Day 12 Montpellier to Brighton - La Rochelle

50 kms - between the sea and the motorway

Today we were both somewhat distracted by a mission which made the journey to La Rochelle a secondary task - 'find a bike shop'. After yesterday's second (actually 4th - Ed) puncture an overwhelming volume of advice has persuaded us to replace Christine's tyres: we still have a long way to go.

The first address we googled was on an industrial estate just north of Rochefort. After getting into serious trouble for loosing Christine (at a hairy double roundabout in the rush hour - Ed) we found a huge warehouse, clearly the French equivalent of Sports Direct and unlikely to provide us with what we needed.
A bikavan (?)

Pressing on we passed the largest bike pulled trolley we've yet seen. It was in effect a small caravan pulled by a bicycle and, at about 10 in the morning the person normally powering the bike was still asleep inside his vehicle, no doubt knackered after the previous day's efforts.
Cycling beside the motorway
To be honest the route between Rochefort and La Rochelle is not the best. Squeezed into a coastal transport corridor we spent a good chunk of the journey tracking a motorway and / or railway line first on one side and then the other. There was a nice stretch of coast near Châtelaillon-Plage, with sandy beach and tempting sea. The water however looked suspiciously shallow and by the time we stopped for coffee it had actually disappeared and was now about half a mile off the coast.
Warm weather a last
Christine's efforts to get a last swim in the Atlantic before we head into central France were thwarted by the tide. A minor compensation occurred about 5 kilometres latter we the route took us through the biggest field of petite pois I've ever seen. Not usually a fan of the humble pea Christine attempted to make good the recent lack of vegetables in her diet with some frenzied podding.
Huge pea fields
And so into La Rochelle, and what a stunning place it is. Although the old town is quite large it's also very intimate with tiny squares and narrow colonnaded streets. Most visitors probably don't go that far from the waterfront which has amazing harbour gate fortifications. The long quays and enormous marinas provide the perfect location for waterside restaurants and these run, cheek by jowl, for hundreds of metres. We've been told that the place gets hideously busy in July and August, and it needs to to fill these restaurants.
La Rochelle
With the further aid of Google maps we found a bike shop which amazingly sold Genesis bikes, the same British brand of bikes we use, and whose owner was a huge fan. He just needed a couple of hours to change the tyres and told me, when I returned to pick it up, that it was a pleasure to work on a bike that was making the journey it was built for. You wouldn't get that sort of sentiment at the French version of Sports Direct.
Early evening in La Rochelle
So tomorrow we leave the coast and head into the heart of France to start the last and longest stage of our journey back to Brighton

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