After catching the ferry in Portsmouth, I got off in Caen, then headed south to meet up with a mate Mike, who I met at the VINCE last June. He was taking a day out of a busy week to go for a ride and show me some of his local trails.
I met his family, the dog and sat eating cake whilst we hatched a plan for the next day before everybody headed off for some sleep. Mike lives in a sleepy little village south of Angouleme, it's surrounded by woodland, farmland, vineyards and chateau's... That idyllic French mix!
Our ride turned into a mix of exploration and make it up as we went due to both of our GPS' having problems. There are loads of lanes in France, it's pretty difficult to establish rights of way in the same way as England & Wales as there are not the records we have and nobody really cares in the more rural areas. If a lane is open, its rideable, if it's blocked for whatever reason you turn around and find another way!
We were waved at cheerily by farmers, walkers and horse riders, even the lads at the golf centre had a giggle with us, asking us how we swung our clubs from the bikes... Polo style was the answer! ;-)
One off the great things about riding round this area was that there are beautiful buildings everywhere, lost in the trees next to winding rivers. The valleys and woodlands are left to do their thing, nature is allowed to have its place in the French mindset and although the cities are growing, the demand for electricity is matching that growth, at the moment there is still that relaxed attitude prevailing that has brought hordes of British immigrants to live in these areas, searching for that lost way of life in the UK.
We both had a lazyish ride around, Mike is a good rider, efficient and capable, with a good repertoire of skills that only come with years of experience. A long lunch at a golfing restaurant brought our turn around point and time to get back as Mike had to get back to planning for a big show in Milan or somewhere cool like that!
I headed off to the Pyrenees after some tea and more cake with a desire to ride more of the lanes around the Angouleme region and explore much more... Next year now!
My next stop was a recce of a route I found on Wikiloc, it's an 'enduro' C2C route across this mountain range from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. I'd sorted out the issues with my GPS and downloaded the Spanish map and GPX file, then as I crossed where the route passed over a main road, parked and got the bike out.
For the next couple of hours I rode in a westerly direction, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the warm sunshine whilst keeping one eye on the clouds rolling over the hills sides to the south as they came up off the plains below.
The riding was easy, nothing technical at all on this section, I wonder what the rest is like?? A puncture brought the ride to its turnaround point, so feeling lazy, I blew the tyre back up a bit then noted the time and headed back to the van with plans to ride this route next autumn.
The holy grail of the Pyrenees C2C is to stay as high as possible, ride the higher lanes and passes, dropping only to get fuel and food, Mike is slowly building this route in his state of files, so maybe one day he'll get to ride it! Meanwhile for me now it's Barcelona and some beers with another mate...
Then Andalucia for more bike riding!