The third day began with cloudless skies and brilliant sunshine. This continued throughout the whole day’s ride and resulted in my getting fried without realising that it was happening.
Breakfast at ‘L’Hôt’Berge‘ was as abundant, appetizing and remarkable as dinner had been. I sat down at the long table in the dining room in front of a spread that looked as if it was for a large party. Cheeses, cold meats, numerous jams, yoghurt, fresh bread of various sorts, croissants, fresh fruit, several juices, and, of course a large pot of first-rate coffee. Apparently Madame Guémené (her family-name presumably some reference to the town of Guémené-Penfao, about 20km east of Redon) had formed the opinion from yesterday’s performance at dinner that I ate like a bird and insisted that I make a more valiant effort this morning, given the exertions to come. I attacked the food with all the gusto I could muster, but hardly succeeded in making a dent in it. Being rather paranoid, I began to feel that I was being tested. At all events, I concluded that I had failed the test when I made a mess of Madame Guémené’s special cheese-paring thingummybob. I mention this simply as an example of her attention to detail. This particular item on the breakfast table had intrigued me from the start. It was a perfectly round cheese that sat upon a round, flat metal plate and was transfixed to this plate by a metal spike to which was attached a horizontal blade. I thought this device was a conventional cheese cutter and vainly tried to press it downwards in order to cut a wedge-shaped piece from the perfectly round cake-shaped chunk. Of course this attempt failed, because the device functioned quite differently. The perfectly intact crust around the cheese should have given me a clue, as should the fact that the crust on top of the cheese was missing and the exposed surface of he cheese perfectly smooth. In fact one was supposed to rotate the blade on top of the cheese (there was a knob at the end of the blade for this purpose) and produce thereby a very thin, circular slice that folded itself up into a fan shape in the course of the procedure. A number of these fan-shaped slices were already on the plate, to give me the right idea. Bone-headed and overawed by the breakfast as I was, I followed my first idea and damaged the perfectly round cheese pretty badly. Madame Guémené, when she appeared, surveyed my efforts with dismay and a tiny hint of exasperation. I had clearly failed that particular test. Anyway, I failed the principal test as well, since I clearly did not do the expected justice to this marvellously Pantagruelic breakfast.
I was anxious to get off to a good start and quickly thanked Madame Guémené, paid, pumped up my tyres and took off, feeling a little overfed, but full of beans nonetheless.
When she learned that I was planning to follow the river Vilaine beyond Redon, Madame Guémené explained that I was quite wrong to assume that the tow-path would continue beyond Redon for the simple reason that from the coast to Redon, barges had moved up and down the river under sail and no tow-path had ever been constructed. She advised against trying to find a way of following the river by either road or path since that required an intimate knowledge of the area and would almost certainly result in enormous loss of time in my case. Instead, she advised that if I followed the Brest-Nantes canal as far as the Pont de Miny, from there I could use the small roads to Séverac.
From Séverac, it would then be small roads all the way to Missillac, La Chappelle-des-Marais, St Lyphard, Guérande and then from there to La Baule, my destination for the evening. This turned out to be the best route, given the time constraints, I could have used. It gave me time to visit Guérande, which was one of my intentions. But it didn’t allow me, obviously, to use the coastal paths around the various headlands from Pénestin that had been part of my original plans. I was a little annoyed to begin with that I had thus to abandon my purist intention to keep away from traffic-bearing highways. But in the end I don’t think I could have done it any other way without vastly more time.
I pedalled off to Lezin and joined the river bank there. The weather was perfect: not too hot despite the brilliant sunshine and with a light breeze at my back. There were faint skeins of mist on the surface of the river, but apart from that the air was perfectly clear. The only other human being I spotted in my ride to Redon was the guy in the picture below in his rectangular boat, fishing with a strange sort of net that he constantly raised from and lowered in to the water without apparently catching anything.
On arrival in Redon, I quickly visited the town, located the Brest-Nantes canal – not a difficult task, given the small size of the place – and set off along it.
The canal tow-path was a pleasant enough ride, well-surfaced and fairly scenic. But I almost missed the Pont de Miny which was not signposted. A passing postwoman told me that the Pont de Miny was the one I was looking at; and without that I would have just carried straight on and got lost. The roads to Séverac were also difficult to find and I was reduced, again, to asking locals every so often. Once at Séverac, however, I simply followed the D2 to Missillac,
then to La Chappelle-des-Marais and from there the D51 to Saint Lyphard
Guérand is a small medieval town entirely built of grey stone and surrounded by a thick ring of ghastly suburbs, commercial parks, modern hotels and large roads.
A quick look around the town, which was preparing for some sort of festival and had irritating piped music in every street, a beer in a café and I was back on the road again, heading for La Baule
I tried in vain to find the cycle-track that apparently links Guérande and La Baule and simply set off on the small roads, following my map. I arrived in La Baule at around six-thirty and located my hotel, the Hôtel Marini on the Avenue Georges Clémenceau.
I had time for a quick visit of the town, a trip to the supermarket for provisions for my evening meal and that was about it.
La Baule is a pretty unremarkable place despite its reputation as a chic resort. The old part of town is a jumble of largely nineteenth-century villas on a warren of small roads. But this part of town is screened from the sea by a forbidding wall of high-rise twentieth-century appartment-blocks and hotels.
I dined on the usual cheese and charcuterie washed down with a bottle of Médoc and I fell gratefully into bed, conscious that my arms were on fire. I was badly burned not only on my arms but on my face as well. This came as a bit of a surprise because the day had not been hot. But the sunlight had been intense and the burns were badly blistered in no time.