Deba to Bordeaux – 29th Oct to 5th November 2015

Deba to Bordeaux – 29th Oct to 5th November 2015

Deba to Bordeaux – 29th Oct to 5th November 2015

Thursday 29th October – Deba to San Sebastian

51.39 km completed

47.5 kmph max speed

12.9 kmph average

Total 390.7km

We’re off to a slow start. After sharing our room with our wet tent and ground sheet, we have that to repack, but at least it’s dry now. Then we cycle past the huge church we looked in on last night to the main square in Deba for brekkie. Question of today – do we really need the tent and ancillaries? It’s OK because we’re getting used to carrying all this stuff but at some point (probably not until we’re in Spain again, in 2016, cycling the eastern coast), we need to decide how many nights camping out of 7, make the tent worthwhile!!!

Uneventful day today. We’re both tired but we soon settle into the rhythm of the steady grind uphill. It takes us an hour to cycle 5km uphill from Deba, (it’s amazing how fast the downhills go after all that effort) but strangely we settle into the mindless monotony of these longhills and then there’s some beautiful sea views in Zumaia but we keep going and stop for lunch at Getaria, which seems to be quite a touristy stop with quaint narrow streets leading down to the harbour,where we just love watching the locals. There seems to be a big eating and drinking culture here; at lunchtime all the cafe bars have huge displays of tapas, well we think it’s called pintxos, it’s a slice of baguette with a topping (a Basque speciality) In the bar in Getaria there must’ve been 10 types to choose from.

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So we go to the bar, order our drinks, ask for a plate and then help ourselves. No one wants money from us yet and no one seems to take note of what we take. Once we’re done we order coffee, continue to people watch and when I can’t procrastinate further, we pay the bill and move on. We discover, from our warmshowers host, that pintxos should just be a snack at 11am or perhaps mid afternoon, not a whole plate full for lunch as we’ve been eating it. But they are so tasty we can’t resist! We go down to the church and the sea front and harbour before we head off for the rest of the journey.

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We then cycle through Zarautz, which is only of interest because it’s the halfway point. From here the traffic gets heavier and the scenery / route kinda dull. We’re about 8km from our destination when there’s a loud snapping noise as the chain comes off the front chainring for the 3rd time today. We get off and see that one of the teeth on the chain ring has snapped off – not a little chip but almost the entire tooth gone. I’m pretty pissed – we’ve only been cycling 8 days and in that time we’ve had a broken stand, snapped spoke and now a damaged chainring. We haven’t done that many miles either but we did use the bike in 2014 where we cycled to work on it most days as well as doing our training weekends.

From here it’s to the suburbs of San Sebastian and our warmshowers host, Fernando, his wife and his daughter Naroa. It’s too early, he’s not due home until 5pm, so we abandon the bike by his backgate and stroll to the nearest cafe bar, where we sit in a nice courtyard for some refreshments. Fernando arrives at the cafe just after 5pm and takes us to his house. He and his wife are keen cyclist and he knows all the routes we’re planning to use to Boulogne sur Gesse and apparently, after Bayonne it should be pretty easy going. He has the most fabulous house with views out over San Sebastian and to the sea.

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He’s only been on warm showers 2 weeks and we’re his second guests. The first were a French family on Haze Pino bikes, who were taking a year out and travelling with their 6 and 8 year olds. They got as far as San Sebastian and realised the hills would be too tough to Bilbao and also had bike problems,so instead of a night, stayed a week.

After a lovely home cooked meal, it’s bedtime for us. This biking malarkey is so tiring.


Friday 30th October – San Sebastian to Biarritz

63 km completed

59.8 kmph max speed

12.9 kmph average

Total 453.7km

I’ve had a great night’s sleep, but Daz was suffering from twitching leg, which he seems to get when he’s over tired. We’re up and packed, and help ourselves to the breakfast they’ve kindly left out for us and at 9am Noroa comes home from her first lecture to let us out. She is in her 5th year of 6 to be a doctor (and even then will need another year to specialise), but over dinner last night was telling us how hard it will be to get a job in Spain, even though the government is trying to entice older doctors and healthcare workers into early retirement. She says that the youth of Spain are finding it hard to get jobs anywhere and that’s why we see so many in London working as waiters and house staff in hotels, not just for the money, but just to be doing something with their lives rather than living at home with no job in Spain.

We wave goodbye and cycle down the hill (yes!!) into San Sebastian, which is very beautiful with a massive sea front and beach which we cycle along for a while, at one point having to retrace our steps as the only way forward is a lift back down to a lower level and the bike doesn’t fit… trust us we tried!!

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It definitely deserves far more time to explore it properly, but after a coffee in a square in the old part of town, we head out. To begin with, as we go through the suburbs of San Sebastian and then follow a relatively quiet road, handrailing the GI636, it’s all quite pleasant. But then our route finder takes us onto the GI636 and suddenly things aren’t so pleasant. The traffic is heavy and these guys, unlike on previous days, ain’t giving us much space, especially as the traffic gets heavier towards the border. But there’s nothing we can do so we persevere. We’re heading to Irun, the Spanish town on the border. We see a 1km border sign for France but never actually spot the border.

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The border is marked by a river and on the French side is Hendaye and we cycle through the centre, until we find a restaurant. We have menu of the day for €12; chef’s salad with bacon and blue cheese, grilled salmon and veg and floating islands for pud.

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Delicious, except we’re so stuffed now, we could do with a siesta, but we’re in France now and that’s a Spanish thing and if I sleep I don’t think I’ll get on the bike again today. Even better I think the waitresses understood my French, and me theirs. There’s hope for me yet.

From dinner we head to the tourist office and realise there’s a huge, beautiful beach and everyone’s enjoying the sun and the sea. There are surfers here and paddle boarders also surfing the waves, which looks pretty cool.

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We get some info from the tourist office and then we’re off. We follow the coast road out of Hendaye and eventually come to St Jean de Luz. Again the beach is packed with people enjoying a Friday afternoon of late Autumn sun. It’s 28 degrees – fabulous although Daz is dripping sweat and think it’s too hot – can’t wait to see how he copes in the summer!! The road isn’t too hilly and the scenery of the coast is fabulous and this is probably one of the best day’s cycling so far.

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We stop for a last breather at St Jean de Luz

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and then it’s the final push to the outskirts of Biarritz. This is tough going; busy traffic, too many hills and we’re both tired. But finally we arrive. So we’re 4 km from Biarritz near the airport. We’re staying in a cabin with no electricity, but a couple of solar lights, a dry toilet and a shower that’s on the back wall of the main house. It reminds us of the Finland farm but so much warmer.

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This somewhat unusual arrangement is the result of a warmshower request. Unfortunately the recipient Carole is in Japan but she suggested we email Olivier, which we did. He was also away but said we we were welcome to the cabin and told us where the keys were etc. So we have just arrived and got the bags off and parked the bike, when a car pulls in. It’s Olivier and his wife, Bernadette and they live in the main house. And Carole is their daughter. She’s currently using warmshowers in Japan and their son is cycling in California, also using warm showers. We’re hoping to stay 3 nights to rest up a bit and explore Biarritz. In the evening we enjoy a walk through the secluded estate to a small area of shops and buy some “provisions” which we enjoy whilst sitting in the semi dark of the cabin, chatting about our experience so far. Very peaceful but somewhat bizarre – who would predict that our rest days would be spent in a rural cabin in the suburbs of Biarritz?


Saturday 31th October – Biarritz sightseeing

12.7 km completed

Total 466.4 km

We awake and the sun is shining.

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We have our breakfast on the cabin’s deck and catch up with some reading and watch the birds and the bees. There’s a pair of tits, bluetits of course, flying from tree to tree and the shrub directly in front of us seems to be a mecca for bees. There’s also lemon trees and a jasmine bush. There’s no WiFi to distract us which makes a pleasant change. Our plan is to take our week’s worth of washing (one set of clothes!) with us and go sightsee in Biarritz and get our laundry done too!

(Biarritz, an elegant seaside town on southwestern France’s Basque coast, has been a popular resort since European royalty began visiting in the 1800s. It’s also a major surfing destination, and its beaches host surf schools and an annual international competition. A busy nightlife scene encompasses late-night bars, clubs and a grand beachside casino, the Barrière)

After some considerable debate, Daz capitulates agrees, and we cycle in. It’s only 4km. Near the town centre we stop at the Jardin publique because it’s decorated for Halloween.

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There are pumpkins, cobwebs and even a couple of skeletons. There’s a party here later and I hope Daz will let me come back to watch the festivities. We find a launderette and after setting our wash in motion ( disappointingly there was no service wash) we head further into town and abandon the bike and walk to the ‘big beach’ where a surf competition is in progress. We watch for a while and then return to the launderette to put our clothes in the drier and whilst our clothes are drying we wait in a cafe. I only intended to have a coffee but the waitress spots us as an easy target and we end up ordering lunch; cheese, ham and egg crepe for me and mussels in cider with chips for Daz. His is the much better choice.

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After lunch and collecting the washing we return to the beach and walk in the surf. We can’t believe it’s such a beautiful day this late in the year. We walk around the fishing harbour and watch as the tide has turned and the empty harbour begins to fill with water.

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Then we walk along to the Virgin statue. Daz wants to visit the aquarium so we go in there for a couple of hours.

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When we come out we have a drink watching the young lifeguards having a training session. It looks really tough and I’m tired just watching.

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We head back through town which is heaving with people. All the kids from the Halloween Park have come into town for trick or treating. All the shops and bars have bowls of sweets for the kids. The children are all dressed up but so are many of the adults. It’s such a great atmosphere. There’s also the rugby final on today: New Zealand v Australia and when we catch it, NZ are well in the lead at half time

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It’s getting dark and late so we return to the bike which we had left tied to a tree at the beach and cycle out of town, stopping at the public Halloween party, which is now packed with children and their parents. There’s a disco and disco lights and some of the children are dancing.

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We enjoy the atmosphere and then head for a bar on the street corner, where we can have a beer and watch the park and the people in fancy dress. We even see a 7ft werewolf. He’s at the bar when Daz orders a beer and then he heads for the park. Just before heading home we do one more circuit of the park and see the werewolf posing for photos.


Sunday 1st November- Biarritz

Today it’s a day for relaxation, no cycling. We get up late and have our breakfast. Finally at about 11am we head to the local shops.


We buy enough for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow and then we head to the station where we saw a busy cafe yesterday. Unfortunately it’s shut but we find a restaurant and have the menu of the day. For me it’s a buffet salad; grilled hake and chorizo and then a cherry icecream pudding. Daz has the same except his main is vension stew.

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We were only planning to have a light lunch but it’s a shame not to experiment and enjoy the local cuisine. From here we head home for a quiet afternoon and some bike maintenance. But when we get back to the cabin, the sun is shining our bellies are full and we both fall asleep… siesta time!!


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Later Daz gets up and does some maintenance, and after a while I have to assist as the bike is very cumbersome to hold and work on at the same time, especially as it doesn’t sit upside down like a normal bike would. In the process Daz checks all the nuts and bolts are tight, checks the tyres, wheels and brakes, cleans the chain and relubricates. We find another broken spoke, but Daz is able to swap it out without too much hassle. It makes me nervous that more are going to keep breaking… we may need to stock up on more spares. In the evening I cook chicken fajitas for us both and Daz seems to be coming down with a cold… not good, so he takes some paracetamol and relaxes whilst I do the dishes… devious man!!


Monday 2nd November- Biarritz to Léon

75.53 km completed

41.4 kmph max speed

16.3 kmph average

541.93 Total km

Daz has been coughing and sneezing through the night. I fear it might be man-flu (God help me), so as a show of sympathy I get up first and make the tea! (yes, my generosity knows no bounds but Daz says that since I’m dumb enough to be part of this foolish tandem adventure, I don’t need to do mundane chores like making tea or cooking dinner!)

Anyway whilst Daz packs the bags etc, I clean the cabin. I’ve really enjoyed our time here and it’s probably a blessing to be without electricity and WiFi, it’s meant hours of just lying on the sofa reading and spending some quality time with our book heroes of the moment – mine is John Milton ex SAS, Daz’s is DI Helen Grace of Southampton Central police Major Incident Team.

We’re on the road by 0930hrs and after a short sharp climb to let us know we are back on the bike we enjoy a nice downhill to our first stop which is Bayonne, where we enjoy a walk around the cathedral and its cloisters.

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Bayonne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral. It is the seat of the former Bishops of Bayonne, now the Bishops of Bayonne, Lescar and Oloron. Twin towers rise from this hilltop Gothic cathedral with medieval cloisters, completed in the 1500s.

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We also stop for a quick coffee in a pretty little square before heading out on the Eurovelo 1 – the Atlantic coast route. Stretching the length of the continent, from Scandinavia to the Algarve, the Atlantic Coast Route connects some of the world’s most beautiful seascapes. Expect dramatic fjords, sun-kissed beaches and bustling port towns. Well that’s what the website states, our little bit today was through some forest, some more pine forest, and at the side of some sand dunes which blocked my view of the sea… but in the main it was flat, tarmac and erm… going to use the ‘B’ Word… boring!!

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We stop at Cap Breton for a lovely lunch; well mine is lovely, fish tart and salad but Daz’s choice is pretty grim.


We were really struggling to understand their French and Daz chose carrot tart – seriously unpleasant!

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We finish our day in Léon. We really struggled to find accommodation here; all the campsites were shut, warmshower hosts weren’t available and we couldn’t get an answer from TripAdvisor hotels so we’ve ended up in one of those places where you’d really rather not be. If he charges €58 for this dump, I’ll be less than impressed unless the breakfast is particularly good, but having met the proprietor (a man, and a German to boot. Could it get any worse?) I fear this is unlikely! For dinner we spend €6.91 on a baguette, blue cheese, salami and some multivitamin juice as Daz needs his vitamins!!



Tuesday 3rd November- Léon to Parentis en Born

87.64 km completed

36.2 kmph max speed

16.9 kmph average

629.57 Total km

Stupidly I asked for breakfast at 8am and as a result I’ve been worrying that we’ll oversleep and instead I’ve been awake for ages. Breakfast is served in the ‘annex’ – questionable description for a shed. There’s fresh croissants and baguette but no butter


We’ve pretty much finished when the proprietor arrives with the butter but at least he tells us to take the rest of the baguette for our lunch, which goes someway to making up for the price here of €58 but he lets us off €3. Worse, we (or I) allow him to persuade us to take the Eurovelo instead of sticking to the road, which was the plan last night. The result km after km of forests. We detour briefly to see the sea at St Girons Plage but it’s merely a deserted holiday village, then beach and sea.

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That’s our excitement over for the day. Also the weather isn’t the sunny day we were promised. It’s been drizzling on and off since we left the B&B, which adds to the tedium. Back to the track through the forests. Finally we’re overwhelmed by the tedium and divert to the road only to discover this is almost as boring. We think the problem might be that France is shut for the winter. I wish someone had told Daz. After a long morning and high mileage (55km) we stop in Mimizan for coffee and cake and some recovery time for our numb arses

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Sadly there’s not any improvement in the afternoon. The rain which had abated mid morning has started again. We only have about 28km to do but we’re both suffering from numb arses and we’re not sure why. I always slip down in my seat and this might me worse because I’m wearing the slippery waterproof. We might try moving my seat so I’m more upright. We finally arrive in Parentis en Born which is around 4 km from our warmshowers stop, and after circling for a while looking for the elusive office de tourisme so we can get a local map and then getting stopped by the gendarmes to ask if we are “Galoise”… Yes that’s what the flag says, and off they go all smiles (think the recent rugby world cup has reminded people of the flag) we stop in a bar for a well deserved glass of vin rouge and sit by the warm log fire to dry out. But soon it’s time to remount and we cycle the last little bit to our hosts for the night, Andre and Bernadette. It’s dark, the roads are busy, and we’ve had wine… doh!! Never mind,we arrive safe and our hosts greet us and show us to a lovely room with ensuite.

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Bliss, it’s been a long slog today, and we are looking forward to a meal with our hosts. Our warmshower hosts this evening are Bernadette and Andre. Great room, great shower and dinner too. Very nice.

Wednesday 4th November – Parentis en Born to Bordeaux

50 km completed

29 kmph max speed

16.3 kmph average

679.57 Total km

We have breakfast and Bernadette shows us her chickens and their very impressive garden. It must be a lot of work for the 2 of them. Neither of them are cyclists but host on warmshowers so they can meet people.

We start at 9am and all is well for the first hour. Today we’ve decided to take the shorter route, the road, into Bordeaux and not the Eurovelo route. We’re cycling well and we’ve done about 20km by 10am. But when we stop for traffic lights we can feel the back wheel wobbling. We stop and realise we have another broken spoke. But also there’s a bulge in the tyre wall. Daz replaces the broken spoke and then spots another. So that’s 4 broken spokes in 2 weeks. He deflates and reinflates the tyre hoping that the bulge will disappear. It doesn’t. There isn’t a cycle shop in this town and we no longer have any short spokes for the rear wheel.

We continue cycling but the wobble is still there. It’s particularly noticeable at slow speeds, freewheeling and downhills. We carry on for another 18km and another town, Mios. We check the wheel and the bulge is getting bigger. We stop for lunch.

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Thank God we came this route, if we’d followed the Eurovelo we’d be in the middle of nowhere and without any likelihood of finding help!!! We need to head to Marcheprime, another 12km from Mios, and Bordeaux is still 48km away. We leave our lunch spot and I can hear a tinny noise. I suspect another broken spoke. Depressingly I’m right, but in the front wheel. This is really bad news since this has significantly less weight on it than the rear. We now have problems with both wheels. But we continue on our way. I’m expecting the rear wheel to fail at any time but we make it to Marcheprime and at last we’re near a train line. We’re going to try and get a train into Bordeaux.

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We’re hoping they’ll let us on with the tandem without breaking it into 2. While we’ve been waiting with the unloaded bike we’ve realised there’s another broken spoke in the front wheel and that the rear tyre is failing and splitting away in a number of places. The rear tyre is fxxked and it’s only 2 weeks old!!!

So we have all our baggage ready and fortunately we get on. Thirty minutes later we’re in Bordeaux. We’re heading for a cycle shop that’s near to our Airbnb hosts and we cycle through Bordeaux and along the river. Bordeaux is beautiful. We get to the bike shop; we need a new tyre and ideally we’d like a rebuild of both wheels. The first bike shop say they can’t help but give us details of another shop. We’re only a couple of blocks from our hosts, so we go there first, meet Megan, check out their fabulous apartment, dump our bags and head to bike shop number 2. Thank goodness we decided on Airbnb for Bordeaux. We sent many emails to warmshowers but couldn’t get a host. There are 2 campsites in Bordeaux which are actually open. But they’re both 10km out of town and cost €22 a night and Airbnb is a similar price and in town I don’t think we’d have coped with the bike saga and then found our campsite!!! Bike shop 2 can’t help us – no one has the spokes for our 20” wheel. They make a phone call and send us to bike shop number 3. Despite the phone call, we discover bike shop 3 can’t help either. They don’t have the spokes. If we can get the spokes, they can rebuild the wheels. Brilliant.

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We go back to bike shop number 2. This is not going well. We have a bike that is unrideable and no one can fix it. Back at bike shop number 2, another phone call and another bike shop. At least we’re already seeing most of Bordeaux. Bike shop number 4 can help. He makes his own spokes but he can’t make enough to rebuild both wheels. Instead he will replace the 2 spokes in the front, replace the rear tyre and true both wheels. He has no explanation for the failed tyre or the large number of broken spokes except to suggest the bike is carrying too much weight. This is worrying indeed since we can’t significantly reduce our load.

At least we have someone who can help. That’s such a relief. We leave the bike with him. It’s nearly 7pm and we’ve been in Bordeaux since 4pm. So we’ve spent 3 hours cycling from one bike shop to another. We decide that after the traumatic day we’ve had, a glass of red wine is in order. Whilst having a drink we try and decide what we should do. Are we happy to keep cycling when we’re having so many problems. Do we FedEx some of our gear to Boulogne sur Gesse to lighten the load? Do we take the train? It’s tough when we’re losing confidence in the bike. I’d like to just bin the tandem, and start again on new bikes – obviously the most expensive option. ‘ Fuck, Fuck Fuck!’ – that’s how we feel. Poor Daz is in a complete funk. He’s depressed and blames himself for the terrible day we’ve had. I try to be positive but when bike shop number 3 tell us there’s nothing he can do to help or suggest anything helpful, I could cry!

Finally we stroll back to the apartment stopping off for some provisions. Back at the apartment we send a couple of emails about the bike – one to Richard (it’s creator) and one to Downham Cycles (where Daz did his bike course). We chat to Megan and her flatmate. They’re both doing their masters, one in advertising and one in business. They’re not cyclists which is great because if we were with cyclists I fear there would be further analysis of our bike failure. Finally we go to bed!


Thursday 5th November – Bordeaux

Today it’s a late start. We planned to spend a couple of days here which is fortunate since our bike won’t be ready until Friday. We’ve had an email from Richard and Daz has been googling ‘broken spokes’. The consensus is because we haven’t been checking the tension on the spokes since we started cycling laden, some are probably under more tension than others. Result – broken spokes. Apparently Richard uses something metallic, like a spoon, to twang against each spoke and checks that the tone of each twang is the same. If not, tighten or loosen spoke, as necessary. Unfortunately we haven’t been doing this and whilst we will check in future there is a danger that we’ve weakened our remaining spokes by failing to keep all spokes under the same tension. The tyre damage remains a mystery. Daz rings Richard and they chat about spokes and which supplier Richard uses for this illusive product. Bless him though he’s going to send us some spokes, he has boxes of them sitting in his garage, and he’s also sending us a spare tyre. All the spares are going to Boulogne sur Gesse. Once the bike issues are resolved we head out to see what Bordeaux has to offer.

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We visit the Hôtel de ville ( the Mayor’s house), Place du la Victoire, the Jardin Public, which has a lovely lake and the botanical gardens, Place du Parlement, 2 or 3 old churches, the river and its mirror pool which is only an inch deep and gives a great mirror image for photographs.


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We walk or cycle on city bikes around this beautiful place. In the afternoon it starts to rain and we sit under the umbrellas at the Grand Cafe du Castan and enjoy a drink and some galettes

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