To Morlaix - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

September 12, 2022

To Morlaix

The alarm sounds at six, but we’ve both been awake for awhile.  I’d heard Rachael rustling in the bunk above me and seen the light from her phone when she was checking the time, and then she called to see if I was awake.  She can’t wait any longer and has to go to the bathroom but is uncertain about coming down the narrow ladder in the near darkness.  I guide her feet onto the railings as she steps onto them, gingerly descending face outwards, and then carefully turns around.  Ow!  It’s me - she’s stepped in my finger.  Ow!  It’s her this time, complaining that the narrow metal rungs hurt her feet.

We’ve no real complaints though.  This is probably the best night’s sleep we’ve had on a ship crossing, and we have more than the usual very cramped space to work with as we pack up and head down to the dining hall for a coffee until we reach the port.  While Rachael rustles up the caffeine I head down to the stern of the ship, hoping to find a spot where I can step outside for a shot of the sunrise without a streaked window in the way.

In the English Channel: 6 AM GMT, 7 AM CET. i wonder where that lighthouse out there is perched?
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The ship arrives right on schedule at 7 British time, 8 in France.  The time’s not the only thing that’s changing.  We’re back on the right side of the road again, which we have to remind ourselves of a few times at first but quickly adapt back to once we finally get off the huge vessel and start rolling - we and the ten other bikers on board were loaded at the stern and we’re among the last to disembark. 

We’ll be here awhile, sucking up the exhaust. Hack, hack.
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After leaving the ship we bike off-route a mile and a half to the historic town center of Old Roscoff, the closest place that promises to have something open for breakfast.  Along the way we pass Roscoff’s harbor and it’s striking lighthouse, the full moon still above the horizon behind it.

You can’t miss the Roscoff lighthouse, standing right on the harbor at the entrance to the historic center.
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Looking across Roscoff’s harbor. We’ve gotten beautiful conditions for our return to France.
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We stop in at the first open waterfront cafe we come to and are quickly reminded of another difference now that we’re back on French soil: breakfast.  Full English is out, the standard petit dejeuner offering is back in, and in fact is the only meal offered this morning at the seaside cafe we stop in - a fact that the waitress rather curtly points out twice as we ask about omelettes and other tempting offerings that are listed on the card but won’t be available until lunch.  Croissant, bread, jam, OJ, a hot beverage.  

Waiting for the sumptuous feast to come, enjoying the glorious weather this morning and the view of the harbor just a few yards away.
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With only a 20 mile ride ahead and an apartment at the other end that we can’t check in to until 3 we’re in no rush.  After breakfast we bike a few blocks further to the well-preserved historic center and are delighted by what a captivating place it is - particularly the fantastic Elise Notre-Dame de Croas-Batz, a church unlike any we’ve seen before.  The architecture is of course another huge change from just the other side of the channel, and so far at least different too from any other region we’ve visited in France.  That’s such a remarkable thing about France - well, of Western Europe in general really - travel fifty or a hundred miles and it feels like you’ve entered a new world.

Roscoff, with the fantastic bell tower of its church rising above.
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Astonishing. Added in 1576, the Renaissance style belfry contrasts with the rest of the gothic church.
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Stairs leading to a much smaller bell tower on the roof of the church. I wonder if this was the original one from when the church was built in 1520. It must have taken some courage to climb those steps on a windy day.
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On a wall of the church. Note the sculpture, which to me looks like a seafarer.
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One of the two ossuaries outside the church.
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Across the street from the church is city hall.
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Musicians(?), details from the city hall.
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So finally we’re off and heading south toward Morlaix, following a well marked bike route the whole way - for these first miles we’re on both Eurovelo 1 and Eurovelo 4, as well as the Tour de Manche.  It looks like wonderful cycling and we see many cyclists, both day trippers and distance riders as we bike along.  It’s especially appealing with today’s weather - warm, breezy and dry, but with a very interesting sky that looks like it could turn wet by day’s end (as it eventually will).  

We especially appreciate one other of the many differences between England and France that we’ve noticed so far - the terrain isn’t flat by any means, but with the worst of it being a ten percenter for about a half mile it feels like we’re traveling over gentle rollers on our short ride.

In Brittany - cabbages and corn have replaced the cereals and sheep.
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Brittany has its hills too, but so far they’re nothing like the super steep slopes of Devon/Brecon/Snowdonia/the Lake District/the Yorkshire Dales/the North York Moors.
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Just five miles from Roscoff another impressive religious structure pulls us in for a look: the Saint-Pol-de-Léon cathedral.
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The Saint-Pol-de-Léon cathedral.
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The Saint-Pol-de-Léon cathedral.
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For five miles or so we enjoy a scenic ride along the La Penzé estuary, finally coming to the town of Penzé at the top of the estuary and then continuing on upriver to a low saddle before finally (finally, like it was a long ordeal - this is an easy 20 mile ride we’re talking about here) dropping to Morlaix.

In Brittany, north of Penzé.
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The sky grows steadily more interesting, giving us cause to wonder.
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Dropping to Penzé. EV1/EV4 is well placed here. It’s an excellent ride, with little traffic, aonly a few short unpaved connectors, and we’ll behaved ascents.
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Looking north toward the sea along the Penzé.
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Nearing Morlaix.
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We arrive in Moraix at one.  With our apartment not becoming available for another two hours we have some time on our hands.  There’s an attractive park with benches in the center of town in front of the Hotel de Ville, where I sit and watch the bikes while Rachael explores a bit on foot and returns exhilarated by how interesting the streets just off the main drag are.  When a table comes free at a nearby cafe we claim it and sit in tight quarters with others, cigarette smoke filling the air (we’re back in France!) over lunch until it’s time to move on.

Our apartment is very nice.  We’ll be here for two nights, which is good because Morlaix itself is very nice.  We’ll show a bit of it later.

Entering Morlaix, passing beneath its very impressive rail viaduct.
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Video sound track: Je nous veux, by Céline Dion

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Ride stats today: 21 miles, 1,400’; for the tour: the same, this is Day One.

Today's ride: 21 miles (34 km)
Total: 21 miles (34 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Keith Adams"That’s such a remarkable thing about France - well, of Western Europe in general really - travel fifty or a hundred miles and it feels like you’ve entered a new world."

There's an old saw that runs:

To Americans, 100 years is a long time.
To Europeans, 100 miles is a long way.

How true.
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2 months ago
Jacquie GaudetThis is at least the second journal I’ve read that describes Morlaix in positive terms. I rode straight through, anxious to get out. I guess I should give it a second chance if I’m in the area again.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetWe’ve been here two nights now and we have only one complaint - we wish we’d booked three nights instead. It can get quite congested on the main strip if you’re here at the wrong time of day, but a block off it’s very quiet and quite special.
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2 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Scott AndersonYeah, I hit busy traffic and it was a shock to the system after the quiet roads I'd been on.
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2 months ago