The pedalling photographer

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Brittany by Bike (continued)

Pleven – Taden – St Malo – Poole

The road out of Pleven almost immediately took a steep descent, which is always a good start but, as all cyclists know, a flying descent is frequently followed by a demanding – and, in this case, zigzag – ascent!

The threatening black clouds that we awoke to seemed to follow us all day and we were constantly putting on/taking off our wet weather gear. However, we couldn’t grumble, as it was only the second time on this cycle trip that we’d had to don our waterproofs while cycling.

Our plan was to head for a campsite slightly north of Dinan, at a place called La Hisse (as in hissy fit!!). As normal, we were following the very quiet back roads, but the downside of this is that it does require looking at the map more frequently. However, this is far outweighed by the plus side in that these tiny roads can often be little gems and take you through places that you’d never normally visit.  Unfortunately, one had a slight lapse of concentration and missed a vital right turn! By the time I’d realized my mistake, we’d gone too far to turn back and it made more sense to continue on our present course, which in effect took us further down the map than we had planned. The last couple of miles found us on a busy road which took us into the centre of Dinan.

We decided to revise our plans and headed for the campsite we’d used at the start of our trip. As we pulled up outside the campsite reception, we were hailed by a familiar voice and, lo and behold, up pops Pete from Chester!! What a welcome surprise and such a strange coincidence! Pete also had decided to revise his plans as, after a couple of nights on noisy campsites on the coast, he’d decided to head inland and ended up at the Taden campsite the day before we arrived. This called for a celebratory evening out and, as the campsite watering hole was closed, we walked into Taden village for a few drinks at the Bar Tabac. The bar was frequented by a friendly crowd made up of local Bretons and some British expats. The good-natured patron played an eclectic mix of music, from Breton folk music through to the Beatles and it was good to listen to some familiar old tunes. Chris decided to finish the evening off with a small brandy, only to discover it was cheaper than the local Breton cider she’d been drinking – if only she’d known that earlier!

The following morning, Pete headed for St Malo, as his ferry home was a day earlier than ours. We spent the day ‘housekeeping’ – Chris washing the clothes and me cleaning the bikes – and generally taking it easy. That evening we treated ourselves to a meal at the Cochon Grille, the campsite restaurant. While there, we received a text from Pete to say that he’d changed his ferry ticket and was going home a day early due to the bad weather. This planted a seed in our minds that we might also do the same.

We discussed our route back to St Malo and decided in the end to follow the Voie Verte V3 to Dinard and then take the sea bus, a route that had been recommended to us by several touring cyclists. The route was shorter than we anticipated and we were soon at Dinard port searching for the Bus de Mer terminal. Fortunately, we were just in time for the next ferry and soon had our bikes and panniers loaded on the boat, which turned out to be a much easier task than we had expected.

We were soon in St Malo and made our way to the ferry office to enquire about changing our tickets. Due to the deteriorating weather conditions, we decided that it would be a good idea to head back home a day earlier and, for a small fee, we were able to change our tickets. The ferry left at 8 the following morning, which required a very early start to give us time to pack up the gear and cycle down to the port.

Once on the ferry, the captain announced that the following day’s sailings had been cancelled due to the very stormy conditions that were forecast. What a stroke of luck that we’d decided to change our tickets, as we would have been left stranded in St Malo, possibly for a couple of days, in awful weather conditions!

Once back in the UK, we set off on our cycle home. The wind was very strong and gusty, which made cycling quite dangerous. We battled on, but after coming across a cyclist who had just been blown off her bike into a parked van, we decided to be sensible and asked a family member to pick us up.

This was the end of our mini adventure, but there will be more to follow…


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Brittany by Bike

St Malo – Dinan – Iffendic

To celebrate our ‘milestone’ birthdays this year, we wanted to have a mini adventure. We decided to treat ourselves to a 3-week holiday rather than snatching the brief week away we normally have due to being self-employed. As we love our bikes, we planned a cycle camping trip to Brittany in France. We wanted to cycle on quiet country roads, or follow one of the many Veloroutes, and spend a couple of days cycling, a couple of days sightseeing…

Being lucky enough to live on the coast of southern England, with easy access to the cross-Channel ferries, we only have to cycle a mere 9 miles to the Port of Poole in Dorset and jump on a ferry to St Malo.

This we did one dull, grey morning in May, rather apprehensively and wondering what we were letting ourselves in for due to the unseasonable weather conditions. However, we managed to arrive in France at least dry, if not slightly windswept after a choppy crossing – the sea being described by the captain as ‘un peu agite’ – and a windy cycle to the campsite in St Malo.

The following morning we packed up and set off for Dinan. As usual, trying to fathom the best route out of town by bike took some doing! By lunchtime it had started to spit with rain, which then turned into a torrential downpour and by the time we arrived at the campsite at Taden, we were absolutely soaked! This downpour continued for the next 2 days, which kept us tent bound. Being confined to the tent for this period of time encouraged us to practise the art of face-to-face conversation, a skill rarely used these days!!

We decided we wanted to look around the medieval town of Dinan, which we had visited last year but had been unable to take many photos as I had foolishly forgotten to pack my camera battery charger! So, when the rain eased slightly on Monday afternoon, we took a chance and walked into town alongside the Rance River, togged up in our waterproofs, just in case!

Later that evening on the campsite, we met a couple from New Zealand who were also cycle touring. They had cycled from Bridgewater in Somerset, UK, after collecting their new Thorn touring bikes, which they’d ordered online back in NZ. We spent a happy couple of hours discussing gear and bikes and comparing routes, as cycle campers do!

The following morning the sun was shining, yay! Time to pack up and move on. It took us a couple of hours to get the gear stashed (we do get quicker at this as the holiday goes on!), but we then spent another hour or so chatting to our Kiwi friends before leaving.

After finding our way out of Dinan, we had a roller-coaster ride (i.e. hills!) to our next destination, Iffendic. We got there only to discover, after asking for directions, that the campsite was a couple of kilometres out of town. As usual, a motorist’s idea of a ‘couple of kilometres’ transforms into at least three times that distance on a bike! We eventually found the campsite down a long lane, in the middle of a forest, next to a lake. This was going to be a one-night stopover as the next day we were heading for Paimpont in the Foret de Broceliande