The tandem crossing the pedestrian bridge at le Conquet

June 7 to June 13 2005 le Fret to Wicklow

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Day 13 June 7th le Fret to le Conquet

We start this new cycling week with a ferry trip. This part of the route has gone through a whole lot of changes. It started with an idea to cycle into Brest and find a ferry to le Conquet. This is obviously very silly in view of the traffic into Brest. The Management then stumbled on the possibility of a ferry from near le Fret to le Conquet. Unfortunately at this time of the year this only operates, if at all, on Thursdays at three in the morning if the leprechauns are not watching. We settled for a ferry to Brest.

We were up early, packed and waiting on the dock, tickets in hand, at 9.45am. The Stoker likes to have tickets in her hand. She reckons that it is then much harder for the deck hands to object to our velo, trailer and luggage. As it was we went on first before the queue of elderly French who came by coach. Some of them may have been as old as us.

Off loading at Brest was more complex. It was a long way down from the boat to the jetty. Then a very steep ramp to the dockside. Then parked cars. But we did it.... Getting to the outskirts of Brest was nothing like as difficult as we expected. The traffic was slow and kind as we ground slowly uphill. We even managed a brief stop at the library to check on the internet that our banker had not ripped us off more than usual for our audacity in wanting to spend our own money in euros.

Just outside Brest we were sucked onto a hyperspace bypass but managed to escape at the first exit. After that it was a nice ride on country lanes in the sunshine. We arrived mid afternoon and checked into a little hotel near the port.

In the most optimistic of his plans the Management treated today as a day off with a ferry trip as a bonus. Arrival early at least gave us time to take a leisurely stroll around the town and port. We think this is the most westerly town in France. The point here is also considered (by the English) to be the entrance to the English Channel. It is a pleasant place with very clear water. The moorings, which are very close together, are the home of a large fishing fleet consisting of odd looking boats with such a large superstructure that they look as if they have been cut in half. Most also have bulbous bows like tankers and a very good turn of speed.

Day 14 June 8th le Conquet to Keralloret (near Guisseny)

Up the hill into le Conquet and fully supplied we went out over the pedestrian bridge. It was a lovely sunny morning and the Stoker tried to take some artistic photographs of our reflections in the water. Once on the other side of the harbour we followed country lanes to find the Menhir de Kerloas. This is allegedly the tallest in Western Europe at 11 metres and was, until it was struck by lightening, two metres higher. Reaching it involved a 2km detour, perhaps ten extra minutes on the day. The Management mentioned that this might damage his important schedule. Furthermore he considered that no one in their right mind would put a thing like that at the bottom of a hill. And he was right.

The Stoker insisted on going. Even the Management agreed that it is magnificent. As we arrived along the country lane to the footpath leading to the menhir a German couple were just leaving. After this we saw no one. We stood the tandem against it and took photos. We rubbed our tummies on the special bumps. These give women power and enable men to father boys. We are not sure what they do for tandems. Breeding them could be a lot cheaper than buying. The Management would prefer no children at all. In the unlikely event of miracles he prefers girls. As we left the Stoker rightly said "What is cycle touring worth if we cannot afford an extra ten minutes to see a sight like this".

After lunch at a picnic table in the sun we went on against an ever increasing head wind. It is not a hilly area in the main but very open to the wind. Tourist accommodation is very sparse, unusual for France. We went through Plougherneau which won an award in 1990 for being the most exemplary European community, apparently based on the fact that its twinning with various other towns had resulted in 22 inter European marriages. We were not sure whether this was because they were thrown together because of the absence of a hotel or alternatively they were all shotgun weddings resulting from activities at the menhir.

We continued on towards Guisseny with no idea whether there was a hotel there. The only alternative was to deviate significantly from the route or camp. We were lucky. Two or three km before Guisseny we saw a bed sign at 500 metres off the road. It must have been a sign of our desperation that we went to look even though it was downhill. Luck was with us. After only about 1km we came across a farm with luxury accommodation and a restaurant. It was also not excessively expensive. And we were so glad to be out of the wind.

Days 15 and 16 June 9th and 10th Keralloret (near Guisseny) to Roscoff

After perhaps our best breakfast in France we set off into the maze of country lanes. It was the Management's plan not to emerge onto the busier roads until well into the afternoon. He failed. The navigation was too complex or, as he thinks, the roads on the map do not exist. We only got as far as Guisseny on the lanes.

Guisseny is a pleasant village but it lacked a hotel. We were so pleased that we did not pass by the signs on the road last night to our hotel. It is such a shame that some of the traditional village hotels in France are closing. We saw not one between Guisseny and Roscoff. But it was easy to identify the buildings which once housed them. We think it is worse in tourist areas with car travellers staying near the beach or in campervans.

Having failed to get off the main road completely we spent the rest of the day diverting just to one side or the other of it. Even by Dorset standards the main road here is not that busy. It is also smooth and not very hilly and is a very popular training road for road cyclists. We greeted and were encouraged by a number of road cycle teams in their team strips. We also saw others in two and threes.

We were a little suspicious that most of these cyclists were only cycling with the wind behind them. We were finding the constant headwind very hard going. Few roadies overtook us, and they would have done at our speed. Team vehicles and little wifies with cars were involved we think. Incidentally women roadies here seem to be about as rare as hen's teeth. Or the Management's upper right.

Just before Roscoff, on the back way in, we went through the large village of Santec. From here there are wonderful views of the coast. There are numerous rocky outcrops from the azure of the shallow sea and the beaches are of pure white sand. The backdrop of the Ile de Batz makes this such a beautiful place. And we think most people just drive through once they get off the ferry.

At Santec we found a campsite with mobile homes and hired one at a price we would not normally pay. We did however agree that we could stay until tomorrow evening.

On 10th June we spent the day slothing around the campsite in the sun. The Stoker did chores. In the evening we packed our things and cycled the 4km to the ferry for Ireland. Brittany obviously didn't want to be rid of us. In the now strong tradition of the French they had an "illegal" strike. On this occasion it was against Irish Ferries, a rather grubby company which has apparently been employing Eastern Europeans at low wages in preference to the French and the Irish. Maybe they have the same management as Condor.

Anyway, when we arrived at 6pm our ship was in. It had been since 10am but no one had been allowed off. Eventually it unloaded but no one was allowed on. Then it disappeared off out to sea. Then the gendarmes arrived. It was just like Inspector Clouseau. Two bus loads of them, several cars, blue lights flashing, and a number of motorbikes. Apart from directing traffic and adding to the slum conditions already existing because of the numbers waiting they appeared to do nothing.

Two rather smart Brittany ferries came and went. Information from the Irish Ferries desk was sparse to say the least. The Management was firmly convinced that our ship had gone back to Ireland. Their Management seemed to be out for a very long lunch. They will be lucky to return if they carry on like this. Eventually at about 11pm the ship came back. No one seemed to know where she had been. We loaded and left quickly. They did offer us a free meal, possibly the only good value thing on the ship. We declined, preferring to go straight to sleep. The meals, like Cinderella at midnight, returned to their normal excessive ship prices by the morning. Still, it's better than flying....just.

After a hard climb up from sea level we then descended into Wicklow from here.

Days 17 and 18 June 11th and 12th (Stoker's Birthday) Rosslare to Courtown

The area around the ferry port is not perhaps the most picturesque part of Southern Ireland. We made for Bord Fáilte, the tourist office, to find it closed. This pleased the Management who has long held them responsible for high priced B&Bs that don't have tea making facilities. He did, however, read a notice board that said we should not miss Rosslare Town just off the main road.

We did have a look at the area around the port. Almost any alternative was better. It resembles Paris Texas in its seediness. In contrast Rosslare is a pleasant seaside village in a lovely location along a sandy beach. But while there is lots of holiday accommodation there is not much for one night casual visitors like us.

We had just cycled the length of the main sea front when we were greeted by Emer and Brendan as we were looking to see whether any of the houses near their's were available to let. One thing led to another and they offered us the use of their mobile home. Emer led us down on her bike and made us coffee. They had done some cycle touring in the past and showed us a picture of the family using trailer bikes with touring gear.

It would have been nice just to be welcomed into Ireland by fellow cyclists. To be offered a lovely comfortable place to stay and friendly conversation was superb.

Based on Brendan's local knowledge we not only completely changed our planned route but had a lovely evening ride beside Wexford Harbour. As far as the route change was concerned we will now follow the east coast as we had originally planned but had dismissed because of traffic considerations around Dublin.

On the 12th, the Stoker's birthday, we headed out of Rosslare and circumnavigated Wexford Harbour on the main road. Not particularly pleasant but unavoidable. We went out of Wexford over the wide bridge to the north. We think this road must be the car sales capital of Ireland. On a working day just the perfume from the huge number of sales staff must be underwelming. Margins on new cars must be too high here.

The coast road was quite busy so we went inland on the lanes. It was very pleasant but a bit risky in view of our poor map. A local householder asked if we were lost which was not encouraging. However, it transpired that we were not and we emerged back onto the now much quieter coast road at Blackwater.

We checked into the Rough Guide's recommended B&B which is more like a pleasant hotel. Then birthday dinner as the Stoker deserves.

Day 19 June 13th Courtown to Wicklow

And that birthday dinner was followed by full vegetarian Irish breakfast. We think that in French terms we were sated.

We then had a superb day of cycling. The whole day was spent on minor roads in the sunshine on the seaward side of the roaring main road. The wind, while not quite on our backs, was never against us. We were never far from habitation but there was very little traffic. Every now and again we went down to pass beside or near to white sandy beaches.

Even lunch time worked out well. We went into Arklow and found an internet café. For the first time we had a chance to look at our own website. We also did the money things that have to be done on a long trip. Opposite was a pleasant little café and we topped up calories used after breakfast this morning. It is nice that Ireland is a tea drinking country and a proper cup of tea is never far away.

The trip along the coast gave us a chance to observe the Irish vernacular house architecture. There is a huge amount of new building going on here. One can only assume that in this country, at least, macro economics is not dead.

Prince Charles' carbuncle on the face of Dorchester is nothing to what one sees here. The wealthier people build houses Dallas style. It is essential to have porticoes on every orifice. They are mainly situated at the end of sweeping tarmac drives shut off by large ornate iron gates. These are almost always kept locked. Somewhere they usually try to have a couple of lions like those in Trafalgar Square or American Eagles.

Other properties and estates tend to be built in the current standard European style with a couple of roof levels and at least one dormer. They are normally rendered and finished in light yellow. The estates are amazingly boring. In most, every house is identical and they have their own security gates. Someone must know what they need the security for but we don't. Let's hope that we in the UK can be preserved from this type of architecture.

After a major climb at the end of the day we came down into Wicklow. This seaside town is on a site comparable to Weymouth. A river forms the harbour just as the Wey does in Weymouth. As the Bay here sweeps north the river forms a backwater behind the beach. We booked into a hostel which would be at the King's Statue in Weymouth but here it is clearly on the wrong side of the tracks. It is, nevertheless, very pleasant and clean. It also enabled the Management to cook some nice food and save a bit of money in this enormously expensive country.

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