Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Most campsites tried to accommodate their English visitors but they didn't always get it spot on -

This one on the reception wall at Montalivet-les-Bains on the coast south of Royan.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

More Tourmalet photos

Just back home and I've put a few more of the many I took last Wednesday on the blog ~ if you look carefully you'll find at least one of them in all these.

Don't forget if you double click on the images they'll fill the screen!

As you can see they knew two of us were coming -

The halfway stage -

A side valley -

8k to go -

Now really starting to work -

ever higher

and higher

really hard but only 2k to go

but what a 2k!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Day 13 – Friday 8 October

Deba to Gernika-Lumo – 30 miles

Strangely there was a certain lack of purpose about this final day of cycling in that there was no fixed finish point unlike the John O’Groats fiesta. They were determined to do some cycling in Spain as yesterdays 200 metres whilst technically counting was considered cheating. So having perused the Michelin Espâna map they decided on a ride along the coastal road from Deba, some 12 miles from last night’s camp.

From Deba the road hugged the coast climbing high but then arrived in the town Ondarroa ~ initial views showed a lovely harbour and beach but we then discovered the only way to get to our next stretch of coastal road was right through the middle of the main town. Horrendously busy with high rise apartment blocks and I got stuck behind an old cove in a wheelchair puffing a way on a gigantic cigar. He was barely moving and clearly had no intention to move out of the way so a crawl would have been quicker.

However once pass this horrible mess, the road climbed high to a plateau and then wound its way hugging the cliff edge for many miles. I think I actually went round 20 times the horseshoe bends I had on Tourmalet. Anyway they enjoyed their cycle in Spain although I found the road signs much easier to follow in France.

Now in our final campsite at Mundaka we are getting psyched for our cruise tomorrow across the bay.

When home I will put up more photos, especially of Tourmalet. And there will be a final blog sometime with our thoughts and reiterating our many thanks to all who have provided support whether in cakes, computers or just moral. It’s been a pleasure!

Day 12 Thursday 7 October

Navarrenx to Dancharia (Espâna) -60 miles

The lads original plan for this day was to drive to Bayonne and then cycle into Spain along the coast to our projected camping site at Zarautz. However on the drive over on Tuesday they had been so attracted by the rolling hill nature of the road that the plan was varied to cycle the 60 miles from last nights campsite to the Spanish border.

The revision initially was perfect in that the roads were as anticipated with little traffic apart from occasional heavy grain lorries (it is a massive maize growing area) and they made great time until we ventured onto new territory in the final 25 miles. Then the roads were less well signed and I think the efforts of yesterday were beginning to tell. The last 20 miles took as long as the first portion and they were very glad to reach the border crossing point, which was predictably unmanned. Actually we were a bit miffed with the British Consulate as we looked in vain for her majesties representative waiting to greet us!

For me on the drive there were a couple of very pretty small towns we passed through such as La Bastide-Clairence and Ainhoa just before the border. The architecture seems more Alpine than French.

So they returned to the van for the drive to Zarautz where we had an interesting hour trying to find our base for the night ~ the Spanish signing is even worse than the French but we got here and find ourselves perched on a cliff top overlooking the Golfo De Vizcaya. Oh and there’s a bar on site!!

Mind horror of horrors ~ we’re nearly out of Jenny’s wonderful fruit cakes ~ where’s the nearest Morrisons?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 11 - Wednesday 6 October

Col du Tourmalet

They did it.

No words necessary but just a small sample of 144 taken today. I will try to upload more in due course but they are taking for ever today.

It was a glorious day in perfectly clear weather ~ I believe they’d both come up smelling of roses if they fell in a cesspit!!

An evening to remember

And then to the most unusual part of the day. When checking into the campsite, Wendy the English owner had recommended this inn which she claimed was some 800 metres away on one of roads out of town – Auberge du Bois. Here she explained the plate de jour was 10 euros each including wine. With little in way of provisions we thought why not ~ oh what an experience awaited!

We trudged up the road indicated by Wendy and soon left the main town but seemed to be just going along a country lane with odd houses and then a large timber processing yard. To be honest some of us were getting a tad dubious but Smith is the eternal optimist. Rounding a corner a building appeared with dim lighting shining out in the dwindling light – it was about twenty to 8 and if this was not the place we would have to rush back to the local 8 to 8 shop near the site for provisions.

Approaching the building we noted a shallow terrace along the front with a row of tables providing seating some 30 people. The terrace had some timber facing plus a screen of streamers - see the photo below taken from the other side of the road. Stepping inside we found two more long rows with seating for about another 60. It reminded one of a school dinner hall. These tables were set with plate, bowl, cutlery and linen napkin. But not a soul was visible.

Andy yelled “Bon soir” at which point an elderly French lady in pinny and slippers appeared out f the back. With clearly little English she indicated we could sit where we wanted but we chose the terrace as it was still a very mild evening.
She bustled out with the required cutlery for us, and then reappeared with a bottle of red, one of rose and a large one of water. We awaited developments. Before long the door swung out and she brought out a steaming metal bowl of vegetable broth. Fortunately by this time we’d worked out how to open the wine.

After a time her head appeared to check we had finished and she scurried out removing the bowls before reappearing bringing a salver with long strips of some ham and a bowl of chopped tomatoes. By this time a couple of locals had also arrived each wishing us “bon soir” or “bon appetit”. The process was repeated with the next course of some unknown slices of meat on a large plate piled with sauté potatoes and green beans. The meat we concluded was possibly the last to finish at a recent race meeting and whilst I would have no problem with that I do at least like mine to have some form of cooking and not just been shown a candle! The lads gleefully relieved me of that worry ~ where do they put it? The potatoes and beans were delicious so I didn’t go hungry.

Then it was onto a course consisting of a sliver of some local cheese followed by the most surreal part of all – the dessert. She appeared with a large box containing pots of all different yoghurts etc and you just picked one! This was followed by a jug of coffee ~ absolutely delightful. And yes this all for the princely sum of 30 euros. She appeared to do all but I assume there was some one else in the kitchen.

In all just a totally magical experience highlighted by the politeness off the locals arriving who greeted us with a “bon soir” – including all the children and even the local hoodie as we walked back to the site.

The only question I’m now left with ~ with my limited French how do I get a mobile crane with operator to meet us at the base of the Tourmalet to lift these 2 cyclists onto their machines?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Day 10 – Tuesday 5 October

Labenne Océan to Navarrenx (all van)
What a day of contrast from yesterday with the morning starting bright and clear as we enjoyed their rest day on the drive into the edge of the Pyrenees.

A leisurely morning coffee and then glimpses of the distant hills on the drive sent a quiver of excitement (or nerves) through the intrepid duo and it was in a state of mounting excitement we entered the delightful small town of Navarrenx which was to be base camp for the next two nights.

Arriving in the town at lunchtime we strolled around sampling the atmosphere and with the decision that my services as chauffer were no longer required for the day we decided to visit a bar for a beer! This turned into sampling the plate de jour at the princely sum of 11 euros each. We started with poached egg in a tomato/green bean sauce, followed by a cauliflower cheese gratin with slices of pork and a dessert of an unset chilled crème brulee and cheese. The meal was accompanied by a bottle of house red and coffee in little cups which left Smith orgasmic!

This cycling trip is hard work ~ note to the doubting spouses NOT HOLIDAY!

Tomorrow however the Tourmalet climb – I’ll try for pictures of them actually doing something.


Lunch at Navarrenx

Day 9 - Monday 4 October

Saint Julien-en-Born to Messanges (25 miles)

Well serves us right for crowing about the weather as last night turned wet and windy. When you’re parked up on top of a hill surrounded by giant pine trees creaking and groaning it doesn’t do too much to aid sleep ~ at least I think it was the trees and not the pair downstairs.

So after driving the 50 miles back to the vicinity where we finished yesterday, they set off in rain and a very strong gusty wind hitting them side-on. In my humble opinion they were completely barmy! After some 10 miles we paused for a coffee in the small town of St. Girons. Sadly the weather showed no sign of letting up but they insisted they would crack on based on the map showing cycle paths for much of the rest of today’s planned route. Unfortunately these did not materialise to be of benefit and after a further 15 miles of heavier rain and strengthening winds they decided to exercise common sense and rejoin the van.

Coincidentally when we were sat at the café there had been a siren sounded and we concluded that this may have been a warning in respect of the winds.

Strangely as we then drove the further 30 miles south to our projected campsite the winds dropped away until we approached the coast at Labenne Ocean. This was the location of our projected campsite but could we find it? Fortunately there was another site open which is a bit of a miracle at this time of year.

A game of boules was then enjoyed by Mr Competitive whilst Vince and myself tolerated his behaviour. As Vince would say it was the taking part that mattered.

Later we sought a place to eat out for a treat but driving around found absolutely nothing open. So back to the site and cooking in the dark pancetta, leek, mushrooms and pasta ~ but sadly little wine as Vince and I had miscalculated the amount left in the 5 litre box we’d started the evening before!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

This is what I endure

An account from our roving reporter

After another long day Kearney now well renowned as the “Thief of Carcans” (after stealing a sprint win yesterday) attempted another “sly manoeuvre”. Seeing what he thought was the finish point he put in his bid for honour and off he went over the finish line………………………..meanwhile Smith turned right to complete the final 3k to the finish (and victory).

Kearney was last seen entering Bordeaux at high speed.

So what does that tell us dear reader – well Kearney shot his bolt all too soon while Smith maintained rhythm until the finish.

Coincidentally our Irish correspondent happened to be in the area at the same time and states Smith started his sprint early and assuming victory was his sat up. Unfortunately for him Kearney was flying up the outside and took him on the line at which point Smith turned off and Kearney carried on down the road for a short distance. Smith then proceeded to sprint to every gatepost claiming victory as he went ignoring the fact that the days riding was done and Kearney had entered the cool down phase for the day.

Editorial comment
So dear reader you now can understand the stress and anguish I go through each day. I would emphasise that there should be a video to explain the drama but due to language used this cannot be included.

Day 8 – Sunday 3 October

Camp Panorama du Pyla to Mezos

Another warm day though not bright and sunny like yesterday but still in the 80’s.

After starting from the campsite the lad’s day consisted of more enjoyable cycling than the last few with a few minor climbs and some excellent cycle paths thus avoiding the busy traffic.

We struggled to find a campsite open anywhere near the finish with the only option being a municipal one for camping cars but this had no facilities at all with everything shut. So with the thought of how excellent last night’s had been an executive decision was made to drive back the 50 miles for another one of comfort ~ glorious hot showers and loos! (see photos including view)

Before returning we visited a café where they enjoyed to show off their muscles ~ see photo.