Weymouth to Lisbon

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Weymouth to Bordeaux via Paris

Storm Caroline caused chaos for us before we even left home. Our own fault for not going sooner before winter proper set in.

It was Friday and we were going on Sunday, Brittany Ferries texted, the ferry was cancelled. The management, used to the antics of Condor, put it down to few bookings on the ship. But a look at the weather forecast of 60mph winds proved him wrong.

Whatever the reason this messed up our bookings and put us into a turmoil. As usual we had a whirlwind of ideas, most of which were impractical. Eurostar soon became the front runner and they even had a special offer fare to Bordeaux. The only trouble was that their travel schedule was not good for us.

Saturday came and the stoker was hanging on the phone waiting for “an agent” who is always “especially busy at the moment”, just like every other hindrance line one tries. But having got through and spent about an hour on the phone everything was booked except the bikes. And the agent, Ryan, was really nice and helpful, working from the Midlands and snowed in.

By Saturday evening we had even managed to book the bikes on the same train. Despite Cycling UK claiming a breakthrough this can't be done online and it is still a chicken and egg situation. We risked booking the travel and then the bikes. Who knows how or even if this would work at busy times? Even at this time of year it took seven emails and three phone calls, most of which were abortive.

The revised arrangements cost us about £250 more but all being well we will be back on schedule when we get to Bordeaux. And in view of the management's susceptibility to sea sickness he was glad not to be at sea in Storm Caroline.

Monday and everywhere north of Basingstoke was arctic, schools closed and roads blocked. We cycled to the station and initially all went surprisingly well. But a line side fire at Waterloo got us dumped off at Vauxhall. What was worse, we were two hours late with no chance of catching our booked Eurostar train.

Cycling across London done we checked the bikes in at St Pancras and joined a long queue at the booking office to rebook on a later train.

We were lucky, on this occasion we had a through booking from Weymouth to Bordeaux so were entitled to get a later train with no extra payment. On the downside the long booking office queue was full of people from the frozen north trying to do the same thing.

A lovely lady booking clerk very kindly managed to get us on the next train. Having navigated the huge crowds to board we were soon speeding through the Channel tunnel.

Paris was not so easy. The panniers without bikes are very heavy and Paris Nord has no luggage trolleys. Having half dragged and half carried them off the long platform we got a taxi for the very short ride to the hotel.

We need to rethink our bike bag carriage next time we come this way. The best option could be to send the panniers with the bikes as registered luggage.

The hostel near the station may not have been the most luxurious place we have stayed but had everything we needed. It was warm and comfortable with plenty of storage for bikes and luggage.

Cycling across Paris is now worse than cycling in London. We battled our way to Montparnasse station, stopping on the way at the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

SNCF has taken to developing over the station, with high rise, to the point where it was very difficult for us to find the entrance, When we did we had to take the bikes up an escalator which is not recommended.

We folded the bikes into their bags and enjoyed the very relaxing journey to Bordeaux, just like the old adverts for Intercity UK. It must be around 600km to Bordeaux and we were doing 300km an hour most of the time. In the West Country we have just celebrated new trains which could possibly do 125 mph if the track were up to it. And back in the 1970's BR invented high speed trains.

Folding and unfolding the Airnimals took about 10 minutes each time for the two of them, There were no problems and the management was very happy.

Bordeaux to Irun by bike

Our first proper ride was something of a baptism of fire. But our first stay was fine. We catered lavishly for ourselves, having spent 10 Euros in Lidl.

We had a long way to go and a big city to exit. We left late and it was raining. Leaving Bordeaux was fine, it is always nice when carefully planned routes work out. We went through ancient, modern and modernist quarters, mainly on cycle paths.

Unfortunately the route after leaving the city was not good. It was all on D roads but of the worst kind, busy and straight and mainly without cycle paths.

Then we had the problem of the stoker's battery being used against a head wind for a third more kms than it was supposed to do.

The battery ran out completely about 200m from the hotel. At that point, having operated the throttle to start, when it didn't work she promptly fell off. Fortunately, having been picked up by the management and a helpful French lady, no lasting harm was done.

Thursday was like chalk and cheese compared with yesterday. Mainly sunny and the threatened showers passed us by on the ride. It was not balmy warm but the management was down to three thin layers, shorts and no gloves.

We cycled through the colourful street market in Parentis-en-Born and the rest of the day were on the excellent cycle paths through the forest. It was definitely Cafe To Cafe and we were certainly not Cycling (in the) UK.

We arrived at Lit-et-Mixe to find the hotel closed until 5pm. But not actually locked so the stoker went in and found an open bedroom to rest after the journey. The management meanwhile, avoiding a heavy shower, explored the sleepy little village. The only things open were an ironmongers and a laundrette.

Lit-et-Mixe would be a good base for proper cyclists to explore the forest trails and the modern hotel was fine.

The Friday weather forecast was for heavy showers followed by thunder storms and we got it all including a hail storm mixed in. Again we were almost entirely on cycle routes and we enjoyed our last day in the forest.

We arrived at our first Airbnb in a leafy part of Hossegor. We had the basement of a large house and our Spanish hosts did their best to make us welcome for a day off.

Irun to Lisbon by Train

Sunday dawned though actually we got up in the dark. We wanted to make an early start to be sure of getting the sleeper train to Lisbon at 18h45 tonight. It was still very cold when we left very quietly at 09h30.

The ride started on cycle paths through the woods and beside the canal. Plenty of runners and cyclists were up early and much better wrapped up than us. It was a nice day but only about 3 degrees.

We pressed on along the urban streets of Anglet and Biarritz. The management had planned a complex route. It was as short as possible and avoided busy roads. He always enjoys this kind of route where we can see how people live. And in this area it is mainly very well.

We had a brief coffee stop at a huge LeClerc supermarket full of Chistmas tat. From here on the cycle path is mainly rubbish. Like Sustrans the route is good but the surface, gradients and signage bad. We pushed, literally in some places, on to St Jean de Luz for a very late lunch.

As we skirted Hendaye it got dark but soon enough we were crossing the wide river bridge into Irun just inside Spain. We found the train station with an hour to spare and the train was there waiting.

It takes a bit of ingenuity to get the bikes and all our luggage in a first class sleeper compartment. Especially as we wanted to use both the shower and the toilet. Not only did we manage that but we also charged the stoker's battery and the all important GPSs and phones from the now redundant cabin shaver socket.

The train rumbled on through the night and we were awoken by the steward tapping on the door to announce our arrival in Lisbon.