Tuesday, August 2, 2011

27. Bike to Busted Castle, and Our Apartment

Woke up “early” and had breakfast croissants we bought last night. HEY, these things ARE better fresh - day-old is not so good! We’ve been marveling how delicately flakey and tasty the croissants are every day, after buying them from our favorite boulangerie a few blocks away, straight out of the oven. These that sat overnight are tasty, but not flakey, not delicate, not warm, and not as good. Still WAY better than the ones we stupidly bought last Thursday from the market…they were like curved heavy bread bombs, we threw em away they were so awful! Lesson learned: stick to FRESH baked croissants and baguettes, bought straight from the boulangerie, where you can watch the guy pull them out of the oven every morning. That’s why the French have a boulangerie in every little  town and every few blocks in bigger places!

Too pretty a day to sit still, so I hit the road on my bicycle. Today’s plan: head west to the Foret de la Hunaudaye…it looks like a National Forest kind of place, about 20-25 miles from here. I’ve been having trouble escaping Dinan in a westerly direction, there just are no roads leading that way on the signs or maps, but I was determined to find a good way out today. I found myself hammering down some long steep Dinan residential streets, winding around and having to climb back up, only to get dumped out in the little town of Quevert, where I ALWAYS have to start my trips. I gave up, took a highway out of Quevert and turned west on the first country road I found, headed to Aucaleuc.

Navigating in France is pretty easy, usually. I carry a road map of the area, and get a general idea of where I want to go. Then, at (almost) every intersection, I look at the signs pointing to towns that each road goes to. They rarely ever use highway numbers, you navigate by heading toward the next town on the map, or the next prominent town in the direction you want to go. It works well, BUT you have to stop and look at the darn map frequently, to stay on target. I can’t remember the names of enough towns on the route, so am always looking at the map at intersections. Cumbersome, when what I really want to be doing is pedaling on the road. So, usually I navigate a lot going OUT to my destination, then say “to hell with it” and pick a direct road to just hammer home when I’m done, so no map checking needed.

Today’s ride was thoroughly farm country. Thousands of acres of wheat, corn and hay, with some huge combines and tractors working the fields. I took a short video of one tractor mowing down the weeds along the road of one just-harvested field, cause Jack loves tractors. I hope it came out OK, I got thoroughly covered with dust and field debris to get the vid!
Crossed a beautiful lake en route to the Foret, and spoke to a middle-aged couple on a bike tour of the area as they walked their bikes up the steep road after the lake. Also saw a bike team or club, about 12-15 riders all in identical kit, as they pulled away from a café in a tiny town. Didn’t ride with these dudes, too serious!
After wandering through a couple dozen tiny towns, I made it to the Foret de la Hunaudaye. It’s just a big undeveloped woods area for camping and recreation, with some lakes and lots of trees…this part of what France must’ve looked like before modern development. 

There were signs to “Chateau de la Hunaudaye”, so I followed them a few miles. Wow! It’s a huge old half-caved-in Castle out in the farm fields, complete with a water-filled moat and 5 big battle turrets/towers. A herd of huge white chickens came over to investigate me and my bike…maybe they were turkeys?  I took some pics, but didn’t go in the Chateau (5 Euro’s you know), had a banana snack and headed home. On the way out, I ran back into my friends from the steep road at the lake. Small bike world!

After I got home, we visited “our” pub for a drink and some lunch. Then, a trip to Monoprix for grocery supplies for our last few days here, a stop at the bucherie and craqueterie, and supper in the apartment. Lynn had super conversations with our friends at the shops and pub, so plenty of French practice. The day has been pretty much perfect so far.

OUR APARTMENT: we want to remember how fun this apartment has been. We’re on the fourth floor above a busy sidewalk leading to the English Garden behind Basilica St. Sauveur. The Basilica is right across the tiny street from the apartment. Because of the acoustics of our living room, and our windows being constantly open, we always hear anything anyone says out on the street. It’s like they are standing in our living room! The fun part is, it’s always in French, or sometimes German, and almost never in English. Lots of English tourists come here & almost zero Americans (we are rare birds here). Anyway, it’s really fun listening to all this jabber floating up to us. Then, every hour, the Basilica bells go off, and at 10:00a.m. and 7:00 P.m. they peal the bells for a couple of minutes. I like it, especially compared to the tinkly-tinny sound of the Clock Tower bell (the one that was given the City by Duchess Anne in the 1600’s…I guess they HAD to take it, and couldn’t complain about the miserable bell tone!)

Our bedroom is on the opposite side of the apartment. The windows are always open there too for cross-breeze. We get all the noise from the bar behind our building, which is usually fun and not too loud. SOMETIMES it’s miserable music or bad karaoke…go figure. Our bed is on the floor, so we will not miss that, as it is hard to get up every day. Sleeping temperatures have been perfect, like in North Carolina:  cool & breezy in the night, then semi-warm in the day. 

Laundry isn’t a problem. We have a washer in the bathroom, then hang stuff up to dry on racks in the 2d bedroom, and heavier stuff up on the lines in the bottom floor courtyard. Groceries and supplies we carry in shopping bags up the stairs, in one hand. Our rule is “one hand always on the handrail”, cause the stairs are really steep and narrow and twisty. So far no disasters, and we do 4-6 trips up and down the 53 stairs every day. Lynn has really tested out her broken ankle repairs and hardware!

We’re hoping to bus to St-Cast-le-Guido, and Cap Frehel and Fort la Latte, tomorrow for our last road trip. It’s up on the English Channel, supposed to be awesome scenery, and we get to use the between-town buses again. Weather looks good, will let you know what happens.

PIC captions: John in English Garden, Basilica St. Sauveur.
                     Chateau de la Hunaudaye - too big for only one photo.
                           Leaving Chateau de la Hunaudaye.
CLICK here for all photos and vids:
2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

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