I write this post from my hotel room in St Malo, France. It is fair to say that this trip didn't start as planned! Before I set off I had planned a short three day mini tour of Brittany, with a great route planned to Brest, where I would stay the night before heading back towards Renne for a final night, before riding back to St Malo to catch a ferry home. For a number of reasons, my trip had to be cut short, meaning one night away and a day and half of riding. Not being one to waste any opportunity to ride my bike, I adjusted my plans to get some miles in. What a great decision that has proved to be.
Arriving in St Malo just after lunch, I pressed 'Go' on my Garmin Touring GPS and fired up my route to Dinan and back that would take in a scenic route through the rolling roads of Brittany. I pedaled through some sleepy back roads toward Dinan, taking in the beautiful sights of the coastal areas surrounding St Malo. If you have never been to these parts, I can really recommend it. Perfect for cyclists, with empty roads, drivers who respect cyclists and a healthy supply of pastries to buy along the way.
I wanted to try out my latest gadget on this trip; my new Go-Pro. Strapping this little camera to my chest in hope of capturing some great shots on what became an unexpected very sunny and warm day; certainly not the normal climate of Northern France in March! All this cycling and new found love of videoing everything in sight was making me hungry. It wasn't long before I came across my favorite kind of place in France. Patisseries! There was me, surrounded by beautiful buildings and history and all I can think about is my stomach :-) However it has to be said that there is something about cycling and French pastries that go so well together. Probably one of the reasons I come back to France to ride on a regular basis.
It wasn't long before I arrived in the wonderful town of Dinan, which is about 20 miles from St Malo, although the the route I chose was about 30 miles long. As ever I was hungry again, despite eating my own body weight in pastries all morning! Dinan is a medieval town dating back to the 13th Century and has the most wonderful paved road running through the centre. Walking up this hill (trust me, you wouldn't want to cycle!), you take in the true beauty of this town with it's individual shops and history past every corner. Reaching the top, you are welcomed with the main shopping district and an array of restaurants, bars and ice cream shops. It really is a town for all the family that must be visited.
Returning down the step paved road, I found a spot to sit down in the newer section of Dinan by the river. Scoffing down my lunch of bread and cheese (my favorite choice when in France), I allowed myself to shut my eyes for a few minutes and enjoy the sun on my face. It is moments like this that I cherish when out cycle touring. You have had a good ride, you have eaten and have no cares in the world for that moment, however brief. The busy life many of us lead slows down, the body is chilled and you soak up the moment of doing nothing. Brings a smile to my face just writing about it.
Before I found myself sleeping for the rest of the afternoon, I mustered the energy to push my bike up the old cobble path that runs through the centre of Dinan to take another little look around at the shops and beautiful buildings, despite noticing the black rain clouds rapidly approaching (I did say it is March), Half an hour later, the sunshine was gone and along cam the rain. I took the road again to head back in the St Malo direction, and the comfort of a hotel room.
Times like these are when I love having technology with me. A few buttons pressed later and my Garmin Touring had plotted the shortest possible route back to St Malo. 20 miles in the rain wouldn't be so bad. I kind of like riding in the rain, so not much of a chore really. I started peddling as fast as possible and found I had a strong wind behind me, pushing me ever closer to St Malo :-) My thought for the afternoon was, 'at least I had changed my plans from camping to hotel'.
Arriving at the Best Western Balmoral in St Malo (a great cyclist friendly hotel), I rushed inside and saw the horror on the receptionist's face as a wheeled my bicycle into the reception! To be fair, it was dripping wet and making the bright white, highly polished floor nice and dirty! But without a lock with me, it was coming in while I checked in. I do love this hotel. Not only are they cyclist friendly, with a secure bike storage area, but they put up with my appalling attempts at speaking French, it is quiet and doesn't break the bank (60 euro with breakfast). Not as cheap as camping, but when it rains like it did during the afternoon, I liked my choice! Now out to find some local beer and dinner.
I closed my eyes that night with a real feeling of happiness. It would have been easy to cancel my trip at the first sign of trouble, but I had a great day out and tomorrow, after loading up at breakfast, I get to head out again for a ride to St Mont Michel. And if it was anything like today, it would be another great cycling adventure.
If you take anything away from this post, it is to always adapt when things don't always go as planned. It would be been easy to cancel the whole trip. Re-thinking things gave me another option. I may not be doing the miles planned and visited the places I wanted to, but I made the most of it and really enjoyed myself. This is one of the things I enjoy so much about touring. You can have the greatest plan ever, but life always throws up the unexpected and leaves you thinking 'what do I do now?' There have been times when I didn't do the mileage I wanted to, or I liked a particular area and decided to stay another day. What ever the reason, making changes, adapting and moving forward is the best way to go and in my experience it always works out well and enhances your tour. Why not give it a try next time it happens to you!