Lockdowns, eh? One of the defining responses to the constraints imposed on citizens to curb the spread of Covid-19 has been to at least make...

The 10k Radius Cycling Challenge

Lockdowns, eh? One of the defining responses to the constraints imposed on citizens to curb the spread of Covid-19 has been to at least make the most of what we’re allowed to do, whilst strictly complying with the measures in place. And during this latest, ongoing lockdown, unless there is some reasonable justification, movements are restricted to within ten kilometres of one’s residence. But that still leaves plenty of space to enjoy, and that is how my wife Muriel and I decided to launch into a one-day local roadtrip, codenamed the 10k Radius Challenge.

Working on the basis of the data provided by France's benchmark website, we mapped out a circular itinerary that would take us on a day-long cycling trip but that would never take us any further than ten kilometres from our home in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc. And so it was that we set off at 8am on a mid-April Sunday morning, heading off in a north-westerly direction through Le Pian-Médoc towards our first port of call, Parempuyre. We drifted past the famously international Emmaüs community and bric-a-brac warehouse, a scenic lake and the railway station towards the town centre, turning right by a cultural/entertainment venue that has been given the bizarre name of L’Art Y Show, no doubt a reference to the nearby Médocain speciality, the Macau artichoke.

A fine roadside cycle path took us from there to Blanquefort via some fairly depressing industrial estates that are no doubt a staple of metropolitan suburbs the world over. After hitting the residential town centre we had vague hopes of popping into the notoriously photogenic Parc de Majolan but must have taken a wrong turn. Instead we found ourselves by one of the entrances to the Réserve naturelle des Marais de Bruges. As the reserve is currently closed (you can possibly guess why…), we had to make do with taking a photo of the nearby railway and tram lines that run parallel to each other.

Then it was over the Rocade ring-road into Bruges proper, and a much-needed pain aux raisins break alongside the pretty église Saint-Pierre, parts of which date back to the 15th or 16th century. It certainly felt like it was a pleasant trip back in time, and completing the time-travelling illusion was a 1960s ABG-VAP moped parked by a bench. I would like to think it’s always there. This was all ably complemented by the circular Tour de Lassalle. We made a note to return to get the full story.

Cycling through Bruges, we spotted a surprisingly tall church spire in amongst the low-rise housing. Making a short detour to investigate, we discovered that we were in front of Bordeaux’s Russian Orthodox church. It certainly stands out from its surroundings and also appears to be a subject that deserves further research!

Proceeding south, we passed Le Bouscat’s Sainte-Germaine sports stadium (home to Stade Bordelais) and previous blog subjects the Bois du Bouscat and the hippodrome race track. Near a roundabout in Eysines, we spotted a fine ghostsign advertising “M. Chopinet - Lubrification Silicoil aux Silicones” complete with information, address and a six-digit phone number. Due to the bright sunlight and shadows it was difficult to get a decent photo, but I will return on a cloudy day to get a better shot of what I think is one of the best ghostsigns in the area!

From there we advanced through central Mérignac, past the dormant Pin Galant theatre and the Dewar & Gicquel “pantalon de jogging” sculpture, and back towards the Rocade, stopping to take a photo of the surprising “Marché de l’Avenir” building which, today, looks anything but futuristic.

Beyond the Rocade we found ourselves in another industrial estate, culminating in the cycle path being sandwiched by Dassault Aviation on one side and my weekday employers Thales on the other. It all felt suitably aerospace-y (aptly so given our proximity to the airport), at least until the sight of the somewhat neglected sport grounds of the Domaine de Rocquevieille brought us back down to earth. And to think this was where the great Girondins squads of the 1980s used to train.

From there it was on to Martignas-sur-Jalle, which we reckoned was more or less the halfway point along the circumference of our 10k radius circle. Arriving in the town we were welcomed by a slightly menacing Wild West-style sign stating that Martignas was home to the “last petrol station before Arcachon Bay”. For cars driving to the Bassin, this was therefore make-or-break time. Either fill up here or end up stranded in Saint-Jean-d’Illac! This thought sent terrifying shivers down my spine.

We made our way to the Camp de Souge military facility, where in the past I have been able to view the harrowing memorial to the 300 people who lost their lives throughout the Second World War. Sadly, this time the person manning the security desk was not in an especially cooperative mood, saying that it was out-of-bounds for private individuals and that there was work in progress or something. Hey-ho. We made our excuses and began looping up towards the north, at least until we came up against another impenetrable military facility which stopped us in our tracks. Rather than turn back we elected to follow a path mapped out by Google, which soon became extremely sandy but at least took us into a pleasant forest and an ideal picnic spot just by a stream.

By now we were just sticking to whichever paths were best-suited to cycling, rejoining the urban world somewhere in the vicinity of the Hastignan district of Saint-Médard-en-Jalles. From here, the best option to reach our next destination, Salaunes, was simply to follow the flat, linear Bordeaux-Lacanau cycle path. Hitting downtown Salaunes, there was little to do other than take in the church clock chiming (it was now 2 o’clock), peruse the books available in the “nichoir à livres” bookcase, and admire the giant wooden sculpture of a pine cone, which presumably represents all the local pines. And cones.    

Then it was back onto a main road, and this one was as straight, flat and uneventful as any you’ll find in the region. It took us to the hamlet of Saint-Raphaël and the chapel which was built on the spot where the 15th-century Archbishop of Bordeaux Pey Berland was born, as detailed in one of the first items to run on the blog way back in the day.

From that commemoration of the very distant past we were instantly shunted back into the present and arguably even the future, as we cycled around the massive solar panel farm in Arsac. The public domain figures are mind-boggling: 220 hectares, 85 megawatts of power (whatever that means…). The site itself is majorly impressive from ground level, but click here to check out an aerial shot to get an idea of the sheer scale of it all. By now we were more or less on the final stretch of our adventure, finishing up with a couple of photo stops outside the modern-art-heavy grounds of Château d’Arsac and looking out over the vines of Château Sénéjac in Le Pian-Médoc, just days on from those restless nights spent attempting to safeguard the vines from unseasonally freezing temperatures.

We were homeward bound, hitting Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc around 4:30pm with just over 94 kilometres clocked up by our little bike computers, over a little more than five hours of actual cycle time.

What then were the key takeaways of our low-key 10k radius challenge? Well, there’s definitely something quite unusual about being out for so long and realizing we’re still eerily close to home despite having cycled maybe 50, 60 or 70 kilometres! Secondly, as experienced in the past, it sometimes takes the randomness of a roadtrip such as this to discover unexpected delights. Bruges town centre, the Russian Orthodox church and Eysines ghostsign, I’m talking about you! Thirdly, it was a good excuse to spend time in some places that are so close to home that you don't ever "visit" them properly. And, finally, something we all know but it's great to experience it first-hand: there's such a variety of landscapes to take in. From industrial estates and retail parks to residential districts, sandy paths, shady woodland, solar parks and vineyards… we're talking majorly diverse environments here! So, in case you were wondering, yes, there really is plenty to see within a 10-kilometre radius!

Homeward bound... and our actual itinerary mapped out through the magic of satellite tracking.

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