First proper day on the bike. And it was excellent – quite country roads, and amazing cycle paths. The day broadly fell into 3 parts, Cycling, being a tourist on foot and watching Celtic.
Cycling: I started the day at the camping de Mindin teen rave site, which was right at the start of the Eurovelo 6 route. The route officially starts at the St Nazaire bridge:
Immediately from the off I was on deserted country lanes for around 10 miles and try as I might I couldn’t resist flying along them, they were just awesome and would be brilliant on a road bike. The route is entirely signposted, and these signs do give you confidence, although Garmin was actually behaving today.
After around 10 miles I made it to the town of Paimbeouf. Which was good as I was dying for the loo and getting hungry as I hadn’t had any breakfast. Sould have listened to the advice a fellow cycle tourist blogger gave me pre trip as nothing was open. Aparantly everyone in France goes on holiday in August! Actually, a Boulangerie was – so chocolate eclaire for brunch it was. And piss in the bush out of town!
Just out of Paimbeouf the course then takes you onto the canal de Martiniere, which offered around 15 miles of straight, pan flat, velo only cycling. It was amazing, though the straightness and flatness did make me go slightly demented! Your mind can go to some mental places as you pedal, and pedal, and pedal. To get round this I did a spot of cycle touring time trialling! Not in the spirit of the trip I know, but everytime I spotted a bike on the horizon I chased it down, and made good time.
Soon I was at Le Pellerin, which is where you can get a free ferry over the river to Coueron.
These ferries are much like the Woolwich ferry in London, an integral part of the transport system, and even in August they were busy.
Once off the ferry the North side of the Loire became pretty industrial, and I found myself cycling through deserted shipyards, not unlike those in Glasgow by the Clydeside expressway – was pretty run down, but I expect will be up for renewal soon if the rest of Nantes is an indicator!
Nantes is a great city, it has a history, which is borne out in some amazing architecture. It has a green ethos, and is particularly friendly to cyclists – the infrastructure is brilliant, something that will take London 20 years to get to! And the people are friendly too.
My first Chateau, the first of many I suspect!! Italso has another river, the Erdre, which forms a basin to the north of the city centre and gives that area a feel similar Amsterdam, so they tell me.
Most of my afternoon was spent wandering around on foot, being a real tourist! I decided to sit down in the main drag for some food, which was amazing, though annyingly the waiter was speaking to me in English, before I even had a chance to try my crap French! It was there I got chatting to Sinead, an Irish girl, who married a French man, moved to Paris and they now have a little girl. She’d been in France for 14 years, and was perfectly placed to give me a few pointers. Mainly on how menu formule work. I explained that earlier I had tried and failed to order something and in the end just pointed at some peoples lunch next to me having no idea how the whole thing worked. A really lovely person and was great to speak English with someone.
To round my day off I had the dilema of going out and watching Celtic. I had already scoped out an Irish bar who were showing it, but with a hard days cycling ahead the next day was worried that the day might end in Irish carnage. In the end I went out and watched it, met some really nice, and interesting Irish blokes living in Nantes, had 3 pints and went back to my hotel at a respectable time.
Before the game I met an amazing man – Roger, from Pamplona. He must be in his early 60’s and every year, he takes 4 weeks and drives up to Nantes, then on to Brittany. He pays for care of his mother while he is away. For work he makes the big heads you might see at carnivals – awesome. When on holiday he paints watercolours in Breton markets and sells them to tourists and locals alike for 5 or 10 Euro. He doesn’t make much money, but was the most content and lovely person I have met. Really touched me, his manner and friendliness. Completely unasuming. We talked for a long while on independence, Catalan, Basque and Scottish – one for another blog maybe, but if he was PM i would very happy!!
So that was day 1!!