Feuillade - Stress-free Cycling the French Countryside - CycleBlaze

September 8, 2019

Feuillade

Plan B has launched

Today is a B day - celebrating my Birthday by launching my Plan B bike tour of the French countryside. In keeping with the goal of starting slowly and letting my strength/ bike conditioning build through the first weeks of the tour, today’s trip was a short and fairly easy ride to Feuillade. It was a brilliant day – blue skies, fluffy clouds, sunshine, and temperatures in the low 70’s. Nonetheless, I had butterflies as I descended the stairs from my hotel room. I headed out of Angoulême on a fairly busy road with well-marked bike lanes that took me to the Touvre River where I picked up the Flow Vélo bike route. The route runs east-west from the Atlantic to Dordogne, and in this section of the Charente included small roads than wound their way through a string of small villages. A number of people were out and about - walkers, joggers, cyclists - and all were quick with a smile and bonjour. It felt great to be back in France on a bike.

I had been so pre-occupied with starting a new tour that I forgot what day it was, and where I was. It was Sunday morning in France, and I had no provisions. I did a quick pass through of each village I came to, but everything was closed. Approaching the town of Touvre, there was a large barrier which required a detour on a small but short gravel path. After the detour, I ignored the turn for the bike route and was taking some pictures when a woman on a bike stopped to ask if I was lost. We started talking about the big construction project that blocked the road, the nice views, and the weather.  At least I think that’s what we were talking about – her French was very fast, but we both kept smiling and nodding our heads. I eventually spotted two baguettes in her handlebar basket and inquired as to where I might purchase one for myself. I got the gist of her directions and headed off, looking for some type of commerce area down the road and to the right. And soon, there it was! A sort of French countryside commercial “mini strip mall” with a bakery, a store selling local products, a laundry facility and a car wash. Soon I was provisioned with bread, ham, cheese, Reine Claude plums, and a small pastry treat. I retraced my way back to the Flow Vélo where it left the open fields and climbed almost 1.5 miles through the forest. On reaching the top, I paused for pastry and plums, then cruised down to the village of Les Grande Étouillles where Flow Vélo became a dedicated cycle path.

La Touvre River
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I spotted many of these crosswalk guards thanking cars for slowing down. This one was located near a school.
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One of the small local roads of the Flow Vélo
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The detour is well-marked
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The road blockage was due to a fairly large construction project that may involve a water main to the town of Angoulême, if I understood correctly
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I'm not lost, just taking pictures
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Bikes and baguettes - must be in France
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More provisions
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Vivien George looks a bit tired after the climb up the hill. Me, I have pastry and Reine Claude plums
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The cycle path was smooth tarmac through woods and open fields, allowing occasional views of the surrounding countryside. Originally built for trams and then steam locomotives, the old railroad line followed the Bandiat River and provided an important connection between Angoulême and Nonton. Traffic was relatively light, an occasional solo cyclist out for a Sunday ride. I had stopped for lunch in a nice picnic area when one of my sisters called to wish me a happy birthday. We were engaged in a long conversation when the first cycle tourists I'd seen passed by.  

The next section of the Flow Vélo is a paved cycle path that was originally an old rail line
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The route through open areas offered views of the surrounding Charente
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Through the tunnel
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And through the forest
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I was in no real hurry as I wouldn’t be able to check into my Chambre d’Hote until after 4:30.  I stopped at the trailhead in Marthon, wandering around the old train station and investigating a display of several marked cycle routes throughout the area, extending well beyond the Flow Vélo. I headed into town on the slim chance I might find a cup of coffee when my other sister called. I found a bench and enjoyed another family conversation, then set off for the Tour du Breuil, also known as the Donjon of Marthon. This lower part of the castle keep is the only portion that remains of the 12th century castle.

Lunch stop
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Hay bales and corn stalks - Vincent must be smiling
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I realized that all the sunflowers are turning to seed, not to the sun. Better find a new thumbnail photo for the journal
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The abandoned Marthon train station
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Tour du Breuil
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The village of Marthon
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Leaving Marthon, it was only a few kilometers to Feuillade and Saint-Alfonso’s, my my chambre d'hôte for the next three nights. I had a delightful stay with Didier and Bérénice during my tour last year and thought it would an excellent place for a slow start to this year’s tour – a chance to explore the area and get my bike legs working again. To my amazement, the touring couple that had passed me at lunch were also checking in! Odile and Alain hail from Royan and had cycled from Bordeaux. We shared a wonderful meal of paté, tomato and zucchini quiche, and chocolate cake – all homemade by Bérénice. After dinner, Didier led everyone in a round of Happy Birthday, while Bérénice brought forth a candle in a holder that whistled the birthday tune. This tour is truly off to a great start.

Saint Alfonso's in Feuillade
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Today's ride: 25 miles (40 km)
Total: 25 miles (40 km)

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Kathleen JonesHappy birthday! A grand depart.
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1 week ago
Susan CarpenterTo Kathleen JonesThanks Kathleen!
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1 week ago