Nantes to Saint-Brevin-le-Pins (with video and pics)

When I woke up that morning I knew that by the end of the day I will have reached the Atlantic coast and it seemed like a real milestone in the journey. A lot of people I’d met on the way were finishing their holiday at the coast and I was eager to get started. I got up earlier than usual and after a quick breakfast and shower had my bags packed and loaded, a baguette strapped on, ready to go. Said my farewells to the lad’s and I was off, back in the direction of Nantes. I decided to take a little side trip through Nantes after the recommendation of the receptionist at the campsite – there was an elephant I wanted to see. And what timing I had! As I got there the elephant started moving off and it was pretty bloody amazing, this mechanical beast, walking, actually walking, the trunk waving about spraying water on the people watching accompanied by loud speakers blaring out the trumpeting of an elephant. Ridiculous ha!

Once this massive mechanical beast had finished its show I headed out of Nantes, heading west, to the next objective, the crossing of the Loire!

The crossing of the Loire is accomplished by ferry and there is one in Indre, not far out of Nantes. Again, got super lucky, there was a huge market in town so I had a look around and grabbed some salami and for lunch, some fresh Asian food – warm dumplings, spring rolls and tempura. Yum!

With lunch in the bag I headed over to the ferry and watched as it crossed from the far side. As it swung round to head across it caught in the current and started curving away but the skipper went full throttle and pushed through to the far side where he docked, the people poured off, the cars rolled off and then the opposite, people piled on and cars pulled up onto the deck. Gates closed, the same process in reverse, gentle throttle to push away from the slip, into the tidal current then full throttle across. Over in a couple of minutes. Story of my life, weyyyyy.

As I was super hungry by then I cycled on for a little bit into the next village stopping at a small square with a bench where I set to on my little Asian treat, damnnnn it was good!

Setting off again after lunch it started turning very grey as I got closer to the Atlantique. The ride itself wasn’t the most scenic, it turned very industrial the closer I got to the coast. The river started to widen very quickly and I soon realised I was at the mouth of the Loire river. The water was fast flowing and a muddy brown. With the grey skies and industrial setting it wasn’t the most scenic or beautiful place to ride – hey ho.

I then started to see these crazy little huts on stilts way out in the mouth with a massive square net hanging suspended in front. As I rolled along the numbers increased where eventually there was one every 50m – on the sand next to the road, the wooden walkway would start, there’d be a little gate, typically with a sign with a name on it, then a walkway on wooden poles about 50m to 100m out into the river mouth…and it was a one such structure I stopped, whereupon a dog appeared with his owner from a cabin at the gate – the dog out for a pee no doubt. It was then I asked in broken French, “what is this place?”. He then gestured to me to follow him, so follow him and the dog I did, all the way along the walkway, to the little cabin at the end with no net in sight.

And I went inside and there were 2 other fella’s, old boys, surprised as I was to see them, with my new friend quickly explaining the situation and we all smiled and introduced ourselves.

I then got the demonstration, my host releasing a brake to a pulley by the window, then winching, drawing the rope up and up, and when suddenly, bursting from the water a few meters below, the suspended net, alas, empty of fish! It was promptly lowered back in and the brake set when short glasses were produced and filled with a strong liquer, “Salute!” and bosh, down the hatch! Next it was my turn, and gently releasing the brake, grinding the winch handle raised the net…and produced a couple of crabs….ahhhh, anti-climax!

Back down it went.

And so this repeated a few times, before the last time, when my host gave the winch a crank and produced a beautiful sole, and shouts of joy from the watching gang. A very long handled net was pushed out the window towards the net and the sole was bagged and brought into the cabin where it ended up the sink, destined for his dinner plate no doubt! Check out the video:

I bid my farewells and by the time I got back on the bike it had started spitting a little bit and was very grey now. I got my rain jacket out and on and proceed along the not so pretty bank of the Loire river mouth…and had my first sighting of the Atlantic!

It wasn’t long before I started raining in earnest. I parked up under a tree to wait for it to subside a bit and it shortly did so. It wasn’t long after that that I found the Atlantique – a somewhat grey, wet and stormy coast greeted me, so I pushed on…and then it really started raining in earnest. I was riding in suburbia then and it was tipping down, I was getting soaked. I stopped under a tree but it did nothing to shelter me. It was on the corner of a road and I’d stopped opposite a house that appeared closed up with a nice patio so I jumped the fence and scoobied up under the patio roof, leaving a muddy mess on the floor, oh well. And I waited, and waited and waited some more for the rain to let up…and while I was waiting I decided to check out warmshowers for a host nearby, stuff camping in this. Would you believe it, a host appeared not 2km’s from my sodden corner, so I whatsapped him, Gile, and he promptly replied with “come on!”, well…okay then!

I cleaned the patio as best I could then ducked back out into the pouring rain and sped off to Gile, my saviour.

I found Gile’s place and it wasn’t long before I was settled in after a hot shower, lovely stuff this warmshowers.

Gile then invited me to his friend’s place for dinner that evening – ok sure. So, us on our bikes with his dog close behind we cycled off.

It was a very French intensive evening that evening! Very difficult as my French is minimal – his friends were super friendly and hospitable. We also played a few games of petanque, a game I’d seen being played by French families all over the show – I still don’t get it but the basics involve a small pink ball being thrown from a point, then with heavy iron balls, two teams try to get as close to the pink ball as possible, knocking aside the other team’s balls in the process, similar to bowls except you’re lobbing these heavy iron balls about…and my team didn´t win, seems beginner´s luck doesn´t apply here 🙂

It was here I learnt about the Passage de Gois.

Nantes (with pics and video)

The following day was a rest day so there was no rush to get up and get ready for anything so with a slow start we all got up and slowly prepared some breakfast and coffee and chatted about bikes, routes and whatever else our limited abilities at each other’s respective languages allowed. As Frank was heading off that day he started packing his stuff away and I realised that I was going to miss this guy…funny how just a few hours before I was thinking the worst and now after getting to know him had grown fond of his company. Totally humble and proper salt of the earth he is and what little he had he shared with me without question or demand for anything in return. As Frank had no phone or address this really was goodbye, bonjour and bon camino. And so, with a man hug we parted ways and it was a bit emotional…see ya Frank.

After Frank had left I got ready for a day in the city and then set off for Nantes after midday, taking it nice and slow along the mighty Loire.

I didn’t really do much in Nantes to be honest, I kind of cycled around, checked out the architecture, tested out the cycling paths in town and had a couple of beers around town. It was while I was having a glass of strong Belgian beer just before heading back to camp that I noticed two big guy’s pull up to the store next door to the pub. They had cyclo-cross style bonies with the kit strapped on, bike packer style. I overheard them speaking English and recognised strong northern English accents. One of the lads disappeared into the shop to buy some cold drinks and I greeted the fella waiting outside and we got to chatting. It turned out to be two brothers and they had lost the Eurovelo 1 track in town and were looking for some directions. The lads joined me for a beer and I explained that I knew of a camp site not far out of town and I could show them if they were interested. Paying a favour back and all that…

The lads were tired of a hot day in the saddle and the talk of a hot shower was too much and they duly accepted the offer so we sank our pints and I showed them the way, all along the Loire, out of town to the campsite.

By the time I got back we had a new set of neighbours – the Dane had departed and on the other side we had a campervan pull in – they were German, a family of Papa, Mama und daughter. I greeted Papa in German and we had a nice conversation, me with my dodgy German, about cycling, where I’m going, where they have been and live in Germany etc.

After that it was time to start preparing some dinner. The lads and I each cooked up something and we shared the results once done. After cleaning up Papa from next door came over and gave us 3 slices of delicious sweet melon for dessert!

The stars were out again that night so I grabbed my camera and rode back out to the river to play some more with my camera. Was a beautiful evening, so quiet and apparently there was a meteor shower due to start that night…and I was lucky to see a couple of shooting stars, when last did I see one of those!

Unfortunately, my camera skills are still very basic so results aren´t great. I´ve posted some of the results but as they say, practice makes perfect!

And so, it was my last night in Nantes.

Enjoy the few pictures I took – check out the video on my YouTube channel