By Eddy Smyth
Day 4: 87 miles traveled
Hours in the saddle: 3
Paimpol and onwards to Perros Guirec on the Pink Granite Coast
We spotted a staircase that led down below the reception of the hotel to a breakfast room. It was very cloudy outside but dry enough to encourage us on our way. However, one cloud burst developed from rain to pellets of hailstones that bounced off the road like ball bearings. Gareth stopped to don his waterproofs and line his saddle bags with covers and extra polythene for good measure. We stopped first at the point where a ferry takes tourists to one of the hundreds of tiny islands of Ile-de-Brehat. Another sparkling photo opportunity and for our angelic behaviour of our past the Gods decreed that the rains were stemmed for the moment.
It was worth the extra 10km to come here before heading back to Paimpol (via another diversion) and onwards to Perros Guirec on the Pink Granite Coast. The sun stayed with us as we photographed the unique beach scene of giant, smooth pebbles the size of buses that littered the inshore area and many of the surrounding hillocks. The pinkish tinge of these rocks can be discerned, hence the name of this stretch of shoreline. A thatched roofed café made for a Cornish flavour in the centre of town as we enjoyed the coffee. Several staff were eating from a freshly made pot of stew prior to serving up for customers later on. It smelled good. It was mid-morning and still the place was all but deserted except for a few ramblers and a couple of old folk with tiny dogs sharing our admiration of this very beautiful place.
We debated our next move. Do we go onwards along the coast towards Brest, or inland to savour some forestry and perhaps get away from those seriously dark clouds that were heading our way? Inland was the consensus as we felt we’d seen plenty of beautiful coast line over the past 24 hours and there’s still so much more to explore in all corners of this region.
They say things come in three’s and my luck stayed with me in such numbers as I encountered three possible accident incidents between here and our final destination for the day. The first and worst came in the form of a roundabout with a cobbled path (no idea why they cobbled it) right across the road as you approach the junction. The car in front checked the road was clear and sped off. I checked too, it looked clear as I trundled to the markings, then as I was about to open the throttle a car appeared like a bat from a hidden cave to my left. My reflex was sharp enough to pull the brakes. My tyres were alert but not to the damp cobbles we were now about to pass over. Just 4 feet wide. I skidded right across them and only when the tyres returned to tarmac underneath did the wheel respond by stopping. The bike stayed arrow like upright (thank goodness for balanced callipers) and I merely slapped my crotch equipment against the tank like a pair of castanets against a brick wall. Phew, that was unpleasant.
The second problem occurred as Gareth noticed he needed to turn left at a junction already awash with traffic and as I was behind him I was stuck in midstream as cars screeched and honked me from behind since I anchored on to avoid sliding into the back of him.
One to go.
This pesky ‘right of way for traffic merging from the right in certain places’ rule. An old man came to the junction on my right as Gareth passed. The old git now felt it was OK for him to split the two of us apart, literally. I half expected it as I was very conscious of this method of insurance premiums boosting by the French but it still requires a bit of deft braking and swerving to avoid taking a new stripe along the offside doors of the car. The old prat stuttered through the village and bore left before he even found third gear, if he had one.
Oddly enough, that was it for the rest of the trip. I felt I’d earned my badge of honour and passed the test of driving with acceptable care in France. ‘Vive la Conduire’.
Route from Lannion to St Michel-en-Greve
Our route inland was just fabulous. From Lannion to St Michel-en-Greve brings you into a bay that takes your breath away. Descending with the sea on your right you admire the curve of the bay like the curves of an attractive woman. Once you get to touching distance the scene develops into a full blown creation that only the Gods could produce. The road takes you right along the sensuous lines of the very edge of nature’s splendour with something to salivate over everywhere you look. Dangerous liaison indeed if you don’t keep your concentration on what you are supposed to be doing. Eventually coming up for air as you reach the top on the other side of this particular eye candy you know you just want to do that again?
We then turned left at Plestin-La-Greves and belted inland like escaping bank robbers with the Gendarmerie in hot pursuit. The roads are as sensuously perfect for riding as the aforementioned bay and as empty as a pork butcher’s in Tel Aviv. Long, long straights, gently swaying bends, corkscrew descents and rises all allow pace as we pass through forests, villages, stone bridges over sparkling rivers, hill tops and avenues of hedge rows. The sun stayed with us and sent the darkest clouds away to the coast.
We pegged the best possible scenic route to Huelgoat which, when it came into view revealed itself inch by inch (there’s that sensuous reference again) until the whole lake and the surrounding remoteness of this tiny town was reached just over the humped backed bridge next to a mill. It’s beautiful here. We parked up and ate crepes in a café that had pixies and titivatingly curvaceous fairy creatures painted on the walls and menus. Sadly the two women serving us were not the models that these paintings were copied from but the old dears were sweet and kind and the galettes were lovely.
Checking into the Hotel De Luc, which is right opposite the lake, was a great idea. We could park our bikes safely in the grounds and go and explore this famously historic village. Arthurian legends, lead mines, fairies and giants vie for the attention (and euros) of the tourist and despite the town square itself being a bit bland (the most exciting thing to happen in this quarter all year was probably the purchase of a long handled screw driver that Gareth required to adjust the rear shock absorber on his bike. Folk are probably writing sonnets and painting murals on walls about it as I type).
The storms were gathering around us however and we elected to explore the most interesting parts of the town before supper.
The lake is fine and makes for a lovely setting with cottages and trees nestled along the shoreline. It is man-made to serve the lead mines once upon a time. Swans add to the attraction and the weir and water mill at the bottom end draw you towards the forest beyond the bridge. This little haven is stunning. Impossible to describe with complete accuracy or depth of feeling you get whilst you are right there listening to the rush of water and sending visual images to your mind which you hope will stick.
A river itself trickles along, where it once was obviously a torrent. Unless you believe the fable that giants threw hundreds of massive house sized pebbles (for the surfaces are smooth) all along the valley floor in a fit of tizzy. You can walk along here at you’re leisure. You have to weave under randomly stacked pebbles as the path makes its way between and around other stones. A hole in the ground with a ship’s style ladder takes you down under these rocks into Diablo’s hole. Cheddar Gorge, eat your heart out. This might be much smaller and less cavernous but it has immeasurable charm. Charm because it is not covered in enhancing lights, gift shops and a toll booth. There’s not a troll in sight charging fees for these delights. Delights that include a rock at the top of a hillock overlooking a timbered restaurant among the trees that rests precariously on a flat bed rock. You can actually push against this stretched limo sized stone and it will rock.
‘There are several paths you can take’, said the wise one. Well, the notice board indicates as much. We ignored them all at this point and headed for a honey shop I’d spotted and created our own route back to the hotel before the rains came: Which they did before sunset.
We turned the heating up to full blast in the room as I swilled out a few items of clothing and with the aid of a few bungee straps and a conveniently placed window handle and a TV mounting we headed off to dine in the hotel restaurant as the steam room conditions dried everything by lights out.
L’escargot for starters, lamb chops and veg with soft nougat made for another perfect meal. I spotted a bottle of Sempe Armagnac languishing on a high shelf and since these are rare specimens indeed I made the landlord crack the seal and pour me a nightcap. I was in heaven, as the heavens poured down upon the unrighteous.
Day 4 Gallery
To be continued…