Time Off in Rennes - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

April 16, 2014

Time Off in Rennes

Breakfast in the hostel is nothing to write home about; crunchy cereal, cornflakes, hard bread, yogurt, apple mouse, and the like... I've really looked forward to this day off the bike. So long since the last. First off on leaving the hostel, I take a little time finding my bearings. You'd think I'd know my way around having been here a few years ago. Things don't quite look the same. A lot of Building sites have sprung up, making it more confusing on top of having poor memory. I walk this way and that, looking for familiar things; then, at last, I'm in a recognisable street of Indian and West Indian craft-shops and restaurants, leading to the church on the corner of a main square lined with cafes, though the church is now a construction site with hoarding surrounds, making the entry into the square narrow.

The last time Is in Rennes, I saw a bike shop stocking Orblieb and Vaude panniers. So I hope to replace my front panniers. They are old and ripped and in any case, are rear-panniers. They're too big for the front. I've often ground them on high curbs and rubbed against crash-barriers. They're green. I think red front panniers, matching the rear-panniers, which are red, make a nice colour contrast with the racing green of the Dawes Galaxy bike.

I find my way down towards the "Gard Du Sud", another mass of construction site hoardings and tower-cranes against the sky-line, making the place appear extremely different from the last time. But continuing, I find against the background clink of steel-work, the street with the cycle and scooter shop where I was the last time. Then I was looking for a replaceable gear-hanger. On that occasion, the shop assistant directed me to a "Cycle Guimard" a few blocks up and over a rise in the same street, then turning left at the lights. But walking up over the rise, the street abruptly becomes like the aftermath of World War Three. Not only is the street all dug up to lay cables, the way narrowed with red and white ribbon, a whole row of buildings on the left of the street have been demolished and cleared away, making the whole streetscape, just about where I expect to find the left turning street to be with "Cycle Guimard" a few shops along, look confusingly different. I assume the bike shop has moved to new premises. All of the street I recall is presumedly gone. But then, after turning, feeling defeated and walking back towards the centre, I discover I'd gone too far. I walked pass the street I'm looking for. It is just before the empty space where the row of buildings once stood.

Guimard's stock all what the touring cyclist needs, as well as the usual racing and mountain bikes. Behind the counter are photographs of local riders competing in mountain bike races and standing with arms raised on winner's podiums. The shop assistant who deals with me speaks English, asks where I'm from, and when I answer, asks "what part of Ireland?" I say The North. He replies "One of our boys is going over their to the world mountain bike fix-Gear...." he pauses, then says, "fix-gear o-la la. No, World Single Speed Championships." he corrects himself.

Reading the headlines.
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I walk back by way of the old town, the proud owner of new panniers in their presentation box with a plastic handle on top, making them easily carried. Its now lunchtime and office-workers and building-workers alike queue in sandwich-shops and boulangeries. I settle for a slice of pizza from one of the later, then take a seat at one of the many cafes, taking out my notebook to catch up with diary writing.

A group of six young English speakers and a wizened old man push two tables together and take seats on both sides. The old man looks to be their teacher and it seems this is the last day of a language course, because when the old man goes inside, one of the young people produces a handmade card which they pass around, each one signing their name on the inside. Its a surprise and when he returns, they hand the card to him. He opens the card up to reveal a group photo of himself with his class. He is delighted. They all stand up and he hugs each one in turn.

These young people are having fun. I joined the opposing team, walking backwards with phones and cameras snapping.
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Back at the hostel I spend some time, making adjustments and getting the new panniers fitting right. I also discover one of the panniers on its own, with the shoulder-strap, makes a good off-the-bike bag when I go to the local Carrefour express to shop for dinner. Later I would cook a chicken casserole, a once in a while break from my usual on-the-road evening meal.

I finish the day how I would've wished, ready and anxious to continue in the morning.

Rennes Auberge De Jeunesses (where I stayed).
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