Oh, France – how good you have been to us!
At last post, we were into Bretagne (Brittany) and pushing further out the cap. Centuries ago, Bretons identified as an island because the forest was so thick they had little contact with “mainland” France. The culture here is infused with Celtic roots (KS – this is your France) and it really does feel different than the other France we’ve explored so far. The language is a little different, the signs & public information all include the original language… Très cool!
In Bretagne, we have explored the coasts (correction from last post- it’s the Côte d’Armor, not amour), spent an afternoon/evening on the beach and then some…
5-6 days ago, we biked north to the start of the Velodessy in Roscoff. The EuroVelo 1 bike route starts here and runs far south to Spain. After a grueling day in hills and wind, it was exciting to be at the top of the trail and watching other bike tourists pull into camp to start the leg south.
We took a train from Roscoff to Morlaix (those aforementioned hills… No sense or joy in doing them twice) and started our journey in the direction of Nantes. For the first day, the trail followed an old train line to Carhaix. Easy biking, free of cars… Lovely!
In Carhaix, we saw a dozen or more bike tourists at the municipal campground. It was so cool to look around and see cyclist after cyclist pull in. Most were in couples or trios, and one or two solo-cyclists. Over wine, beer and laundry we got to know a couple from the Basque Country, Dave the Brit and Carl & Mark the retired police from Plymouth.
From Carhaix, it seemed all groups were headed south for one purpose: LE TOUR DE FRANCE. It was a day’s ride to Gerouac for camping, where we saw Carl & Mark again and met a handful of other Tour fans and really lovely people. Gerouac felt most like a community or neighborhood, with neighbors Joy & Steve offering their chargers, C & M offering their box of wine and the kind man washing his dishes offering his map and enthusiasm for the tour. We were up late our first night there, drinking wine and laughing, laughing, laughing with our fellow campers.
From Gerouac it was a ~12 mile ride to Mur de Bretagne, the finish line for the eighth stage of the Tour de France. We got to town early for a bite to eat and to get the lay of the land. Eventually we posted up at the 90-degree turn just 3km from the arrivée (finish) of the day with thousands of other Tour fans lining the road.
Oh. My. Gosh. What an experience. First, the caravan – this carnival experience on wheels, ~1 hour before the cyclists, parade cars from the sponsors throwing out goodies en masse to the crowds. Little old ladies will throw elbows for the swag – Joy warned us and we didn’t believe her until we nearly got pushed out of our own space.
And then – the real experience. Hundreds of cyclists rounding the corner in a huge wave (peloton, if you’re into the proper name), at 25 MPH to push up this hill at 10% grade. It was the coolest. The Tour finale in Paris is the same day we get in – it’s a priority to get there in time to watch the finish!
To continue south, we are following the Canal de Nantes à Brest. Built by Napoleonic prisoners back when, this canal brings us to the start of the Loire Valley veloroute to Paris. After miles and miles of hills, a flat and fast canal route was much welcome and appreciated. We covered 50+ miles today easily in less than 8 hours and enjoyed them all.