The cyclists were the last to board to board the ferry and once boarded I found a seat and made myself comfortable – it was just before 11pm afterall. The seating area was quite empty so there was lots of space and I saw people unpacking their sleeping mats and sleeping bags and realising that I’d made a newb mistake by not bringing mine! After a little wander around the ship, and a packed of peanut M&M’s I settled down back into the seat. By this time the lights were off and it was dark onboard and people were kipping out across the floors…and I couldn’t sleep the chair was so damn uncomfortable…eventually I conceded and curled up on the hard floor with my shoe for a pillow, not the best night’s sleep but sleep nonetheless came.
I woke before the lights came on and went for another walk, this time out on deck and the eastern horizon was just going orange. I could just make out the French coastline and could see some fishing vessels with their lights on. It was a beautiful clear morning out on the sea. Not long afterwards the lights came on and we were docking in Roscoff…however, I could not find the way to my bike, wandering around the garage decks like a lost lamb…eventually I find a deckhand and asked him how to find the “bicyclette” and he kindly escorted me to my beloved lol
And my beloved was there waiting, as I left her. I could say I mounted her and those of you with dirty minds may have a snigger, well go ahead, I mounted her, and stroked once, twice, and rolled down onto French soil…which didn’t feel much different if I’m honest…it was a port, it was grim, there were cars, traffic and I just joined the queue for passport control. After checking my bags for stowaways (not really) I was given the go ahead, and then, I pushed into France, officially. I hadn’t plotted any route into my GPS so I kind of had no idea where I was going…I just knew I had to get to Morlaix as that’s where the route I had on my phone for the Eurovelo went after Roscoff…the weather was quite grim – cold, grey fog covered everything, I couldn’t see much further than 20 meters ahead. Impatient English we racing by me towing caravans on the way to their holidays…I passed an artichoke field, something I’d not seen before, some of which were flowering, very beautiful…and seeing a sign for Morhaix, I duly went that way, and stumbled into a village, Saint-Pol-de-Leon. I saw a church towering over everything so I aimed for that and found myself in the village square. At first it appeared everything was closed but I spotted a boulanger which had a café attached and I needed a massive number two – so I made a beeline for the café and remembered that I knew almost zero French. I ordered a croissant (imaginative I know) and somehow a coffee – which seemed to have several options – I just said espresso. I bolted both down and did my business and then thought “what now?”…I had no idea where I was or how to get…oh…get where? For the first time since leaving I had no plan for where I would be staying that night…and to be honest, it was a bit unnerving. Firstly, I had no idea of the terrain ahead, how far I could cycle a day (I was guessing about 80km per day) or even what would be available wherever I found myself in the evening. I didn’t even have food in my bags, only a litre of water and I wasn’t really yet fully confident in my ability to find what I needed in my bags or even how to setup camp quickly, if I had to wild camp for example. Luckily – one thing was in my favour, and this I was prepared for – time. I had all the time in the world. What a fucking fantastic feeling. Yes, out of my depth, but this is what it’s about. So I found a bench in the village square in the grey morning gloom and got my laptop out, because that was something I knew how to do – plot a route, and plot a route I did, plugged it into my little Garmin so now I had a route to follow. I can’t remember the end point I had – I think it was La Rochelle, almost 800km away or something ridiculous, but hey, it was something to get me going. The village was starting to come to life by now, cafes were opening, more people were about and the clouds were breaking and the sun was starting to beat warmly. Good time to set off, and away we went, a bit nervous but we were moving and we had a route…got lost once or twice, but generally was smooth going. By the time I got to Morlaix, the sky was clear and blue with the sun beating down, hot! Morlaix has a beautiful centre with the aqauduct as the backdrop. I stopped and saw a kid taking pictures and asked him if he could take one of me with the aqauduct, poor bugger didn’t know what stood before him, this being he see’s before him unintelligible. After an awkward moment he was rescued by his grandfather, who, although spoke a dash of English, at least understood what I was after. I showed him how to do it and bless him, he took some pics but they’re not very good! We had a short, friendly conversation in a limited fashion and they wished me bon voyage very kindly.
That day turned very hot and by mid-afternoon it was scorching and I was parched and out of water. Little did I know that back water France shuts down completely at this time, so much so that villages appear to be ghost towns – shops, houses, the works, all shut up and there was nowhere I could find water, I was looking for taps in gardens, behind buildings, nothing and I didn’t even know the French word for water at that time either! There I was riding through a village, a bit desperate for water, I cycled past a house which had its door open and I could hear people talking, so I stopped at the door and realised I was pretty much in their living room – there were 3 people I could see, the nearest and elderly man eating an ice cream. I sevo-played and he gave me the blank stare and gestured to someone in the house – an elderly woman, who guessed what I was after and duly filled my bottle, and silly me, too shy to ask for more, left my other 2 bottles empty and cycled away…
That 1l didn’t last long, but luckily, I cycled through what appeared to be a stop for motorhomes, which had a tap available and I filled all 3 bottles, one twice after downing a litre of water, and also having a mini-shower on the spot! Lovely stuff. At that point it was getting on in the afternoon and I was about 75km in already so I started to look for camping spots…as I said before, I was guessing I would be looking at doing about 80km per day. As I approached Carhaix I spotted a sign for “municipal camping” and on route there, passed a Lidl! How about that for luck! A quick shop for some dinner, it was up a hill, then down a hill, out the back of town, into the woods and there it was – a camping site. After sorting the paperwork (5 euros!) I found my own camping spot under the tree and setup camp, leaving the flysheet off because it was a clear night and I was feeling clever, having made my first camp and all…
Got to know my neighbours, a French couple (just a hello at this point really) and another French bloke who was there to learn Brittany, a dialect spoken in the region. I had a few hours of light left so cooked a spaghetti with sauce. What was amazing is that as soon as it got dark, the whole site got quiet – everyone had gone to bed! So, a little read on the Kindle and it was sleep tight to me.
Surprise, surprise, it rained in the night and I had to jump out of bed to cover the tent – luckily only a few drops got inside – I was under tree cover luckily so heard it before it got to me.
One Reply to “Arriving in France (with gallery)”
So good to be able to see where you are, France is so pretty. I would live happily on their bread and cheese!
What you are doing is amazing!