Sunday, 2 August 2015

Becherel, books, bombard and beans

On a "normal" holiday, departure day marks the end of the journey. When you are touring, almost every day is departure day, but it is also arrival day somewhere new. We had the panniers packed and bikes loaded in record time this morning (just prior to 9am, definitely a Family ByCycle best!). Morgane invited us to have some breakfast, and Ruth really wanted to play with her new friend Brewen, so we took time with our hosts and lined up with our trailers for a group portrait before we left.

Ruth really really didn't want to leave, and threw her first full-power tantrum of the trip. I had to wrestle her, kicking and screaming into the trailer. I knew a little of how she felt. The stay with Morgane and Marin was like wandering into a little corner of heaven, and leaving was a wrench even with the promise of more adventures to be had on the road ahead.

We headed towards Becherel for our lunch stop, and back out onto roads used (in the opposite direction) for this year's Tour de France, passing the very pleasant-looking municipal campsite which we'd originally planned to use. Forewarned by Marin, we were expecting a decent climb up to our intended lunch stop, but were promised that the rewards would be worth it. Indeed, the warning wasn't for nothing. It was a long climb (on the road this time) with several false summits on the way which turned it from a "grit your teeth and struggle to the top climb" into a definite "get off and push" climb in places. Thomas Ivor and Daddy had fewer difficulties but still looked tired at the top.

Arriving into Becherel, it was clear why the town is such a tourist honeypot. Narrow, picturesque streets of bookshops, little eateries and lovely views back down that massive hill. Our appetite for galettes whetted by Morgane's lovely cooking, when we found a crêperie, we couldn't refuse, and the Family ByCycle caravane was soon safely parked up at the roadside. Five galettes, four crepes and about a million litres of water later (it was thirsty work getting up there!) we emerged back into the sunshine to look around. Becherel isn't called the 'Cité des Livres' for nothing, and we had arrived during a book festival. Long trestle tables loaded with books lined the street. The art galleries exhibited works inspired by French literature. The whole atmosphere of the place breathed culture.

We were therefore delighted to pause to listen to two young Breton children who sat down in the street and began to play Breton folk music. Since our ferry wake up call, Thomas Ivor had been asking about what French music was like, so this was a great chance to stop and soak up the atmosphere. The two young people were very competent musicians, and they soon gathered a crowd and accrued (to their innocent surprise) a fair few well earned euros in their instrument case. Tom has come away wanting to acquire a double reeded 'bombard' (in addition to the billig - the Breton shopping list is getting expensive!) to join the three trombones, tuba, piano, saxophone and assorted recorders in the Family ByCycle musical collection. Ruth and Rhoda were surprisingly engrossed in the music given that they were both due a nap, and we lingered in Becherel for an extra hour.

It was therefore with some relief (given that today was another relatively long mileage day) that we knew the next section of our road would very definitely be downhill. It turned out to be the steepest and longest descent of the trip. Thomas Ivor in particular did us proud, confidence restored after his spill earlier in the trip, and we made good time towards the Ille et Rance canal.

I reached where Tom and Thomas Ivor had stopped at the canal, to find Tom looking at his watch. It was later than it looked, and we needed to warn our next hosts that we were running an hour or so late. Tom dropped his pace to keep me company for the last stretch, which was along more traditional, waterside tow path with a sandy surface (really loose in places - drive chains caked with grit again after five minutes!). We passed plenty of families out walking and fishing together, and a decent number of other cyclists (mainly leisure riders rather than cycle tourists) who without exception all shouted a cheery hello. Perhaps, like yesterday, that Breton flag on the trailer does make a difference! Betraying our true nationality, Tom called out a greeting to a slightly bewildered couple on their boat, with an Ullapool registration, telling them that was where we'd cycled last summer!

I was looking forward to some more nice level canal path after the morning's exertions, but after passing a number of locks and with the tourist count thinning out, we took to a section which was not really canal towpath, but rather cycle path climbing up the hillside alongside the canal through the trees. It was shady, which was nice, but otherwise quite tough going with the trailer since the surface was loose and criss-crossed with tree roots. Before long, I was lagging far behind the boys, and running out of steam. The girls woke from their nap (probably due to the sudden change in surface). I wondered what they would make of this, but I needn't have worried. They were delighted with the bumps and wobbles, promptly deciding that mummy and the trailer were the "Ninky-Nonk" and they were off for a bumpy ride. Mummy was slightly less delighted, but happy children makes for an easier ride even if you do think you might be about to lose your teeth as the trailer snags on tree roots for the millionth time. In due course, though, it flattened back out and we joined the road, passing the railway station (Thomas Ivor's first sight of French trains in the flesh) as we entered town.

Our hosts for this evening are Yves and Christine, cyclists who had taken their two daughters in a trailer and cycled round France when they were not much older than our girls are now. We had a delicious meal al fresco in their garden and enjoyed learning from them how they thought their travels had benefitted their girls, and listened to their plans for their next trip as a couple now that both girls are off to university.

Violette and her father Yves, pictured by Thomas Ivor
When we tell people that we are taking our children cycle touring, most think we are mad. It is so nice to meet families who have put doubts to one side and gone out and done it. Our circumstances and resources mean that we are not really able to throw caution to the wind and take off for months or years at a time, but hearing about their experiences inspires us to believe that we have more in us, even in our shorter holiday rides.

1 comment:

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