The pedalling photographer

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Brittany by Bike

Iffendic – Paimpont – Malestroit

The next morning we packed up and cycled a staggering 12 miles (phew!) to our next destination, Paimpont. This may seem a lot of effort just to move on 12 miles but we had no food, there were no shops nearby and we had intended to visit Paimpont anyway. The one downside to taking the quiet back roads of France is that it is a rare event to come across a store selling a variety of foodstuffs, particularly fresh fruit and veg. Although fresh croissants and crusty baguettes are tasty, they give you little in the way of oomph for cycling! So when we arrived in Paimpont and spotted the local Spar, we were like a couple of excited children in a sweet shop!!

On returning to the municipal campsite, laden with goodies, we were somewhat horrified to discover that we must have pitched on an ants nest, as the inside of the tent was alive with the little blighters! We hurriedly emptied the tent and moved it further across our rather large pitch, much to the interest of the French family camped nearby. Fortunately, our ant problem was solved and we had a quiet night. However, the next morning the rest of the campsite was bathed in glorious sunshine while we were in the gloom of the only shady spot on the site! This most definitely would not do – having spent two whole days tent bound due to the torrential rain at the start of our trip, we wanted to enjoy some sunshine. Yes, you’ve guessed, we decided to move the tent again! Mid-move, we realised we were becoming the camp entertainment, with our fellow French campers wondering why we were creeping closer and closer to them!

For anyone interested in Arthurian legends, the town of Paimpont and the surrounding ancient woodland, the Forest of Broceliande, is steeped in folklore and is a place of magic and mystery. In the thick forest surrounding the town is Merlin’s Tomb, the Valley of No Return, the Golden Tree, the Fountain of Youth (which we were tempted to visit!) and all things to do with wicked fairies, pixies and elves. Needless to say, the town abounds with shops selling all the paraphernalia related to the above! There is, however, an attractive historic abbey and large lake in the town centre and an interesting ancient ironworks a couple of miles out of town.

The last of couple of days had been very hot and sunny – mustn’t grumble, but it did get to 29 degrees C! We were warned that a storm was on its way the following day, the day we were moving on, so we decided to get an early start before the weather turned. Amazingly, we were packed and on the road by 8.30 – we were beginning to master the art of packing the panniers!

We were heading for Malestroit, on the Nantes-Brest Canal. The cycling was wonderful – apart from the monstrous hill out of Paimpont, which one of our cycling buddies would have thought a wonderful start to the day…he who loves hills!! We passed through some lovely scenery – woodland, lots of countryside views (i.e. hills again!), pretty wildflowers – and very quiet roads. On entering a little place called Caro, we spotted a Bar Tabac and decided to reward ourselves with a coffee after the climb into the village. It wasn’t the most salubrious of places, looking as if it hadn’t been decorated since World War II, with the Patron gazing dolefully out of the window, but, hey, so what, the coffee tasted good! Somewhat refreshed, we continued through the village only to be confronted, round the very first corner, by a swish-looking, brand new, bright and cheery…yes, you’ve guessed it…modern cafe! Why does that always happen?!!

We continued on our way, with more great cycling, and arrived in Malestroit early afternoon (to be continued…)


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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