Rolling off the ferry at Roscoff yesterday morning was just lovely, it may have been a grey and slightly damp morning, but the roof was open and we were back in France and the adventure really was underway.
We started by driving to Morlaix along The Corniche from Carantec, a road we knew well after having spend several holidays in the area when the boys were very tiny. A stunning route right by the river and a moment to just stop and settle ourselves for the day ahead.
We had planned our route to take us down through the back roads of Brittany, stopping off at places we have known and loved over the years. The route was also going to cross cross some of the tracks taken by Andy and the boys when they did their Moor to Med cycle ride 4 years ago.
The first part of the drive took us along bowling green flat tarmac roads through the woodlands above Morlaix to the pretty town of Huelgoat, where we parked by the lake and ambled into town to find a boulangerie to buy breakfast.
A beautiful little town at the head of a rocky valley which normally we love to walk, with its huge granite boulders and massive ‘roche termblant’ à vast rock that moves when you push it. No time for that though, just a coffee and pain au chocolat on the wall by the lake, chatting to a lady, who turned out to be just the first of Fifi’s many admirers during the day.
Refreshed we continued on along empty roads that just stretched into the distance and after the busy roads of the UK it was striking to see no cars either in front or behind, for as far as the eye could see.
We pottered through to the elegant town of Josselin, with its stunning château dominating the skyline above the Nantes Brest Canal that passes in front of it. It’s a pretty little town filled with flowers and the wonderful sound of swifts screaming as that flitted in and out of the castle walls, circling the towers, before dashing out over the water and back in again.
It’s somewhere we love to explore and simply just walk along the shaded path by the canal, but only time for a short stop as we knew we still had a long way to go.
Driving Fifi was just a joy, she was made for the French roads and the further we went the happier she felt. It was as if she knew she was back where she belonged and being left hand drive, Andy felt happy too. She leaned into the corners, bounced over speed bumps without breaking stride and we could almost feel her smiling whenever another driver pipped their horn, saved and in one case even blew kisses… At that point I think we almost felt Fifi blush.
But we pottered on, roof open enjoying just being back in France with its views, peace and character.
After Josselin we had the big city of Nantes looming ahead, which was the one place we had not been looking forward to, as effectively the only way over the Loire is via the huge motorway bridge and we knew we had to tackle it, otherwise we would have had to take a massive detour.
So we headed onto the motorway and it was busy and unpleasant as we suddenly realised how small Fifi is, in compassion to even the smaller modern cars. With stop start traffic, we were happy to have a lorry behind us as we worried that car may nudge us from behind as everything came to a sudden stop.
We breathed a sigh of relief as we crossed the Loire, then left the motorway to head back onto the smaller roads. Unfortunately though the one we had chosen ran parallel to the motorway and as you had to pay tolls on that, the road was packed with lorries and we took the first opportunity we could to turn off and find a different route.
The joy of having a map rather than a satnav is the ease with which you can identify a new route, so five minutes later we had found a better road and we’re off again, driving through the peaceful, pale stone villages of the Charente.
It was a perfect route through, passing again through areas we have loved over the years, including the beautiful Marais Poitevin with its network of canals and the pretty village of Coulon where the little flat-bottomed boats line the shore.
It would be fair to say that by now we were weary, especially as we’d had to extend the route to avoid the heavy traffic, but the end was in sight as we had been offered a bed by a blogger-friend French Village Diaries just below Niort.
Just as we were starting to flag though we started driving through vast sunflower fields, with their golden flowers smiling at us as we pottered through on our way to a welcome stop and a glass of wine.
As we pulled into our friend’s house we realised we had driven 600km since leaving Exeter the afternoon before… I think I speak for us all when I say we were glad of the chance to stop and relax.
A lovely evening, sat in the garden chatting until the owls started hooting and a good night’s sleep and we’re feeling refreshed and ready for today… A shorter day just pottering on to the Dordogne… It should be delightful..
For a short video showing little snippets from today Vaucluse Dreamer on YouTube