Cycle Touring. UK to Northern Spain
Thursday, 18 December 2014
After completing this journey before and also one to Barcelona I'm starting to get what I need for this type of trip down to what I feel is about spot on.The stats below are very similar to my post on the journey "from the south of England to Barcelona" with a few tweaks and differences: Here are the stats:37 days (which include 12 rest days)1050 milesAverage 28 miles a day (this includes all rest days)Average 42 miles a day (not including rest days)No punctures (touch wood)generally 1 quiche and Pain au Raisin eaten per day (this changed to Tortilla and any type of chocolate cake that the Spanish were offering)? bottles of BordeauxAverage cost of camping 7.5 euros (cheapest was 3 euros, most expensive was 12) per night each (based on us both sharing a plot with our own small tents) Brief Info about my bike, camping ítems and extras : Standard 2013 model Thorn Sherpa with Deore brakes/gears Tyres are Schwalbe 2" Dureme tyres and Schwalbe innertubes (I changed them to Schrader so I’d have wider availablity of a pump if mine broke/got nicked) Still using the trusty Hope hollowtech Bottom Bracket (now has over 4000 miles on it) My last Shimano BB51 bottom bracket only lasted just over 1000 miles) Lock is a Kryptonite D lock with cable. Pump is a Topeak roadmorph G Stove is a Hi Gear collapsable stove with an Eldrid adaptor for using Camping gaz cartridges Tent is old Vango Alpha 200 (had to do major sewing repairs on this for it to last this trip) Mattress is Thermarest (with chair kit) Sleeping bag is basic 3 season Eurohike jobby Maps I´m using are the yellow Michelin ones that show cycle routes but although these were only bought 2 years ago a few of the routes aren´t shown. In addition to these maps I would get some other cycle path (or Voie Verte) info, along with campsite info, from the Tourist Info Centre (TIC) once I had a rough idea of my mileage I´d be doing. One rock peg which has been invaluable for some sites as some of the pitches are more like hardstandings than anything. I knew from previous experience that during this route down through France, even though it could be 30 degrees and sunny, at this time of year we could have problems with campsites being open. There were issues with this so we would have to think ahead and go to the TIC (Tourist Info Centre) earlier in the day to get a heads up for my next campsite. This would sometimes mean I would have to adjust my mileage significantly to make it fit.Sometimes, however , the information from the T.I.C’s have, on occasions, been totally wrong. Note that mileage stated can and often does include nipping to shops or bar after setting up camp or, indeed, getting lost. Day 1 Tuesday 16th Sept 2014Poole to Brockenhurst37 miles (total 37) As with the last trip to Barcelona, I tried my utmost to trim the weight down to the bare essentials (yes I do need my inflatable pillow and no I won't saw my toothbrush in half) and have managed to get my total bike weight down to a feather light 45kgs (a whole 2 kgs less than last trip)I met my friend Bob at Bournemouth pier and cycled in the sun along the prom (NCN route 2) to Christchurch.
Day 4 Friday 19th Sept 2014St Meen Le Grande to Le Roc Saint Andre33 miles (total 160) Into St Meen for a PaR (Pain au Raisin) and baguette supplies.A cloudy, rainy threatening start which stayed dry and was perfect cycling as it was nice and cool. The clouds soon burnt off and after a baguette stop in Mauron it turned from cool to a sunny, hot and humid 25 degrees. On the Voie Verte to Ploermel where we stopped for a beer. Back on the "piste" and to the Brest-Nantes canal.We were originally heading for St Martin but after 33 miles we've spotted what looks like a nice campsite next to the canal so have decided to stop here for the night. It's a pleasant spot apart from a few dogs. Good to arrive early and relax a bit. The owners are very friendly. The site has an amazing section of retro caravans for hire.
Camping Domaine du Roc 5 euros each
Camping Du Bellion 3 euros each inc shower token (no wifi) Day 6 Sunday 21st Sept 2014Fegreac to Saint Michel Chef Chef45 miles (total 241) Nice cool ride along the canal then onto the roads which were quiet to St Nazaire. The wind has turned in our favour and the sun is out as we make it safely over the St Nazaire bridge.
Day 8 Tuesday 23rd Sept 2014Fromentine to Les Sables d’Olonne50 miles (total 330)
NIce riding along the Voie Verte through St Jean de Mont
and finally into Les Sables where we're staying at Camping Les Fosses Rouges as I did last year.
Camping Les Fosses Rouges 14.80 Euros for 2 ( free wifi )
Day 9 Wednesday 24th Sept 2014 Les Sables d’Olonne to Tranche sur Mer 30 miles (total 360) Out of Sables and we head out along the coast "piste" which is really nice. Same weather as recent days (cold start but sunny and burning away any mist by the hour) which makes for good riding.We've decided to do a shorter day and so we've stopped at a campsite I was at last year in La Griere near Tranche sur Mer called La Grande Vallee. Arriving early is great and I've got some washing done and on the line. Now sitting in the sun on the terrace over looking the rather empty peaceful campsite while I down a few beers.
Camping La Grande Vallee 14 Euros for 2 ( free wifi )
Day 10 Thursday 25th Sept 2014Tranche sur Mer to La Rochelle36 miles (total 396) A warm start out to St Michel en l’Herm to use the Voie Verte across the marshland which was so full of mozzies in places I daren't stop pedalling as when I did I got bitten.Met an older Ozzy couple that had just cycled up from the border of France/Spain.After the marshland into and through Esnandes to Marsilly where we had a quiche stop.Got to La Gord to find the campsite Les Trois Lys which I used last year was closed. We've pedalled a bit further down the road to au petit port de l'Houmeau.We were wondering about the price of the campsite so I went into reception and asked what the price would be for "2 poor cyclists" (in French) and the guy replied in perfect English “When should I start crying?” He was a really funny guy and said "It's normally 16 Euros but with Gay discount it will be 10 euros".The site is fine and it's good to arrive early enough to enjoy some time in the sun with a few beers. Camping "au petit port de l'Houmeau" 5 euros each ( with gay discount )( free wifi ) Day 11 Friday 26th Sept 2014La Rochelle to Tremblade60 miles (total 456) Said goodbye to the funny Portuguese guy Victor (who spoke fluent Spanish and German as well as French and English) at the “camp” reception and headed off in the warm and sunny weather round the coastal path and into La Rochelle centre where we stop for quiche, a massive PaR and maps at the TIC.
Down the coast and into Rochefort to the TIC for info about campsites further south that would be open.Through and out of Rochefort and over the "Transporter Bridge" (open April to end of Oct) which is the nicer way to get over the river Charente, only costs a couple of Euros and put us on a better road to find the "Canal de la Seudre a la Charente" which is a very pleasant few kms in the direction of Marennes. Anyway, on arrival of said "open campsite" we find it to be closed. After a few other dead end options we find a site called Les Pins. No one is about so we pitch up anyway.The idea of getting to Tremblade was to get out of the marshy area and thus get away from all the mozzies but it would seem they have spilled over into the non-marshy area and have joined us here too.Early de-camp in the morning and use the "early bird special bunking discount".
Camping Les Pins
Day 12 Saturday 27th Sept 2014Tremblade to Euronat40 miles (total 496) Early start and straight to the Patisserie for PaR and quiche (worst PaR we've had in France. I reckon Greggs could do a better one and that is going some).Down la Palmyre Zoo and along the coast to Royan. No luck getting a Gaz cannister in Royan so are gambling on finding one in Soulac sur Mer. Onto the ferry which was 9.80 Euros for both of us and then onto the very nice Voie Verte where we stop at a small picnic area to fuel up.
Camping Euronat 13.40 Euros for 2
Day 13 Sunday 28th Sept 2014Rest day at Euronat3 miles (total 499) Hot to start but bit of rain came in about 4pm. Very warm evening. Ultra quiet over night apart from the sound of the sea. one of the best nights sleep ever . Day 14 Monday 29th Sept 2014Rest day 2 at Euronat20 miles (total 519) Very warm over night and rained about 7am for an hour.As it was cloudy we decided to go on a short ride to some small nearby villages called Grayan L'Hopital, St Vivien and Versac which weren't much to write home about but it was good to have a little ride. Sun came out and so back to camp, then to the beach for some bodysurfing.
Day 15 Tueday 30th Sept 2014Rest day 3 at Euronat3 miles (total 522) Every night is so peaceful that we're both getting 10 hrs sleep. Weather is perfect with a day time high of 24 degrees and a slight N/W breeze.
Day 16 Wednesday 1st Oct 2014Rest day 4 at Euronat20 miles (total 542) Another rest day and another blissful 10 hours sleep.As prices on camp are a little high when staying for a whole week, this morning I went on a shopping trip up to Soulac sur Mer which is about 8 miles North up the road. It was also nice to get out on the bike again. Popped into the TIC in Soulac to use some free wifi (as it's quite expensive on camp) and after shopping, I get back to camp about noon and go to the beach. Lovely sunny weather again. Just right for getting rid of the rather unattractive cyclists stripey tan.
Day 17 Thursday 2nd Oct 2014Rest day 5 at Euronat2 miles (total 544) Yet another sunny day and have managed to "acquire" a parasol which I've positioned above my tent to help prevent the inside reaching the temperature of the surface of the sun.After returning from a hard day at the beach the large communal unisex showers are bliss. No worries about trying to keep your clothes dry, or balancing on one leg to get back into your shorts. We head to the central square and to the cyber cafe to charge our devices and sit in the evening sun with a few beers. Day 18 Friday 3rd Oct 2014Rest day 6 at Euronat23 miles (total 567) Another shopping trip up to Soulac which seems like a nice little town with all you need but not too big. To get there this time I used the Voie Verte which was 10 miles instead of 8 by road.With panniers loaded full of beer, wine, cheese and all sorts of other goodies I head back as the heat of the day is really hitting.To the beach and the waves are massive. It was also really too hot so I didn't stay that long and decided I'd be better off with a shower and to sit under my parasol and make "beer O'clock" a little earlier than days previous. Went to check out the sunset in the evening and bumped into a nice German woman that had a very cool old post bike. It had a very small front wheel and a massive rack on the front making me think it might make for an interesting touring bike, apart from the fact it weighed an absolute tonne.
Day 19 Saturday 4th Oct 2014Euronat to Lege-Cap-Ferret55 miles (total 622) Dropping into reception at Euronat they discount us 1 day for staying a week which is pretty good we think as it's not only one of the best sites we've been on but it's a reasonable price anyway.We take the "piste" down to Lacanau Ocean where I knew of a campsite I stayed at last year that wanted a crazy 20 euros. This year they wanted 23 euros so we passed on that one.We dropped into the TIC at Lacanau and got info of a municipal site in Lege-Cap_Ferret called "la Praire" but when we arrive we realised, on a previous trip, we'd stayed at a place next door called "Aux Coulers du Ferret" which was owned by a farmer and was lovely and quirky (and so was the campsite) but is now run by a younger couple which are still very nice but "improvements" have meant that the rather lovely and quirky price of 6 Euros last time has gone up to a not so lovely 12.50 Euros. It was still a very good site and would go back again.After attempting to grab some free wifi by reception in between rain showers I gave up and cooked up some chorizo pasta in my porch tent as the rain came down. Camping Aux Coulers du Ferret 12.50 Euros for 2 ( free wifi ) Day 20 Sunday 5th Oct 2014Lege-Cap-Ferret to Dune du Pilat34 miles (total 656) Bit of wifi-ing at the campsite and then onto the Voie Verte through Ares where we stop at Leclerc for supplies and then onto Biganos and to the Dune du Pilat. Very good cycle path but a few missing signs. The campsite we stayed at before “la Floret" was closed so we cycled a bit further to "camping Pyla" which is very expensive at 19.10 euros for both of us. After setting up camp we took a walk up the dune to get a view and take some shots of the Arcachon basin.
Camping Municipal Mimizan Plage 17.80 for 2
Day 22 Tuesday 7th Oct 2014Mimizan Plage to Moliets-et-Maa37 miles (total 742) Got an early start as Bob said the forecast was for heavy rain quite early. We skipped breaky at camp and de-camped early and hit the patisserie in Mimizan plage. Quick stop at the TIC for more info and Wifi and we're onto a really nice section of Voie Verte down to Contis Plage where we used an Aire to boil up some eggs, make a brew and take a break.
Then on to "St Giron Plage". We cycled with an Irish guy called "Fergal" for quite a few miles. He was heading for Spain too. Nice chatting with him as we rolled our way through the pine forest.We let him roll on as we stopped for supplies at Leon and then camped at Moliets-et-Maa. Camping Cigales 14.20 Euros for 2 Day 23 Wednesday 8th Oct 2014Moliet et Maa to St Jean de Luz62 miles (total 804) Finding the Voie Vert proved tricky due to bad signage. The route itself was great, all through pine forests and generally flat with just a few bumps and humps to make it interesting. We made a mistake along the way and missed a sign and found ourselves at Souston so we've had to double back a few miles.We stopped in Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains to get info at the TIC but they were totally useless. The PaC and the Quiche in "Vieux", however, were excellent.Back on the Voie Verte down to Hossegor.
Camping Dorrondeguy 4 euros each (free wifi)
Day 25 Friday 10th Oct 2014Hendaye to Igueldo28 mile (total 850) Out of the campsite and a PaC/baguette stop which was really good. Then along the front through Hendaye passing all the surfers and their campervans. Using an app called "Bikehub" I discovered there was a passenger ferry that also takes bikes across the estuary into Spain. It wasn't that far to go round but it was a nice little journey across on the ferry and only 3.70 Euros for both of us. From the moment we landed on the Spanish side there's a different feel despite the short distance. It's busier and noisier but we get lots of respect and space given on the roads. We hit some motorway stuff and a tunnel to go through but after that from Irun to Iturriotz we had some lovely scenery and awesome downhills. Found a nice carril Bici from Pasaia to San Sebastian.
Camping Igueldo 18.20 euros for 2 ( free wifi )
Day 26 Saturday 11th Oct 2014Igueldo to Mutriku30 miles (Total 880) A bit of a climb to start and then a long and winding downhill section where we were "tailgating" a "roady lycra lout" who seemed a little surprised by the speed we were doing downhill with such loaded bikes. There were loads of roadies out, mostly in large peletons. All of them gave us a nod and/or shouted "hola!"With no hands on the handlebars and no helmet on I rolled into Zaroutz past a police car and to the TIC for camp info. We did have the idea to head inland but there only seems to be campsites on the coast. Some of the rooms we were told about were really expensive (5 times what we are paying for camping).We've decided to carry on along the coast. On the way out of Zarautz I’m riding along taking a video of the coastline when 2 Police on motorbikes pull us over telling us we have to wear helmets. They tell us to go back into Zarautz and buy one. We say yes and wait for them to go. We carry on along the pavement for a while in the hope of putting some distance between us. We find them later on along the road coming out of a bar so we stop for a couple of beers at the bar as they ride off into the distance again. It was a nervous day watching out for them around every corner.We get to Mutriku and are staying at the nice, empty and expensive Aitzeta camping which has a great view over the harbour and out to sea. Camping Aitzeta 20 Euros for 2 (free wifi)
Day 27 Sunday 12th Oct 2014Rest Day in Mutriku0 miles (total 880) We've decided to take a rest day as we're in a nice place and the weather is good. Walked down in to Mutriku village which is really nice and has some nice bars which sell good tapas at reasonable prices.The harbour has a free open air swimming pool that is filled up by the sea on high tide.On return to our campsite we find another guest has joined us. For some reason, although there are about 100 plots on the site, the owner has put this new guest right next to us, which wouldn't be that bad but he has a dog.A disturbed night sleep with dogs barking all night long, one of which has entered the campsite and left a rather large gift for us on the path to the toilets. Camping Atizeta 20 Euros for 2 (free wifi) Day 28 Monday 13th Oct 2014Mutriku to Lekeitio15 miles (total 895) As we have low mileage to do from now we've decided to take it easy and stop in Mutriku village for a coffee. A gentle, short and lovely ride to Leketio where we stop in town for a couple of beers and some tapas. We nip to the supermarket and then hit the big hill up to the campsite.The site is empty which is nice as we can have our pick of which plot we want.
Camping Leagi 16.60 Euros for 2 ( free wifi )
Day 29 Tuesday 14th Oct 2014Leketio to Mundaka25 miles (total 920) Out of the campsite and down the steep hill into Leketio village for coffee and a delicious ham and cheese tortilla. Out of town and the hills start, and so does the heat. After about 12 miles we get to the top and enjoy 4 miles of downhill.Along the way I'm joined by a little thin green guy trying to hitchhike on my bellend:
Now in Mundaka and at the campsite we were at a last time. They don't have hot water which isn't an issue as it means one thing : DISCOUNT. Normally it's 21 Euros but with the cold water discount it's 8.40 Euros. Which is pretty good considering it’s often difficult to tell the difference between hot and cold water in Spain anyway.Went into town for some beers and some nice tapas at the main bar by the harbour.
Camping Portuondo 8.40 Euros with cold water discount (normally 21 Euros) ( free wifi )
Day 30 Wednesday 15th Oct 2014Mundaka to Sopelana25 miles (total 945) Grey, with light rainy start and stopped in Bermeo for coffee and cake. Then some punishing hills start with more rain and strong headwind thrown into the mix. Add copious amounts of traffic and it's not the best bit of cycling we've done on this trip. Having said that, the Spanish drivers are very patient and respectful to us, waiting for the right moment to pass and giving us the legal 1.5 metres space as they do so. After quite a few miles of uphill I reach the summit and my bike seems to pull into a rather nice little bar where I have a couple of nice beers and some equally nice Tapas while I wait for Bob to arrive.Then the descent, and what a descent it was. To start with it was a little disappointing as, with the head wind, we're still pedalling but downhill. After a few turns however, we're flying at 37mph down and round and into Mungia where I stop and have another beer and a tortilla while I wait for Bob who has been hiding from the helmet police again.On to Sopelana where we're camping for the night. It was supposed to be expensive but on arrival the office is closed and the place looks quite grubby. We pop into town for some beer and tapas. The town wasn't that nice. It felt scruffy, dirty and overrun with dogs. It was quite hard to find an inviting place for tapas. We did find one place called la Cerveceria which was good.On returning to the campsite the owner catches us and we pay the extortionate amount of 24 euros for the dump we're staying in.Nice night sleep though, with just the sound of crickets and the sea. Camping Soplelana 24 Euros for 2 (no wifi) Day 31 Thursday 16th Oct 2014Sopelana to Castro Urdiales25 miles (total 970)
Rainy start and into Algorta for a “tarta de arroz”. I've never had one before and I wouldn't be that disappointed if I never had one again. A bit further down the road we stop for something a little more substantial and better where we sit and have coffee and a tortilla.
We're still without helmets and there seems to be Police everywhere. I'm not sure if they see us as I don't tend to look them in the eye but we've passed quite a lot of them. Onto the N634 and we climb a 10% hill which is quite tough in the heat and humidity. Then as we're flying down into Castro Urdiales we pass another 5 Guardia Civil that all look at me as I whizz past but none give chase. Maybe the reason we haven't been stopped is that they think we're on El Camino de Santiago.
Day 32 Friday 17th Oct 2014Castro Urdiales to Somo40 miles (total 1010) An early start and we're heading along the N634 which is pretty hilly and getting warmer by the hour (9am and it's already 20 degrees).Awesome downhill into Liendo where I stop for my first coffee of the day. Up some more hills and then a nice sweeping downhill section into Laredo, whizzing past (still without helmet) another policeman in a car at the side of the road.We did have in idea to stay in Laredo but all campsites are closed. As we've arrived early we've decided to push on to Somo. After more hills and some serious headwind we arrive in Somo and check out one of the sites called Camping Derby Loredo. It's quite exposed to the strong wind coming off the sea so we take a look at Camping Somo parque which on first arrival seems a bit grubby and may have some dodgy people living there. After checking it out properly we find a nice little quiet spot right at the back of the campsite all to ourselves.We popped into town briefly and when we came back the campsite bar was buzzing with loads of drunk Spanish from the site. It actually looked like quite a good atmosphere there though. Very windy over night and a great night sleep as it was nice and quiet with no dogs barking.
Day 36 Tuesday 21st Oct 2014Somo to Santander12 miles (total 1041) Out of the campsite and down to the harbour at Somo and catch the small ferry over to Santander.
The site is absolutely spotless, has perfect pitches and has a good toilet block.Popped into the nearest supermarket, which was in a massive out-of-town precinct which was horrible.As I went into the shop I was told I had to put my pannier bag in the locker. I had no money to operate the lockers and my bag was too big anyway. I wouldn't be allowed through with the bag unless it was wrapped in cling film so I hand my bag to the female "security guards" and watched them cling film wrap my bag up as though I was passing through passport control. For some reason my handlebar bag or my pockets weren't a security issue. Back to camp for a clean up and to one of the bars by the sea which is a short walk from the camp. Nothing going on there so back to the campsite bar where roughly the same amount of activity was going on but they did have a pool table where we had a few games.Then back to the tents for wine and tapas.Great night sleep with no dogs barking.