The ferry across the entrance to the Morbihan only runs in summer. We hired this water taxi.

June 1st to June 6th 2005 Carnac to le Fret

Home Page       The Route       Week 1       Week 2       Week 3       Week 4       Week 5       Week 6       Week 7       Week 8      

Bike and Gear       Navigation and the GPS       Stoker's leg      

Day 7 June 1st Sarzeau to Carnac

After extricating the tandem from the hotel's locked dining room we made for the Tourist Office. Unpleasant as it was at this time of the morning it was necessary. We had two questions to ask and the consequences of the answers to both were in effect unsatisfactory.

We needed to know at what time the ferry ran between Port Navalo and Locmariaquer at the mouth of the Golfe of Morbihan. The ferry only runs in été which seems to start in July and end in August. The Golfe is larger than Chichester and Langstone Harbours together and would be a very long way round. It would also involve retracing our route which is only carried out in extreme circumstances. The tourist office boy, with great lateral thinking for one of his profession, then suggested a water taxi. Phone calls were made and a time and price fixed. Midday and about £41. The Scottish half of the Stoker and the stingy part of the Management objected to the price. There was, however, no realistic alternative and they spent the rest of the day justifying it to themselves.

The second question related to cycle routes. Unfortunately this region of Brittany has already and still is spending far too much EC (we presume) money on roads. Not only that but the new roads are badly designed and take no account of cyclists and pedestrians. The road to Port Navalo is one of these. It is not very heavily trafficked but the vehicles on it go very fast and there is no provision for us. The good news was that the tourist boy did have a cycle route map. The bad news became apparent as we tried to follow it. The route was badly surfaced and had barriers we could not get the tandem through. It also added substantially to the distance we would have travelled on the main road.

The cheerful ferryman turned up with his yellow water taxi and helped us load the tandem on board. It was a pleasant crossing with a commentary in English. It made paying him when we landed altogether less painful. The roads onwards to Carnac were pleasant with the final part being along the coast with its fine sandy beach.

Finding the type of accommodation we wanted was not as easy as we had expected. We did a lot of extra kms looking for it. As we are staying for two nights here we wanted a self catering apartment. None were advertised on the way in and so we made for the Tourist Office, twice in one day, has to be a record. We were pointed in the right direction but the price was much too high. We then found a large campsite only 400 metres from the beach with mobile homes to let. The price was less high and the facilities fine, two bedrooms, kitchen, diner and shower room. It also has the advantages of not having far to carry the luggage and the tandem can be locked to the veranda outside the front door.

Day 8 June 2nd Tour of the Carnac megalithic remains

Carnac claims, like many other tourist places no doubt, to be the largest and most important megalithic site in the known world. When we were at the Tourist Office yesterday we picked up a map of all the notable places and the Management planned a route around them. Off we went on the tandem in the bright sunshine fully provisioned.

Our first stop was the Maison des Megalithes. It is an uninspiring modern building situated near to the avenues of stone. It has a slide presentation and many books, all of which speculate on what none of us can know. The fields nearby are full of smallish stones in lines, unlike anything we have seen elsewhere. We did not see any henges like the impressive ones we came across on the Outer Hebrides and Orkney, or of course Stonehenge. We did not even see any obvious stone circles. What does impress is the size of the place. We did 25km and did not see it all.

We were disappointed that some academic promoted beyond his level of competence had put up fences which prevented us from walking amongst the stones. Apparently this only applies in été which for this purpose lasts from April to September, unlike yesterday's ferry. The ridiculous thing is that if these places were visited by our ancestors they would no doubt have been kept clear of vegetation.

We cycled on and visited several dolmens, thought to be burial chambers. These were much more fun. Some of them were difficult to find while others gave access to long dark burial chambers. At these sites we saw no one and spent two hours cycling and exploring in the sun. As lunch time approached we found a shady spot on a path through an oak wood. We were there almost two hours eating and dozing in the sun.

Our lunch path led to a strange collection of stones arranged like an oblong field boundary, called Le Quadrilateral. We explored this slowly and mainly on our own. Here also was Le Geant du Maneo, a stone about 6 metres high standing apart from the others.

We returned to the digs on the campsite via the Alignements de Kermarle, long stretches of stones in lines behind fences. It is hard not to be impressed and inspired by this place. Shame about the way it is managed but then Stonehenge is worse.

Day 9 June 3rd Carnac to Guidel Plages

Cycle touring and especially travelling by bike involves days like this. It is just not possible to go from place to place on country lanes and then find a nice little village hotel. Days like today represent a navigational challenge. They also present something of a bike handling challenge when a heavily laden tandem and trailer are involved.

The campsite very efficiently checked us out at 10 o'clock. Had they not done so we could have had an even later start as we overslept by about an hour, we must still be on Blair time. The first part of the journey was on long straight roads which were quite busy. The French tend to be considerate towards cyclists, often waiting for us to get through narrow bits and over the brow of hills. Unfortunately the roads around Carnac are full of British cars, the drivers of which behave just as badly as they do at home. They are undoubtedly the worst in Europe.

Just before we reached Plouharnet we came across a magnificent alignment of standing stones. They are both large and pleasingly spaced. Unlike those at Carnac we walked amongst them and enjoyed the feeling of grandeur they engendered. There were even some giant stones just across the field. We were glad we had not missed this place.

We were able to cross the river d'Etel by bridge not far from the coast but then had to head inland to Lorient. The mouth of the Blavet can only be crossed by a ferry which may run in July and August. The traverse of Lorient took place after lunch in the rain. Large French towns are appalling, no wonder the residents make for the coast or countryside at the weekend. The blocks of flats are called bâtiments which seems an apt description. Square concrete blocks dominate and look run down.

The road system in Lorient is complex and involves crossing two large bridges and several major roads. The roads were also very congested. With the help of the GPS we managed without getting lost or having problems manoeuvring the tandem. Unfortunately in every way Lorient has a military airbase to the west of it. Presumably the cowboy fliers who buzzed Carnac yesterday wasting the French tax payers money come from here. By mid afternoon the workers leaving this airbase had caused huge congestion which we also had to negotiate.

At the end of the day we cycled down, although it was mainly up, to the beach from Guidel. The only hotels in the area are here and it is a lovely place with its sandy beaches and oval shaped inlet just inside the sand bar.

Standing stones near Carnac. Unlike those at Carnac we were able to walk amongst these. The only way to enjoy them.

Day 10 June 4th Guidel Plage to la Foret Fouesnant

Last night we had a great meal. The chef coped with the Management's peculiar eating habits well and the Stoker had fish. This is good for her legs, her brain has never been a problem. This was all achieved by ordering on arrival. We shared the busy dining room with a large group of farmers which the patron described as paysants. Well we think that's what he said. We guess this means smallholders or tenant farmers but would be interested if anyone knows better.

Anyway, being so well fed and watered we were reluctant to get up and only just arrived at the nearby ferry across la Laita by 10am. It was to no avail as the ferry was not running. The Stoker negotiated with the port Capitain who made several phone calls but did not produce the ferry.

The Management says he had always expected this eventuality. Retracing not being an option we set off on the mainly off road route to the bridge upstream. The Stoker's level of fear on dodgy surfaces has increased over the years and the Management does not always take this into account. It was actually a very nice route through shady lanes dappled by the sun filtering through the trees. And the Management was quite careful. We were however pleased to be back on tarmac.

The rest of the day was mainly on wide smooth tarmac with not too much traffic. In fact at this time of the year before too many tourists arrive it is a roadies dream come true. And we saw lots of them during the day. Most waved or bon joured, bon couraged or bon routed us, dependent upon the hills. We would have preferred the lanes but they don't go through here.

At Riec-sur-Belon, while turning over the map, we were offered good advice by a local which gave us a short distance on lanes. He was a typical gallic person, at least to look at. He lacked the kilt and bagpipes but sported a red beard and was proud of his village and surrounds. Shame he smelt of smoke. We also stopped at the Tourist Information office at Tregunc. The girl was very helpful with forward planning.

Lunch was taken in the sun and the Management managed a lengthy nap, justified on the grounds that the cold would prevent him from doing this if we ever reach Benbecula. We drifted into and out of Concarneau without much enthusiasm. Had we know about the enormously steep hill we would need to climb to reach la Foret Fouesnant we would have been less happy. It involved bottom gear for most of the way up. Fortunately we, as cyclists, had priority over the cars which stopped to let us crawl along at walking pace.

Day 11 June 5th la Foret Fouesnant to Chateaulin

We awoke to overcast skies having had almost a week of nice weather. Before we got very far the rain had set in. This was a shame because the route today is especially pleasant.

Since leaving Andrew and Pauline on Silver Dawn we have been travelling along the south coast of Brittany. Because it is so indented with inlets it is impossible to devise a through route along the beaches and cliffs. But the roads we have taken have in the main been busier than we prefer. We were then confronted with going west or east of Quimper. West was more of the same via Benodet. But east involved using tiny lanes and serious navigation.

East we went and were soon confronted with terrain not unlike parts of Cornwall. Steeply down, round a sharp bend which kills all momentum and then equally steeply up. The Stoker drew the Management's attention to the arrangement whereby he went slowly and carefully. In fact he had very little choice, or so he said. The lack of a drag brake made safe hard braking impossible.

Lunch was taken at Briec, much to the annoyance of the local kids on their mopeds. We appropriated their meeting place first and it was an ideal lunch stop on a wet day, being a large covered area near to a local college. We had a large shelter and seat on which to relax while we dried out and brewed up. For the local kids on the other hand there was no change. In common with people of their age the world over there was obviously "nothing to do". No doubt this time it was our fault.

The rest of the ride was mainly downhill into Chateaulin. The rain eased then stopped. Chateaulin is a largish town in a deep river valley. Maybe Sunday mid-afternoon is not the best time to arrive. Despite its pleasant situation it could only be described as mainly dead. There are supposed to be four hotels here. The first we found was shut till 6 o'clock. Two are well out of the centre. Soon after we checked into the fourth the bar and restaurant were shut, locked up and we were given the combination for the front door. It was also a bit more expensive than we prefer.

Still it gives us a chance to bring in a takeaway. And we will be gone in the morning whereas they have to live in this place.

Day 12 June 6th Chateaulin to le Fret

The hotel produced a true Bretagne breakfast including pancakes and freshly squeezed orange. We then left town over the high curved bridge with lovely views over the river. That is the good news. The bad news was low cloud, fog and the occasional rain shower. And after a hearty breakfast a 45 minute low gear climb. The hotel leaflet said that many notable cyclists had stayed there including Armstrong, Pantani and Indurain. We bet they also climbed this hill straight after breakfast in the fog.

The advantage of going the uphill way from Chateaulin was that we were wandering on lovely country lanes joining small villages and hamlets all the morning. The fog did clear but it was not till late afternoon that we saw just a little sunshine. Even so it was a great ride and unlike some of the places we have been far from flat.

We cycled into Crozon on main roads, unable to avoid it as we needed the Tourist Office. Tomorrow is a ferry day and we needed to find timetables and destinations. Le Fret is a small village from which the ferry departs for Brest. It has one hotel. As an afterthought the Management asked the helpful man in the tourist office if he could check that they had room. Amazingly, it has only happened to us in France once before, they were complete.

The Management was then obliged to converse in his bad French. He is usually bone idle on these occasions with the excuse that his French is so bad that it is beyond improvement, whereas the Stoker on the other hand could easily become almost fluent. However at the moment he does have a few more words and he found us a mobile home for the night.

Off to the supermarket we went and then, as the tourist office had said, descended to le Fret. We arrived at the campsite at 4.30pm, not sure whether its management arrived or left at 5pm. Language is a tricky thing. The Stoker sorted it by conversing with other happy campers and we were comfortably installed by 5.45pm. It is a lovely site with just five mobile homes plus tourers and tents right beside the sea. Just about as different as it could be from the site in Carnac.

Home Page       The Route       Week 1       Week 2       Week 3       Week 4       Week 5       Week 6       Week 7       Week 8      

Bike and Gear       Navigation and the GPS       Stoker's leg      

This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.