July 5 - July 9
We have entered France. For most of our trip through France, we will be following the "Euro Velo 1" bike route. Euro Velo is a network of bike trails throughout Europe. More information is available at www.eurovelo.org.
Here is an overall map of our planned route through France:
The goal is to make it to Roscoff where there is a ferry to Ireland.
My last post showed us crossing the border and reaching Bidart, France. We pick up the journey there.
I. Bidart, France to Soustons, France (approximately).
We actually stayed in a campground near Soustons. It was really nice, right on the ocean.
If you need a helicopter rescue, dial 112 from your flip phone.
We camped next to some German surfers who were extremely nice to us. They gave us 4 chairs (traveling by bike we don't have camp chairs) and they gave us 4 German Pilsner beers. Here is a shot of the bottle. Evidently brewed with pine cones?
II. Soustons, France to Pelouche, France.
The ride today was about 50 miles of bike route through sand dunes and a forest. Here are some shots of the bike route and the signage that is available on the Eurovelo route. Excellent cycling - well paved and easy to navigate.
The blue and orange sign on the top right is for the "Euro Velo" route. We did not see any in Spain or our first day in France. But after Bidart, the route was clearly marked.
Some shots of what today's route looked like:
We ended up stopping about 15km short of our goal for the day. But we stumbled into an amazing campground. Our previous campgrounds had tons of amenities (pools, bars, horses, etc...), but also tons of people. This campground was quiet and on a lake. The lake water was really warm.
Also had a nice little bar/restaurant. When we paid for the campsite we got a free drink coupon, so we visited the bar....when the check came, we realized that free drinks meant non-alcoholic. Oops.
Parking for pregnant ladies only outside a grocery store.
Cement airplane. Brian told me he thinks it has something to do with the Spirit of St. Louis...but I think he is full of crap.
On this day we decided to split our group. Julie and I were having trouble keeping up with Marlene and Brian. On previous days we had tried picking points to meet during the day but ended up losing each other. So this day we decided to meet at our end destination - Le Petit Nice Campground. We picked it solely based on the name.
By miracle, Julie and I beat Marlene and Brian (they took a 20km detour and went swimming in the ocean). When we first checked in to the campground we were not that impressed. It seemed very crowded - lots of RVs and lots of kids. But the campground is located at the beginning of the a giant sand dune named Dune of Pilat. It turned out to be an awesome campground for several reasons.
Reason #1: great view of the Atlantic Ocean. Our campsite was near the bottom of this road.
Looking down at the dune from our campground.
Julie and I spent an hour hanging out on the dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We were just cooling down after a hot day and waiting for Brian and Marlene to show up. A bunch of young guys started setting up for a concert later that night. Pictures below show a quiet bluff transformed into a concert venue. They were an awesome band playing a range of French and American music (Prince, Chubby Checker, Cindy Lauper, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, etc...). This is the kind of thing I dream about when bike touring.
Here is Marlene and I as the concert is about to start.
Reason #2: free concert
Front row seats... (yes I am drinking beer out of an old Powerade bottle).
Sun setting and band playing. That is our group front row.
Our group with free style French dancer in background.
At the beginning of the show, not many people were there. Private viewing...
They lit off some fireworks towards the end of the show.
Foot wash at the campsite.
IV. Le Petit Nice Campground to Le Canon, France
Julie and I took a shorter day and stopped in Le Canon, France. Marlene and Brian continued on for another 25-30 miles. We plan to meet them by bike, plane, train or automobile in a few days.
We went to Arcachon, France to get another ferry across the Bay of Arcachon (see map above). We saw a guy who created these amazing animals out of sand. He didn't speak English, but I assume he painted the sand. Incredible. (Yes these are all sand...including a sand banana for the sand monkey!)
On the ferry...
A couple shots of Julie from today's ride:
Mid day yesterday we split with Marlene and Brian. We couldn't keep up with their pace. We will hop a train and meet them in 5 or so days. Last night we stayed in a lackluster campground. Crowded, lots of RVs, ants everywhere....felt like we were in Des Plaine, IL camping.
But today we found our bike angel:
We have found that aiming for lakes leads to great campgrounds. Today we headed for the two lakes near Lacanau that you can see on the map above. Our bike angel pointed us to this great campground (with tree houses!):
The inside had a little trampoline surface. It was nice not to have to set up the tent for one night. The lake was right across the road from our campground.