Sunday, 5 December 2010

Welcome Break

Well believe it or not it is right now 4:30am, and I have woken up to the gentle rocking of a cross-channel ferry. Right now, we're somewhere in the middle of the English channel.

We took advantage of our local radio station, Wave 105, having a christmas cruise across to Saint-Malo, and I managed to get tickets including a cabin both ways, the car, and an evening meal, for around £200. So we left a very icy Portsmouth Friday night, arrived in a thawing France on Saturday morning, and spent yesterday roaming around Brittany.

First destination off the ferry was a visit to Decathlon, hopefully with a suitable breakfast stop on the way. I'd researched this beforehand, to the point of pinpointing the shop on Google Maps and putting the co-ordinates into Tomtom. Unfortunately what I didn't realise was that this was a new build, and did not appear on my two-year-old Tomtom maps.....d'oh!! Still, after dicking around for a half hour, and eventually turning satnav off, we reached our destination, an enormous shop ("the largest in the west", if we were to believe the signs) at Betton, just north of Rennes, which even had a little cafe, so we got to have café and croissants for breakfast.

This part of France had obviously had a fair old bit of snow the last few days, and our drive to Decathlon, in above-zero temperatures but often quite heavy rain, was having the effect of washing away the snow. In fact this was the pattern for the day - whilst it was good (for the most part) not to have to contend with snow, we nevertheless got soaked a couple of times.

The first of these times was to be in Rennes, our next destination after Decathlon, when the heavens literally just opened. But we were undeterred, the rain abated, and we had a great walk around this lovely city, even managing to catch the end of the Saturday market at Les Lices (we have a delicious-tasting Breton tart for after supper tonight). We also stopped for a nice lunch in a pizzeria which we first visited a couple of years ago, which not only gave us some decent food, but allowed us the opportunity to dry off.

So, a decent walk around Rennes, then out, westward, to the town of St-Méen-le-grand, which was the home town of the cycling legend Louison Bobet. For anybody not into cycling, this was the first guy to win the Tour de France three times on the trot, from 1953-5. So, a real cycling superstar of his day. And these days there is a small museum dedicated to him, which was the purpose of our visit. (Not interesting enough to tempt Alice, but Jacqueline was happy enough to tag along.) Anyway, lots of memorabilia, photographs, and a couple of his old bikes. Brilliant stuff. Despite some more rain, Jac and I also had a walk around the town centre, and I quite easily found Bobet's birthplace. I'd have liked to have visited the cemetery and paid my respects at his grave, but it was really too wet by this time.

Musée Louison Bobet, Saint-Méen-le-Grand


Onward and upward, this time back up to the lovely old town of Dinan, where for the first time we saw evidence of the recent snow. Basically the place was covered in slush, obviously thawing but somewhat more slowly than everywhere else. So we ended up having to watch where we walked, and my poor old feet got soaked. But still, Dinan is ua charming place and we found a Salon de thè, where I tried some delicious coffee and walnut cake - the orange and vanilla tea wasn't bad either!

rue de la Chaux, Dinan


Must have been around 5:30 by now, and time to head back up to the coast. I was a little concerned about the driving conditions - around Dinan in particular there was lots of snow still piled high by the side of the road, but as we neared Saint-Malo everything was clear once again. Despite another wrong turn (this time total user error), we eventually reached our final stop of the day - the Carrefour at Saint-Malo.

Now, there are certain things, such as toiletries, where I like to buy French products. This, coupled with the fact that it has been two years since our last visit, and we don't have another planned, meant that our shopping trolley contained a very strange assortment indeed! Anyway, €200 later...

Very weary now, 7:30pm and with enough energy just to get back to the ferry. Fortunately because this was more of a cruise than a ferry crossing, they'd opened boarding right up, and we were allowed to board any time between about 5 and 10 o'clock. So the upshot was we were able to drive straight on, with no queues. Even better, we went straight up to the restaurant and where I had expected to find a wait, we got a table straight away. One of the plusses about Brittany ferries is the standard of food, and last night's meal was no exception. Absolutely delicious, despite us being dead on our feet by this time. Time only to go to the bar for a quick drink before heading off to bed. The Wave 105 people had organised a "Glitz Mix" disco, but this didn't start until 11pm, so there was no way I'd last the distance (although I think Alice went along for a short while).

So there we are. Its now almost 6am (not sure whether that's UK or FR time, but either way time for another 2 or 3 hours kip before we land in Portsmouth.

Nice trip

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