Many Europeans have raved to us about the Atlantic coast from La Palmyre to Royan, but for us it was the stretch from Soulac-sur-Mer southwards to Lacanau which delivered.
The beaches became less manicured, the bike paths quieter, each town more defined by its own character.
The trail south from L’Amelie to Hourtin Plage was unexciting with the flat, well surfaced trail often running parallel with deserted roads. We broke the boredom with the second best roast chicken of the trip, bought from the markets at Montalivet, and some very fine company from an Irish couple Mick and Norma who we met at L’Amelie campjng. Mick and Norma are cycling from their home near Cork down EV1 to join El Camino de Santiago.
Hourtin Plage offered an eclectic mix of surfing culture (replete with Aussies kicking a footie in the park and – in name only – an Australian Cafe) and families filling a five star enormous campsite. Not really our scene. Discussing our options, we reached for more rations of Toughen Up Princess and tackled the 17km south to Carcans Plage, rated ‘Expert’ by the Velodyssey site. Gulp.
But the Expert section had been replaced by a new Family rated bike path along which we positively zoomed.
Each in our own way, we have become nostalgic for Australia these last few days.
We loved staying at Carcans Plage, a well executed, purpose-built, small seaside village with an enormous campsite just minutes from the beach. It was here we finally plunged into the waves and had so much fun we determined to free up time tomorrow for more beach capers.
The trail south from Carcans Plage to Lacanau village was unrelentingly hilly. Shane, doing the lion’s share of the work in front of the two young cubs on the quad, was unable to enjoy the wonderful forest.
The oak forest on the dunes here is ancient. The pines have been planted more recently to retain the dunes on the Atlantic side of the oak forest. Where the two landscapes meet, some rare ecology has formed, including some very large freshwater lakes. We refreshed ourselves in one of these before spending a very fine evening at the Camping La Praise at Lacanau. We feasted on figs, melon, cucumber and capsicum before progressing to pizza, all served up right outside our lush and friendly €10 campsite. What more could we want?
And so we find ourselves cycling into the last 56km (unexciting rail trail) of our push to Bordeaux. And quite a push it has been. From when we committed to being in Bordeaux to meet Grace – way, way back in Saumur on the Loire – it has been go go go. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely but we really, really don’t like cycling to deadlines. I think I can feel a celebration coming on…