I sat struggling to start this post, not for want of what to write, but actually deciding what to leave out, such has been the emotional roller coaster of the last 36 hours and our little trip to Brittany.
So I suppose the beginning is a good place to kick off . . .
The night ferry from Plymouth to France was the usual fare offered by Brittany Ferries, yes it was the MV Amorique again; not my favourite ship by a long way, but hey, better than a six hundred mile motorway thrash via the Channel Tunnel!
We were rudely roused at 6am by the ship’s awful “wake up” music, it’s a sort of electric version of Breton folk music, I sure some people love it, not me. On the bright side, breakfast was served in our cabin shortly afterwards, travelling in Posh Class has it’s benefits!
I couldn’t resist popping up on deck to stand in the grey dawn and watch the French coast grew nearer, reflecting on how my Grandfather must have felt exactly 100 years ago watching the same landmass appear on the horizon.
Of course the big difference was that he was going to war, I was just riding a motorbike. . .
Once off the ferry and through passport control we were free to ride; well we first had to deal with the usual bunch of inept Brit car drivers panicking about driving on the “wrong” side of the road and mixing it with the French locals trying to get to work. The weather was a bit subdued and to be honest kind of related my mood.
Cutting across Brittany we rode onto the Crozon Peninsular crossing wonderful Pont De Térénez.
Regular blogonaughts will know of my love of brilliant bridges and this little beauty is right up there! At just over 500metres long it’s not the longest cable stayed bridge in the world, but with it’s curve and location it’s got to be one of the sexiest! The photo is bit dark, but you’ll get the idea!
It was only another few miles to our first destination, the cemetery at Lanvéoc, but in those scant miles the sun came out and the day cheered up immensely.
We parked up outside the cemetery gates and I tentatively walked inside. The place is typical of a French village graveyard, they are always immaculate and absolutely crammed full of stone memorials, headstones and family vaults; we had come to remember the young men who had died in the skies above us 71 years ago and initially I couldn’t see any sign of their headstones.
An elderly lady was tending one of the graves, I nervously approached her and asked if she knew where the airmen lay. Without hesitation she stopped what she was doing and took me across the cemetery to where the graves were clearly visible against the perimeter wall. We stood together and she looked at the poppy wreath that I was carrying. Madame went on to explain that the local community took pride in maintaining the graves and remembering the young men lying there. I thanked her for that and said that I was sure that the families of the men appreciated their work. “Êtes vous famille, monsieur? “Are you family?” I explained that no, we weren’t, just a couple of guys who wanted to say “Thank you.”
“Vous êtes deux hommes très spéciaux, il est bon ce que vous faites.” “You are two special men, what you do is good.” I felt humble and muttered an embarrassed thanks, congratulations was not what we had come for however well intended, but on reflection I realise how much it means to those people in the village and in a way we were also honouring them and their devotion. Madame left us and we stood in reflection of the young men buried at our feet, yes, we had a small chat with them as well, laid our wreath and walked back to the bikes.
Free. Free to ride because of young men like them. I put my helmet on and fired up the engine, sat and said a quiet prayer of thanks before kicking in first gear; freedom is a wonderful thing it means you can shed a tear whenever you need to.
We hit the road, the sun was warm and now the day seemed much brighter. The road to Châteaulin seemed to fly by, well actually it really did as we were not hanging about! The appearance of a Motorcycle Gendarme did cause a moment of concern, but he seemed to be enjoying the day as much as us and sped off. Time for a coffee break, so one American legend met up with another!
Suitably caffeine fuelled, we set off to Carhaix, a pleasant little town slap bang in the middle of Brittany and a regular stopover of mine. The N164 road certainly gave me chance to really get the feel of what my new steed can deliver when it comes to touring; miles and miles of effortless road munching, this bike is superb and soooooo comfy!
There’s an old friend of mine in Carhaix, apologies if you’ve seen her before, but here’s another photo of her!
More fun in the sun followed as we turned North back towards the ferry port, this really was a brief trip, but time enough to enjoy the run over Roc Trévezel, the highest point in Brittany, via the ‘bike friendly D764. Some people think that the TV transmitter mast spoils the hill, but I kinda like it!
Time then for a quick bit of shopping in Morlaix, well this is France, so cheese and fine wine featured heavily. Then things went a bit sort of “pear-shaped.” If you see me in a supermarket queue, always go to another one, because I’m cursed . . .tills break, people faint, loose their wallets, forget their card codes, that sort of thing and it happened again.
We got out of the car park at 14:00hrs, last check in for the ferry 14:15hrs and we were 18 miles away with a small town in the way as well! Lets just say that after a “spirited” run we made it with one minute to spare! That new bike of mine doesn’t half go well when she needs to!
I stood at the stern of the ship watching the French coast recede into the horizon and reflected on our visit.
Yes it was a bit of a dash and we weren’t there very long, but we achieved all that I had hoped and more. In retrospect, meeting that French lady was almost preordained and you know, I didn’t see where see disappeared to; perhaps, just perhaps, Angels come in many different forms.
Another thing that made this little trip so special was my travelling companion, known in these pages as “Vifferman.” He’s my oldest friend, we go back over fifty years and first met before we could each walk. Some people would say that we are to each other the brother that we never had, but it’s not like that at all.
No. We are the brothers that choose to be brothers. Sure we have our ups and downs, mostly always my fault, but then I am the annoying younger one. . .by all of seven weeks, but our bond is so strong it can be a bit scary! Anyway, “Viff” gets it, he knows why I had to do the trip and certainly feels as strongly as me about doing what we did, but I do have to publicly say, “Thanks mate, your support means the world to me!”
This morning I wandered in glorious sunshine around the garden here at Dookes H.Q. and found this little gem brightly standing out against the green of the kitchen garden hedge. Narcissus poeticus, Old Pheasant Eye Narcissus one of the last narcissi of the season to flower and certainly one of the most fragrant.Nothing special really; except that is was my Grandfather’s favourite flower.
Thanks for riding along with me on this real roller coaster of emotion!
Catch you all soon.