To avoid getting to an argument about which is the best weather forecast – BBC, the Met office or Meteoblue – we use all three. I will from time to time for the sake of editorial balance draw upon illustrations from multiple sources. Today it’s Meteoblue’s turn.
We’re not sure it’s the best way of getting a good night’s sleep but so far on the trip we have either outsmarted the worst of the wind and rain or we have timed it so it hammers down on Margo’s tin (sorry aluminium) roof just when we really should be allowed to dream, snore or dribble!
Last night Margo was parked under the blue cross at Coulon 40 kms west of La Rochelle. We chose this bonny spot after reading a review on the ‘Our Tour’ blog which describes it as the Green Venice of France.
Some places at the end of the season can feel a bit unloved, rejected and a little sad as the traders realise their punters and their euros have all disappeared until next spring. Trying to make the best of a bad job after a night of rain probably heightens their sense of futility, especially when the ground is sodden, the cushions are soggy and the boats are half full of water.
Moving on, Margo’s wheels were ready to roll unfortunately there was next to no chance of avoiding shedding mud on the road after a slippery exit from our saturated overnight grassy(!) parking spot. Destination set and we headed off.
However in spite of it only being about an hour since breakfast, we couldn’t resist stopping enroute when we saw a frite van. It reminded us both of holidays in Normandy and Brittany and those old ribbed bullnose Citroen model H vans selling pommes frites in a paper cone.
Our next port of call was Rochefort, a former naval base and dockyard founded in 1665. The cycle path from our aire, followed the river Charente to the docks near the centre of town. Sitting in pride of place is a replica of Hermione a frigate first launched in 1779 and best-known for carrying General Lafayette to America to assist in the American War of Independence against the British.
Similar to the Middlesborough transporter bridge that opened ten years later, the original Rochefort-Martrou bridge was a real accomplishment of 19th-century design and engineering. This 66-metre-high steel behemoth spans the Charente a short way downriver from the dockyards. Cables suspended from a trolley 50 metres above the water transport a gondola across the river – now just for pedestrians and cyclists.
Margo found her way to a great spot overlooking the lock-protected moorings at Mortange sur Gironde. We liked it so much we decided to drop anchor for a couple of nights to watch the comings and goings of the various chandlers and most likely expensive yacht maintenance providers.
Useless fact 432 – Did you know, in medieval times, a chandlery was the area of the house which kept candles and the wax used to make candles.
Komoot once again found us a fine cycle route between Étauliers and the fortified town of Blaye. An old railway track (now tarmaced and well signed) gave us a pleasant 18 miles of level initially tree lined cycling, amongst the profusion of vines in Bourg and Blaye – The oldest wine region in Bordeaux.
2/3rds of the way along, as the route entered a small hamlet, a frantic frenchman in a car stopped to ask us (in english) if we’d seen his small ‘black‘ dog. We said no, but if we did see it, we’d return with it. We re-joined the cycle track and after a couple of hundred yards there was this (definitely not black) King Charles Spaniel on it’s own. Once we’d made a fuss of him we had little difficulty herding it back to the spot where we’d originally met his owner. After flagging down two cars the next one was pouch’s Dad this time coming the other way.
It was a cute dog and the man was very grateful for our help. “you’re very welcome in France” was his parting farewell. As we cycle off feeling chuffed that we’d been able to help.
At the risk of coming over all noble or preachy, I often bang on about the kindness of strangers we’ve experienced on our travels and I’m a big fan of ‘pay it forward‘ but today’s experience was a lovely reminder of the rewards the helper or giver receives from helping others. A serious point but true – And one I’ll try to remember.
It seems the Citroen model H frite van lives a different life in Bordeaux. By “it’s okay to wine” I don’t think they mean grumble or moan.
Gotta dash we’re booked in for socially distanced wine tasting at our overnight France Passion stop. Tonight is free parking with electric and no obligation to buy the wine. Oh but it would be so rude not to…