Exploring Finistère with Rachael and James

Trip Start May 29, 2005
Trip End Dec 17, 2005

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Chapter Summary
To ease into the pattern of cycle touring I was lucky to have Rachael and James to both harden the legs and harden the liver... The plan was a tour of Finistère, starting and ending in Roscoff. Rather brave considering it was the end of May!

A circular tour

Roscoff bound
29th May, Sunday
Start point: Reading (near London)
End point: Roscoff
Via: Plymouth - Roscoff overnight ferry

Lucky we left enough time to catch the train as at Reading they did their best to lose the booking. It required intervention by the station manager to sort the mess out. Caught a direct train to Plymouth and with an hour or so to kill we head for sunset views overlooking the sea. The park is well landscaped with open space, gardens, memorials and a group of nutty students playing silly games.
The ferry not so busy and I explored the lower decks. I unfurled my roll mat on the floor and slept soundly. Rachel kept awake listen to a chorus snoring and diagnosed at lest 4 cases of sleep apnoea!

My flatmate, Karen deciding if shes is coming.. gonna have to lose the PJs if you do ;)

Deciding what to take - and what not to is the biggest dilemma. It clearly can make you mad! (See above)

Sunset in Plymouth where we caught the overnight ferry

Special camping permission
30 May, Monday
Start point: Roscoff
End point: Plouvorn
Via: Saint-Pol-de-Leon
Odom(Km): 43
Moving(hrs.mim): 3.30
Ave(Km/h): 11.25
Total Ascent(m): ?
Max Altitude(m) ???
Max Speed(Km/h): 45

James got up very early at 4.00am and watched the sunrise swiftly followed by a breakfast of fried eggs with dippy soldiers, sausage, eggs and toast.
Set off from the ferry and toured Roscoff until very inviting Salon de Thè' beckoned. We had made it a total of 500 meters. Cycled along a long jetty and took pictures looking across the emerald sea towards the town.
Then to the larger town of St Pol de Leon which boasts two fine cathedrals and a rather serve traffic problem. We rested in a park called 'Champ de la Rive', which offered fine views of Morlaix bay and welcome post ferry snooze. We met middle aged English down sizers who were most impressed with our itinerary. Feeling the pangs of hunger we went in search of a food stop. I found a backstreet crepere called 'Creperie-Ty-Korne' where delights such as ham, Artichoke, goat cheese and cream filled creps and white whine called Touriquet where there to tempt the palette. A church tour later we headed out of town through fields of artichokes and harvested cauliflowers towards the first campsite. This is when things started to get complicated. On a arrival it was clear that the site was shut. Post ferry fatigued Rachel tantrumed over the lack of personnel at the municipal campsite near a beautiful lake. I placate Rachel by racing up the hill to the Mayors office to get a signed and stamped certificate from the mayor himself explicitly authorising camping for the night of the 30th May. It was as tough as the bargain beef from Netto we cooked on the camp stove. 4 litres of wine later I sat on my camera and smashed the LCD screen. All was forgotten after racing round the lake in the pitch black speeding like a demon. Rachel was ecstatic at the view of the Great Bear in the sky. James lay there giggling having had most of the 4 litres of wine.

Rachael and James standing on the Pier at Roscoff

Special camping permission from the Mayor

The over friendly duck
31 May, Tuesday
Start point:
End point: Sizun
Via: Landiviseau
Odom(Km): 35
Moving(hrs.mim): 3.00
Ave(Km/h): 11.7
Total Ascent(m): 535
Max Altitude(m) 151
Max Speed(Km/h): 47

To say it was a late start is a bit of an understatement. We broke camp at midday. It's a bit hilly and Rachael realised she needs to expand her granny ring to tackle the steeper inclines. Lunch at Landiviseau, a liquid lunch as breakfast had just been eaten. James practiced Frenching with the girl behind the tourist information desk to confirm the next few campsites were actually open. Speeding on we stopped for a snack and where approached by a scythe wheedling local farmer. We started speaking French quickly. As soon as we said we had stopped to eat he beamed a great smile and directed us towards a river of silage. Munching complete we soon entered 'le parc Naterel Amorique' and found campsite number 2, open and situated near to a blossom coated babbling brook that leads to a natural weir which we can hear now as we sip Conac and Pastice with an over friendly duck.

Church stop off

View from the tent

A taste of honey...
01 June, Wednesday
Start point: Sizun
End point: Landèvennec (Crozon peninsular)
Via: Le Faou
Odom(Km): 46
Moving(hrs.mim): 3.52
Ave(Km/h): 11.9
Total Ascent(m): 650
Max Altitude(m) 311
Max Speed(Km/h): 54.3

Decamped at 9.30 with two inquisitive sisters aged 5 and 9 years old to keep us company and Rachel's pastice hangover to keep James and I amused. Set off straight into the rolling hills and climbed up to 311m. Stopped by a ruined church for a nose round. In the village we came across the end of a pardon. Average age was 70 and mostly female. No less than 15 coaches were lined up to transport them to their lunch. Caught a glimpse of traditional Breton outfits with tall lace headdresses.
Lunched in Le Faux sitting on seats overlooking the estuary eating baguettes and delicious cakes from the patisserie. As no shops were open, we continued on until waylaid by cider tasting. We tried the Breton version of Calvados and a very tasty cider that more like apple juice - but with a different effect. Chatted to the proprietor who told us of dying traditions such as the Breton language his parents spoke which he no longer could and the school uniforms that where phased out. We continued on further and found honey tasting. There was a very comprehensive display of tools and methods used in honey production that spanned 3 rooms and included a working hive in a cabinet linked to outside filled with busy bees buzzing about their business. We purchased a jar of dark honey made in the local area from flowers in the month of September. The road led to a suspension bridge that took us over the river Faou and onto the Crozon peninsular, a spit of land 25km x 8km jutting out into the sea. Followed the Grande Route No34 (GR34) a path that follows the entire Brittany coastline - similar to the Cornish coastal path. Had a rest at an old chapel built by a spring. Climbing away from the coast I broke into my first sweat. I dried off during the fast decent into Landèvennec, a town build round the ruins of an ancient abbey from the 5th Centaury, the first outpost of Christianity in Brittany. Just outside the town is a working monastery where stressed religious businessmen go for a week to meditate and reflect. The condition is they have to undergo a vow of silence.
No shops were open in the small village so we decided to eat out. The meal was mediocre for the price but there was no choice as it was the only place serving food. Walked to the monastery looking for stressed executives who we could engage in conversation with but is was closed for the season. Back to the campsite for a walk along the spit that projected out into the bay. Beach combed for the next half hour as the sun set. Back to the tent for the evenings wine and entertainment. While doing a bit of bike maintenance, a friendly Belgium guy who had assumed the role of 'Camp Guard' came to help and chat. The view form the tent was a sight to behold. Near a ramp used to launch boats over looking a bay and river inlet crowded with small boats.

There be cider in those bottles!!!

Too much fun
2-9th Jun, Thursday
Start point: Landèvennec (Crozon peninsular)
End point: Roscoff
Via: Brest

Doing the diary got in the way of the eating and drinking...
Pics speak for themselves...

I killed them!

Rugged Breton coastline

Day trip to Ile d'Ouessant

Ile d'Ouessant: Rachael birdwatching in the fog! (top left)

Ile d'Ouessant: Lunch preperation, outdoors style, in the fog..

Ile d'Ouessant: Exploring the remote tracks

Ile d'Ouessant: Typical old island dwelling

Ile d'Ouessant: The most westerly part of the Western Isles!


James and I went hunting for Goats cheese!

Overlooking L'Aber Weac'h, near Lannilis


Menhier today, gone tomorrow
10 June, Friday
Start point: Plouescat
End point: Saint-Pol-de-Leon
Via: Mogueriec
Odom(Km): 33.7
Moving(hrs.mim): 2.54
Ave(Km/h): 11.5
Total Ascent(m): 492
Max Altitude(m) 52
Max Speed(Km/h): 35.4

Woke up to the sound of an irate campsite site owner complaining to James who was the first up that the campsite was closed and we should not have camped there. All fine and good although James had no idea what he was going on about. Everything we had seen the previous day fell into place. The army tents and groups playing volley ball where the camp cleanup squad. Instead of cleaning they played and drank copious quantities of beer and the facilities had obviously not been cleaned after the last season. We paid up promised to be on our way and continued with breakfast. On leaving the campsite we climbed the dunes overlooking a sweeping sandy shoreline. Paused for the view and continued following the coast eastwards into a strengthening easterly breeze. Hugging the coast we aimed for a menhier, after a false start we found it. At 6m high it impossible to confuse and stood alone on a grassy peninsular overlooking the sea.
Ate out at a FANTACTIC resturant that night.


A day off
11 June, Saturday
Start point: St-Pol-de-Leon
End point: St-Pol-de-Leon
No Cycling

Things were slow to get moving on camp. James had the exhausting task of reading and falling asleep. I headed into town to pickup breakfast. Pain au chocolate, Pâté de Campagne, Camembert, pain aux six céréales, sliced ham and milk. Met Rach in town (St. Pol-de-L'on) who was about to do some very selective shopping. Back to camp to embark on a breakfast marathon with James. Sorted my gear and extracted a bag of items no longer needed to go back to Reading. Headed to the supermarket with Rachel after a snack with the mission of colleting ingredients for chicken curry, dessert and stubby beers. Rachel purchased presents for members of the gang back home. Mission accomplished I headed into town to try and find somewhere to access the internet, not easy in France without forward planning. I had missed the window of opening hours in the only cafe. It had just gone 5.00pm and the next opening time was the Monday morning. Guess I'd just have to wait. Headed back to camp, Rachel returned about the same time and we started to cook curry. The French don't do curry. The source we used looked more like chip shop curry and tasted even more mild. Adding wine to darken it, an egg to thicken it up, a stock cube to enhance flavours and chilli powder to give it some bite we actually turned a bland source into a something quite delicious. The petrol stove again made light work of boiling the rice. 9 bottles or beer later 1/2 bottle of red, port and cognac signalled it was time for bed.
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mad and bird on

loved watching your trip, nice!

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