May 12th_15th 2017 – Roscoff to Nantes – Brittany is so green it’s as if I never left Ireland

This week’s photo shows the Breton flag alongside the European flag in the small medieval village of Malestroit. The town was a delight to visit and it was thronged with tourists when I passed through. It is located on the Nantes – Brest canal which forms part of Eurovelo 1 (also known as Veloodysee) which is the Camino cycle path from Brittany to the border with Spain. There were also numerous Camino stickers and symbols on the Nantes- Brest canal towpath, something I hadn’t seen since leaving St. James Cathedral in Dublin almost a week earlier.

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Total cycled Friday May 12th – 80 km. Total cycled so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 255 km. The mainland of France is divided into 12 regions and I think I have been to every other region apart from Brittany. What is incredible is how similar it is to Ireland and unlike other parts of France. Brittany gets the most rain of any region in France and that explains why the land is so green.

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Pont de la Corde across the Penze estuary in Brittany. There are boats parked up everywhere in France and there were at least a hundred boats tied up in this small estuary.

 

Oyster farming is big business in this part of Brittany. Farming oysters or huitres as they are called in French is back breaking work. Workers have to wade through the knee deep mud in order to harvest oysters from the shallows each side of the Penze estuary. Some local producers sell direct to the public but I didn’t stop to sample any as they are bound to cost way above my budget. Next year, I might be going through Brittany again so will maybe try some then.

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Railway bridge in Morlaix. This railway bridge in Morlaix is very similar to the railway bridge in Drogheda. But there is normally only a few boats moored in Drogheda whereas here in Morlaix, there were hundreds of boats tied up.

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Sign in Berrian opposing the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and America. On the 15th July 2015, the good citizens of Berrian voted to oppose the proposed Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the USA. With the election of Donald Trump last year, the Free Trade Agreement is dead in the water so the citizens of Berrian will get their way for the time being. But interestingly, on the exact same day, I was in Lourdes and wrote my first post on the Tour de Travoy. In the 2 years that passed since, TAFTA and CETA have been confined to the dustbin of history while the Tour de Travoy is still going strong with over 100 posts since that first post in Lourdes.

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Clay pot man on a wall in a garden near Carhaix-Plouguer. I tweeted a photo of this clay pot man saying I felt a bit like him in that I was empty inside and my legs felt as if they were made of clay. I normally take lots of peanuts and crisps with me on tour as the salt in them prevents your legs from cramping up. I had bought loads of supplies but I then gave most of my crisps to my nephews and nieces before leaving Dublin. I had managed fine in Ireland but when I got to France, the amount of hills caused my legs to cramp up pretty bad. Fortunately, the campsite at Carhaix-Plouguer had a small shop and the first thing I bought there was a big bag of ready salted crisps. They salt in the crisps certainly did the trick and I haven’t had any cramps on this year’s Tour since.

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Wooden footbridge at campsite in Carhaix – Plogeur. Normally you enter a campsite through an elaborate gate flanked by flags and a big sign. But the campsite in Carhaix-Plouguer is located in a huge park and one of the ways to access it is via this rickety wooden footbridge. I was worried looking at it if it would take the weight on Travoy but once actually on the footbridge, it was pretty solid.

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Running circuit at the campsite in Carhaix-Plouguer. The campsite in Carhaix-Plouguer was a hive of activity as I arrived on Friday evening as crews were busy setting up a running circuit through the campsite and an adjacent park. Unfortunately, there was heavy overnight rain and the coarse was a quagmire when I woke up the next morning. I had a long day of cycling ahead so left the campsite around 9. At that time, there was no sign of any runners so the race may have been cancelled. Or perhaps the organizers may have delayed the start to allow the course to dry out.

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Total cycled Saturday May 13th – 100 km. Total so far on the 2017 Tour de Travoy – 355 km. A long day’s cycling and the hills of Brittany began to take their toll as the day went on.

 

Post box near Plouray. Post boxes are a common sight in France but rarely do you see a post box as elaborate as this one. There were 3 families in the post box. One of the families was called Gruber, which may explain the Swiss flag. The other 2 families had French names which might explain the black and white striped Breton flag.

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Old chateau in Pontivy. The cone shaped slate roofs are a feature of most of the chateaus along the Loire but are not as common in Brittany. But here in Pontivy, a bustling town in the centre of Morbihan, the chateau looks as good as anything on the Loire.

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Citroen electric car at garage in Pontivy. Only Norwegians buy more electric cars than the French. The most common electric cars in France are the Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf but at the Citroen dealership in Pontivy, there was an electric model parked alongside the main road. Citroen don’t sell electric cars in Ireland so this must be a French only model. France has some of the cheapest electricity prices in Europe and the dearest petrol prices so that might explain why electric cars are so popular. Electric cars make up about 1% of new car sales and almost every day I have been passed by 1 or 2 such cars. They are much quieter than normal cars especially in towns when cars are going slower and tyre noise is much less.

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Makeshift sculpture made out of bales of silage in a field near Josselin. The French are often accused of being remote and aloof but Bretons have a fun loving streak as can be seen in this sculpture. I might be wrong but I think it celebrates a local wedding between Cyril and Celine. One of the bales says M-3 which may mean it was built 3 days before their wedding. Anyway kudos to all involved and whoever came up with the idea to use tractor tyres to form a top hat on Cyril is a genius.

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Camping du Bas de la Lande near Josselin. The municipal campsite in Josselin was a lovely place to spend the evening and unlike most campsites in France, they did not charge me extra for charging my phones and camera equipment. Most European campsites include electricity with the pitch but in France, it is generally a seperate fee. In years to come, I believe electric bike touring will be huge but it won’t catch on if campsites charge up to €5 extra for a few cents worth of electricity.

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Total cycled Sunday May 14th – 30 km. Total so far on the 2017 Tour de Travoy – 385 km. Just a short trip today as I was wrecked from the long spin the day before.

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Massive wind turbines near Guillac. I must have passed by over 100 wind turbines while cycling through Brittany but these ones near Guillac were by far the biggest. They probably are 3 GW each meaning they each generate roughly enough power for 3,000 houses each. Donegal has the best wind in all of Europe yet wind turbines are a relatively rare sight in the county. Windfarms in Ireland are not as noticeable as those in France and tend to be built well away from the main roads. Any Irish windfarms generally are hidden away up bog roads whereas in France, they build their wind farms right beside their main roads.

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Camino symbol on a gatepost on the Nantes – Brest canal towpath. Today, I came across the first Camino symbol since leaving St. James church in Dublin almost a week earlier. The cyclepath along this section of Nantes- Brest canal is over 10 km in length and there were loads of cyclists and people walking along it.

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Old mill in Malestroit. The small town of Malestroit on the Nantes – Brest canal is the most postcard picture perfect town I have come across in 3 years of travelling through France. The town is a delight to visit and it was thronged with visitors enjoying the spring sunshine. The municipal campsite is lovely too and the town even has free WiFi which worked perfectly. A pitch for the night only cost €4 which is probably the cheapest I will pay on this Tour. I could have stayed a week but I had to push on as I had to get to Bilbao in 10 days time.

2017-05-15_StravaTotal cycled Monday May 15th – 100 km. Total cycled so far 485 km. In order to make it to Bilbao in time, I need to up the mileage. And now I was in the Loire valley, the hills were not as severe as in Brittany which helped hugely.

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Small non-descript boat in Malestroit with an incredible story. The sign beside this small boat called the Francois Virginie explains that it was built by Roger Plisson from Malestroit. He then sailed around the world in this boat taking 18 months between November 1967 and May 1969. The boat is not much bigger than a canoe and it is incredible that anyone could have sailed around the world in such a small craft.

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World War 2 memorial near Saint Martin. This memorial in in memory of Raymond Guiho who was shot by the Germans on March 11th 1944 at the young age of 22. World War 1 memorials are in almost every French town but World War 2 memorials are much rarer and tend to be more personal in nature.

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Horse in a field near Peillac. As I approached this horse, it was rolling over on its back, something I had never seen a horse do before. It was obviously trying to get fleas or other insects off its back. But when I pulled into the side of the road to get a video, it stopped rolling and just stared back at me. I waited for about 2 minutes but it just kept staring and did not roll anymore. I tried waving my arms but no good, it refused to roll. If a sheep rolls onto its back, it can die because if they have ate too much grass, they find it impossible to get back on their feet. Obviously, horses have much more flexible joints than sheep and this horse was well able to roll around just that he refused to do his party piece for me on camera.

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Sign near Nantes saying Farmland – Yes, Airport – No. Near Orvault,  to the northwest of Nantes, I came across these signs objecting to a new airport. The airport in Nantes is located to the south west of Nantes city centre so these signs must be objecting to a proposed 2nd airport for Nantes. While farmers and taxi drivers are always protesting in France, French people objecting to even big public projects is much rarer.

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Apartment block in Orvault. I just love the way the balcony railings are the same color as the roof on this buiding. The roof and the railings are obviously made of copper and both have rusted over the years into a lovely turquoise green color. I remember in the early 80’s, our local parish priest at that time, Father McShane, raised quarter of a million punt to build a new church with a copper roof. The same church with a slate roof would only have cost 150,000 punt but he wanted his church to have a copper roof. A quarter of a million punts was a huge sum in early 80’s Ireland, the equivalent of 5 million euro nowadays. But Father McShane raised the money and our local church roof now has a similar green colour to this apartment block roof.

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Horse racing circuit or Hippodrome in Nantes. In Ireland, horse racing courses tend to be out in the countryside whereas here in France, they tend to be in parks in the middle of cities. Longchamp in Paris is located only 2 or 3 km from the Arc de Triomphe and here in Nantes, the hippodrome is also located only a few km from the city centre. The course had both a flat circuit and a hurdle circuit and was in immaculate condition. The stand was huge and I would guess that it had space for over 5,000 punters. The next race meeting was due to be held on May 23rd or roughly a week after I passed through Nantes.

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