Friday, 31 July 2015

EvansTour 15 - J8

Le Dejeuner

Today we took a short ride to lunch. Last year we were directed to a nice little restaurant on a lake near to Silfiac, so decided to return. Topically, as we heroically made our way to such an onerous appointment, we came across a little piece of England (well, in addition to the hordes of Brit tourists and property owners) in Brittany . . .

No sign of anone playing cricket though, they were all probably watching the third ashes test on the telly. Having arrived at the Moulin, I elected to have the plat de jour, which was the house speciality of pork belly cooked in cidre - an incredibly filling and fatty piece of pork which I manfully scoffed back. S had a whole seabass, which did look incredibly nice too, but they only had one . . .

On the return journey I decided to let the satnav take us on a mystey tour - that wasn't the intention, but that's how it turned out. It certainly was the scenic route through fields and down gravel paths. "It must be set to include unpaved roads" I shout to S as she rattles along behind me dodging the cowpats and bramble bushes. I think Garmin need to update their maps becaus later when I checked it wasn't, but hey, it was good fun and in the true spirit of randonneuring.

Ca va



Thursday, 30 July 2015

EvansTour 15 - J7

Le Chateau (de Butlins) and Stuff

There's something about cycling around an unfamiliar place that always guarantees surprises. I have a new GPS - now I know that to the purist this seems like anathema, but hey it beats the hell out of stopping at every intersection to consult the map. And, these new dvices are pretty clever too - the one I have is the Garmin Touring model, which plots a route much like a car satnav. It has three settings for this: mimimise time; minimise distance; or mimimise ascent - I leave it to you, the reader, to decide which setting S has unstructed me to default to under any and all circumstances.

So it was that, today, I plotted a route around some local attractions recommended by our hosts. So, off we set to visit the ancient Chateau de Coatcouraval as the first stop. Now, I don't know if you are a fan of the Horror Channel, but this place was straight out of a Hammer film . . .
. . . but, this being France, it wasn't as simple as that . . . The reason for visiting was to see the gardens, but on first investigation we discovered what seemed to be a derelict leisure complex complete with disused swimming pool and tennis courts . . .

If you have ever visited the Pompidou Center in Paris will will recognise this type of 'Installation'. . .

What an extra-ordinary thing to find, bang in the middle of nowhere, next to a 15th Century Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany. I did peep into one of the windows but alas, there were no hunchbacks wielding red-hot irons or sadistic rites, involving sacraficial virgins whose blood must be spilt to summon Beelzebub himself, going on. . . or were there? And not to be outdone in my pursuit of 'Found Art', how about this for 'Mr Toad ends up in the Soup . . . .? '

So, on we went to the next stop on the electronic itinerary, the ancient fountain at La Trinité-Langonnet. Now, I don't know about you, but the word 'fountain' conjours up something like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, with Audrey Hepburn perhaps in slightly out of focus background shot, or the one in Trafalgar Square . . . or at a pinch St Andrew's Cross roundabout in Plymouth. So this, while being clearly ancient, was more of a spring in my estimation. Nevertheless, the hydrangeas did complement the paintwork of my bike, though S has introduced a jarring yellow note in this compostion:

So, on we went, but decided to return by the direct route and miss out on yet another Eglise de XV Siecle, stopping on the way because S insisted in harvesting nature's largesse for le petite dejeuner.

Ca va




Wednesday, 29 July 2015

EvansTour 15 - J5&6

The Gîte

Since we've had a couple of slow days, what with the weather and feeling knackered - can this be anything do do with not going to work I wonder - I'll fill you in on the gîte. Regular readers will know that the lodging at Lescouet-Gouarec is a regualar stopping-off point for us on our annual tour. Five years ago I found the L'Ancien Presbytère by my usual assidious searching of the internet (i.e. random luck) and we stayed for a couple of nights on our way back from the Loire. The owners, Peter and Keith, packed in their jobs in England (do I hear gnashing of teeth?) and bought the place to set up in the chambre d'hôte business, and have since expanded into two gîtes. They are wonderful people, and their customer service is outstanding - which is why we keep coming back.

The main house is an old vicarage . . .

and our gîte is next door. Note newly laundered cycling clobber hanging out front, in jarring juxtaposition with the idyllic setting, just to make you feel better by empathising with S; who I am training up for the 'big one' on Saturday (more later) . . .

They are old Breton buildings made of granite, so look great but can get a bit chilly; no matter, this is what we spent yesterday infront of, with a good book and bottle of wine, when it rained . . .

So, today, the sun shone and S insisted that we revisited our favourite (only) Moroccan restaraunt in Pontivy, a leisurely 40 mile round trip. It was just as well that S announced she was returning to full fitness, when I informed her of the impending 70 (OK, maybe 75 depending on navigational error), fully loaded, ranndoneé to our interim stop on the way to the Loire. I'm sure it will be worth it, as you will see . . .

Ca va


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

EvansTour 15 - J4

Hills and Stuff

Having now ensconced ourselves firmly in the gîte and done the shopping, we could explore the environs en velo. Now, we have been to the area before, most recently a few weeks ago on my trip with the 'SBCC Old Gits' to see Le Tour (our lodging was just down the road in Perret). But exploration of the byways never failsto yield new surprises, and so it was today when we came across a 'wolf refuge':

I have a sneaking suspicion that 'Coat Fur' translates as 'Fur Coat', so how much of a refuge for wolves this actually is, when they are most likely turned into slippers, is another matter. Needless to say, the 'refuge' was at the top of a long and steep hill, and fermé lundi. The gentleman at the gate had clearly yielded up his pelt in solidarity.
Not wanting S to miss out on all the local attractions, I took her to see the lac - or lack of lac as it is at the moment, having been drained to allow maintenance of the dam. It seems to have greened over a bit since my previous visit and, resisitng the signs advertising tours of the muddy bottom, we spent a happy moment viewing it from the camp site where we spent several rainy days last year - memories.

Having missed out on the usual café stop mid-morning we sought out an open restaurant for le dejeuner and were rewarded in Mur de Bretagne where we enjoyed the first moules et frites of the tour. Fully fuelled up, I decided to spring my surprise of the day on S - we would re-enact the finish of Stage 8 of Le Tour! Now, regular readers will know that last year we tackled the Mur (the wall) fully loaded with panniers and camping gear . . . coming down that is; so clearly we had to complete the full set by going up. As a concession to S we forewent the luggage and settled for doing it straight after lunch; but I had sneaked out the night before and painted 'GO S 123' on the road at regular intervals as encouragement . . . but all I could lay my hands on at short notice was black paint, so alas it was invisible. Anyway, the evidence is here, chapeau S . . .

Having survived, we returned home, via the Spar at Gourec to stock up on Haribo, and thence up the hill to the gîte.

Ca va


Sunday, 26 July 2015

EvansTour 15 - J2-3

Voie Verte

We left Morlaix resplendent in our His 'n Hers randonneurs ensembles, and headed for the voie verte, which runs from Morlaix to Rostrenen, except . . .

"Ha, not to worrry," I say to S - knowing that this eventuality would arise after my previous reconnaisance mission on the 'SBCC Old Gits' tour to se Le Tour the previous week - "we will take a simple detour by road and join the path at the next picnic area" . . . and so it came to pass, which just shows you that a bit of plannning ahead yields dividends when thrust unto the great unknown, where you have to fall back on your cunning and initiative just to survive - S rolls her eyes . . .

Anyway, we set off down the v-v for the 88 km (that's 55 miles to you) leg to our destintiojn at the usual stopping-off point in Lescouet- Gouarec, where we have booked the gîte of Pete & Keith for a week. Now, it's funny how odd and unexpected things manifest themselves when off the beaten track, and so it transpired because, as we passed through the disused train station at Scrignac, the old platform and ticket office had been tansformed into a gîte and café. Presented with such an unexpected oasis, what can one do but stop for the inevitable café au lait. Now, regular readers wil know that the SBCC, being skinflints and tightwads to a man and woman, pride themselves on finding the cheapest and heartiest fare in the universe. I can now lay clain to that record, because we partook of a café and Breton Far (see previous blogs for a description of this extraordinary food - the type of thing they will be taking to Mars, but perhaps without the prunes given lthe limitedcapacity of spacecraft toilets) for the princely sum of €2 . . . YES, THAT WAS €2, TWO EUROS, DEUX EUROS. Even I, well versed in tightwadery, felt guilty enough to leave a €1 tip, and then S added and extra 50¢ - end of days!

So, elated by such a bargain we set off with renewed vigour. Eventually, having stocked up at Le Carrefour Express in Morlaix, we stopped at the usual bench just north of Carhaix for le dejeuner, where the Camambert, baguette and vin rouge was deployed with frugality given the miles that lay ahead - the sun was out and the corn swayed gently in the breeze, what more could you want?

The voie verte took us to Rostrenen where we visited the local Lidl - a supermarché beloved of cyclists everywhere, particularly in France where thay tend to turn up in the outskirst of a ville just as you approach and are desperate for chaep and plentiful supplies - and then up the big hill to our destination pour le semaine. This was the bit that S was not looking forward to - because it is a bit of a hill and she, usuing the lame excuse of having had a foot operation in February, was claiming lack of fitness. Ever the mindful spouse however, I took her up the easy route and, as we crested the the hill into the village, were met by a welcoming committee of bagpipes and beer tents; apparently there was a local bike race going on, so I promptly stepped up and entered S in the over 50s category . . .

So, we arrived and were invited to dinner by our excellent hosts. Today it rained . . . so we did sod-all because we are both knackered!

Ca va






Friday, 24 July 2015

EvansTour 15

Le Depart

With typical luck, we picked the wettest and foulest day of Summer to set off on the annual Tour. A simple downhill run to Millbay docks was enough to turn us into drowned rats, though it must be said that the ferrry folk are most hospitable when it comes to travellers en velo, and let us straight on. Once embarked we took up our customary seats on deck 7, and spread around enough to discourage other excited holidaymakers - the cycling shoes will do this on their own, but best to make sure by deploying wet and steaming cycling shorts too . . .

An uneventful crossing later, we set off by the usual route to Morlaix. Now, just to update any blog virgins out there, S was riding her new Randonneur, made by my own fair hand, so understandably I was keen to know how it handled. Despite much interrogation over the first few miles, in wet and windy conditions that made for a full and detailed analysis, a concise and scientifically exacting summary was unforthcoming from S - sometimes I think that she is being delibrately obstructive in my pursuit of perfection . . .

Not one to hold a vindictive grudge, I allowed her to stop for a much needed drink . . .

And then another . . .

In fact, we had several . . .

So, having arrived in Morlaix, and imbibed the tradiaitonal bier at L'Hotel d'Europe, we checked into Hotel St Melaine and repaired to La Dolce Vita for le diner - ah, tradition.

Ca va


Sunday, 12 July 2015

SBCC Le Tour 2015: 5

Le Dejeuner

Alas, today I took leave of mes amis and headed back to Morlaix for an overnight stay at the St Melaine, before continuing on to Roscoff and the ferry back to Plymouth tomorrow. Now, regular readers will remember several serendipitous meetings on previous tours, and this one was no exception. As I made my way along the practically deserted voie vert from Rostrenen to Morlaix I encountered a chap with whom we had crossed paths on the outward ferry and also on the previous day. However, now having the chance to chat at length as we cycled up the path I discovered that, while he had lived many years in Plymstock, he was originally from Cardiff and had now returned to live in Pembroke; but also that he had worked in the Business School at Plymouth University for many years and taken retirement in 2006. Hence, there followed much discourse about recent scandals and other unwarranted gossip about said institution; small world indeed.

As I was on the voie vert, and not to spurn tradition, I stopped for le dejeuner at the ususal 'bench' just north of Carhaix - I'll have to get one of those little plaques put on it, when I snuff, in the shape of a small Camembert cheese.

The more observant of you will have noticed that I have taken razor to parts of les whiskers and am sporting what I like to think of as the 'Deadwood' look, but I am sure that others will maintian that it is more 'South Wales Workingmen's Club and Institute circa 1970s' look . . . At any rate, I could enter L'Eroica as I stand at this rate. Continuing on to Morlaix I partook of a couple of beers before checking in and dining at La Dolce Vita. There being not much elsae to do on a Sunday night I am off to bed.

Ca va


Saturday, 11 July 2015

SBCC Le Tour 2015: 4

Mur de Bretagne Stage

Today we went to see the stage fisnish at the famous mur (wall), a 2 km, 10% straight climb just outside its namesake village. An easy day on the bike in theory, except for all the food that we would eat on the way and return. So, not to spurn tradition, we found ourselves at a local hostelry on the way for le déjeuner where, inevitably, moules et frites were on the menu. It was the biggest portion I've ever had - only Colin was able to finish.

So to the mur. As is usual in these stage finish situations, it was packed, and we were extremely early, so there entailed a lengthy wait for the caravan in the (unusually) sweltering Brittany sun.

Then commenced the usual unseemly scrum for various bits of tat thrown out by gyrating young ladies on the floats that passed . . . with all dignity being lost by the waiting crowd for the sake of a keyring, luggage tag or small pack of Haribo. Needless to say, SBCC (Coiln) were to the fore in this, beating old women aside androbbing small children of their hard won gains. And then the tour came . . .

. . . and went just as quickly; and we went for le diner.

Ca va


Friday, 10 July 2015

SBCC Le Tour 2015: 3

Le Tour Approaches

A reconnaissance mission on the route that Le Tour will travel tomorrow; through the Breton countryside to Rohan and Pontivy. It all started badly with me having to fix a puncture before even leaving the gîte, but all part of the cycling experience.

It was hot today, not helped by having to wear my so-called 'arm coolers', to prevent my bescabbed and healing skin getting serious sunburn to add to the roadburn. Needless to say, when the temperature reached the high 20s (OK, remember that this blog is by a someone who lives in Britain, so we are talking sweltering temperatures) anything worn over the arm has NO COOLING EFFECT WHATSOVER, unless it comes with built in rfrigeration or a private demon with acces to ice.

Along the route, the locals have been gearing up for the 'greatest live sporting event in the world' (as measured by spectator numbers along the route), and evidently, every old beaten up bike in evey garage has been turfed out and painted yellow, green, white or polka dot - and this chap holding out a spare wheel for any unfortunates who have a flat . . . only en France

We got to Pontivy, but were so knackerd we didn't even go and see the chateaux, but rather had a biere at the first place we saw. This might be somethignto do with haing to do some shopping every day and then cycle back up a bloody great hill with it - c'est la vie . . .

Ca va


Thursday, 9 July 2015

SBCC Le Tour 2015: 2

Lac de Gualerdan

We went to the lake to take in the view. Lac de Gulaerdan is a man-made lake with a large hydroelectric dam at the eastern end. When we got there this is what we saw . . .

In my best French I asked the barman at the water's erstwhile edge "ou est l'eau"; his reply "they pulled the plug . . . " In fact, of course, the lake had been drained to allow essential maintenance on the dam, in the processs spoiling the summer ouward bound activities of countless French school kids. The scene elicited many excrutiting comments along the lines of 'the lack of lac', 'lacklustre lac', 'the lac that lacked a lac' etc... you get the idea. Strangely, the long submerged trees still stood in the mud.

Nantes-Brest Canal

We stopped at St Aignan for le déjeuner of galletes and crêpes. Now, I don't know about you, but a gallete doesn't really do the business nutritionally when cycling, so afters of a banana, choclate, almonds and whipped cream crêpe, washed down with a couple of beers, was largely de rigeur. From there we climbed the hill to Mur de Bretage, then back along the canal to the Abbaye de Bon Repos where they have an annual medievel event, complete wIth fake peasant village and armoured knights. The mind's eye conjours up a scene from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', with shit-encrusted serfs having their limbs lopped off, and 'witches' submerged in the canal by ducking stool . . . but I'm sure it's nothing like that though.

So after the inevitable cafe stop we continued to Gouarec to do some shopping, and back up the hill. I'm not sure that I got the nutritional balance quite right . . .

Guess what we're having for dinner . . . spaghetti bolognese!

Ca va


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

SBCC Le Tour 2015: 1


We disembarked from the ferry to be greeted by the usual overcast, leaden grey of the Brittany weather . . . so immediately felt at home. The forecast was for warm and intermittent sun, but for most of our ride it was rain, cloud and . . . well, rain.

Not to spurn tradition, we stopped for the inevitable café au lait at Café d'Europe in Morlaix, thence on to Huelgoat for le dejeuner at Le Brittany Pub. Now, said pub is owned by an ex-pat called Pete and the menu offers, amongst other culinary delights, a chip buttie - which Colin naturally availed himself of to complement the full English breakfast on the Ferry.

So, still easing ourselves into French culture, we set off for Carhaix without even stopping to sample the delights of the Huelgoat stones as in previous years - the Roche Tremblant went untrembled, and the Le Gouffre was un-gouffed. No matter, the road was long and arduous, so we stoked up on ham, egg, chips and cidre, and set off on the second leg ofour odyssey.


Now, regular readers will know that JJ is a light traveller, and now that he recently purchased a fancy new, carbon racing bike, he is necessarily a much lighter traveller than previously - because he has sod-all anywhere to put his stuff. So it remains precariously perched above the rear wheel in his aged, rear saddle-bag. Needless, Heath Robinson despaired after about 30 miles (as he always ways does - how many times have we been here?) when I had to lend him my bungy to keep it off his back wheel - c'est la vie.

After a detour to Decathlon (how unusual) we made it to Rostrenen and stopped at Lidl to make essential purchases. Thence up the hill to Prerret where Colin has manufactured a superb repaste of Spaghetti Bolognese, using the best Lidl ingredients, washed down with tetrepak wine - all is right with the world.

Now, if we can get some hot water it will be a bonus, though the necessity to run around in the shower to get wet generates some heat at least . . .

Ca va



SBCC Le Tour 2015

Le Depart

And so, yet another year passes and the annual road trip of the SBCC OGs comes upon us. Luckily I just made it after my unfortunate 'off' just over a week ago; still somewhat bandaged and scabby of visage, but taking sufficient medication for any eventuality - as the doctor in A&E (evidently a cyclist) sagely advised 'keep your hands on the hoods and put some electrical tape around the broken finger and it should be fine' . . .
The destination is Perrett, close by Mur de Bretagne where we plan to see a stage finish on the mur - last year I took S up it with full camping gear so it should present no problem for the pros!
So, we currently sit on the ferry (well, we do if I have managed to post this en route) drinking the customary cidre and engaging in the usual cycling banter - let's hope I don't step on JJs head for the inevitable cidre-induced cabin manouvers in the middle of the night - OGs on tour indeed.