I dreamed up this project as a new retiree. It seemed like a good idea at the time but when it actually became a reality, the creaking joints and aching limbs made me wonder if I’d make it. I had to revise a lot of my original designs to take account of my own energy levels and the time available to me.

Update 10 June 2010: I made it!

The purpose of this blog is simply to show to what extent the original plan was realisable. The rigorously off-road criterion was not sustainable, since the cycle tracks often turned out to be more a nice idea in the minds of people on the local councils and in tourist offices rather than concrete entities on the ground. Moreover, often the so-called pistes cyclables were no more than designated routes on existing roads marked it is true by special sign-posts, but on-road, nonetheless.

My original plans included using the long cycle-trails of les Landes, but this part of the project fell victim to time constraints. I would have needed another week, which I didn’t have, to include all of that. So the train trips from Les Sables d’Olonne to La Rochelle and from Rochefort to Bordeaux were decided on before I left.

My principal purpose turned out to be a trip in four phases: first to cross Brittany on tow-paths, secondly to do the Vendée coast to try out the cycle tracks they boasted about so much on their tourist websites, thirdly to do the Canal de Garonne tow-path and fourthly to do the Canal du Midi towpath. I succeeded in these designs and I in no way regret not having cycled across Charente Maritime because the bit I did cycle across was not at all cycle-friendly. I regret not having tried the cycle-tracks of Les Landes, but there’s nothing wrong with a few regrets.


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