Whenever I explain my adventure to others on the road, every other person poses the questions, "Why didn’t you start in Ireland and follow the warm weather?" We have our reasons, silly as they may be, but it is just how the trip unfolded.
Sitting on a train bound for Quimper in the Brittany region of France, I noticed everything quickly changed. Fall was breaking and taking hold of the landscape more-so than it did en-route to Bordeaux. The train was necessary to gain days lost in the South, and experience more along the Northern coast of France.
I sat jostling about, watching others pass in and out of the carriage as we perused through different villages, ascending towards the north. Our bikes hung at the entrance as an obvious barrier for the passengers, who would have a laugh when they saw the half drunken bottle of Bordeaux that had replaced a water bottle on Keagan’s bike.
After a nights rest we rode hard throughout the day to reach Saint Brieuc in the evening. This is where things fell into place gave me a constant reminder of why I love traveling. Through a few recommendations, we ended up being put into contact with an old couple who lived on the water at the edge of the city. Through what I understood it was some sort of a Bed & Breakfast, and it was cheap so we agreed and rode to our house for the night.
As we arrived, an old women greeted us at the door with a cat in her arms, and welcomed us, dirty, wet, clad in spandex, American cyclists into her home. It was more than we could ask for. We were in everyone’s "favorite grandparents" home. Hours went by as I talked with her and her husband using every bit of brain power I could muster up to comprehend all of the French that was being thrown at me in Every direction.
The warmth they gave was amazing and as I woke up in the morning to fresh crepes and coffee under a glass veranda overlooking the bay at high tide, nothing was wrong. She checked in on us constantly, making sure the coffee was full, and singing back replies in the sweetest French accent I've heard so far.
Not until we left their warm embrace to embark on a dirt road in the freezing rain that I realized this wasn’t Portugal anymore. This was the real, actual weather that I have been trying to tell myself didn’t exist.
Only when we (had ridden until we were soaked to the bone, and had pushed ourselves to the point of complete exhaustion, did we stop to refuel and find a place to rest. Again, we were amazed by the willingness of others to help. For an hour, a French couple who owned the sandwich shop we were at called and searched until Keagan and I had a roof over our heads and a warm bed to rest.
With the promise of a clear day ahead, we had another full day of biking to Mont Saint Michel, a place that seemed to have been created from your imagination. Starting from 50 miles away, the towering castle guided us along the coast.
After stopping for a sandwich, and meeting new friends who graced us with a bag of food for dinner, we made it the floating castle.
Riding through the fertile farmland, trying to get a whiff of every apple orchard lining the road, I weaved in and out of tractors hauling loads of potatoes and carrots that were dug out that afternoon. It is the places like this that sparks every bit of imagination in my head. The old buildings and chateaus that have some much history oozing from the cobblestone walls. I want to reach out and grab it and live in each spiral staircase, every vine-covered barn.
I sat at the top of Mont saint-Michele, my feet dangling over the edge of a mossy courtyard as Keagan and I share some cidre and watch the orange sky disappear on the horizon. I thought it was a surreal ending to the past 6 weeks I've spent biking almost everyday trying to get to a seemingly endless destination. I'm laughing about people we've meet, situations we've managed get ourselves into and out of, roads that my Mom would give me a frightening lecture about being to dangerous to ride.
I thought that my imagination would've thought of most things that could've happened, and what I would be seeing, but I'm thrown off-guard everyday. I didn't know that I would be dealing with fleas swarming my gear for a days, or I would be wandering through a party in an old military bunker in Bordeaux. Whatever happens, I'm happy taking it one day at a time.