UK & France Bike Ride Notes

 

Notes about a 7-week cycling adventure when 6 Australian friends made their way in stages from England to the Mediterranean via the Cotswolds, Normandy, Brittany, Jersey, La Vélodyssée (the Atlantic French cycling route), the Dordogne and the Southern mountains of France to Nice. See this map of the complete route.

 

·         The route was planned to allow between 50 to 100 km distance between stopovers, with some rest days.

·         All stopovers were accommodated which were selected and booked in advance.

·         The actual riding routes were plotted in advance, revised in the days before and modified on route.

·         All gear was carried on the bikes.

·         Food was purchased or supplied on route as required either in restaurants, boulangeries (French bakeries), provided breakfasts and supermarkets.

·         There was no backup, so if anything went wrong it had to be dealt with by the group. Luckily, nothing held up the adventure.

·         Bikes were transported from Australia using the generous baggage allowance provided by airlines.

·         Average cost per day for accommodation and food was $100 per person.

 

The Participants

Rick (the writer) & Noel (7th Sept [Hook Norton] to 22nd Oct [Nice]).

Mike & Kevin (11th Sept [Cherbourg] to 22nd Oct [Nice]).

Viv & Linton (12th Sept [Brévands] to 28th Sept [La Rochelle]).

 

Total Distance Travelled

2,740km for Noel & I from Hook Norton (England) to Nice. About 2,500km for Mike & Kevin from Cherbourg to Nice and around 1,000km for Viv and Linton from Brévands to La Rochelle.

 

See also these day to day notes and photos by Mike. To view previous days on Mike’s notes, select the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of the page.

 

Best Scenery

·         On the day we spent circumnavigating Jersey. Lovely bays and inlets. Magnificent properties. Lots of wealth displayed in houses and vehicles. Jersey is a tax haven for the wealthy British.

·         Tarn Gorge. A stunning scenery day. Every turn in the road brought a new surprise be it the rugged gorge, rock climbers, troglodyte dwellings high up, old bridges, dwelling ruins, Château’s and the remote villages dotted along the gorge. It was a magnificent day and the excellent road wound its way alongside the Tarn river through many rock tunnels (see this photo) and there was little traffic. Of particular interest was the town of Saint Chély du Tarn. An ancient narrow bridge (which Kevin blocked with his bike) across the Tarn connected the small scenic village to the rest of the world. See this photo. Some houses along the gorge on the opposite side of the river to the road were only accessible by flying fox. To top it off, a lady we meet along the way gave us some lunch. This was our best riding day.

·         View from the top of the medieval Château in Beynac-et-Cazenac. Stunning views of the Dordogne. Colourful balloons drifting around added to the atmosphere. See this photo.

·         View from the Château de Gourdon. Highest view ever looking towards Nice. Hard to believe that we had climbed up so far. See this photo.

·         View of Limeuil and its bridges, one crossing the Dordogne. See this photo.

·         From our accommodation balcony in Les Salles Sur Verdon overlooking Lake Verdon. See this photo.

 

That which did not Happen

·         Visiting the Forest of Brocéliande. We arrived at the entrance gate and it was locked. Found out later in a nearby tourist bureau that bikes were not allowed.

·         Getting any type of pizza in the town of Comps Sur Artuby. They had run out!

·         Getting a coffee or even a drink in some towns. There was nothing open! I did manage to fill up my drink bottle at a public water pump in Châteaudouble but had to get a local to show me how to use it.

·         Noel NOT going to McDonalds. In Creon, our accommodation hotel was not opening until an hour after we arrived. Conveniently, there was a McDonalds across the road where we had coffee and thick shakes. Noel got confused by the automated ordering system. He needs to spend more time in McDonalds. See this photo.

·         Finding a boulangerie in some towns. Either they did not have one or it was closed!

·         Hamburgers with beetroot in them.

·         Getting a taxi in Brévands. It was Viv’s birthday, so we decided to have dinner in town. Too far to walk or ride so we asked the people minding the B&B to help us with ordering taxis. Two taxis are organised for 7.00 he advised us. They never turned up despite him ringing them back to find out why they never arrived. Linton rustled up some leftovers - thank you.

·         Finding an open bike shop on Mondays or at lunch time.

·         Viv NOT going into a lolly shop. See this photo.

·         Consistent response to the request for Cafe Au Latte and Grande Creme (or whatever it should be). We got the full range of different servings of coffee.

·         Using the lift in the Grand Hotel in Nantes. The dodgiest lift ever. Noel & I went in it once and never again. Only used it to transport our gear by putting the stuff in the lift and then up or down via stairs to appropriate floor and pressed the button.

·         Seeing any buildings made from clay bricks.

·         Climbing up the stairs to the Château at Rocamadour. After uphill and stairs in Limeuil and Beynac we were sick of climbing and stairs. However, we did climb up the Pilgrims Stairs at Rocamadour.

·         Kevin NOT having pizza or hamburgers. Despite claiming to have not have had either of these food items in the last 100 years, he succumbed after having little choice in some towns.

·         Finding somewhere to eat at lunchtime in Saint Cyprien. Could not find a boulangerie. Mike tried ordering something in a Thai/Indonesian fast food restaurant only to be told to come back tomorrow. This was a place where you order today for tomorrow. Could only happen in France. We ended going to a supermarket.

·         Noel getting breakfast in bed on his birthday.

·         Mike getting a “Side Salad” with his pizza in Malaucène. All he got was a small bowl of lettuce and it cost 4!

·         Find anywhere with “Hawaiian pizzas” (with pineapple on them).

·         Visiting the Médréac railway station and its cycle-rail. We went near there but ran out of time.

·         Invoking the “no more than 8 seconds a day whinging” rule. Devised by Kevin, nobody exceeded that amount.

·         Noel & me NOT getting accommodation in La Rochelle. The hotel receptionist could not find the booking for Noel & me despite Mike proving to her that it had been booked. We were getting worried because there was some event on in La Rochelle at the time and there were no available beds within 100kms. After some tense moments, the receptionist rang booking.com and it turned out that one booking had been made in Mike’s name and the other in the French version of his name (how is that possible?).

·         Me learning to say “boulangerie” correctly. See this photo.

·         Finding places that sold Pepsi Max, Kevin’s favourite drink.

·         Me needing any “butt” cream. To be honest, I was not aware that anyone used it until later in the trip. I guess I was lucky, I only suffered from minor chaffing although your bum gets very sore most days from sitting on the saddle for so long.

·         Getting a Guinness in an “Irish” pub in Saint Jean de Monts. The owner had stopped selling it because of poor sales!

·         Finding the bike shop in Carentan. It had moved! See this photo of everyone looking confused at its old location. We did eventually find where it had moved to.

·         Paying for toilets. Most churches had them nearby. See this photo.

·         The passport processing system at Heathrow getting faster. When we first arrived, it took about 1 hour. As we got closer, the number of immigration officers reduced and the number of people behind us increased and I felt sorry for the people behind us. When we arrived from Nice, it still took over 40 mins. Meanwhile, because of the long wait at immigration, our bags on the baggage carousel have been taken off and dumped beside it. Messages are continually broadcast stating that unattended bags may be confiscated and destroyed. Australia’s head of state, the Queen, lives in England and Australians get no privileges at immigration. The whole process is unacceptable.

·         Buying bike boxes from the luggage storage place at Heathrow. They cost £35 each, are relatively small cardboard containers, not folded and had no cut out handles. The guy in charge asked us how much we paid for ours and when we told him nothing, bike stores give them away, he looked very surprised.

 

Best Bike Tracks

There were lots of these. Some had pavement better than many roads. And sometimes you can find a nice cafe. See this photo. I only found one toilet on a bike track. See this photo. Even found a bike pump. See this photo.

 

Best Accommodation

·         Converted convent in Saint Côme d'Olt. Fully functional with huge living area. Unfortunately, we did not get to fully enjoy it because we did not arrive there until 6.30 and then had to walk into town for dinner. See this photo.

·         House in Gouvets. Had dodgy stairs but the place had a certain charm. See this photo.

·         House in Loscouët sur Meu. One of the best for functionality. We purchased our food for that night on the way. Only problem was the host could not speak English, but she later introduced her sister and we had an interesting conversation with her.

·         Norfolk hotel in St Helier (Jersey) which was frequented by an older class of people. Breakfast was included and was excellent. Mike had a full English breakfast every morning.

 

How we Navigated

·         I had an iPad and Noel had an iPhone, both in waterproof holders. My iPad overheated once, and it automatically switched off as they apparently do for protection. For navigation, we both used Maps.Me, I used Komoot, and Google Maps once. Linton also used Maps.Me and Google Maps. Komoot was very good but had a crappy display. Maps.Me was extremely useful because of its rerouting feature.

·         Noel used Strava to record each day’s trip. Strava records the route, elevation, speed and many other useless parameters. Noel uploaded the information to the internet at the end of each day.

 

Grumpiest Accommodation Hosts

·         At La Bernerie en Retz Mike had booked 2 rooms each with twin beds. On arrival, the host claimed that she only had double beds. After Mike strenuously protested it turned out that the double beds were single beds pushed together with double bed sheets. Under protest, she remade the beds. However, she was not happy and was glad to see us go.

·         In Malaucène, Mike had booked a self-contained apartment with no one on site. He had not received any information about how to gain access before we arrived, so Mike had to ring the owner. She provided the information and claimed to have sent the details by email and mobile phone. With no internet access during the day it was impossible for Mike to obtain the information (he received it later that day by email). When we entered the apartment, there was no cutlery which the owner later claimed was there. Had to buy some from the supermarket.

 

Silly Things We Did

·         Illegally riding on major roads. In France, if there is a designated bike path provided beside a road, you are legally obliged to use it.

·         Riding the wrong way up one-way streets (my fault - too busy looking at the map).

·         Linton had the idea to delegate Ministries to everyone. Apologies if I got these wrong, but I believe these were the delegations. Linton – Minister for food, Viv – Minister for women’s affairs, Me – Minister for navigation (nickname Columbus), Noel – Minister for treasury & deputy for navigation (nickname Vasco), Mike – Minister for accommodation, Kevin – Minister for backup policies.

·         After stopping, riding in circles or back and forth (Noel & me) to work out which way the mapping App is directing us. Linton worked out very early to wait a way back in case I went the wrong way and came back.

·         Riding on the wrong side of the road (mainly me). But it was all very confusing. England (LH), then France (RH), then Jersey (LH), then back to France (RH).

·         Forgetting to take the code to get back into our hotel at Royan. Hotels lock their doors around 8 to 9 pm and if you go out for dinner and get back after this time you need the code to get back in. We were lucky, and after a short wait another resident came out allowing us entry.

·         At the B&B in Sainte Pierre Toirac we mistakenly used the large coffee cups as cereal bowls. Some places never provided cereal bowls and large spoons seemed in short supply.

·         Riding over the Passage du Gois. It is a causeway that connects the island of Noirmoutier with the mainland which was used before a bridge was built. See this photo. Can only cross at low tide twice a day and can be slippery. Kevin relieved himself from one of the safety towers along the way. See this photo.

·         Attempting to ride up Mt Ventoux. At least for Mike and me. I rode 4km up (see this photo) and Mike 10km.

 

 

Worst Accommodation

·         Room in the Hotel De La Poste in Mortain (at least for Noel & me). Tiny room. Shower covered in mould. Toilet blocked up. Only 2 radiator bars on the only working one got warm. The hotel did have an excellent breakfast.

·         House in Pontorson. The information provided about where the place was and how to get the keys was poor. The ground floor was well appointed. However, there was no kettle, no WiFi and the spiral staircase to the other 2 floors was narrow, noisy, moved and extremely dangerous. See this photo.

·         Apartment at La Tranche Sur Mer. Nobody on site. Messy system to get keys. WiFi only free near a pool. Apartment designed by an idiot. Not a parallel wall anywhere. Toilet in tiny cupboard with no ventilation and you hit your head on the door sitting down.

·         My accommodation at Ispagnac. The owner squeezed an extra bed in the entrance area into the rooms with the head of the bed near the toilet door. See this photo.

·         I did not see it, but Mike & Kevin said their cabin in Millau had a dangerous subsiding floor.

·         Many of the places we stayed in had terribly designed showers. In Dinan, the water ran onto the floor of the bathroom because of the shower design.

 

Best Meal

All you can eat restaurant in Manosque. For 18, we had all you can eat main and dessert and finished off with coffee. There were also many others that were very good.

 

Why?

·         Do church bells ring more often than needed?

·         What prompted a fellow traveller we met on the ferry from Poole to think he could ride all the way to Kenya? He was riding a heavy steel framed bike, had very little luggage, no maps and no set plans.

·         Were there squat toilets near the church in Vendays-Montalivet?

·         Were the air conditioners in most accommodation set to heat only?

·         What determines why bike riders dismount on either the LH or RH side?

·         Were there open to the public urinals in Lacanau Océan? See this photo.

·         Did the receptionist at the hotel in Millau put us in the cabins furthest from the office? There were very few people at the hotel for the time we were there.

·         Did the conductor at Heathrow station separate Noel & I on the Heathrow Express to Paddington? We walked onto the station together expecting to get on the train together, but she insisted that we board separately at either end of the train. The train was empty.

·         Did Viv’s and Mike’s legs always have an imprint of their bikes front cog on them? See this photo partly showing the imprint on Mike’s leg.

·         Was Mike the only one not using cleats?

·         Did we encounter cars in two isolated places? One on the root infested track near Caille and the other on a forest track after we went through the train tunnel that had no lights. Two places we never expected to see cars.

·         Were there so many noisy bikes in the town of Malaucène? The Main Street was pleasant, modern and wide but the atmosphere was destroyed by these bikes.

 

Food Issues

·         We had baguettes numerous times for lunch with a variety of fillings.

·         Americana baguettes have 2 meanings. The first is a baguette with a certain selection of fillings. The second is hamburger meat filling (possibly with melted cheese) with a serving of chips. Mike & Kevin also had the second option with partly uncooked meat.

·         Some dinner places only had varieties of cooked duck or goose gizzards, so we opted for pizzas or hamburgers.

·         We discovered some places had milkshakes and indulged ourselves.

·         We did drink a lot of coke, both original and sugar free.

·         Linton and Mike took a liking to Flans.

·         We often purchased food in advance in anticipation of not finding any lunch offerings or cooking our own food in our accommodation.

 

Most Reorganised Day

Most days we had already planned our route the evening before. On the ride from Les Salles Sur Verdon to Comps Sur Artuby we were looking forward to seeing some stunning scenery with views of Verdon Gorge. Following the D71, we climbed up to 800 m to the town of Aiguines. Informed by fellow traveller that the road was closed past Aiguines. Why wasn’t there a sign at the bottom of the hill? Confirmed by town locals and due to landslide. Used Maps.me but it knows nothing about closed roads and kept choosing the original route. I did find a reference the D71 closure on the internet. Translated from French it reads “DEPARTEMENTAL ROUTE D71: Following a subsidence and a landslide, the road is closed until December 29, 2016” (did they mean 2017?).

Decided to go back down to the hotel and use their WiFi to select a new route. However, the only choice was a longer route with lots of hills. We had no choice but to take this route and it proved one of our most difficult days. See this elevation profile.

 

Best Downhill

Into Millau. Nine km relatively straight steep descent. Noel recorded a maximum speed of 70km/hr and Kevin 75. See this elevation profile.

 

The Treasurer

Someone suggested early in the trip that we have a “kitty” of monies to pay for common items that we might purchase. For example, if we all had coffee. Noel was elected the treasurer to handle the monies which he performed with dignity. He initially regularly reconciled the monies but after losing track of a few cents he stopped. See this photo of Noel raiding the kitty.

 

Where We Stored the Bikes Overnight

Garages, twice in the rooms, hotel foyers, sheds, balconies, cellars, storerooms and passageways. It was never an issue and no charge except for Lacanau Ocean where we were charged 5 to store the bikes in a small locked room. See this photo of the corridor where the rooms where. We also had to make our own beds at this place.

 

Best (Worst) Uphill

Into Comps Sur Artuby. About 3 hours uphill in granny gear, and at the end of the day. See this elevation profile. Note the 550m climb at the end.

 

Oldest\Youngest

Noel (74)\Linton (52)

 

The Reincarnation of Roger Lapébie

He won the Tour de France in 1937 and we rode on an excellent bike track near Creon dedicated to him. We followed an old guy wearing road gear on a road bike. Mike passed him, I passed him, and he caught up and passed me. Then Kevin, Noel & me stuck behind him for ages. Eventually he must have felt intimidated and pulled over.

 

Who got Sick

Apart from a few sniffles (Linton the worst) nobody got so physically sick that we got held up.

 

How Many?

·         Leg revolutions did I do riding. It’s frightening to think about it, but it must have been 100’s of thousands.

·         Times did I changed gear. Loaded up with gear, one changes gears at the slightest incline.

·         Towns we went through without seeing anyone. Dozens.

 

Accidents

·         I had near misses with a motor bike and a bus.

·         Linton fell off his bike once (that I saw).

·         Linton sitting on his butter satchels (to soften them) and forgetting about them ending up with a mess on the chair and his pants.

 

Just Like Australia

The Atlantic coast beaches in France are much like Australian beaches. In particular, the small “town” of Carcans Plage we went through had a similar feeling to Torquay or other Victorian seaside towns. We had an ice cream there. See this photo.

 

Most Spoken Words whilst Riding

“GoPro start recording”, “GoPro stop recording”, “GoPro take photo” (Mike talking to his helmet mounted camera).

 

Best Beggar

Kevin. An old lady offered him money while he was sitting waiting outside a bike shop in Nice.

 

Dodgiest “Tracks” we were Directed onto by the Off-line Mapping Apps

Some of tracks we did not follow and found alternative routes.

·         Over an unsafe railway bridge with chain barriers (which we ignored).

·         Through a railway tunnel with no overhead lights (two other tunnels we went through had overhead lights. See this photo). We did go through the tunnel with me in front holding a light. The others bumbled behind me with Kevin last complaining he could not see a thing. It was a bit scary.

·         In England, a track with a massive stump behind the gate into the track. See this photo. Found out later that the track goes through (or used to) a military base.

·         Farmers tracks sometimes through gates and usually very rough.

·         A walking track beside a railway line over a bridge. See this photo.

·         Through an army testing site in England which ended up with Noel & I walking our bikes on the track through stagnant pools of water and Noel earlier getting a puncture on the sharp gravel. The sides of the track were covered in stinging nettles. See this photo.

·         Bridle tracks\walking tracks beside canals. See this photo.

·         Goat tracks. See this photo.

·         Ferries. One ferry in Rochefort only went twice a day and we had to wait a few hours. Took the opportunity to have lunch and for Noel to have a sleep. See this photo. One ferry across a canal was free, only took 5 minutes and the ferry was solar powered. See this photo of us waiting to get on a ferry to Jersey.

·         Trusted Google Maps once and it directed us on a root infested track near Caille through a pine forest and then onto a farmer’s gravel track. I was a bit worried that day because I could not see any alternative routes. We ended up pushing our bikes across a field, up beside a house (hoping no one was home and no dogs) and onto a road. I was then able to find an alternative route. I attempted to advise Google of the problem track, but I got a message “We don’t support maps in this area yet”. Never used Google again.

·         A bike path on a narrow strip of concrete on the way to Lacanau Ocean that was in poor condition.

 

Worst Weather

·         For Noel and me coming into Poole (England). It poured with strong wind for 2 hours into Poole.

·         For everyone, on a bike track to Dinan. Caught in a downpour but got some shelter under a road overpass. See this photo.

·         A few other rain periods and some patches of drizzle. The last 4 weeks of the trip were rain free.

·         Foggy leaving Sainte Pierre Toirac and very cold but the fog cleared as we rode uphill.

 

Nice People

·         The car in England that pulled up beside me and the passenger said, “Are you riding with someone?”. “Yes”, I said. The passenger said “Well, he has gone a different way to you”. I doubled back, and Noel soon appeared saying that he had indeed gone the wrong way.

·         The lady in a church in England we stopped to look at gave us barley water.

·         As we ate lunch in Carentan, a French gentleman sang a few songs for us and then blew a kiss at either Kevin or Viv.

·         The English gentleman in a cafe in Pontorson who advised us the best way to get breakfast.

·         The Irishman passing by who assisted us when we needed to call the accommodation owner in Malaucène. Noel rang the number, but got a recorded message which he could not understand. The Englishman offered to listen to the message to help us. However, when Noel rang the number again, someone answered and spoke English!

·         The host at Loscouët sur Me who left us rags to clean our bikes.

·         At a restaurant in Grillon where we stopped and had coffee, the lady filled up our drink bottles with cold water.

·         At a small shop we stopped at in Pouzilhac and had coffee, the owner went out of her way to especially make up some baguette sandwiches.

·         On the Tarn Gorge, an English couple we ran into in a motor home had just made their lunch and were walking down to a table to eat it. We arrived and got talking and the lady insisted on us taking the lunch. She said she can easily make more.

·         On our way to Saint Côme d'Olt we looked lost at one stage and a French couple stopped their car over a pedestrian crossing and offered assistance. They could not speak any English and totally confused us. We ended up on a dodgy bike track, through a railway tunnel with no lights, along a forest track, more hills and arrived at our accommodation late.

·         Whilst trying to find an open boulangerie in Saint Saturnin de Lenne a couple noticed we were in trouble and directed us to one that was closing in 30 mins and about 6 km ride away in Campagnac. Riding like the possessed with Mike way out in front, we arrived with minutes to spare only to find the boulangerie had nothing left.

 

Best Accommodation Hosts

·         At Sainte Jean de Ceyrargues we had dinner and breakfast with the owners. They both spoke excellent English and had travelled extensively, and we had an interesting discussion.

·         At Royan, the hotel hosts helped us take our bags up the stairs to our rooms and were extremely helpful.

 

Loneliest Town

Vérignon. We saw it on the map after rerouting on the “most reorganised day” (see above). Expected somewhere to find WiFi and check routes. Just a few unoccupied houses. We had lunch there behind one of the houses with a security camera pointed at us. The “town” had a population of 50 in 1962, 15 in 2008 and probably zero in 2017.

 

Highest Altitude Reached

1,200m in the town of Andon where we stopped and had lunch.

 

Not so Nice Town

Nice. The promenade is its unique feature. I don’t know of any other city that has over 3km of walkway and bike track along its ocean front where the ocean is a lovely colour. It is very good but could be better with more trees and lawn. See this photo. However, the beach next to the promenade is terrible. Pebbles instead of sand, narrow and deep entry into the water. See this photo. Traffic in many parts of the town is horrendous.

 

Hardest Ride

Mikes efforts in climbing part way up Mt Ventoux AND the hills next day with his rear brake pads rubbing on the disc.

 

Interesting Places and Things

·         The beaches, museums, displays and cemeteries associated with the D Day invasion. Of interest, was the simulated taking off and flying in a plane over the channel to France on the invasion day. The windows on the plane were TV screens showing what the occupants would have seen on the invasion day. Hundreds of planes taking off. Thousands of ships steaming across the channel. The plane was hit by gunfire and crashed. It was realistic and impressive.

·         Rocamadour, a well-known village built on the side of a hill.

·         Moustiers Sainte Marie. Built on the side of massive rocks towering over the town. A unique feature was a river cascading through a ravine in the middle of the town.

·         The Grottes de Lacave (caves) that Kevin & I visited and Gouffre de Padirac (caves) that Kevin, Mike & I visited.

·         Many of “old” sections in towns we stayed in or passed through.

·         Mont Sainte Michael. We left our panniers at the accommodation in Pontorson and rode our bikes there. You can use a free shuttle bus across the causeway or walk. We took the bus.

·         This sign.

·         The unmanned entry system in the hotel at Manosque. Enter a code on keypad beside front door to enter reception area. Then enter a code on another keypad beside a rack of trays and the tray with your room number pops out. Inside is your key and other information.

·         This ancient motorised tandem I found in Vence.

·         Many very old churches which we looked through when possible.

·         This photo of a Tour de France rider in Lalinde.

·         The Millau bridge which we viewed from underneath when we took a boat ride down the Tarn river. I wanted to ride my bike over the bridge, but it was not permitted. See this photo.

·         The 3 bears statues near a kindergarten in the town of Audrix. See this photo and this photo. The town hall had a lift which I mistook for a disabled toilet.

·         This selection of miscellaneous photos.

 

The Missing 4 Kilometres

On the bike track to La Tranche Sur Mer, there were 2 signs showing 23km to La Tranche Sur Mer that were 4 km apart.

 

Most Useless Devices

·         Kevin’s watch. Only accurate twice a day.

·         Noel’s iPad. It went faulty early into the trip. It wanted to be connected to iTunes for some obscure reason. Took it to an Apple store in Jersey. They said it would take 2 days to fix and he would lose all data. We were leaving next day so that was not an option. Passed a store in Dinan that claimed to fix iPads. Noel took it in and the guy fixed it no charge and no data lost. I had a need to use it later in the trip and it was as slow as a wet week.

·         Linton’s iPhone. Cracked screen and stopped working a few times.

·         Some of the WiFi router passwords in houses we stayed in used a 16 digit (or longer) alphanumeric code which the owners never bothered to change to make it easier for the guests. Some of the accommodation WiFi connection mechanisms were ridiculously complicated and even logged you out every so often.

·         Kevin’s tablet. It wouldn’t turn on, wouldn’t charge. More profanities directed at the tablet than at the sight of the next hill.

·         Viv’s phone. She purchased a SIM to be used on the trip, but was unable to get it to work. Surprisingly, it decided to work when we needed it most at the hotel in La Tranche Sur Mer. There was nobody on site and we had to call someone, and Viv used her phone.

·         Linton’s bicycle computer. Told us once that our altitude was -80m and our gradient 18%. To be fair, he claimed it had not been setup correctly.

 

Longest Riding

·         Longest distance was 103km from Malaucène to Manosque.

·         Longest time on saddle was 6.5 hours riding from Sainte Pierre Toirac to Saint Côme d'Olt. This day was also our greatest elevation gain of 1604m. See this elevation profile.

·         The latest time we arrived at our accommodation was 6.30 into Saint Côme d'Olt.

·         What seemed the longest and hardest day was the ride to Comps Sur Artuby because of the long climb at the end of the day.

 

Lost

·         Linton’s glove (I think he found it).

·         Noel’s hat (lost).

·         Kevin’s glove (found). Caught up in washing.

·         Noel’s butt cream and sunscreen (lost). Confiscated by security at airport.

·         My wallet (found). Dumped by accident in rubbish bin.

·         Mike’s glove (lost).

·         Noel’s camera bag (found). Left in airport lounge.

·         Kevin’s camera bag (found). Jumped off his bike into the bushes when he hit a pothole.

·         Noel’s jumper (found). Left at previous hotel.

·         My bike lock (found). I left it at one of the D Day exhibits and on our return journey it was still there.

·         Noel’s sanity (still lost).

·         Linton’s helmet (found). He had left it in his pannier at the last stop & forgot to put it on.

·         Noel’s bike computer (lost in transit to Australia).

·         Me, in Gouvets (found). I took some rubbish into the town to dispose of but did not take my iPad (with maps) with me. Took a wrong turn on way back and got lost. Followed signs back to town but still could not work out were I went wrong. Asked a local worker about the place we were staying at, but he could not speak English. He directed me to put my bike in the back of his van and drove me to a house where the lady could speak English. She could have directed me to our accommodation, but I had already rung Noel and agreed to meet him in the town and he showed me the way back. Very embarrassing.

 

Bike Issues

·         Mike’s tube exploded in Brévands when it was pumped up too much. Scared the whoopsy out of us.

·         Noel had 2 flats, me 1. And here he is fixing one alongside the Brest Canal.

·         Saw this automated tube selling machine outside a bike shop in Oxford (England).

·         Noel purchased new tyres and front and rear mud guards in St Helier.

·         Mike had 2 broken spokes. One got fixed in Malaucène.

·         Viv had a new front derailleur fitted in Vire.

·         Viv & Linton obtained bike boxes in La Rochelle. They were huge and had to be cut down in size. See this photo. They also had issues taking the boxes on a regional train.

·         Kevin got stuff tangled in his cluster a few times.

·         Mike’s rear brake pads were rubbing on the disc slowing him down. He put up with it for one day of riding and the ride up Mt Ventoux. We fixed them in Manosque.

·         Linton had issues with the specialised gear train on his bike. A bike mechanic fixed it.

·         I estimate I was carrying about 20 kg of gear.

·         Bikes in bike boxes can be a pain at times. Airlines have different weight limits for bikes. On the way home on arrival at Heathrow from Nice we had to find weighing machines and shuffle items from bags to bike boxes to satisfy weight limits. Then we had to transport the boxes from Terminal 5 to Terminal 4 on the bus (which was a pain). Then we had to reopen the bike boxes at the Heathrow overnight storage facility because the boxes would not fit in the X-Ray machine and he insisted looking inside. And then at check in for the trip home to Australia they did not even bother to weigh the bike boxes.

·         Kevin got new brake pads in St Helier.

·         I had to buy a new rear light in St Helier after the old one stopped working in heavy rain.

·         I loaned Linton a rear vision mirror that clips to glasses (like I use). He liked it so much I donated it to him.

·         Mike’s pack rack mounting broke on the second last day of riding. Fixed it temporarily.

·         Obtaining bike boxes in Nice was tedious. Phone calls to bike shops from a French receptionist in our hotel indicated they had no boxes. However, on visiting these places they did have boxes. It took us a whole day to obtain boxes and pack the bikes.

 

France and Dogs

·         They are allowed in restaurants and I have seen them sitting at the tables.

·         A lady had one in supermarket trolley collecting food and stacking it around the dog. Other people would later use that trolley.

·         Lots of drivers have them on their laps.

·         Noel saw one pee on the floor at Nice airport and the owner kept walking.

·         I saw a few in bike trailers.

 

What is Wrong with France

·         Too many smokers and they have little consideration for anyone else.

·         Dog issues (see above).

·         Many businesses are closed lunch times and Mondays.

·         People in supermarket queues are inconsiderate. They yack to the operator whilst the queue gets longer and longer or hold up the queue whilst they get some other items. This happened consistently. They should have “no yacking” checkouts.

·         Did not see any “12 items or less” checkouts in supermarkets.

·         Not much wildlife. It’s all been shot. We heard many shots fired and saw the occasional group of hunters on the roadside.

·         The roads in the older parts of most major towns are poor.

·         Graffiti is a problem. See this photo, this photo and this photo.

·         Kevin commented that it appears people can get fined if they use their car blinkers because they rarely use them.

·         The selection and quality of fresh fruit is poor. Never saw any passionfruit.

·         Hotels don’t open until late, usually 4 or 5 pm. In some cases, there is nobody there until the opening time. One even did not open until 6 pm. At this hotel, Mike arrived early and very wet. After pleading for an early entry, we were all allowed in.

·         Their attitude to wearing bike helmets. It is compulsory for children up to a certain age to wear helmets. I once saw a group of school children on a bike track all wearing helmets. Not one of the teachers had a helmet. So much for setting an example.

 

Thank You

To all the others on the trip. In particular, to Mike for organising and planning. We had fun and it was a fantastic adventure.

 

Trip Rating

9 out of 10.