eat ride love

His and her technical and gastronomic musings.

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His bike garage: 1997 Ciöcc New Age – part 1


I bought the Ciöcc last winter because:

1. It came with a home trainer which was what I was most interested in.

2. It had a Mavic Mektronic groupset which I was curious about.

I knew the frame had two cracks on both sides of the head tube. I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice aluminium TIG-welding and try to repair it. Great if it worked, if not, it wasn’t a big loss.


First, I welded the cracks. 11971179746_0b24f0ca6f_z

I was worried that with the forces coming from the fork under braking and on rough roads, the cracks would reappear. To reinforce the steerer, I cut two pieces of aluminium that I rolled to the correct diameter and positioned them at both ends of the steerer tube.


I positioned them so that the headset would still fit properly.


Then it was time to weld everything. I had difficulty in keeping the aluminum fusion bath clean. I later learnt from a frame builder that you are also supposed to contain inert gas inside the steerer tube. I will remember it for next time, but I doubt it will break now.


This is the result after a quick grinding. At this point I wanted to test the Mektronic so I left the welds in this state thinking I could always make it nicer and paint it later, after having ridden the bike and assessed the rigidity of the frame.



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Happy New Year!

IMG_5862 Happy new year everyone! We know we have not been posting anywhere as much as we should have and would have liked, but His and Her lives have been quite busy and sometimes complicated since the end of the summer holidays. In early september, I started a Master’s in France. We were going to be separated again. But, to make a long story short, my studies stopped abruptly and nothing was holding me back in France anymore. I gave the news to a very happy Frog that I would be moving to Amsterdam before Christmas. I loaded one of my bikes* and a couple of things in the little Renault and moved to the Low Countries. Christmas holidays now well and fully digested, I’m now looking for a job in the Haarlem and Amsterdam area. The Frog and I were also looking for a place to live together. This all takes a lot of time and energy, and sadly our saddle time dropped near to zero apart from our daily albeit flat commutes. Once I have found a job and settled, we promised to ride more. In that regard, my dear Frog will also be taking part in a sportive with a team later in the spring. According to Frank from Meesterknecht, the course consists of “short and steep hills”. This should be interesting, but finding a good hill climb training spot here in Amsterdam might prove even harder. If time and money allows, I’ll try to switch Her Look to a compact crankset. While on the subject, as I mentioned earlier in 2014, we did upgrade the Look 566 to 10 speed courtesy of a full 6600 Ultegra groupset (apart from the cranks which remain, unchanged, Dura-Ace FC-7700). Shifting quality should remain on par with the excellent and smooth Dura-Ace 7400, but I hope the big and comfortable 6600-7800 style hoods will be a relief for Her aching wrist. She also got nice Dura-Ace 7800 C24 clincher wheels, which are a big improvement over her previous Mavic Aksium. (1450g versus 1900g for the Mavic). *ca.1997 Ciöcc New Age fitted with the controversial Mavic Mektronic groupset. This bike is an open pedagogic platform for me. I intend to present the bike on this blog later in the month.

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Charente day 4: Cognac – Saintes – Saint-Pierre d’Oléron

Before going to dinner, before the wines and before the cognacs, the Frog and I had decided that the last day would not start in Cognac. Well it would, but we would start cycling a little further.

Let me explain. The shortest route from Cognac to the Ile d’Oléron is where you take the N141 until Saintes and then the D728 to Oléron. This is not a pleasant itinerary on a bike. There are lots of cars and camper vans, and people usually drive fast. Riding all 95 kilometers on these roads would be dreadful.

Instead, we looked up the TER trains from Cognac and settled on the one leaving a little after 10am which would drop us twenty minutes later in Saintes (5.80€ per person). This way we could enjoy the evening and take a nicer route.

The route I proposed would not be shorter than the busy one, but since we where starting from Saintes, we could ride a bit further south and into lovely villages I knew.



We cycled out of Saintes at around 11am. Following the D131 and D136 , we passed Pisany and its lovely market hall heading to Saujon where we stopped for refreshments. What was already obvious was that the itinerary was perfect with its small roads and sleepy villages but since we were cycling westwards, we would have a head wind all day long -I stayed on the 39T chain ring all day.



After Saujon we yet again took small roads and pushed on to Mornac-sur-Seudre where we stopped just before 2pm. We settled for the P’tit Phare restaurant and sat at their terrace, looking out onto the port. The Frog pretended to be reasonable when she ordered just a seafood and duck magret salad while I went for a three course menu (shrimp salad followed by duck breasts).  Everything was to our taste: the seafood was fresh and the duck tender and juicy. If I had to change something I would use less balsamic vinegar. It overpowered the taste and the presentation.




Then came dessert. While I was being sensible with fresh pinapple, the Frog boldly ordered a Poire Belle Hélène ice cream [note from the Frog: on the Frenchie’s promise that he would help me out]. The ice cream was good (had to try it), but when we got on the bikes again it was hotter and more windy than ever (with the high tide coming in). Sadly my love still isn’t comfortable following another rider’s pace, so she spent most of the time in front of me, the wind (and the ice cream) pinning her down at low 20kphs.



We passed La Tremblade, and rode across the Seudre River, which was interesting with the strong wind. But the bridge to Oleron was even scarier. It was a weird sensation. I am used to dealing with crosswinds since I ride deep section rims, but with the bag the pressure is not evenly spread and as a result it felt like the bike was oversteering or sideslipping.




Once on Oléron we slowly made our way back to Saint-Pierre. We were both quite happy to arrive as this had been a tough 95 kilometres, especially for the Frog with her insistance on riding ahead most of the time.



That evening my gran cooked us fresh soles for dinner, just fried in the pan on salted butter, and we forgot all our aches and pains.

The next day, we would again ride bikes, but this time we used more relaxed steeds since we were just pic-nicking at the beach. I used my grandfather’s trusty Motobécane and she took a nice Bernard Thévenet that I’d bought a few years earlier.


In the end, I think we were really happy with our 4-day trip. We liked the places we stayed at and the roads we took. We promised ourselves to go back to the Marais Poitevin to spend more time in the area – it would be the perfect excuse to go back to the 2 Madeleine.

It also showed that our bikes performed flawlessly, but that we, unfortunately, did not. We didn’t ride enough prior to the trip, and we both reckon we could have enjoyed it more if we were in better shape.

– The Frenchie

95km, AVG21.4kph, MAX43kph

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Charente day 3: L’Atelier des Quais

The entrance to l’Atelier des Quais is a tiny door and stairs descending into a setting that’s almost grand. There is a fabulous terrace overlooking the Charente, and the interior is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, ensuring that all diners profit from the view.

We were seated at a table for two by the windows and in sight of the open kitchen, which made me happy since I can’t seem to shake my sadistic spying tendencies left over from my years in the restaurant business. Most of the staff seemed quite young, but also willing and eager to please. I wonder if some might be straight out of catering school, proving themselves over the summer. This is actually something I appreciated, along with the honesty of the lovely young man who brought us the head waiter to advise us on the cognac when he realised we wanted some details he wasn’t sure of. More of that later.

We started with a Pineau des Charentes to give us some time to mill over the menu. A carpaccio de magret de canard au fois gras and mousseline de langoustine for starters, followed by four types of fish in a cari sauce (from Île de la Réunion) and a poultry dish that unfortunately I forget the name of.



The starters were fab. The duck breast was thinly sliced, and you could make the perfect forkful by wrapping it around a bit of foie gras, a flake of parmesan and the accompanying salad. In the mouth it created just the right variety of tastes and textures, without going overboard. The mousseline was light without being too frothy, and poured over a sort of eggy centre holding a couple of chunks of langoustine. The dish was served warm and the freshness of the salad on top complemented it well.

We also went for a local Sauvignon out of curiosity instead of falling back on the old familiar names. The sommelier recommended it, saying it could suit us if we fancied something a little out of the ordinary. The label informed us that it was a Thierry Jullion, Domaine de Montizeau, and it was pleasantly surprising – really fresh and almost woody, certainly nothing like the bog-standard Sauvignon you usually find around the 25€ mark, and it went wonderfully with our food.



After the delight of the starters our expectations were high for the main course. The dishes were good, however perhaps we had gotten a little over-enthusiastic. The fish was cooked well, the sauce aromatic but perhaps a little too subtle for my liking. The poultry dish turned out to be a sort of poached skinless sausage served on a bed of vegetables and some stock. The vegetables were lovely – tasty and not overcooked – however the meat was a little bland and could have done with a minute or two less in the pan. Overall we were not unsatisfied and the presentation was nice, but we had been hoping for a little more.

Time for cheese.


It’s a miracle we even got a photo of it since we love cheese so much we systematically forget to take out the camera before pouncing on it. Here we managed to pause halfway though – we’re making progress and one day, dear readers, you may even be graced with a proper ‘before’ photo of a platter straight out of the kitchen. One day.

I particularly appreciated the succulent little raspberries that were sweet and ripe and go so well with goat’s cheese. The cheese itself was a pretty usual selection but decent quality and we were happy with it. Our only problem was that the wine had evaporated before the last mouthful, but we decided to remain reasonable (quite a feat) and save ourselves for the cognac.

Dessert brought us back to quality of the starters, with a very light orange cheesecake and a sablé biscuit with mascarpone and strawberries.



At last it was time for what we had come for. The cognac menu came out and we sat and stared at it for a while before deciding that we would definitely need some help. As I mentioned before, the young waiter quickly figured out that we would start grilling him for details and gracefully retreated, fetching his superior. The head waiter had ample knowledge of his menu and was more than happy to take the time for a chat to figure out what we would most enjoy.


The Frapin was perfect for easing our palette into tasting, round, flavourful and apparently popular with the ladies. Next was the Prulho, the waiter’s personal favourite. We were told that it is produced by a family business, and the grandad makes sure it has a decent kick to it, much appreciated by the locals. A kick it does have, and it was also my favourite, hands down. I like a stronger drink and this one had just what you need without overpowering the aromas. I have also just read that the family have actually been providing the big names with distillation equipment for over 50 years and that it was only more recently that they decided to start producing their own cognac.

As we discussed our choices, we were served an additional glass on the house. We had hesitated with a Bisquit, known for its popularity amongst the anglophones (and Winston Churchill it seems) so the waiter kindly gave us a glass of the VSOP to try.  I certainly wouldn’t turn a glass of the stuff down – it’s good, but just a little too nice for me. Both of us came to the same conclusion: rock on grandad Prulho!

And so we came to the end of our meal and we rolled across the street back to our roulotte happy and pleasantly full.

-The Frog

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Charente day 3: Saint-Saturnin-du-Bois – Cognac

At last a perfect day – no aches or pains, just a map, a road and us back on our bikes. We were heading south, south-west, staying well inland and sheltered from the coast’s stronger winds. The Frenchie had planned out another ‘tiny road route’, following our map. It was a pleasure following it, old-school and without a proper GPS and only resorting to Google maps on the phone occasionally.


Despite not always being perfect tarmac, the route really hit the spot. We found ourselves completely alone in the countryside, rolling over gentle hills with only the rustle of crops and trees to accompany us. Visibly these were old roads that have been replaced by the larger, newer and more direct routes and now only used by the odd farmer. At times the tarmac even disappeared completely, but we carried on in the hope that it would come back, being rewarded for our patience with the stunning views and a wonderful feeling of solitude.




We followed the D118 to Boisseuil, then the D212E3 (yes, tiny road, long name) to Bernay-Saint-Martin. It took us through the occasional village, picturesque and peaceful with maybe a cat on the prowl or an old lady peering out the window, but generally little sign of life.


We rode on through Ligueuil and La Bénate, then joined the D120, arriving in the pretty parish of Saint-Jean-d’Angély in time for lunch. I was a little hesitant to stop, seeing as we weren’t really that hungry yet and the pace was so good. However a quick look at the map told us that we would struggle to find anything open for a while after so we popped into a boulangerie and settled on the next-door café’s terrace with a beer for Frenchie and a shandy for myself. One delicious quiche and éclair and ‘gland’ later, we set off again.


Just before lunch I had actually stopped by the pharmacy to get a supportive bandage for my knee just in case, but after a while I took it off and discovered that my leg had naturally corrected its movement with the support from the previous day and I could feel no strain at all, making me a very happy bunny.

Heading south, the hills got slightly higher and the vineyards more frequent. Riding through evoked anticipation of the evening to come, and our bodies were happy to oblige, pedalling on with ease.



Our route continued through Authon-Ebéon, Migron and Le Seure where we crossed the border from Charente-Maritime to Charente. We were in Cognac country, finishing off the day on the tiny wine-grower’s roads before arriving on the banks of the Charente river, leading us into the historic town.



Happy and for once not exhausted, we presented ourselves at reception at Domaine Quai des Pontis. We were warmly welcomed despite our fabulous sweaty, road-grimey presentation and were led to our “roulotte”. They actually have a few caravans, which are really great – each of them a little off the main path, with views of the surrounding trees and lawn. The room itself was clean and cosy, though I have to admit a slight anti-climax after the perfect experience of the night before.


After the obligatory shower and quick restaurant research, we took to the streets of the old town. We actually wanted to go to a place that the staff had recommended called Le Bistrot de Claude, but despite arriving an hour before opening they were already fully booked. A good excuse to return I say.

We wandered around the cobbled streets, admiring the architecture, though a little surprised at how quiet the town was.


We eventually decided to head back to another restaurant recommended to us by the girl at reception, literally across the road from the accommodation and looking onto the Charente river…

– The Frog

 70.9km, AVG23.6kph, MAX58.4kph (his) 51.7kph (hers)

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Charente day 2: Les 2 Madeleine

I didn’t think I would be writing a separate post for our accommodation, but Les 2 Madeleine deserves it’s own. When I reserved I noticed that we not only had breakfast included in their modest 65€ per night, but we could also reserve a homemade dinner at 24€ per person. We went for it seeing as we knew we would want to relax at the end of the day, without having to get back on the bikes to search for dinner.




We were met by the friendly owners, Isabelle and Noël, and we settled in with a shower and a nap. The place was lovely and well tended-to, a traditional country house with wooden antique furniture and pleasant neutral tones.



We settled at the table around 7:45pm for the ‘apéro’ with the family and their other guests, an elderly couple staying for a few days. Noël poured out generous measures of his father’s Pinaud de Charentes, our much-loved and familiar regional aperitif. We were also encouraged to help ourselves to the nibbles on the table – small slices of bread with homemade fish ‘rillettes’ and ‘farcis Poitevin’, a sort of veg pâté with plenty of parsley.

With our palettes appropriately awakened and the conversation started, the children brought out the beautifully presented starter: a sea bass and salmon tartar with cucumber and radish. It was a warm day despite the brief spell of rain in the afternoon and the tartar was a great choice, bringing a nice crisp freshness and a lovely mixture of textures.


Between the mmming and aaahing we discovered that Noël is actually a trained chef and Isabelle is also from the hotel industry. Their professionalism certainly shined through for us, balanced with the intimacy of the family table that comes with the friendly B&B setup.

Next came the main course, roast lamb with thyme gravy served with sautéed potatoes and a generous serving of green beans from the family garden. It was simple and elegant, the lamb tender, cooked just right and the gravy brimming with flavour without being overpowering. The Frenchie, being French, needs to find some sort of fault somewhere so he’s grudgingly mumbling that his gran’s potatoes are better. But you just can’t compare gran’s cooking else you’d never be satisfied again!


The wine flowed freely, with Noël serving us seamlessly whenever our glasses emptied, switching from white to red after the starter. Out came the pungent cheese platter, an absolute essential to any French family meal. I appreciated that it had been taken out of the fridge in advance, making sure that the flavour had time to come out as they warmed to room temperature before being served, unfortunately a rare occurrence in most restaurants.

To finish we were served a liquorice and coffee crème brûlée. Noël was apologetic for the lack of crunch on top due to a malfunctioning blow torch, but needless to say that despite the only half-caramelised sugar top, everyone’s dish was scraped clean. My English side was too polite (and my foodie side too curious) to say that I’m not really much of a liquorice fan, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the blend was actually quite subtle and the result quite delicious.

By this time we had been chatting away well over our third bottle, and, not wanting to out-drink our welcome, we thanked our hosts and retired to bed.


After a peaceful night’s sleep, the next morning we were greeted with a fabulous breakfast including pancakes, little apple and apricot cakes, individual pots of ‘œufs au lait’ all homemade, as well as fresh baguette, generous slices of ham and cheese and fresh eggs from the henhouse in the garden, scrambled for me and soft boiled for the Frenchie. We devoured our way across the table, ready to eat up the miles ahead of us in the saddle.



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Charente day 2 : La Rochelle – Saint-Saturnin-du-Bois

The alarm rang at 7am. Extracting ourselves from bed was a little tricky, but we made it, remembering that we had a breakfast for champions waiting for us. A bowl of last night’s soup, ham, cheese, a fresh grapefruit and a slice of apricot tart each. It was enough to keep us going for a good while.


Both of us could feel strain in one of our knees and I figured that my problem was coming from having my saddle a little too far back on the seat post. For the Frenchie it just seems to be a matter of getting back into the correct movement while pedalling.



We set off in the direction of Les Minimes (La Rochelle’s massive marina) to catch the canal on its way out of the old town. There’s a bike path that follows the canal all the way to Marans. We found it and started down it hoping that the trail would get better as we went along. It was very bumpy and our road bikes were not happy, especially the Frenchie’s which had the additional weight of his new Carradice bag on the seat post.



We asked a few people on the way if the path got any better, but they all confirmed with a dubious glance at our bikes that it would only get bumpier. When we got to Dompierre-sur-Mer we realised we had barely covered 10km in almost an hour so we decided to risk the traffic. We headed towards Marans on the D202, avoiding the larger and busier D137.


It was a massive relief to be back on tarmac even if it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. We finished off with a few km on the D137 to get into Marans, which was busy but not too bad and had a bumpy but relatively wide hard shoulder that we could run onto if anything big brushed past too close for comfort.

With our pace finally picking up we decided to stop only long enough for a quick cereal bar and to pop into a pharmacy to find me an adhesive bandage to support my knee. It seemed to help, and we could start making better progress at last.



We followed signs for the Marais Poitevin which led us to the Canal de la Banche (D262) along fabulously empty roads. We had planned to go further north to see more of the canals following the Sèvre Niortaise upstream, but considering our various aches and pains (and the fact that this is supposed to be a relaxing, romantic holiday) we decided to shorten our route slightly. 20km later at a much more respectable pace of around 27-32kph we veered right, heading south on the D262E4 towards Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud where we would stop for lunch.



The village looked like the biggest on the map for miles around but as we cycled in we realised that it looked rather deserted. We passed about 3 restaurants that were all closed, but did find an ATM that we stopped by. An older gentleman was waiting behind us so we asked if he knew if anywhere still open. He explained that there was a place a little way back, by the supermarket. We thanked him and made a U-turn.

A few hundred metres on we found an empty Pizzeria that looked miraculously open so we stopped there to check if we could still eat. It was almost 2pm, which by French standards is late for lunch. They said yes, so we went in since we were worried that by the time we got to the other restaurant it would have stopped serving.


Baked Camembert with a salad, bacon and warm potatoes as a shared starter, pizzas for main and we couldn’t resist a cheeky dessert – salted caramel tart for Monsieur and passion fruit and raspberry sorbet for myself.

We thought we had gotten the better of the weather eating lunch while it rained, but it turned out that the weatherman had been right and as we stepped outside the light drizzle turned to proper rain. We got our rain jackets out, huddled by the wall waiting for the worst to pass and then set out under the rain.


We soon warmed up and set a decent pace, despite having agreed on taking it easy to give our stomachs some time to digest. The kilometres went by faster than expected and we were soon at our destination.

I just had to strip my knee of its soggy bandages which had become useless with the rain. I wish I could write about fantastic 150-km days without speaking of aches and pains, but I guess we’re still fine-tuning both bike and body. You’ll just have to bear with me!

71km, AVG23.3kph, MAX45.5kph