Thursday, June 02, 2005

To the Sea!

View Fontenay to La Rochelle in a larger map

Well, an even more convincing "Nee!" from the Dutch. And SNCF are holding a strike today. At least that should be over by the time I travel. Clear and bright again, and the forecast is that I'm headed for the hottest part of the country, at 30C this afternoon!! Crap! I want the cooler showery weather I was promised.

On the road at 07:42, and I'm already soaked with sweat from loading the bike, though the air is cool. Twenty minutes in, at Boisse, I swap my helmet for the sunhat.

The riverside path is really crappy, worse than I remembered, so I swap onto the main road at Chaix.

In Veilluire, another cat who hides from the camera; and I'm at the viewpoint beyond after 65 minutes. I'm at Île d'Elle at 09:35, and solve the mystery of the Rue de la République that I didn't find last year; it's a no-entry, just after the pharmacy, and the sign with the name is not visible from the way I'm coming. I push into the square, and the find a town plan. A better route would be to follow the cyclepath towards Maillezais at this point.

The thermometer at the pharmacy says 22.5C, but between breeze and flat terrain, it's better than yesterday.

10:00 at the outskirst of Marans, on the reasonable track along the canal (better than at Boisse, not as good as to Île d'Elle) — I'm slower than last year, strolling and taking photos. The run so far has been pretty, but not the sort of stuff where you can easily bottle the moment in a photo.

Marans is a pretty town if you avoid the advice to stick to the canalside which leads you through the Industrial area. Better to cross the N137 at once, then turn left towards and past the church — you can't miss the D105 if you keep on this side of the canal and the N137.

Church at Marans

retrofit steeple

Getting onto the main canal again, the ride is wonderful, what I came back for. Shade, breeze. Unlike last year, no anglers on the sluices, just a couple on the banks; and no hikers to have to weave amongst.

Then the last run to the coast where there are blessed sea breezes. I reach the third fort, south of l'Homeau about 13:15, about 45 minutes slower than last year, mostly due to the stop in Marans. I lunch here (memo to self: pack a spoon — it makes eating pots of fruit purée easier); but whereas last year I soaked up blessed sun after the rain, now I sit under the one shaded tree. There is a creperie a few minutes further on, but all the outside tables are in the sun.

And then I take the cycleway round the top of the town, and in through Mireuil. At each stop for lights, the heat is fierce, but I don't feel anywhere as bad now I've stopped as I did yesterday. Only a little bit of farce at reception: I'm booked into an accessible room!

Have a very welcome bath and then stroll. This time I find a small co-op in the back streets behind the harbour, where I didn't venture last time, so am set up with cheese and biscuits for lunch tomorrow, and cold orange drink for now. Drop off lunch at room (after an old guy had stopped playing silly buggers with the lift), then walked along the harbour to Minimes and Ville de Bois, where I can sit at a shaded picnic table and enjoy the breeze — and look at the anti-shadows on my hands, where I've tanned through the cycle gloves.

I really like modern technology. The 128Mb chip I have in the camera has more than 50 shots left on it, despite reckless use (almost 100 with the extra cards).

The mediæval bits of La Rochelle port are imposing, but the old town is cramped and hot. There is also the usual old French run-down feel that makes most places less photogenic than at first meets the eye. I am more drawn to the futuristic modern bits, with air and green spaces. It all feels a world away from Mervent and Fontenay!

5pm and the living is easy. Except for the hopeful sparrows hopping around the table, and finding I've no crumbs to drop.

Had a good wander in the mellowing sun touring the harbour. Catch forecast that says the weather will break overnight, and be much more like what I was anticipating come the weekend.

Dine à la carte, mushroom ravioli with extra wild mushrooms, emincé of beef (harmless), cheese (fuel) and apple crumble (harmless); plus the good Haut Poitou rosé again.

21:30 and it's still shirtsleeves weather for a wander, especially out of the wind in the old town collonades, where ice-cream parlours are still doing a roaring trade well after 22:00. Some of the masonry is buttressed with timbers.

Hazy cloud came up in the west during dinner, blunting the last of the sun. An arm of some weather system is going to sweep by. The warm breeze tells me that something is on its way. Hope it's not too bad for tomorrow's run on the Île de Ré

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