Day 11 Montpellier to Brighton - Rochefort

91 kms - the rough with the smooth

Today was our best day's cycling so far, lots of variation and stunning scenery. It was not however without its challenges and even today we managed to pick up a puncture. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

Last night, a Monday night, we had the worst food we've had in France, really bad. But tonight, for the same price we had the best.

With this sort of trip you never know what's going to happen next.

The weather was perfect when left our hotel in Royan this morning. I'd cleaned the bikes up yesterday, given the chains a desperately needed oil and after a day's rest we were pleased to get on the Vélodysée again.
Remains of the Atlantic Wall

For about 10kms the route past through the northern sprawl of Royan, not unpleasant as sprawls go. A long beach, with old 2nd World War 'Atlantic Wall' gun emplacements marked the transition into countryside proper and the beginning of a great stretch of cycling. The route clung to the coast and took us along an undulating but perfectly tarmac'd track through dense oak and pine for about 30 kms. There were occasional camp sites on the way, including a huge club med site, but apart from that the route was empty and the little tracks down to the sandy beach looked tempting.
A lovely bumpy trail north of Royans
We stopped at Ronce les Bains for a coffee and tried to find a bread shop for a sandwich but were disappointed, Christine, after 40kms, was starting to get hungry. Crossing a huge bridge over the River Sudre we descended down towards Marennes ' the city of the oyster' and past lagoons cultivating crayfish. Here the route had been changed and instead of going through Marennes we were being taken north. Desperate for food we headed into town and the in the main square found a bar for beer steak and chips. Very good.
A birdwatcher's paradise
Back on what is definitely a new part of the Vélodysée the route then took us along tiny narrow roads across a huge marshland, a mix of water meadows with cattle and lagoons. It was fantastic, as good as a safari and the bird life in particular was spectacular. We saw herons, storks, avocets, swans, and a range of different sorts of raptors. We think we saw an otter but definitely spotted a coypu, a giant rat like creature a bit like a marmot or a beaver.
Technical support from the Austrians
Just as the safari came to an end the track became particularly rough and a within a kilometre or so Christine had a puncture. A couple of very nice Austrian guys, one on a horizontal tricycles stopped to help us with the diagnosis. After St George the other day we picked up yet more puncture mending techniques but this time we managed to sort the puncture out for ourselves and get back on the trail. After the previous debacle this felt like progress.
A beautiful leafy tunnel
After another 15 kms or so, mainly along an old railway line, we were in Rochefort slightly later than we hoped but still in time to see the key sites in what is a very pretty little town. It was built in the 17th Century by Colbert as a secure port for the French Navy. We a had a quick look at the docks hoping to see L'Hermione, a fully functioning 18th Century sailing ship which docks here but it was at sea. The naval museum was a little disappointing as well, there was virtually no mention of the Battle of Trafalgar.

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