A Travellerspoint blog

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TDF Day 2

Much better organised for the Tour today! After breakfast we headed off in search of a supermarket where we bought a pole for our flag, folding chairs, a radio, lots of water and some lunch. Then went for a drive through some small villages on our way to our selected vantage point for the day.

Managed to get a park in a farmers paddock just a few metres from the road the race was on, then carried all a goodies a bit further down the road to a spot with not too many people. And got our chairs set up, stuck our flag in the ground and settled in for the wait. The caravan came through not long after we arrived and this time we got PILES of stuff thrown at us: t-shirts, hats, lollies, drinks, key rings, newspapers, packets of cakes etc etc. Ended up with an entire bag full of probably pretty useless stuff...but it was all free!

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We had a few locals came over to ask where we were from. Even the Gendarme in charge of our section of the road came and chatted for a while. Great way to meet people!

The race was a team time trial,which was only 23 km long, so even before the race proper teams were doing warm up laps around the route, so we got a chance to see a few of the teams twice! But once again the race was not without its drama – one poor guy fell off and got left behind, so he cruised past a few minutes after his team had steamed by. Another team had all sorts of mechanical problems at the start and lost time. But a good race to watch as there were teams going past every 7 minutes for most of the afternoon.
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On the way back (thanks to the GPS) we stumbled upon a village called Clisson where I was sent on a crazy drive through tiny little cobblestone “roads” that were barely wider than our tiny little Peugot! Much to our surprise there was a great big castle in the middle of town. So to help my nerves recover from the driving experience we stopped for a cold drink, wander round and photo opportunity and ended up having dinner....scallop tagliatelle followed by an enormous crème brulee...mmmm! Must do some walking tomorrow!
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Then back to our B&B for the night. Just before we got here Dave yelled to stop as he saw something in a small creek. He thought they were giant rats, but then we decided they were otters, but turns out they are some critter introduced from Sth America...I'd love to tell you what they are but I didn't understand the french so can't translate!
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Posted by Kanumera 13:17 Comments (0)

TDF Day 3 & the beach

Left our nice little B&B early this morning to get as much looking around done as possible. Immediately found somewhere to have coffee in Nozay. Dave was horrified to discover that there is a strike of the drivers in Paris and no paper deliveries so he couldn't get his daily copy of L'Equipe Sport.

From there we headed towards the Altantic ocean, stopping first at St Nazaire to cross over their very impressive bridge, which was part of the tour route, and then we crossed back again! Then into town to discover that being a Monday almost every shop was shut! Luckily the telecom shop was open so we finally managed to get a sim card for the phone so have a local number.
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Then it was off to La Baule which surprised us with its huge sandy beach – very impressive. But also impressive was the wall of appartment buildings lining the beach. It was a scorcher of a day and we went and paddled in the sea – Freezing! So any passing thoughts of having a dip went away, later on in the day we would have thought otherwise though.
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After lunch at the seaside we set off to find a good spot to watch the tour from. Bit of a bugger up today...somehow managed to get onto the tour road even though it was closed and finally got stopped by a Gendarme about 2km short of where we wanted to be. He made us pull over so we ended up not being where we wanted to be but that's the breaks. We set up our chairs and flag and then settled in for the long wait. Dave had a stroll up the road but I was too hot to be bothered doing anything too much.

So several hours and the caravan of goodies later the race screamed past us at about 70km per hour. All over in just a few moments!

Unfortunately, we then made another bugger up and turned right when we should have turned left. This put us on the wrong side of the race road and to get to our next destination we ended up taking a giant deviation which added nearly an hour to our travels.

Finally arrived at our accommodation at around 9pm. We are staying in Duarnanez in Brittany. It's a small fishing port, apparently famous in its day for sardines. We had a bit of a wander down to the port in search of dinner but nothing to be had as it was a bit late for a Monday night. Luckily we have our snacks from the Caravan!

Posted by Kanumera 12:23 Comments (0)

Rain in Brittany!

Today was our first rainy day, quite a relief for my poor sunburnt lips! We shared breakfast with Martine from Belgium this morning, she is walking the entire coast of Brittany aiming to get to Mont St Michel for her 60th birthday in September! She recommended a couple of nice spots to check out so off we set to Guilvinec where we visited the market place. It's a wee fishing port so there were several fish stalls with all sorts of different fish that we don't recognise.

Then we carried on to Benodet for coffee and to buy some pastries and a couple of filled rolls for lunch. We stopped and looked at the beach, which would have been nice if the tide had been in and it was sunny. So our swim wear stayed in the car as it was quite cool!

By then it was time to go in search of our spot to watch the bike race. Dave had selected a spot near the top of a hill climb at the end of a very small country road. The GPS took us on a merry tour along tiny little roads, until we emerged at almost where Dave wanted. The roads here are incredible, like a spiders web. There doesn't seem to be anything like a no-exit road, they all seem to join up to another road somewhere. Very easy to get confused about where you are and where you've been.

Being on a slope today we had a much better vantage point, the riders were going at a much more modest pace and we could hear them chattering away to each other, see the video to see how close they are to the side of the road, also check out my awesome flag waving abilities!

Once the cyclists had gone past we wandered slowly back to the car, stopping on the way to chat to the curious about our flag and where we were from and how I speak french. We then took our time getting onto the road as we wanted to follow the race route to the next village Coray, so that we could find somewhere to watch the rest of the race on TV. We succeeded in our mission and ended up in a 'Sports Restaurant' were we ate mussels and chips & sausage and chips washed down with a shandy (for Jacqui the driver) and a glass of red wine for Dave. The lovely woman that served us put us in the table right in front of the television and made sure that we were well looked after! Perfect!

On the way back to our B&B we took the scenic route and once again by accident managed to find ourselves in a lovely wee village, Locronan, allegedly one of the most beautiful villages in all of France! So another photo opportunity...
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...we carried on around the coast stopping at the port of Duoarnanez and then on to our B&B after stopping for Crepes for dinner washed down with cider and red wine....nice! From here on we have no bookings for accommodation so Dave is freaking a bit...next job tonight find somewhere to calm his nerves!

Posted by Kanumera 12:31 Comments (0)

Deeper into Brittany

After visiting the beaches of Douarnanez this morning (in sunshine!), we headed further into Brittany, tracking up the coast via small roads and villages towards Brest.

Today we found several arched bridges in several small villages, the first was Chateaulin and we were impressed, but later came across the town of Morlaix which has a magnificent bridge!

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Morlaix was on a river that clearly connected to the sea as it had hundreds of very impressive yachts moored there, also note in the foreground of the following photo the floating house for ducks!

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We're getting pretty adept at finding our spots to watch the tour from, but probably the most impressive part of the whole thing is how quickly the traffic gets flowing again after the race has passed. Within 5-15 minutes (depending on the gendarme in charge of the area) traffic is flowing on the race route and it all clears really fast.

We watching the tour today at a small village called Gurunhuel. They'd made a great effort to impress and had Breton musicians playing their version of bagpipes on the main intersection that the race passed through.
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Dave was chief flag waver today, while I managed to climb up a bank and take photo's from on high
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After leaving Gurunhuel, we tried to outrace the cyclists to a spot further down the road, but they were too fast, so we ended up watching the finish of the race on the TV in the kitchen door of a random bar we found in the tiny little village of Yffiniac!We felt quite privileged when 10 minutes later the patrons of the bar told a German cyclist that there was no TV in the place! The woman that lived there ended up doing her best to help us find a B&B that we wanted to stay at. We ended up driving 25km only to find that no-one answered the door, we hadn't booked but I had looked on the internet and they had some rooms booked for the night so it was all a bit confusing!

So we drove around randomly from village to village and stumbled upon a lovely little place in Langourla, run by two lovely men from England - all very tasteful! 10Euro's more expensive than we try to pay, but by that stage I would have paid that much just to use their toilet!

We're hoping to go to the most famous Mont St-Michel tomorrow.

Posted by Kanumera 13:07 Comments (0)

Normandy and Mont St-Michel

Decided this morning to have a crack at seeing the start of todays stage of the Tour in Dinan. So after a lovely breakfast of croissants, ham, cheese and coffee off we set.

Stopped to take a photo of some of the local dairy cows as they are huge and fat compared to our farms. Probably because a big farm here is about 60 cows, so it's not like there is huge competition for food!

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The other thing to note in the photo is the quality of the fencing - terrible! They seem to just have a single hot wire and that's all, where I stopped to take the photo there was simply an electric cable running across the road for the fence - amazing!

We arrived in Dinan with no idea where the tour started or how big the town was, but as per our luck this trip we found a park (a miracle in itself) and walked probably half a kilometre to the middle of town where the start was - amazing! Quite a different atmosphere in the larger towns than the tiny little village we were in the first day. It seems the smaller the village the more excited the people are. But there was plenty of entertainment and people everywhere. The town has a very old center and ramparts around the edge of the old center.

Once the cyclists had gone on their way we decided to leave town via the large arched bridge, little did we know that to get their the GPS would take us through the heart of the old town, so once again we negotiated tiny little roads with buildings right to the edge of the street.
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To make things more interesting half the streets were still blocked off and there were pedestrians everywhere, again as luck would have it we ended up following a police car who every block or so would stop to clear the way - excellent!

After weaving our way our of town we finally got to the bridge of interest - then had an interesting time trying to get to a suitable vantage point to take a photo, this involved doing a 3 point-turn on a tight corner in front of some very amused Gendarmes - they seem to have a better sense of humour than NZ police (sorry David obviously not you!).
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We had a lot more driving ahead of us so set the GPS for Mont St-Michel via St Malo. I'd read great things about St Malo and was quite keen to visit, but there were cars everywhere, the roads were very confusing and we were very conscious of time...so the photo of the walled city is taken as we approached it in the car!
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So the highlight of the week (well for me!) was finally going to Mont Saint-Michel, I've wanted to see it for so many years...and finally made it - yay!
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It really is an impressive place - crazy monks must have taken forever to build it! The weather was touch and go for our visit, one minute sunny, then raining and at one stage quite thundery! All very dramatic. We climbed up as high as we could get - hard to find your way around there are so many little pathways and stairwells. The first layer is wall to wall tourist shops with trinkets and postcards etc etc...full of people with more money than sense! So we found the first stairway and started climbing. We poked our nose into the Abbey but having just paid for parking were not going to part with a further 18 Euros ($36) to go inside, so contented ourselves with the outside paths.
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Happy, we jumped in the car and hit the autoroute - we've tried to avoid it since the first days drive from Paris, but we had a four hour drive ahead of us so figured we take the fastest route. The autoroute travels along at 130km/hr, the National roads at 110 km/hr and the local roads are 90km/hr. The local roads are the most interesting so we try to stick to them but sometimes you just have to get somewhere a bit faster!

We left Normandy - without even having one sip of Calvados (apple brandy)! And tonight are back in the Loire Valley with its grapes, sunflowers and...
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...many Chateaux of various sizes and ornamentation.

Posted by Kanumera 13:04 Comments (1)

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