Le Grand Tour: Day 18 – Saint-Briac-Sur-Mer To Hillion (80km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Camping Bellevue Mer, Hillion

You are not reading this on Wednesday 20th as, yesterday evening, my 25GB of data ran out. I was expecting this to happen at some point and also expected to be able to easily purchase more data. But that’s when it got problematic. A phone call to Vodafone is on the cards when their call centre opens on Thursday morning. I suppose if all else fails I can buy a French SIM card. There’s also the matter of me having had to change my mobile number (could that be complicating things?) but that sorry tale is for another day (and probably another website…)

You didn’t come here to listen to me whinge about mobile communications! So, how was day 18 of Le Grand Tour? Long (although still very average in terms of distance – bang on 80km). Another one of those days where my destination was listed as an ‘ish’. In this case it was Saint-Brieuc-ish. And if you consider to be 18km away, I’ve succeeded.

The Velomaritime is – as someone pointed out to me on Twitter when I was following the route earlier in the trip from the Belgian border to Dieppe – is often not very ‘maritime’. At the start and end of yesterday that was certainly true. Did I see the sea in the morning or late afternoon? I don’t think I did aside from the occasional descents towards little estuaries, the sea in the distance, tantalisingly close only to be pulled away again as the route continued west. And I was certainly following the route today. I’d say at least 90% of the time I was cycling between refinding a EuroVelo 4 / Velomaritime sign and leaving the route to locate tonight’s campsite was following the route, every twist and turn. Much better signposted now than it had been on either side of the Mont-Saint-Michel. A mixture of on and off road. 

The middle bit of today’s cycle, however, when I was cycling beside the sea was a real treat. It was near the Cap Frehel (see the pictures below or the video) and it made all the inland stuff pale into relative insignificance. High granite(?) cliffs, purple and yellow flower-dusted moorland, pristine sandy beaches in the coves, turquoise sea… It’s the stuff of picture-postcard Brittany. I think there will be more of it to come in the next few days. 

Upon arrival in a town called Matignon, my eye caught the sign that announced it as ‘Site Historique Grimaldi de Monaco’. Really? Here in Brittany? Were they clutching at the faintest of straws in order to draw in the crowds? The suburbs were pretty run of the mill but things picked up in the centre where a sprawling market was in full swing complete with two chaps singing and strumming their guitars in the main square. Still no clues as the Grimaldi question. On the search for maps I popped into the tourist office. The woman manning the desk woke from her slumber – I think the market had attracted most of her potential punters – and she obliged with a set of five excellent maps that will see me as far as (nearly) Morlaix and they were free. I took the opportunity of asking about the Monaco connection and… listen to episode 055 of The Cycling Europe Podcast which should be out some time next week. You might need to brush up your French in advance. 

I also recorded a short interview with a guy called Cyril from Toulon who was with his girlfriend promoting a new ‘association’ that he has set up to encourage cycle touring. It’s called ‘Souriez Vous Pédalez!’. You’ll be relieved to know that he spoke to me in English. Again, listen out for the podcast. 

Another encounter was with José from Portugal. He won’t be in the podcast – I don’t record everything!! – but I cycled with him for about an hour between Matignon and Cap Frehel. He’s only the second cycle tourist I’ve chatted to at length whist cycling (there was s chap from Belgium if you remember up near Calais) and it’s good to chew the fat with like-minded people. Although there are plenty of folk on bikes out there, it’s quite rare they are travelling in the same direction as you and at the same speed so these conversations take place less often than you might think. 

Last night’s ‘site’ – the Hone Camper thing – was interesting. I’ll perhaps use that system again but my preference is always for a campsite with a shower block, bar, people… The first site I arrived at last night was not dystopian in the way that that place was last week along the Veloscenie but it was certainly auditioning to feature in the next Mad Max movie. ‘Run down’ would have been a compliment. I started a conversation with the young lad who appeared to be in charge but he was diverted by a family of Germans who were desperate to park their caravan there for the night. They seemed to take preference over yours truly but this is no complaint. I used the opportunity of them being escorted to their patch of scorched earth and refuse to consult the map; there was another site just down the road. I scarpered and within 10 minutes was at the door if the Camping Bellevue. Alas they were full… but they could squeeze me in to a little plot between numbers 24 and 9b. It was then that the data switched off… 

Tomorrow? Cycle those 18km to Saint-Brieuc, sort some accommodation out prior to cycling and then continue along the coast. I have a feeling that I may not be in Morlaix until Saturday. Fortuitously the WarmShowers person I approached in on holiday in Norway so I’m no longer committed to Friday.


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3 replies »

    • Auto-correct I’m currently the bane of my life; these French names are regularly being converted to English words. AI has a long way to go before the machines take over. (Or if they do take over soon, their spelling and grammar will be atrocious…)

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