For any serious cyclist this trip can be easily done in one day. However for an occasional rider (like myself) two days with a stop over in Marmande is a highly recommended itinerary. This is what a friend and I did and what I will describe below. The first day we did almost exactly 100km, then just over 65km on the second day. The route, and stops, proved to be highly enjoyable. At the end of the journey you get the chance to visit the beautiful city of Agen then comfortably return to Bordeaux on the train.
Heading out of Bordeaux we crossed the Pont de pierre (bridge) and turned immediately right at Stalingrad. There should be signs pointing the way to Sauveterre-de-Guyenne as there is a ‘Voie Verte‘ classified cycle path all the way there. Leaving Bordeaux the scenery is mostly industrial but you are flanked on the right-hand side by the Garonne and the fishing huts (known as carrelets) that stand on stilts along its banks. After jutting away from the road, the path continues down a back-road still following the river and passes some impressive mansions. Shortly after it makes a sharp turn and heads away from the river and soon there is a roundabout to cross, a very short stretch of road without a bike path then a right turn back onto the cycle path which is now completely separate from any roads.
The Bordeaux to Creon cycle path starting properly at Latresne
The bike path continues through small towns, presumably along the route of an old railway line as each village still has a platform / station. The first is as Latresne where there is cafe, further along there is another with a tap where you can top-up with water, at Lignan-de-Bordeaux the old train station is now known as the Bistrot de la Pimpine and finally at Sadirac which serves as the ‘Maison du Patrimoine Naturel du Créonnais’. The Bistrot de la Pimpine is a great track-side place to stop and grab a coffee although not much ground has been covered yet! Before reaching Creon there is a long but gentle incline. At Creon there is another old railway station to stop at with toilets and a tap to fill up your water bottles. There is also a tourist information and a ‘vélo station‘ there which rents out bikes and who will gladly let you use their pump if your tyres need a few extra bars of pressure.
Creon to Sauveterre
Not long after leaving Creon you pass through an old tunnel then out into a countryside of rapeseed and vines. The bike path is smooth and the going easy. There are a few wine chateaux just off the path including the Chateau Haut Meyreau at Dardenac and Chateau Roquefort at Lugasson. We didn’t stray from the path though and before we knew it we were already in Sauveterre de-Guyenne the town centre is small and almost identical to that of Creon, little cobbeled roads leading to a big old market square formed by the shops that make up its four sides. There are one or two restaurants if you want to stop here for lunch. We had our packed lunch on a bench then went up into the town for our first coffee since leaving.
Sauveterre to La Reole
For this little section we leave the bike path and join the D670 for 14 kilometres but it is a welcome change to the bike track and the road is well surfaced and not too busy. It also passes a few wine chataux too if you do feel like paying one a visit. There are also one or two slightly bigger hills than we’ve seen so far but this also comes as a welcome change. Rolling down into La Reole is actually pretty steep so make sure your brakes are working well before heading out! We didn’t stay long in La Reole but from what we saw it looks like a beautiful little town that sits above the river looking down onto it.
La Reole / Fontet to Montpouillan [pont des sables]
To get back onto the cycle path it is necessary to cross the river and then turn left. It is just outside of La Reole in a place called Fontet where we join the Canal de Garonne which combined with the Canal du Midi stretches all the way down to the Mediterranean coast at Béziers and the cycle path follows it most of the way! Along this section the surfaced path remains smooth much of the way with just a few gravel sections.
Montpouillan [pont des sables] to Marmande
If you are going straight to Agen then this part of the trip can be avoided. We crossed the canal and cycled 5km along the D933 up into Marmande. There was a strong headwind at this point but we were almost at our finishing point for the first day and after crossing the rather nice bridge into the city we rewarded ourselves with a cold pint of beer at the Coeur des Ramparts. We had organised to sleep the night here using warmshower.org . It was my first time using this website and our host couldn’t have been any more of a positive advertisement for the community. Her name was Danièle and she had a scrapbook with photos of all the cycle tourists she had hosted over the last few years, she had taken a photo of each of them in her driveway before they headed off the next morning and each of them had written a little something. Some of the notes were in English others in Spanish or Japanese! She fed us with a delicious soup, her famous ratatouille served with pasta and chicken, all washed down with the wine we had brought along to say thank you. We had a bedroom each and of course before going to bed she let us use her shower. The next morning she treated us to big bowls of coffee and a breakfast of bread and home-made jam, I evidently liked it so much that she ended up giving me a pot to take with me. We left our own thank you note in her book and had our photo taken in the drive before heading back to the canal, leaving town on the same road we had come in on.
When I got home I made a Victoria sponge cake with the jam she gave me which was made from gigérine, a kind of small melon
Marmande back to the canal and on towards Buzet-sur-Baise
Once back on the canal, from here the path does not vary much, if at all. There is the canal to your side which changes from left to right as you occasionally cross it on little bridges but the cycle path rarely if ever really leaves the canal. There are the still waters occasionally broken by a passing barge. We pass a few people jogging or walking their dogs and nod at fellow cyclists but this is not a busy stretch of tow-path. We see herons and woodpeckers. We continue without seeing much sign of civilisation. It is like taking another type of road, a more ancient, slower tree lined road. The trees lining the canal are regimented, evenly spaced and reflected in the mirror like waters. At the locks it is tempting to stop and watch if there is a boat passing through. There isn’t really any town between Marmande and Agen so your best bet if you want to stop for lunch or to fill up on water would be Buzet-sur-Baise, here there is a sort of fancy marina, a few shops and restaurants and public toilets.
Buzet-sur-Baise to Agen
Onwards from Buzet-sur-Baise, it is much of the same. You will get very familiar with the canal! There is a cool part where the canal passes over a river on a bridge. [pic] and shortly before and after this the trees disperse so if its sunny you are fully exposed to the sunshine. The path itself is much like the previous stretch: smooth surfaced for the most part with some gravel sections and bumpy in places due to the roots of trees pushing up through the hot asphalt. We were able to tell when we were nearing Agen because the path suddenly got much busier. The final approach to the city is itself very impressive with another, much longer water bridge crossing a much wider river. After crossing the bridge you are almost directly in the city centre. So there you are. You’ve made it, hopefully with enough time to enjoy the charming city of Agen.
We didn’t know it at the time of our trip but as you cross the viaduct into Agen there is a recently opened cycle café on your left. Definitely worth dropping in and supporting another local business.
They are called simply Café Velo and the address is Rue du Duc d’Orléans 47000 Agen, Aquitaine