Lucon to Arcachon 280kms (175m)
From the rolling hills of the north, I now hit the extreme flatness of the Marais. Just like cycling across the Fens, but I was in favour today with St Jacques….. the wind was gently supportive! As I continue south, names evocative of the ‘fruit of the grape’ pass me by: Cognac, Riberac, Chalais, and the Medoc
looms on the horizon.
Small acts of kindness. At a Carmelite House, I was spoilt by the lady running their shop. She tried to find accommodation for me (but not in the House, because it’s an enclosed order) and she treated me to coffee and biscuits made by the nuns. At an internet café in Lucon, I told them I was a pilgrim on the Route St Jacques, and refused to accept payment for the use of their computer.
Bio-rhythms. I know this a bit technical to occupy a simple cyclist’s mind but, long journeys like this always alter my sleep/waking patterns. After a couple of days, I begin to fall asleep earlier in the evening and wake up in the small hours. Last night I fell asleep at 9pm and awoke at 3am, ready to go! Ah well, maybe I should regard 2-3 hours dozing as a welcome lie-in!
Royan. Nothing remarkable about this town, apart from it being on the estuary of the Gironde. In the 19th century, it used to be the most fashionable resort for Parisians. In fact, Paris used to migrate there for the summer. Sadly, it was extensively bombed during the war and was one of the first towns to be rebuilt according to a master-plan.
Royan to Arcachon (94m)
To avoid a massive detour around Bordeaux, there is a handy ferry (bac) across the Gironde Estuary to Verdon, which will launch me directly onto the Voie Littorale or the Voie Anglaise which will follow the coast along the flat forested expanse of the Gironde and Les Landes. Cycling in forest for a couple of hours can be fun, but in front of me lie 370kms of tree-enshrouded cycling. The forest is criss-crossed by a network of pistes cyclables, which means you could ride the length of the peninsula traffic-free.
People I met. Ahead of me I spied a be-panniered cycle-tourist and guessed he would be British. He had, in fact, also spied me behind him in his wing-mirror, and we pulled over to chat. Darrell, like many tourists was carrying far too much luggage (including a tent which he hardly used), but was enjoying the freedom of being retired as a butcher, and was on a 3 month, 3000 mile trip down to Spain and back, raising funds for Help for Heroes. Then I met a couple of
Germans, who gave me guidance on the pistes cyclables, and when I revealed my ultimate destination, one of them (who happened to be a church minister) asked me to remembered them when I arrived in Santiago. Then, at the end of the day, enjoying well-deserved beers, I bumped into a group of three (Flemish-speaking) Belgian cyclists who were riding from home right
down to Marbella, allowing 24 days for the journey. The early part of their journey was on the French Route St Jacques starting in Vezelay. In Spain their route will take them through Zaragoza, Cuenca, Albacete and Granada. They were such fun company for half an hour, I nearly joined them!
Etaing de Carcans. After 50 miles, covered in the dust of the forest and sweating from the excessive
heat, the lure of the freshwater lake was overwhelming. Lycra shorts make great swimwear, so in two minutes I was off the bike and into the water. Pure bliss!
Voie Littorale (Anglaise). This was a favourite route for British pilgrims in the middle ages. They would disembark at Verdon and begin their walk to Compostela. Today, it is still a largely unknown route, with very few pilgrims, but there is much evidence of its ancient use in the past. Several churches have preserved their statues of St Jacques, and there are the remains of former hospices and hospitals, including the Fontaine de St Jean with its curative waters.
Film “The Way”. This film should be launched in the UK this weekend, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. It is a story based on the Camino de Santiago (The Way), and it is my bad luck that I’m not there to see it. If you are intrigued by this journey, I’d highly recommend this film. As I head south through France, I am wished bonne route (not bon voyage) by all I meet. When I cross the border, that will change to buen camino.
Half way point looms. Today I will pass through Mimizan, where there is way-marker telling me the remaining distance of 1000kms (625m) to Santiago. I’ve just completed 7 days on the bike, so the going has been brisk. But without a doubt, the hilly terrain of the north coast of Spain will detain me with their challenges. Wish me buen camino!
Posted on May 12, 2011, in Santiago de Compostela 2000kms: a Celtic route and tagged Emilio Estevz, Gironde, Les Landes, Martin Sheen, St Jacques, The Way, Voie littorale. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.