Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cycling post confinement

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Gateau Tusson Charente
A family and friends day out on the bikes

Cycling post confinement

We have escaped for our first real adventures on the bikes since confinement was lifted and I can’t tell you how fantastic it felt.

With four friends, plus Ed and Pearl, we spent some quality time cycling in the French countryside, ensuring we kept a safe distance from each other at all times. For the first real bike ride in over two months and Pearl’s first ever proper ride, clocking up 45kms was brilliant. The sunflower fields are now all visible, with their recognisable seedlings already standing proud and promising vistas of golden cheer in the coming months. It was just so good to be out and free.

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Gateau Tusson Charente
Cakes from Gateaux in Tusson

Our halfway point was the Charente village of Tusson, where we bought takeaway cakes from Gateaux which we enjoyed with our own freshly brewed coffee, on the same benches we had celebrated our picnic Christmas Day lunch. Refuelled with a sugar and caffeine hit was just what we needed to be on our way.

Our return took us through the gently rolling Charente and Deux-Sèvres countryside, stopping in Beaunac to take a minute at the Operation Frankton memorial. This marks one of the points on the Frankton Trail, the route taken by the Cockleshell Heroes as they made their escape, on foot from Bordeaux in December 1942. 

Their story is a fascinating one, ten men, in five canoes were dropped into the Atlantic, just off the Gironde Estuary on the night of 7th December 1942. Their mission was to make their way down the estuary to Bordeaux, under the cover of darkness, and on arriving, attack the cargo ships in the port with limpet mines. Only four of the men made it to Bordeaux and from here they split up and made their way inland, on foot, to Ruffec (about twenty kilometres from us and 200km from Bordeaux) where they joined up with a local resistance network who helped them reach Spain. Only two survived. 

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Poitiers

We don’t have to travel far from home to find reminders of the history of this area, but the weekend saw Adrian and I travelling a bit further, although still within our 100km radius from home. Using Ed’s flat in Poitiers, where we knew we could be self-sufficient and come into minimal contact with others, we were determined to explore some new routes on the bikes. 

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Poitiers
Hotel du Ville, Poitiers

Three days and two nights, gave us time to sort out the flat which had been put into hibernation mode on 16th March, ride a total 125kms, and feel like we had been away on a mini break. With the exception that all bars and restaurants are still closed, Poitiers town centre wasn’t looking much different to usual, and it was a bit unnerving that there were still groups of people sitting around together and not respecting social distancing. Luckily, we kept moving and set our course for the outskirts of town where we found shady river paths, quiet villages, forest tracks and very few people. 

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Poitiers Migné-Auxances
Migné-Auxances, Poitiers

Our first ride took us north towards Migné-Auxances, Futuroscope and Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, a 37km loop that was hot and hilly. We even treated ourselves to a supermarket pizza for dinner, the first meal I hadn’t cooked from scratch since 12th March. 

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Poitiers route of St Martin
On the pilgrimage route dedicated to St Martin

The rain on Saturday morning meant a lazy lie in, but after lunch we managed a respectable 54km to Vouillé in the west, on a fascinating route that took us through forests and a military shooting range as well as finding ourselves on the pilgrimage route dedicated to St Martin. This route highlights some of the historical buildings that are linked to, or dedicated to, St Martin in the Tours and Poitiers areas. I love stumbling across things like this and spent quite a bit of time looking into the history of St Martin and the five thousand kilometres of marked routes that cross Europe in his name. Adrian, I feel a real adventure brewing.

French Village Diaries cycling post confinement Poitiers Nouaillé-Maupertuis
Fortified Abbey, Nouaillé-Maupertuis, near Poitiers

Sunday morning, we set off to Nieuil-Espoir, to the south-east of Poitiers, where the stunning fortified Abbey at Nouaillé-Maupertuis made a great backdrop for a photo of the bikes. This 35km route was a little bit busier than the previous days, as many people had the same idea as us on a warm and sunny Sunday morning. Luckily, we were able to find a bit more power and pedal ourselves into safer distances from other users of the forest paths. We even managed to find a boulangerie that was open and without a queue, so we treated ourselves to a patisserie each.

I didn’t just feel happy out on the bike, I felt the weight of confinement lifted from my shoulders and I’m pretty pleased with my total of 170km on the bike in a week. I can’t wait to get back out exploring. 


  1. I so enjoy reading about your adventures! I’m so happy that you can be out and about finally!


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