May 16th_19th 2017 – Nantes to Royan – Vendee, vidi,vici

This weeks photo shows a line of yurts at Camping les Misottes in the small seaside resort of Esnandes. Due to rain and tiredness, I stayed at the campsite for 2 nights and for the 2nd night got to stay in one of these yurts courtesy of the campsite owner. I felt like I was on a luxury safari holiday staying in the yurt and there was so much more space compared to my cramped tent. It was a lovely gesture by the campsite owner and he did not charge me extra eventhough the yurts can cost up to €50 a night to hire. It is little acts of kindness like this that really make a holiday memorable and it made me forget what had been a tough week up to then.

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Total cycled Tuesday May 16th – 130 km. Total so far – 615 km. Only planned to cycle 80 km today but ended up going to 5 campsites before I found one that was still open.

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House boat on a canal in Nantes. The owners of this funky house boat have nothing to fear from climate change as any change in sea level won’t affect their property. it is obviously designed to stay in the one location as it doesn’t seem to have a motor or propellor and instead floats on 2 air filled pontoons.

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Typical French crossroads in the Loire valley. My route today took me through the Muscadet wine growing region of France in the hills to the south of the Loire river. i hadn’t seen any vineyards in Brittany so today was the first day I came across any. Being the middle of May, it was early in the wine growing season and some vineyards were very stunted. However, this vineyard for the Domaine de Equestre was much greener than most of the other vineyards in the Muscadet region.

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Mural in the town of Les Essarts for a visit of the Tour de France in 2011. My plan was to stay at the campsite in Les Essarts but when I arrived after cycling 80 km the gates were closed and it was shut. By now I had run out of water so I called into a newsagents to buy some drinks. But the newsagents didn’t have a fridge and only sold papers, magazines and lottery tickets. Fortunately, I spotted a cemetery after leaving the newsagents and remembered something I had read years ago about France. A blogger had wrote that you don’t have to bring much water with you as every French cemetery has a water tap. it was lucky I didn’t heed his advice as I have passed hundreds of French cemeteries since then and never once spotted a water tap. But incredibly, here in the town of Les Essarts, the cemetery had a water tap and I was able to fill my water bottles. It was an incredible stroke of luck and it raised my spirits no end on what was the hottest day of the Tour de Travoy so far.

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Election poster for Marine le Pen. In Ireland, every time there is an election, posters are tied to lamp-posts and telegraph poles using cable ties. But in France, they don’t seem to have discovered just how useful cable ties are and instead their posters are plastered on walls, electrical sub-stations and flyovers. There were loads of posters today for Marine le Pen and I didn’t spot any for Macron or the other French presidential candidates.

Sign for the campsite in Thire. After cycling for almost 11 hours, I eventually made it to the municipal campsite in Thire. The town’s name was appropriate as after cycling 130 km, I was tired out. But there was so much noise from ducks and geese in a nearby pond, I found it impossible to get any sleep. The clatter went on until 3 in the morning and then at 4 o’clock the local church bells started ringing. It was the worst night’s sleep I have ever had on the Tour de Travoy.

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Total cycled Wednesday May 17th – 40 km. Total so far – 655 km. I was so wrecked from lack of sleep I decided to only cycle a short distance to the small town of Esnandes. The forecast was for heavy rain on Thursday so I decided to stop for 2 days there to get some rest.

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Another puncture on Travoy. I might only have cycled 40 km today but still managed to suffer 2 punctures. The 2nd puncture made a total of 5 on this year’s Tour so far. But I managed to figure out what was causing all the punctures. Basically, the patches on the tubes I was using to fix the punctures were not rugged enough and continued to leak air. So I reinforced the patches with insulation tape and in the 2 weeks since I have yet to have another puncture.

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Camping les Misottes in the small seaside resort of Esnandes. There was a strong cross-wind today and some heavy showers so I was glad to make it to my campsite for the night. The forecast was for heavy rain the following day so I decided to book 2 nights. Each night only cost €7 and it was great to get some rest after cycling 280 km in 3 days.

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A yurt at Camping les Misottes in Esnandes. Thursday was very wet and windy but the weather improved in the afternoon. That is when the campsite owner called to my tent and offered me an upgrade to one of about 10 yurts in the campsite. All the yurts were empty but it was still a lovely gesture to let me stay in one for one night. My tent is a bit cramped and the one thing that struck me about the yurt was just how much space there was inside it. Not only could you stand up inside but you couldn’t even touch the ceiling even if you stretched.

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Each yurt had a small kitchen and 2 bedrooms. The yurts had lights and power and even a small kitchen. Unfortunately, I had nothing with me to cook or to microwave but it was great to be able to sit at a table and work on my computer updating the website. The double bed was really comfortable to sleep in that evening as well. The yurts can cost up to €50 a night to hire in July and August so it was a lovely gesture by the campsite owner to let me stay in one for free.

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Total cycled Friday May 19th – 100 km. Total so far – 755 km. Looking at the Strava profile above, you would think it was an easy day’s cycling. It was anything but as heavy showers and a strong crosswind made for a difficult day’s cycling.

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Statue of child at a pedestrian crossing in Saint Xandre. Occasionally, you come across these statues at pedestrian crossings but how effective they are is debatable. Static statues just blend in with all the other street furniture. Much more effective in getting cars to slow down is creating a pedestrian crossing out of paving. The different color of the paving really stands out against the black color of the road. In Britain and Ireland, far to many pedestrian crossings are just painted on the road. These lines just blend in with all the other lines on a road and sometimes are hard to spot. In France, pedestrian crossings are taken much more seriously and are often raised up to create a sleeping policeman and these are very effective at getting traffic to slow down.

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Sign for Fort Boyard near Fouras. In the 90’s I remember watching a TV show on Channel 4 called Fort Boyard in which teams would try and solve puzzles so as to escape from Fort Boyard. I always assumed the fort was somewhere in the Caribbean so was surprised to discover it is actually located about 5 km off the French coast near La Rochelle. This would explain why every time we turned on the TV a few years ago when visiting Paris, Fort Boyard was being shown. The program is still popular in France and the fact that you can see the fort from the shore adds to it’s popularity.

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Bridge in Rochefort across the Charente river. I don’t think I have ever been as terrified approaching a bridge as I was approaching this arched bridge on the Route Nationale 733. The bridge is much steeper than it looks in the photo and the traffic was crazy and the cross-wind was blowing me towards it. The bridge has a cycle path but it is very narrow and is only a painted line on the road. Why Strava recommended I take this route I will never know as there is an alternative transporter bridge nearby. The RN-733 bridge is very dangerous and is not suitable for cyclists. But as I was behind schedule, I had no alternative but to chance crossing the Charente on this bridge. It was even more terrifying than it looks as cars and lorries sped past a few feet away from you doing over 100 kph. I was in the 2nd lowest gear on the bike going up the bridge it was that steep. The whole crossing probably only took 5 minutes but it felt like 5 hours. The next time I am in this region I will go into the town of Rochefort and keep well away from this bridge.

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17th Century fortified town of Brouage. This village was an incredible surprise as it is preserved exactly like when the fort was built in the 17th Century. The main street is cobbled and most of the stone buildings and shops are still intact and look exactly like how they would have 300 years ago. The town was mobbed by tourists many of whom were speaking English and may have been Canadian. It was from this fort that many French explorers set off to create settlements in Canada in the 17th Century.

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Bicycle museum in Brouage. One of the shops in Brouage was a bicycle museum which had a hobby horse bike on display outside. I remember looking at the bike and thinking that bikes have come a long way since the first was built by a German called Karl von Drais in 1817. The reason why Karl built a bike out of timber was due to a shortage of horses in Europe at that time. The reason there was a shortage of horses is because people had ate most of them after a poor harvest in 1815. The reason there was a poor harvest was due to the eruption of the Mount Tambora volcano in Indonesia. This eruption caused so much ash and dust to enter the atmosphere that it blocked the sun for about 4 months during the summer of 1815 across most of Europe. People were starving and they ended up eating nearly any animals they had including their horses. By 1816, the ash and dust had cleared but there were so few horses that it was difficult to get anywhere. So Karl von Drais built a wooden horse with 2 wheels instead of 4 legs. It would be another 30 years before pedals were fitted to a bike by the Michaux brothers in Paris and it was one of their bikes that won the world’s first cycle race between Paris and Rouen in 1869.

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The Cordouan lighthouse which is built on a sandbar off the coast from Royan. It was after 8 when I arrived at the Cote de Beaute campsite in Saint Palais sur Mer. The campsite is located on the sea-front and there is an incredible view of the French coastline from it. You can actually see the Phare du Cordouan or Cordouan lighthouse, which is located about 5 km off the coast, from the campsite. It was an incredible sight to see after such a long day’s cycle.

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