12 May: Carhaix to Glomel
I arrived in Carhaix like a drowned rat. Madame issued me with a hose to wash down the panniers and the bike and with foot slippers before being allowed entry to the house. After cleaning up I was let in and shown the impeccably clean room with plastic covered surfaces. I thought the best thing to do was to leave no visible evidence of my presence and so went to bed! Apart from a brief period of wakefulness, when I wrote up the blog for the day and uploaded photos, I slept through till morning.
Breakfast was sociable with 2 other cyclists finishing their trip around Brittany and heading back to Roscoff. The age profile of my peers is becoming clear. Although we are all youthful in spirit (in our own heads at least) every fellow traveller I have met so far is of a certain age! Perhaps I am just not going to the right places.
Our hosts turned out to be a charming couple. They gave us a fine continental breakfast served with precision off a spotless breakfast table. We left, heading in opposite directions, with the sun on our backs. (That is possible for the first 100 yds till the route splits!)
It was a trick! The rain returned and the day’s riding was punctuated by heavy showers. My decision to hole up in Gomel for 2 nights looks to be a sound one.
Soon after Carhaix I joined the Nantes / Brest Canal and spent the day riding along the towpath.
The canal looked and sounded just like it was supposed to. Slow running water, canal banks covered with yellow iris flags and a tree-lined track punctuated by lock keepers cottages. Not too much in the way of visible bird life but there were the ever-present chiff chaffs and robins. I also saw indeterminate wagtails as well as my first kingfisher, swallows and martins of the season. Along the way I regularly saw herons scooting off down the waterway as I swung into view in my hi-viz kit!
Many of the keepers cottages seem to be closed up for the season though some are clearly lived in all year around. One enterprising cottage owner had a 50’s looking bike repair shed attached but there were slim pickings here. I had not seen another cyclist since joining the canal and had the route to myself. Each cottage was next to a lock or ecluse with my route passing locks numbered from about 200 down to the 150s before I left the path to Gomel.
The track was mostly Tarmac. In the rain this is a great help because the tyres are not gripped by the sludge of a wet gravel surface. As I dodged the showers again I realised that my mind was wandering and that I was trying to compose an ode to Tarmac but could only get as far as those words in the first lines of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas: “sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack.” Time for a break I think.
Around lunchtime, and close to Glomel, I took a tiny detour of a few hundred yards into the hamlet of La Pie on the basis that a place with a name like that should have somewhere to eat. I have been surprised at how few cafés there have been en-route so far. I was right. A small building with a huge car park and a bar sign looked promising. I went in, wet again, to find it heaving. White van man from the surrounding area had arrived for lunch. All the vans were marked with the logos of local building contractors and the whole place was laid out for a silver service meal on neat rows of tables. I was firmly directed to a table by a waitress. It was, without any question, Yvette from “Allo Allo.” The table was set with a carafe of wine and I was offered choices from a 3 course menu. Lots of friendly banter, which seemed to revolve around ” who is the old bloke in the flourescent jacket?” but the food was excellent and cost a princely 12 euros including as much wine as you like and coffee to finish. Sadly I could only manage one glass for fear of losing concentration along the canal for the remainder of my ride. I was given a lesson on the French names for all the cutlery on the table and was actually waved off by my new best mates, the plasterers of Central Brittany. Bon courage! Just like a transport cafe in the UK really!
Back on the towpath for a mile or two, I then came across a sign showing a deviation because of works on the canal. I found out later that the winter weather in this area had been terrible and that “les inondations” had left huge trees lying across the canal here.
My new host, Cliff, is an Englishman who runs Webbs of Glomel and has been here for about 12 years. I was met at the entrance to Webbs after a quick visit to the bar next door and was shown my room and the shed/ doghouse where my bike is to be stored . The room is typically french but light, airy and well equipped with a fridge, tea and coffee, and a stock of drinks at 1 euro a pop. Excellent value for a stop over. A brilliant addition is a UK plug socket for those of us without enough EU converters. Cliff kindly offered to sort out my washing tomorrow. I think this will be a different experience from my Carhaix lodgings!
As is becoming customary, I crashed out soon afterwards to sleep the sleep of the just.