Weather forecast was for fine, warm day, so went for the full strip off into summer gear. Didn't even need the arm warmers.
La Rochelle the city was stunning, the complete opposite of all the other places shut and empty. It was heaving. However, the countryside is just more of the same totally flat, agricultural, drainage canals and ditches, It's generally arable, but I had one encounter with wildlife. I'm cycling along beside a ditch and this massive bird takes off from the ditch with a fish in its beak. The bird was massive. Not sure if was a crane or a stork, but it was so close it seemed the size of an aircraft.
Got to Rochefort without further incident, had a cycle around to check out a stunning place and sat down in the main square for morning coffee. It's all going so well. Then....
I'm cycling south out of Rochefort looking for the road to Royan, my stay overnight.
Once I'm past the buildings this enormous bridge comes into view. I can't believe it, why I am always facing bridge issues. This one goes over the Charante river and there's no other option. Worryingly there's a sign on it saying due to works, it will be shut to cyclists from the 23rd October. What happens then? Does a pile of rotting cyclists just build up after that date?
It got worse, the other side of the bridge the road to Royan does not allow cyclists. OK, google is saying there's a cycle lane running alongside. Within about 100m it just disappears in a ploughed field. Now what? I look at my options on google and for the first time there's a complete absence of alternative minor roads running nearby. I decide to head in completely the wrong direction for the coast, hoping there's going to be some suitable route, although I know it will be a lot longer.
I spend the next 2 hours cycling in ever alarming circles. This is my worst nav situation in the trip. There was one moment of respite when I randomly came across this ancient citadel with a complete village inside, including many upmarket restaurants. It was now after 1pm and in a less stressed situation I might have stopped, but the day was now going so badly I thought I might need every hour of daylight. Half an hour later I'm completely confused. There's a national cycle route called the Velodyssee which runs done the entire west coast of France. The Vendeevelo formed part of it. I was hoping I might pick up the route south of La Rochelle. I did just that. Trouble is because these routes meander, they don't just go in a single direction and I came across the route when it was running east west, despite overall going north south. So here I am, desperate to find a route, signed going to Royan, and instead I've got two signs at the same point, pointing in opposite directions. Clearly one for each overall direction of travel. Trouble is they're identical. No destination names, identical. On the Isle of Wight, there's a cycle route around the island and the powers that be are bright enough to have the signs for clockwise in the reverse colours of the anticlockwise ones. So if you just come across a pair at a location, you know which one to follow. These Velodyssee signs are orange centre with a blue border incorporating the EU ring of stars. You can just imagine they've paid some bunch of branding idiots a zillion euros to come up with the design. Oh we can't change it for the reverse direction as the EU logo will be the wrong colour. Bloody hell!!
I'm at a really low point, possibly about to cry, wondering which of the two identical signs to follow and I see in the distance heaven.
Sadly the place was absolutely full of families. There's a massive queue for the order screens. It looks like the parents have left it to the kids to order so they have can have an hour of respite from being in a car with them. So each group is taking about an hour to go through a selection. For **** sake, just get on with it. I finally get my order and sit outside, eat, drink and chill. Spend a bit of time on google and work out which way to go. It's still a long way.
I'm now back cycling and suddenly there's this massive navigation light in the sky directly ahead. It's been cloudy up to now so the government obviously only puts it up there when its nice. I'm now following the Velodyssee signs, I've got a personal navigation light in my face, I think I'm going to make it - some time.
When I got the other side of the bridge at Rochefort I had 40km to go. I've now been cycling a solid 2 and half hours more and I've got 40km to go. I'm now in green power all the time, my legs are just pissed off with the lack of competence higher up the body. The day is partially recovered by the last 25km. I'm on a serious EU funded cycle track which makes the M25 look like a lane. I'm either by the sea with stunning views or going through a forest. At one coast point with 20km to go I find a cafe open and take a rest.
Arrival into Royan seems to take forever. I'm cycling right next to the sea and the path follows every inlet and headland. This last bit is taking forever and its the hilliest part of the entire day. I'm running on electron fumes. I still have to sit on a bench for 30 minutes to wait for the hotel check-in to open up. Royan is another stunning place.
I've been out to dinner. 3 course menu and I'm absolutely stuffed. Such good food. Must have been over a hundred tables in one of many restaurants and there was only me and a couple of others sat in there. This place must be about to shut up for the winter.
Distance today 115 km (it was meant to be 80km)
Total so far 835 km
I had thought the Spanish border was around 1000km from Cherbourg, but I've clearly got this very wrong.