Day 1 – Day 14. Romford – Bordeaux.
The day had come. 14 months worth of work, planning and saving had lead to this moment. It was a cool, crisp, clear spring morning for our departure- perfect cycling weather.
We loaded our bikes for the first time with our 40kg load and made our way to where family and friends were gathered for our departure. After choked up goodbyes and some watery eyes we were finally underway.
“The road goes ever on…” lets hope so Bilbo Baggins, lets hope so.
We travelled south and took our first ferry over the Thames and into Kent for the start of the Kent Downs.
The ‘Garden of England’ may invoke images of lush, green rolling hills, but for two rookie touring cyclists with large, overfilled panniers, riding up steep, off road gradients it became a baptism of fire!
On our first night deep in the Downs we tried to find a place to wild camp. This was quite new to us and we were unsure as to where was an ideal spot. We opted for a little clearing near a junction in the bridal paths, next to a farmers field. I plotted my tent on a slope and only realised when I went to sleep and subsequently started to slide down hill! I had no choice but to sleep outside with just my sleeping bag! The apprenticeship had begun.
During our route South East to Dover via Folkestone for our ferry crossing, England gave us a parting gift- rain. What else? The crossing to Dunkirk was accompanied with storm clouds- Blighty was evidently reluctant to let us depart in good weather.
On arrival in Dunkirk our first point of call was the Commonwealth War Graves. Reflection and mental preparation was needed in light of the adventure to come.
The journey south and south east via Amiens, Dieppe and into Caen saw flat roads and drizzly rain. However it was clear from the start that France knew how to maintain her roads. ‘Pot holes’ does not appear in the French Dictionary.
Caen saw our first ‘rest day’ being that in order to get out of the consistent rain, after only 30 miles of riding we opted to check into a F1 cheap hotel. Our first bed in a week felt like heaven and the next day the rain ceased for a journey south.
From Caen to Bordeaux we cycled through; Fourgeres, Rennes, Nantes and Niort. The route was flat and repetitive with farmers fields and cows becoming everyday features. The smell however took some getting used to!
The loom of the south became more and more present on the approach to Bordeaux. With the the weather warming and the dairy farms becoming few and far between, being rather replaced with vineyards.
We entered Bordeaux with the sun on our backs and smooth roads guiding us along the river Garonne. We were beaming, not just because we had made it to one of Frances most beautiful cities but also because we knew we had our first full day off the bikes and time to rest the legs- and more importantly our back-sides!
Our apprenticeship was well underway and we were ready for Frances Vichy south!