To Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

September 25, 2022

To Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire

So I guess this is just going to be a long post because I can’t decide what to drop out.  Let’s start with a look at Angoulême‘s historic center, which we biked through on our way out of town this morning.  We’ve been here before - back in the spring of 2008, on a loop from Bordeaux to the Loire and back.  We arrived here after a long 73 mile ride north from Saint-Emilion, arriving so late in the day that we saw nothing of the town other than a quick look at the facade of Saint-Pierre Cathedral.  Before today, my mental memory of Angoulême was limited to this image of Saint George and the Dragon from the facade.  I came away regretting not having actually seen the town, so we weren’t going to leave today without at least a cursory look.

And I came away today still with some regrets - we should have taken even longer to stare at the recently restored magnificent facade of the cathedral, for one thing; but it was much better than last time.  Angoulême is a pretty decent springboard into southwestern France (and so easy to get here by TGV!), so who knows - maybe we’ll get a third bite at the apple some year.

Angoulême has some striking wall-sized murals.
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From the cartoonist’s desk.
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Le Pistou could sharpen up its act.
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Somehow I don’t picture many DJT squares springing up in Europe’s future.
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Lyle McLeodIf any do, I'm sure they will be filled with carnival hucksters.
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2 months ago
Waiting by the Carrafour.
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The ancient chateau of the counts of Angoulême dates to the 13th century. In the 1850’s it was renovated and converted to the town hall.
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Keith AdamsExcept when it gets you beheaded, it's evidently *good* to be a member of the aristocracy.
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A colonnade of chestnut trees leads to the promenade overlooking the lower city.
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The Carnot Statue, a monument to Marie François Sadi Carnot, 5th President of the French Republic.
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The view over the lower city and the Charente valley.
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The west portal into Saint-Pierre Cathedral.
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A portion of the magnificent western facade. A Romanesque structure from the 12th century, the cathedral is worth more time than we gave it. We’d have gone inside for a look but it’s Sunday morning and a service is in session.
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That’s quite a bit about Angoulême, and we haven’t even left town yet.  so you really could think of this as a more normally sized post, but preceded by a photo gallery of the town.

And there’s one more thing about Angoulême before moving on.  We loved our stay at the no frills budget La Palma Hotel.  The location is perfect, an easy short ride up from the train station and only a short walk to the historic center.  For such a modest place we were surprised that breakfast was so robust: pastries, cereal, fruit, sliced meats, and even scrambled eggs.  And the WiFi was excellent.  Best though was the host, an agreeable man of indeterminate age and heritage.  I probed a bit over breakfast and learned that he’s been here for the last four years after bouncing around several places, including Montpellier and somewhere in northern France.  He might be settling down and staying here for awhile now, evidenced by his new wife (they’ve been married four years) and delightful young daughter.  His family background is in the hotel business though, and when he was growing up his father ran or worked in a hotel in Andorra for a number of years.  

But on to the ride.  It begins by a quick drop down from the historic center, which sits on a plateau above the Charente plain; and then generally following the Charente downriver for the next 12 miles to Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.  I’m not positive but I think this must have been the same route we followed fifteen years ago on our way down the Charente to the coast.   The good news is that since we’ve ridden this way before we don’t have to say anything further about it and can just show you some pics.

Crossing the Charente. I think I remember this spot from 15 years ago.
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Keith AdamsIt's remarkable, isn't it, how long a momentary impression can last. It may stay submerged for years and decades, only to resurface when triggered.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsYes. I have a terrible memory in general, but some images really cement in. I have very clear memories of the first time I saw many species of birds, reptiles and insects - the Luna month that alit one night on our screen door in Charleston feels as vivid as when I saw it over sixty years ago.

It’s one of the aspects of travel that I really value, the way some new experience will trigger a memory of an earlier one that’s been lying dormant for years.
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2 months ago
Jousting gondolas. Water jousting is an event on the Charente. In our previous trip we saw this in action (see link above): two vessels powered by rowing crews charging at each other, with an armor-clad knight wielding a long lance at the helm trying to unboat his opponent.
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In Trois-Palis.
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Here comes Rocky!
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There she goes.
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Along the Charente.
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At St. Simeux.
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At St. Simeux.
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At St. Simeux.
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Keith AdamsLooks somehow like a cross between a fishing barge and a small switching locomotive of the type found in rail yards.
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsIt does have that look, but I wonder if it’s an algae skimmer.
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After poking around the river front at St. Simeux I returned to find Rachael chatting with another pair of travelers, both solo. The one on the right is on route from Thiviers to Rochfort on the coast, and the other is on his way north to Poitiers.
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At Chateauneuf-sur-Charente, our final stop on the river.
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A lavoisier, at Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
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A view from the river’s side.
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At Chateauneuf-sur-Charente: the reflection of the corrugated facade of a warehouse.
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At Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
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For the last half of the ride we left the Charente, angling southwest toward our destination through open, scenic country with long views.  An excellent ride the whole way, past rolling slopes covered with vineyards or stubble from recently harvested corn.  As much as we enjoyed Brittany and would have liked more of it, we’re both excited to be here further south at the onset of Autumn.  Today’s ride was a beautiful introduction to what we anticipate will be a stunning month.

Leaving the Charente, we get only two blocks before I stop to look at the fallen leaves. Already?, Rocky asks with a slight tone of disgust in her voice, and bikes on.
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This is a really beautiful stretch of land. An information board described it as the Champagne region of Cognac.
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The magnificent view from our lunch spot, sitting at a bench and table at the high point of the ride. Barbezieux is six miles away and I think just visible on the horizon. While we sat here another traveler biked up and stopped for a long chat. He’s a pilgrim, on his way from Germany to Santiago.
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ann and steve maher-wearyI think we stopped at the same spot for lunch last year! Ann looked back through her photos and, yes, it seems to be it. Even down to which fields have been ploughed. Now looking for how to send a photo in the comments.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo ann and steve maher-wearyGood memory! Yes, it’s certainly the same spot, after rereading your post from that day. We couldn’t believe what a perfect lunch stop it was. I don’t think there’s a way currently to include a photo or any other attachments in comments, but you could add it to your own post as evidence.
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2 months ago
The soil here is interesting, very stony. I think this is a recently plowed corn field.
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A rusty gate.
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A closer look.
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We were surprised when we were overtaken by our friend on his way to Santiago. He’s a large man and carrying a ton of weight, but Rachael couldn’t keep up. He must be either much stronger than he looks or have an e-assisted mount.
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We enter Barbezieux on a Voie Verte, the conversion of a former rail line. There’s a mural for this on the water tower by the old station. The overpass it depicts above the train is still here, just ahead of us.
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Video sound track: So Nice, by Stacey Kent

We arrive in Barbezieux just past three and are happy to find the managers still on site, just closing up for the day.  They’re a restaurant hotel, and closed Sunday night.  We knew this and were prepared - they sent self check-in instructions - but it was nice to get an in-person orientation before they left for the day.

There’s not much to little Barbezieux - it’s more a convenient stopover than a tourism destination.  Sunday afternoon it’s very quiet, but there are two open places to eat - the creperie our host referred us to, and a pizzeria straight across the street.  We debate it a bit and make the right decision, enjoying the best pizza of the trip.  Rachael is especially taken with her new favorite combo - zucchini, aubergine, sun-dried tomatoes, and smoked trout.

Afterwards Rachael heads back across the street to the hotel, after at the last minute passing me her phone in case something comes up while I’m taking a look around town.  It’s a good thing she did, because as small as Barbezieux is I get lost.  I’m pretty sure I could have been wandering around in the dark for quite a while if I didn’t have a map in my pocket.

Leaving our hotel.
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Keith AdamsThanks to the carpet texture that looks almost pointillistic. Another winning entry in your collection of remarkable photos.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThanks, Keith. It was an impulse shot, and I almost didn’t get the camera out in time. The texture is nice but I think the fact that I captured the toes of my shoes really makes the shot.
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Keith AdamsI saw your tootsies.

Foot selfies are hard to avoid when the camera is pointing straight down, aren't they?
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsA little awkward. You can push them back and lean forward but that has its drawbacks too.
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2 months ago
Keith AdamsTo Scott AndersonLike maybe overbalancing and plummeting several floors to a hard-to-stick landing... :)
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2 months ago
Barbezieux is a curious place. Most of its streets look much like this - grayish white shutters and plastered walls give it a homgenous, monotonic appearance. Even the narrow sidewalks fit in with the pale color scheme.
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Saint-Mathias Church.
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In Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire.
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Keith AdamsThe yellow streetlight really warms the scene, and the shot.
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2 months ago
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Ride stats today: 28 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 325 miles, 22,000’

Today's ride: 28 miles (45 km)
Total: 327 miles (526 km)

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