Why Cycle in Brittany?
Unspoilt countryside, sleepy villages & friendly natives
Geoff & Kate Husband
When people think of cycling in France their minds turn almost automatically to the Loire Valley. Beautiful though it is, it's not the ideal place for cycletouring, especially during the peak season. No, the best place for cycletouring in France is Brittany. Of course I'm hopelessly biased but in these few words I hope to at least make you wonder...
OK so what has Brittany got to attract the cycletourist? Just think a minute, what does the average person think of when they dream of France? Beautiful unspoilt countryside, little market towns, sleepy villages, friendly natives, stunning chateaux, quiet country lanes, vineyards. On that reckoning Brittany has the lot, with the one exception of vineyards, but to be honest once you've visited one of these havens of intensive agriculture you've probably had enough. On the other hand Brittany has a few tricks of its own. It has the most spectacular and varied coastline in France, with sweeping kilometres of golden sand one minute, rocky coves and cliffs the next. Inland you'll find lakes and forests linked by canals, (notably the 172 mile Nante-Brest canal) all of which have towpaths perfect for cycling. In the heartland of Brittany there is little intensive farming so you are left with small fields, tall hedges with magnificent trees and of course the remnants of the great Pan-European forest are everywhere. The landscape is littered with stone-age monuments, ancient Celtic churches and all this linked by a maze of tiny lanes where a car per hour is the norm.
But... All this is travel brochure stuff, "see the magnificent Chateau at Josselin, marvel at the dramatic Pink-Granite coast etc", but the secret of Brittany is that it is cyclist sized. The countryside is small scale, intimate, it wraps around you like a cloak, drawing you into it's folds and into your heart. Here tiny villages, unlike so much of rural France, still manage to support a bar, or a baker and often a little lunchtime restaurant. Even in the darkest depths of the interior you will pass a watering hole every few kilometres where the locals will shake your hand and smile at your loaded bike. Larger villages often have a tiny hotel, perhaps with half a dozen rooms, or a campsite by a lake maintained by the commune to attract passing visitors. And yet this heartland of Brittany is ignored by almost every tourist. Yes go to the south coast in August and it'll be busy, but 10 kms from that coast you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between April and August.
For me it is this unspoilt, largely unexplored centre of Brittany which is one of the truly great cycling areas of France - it will capture your heart, as it has done mine.
Geoff Husband's day job is running Breton Bikes, a company offering cycling holidays in France. Their website is to be found at www.bretonbikes.com
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