Friday, 5 October 2007

Sunday 30th September (Day 74): Vitré to Combourg ( 86 km)

Finally woke to a dry tent which cheered John up no end and helped alleviate his ever increasing snotiness (caused by a cold). There was a high wind that scattered acorns and conkers on our tent, and sometimes our heads and we were a little wary - turned out that it was another following wind though!

We cycled into Vitré and had a look around. What an awesome place; tiny medieval streets, a huge chateau and myriad other little features and adornments that make the place fascinating. Set off pedalling on a route that would have been fairly challenging if the wind was not blowing in the right direction.

We've seen the soil rocks change from limestone, to chalk, to slate, and now it is a mixture of granite and sandstone (which affects the look of the houses and walls, giving everything a slightly greyer, more angular look). Brittany houses tend to be solid, square and pragmatic with less florid gardens. There is still an incredible attractiveness about the place though, and some of the churches are incredible.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Saturday 29th September (Day 73): Grez Neuville to Vitré (90 km)

Didn't sleep very well last night. Loads of things thundering around in my head now that the end of the trip looms...have to start thinking about things such as making a living!! :-)

Went down to a lovely breakfast served by our gracious hosts. We were joined about half way through by this fascinating couple from Berlin. They now have a small lifestyle block about 60km outside of Pottsdam, but previously he was from East Germany and she from the West. They told us about their lives at the time around the wall was built, as well as talking about their professions (he was a physicist in the area of R&D around the effects of welding on various materials and joints). It was all fascinating and we prolonged breakfast until nearly 10am chatting with them.

Today's cycling was in warm sunshing with, at long last, a following wind. Undulating roads wound around and through ancient farmland peppered with manor houses, chateaux, and impressive looking farm estates. Also passed through an area famous for its horses, especially thoroughbreds, and have been treated to a fine display of equines. Le Lion de Angers had a huge race course - nearly cycled into several passing cars as I gaped at the set up there while pedalling past.

A slight miscalculation meant that we did 90km today but it was not too bad due to the friendly breeze and the glorious day. Spoke to Linda last night - am really looking forward to seeing friends and family again.

It's all over ....

St Malo Marina
We have arrived at St Malo and the end of the trip. We were wondering how to measure such a trip as kilometers just dont seem descriptive enough. Here are some of the alternatives we came up with:

4000 kms
7 countries
1 Polish haircut (very short)
573 cakes
147 mosquito bites
4 snake sightings
8 major rivers
4 punctures
4 spokes
3 Romanian hunnies rollerblading in bikinis (i nearly fell off my bike)
1 foot massage
36 rainy days
75 days in total
50 days in the saddle
1 great journey ....

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Friday 28th September (Day 72): Saumur to Grez Neuville (70 km)

Woke at 8.30 which meant a bit of a slow but very relaxed start. We'd done most of the packing the day before, and, to our pleasant surprise, the sky was blue - although there was a brisk breeze in our faces as we set off! Said goodbye to the splendid proprietor of the hotel and set off along the river, both of us celebrating how good our legs felt after a rest.

As we cycled along we got to thinking about some of the people we've met along the way, some that are truly inspirational. For example, Bruce, the 81 year old Canadian who regularly cycle tours around Italy, France, Spain and Germany with some friends. He was in Saumur on holiday with his daughter and son-in-law, and they had just spent the day cycling 40 odd kms around the vineyards. He looked as fresh as a daisy!! Today we also met an English couple, he a keen cycling enthusiast (60 to 65+), with hiswife who, after 40 years had just decided that cycling wasn't so bad after all! He was chuffed to bits, and they both looked incredibly happy and fit.

The cycling today took us out of the more touristy regions of the Loire and toward places where huge sand banks stretch along the river, often lined with great flocks of migrating birds. The villages are tucked in at the base of sheer chalky walls for some of this route, often with caves burrowed into the rock.

After lunch we said our goodbyes to the Loire and headed north; still into a rolicking head wind. Passed through some delightful rolling farmland full of stone mansions, working farms and late flowers. Skirted Angers as big cities are a nightmare to navigate and despite the wind, thoroughly enjoyed the undulating road and surroundings.

The day was made extra peachy by our first adventure into staying at gites (avoided until now because of our awful French). John bravely rang the bell and our gracious host and hostess were patient, kind, and very helpful. The house is an old mansion, and has gorgeous of the best places we stayed: La CROIX d' ÉTAIN ( ; Jacqueline & Auguste BAHUAUD; 2 Rue de l'écluse - F - 49220 GREZ NEUVILLE Tel. : +33 (o) 241 956 849 - fax : +33 (o) 241 180 272;
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