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near Royan, Poitou-Charentes (France)
Trip for the racing bike around the Gironde estuary, cycling the north bank between Royan and Blaye, and the south bank between Lamarque and le-Verdon-sur-Mer. The trip includes two ferry (bac) trips, one between Blaye and Lamarque, and one between le-Verdon-sur-Mer and Royan (see the waypoints for more information on the ferries). On the north bank, you will find some hills (up to 50 m maximum) and cliffs close to the coast between Royan and Mortagne-sur-Gironde. South of Mortagne the coast is flat, and you cycle through flat countryside and on the edge of the hills until St. Sorlin-de-Conac where you turn west to Vitrezay (beautiful little harbor on the Gironde; see waypoint) and you cycle through flat countryside and marshes until you come to Blaye where, after making a small detour through the citadelle, you will take the ferry across the Gironde to the Médoc side of the Gironde. On the Médoc side you will cycle through vineyards and pass numerous châteaux advertising (sometimes also in chinese) and selling wine. The countryside here is also largely flat, with some minor hills (up to 20 m only). You cycle parallel to the Gironde to Soulac-sur-Mer, a seaside resort on the Atlantic with views along the beach to the coast north of Royan on the north bank of the Gironde. The last 6.5 km you cycle on a paved cycling path through the dunes and the woods towards the ferry landing in le Verdon-sur-Mer.
On the north bank you will see cliffs, mud flats, sunflowers, marshes, vineyards and some nice villages. On the south bank, the landscape is somewhat less diverse with vineyards and châteaux, and north of Pauillac you will find less and less tourists until you get to Soulac-sur-Mer. The stretch on the north bank is about 84 km, and on the south side 81 km.
The entire trip is on paved roads, although they might be in need of some repairs here and there, and suited for the racing bike. Between Pauillac and Soulac there are only a few catering possibilities. I parked my car for free at the starting point of the track in the harbour of Royan. I started very early and then there were enough places, but that might be different if you start out later.
Route Royan/ Saint-Georges-de-Didonne/ Meschers-Sur-Gironde/ Talmont-Sur-Gironde/ Barzan-Plage/ Saint-Seurin-D'Uzet/ Mortagne-Sur-Gironde/ Saint-Sorlin-de-Conac/ Vitrezay/ Braud-Et-Saint-Louis/ Blaye/ Lamarque/ Cussac-Fort-Médoc/ Beychevelle/ Saint-Lambert/ Pauillac/ Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne/ Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc/ Saint-Christoly-Médoc/ Port de By/ Valeyrac/ Port de Goulée/ Port de Richard/ Saint-Vivien-de-Médoc/ Talais/ Soulac-Sur-Mer/ Le Verdon-Sur-Mer/ Royan.
The ferry between Blaye and Lamarque sails about once every 1.5 hours in high season, and less outside the high season, so you need to plan your arrival at the ferry landing to avoid a long wait. See the website http://www.bernezac.com/passages_eau_blaye_lamarque.htm for sailing times and rates. Rate in summer 2013 for 1 cyclist including bike was 4.90 euro.
The ferry between le-Verdon-sur-Mer and Royan sails about once every 50 minutes in high season, and less outside the high season. See the website http://www.bernezac.com/passages_eau_royan_verdon.htm for sailing times and rates. Rate in summer 2013 for 1 cyclist including bike was 4.90 euro.
The trail goes through the citadelle where you will find cobblestones and need to ride slowly.
Just before Mortagne-sur-Gironde you turn right from the D145 at the highest point of the route, and descend steeply to the foot of the limestone cliffs near Mortagne.
Close to the nuclear power station in the flat polders you will find these marshes.
Talmont-sur-Gironde is a nice village on the Gironde. You approach Talmont from the north and you can see the church across the mud flats.
Vitrezay is at a dead end, but it is a nice little quiet harbour on the Gironde, surrounded by marshes, and worth making the 1.5 km detour.