So the official tour of the vineyards and beaches of the Medoc was over, but the “old git” had a cunning plan to tempt the “old gal” into a “warm down” tandem in Cap Ferret.
No, not Cap Ferrat – the playground for the rich and famous right on the south coast, but the equally beautiful up-market resort of Cap Ferret.
This is a long thin promontory which runs north-south at the entrance to the Arachon lagoon – back on the Atlantic side of the Medoc area of Bordeaux.
And not only is it known as a trendy destination and a place of leisure for the high French society – but it is also the oyster capital of France.
Despite being saddle sore after over 200 miles in the last six days, the “old git” sold the “old gal” on the idea of one last day of gentle tandeming – with the promise of a seafood gastronomic delight at a sea front restaurant where the oysters are literally pulled out of the water in front of your eyes, straight on to the plate.
Given the miles they covered, the plan involved packing me back into Matilda Transport and driving the hour across country from our base in Pauillac on the Gironde estuary to Cap Ferret on the ocean.
The “old git” had plans to cycle 15 miles to another Moorish influenced resort town of L’Herbe which they passed through as they drove down the peninsula.
But on arrival in such a stunning setting of Cap Ferret in idyllic warm conditions that idea was quickly abandoned in favour of some gentle cycling around the town.
After I was removed from the vehicle, and back on my wheels we all had a quick pedal round the town to work up an appetite for our seafood treat to come.
And I have to give credit to the “old git” this time – as he does do his research. And after a tour of the resort we arrived at the wooden cabin style restaurant and shop of oyster farmer Catherine Roux.
This is actually difficult to describe to give it it’s due credit, but was essentially a restaurant with tables placed either side of a small wooden pier which edged out into the colourful bay – and underneath were the oyster beds.
The setting was like something out of a movie and the “old git” and “old gal” found a perfect table with a view to die for across the bay.
The guidebook told them that the Arachon Bay is one of the major production centres in Europe for oysters, with over 400 farmers producing up to 15,000 tonnes of the delicacy a year.
The menu was a seafood lovers delight – with the ability to choose oysters not only by the size, but also the quality and age.
So being relative oyster virgins, the “old gal” and the “old git” decided on a “fruit de mer” platter, which included six oysters. It also had some lovely fresh langoustine, smaller crevettes, and bullots – which they had seen on menus all week, but hadn’t tried. They turned out to be large sea snails, or whelks – which were actually remarkably tasty when eaten with a large helping of garlic mayonnaise.
The oysters themselves were actually very tasty – and so fresh given that we were eating over the seabed in which they were farmed. It was a case of loosening the oyster from the shell, squeezing lemon juice on top, then slurping it down!
Now the “old git’s” research also discovered that they are best eaten with some of the perfectly chilled and very dry white Entre-Deux-Mer wine, which is a Bordeaux speciality too. And the one served here was an organic one and it was truly a treat for the taste buds.
And what a combination it made! The “old git” was first to try the oysters, but the “old gal” soon got the hang of it – and despite some initial reservations found them to be a fantastic treat.
The seafood was served as it comes, with a variety of dips and loads of fresh bread. There was even a side order of some lovely local pate.
Well satisfied, the duo decided they would buy some of the wine as they paid their bill. And as it turned out they did very well as the young French student serving us couldn’t count and we ended up getting two bottles free! Result!
The duo then decided on a bit more cycling – and decided they would make a stop at the recommended attraction of the lighthouse, Le Phare du Cap Ferret. Now, I am not sure how this happened – but it might have been the effects of the gorgeous lunchtime wine – but the “old git” and the “old gal” lost the lighthouse.
I mean, we are in a narrow promontory, and obviously lighthouses are by their very nature meant to be seen, but we couldn’t find it! The “old gal’s” excuse was that it was hidden behind some trees. But since it stretches over 50 metres into the sky, that one doesn’t really hold any wine, sorry water!
Eventually, after circling it probably three times, we found it! But it was worth the wait, as it really was an impressive sight. It is usually open and visitors can climb the 258 steps to see the revolving lantern and a vista out across the peninsula. But unfortunately it was closed for renovations. However the museum and audio-visual display were open.
Back in the saddle and a few km cycle to the Plage de l’Ocean, which the astute among you, will recognise as the beach at the ocean, making sure we avoided a collision with the miniature tourist train which runs from the town to the beach.
As the temperature has risen quite a few degrees, it was time for an ice cream before a final paddle in the Atlantic.
Down on to the beach and our last look at the miles of virtually deserted sand in both directions as far as the eye could see. The breakers were starting to build as the tide came in which made for a fun paddle, with the “old git” nearly losing his footing – only to recover just in time before he fell in! That would have made an interesting sight bedecked in his Scotland flag cycling shirt to denote Team Tandem Ecosse.
After a sit on the sand to chill, it was time to cycle back to the car, with me being deposited back in Matilda Transport. The dynamic duo got changed and went to the beautiful fish restaurant for another meal to remember.
This was a fish restaurant like the “old git” and the “old gal” had never seen before. Every conceivable variety was on the menu – and it could be cooked exactly the way you wanted.
A starter of tuna tartar had the taste buds in rapture, before the “old gal” had sea bream and the “old git” had sole. All beautifully prepared, and expertly filleted in front of our eyes at the table. Very simple, served with a few vegetables and copious amounts of french fries – but all the better for it.
And unbelievably the couple sitting at the very next table were Scots. They heard the accents of the “old gal” and the “old git” and introduced themselves as Alistair and Liz from Aberlady on the east coast.
They came out to Cap Ferret on a holiday some 30 years ago, loved the place so much they bought a holiday home there. And now that they are retired, they fly out from Edinburgh direct to Bordeaux three or four times a year. Lovely!
After the wonderful meal it was a late drive for the “old git” back across the Medoc countryside from the Atlantic coast back to the Gironde – and the “old git” and the “old gal” were more than ready for their zzzs again!
Tomorrow we are all heading two hours further south by car to Pau – to a lakeside mobile home park in the shadow of the Pyrenees – to meet up with our good friends, Ann and Jack, for a week’s rest and recovery!
And after the intensity of the last week, that sounds like an enticing prospect!
But as the “old git” pointed out – we will be slap bang in the heart of Tour de France mountain stage country. But I think he was joking! And the “old gal” told me she knew he was joking. So that’s all right then!
Maybe I’ll get a leisurely tandem round the lake though – just to keep my wheels from seizing up!
There will however be time for a ‘Reflections of the Tour’ Musing….