Day 7 – Notre Dames de Monts to Les Sables d’Olonne

A good start to the day as my tent had survived the night.  I got myself ready to go and had decided to have a less frantic morning and go down into town by the beach for breakfast with Yohann (my friend who helped with my tent). He had popped over to help me load the bike up.  I think a lot of the time people wondered how on earth the bike even moved with all that stuff on it.  We went into town on our bikes in search of croissant and coffee.  We found a little place on the beach that only did drinks so that meant just popping back over the road to the patisserie for the croissants.  Yohann kindly bought me a delicious pear tart which I saved for my onward journey too :-).  He was a brilliant chap, I hope our paths cross again some day.  Turned out that he could no longer work at the moment due to ill health but he had been following in his fathers footsteps as a baker himself.  I got the feeling he was quite sad not to be able to do it any more but he was incredibly optimistic and chilled out (or seemed to be).  Quite the opposite to me (at this point) as I worried about the miles I had to do and thought about where I might stay each evening.  After a quick trip to the bank I said farewell to Notre Dames de Monts and Yohann and continued on my journey.

51-beach-near-notre-dame-de-monts

Now I was understanding the GPS and the map a lot better, finding the route became much easier.  If I ventured off the velodysee all I had to do was remember where I’d left it and get back on again later.  My confidence continued to grow and the muscles in my legs were becoming stronger each day.  This meant my little legs were getting me up most hills, even with the heavy load, and the next day they felt generally OK.  There were signs of the dreaded saddle burn but nothing too bad really.

I went through Saint Jean de Monts which was a sweet little town then onto St Gilles Croix de Ville.  I stopped here for lunch by the marina again.  As I sat outside a cafe with my Orangina (a regular occurrence) an older couple approached me, having seen my bike opposite and my red face clearly indicating that I had just jumped off it.  We had a good chat in French and English.  It turned out that the gentleman had cycled the Tour de France – I was extremely impressed!  The nearest I have ever been to the Tour de France was cycling behind my good friend Mark Gateshill in his racing jersey!

I went to the beach to eat my new favourite lunch of avocado on sweetcorn bread and read a bit more of Bill Bryson.  He is so funny and provided much light relief when I was overheating and feeling tired – this was most of the time.

I then headed off to Brem sur Mer where I had initially planned to pitch my tent.  I loved just pedalling along, it was always the best part of the day (on a par with the eating of avocados and sweetcorn bread of course).  So nice only to have to think about getting from A to B and keeping fit too.  Sometimes the thing that winds me up most about the daily routine is the static nature of my job.  Usually in a little room teaching lovely kids to play the violin, there’s a lot of scope for putting on weight which really gets me down.

On my way to Brem sur Mer I stopped on a bridge.  A very pretty spot where the land was interspersed with little ponds and lakes (see above).  A lady on a bike, around 60, had stopped a little further up so I went up to chat to her and ask her about Les Sables.  She was a brilliant character and, after conversing with her a little, I noticed she had a little dog in her basket.  She told me his name was Jimmy, a little short haired poodle I think.  Very sweet chap who was delighted with the attention.

56-jimmy-the-dog

I had been on my own for a few days now and it was so nice to interact with these strangers who’d had appeared on my path.  It turned out that the lady had been to Dundee in her youth.

There was nowhere obvious to stay in Brem sur Mer (and it was horribly touristy) so I decided I was definitely going to continue the extra 20 km to Les Sables.  My great friend Fritha had recommended it and I felt sure that I would find somewhere nice to stay and get some good food.  It was getting on for 4:30 / 5pm, a little late for getting myself sorted out, but I ploughed on.

Having already had a pretty packed day I rolled past a camping site about 5km from Les Sables and headed for the centre.  The sea front at Les Sables was glorious.  I made my way to the tourist information again – always a great call if you are unsure where to stay.  They lined me up with a little hotel that would also secure my bike.  I must’ve done 60-70km by the time I arrived at the hotel so I got cleaned up then got a little boat to the other side of the river where the restaurants were.  I  found a good little place a bit further along the sea front.  I was ravenous and tired and so the sweeping wave of home sickness returned as I waited for supper to arrive.  When it did it was delicious!  I had roasted veggies with bread and a massive bowl of pasta too – just what I needed.

When I finally rolled into bed I was exhausted but feeling I’d had an amazing day of experiences!

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