We’re under a bit of pressure to be in Bordeaux to meet Rosie’s friend Grace in 12 days. This changes things. Obliged to press on when we feel like resting, we have limited time for homeschool and our budget and appetites are getting out of hand as recovery food becomes a priority. It forces us out of the 100km per week stupor we slipped into with our friends on the Loire! Every afternoon we are exhausted; yet every morning we are thrilled to get back on the bike.
And so we set out for another medium-rated day of pedalling.
First stop, the pretty village centre of Airvault
Le Thouet a velo – Day 3 Airvault to Parthenay
Stopping off in the very lovely village centre of Airvault to buy Le Courier de l’Ouest, in which we expected our story to be written, we discovered we were front page! We even won pride of place for the day, feature article on the banner outside the newsagents!
We couldn’t stop giggling at our new found fame as the owners of the newsagent came out to see us on our ‘drole de velo’. As we rode out of town the streets were lined with well-wishers waving Australian flags! OK, I made that last bit up, but we were certainly now Highly Visible and for the next couple of days we had all sorts of people recognise and chat with us.
Both Rosie and Tom were highly amused – we all were in fact.
Thanks Le Courier, you did a great job with our story and made our day 🙂
We got the cycling out of the way quickly, but it was a tough 30km and really hot.
We were tempted to stay in this B&B in St Loup…
Ditching Le Thouet a velo, which has become unnecessarily ditsy, we followed a country road which ran parallel to an apparently unused railway and enjoyed the gentle if unending gradient up into Parthenay.
Moments after riding in through the rather splendid medieval gate of Parthenay, we fell into the first bar we saw which made up for its meagre portions of unexciting food with very friendly service. Part way through lunch the owners recognised us from the paper and we ended up writing in their guest book and arranging ourselves for yet another photo session!
After another annoying helmet crush at the supermarket (bike fell over again, this time onto Helen’s helmet) we found our way to the well located and very good – but expensive – campsite. We were in the pool quickly; the weather’s up in the 30s again.
It was at Parthenay that we discovered the route we’re following is known as route 43 and now runs all the way through to Niort. It possibly continues to La Rochelle, but of course this is departmentalised France and so we can only find this out on arrival at Niort. Very, very silly.
Route 43 – Day 4 Parthenay to Niort
The 56km ride from Parthenay to Niort was Hot Hilly and Hungry. We should have followed the route Helen had mapped out to Coulon which had a good profile of a climb before a long and gradual descent onto the Niortais plain, but like lemmings we followed the signed bikepath. It was hard, hard work with unrelenting ups and downs. Helen set about shortening and flattening our day directing a number of obvious shortcuts.
The scenery – when we weren’t staring straight down at our sweat dripping onto the tarmac counting backwards from 100 to get up hills – was pleasant and bucolic with a couple of notable highlights.
A local directed us to this Garden of Eden, an apple and pear garden behind the old monastery in a sleepy little village.
Apples for public enjoyment. The pink one on the left was DIVINE!
At Niort we threw Argie Bargie up against a tree outside the first bar we saw and quenched our thirst.
We cycled into Niort along this lovely waterway, but there wasn’t much else going for Niort.
Our hard day got worse as we learned that there was no campsite in town (we’ve been without wifi for a few days and are not as well-informed as usual). We discussed staying in a hotel but decided we’d rather blow our money on great food rather than on a questionably comfy bed, so pressed on to a campsite, fully committed to a three course dinner at our destination.
We’re all getting seriously and predictably hungry after four days of hard graft. Notably though, Rosie has, during the course of this bike ride, nurtured her already health appetite to one of O’Brien proportions.
Helen wandered over to the Tourist Office to seek more information on the bike path we knew followed the river west from Niort. She returned armed with nothing more than a badly photocopied bodged up map with no distance or direction on it, and hopelessly vague assurance from the hopelessly vague person in the Tourist Office that it would take “about two hours” to ride to the next campsite. By Helen’s reckoning from our 1:125,000 road map it would only be about 45 minutes along the river, so we pushed on hoping Helen was right.
Thankfully, the trail to Magne was as beautiful as any we’ve ridden on the trip; shady, peaceful and blissfully flat following a lily-laden crystal clear river full of fish. We duly arrived after 45 minutes, settled quickly and urgently (hungry, hungry) into a cool, green campsite run by a very friendly chap (another “hey! it’s you from the paper!” moment), leapt in and out of the adjacent municipal pool (hungrier, hungrier) and virtually sprinted down the road to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.
Feast! Celebration of 3000km on the bike. And required recovery food!
We returned rather more sedately…