07.10.2018 (Day 142: St.Malo-La Caserne):
Shortly after 8 am, we reached the port of St.Malo and visited the old town including the city walls by foot. The city was still asleep and we were fascinated extraordinary. Therefore, we soon started cycling along the coast towards Mont Saint Michel. Since the tidal range in this area can be up to 12 meters and hence one of the highest in the world, it was almost impossible to see the ocean. Shortly after noon, we reached the village La Caserne from which the island was accessible the easiest. Because the targeted campground was closed since couple of days due to the end of the season, we had to find an alternative close by. We asked the owner of a small, closed hotel, if we could pitch our tent somewhere. After a short thinking stage, she showed us the garden with a perfect view on the monastery, where we were allowed to stay for one night. In the afternoon, we visited the monastery on Mont Saint Michel and strolled through the narrow alleys of the impressive island.
08.10.2018 (Day 143: La Caserne-La Sel-de-Bretagne):
We woke up rather late, enjoyed breakfast in the warm sun, and started the sporty part of the day only after noon. On the quite flat and qualitatively good roads, in comparison to the UK and Ireland, we reached Rennes relatively fast. The small city surprised us with its many old buildings with beautiful timber framing constructions in the center. Even tough, we set our watches one hour back since we arrived in France; the sunset was still at the same time, thanks to the more southern location.
09.10.2018 (Day 144: La Sel-de-Bretagne-Nantes):
We cycled the last 100 kilometers to Nantes with temperatures clearly higher than 20 degrees and used sun protection for the first time in a while. Already before we reached the sixth largest city of France, we joined the cycling paths and therefore avoided the busy roads during the rush hour. In the evening, we were welcomed warmly by Marine and Asael in their home. Immediately, we liked the young couple a lot and enjoyed the dinner together.
10.10.2018 (Day 145: Break Day: Nantes):
Together with Nadine and Katja we walked along a green line, which leads tourists passed most of the cities attractions. Partly, the line was not visible anymore or we were focused too much on our conversations and therefore had to find our way back. After visiting the castle of Nantes, we went to a small restaurant and communicated with amusing gestures and new creations of French words with the service staff. One of the main attractions are “les machines de l’île», which contain a 12 meter high and 40 tons heavy elephant. This impressive elephant can transport up to 50 people and spit water through its trunk. At the old port area in the middle of the island of Nantes, we met our hosts and admired the colorful sunset.
11.10.2018 (Day 146: Nantes-Saint-Jean-de-Monts):
We cycled along the river Loire and since a long time we followed the Eurovelo route 1 to the coast. Once, we could cross the mighty river with a free ferry and then ride along a canal. Before St.Nazaire, we decided to take a route through the inland, to reach the sea at Pornic. The region was extremely flat like in the Netherlands and the roads led us through some agricultural land, which contained many canals. In the evening, we found a beautiful pine forest close to the beach and pitched our tent there.
12.10.2018 (Day 147: Saint-Jean-de-Monts-La Rochelle):
We regretted the relative late start in the afternoon, since we did not reach La Rochelle before 7pm and almost 150km. The beautiful cycling paths along the empty beaches invited us everywhere to stop and catch the fresh sea breeze. Repeatedly, we cycled through empty, sealed off tourist places, and were glad not to be there in the main season. In La Rochelle, our Couchsurfing host Rachel warmly received us and she introduced us to the culinary world of the region. In less than an hour, we had the opportunity to taste langoustines, shrimps, fish soup, oysters, whelks and glasswort. To end the evening, we treated ourselves with some ice cream at the harbor and joined the mixed crowd at a bar on an old ship.
13.10.2018 (Day 148: Break Day: La Rochelle):
The popular Saturday market was very lively and the first point of interest for us. We walked through the market, which was directly next to our accommodation and our host works there from time to time. La Rochelle is one of the largest sailing harbors in Europe and therefore one can meet many adventurers and it is famous for wild nights. While enjoying the beautiful weather, we spoiled ourselves culinary and enjoyed the last hours with Nadine and Katja. By chance, an uncle and an aunt (Rio and Romy) of Fabian were in the same area while travelling with their caravan and joined us today as well. Generously, they invited us to a delicious diner in the lively old town.
14.10.2018 (Day 149: La Rochelle-La-Pointe-de-Grave):
Shortly before noon, we forced ourselves to wake up and were glad that we did not go to a club the night before after all. We enjoyed the view from Rachel’s terrace and ate breakfast together. Not long after we started cycling, it started to rain and the horns of the French car drivers on the main road made it even more unpleasant. Either every tenth driver was excited to see us to such an extent or we did not see the prohibition sign. While fighting against the rain, we passed oyster and mussel farms. Just after 6pm, we reached the port of Royan. Two kebabs and an hour waiting time later, we were on a rough ferry to La-Pointe-de-Grave.
15.10.2018 (Day 150: La-Pointe-de-Grave-Le Canon):
After a rainy night, we packed our soaking wet tent in his case, before we removed the huge slugs from our panniers. Perfect cycling paths expected us the rest of the day through gorgeous pine forests. Most of the time, the trail led us not far from the beach side southwards towards Arcachon. The lunch break we relished next to a lake, which appeared abandoned, since there were no tourists present. The last 50km, we pedaled along a hilly, tarred cycle path through a nice forest and finally found a suiting spot close to the beach side.
16.10.2018 (Day 151: Le Canon-Pyla sur Mer):
During breakfast, the sun dried our extremely wet tent from the dew. The trail back to the road was strenuous, since it was full of sand. In Le Cap-Ferret, we were lucky to find a bike rental where we could rinse our bicycles from the sand. In the last second, we took the ferry to Arcachon. The next ferry would leave the port only a few hours later, so we decided to skip the lighthouse and the Cape. A few kilometers south of Arcachon, there is the highest sand dune in Europe. The view from the Pilat dune is amazing and one can hardly imagine that Mother Nature could create something like this. On the dune, we met Lukas and Christine, a German couple travelling from Germany to Morocco and back. They invited us for a late lunch to their VW bus, which they modified completely by themselves. Unfortunately, we could not find camping gas in the last few days and were therefore happy to get a warm meal. We decided to not cycle further and instead enjoyed a nice evening with the newly made friends at the campfire.
17.10.2018 (Day 152: Pyla sur Mer-Aillas):
Together with our newly made VW-friends Lukas and Christine, we had breakfast in the beautiful forest. The first part of the day, we cycled through pine forests, which surrounded us since La Rochelle. Since Arcachon, we were in the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, which is characterized by the untouched nature and many small side roads.
Shortly before 7pm, we did our shopping for dinner and breakfast in Lidl. While Adrian was buying food, a local asked Fabian if we have already a place to stay. Soana, which spoke very good German invited us back to her place and told us that she was a member of Warmshowers as well. After 17 additional kilometers, we reached the gorgeous rebuilt farmers house and could take a shower immediately. Shortly after, her husband and the two daughters arrived and we were spoiled with a delicious dinner and enjoyed the sociable evening.
18.10.2018 (Day 153: Aillas-Agen):
Like the last two mornings, we were woken up by gunshots. Apparently, it is typical for French pensioners to hunt for wild pigs and pigeons with a shotgun. This can take up to five weeks and the alcohol consummation should not be underestimated, which means that some of the “hunters” fall from trees occasionally. Just before we wanted to leave in the morning, Fabian realized that his reindeer antler, which he carries since the second day, was nibbled on and therefore destroyed. The dog of the family identified the souvenir simply as a bone or rather a midnight snack.
By recommendation of our hosts, we changed our route and followed the Canal Latéral à la Garonne that will eventually lead us to Toulouse. Along the beautiful avenues in their autumn dress, we pedaled passing many houseboats and touring cyclists. At Agen, the cycle path led us over a fascinating canal bridge, with which we crossed a road and the river Garonne. In the evening, we found a nicely situated meadow with toilet access and drinking water. Directly after the arrival, we met two local women and enjoyed the relaxed conversation.
19.10.2018 (Day 154: Agen-Toulouse):
Today, we are exactly 5 months on the road! We already covered more than 9’000km and are currently cycling in the 10th country.
Just before we wanted to leave, a German couple approached us, which is travelling 8 months a year with their houseboat. After an interesting conversation, we started our cycling day into the fog and still followed the cycle path along the canal. We passed many floodgates and therefore steadily gained altitude. When we reached Toulouse, we saw many people in shabby, self-made homes and some even seemed to live in tents. Our Warmshowers hosts Asael and Marine from Nantes connected us with some friends in Toulouse, where we can stay the next days. We were warmly welcomed and enjoyed the simplicity of the young Frenchmen.
20.10.2018-22.10.2018 (Days 155-157: Break Days: Toulouse):
A few days ago, we realized a damage on the impeller of Fabians bicycle. At two spots, the anchor of the spoke was broken and we were glad to even reach Toulouse without a breakdown. First, we searched different bicycle stores, but not one had a fitting impeller. Suddenly, we realized that Adrian’s impeller on the back had the same defect and had to be replaced as well. Thanks to the recommendation of a vendor, we searched for a specific bike shop of Trek and asked if it was a warranty claim. After all, the cycles are only four months old! We learned that this bicycle retailer was the only one in France, which could decide about warranty claims on the spot. Therefore, we were extremely lucky and both our impellers were replaced for free. In addition, Adrian could replace his air mattress, a guarantee claim as well, because of a delamination of the air cells.
In the evening, we cooked the Swiss dish «Älplermagronen» for our six hosts and despite critical evaluation at first; all were enthusiastic after the degustation. The evening ended in one of the local bars in the city center.
In the remaining time, we explored the city and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere at the Garonne. On our last evening, we ate raclette, which is supposed to be a Swiss dish, however seems to be popular in France as well.
23.10.2018 (Day 158: Toulouse-Ax-les-Thermes):
We left Toulouse with a clouded mood. On the one side, we were sad to leave our new friends and on the other side, we were looking forward to the Pyrenees and therefore high mountains.
In the beginning, we cycled along the Canal du Midi with its many houseboats, until we turned southwards and we had to cross the first hills. Soon, we saw in the mist far away the outlines of the highest peaks of the Pyrenees, which were fascinating and appeared almost daunting. Especially, since we had not digested all of the cheese from last night and therefore were not so eager to climb the pass. In Foix, the castle of the same name or more precisely a ruin of a castle on a rock overtoweres the small city. Until the end of the day, we reached a significant altitude of 830m and were looking forward to the crossing of the mountain pass to Andorra.