Day 46: Royan to Rochefort - Grampies Tour de France - CycleBlaze

May 11, 2018

Day 46: Royan to Rochefort

Special Feature: We don't know if little Joe in Montreal is drawing inspiration from Cycleblaze or not, but we can now draw inspiration from his devotion to riding his bike to school.

You need that latte to keep your strength up on a bike ride.
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Oh, and in case you should need any general cheering up before reading today's blog entry, have a look at this:

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Well, on with today's tale:

We were glad that the place where our bikes were stored allowed us to get them out on our own steam. That way we could load up and go without waiting for anyone to wake up and let them out. We wanted to start early because we had once again targeted Royan to Rochefort. Last year the Grampies had done the same, booking a place in Rochefort, but we had collapsed by Mayenne (half way) and had to forfeit the booking. That was in the heat and with the other bikes, so we were counting on ourselves to make it this time. It's tricky, because Google always underestimates the distance. But this time we had our own blog to rely on, and that put the trip at about 96 km. Google's take on the same route is 80 km, and the direct car route is 55 km.

We started back at the beach on the south side of Royan, again this time marveling at how big and long (5km) it is, and enjoying the view as it is with no people at all. Our game was to leave this beach and to circle around to the north, following the coast to where Marennes lies, on the other side of the Seudre river, in a vast estuary marsh.

The north side of Royan offers more the same great stuff that is on the south. That is, beaches (though not so grand) and Belle Epoque houses. Both of these really are something, and we could see that Royan really is a major vacation destination.

The beach south of Royan
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Beach north of Royan
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North of Royan, beach, and those iconic fishing huts
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In heading out straight to the north "one of us" was worried that we were leaving the downtown Royan bakeries behind, and before we had found any breakfast. But there was no need to worry. Before we had really left the orbit of Royan we  came to lots of them. We stocked up on stuff for lunch, and bought the items in the photo to eat right away. I love the French danishes with apricots, so this was really good to have found.

Apricot and apple treats!
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The beautiful houses really are the main feature of Royan. Here is a further selection, from our ride leaving town:

No idea what houses are worth here, but Laurie, how about one of these in Seattle!
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Laurie MarczakAhahahahahhahahahahaaaaaa sob
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Laurie MarczakI know, it is kind of hard to take......
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1 year ago

One other thing before leaving Royan is a memorial to twelve British marines who in 1943 did a commando raid on shipping at Bordeaux. They got off a submarine near here and paddled to Bordeaux in five canoes. Only two survived - six drowned and four were captured. We can readily say that Bordeaux to Royan by bike is not that easy - by canoe, at night, in wartime is really incredible.

The twelve
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Royan to Marennes deserves to go into cycling lore as one of the really great rides. It is on separated cycle way for the whole distance, being part of the "Velodysee" (Eurovelo 1) and offers great views of the Atlantic coast  and pathway through pine forest. The distance is about 40 km.

One of the early bits is amusing because it begins with a warning sign that says parts could be difficult. What it is is that the nicely paved path takes some deep dips and then comes up steeply on the other side. I am sure that most kids would look on it like a roller coaster ride - great fun. On thing watch out for was sand on the path, or also the man with a blower, removing the sand.

The warning sign
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This is actually a quite deep dip
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The man with the blower. By the way, every worker in Europe has terrific work pants.
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We had many coastal views
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All the natural beauty is not lost on the public, who also flock to things like "Youpiland"
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We prefer the cycle path, that mostly looks like this. Youpiland could be fun, though.
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The whole environment changes once you exit the forest and get onto the bridge over the Seudre river. On the other side is Marennes, 2 km to the side. Last year, when we knew we could make it no farther than Marennes, we even had trouble finding our way over those 2 km, though the Marennes church is in plain sight. This year, not exhausted, and in plain daylight, the way to Marennes was totally obvious. It will be fun to re-read our journal to see if we can understand just what our problem was.

From Marennes for most of the way to Rochefort one enters a unique ecosystem. One might call it  salt marsh, and I did read one panel that mentioned salt production. There are ponds and meadows, and a mixture of wild and domesticated animals. We saw cows - some brown, some white, and also swans, storks, egrets, and one ragondin (water rat). There are no trees, except on one "island". That island also had a pond with water lillies and the sounds of many birds.

Through this march we followed a rail trail, which was running beside a canal. It certainly is a special place. Here are some scenes from the marsh:

Water lillies in the pond on the "island"
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The path and the marsh. Dodie's position shows how it winds around.
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White horses were among the creatures on the marsh
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Some swans were nesting, others just hanging out. But these already had babies.
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Cattle on the marsh
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Our peaceful passage through the marsh (visible as the blue around Marennes in the photo) was made rather frantic as we went onto the loop that brings the cyclist to Rochefort. The idea is to avoid a busy road that cuts straight in. But the loop is not exactly calming, either. It is also, of course, longer than it looks on the map.

When we finally came to the Rochefort city limits, my photo shows standard ugly city stuff. We booked into a youth hostel that is outside the old core, so we never did quite get to see what must be an interesting old town. We will make a point of checking it out tomorrow.

The hostel is part of the International Hostelling network, though we found it on Booking. I think that saved us having to buy 22 euro each memberships in the organization. Also, which breakfast is quoted at 11.50 on the front o the building, it was included on our 50 euro fee. The room is bigger that most French hotel rooms and lacks a TV, which is fine. One other omission - towels, so that rather means no showers. Otherwise, it seems a great choice.

The outer bits of Rochefort are uninspired
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We did see the old harbour
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This is just part of what must have been barracks when France was the naval power that colonised Canada
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In a dry dock, this model ship offers rigging that adventurers can climb. Looks risky!
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P.S. we have been spinning around France for a month and a half now, so maybe it's a good idea to review just where we are. As you see on the map, we have reached the Atlantic, here called the Bay of Biscay. In very gross terms,  we came down the east side and across the bottom of the country.  Now we will make our way to Nantes, then over toward Brest before bumping along the Brittany coast and the Normandy coast, on the way to Belgium.

Where are we now?
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Our friend Michel, near Nantes, has been tracking our progress in Gpsies. He seems a little behind in his entries. But here is what he has up to Day 36:

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Michel FleuranceNow up dated to DAY 48

https://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=ihxkfwxcoodlexyq
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1 year ago

Today's ride: 91 km (57 miles)
Total: 3,059 km (1,900 miles)

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