price of the crossing very modest (6 euros as a souvenir).
After this short crossing, we get back on our bikes to leave Royan towards Saint Palais Sur Mer along the coast. A few last efforts later and much weakened we reach the domain of Saint Palais; Great 3 star hotel at very reasonable prices with a great breakfast.
For dinner, we stop by chance at the restaurant at Bob's which I think must be the historic restaurant of Saint Palais which offers a large menu with a selection of quality products. After a good, well-deserved meal following this grueling day of cycling, we were ready to continue our adventure.
SECOND DAY: SAINT PALAIS SUR MER - ROCHEFORT 80 KM
First waking up with some cramps in our legs, obviously we hadn't taken the time to do any stretching the day before. Fortunately the sun is there to accompany us. After a great breakfast in the hotel park we set off again for 80 km, 50 km less than the day before; which is good for morale. The Vélo-odyssée offers you here a royal stage with a view of the sea, a cycle path which winds through the coastal forest and leads to pretty beaches. We then discover the oyster ponds of Marennes, it's magnificent.
We find a superb little restaurant facing the ocean: La Plage. I highly recommend the starter which offers oysters in 3 forms, a treat like all the dishes in this restaurant. After this fabulous meal, we took the time to take a nap by the water so as not to suffer too much digestion on the bike. When it's time to get back on the bike, the desire is no longer as strong as the first time, especially since in the evening we stop at Rochefort.
For this evening, no seaside resort but a hotel in the center of the city which lends itself more easily to hosting salespeople on the road (as I usually do during my prospecting) than a hotel where tourists come to enjoy the city. This actually made us feel strange, we seemed to be in a dead town, the restaurants were mostly closed and the town was deserted, we took the time to go see the Hermione. After finding a decent restaurant, we don't hang around and head back to the hotel.
THIRD DAY: ROCHEFORT - L’AIGUILLON SUR MER 100 KM
Here we are on our 3rd day of cycling, 210 km of cycling in our legs and the only thing we can say is that we feel it. We can't wait to leave Rochefort to get back to the coast. Luck is always on our side, the sun is always out.
After a hearty breakfast, we mount our horses towards La Rochelle. The cycle path is always just as pleasant in the small marshes, we have the impression of being completely elsewhere but especially not in France, there are wild animals from everywhere living there peacefully, we come across a few fishermen from time to time who look like they were having a good time. We can see the towers of La Rochelle in the distance, tourists flocking around the old town, it's a real return to civilization for us after these few hours of pedaling in this no man land. Happy to have made half of our journey for the day, but aware of the road that remains to be covered, we decide to continue without marking time, to just stop to buy sandwiches that we will eat once we get there. ocean found. Head to the small village of La Pelle and its Carrelets (fishing hut mounted on stilts). The sandwiches once swallowed, we take the time to lie down on the sand at the bottom of the squares to rest our legs and let the hours pass when the sun is at its zenith.
Direction l'aiguillon sur mer, we still take in the view, it's magnificent. We then arrive at the large bay of Aiguillon which gently brings us to the village. We then join the magnificent “Maison Salée” which is a guest house of remarkable authenticity: Its owner is very friendly and immediately puts us at ease, advising us of good places to eat in the area. We decide to continue our journey on foot towards La Fault / Mer to enjoy a very simple meal in a small local creperie. Note the enormous Luna Park on the bridge between Aiguillon and La Faute/mer.
FOURTH DAY: AIGUILLON/SEA - BRETIGNOLLES/SEA 77 KM
The legs are starting to feel heavier and heavier, but the day is off to an excellent start thanks to our Host's great homemade breakfast on the small terrace facing the sun. I can't wait to start pedaling because today we are passing through the sands of Olonnes, a city that has made me dream since my childhood because it is the starting point of the Vendée Globe (Race around the world , solo, non-stop and without assistance, on monohull sailboats ). It is therefore with great enthusiasm that we hit the road again, as usual, it takes a good 10 kilometers to find real sensations in the legs because they are so tight. The view is magnificent, we follow the coast with the dunes on one side and the other of the cycle path.
We begin to see the Sables d'Olonnes in the distance and a restaurant on the right of the road catches my attention: Les Chardons ” It was a real surprise, it's an Italian restaurant which enhances these dishes with great products. I absolutely recommend the truffle pizza. It was a real moment of happiness to stop at this restaurant, especially as the weather was starting to cloud over. We are now heavier to get back on the road.
After the long-awaited passage of the sands of Olonnes, a pretty seaside town, we continued our way along the coast to head towards Bretignolles sur mer and its Michelin-starred hotel/restaurant, very good value for money. We therefore chose to treat ourselves for this last night, knowing that he offers a very reasonable stopover formula. After a shower, and having taken care to put on our best outfit, we headed to the restaurant for a 3-course star menu centered around the sea and it was a real treat for our taste buds. We are now ready to sleep soundly before the last stage and the long-awaited arrival at our friends' house.
FIFTH DAY: BRETIGNOLLES/MER - PORNIC 85 KM
The day started superbly well with breakfast in the Michelin-starred restaurant (this breakfast was included in the stopover formula), and it is clearly the best breakfast I have tried in my life (so many fresh products, bread and homemade brioche, cheese from local producers, etc.). Once all these good things had been swallowed up, we now had to head towards Pornic to find our friends.
We choose to no longer follow the Vélo-odyssey to save time but above all kilometers and to cut through the countryside, because they were only small departmental roads where we suspected that we would not encounter too many cars . So we leave the seaside. Even if the first pedal strokes are hard, I am so enthusiastic at the idea of finding my friend as well as resting my gluteal muscles for good that the pedal stroke accelerates all the way the speed of my boat (my bike + the trailer that I have now been pulling for 390 kilometers.)
After a short stop in the square of a small village, where we took care to buy some food for a quick snack, the kilometers stretch to Pornic. It was then that around 3 p.m. we finally placed the bikes on the gate of Antoine our Host for the week. On the program: surfing, sun, aperitifs and laughs.
I am writing this story to you almost a year after having done it, and it brings me joy to remember all these magnificent landscapes that we crossed. I recommend to anyone to do this Vélo-odyssey adventure, choose your route, the length and duration of your trip according to your physical abilities, especially if you are taking your children. For all the addresses that I cite in this article, I recommend them to you with my eyes closed. Above all, I hope that the story of our adventure will make you want to embark on an “adventure vacation” without going to the other side of the world.
Corentin, brother of Victorine and sales manager of Plaids Cocooning