Day 5: Chandonnay to Ste-Bazeille

Wednesday’s journey took us from the manoir in Chandonnay to Jonzac then on via Montendre and Laruscade to the vineyards of Lalande-de-Pomerol, through St Emillion and into La Raole.

The day started on fast, busy D-roads but our average speed was 30% higher than yesterday’s so we considered it worth the traffic terrors. It was a cold start to the day when we set out at about 8:15am but warmed up a couple of hours with the sun pushing through a misty sky with high clouds. I called home only to be passed a message that my youngest daughter, Matilda, is unimpressed by this blog because it has too many basic spelling errors. I’ve been through yesterday’s and corrected some of them but the combination of an iPhone screen and being completely exhausted when I write these blog posts is guaranteed to produce further errors. I’ll tidy everything up when I get back.

The ride through the forest from Montendre to Laruscade was a delight. We probably only saw a car every 15 minutes or so.  Just north of Libourne, which we had decided to circumvent to avoid heaving traffic, we came across a small restaurant and decided to stop for lunch. It looked busy and one table was occupied by six gendarmes so it couldn’t be bad, could it?

When I walked in and asked for a table at 1:50pm, the waitress stared at her watch, obviously hoping if she could keep that up for another 10 minutes, she could tell me to go away.  I stood my ground and she pointed me to a table. Richard and I both ordered moules-frites, but prepared in two different ways. In both cases the result was a smelly mass of emaciated shellfish accompanied a pile of greasy, unattractive chips. Whe Richard mentioned that the mussels stank, the waitress simply told us that she didn’t catch them but bought them at the local shop. This photograph of the lousy establishment is only included to ensure that others don’t make the same mistake we did.

A dining experience you’re not likely to forget, and not in a nice way…

Two things have surprised me on this trip. Just how much effort has gone into creating cycleways and dedicated cycle routes, and how few cyclists we’ve seen. There were a few small racing groups on Sunday morning, and there’s the odd shopper but cycling does not seem to be important in France. What happened?

We did spot a couple of guys heading in the opposite direction this morning but they turned out to be British. Laurence from the Ponsay manoir was quite dismissive about touring by bike, He said the French just don’t see the point.

We rode east and south between the Pomerol chateaux. A few are grand but most are fairly modest buildings. There are a lot of them.

By mid afternoon, we reached St Emillion and asked a passerby to take a photograph of us under the road sign where I had one taken five years ago on my trip north on the Thanet. Like today, and recent days, there was a northerly wind blowing in 2012. At that time I was cycling north so it made the journey doubly difficult. This time, it’s helping most of the time.

St Emilion is roughly half way between Bath and Barcelona

We reached La Reole before looking for a hotel. On we found the superb Chambre d’Hotes du Clos Semper Felix about 7 miles from Ste Bastille and made another last-minute booking. We arrived to a warm welcome, lamb stew, cheese and biscuits with sorbet for desert. The room is superb, and the bathroom has a heated towel rail. The latter may seem like a minor point but after five days on the  road the opportunity to wash and dry travel clothes is a real find. At £60 for a twin room and breakfast, it remains a real bargain, despite the weakness of the sterling.

We clocked up nearly 103 miles today. We still have about 7 miles’ deficit to make up but maybe we can do that tomorrow. In the meantime, as I sit on my bed writing this blog, I’m falling asleep. Time to go, and prepare mentally for tomorrow.

With apologies for any typos and misspellings. I’ll fix them tomorrow!

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