‘Ooh Er Missus!’ – Ile Madame is Charente Maritime’s fourth and smallest island.

Having visited Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oléron and Ile d’Aix I have been wanting to complete the set and visit Ile Madame for quite a while.

This tiny island of only four square miles can be reached at low tide only across a pebble causeway from Port des Barques. You can drive, walk or cycle across (hybrid or mountain bikes only as the pebbles are large).

In common with the other islands it has a fort that was built to protect Rochefort from the English and Dutch navies who were the dominant seafaring nations at the time. The fort can be visited but check before you go in case it is closed.

It’s worth finding the little path that leads to the Puits des Insurgés, a little well built by prisoners in the 19th Century when the well in the fort was insufficient for the needs of the inhabitants. It was initially part of the island but due to high tides and coastal erosion over the years now sits on its own about 20m away from the coast.

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There are lots of carrelets around the island so on a sunny day there are photo ops galore if you’re a good photographer – which I’m not…

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If you want something to eat, you’re probably best to bring a picnic as these two did

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Otherwise, you can buy a snack at the little camping site, visit the small farm or eat at one of the small restaurants at back Port des Barques.

Enjoy!

As usual, if you have any questions about cycling in the area please get in touch.

Adrian x

 

La Flow Vélo starts (or finishes) on the beautiful Île d’Aix just off the coast from Fouras. Ile d’Aix is small but perfectly formed with hollyhocks all over the place and lots of little sandy beaches on its beautiful coves.

There’s a tiny village with a few shops and restaurants, the obligatory 17th fort designed and built by Vauban to protect against the Brits and a gravel track goes round the island linking everything together. Cars are not allowed on the island so it’s peaceful and very quiet.

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If you’re doing, or thinking of doing, La Flow Vélo this year you’ll need the ferry timetables and charges to get across to Île d’Aix from Fouras and back again.

All the hard work has been done for you as here’s what you need to know (and all in English!)

The timetable changes each month and is here.

How much it will cost you and your bike is here.

In a nutshell, from the start of April to end September it’s €15.10 pp each way and your bike will cost you €5.70 each way.

The exact location of the ferry is here.

And here is a link to all a list of the hotels, restaurants and other services on the island.

If you don’t want to stay on the island then the Grand Hotel des Bains in Fouras is a registered Accueil Vélo hotel so you’ll be sure of a warm welcome.

Lyn at Freewheelingfrance.com rode the whole La Flow Vélo route last year and here are her thoughts and pearls of wisdom.

As always, if you have any question about cycling in Charente Maritime, then please get in touch.

Thanks!

Adrian x

The gorgeous Île de Ré in Charente Maritime is best known for being an upmarket bolthole where well heeled Parisians can let their hair down away from the grime and dirt of the City of Lights.

Its cute villages are lined with picture perfect ‘maisons de campagne’ that used to be lived in by fishermen or salt harvesters.

The small towns that dot the island have beautiful harbours built by Vauban in the 17th Century and the beaches are idyllic to say the least.

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The best way to get around the island is by cycling as there is a superb network of clearly marked cycle lanes that link each village to the next. (Tip from the top: Don’t cycle on the roads as you’ll get honked at – it’s not allowed!)

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Here is a link to the official 2019 Ile de Ré Cycle map which you seem to be able to download as a pdf.

You can hire bikes in all the main villages and get one for a day or as long as you like.

Pretty much every place you stop at is so perfect you’ll be hard pushed to move but it’s worth trying to get to the Phare des Baleines at the furthest tip for breathtaking views out to the Atlantic…

Worth a particular mention are La Flotte and St Martin de Ré which look like film sets as beautiful people (TM) waft around in floaty dresses or stripy tops!

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I have had several delicious lunches at Beach Bar Ile de Ré hidden down a side road on the way to the beach in Le Bois Plage en Ré. Have the Spéciale Oysters, some ‘Maigre’ (a local fish) with a glass of white wine followed by a Café Gourmand and you’ll be ready for an afternoon’s cycling if you can drag yourself away.

Equally good but a bit more formal is Les Viviers en Ré in Rivedoux Plage where you will feast on locally caught ‘fruits de mer’.

Now feel free to wend your way home and have a good rest!

Enjoy Ile de Ré – it’s literally a perfect place to cycle and enjoy a relaxing few days.

Please ask me if you have any other questions about cycling in Charente Maritime!

 

The route has been announced for the 2019 Tour du Poitou Charentes which will take place from Tuesday 27 – Friday 30 August this year. It starts in Niort and finishes in Poitiers 658km later passing through the rolling hills and vineyards of the region.

I’m sure that this will be the most action that some of the quiet villages have seen for quite some time!

The day stages are as follows:

Day 1: Niort – Rochefort – 189km

Day 2: Rochefort – Aigre – 168km

Day 3 (am): Châtellerault – Pleumartin – 111km

Day 3 (pm): Time Trial – Leigné-les-bois – Pleumartin – 23km.

Day 4: Aigre – Poitiers – 167km.

Have a look at the detailed routes for each day here:

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You can switch up your cycling trip along Euro Route 1 – La Vélodyssée by going down the Gironde Estuary past Talmont-sur-Gironde with its beautiful 11th century church that overlooks the estuary.

Next up is the picturesque port of Mortagne-sur-Gironde and this is followed by 50km or so through the vineyards and sunflower fields down to Blaye which has a UNESCO World Heritage Citadel that was built by the Marquis of Vauban in the 17th Century.

From Blaye you can get the ferry across the Gironde to Lamarque from where you can cycle through some of the Médoc to Lacanau and rejoin the Euro Route 1!

Here is the ferry timetable for 2019:

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And here are the tarifs:

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If you have any other questions about cycling in the area, please get in touch here.

The link to the rest of my website is here.

If you’re thinking of cycling the Vélodyssée or Le Canal de 2 Mers à Vélo this year, here’s timetable for the ferry crossings from Pointe de Grave in Royan to Verdon.

It’s in French but you’ll get the gist 😉

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Here’s a link to a pdf version: 2019FerryTimetableRoyanVerdon

It costs €3.60 one way in high season (1st May to 30 September) and €2.80 the rest of the time. Bicycles are free.

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If you have any other questions about cycling in Charente Maritime please get in touch.

Here’s the link to the front page and the rest of my site.

 

 

Peter and Gerard came to stay last week for a relaxing time cycling around Charente Maritime. Peter had worked in Cognac as a stagiaire a while back so wanted to rediscover the area and see it in the sunshine.

This is a great opportunity to show briefly what a week at Chez les Bons looks like from both the cycling and the eating point of view!

On their first morning we collected their bikes from Royan Bycycles after a breakfast of fresh bread from the local boulangerie with home-made mirabelle jam from the neighbour’s trees.

Our first ride was a local one to loosen the legs and enjoy the stunning estuary with its gentle breeze amongst the vast number of sunflowers  and grape vines.

Naturally a coffee stop and light lunch were the order of the day, we set off after lunch at a gentle pace to ensure we made the most of the cool tailwind to assist us home where we were greeted with a nice cold beer and a glass of rose.

Needless to say after such a great start Gerard and Peter were up early and super keen to get in the saddle as today’s schedule was going to be beautiful, taking in medieval dungeons and the beautiful town of Saintes which nestles on the banks of the river Charente. There may have been some dangling of toes in the water on a hot day.

As neither had been to Ile d’Oléron, this was Tuesday’s destination. Peter wanted an easier day so leaving the car nearby, he visited the 17th century citadel of Brouage

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Meanwhile Gerard and I headed off for a quick tour of the island taking in its oyster beds and the Lighthouse at the northern tip. After which we all met up for a late lunch in the port of Chateau d’Oléron on the south eastern corner of the island.

 

When they said they wanted to visit the Médoc on Tuesday and Wednesday my first thought was – what an excellent idea! Having only visited briefly last year, I was keen to get to know this area of pine forests and world-renowned vineyards much better. After a quick online search accommodation was found and booked and we were off on Tuesday morning to get the ferry from Royan.

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The afternoon was spent cycling through the shady pine forests on the Atlantic coast.

That evening after a hot 120km we were fed and watered and in bed early!
On Wednesday we went over to the eastern part of the peninsula and along the Gironde Estuary through the vineyards of St Estephe, St Julien and Pauillac. The workers were hard at it trimming back the vines in the baking sunshine, as were we as we cycled 80k working off the bottle of red wine that we had polished off the night before.

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The last 60k from Blaye back home from 4.30 onwards were perhaps the hardest as the heat really began to have an effect.

After our exertions in the Médoc, a quieter day was called for on Thursday so a 50k loop through the Fort de la Coubre was in order – finished off with moules frites in the sunshine at La Tremblade.

Total – 576km for the week!

What did we eat?

Breakfast

  • Delicious bread from the local bakery and home-made jam
  • Muesli and granola
  • Lots of coffee

Lunches

  • A great menu du jour on Ile d’Oleron – only €13.50!
  • A baguette on the beach in the Médoc
  • A great menu du jour waiting for the ferry back – €25.00
  • Moules frites on the port of La Tremblade

Dinners

  • La Crique – on Plage de Suzac between St Georges de Didonne and Meschers.
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  • Pizzas from the wood fired oven watching England play Tunisia in the sunshine at Le Soubok in Royan
  • Barbecues at home

 

Thanks very much for coming Peter and Gerard, and from the feedback you really enjoyed it too – I can’t wait to see you again next year.

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Whilst working at The Felix Project last winter I met the lovely Katie Barraclough who told me that she loves taking pictures of places and food in her spare and travel time.

We talked about the possibility of her coming to stay for a weekend and came up with the idea of a couple of days in La Rochelle with its beautiful windy streets, photogenic harbour and sunsets followed by a couple of days at Chez les Bons and new local restaurant La Crique.

She had recently bought a snazzy new camera and was keen to try it out in the area. Luckily for us, the sun was out whilst she was here so all the pictures she took including house, garden and restaurant looked amazing!

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Outside

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Inside.

What do you think?

The village Fete is a key part of village life all over France.

It involves all the inhabitants getting together around some local event or monument and eating, drinking and dancing until late into the night. They can reminisce about how the fête used to be and complain about how the drink-driving laws are now so strict that they can actually remember getting home in the morning.

There are some unofficial rules to be followed even if the organisers are unaware.

  • Firstly, there must be a negligible presence on social media. The organising committee will probably have an average age of 70+ so a press release to the local paper will be the latest great PR stunt.
  • Secondly, there must be much local produce – in Charente Maritime this will include Pineau, Moules and Oysters. All eating of said produce is to be done on wooden trestle tables.
  • Thirdly, there must be a cover band. This will preferably be an ageing French rocker, given Johnny Halliday’s unfortunate recent passing, expect to see many covers of varying quality doing the rounds this year.
  • Lastly, once the fete has been set up and is running smoothly, it must never, ever change. The younger fetes are 20 years old, when they get to 40 they’re well established. By the time they reach 100 years then a telegram from the Queen would be in the post, if they had one – a queen that is, not a postal service.

So with that in mind, here are two Charentais village fetes that follow most if not all of the rules above. They are set up and run by small committees that do it for the love of the village and for a great few days. When you go be sure to seek them out and say thanks!

The Fête du Pineau at Epargnes

Pineau is the local aperitif and the local producers let you taste the fruits of their labour from wooden stalls that are put up for the occasion.

It spreads over 3 days and each evening there is a barbeque and you eat out under the stars on the aforementioned wooden tables.

Last year was the 40th anniversary and they really pushed the boat out with covers of Celine Dion AND Johnny Halliday that rounded off the evenings.

It is held this year from 10-12 August.

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Gala Cycliste at Champagnolles

Champagnolles has the only grass Velodrome in Europe and the first Saturday of July they invite championship racers and clubs from all over France to race around it.

This year is the 96th edition so it’s been going for a while.

After the races there’s a massive roast suckling pig and drinking into the night.

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Enjoy!

The route has been announced for the 2018 Tour du Poitou Charentes which will take place from Tuesday 21 – Friday 24 August this year. It starts in Jonzac and finishes in Poitiers 660km later passing through the rolling hills and vineyards of the region.

I’m sure that this will be the most action that some of the quiet villages have seen for quite some time!

The day stages are as follows:

Day 1: Jonzac – Cognac – 193km

Day 2: Segonzac – Melle – 189km

Day 3: Gençay – Couhé – 98km

Day 4: Time Trial – Champagné St Hilaire – Couhé – 23km.

Day 5: Brioux-sur-Boutonne – Poitiers – 157km.

Have a look at the routes for each day here:

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The following teams have confirmed (up to 7th June):

Trek-Segafredo

AG2R La Mondiale

Groupama FDJ

Astana Pro Team

Cofidis, Solutions Credits

Wilier Triestina – Selle Italia

Euskadi Basque Country – Murias

It will be a great opportunity to see up and coming riders from these well known teams up close. Enjoy!

If you have any questions about cycling in the region please ask!