Day three dawned for Team Tandem Ecosse and this was effectively a rest day with a short 20 km ride to stretch the legs and stop them from seizing up.
The first two days had been relatively tough – despite the flat terrain – clocking up 64 then 70 km respectively, with long hours in the saddle.
But the “old git” was chuffed that we had managed to maintain an average speed of 16 km/hr on those two long days. And of course I was chuffed that we covered the distance without any mechanical failures.
Those of you who have been following my Musings since last year’s trip to Burgundy will remember the painful experience of multiple broken spokes which had to be replaced en route. The “old gal” really earned her stripes as Chief Engineer to keep me on the road, despite never having changed a spoke before.
With the sun now making our base of Soulac-sur-Mer an amazing seaside town, we set off on the short tandem to Pointe de Garve, which is right at the point of the Medoc triangle and features the Phare de Garve, a pretty black and white lighthouse which is now a museum.
This area of France is renowned for its lighthouses, or phares, and indeed one local bar has humorously called itself the Phare Phare Away Bar!
There were a few German wartime bunkers dotted about as well, emphasising that the Gironde estuary has always been a crucial and strategic part of the French south-west coast.
As a shower broke out, we cycled on to the yacht club which was full of most impressive and expensive boats. The “old git” wanted to underline that he was captain of Team Tandem Ecosse so managed to engineer to have his photo taken beside the sign depicting the captain of the yacht club!
Meanwhile the “old gal” was looking out to see if there were any good-looking boat captains looking for new crew!
We cycled back to Pointe de Grave for some lunch. Apart from the lighthouse, the town’s claim to fame is that it is the departure point for the half hour ferry trip across the estuary to Royan, which before the war was a chic and fashionable resort for the bourgeoise.
The “old gal” wisely persuaded the “old git” that a relaxed lunch was a better option, and in full view of what seemed like a rebadged Caledonian Macbrayne ferry we had lunch in a cafe.
The dynamic duo excelled themselves again, starting with a cocktail as it was effectively a rest day before having a starter of mixed tapas. This arrived complete with a portion of escargot (snails) which the “old gal” and the “old git” deemed to be very tasty.
They then shared a huge bowl of moule mariniere (mussels and french fries) which of course had to be washed down with a lovely dry white Bordeaux.
After a relaxing bit of soaking up the sun’s rays, my dynamic duo wandered round the shops and spotted a bicycle hire outlet – which had tandems for hire! But they were these new fangled lightweight efforts, and not nearly as classy as my sleek classic tandem lines!
We headed back to Soulac-sur-Mer on the cycle paths which hugged the sand dunes for most of the way, and ran alongside a mini tourist train track. The cycle ways were amazingly busy and the “old git” was a happy boy as he got to use my horn (a French one naturally!) a few times to warn people we were about to pass them.
Today’s team strip was the dayglo pink t-shirts from last year – complete with the bilingual wording for “two old farts on a tandem” which,perhaps unsurprisingly, caused quite a bit of interest and more than a few laughs as we passed by.
I have to admit I was a tiny bit jealous as they lapped up the attention. But I was getting lots of admiring looks too, with people taking a double take to make sure that I really was a bicycle made for two!
And a word about the cycle paths – they were surfaced like motorways. And because cycling is so popular in this area, it was a two lane cycle path – one for each direction! Superb!
As we arrived back in Soulac-sur-Mer a rather strange sight met us – the Statue of Liberty. I mean I thought we were in France, not New York! Turns out that it is one of the replicas made from the original mould for the New York version.
A plaque informed us that this was to mark the point where the Marquis de Lafayette, en route to America from France on the ship La Victoire in 1777, made a final stop before crossing the Atlantic and becoming a hero as a general in the American Revolutionary War. It certainly made an impressive photo opportunity!
There was time for a quick run down onto the golden sand, and the “old gal” even had a quick paddle in the bubbling surf. But only up to her knees! The beaches we have seen so far are just incredibly beautiful – wild and natural.
Then it was back to the quaint Hotel Michelet, and with me safely parked in my private garage for the night, again the dynamic duo headed out to do some shopping on foot.
The “old gal” got a murano glass ring, and the “old git” was well pleased as he got a new pair of wrap-round sunglasses in a fetching electric blue shade! This means the “old gal” can get her white ones back that he borrowed after his previous pair suffered that accident when we ran over them! Ho hum!
They even managed to find a wine shop where they fulfilled one of their ambitions for this tour of filling their “bidons” or water bottles with white wine direct from the barrel. That should make tomorrow’s route interesting!
Back to the hotel for a shower and change and then dinner. Last night’s meal at La Station seafood restaurant was so good the dynamic duo booked a table at the same eaterie and enjoyed another fabulous meal of “fruits de la mer.”.
The combination of all the sea air, the cycling, the food and the wine turned out to be somewhat exhausting for the “old git” and the “old gal” so within seconds of returning to the hotel they were asleep and snoring their heads off!
No doubt dreaming of the little matter of a 60 plus km tandem tomorrow as we move down the wild Atlantic coast to Hourtin.