Friday, June 03, 2005

Île de Ré

View Île de Ré in a larger map

Forecast of lightning storms and 14C this morning, cloudy and up to 24C this afternoon.

Muesli and yoghurt for fuel, then I'm on the road at 07:36. This time I make the route direct and don't feel chill even in just a light silk shirt. The grind over the bridge is boring, rather than tiring. There are lightning flashes, but no thunder, in the distance ahead as I coast down. This is a bit worrying.

Île de Ré map


On dry land at 08:15 and start negotiating the roadworks along the harbour cycleway in Rivedoux. Past La Flotte and am at St. Martin by 09:30, with only one stop under a tree for a brief shower that barely wets the path. As usual, when I try to take pictures, all the traffic in the world arrives out of nowhere - including a bus that wants to mount the bit of sidewalk I'm parked on!

I do seem to have been revisiting my Jammy Bastard skills with the weather, as veils of rain go by on either side, accompanied by lightning.

Now there's a long flat run up the coast, horse, donkeys and their foals, goats and kids, sheep, and vineyards separated from the tidal marshes by a high hedge. This is all into the wind, like the island is on a slope.

Tide was low earlier so I'm worried by the low paths where the cycleway cuts between le Martray and Ars, with open water to either side — this is at the very neck of the island where the main road is about as wide as the dry land.

It has obviously rained heavily here and recently, and the crunching noise as I cycle is not gravel, but snail-shells, as the whole path is thickly strewn with all sizes of them, looking like they are involved in suicidal cannibal feasts on the wet tarmac.

By Ars, start to notice that although I started with a distance of 29.5km to the Phare des Baleines, the total distances to start and the the Phare slowly increase. Near St Clement, I stop to take a photo of the Phare now it's obvious — and reach into the saddlebag for the brolly, instead, and wait for the shower to stop. Phare is signed as 2km away as other distances mount, like some event horizon; but finally it yields and I get to it — to find not a lighthouse on a bleak promontory, but a whole slew of concessions, and loads of tourists. I do a quick circuit for pictures, and start the way back at 11:38 : having been on the road for 4 hours, I don't have much dwell time.

I loop round St Clement to the west, then backtrack, with just a side trip to Loix at around 13:00 because it was there. And now that the sun has started to show I apply sunblock — I already have serious tanlines around the cycling shorts, and some reddening where the hems have shifted.

I passed a lot of picnic sites on the way out, but taking the western loop from la Couarde, there aren't any, so I munch cheese at random stopping points, and then have a pack of biscuits for refuel at 14:30 before taking the bridge. Riding back has been weird as I'd been going with the wind, often riding in dead, oppressive, calm, which oncoming cyclists were having to struggle as I had had to.

It really is only about 1/4 the way across to reach the top on the homeward leg on the bridge, and with the knack of the cyclepath, it's only another hour to get to the hotel, and can unpack everything, drop it in the room, write a note to the Bicyclette Verte chap about the puncture (and grinding pedals, and gears that don't shift where the index markings are), change and drop the bike off at reception.

Check station: 5 mins walk even with rush-hour traffic; and note that the old departure hall is being remodelled. Shop for supplies for the way back, then further to take more photos. It's now a bit chilly for short sleeves and shorts.

Bath, check the tan lines aren't too bad after the stop-go sun this afternoon. 18:00 sunny, blue sky except cloud low in NNW when I started this last section. 18:30 now and cloud is most of the way here and the sun is hazy. Cloud comes and goes all evening, and by 22:30 most of it has passed. Dinner diffs - duck in orange, not beef; no cheese, strawberry soup.

Wander out past Chain tower, and the gardens beyond, see across to Minimes, bristling with masts, and a silvered glass rotunda brilliant in the last of the sun. Back through the parks, dodging a skein of trainee rollerbladers in high-vis tabards, and through more of the back streets behind Jean d'Acre. There's a curry-house, but it looks geared to the rosbifs, given the amount of English on the menu, and a mystic store with, amongst the other stuff, an Île de Ré tarot — which I am content to leave as an enigma; then round through Minimes, which is dead like the City at this time, unlike the still vibrant old town, and then packing and so to bed.

All the photos

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