OMG it bucketed down this morning! What a predictable welcome to the Atlantic! The kids were allowed some rare iPad game time as we stayed snuggled up in our tent, but eventually our appetites got the better of us. We relocated to the campsite’s marquee, where a boulangerie sets up daily for campers, and the baker put his kettle on for us!
By 2pm everything had dried out and we cycled off in search of the Eurovelo Route 1, aka Velodyssey.
The Velodyssey is a marked cycle route which follows the Atlantic Coast from Norway to Portugal. We’re glad to follow it for a short time only; we’re not lovers of wind and sand and the Atlantic delivers more than its fair share of bad weather. There’s an excellent website for EV1 http://www.velodyssey.com. This nugget of gold displays recent reports from cyclists for each leg of the route, so we were able to learn that the route out of Marans is on a grassy MTB trail and cyclists recommended following a D road for the first 3km. We followed their advice, doubting that they could be right – this was Eurovelo 1 after all – but sure enough we saw the evidence. This gave us the jitters for what lay ahead.
20km further the route became grass again, but another quick D road deviation to Dompierre and we rejoined the route on a good quality compacted dirt trail.
Thunder rolled around us and we donned our rain jackets for the unremarkable ride into La Rochelle. Unremarkable save for the first signs of autumn; the leaves of the horse chestnut trees are the first to change the colour and the trail was littered with their orange leaves.
As we didn’t leave Marans until 2pm we didn’t give La Rochelle the time it probably deserved, just a quick stop to say g’day to the Atlantic and snap a photo of its famous port before running into McDonalds.
McDonalds in France deserves a few words. Firstly, no lurid plastic red and yellow signage here in France, no giant yellow arches; instead, discreet muted brown and yellow signs. Secondly, it’s very rare to find a McDonalds as a cyclist; they’re nearly always on the outskirts of towns on busy highways. Thirdly – and most importantly – it’s the only place in France to get a real Australian-style frothy latte or cappucino. French drink their coffee short and black and when they bow to the demands of tourists and make latte it’s with UHT milk and it tastes BAD.
The route out of town tried too hard to hug the coast and set up for us an obstacle course of tight turns into narrow, short-lived shared paths, busy with pedestrians.
It was pleasant enough, but the coast is the coast and on a grey day it was just a windy place where the soil meets the sea.
We rolled into Camping Deux Plages La Corsaire where the staff were running around with silly pirate hats on their heads and an inaccessible pirate ship sat jauntily above the swimming pool. All the camping around here is expensive (it’s a big destination for European holidaymakers) so we thought we might as well go to one that would be fun for the kids, but it was disappointing on all fronts.
Arriving at 7pm we took the obligatory swim in the pool. Cold and wet, grey skies threatening more rain, wet and sandy panniers, an unsheltered and very public and sandy campsite – it was all too much. Without enquiring about the price, Helen announced she had upgraded us to an on-site cabin! Lots of whoopees from the kids and sighs of relief from Helen and Shane and we were drinking tea out of real cups, using our own shower, our own toilet, walking around in our undies and generally luxuriating in the simple little box we were calling home.
The next morning dawned fine and the kids had a quick bounce before we left.