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.