Rolling off the ferry into Brittany and getting almost instantaneously lost, we realised just how ill prepared we were. Fortunately, it was not long until Andy - a school teacher we had met on the crossing - took us under his wing for the morning; to be honest, I think he was quite shocked at our lack of preparation, but he hid it well with inspiring tales of his previous tours in the land of France.
Despite Edwards’ day being plagued with punctures, we were eased into our saddles along the various tow paths that followed on from the beautiful renaissance town, Dinan in all of its quaint beauty… Andy soon took his leave and we continued on the road to Rennes; after several hours and an unfortunate collision with a group of youths, we arrived looking for food and soft ground. Settling down in a beautiful wooded campsite on the edge of town, we tucked in to a few bottles of local cider and an XL pizza each – a real source of sustenance.
Situated at the confluence of the Vilaine and Ille rivers, Rennes is steeped in history; its heritage is particularly evident in the historical downtown, where the cobbled streets lined with their crooked, timber framed houses made for a turbulent ride.
We eventually managed to find a rather large bike shop in the commercial center and bought Edward some lovely new puncture proof 23’s; he fitted them to his Motobecane in a dirty garage with a croissant in hand and we set out on our way.
We somehow ended up on the auto-route, but it may have something to do with our inadequate navigation tools…
Once safe from a field of screaming artics and broken glass and suitably impressed with our tyres, we finally entered the rolling hills of Brittany we had all dreamed of. We pedalled through one quaint village to the next, occasionally stopping to sample the delights of an artisan patisserie or cool our heads using the village pumps.
We followed the route of the river through this idyllic rural dream for several days; the life of a tourer seemed insouciant, with the gentle gradient and the kindness of the local, independent campsites in the area; on one occasion we were treated to a night of criminally cheap bathtub wine! We were eventually spat out across the Loire River and briefly into the industrial city of Nantes, which we spent several hours trying to escape as the sun set behind us.
It was on the following day that the bohemian dream ended... After an early lunch in La Roche we were subject to miles of stretched, open road along the Western coast. The headwind whipped dust into our eyes and nearly battered us into submission, as we were already competing with holiday makers hurling past us; probably with the hope of getting in on some afternoon heat.
We finally rolled into La Rochelle; which, I must say; is the one of the most beautiful urban environments I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Upon arriving, we wondered the various stone corridors, weaving our laden steeds through the busy crowds that inundated streets. Charmed by its winsomeness, we decided to unload our bicycles for the first time and treat ourselves to a night of fun and games about town.
Feeling deflated lately? Try rolling on some puncture proof tyres...