After some discussion, we decided that La Rochelle would be a good place to sit out the promised heavy rainfall and high winds of the next couple of days. The nearest railway station to Mimizan is Labouheyre, about 18 miles to the east, so we decided to ride there and take the train to La Rochelle, changing in Bordeaux en route.
As we set out, we noticed a fine film of fine green dust on all of the bikes. This turned out to be pollen from the pine trees we had cycled through the previous day.
It rained most of the way but upon arrival, we found a café for refreshments and established that bikes would be carried free of charge. We had about an hour to wait for the train and the timetable suggested a wait of one and a half hours in Bordeaux. The latter proved to be optimistic. Our train was cancelled and we waited five and a half hours at Bordeaux for our train to La Rochelle.
We’d selected La Rochelle as the two-day stop-over because that would leave us just over 200 miles, four days’ riding, to get to our destination of Saint-Malo, from where we’d catch the ferry home. We found a hotel just a few hundred yards from La Rochelle’s station and, well wrapped up against the weather, set out to explore the city the next day.
The covered market was a typical palace of delights, including an oyster stall that provided lunch and our first taste of French seafood on the trip.
After a wander around, we decided to look for a backgammon set to occupy some of our spare time. We eventually found a shop that specialised in board games. When we used our poor French to ask for the game, the reply came in English with a Yorkshire accent. The place was run by a guy from Huddersfield who had lived in France for the past 20 years.
The following day, as the promised storm arrived with winds of over 60 mph, we explored the maritime museum and aquarium in La Rochelle. Both were excellent and well worth the couple of hours we spent in each of them. The highlight was a weather ship that formed part of the museum.
In the afternoon, we dropped into a café for a game of backgammon and a coffee. We also shared a single beer, one that the owner suggested we try because it’s brewed to complement oysters. Our unanimous recommendation is to stick to Muscadet!
Later, we had dinner in a small restaurant in the harbour. It was good but not spectacular.
By now, we were all keen to get back on our bikes and ride again. The forecast for the next few days was largely sunny with crosswinds on the first couple of days, then moderate tailwinds and temperatures in the high teens centigrade to end the trip.
As it turned out, we were to reach Saint-Malo in three days, rather than four, as we began to revel in the kind of cycling we’d hoped to encounter earlier in the trip.