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

Moncontour – Hillion – Pleven

We said ‘au revoir’ to Pete this morning as he planned to go further along the coast than us. We were heading for Hillion, a short hop away. Quite a nice ride, but a bit of a hairy start, with a very steep descent followed by a narrow, hairpin sharp ascent out of town, which we climbed as fast as we could as there were plenty of large trucks on this road, with little or no room for them to overtake. I’ve never seen Chris pedal up a hill so fast! 

On arrival in Hillion village, we indulged in two cups of coffee and a ratatouille crepe each. The campsite was a few miles further on, situated on the peninsula overlooking the Baie de Saint Brieuc. The campsite owner led us to his ‘best pitch for touring cyclists’ – a tiny but ideal spot, with good sea views and, most importantly, surrounded by hedges and sheltered from the wind. He was very friendly and suggested we try some of the specialist Breton dishes being served at the little campsite restaurant. This we did and had the most tasty ‘fish stew’ (for want of a better description) followed by a delicious Breton pud and, as always, the obligatory cups of coffee.

One good thing about cycle touring is that you can eat lots of fattening food without putting on any weight! However, we did feel slightly guilty about the number of calories we must have consumed so we went for a stroll along the coast, plus I wanted to take a photo of the sun setting over the large mussel beds in the bay.

The plan had been to follow the coast roads back to St Malo. However, from the text reports we were getting from Pete of noisy campsites and busy roads, we had a rethink and decided to head back inland, knowing that the roads would be a lot quieter and we would be away from the touristy beach resorts.

For most of the route, we were able to follow the contours of the hills, which also enabled good views at times. We stopped at a little village, St Aaron, to check our map when an elderly cyclist in his team strip pulled up alongside. When we explained to him that we were trying to follow quiet roads, he very kindly offered to cycle with us to lead us on a quieter route which avoided a particularly steep hill – Chris was all in favour of this! This kind old chap cycled with us for about 5 miles – we wondered if anyone in the UK would have been so helpful. The French do love cyclists!

On another occasion, unable to read the road number, we spotted a French farmer crossing the road holding a bucket of freshly picked peas. We stopped to confirm we were on the right road and he asked us why we weren’t back home celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee! As we cycled off, he shouted out to us ‘God save the Queen!’, which just goes to prove that some French do love us Brits!!

We managed to find our way to our next destination, the tiny village of Pleven. We almost missed the campsite, which was situated, most unexpectedly, in the grounds of the Town Hall (the Mairie). A very pleasant campsite with adequate facilities…and only just over €4 a night for two! A bargain!

The weather was becoming changeable – very breezy, overcast and with the odd shower. We awoke to rain, which fortunately didn’t last long so we were able to pack up in the dry. Today we were heading for the Rance river, to make our way back to St Malo over the next couple of days, and the ferry home…