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Day 13, Mimizan Plage to Capbreton, Best day's cycling so far

The Hotel Single Fin in Mimizan Plage has been the best stay so far. Great location, room, breakfast, I'd definitely come back here if passing through again - which I hope I will be. OK, and there's a motorbike in the dining room and the manager lady is very attractive.

Within minutes of leaving the hotel I'm on the velodyssee track. It's a bit more undulating and twisty than previous days which makes it much more interesting and even better, if that's imaginable. Still largely going through forest. It's a blue sky morning and the sun is beaming through the pine trees. The birds are singing. It really is that idyllic, I'm not making it up.

For miles the velodyssee track, which is pristine tarmac, 2-3 metres wide, follows alongside a more off-road track, gravel, but hard packed and even wider. Given there's already such an amazing bike track, a bit like a forestry commission track in the New Forest, it's pretty amazing they go and build a completely separate even better one alongside. Makes me think. Now some moaners might say here's an example of the EU wasting taxpayers money. But to me it's just amazing investment in infrastructure for the pleasure of all who want to make use of it. I don't remember any of this coming up in the Brexit debate. Must get myself an EU flag and attach it to the bike.

In Poole, the most you get from the council is a dotted white line painted down the side of a road for a few metres where a cyclist is probably not at risk, but as soon as it gets dodgy, the road narrows, junctions, all that stuff, the cycle lane disappears. Too difficult, too costly. You can imagine the person in the council responsible for encouraging cycling has never sat on a bicycle, goes everywhere in a car and has no clue what's needed. Giles and Pauline went to the Netherlands earlier in the year and were raving about the provision for cycling. Well from this experience, France has got it sussed in large dollops.

An hour in and I arrive at my first programmed coffee stop, Contis Plage, This is a seriously chilled surf spot, and even at this time of year, it's all open, and you can just feel the cool vibe. I park up at a café where all the young dudes are having their breakfast. I can't believe it, that's the closest thing to a full English I've ever seen in France. You know, bacon, scrambled egg, baked beans, toast, but on a pretentious looking plate. Bet it cost more than a Wetherspoons special. Actually my latte coffee in this place cost more than a Wetherspoons full English. How do they do it? Anyway, as I'm sipping my latte in the sun a Ferrari rolls past. Yep, this is the place to hang out on a Sunday in October in France.

Can't hang around too long, although it would be very nice to as lots of very pretty people amble past carrying their surf boards.

I've got distance to make. So it's back on the track. There's more cyclists out today, perhaps because it's an even better area and it's the weekend. They're all out just for the day, no exceptional loads, It's always worrying when you're the only one doing something, or is it that they're employing servants to transport their luggage by donkey so they don't have to struggle. The result of the more bends and hills and more cyclists is the - I wonder what's round the next bend - is relevant. As I come to a bend going uphill, trying to keep my speed up, this couple are coming the other way, side by side, at full chat, taking up the entire path. She's on the outside. She sees me, we make eye contact, I see the fear in her eyes. There's no way I'm moving. One, it's my taxes that have paid for this path, two, I'm Irish, three, I've got 3 tons of baggage immediately behind me so I'm pretty sure in a collision she's coming off worst and anyway, agile is a word you would not use now to describe my bike. I think she got the message, because at the very last moment she managed to pull over. The thought of a "bonjour" was totally inappropriate and instead I'm immediately thinking I need to tell her to keep to the right. Except in French. I got the "a droit" bit pretty quickly, but I'm unsure about the verb. "Tenez" comes to mind, but we'd say "keep" and that's guardez. Could go for "roulez" or "conduisez", but I think they're more appropriate for a car. I decide to go for "tenez a droit". Damn, in the 5 minutes I've spent working this out they're miles past and out of sight. I think she secretly knew though.

The track takes a small detour inland to a small town, Leon, which I saw on google last night when planning the route has a boulangerie. I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but I might just be getting the hang of this caper, because at the stroke of midi, when all good Frenchie's are downing tools for lunch, I cycled in to Leon and park up at the boulangerie. This has to be the best one yet. In the past a lot of boulangeries might just have had a few baguettes, but they've now developed into gastronomic treasures and this one had every lunch item possible including savouries, hot and cold and patisseries, drinks. I spent the next hour walking up and down the long counter trying to decide what to have. Analysis paralysis had seriously set in. In the end I went for this smoked salmon and egg salad pitta bread thingy, plus a delicious raspberry tart, with the fresh raspberries piled high on a pastry base covered with custard. I then sat outside in the sun and stuffed myself, washed down with Orangina (only because it was included at no extra cost) and a café au lait. Surprisingly most of the Frenchie's coming out of the shop were just carrying their daily baguette. Don't they realise what they're missing?

Back to the track. Final scheduled stop was at Soustons, Port Albret. An absolutely stunning place next to a lagoon connected to the sea. It was buzzing with people having their Sunday lunch. If I wasn't already so stuffed, it would have made a great place for lunch.

On the final cycle leg now and the track is running alongside the road. A Merc SLK goes past with its roof down. Yes, that's the answer. Roads are wide and quiet at this time of year, no trouble parking, weather brilliant, get a bicycle on the back and could be the perfect rig. That's a thought written to hard disk memory for another plan.

The south west coast of France is big for surfing. Atlantic rollers generated in storms 4000 miles away hit the continental shelf and crash onto what are literally hundreds of miles of beach. As a result of the shape of the sea floor the last bit of the coast where I am has the best waves. There are people carrying surfboards everywhere. They even have brackets for carrying a surfboard on a bicycle.

I arrive at Capbreton. We visited here on a bus when we sailed down this coast and got stormbound in Bayonne. Back then, on a very windy and wet day in spring of 2017, I remembered Capbreton as not exceptional. But today in the sunshine, it was another La Rochelle moment. The place was packed, all the businesses were open. It was 26C. Boats were coming and going from the harbour.

This day has just been exceptional. Great cycling, amazing places to visit, fantastic weather, in the middle of October. Can you believe it. Richard P - I haven't passed on an idea to you to get on your wall planner for a while, but trust me, a cycling trip down here needs to go on it.

I like to keep my audience happy, so I made an effort to take a photo before I left Mimizan from my hotel balcony, but I can't seem to access it from the yahoo webmail that I use on my Chromebook. Going to need more techy investigation. I did try.

Tomorrow will be my last full day in France. Crossing the border on Tuesday. Got my "Hola" ready.

Distance today 85km

Total so far 1190 km give or take, I keep forgetting the exact numbers


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