The tandem on the cabin roof of Silver Dawn on the way down the Vilaine.

May 26th to May 31st 2005 Weymouth to Sarzeau

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Day 1 May 26th Weymouth to St Malo

Well, we are on our way to Uncle Francis's birthday party in Glasgow. It is an obscure way to go to and come back from Glasgow but it's our way. We are so pleased that the long awaited day has arrived. Preparations for leaving home for a long trip are truly awful. But once the front door is locked and the first hill climbed it is too late to worry about what is forgotten or not done.

Just after 7am and we were on our way to Condor in Weymouth. We were straight to the front of the queue and onto the catamaran. And it left on time at 8am. The rolling sea left over from the high winds earlier in the week did not make for a pleasant crossing to Guernsey.

By the time we arrived in St Peter Port it was warm in the hazy sunshine. We left the ferry way ahead of the cars and made for the Tourist Information Office where the Stoker was despatched to obtain a map. The Management generally avoids such offices unless it is raining and there is nowhere else to go. Armed with this rather dubious piece of paper we headed steeply up. We "did" about 25% of the island and had lunch in a chip shop before boarding the next ferry at 3pm.

The final part of the crossing was uneventful and in no time we were in our pre booked hotel in St Servan, the nearest one to the ferry port. It is also cheaper than anywhere in St Malo.

The Stoker led the way to her favourite restaurant where, as regular customers, we enjoyed free apéritifs. In the remains of the sunny day we enjoyed a walk along the prom.

Day 2 May 27th St Malo to Plouasne

It was hot and sunny when we left the hotel. As it turned out too hot and sunny for those of us who have hardly seen the sun this year. The route south towards the Rance Barrage is complex. Having now done six person journeys on it, it is becoming quite familiar. (This is a similar comment to a "six pint tandem", you can work it out but you will probably be wrong on this occasion). This time we stayed on lanes to the east of the Rance, crossing on the Pont St Jean, the old bridge now bypassed by the roaring road to all places west.

Again we wandered through quiet lanes to the east of la Rance, turning onto the tow path just before La Hisse. From here we stayed on the tow path right through Dinan and as far as Lehon. Having failed to buy bread we were forced (we are learning media speak) to buy lunch in a restaurant. It was very pleasant sitting outside in the shade and we were lulled into a false sense of security.

The first few kms after lunch are the worst of the day. This applies especially to those of us who have not done any training and plan as we usually do to get fit as we go on. The burning hot sun did not help and we limped into Plouasne having climbed many mountains. The tandem was also not well.

We were cured by pression from the bar, a shower and a change of clothes. Small French hotels still exist in small villages. They are ethnic, cheap, clean and pleasant. They don't do welcome packs and on the whole are not laid out like battery cages. And in our view are much better for it.

Curing the tandem was not quite so straightforward. The sidewall on the rear tyre had blown - this a tyre which was new this year and has done less than 1000 kms. The Management had not expected such an eventuality, but he had made emergency provision and did have a contingency plan. The front tyre was put on the rear and a very lightweight road tyre intended for cycle sport is now on the front. With luck it will see us to the next place with a decent cycle shop.

Having had a good lunch we bought some tasty salady things from the shop and picnicked in our room in the cool of the evening.

Twice this week "Route Barree" signs gave us some great cycling.

Day 3 May 28th Plouasne to Guer

It dawned another nice day though the Stoker was not too stressed because our room faced north. After a standard French breakfast we were on the road by 9.30am, starting uphill to St Pern. This whole area is full of châteaux and monasteries. Some people come here on purpose but as usual we find places by mistake.

We turned off the main road to cut a corner. The country lane was very pleasant but came to a farmyard and a sign which said "Route Privee". Well, as every traveller knows, if there is no way through no one bothers with a sign. On we went, unmade surface, grass in the middle and this with our thin front tyre. Via a picturesque avenue we went and soon came to a magnificent but deserted château. The Stoker then proceeded to take artistic photos, some of which included the Management from several angles.

Soon after this we came to our road, not much traffic but with long straight stretches into the distance. We reckon it could have been the Romans or even the monks going from monastery to monastery who built it. Much of the day was like this. It was pleasant and rural but made us realise how much more pleasant the route had been yesterday with its winding lanes and tow paths.

Along the way we tried to shop for a better front tyre, eventually finding one in the village of Plenan-le Grand. However we wasted a good deal of time looking in the town of Montfort-sur-Meo. To its shame, in an area famous for cycling, it did not even have a bike shop. The whole process would have been easier if we did not have a language problem. The Stoker, who seems able to learn a whole string of languages after only being in a country for a week or so, has not managed the same level of understanding in French. We are therefore stuck with the Management's rather dubious French. He hopes that given enough time it will develop into an acceptable patois.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch in the shade on a green lane off the road, far better than any cafe. The Management, a natural early riser was as usual ready, and took, his afternoon nap before going on. The afternoon was pleasant and we were rewarded by a major descent having done a lot of climbing in the last couple of days. The Rough Guide has little to say about Guer and we did not even know if it had a hotel. Fortunately it does as well as several restaurants. Apart from the kids on mopeds it is very pleasant.

The Management was in no mood to appreciate it. He changed the front tyre which was easy enough. He could not resist having a go at the gear controls. This was both silly, because he does not have the tools or manual, and not strictly necessary. They are not working as well as they should and do need sorting. However, they do work and do not slip in any significant way. He was pleased to get them back together and cursed Rohloff for using non standard screws. In fact he was not a happy person.

Day 4 May 29th Guer to Redon

It could have been a quieter night. First the local kids made one hell of a noise on the way to or from celebrating. Then gradually through the night the other residents of the hotel returned, each making their own noise. In the morning, in stark contrast to the last two days, it was wet. Not just wet but very wet. We put off leaving for as long as possible but with no sign of it relenting we finally got under way.

As we left town the first thing we came across was a yellow sign saying "Route Barree in 8 km". This added some spice to a wet ride. We could divert now and add a little to the journey. We could risk continuing on the deserted main road and having to turn back. On this occasion, as on many previous occasions, we had a fast ride and got through. We were disappointed to see that the age of the Bogon Constructor Fleet is not yet dead in the villages of Brittany. The road was closed to build a new hyper space bypass. They must still be in the same time warp as the burghers of Dorset. They also want to ruin our downs with a similar project conceived by a previous generation.

We arrived in Redon much earlier than expected, passing through lovely countryside which we could not appreciate in the rain. The plan was to meet the Management's brother Andrew and sister-in-law Pauline who had brought their Westerly Falcon up the dammed river Vilaine to meet us in Redon yacht harbour. We were early and held up in a creperie, just getting the last table as it was Mamans' day. Andrew eventually found us in a pool of water in the corner just as we were on our second cup of coffee.

We lifted the tandem on board but not without it stamping its oily mark on both our hosts. With it resplendent on the cabin roof we made our way to a quiet mooring at Rieux. We enjoyed much pleasant hospitality. Finally the rain relented a little and we were able to explore the fine ruined castle. Now hidden in a dense wood it once commanded the valley from its raised position. The village is also very pleasant.

Days 5 and 6 May 30th/31st Redon to Sarzeau via la Roche-Bernard by Silver Dawn

After breakfast we slipped our moorings and motored gently down river to Beganne. Andrew and Pauline are having a house built and we moored at the village jetty and were shown round the house and village. They have found a lovely spot in a nice village with pleasant neighbours. The house is about two thirds complete and for once Andrew is not doing the work himself. Inevitably though for someone who is always working on or building something he already has an input. We tried to help as best we could.

Work and socialising done we again motored against the wind and picked up a buoy just outside la Roche-Bernard. The river is unusual. In many ways it looks very similar to the Dart with high wooded banks in some places and wide water meadows in others. It is, however, a reservoir. In the 1960s a dam was built at Arzal which maintains the whole of what was once a tidal river at its original highwater mark. Boats now have to lock in and out and the water above the lock is fresh and not salty.

Early on 31st May, even before we had had breakfast, we motored down to the jetty at la Roche-Bernard and disembarked the tandem. Andrew, a much more natural skipper, was keen to try his hand at stoking. It is steeply up to the town and the real stoker was quite happy to walk. Unfortunately Andrew was altogether too exuberant at the start of the hill and was himself reduced to walking before the top.

We left Andrew and Pauline in the town and made our way across the Vilaine by a large suspension bridge. After this we were in deserted country lanes until in the sunshine we reached Muzillac. From here on we had expected to have to use busy roads. We were however again lucky that the road was closed. We edged by the wet tarmac and then enjoyed another half hour of peace and quiet before the road filled up again. At lunch, in a field entrance, the Management lost a huge tooth in some French bread. He asked the Stoker to make appropriate cuts to our budget to enable it to be fixed when we get home.

After lunch we again diverted onto country lanes and the only thing that troubled us was a front wheel puncture. We even found a cycle path into Sarzeau. It was surfaced down to Sustrans standards and signed as badly as in Weymouth. It was possible to navigate by GPS which brought us to our comfortable hotel for the night.

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