Due to some laundry and weather delays we had a late start and did not depart from our duck-friendly campsite until gone 1 p.m. The mornings rainfall let up shortly after I awoke and I opened the doors of my tent for some fresh air. One particularly brave duck took this as a sign for an easy breakfast and made themselves at home.
Of course, I stood my ground and said ”Non monsieur canard, this is my petit déjeuner!” in my best french accent. Shocked at my authoritative tone and understanding of the french language he left, deflated and defeated.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t true…
Finally we set off and peddled our little hearts out until the evening. We made our wild camp in the corner of a seemingly quiet field as the sun was setting. There were no buildings nearby, no one to disturb and just one small road on the other side of the tree line. It was time to relax.
Our relaxation, however, was shortly interrupted by headlights entering the field. It was the owner of the land and we were very curious how he knew we were there. Bri has a good grasp of the French language and after a quick discussion the owner was more than happy for us to stay there, provided we kept the place clean.
He even wished the guys good luck with the football match!
It worked out for us this time, but its always best to get the landowners permission before putting a tent up on their land.
Comforted with the knowledge that we were permitted to camp the night, we settled down to a late dinner, some cheap wine and a gorgeous sunset.
The next day we parted briefly. I wasn’t feeling too good so I took a head start and blasted my own way into La Rochelle. I passed a few beautiful and quaint little towns on the journey and soon I found myself at the harbor.
It was here by pure happenstance that I met Sam, Eddie and Bri. Those guys made really good time and I was quite impressed. As we slowly made our way around the harbor the sound of chanting grew louder and louder. Following the noise we happened across a sea of green. Hundreds of Irish fans had made their way to France for a long weekend to watch the game in Bordeaux, and it looked like the party had already started.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the noise and the atmosphere. So I left the guys to socialise with their countrymen and I went off to find somewhere to camp for the night.
I cycled to the other side of the city to find that the campsite I arrived at was for motor homes only! They were kind enough to give me directions to another campsite, which was right next to the harbor where I started… To add insult to injury, the guys had already found this place and had pitched before I arrived. They were just about to head back out for a few drinks. I decided to stay behind and catch up with friends from back home.
It was now Friday, the day before the match, and this evening we would take a train into Bordeaux.
Besides from getting bitten on the forehead by a mosquito, I had slept really well that night. I used my towel to dry off my tent so I could begin packing down and the very second I finished the clouds burst with a sudden spate of rain. I conceded to mother nature and crawled back inside my wet tent with my wet towel.
The sun emerged about an hour later and did a good job of drying everything off. We used this to our advantage and wheeled out of the campsite at around 2 p.m.
La Rochelle is a beautiful old coastal town and would make a great destination for a weekend away. We took a short wander around and stumbled across some great street art before heading to the train station to catch our early evening train into Bordeaux.
The train was full of Irish football fans and young school kids on their way home from a trip. Each group was shouting their chants and trying to out-do the other. Needless to say it was a very packed and very loud train ride into the city!
We arrived as the sun began to get low in the sky and discovered we had an 8 mile ride (13km) to the closest campsite. After a somewhat tiring cycle through the city traffic we pulled up to the reception after nightfall.
It appeared that the campsite owners had quite the day. The site was full to capacity and judging by how short they were with us, I think they had been turning people away all afternoon. They told us to find somewhere else to stay and we just stood there a little dumbfounded. It was approaching 11 p.m, it was dark and the clouds were fit to burst. We had no idea what to do.
The owners must have had a change of heart, they re-appeared and said we could share a pitch with some other campers if they didn’t mind. Luckily they didn’t and we were insanely grateful to them. As soon as out tents were up the monsoon began. Our evening would have been very different if we had no where to stay!
We woke up to a very different day on Saturday. The sun was out, It was lovely and warm, our spirits were high and we were all starving from skipping dinner the night before. A small snack, a bottle of wine and a few beers before 11:30 a.m sorted that out. We were off to the game!
We each managed to sneak a beer past security and join the sea of green. Don’t ask how, but they were warm when we got to the other side…
Although Ireland lost 3-0, the atmosphere was great and everyone was a good sport about it. The after party in the city was intense, every bar was packed, the party filled the streets and the guys were out for a right good time.
I could already sense the hangover and left the lads to it, I didn’t want to slow them down!
The next morning Eddie and I went off to find breakfast and we all hung about the campsite until the mid afternoon.
It was now time for me to say goodbye to Sam, Eddie and Bri. I spent a total of 12 days with these guys from southern Ireland and it was a blast. They were hilarious, always in high spirits and awesome companions on the bikes. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about my time with them and I wish them all the best of luck in life.
Sam, Eddie and Bri, Sláinte!