Boating in Brittany 2009

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The Crown Blue base is hidden in the countryside south of Rennes. My enquiries about buses and trains led me to the conclusion that getting there would be a bit of a problem but getting there is actually less of a problem as the base can provide a taxi to meet you. Madam who drives the taxi is very chatty and you'd best be more prepared with your French otherwise you'll be well left behind.

Arriving at the base (which in the French manner inconveniently closes for lunch) was straightforward albeit expensive. There are a lot of expensive extras, which you might well have thought ought to be included. Bicycles are extra as is cleaning (after we have finished) which we you might have thought would be included.

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Read more: Saturday 22nd August 2009

IMG_7129A slow start, it's very quiet on Sundays in waterways in France. One bike seems to have a wobbly rear wheel but I used one of the others to get to Ste Anne sur Vilaine to buy baguettes, pain aux raisin and pain aux chocolate.

A second bike ride takes us all to the Demoiselles de Langon, a prehistoric stone 'alignment'. Wobbly wheel is a bit of a problem for Mary as it keeps touching the brakes.

We finally head off in the boat just before 11am down towards Redon. Lunch was a stop at Brain sur Vilaine and the weather just glorious, almost too warm in the sun.

Redon is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet. If I were editing that publication I'd certainly concur with that decision. There seems little to commend Redon although it's pleasant enough and on Sunday afternoons everything seems to be closed anyway. We repaired to the boat for a drink.

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Read more: Sunday 23rd August 2009

IMG_0077Rain in the night and thunder (of the lightning variety) in the morning was a bit disturbing but when we eventually set forth there was one light shower and that was it. Very lucky if you ask me. The rest of the day was pretty pleasant, mostly warm if a bit windy.

Barbecues are hard to come by in Redon but the monday market is great, a huge array of produce, all looking superb, I have no idea how the UK ends up with such dead looking rubbish. We made two journeys to and fro to get all the purchases to the boat (water, beer and wine is quite heavy).

Eventually we (hopefully) solved the barbecue problem by buying a grill rack and a paella(?) dish (for the charcoal). Tongs, other than plastic, were unobtainable. We shall improvise with a fork.

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Read more: Monday 24th August 2000

IMG_7149The small of gas in the gas locker at the rear of the boat has continued so I called the base and an engineer came out, it took him an hour and a half but that was no problem as Charlotte went for a run and I went to buy baguettes in the village. He also brought us a replacement bike for the wobbly wheel one.

Our first stop was Malestroit, a charming little town with many fine old buildings. A little shopping and sightseeing was followed by sitting in the sun with an expresso in the town centre. Very pleasant indeed.

The guide said that the village of la Chapelle-Caro would be worth a visit for it's chapel, dolmen and fountain as well as a special rock. We found none of these things, it is at the top of a long steep hill though. Phew.

Another barbeque on board (actually on the bank) and we can declare the makeshift barbecue a success.

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IMG_0128Another uneventful day on the water starting with a long ride back to la Chapelle-Caro to find a boulangerie to get breakfast, sadly we were ultimately pushed into the superette as there was nothing else.

Stops for lunch are obligatory when there are locks as the lock-keepers have the keys and go to lunch. We stopped at Guillac and cycled to see a historical pyramid commemorating some long forgotten battle. We also expected to see one of the oldest houses in the region in the neighboring village. The book is very unhelpful in terms of actually finding these and as a result we didn't.

Contrary to the forecast the cloud built up and the afternoon brought spasmodic drizzle with strong winds which did nothing to help put the boat into the locks. We have given the boat a fair crunching on occasion.

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Read more: Wednesday 26th August 2009

IMG_7260The weather is overcast and not encouraging and in any case we are not very good at early starts it seems. Today this works in our favor as the Chateau actually does not open until 11am, not the 10am advertised. In fact it's even later than that, the lady who takes the money is 'plus tard'. It all makes time for a pleasant expresso in the square.

The tour, conducted as it is in French, is not as educational as we would have preferred, the english tour is not until 2:30 so is out of the question. Still there is a useful brochure and I think we got the highlights. The Chateau is very old but recently (100 years ago?) restored (rebuilt?).

By this time the locks have shut for lunch before we make our way back to la Chapelle-Caro. This take about 3 hours and our arrival gives us time for a cycle ride back to Montertelot, which is, as the book describes 'a pleasant place to visit' but lacks any shops. We'll have to stock up for the weekend tomorrow.

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IMG_7221A beautiful morning, so nice in fact that a Frenchman was obliged to stop and comment on it to me. I felt lke a fool as all I could do was parrot his comments (La belle France, cest manifique, etc) back to hime.

This morning we cycled back to Le Roc St Andre, (just over the river from la Chapelle-Caro) for the mornings bread injection then motored down to Malestroit for lunch and provisons.

Galettes at the Mael Trech in the town centre were excellent. We were also able to deal with our laundry (only one set of sheets and towels for two weeks does not seem like enough), as there is an first rate laundrette here.

The afternoon took us to Peillac, with a pretty little wharf where a cockatoo on one of the boats provided some entertainment by swearing (we think) at us in french. We don't approve of caging intelligent birds for entertainment however this one was handing out quite a.

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IMG_7264Rode up a much more substantial hill than I expected to get into Peillac to buy breakfast rations. Quite exhausting and it took two cups of expresso in the sun before I was fit to return.

The remainder of the morning was spent cruising up the very scenic, albeit narrow, River l'Aff, to the charming craftsman town of La Gacilly. Here, in addition to some 20-30 craft shops there is a stunning photography exhibition by photographers from the french Geo magazine. There may well be others but it's hard to tell as it's all in French, of course. We spent a very pleasant afternoon looking at the shops and photographs. Fortunately the good weather continues unabated.

The floor show for afternoon drinks on the poop deck was provided by a boat with a crew dressed as pirates. Quite funny in itself but the mess that the Pirate King made of trying to moor the boat, quite a difficult procedure I would happily concede, had us in fits.

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Read more: Saturday 29th August 2009

IMG_7300Spent a pleasant morning coffeeing, laundering, provisioning and lunching in La Gacilly. The Pirate King sallied forth, after getting the crew to swab the decks and polish the windows, nearly collecting several boats including us and the moored fleet of electric hire boats. The grumpy owner of the electric boats and hie wife came and setup their stall. The sun shone and life was generally good.

After lunch we set off towards Redon and thence down towards the coast getting as far as Cran. The waterway opens out with many ocean going yachts moored (no spaces for us) and very strong head winds across the open plains on either side.

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Read more: Sunday 30th August 2009

IMG_0219Following our normal routine of cycling to the nearest boulangere for breakfast we headed to Fegreac, an unremarkable French town about 1.5km away. Mostly it was closed,, perhaps in sympathy with the UK August holiday? Who can say.

The unreliable Waterways Guide, claims there is an exhibition on the canal at Pont-Miny where we are moored, but it's hard to see how we could miss it as the place is tiny. The same could be said for the cider factory outlet store at Guenrouet where we stopped for lunch, simply no sign or indication of where that might be located.

The countryside on the Redon to Blain section of waterway is sparsely populated with woods and pastoral agriculture with only a very small number of boats. All very pretty and made more so by being yet another sunny day.

At Blain there's a pretty wharf area, somewhat marred by the local youth riding very noisy and low powered motorcycles to and fro. The recommended restaurant, actually on the wharf, is closed for two weeks, unlikely as it seems, business must be brisk all year around perhaps? There is a large Carrefour Market a couple of kilometres away where we restock some of the provisions, there are (sadly) only a few more days left so we have to be a bit careful not to overdo it.

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Read more: Monday 31st August 2009

IMG_0043The first tuesday in the month is market day in Blain but unless we were in the wrong place this is certainly not the huge affair we were expecting, very modest indeed. Mary brought a couple of pairs of shorts but otherwise there was not a great deal there. Quite surprising but perhaps the Carrefour Market has had an impact? There are also a few spots of rain in the air but this turns out to be nothing of consequence.

Bread, the market, coffee and a good reconnoiter of the town take until lunchtime, We're pretty late starters it has to be admitted but there's lots to nose around at here. We still haven't seen the Chateau or the Museum both of which are worth the visit according to the Guide.

The Chateau turns out to be a modern reconstruction on the site of the ruin and is pretty well done with much left as ruins, which, to my mind, is a good thing. There are some displays, all in French of course but there are historical notes in English o you get some idea of what's been happening.

The Museum on the other hand is decidedly odd. We were enticed to visit by it having a reconstruction of a street of shops of the early 1900's. I had rather expected a more elaborate display, foolish I know, and I found myself disappointed. It's still worthwhile but I'd been looking for more.

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Read more: Tuesday 1st September 2009

IMG_0063More shopping, coffeeing and boulangereing in Blain preceded our departure just before noon. Our Danish chums left quite early but we were in no rush to join them.

Several of the locks were unattended, the peak season of August now being over and it really makes a huge difference when you have to drop off and pick up crew to deal with each lock. They lock mechanism is pretty hard work too although the lock keepers make it look easy. One lock gave us trouble where a boat had moored for lunch at the pick up jetty. We ignored it and pulled up against their boat and climbed all over them, somewhat to their surprise.

 

The rain started just as we arrived at Guenrouet giving us a good soaking as I messed up the docking procedure (reversing in hampered by a strong onto the pontoon wind). Of course the rain stopped pretty much as soon as we were tied up.

Guenrouet boasts a cider factory with, apparently, door sales. We did find it but a helpful young man explained, we think, that this only applies if you buy it by the case. We left him under the impression that we had cycled from New Zealand so communication was probably not clear in either direction. We think he said you could buy individual bottles in the shop but that was, as seems customary in France, closed.

The odd showers turned into sustained rain in time for our barbecue. Some kindly Frenchmen said I could shelter in their office building instead of cowering under a small tree. Again I could have been wrong, there is a possibility they thought I was a homeless person but I thanked them anyway. Amazingly the new charcoal burnt very well despite the adverse climactic conditions, Lord knows what they put in it.

The local Britt beer was very welcome

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IMG_7364The morning turned out fine after the ran last night, bit cool and windy but not bad which is mor than can be said for the Guenrouet superette, green potatoes. old (recently sprayed) tomatoes; we gave it a swerve and did not buy the rather sad looking cider either.

Luckily the Guenrouet boulangere was fine with excellent pastries and baguettes and a first rate coffee at the PK72 cafe on the bridge. Pity about the cider but probably just as well.

The lock where the canal joins the Vilaine river is not self service so we enjoyed a compulsory stop for lunch before running on into Redon. This time, determined to avoid the €21.50 charge, we stopped outside the mooring basin and, braving the copious dog shit spread over the quay, tied up alongside.

Mary and Charlotte went shopping in a street full of cloth shops, luckily we had missed it on our first visit, or more likely it was closed as it was Sunday. I found some unlocked wifi and pillaged it to do my emails and found a copy of The Times to read.

There seemed no better way to spend the evening in Redon than a rerun of moule frites at l' Abri Cotier. This turned out to be a lot quieter than last time but just as good. Dinner back at the base tomorrow :(

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IMG_7401The last day starts with the new improved Redon, coffee, free internet, supermarket and pastries. The rest follows much the same pattern as the rest, drive, stop for lunch and arrive at Messac at just after 4pm ready for a cleanup, pack and pay for the fuel (at very high rates).

Overall it's a very relaxing holiday with elements of exploration, adventure and travel. We would highly recommend Crown Blue (Le Boat) except for the rip off on the extras which is very unfortunate. The bikes particularly are way overpriced for very tired and hopeless equipment. That and charging for cleaning particularly t lets down

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