Monday, 4th September, 2017
I sailed on the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry with my pushbike on Monday, 4th September 2017, departing Newhaven at 0900 hrs. Arriving in Dieppe at 1400 hrs, I started to follow the l’avenue verte to Paris. This l’avenue verte, finished in 2012, is a cycle route that connects London to Paris. Of course I didn’t know this at the time but what a coincidence since I was heading for Paris initially as my starting point for El camino.
Thursday, 7th September, 2017 (Total 280 km)
Four days and 280 km later, on Thursday, 7th September, I reached Paris. Judy arrived on the Eurostar a day later to spend the weekend with me. This period is naturally absent from my blog!
Monday, 11th September, 2017
I’d decided to pick up my créanciale in Paris and then losely follow the Grande Randonnée GR65 to Chartres, Tours, Poitiers, Bordeaux and then to St. Jean Pied de Port which many may take as their starting point for walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
Here’s my créanciale, stamped Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
I had nursed my new (new to me) touring cycle along the l’avenue verte to Paris, having developed a problem with the crank gear shifter caused by the failure of the plastic cable guide underneath the crank.
I finally found a new generic replacement that after some re engineering with my Leatherman multi-tool seemed to work ok. I had a bit of a mishap however in that I badly cut the top of my thumb as I was remodelling the plastic component with a knife. Of well, the insulation tape that I carry for mechanical repairs came in as band-aid!
Tuesday, 12th September, 2017 Paris – Chartres 109 km (Total 389 km)
Tuesday 12th September, Judy safely returned to England via Eurostar, and with créanciale safely stowed in waterproof document wallet in pannier, I arrive in Chartres. A good push today and I got my créanciale stamped.
Wednesday, 13th September, 2017 Chartres – Chateaudun 49 km (Total 439 km)
Strong wind and heavy rain require waterproof jacket and leggings to be worn making for a tiring day in the saddle. I check into a hotel in Chateaudun at four and fall straight asleep. The next morning, as I’m loading my cycle, a Frenchman joins me to load his bike. I ask where he’s going in my best french. He says home, Paris, not far now. With a contented look in his eye he says I’ll show you and out come the maps of his grand tour. He retired in February 2017 and in June he set out on a clockwise tour of France, and of course Corse, and now he was on the homeward bound leg. He’d been going 83 days!
Thursday, 14th September, 2017 Chateaudun – Tours 96 km (Total 535 km)
A lovely bright day for cycling but still a very strong crosswind which has hampered progress. A respectable push however. Met a lovely old frenchman in Chateau-Renault who spoke perfect English. He spoke of living in Palo Alto, CA, and it reminded me of the time that I’d cycled down the bay area of San Fransisco on a borrowed cycle with a wonky pedal.
Friday, 15th September, 2017 Tours – Poitiers 104 km (Total 648 km)
My créanciale stamped this morning in Tours. Three stamps, Paris, Chartres and Tours. I’ve decided that this is uncannily like when skiing in the Three Valleys I always have to achieve the ‘Three Valleys Certificate of Ski-man-ship’ by notching up lift pass ticks at the requisite ski lift stations to gain my award.
Saturday, 16th September, 2017 Poitiers – Anguolême 139 km (Total 787 km)
A reallly good push today and my knees are feeling it! I met Remy, from Strasbourg, en route who had covered just over 1100 km. He wore un coquille Saint – Jacques on his back and insisted on giving me one. Later on in the day i started to see Chemins de Saint Jacques signs with le coquille symbol en-route – I really must be on the right track!
Then I met Angus from Edinbugh who informed me that I’d be passing Mark Beaumont anytime as he headed up from Anguolême on his attempt to beat his Guiness Book of Records title as being the fastest man to cycle around the world. Our closing velocities must have been so quick that I missed him. He wouldn’t have thanked me if I’d stopped him to ask him for his autograph anyway.
Angus was also on his way home and had covered, so far, over 7000 km circumnavigating the Iberian peninsula. You’ve rightly guessed that meeting people such as Remy and Angus really spur you on when at a low ebb.
Sunday, 17th September, 2017 Anguolême – La Roche Chalais 63 km (Total 860 km)
My plan today was to get to Bordeaux. I’ve cycled Bordeaux to Anguolême before and, if I remember correctly, I did that in a day towing a Bob Yak lookalike single wheel trailer so I thought that it would be possible. Unfortunately not.
My first delay was trying to get my créanciale stamped. Church locked so no stamp. I hadn’t had a stamp for a day or two so I was begining to question my very existence.
My second delay was in trying to cross Anguolême heading south. Not possible today because many roads completely shut off for ‘Circuit des remparts’
Hotels in Anguolême pretty much fully booked by English car enthusiasts!
I eventually found my way south but met with torrential rain resulting in once again this very poor show of only 63 km.
Monday, 18th September, 2017 La Roche-Chalais – Marmande 99km (Total 960 km)
No rain today so I made respectable progress. I enjoyed meeting Matthias and Viooltje in the Chambre d’Hôte over breakfast. Matthias worked for the Bishop of Münster Cathedral for 24 years and now spent his time working as an organiser and guide for those whose busy lives would only permit them to walk a small part of El camino!
The Chambre d’Hôte was a lovely grand 18th century building but it had a resident cat. The cat had fleas!
Tuesday, 19th September, 2017 Marmande – Mont de Marsan 104km (Total 1063km)
Well, that’s a milestone – passing the 1000km mark! One cheeky blog reader wanted to know what I looked like at the end of the day after cycling 100km.
I stopped for a quick sandwich in Saint Justin. Good job I did as a herd of goats appeared with no road sense whatsoever.
Wednesday, 20th September, 2017 Mont de Marsan – Orthez 80km (Total 1144km)
I begin to get my first views of the Pyrénées Atlantiques and my legs know it! For the first time, I’m having to use all the gears on the bike. I’m not expecting any more 100km days and I’m pleased with todays progress of 80km. I know progress would be a lot slower if I’d brought the donkey with me.
So, I’m worried about the logistics of getting to Malaga and then having to get my bike back home. Carmen from Germany, and Lisa from Holland, are walking El camino with a donkey. My heart goes out to that donkey!
Before I left Mont de Marsan this morning, I posted back home some clothing that hadn’t been up to the mark in the torrential rain that I’d met up with en-route. I replaced it with wet weather gear having a higher specification. I’m not sure that the Maire of M de M’s attempts to combat the wet weather would’ve been much good either.
Thursday, 21st September, 2017 Orthez – St. Jean Pied de Port 68km (Total 1212km)
Hot and sunny as I leave Orthez.
For the first time, meet up with a dozen or more pèlerins. This was one of them.
In the foothills of the Pyrenees, it’s hard going and only 68km covered today, but I reach Saint Jean Pied de Port which was my goal.
Friday, 22nd September, 2017
I wake up in Saint Jean Pied de Port and it’s raining. Thank goodness that I found a superb Chambre d’Hôte to spend the night and that I was not having to pack a wet tent! I had a most enjoyable evening dining with Bernard, from France, and Ewald, from Holland. We discussed the Brexit issue and Ewald’s electric bike! In the morning, I left by Le porte Saint Jacques after spending a little time sight-seeing in Saint Jean Pied de Port.
Low clouds, which can be seen in the above photograph, preclude panoramic snaps of the Pyrenees! A few kms out of Saint Jean Pied de Port, I cross the border into Spain – goto menu tab ‘El camino’.