Back to the Beginning in Langon

I’ve just about completed my giant Bordeaux loop … 998 miles in 19 days, with one to go: Back to Bordeaux (the city), another 45 or so miles tomorrow.

I’m in Langon tonight, which was my first stop after Bordeaux way back when. It’s kind of cool to come back to a town I’ve already visited. I know how to find the hotel, the staff at the hotel recognized me (the crazy bike guy), I know where to eat, and where to do a load of laundry.

Plus, the couscous place I thought was closed for good: Is open! Just got back from a delicious – and very filling dinner.

couscous2.jpg

One thing about couscous: It tends to continue to expand in your stomach for an hour or two after you’ve finished eating. So, be careful. Another thing: It’s one of those perfect-combination meals that incorporates a grain, veggies, meat and sauce, plus raisins and chick peas. And some hot sauce if you’re up for the challenge (the little dish to the upper left).

Because I’ve been here before and ridden in this region (the Sauternes sector of Bordeaux), I was able to go on a Best Of Ride today, incorporating all my favorite sights and routes, villages and castles.

Here it is, in photos: 50 great miles, even with some rain the last 10K.

day19-1.jpg

Yes, the Route des Vines … I’ve created my own. A few minutes – and hills – after you head out of Langon, the Sauternes and Graves grapes begin to appear. To say they’re everywhere is a bit of an understatement. And, grapes seem to love growing on hills, which means lots of ups and downs.

day19-2.jpg

The cathedral in Uzeste is our first official stop. It’s one of the larger and more ornate churches in the region, and yet another example of a tiny, tiny village with a huge, giant church.

day19-3.jpg

Then it’s on to the remains of the castle in Villandraut, which dates back to Pope Clement V and the 1300s. This time, the gate just past the drawbridge was open and I could walk into the large “courtyard.” There’s something about the ruins of an ancient castle that stirs the imagination.

day19-4.jpg

Headed out of Villandraut and saw this…

day19-5.jpg

I know, it’s almost as cool as the Pope’s castle ruins.

It’s the roadside advertisement for Le Roi Kysmar … and I have one question: What the heck is the dad doing? Is he in the middle of a cough? Does he have some sort of breathing or lung disorder? Is he hiding something in his hand? Is he about to blow a poisonous dart at me?

I have no idea what the heck was the giant-plastic advertising artist was thinking. Maybe he had a little too much Sauternes and things got out of hand.

After another few Ks … Couldn’t help but notice the name of this mini-village…

day19-6.jpg

Perhaps this is a warning to all cyclists: Drink up and stay hydrated.

The setting of the ruins of the castle just outside Budos are perfect…

day19-7.jpg

The old castle is below the town, surrounded by vineyards. I came at it from three or four different directions and each time the view of the castle as you approached was pretty darn amazing.

FYI: The harvesting of the grapes has begun.

OK, we’re nearing the end of our perfect ride. This is about the time it started raining. I was heading back, but instead of turning left, toward Langon, kept going straight so I could see…

day19-8.jpg

The castle at Roquetaillade. It’s set a little ways back from the road, so it’s hard to tell from this picture how big it is. Trust me: It’s huge.

There was a guy just a little bit to the left of where I shot this from, sitting in a chair in front of his camper … sleeping.

Why not? It’s a pretty awesome view. Maybe he too had a little too much wine. I’m working on this situation right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the Bike: The Bordeaux Loop

I have to admit: I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts since I got to France. Anxious, jet lagged and sleep deprived, missing Susan, wondering what the heck I’m doing here.

And then, well, I went on a ride today, my first on this trip, and I feel so much better. I remembered why I’m here and why I love biking in France … and, to be honest, this wasn’t even a great ride. Just a good ride. But sometimes good is good enough. And the better and best is yet to come.

So, here we go, my day in photos (and pithy captions)…

Bord-bike.jpg
Picked up my rental bike, a Cube, at 10:30 in front of one of the many ibis hotels by the train station. I think there are four … I’m at the ibis Styles (a bit of a misnomer, but it’s OK). There were also two Irish women (lasses?) picking up their bikes from 02Cycles and we chatted a bit. They’re headed to Agen. I think. The guy from 02 showed them the tools to fix a flat … and they sort of looked at each other, then the guy … and said they have no idea how to fix a flat. Uh-oh. Hopefully the luck of the Irish holds true for cycling.
bord1.jpg
Bordeaux is a big city. A really big city. But it’s very, very bike friendly. There are bike lanes everywhere and lots of signs. I was looking for, and found, the sign for Sauveterre and the Roger Lapebie bike path, which takes you all the way to Sauveterre, which is 46 kilometers (about 28 miles) from Bordeaux. I was only going as far as La Sauve-Majeure, where there are the ruins of a big, old abby. Then back the way I came … a sort of test ride to check out the bike. The photo above is the bridge over the Garonne River. There’s another bridge right near the train station and my hotel, but the 02 guy said the train station bridge is “shit” and this one (above) in the middle of town is “beautiful.” He was right. Huge bike lane. 
bord4.jpg
Here’s the map of the Roger Lapebie bike path. Who the heck is this Roger Lapebie? Well…
bord3.jpg
He won the Tour de France in 1937. When you win the Tour de France, they name stuff after you … especially in the region where you are born. Unfortunately, a French rider hasn’t won the Tour de France since the mid-1980s. And they’re sure as heck not gonna name stuff after Lance or Floyd around here.
bord2.jpg
Here’s one of the more scenic stretches of the path. Lots of forests, a few farms and a couple of vineyards. You don’t actually go through any towns/villages, but there are several a kilometer or so away, just off the path.
bord9.jpg
Got to the abby, locked up my bike and started walking toward the entrance when … two cyclists started speaking to me in French. I kept nodding and saying “oui.” I’m pretty sure the guy was telling me the abby was ferme (closed) and wouldn’t open again until 14 heures (2 PM). Darn, it was 12:15, so I started heading back to Bordeaux.
bord6.jpg
Saw these two guys laying down new bike/walk lanes signs. There’s fire shooting out the end of their fire hoses to seal in the paint for all of eternity.
bord7.jpg
Back in my ibis hotel room, where there is a strange green tint … and my bike is taking a well-deserved nap. Think I’ll join him (her?) and take a quick nap if the glare from all this green doesn’t keep me awake.

Bungee Cords and Bike Trips

bungy

Here’s a time-tested, bike-touring tip I can’t stress enough: Bring a few bungee cords with you.

How many? I recommend three or four.

What color?

Doesn’t matter.

Why bungee cords?

Well…

Use #1: Pannier protectors

pannier1Panniers are the packs you attach to either side of the rack on the back of your bike.

They hold your stuff.

And sometimes, especially when you go over a bump, they tend to fall off. Which is quite annoying. And kind of dangerous.

So, wrap a bungee cord around them and … voila! … they stay on the rack.

I also usually put a small knapsack on top of my panniers and, yep, a third bungee cord keeps it in place.

Use#2: Laundry lines

You’re gonna do a lot of sink laundry on a bike trip.

Sorry, it’s inevitable.

So, I string my bungee cords across the window and hang my damp bike shorts and jersey and gloves on them.

bungy2

And hope for the best.

They’re usually dry by the next morning.

Only once, in Chateau-Thierry (a little east of Paris) were we yelled at by the hotel owner. “This is not possible in France,” he told us, pointing up at the laundry hanging from our window.

Oh, but it is … and lots and lots of bike travelers do it.

Use #3: Glove rescuer

Once, in Lourmarin (a little north of Aix-en-Provence), we’re at a hotel. I did a load of sink laundry, hung everything on my bungees … and, the next morning: One of my bike gloves had fallen off the cord and landed on the roof over the balcony one floor down.

Uh-oh … I really need this glove.

Susan declined to let me hold herb by her feet and dangle her out the window. I’m pretty sure it would have worked.

So, connected the hooks of two bungee cords together, wrapped some duct tape around them so they wouldn’t separate … lowered down my bungee rope … and tried and tried to hook an edge of my glove. Finally … voila! I Hooked it … and carefully reeled it in.

And, speaking of duct tape … bring a small roll. So many uses.

 

My Favorite Rides (#2): The Azay – Villandry – Usse Loop

Let’s try something a little different.

I have lots of photos, and even a few short videos, of one of my favorite rides: Azay-le-Rideau to Villandry to Usse and back to Azay. I call it the Three Castle Cruise. So, instead of me going on and on about how to turn right onto the D39 to the D16 and then over to the …

I’ll let my photos tell the story…

azay-castle1
This is the castle in Azay-le-Rideau. Not bad, huh! Built in the 1500s by some lord or duke or dauphin, it’s considered the most romantic of all the Loire castles. Why? Not sure, think it’s because its surrounded by water (a moat) and the perfect reflections of the castle you can see in the water when the sun is shining. People (including me) line up to capture the reflection

 

azay1
From Azay, head west on the D120, past the train station (gare) and a hundred meters later, make a right onto this tiny road and start heading up the hill … and into the rural-ness of the Loire

 

azay2
This is apple orchard territory. They’re everywhere. Thousands of pomme trees. Couldn’t resist, picked one … ate it … and delicious. May have taken another. Not sure if this is considered thievery (probably is), but come on, I’m in the Loire, riding my bike, there are millions of pommes everywhere and …
azay15
Saw this along the way. Not sure what kind of trees they are … or why they’re planted in such perfectly aligned rows (which is quite common in France), but liked the view. Stopped and ate another apple

Up and over the hill, down into the town of Villandry, along the Cher River, walked thru the gate and into the gardens and…

And…

Villandry23.jpg
I know, kind of amazing
villandry40.JPG
And then even more amazing
villandry41.JPG
And it has a moat/canal in the middle

After a few hours in Villandry (bring your lunch and eat in the gardens), rode over to Brehemont and did a little loop around this peninsula filled with farms and flowers. And took this video along a quiet, residential street…

 

Then followed a bike path/small road west along the Cher, made a left turn, looked up and saw this (wait for it…)

From here, headed back to Azay. It was a 44-mile ride total, not much climbing. Here it is on MapMyRide.

Here’s the link to the blog post on my 1st Favorite Ride post: The Gorges de la Nesque in Provence

And, for more on Biking the Loire, check out my eBook on this very same subject (coincidence? I don’t think so).Loirecover

 

 

Nothing Butt the Truth

butt1Don’t you hate when this happens…

My butt balm and sunscreen tubes are on the counter in the bathroom, next to each other, and, every once in a while … I absentmindedly begin to apply them before a ride … and suddenly realize I just put sunblock on my butt (or butt balm on my face and arms).

Damn.

Does butt balm prevent sunburn?

Will sunscreen prevent chafing?

Do I have to take a shower right now?

Anyway, 10 days till I depart for my French bike trip, and I’m trying to minimize the amount of stuff I’m bringing with me. An entire tube of butt balm and sunblock is way too extravagant, and heavy.

butt3So, went to Target, to the travel section, where they sell miniature versions of most toiletries, and bought two small, empty plastic bottles.

Squeezed some sunscreen into one … and butt balm into the other. And labelled them with appropriate identifying diagrams to avoid confusion.

Oh crap, what if I labelled them wrong? What if the sunblock is in the tube with the butt drawing on it, and the butt balm is in the tube with the drawing of the sun on it?

Follow biking_france_blog  on Instagram