By Maggie LaCoste
The weather has been front page news for the last three days. Two storm fronts, approaching. We are told there will be no chance to escape the more than 2 inches of rain that is predicted. But for the time being, it is just gray and dismal.
We leave Vaux sur Mer, the small beach town where the Hotel du Rohan is located and head for the ferry boat in Royan. It is early morning and the roads are quiet, so it is a very fun ride. I look at the sky and I think I see brightness. Perhaps I am imagining. The ferry across the Gironde takes about 30 minutes, enough time for a cup of espresso. There are a lot of bicyclists, all up early to avoid the rain. We talk to a group from the South of France, hoping to make it home tonight. They are serious cyclists with very expensive road bikes.
The ferry arrives in Le-Verdun-Sur-Mer and it is total chaos as cars, bikes and walkers all rush to disembark. We follow our fellow cyclists, but soon they are barely visible. Good news is that there are Gironde Department bicycle path signs as you leave the ferry station, so we make our way for Soulac sur Mer.
Within an hour, we arrive at this beautiful small town, quaint and charming and bustling with early morning activity. I am amazed at how non-commercial the town is. We find the local market and I find canele for our late morning snack! We stock up with supplies for the day, and despite wanting to explore the village more, we decide that we better keep moving south. With the skies becoming more threatening, we settle into a very fast-paced rhythm. The bicycle path is mostly through pine forest, with intermittent glimpses of the ocean and a lot of sand dunes. Other than sand and forest, there wasn’t much to see other than occasional WW II bunkers and hearty souls on the beach.
After Soulac-sur-Mer, we did not pass another town for almost 25 km. In Montalivet-les-Bains there was a small cafe open for lunch, that was all that was open. We stopped for some hot soup, which was a good thing as there were no other food options for the day, other than our emergency supplies. From Montalivet, the weather grew progressively worse, going from a constant drizzle to a pounding rain. As the roads became more rain covered, it became difficult to keep up a good pace, and we quickly decided that we would probably not be able to make it to our intended destination of Lacanau-Ocean. The problem was, there wasn’t much in the way of possible places to stay before Lacanau.
We made the decision to head inland, toward Hourtin, a bit larger than its beach-based namesake. With the rain escalating, each pedal stoke became an effort. It was cold, miserable and we were quickly having problems regulating body temperature. I was very thankful to be wearing my Patagonia wool zip shirt, as I think it saved me that day.
After seemingly forever, we arrive in Hourtin. I felt so relieved, momentarily. Nothing in town is open. The B and B that we were assured would have a room didn’t answer the phone. The local hotel/inn that we were told would surely have a room was closed. The tourism office was closed. My heart sank when my husband said that we would need to bike to the next town. The chills had started to settle in, and I really didn’t think that I could make it another 15 km on the highway in the pounding rain.
I suggested that we go into the local campground to see if they had any suggestions. It was there that we met our angel of the day. She did not know of a hotel that we could stay in, but she did have a mobile home that we could rent for the night. I literally hugged her with joy at the thought of escaping from the rain. In addition, at a rate of 30 Euro/night, it would be our bargain lodging of the trip. We made our way to our mobile home, brand new and ready for the busy resort’s summer season. We had one of the funniest nights of our married life. It was something right out of a Lucy and Ricky Riccardo show, and all I could think of was how thankful I was to be safe and out of the rain. It rained furiously all night, I didn’t care as I was warm and cozy in my mobile home accommodations!
Best part of the experience is that I can now recommend these mobile homes to cost-conscious cyclists visiting France! Of course in the middle of the busy tourist season in July and August, the same mobile home could be more than 140 Euro/day, but other times of the year, they are quite a bargain.
It is always tough to make decisions when biking in inclement weather. I am ysjust happy that we were led to our special French angel who help us find shelter this night from the cold and rain. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.
Here are some additional pics from this day.