THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE TRIP TOOK PLACE
The original idea was to get a night ferry to Cherbourg with a cabin and arrive in France rested and fresh for an early start from there. I intended to go down the Cotentin and join the cycle-track along the Mayenne. This project was abandoned because it proved impossible to get a suitable night-boat. I therefore changed my plans and opted for a night-boat to Saint Malo and a route across Brittany.
On arrival in France I plan to catch the little ferry to Dinard where the bicycle ride proper is to start. The first leg is the cycle-track of about 19 km which runs from Dinard to just outside of Dinan.
From Dinan, I intend to follow the Ille and Rance canal to Rennes (85km) and from Rennes the tow-path of the river Vilaine down to Redon (about 85km).
From Redon, the plan is to pick up the pistes cyclables that run around the Guérande peninsula through La Baule to Saint Nazaire and the estuary of the Loire (115km). There I’ll head south along the coast of the Vendée through Saint Brevin-les-Pins, Saint Michel-Chef-Chef, Pornic, Bourgneuf-en-Retz, Saint Gilles-Croix-de-Vie to Les Sables D’Olonne.
I originally intended to carry on from there to L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer and thence to the coast of Charente Maritime (220km) by following cycle-routes and the canal from Marans to La Rochelle. From there I intended to get to Rochefort and Royan (130km). However, time constraints and bad news about the cycle-routes in Charente that have suffered from February’s storm (Xynthia) have forced me to shorten the actual cycling bit of the journey through Charente. I intend to get a train from les Sables to La Rochelle, and then another from Rochefort to Bordeaux.
I originally intended to follow the cycle-routes down the Landes coast to Lacanau-Océan and from there to Bordeaux. But this plan, too, was abandoned for lack of time. I had no desire to make a punishing endurance-test out of what was after all meant to be a holiday.
From Bordeaux I’ll take the famous piste Roger Labépie to Sauveterre-de-Guyenne (60km) and from there go by road to La Réole (20km) in order to join the canal that follows the Garonne in the first instance to Toulouse and then links up with the famous Canal du Midi at Toulouse. Following these two canals for about 400km gets me to Narbonne from where I take the train back to Paris and then Eurostar to London.
If you add up these rough distances, that makes about 1075km in all or 670 odd miles. However, you can add at least another 100km to take into account all the twists, turns and detours of the cycle-routes and the detours for various visits. I have fourteen days in which to cover the distance (my return train from Narbonne is booked and non-refundable) so I have to average around 50 miles per day.
Everything’s organised (even the accommodation!) so it simply remains to be seen if the muscles co-operate. It’s going to be something of a time-trial because I can’t now afford to miss a stage without calling the whole enterprise into question.