Trans Europe Trip: Week 2 (San Sebastian, Spain to Amboise, France)   Recently updated !


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Biarritz (April 11, 2015)

We woke up ready to ride on Saturday morning! Got our bikes loaded up and we left the hotel in search of breakfast. The one thing they lack in Europe as I’ve read online is that they don’t do high caloric breakfast like we do in the US. Instead, they always have coffee and some sort of pastries. Therefore, our search for breakfast was fruitless as we ended up buying a baguette, jambon, and brie cheese to make a sandwich. We ended up sitting at a bench area where we made sandwiches and brewed instant coffee that Harry brought. When all was said and done, we left town close to 10:30AM.
On the way out-of-town, I had a very close call. I was following Harry too close and when I saw an opportunity to move right to give the cars some room, I ended up slamming into a road barrier. Luckily it was made out of plastic and not cement or anything equivalently permanent. I took one out while smacked into the next one. I held my balanced while Maria (my bike) slid sideways to a stop. Close call.
Getting out of Spain wasn’t a problem. We just followed some Google directions I loaded onto my phone to get us over to France.

When we got to France, the punishment began. Hills after hills between the border to Biarritz. We ended up riding 19 miles with about 1100 feet of climbing. We arrived into the Biarritz camp ground at 2:30 PM. The campground was immaculate! Beautifully manicured sites. Not a lot of people there. There was one shower / bathroom / wash area that was worlds better than what we have in the US. Their shower stalls were clean. The partitions are from head to toes for both shower and toilets. They even had stalls for little kids! I suppose for 20 Euros, it should be close. It does remind me of my favorite US RV sites at the KOAs.

At the Atlantic

Dipping my rear wheel at the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz.

 

Seignosse (April 12, 2015)

When we woke up the next morning, the temperature dipped down to the low 40s and we were shivering. We were both awake before 7 but the sun didn’t come up until about 7:30. We had a quick breakfast that included a coffee and 2 chocolate-filled croissants. Delicious! We then broke down our camp and started our journey into Biarritz the town.
Riding into Biarritz included another small climb up to the town. We had 3 objectives: get more cash, get a sim card for our phone, and find a map. We got the money, the phone stores were closed because it was a Sunday, and we picked up a map to show us out of Biarritz and Bayonce. The most important thing we did this day was dip our rear tire in the Atlantic Ocean to signify our start of our journey. After all that was said and done, we didn’t get out of Biarrtiz until close to 11:30.
We rode through Bayonce and found the Velodysee, which was the main bike path that is supposedly going to lead us to Bordeaux. We ended up riding this bike path to the coastal town of Bian (or was it Bien). Not to make matters worst, we came to a part of the path where it was submerged with water. Instead of turning back, Harry and I decided to trudge forward. We tried to avoid the water by walking around it but that only made our shoes and tires muddy. So I took the plunge and opted to walk through the shallow pond. Success! I then got Harry’s front panniers for him as they were not waterproof like mine. At the end of it, we both had sandy feet. The water looked nasty but wasn’t too bad. We got into town and enjoyed some time eating more tapas.
We then went back to follow the Velodysee into several different towns. It appears that the French love their beach. Traffic was piling in and out of Capbreton. I also suffered with my first flat of the trip. A nasty little nail. Took care of that real quick on the side of the road before we continued. When we got into the town of Hossegor, we stopped by a burger place called, “Jack’s Burger”. Maybe their version of Jack in the Box? We both ordered some burgers and a Coke Zero. We took our time to take advantage of their free WiFi and refilling our water bottle. Harry chatted up a lady outside and asked for directions Seignosse and places to camp for the night where we can do it stealthly. We got those directions and was ready to roll but we went back to ask her again, since I was in the restroom at the time. She then told us that she thought about it and offered us her place 5 minutes away where she has a plot of land where we could stay. It looks like the land is being developed so it doesn’t have a house on it just yet. She even gave us a ride in her van with the bikes in the back. Her name was Caroline and we were so grateful for her hospitality. I have to say we have been very lucky because this can count as a wild camp night even though we weren’t in the woods. We are still out of electricity and running water, right?

Walking through mud

After Harry and I had to cross a flooded portion of the bike path.

La Foret de Lit-et-Mixe (April 13, 2015)

We left Seignosse in the morning close to 9AM and followed the bike path to grab some breakfast and spoke to a couple who use to live in San Diego for 5 years prior. They plan to go back in October this year and was curious about our travels. We left after spending about 30 minutes there and followed the rest of the bike path out of town through stunningly beautiful forest areas. We put in about 10 miles when we found the town of Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains. A little resort town with a lively center we you can find everything from the tourism office to the supermarket. We finished the rest of our checklist of things to do: bought 2 maps of France, SIM card, and provisions for the next 2 days. We finally grabbed some pizza for lunch while trying to activate our cell phone.
We didn’t get out of town until 12:30. We made our way back onto the Velodysee. Rode all the way through more forests until we got out of Leon. Not the big Leon but the smaller town on the Southern French coast. We then got lost following the wrong bike path. We were reprimanded by an older guy when we tried to acquire water for our empty bottles. As a punishment, he pointed us to the wrong bike path and we endured a couple of hill climbs before another gentleman told us to go the other way. Long story short, we lost probably a good 2 hours of riding north towards the next town. Instead we ended up in Vielle-Saint-Girons. Enjoyed some chocolate croissants and a soft drink before we headed west to find the bike path up. It was getting late so we had to find a place to camp. After surveying some forest area, we found the “Maison Forestiore de Vons”. Only a few kilometers away from the next town of Lit-et-Mixe. We decided to camp right in the front of the house while nobody is here. It’s right in the middle of a couple of intersecting roads but I feel good about this place. We were fenced in so it was rather safe. With the exception of bugs, nothing else bothered us thankfully.

Camping night 3

Wild camping at Maison Foretoire de Vons.

Parentis-en-Born (April 14, 2015)

We got up around 7AM and was ready to leave camp a few minutes after 8. The morning was cold and dark. As Harry had predicted, nobody came to bother us so we slept peacefully with the exception of wild animals yelling at one another and an incredible amount of birds awake in the middle of the night. I was not 100% comfortable as I was on high-alert and was sticky from not taking a shower for the last 2 days. I also found out that the pollen from the tree above had blanketed a new layer on our tents and equipment. That was the reason why I was sneezing so much.
We continued on the bike path towards the beach Cap-de-l’Homy Plage in search of a meal and water as we both were running with none. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any restaurants or market but instead got water from a campsite. We took the time and ate 2 packets of oatmeal that I had brought along with 2 bananas. It was enough to power us for the next 20 miles to Mimizan-Plage.
I wanted to mention that we had to take this really interesting bike path on the way near Contis-Plage. It was basically a 2.5 feet of concrete paved onto sand. Some sections of it was surrounded by overgrown plants that would whack you as you sped by. Some sections was overrun by sand so you had to get of the bike or suffer wiping out. It felt like mountain biking as we navigated our plank for 4KM. A good break from the monotonous bike path.
It was also a very hot day where we saw temperatures soar to the mid 90s right before we got into Parentis-en-Born. This is a real cool little French town which feels like a maze to navigate around in a bike or a car. The streets are narrow with many one way streets. The outskirts of the town are suburban neighborhood and multiple campsites. We are at the first one called, “L’Arbre d’Or”. It only cost us 14,5 Euros which is a bargain considering how expensive it has been eating here. We got our laundry done and finally showered again after 3 days of not showering. It certainly feels great to have fresh clean clothes and clean skin again. Unfortunately, the camp site requires you to purchase WiFi. Tomorrow, we are planning to get to Bordeux which is about 50 miles away. Planning to take our first day off since we started riding there.

Harry riding

Bordeaux (April 15, 2015 – April 16, 2015)

I got up early to go get some money and baguettes in town. Everybody seems to pick up a baguette every morning to enjoy. I arrived back into camp with Harry already packed up and ready to go. I quickly threw everything together and broke down camp. We both went to the restaurant in the camp site again for breakfast. After breakfast was completed, we started our journey.

The ride consisted of 2-lane roads from town to town. We left Parentis-en-Born to Sanguinet and then up to Mios where we stopped for lunch around the 20 mile mark.  Instead of winding through the coast like we did the previous days, we gobbled up the miles without much delay. By the time we reached the town of Marcheprime and was ready to ride into Bordeaux for the last road in, we were beat! Instead, we hopped on the commuter train in the town and took it all the way into Bordeaux-St-Jean train station.

When we got there, it was a frantic scramble to find a place to stay. We tried the local hostel and a couple of hotels but they were all sold out due to a marathon event happening during the weekend. We luckily found a room right across the hotel from the train station. We unloaded our bikes and brought our panniers up to our room. It was a hot and muggy day so we both showered up and left to find some dinner.

Bordeaux church

The Cathedrale St-Andre

Bordeaux is a surprisingly beautiful city. I was certainly overwhelmed by the beauty of the French architecture. Even at 10 PM people were socializing and enjoying the vine that was freely being poured from one restaurant to the next. We took part in a cool bar that allowed us to have a card where you recharge with a specific amount of Euros and then use that to pay for a glass to glass wine pour from a wine dispensing machine. Harry told me that these machines cost about $25,000 each to install as they use aragon gas to chill the wine while it is sitting in the machine. We tried about 4 different wine before we ran out of Euros. We hit the streets to find gelato at 11 PM and finally took the local train back to our hotel.

The next day was our rest day. We basically spent the morning taking care of personally tasks (like writing this entry) and walking around the city some more. We’re planning to really do some resting today as our body is taking refuge from the riding and bug bites that is dotted over all our limbs. We are planning to take the train up to Tours tomorrow as we are a few days behind.

Hotel view

View from our hotel room.

 Amboise (April 17, 2015)

We are back on the road again today. Instead of forcing ourselves to ride another week from Bordeaux up to Tours, we opted to save some time and took the train today into Tours. This puts us about 3 days ahead of schedule instead of 3 days behind. The true spirit of this ride is to travel across Europe and experience as much as we can. We are blessed to be able to hop on the train and buy some time while others may not be able to do the same. We are fortunate to have the finance to allow us to do this while others have all the time in the world. Unfortunately, (for now) our time is limited as we are working towards a departing flight at the end of June.

The train ride was a bit of a challenge as our bike was in the way for other people to get to their seats and upstairs. We had remove all our panniers in order to fit the bikes in the doorway. This made things frustrating and stressful for us and other passengers. We were also reprimanded by the conductor. We should have had the bikes boxed up but nobody told us otherwise. C’est la vie!

April 17, 2015

After 3 stressful stops of directing people around our bikes, we finally got off at Saint Pierre de Cors. Instead of hopping bike on a train to Tours, it was logically to start our journey from St Pierre de Cors. So we got off and ate our lunch that Harry had acquired in Bordeaux. We took off riding East to find the Loire de Velo road. We were on a highly trafficked road for about 5 miles before we spotted the bike path.

This bike path was incredible! We were riding through small towns and beautiful vineyards. Harry and I both agreed that this was one of the best riding days. We ended up at camp by 6PM and only paid 9 Euros to camp in the town of Amboise. The place is fabulous and was recommended by the guidebook. It’s called, “Camping Municipal de L’lle d’Or”. The sites are grass and the bathrooms are clean with free hot showers. The plan is to see Leonardo de Vinci’s home in the morning.

 


About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He’s also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.