Le Pointeau

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    • Day 40

      A Hard Day at the Office

      September 29, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

      On every extended ride there is usually one day that is remembered as "the day of suffering". On our 2019 French Ride, today was that day. Not that we can complain, up till now we have enjoyed an uncanny run of glorious weather. I guess that really had to come to an end sooner or later.

      We all knew that the day was not going to be easy. All night we had heard the sound of rain falling outside the hotel. I had also been kept awake by the seemingly constant progression of drunken knobs walking past the hotel at all hours of the night. I don't mind them walking past, but why do they all want to yell at the tops of their voices as they do so ? Nantes is indeed a lovely city, but I was already seeking somewhere quieter.

      The rain continued as we assembled with our riders - a more comic bunch of umpa lumpas you would be hard pressed to find anywhere. It seemed that everyone had managed to find even more wet weather clothing than Horatio Hornblower would have worn in an Atlantic gale. And thus the ride started.

      The first major challenge was to navigate our way out of Nantes, without the aid of the GPS. Finding the Loire was easy, the rest was not so easy. I asked the entire group to help by keeping an eye out for those little green bike signs. We made a couple of minor errors before making a major one. By the time we realised that we had missed the turn, it was too late to double back. The brains trust (aka Russell and Gordon) came to the conclusion that we could get through anyway. And we did. It turned out to be an inspired mistake that probably actually saved us a little time.

      Like all big cities, Nantes has an outer ring of ugly industrial complexes, storage facilities and the like. When you combine this with the still pouring rain, we were starting to look a little ragged before we had even made the first 10 km. And did I mention the head wind ? Well I should have. It soon became evident that we would be pushing into the teeth of a stiff westerly wind all day. At times the wind was so strong as to almost bring us to a standstill. Considering that this was also going to be our longest day in the saddle, it was not a prospect to be savoured.

      Somehow, by sheer force of will and bloody mindedness we made it as far as Indre. At this point we had to cross to the south bank of the river by catching a ferry across the Loire. There were two good points to this crossing - it gave us a short break from our labours and it was free.

      When we were deposited on the opposite bank we all knew that we still had another 45 km to ride. The rain was still falling heavily. The head wind was still blowing. And my severely compromised GPS had to be completely relegated to the pannier. In fact I could hardly see through my wet glasses. Our strength was failing. On the positive side, at least we had left the busy roads behind and were able to ride on a quiet, albeit waterlogged, bike path.

      "This rain will really help the Loire", I said, trying to think of something positive.
      "Who cares about the river ?", was the consensus response.

      It really was hard going, but just as our strength was failing, Yvonne made a wonderful chance discovery. She spied a large cafe, right on the edge of the bike path. Before I could say or do anything, she had already dropped her bike and was making a bee line for the front door. We weren't far behind her.

      Over the next hour we ordered coffee after coffee and galette (waffle) after galette. Our morales started to improve as we warmed up and dried out a little. Things improved even further when we noticed that the rain had finally stopped and the clouds had started to thin a little. Perhaps we could make it after all.

      We finally suited up again and started off. Our destination was St Brevin Les Pins, situated at the mouth of the Loire. Although it was still a long way off, it certainly made for more pleasant riding when we no longer had rain finding its way into every part of our anatomy.

      The final twenty or so km really seemed to take for ever, but our chance encounter with a large group of Citroen 2CV drivers added a welcome diversion. They seemed just as glad to see us as we were to see them. They all proceeded to salute us with a caucophony of horns, hooters, tooters, klaxons and whistles. It was another of those unplanned events that makes travel so incredibly addictive.

      As we entered the outskirts of St Brevin, we got our first glimpses of the famous massive bridge that spans the mouth of the Loire, although it was somewhat difficult to see through the mist. The route become a winding labyrinth of twists and turns that made me glad that I had been able to resurrect the GPS, just long enough to guide us to the hotel.

      By the time we finally reached the large Spa Du Beryl Hotel and Casino, we were all near to our physical limits. It really had been a hard day, but we had now reached our primary objective of reaching the mouth of the Loire. Tomorrow's final ride to Le Croisic would be a wonderful epilogue to an incredible cycling experience.

      The hotel however was not my type of place. Although the rooms were comfortable, I find it hard to take pleasure from an establishment that grows rich from the stupidity and weakness of others. I watched the people in the casino as they mindlessly gambled away their hard earned money. I noticed that not a single one of them was smiling as they just kept pushing the buttons on the poker machines. With every push of the button, a little more of their future was robbed from them. Every external door of the place was surrounded by a clump of smokers, trying to pump a little more nicotine into their systems, before returning to their gambling.

      The location of the hotel was right on the Atlantic coast. I guess we would have had a wonderful view if our rooms had been on the other side of the building. The view of the car park was not quite as exciting as the view of the ocean would have been.

      Tomorrow we will be donning our cycling gear and climbing on our bikes for the very last day as we complete our ride to Le Croisic.
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    • Day 53

      Einfach war die Überquerung nicht!

      September 13 in France ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

      Pénestine - St. Brevin (69km)
      Was für ein Tag!🤪 Ich muss schon ganz schön nachdenken, um den angenehmen Teil nicht zu vergessen. Dabei war die Strecke größtenteils angenehm und interessant. Es ging küstennah los, sodass wir bei klarer Sicht weit auf bereits bereiste Abschnitte zurückblicken konnten. Das ist schon beeindruckend. Weiter ging es vor allem auf der Halbinsel Guérande, die vor allem von Salinen geprägt ist, bis zur mittelalterlich befestigten Stadt gleichen Namens, wo wir auf dem Wochenmarkt unser Picknick komplettiert haben.
      Und dann ging es in Richtung Saint Nazaire und somit zur Loire. Auf Grund der Empfehlungen sind wir gleich zum Bahnhof gefahren. Von dort fährt ein Bus, für den man aber die Fahrradmitnahme einen Tag vorher telefonisch (!) reservieren muss. Die gleiche Auskunft bekam ich auch nach etlicher Wartezeit (ziehen Sie eine Nummer…😕) und bei der Hotline ging natürlich keiner ran. Im Internet war noch ein Taxiunternehmen für Radfahrer empfohlen, aber auch da ging keiner ran.😣 Ich war eigentlich schon fast so weit, doch über die Brücke zu fahren, aber dann gesellte sich zum Glück ein Schweizer Paar zu uns, das vor dem gleichen Problem stand. Sie wollten einfach auf den Bus warten und fragen. Okay, wir also auch, obwohl ich nicht viel Hoffnung hatte. Die Aussage der Angestellten war eindeutig gewesen und in unsere Richtung fuhren immer nur Minibusse. Aber zur geplanten Zeit (nach etwa 1,5 Stunden 😖) kam ein großer Bus und wollte nur, dass wir sämtliche Taschen abmachen („Hat man Ihnen das nicht bei der Reservierung gesagt?“😇) - schon Stress, aber der hat sich gelohnt. Für 5,20€ sind wir eine halbe Stunde bis ans andere Ufer gefahren. Auf der Brücke war mir klar, dass wir da nie rübergekommen wären! Das müsste eigentlich verboten werden! Aber dann braucht man natürlich eine funktionierende Alternative!
      Wir sind jedenfalls froh, hier gelandet zu sein, aber auch kaputt von der ganzen Anspannung - und Essen wurde dann auch ganz dringend.
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