Reflections on the Tour du Tandem 2015 …

Ready for the challenge ahead!

Fresh and ready for the challenge ahead!

During the week of relaxation and recuperation further south in the shadow of the Pyrenees at Pau, there was plenty of time for Team Tandem Ecosse to reflect on what was an incredible tour du tandem, and an even more amazing sense of achievement in completing the route.

Although it was hectic, and very full-on, the “old git” and the “old gal” are already missing their days  of togetherness in the saddle while on the the quiet cycle lanes and back roads of the beautifully scenic Medoc triangle of Bordeaux.

The vineyards of the Medoc.

From the serenity of the vineyards of the Medoc…

The scenery was fabulously eye-catching and a real joy to experience and provided real brain food with some stunning images as we  tandemed along – experiencing an incredible contrast between the serenity of the vineyards to the wild Atlantic coast, all the time being at one with nature.

The wildly beautiful Atlantic beaches.

… to the wildly beautiful Atlantic beaches.

Before we set out we always said that “the journey” was going to be the holiday, and sticking to that agenda we enjoyed long sunny days on the road giving us a fantastic in-depth experience of the vineyards and beaches of the Medoc – and the area’s friendly people.

That journey was so much more satisfying for us being self-propelled at the slow pace of a tandem. Every view of a vineyard or an Atlantic beach lasted so much longer.

All smiles at Hourtin Port.

Fantastic scenery – including at Hourtin Port.

Travelling in the relatively fragile mode of transport that a tandem is certainly exposed us not only to the warm sunshine, but to the physically demanding exertions of progressing from place to place.

It also brought us into close interaction with lots of local people, many of whom tooted their support and issued friendly “bonjours” as they passed Team Tandem Ecosse – unmissable in their multi-lingual day-glo cycling shirts – in their vehicles. And of course the other cyclists we met along the way – with whom we shared a special bond (even if some had those pesky e-bikes!)

But perhaps the most important thing is that the “old gal” (aka Diane) and the “old git” (aka Colin) did it as a real team – through thick and thin, and even when pedalling back on ourselves to the previous junction to take the “correct” turning.

They resolutely supported each other every pedal and every kilometre of the way – and emerged from the experience even more together, and in love!

Togetherness - even after 21 hours in the saddle!

Togetherness – even after 21 hours in the saddle!

And even after 204 gruelling miles and 21 hours in the saddle they tell me it really was a fantastic adventure – and they wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Now where is that brochure to start planning next year’s trip! Given my dynamic duo’s liking for gorgeous wines, they tell me the Loire Valley has some fascinating vineyards and châteaux – and it’s flat! ….

Here’s the review that Team Tandem Ecosse posted on the website of the holiday company Exodus. (You can also read it on-line on the website here – and scroll to ‘Reviews’.

*****

Incredible journey on two wheels – dipping into wine and ocean.

We cycled the Beaches and Vineyards of Bordeaux trip on our classic tandem – which really did offer double the fun on a bicycle made for two! This trip is based in the spectacular Medoc triangle on the left of the Gironde estuary. The scenery was spectacular every day – switching from pedalling through some of the most famous vineyards in the world which were literally groaning with grapes ready for harvest, scenic wine villages keen to offer tastings, and magnificent châteaux overlooking the vineyards to the amazing contrast with the wildly beautiful Atlantic Coast where nature was truly in charge, the towering sand dunes and the pretty seaside towns.
Sensational outlook at Soulac-sur-Mer.

Sensational outlook at Soulac-sur-Mer.

It was made all the more memorable by the warmth of the sunshine – and the friendliness of the many locals we met en route who, despite our lack of French, were understanding and helpful and enjoyed the spectacle of our tandeming efforts. With most of the route along designated cycling paths it felt very safe and the area is perfectly set up for cyclists. Coming from an area where there are very few dedicated cycle paths it was amazing to see the cyclist being given such a high priority. The surfaces were of motorway standard which made cycling a real joy and easy to cover the relatively large distances required. The organisation was exceptional – all hotels knew of our impending arrival and the luggage transfer was brilliantly easy. Our luggage was actually waiting for us in our rooms when we arrived at our accommodation. Billed as a “leisurely” activity level, this truly is a family friendly route which will create many memorable moments etched in your memory bank. This is one of those rare occasions when you wish you could award six stars!!

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

The route notes contained several good suggestions for lunch and picnic stops – follow these and you will have wonderful venues for picnics. Suggest stopping at a local boulangerie en route before lunch (as most close at lunchtime) for baguette and local shops for cheese, cold meats, fruit, and of course a bottle of local Bordeaux wine to wash it all do wn!
The suggested lunch stop at the small port and lock gates at St-Christoly-Medoc on the trip from Pauillac to Soulac is truly halcyon. Great cafe there serving coffee for just one euro!

The "old gal" with our gastronomic picnic!

Time for a gastronomic picnic!

We would recommend a thorough read-over of the day’s route before leaving each day – including double checking it on the provided large-scale map – as some of the directions can be open to interpretation … and result in “discussions” between couples – especially when, as we were, on a tandem!
This was billed as a leisurely trip and it certainly was. Mile after mile of flat and very well surfaced cycle paths which were a joy to travel on.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Doing a trip like this really is a fantastic experience and will provide a wealth of great memories!
And if you do it on a tandem – like we did – it does bring you closer together!
You owe it to yourself to do it!
We wrote a blog of our adventures on our tandem – called Matilda’s Musings – where our tandem (aka Matilda) gives her in-depth account of the trip.
You can read our adventures here:
https://matildasmusingsdotcom.wordpress.com/

Warm down day in the oyster capital of Cap Ferret

Cap Ferret is the oyster capital of France.

Cap Ferret is the oyster capital of France.

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.

The "fruit de mer" platter in an idyllic location.

The “fruit de mer” platter in an idyllic location.

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!

Slurping oysters in the sunshine - bliss!

Slurping oysters in the sunshine – bliss!

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.

Ready, steady and down the hatch!

Ready, steady and down the hatch!

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!

Le Phare du Cap Ferret - which we lost!

Le Phare du Cap Ferret – which we lost!

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.

Large ice creams all round to cool off!

Large ice creams all round to cool off!

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.

The "old git" at Plage de l'Ocean.

The “old git” at Plage de l’Ocean.

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….

Day six – finishing the triangle back to journeys end

Back into the vineyards of the Medoc.

Back into the vineyards of the Medoc.

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.

All smiles at Hourtin Port.

All smiles – the “old gal” at Hourtin Port.

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.

Bernard and Sylvienne with their e-tandem. Spot the battery.

Bernard and Sylviane with their e-tandem. Spot the battery.

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.

Tree-lined park for today's picnic.

Tree-lined park for today’s 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.

Vineyards and chateaux all around! Perfection!

Vineyards and châteaux all around! Perfection!

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.

Groaning bunches of grapes ready for harvest.

Groaning bunches of grapes ready for harvest.

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!

Euphoria at completing the trip!

Euphoria at completing the trip!

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!

Satisfaction at being back at base!

Satisfaction at being back at base!

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!

Togetherness - even after 21 hours in the saddle!

Togetherness – even after 21 hours in the saddle!

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!

Day five – long day around majestic Hourtin Lac

Lakeside beach at Maubuisson.

Lakeside beach at Maubuisson.

Day five and the schedule for Team Tandem Ecosse was for a another 60 plus km ride exploring the scenic beaches of Lac d’Hourtin-Carcans, the largest natural lake in France. After a deep sleep the “old git” and the “old gal” were fully refreshed and actually looking forward to getting back on the flat cycle paths.

The self-guide “bible” had an ominous warning at the start of today’s directions: “There are a lot of cycling lanes going through the pine forest. We use the names and numbers you will find at the crossings in order to guide the way.” Surely that means we couldn’t get lost today? Surely!

First off on today’s itinerary was a stop off at a traditional French restaurant in the town of Hourtin, recommended by our hotel, to book a table for tonight’s meal. More about that later – but it was a great call.

Next a stop at the local supermarket to stock up on supplies for another beach picnic – including some more wonderfully fresh grapes. These have been a real treat and because they go straight into my new super cool bag – complete with freezer blocks – the grapes are chilled and are extremely refreshing. More cheese, ham and bread – and of course a bottle of local vino – completed the shopping.

We passed the sign for the port at Hourtin, but decided we would visit tomorrow morning – and set off.  The town of Hourtin is situated in the very heart of the Medoc area of Bordeaux – between the forest and the lake. It is wonderfully placed as it not only offers the lake, but is fairly near to the Atlantic ocean so at many crossroads you can make a choice of going to the lake or the sea – making it ideal for tourists and water sport enthusiasts.

The way out was the same as the final 12 km in from last night, back through the pine forest. And yes the couple of hills were still there! And no we still didn’t get to see the lake!

Because we were fresher we covered the distance in much less time and were soon heading south on the wonderfully surfaced wide forest road. As the bible said: “This road is car free and you can cover the next 17 km peacefully and quickly.”

And we did. The sun was bright in the sky again, and with little wind, it was ideal conditions for tandeming and the three of us were sailing along in high spirits.

In less than an hour we were at the next crossing point, taking the lane towards our lunch destination – the lakeside resort of Maubuisson. This was clearly a highly popular peak summer destination for the French and we cycled through what looked like a Center Parcs-style holiday complex before arriving at the beautiful beach.

Waiting such a long time for our first real view of the lake did not disappoint. It was serenely beautiful – with flat calm clear waters and miles of beach – and even the “old git”, who always talks up Scotland,  was heard to say: “Who needs Loch Lomond?!”

We had reached half way in today’s distance, and with the sun being so warm we had to find a shady spot to be comfortable for lunch. The “old gal” found a nice tree to park me under, before setting out the picnic.

A nice shady spot for me to rest!

A nice shady spot for me to rest!

As always the picnic went down a storm – and the “old git” announced he would give the “old gal” a 5-star Picnic Advisor report – if such a website existed! The dynamic duo certainly had been enjoying themselves and indulging their taste buds with loads of local produce (and wine!)

Another 5-star picnic from the "old gal"!

Another 5-star picnic from the “old gal”!

After a coffee stop in a lakeside cafe, it was time to start the return journey with a cycle through another fantastic beach side location at Bombannes – which is set up as a summer sport camp, including lots of sailing activities.

The directions then told us to follow various signed tracks to try to get to the next stop off point – the beach resort of Piqueyrot – some 13 km away. But it also said we would be cycling inland as they didn’t recommend the lakeside path as it was very narrow and in bad condition.

Well we set off and ended up going round in circles for the best part of an hour – and each time we thought we had found the correct way we ended up at the start of the path we were told not to take. And it certainly didn’t look good – crumbled concrete and not much less than a metre wide. Certainly not good for an “old lady” like me!

There were lots of maps of the cycle path network, but frustratingly all lacked a “you are here” arrow, which effectively rendered them fairly useless.

After another couple of false starts we finally stumbled across the route the “bible” indicated and made good time towards Piqueyrot. When you are on the correct way, the directions and the cycle paths and the signage at the crossroads is wonderful – but clearly not when you are lost!

At one crossroads we bumped into a local French guy who was doing the route we had just covered – but on roller blades and carrying his own supplies and camping gear in his backpack. Both the “old git” and the “old gal” were suitably impressed at his fitness!

On to Piqueyrot and we were all stunned by the beauty of the beach here. Again there was a small sailing school, but the crystal clear water was what caught the eye – so tranquil there was barely a ripple.

There was a wonderful jetty which lent itself to one of those lake infinity shots you see in gift shops. So the “old git” had to practice his camera technique with the “old gal” standing patiently on the jetty to get “the shot.”

Infinity shot at Piqueyrot.

Infinity shot at Piqueyrot.

The water was so enticing that the “old git” and the “old gal” just had to have another paddle. Had it just been a couple of degrees warmer, the “old git” said he would have had a swim – but he decided to content himself with a paddle. Perhaps that decision was a blessing for everyone else on the wonderful beach. Mind you the “old gal” thinks the fact that he was even contemplating a swim was down to the fact that there was a rather eye-catching topless lady having a swim!

The "old git" enjoying the rays and a paddle!

The “old git” enjoying the rays and a paddle!

It really was a magical lakeside spot – and another image to be etched into the memory bank.

The "old gal" enjoying a paddle!

The “old gal” enjoying the water!

It was at this point that all three of us decided it would be nice just to stop here for a good while longer – rather than have to move on. But move on we did, and had an easy cycle for the last 10 km or so back to the hotel.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” and the “old git” were a tad tired, having covered 66 km in today’s heat. And that meant some four and a half hours in the saddle, returning an average speed of over 14 km / hr. Amazingly today we clocked the top highest speed of the tour so far – a staggering 43.9 km / hr. Yes it was on a steep downhill – but I have to say this “old girl” classic tandem is most impressed with herself for reaching such a dizzy speed!

The sun was still beating down, and the “old git” rewarded the “old gal” with one of his strong gins for her efforts!

Only one word required - spangled!

Only one word required – spangled!

It was perhaps no surprise that the “old gal” admitted: “I’m spangled” before she closed her eyes for a few moments in the evening sunshine and had a few quick zzzs!

The hotel had a very fancy bike shed for all the visiting bikes, and I was very proud to be the only tandem there.

Meanwhile the dynamic duo revived themselves with a shower and headed out for dinner. Sensibly after an arduous day, they decided to walk into the town for their reservation at Restaurant La Gare.

And what a treat it was – a real French restaurant, with local French people making up most of the bookings. It was a gastronomic delight, even if we did turn down the prospect of a traditional French dish involving a pig’s head!

The “old gal” started with her first taste this trip of the local delicacy of foie gras, before having a massive bowl of moule with chorizo, all washed down with some very drinkable crisp and perfectly chilled dry white Bordeaux wine.

The “old git” spotted scampi on the menu and of course had to inquire if this was indeed the Scottish bar supper favourite of deep-fried prawn! Fortunately the answer was no – although the owner did know what he was talking about and dismissed it with a laugh! Scampi here meant an amazing plate of half a dozen huge langoustine, cooked in garlic sauce! To say they were tasty would be a massive understatement.

After all that, they decided they didn’t have room for the magical looking cheeseboard, but instead polished off the meal with some cassis flavoured sorbet.

They just about managed to stay awake for the walk back to the accommodation to enjoy deep zzzs before the last leg of the tour tomorrow.

Day four – wonderful surf on the way to Hourtin

Sensational outlook at Soulac-sur-Mer.

Sensational outlook at Soulac-sur-Mer.

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!

The "old git's" Tour de France arms!

The “old git’s” Tour de France arms!

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.

The "old gal" checking out the route!

The “old gal” checking out the route!

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!

"The benefits of a tandem over low tide!"

“The benefits of a tandem over low tide!”

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!

Day three – a short spin to phare phare away!

Selfie time at Phare de Grave.

Selfie time at Phare de Grave.

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.

The impressive Phare de Grave.

The impressive Phare de Grave.

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!

The "old git" proving he is "captain".

The “old git” proving he is “captain”.

Meanwhile the “old gal” was looking out to see if there were any good-looking boat captains looking for new crew!

Anyone looking for crew for their yachts?

Anyone looking for crew for their yachts?

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.

Cheers! Cocktail time at lunch.

Cheers! Cocktail time at lunch.

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.

The replica Statue of Liberty.

The replica Statue of Liberty.

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.

Day two – pedaling to the wine capital of Saint Estephe

Nosing the vineyards of Saint Estephe.

Nosing the vineyards of Saint Estephe.

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!

Selfie time at Saint Estephe vineyards.

Selfie time at Saint Estephe vineyards.

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!

The village square at Saint-Estephe.

The village square at Saint-Estephe.

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.

Saint-Estephe marketing brand logo.

Saint-Estephe brand 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.

The "old gal" with our gastronomic picnic!

The “old gal” with our gastronomic picnic!

In the warm sunshine, it truly was a magical spot and gave the “old git” and the “old gal” a highly memorable experience.

Cheers! This is what picnics by tandem are all about!

Cheers!  What picnics by tandem are all about!

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!

What a view - the beach at Soulac-sur-Mer.

What a view – the beach at Soulac-sur-Mer.

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.

Sweet dreams!

Day one – tandeming into the world famous vineyards

Matilda ready for the start of the tour.

Matilda ready for the start of the tour.

It is Tuesday morning and after a sound night’s sleep after the long drive, the “old git” and the “old gal” were raring to go on the Tour de Vineyards and Beaches of the Medoc region of Bordeaux in southern France – bedecked out in their new multi-lingual dayglo yellow cycling tops!

But there was a slight problem – it had started to rain heavily during breakfast at our hotel,  the famous Hotel de France et d’Angleterre on the Gironde river estuary in Pauillac.

Now you know that we don’t really like getting too wet so the “old gal” persuaded the “old git” to delay departure after checking the hour-by-hour weather forecast.

An hour and a bit flashed past as the dynamic duo found a cheese and wine shop just two doors down from the hotel! The “old gal” – who is a connoisseur of both – thought she had died and gone to heaven!

Let’s just say that some supplies were purchased for our first picnic – and safely packed away in my shiny new cool bag, complete with detachable freezer blocks. Very cool!

Bang on cue, as predicted by the weather forecast, the skies cleared and it was time for the Grand Depart!

Ready for the challenge ahead!

Ready for the challenge ahead!

Today’s schedule describes the route for the day as “cycling a circular loop through the vineyards of the Medoc – home to some of the most famous wines in the world and their châteaux.” Oh well – all right then, if you insist!

The “old git” – in his questionable wisdom – had decided that we would start with the “long” 39 mile route option, instead of the shorter 23 mile loop .. in his words “just to get some miles under our belt.”

The destination – according to our self-guide “bible” of directions – was the grand early 18th century Chateau Margaux, world-renowned for its vintage wine. And the route for the next six days was described as being “flat” so the “old gal” was in particularly high spirits!

So off we whizzed and I was in my element as we left Pauillac and almost immediately turned into the well surfaced and maintained tracks which criss-cross the vineyards of the area.

Within minutes we were literally within touching distance of the vines which were groaning with black grapes as the annual harvest was about to begin within days. And we had clocked up our first castle as we took in the architecture of Chateau Talbot.

The Medoc wine road is known as the “Route des Chateaux” and is located in magnificent countryside between the Girdone estuary and the Landes forest and offered “Team Tandem Ecosse” some wonderful views of the vines.

It was all going too well really … and so it turned out! We got “lost” within the first hour. Although the “bible” offers details of every turn and direction, we remembered from last year’s trip to Burgundy that it can, at times, be more than a little confusing.

And so it proved! A combination of directions involving a 5-road crossing in the middle of the vineyards and complicated directions at the next t-junction had the “old git” totally confused. And for the next half hour or so we explored a particular stretch of road through a vineyard at least four times. In his defence I will say there are worst placed in the world to get lost!

Meanwhile the “old gal” – who is in charge of map reading as the maps and “bible” hang on the back of the “old git” – was saying she knew the way! If only the “old git” had listened! Guess what – yes she was right! And even worse, the “old git” had to admit that she was correct all along!

That was the first of several “discussions” my dynamic duo had about directions over the week – but it was all part of the fun (or so it says on my bit of paper!) So back on the correct path we passed several other fabulous châteaux – including Le Moulin de la Rose and Beychevelle – as we cycled through the vineyards.

We were cycling along good style, enjoying the warm sunshine, when there was another incident of note. Avoiding a pot hole, the bike wobbled and the “old git’s” sunglasses fell off the elastic webbing on the bag at the front and fell to the ground. No problem, except there was a horrible crunching noise as my back wheel went directly over them rendering them useless!

Best to admit the “old git” wasn’t in the best of humour at this point  so we cycled on for the next few kilometres in silence till the views got the better of him and we were all back in unison again!

And as it says on the “Team Tandem Ecosse” t-shirts – it’s always better when we’re together!

After passing the village of Lemarque – and clocking up some more miles we were soon at our destination of the sensational Chateau Margaux. The route interestingly took us all round the estate to see the famous vineyard at close quarters.

On the edge of the estate there is a Mademoiselle de Margaux shop – which offers wine and chocolate tasting – so with their arms twisted up their back (not!) the “old git” and the “old gal” disappeared inside.

The lady of the chateau has launched her own range of vine-shaped chocolate sticks in interesting combination flavours, like mango and sichuan pepper, alongside a range of chocolate covered cherry liqueurs.

The dynamic duo manfully tasted the complete range – along with a few sips of the chateau’s wine – before making some purchases of a couple of boxes of the chocolates for Christmas treats!

The "old gal" at Chateau Margaux.

The “old gal” at Chateau Margaux.

Time for lunch – the first picnic of the tour! The picnics have become something of an institution on these trips and the first certainly didn’t disappoint. The menu included some cured ham, a couple of delicious cheeses, freshly picked grapes, a baguette, and (of course) the obligatory bottle of a Medoc red wine which was highly recommended by the wine shop from earlier.

First picnic of the tour!

First picnic of the tour!

And it was all polished off in the car park of Chateau Margaux – at the very heart of the aristocracy of Bordeaux wine-making! Classy!

The chateau was founded in the 1400s, with the current structure built in 1804. Traditional techniques are still used here – with the harvesting of the grapes done by hand to discard any overripe or unripe grapes. After the fermentation, the wine stays in oak barrels for two years and eventually produces a rich wine which is perfect to compliment lamb, veal,poultry and game.

Cheers! The "old gal" enjoying the picnic wine.

Cheers! The “old gal” enjoying the picnic wine.

After the picnic, time for a lovely double espresso in a newly opened coffee shop where the “old gal” invested in a new waiter’s friend-style bottle opener for the picnic bag! She is obviously planning for the days ahead!

With the skies getting cloudy again, it was time to head back the 30 km to Pauillac and the “old git” decided to wind up the speed! I must say I was impressed with the dynamic duo’s fitness (well I suppose it was the first day after all!)

We even managed to clock a top speed of just over 40 km/hr – admittedly on a downhill stretch, and in what seemed like no time we were back in Pauillac.

The “old git” checked my on-board computer and revealed that we had covered 64 km with an average speed for the day (while cycling) of 17 km/hr.

The “old gal” decided a small celebration was in order and the “old git” was dispatched next door to the wine shop to collect a nicely chilled bottle of the local Cremant de Bordeaux. the cork was soon popped as my dynamic duo reflected on a  successful first day.

And the best thing was that – I am delighted to report – there were no mechanical incidents which shows there is still lots of life left in this “old lady” of a classic tandem.

After a quick inspection from the “old gal” in her role as “Chief Engineer” I was locked up safely for the night. The dynamic duo headed out for a meal in the town. The “old git” had chosen a tapas bar (as you do when in France) which was run by a Uruguayan!

The starter of mixed tapas was tasty but the “old gal” then selected a “chivito” – a culinary treat in Montevideo – which turned out to be a weird combination of a bit of chewy steak, served with bacon, eggs and cheese.  The “old gal” was heard to say it was awful and hoped it would be the worst meal of the tour. French cuisine from now on was going to be the order of the day!

A quick walk out to the marina ended the first day – before it was time for serious zzzzs.

Happy Holidays!