Celebrating the number 2 in Brittany!

So we are sorry about our silence of recent date – we have been enjoying some amazing weather in Brittany and have been too busy cycling to blog.  Unfortunately this all came to an end about a week ago when the heavens opened and we (with the exception of Amaya) were significantly drenched.

Since the mechanical elephant of Nantes we followed a stunning canal deep into Brittany.  We passed castles built into cliff faces with witches hat turrets, enjoyed coffee in ancient town squares, camped in a forest where legends of King Arthur are told, scoffed crepes, wound our way along the flat tow path of the canal, passing river barges going up the locks, and cherishing the car free environment with the birds providing the soundtrack.

Impossibly beautiful cycling

Impossibly beautiful cycling

An amazing castle in a city called Joselyn along the Nantes-Brest canal.

An amazing castle in a city called Joselyn along the Nantes-Brest canal.

Amaya continued her passion for graffiti along the canal

Amaya continued her passion for graffiti along the canal

We had both been anticipating this section of our journey and it didn’t disappoint – this is France at its best.  It has been one of those experiences where we wished we could somehow take away more than just our memories and a few photos.  If only there was some way of capturing those moments in a more substantial way and transporting them with us…

She is really burying her nose into that flower!

She is really burying her nose into that flower!

This was a cool campground in an old guys backyard - total cost of 3.80 Euros!

This was a cool campground in an old guys backyard – total cost of 3.80 Euros!

Meanwhile there have been a few causes for celebration: Amaya’s second two-year-old molar finally poked through, her age caught up to her teeth on the 15th, it has been two months on the road, we made it to Roscoff which marked the end of our 1300km cycle path that we had been following since entering France, and we passed 2000km!

Sometimes we even find it hard to believe that we have managed all of this through simple pedal power!  That we have actually transported ourselves from Barcelona to Brittany on bicycles!?!?!

Excited to have made it all the way to Roscoff on our 1300km cycle path.

Excited to have made it all the way to Roscoff on our 1300km cycle path.

Cycling through a beautiful forest on bike paths

Cycling through a beautiful forest on bike paths

We are now in St Malo where we are catching a ferry to Portsmouth and then visiting Jonny (Shoshanna’s brother) and Helen and their new baby, Henry in London.  We then make our way back onto the continent and meet up with my parents  and ride through Belgium and Holland for a few weeks and then up into Germany and the Baltic Sea and down to Berlin.  Fortunately there is a lot of cycling ahead of us.

Lighthouse St Malo

Cycling up from the small ferry into St Malo

Cycling up from the small ferry into St Malo

We played for hours on the beach with the fortified city of St Malo all around us.

We played for hours on the beach with the fortified city of St Malo all around us.

Les Machines de L’ile

Our journey reached 1500km as we rode into Nantes, which turned out to be a magnificent city.  It is the fifth largest in France with a thriving cultural and artistic vibe.  It is a bicycle friendly city where activists paint bike paths on roads if they don’t exist already.  We stayed with Romaric and his family which was a treat in itself, as Romaric is the manager of a beautiful botanic garden (Jardin des Plantes) and a keen carnivorous plant enthusiast.

A beautiful botanic garden

A beautiful botanic garden

Giant seat in Jardin de Plantes

Giant seat in Jardin de Plantes

Without doubt the highlight was “Les Machines de L’ile”, an impossibly fantastical creation of Jules Verne type creatures.  There is a Heron with an 8 metre wing span that flies and carries passengers, a larger than life study ant, carnivorous plants, and then there is the Great Elephant!  A monstrous mass of metal 3 times the size of an actual elephant.  Really it is something that needs to be experienced to comprehend – hopefully our amateur footage does some justice.

We were all pretty pumped about the elephant!

We were all pretty pumped about the elephant!

Mic kept a safe distance! Getting trampled would certainly end our bike tour!

Mic kept a safe distance! Getting trampled would certainly end our bike tour!

Riding the beast!

Riding the beast!

Standing atop!

Standing atop!

Don't worry she didn't really put her hand int!

Don’t worry she didn’t really put her hand in!

Machines Machines

The giant Heron.

The giant Heron.

Amaya was apprehensive at first but soon warmed to the beast and added it to her growing collection of amazing sights and endless possibilities.

It also turns out that Shoshanna is not the only person in France complaining about the weather.  It has been the wettest May on record and shows no real sign of giving way to sustained brilliant sunshine.  Please think of us as we inch our way into a very damp Brittany.  For the moment though we are enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Patrick and Patricia in their lovely old house along Le Canal de Nantes.

Shelter from the rain

Shelter from the rain

Enjoying a scrumptious breakfast with Patrick and Patricia.

Enjoying a scrumptious breakfast with Patrick and Patricia.

Rain

Having the time of my life!

Having the time of my life!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m a bit of a fair weathered cyclist, so when it starts to rain I tend to stop enjoying myself. Its been a personal project to over come this issue but after several years of counselling dedicated to the topic I can still only manage to keep a smile on my face for so long. Some cyclists love cycling in the rain. So they tell me. But I wonder if the weather we have been having lately would even wear down the hardiest of those rain dancing warriors. Its not so much the actual getting wet while you are on the bike (although having rain pouring off my helmet onto my face isn’t my favourite sensation in the world) its more the added level of difficulty the wet adds to every aspect of the day. Packing up a tent while its raining is difficult if you want to keep the inside dry for the next night. Then what about lunch? If we didn’t have a toddler who likes to sleep during the time France likes to eat we might consider (on a particularly miserable day) splashing out on a restaurant meal and having a few hours of dry warmth. Instead we look for anywhere that will provide us a little shelter. Like a bus shelter with resident snails. It doesn’t make for the most entertaining of breaks but it keeps you out of the rain.

We don't tend to take photos when its raining but these inky clouds paint you the picture!

We don’t tend to take photos when its raining but these inky clouds paint you the picture!

OK, it hasn’t been THAT BAD, we have had a LOT of rain (almost everyday for the month of May) but most of it has been intermittent. We have only ridden in a constant downpour for 2 of those days. But its wearing us down, it makes camping not very fun, and to top it off the temperature range has been more of less between 2 and 12 degrees. With, might I add, not only rain but also wind, AND we have been hailed on – twice. Essentially we are riding through a bad Australian winter. Yuck.

Moody sky, not exactly a perfect day for the beach but we try to enjoy these small moments despite the weather

Not exactly a perfect day for the beach but we try to enjoy small breaks despite the weather

We are told this is very unusual weather for May in this part of the world – normally it is glorious. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. The crux of the matter is cycle touring has you completely exposed to the elements all day long. It’s an occupation that makes you vulnerable in many ways, and the bad weather has made us even more reliant on people’s kindness.

We were riding through the pine forest on an old railway track in a downpour when I was hit with excruciatingly painful stomach cramps. The sort of pain that makes you wonder if you need to go to hospital. There was nothing around so I had no choice but to ride on. Every time my legs hit the highest point of rotation the pain worsened forcing us to slow down. Now moving at 8km/hr we weren’t using enough energy to keep up the blood flow so we started to get cold. I kept looking at the ground wondering if all I could manage was to get off the bike, lie down on the grass beside the track and quietly… what? shake? shiver?… try to pass out so it would all go away? All I wanted to do was lie down so the pain would go but I had to ride on. Eventually we made it to a little town, we searched for a hotel, nothing. But it did have a very simple campground with a few sad looking caravans. I collapsed into a chair shaking, and crying, unable to bear the pain anymore. After establishing that I wasn’t about to die, the shocked camp ground owner quickly cleaned out one of her caravans and let us use it for no charge. She didn’t have to, but she did, and we will be eternally grateful. Yes, we are vulnerable, so when people are kind it means so much more.

The caravan that saved me. NOTE: A brief appearance of sunshine!

The caravan that saved me. NOTE: A brief appearance of sunshine!

We also meet the other sort of people who are unhelpful and thoughtless and then wish us a “bon voyage!” after telling us the camp ground we were relying on is closed, and the hotel no longer exists, and we have to ride to the NEXT town in the rain after a day that has already been too hard and too long with no guarantee of a place to sleep there either. Thanks, its currently a WONDERFUL journey (exasperated cheesy grin).

Thankfully this is a rarity, and as travellers discover most people are gems, with only a smattering of bad eggs in between. People are especially kind if they understand what you are doing isn’t a holiday, and the kindest of all on our trip thus far have been Bernard and Beatrice who we met in a small town in Spain. They invited us to stay with them in their small town of 26 people in a rural region of France. Their beautiful cedar home is situated amongst flower and vegetable gardens and filled with mosaics, paintings and other works of art all created by Bernard. Enthusiastic cooks and keen on us trying some of the local delicacies Bernard and Beatrice treated us to asparagus soufflé, chestnut soup, homemade Pineau (a French aperitif), and Beatrice’s homemade herbal liquor. All the vegetables came directly from the garden and we enjoyed ourselves planting potatoes, flowers and learning about the agriculture. Planing to stay only two nights, we ended up staying four – and it was tempting to establish some roots of our own and live the quiet life in this little paradise, dancing to local folk music and living off the land but alas the journey must go on.

Planting potatoes with Beatrice and Bernard

Planting potatoes

Planting flowers

Planting flowers

More planting

More planting

Amaya enjoying Bernards parents property where the Pineau grapes were picked and the wine was made

Amaya enjoying Bernards parent’s property where the Pineau grapes were picked and the wine was made

Cami the Cockatoo bit Amaya's finger. She loves telling the story!

Cami the Cockatoo bit Amaya’s finger. She loves telling the story!

Dinner party - Thanks for such a wonderful stay Bernard and Beatrice!

Dinner party – Thanks for such a wonderful stay Bernard and Beatrice!

And so we continue to limp our way up France slowly, slowly inching our way north. Riding for a few days then hiding as best we can from the cold, the wet and the wind for a few more. While we are waiting for the weather to improve I am continuing on my quest to stop my mood being directly linked to the rain. If the forecast is correct at least I will be happy tomorrow!

1000km and Counting

So we completed our first thousand kilometres a couple of days ago. Pre-Amaya this wouldn’t have been as noteworthy, but 1000km with a teething toddler in tow is a definite milestone. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far! Thanks for reading our blog, for your encouragement and a massive thanks to those who have made a donation to Clinica Verde. We have raised close to $1000  (almost $1 per kilometre). This is money that has already made a difference to the lives of mothers and children in the Boaco region of Nicaragua.

If you would like to donate please click the button below:CV button to donate.001

  • $5 Helps provide clean water at the clinic
  • $10 Buys medication for a child  in need
  • $25 Supports 2 wellness visits for a child
  • $100 Provides prenatal care for 1 mother’s full pregnancy
  • $250 Supports a nurse for a month

Since our last post we have crossed into France and enjoyed about 350km of designated bicycle path. We are following a route called La Vélodyssée which follows the coast of France from the Spanish border for 1300km to Roskoff in Brittany.  It is an amazing piece of bicycle infrastructure – a refreshing change after Spain. The other refreshing change is how ubiquitous campgrounds are in France.  We no longer have to pre-think where we are going to stay each night – there is always a friendly campground to be found.

So while the weather has not been that great, the scenery has been stunning, and the bike paths smooth and flat.

Below is a small photo blog of what has been happening (including our first interview with Amaya):

Just finished lunch at a winner of a spot!

Just finished lunch at a winner of a spot!

Leaving our campground across a cute wooden bridge.

Leaving our campground across a cute wooden bridge.

We have been really enjoying the long sandy beaches!  The weather has been a bit suspect though.

We have been enjoying the long sandy beaches! The weather has been a bit suspect though.

Amaya love chickens!

Amaya loves chickens!

Typical lunch stop

Typical lunch stop

Beach

Dunes of Pylar were quite impressive!

The Dunes of Pilat were quite impressive!

Turned a corner down a side street and came across a circus! Luck!

Turned a corner down a side street and came across a circus! Luck!

Checking out the cool ports around the Bassin d' Archachon

Checking out the cool ports around the Bassin d’ Archachon

We were given this bottle of wine by the owner of the campground who was impressed with our "courage"

We were given this bottle of wine by the owner of the campground who was impressed with our “courage”