An account of an excellent led cycle camping trip with Breton Bikes in Brittany in June 2010.
This is a Blog posted by one of our customers - Gail and Mike came all the way from Australia - if you want to see the original please go here.
Saturday 5 June 2010, arrival day
A variety of journeys brought Geoff of Breton Bikes together with myself, an ageing English aspiring cycle camper, and Gail and Mike, a mature Aussie couple, who had taken part in mass rides in Victoria, and also organised Iron Man competitions in Western Australia, persuaded to take part by their daughter who had done the same two years earlier! Meeting at St Brieuc station at 2.0 pm, we were transported the 45 minute or so journey to Gouarec, where we were introduced to Geoff’s wife, Kate, and the splendid collection of cycle and camping gear they keep on the municipal camp site, strangely enough run by an Englishman, David. Acquainted with our bikes, and having started to unravel the mystery of our tents, etc, the three ‘Newbies’ rode along the Breste to Nantes canal some 5 km to Bon Repos, with its ruined Abbey by the river, and enjoyed omelettes in a bar there overlooking the river and the abbey.
Sunday 6 June – Gouarec to Mael Carhaix – 32 Km, c. 20 Miles
After struggling with the first tent foldings and bike loadings etc we enjoyed an excellent continental breakfast at the camp site courtesy of David. From Gouarec we rode east along the canal path to Plelauff, then through Rostrenen. After our first long steady climb, we were on an old rail track by D23 to Kerdouc’h, then onto D23 to Mael-Carhaix, where we stopped for picnic lunch by a lake. Refreshed we went on to Carhaix-Plouguer, to a camp site down a steep long hill on west side. After a cool beer on a warm sunny day, we pitched camp, and later walked up to town to the only restaurant open on Sunday evening, a Pizzeria, with excellent Pizzas.
Monday 7 June – Carhaix-Plouguer to Terenez – 70km, c. 45 miles
We breakfasted at 9.0 am at the camp bar for 4.5 Euros. Fully laden we laboured up the hill to town and then onto D769, and 18 km to the turn for Huelgoat. A long steady 5.5km climb mostly through trees took us to Berrion, where we met a young Englishman setting off for a round Europe ride, and all had beers in a local bar. Undulating countryside, mostly uphill, took us to a roadside restaurant for excellent lunch, four courses including 1 litre of wine for 11 Euros each. In rain, we set off downhill for Morlaix, where we stopped and looked around for ½ hour, with bikes parked under the big rail viaduct. The old church with leaning columns and sloping cross beams was fascinating.
We rode on down the river, past marinas and boatyards, leaving the river for a climb up to Plouzec’h, then down again steeply to camp site at Baie de Terenez, at top of estuary. The camp site boasted a heated swimming pool, used by yours truly, then Geoff cooked supper of Cassoulet in the guest room on the site, washed down with red and white wine, all of which induced a deep sleep!
Tuesday 8 June – Baie de Terenez to Locquirec. 30km, c21 miles
After a wet night, we woke to a cloudy morning, and rode 5.5 km to Plougasnou, a lovely small country town on market day. Usual breakfast of Pain au Raisin and coffee outside a bar overlooking the market with excellent local produce, but a heavy shower while there. Then we rode inland to Lanmeur on D78 across undulating farmland with artichokes etc growing, then back N.E. to Locquirec, a lovely harbourside town. After beers in a bar overlooking harbour and estuary, we progressed almost next door to a local restaurant packed with locals, 11 Euros each for Hors d’oeuvres, Blanquettte de Veau, Cheese, fruit tart, and coffee, plus a litre of wine for four.
Feeling relaxed after an easy ride and good lunch, we rode up the side of the estuary to a beautiful camp site by the beach. After a heavy shower of rain on arrival, we pitched tents etc, then cycled uphill to Plestin-les-Graves, a pretty old town to look around and to buy supper at the Supermarche, and back down to camp site. Early evening was pleasant and half sunny, and we then spent the evening in an excellent communal hall, where we cooked supper on the Trangia stoves, ate French Caribbean food, drank red and white wine, and spent the rest of the evening playing pool, where we found that Geoff was a bit of a master, and I was definitely not!! Laying down heads in tents produced the strange effect of the tiny waves on the beach turning themselves into great breakers in our ears!
Wednesday 9 June Locquirec to Pontrieux – 51 km, c.30 miles
I awoke early, and arose at 7.30 to be ready to leave loaded at 9.0 am as usual. Riding 3km uphill again to Plestin-les-Greves, we breakfasted as usual, and cycled 32 km to Begard, some of it flat along the coast at St Michel, stopping in a beautiful village, Ploumilliau, with flowers all round the church, and the town square. On the edge of Begard, we found a large restaurant, again packed with workers,, and for 10.5 Euros each, ate hors d’oeuvres, chicken or fish, cheese, a sweet, and a litre of wine. A tip, always look for the white vans outside!
Cycling on through Begard in the rain, not a particularly exciting town, we rode on 16 km through undulating countryside, with more heavy rain, especially as we rode down into Pontrieux, a pretty town on the river, with a nice camp site by the river just above the town centre. Sheltering in the site loos for a while, we pitched tents, and cycled into town to find food for the evening. In the absence of a communal room, we used the site laundry where the four of us just fitted in, and Geoff cooked us an excellent Couscous, with lamb, sausage and veg, after smoked salmon with crème fraiche, and we managed to consume 5 bottles of wine between four. Another wet evening and night, but we were all dry in our tents.
Thursday 10 June. Pontrieux to Binic 30 km, c. 19 miles
Striking a damp camp, we pedalled into town for the usual breakfast, and set off for an easy half day ride to Binic, uphill on D6, to Le Cabaret and Treverec. Crossing the main highway, and through Lannebert, we reached Binic via Pleguien and Plourhan. Sheltering under the highway, while Geoff fixed his errant cleats, we saw the chivalrous site of a young couple on bikes with full camping gear, but he carrying all the gear, and she riding light! A bad precedent methinks, perhaps they were on honeymoon!?
It still being morning when we arrived at the campsite high above the long beaches at the North of the town and harbour, we hoped for a pleasant afternoon’s rest before a long day the next day to base. Walking down to town to Jeff’s burgers, the rain increased steadily, and we mostly meandered around the town, with its harbour, through which yachts in profusion enter a large locked-off marina. It could be lovely in nice weather!! Evening frivolities were a little muted, but with excellent Crepes and cider in a proper Creperie. Moving onto a bar, where the owner gave us free glasses of wine (possibly in the hope of getting rid of four damp and slightly niffy cyclists), we played the usual games of EUCA (won by me and my partner, Gail), and retreated in the end back up to the camp site, for a wet night.
Friday 11 June, last ride to base, Binic to Gouarec 70 km, c 45 miles
With tents weighing twice their usual weight with water, we managed to strike camp early. Down in Binic we had usual breakfast, before setting off for along steady climb away from the coast over 3 kms, but quite easy, up a pretty treed valley. We rode through Prido, Notre Dame de la Coeur, and onto the D4, and Plelo and Chateaulaudren, where we stopped for coffee after 16.5 km. The whole day’s ride was considerably eased by a steady North wind!
Riding South out of Chateaulaudren on the D7 (the only busy road of the trip), we turned off after 3km on D24 to Boqueho. Out of there on a double arrow hill, which did not seem as bad, we carried on over delightful rolling countryside to St Gildas, in cloudy but dry weather after a damp start. Past Le Vieux Bourg, and turning off at Karmartail, we rode through Le Petit Paris, with large stables with thoroughbreds in the paddocks, to Canihuel, where the sun shone. We had been over the highest ground of the trip, 308 m. with many wind turbines mysteriously rotating, with their gentle whoosh. At Canihuel we had the best bargain lunch in a pretty bar restaurant, who had been notified of our slightly late arrival. A pate salad was followed by the most superb piece of beef, cooked rare, so fresh it tasted of the grass in the field it had just been grazing, then cheese, sweet, coffee, and of course, wine, all for 11 Euros each. The sun was still shining, so, well fed and watered for the last time, we set off through St Nicholas-du Pelun, for easy and enjoyable riding over friendly countryside, mixed rolling fields, with downs and ups, short enough mostly to use most of the loaded momentum. For a final detour, we turned left at St Trephine, down to Laniscat, and through the quiet Gorges du Daoulas to Bon Repos, along the Nantes to Breste canal for level cycling back to base at Gouarec.
Drying off the tents at last, and ourselves and some clothes, we enjoyed a quiet early evening at the site. In the evening, Mike, Gail, and I enjoyed a snack supper of Croque Monsieur, followed by watching the first French game of the World Cup, in which France only managed a draw with Uruguay, to the amazingly muted admiration or otherwise of the assembled company in the bar!
Saturday 12 June - Home again
Taking life easy in the morning for a change, handing over bikes and gear, and a picnic lunch on site, we were taken with other happy cyclists, all of whom had enjoyed hotel nights, down to St Brieuc, where we took our various places on the superb main line SNCF train to Paris.
For me it was an experience of a lifetime, seeing wonderful countryside, good riding in which I surprised myself as to my fading ability to cope with long but steady climbs, and enjoyed immensely the camping, the food and wine, the company, La belle France, and the efficient organisation of Geoff and Kate at Breton Bikes. We were unlucky with the weather, especially for mid June, but to my surprise, it took little from the enjoyment, and added to the satisfaction of being able to cope with and even enjoy it. Especially for anyone on their own, and with little experience of proper ‘all up’ cycle camping, the purest form of cycle touring, I could not recommend too strongly the brilliant service provided by Geoff and Kate at Breton Bikes, and I thank the day I came across them on the internet.
A Small Favour
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