The sun is not shining but it’s much warmer than in the north of France. I start my long and slow journey out of Bordeaux.
There are plenty of bike lanes, some just painted green arrows and some real proper bike lanes. The town of Bordeaux clearly has made an effort to make it possible to go by bike in town.
Some inhabitants of Bordeaux are not with the program, there is a lot of parked cars and glass in some bike lanes. It has taken a while to get out of Bordeaux, there are many red lights and stop signs, once I get to the outskirts of the town there are nice bike paths along the road.
I meet a cyclist that is on his way back home from Santiago de Compostela, he is catching a plane in Bordeaux to go home to Holland.
I leave the bike road since I do not know where it’s going, I want to go to the coast and join Eurovelo 1 or La Vélodyssée, the route Google has chosen for me is on very small country roads. The roads get smaller and smaller, eventually it’s just a tractor trail. When the road turns in to sand I decide to detour back to the normal road to enjoy some hard surface. The Schwalbe Mondial tires works well in sand but when the sand gets soft the bike is to heavy to get any traction, it just digs in.
Just as I enter the road towards the Atlantic I see some trucks and tractors parked in the distance, I am starting to hope that this might be a place to have lunch. It could also be a Bar/Tabac/PMU where the drivers are relaxing with some drinks and smoke before getting back on the road.
But as it turns out it’s a restaurant that serves a menu du jour for 13.50 Euro. It’s soup, salad/meat buffet, main dish, cheese and chocolate mousse and to drink there is an unlimited amount of Bordeaux wine. Again since I am not driving a truck I skip the wine. The food was great and this was the second proper lunch I have had in 12 days.
When I leave the restaurant and get closer to the ocean I start to see proper Eurovelo 1 signs. I find a tourist information and inquire about what accommodation that is available around here. Not surprisingly the accommodation closer to the ocean is much more expensive so I decide to just take the next available hotel instead of pushing forward the last 10-15 km to the ocean.
I find a hotel and they have a room, I check in and get to park my bike in the storage area next to the breakfast room. When I walk over to the shopping center for an evening meal it starts to rain. At the shopping center they have a Flunch restaurant, it has very good price performance ratio.
Some rain in the morning but it stops just as I leave the hotel. There are bike lanes but they are slow, and there is headwind.
I am looking for maps of Spain so when I see a Decathlon shop I stop to see if they have maps, they didn’t have any maps of Spain. Then I see a McDonald’s and decide to take a break, from McDonald I see a bookshop that went bankrupt and there is a sale. They have the maps with a 25% discount.
When I get closer to the Ocean there are big sand dunes and the road along the coast is very hilly. There are nice bike lanes that go through a forest.
When I finally turn south the headwind I have had for the last 18 days or so ends. I hope this will be the end of the systematic headwind, there will be days of headwind but nothing like biking towards the Atlantic.
There has been rain on and off during the day and the afternoon seems to be very rainy, I decide to make it a short day and do some laundry. The laundromat is worn down, filthy and expensive.
Breakfast is getting less and less, I will probably have to start making my own breakfast soon. The bike road going south is fast, it’s mainly flat and I have some tailwind. I can pedal uphill at high gears. That is so great.
The first 40 km just fly by and I find a McDonald in Mimizan that is open when I want to eat, so I have a long lunch break there.
After lunch I keep flying south, I find some campings that are closed and some that are still open. They seem to want around 20 Euros for the pleasure of parking my bike and tent in a sand dune.
There are lots of people out cycling, I must have met more than 2-300 people in the afternoon. The bike road is clearly signposted, sometimes it takes long detours just to avoid 100 meters on the road. There are no signs for services like accommodation or food. The French still have something to learn from the Germans here.
After about 80 km of fast and easy biking I turn off the Eurovelo 1 and head to the nearest town, they have a tourist information that helps me to find accommodation.
I end up at a tourist oriented hotel, they generally suck compared to the chain hotels and motel. With the big chains you get a consistent price performance ratio. I manage to get some dinner at a beach cafe of sorts and as there is no Internet to speak of I make an early evening.
There is rain in the morning so I delay my departure by booking accommodation in Bilbao through airbnb. I am hoping that this will be as good as the first airbnb I tried.
Once the rain stops I go outside to pack my bike which has been locked up in the hotels backyard during the night. While I pack I get all sweaty, I start to wonder what the problem is, when I look at the thermometer it’s already 20C. That is so far from the 10C I have had since I entered France.
The day just gets hotter and hotter and by lunchtime is almost to hot for t-shirt and shorts. I find a small place just next to the road that serves lunch, they have some fantastic food, possibly the best I ever had in France. But it is also the most expensive lunch so far on the trip.
I am getting close to Bayonne and during the last 20 km or so the bike road quickly deteriorates. The surface get worse and worse, signs are few. Just before Bayonne the Eurovelo 1 just disappear and I am left in the middle of the city. I have my GPS so I can get out of town and head for Biarritz.
This stretch is severely hilly and I struggle for a good while to get just a few kilometers. The sky is looking very dark so when I see a Ibis Budget I check in and lock the bike outside. Just when I am done the sky opens and there is a real shower.
I cant find any restaurant nearby that is acceptable or open so I just buy some stuff at the supermarket and head back to the hotel. I spend the rest of the evening making GPX tracks for the coming week or so. I plan to go to Irun and get a Spanish SIM card and possibly spend the night.
The day after next I plan to take the Euskotren to Bilbao and check in to my airbnb.
Going out from Biarritz is very hilly, up and down all the time. The whole route towards Hendaye/Irun is just a series of crazy uphill and downhill.
After one long downhill I have to stop and let my brakes cool, the discs are wobbly from the heat but luckily they survive.
The weather is back to full summer now, it’s really hot going up all the hills. Since it’s Saturday there are lots and lots of people outside riding their road bikes.
I hardly see any signs for Eurovelo 1 but I get by with the GPS. When I finally arrive in Hendaye and pass the bridge to Spain it feels really good. I start to look for a hotel that is close to the border and the Euskotren.
After just a few hundred meters on the Spanish side I find an old tired hotel, the staff is quad-lingual and the price is acceptable so I stop there.
I ask them how to get to the shopping center a few kilometers away where I have found a Vodafone shop. They tell me there is no need to go there since there is a Vodafone shop around the corner from the hotel.
I hurry there and ask if they speak English, they do not they say, but I have prepared my question. “Yo quiero un Móvil Prepago – Hablar y Navegar – Smart 16”, they think it is so funny that they forget that they don’t understand English. So 5 minutes and 10 Euros later I have “Muchos MB+MINUTOS+SMS”.
After some walking around I find a restaurant that is open as early as 18:30 and I have a great meal. It’s sort of a chicken schnitzel with pasta AND fries, completely covered in roquefort sauce. At 11.50 Euro it’s the best meal in a very long time.
I hope this is the start of a new trend, summer, tailwind, easy, good food, cheap.