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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Headed out of Villandraut and saw this…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toilets, Lights Bulbs, Snacks … and Even a Little Cycling

Today topics: the nuances of flushing a French toilet, saving electricity, a machine that makes fresh-squeezed orange juice, the importance of snacks, and, OK, some riding in the Bordeaux countryside.

Flushing: They’re all about saving water here in France, which is a good thing.

And it starts with the toilet. Most toilets provide flushing options. For example, in my hotel in Bordeaux, here’s the flushing mechanism…

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Notice the small circle and larger circle. When you only need a little flush (I’ll let you use your imagination), you push the small circle. When you need a more powerful flush (again: imagination, use it), you push the bigger circle. I’m not sure, but I think if you push both circles at the same time you get maximum hyper flushing grande power. However, if you do this more than once during your stay … you get charged an extra 1.76 Euro. Per hyper grande flush. So flush wisely when in France.

Electricity: Again, it’s all about saving it … which is why I had a really hard time figuring out how to turn the lights on in my hotel room in Paris. I was hitting every switch and … nothing.

Finally, I got an idea (I was gonna say the light bulb went off, but that’s too much of a cliché) … and put my room key/card into the slot above the light switch by the door and … voila, the lights worked.

Instant OJ: So, at the ibis hotel in Bordeaux breakfast is included: a rare treat in France. Breakfast in France is all about coffee, yogurt and lots and lots of carbs with added jam. And, at this ibis there’s a really cool machine. You put a couple oranges in the top and they start spinning around and juice magically appears at the bottom.

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Snacks: Arrived in Langon today and am staying here four nights. This means I can load up on snacks, which I did. I’m trying to eat healthy, but it’s a bit of a challenge … so here, take a look at my snack collection. BTW: the Mars bars here are different and so much better. And so are the ancel stick pretzels. So far, I’ve been able to resist getting potato chips. They’re really good over here. Too darn good. Once I start … the bag is gone. I can kinda stop with the angels, not so much with the Mars bars and may have had four one night.

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Riding: Oh yeah, today’s ride from Bordeaux to Langon (48 miles). So, I was a little (OK, a lot) anxious about loading all my stuff (the panniers and a knapsack that sits atop the panniers and holds my laptop) onto my bike for the first time. It’s a lot of stuff. It’s heavy and unbalances your bike. But everything worked. Whew, that’s a relief. Now I can be anxious and worry about other stuff. Here, take a look at my fully loaded bike…

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Back onto the Roger Lapebie bike path and the further you get from Bordeaux, the nicer and nicer it gets. More and more vineyards, fields of corn stalks and sunflowers that are  all dried up. The sunflowers look so sad, as if they’re hanging their heads in shame because they are no longer beautiful.

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And then, a K or two past La Sauve St Leon, you go through a long, well-lit tunnel Not sure why there’s a tunnel here, as there’s no river up above or major highway. Maybe they added it to break up the path and add an element of excitement. If so, it worked.

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Got off the path at St Brice and followed the small country roads the rest of the way, through a series of tiny villages and vineyard after vineyard chock full of ripe and ready to harvest red grapes. This is the Bordeaux I was hoping for … and have now found. Bike paths are nice, but they’re a little sterile. Sorry Roger.

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