Slow Road Bicycle Touring - Roscoff to Santander Part 3
Welcome to Part 3 of my Bicycle Tour from Roscoff to Santander. If you haven't read Part 1 or 2 - check them out now:
The train ride to Bordeaux was very busy - people, luggage, and bicycles all crammed in like sardines, making it a rather sweaty journey. I breathed a sigh of relief as half the train disembarked a few stops later. The fresh breeze entering the carriage as the doors opened was such a relief. I took a seat and let the rhythm and noise of the train send me to sleep – that is, until the ticket inspector decided to wake me up to check my ticket!
It was early evening when I arrived in Bordeaux. It was still bright, so I took the opportunity to ride around this wonderful UNESCO city. I was immediately aware of the amazing architecture as I turned each corner - wandering through beautiful terraces, buildings, and squares. The city was beginning to enter that changeover time - from daytime tourism and shoppers to people heading out for an early dinner and bars starting to fill up. I often forget what I look like after cycling all day in my sweaty lycra until I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or bathroom mirror. To help, I took some casual clothes out of the panniers and made myself look more presentable for dinner.
My stomach was hungry and couldn’t be bothered to cook later at a campsite, so I wandered along Rue Sainte-Catherine – a pedestrianised area that is home to many popular shops and a decent selection of restaurants and cafes. I locked my bike outside a Japanese restaurant and sat down with a great bowl of Katsu Curry. In busy cities and towns, I always chose a table that gives me an occasional glimpse of my bicycle – my rubbish lock acts as an inconvenience to any would-be bicycle thief. I used to be overly paranoid about losing my bicycle and/or kit, but you have to remember that the majority of people in the world are not out to take your stuff and theft is rare. These days a glance every now helps me chill out.
Dinner was worked off by riding slowly around Bordeaux, taking in more of the surroundings as I made my way out of the city to Camping-Bel-Air. I wasn't keen on this very commercial campsite I had chosen, but I wanted a shower and didn’t want to wild camp close to a city. The office was closed when I arrived, so I found a spare pitch in a quiet area and got myself sorted. The site was actually pretty good - it had a bar serving cold beer with sports on the TV.
I woke up to clear skies and a wonderful sunrise. I felt refreshed after a good sleep in my comfy Terra Nova tent and sleeping bag, and a cup of coffee made on the Jetboil stove kicked started me into action. Today I wanted to keep heading south and get some miles in my legs, so I decided to head in the general direction of Bayonne – a diagonal direction across what looked like a quiet green area of France. Packed up, topped up the wattle bottles, and headed off. Next stop, a boulangerie!
At one with my surroundings, I cycled for mile after mile in the beautiful countryside, with just the sounds of the gentle hum of the tyres on the road, wildlife, and the whirl on the chain. I find I enter a trance-like state during these times as my brain really switches off from the world and all I care about is my journey. This is the antidote to the day-to-day routine I was seeking - all of my worries had gone away.
I rolled into another quiet French village and devoured multiple delights from the boulangerie. As I always say, the business of bicycle touring is a serious one – you need to take eating seriously! The sunshine had now been replaced by clouds, which I wasn’t that sad about. The sunshine can drain your energy levels pretty fast when cycling and I needed lots of energy today to hit my target of 80-100 miles and get to Camping Clave by early evening, so I could enjoy the evening.
The next few hours took me back into my trance-like state along wonderfully quiet and picturesque roads. Some old ruins caught my eye as I was hunting for a nice lunch spot. I could see something in the distance behind the endless fields of sunflowers and upon close inspection; it was a small castle This is what I love about slow bicycle travel – finding these little gems that are so often overlooked in a car. Resting in a field I ate my baguette, stuffed down another pastry, and washed it down with a cup of tea.
I kept a good pace all afternoon - mile after mile with a stop in the town of Sabres to stock up on food for my evening meal and breakfast. I then pushed to get myself to Camping Clave in Morcenx, hoping there would be a swimming pool to cool down in. By this point, the sun had made a reappearance and I was baking hot!
Similar to the previous night, Camping Clave was quite a large commercial site, however, it had a pool. And it was empty! I felt like a child seeing the swimming pool on holiday for the first time as I dumped my bicycle in my camping spot, grabbed my swimming shorts, changed, and sprinted to the pool. It was wonderful to cool down after such a long day in the saddle. The cold water instantly cooled down my head. I hoisted myself out of the water and lay on a sunbed until I drifted into a light sleep.
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