Travelling light – to Biarritz by bike

Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on Saturday 25th March 2023. We’re on our way – taking a week to cycle a 400 km round trip to Biarritz and back.

There is an art to travelling light. I’ve never had to do it as we’ve mostly travelled with our van, big enough to take everything including the kitchen sink. Here is my list of things to take now I only have two panniers and one dry bag.

Clothes for dry bag – this is in addition to what I am wearing – easy-dry trousers, extra thermal, two long- sleeved t-shirts and one short-sleeved, extra fleece, 3 pairs of knickers, one pair of socks.

Pannier number one – bike battery charger and adapter, phone chargers, cable for locking bike, kindle, reading glasses, purse, toiletries, notepad and pen, space left for buying food for each evening.

Pannier number two – tea bags, cereal measured out for 7 days, rice and pasta for two days each, tiny bottle of olive oil, ditto milk. Also our packed lunch for the day.

Extras – water bottle attached in it’s own holder. Michael has various tools, puncture repair kit, first aid kit, his tiny gas cooker so that we could have a cuppa en route, phones and another more heavy duty padlock as well as his own clothes.

We left on Thursday 23rd and it was a cold start to the day so we layered up with clothes to keep warm. Once the sun came out, the layers came off. This caused slight consternation as we had to find space to pack them away but it’s amazing what a bit of pushing and shoving can achieve.

Cycling doesn’t get any better than that first day. Balmy weather, the wind minimal and behind us, hardly any hills – the easiest 58 km we’ve ever done. We stopped for our lunch by the River Adour, which we were following all the way to Biarritz, and were joined by a local farmer and his flock.

Apparently he walks them down there most days for a couple of hours so that they can enjoy fresh grazing.

That first day lulled us into a false sense of security. The next day found us cycling into a headwind all day, covering 60km under grey skies and with the threat of rain. We also had to deal with farm dogs on a couple of occasions. One pair shot out through open gates and raced after Michael. I was a little behind ( yes, even though I have the electric bike he is usually faster than me – apart from big hills). After a while they gave up on him and turned back. I braced myself as they saw me, but luckily they felt they’d done their bit by then and almost ignored me. I wasn’t so lucky the next time and had to pedal for all I was worth to keep ahead of a big Alsatian and a yapping terrier.

Apart from the dogs and the wind, cycling through France is a joy. Each trip we take makes me appreciate it more. There is so little traffic, so much to see. Tumbledown farms with rusty tractors, a wild boar trotting fast across a field, a buzzard on a wire, looking down at us with haughty, disapproving eyes. We are on the cusp of spring, with hawthorn and cherry blossom brightening the skyline, cuckoo flowers in the hedgerows, rapeseed and peas/beans in the fields, wild garlic in the woods and everywhere the trees are beginning to show green leaves.

Cuckoo flower – or at least we think so.
The Adour.
Gone fishing – but not catching much.

We are spending our nights in BnB’s along the way, each varied and offering something different. Last night we stayed in a room in a family home, tonight we are by ourselves in a stylish bachelor pad 30km from Biarritz. The owner was expecting to be here but has decided to go to Spain for the weekend. He has left us the keys and we have use of the kitchen and lounge. All for £37.

After three quite long days, tomorrow’s ride into Biarritz should be easier. However, gales with gusts of up to 80km per hour are forecast. You’ll have to wait for the next instalment to see how we get on!

Hope all is well and see you soon.


22 thoughts on “Travelling light – to Biarritz by bike

  1. Looks fab. Like you, I love the sense of space you get in rural France and the countryside is glorious at the moment. Hopefully the forecast is wrong and you’ll reach Biarritz without battling the winds!


  2. What a wonderful new adventure. The longest I have ever done on my bicycle is a mere 25 miles! The farmers’ dogs seem to be a total nightmare. I would buy spikes to strap onto my toecaps!


  3. Under the new blog layout, the above worked first time. which after many weeks struggling is a great advance.


  4. Same. Fingers crossed for a good trip without too much wind. As ever, some lovely pictures. I hope it is all you expect of it. Take care and stay safe both. A and G


  5. I’m in awe of your ability to pack light. It’s something I’m working on! Love the Cuckoo flower, very pretty!


    1. Hi Helen. I’m quite proud of myself too! Although I need another fleece for when it’s cold in the morning. Luckily M has a spare so I requisition that when needed.


  6. Riding in early spring sounds wonderful, except for the dogs and headwinds, of course. Despite all, you’ve clocked some impressive distances. Hope the weather favors you!


  7. Sounds like a wonderful trip. I hope the winds won’t be too much of a trial. It’s blowing hard out there as I write this. We became very wary of French farm dogs when we cycled. Some are harmless and just bark. Others are definitely not harmless! Enjoy the rest of your trip.


  8. Looks like you could do with a sail MJ. Hope it wasn’t too gruelling! Maybe if you stopped and challenged the dogs. Stand your ground and growl back🤣🤣👍


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