|Tour de Rêves Day Three route, following the Vélo Francette from Coulon to Parthenay|
|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.
|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.
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.
|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.