Cycling the Atlantic Coast: Hourtin to Cap Ferret

By Maggie LaCoste

I woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by a bus. The cold and challenging conditions of yesterday’s ride had taken a toll on my body. Today would be another challenging day so I needed to find some power. Leave it to my husband, who was having a lot of fun with the “night in the mobile home experience” to get us moving. He made a breakfast of all the leftovers that we had including some turkey, some cheese, bread, and some of the strongest coffee I ever had. This definitely did the trick. We checked the weather forecast which was dismal again, and we were on our way.

Yesterday’s decision to head for Hourtin to find a place to stay was a good one at the time, but today it left us with an interesting dilemma. We could take the most direct line and travel on a dangerous coastal highway, or we could backtrack on safe bike paths. Generally speaking my husband, like most men, hates any kind of backtracking, but today he opted for the safe option, despite the fact that it would add 10 km+ to our mileage for the day. That meant somewhere around 90 km for the day, a hard day even with good weather.

The sky looked bleak. We stayed optimistic. The continuing drizzle and threat of rain was disheartening. We worked hard to keep a steady pace which was a bit of a challenge as the morning route was quite hilly. We looked for a place to stop for coffee, but all we passed were sailing clubs and the surf shacks. Finally at Carcans Plage we find a place open and we stop for coffee, wine and some hot lunch.

We picked up what we thought was the bike path, but after about 20 minutes, it pretty much ended, going from a paved path to a narrow, barely passable path. We made the decision to turn around and look for another route. We encountered a group of young French riders, heading north, and they spoke of many such paths along the coast that just ended. We exchanged a few stories, then we helped them get on the right path north and we headed south.

The only other town we passed through was Lancanau-Ocean, our original destination for the preceding night. It was really the only town on the coast that I really didn’t care for. It seemed to lack much of the charm overflowing in other beach towns in Aquitaine, reminding me of many of the overgrown beach areas in the South of France. but since we were just passing through, it really didn’t matter. Signs for the bike path coming through town were sparse, and we almost missed our turn on several occasions.

South of Lacanau-Ocean, the bike path signs improved, just as the weather took a turn for the worse. The rest of the day is a blur. The worse the weather got, the harder we pedaled. The scenery was a mix of pine forest, dunes and sand, and not much else. Visiting any of the towns would require deviation off the course, and there was so way that was going to happen. Around 5:00 it started to get dark. I was so happy that our bikes had such good lights, as it made it easier to follow my husband. We befriended a couple of French ladies who were also headed for Cap Ferret, and suggested that they try to follow us to insure arriving before dark. They were thrilled.

I really don’t remember much about the last couple of hours of this day, other than the hills. I couldn’t believe there could be so many hills along the ocean. But I learned two things this trip, any time there are corniche or dunes, there are going to be hills! We arrived into Cap Ferret at about 7:15, too tired to even explore the amazing beauty of this unique village. I had had enough adventure for one day. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather and less adventure.

With the rain, this wasn’t a great day for photos, but here are a few taken between the rain.

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Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.