(See https://en.canaldes2mersavelo.com/ for more info)
Day 1 – Bordeaux to Creon. An easy roll down the hill from the bus drop off, (see Bordeaux – Getting There by Bus or Plane) at the crack of dawn. Note to self: check dangly bits of luggage before setting off next time. Always allow some time to adjust yourself to the bike on day 1 too. Hopefully you are already saddle ready!
Aim for the Place De La Bourse Bordeaux, past the Blue Lion and over the spectacular Pont de Pierre for a quick photo opportunity. For breakfast, head for the left bank quays towards the bars and restaurants where the cruise ships disgorge. A French breakfast is simple but adequate: a glass of orange juice, a coffee and a croissant. If you are lucky you’ll find a food market or antique market alongside the Garonne (don’t buy a teapot like my friend June unless you are happy to stuff it in your panniers!). The cycling is flat easy but you have to share the path with lots of city cyclists, skaters and others. There’s plenty to look at in the city if you’re interested. A good place for people watching is by the main station: Gare de Bordeaux St Jean. You can get a cheap lunch here at the Café Du Levant too before heading out to the campsite at Creon for the night. The green route can be found back over on the north west side of the Garonne. Named the Roger Lapebie cycle track, after the 1937 Tour de France winner, it follows a disused railway after about 4km so you soon feel like you are in the countryside.
Just off the disused railway (green route) at Creon there’s a supermarket. There’s also a café, tourist information and picnic spot on the railway itself.
In the summertime a street-food market operates at weekends selling delicious specialities: duck, escargot and other lovely stuff (bottles of wine very very cheap). If you’re lucky a local man will provide entertainment by shadow-boxing himself to the Rocky theme tune.
Campsite Bel Air is about 2km from the centre of town with a swimming pool, café and other facilities.
Day 2 – Creon to Meilhan-Sur-Garonne via Sauveterre and La Reole. This is my favourite stretch of trail. Glorious rolling countryside on an elevated plain with some gladed woods by sections of river. Once I was riding along this track and I heard angels (French brownies) singing their little hearts out.
You can stop for food in the town square at Sauveterre. Because you will be in France you will need to get there before mid-day (when they close). Alternatively, you can have lunch in the centre of La Reole. See Food and “the French way” to Slow Cycle for guidance on shopping. French café owners are often open to letting you purchase food from from one place (roast chicken, pizza, whatever you like) and eat it while you drink. Consult them first (obviously you can’t do this where they serve food). Be careful if you are there on a Sunday as shops may well be shut.
Camping Municipal de Meilhan Sur Garonne is run by a very friendly English man who sells beer, Orangina and ice lollies from his hut up on the canal.
Day 3 – An easy day rolling down the Garonne. Navigation could really not get any easier! It is a long way to Agen but there are some villages to stop in along the way. This will involve a detour, and a short climb making your journey slower but that’s the idea right? It always sounds like a good plan before you start and the views are usually worth it (plus there’s always the added incentive of more food and drink).
I think this is Marmande. One year (2016) I got rather hot on this leg and didn’t make it to the campsite outside Agen. Shame? No! I stayed at the house on the left below. It was a super extra adventure and I went to a festival in the evening with my hosts. The picture on the right shows our group at the pizzeria on the campsite outside Agen in 2014. Oh yes, and if you are afraid of heights you might struggle a bit here with the incredible aquaduct on the route…just get off your bike (as instructed) and keep your eyes forward!
Day 4 Agen to Moissac. Agen is a bustling town but you are soon through it. It is famous for produce: apricots, peaches, plums and their dried counterparts (prune anoyone?). Perhaps I should (not) mention that there is a train along much of this route if you need to sit out a stage? Either way, Moissac is well worth a visit and the campsite here is very close to the centre of town. There’s a network of canals, rivers and lakes here with some impressive features of structural engineering.
Moissac itself is a pristine tourist spot. Located on one of the famous pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela with a splendid medieval Benedictine abbey, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its stunningly carved cloisters it is one of the most beautiful Romanesque church entrances in southern France. They do a great meal or pastry in the town square too! This is a place where you might want to stay two nights.
Day 5 Moissac to Les Violettes via Toulouse. Leaving Moissac is stunning then there is a long straight section. When you reach the city you’ll have to keep your wits about you in Toulouse to make sure you stick to the route as there is a dog-leg. The best thing about this city is a hip bike café with a courtyard full of bike related paraphernalia (dead bikes) and a very cool vibe. Les Violettes is out in the countryside again and it has a great campsite with a restaurant. You will have earned your dessert!
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Day 6 Les Violettes to Castelnaudary.
Day 8 To Castelnaudary to Carcassonne.
Day 9 Carcassonne to Narbonne.