May 20th_22nd 2017 – Royan to St Jean de Luz – Getting closer to Spain through Aquitaine

This week’s photo shows a cycle path through the forest north of Bayonne. The cycle path follows the Camino route and there were numerous signs along the route showing the Camino symbol. In all, I cycled about 300 km through Aquitaine and for at least 200 km, my route was on cycle paths through the coastal forest. It made for some terrific spins and it was great to not have to dodge the traffic like elsewhere in France.

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Total cycled Saturday May 20th – 45 km. Total so far – 800 km. The route today was totally flat and the crossing of the Gironde by ferry was a nice break. I could have cycled further but I had clothes to wash and decided to stop early so they would dry in the early evening sunshine.

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Le Puits de l’Auture near Saint Palais sur Mer. From a distance, le Puits de l’Autre looks like a pier but it is actually a number of observation posts built on stilts. Le Puits is a local tourist attraction and they are also used for sea fishing. From a distance, le Puits  de l’Auture looks like Santa Monica pier in California. So much so that I I tweeted that I wasn’t in France at all but actually in California going down the Pacific Highway and there was Santa Monica pier in the distance.

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Cars queing up for the ferry across the Gironde estuary in Royan. There was about 50 cars and vans queing up to get the ferry across the Gironde to Verdon sur Mer. Cars are charged about €25 and vans and camper vans €35. A bike and cyclist is €5 but because I had a trailer, I was charged an extra €2. Interestingly, the cost is the same summer and winter. In July and August, 2 boats cross the Gironde and there is a boat every half-hour. But for most of the year, only one boat crosses the estuary and there is a boat roughly every 90 minutes.

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Cars and trucks dis-embarking from the Gironde ferry. There are 2 decks on the ferry and heavier vehicles are put in the lower deck. It only took about 5 minutes for all the vehicles to dis-embark and about 10 minutes to load it up again for another crossing. The whole operation was very quick and the boat was ready to leave less than 20 minutes minutes after arriving at Royan.

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La Gironde, the sister ship of the boat we were on, which was called l’Estuire. The crossing is only a few kms and only takes about a quarter of an hour. As we pulled into the harbour at Verdon, we passed by the other ferry which only operates in July and August. This shot though gives you a good view as to the size of the ferries operating on the Gironde estuary.

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Cycle path alongside a dis-used railway south of Verdon. After dis-embarking from the ferry, the route south is along a cycle path through a lovely beachfront forest. The route is mostly flat and there was great shelter from the strong cross-wind.

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Silhouette on a roundabout in l’Hopital commemorating the Camino. The French word Hopital means hostel and any town called l’Hopital once had a hostel in it for pilgrims making their way to both Rome and Santiago de Compostela. This sculpture on a roundabout on the outskirts of l’Hopital is lovely and the photo does not do it justice as it really glimmers in the sunshine.

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Total cycled Sunday May 21st – 145 km. Total so far – 945 km. This was the longest day on this year’s Tour and just 2 km short of my all time record of 147 km set during the 2015 Tour de Travoy. In 2015, the route was mostly downhill and I had a tailwind all day whereas today, there was a strong cross-wind.

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Watchtower in forest near Carcans. Not too many photos today as my route today was mostly through forest and there was very little to see. I would say this watchtower is for the benefit of firemen to spot any forest fires. It was some height and I wouldn’t like to be the one climbing up it on a stormy day.

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The old Le Forge railway station has been converted into a house. The cycle path between Carcans aand Lacenau goes on for over 30 km and follows the track of an old railway. The tracks and signalling equipment are long gone but in every town, you can make out the old railway stations which have all been converted into houses.

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Total cycled Monday May 22nd – 130 km. Total so far – 1075 km. Another long day and very hilly as I crossed into the Basque part of France.

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Pharmacy sign in Saint Julien-en-Born. Pharmacy temperature signs are a common feature on previous Tour de Travoys but this is the first one I have included on this year’s Tour. The temperature was reading 23 degrees around noon but it got cooler as the day went on.

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Old bridge in Bayonne. By the time I got to Bayonne, the rush hour had started and the traffic was mental. It got really cloudy and I was sure the rain would start any minute. But fortunately, it held off and I managed to make my way across this bridge in Bayonne despite a long detour due to roadworks.

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La Plage Sud or southern beach in Biarritz. My route today took me through the center of Biarritz, which was mobbed with people. On the beaches of Biarritz, it was a different story and they were mostly deserted due to the cold murky weather. There may have been no-one sunbathing on the beaches in Biarritz but there were dozens of surfers sampling the waves. However, the waves weren’t great as an onshore wind often causes choppy surf conditions. Surfers much prefer an offshore wind but I guess to these surfers any sort of wave is better than no wave at all.

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Renault Zoe being charged near St. Jean de Luz. On the way to my campsite in St. Jean de Luz, I passed by this Renault Zoe being charged with an electrical lead. The Renault Zoe is the biggest selling electrical car in France and over 50,000 have been sold since 2012. This looks like an original Zoe, which has a 22 kW battery which you can charge with a high speed charger in about 2 hours. However, this owner looks like he is using a normal electrical lead to charge the Zoe. This is much slower and it would take at least 12 hours to charge a battery from near flat condition to a fully charged state. Once fully charged, the car has a range of around 200 km which is fine if you only use it locally. But with the hills in this part of France, a more realistic range would be around 120 km especially in winter as cold weather decreases a battery’s range. In 2016, Renault introduced a 2nd generation Zoe with a 40 kW battery which increases the range up to 400 km. But this car has a DR number plate so probably dates from around 2014 so it almost certainly is a first generation Zoe.

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Loads of campsites to choose from in Saint Jean de Luz. I had no idea which one to pick but first tried Camping Maya as it was only 2 star and I figured it would be the cheapest. But it was closed to campers as the toilet facilities were being renovated so I then tried Camping Arena. The campsite was lovely and located in a hollow so there was good shelter from the cold onshore breeze. I was wrecked after covering 275 km in 2 days but at least I was back on schedule and still had 3 days to make it to Bilbao on time to meet up with my sister for the week-end.

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