The weather was cold and overcast as we packed the bike this morning. It’s only a short hop from La Rochelle to Bordeaux and as we are in no hurry we will stop over at Ile d’Oléron.The only concern we had was fuel. The tank ran out as soon as we hit the highway so we travelled on reserve for about 20 km’s before spotting a Carrefour. As luck would have it the petrol station was being renovated so we couldn’t refuel. Trying to get back onto the highway was an adventure for we kept on striking “no entry” signs. Its amazing how when you’re on reserve the worlds against you. Once we re-entered the highway we soon found a Total Access where we filled up. It’s amazing that due to the cooler weather the range of the tank is extended by 20 km’s or more.
Heading south we spotted a sign to Rochefort so decided to take a detour. Rochefort was pretty quiet as we rode into the centre. Close to the centre of town the old hospital has closed and the abandoned site has now become an eyesore. I was thinking that this was the home of Rochefort, the stinky blue cheese that Michele loves. However, this was not the case. I discovered Rochefort comes from a small town in the south of France not far from Millau. This Rochefort was full of grubby old buildings near the centre and the place seemed devoid of life. However, once we explored a little deeper into the centre we found a few cafe’s near the Hotel D’Ville. It was obvious that Rochefort had been very rich during the 19th century by the number of buildings from that era.
After a coffee we decided to head towards Ile d’Oléron, an island just off the coast. Ile d’Oléron is connected to the coast by France’s third longest bridge. It’s interesting that in the past few days we’ve travelled over two of France’s longest bridges in Île de Ré and Ile d’Oléron bridges.
Arriving on Ile d’Oléron we traced around the northern side of the island passing through large areas of canals which formed acres and acres of oyster farms. Heading into the town of Chateau d’Oléron we were surprised at the brightly coloured artists village on the bottom side of the town. Originally fisherman’s shacks the artist village adds some real spice to the community. There’s all sorts of arts and crafts on sale in the various studios.
After parking the bike we decided to explore the town and the nearby Chateau d’Oléron. Le Château-d’Oléron, was built in 1703 as part of defences to protect nearby La Rochelle. It must have done its job because La Rochelle was never invaded and subsequent wars simply bypassed Ile d’Oléron. These days it’s a popular spot for locals to explore.
Île de Ré and Ile d’Oléron were formerly Basque settlements and old photos at the chateau show people at the turn of the century dressed in traditional costume. Women in large lace bonnets and black dresses. Men were dressed in white shirts, black vests and pants similar to Breton costume.
Much of the external defensive walls and ditches are still in place at Le Château-d’Oléron. In the centre the old administration building still stands and around the compound some of the magazines have been converted to a museum and cafe.
In the town attached to Château-d’Oléron, we stopped for a forgettable lunch before taking a spin around the island.
Like nearby Île de Ré, the island of Ile d’Oléron grows a lot of grapes. It’s quite surprising that both Île de Ré and Ile d’Oléron are quite fertile.
Travelling the length and breadth of the island we soon realised that the sun was on its way down. By the time we reached the mainland it was already close to dusk and we still had 180 kilometres to go.
Passing through the countryside we spotted hunters out in the fields. Over the last week we’ve spotted them occasionally here and there dressed in camouflage. At this time of year they hunt migratory birds.
By the time we reached Bordeaux the sun had well and truly set. The last hour or so was spent squinting as the lights on the Deauville are next to useless. Thank goodness for streetlights.
As we rode in through the suburbs we couldn’t help but notice the streetwalkers working the streets. Welcome back to big cities. As we rode through Bordeaux we were impressed with the beautiful architecture, we are looking forward to exploring the city tomorrow.
Finding the AirBnB apartment in the dark wasn’t as hard as we expected. I always hate arriving after dark because house numbers are always just that little bit harder to find.
After settling in we headed off to find a restaurant and were surprised to find a nice noodle shop. It was a surprising find. We are spending the next few days in Bordeaux exploring the city which should be good.