Day four beckoned and this was the sight that greeted Team Tandem Ecosse as they set out on today’s 60 km route from Soulac-sur-Mer down the Atlantic coast to Hourtin.
All three of us were totally mesmerised by the view from what is effectively the promenade. Miles of white sand as far as the eye could see, sand dunes, and magnificent wild waves crashing in on the beach.
It truly was an awesome sight and one that will live long in the memory bank of the “old git” and the “old gal.” And the good news was that there were going to be many more ocean opportunities today.
The self-guide “bible” said: “Today we cycle deep into the pine forests, surrounded by swamps and ocean. There are plenty of opportunities to access the ocean – with views of the wild coast and ancient dunes.”
However it was with mixed feelings that we left the most hospitable Hotel Michelet, waved off in person by the even more hospitable Monsieur Michelet himself. Before we left he had a good look at me, working out where my chains go and how I work, and even parped my horn. Oooh Ethil! This man really does deserve a five-star plus rating for his service levels!
From the moment we left the hotel we were all most impressed to once again find we were on protected cycle lanes – which were also perfectly surfaced, which for this “old lady” is a real bonus as my suspension is not what it once was and I need to protect my frame!
We headed off towards our first stop at the popular coastal resort of Montalivet and the route quickly turned in land to take us round what was described as “one of the largest nudist camps in France.” This was massive, and the route round the high protective fence was at least 5 km long as it covers 175 hectares.
Clearly nudist holidays are popular in France! Fortunately the “old gal” decided it was best to pedal on. I mean can you imagine nudist tandeming? I mean, it simply doesn’t bear thinking about! And as for those sore bits on the saddle ….. And as for me, I would have had to remove my paniers! Zut alors!
The cycling lanes continued through the forest – with long straight stretches which appeared to have been built by the Romans!
The sun was beating down – and the temperature was rising – so the “old git” was pleased to be covered in his factor 30 sun cream to protect his sensitive skin from the rays.
He has even developed “Tour de France” arms, with his sun tan now clearly showing where the t-shirt starts! Whisper it, but I am sure I hear the “old gal” snort and say “Wish he had a Tour de France body to match!” … but maybe I was imagining it!
It was so warm with a hairdryer type of mild wind that the “old gal” even put some sun cream on too – showing just how fierce the rays were.
So all told is was perfect conditions and we all whizzed along at a fair pace. The miles, or kilometres as we are in France, seemed to fly by. You see, when I get going, the momentum that builds up when cycling on nice flat surfaces really builds up and carries me along giving the “old git” and the “old gal” an easier ride.
The long straight stretches also gave the “old gal” a welcome break from her map reading duties, and reassuring the “old git” for the fourth or fifth (or even sixth) time that yes it was this right turn they had to take!
And as the sun beat down, the dynamic duo enjoyed using up the supplies in their bidons (water bottles) – possibly more quickly than anticipated when they decided to fill them with white wine last night. Perhaps they should have studied the weather forecast more closely!
Time for a coffee stop at Montalivet, with the view over another amazingly beautiful beach, which is popular with surfers.
The dynamic duo also had a quick history lesson with a plaque to the success of the wartime Operation Frankton, which was initially launched from the Holy Loch back in Scotland. Looking out to the wild sea, they were full of admiration for the courage of those involved.
Supplies were purchased for another picnic – food and wine! – with the recommended beach at Le Pin Sec the earmarked lunch spot.
As we arrived we cycled through what was a mini surfing city – a huge surf camp operated by a holiday company for surfers, which included bars, restaurants, a supermarket and even a Marie or town hall! It was quite a set up.
The “old git” and the “old gal” enjoyed another fabulous picnic, basking in the warm sun with the most amazing outlook over the beach and the surfers. In fact, the “old gal” couldn’t keep her eyes off the young surfers – I am sure it was their surfing ability she was checking out rather than their ultra fit and tanned bodies!
Actually that might have been her excuse for the next incident – which involved a mishap with the “old gal’s” mobile phone. Not sure exactly what happened (really?!) but the phone ended up submerged in water – which as we all know is not the best place for mobiles.
A quick run to the on-site supermarket and a bag of rice was purchased to try to help dry it out – but this was more in hope than anything as it had been a total submersion and already it had switched itself off.
Which means that the picture quality for the images for my Musings has dropped a level as the dynamic duo are now relying on the photographic qualities of the “old git’s” ancient Blackberry!
After the trauma there was time for a coffee and for the now sheepish-looking “old gal” to check out the maps.
It was then back on the saddles to head for Hourtin Plage – another Atlantic beach. Now I am not sure of the drink cycling laws in France – but what with the soaring temperatures, the effects of that Bordeaux white at lunch and earlier in their bidons seemed to have the “old git” and the “old gal” in particularly high spirits!
Let’s just say there was quite often a wee wobble for the first twenty minutes or so after lunch with the handlebars requiring some correction! And the bidons now had the normal fluid of some much-needed cold water in them, fortunately!
What with the late lunch, and the phone mishap, it was late afternoon when we rolled into Hourtin Plage. The beach was even more wild than anything we had seen so far and the “old git” suggested they have a paddle.
So the dynamic duo now have a fabulous memory etched in their minds for ever of 5 pm on a Friday – finishing work time – of having a fun paddle in the Atlantic Ocean on a beautiful sunny French beach on the Aquitaine coastline.
It was so memorable the “old git” had to film the “old gal” enjoying herself in the waves! Click below for a laugh:
Then just to make sure, the “old git” decided on take 2 – this time as the “old gal” found a heart shaped stone and in a wonderfully romantic moment presented it to the “old git” before hamming up running into the surf! Again click on the link:
Actually, the distance they had to run over the beach at low tide reminded the “old git” that they could have cycled out to the sea, in the style of a saucy cartoon they had taken a photo of when having dinner last night!
So refreshed from their ocean experience, it was time to face what seemed – on paper at least – an easy last 12 km tandem to tonight’s hotel at the town of Hourtin.
Wrong! This was described as a cycle path through a forest round the north end of Lac d’Hourtin-Carcans. Now, the “bible” informed us this is France’s longest freshwater lake but not once during this stretch did we even glimpse the lake. We were deep in the forest – and as we were all tired – we ground to a halt on a few occasions as we hit a couple of hills.
There were even a couple of “discussions” as the “old git” tried to persuade the “old gal” that “this isn’t a hill” to which her response of “ok, I will freewheel then” accompanied by her stopping pedaling quickly brought the “old git” back to reality!
Eventually, after grinding out the last few kilometres we arrived at our accommodation at Hotel des Pins, and a most welcome sight it was.
I thought the “old gal” was going to shove the trip computer somewhere the sun doesn’t shine, but she humoured the “old git” as he reported that they had spent nearly four hours in the saddle covering a distance of 61 km.
Now this hotel is situated an equidistant 2 km from both the town centre and the port at the lake, so after a shower the dynamic duo had to climb back on board and cycle to dinner.
We headed for the town and got hit by a sudden rain shower, and as we parked outside the restaurant we had planned to have dinner in, the owner came out angrily shouting and gesticulating something about not leaving the bike on his terrace as people would want to sit at his tables.
We tried to explain that we were coming in for dinner, the restaurant was fairly quiet, and as it was raining it didn’t seem too likely that there would be too many people sitting outside. But he was having none of it.
So we left him to it, abandoning our booking and found a nearby – and much more welcoming – pizza restaurant. The “old git” and the “old gal” were very hungry by now and devoured some great French pizza – which included toppings of Reblechon cheese and roast potatoes! Yum!
We all cycled back to the hotel in a bit of a daze. Completely knackered, my now far from dynamic duo fell into bed and were asleep within seconds!
No doubt dreaming of an even longer tandem tomorrow!