Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day One - Combourg - North West France

It's currently 3.30pm on my first day. I got off the ferry at 8.30am. The following has already happened:

  • Bought and ate proper croissants and pain au chocolat
  • Got lost in St Malo and went the 'wrong' way - for everyone who's asked me what my route is or how I decide it, the answer is 'I head for places where there are road signs to, that are also on the map'
  • Cycled through deserted French countryside with the sun, and a smile, on my face
  • Cycled through deserted French countryside feeling lonely and daunted by what lies ahead, and also wondering whether I'm able to do this or not
  • Seen a man driving a Citroen van in blue overalls with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth
  • Discovered that my hunch was correct - French campsites aren't open at this time of year
  • Slept in a park overlooking a lake, in the sun, for an hour
  • Been offered (and accepted, against my better judgement) a lift from a stranger
  • Discovered my better judgement isn't always right and met a very nice Frenchman
  • Been offered a lift to Rennes and a bed for the night (which I declined)
  • Met Madame Lebret

I have to say, this last one could possibly be the highlight. After discovering the campsite was shut and really feeling the effects of little sleep on the Ferry and my first 40 miles on a fully loaded bike in quite a while, I decided that I would stay here - in Combourg - campsite or no campsite. The Office de Tourisme recommended a 'Chambre D'Hotes' (B&B) in the town centre, run by Madame Lebret who owns the florists next door. 'She's...ummm...the rooms are very nice,' the girl in the tourist office offered nervously. I asked her what she meant. 'She might seem a little...wacky, and her shop is a mess, but the rooms are fine,' she answered, again, slightly nervously.

Entering the florists, I could see what she meant. I was greeted with an enthusiastic handshake from a weathered Frenchman with a very impressive moustache. He stepped aside to reveal a thin passageway to the back of the shop, sided by tables and stands of flowers and general, dusty clutter. At the end of this path was a small woman - literally about 4'5" - sat behind a desk in the centre of the shop, babbling in French to two women. She was wearing a flourescent pink and purple jumper, at least two sizes too big even for her ample frame, and a large fuschia pink ribbon, tied in a bow on her head - not in a dissimilar way to comedy-toothache bandages. This was, of course, Madame Lebret.

I am meeting her at 5pm so she can take me to my room, hence why I'm blogging so soon. There was no way I was going to carry on cycling today, I'm too knackered! So I look forward to a shower, some dinner in one of the restaurants in town and, hopefully, a long, still, night's sleep. Then I'll see where the road signs take me tomorrow.


  • At 10:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well done Percy, the adventure begins. Hope it's all you can imagine /wish for and more....... enjoy and keeep us updated so we can live viacriously through our more adventurous friends!! Tania

  • At 9:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Percy, I agree with Tania….just enjoy. As far as adventure goes, working from home is great, I may even leave the house this week! I have been taking my 4pm photos….but need only show you one of them, the PC screen!

    All the best, J2O

  • At 11:30 pm, Anonymous Ian said…

    I'm off to Sardinia in a weeks time and cant wait. What a fantastic trip you have embarked on. When you say you have accepted lifts does that mean on your first day you have given up cycling and boarded a dreaded four wheeled vehicle?

    Keep Pedalling!!

  • At 1:29 pm, Blogger P. Dub said…

    Discovered that my hunch was correct - French campsites aren't open at this time of year

    Some in the South are - at least this was the time of year we all used to pile down there to get the tents up. If you come across any of the bigger sites, with pre-erected tents and Brit holiday reps on, ask about 'spot lets' - often the rep with take a cut and will be keen to help you for a night or two (lots of clients don't show because the package holiday is cheaper than the ferry crossing on its own, so there are often empty tents/vans even in peak season) and it's much cheaper doing it through the rep than through the site reception. Safe journey, P.

  • At 1:35 pm, Blogger Percy Herbert said…

    Thanks everyone.

    I should perhaps clarify - the lift I took was not to make up cycling miles I couldn't/didn't want to do. I had parked the bike and was wandering around town looking for the Tourist Info. After my second circuit I gave up and asked a guy - he didn't know either but said 'Let's get in my car and we'll go looking for it'. Which we did, obviously. I think we did two circuits in his car and eventually found it...err...opposite the street my bike was parked on.


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