Bordeaux to Boulogne sur Gesse – 6 Nov to 11 Nov

Bordeaux to Boulogne sur Gesse – 6 Nov to 11 Nov

Friday 6th November – Bordeaux more sightseeing

A really slow start this morning. We’re not out the door until gone 11am but in our defence we heard the rain earlier and we’ve been waiting for the skies to clear.

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We cycle to the food market, which we missed yesterday because it closes in the afternoon. After the early rain it’s turned into another beautiful day and it’s so lovely to be cycling the streets of Bordeaux; it has so many little sidestreets and some beautiful shops. The French all seem beautifully dressed and we see some of them looking at our crocs with contempt!

The food market is very busy and we look around all stalls.

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Then we decide we should try the seafood platter, so that I can experience oysters. I haven’t tried them before and didn’t expect to enjoy them but they were rather nice although a bit gritty and far less hassle than the prawns, crab claws and sea snails.

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We also have the plate of assorted meats, which is less fiddly for sure. There seems to be a lot of Americans here today, must be a bus tour on!!

From here we wander around and then decide we must get the blog done. We tried to do it last night but the WiFi in the apartment just wasn’t up to it and in 4 hours I only got 2 days of photos uploaded. So we find a WiFi cafe but it still takes over 3 hours to upload all the photos into the blog. (if there are any nerds reading this – should it really take this long to upload the photos into the narrative in wordpress from quick reduce? It takes 3-4 hours; 5 mins to copy and paste the narrative, the remainder to move around 200 photos )

Once it’s done, Daz does the FB update. Admin done. Hurrah. Then we go to pick up the bike. He’s put on a new tyre, repaired the broken spokes, trued both wheels and made some spare spokes for us and he charges us €80.

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We are so grateful that it’s done after the run around we had Wednesday evening. We cycle along the river and it’s lovely to be riding unladen. It’s like a completely different beast.

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We head up the river to look at the bridge with huge support pylons – very impressive, then we head back to the apartment. We watch the videos Richard recommended about tuning spokes and then Daz goes to do the tuning. He’s back in 5 minutes, he’s just found another broken spoke in the front wheel. This is very bad news and we have to assume it’s happened in the 4km we’ve cycled since leaving the shop. So he has to replace the broken spoke and tune them all. Whilst he’s working on the bike Naomi (Megan’s flatmate) comes home and takes some photos; she seems really impressed with our bike demo.

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Once the bike is done we head into town. It’s our last night in Bordeaux. We have a lovely walk and sit on the theatre steps opposite the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux watching people meet up for their Friday evening.

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Then we head off and end up in the Place du Parlement in a pub called ‘The Houses of Parliament’, listening to a reggae band, watching Derby County (Daz’s team) lose to Nottingham Forest. Then we head home, chips on the way back sustain us enough until we can get the tram. It takes us a while to work out the ticket machine, but in the end we manage and arrive home safe. But it’s midnight and we need to be up early to cycle tomorrow!! Oopps!!

 

Saturday 7th November – Bordeaux to La Reole/ Marmande

101.3 km completed

54.1 kmph max speed

16.3 kmph average

Total 780.87km

 

Today we’re leaving Bordeaux. We’re up by 8ish and we’re ready for the off just after 9am with Naomi to wave us off. We follow the river Garonne south out of Bordeaux along the cycle path. It really is easy cycling, we then leave the river at Latresne and head out on the Piste Cyclable Roger Lapébie which runs along an old train line from Bordeaux to Sauveterre de Guyenne.

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We pass fields of vines as we cycle along in the blazing sunshine and later wine making cooperatives (which in France are called caves) . When we’ve been going for about 30mins, we stop for a spoke check (Daz visually checks and runs his hands over them), so far so good. At Creon, after about 25km, we stop for coffee.

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Daz has had a message from our warmhost who we thought would be hosting us tonight. Unfortunately he’s away for the weekend and forgot to let us know. So we need to find a bed for tonight. Bugger!!! After coffee Daz does another spoke check. This time we completely unload the bike and Daz checks the tuning of each spoke and changing their tension if the ‘twang’ seems out of tune.

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He adjusts some in the rear wheel and then we’re off again. We cycle on to Sauveterre de Guyenne. The cycle path we’re following is great and we’re passing through beautiful countryside and there are many other cyclists and runners out, so unlike the eurovelo 1 we were using the other day which was really boring, this is fabulous.

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At Sauveterre we stop for lunch. It’s gone 2pm and we’ve already done 60km. Fortunately, the cafe has WiFi and we find a cheap Ibis Budget in Marmande which is further than LaReole where we had planned to stop tonight.

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After a tasty lunch we get going. From Sauveterre to La Reole we’re back on the road and our first hills today, which are pretty tough at this stage of the day but from La Reole we cross back over the river Garonne and then we join the Canal du Garonne on the cyclepath and it’s fantastic. So beautiful! The track is paved and the canal, which is at least twice as wide as the UK equivalent is lined with magestic trees.

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The leaves are falling and covering the path and canal, and we stop to take some great pics of the trees reflected in the water and of the locks we pass.

After following the canal for about 20km we turn off and head towards Marmande. We end up on a little country lane with barely any traffic. It’s nearly 6pm and the light is fading. We pass a farm on our left and we hear dogs barking. I look and see a dog but he’s on a chain. But then I see another one charging across the yard, barking – no chain. Daz hasn’t seen this but he can hear the barking. I try to warn him but all I can manage to say in my fear is “Dog! Dog! Dog!” And then there it is alongside us barking and looking none too friendly and then veering in towards my right leg. Fortunately we out bike him. Thank God! Daz says he’s broken out in goosebumps due to the adrenalin (fear) rush! Another couple of kms and we’re at the Ibis. We’ve broken the 100km mark for the first time on this trip and we’re both really chuffed but very tired. It’s an adventure of extremes from the ridiculous to the sublime; our last biking day was horrendous and we considered (well I did) never cycling the tandem again. And today – fabulous. Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, great cycling and fantastic mileage. But I’ll sleep well tonight!

Sunday 8th November – Marmande to Agen

71.16 km completed

42.1 kmph max speed

16.5 kmph average

Total 852.03km

 

Today it’s a relaxed start. Well it’s a very achey and slow start. We both had really sore legs last night, and in my case achey arse and back! And even lying in bed was painful.

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I don’t even wake until gone 8am. And finally we wander down to breakfast at 9.30am. It’s eat as much as you can want. So we do! Then Daz does a spoke check. It’s about 10.30am before we’re finally ready to make a move. We take our bags down and discover another cycle tourer, with their bike, in reception just loading up. This is cause for much excitement and discussion; where are you from, where are you going, bike comparison and kit comparison; I think it’s the biking equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s bums! Anyway the other tourer is Kimberley from Australia. She’s been cycling since early October and has cycled through Holland and Belgium, has done the Loire Valley and is currently heading for Montpellier and then to Rome.

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We decide we should cycle together because we’re all heading to Agen. So that’s what we do. And together we cycle out of Marmande, south and then along the Canal de Garonne. It’s another beautiful day only marred by a nasty head wind.

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We take the lead allowing Kimberley to draught which works well once we tie up our long flag which has been flapping her in the face but she was too polite to say. The cycling is fairly easy and the scenery is lovely.

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We stop for a quick coffee at Villeton and then push on to Buzet sur Baise, where Daz wants to visit Les Vignerons de Buzet; a wine tasting establishment. It’s a short detour from our cycle route, which would be fine if it wasn’t all uphill. But we get there and it’s shut! So we head back down the hill into the village. We stop at a restaurant but they say they are full and suggest that at 2pm on a Sunday in November we’re unlikely to find anywhere open but that there is another restaurant in the village we could try. Off we cycle. The restaurant is open but their ‘menu du jour’ is €26 not the typical €12-15 we’ve been seeing. But there’s been nothing else open for miles and we’re with new friends so we go for it.

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And a very nice 4 course meal it was too. Unfortunately the restaurant is very busy and the service a bit slow and by the end of lunch (over 2 hours) we’ve all seized up and getting started again with stuffed bellies is particularly tough. We head out towards the canal when a posh, new 4×4 goes to overtake us but seems to dither, deciding they want the same right turn as us. The problem is they’re still alongside Daz, who finds himself with less and less road. But Daz is braver than most (well he said it’s bravery) so he continues to cycle and when the gap is sufficiently small so he can reach, he slams his hand hard on the side of the car. (Brilliant, I can see the dint he’s just created in the shiny, black car!) This is not the first motor vehicle he’s taken on. He’s most adverse to stopping unnecessarily especially if he thinks he’s in the right. I’m waiting to see if Mr Frenchman will take exception to Daz’s behaviour and get out of his car armed with a baseball bat. Is this a reasonable expectation or have I watched to many Tarantino movies? But this time we get away with it.

From here it’s about 25km to Agen. A pleasant afternoon and I even spot a Kingfisher.

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In Agen we say farewell to Kimberley and set off for our warmshower hosts Dianick and Dominique. They are a retired couple, postal and bank worker, now enjoying their lives cycling and travelling the world, with long experience cycling around Europe, USA and elsewhere. They are very involved in everything ‘biking’. Dianick has a tandem that he uses to take blind people out on so they can experience cycling. As we chat and get cleaned up they prepare a lovely meal for us and share some of their favourite wine.

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It’s great hearing their stories and sharing some of our experiences. They once cycled down the west coast of America doing over 100 km per day. And the route along the Pacific is very hilly – great effort! With full bellies we are soon feeling tired and we trundle off to a very comfortable bed for the night. Dianick’s parting shot as we go is that if we ever need any help on the road he is only a telephone call away to assist however possible… these guys are great

 

Monday 9 th November – Agen to Auch

 

71.53 km completed

50.8 kmph max speed

16.5 kmph average

Total 923.56 km

Today we get up and have a lovely breakfast. Our hosts make us some baguettes for lunch with some apples. Amazing hospitality, thanks again guys. And then we are on the road, straight south out of town. The traffic is not as bad as we feared , and as we leave the town and enter the countryside we get into the grind again as we know most of today is going to be uphill. It’s a foggy day so we have all the lights on, but everyone gives us plenty of space. In the foggy quiet we see many birds of prey scouring the fields for food, we see plenty of roadkill, and one hawk drops from a signpost nearly into an outcoming truck, but manages to pull up just in time.

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We stop in Lectoure for coffee and even in the fog it is very beautiful. As we cycle out we go through the rest of the village and as we turn the corner we see the countryside drop away to the right and in front of us and the old ramparts are towering on our left. We spin the pedals easily then freewheel as we swoop downhill. The sun is now burning through and we cycle 8km to yet another pretty village, Fleurance, where we sit and eat the lunch given to us by Dianick and Dominique.

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There is a huge building in the middle of the town square that sits on huge arches. This is the Hotel de Ville, we have seen a few of these now and all are impressive buildings. However most look as if they are now used as municipal buildings, certainly the one in Bordeaux was used as the Mayor’s residence and offices.

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We cycle on and we are soon approaching the outskirts of Auch, we can see the huge cathedral standing proud on the hillside. A white van with lots of stickers on the rear passes us with a gentle toot of the horn (as opposed to a great big toot that normally makes us jump out of our skin!!) and we see the driver pull over and jump out to take pictures as we cycle past, waving and shouting greetings to him. This has happened before. Last time a guy in Spain had a huge zoom camera and passed us twice to get 2 photo shoots!! Finally we enter the outskirts of Auch . We are supposed to be camping tonight in a warmshower host’s garden. Unfortunately one of us has a “problème avec les toilettes” and rather than worry we stop at a cheap budget hotel and play it safe!

 

Tuesday 10th November – Auch to Boulogne sur Gesse

60.31 km completed

50.8 kmph max speed

15.1 kmph average

Total 983.87 km

 

Today should be our last day of cycling for sometime if things go to plan. Bizarrely I have slept really well, despite sleeping for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon when we got to the Ibis. I felt really off colour yesterday afternoon and felt desperately tired. But this morning I feel good and we have breakfast in the Ibis before heading off to explore Auch.

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Auch is known for its Renaissance Cathédrale Sainte-Marie with its magnificent organ, carved stalls and rose stained-glass windows, La Tour d’Armagnac – a 14th-century prison, as well as a statue of d’Artagnan who was based on the real life person, Charles de Batz, Comte d’Artagnan born nearby in the château de Castelmore, and written about by Alexandre Dumas.

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It really is a beautiful city and I wish i’d seen it at night, all lit up, instead of shrouded by mist. This is the 3rd day we’ve had mist which often doesn’t burn off until midday. We visit the cathedral which sits on the hill overlooking the river Gers. But to get to it we have a very steep climb, tough when it’s so early in our day. However it was well worth it. Behind the cathedral are the some huge steps that lead all the way down to the river, and the statue of D’Artagnan, he of ‘the three musketeers’ fame.

Once we’ve seen the main sites we leave, navigating a number of tight switchbacks and steep descents we turn right at the river and cycle out of Auch. As the rest of the day progresses we cycle through a lovely flat area, with little villages and we stop at one, Saisson, for coffee and a rest.

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In the distance to the south we can see the mountains of the Pyrenees, even what we think is snow, gorgeous! In the early afternoon the sun has burnt through and is now blazing down again, just as we turn left towards the hills of the midi pyrenees!!

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We realise that we should probably have stopped a little earlier to have lunch as now we are climbing in the heat and even though we are fitter than before we are still beaten on one hill and have to stop to put the tandem into granny gear at the front! But with the villages now either closed for lunch or too small to have a shop we have to persevere. After a particularly tough uphill we can see our next stop, Boulogne sur Gesse, across a valley. So we know there’s going to be another hillclimb, but first the descent, which is long and very fast. Fortunately I’m distracted from my speed fear by seeing several herons and a couple of birds of prey. Wonderful. I’d like to tell Daz but noway am I distracting him at this speed!

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Finally we arrive in Boulogne Sur Gesse, our home village for the next few weeks, and guess what? It’s shut!! But thankfully it opens about 10 minutes after we arrive and we pop into an artisan boulangerie for food and a little vegetable and wine shop (I know… weird!) for a refreshing drink. We then circle the village having asked directions to the ‘supermarche’ but not understanding too much French it takes us a 3 asks to finally get it right. But at least we now know where the firebrigade, the local petanque court and the funeral directors home is!!

We leave town and head for Blajan and between Blajan and Nizan Gesse we expect to spot the signpost for our hosts. It’s out in the countryside. We see the right turn we want but the lane is straight uphill. By the time we’ve slowed for the turn, we’ve lost all momentum and have to stop and start again in lowest gear. We give it another go before grinding to a halt.. … boy that’s steep!! We push for a bit and then we can remount and grind up the last couple hundred metres to their house.

And we’ve finally arrived. Only several months late but I’m so glad they allowed us to delay because this place is gorgeous. Sandy and Mike come out to greet us and then we go in for tea and cake ( just what the doctor ordered). After a nice chat they show us around their fabulous house and gardens. They have the most amazing views both east and south over 2 valleys. They also have a swimming pool and a gite, which will be our home whilst we’re here.

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It’s the most luxurious accommodation we’ve ever had on a workaway. Then we get a tour of their house which has vaulted ceilings with all the beams on display, a large farmhouse kitchen and open fireplaces. Finally we go to meet their 5 huskies and let them out into the paddock. They also have a rescue Griffon, Emilon, as the family pet (it’s a hunting dog, not some sort of Welsh dragon). After the tour we unpack the bike, park it in the pool room and take everything into the gite to sort out. 1 huge pile hidden behind 2 armchairs of biking stuff, camping stuff and empty pannier bags and the remainder into a chest of drawers. I’ve just put all the clothes I own into one drawer – once that would’ve only be sufficient for my socks. We drink tea, tidy up and shower. Sandy has given us provisions so we can make breakfast in the gite. For our other meals we’ll eat in the main house and we’re to hang out wherever we want – house or gite. Nice! It’s 6.30pm and we’re in the house enjoying the log fire in their kitchen enjoying a glass of red wine. Sometimes you’ve just got to lurve workaway

 

Cycling

It has taken us 20 days to get from Marlborough to Boulogne sur Gesse cycling 983.87km. For this achievement alone we are incredibly chuffed, although it’s been tough. We’ve had some bike problems but fortunately we had a couple of bike shops that came to our rescue and of course Richard (Cresswell) who explained the error of our ways and sent us loads of spares! Thank you Richard!

Our budget – well there hasn’t been one; we’ve enjoyed some lovely meals and had to pay for a number of hotels and bike repairs and a few beers of course. So we’ve spent loads ( to be precise, we’ve spent everything we earn, and the contingency fund I envisaged nestling away, doesn’t exist!). We’re lucky we had the warmshower hosts we did but for that I sent about 50 warmshower emails and a dozen to couchsurfing, which is very time consuming. Over a longer period of biking we couldn’t afford to sustain this type of travel but I wanted a gentle introduction and with campsites shut, the alternative was dirty camping and this was a step too far for me at this stage especially at this time of year. As a result we’ve carried a tent and chairs that we’ve only used once and a campstove that still hasn’t seen the light of day!!!

And what have we leant? That I hate the following:

 

White paint on roads

Fast Downhills

Righthand bends on a fast downhill

Leaves on the road especially wet leaves.

Tram and train lines in the road

Headwinds

The sound of “ping” (broken spoke)

Slow speed wobble

High speed wobble

Puncture wobble

Fxxked wheel wobble

And any other sort of wobble

Sand

Grit on road

Manhole covers

Pedestrians

Rain

Hot sun

Potholes

 

I am sure the list will morph and change as I grow accustomed to some and find new ones to worry about! And Daz he’s afraid of nothing!!!

 

Wednesday 11th November – 1st day of workaway

 

We wake around 0730hrs and it’s going to be another beautiful day. We look out of our French doors over the valley, and next to our gite we can see blue tits flying from tree to tree. We read and have a leisurely breakfast of cereal before heading to the main house around 9am to get our washing on. Sandy and Mike are just having their coffee, and Mike needs to go shopping. So our first chore is to take the huskies out for a walk. We use hip harnesses like we used previously in Finland and Daz takes Kale and I take 2 bitches, Ruska and Taiga.

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Daz has the toughest job because Kale is pulling constantly. We take a path up through the woods and it’s a lovely walk. Emilon comes too but she’s allowed out without a lead so she has the run of the place. Back at the kennels we take the other 2, Pushkin and Dixie, but for a shorter walk in the other direction.

That’s the dogs walked. Then Mike shows us how to use the pool hoover to suck up the large leaves on the bottom of the pool. Sandy then takes us on a detailed tour showing us things that need doing; there’s weeding, trees to cut down and saw into logs; a compost bin to make and more logging work up in the woodland. She also shows us where the tools are.

Once that’s done and we have an understanding of the jobs we can do, I start weeding and Daz finishes hoovering the pool. We’ve only been at it a short while and it’s lunchtime. We sit on the terrace eating lunch of pea soup and crusty bread and cheeses, with the sun shining and enjoying the most incredible views.

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After lunch Daz and Mike go off to collect some pallets to use for building a 3 bay compost station. Later he tells me he collected them from a nearby village with spectacular views along the range of the pyrenees. Whilst they are out I return to my weeding, but Sandy wants a hand to bathe Emilon. She’s just come back from some jaunt and has clearly been up to her chest in stinking mud. We put her in the bath and give her a good shampooing and then take her onto the terrace where she’s groomed and has her ears cleaned out. I’ve never cleaned a dogs ears and Sandy says it’s especially important in dogs with floppy ears because inside is dark and moist, a good environment for something nasty to thrive – even ear mites – yuck! A dog with ear problems will keep shaking their head. Sandy puts an ear ointment deep into the ear, rubs it around and the uses cotton wool pads to remove the gunk.

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After the dog grooming, I return to weeding. Daz and Mike return and it’s time for a quick cuppa and then Daz and I do some more work on the flower beds before calling it a day.

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This has been our first day of workaway for over 2 months but it’s just been such a lovely day, we don’t even see it as work.

 

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