Day 11 Champtoceaux to Rennes

Cockerels crowing at daybreak. About 3 at least. Daybreak is of course about 5:30.

The hotel window is open, the shutters drawn halfway up, the town sleeps. The view from the third floor bedroom window looks over red pantile roofs, making this scene more like Spain than France. I can see house martins below us darting under eaves to their nests, I can’t see any chickens. This is before bedtime. We have dinner and stroll to take in the panoramic view of the Loire. There are swifts, swallows and martins, we have seen bats, but no chickens. A nightcap of a Talisker and a Balvenie see us off to bed. All is quiet. The town clock chimes its bell in the stillness. No rowdy drunks, no sirens and no chickens.

Until about 5:30.

Neither of us can be arsed to get out of bed and close the window. So we both are half awake listening to cockerels. Nothing else, just a few Colonel Sanders volunteers if I had my way. They sound the same in England as they do in France; evoking the countryside like clean air, tractors and dung. Knowing the behavior pattern of the male chicken in the vicinity of a female chicken, each crow actually means “whose next for a damn good seeing to?”. Well this is France, and I guess if a French Cock can’t give french cock there is no justice in the world.

Sleep, however, would be nice.

Undaunted we are up for breakfast at 8 and leave the Loire for Rennes, 70 miles away.

At this stage we are both feeling the weight of the demands made upon us. We are both carrying ‘minor’ ailments onto the road. Both bikes are fine. No more spoke or chain issues.

There is often a time during any long challenge, be it hill walking, cycling or pasty eating, when for a fleeting moment the thought occurs that the endeavour is a bit much. Day after day of the same routine while at the same time any bodily niggles get amplified because there is no rest, no time for the body to repair or recover, no recuperation or respite. Scott at the south pole probably thought “bollocks to this” but a bit late in the day, Nelson may have thought “cant be arsed” the day before Trafalgar and David Beckham, thinking he’d shagged Ginger Spice before waking up with Posh, thought “is this really worth it?” But we are all British and we just get on with it. No fannying about, JFDI.

We stopped halfway at Chateaubriant for food, lots of it, and a chilled coke. Chalfonts had cooled down from ‘fiery’ to merely ‘spicy’ while Sean’s old shoulder injury required some medication. As is often noted (by old farts) that youth is wasted on the young. Well, it is. The bastards. when was the last time you heard a teenager complaining of chalfonts or sore joints? Yes they moan about having no money, freedom or “justice in the world” but they don’t go on about bits of the body not working. I would trade worries about spots, haircuts and being caught wanking for bodily malfunctions any day.

We hit some super fine tarmac after a town called Janve. It is as smooth and as black as a snooker ball or the charred testicles of an Isis suicide bomber. On surfaces like this the bike goes quiet, just the gentle roll of tyre on road and swish of chain on cog. It becomes Zen* like. Even the road kill looks glad to be there.

We reach Rennes in good time to shower, cold beer and a dinner including oysters and foie gras, accompanied by a Muscadet sur Lie. Life is hard.

Vivre La France. So why are those at Calais trying to get across the channel? Have they not seen Dover on a cold grey January morning? If the Daily Mail is to be believed, all they will get upon setting foot in the UK is a hefty dose of racism served up alongside deportation.

Another 70 miles tomorrow to the seaside town of Vannes on the south coast of Brittany before a rest day. There is then an 89 miler up to Rosporden and then the last day to Roscoff of 46 miles.

A beintot!

*pseuds corner


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