Sat, 30 Jun 2001

Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

Hangover time, last night there were far too many Newkie Brown's with Debra and Nick (Irish barmaid and Welsh traveller) at Dick Turpin's — an English theme pub. Debra kept trying to embarrass guys by flirting with all the guys in the pub and making jokes about her exceptionally large bust. I'd met Nick and another Welsh guy a few days ago in Nantes, but didn't recognize them at first.

[*] Did very little all morning except wander around through back streets and parks between the station and the hostel, snoozed in the sun and wrote another postcard. Finally feeling a little better I found some great looking back streets around a college, took a few photos and found the local Saturday market. Mostly clothes and food stalls, all packed with customers and all run by africans or Moroccan's

After taking a few photos and a brief look around inside a church I made my way back to the hostel and gathered up my stuff to move on to meet the Wide Open Road group. To my amazement someone had pinched one of my hooters while the bike has been locked up in the bicycle store room (the horns on the end of the handlebars). Rode the couple of blocks to the Hotel Kyriad and spent the rest of the day snoozing on the bed.

Later, we all met up at one of the cafés near the train station for introductions, beers, and for dinner. My choice was a magnificent bowl of onion soup, which was presented to me accompanied by a bowl of raw garlic cloves. I assumed that the chef knew what he was doing and so I tentatively chomped into one of the smaller cloves along with the soup. An impressively strong taste! The others were laughing and joking and wondering who I was sharing a room with when Dave piped up from the other end of the table. He'd ordered the same dish, so the two of us toasted each other with the largest garlic cloves we could find, then ate them with tears streaming down our faces.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Fri, 29 Jun 2001

Daytrip from Bordeaux to Arcachon // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

The English guys managed to flood our room three times this morning by overflowing the shower! Somehow the sign telling people not to turn the shower up too high just wasn't getting through. They were going to the beach for the day and invited me to go with them. When I got to the station it all started to look too hard, the trains too infrequent, so I changed my mind and sat down to have a coffee. More indicision and the fine sunny weather and I changed my mind back again, trotting inside to catch the train to Arcachon for the afternoon!

It was well worth it, I sat on the beach in the sun, watching the world go by. A strange mix, as some people were out in beach clothes, others seemed determined to wear their Sunday best.

There were signs pointing to the ocean beach and the world's biggest sand dunes. Or maybe they were Europe's biggest sand dunes. In any case it was too hot and too far and I was too lazy, so I had a gelato instead and wandered around the shops.

After catching the train back to Bordeaux I headed out for the evening, choosing the Irish bar and English-speaking company over a French bar and much less conversation!

Where?

Bordeaux, Arcachon

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Thu, 28 Jun 2001

Bordeaux … and winery tour // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] I'm not sure if I'm getting better or not! There's less phlegm, but more cough, maybe all that beer and wine and the smokey bar last night was the correct way to treat bronchitis!

I got in earlier today and paid my 160FF to take my chances on the winery tour. It turned out to be more of a chateau drive-by bus trip, with two winery visits thrown in. A little dissappointing to anyone used to a visit to Australian wineries, especially the smaller, more personable ones.

I could laugh at the comments that came from the French, automatic out-of-hand dismissal of Australian wine. Or the comments; “naturally they go for quantity at the low end of the market,” or “they change blends on a whim, here everything is controlled.” Then there's the Americans on the bus, none of them have ever been to a wine tasting before!

Once back at the hostel I had a more leisurely evening than last night; sitting around eating bread and cheese and sausage, and drinking wine with Lolita and Tiffany, Brazilian and Canadian respectively, and Julie, from the Blue Mountains in Australia.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Wed, 27 Jun 2001

Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: ??km

Bronchitis hit me hard this morning, coughing and wheezing and spitting for an hour or more when I woke up. I was feeling sorry for myself and equally sorry for the others sharing the room.

Spent much of the day being a tourist and walking around, by lunch time I wasn't sure whether my aching legs were from cycling, walking, or just from being sick. I'd hoped to get onto the winery tour today but it was booked out. Maybe tomorrow….

[*] After taking a couple of photos of the very famous statue I found out that I'm nearly at the end of a roll of film, and again I've left my spare film behind at the hostel. I also forget to copy down the statue's name or the comprehensive plaque around it. It had kings and queens and symbols of the republic and seahorses and water monsters and all kinds of things...

I found a shop with internet access, then had what the customer relations people would describe as an “unpleasant end-user experience.” Creaking old 486s, grotty keyboards, slow net connects and foreign keyboard layouts. Assorted linked systems back at Monash being out of action all affected each other, and the lack of server-side mail processing meant that when I could get through, there were several hundred mails waiting in my inbox to be manually sorted.

I spent the afternoon walking around the public gardens and the Natural History museum. It's a magnificent old building that feels like something out of the 19th century. Fusty old paint peels off the walls and the rooms are full of row after row of stuffed animals in glass cases.

I adjourned to an Irish pub to sit and write a few postcards, then after a large steak dinner, headed back to the hostel where I spent the evening with a bunch of Canadian guys and three young Finnish girls, drinking far too much wine and talking late into the night.

Where?

Bordeaux

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Tue, 26 Jun 2001

Saintes to Bordeaux // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1870.7km
  Today: 151.09km
  Trip total: ??km

Good news or bad news first? The good news is that sometime during the night it finally cooled down and now is slightly overcast and around 20°C. Perfect weather for cycling. The bad news is that my cold is now much worse, probably bronchitis judging by the coughing and spitting!

Fantastic weather to ride in, cool and a light mist, so little that nothing stayed damp, just enough to keep me cool. It warmed up gradually later in the day, but stayed overcast the whole time.

Bordeaux was quite a hassle to get into, as most large cities are. Roadworks on the motorways meant that there were diversions all over the place. The side road I was on ended up being the motorway for quite a way. Further in I found a cyclepath labelled “Bordeaux Centre” and followed it for ages, then just as I was feeling hopeful that I was actually going to reach the centre of the city, it expired in a building site in a dodgy part of the docks on the wrong side of the river.

Bordeaux struck me as being overwhelmingly big. A big city, big traffic. It's probably the largest place I've had to ride into. Surprisingly enough, once I'd made it across the river I found the hostel easily enough.

The Garonne river is quite something to anyone from Australia. We just don't have rivers on that scale! The current looks frighteningly strong, full of enormous eddies.

The hostel is very new and clean, it even has a bicycle room, but there isn't anything to lock the bikes to inside the room, so you have to trust all the other people with access.

Route

Saintes, D6 to Thenac, Tesson, Gémozac, Toutvent, Mortagne-s-Gironde, D145 to St Thomas de Conac, St Bonnet-s-Girone, St Ciers-s-Gironde, D9 to Blaye, D669 to St-Andre-de-Cubzac, St Vincent de Paul, Bordeaux.

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Mon, 25 Jun 2001

La Rochelle to Saintes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1719.6km
  Today: 95.41km
  Trip total: ??km

I'd left La Rochelle with a vague idea of riding to Bordeaux today, optimistically managing to mis-read the map. At lunchtime as I neared Rochefort I saw that it was another 160km! Decided to make for Saintes instead, and only just made it there, during the afternoon the temperature just kept on climbing, around 35°C I guess.

I found a bike track this morning that ran from La Rochelle to Rochefort, but as with bike tracks everywhere it didn't seem to have enough signs and I managed to lose it a couple of times. One particularly frustrating occasion had me zig-zagging back and forth and venturing onto the motorway before I rediscovered the track.

The last stretch from Rochefort to Saintes was exhausting, I was just plodding along guzzling down hot water and counting down the kilometres. Finally got in around 3pm, had a shower as soon as the hostel opened, and then went to bed and slept for an hour.

[*] After a sleep I felt much refreshed, the temperature had dropped too, so wandering around the town was quite reasonable. I had a look at some Roman ruins, drank a few refreshing beers, sat in the park and then had a meal in the square.

Route

La Rochelle, Châtelaillon-Plage, Vieux Châtelaillon, le Marouillet, Yves, Fouras, Rochefort, N137 to Saintes.

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Sun, 24 Jun 2001

La Rochelle // at 23:59

  Odometer: ??km
  Today: 0.0km
  Trip total: 1455.0km

It was nice to wake up and not have to pack up and move. Michael and I walked around for an essential visit to the laundromat, then spent the morning sitting on the beach watching the girls go by.

The beach and the bay looked fantastic, but as the tide went out we saw that the sand ended at the waters edge, and it was all mud and rocks from there out! Probably explained why so many people were sitting on the beach, and so few were in the water.

In the afternoon I managed to chase up an internet connection and check my email, 690 messages to sort through, and only two that I was interested in, the two from Jo. The French keyboard isn't a QWERTY layout, and that really slowed me down. The whole “internet booth” was an Apple iMac in a fancy cabinet, and it crashed as soon as I tried to access St George's electronic banking applet. Not a satisfactory experience!

[*] In the evening we walked around the harbour again and drooled over the Round-the-world yachts that had tied up as part of the BT Global Challenge event. Fleetingly joked about trying to crash the welcome ceremony and help ourselves to the seafood buffet and champagne that we could see, but settled for going to dinner and a few beers in a nearby café.

[*] 39FF for a pint of Guiness came as an unpleasant surprise, although the beer and the bar and the company were good. Later we explored a few more side streets as things got a little quieter with the end of the weekend, and found a statue of a horse that someone had put a beer bottle in its mouth. I tried to take a picture, but had trouble zooming in on something that far away. Again, it cooled down rapidly once the sun went away, and we had a fairly early night.

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Sat, 23 Jun 2001

Nantes to La Rochelle // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1622.7km
  Today: 167.7km
  Trip total: ??km

My cold is growing, I've been sneezing all day, and my nose is running constantly.

Stinking hot again inland, later in the afternoon it cooled as I got the sea breeze, but there were then 30km of head-winds across “Les Marais” which I think translates as “the swamp”. A flat, smelly, and very uninspiring ride!

It took me almost an hour and a half to get out of Nantes, I kept having to avoid motorways and zig-zag about, never seeming to make any headway. Managed to get lost in a couple of smaller towns as well.

In Luçon I was stopped reading a map when a French girl and her daughter came up and chatted (in English). She had ridden across Canada about 9 years ago, and would like to travel more, but with her young daughter now she just makes do with talking to riders that she meets.

Crossing Les Marais there are some strangely disturbing bits of road-kill on the desolate roads and lane-ways. They look like beavers, or enormous rats. I've no idea what they are, but I don't think I'd want to fall into the drainage ditches off the road. If anyone knows what they are, please tell me!

In La Rochelle I met a guy from Mt Evelyn, just out of Melbourne! Neither of us had booked into the hostel and we were surprised at how full it is, apparently we're lucky to get a bed at all! We spent the evening exploring the town, but it cooled down pretty quickly once the sun had set.

Where?

Nantes, Luçon, La Rochelle.

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Fri, 22 Jun 2001

Rennes to Nantes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1455.0km
  Today: 143.9km
  Trip total: ??km

I've had a sore throat all day, I think I'm getting a cold.

I felt like crap and hardly wrote anything in my journal.

Rennes was nearly impossible to get out of on the bike, I ended up heading south on the main highway for a few kilometres before being able to escape onto the side roads.

Where?

Rennes, N137-E3 to Chartres-de-Bretagne, Noyal-Chatillon-sur-Seiche, St Erolon, Bourgbarré, Chanteloup, le Sel-e-Bretagne, la Bosse-de-Bretagne, Teillay, la Thébaudais, Rouge, Châteaubriant, Issé, la Robertière, Nort-s-Erdre, D 26 to Sucé-sur-Erdre, Nantes.

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Thu, 21 Jun 2001

St. Malo to Rennes // at 23:59

  Odometer: 1311.1km
  Today: 141.9km
  Trip total: ??km

[*] A long day, but in some ways it didn't really feel like it.

After getting out of bed and queueing for breakfast with hundreds of French school girls all on a school holiday trip, I headed out at 10:00 along the minor coast road in the direction of Mont St. Michel. I hadn't realised how far it was, so it was 64km and 1pm by the time that I got there, very hungry and hot. The early fog burnt off quite quickly to a hot day. Mont St. Michel loomed into sight when it was at least 50km away, and just didn't seem to get any closer, when I finally got there it was a bit of a dissapointment, with hundreds of people, cars and tour busses all around. With nowhere to lock my bike, and hunger rapidly rearranging my priorities I headed back over the causeway to a supermarket and then lunched in the park.

Over lunch I decided to head for Rennes since there was still plenty of time and I was feeling fine. Three hours later, stinking hot and probably stinking, I rode into Rennes with no real idea of where I was heading. Just as I found the centre of town I spotted a hostel sign, headed off and got lost and confused, then found the signs again, and by 18:00 I was showered and comfortable, amazed at how far I'd travelled in one day.

Where?

St Malo, D201 to Rotheneuf, le Verger, les Portes, D155 to le Vivier, D797 to Pontoroson, D976 to le Mont-St-Michel, Pontoroson, D175 to Antrain and Rennes.

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