After a few false starts, the crack MBH cycle touring section (LRdFL) finally made it’s annual pilgrimage to the land of moules et frites a few weekends back. In the end, it was just me, Ian, Nigel and Jeremy Kewn who made the trip – Neddy was excused to go and fight for Queen and Country at the Triathlon World Champs, Shay and Brooksy had other things on, and no-one else seemed interested in cycling 300 miles over a weekend.
As usual, the presence of Nige ensured that the train trip to Plymouth was a first class experience – could have done with the extra leg room on the journey back, but mustn’t grumble! On arrival at Millbay Docks, we checked in and headed for the departure lounge to await the arrival of the good ship Armorique, due in from Roscoff at 21:30. Once on board with the bikes safely locked up below deck, we stashed our longflaps, got fed, and settled into the bar for a few Kronenbourgs.
The 5:45 alarm call (in reality 04:45 due to GMT+1) is always a toughie, even with the pleasant harp music that they play on the tannoy. Ian and I made it to the restaurant, leaving Jeremy and Nige doggedly resisting the increasing volume of the Breton Harpist. Ian looked a bit green and passed on the “Full Anglais”, but I had slept like a babe and needed a proper feed before we took to the road.
Soon enough we were heading out of the ferryport and into Roscoff, where our first stop was the Hotel Ibis to shed a few pounds of surplus kit. This done, we set out on the scenic North coast road through Santec and down to Lesneven. Pondering whether to stop for a coffee, we?resolved instead to press on to the market town of St Renan, reaching there around 11am. It was market day, so we pushed the bikes along and browsed the stalls, accepting any free samples that came our way. After a fruitless attempt to find somewhere to sit down and eat, we decided to continue down the road to Plougenvelin, a little coastal resort with a bar that served us up a pretty decent pizza on the 2008 tour. A few miles later, the ominously leaden skies dumped some proper rain on our heads and we stopped to cape up. A little further on Nige and I suddenly became aware that LRdFL were two men short. Puzzled, we retraced but found no sign – surely they hadn’t gone off route? Nige sent Ian a text and we waited…and waited. Finally word arrived from Ian – Jeremy had stopped for a leak and promptly sprung a leak from his rear tyre. Eventually the soggy pair came into view – a grubby Ian and a shamefaced Jeremy! The story soon came out – on discovering the puncture Ian had offered to wait while Jeremy fixed it. An awkward silence followed, lasting just long enough for Ian to get the message and start work on the flat tyre! Lacking something to do, Jeremy helped as best he could by waving a camera in Ian’s face and snapping the disgruntled Grammarsow as his hands and new rain jacket acquired a layer of road grime. The cafe in Plougenvelin was a welcome haven from the steady drizzle and we restocked our depleted legs with Pizza et Frites avec Leffe Beer x 4.
Just down the road at Pointe St Mathieu, the Lands End of Finisterre* the skies had started to clear and we stopped to take a few snaps of the lighthouse and Monastery. I’d plotted a shorter route back to Roscoff than on our 2008 trip, but even so the total distance for day one came in at 120 miles and we reached the Ibis just after 7. To our dismay, we found that there was no secure indoor bike store, and we were expected to leave the bikes locked up outside the front of the hotel. The receptionist?s insistence that ?it’s quite all right m’sieu ? there’s someone on reception all night? did little to reassure LRdFL, but they chained up their steeds with a sotto voce curse or two. Luckily my own bike is like Jose Mourinho, “a special one”! I folded it up to the size of a postage stamp, bagged it, and carried it upstairs past the dumbfounded receptionist! After a quick wash and brush up we hit the town and dined at the Auberge du Quai before adjourning to ?Le Winch? next door for a few Grand Bieres. Returning to our rooms later, we were shushed by a furious harpy in the room next to Jeremy and Nige due our excess of ?joie de vivre?. Suitably chastened, we retired for some shut eye.
(* Yes, I know that Finis Terre means Lands End)
Day two started with clear pinky blue skies and the promise of a warm sunny day to come, so Ian and I hurried downstairs to punish the breakfast buffet, leaving the slothful Nige and Jer to get their act together. Today?s jaunt would be shorter, to let tired legs recover and allow a bit more time for sightseeing. Our destination was Locquirec, a little coastal town NE of Morlaix, so we headed out of Roscoff on the quiet D769, taking the pleasant route that follows the River Penze, and on along the estuary to Morlaix. Finding little open, we had a quick drink at a bar along the main drag, and then headed off up the opposite side of the estuary towards the little fishing village of Dourduff. From here, we went through Plouezoc’h and took quiet C roads through agricultural backwaters to the town of Lanmeur before heading up towards the coast, reaching Locquirec around 1pm. There were a few seafront cafes with tables outside, but all seemed to be doing a roaring trade due to the warm Autumn sunshine, and there wasn’t a table to be had. A quick recce down the street provided the solution ? a little boulangerie was selling the cyclist?s staple, Le Sandwich Jambon et Fromage. A can of drink and a piece of Far Breton (a local cake of baked custard and prunes – much nicer than it sounds) were included for 6 euro, so we dined al fresco, caught some rays and took in the scenery. Rather than retrace straight back to Morlaix, we took the D42 out of town and through Plestin les Greves (twinned with Launceston and boasting a hill almost as steep as the one familiar to competitors in the now defunct Launceston Half). A quick bash along the D712 brought us back to Morlaix around 4pm, so we stopped for a quick Kronenbourg under the viaduct before heading back up the estuary to Roscoff via Carantec. Dinner was at La Mousaillone, a favourite eatery of mine, which does a mighty fine brochette de boeuf.
For day three, we decided to head south and revisit a climb Ian, Nige and myself had tackled in mist and rain a few years ago ? Le Roc Trevezel. It’s about the closest thing to a mountain round these parts, although it’s more ?Dartmoor Tor? than ?Alpe d’Huez?. En route we called into the historic town of Sizun with its attractive Parish enclosure, and grabbed a Pain au Chocolat and a drink. Road signs to the nearby town of Quimper seemed to tickle the collective funnybone of LRdFL, and after a few snatched pics we made our excuses and left.
The next section through the peaceful Foret du Cranou featured a few meaty climbs, and another juvenile photo-op! Soon enough we had reached Brasparts where we stopped for a lunch of Jambon + Fromage Baguettes and Pelforth beer. A persistent wasp gave Jer an attack of the screaming mimi’s, but a helpful barmaid passed him a large fly swatter to defend himself. Predictably, this was soon being used by Nige on Jer in a playful S&M stylee, causing an old trout at a nearby table to tut in disgust. Yes, once again we’d disgraced ourselves – it was time to pay up and “fous le camp”! Ian and Nige shot off up the lengthy but well graded climb to the top of the Roc, while Jer and I sat back and spun a low gear, enjoying the views over the Reservoir St Michel to our right and the heather and gorse covered moorland so reminiscent of home. Pretty soon we were standing atop the Roc, next to the radio mast that dominates the skyline for miles around. A few pics later, we headed over the top and down the other side for a speedy run back to Roscoff via Pleyber-Christ (another twin town – Lostwithiel, in case anyone’s interested).
We’d planned a return visit to La Mousaillonne, as everyone was impressed with last night’s feed, but sadly Monday was their night off. Instead, we popped down the road to another old favourite ?Le Surcouf?, where I dined on Oysters and a pretty good steak. The couple behind me were getting stuck into a rather tasty looking Assiette le Fruits de Mer, and I took a quick pic of what i’d missed.
For our last day, a quick raid on the local Decathlon in St Martin des Champs near Morlaix was on the agenda. It’s a sporting superstore, filled with everything the Cyclist/ Runner/ Swimmer/ Kayaker/ Rambler might need at pretty keen prices, so we were hoping to bag a souvenir or two. After a thorough tour of the place, I came away with a rucksack, a windproof cycling jacket, some cycling mitts and running socks. Nige and Jer bagged matching bandanas in MBH colours and Ian saved his pennies!
After a quick coffee in La Grand Terasse in Morlaix, we headed back to Roscoff to grab some lunch before the 16:30 ferry back to Plymouth. Ian wanted to sample the Moules et Frites done in cream and lardons at Chez Janie before we went home, but in the end we had to make do with Baguettes and Beer as they’d decided to close for the afternoon. A minor disappointment in the greater scheme of things as all decided we’d had another cracking Tour de Bretagne. Once back on the Armorique, we settled in for a bumpy crossing back to blighty with that infallible travel sickness remedy ? four large Kronenbourgs! Next year is already in the planning stages, with a base at Quimper, 60 miles south of Roscoff, looking likely. This would open up the whole Cornuaille peninsula to the LRdFL, including Concarneau (twin town of PZ!), Locronan and the Montagnes Noires. Book early, and avoid disappointment!
Don “AikenDrum” H