Carefree Canal?

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Monday, September 21, 2009

Jour 2: Lac du Guerledan

It seems as though Autumn has arrived overnight.  The path and canal are covered with leaves and the air is filled with the smell of Fall.  Another lovely day of cycling, we crested the top of the lock system and are now coasting down the other side. 

Ran into a little snag today as I didn’t have a packed lunch for us.  Breakfasts and dinners I’m well-prepared for, but lunches that aren’t cooked are more difficult.  The whole ‘we’ll stop and get something along the way’ becomes more complicated when you are not traveling along roads through towns.  There are several places where a road crosses the canal, but do we really want to cycle 6km to a town the size of Moorseburg in the hopes of finding food that is most likely not there?  NO. 

So we set our sites of a larger town that was right on the canal so we didn’t have to veer off at all.  Arriving around one-o’clock we were starving for lunch.  Cue first encounter with French culture:  everything closes for several hours over lunch until around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  Now I did know this in theory, but not yet in practice.  Traveling along roads before we could stop whenever we wanted, but along the canal it is difficult to time when we will be arriving in towns. 

Thankfully there was one Boulanger that was open in town so we could at least get something to eat.  I was sure that the grocery stores would bypass this ‘rule’, but apparently not.  Since this was Saturday, I was concerned with what we would do on Sunday when stores are not open at all, or only for a couple of hours.  So we waited around for an hour for the supermarket to open.  Then we waited another hour for the gas station to open.  In all, we sat around this little town for the majority of the afternoon (thank goodness it was cute!). 

After solving the food problems, the canal route decided to do a bit of a detour.  A section has been flooded into a lake and the path along the shore is unnavigable for cycles.  Off we went following some little signs through back roads, rail lines, and farmer’s fields - more like mountain biking than touring.  Finally detoured bck to the lake to find a giant fishing derby.  Worried that we would not be able to find a place to camp we were shocked to find another empty campground right on the lake. 

Fun with Food.  Trips to the store have never been the same!  New foods that I’ve never heard of before take extra examination since reading the label doesn’t come that easily.  Fun with canned goods like:  coq au vin, cassolette au canard, and l’pain.  Unfortunately canned food here is pretty much the same as anywhere  yuck!  But we are thourally enjoying the cheese.  I’ve made it my personal goal to buy a new cheese each time we stop for food.  So many cheeses - so little time!  I chuckle each time I enter a tiny little grocery store and find 30+ different varieties.  We’ve also discovered that we can place a 3L bag of wine on top of one of our panniers.  It’s nice to always have a little for cheese picnics, and of course it’s better for the environment…

Jour 3:  Josselin, FR.

On the road by 10 this morning.  A little earlier than before.

We’ve been frustrated with our progress the last few days since we’re leaving so late in the morning  It’s only getting light enough to see around 8am, so there’s not much sense in getting up any earlier than that.  But we’re loosing a good hour or two of road time everyday.  Coming to France, we lost an hour in a time change which doesn’t help us any as we haven’t actually moves East at all!

Had a terrible time trying to navigate away from a part of the canal that turned into a lake.  We veered off and had to find our way back to the canal again.  The cycle paths we were following yesterday continued to spiral around terrible paths and not take us anywhere!  Including down some back farmer felds which were very rough for our poor tires and panniers.  Giving up Brian took his own path and soon we were cruising along the smooth peaceful canal again. 

Luckily, we passed through a little town just before the noon closing today, so we were able to get some tasty bread and pastries to go with our wine and cheese picque nique.  A beautiful sunny day, we sat and enjoyed our food while avoiding being pelted by the falling acorns.

Everyone was out enjoying the sunny afternoon and the canal was full of families and friends walking and cycling.  One old man was cycling on his archaic bike all by himself.  It’s frame wobbling a bit at the slow speed he was pedaling.  Full suit on topped with a little barret.  So perfect I wished that I could take a photo, but no such luck. 

It’s interesting how people are the same wherever you go.  If only people would realize this and stop fighting one another.  I like being in a different culture where you don’t understand the language as you really start to observe.  But the other day I saw a woman leaving the car to run into a shop shouting ‘deux minute…deux minute…’ to her waiting husband.  And at the playground a mother tried to round up her children to go and as a last resort started to walk away calling ‘Aurivoir!’.  All the same.

Jour 4:  les Bellions near Rieux, FR

Another beautiful day of cycling along the canal.  I’m sure I’ll look back at this these few days as my favourite cycling days of the whole trip.  Normally, I don’t even like cycling (I know, strange plan for a trip), but if it’s flat and fair weather it’s a very enjoyable activity!

Took a detour into Maestro - an adorable Medieval town - to get a few more supplies (wine).  Met a Sweedish cycling couple who told us that the canal ahead was closed.  Sure enough checking in with the tourist information, they were doing work to repair the decaying banks.  So we had to detour away from the canal in a few sections.  Of course, that was when the canal was in the deepest of valleys and we needed to climb large hills, but we sorted it out and were back on track soon enough.  Even with these little detours, it’s very nice not having to plan a route everyday. 

Getting into an area where the locks are in good repair and a few boats are actually using the canal system.  However, the path along the canal has deteriorated from pavement to gravel.  I guess you can’t have them all!

Arrived at a tiny little ‘Camping Municipal’ that was completely deserted.  From what I could decipher from the signs, it would have cost us 3 Euro and 40 cents to stay for the night (1 for the tent and 1.20 for each of us - they like to break down the pricing very specifically in France) and we needed to check in with the Lock Manager.  Back to the canal and to the nearest lock we went.  The man offered to let us stay there for FREE  showers and all.  Since this was a much nicer spot on a sunny point in the water - we accepted.  Spent the evening sitting on the shore watching the sunset.  This will be hard to top!

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