Day two dawned with us all having an early alarm call in Pauillac so we could be on the road in good time for the second leg of the “Team tandem Ecosse” adventure – a 64 km tandem through more big name vineyards and on to the top of the Medoc triangle on the Atlantic coast at the seaside town of Soulac-sur-Mer.
This was to include an eagerly anticipated stop at the famous wine capital of Saint Estephe, before – as the “bible” stated – “leaving the wine-producing Medoc behind and enjoying delightful views of the Gironde estuary, which at up to 12 km wide makes this historical waterway the largest estuary in Europe and acts as an open gateway to Bordeaux.”
The “old gal” and the “old git” wakened in good spirits, and remarkably there were no ill effects or strains from the first day’s adventures to Margaux. But before breakfast, we had to pack up as we were moving hotels today.
A quick word about how we travel here. First of all I have been kitted out with some rather fashionable panniers – top and sides at the back, and a top one at the front. They are used for daily essentials such as cycling jackets, towels, sun creams, snacks and drinks and a full picnic kit.
The good thing about this trip is that the bulk of my dynamic duo’s luggage is transferred from hotel to hotel by the company that organised the tour, Exodus – leaving us free to concentrate on the tandeming.
But I am still fairly heavy as given my age I am a traditional “old lady” tandem made of steel – none of the modern lightweight aluminium for me! So, with the added weight of the panniers, I am certainly no light thing – as the “old git” and “old gal” will tell you if we hit a hill or even an incline.
However the positive side is that I am finely balanced, and highly tuned, so that means on the flat I can whiz along without too much effort – and when we go downhill I can build up a fair momentum.
So heading off we soon got used to the sometimes odd directions. There was one this morning within 3 km which made us both laugh. The “bible” said: “There is a pharmacy 100 m away up the main road. So don’t go as far as the pharmacy.” So if we weren’t to go there, why mention it?! Anyway it made us smile! And needless to say, we didn’t go as far as the pharmacy!
Leaving Pauillac behind, within minutes we were deep into more spectacular vineyards – with the owners out sampling the grapes in advance of the signal to start the annual harvest.
One of the most impressive sights was the Chateau Lafitte Rothschild – which was huge, but an architectural treasure. Obviously there is money in this wine making business!
Onwards and through the vineyards direct into Saint Estephe – a most picturesque typical French town which has one of the most famous names in wine.
We stopped for a look at the church, and bought some local grapes just oozing with flavour for the day’s picnic. There was also a local butcher with the appropriate name of M.Pigout above the door!
We also took time to visit the local co-operative wine shop – which is one of the few areas to be branded under an attractive area marketing logo.
The local wine growers have clearly decided that there is merit to them grouping together, rather than all competing against each other.
A few wine-related souvenirs were purchased – including a stopper for the picnic wine bottles, just in case we didn’t manage to finish a whole bottle one day!
Pedaling on the route meandered through a few more vineyards before crossing the canal at the working harbour at Port de la Marechale. We then weaved through some spectacular countryside round the Chateau Loudenne before cycling into the village of St-Chistoly-Medoc which the “old git” had earmarked for a picnic.
And what spot it turned out to be, with picnic tables beside lock gates and a small harbour. The “old gal” soon had lunch set up and the dynamic duo enjoyed another fabulous array of fresh gastronomic goodies, washed down with a bottle of Bordeaux white.
In the warm sunshine, it truly was a magical spot and gave the “old git” and the “old gal” a highly memorable experience.
Lunch consumed – as I rested under a shady tree – the dynamic duo spotted an unusual local cafe, which doubled as a supply shop for the yachts, and headed for a coffee. Amazingly they charged the small amount of just one euro for a double espresso – by far the cheapest coffee of the tour! And the “old git” spotted a box of limes (for the gin back in the hotel!) and when asked how much was waved away and told to take it for free!
It was tempting to sit and bask in the sun for a while longer, but the trip computer said we had only covered 23 km of the required 64 km, so it was back on the road for what proved to be a challenging afternoon.
It started ok as we cycled along making a good pace,passing two more harbours at Port de Goulee and Port de Richard. But then the directions were questionable again, and both the “old git” and the “old gal” agreed they were lost (again!)
After a few deep and meaningful “discussions” the “old gal” made use of her French and flagged down a car to ask directions, and we were soon pedaling in the correct direction again.
The sun was now fierce, and perhaps as a result of the most enjoyable white Bordeaux with the picnic, the dynamic duo were flagging a bit and in need of liquid refreshment (of the soft drink variety!)
Fortunately a store in a sleepy village was open and two very welcome cans of ice-cold drinks were rapidly consumed.
Refuelled and re-energised we headed off on a long stretch to the fairly large town of St. Vivien-de-Medoc – which had been highlighted by the “bible” as being “a vibrant town, and a suitable stop for afternoon coffee” before the final push to Soulac-sur-Mer. Unfortunately, no one had told the town as it was effectively closed! Not a bar or cafe was open.
So we headed off for the last 15 km pedal to our stop for the night on the Atlantic coast. Now at this point the “old gal” had one of those experiences which she says has “changed her life” when out tandeming!
Whisper it, but she had purchased a “Shewee” device before leaving Scotland, in case she got caught out. Well, half way into the final stretch, it was time for the “old git” to pull in to a quiet cutting in the forest to let the “old gal” give it a trial! And I am told the results were amazing! Ecstatic even! What a relief!
The last few kilometres passed in a bit of tired blur, but the route finished with a cycle through Soulac’s main pedestrianised shopping street – where we certainly caught the eye of tourists – until we reached the ocean.
And what a sight it was – our first glimpse of the incredibly beautiful but wild and rugged Atlantic Ocean, caught in the middle of a sandstorm!
As the sand was blasting everyone, we quickly located our seafront hotel, the fabulously quirky Hotel Michelet – which was a converted 19th century mansion.
The “old git” and he “old gal” were made more than welcome by host, and over-the-top camp owner Monsieur Michelet – who really did everything to make our stay memorable.
He was very interested in me as he hadn’t had a tandem to stay at his hotel before, and even found a spot in his private garage for me!
One of his many talents was recommending a restaurant for the dynamic duo – the gorgeous La Station sea food restaurant. The food was so fresh you could almost taste the sea on it, and the star dish was the seafood cassolet – effectively a sea food stew, served as a starter with tasty crusty bread. The “old git” had a plate of langoustine as his main course – which were a culinary treat.
And this was where my dynamic duo first discovered the Entre Deux Mers wine, as it came recommended by the chef! It would have been rude to say no, and they were glad they didn’t. If sharp, dry white wine, superbly chilled is your thing – then look no further. A perfect accompaniment for sea food!
Suitable replenished it was time for early lights out and some deep snoring (on the “old git’s” part anyway!) as tiredness took over.