In Which the Tables are (Over)turnedSeptember 17, 2017 in France
Day 27 of 2017 European ride turned out to be one of the best days we have had so far. The rain has abated and we were all able to ride out of St Malo in fine and sunny conditions. This area is famous for its huge tidal surges and impressive waves. The entire waterfront of St Malo is protected by a massive stone wall which extends far out along the coast. This wall provided the perfect path to begin our ride.
We then proceeded past the massive Citadel of the "old city", made famous in the novel "All the Light we Cannot See". After the cold and wet of the past few days it was delightful to be able to savour the sunshine and ride to the accompaniment of hundreds of Atlantic seagulls. It did not take long for the spirits of our riders to soar and the recent challenges were already starting to fade into vague memories. (Actually at our age, memories of most recent occurrences quickly fade into oblivion).
Although St Malo is an apparently very old city, it was actually almost completely destroyed by allied bombing and shelling in WW2. What you see now is mostly a reconstruction of the original buildings.
The ride followed the Rance Estuary for most of the day and we were able to see the rapid flow of water as the tide turned. There is actually a large tidal power station built here that harnesses the power of these supertides. This was built back in 1966 and at that time it was the world's first tidal power station.
A short distance further up we stopped to examine an old building and discovered that it was a flour mill that had been powered for hundreds of years by the rides and only stopped working in the 1980s. We happened to arrive just in time for a local historian to give us a complete tour of the 4 story structure and its workings.
The ride itself was flatter than some of our recent days but still had a fair collection of climbs that served to get the heart beating heavily. For the four ladies of the "electric peloton", this gave them repeated excuses to roar past the rest of us who were still battling our way to the top of each climb. Sometimes the thought of an ebike does seem very tempting.
The final 10 km or so followed the bank of the Rance and was one of the most beautiful bike paths I have ever had the privilege to cycle along. This took us all the way to the amazing historical city of Dinan. This spectacularly well preserved city is packed with beautiful half timbered buildings, some dating back to the 15th century. The biggest challenge was wheeling our bikes up the rough and steep cobble stoned streets to our hotel, which turned out to be situated in the highest part of the town. Maybe what they say about pain might actually be true. And in case you don't know what they say, it goes something like this "Pain is weakness leaving the body".
It was only much later in the day that things really started to heat up and I experienced something I had never seen before. Our restaurant for the evening was the "Fleur du Sel", only a short walk from our hotel. Our group of 13 was welcomed at the door by the tall owner with the incredibly deep voice and we were ushered to our seats in the rear room.
Although the Ghostriders were obviously the guest of honor and had been allocated the largest table, there were also a couple of smaller groups of French speakers in the same room. Over the next hour or so the noise level and merriment in the room grew steadily, along with the temperature. The thoughtful host/owner then obliged by opening a high window to let the evening breeze in.
This was a kind gesture but it sent the temperature of the room plummeting. One of the Frenchmen at the next table decided it was time to show his ingenuity and bravery by closing the window. Since it was too high to reach by hand he started poking at it with an iron rod. His antics were greatly egged on and cheered by us. He started to get bolder, reaching higher and higher in an attempt to close the window. The cheering grew louder. Maybe we should have realised then that this might not end well, but we didn't.
The Frenchmen's friends upped the ante by lifting him high above the table to poke the window from a better angle. He almost succeeded, but just as we all started to clap loudly, disaster struck. The large fellow toppled over and fell right into the middle of their table. The table collapsed and the guy fell right into the middle of a confusion of broken glasses, wine, food and cutlery. The whole place immediately fell silent. The floor was strewn with broken plates and the remains of the owners finest glassware and cuisine. The broken table lay in pieces. The owner came back in, looked at the carnage and he might have said "Sacre Bleu", but I think it was more like a string of French oaths. Everyone was embarrassed. It certainly was memorable. The food was a little delayed but our desserts were excellent and the owner's fury did seem to abate a little as the night wore on. We certainly won't forget it in a hurry.Read more