Malestroit to Blain (with gallery and video)

In the morning I said my goodbyes to Gwen and Caro and hit the canal again. Pretty flat and straight it was and by lunch I was in Rohan with the skies covered by heavy grey cloud, threatening to rain. As stopped at the bridge to check my route and a fella pulled up alongside me on a fat bike all kitted out as a bike packer. Said my greetings in French and he asked if I par-ley-voo’d in Anglais and why yes of course I do! Luke, from England it was and he was wondering where the Eurovelo 1 was – I pointed in the direction I thought it was and said to him I may not be right and I’d not seen any signs or anything. Off he went and I decided to go to Decathalon as I wanted a proper mug, a stainless steel bad boy of at least 500ml, stuff the little rubbish one I had that held but a sip. While riding there I spotted Luke on the other side of the canal heading in the other direction…ok. I got my mug from Decathalon and then followed the route I had available on my phone and it promptly led me into a weird no-man’s land kind of place…rough single track, bouncing all over the show, slow going and windy too…but I persevered and eventually it looped onto some decent track and I cracked on as the skies got blue.

As I got within a couple of km’s from Blain I spotted Luke and stopped to have a chat – he was looking for a place to sleep. I said I’m heading to Blain as there was a campsite there and he said he might do that too – I never saw him again, but, I did meet 2 English guys in Nantes a few days later who had also met Luke and mentioned he’d pushed on and was en-route to the Pyrenees. Wherever you are Luke – hope you’re well dude.

So I arrived at the campsite in Blain, right by a beautiful Chateau. The receptionist was super friendly and once all was done she jumped on her bike and showed me around. The site was quiet so I picked a nice spot next to a table and got my stuff sorted out. As I was finishing up a couple I had seen in Malestroit arrived – but – they had a tandem, with the front rider being only responsible for pedalling while reclining in the seat and the second rider at the back, doing the steering, braking and pedalling! We got to chatting and they were a French couple just finishing a tour of France. The bike was hired from a shop in Nantes where they lived and were returning it the next day. I got to have a ride in the front seat – so cool, you can pretty much chill while pedalling, even read a book, and the rider at the back does all the work!!

The campsite was lush, it had a gas cooker! I rode around the Château, cooked a dinner and had a good night’s sleep.

Pontivy to Malestroit (with gallery)

 

The next morning I got up a bit earlier, in time to see the French couple packing up almost about to depart, exchanged greetings, pleasantries and chatted a bit about where we were each going – they told me that from Pontivy to Nantes is all canal – just go straight! They showed me their map and plan and told me their next stop and it turns out they were also looking at 75km/80km a day – Malestroit was their next stop.

I think I left a bit earlier at about 1100 that morning and hit the canal immediately. As with all canals, it was pretty flat and the tow path was in very good condition. I started seeing a lot more cyclists – whole families with touring gear, mom, dad, son, daughter, all with racks and packs, impressive! Some cyclists even had trailers with their dogs along for the ride, sometimes kids were in the trailers with a small dog in the front basket! Amazing. Also passed people with horses pulling carriages who appeared to camp along the canal. Summer in France, amazing! Also, everyone was super friendly, all who passed would call out a greeting with a smile, I’ve never said so many “bonjours” in a day! It was amazing riding, despite its flatness, which some said was boring – I found it amazing, beautiful and perfect for warming the legs up for what lay ahead.

Along the path I was one of the quicker riders…I was doing a lot of overtaking and I passed a guy who had a pillow strapped to his saddle! As I passed him I said “Bonjour! I love your seat!” pointing to his saddle and laughing! “Ahhh oui oui” he laughed and I rode on by…

Along the way I was hailed by the French couple who had stopped to have lunch – I stopped and we had a chat and got to know a bit more about each other, where we were riding from and to etc. I topped up my water and set off and shortly after that found a perfect picnic spot – a small island on the canal with a picnic bench that had a little roof for some shade. I boiled up a cup of coffee, put together a baguette with cheese and salami then polished it off with a cup of rooibos. While enjoying my chill time, the French couple rode by and shouted “beautiful place for picnic” with a big smile! J yes it was. Shortly after that, the guy with the pillow for a seat rode by too and he also hailed me and shouted “hallooooo” waving and smiling!

After my picnic, it was my turn to set off and a few miles down the road was a bar, and who should be sitting outside, pillow man with his friends and we all did the shouting and waving and laughing!

It was good riding!

I saw the French couple again later but this time I passed them – I had my music and was in the zone so didn’t stop but hailed them as I cruised by…

 

I made it to Malestroit easily due to the flat riding and as it was 75km I decided to stop instead of pushing through to Rohan. As I was heading to the showers, the French couple pulled in and we arranged to go for a drink in town together.

Once they were ready after setting up camp, we walked in beautiful Malestroit! An old town with preserved buildings from the middle ages, it was fantastic. We strolled about then found a seat outside one of the bars and ordered a few drinks. My new friends were Gille and Caro, a couple from Brittany who lived in a seaside town, were both teachers, and had left the coast to escape the hordes of tourists that descend to the beach in the summer holidays.

We spoke of my future in the Basque country and they both said they loved the area and often went there on holiday. They did mention that they also speak a different language in the Basque countries, not at all like Spanish but something far more difficult! We all agreed a massive learning curve awaited me!

After drinks we went for dinner, they being from Brittany knew the local specialities and we went for gallett – a crepe made from buckwheat flour, which makes the crepe brown, and is typically a savoury meal. It was really good and for dessert I had a crepe with crème anglais and ice cream – to die for…

After that we headed back to camp and slept a good night’s sleep.

Carhaix to Pontivy

 

By the time I woke up and got up, my neighbours had all gone! It was only 0930 or something…French are early risers I thought. Had a brekkie and slowly packed up my gear and left site at about 1130, nice and easy. I had a route preloaded from the previous day so continued on that.

I haven’t said much about the riding, but day 2 was very similar to day 1 – beautiful, traffic free cycle route (which I later found out are called “greenways” by the locals”) which run through mainly field and forest and hardly a soul was to be seen on them. I stopped at a boulanger to pick up some breakfast (or lunch) and got a delicious Suiss croissant thing – magic. I was prepared with water this day having filled all my bottles in the camp site before leaving. At about the 70km mark I again started to think about an overnight and as I entered Pontivy, lo and behold, a sign for municipal camping! (French villages are extremely well sign posted for everything – bakery, doctors, the works). So down to the camping we go and who do I see, the French couple from the previous night, and some others that I recognised. They said they’re off to town to get something to eat and off they went. I setup camp and cooked up another spaghetti and sauce. Afterwards I went into town for a walk which had a canal running through it with a Chateau and old town centre – very pretty. Again, darkness fell and everyone was asleep.