The bus station at St Nazaire was just a few hundred yards from the hotel. After checking in, I walked there to check out the arrangements for the bus and it all seemed very straightforward.
There are a few no. 17 buses in the morning and a few in the latafternoon/evening. These buses go across the bridge to St Brevin Les Pins in about 15 minutes for the princely sum of 2 euros 40. There is no charge for the bike. You are supposed to telephone ahead, according to the timetable instructions, to book your slot. The downside is that you hang your bike off the back of the bus by the front wheel after buying a ticket which is only valid for an hour from purchase to boarding (if I had understood the directions on the timetable correctly.)
Anyone who has seen my bike knows that it isn’t going to be hanging off the back of anything, especially since the front wheel houses the motor. Because of the weight I had visions of arriving at St Brevin to find just a wheel and a few wires left.
There were a couple of security men busy writing fines for some youngsters who had tried to ride their bus for free. All three tickets were thrown straight into the adjacent bin, much to everyone’s amusement.
When Security had finished enforcing the regulations they marched over to chat to the driver. I asked for advice and they confirmed what I had understood except that there was no need to phone ahead at this time of year. Nobody does. Disheartened, I thought I would have to ride the bridge. Probably 10 kms of riding in busy traffic and certainly the hardest section of the route.
Just then, a No. 17 arrived and a chap casually removed his bike from inside the bus while my French chums laughed at such a flagrant abuse of the rules! The game was now afoot so I decided to give it a try early this morning and, if it didn’t work out, I would go for the big ride!
There followed a nervous night.
St Nazaire’s beach front was lovely.. really lovely… with some stunning seafront houses. A fete to support the local disabled was in full swing and drink was cheap. People were skating, running, cycling or just walking along the promenade and the sun shone. Sadly, I had left my camera at the hotel so you will just have to take this on trust. I sat on the harbour wall with a cold beer but it was no good, the spectre of tomorrow’s ordeal was playing on my mind so I made my way back to the hotel.
I booked a very early morning call but it wasn’t needed. I couldn’t sleep as the alternatives of a bikeless wheel hanging from a bus or a solitary rider cycling over a huge bridge in speeding traffic jockeyed for position in my imagination.
For verisimilitude, I should point out to my dear family that there is a cycle lane. Ally and Jeff ,who I met on the boat, had got across the bridge without problem that day.
I was at the bus station by 7.30. I bought a ticket and a No. 17 arrived almost immediately. I looked pathetically at the driver who, without a moments hesitation, opened the back door for me to wheel the bike in.
By 8.00 I was in St Brevin, cycling along the Atlantic coast and looking for somewhere to stop for a coffee. I understand it is against regulations to kiss a French bus driver.
This bit of the route uses quiet local roads and, for some of the way, runs along the coast.
It is worth noting that the fishermen off the Loire region go to extraordinary lengths to avoid having to speak to passers-by, as mentioned in a previous post. In the following extreme example, and for the purposes of total isolation, each one is facing slightly away from the other:
As we diners ate, Mr le Patron and a couple of locals casually watched a stout German couple giving direction to a French artisan who was painting their recently bought little fishing vessel. My French is still not good but the banter wasn’t too difficult to grasp….