Week 25 Hendaye, France to Lasne, Belgium

Day 169

There’s nothing quite like having to put on yesterday’s wet shoes…

We’d done a pretty good job getting as much as possible dry in the “bijou” hotel room but there is only so much to be done when as soaked as we were last night! We weren’t feeling the most energetic either and a very slow start packing and maintaining the bike saw us on the road later than planned. It did allow us to watch the storm clouds roll over though and start in the sunshine.

Our first day in France started well with great views of the beaches, packed with Sunday morning surfers. We pulled over in St Jean de Luz to replenish our foodland bag with supplies. It’s a Sunday so the likelihood of finding provisions here after midday is low-we know this from previous French cycling trips!

Stocked up on baguette and cheese we faced some ups and downs along the coast to Biarritz. The roads were busy with Sunday morning traffic and the cycles came and went, inevitably getting us shouted at by angry French ladies driving whenever we missed one!

On the whole everyone was friendly and encouraging and we got a few “bravos”! Biarritz was rather nice and we felt rather scruffy passing the chateau like hotels and restaurants. Deciding the coastal route would be quieter to Bayonne we were surprised to be stopped by Charles and his wife from the Tandem Club who had tracked us down despite our deviations and failure to pick up and messages from 48hours due to lack of WiFi! They had cake and fruit and coffee and we were really disappointed we couldn’t stop longer to chat, but we were running pretty late by this point.

Happily Charles advice was right and the roads got flatter from here as we picked up cycle routes and tracks through the forest. Only stopping briefly for our picnic lunch we managed to miss a heavy shower sheltering in front of a closed restaurant.

A big push to keep the speed up and we arrived at Parentis en Born well after dusk but feeling less traumatised than yesterday and with a drier walk for Laura to get the pizzas in!

Day 170

Not such an exciting day for photos…but a more exciting day for mileage!!

17,000 miles done! 1000 to go…

We made a really big effort to have a timely start this morning with the bags packed and ready to face the torrential showers after breakfast…apart from there was no breakfast! The signage in the hotel staing the times and the message asking if we would like breakfast (to which we replied yes!) were fibbing!!

Feeling like we were on the back foot already we found the nearest bakers and tucked into croissant and pain au chocolats before trying to psych ourselves to get out into the rain and dark.

We managed and got our heads down for the first few hours for it to brighten up somewhat-much better than we were expecting! Skirting South of Bordeaux we made good progress before lunch stop…at a pizza van!!

Having eaten mostly pizza and bread for the past 24hrs we had little excuse to keep at it through little villages and towns, sometimes with busier roads and then quieter back roads again. A thankfully shorter night ride tonight and a route deviation to find dry accommodation to the most beautiful farmhouse. A warm welcome from an English couple running the bed and breakfast and a complimentary half bottle of Bordeaux to celebrate getting into 3 figures mileage to go!

Day 171

We’re not done with weather yet…

We reluctantly left the wondrous Logis du Poirier where everything was beautifully clean and comfortable and the idyllic surroundings were only topped by an amazing breakfast.

A short retrace to route and we were in rolling hills again, surrounded by lush fields and countryside. We had managed to start in.the dry despite it being wet when we got up and watching the storm clouds roll in front of us, we were not impressed by the sight of rainbows through the sunshine.

Barely missing an epic storm cloud near Saint-Claud we could hear thunder too! We were doing well and enjoying views along the river and of chateaus along its banks when Laura noticed a dreaded bounciness to the back tire… with the last puncture/blow out we had at less than 4000 miles, you can’t say over 13,000 miles without one is bad!!
Great performance from our marathon Mondial Schwalbe tyres.

Getting it fixed not only put us into dusk but also had us cop our first proper icy downfall. We’d seen hail on the road earlier so were pleased to avoid that but it was still pretty unpleasant.

Behind schedule with the puncture we got to Chavigny pretty late and had rhe surreal experience.of ordering kebabs under the massive castle ruins.

Day 172

A thankfully dry but predawn start in the depths of the old town of Chavigny. Having not really had our fill for dinner we descended on the first boulangerie and after working our way through the pastry section and topping up Foodland from the carrefour we were well supplied for the road and the bells tolled us out of the town.

A bright start but we soon got caught in a shower and felt grumpy about being wet again. We caved early on for more coffee and pastries (is an almond pain au chocolat the most calorific foodstuff on the planet?) Hit by crosswind the riding got a bit tough, especially for Stevie on the front. Just as we approached Tours we passed another cyclist who “whooped” enthusiastically at us… it was only Anisa who had tracked us down and come all the way from the UK!!

We try not to encourage fellow riders, as nice as it would be, as the logistics meeting up, different speed/tempo or riding and our need to focus on the day to day make it really tricky! But Anisa has encountered us on several ultras/audaxes before so is used to us being tired and grumpy!
We pushed on through Tours and had a quick break standing up (another Audax trait Anisa didn’t bat an eyelid at!) before diverting along the Louire Valley for a flatter ride and better chance of accommodation. It was a cracking evening and the wind was being us. The river was beautiful and we narrowly escaped the storms again, flying along the road with Anisa behind. We made great progress (for once!) to Mer where Anisa peeled off to get a train and we went to ransack the supermarket for a treat of a pasta dinner in a self catered apartment.
Hopefully such a morale boosting day will set us up well for a good stint tomorrow .

Day 173

A day where our progress probably looks more exciting on a map than it did on the ground!

The morning followed the Loire to busy Orleans where we were foiled by a franchise McDonald’s not opening until midday (sace bleu!!) and pushed on through the outskirts of the city. We then went for some main road bashing to make the most of the wind behind us, but it made for tedious riding.

Then in complete contrast we ended up cutting across country on back roads to get towards Rambouillet-an audaxers mecca! Stevie wasn’t sure if Laura was trying to traumatise him, but it seemed somehow appropriate with fond (?) memories of Paris-Brest-Paris.

Getting some nicer roads as the sun was setting unfortunately had us hit the school run too and some crazy drivers in the bigger towns. Disaster struck on one of the last climbs when Stevie dislodged his sunglasses, he swerved trying to catch them…but it was too late! There was a crunch as they went under the back wheel…

Feeling a bit disheartened we pushed through the last few rolls to another apartment and a takeaway pizza to cheer us up!

Day 174

After carefully exiting the gite with our precious tandem we set off along misty rover roads with a few short sharp climbs over the ridges formed by the chalk and flint apparent in the ground.
The sun was shining though and it soon warmed up. Despite our early morning raid of the boulangerie, we got peckish early and stopped for coffee and sandwiches-which were more like 24″ baguettes! Subway eat your heart out!
Stevie also found out that the World Cup was on (Laura is still mostly oblivious), going to show how absolute our focus has been over these final weeks.

Heading North a bit further you could be forgiven for think we were making a break for Calais, but finally we turned right and head East to Berlin!

A chaotic time getting through Amiens cost us an early finish and risking missing the shop down the road we stocked up at Aldi before heading along a long straight road to a wonderful gite for the night-more suited to a party of 6 for a week than two cyclists for the night, but we’re just relieved another day is done!

Day 175

Cricky…I had to go back and check this was all the same day!
Leaving the luxury gite later than planned, we were cornered by the owner’s mother and had a rather disjointed conversation in our poor French where she was convinced we didn’t have the correct distance we rode per day! Feeling unsure if we were encouraged by her disbelief we set off into the surprisingly cold most morning.

We soon crosed over the river Somme and passed numerous cemeteries for various nationalities through the morning. The sense of the history of the region hung as heavy as the mist and a engraved message on a church local to an Australian cemetery said simply “we stand with Australia”. Knowing how far away Australia is now, it seems even more poignant that lives were lost so far away from home. Tractors plowed heavy clay/soil fields in furrows where trenches may once have been.

The sleepy Saturday villages soon got the better of us and we were on the hunt for second breakfast… a restaurant looked tempting but time consuming…and then delight of delight: a pizza vending machine!! Selection made and the captive pizziola (who we are convinced is locked inside) and in a matter of minutes boxed pizzas were posted through the slot!

Calories sorted we got back on the road but the cold dank mist made it a chilly ride to the border with Belgium. Plenty of deer warning signs (Laura has previously “discussed” her thoughts on these), but there was no deer and no “welcome to Belgium” sign! We’re pretty sure France had one in the other direction…

But it was certainly different- the pace felt fast, signs were brighter and the shops more mainstream/chains. A hectic start had us stop for coffee before tackling our way through a number of small towns where everyone seemed in a rush. Surviving the melee we bounced out onto backroads, potholes and dodgy surfaces before rejoining another busy main road with equally bad surface…we couldn’t win!

Pulling over to pick up the evenings supplies we had the weirdest supermarket experience of the trip with a store like a warehouse, a whole room that was a fridge, free prosecco tasters and a checkout that wasn’t a checkout and didn’t accept visa cards!

Getting back on for what should have been the last few miles up the main road before a turn for the b&b didn’t got to plan when the turn put us straight onto cobbles! (Yes we know we are in Belgium but we intend to get the bike and ourselves to Berlin in one piece not do a Paris Roubaix). The cobble went to gravel which then descended to a farm track! Able to see what we were sure we’re lights of the b&b ahead we had to make a detour right around on more cobbled streets before eventually arriving very late and unimpressed!


Weekly mileage: 774 miles

Total mileage: 17,678 miles

Pizzas: 6!

Punctures: 1, after over 13,000miles without one!

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