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біля La Ville en Bois, Poitou-Charentes (France)
On this trip you first take a ferry from La Rochelle to Boyardville on Île d'Oléron (see website http://www.oleron-larochelle.com/ and waypoints for more information), and then cycle back to La Rochelle. The cycling part of the trip is 117 km; the ferry part 23 km. The ferry starts just outside the Old Port of La Rochelle and crosses the Pertuis d'Antioche to Boyardville. On the way you pass the Basque Roads (Rade des Basques) where large freight ships anchor, the Fort Boyard, and at some distance the Île d'Aix. After having arrived at Boyardville, you cycle close to the coast to the town of le Château-D'Oléron, passing oyster farms and oyster huts (cabanes ostréicoles) and sea salt extraction. In le Château-D'Oléron there are a citadelle, cabanes ostréicoles, and a view of the Viaduc d'Oléron, the bridge connecting Île d'Oléron to the main land. You'll pass that bridge (see waypoint), and then continue via Pointe du Chapus with a view of Fort Louvois to the old fort of Brouage (see waypoint). You then continue to the Passe Aux Boeufs, a submersible road to the Île Madame (see waypoint). If the tide is low you can connect to the island, which I did, but the passage is unpaved and actually not suited for a racing bike. Also on the island, the road is partly unpaved, but better than the Passe Aux Boeufs. You can always decide to give the island a miss and observe it from a distance, before continuing to Rochefort, cutting the route short with 6 km. You cross the Charente river to Rochefort using a Transbordeur (see waypoint), the last remaining transporter bridge in France, which is a movable bridge carried across the river. You then continue through the center of Rochefort and then cycle on to Châtelaillon-Plage via an inland route. From here, you follow the coast again with nice views of the sea, especially when the tide is low. At Angoulins you cycle via the Pointe du Chay before continuing to La Rochelle.
The entire trip is suited for the racing bike, except for the abovementioned passage to Île Madame. You can take your bike on the boat. There are cycling paths in the route which require slower driving, on account of them being narrow, winding or soft-paved, one just before getting on the transbordeur, and several smaller stretches near Angoulins. Also between Rochefort and Châtelaillon-Plage, there is a stretch of paved road with a lot of potholes (see waypoint), which requires slow driving.
It is a beautiful route with a beautiful ferry passage, magnificent sea views, the transbordeur curiosity, the interesting towns of La Rochelle, Rochefort, Brouage, and Château-D'Oléron, quiet countryside, marshes, nice harbors and maritime farming (oysters, salt, fishermen huts).
The cycling route: Boyardville/ Les Allards/ Le Château-D'Oléron/ Bourcefranc-le-Chapus/ Nodes/ Hiers/ Brouage/ Moëze/ Saint-Froult/ Port-Des-Barques/ Île Madame/ Port-Des-Barques/ Saint-Nazaire-Sur-Charente/ Soubise/ Échillais/ Rochefort/ Breuil-Magné/ Voutron/ Les Boucholeurs/ Châtelaillon-Plage/ Angoulins/ La Rochelle.
Here is a stretch of road of about 2 km which is littered with potholes. You really need to slow down here, but then it should not be a problem. You will be accompanied by croaking frogs...
This is where the ferry docks. See the website http://www.oleron-larochelle.com/ for more information. The trip with a bike is 20,50 euro's (summer 2013).
This fortified town is a nice place for a break. Inside the town you'll drive on cobblestones. The town used to have a harbor but the connection with the sea has silted up.
Here starts a cycling path to the transbordeur. Watch out, there is quite a lot of debris on the cycling path and there are some sharp turns.
It will give you nice views of the transbordeur (see other waypoint) and the bridge of the D733 across the Charente river.
Here you will find colorful cabanes ostréicoles.
This is where the ferry docks. See the website http://www.oleron-larochelle.com/ for more information. The trip with a bike is 20,50 euro's (summer 2013). The boats have different sailing times depending on the tides. I chose an early boat (departure 8.00), and it was not busy at all. The return boat seemed to be full, though. To be sure, you can make reservations. Pictures from the boat trip can be found with the waypoint 'Boyardville ferry dock'.
Nice town with a market, a citadelle, a harbor, oyster huts, and a nice view of the viaduc d'Oleron.
Here you can take the submersible road to Île Madame. The road is not paved (loose sand and pebbles), and really not suited for a racing bike. I took it anyway, and it is possible, also on a racing bike, but don't make sharp turns, and really watch where you are driving (don't enjoy the scenery too much). When you do not fancy the trip, or the tide is high, you can cut the trip short by 6 km and continue directly toward Rochefort. The road on the island is half paved and half gravel (reasonably ok for a racing bike when it is dry).
This is the last remaining transporter bridge in operation in France, which is a movable bridge carried across the river. It is a very big installation, and you can imagine why it is the last one in operation. It takes bicycles and pedestrians across the Charente river. In summer 2013, the price was 1.50 euro, and it operated continuously between 9.30 and 19.30 (except for reduced operating times on Mondays and Thursdays), but outside summer, operating times are reduced. See the website http://www.pont-transbordeur.fr/#!__anglais for more information.
This is the bridge to cross from the mainland to Île d'Oléron.