Tom's (and others) feedback on his cycletour in France with us
Nowadays all our feedback comes in the form of reviews on things like Tripadvisor - but in the 'old days we used to get emails like the following;-)
"A very special bit of feedback"
What follows is probably of little interest to most people, but for me, and Breton Bikes it's a rather special few lines. Why? Because this is the feedback we got from Tom and Gerry 20 years ago. Not only were they our first ever customers from the USA, but more significantly they were our first ever internet booking. There's also the feedback from our first ever 'internet' family customers and I hope that in both cases you'll get a feel of the holiday as they are now - because little has changed! Of course nowadays it's all on Tripadvisor and Facebook, but in those days letters like these were precious...
You can imagine the scene -
Me - "Kate Look!"
Kate - "What"
Me - "Someone's just booked on the internet!"
Kate - "You're kidding - what are they called"
Me - "Tom and Gerry Moriaty"
Kate "It's your Brother-in-Law winding you up!"
Not only did they come for our Led Trip, they came another three times and brought friends. I think it's the only time I've ever really got one over on Kate...
So for those still with me here is what Tom wrote back to us...
"I just returned from a formal tour of Normandy. I did not experience any of the problems/irritations that I find so often expressed on this board concerning tours. No time constraints, ate where and when we wanted, stopped and visited all the sites we wished to etc. The leader was knowlegable and laid back. The tour was very definitely a French experience, and I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in really getting "into" the country. The tour group also operates in Brittany and the Loire Valley. We wandered up and down lanes, narrower than my driveway, thru very beautiful country, eating out in small family run restaurants. (each meal took about two hours)The operator is BRETON BIKES; yep, we cycled around Normandy for two great weeks. We chose the camping option, rather than go with the B&B, or hotel or Gites choices. We (my wife and two friends) planned to stay in a hotel or B&B every 2nd or 3rd night. However after one night of camping, my wife and friends did not want to miss out on all the fun camping afforded, nor on Geoff's great campground recipes, so we ended up camping every night. Our lodging cost about $40 for two, for two weeks. The companionship this type of "tour" affords was a very big bonus. We had mostly "Brits", with French and us Americans for leavening. Group was 14 people ranging from 29 to 68. Us Americans were in our early 60's except for my wife who is ????For the cyclist: Pace was slow, at sight seeing, social pace (30 miles a day average -maximum 40). Frequent stops. Definitely not for the hammerhead. Roads were great, with almost no traffic. Altho there were some hills (inclines to me), Geoff, and the assistant sweep, were great coaches, and got everyone over them with a great deal of humor and sound advice, My wife only pushed her bike up one short hill. Coaching was excellent and has helped us out already on our weekend jaunts around the neighborhood. Equipment was in top notch shape. No problems with 14 tourers in the two weeks.For the camper: Campgrounds were absolutely spotless. I have never seen anything like them for cleanliness in Canada or the States. I would be embarassed to bring any of the group over here for camping. Again good equipment.We definitely plan on doing it again next year, probably the Loire Valley." - Tom Moriarty
Ralphe and his Family come to Brittany;-)
Sometimes (quite often) we get some lovely letters from people and with Ralphes permission I've reproduced his here. It's especially important because he and his family came a long way and I'm acutely aware that sending large amounts of money to some bandit with a website is everyone's nightmare.
Hello Geoff & Kate:
This is a little late in writing but here's a note that you can use as a testimonial or clip quotes from and add to your former guests' lists of very positive comments. We're late in writing since we moved our household upon our return to Canada, then add in some settling time and Christmas...... excuses, excuses. Never the less, here's a very positive note for you:
"In 2006 we were stressed out by our very busy work lives and all that goes into raising 3 active children (ages 10, 7, and 5). Our goals were to find a holiday where (a) we could spend a lot of quality time together, (b) get a good taste of the "real" France to expand our collective cultural awareness, (c) have an active vacation that all 5 of us could do together, and (d) just get away from it all. We searched the web and came acros your site.
Your advice and patience with our initial emails was wonderful. In the end there were no surprises. Response time to our queries was extremely quick and you were well versed to the travel requirements of a family. Thanks ever so much.
It is quite daunting (and a little scary) selecting a website and then sending money to someone we had never met nor had anyone recommended you to us. My wife and I can say that we never regretted anything, and that the trip was simply fantastic. It matched and exceeded all 4 of the above stated goals.
We did 2 weeks with you. One week by camping mostly for the children and one week in the hotels for us older folks. The recommended itnenrary was bang on. Binic was loved by all (even if it was a little hilly en route). The two chateaux capitvated our imagination. The food (Madame Tutour made a meal for us that was simply our best ever and one for the ages), wine, and apple cider were extremely memorable. We now regularly eat crepes and croissants here at home.
The map (when read carefully) and instructions were clear and got us where we needed to be. The secenery was spectacular. We have, in fact, no concerns or complaints at all about our trip. We really appreciated your help and friendly service.
The true acid test in all of this is, as we sit here a few months later, the fact that our kids talk about the trip enthusiastically and remember details of the bike trip vividly. They want to retrun and do more cycling. Great stuff when one considers that we travelled over 300 km with such a young troop!
We have mentioned your establishment to several others and hope that they will come and that we'll return. Thanks for our best vacation ever.
Reminiscences of a Breton Biker
1995 - my introduction to Breton Bikes was the Loire valley tour in September. I had never riden a bike with gears before (a fact I did not disclose to Geoff in advance), so had to be shown how to use them. However, my years of cycling to the shops and to work on my old army bike (yes, it is one of the old green ones!) had given me the stamina to keep going. Days of long stretches of road, running between sunflower fields, picnics by the roadside, cooking on the campsite. Goats cheese - straight from the farm - melons rillettes and rillons (wonderful pork stuff, for those who don't know), all washed down with (how many bottles was it, Geoff?) of Rosé d'Anjou, Chinon, Bourgueil; not to mention all those demi de pression or Pelforth bruns on the road! The mushroom cave, where we bought kilos of chestnut mushrooms, which we later fried up with garlic and butter; the chateaux, Ussé, Chinon, Langeais....
Ah yes! Langeais, where my french penfriend came to meet me, bringing a large tent, with pillows and mattress, picnic table and chairs, car, proper cooker. I dined in state and slept in luxury, and crime of crimes, went out in the car!
However, 2 days later it was back to basics and back on the road with the gang. We saw the huge columns of steam rising from the 4 centrales of the nuclear power station at Chinon. And all the time the Loire with its sandbanks, islands and inlets, shining blue flowed on first on our left, then on our right, as we made our way back west to our starting point.
The weather changed, rain came, Touraine seemed more autumnal. Then one day near the end a gale blew against which we all struggled all day, spread along the route, finally straggling in to the camp site at Pouancé exhausted and soaked, in ones, twos or threes. But the tents were all got up and made safe.
There were other things - the snail farm, the Abbaye de Fonteyrard (spelling ?), where Richard the Lionheart still lies, but it would all take too long.... and of course, there was also the biking!
When I got home, after using Geoff's brilliant gear, I set about getting a decent bike. Having experienced the joys of seeing places by bike, I explored East Anglia this way, with a collegue in the Spring fo 96 and from time to time I go down to Sussex to ride on the downs and round Ashdown Forest.
1996 - the Dordogne, with Breton Bikes. This was wonderful, in spite of all those 3 km hills! The long autumn mornings, St Emilion, Lascaux, Bergerac Montbazillac - and Sarlat - which has to be the heaven where all gourmands go!
1997 in the Spring I brought my sister to do the first week of the season in Brittany. We set off with the map and route towards the north coast, spending 2 nights each at St Quay-Portrieux and at the campsite facing the Ile de Bréhat. I fell in love with Brittany! Other parts of France are wonderful, but there is a quiet charm and friendliness in all the places we went in Brittany, which is unique.
I specially remember the little church at Plouha. It is famous for its mural of the 'Danse macabre' - (a meditation of the fact that death is a great leveller), but where the guardienne pointed out to us that the little feet, peaking out from under the virgin Mary's robes, were clad in galoshes, the tradition fisherfolk wear of the locality, and that the roof of the church renovated last century is constructed like an upturned boat. After that we checked the roofs and virgin statues in many other churches and found each statue neatly shod in galoshes, sheltered by many upturned boats.
Autumn 97 - The Loire, or bits of it we didn't do last time! We did a sort of hexagone all around Tours. This was the wettest soggiest cycling trip I have ever had! But the chateaux were wonderful! I have pictures and pictures of them. My favourite was Valencay. I particularly enjoyed the group on this trip - and I have to mention in particular our American component. How much nicer it is to be greeted in the morning, as I stick my head out of my tent and stretch, to a cry of "Good morning, Princess..." (thanks, Tom!), than the normal English comment on "What time do you think this is? or the like.
But I have to back to Brittany; there is so much of it I haven't seen, and one day I will trace more careful the lines of pilgrimage running through it, which later join up with the main trunk pilgimage routes to Compostelle.