Day six and today’s route for Team Tandem Ecosse was a final 40 plus km taking us back across the bottom of the Medoc triangle – from the wild Atlantic coast back deep into calmer vineyard country and to journey’s end back at the start hotel in Pauillac.
Or as the self-guide bible put it: “We leave the Atlantic behind and ride east, returning to the Gironde estuary. We begin cycling through the Landes Forest as far as Saint-Laurent Medoc and then we are back in the vineyards, with more opportunities for tastings, before the last leg returning to Pauillac.”
So after a great night’s sleep, and some wonderful food last night, the “old git” and “old gal” were refreshed when they wakened on Sunday morning and raring to go (yes actually!) – eager for the final pedal back to the start point to complete the tour.
With the sun already high in the sky it was going to be a gorgeous last day, so the dynamic duo took full advantage of the weather conditions and decided on a visit to the port and marina area at Hourtin. A short 3 km cycle brought us to the most amazing vista at the lakeside – with millpond like water for miles in either direction.
There was a boardwalk which went about 1000 metres out into the lake to a viewpoint, which unbelievably had its own cycle lane to get there. So we pedalled out for a photo-stop. And as you can see it didn’t disappoint.
A quick stop for a welcome “double espresso” by the marina allowed a nice bit of French people watching.
Then it was time for the off and after loading up with some fresh produce and wine for the day’s picnic, we followed our route out into the Landes Forest. The bible informed us this is the largest maritime pine forest in Europe.
The massive plantation was begun in the 18th century to halt erosion and cleanse the soil. Most of the region now occupied by the forest was swampy land that was sparsely inhabited until the 19th century.
It was a joy to cycle through – wonderful warm conditions with no wind and long straight stretches of roads, complete with their own cycle paths alongside to keep the three of us safe.
As we cycled through the forest there was obviously some kind of shooting event going on deep among the trees, and we passed lots of marshalls in high-vis jackets.
We certainly created our own bit of stir, and a good few laughs and thumbs up, as we cycled past in our own high-vis day-glo yellow t-shirts!
Quite appropriately for the “old gal” and the “old git” after their week in the saddle, we passed a very quaint wooden cross at the hamlet of Bas Bre, which read: “aimez vous les uns les autres” which means ‘love one another.’
And, it would need to be said, it is a very suitable message for tandemers everywhere! The only problem was that the “old git” got a bit carried away with the romanticism of it – and forgot to take a picture of it!
On we pedaled on the road to St-Lauren-Medoc, and on one of the long straight stretches we met another tandem couple! We had seen them briefly yesterday when they whizzed passed us in the opposite direction – going much faster than we were!
Today they were parked up at a small bridge to have a breather, so we pulled over and had a chat. Turns out Bernard and Sylviane were from the Lorraine region of France which is near Luxembourg, and were touring the same area as Team Tandem Ecosse. They were most impressed at me as an “old lady” classic tandem and commented about what good shape I looked in!
But then they mentioned the “weight” word as they had one of these new light frame tandems.
And to make matters worse, it was an e-tandem, as Bernard had fitted a battery kit with a driver which kicks in when they need it most going up hills, or just when they fancy a rest. No wonder they were going so fast yesterday.
Seems the kit cost about £700 just to buy so it is not a cheap option – and of course the “old git” firmly believes that is cheating! I did however (whisper it!) catch the “old gal” casting a few envious glances in their direction – at the battery pack, and not the bike obviously as that would be disloyal! So if they win the Lottery, you never know – I may yet be kitted out with an e-kit. The only problem is that it adds considerably to the weight – and as you know I am not the lightest to begin with!
After exchanging a card directing them to my Musings – and having done our bit for international tandem relations -we cycled off with a friendly parp of my horn!
It was getting very warm and soon we were in the wine town of St-Laurent-Medoc, which marked today’s half way point. Just after the “centre ville”, we passed the picturesque Mairie, or town hall, we found a beautifully quiet tree-lined park for our picnic.
It was another gastronomic delight – with all the usual favourites of cheese, ham, grapes, and fresh bread. Not sure if it was because the dynamic duo were starting to feel a bit de-mob happy with the end of the trip coming up, or the strong sunshine – but today’s Bordeaux white went down very well, and very quickly!
So in particularly high spirits we pedaled off safe in the knowledge that there were only about 20 km to go to journey’s end.
As soon as we left the town we were immediately back among the vineyards and the spectacular châteaux. After about 10 km we stopped to take in the views, and to get some more pictures.
The harvest had started in a few pockets of the vineyards and it was fun to watch the narrow high tractors that go over the centre of the vines – with the automatic harvester machines behind.
Now, as the “old git” and the “old gal” well know, that is for the cheaper varieties – as the signature Medoc wines, like Chateau Margaux, still pick their grapes by hand.
The neat rows of grapes, just waiting to be picked, is another of those sights that have been etched into the memory bank. Truly amazing!
Back into the saddle and the dynamic duo tackled the last 10 km. And would you believe it, just as energy levels were sapping, we hit a few hills. I mean we had hardly seen an incline, far less a hill for the last six days and here we were – with only a few km to go, and we were climbing!
And climb we did to enjoy a nice downhill stretch all the way into the town of Pauillac and then an easy cycle along the river bank to our hotel and journey’s end, and a celebratory euphoric cheer!
According to the trip computer, today’s 42 km stretch took the total to 325 km, or 204 miles, for the trip.
Over the last six days we have spent a total of some 21 hours in the saddle, as we pedaled along at an average speed of 15.4 km / hr. Remember it is all about momentum – and the journey was very much the experience.
But for the record, our top speed of the trip was that heady 43.9 km / hr on a steep downhill stretch!
I have to say all three of us had a tremendous sense of achievement and satisfaction – mixed with general knackeredness – at completing the trip.
And as both the “old gal” and the “old git” happily pointed out: “Matilda was the star” – with not the slightest technical hiccup or incident along the way. The “old gal” even said she was happy not to have had to use her skills as chief engineer on this trip!
It was time for a cool celebratory drink in a cafe – with the “old git” raising a toast to the fact that it is “truly always better when we’re together” – even after 21 hours in the saddle! Awww shucks!
I was then parked up under the veranda at the hotel, before the “old git” purchased a nicely chilled bottle of the best Cremant de Bordeaux to celebrate their efforts in the room while having a most welcome shower and changing for an end-of-trip dinner.
A lovely restaurant just next door to the hotel was the venue for a celebratory meal – with the dynamic duo in the mood for some wonderful home-made burgers, cooked to perfection. And to add to the celebrations the “old gal” decided that a bottle of Saint-Estephe was in order – purely to toast the success of the trip!
What with the wine at lunchtime, the Cremant and the rich fruity red, whisper it again, but the “old git” and the “old gal” were just a tad tipsy by the end of the meal. But I guess that’s allowed to celebrate the end of the trip!
Back to the hotel. and a quick check that I was ok, before retiring for some much-needed sleep!
And although it was officially the end of the tour, the “old git” had persuaded the “old gal” that they should do an “extra” day – with a trip by car to Cap Ferret for a “warm down” tandem to taste some of the area’s speciality oysters!
So another installment to come! Stay tuned!