Day 56: Leon to Gastes - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

April 2, 2024

Day 56: Leon to Gastes

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We got our clocks out of sync somehow, and woke up an hour before maybe we wanted to. So we set out at first light, which was about right anyway, given that we planned a quite long ride. The only thing, this day started out as the coldest of the trip so far, at 4 degrees. For me that means the chemical handwarmers, and discomfort nonetheless. This was the only downer in what also turned out to be one of the grandest cycling days of the trip. The reason for this was, dare I say it?, EV1, which offered smooth separated paved paths for basically the whole way. The way itself was amazing, passing through kms of managed Maritime Pine forest, and beside coastal sand dunes.

Below is our path as we set out. I didn't remember the scene as being this vibrant, but Dodie thinks it was the effect of the rising sun.

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Our trail today looked mostly like this. It was almost totally protected, and ranged through different variants of pine forest landscape.
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The pines can be almost floral in their beauty.
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Bill ShaneyfeltIn a day or so, those pollen cones will be dusting everything!
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The path runs mostly a little inland, so we ducked over to the coast at Contis for a peek. We were surprised to find municipal workers plowing sand, in exactly the same way they would move snow back home.

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The sand behaves just like snow, drifting, and "sanding in" houses.

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The tractor cleared the road to the sea.
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So we could stand and admire the waves.
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All along this coast there are campgrounds and enclaves of holiday cabins. All are shut tight right now. Perhaps the season starts in May.

Some businesses are open, but are they making any sales?
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We returned to our gorgeous and safe path, and just kept sailing along.
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We were surprised to find quite a number of cork oaks. Of course we had thought we left that way behind, in Portugal.
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The forest and the path lasted the whole day!
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The Forestry department has lots of info signs along the way, plus one major emplacement with quite an extensive amount of information.

W learned that in the 18th century the dunes were advancing at a rate of 40 meters per year, clogging up rivers and causing general havoc. This led to the plan for planting of the pine forests, something mandated by Napoleon III in 1857. In 45 years thereafter, 80,000 hectares of dunes were stabilised.

Part of the info displays
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We saw this yesterday, the Chaffinch.
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There was quite an extensive display about the procession caterpillars. We had first encountered these with a lot of warnings in German forests, had unthinkingly photographed a procession, and on this trip we "discovered" how they hang out in the pine trees, also getting close, to photograph their nests.

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This calendar for the caterpillars seems out of wonk, since we saw their nest in the pine trees (in Portugal) in February or March.
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We heard this woodpecker a lot today. The 24176 Great Spotted Woodpecker. (Photo from the info board)
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We also heard this 24177 Common Cuckoo all day. They like to eat the pine processionary caterpillars. They are known to be hard to spot - very shy. The birds arrive in Europe in April. It is said if you have money when you hear them, you will be (more) wealthy.
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We had a ham sandwich in the bag, and passed lots of nice picnic tables, but we had developed the idea of finding a "plat du jour" at Mimizan Plage, which was the next (and only) town on the route.

Mimizan Plage
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I was really happy when we spotted this restaurant. In St. Jean, when we had gone for the BBQ chicken at the market, it meant not trying the Moroccan tagine that was also available at two stalls. So I have been on the lookout for another chance.
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We got it, one vegetable, one chicken. Dodie would have gone for lamb, but the menu said it had olives, which she hates. So she chose vegetable instead, and guess what, full of olives, which I inherited.
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The tagines were so good! We were trying to figure out the spicing, but just told ourselves we will look up a recipe, and make it for friends when we get back. The crock pot should substitute ok for the iconic clay tagine dish they use here (and in Morocco, of course).

In the town of Sainte Eulalie, there is a spring that was associated with healing water. According to the sign, at least one faith healer made a profession of it in the 1990s. Saint Eutrope came to Gaul in the second century, but was killed by barbarians. A spring, said to have healing waters, bubbled up here for years and people brought their children suffering from weak legs here for a miracle cure. The spring has fallen on hard times in more recent times- the original wooden statue was stolen, as was a stone replacement. Then (climate change?) the spring dried up.

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The third replacement image of the saint.
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As we were reading the sign and looking at the spring, a lady happened along. She told us that she remembered the time when the spring ran, and she remembered the original wooden statue. Now 80 years old, she tries to go out walking each day. 

As we approached our BnB in Gastes, we ran into another bit of flooding. Fortunately there was a way to walk the bikes around it.

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This is our guest house, which we found very handily with the help of Grampies 2017. Those worthy travellers had had a hell of a time finding it, but thoughtfully left us a photo showing just where it is. We also looked pretty impressive, recognizing owner Pierre , and showing  his wife our photo of him from 7 years ago.

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Today's ride: 75 km (47 miles)
Total: 2,578 km (1,601 miles)

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