Saturday 17th September, 2022

Distance ridden 291 kilometres

You will not believe it – I woke up early !

Of course, if you read all this stuff you will know I usually do, but I was very excited by the prospect of catching the sunrise over the alignments. I dressed quickly and quietly and I was out of the hotel before it was even half light. One thing I had noticed was that, although we were in the same time-zone as our home in Prague, the further west we went, the later the sun came up and the later it started to get dark. The thirteen hundred kilometres or so, in a straight line between our home and Carnac meant that both these events took place around an hour later than they did at home.

Behind our hotel the sky was already beginning to brighten behind the chapel on the Tumulus.

I walked briskly up to a place where I could see, in the rapidly receding gloom, the lines of stones stretching away the horizon and waiting, as they had done for thousands of years, for the first rays of the sun. As ever, my over active brain chose to inform me that, assuming the stones were there in 4,000 BC, the sun had come up on them almost 2.2 million times and that it had passed the million mark around 1,260 BC and the two million around 1500 AD. Us humans may have lasted well, but that is a serious permanence.

There was a line of trees behind me, still in full leaf, so although it got light enough to see all the stones, it was some moments before the rays lit the very top of a taller stone in the middle distance. I think I might well have stopped breathing. I felt as if I was in the presence of something way beyond my ability to understand.

I walked slowly back into town. A brand new, all electric BMW SUV purred past me almost silently. How far we think we have come.

As you might expect, I was back at exactly the right time to make Lucie her morning coffee with the kettle in our room. Another plus point for the Hotel An Ti Gwenn. The breakfast itself, when we went down, earned it several more. The proprietress was buzzing around like a little bee and quickly brought me a pot for my tea bag which I filled from an urn that did have water hot enough. The selection on offer was was good, the “standards” of course, but also some pancakes and honey, IN A JAR. That greatly pleased someone that I know very well.

After breakfast, I consulted the SatNav, which told me our journey to the house of my friend in Normandy would take around three and a half hours. I sent him an SMS saying four hours although a small voice whispered in my ear that it would take longer than that – and she is usually right.

We packed and left before nine. At the crossroads, we turned and rode past the alignments on our way out of town. I wondered if I would ever see them again.

We drove along small, largely deserted roads and soon reached the highway.

It was a Saturday morning and traffic, on the Route Nationale, quickly became quite heavy as everyone hurried off to the Hypermarché – but we still made good progress. At least we did until we neared Ploermel. The traffic in both lanes slowed to a crawl and then stopped completely. We were in one of those places where a hill in front of you gives you a long view ahead. The traffic was stopped for as far as I could see, which must have been three or four kilometres. We needed petrol and there was a services about a kilometre ahead. I gently rolled between the lines of stationary cars until I could exit. People were tending to get out of their cars and look ahead, so this was a tiny bit nerve wracking.

We filled the tank and had a coffee. We could see the cars on the highway and they were all in exactly the same place as they had been twenty minutes before. I looked at the WAZE app on my iPhone. I seldom use it, although it is very good, because it seems to drain the battery really quickly whilst open. It showed the ominous red line, which indicates stationary traffic, heading into the distance for around thirty-five kilometres (!) which was also way beyond the next exit. Some accident I supposed, but we never found out. This was not good.

Did I mention that I travel with a genius ? Not concerning herself with the far distance, Lucie had surmised that service stations usually have access roads – and she found the one for ours ! We saddled up and quickly located it. There was a big red “NO ENTRY” sign, but a real road was near enough to be visible, only about a hundred metres away. A look over my shoulder and a single blip of the throttle allowed us to escape into the countryside without sanction or incident. We found ourselves in what was literally a lane and soon passed under the highway, where people were, by then, starting to have picnics ! To prevent the SatNav exerting its silicon brain to try and send us back to the blocked highway, we reset it for Dinan. This was in a completely different direction, but not calamitously so. A loop around would still bring us to our destination.

We soon found ourselves on the D766 road to Dinan, which was probably one of the nicest stretches of the whole trip.

The road was almost empty, slightly undulating and with a great surface. We just enjoyed it and the typically French countryside on either side of us on a beautiful sunny day with blue skies. 

After passing Dinan we continued a little further towards Saint-Malo and were then directed to the the N176 when the main road D766 headed for the coast to the east. The SatNav did not like this at all and after failing to persuade me, for some distance, to turn back, it sort of gave up altogether ….. Weird.

I kept going ahead. The countryside remained green and picturesque and we passed over the estuary of the river Rance – where a seemingly better bridge is being constructed a few hundred yards away on the inland side.


At the next coffee break, Lucie bought a cute little cup for her expresso.

Outside, we also met a couple from Luxembourg who had stopped to look at the Harley. The husband said it was a good bike, but that he had a Honda Fireblade because they liked fast riding. The upturned eyes of his wife, behind his head, suggested that “they” was probably “he”.

I reset the SatNav and it decided to play ball again ! We rolled on through some really glorious sunlit countryside which led down, on our left, to a sparkling blue sea in the middle distance.

At one point, we had a clear view of the Mont Saint Michel. I would have liked to have taken Lucie there, but it would have eaten into our time and our four hour prediction was already behind us. It will not, I suppose, go away.

We were eventually directed off of the main road and through some charming, but quite narrow, lanes until we arrived at the small town of Mortain-Bocage. My friend had bought a house in the grounds of the local Abbey, L’Abbaye Blanche. Although the SatNav had been unable to locate it, I had assumed an Abbey, particularly a white one, would be easy to spot. We all know what assume does ! So sadly, that was not the case, but once again Lucie’s Czech map program came to our aid and I had further reason to bless the intercom failure !

We found the Abbey (which did not really look like an Abbey) but needed to enter the next town, Le Neufbourg and then swing around in a half circle and back into Mortain, to find the way in. Even that was a bit difficult, we went down what was, essentially, a track until we came to a set of notices declaring that we were on “Private Land“, so I stopped. A man was looking at us a bit suspiciously from a nearby property and Lucie suggested that I should call my friend. Luckily, at that second, I heard my name being called and my friend’s brother came running down the “Private” road ahead and gestured us forward. We pulled ahead into the gravel parking area by an old stone house – and there was one of my oldest friends and his wife. It had, as some one dear to me predicted, taken longer than four hours to get there (slightly over five, in truth), but we had arrived.

I always say that, with a real friend, it does not matter if you do not see them very often and so it proved. We spent a very pleasant afternoon in pleasant company. My friend, who had just celebrated his fortieth wedding anniversary, pointed out that four of the five of us present had been at that ceremony, how time flies. He then showed us his land, which was quite extensive and also the land of the abbey which, because it had extensive dormitories, someone had recently bought and intends to convert into a school. Work has already begun on this but no one really knows what the plans are, so everything can be completely different in the future.

We took a walk to the nearby beauty spot and waterfall, dubbed the “Grand” cascade. Sadly, the exceedingly dry Summer had reduced that to more of a trickle. So it was not that impressive, but I supposed it could be.

Also, to prove that, despite our advancing years, we can still be rebels, us boys all squeezed through a gap in the fence to take a look at the dilapidated monastery buildings !

My friend’s wife cooked us a delicious meal, which we were able to eat in the garden. Their house, which, because of Covid delays, still needs quite a lot of work (luckily, the whole family are brilliant at DIY) was old and charming. The decoration that had been completed was very nicely done and our bedroom was welcoming and comfortable. The only problem, for Lucie at least, was that the thick stone walls made it very cold for her. My friend’s brother was, in fact, there to do the heating, but he had not started as he only arrived a couple of hours before we did. In bed, Lucie had almost as many clothes on as she did whilst riding the bike !