Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tour de Rêves Day Six

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
Tour de Rêves route day six Etusson to Secondigny

We fell asleep listening to the rain, so it was a lovely surprise to wake up to blue skies and sunshine. Things were looking up for our last day, until I looked closely at the time on my ipad while lounging in bed with a cup of tea. We had set our alarm for 7.30, planned to meet the others for breakfast at 8.00 but my ipad seemed to be telling me it was 8.40. I was confused, until I realised we had used Adrian’s UK phone for the alarm, which was still set on UK time and we were suddenly in a flap and officially late for breakfast.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
Ready to leave (in the sunshine)

It wasn’t a good start for me. I ended up finishing my lemon and ginger tea with breakfast and stupidly declining a coffee. I had often been slower than the others during the week, but that was nothing compared to my snail-like progress this morning for the 22kms into Bressuire without caffeine. It is a mistake I will not be repeating. They all did a lot of stopping and waiting for me to catch up and I could tell Adrian was getting quite worried.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
In the local paper again
Happily, with caffeine in my system once more and pepped up by a surprise visit from a local journalist who was waiting in Bressuire to interview us (we were beginning to feel like celebrities), the rest of the day was much easier for me.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
Along the voie verte to Moncoutant

It was an easy, flat run to Moncoutant along the old railway line and thanks to the family who were waiting for us (to make a donation), we were pointed in the direction of a restaurant for our final meal together. There was certainly a lot to talk about over lunch and we all agreed that despite the physical effort involved and uncomfortable weather, we’d all had fun and having spent so much time in each others company it would seem rather strange saying goodbye later in the day. Things could have been so much different. We were not close friends when we dreamt up this challenge; in fact we had never actually met face to face until our first planning meeting. Over the course of a year we managed about three or four bike rides together, but none of those rides were over 40km, although we had got to know each other quite well via the countless emails back and forth attempting to organise the event. It had been hard work, but we unanimously agreed it had been worth it and that we’d do it again.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
Not more rain!

The weather might have been against us, but the support we received during the week had certainly made up for it. Just to ensure we knew who was boss, the rain reappeared shortly after lunch and was so heavy we had to take shelter under the trees, but we all decided that whatever the weather we would arrive in Secondigny with smiles on our faces and wearing our team jerseys (without rain jackets) with pride.

French Village Diaries Tour de Rêves charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres day six the return to Secondigny
Feeling like champions


It was a great feeling to cycle back into Secondigny and rather emotional to be greeted by so many relieved family members and friendly faces; many of them our cycling friends who had completed various stages with us during the week. Sarah and I were presented with flowers by the mairie of Secondigny and there were hugs and smiles all around. Despite being soggy from top to toe, it was a fantastic finale to an amazing adventure. In six days we had completed a 437km figure of eight circuit around the Deux-Sèvres, exploring our department following cycle routes and quiet back roads, meeting some amazing people and having great fun along the way. We really can’t thank everyone who helped and supported us in so many ways enough. THANK YOU.

The Tour de Rêves - a charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres department in France, undertaken by four mad friends, supported by many others, all with the aim of raising money for Rêves a charity making dreams come true for seriously ill children.


To read the other posts about our six day adventure click the links below.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tour de Rêves Day Five

Tour de Rêves day five Thouars to Etusson French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves route day five Thouars to Etusson 57km

We left the Mortons under grey, heavy skies with more than a hint of rain in the air and made our way carefully (and painfully slowly in my case) down, up and down again the steep streets of Thouars, heading for the river. 

Tour de Rêves day five Thouars to Etusson French Village Diaries
Eiffel viaduct in Thouars
We cycled under a railway viaduct designed by Gustave Eiffel and then stopped to put our rain jackets on. It was so unfair we getting so much rain when September days are usually dry, warm and sunny. Thankfully having drip-dried over a morning coffee in a village bar, the skies cleared and the day began to look brighter.

Tour de Rêves day five Thouars to Etusson French Village Diaries
Pretty bridge over the Argenton river

Once we left the Vélo Francette (whose company we had had for over 150kms) to continue it’s route north through the Loire and on towards the coast in Normandy, we picked up the Vélo-route La Vallée de l’Argenton. This took us through vineyards, pretty villages and up and down more killer hills and I seemed to get slower and slower and further behind the others. I was certainly glad today was only going to be about 55km as I seemed to be walking a good number of them.

Tour de Rêves day five Thouars to Etusson French Village Diaries
Another pretty stone bridge


We lunched at Chez Fanny in Massais, by the skin of our teeth. Sadly, for the second day running we had arrived in a village with a bar, only to find a funeral taking place. Yes, really, we couldn't believe it either. Our morning coffee yesterday had to be abandoned, but we had a bit more luck today and although there was no choice available, a starter of charcuterie and a plat of steak with beans were served to four tired, hungry and very grateful cyclists.

The afternoon was more hills, villages with narrow streets and pretty bridges plus our first puncture of the week, but at least we reached Etusson and our last beds of the trip before the rain began again. Haley and dog George certainly looked after us well, with Champagne, roast chicken and lots of laughs, as the rain poured down outside. It was looking more likely that our final day on the bikes was going to be a wet one, again.

Tour de Rêves day five Thouars to Etusson French Village Diaries
Toasting our success so far.

The Tour de Rêves - a charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres department in France, undertaken by four mad friends, supported by many others, all with the aim of raising money for Rêves a charity making dreams come true for seriously ill children.


To read the other posts about our six day adventure click the links below.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tour de Rêves Day Four

Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves route day four Parthenay to Thouars

We slept well, woke up to sunshine and even had other cyclists to chat to over breakfast at the chamber d’hôtes. Unfortunately they had arrived in Parthenay from the north, via the Vélo Francette (the direction we were headed in) and all they could talk about were the relentless hills. I didn’t need to hear that. 

Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
The view from our chambre d'hôtes in Parthenay
I had woken elated that I’d slept well and as my legs had already carried me half way around the Deux-Sèvres I thought I was ready for anything. It soon became apparent I wasn’t. Before we’d even left Parthenay I’d given in and walked up one steep hill and walked down another. I was tired and we still had a long way to go.


Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
A pretty river scene at Gourgé


We left Parthenay by the river, stopping to admire the goats grazing on the almost vertical ramparts and thanks to the extra four cyclists tagging along with us the mood was light and the conversation fun. It was a day of pretty rivers, water mills and even prettier stone bridges. There was so much to see, I’m sure this was what slowed me down (honest).

Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
One rather tired face ready to scoff her lunch in Airvault
Lunch was a delicious and filling plat du jour in Airvault and the perfect fuel to keep me battling the hills of the north all the way to Luzay and the Trompe Souris Café. The steep and narrow road to the café was probably one of the scariest gradients imaginable, so I walked, but the café was certainly worth a visit.

Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
Refreshments offered by Trompe Souris Café

Nestled among rock pools on the River Thouet, the views were amazing, there were comfy loungers and they had kindly offered us refreshments of beer and cakes. I felt so much better after our stop here it was truly magical.

Tour de Rêves charity bike ride Deux-Sèvres Day Four Parthenay to Thouars French Village Diaries
Arriving in Thouars


There were more hills, more stunning views and more ancient stone bridges all the way into Thouars where author Alison Morton and her husband Steve were waiting for us, with food, comfy beds and chilled bottles of bubbly. These kind people had opened their home to us sweaty cyclists on their wedding anniversary no less. Thanks guys, your hospitality and fun conversation were much appreciated.

It was a tough 72km today, but the support we were receiving really helped and with four days completed we were two thirds of the way there and had cycled from the south to the north of the Deux-Sèvres.

The Tour de Rêves - a charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres department in France, undertaken by four mad friends, supported by many others, all with the aim of raising money for Rêves, a charity making dreams come true for seriously ill children.


To read the other posts about our six day adventure click the links below.




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tour de Rêves Day Three

Tour de Rêves day three Coulon to Parthenay Vélo Francette French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves Day Three route, following the Vélo Francette from Coulon to Parthenay
Tour de Rêves day three Coulon to Parthenay Vélo Francette French Village Diaries
Sèvres Niortais River

If you have never been to the Marais Poitevin, I urge you to plan a visit. It is a beautiful wetland area of tree lined canals and waterways that is peaceful, calm and full of wildlife. I love a day trip there, so setting off for Day Three, following the Vélo Francette cycle route along the banks of the Sèvre Niortais River, with a glimmer of sun and accompanied by a group of cyclists was picture perfect.

Tour de Rêves day three Coulon to Parthenay Vélo Francette French Village Diaries
Ready to leave Coulon
Following an article in the local paper the week before we set off, it wasn’t just our slightly mad friends who joined us for stages of our tour; we had experienced French cyclists too. Boosting our numbers from Coulon were five extras including two French friends on their tandem, who stayed with us for most of the day before turning around and cycling it all again in reverse. Gulp, there were a lot of hilly kilometres for us today, so a lot more for them and amazingly Edouard was the eyes for his blind friend Patrick and kept up a running commentary of the scenery as we cycled along. They were a true inspiration and having them along really boosted us.

Tour de Rêves day three Coulon to Parthenay Vélo Francette French Village Diaries
In Niort
There was certainly a lot of laughter all the way to morning coffee in Niort, when the terrain was flat and the river a calming influence. Almost immediately we left Niort the hills started which for me slightly curbed the excitement of cycling in new territory. It was a hard work afternoon, pushing to the top of a hill, freewheeling down and pushing back up, again and again and again.

Tour de Rêves day three Coulon to Parthenay Vélo Francette French Village Diaries
We made it to Parthenay


Thankfully the scenery was beautiful, it wasn’t raining and we were not alone. By the time those who joined us in the morning set off back home, four new brave souls were there by our sides to cycle with us up and down the hills into Parthenay, where a welcoming committee were waiting at a bar with beer.

It was pure bliss to crash out for a pre-dinner snooze on the comfy bed at the chamber d’hôtes in the old medieval city, and it was even warm enough to wash and dry the cycling kit, something we hadn’t been successful with at the campsite the previous night. Dinner was a delicious meal at one of Sarah and Rob’s favourite restaurants where we celebrated completing another 70km and being halfway around the Deux-Sèvres. We even gave our legs a good post-cycling stretch wandering around the floodlight ramparts before falling into our beds. We all agreed that although it was hard work, we were having a great time and it was all for a good cause too.







Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tour de Rêves Day Two

Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves Day Two route

Despite being at home, eating a delicious meal prepared by Ade’s Mum and having cycled 94km, I didn’t sleep too well. My legs were alive and switching them (and my mind) off seemed to be almost impossible. Sleep took a while to arrive which meant I started day two rather tired. However, day two was to be a shorter day than day one with far less hills, so how hard could it be?

Tour de Rêves Day Two French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves send off day two

Our first stop of the day was the village bar where coffee, croissants and a bar full of friendly faces greeted us and cheered us on our way. I don’t think any of us had expected the amount of support we were receiving, or realised how much it helped us, so thank you. 

Adrian and I were cycling on home territory today, the first 20km into Brioux-sur-Boutonne is a regular run for us through beautiful tree-lined roads that loosely follow the Boutonne river valley. There were a few weak rays of sun and once our cycling escorts from the village had left us there was time to chat as a foursome as we cycled along and all was well.

Tour de Rêves Day Two Auberge du Cheval Blanc Brioux French Village Diaries
Morning coffee at Auberge du Cheval Blanc

Although we had hoped for a day without rain, just as we set off from coffee at the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Brioux, it poured. Out came the rain jackets to cover up our beautiful team jerseys and with the rain came the wind. We were headed west, loaded with the extra weight of panniers for the first time and cycling into a headwind that gave the same overall effect of cycling uphill, on our only day with no hills. It just wasn't fair. I began to drop behind, a pattern that would repeat itself not just today, but for the rest of the week too.

Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
Steak with blue cheese sauce and garlic potatoes

Food was to be my salvation today. The P'tit Bouchon PMU bar in Beauvoir-sur-Niort comes highly recommended, especially their beef with blue cheese dressing and garlic potatoes. It was just what tired and damp cyclists needed after 42km of hard work. Sarah and I opted to skip dessert as there was only 12km to cycle until the next stop in Frontenay-Rohan-Rohan where I knew there was a patisserie waiting.

Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
The delicious Frontenaysian gateau

What I didn’t know, but do now, is that they make a local speciality called the Frontenaysian; a thick buttery biscuity cake with a strawberry filling that was delicious and turned out to be a lifesaver. I honestly don’t think I would have made the next 15km to Arçais without the sugar hit from the Frontenaysian as we hit a real low point; a four kilometres stretch where the wind howled around us as we battled into it, cycling slightly uphill on a gravelled and potholed track. Cyclists should never ignore a patisserie stop for this very reason. We all agreed the concentration required navigating the uneven surface, along with the effort of cycling into the wind and the constant jolting and jarring of our bodies from the gravel was exhausting and about as far from fun as it was possible to be. We did however feel bonded as a team from this shared experience. Thankfully there was a bar in Arçais and a few friendly faces (Sarah’s Mum and Dad) that helped to raise our spirits before we set off to the campsite just outside Coulon.

Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
Arriving at Camping La Venise Verte, Marais Poitevin

One of the things Sarah and I had agreed on a year before, when first planning this challenge, was no camping. We decided after a day on a bike a good bed was a must have, however, we were kindly offered a Ready to Camp tent for the night at Camping La Venise Verte, so we camped! 

Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
Our Ready to Camp tent at Camping La Venise Verte

The tent came equipped with cooking facilities and bedding and I have to admit I slept very well in our cosy little sleeping pod. The campsite shower and toilet blocks were modern and clean, although having to select the quantity of toilet paper you needed before entering the loo gave us plenty to giggle about and started a trend of toilet humour that was to stay around all week.


Tour de Rêves Day Two Coulon Marais Poitevin French Village Diaries
Team selfie in Coulon, Marais Poitevin


Dinner was a delicious pizza in Coulon, only a five kilometre round trip on foot, after a 79km bike ride – oh yes, I think we deserved that pizza.

To make a donation to Rêves in our name, please click here.