Finally, France! Brittany and Mont-St-Michel
Jun 13, 2005
|Lesson no 1 - travelling with bikes on trains is hard. REALLY hard. Especially if you want to go from Belgium to Brittany. Undaunted, we soldiered on, and after catching regional trains for what seemed an eternity (actually only 10 hours), we arrived in Paris for a quick stop over on our way to St Malo to ride through Bretagne.
Lesson no 2 - If you think it's hard on day one on regional trains, try it on the Paris metro and a TGV. The great thing about the regional French railway system is that they guarantee that you can carry a bike for free on any train. What they don't tell you about are the hoops you have to jump through to make good on this guarantee. To carry bikes on a TGV, you have to pull them apart and pack them into a bike bag (une housse) - no problem, right - we've got them, in fact Marcus tried to ship himself to the Netherlands in one. Where the fun comes in is when you have to cross Paris to catch the TGV, which as we found out, meant a 2 km hike up and down stairs, dodging masses of commuters, negotiating lethal, narrow self-shutting doors (that shut part of us one one side and an arm,leg and gear on the other) carrying all of our gear (bikes included). That's around 30 kg each strapped to our bodies. In the midst of all this Amelia found time to give a young, rather fit looking beggar in the Metro an evil stare and have a quiet cry.
Lesson no 3 - If the cashier tells you that 50 mins is plenty of time to do this, don't believe her, and take the next train. And use a trolley.
Whew, glad that's of our chests. Now to the riding:
When we're rich, and don't mind the cold so much, this place looks great for one of our southern winter retreats. Yeah, OK, we're joking. We will always hate the cold. Here we enjoyed the beautiful yachts, the smell of the ocean, murdering oysters as we do whereever we find them and strolling around the gorgeous 'old city'. We think we may have got yelled at by a immaculately dressed matron as we ate our lunch in a park but as she was yelling in French and gesticulating widely at our bikes and all the surrounds, we can't be sure. So we just ignored her.
The ride from St Malo to Dinan was one of the best so far - if one could bottle it, one would. More villages, more French loveliness.
(Although the part where Amelia almost got taken out by a crazy French driver at a roundabout was a bit ordinary. A rare incident and it was probably a crazy English tourist. The French drivers give us space and courtesy that we've never known in Australia. Our only fear on the roads is how close at mad speeds they go to each other when veering into the wrong lane to stay as far away from us as possible. When overtaking us isn't possible in the hilly or narrow village streets, they will follow us patiently, sitting at a non-threatening space behind as we climb slllowwwwly through the streets. You gotta love that.)
Dinan was a beautiful fortressed town with lots of cats and uncyclable steep, cobbled narrow streets - straight out of a movie set looking. Walking around at night time was magical but hard on our fatigued legs. The French hills are making us work harder than ever.
Next day was more fabulous, amazing cycling to Combourg - another lovely village dominated by a castle. Next day was on to the breathtaking Mont St Michel which, at the risk of sounding like the travel brochure, is one of the most beautiful, fairytale things either of us have ever seen. It was built (started) in roughly the 7th century on the ask of the Arch-Angel Gabriele who apparently descended/ascended (we aren't too sure) and requested it was built and it wasn't done by halves.
We had an expensive meal and lots of fun at night time on the Mont which was about 2.5k ride along a causeway from the campground. From one ramparts we spotted what looked like a baby shark feeding frenzy in a tidal fish trap down below. Not heeding the "danger quicksand" and "danger killer tides" we dashed down the Mont and out over the sand to have a look just as the tide was racing in. The trap was filled about 10 seconds before we got there and our way out about 10 seconds after we left - exciting!!
We had a late night journey back to the Mont after sunset (like, midnight) which to see it all lit up. Freezing but magic.