My cycling vacations along the Vélodyssée Atlantic Cycling Route, France

Written Pauline Viaud

« Quand on parait de bon matin,

 Quand on partait sur les chemins,

À bicyclette… »

A Yves Montand’s song

In summer 2018, my partner and I had around ten holidays in common, and we decided that vacations would be spent biking… for the first time!

We were planning to leave from our home, from Le Pellerin, near Nantes, in France, and going down the West coast along the Atlantic Ocean. Our goal: was to get to Arcachon, about 600 km later and return home by train. We followed an itinerary called the Vélodyssée.

EQUIPMENT

We were lucky since my parents lend us their bikes and bags. We carried a small canvas tent, two inflatable mattresses, a portable stove, a saucepan, and some food. To optimize space and load was a must.

ORGANIZATION

As always, with us, there’s no planning ahead! We just figured it out along the way.

Only our first stop is planned since Seb’s parents offered us to stay at Noirnoutier.

TRAINING?

Ummmm, no time!

LET’S GO!

Departure on August 15, at 7:32!

On the first day, we departed early. We revisited a well-known road from a new point of view that leads us to the sea every summer. In fact, it’s quite hilly!

We crossed the Vendee swamps to arrive 65 km later to the Noirmoutier almost-island. We took the Gois path just before high tide. Our bottoms were beginning to hurt around the 40th km! Fortunately, we arrived at just about 2:00 p.m. and we took some time to relax, enjoy the beach and a warm family welcome.

On the second and third days, it was really hard on our behinds. Beginner’s mistake: we weren’t wearing cycling shorts, or either did we install comfortable bike seats. Every stop and departures left us crying in pain!

After a few, we learned that a minimum of preparation would have been necessary, because when the camping is full, and you have to ride an extra 20 km, exhausted from your day, well, it’s not good news!

We crossed the Vendee swamps, the Landes forests, and we dwell gazing upon the ocean.

The goal was to discover our country, so we took our sweet time! A little sight-seeing later, we saw the charming Nieul sur Mer village, the La Rochebelle town, Rochefort’s ropery, etc. We took short naps after breakfast under the shade of pine trees and went dipping in the sea. Once in Arcachon Bay, we stopped for oyster and white wine degustations.

Steps taken so far: Noirmoutier, Bretignolles sur Mer, La Tranche sur Mer, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Marennes, Royan, Montalivet, Lacanau, and Lège Cap-Ferret and through 4 different French departments.

We arrived in Arcachon Bay within 10 days. We settled for a few days in a Cap Ferret camping. Vacations, finally! We also chose this destination since Antoine’s sister and family live in Bordeaux. They joined us for a day.

Last sight-seeing stop: The Dune of Pilat, the tallest dune in Europe.

We arrived in Arcachon on August 26: we achieved our goal after 650 km! We took the train back to Nantes a few hours later. 😊

SUMMARY

Shortest step, 45 km, longest step, 81 km.

A little zero gravity fell for us both.  😊

Cons: we didn’t sleep too well since our mattresses shaped like surfboards weren’t all that comfy, and since our legs and backs were sore.

I was a bit disappointed since this trail made us follow the main road a lot instead of on countryside roads.

I was also a little frustrated because I couldn’t take as many pictures as I wanted to. It was important not to break the rhythm!

Pros: I liked to carry myself by the simple power of my body, feel the efforts, and appreciate riding my bike without mishaps. I hadn’t tried it all that much before! I learned to manage my speed and energy. I realized that straight, flat lines could be boring and painful after a while and that we have a little more fun travelling through hills.

With Antoine, we roll! He was the one to manage our stops every day. To avoid screaming all the time since we rode one behind the other, we created a way to communicate with bells: one ring meant to listen to whatever the other had to say, two rings, to stop, three rings, to signal an emergency!

As I look back on this experience, I think I would be willing to try another biking adventure, longer, but with cycling shorts. 😊

This post was translated from French to English by:

Sophie Dumais
My name is Sophie, a passionate language learner, and a full-time dog mom. Long walks, soothing cups of tea, Japanese learning and the search for beauty are my everyday life. Slowly but surely is how I do things, contemplating the peaceful ways of time and the enchanting notion of living the moment.

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