Le Croisic is a beautiful little fishing town on the Atlantic coast in Brittany. In the peak tourist season this place is packed with holidaymakers and would not be the ideal spot for a quiet retreat. However, once the summer ends the majority of houses are locked and shuttered for the winter and I could not think of a more perfect place to spend a peaceful time after the demands of a long distance bicycle ride.
On the south side of the peninsula there are a succession of rocky beaches with unbroken views out over the Atlantic Ocean. The fishing port is a short walk away on the north side and here you can find a large assortment of waterfront eateries to satisfy your hunger. The tidal variations here are enormous and, when the tide retreats, all the fishing boats are left high and dry in the mud.
Although we still had access to our bikes for the final day in Le Croisic, due to the fact that I was still recovering from the food poisoning and feeling a little weak, we were quite happy to just spend the time having a quiet walk around the deserted streets. The mid autumn weather is cool in the early morning but wonderfully mild once the sun is high in the sky. It was a perfect end to another memorable cycling adventure.
Those early days in Paris now seemed a long time ago, I sat and looked out over the ocean and thought back over the past few weeks and the countless highlights we had all shared together. I thought of our group walk around Sacre Coeur Cathedral, coffee time at the Place du Tertre, the concert at La Chapelle, the night cruise down the Seine, standing on the river bank in Orleans, the terrible storm on our first day’s ride to Beaugency, the manic Chateau of Chambord, the ornate gardens at Villandry, the incredible dinner at Azay le Rideau, riding those magnificent cycle paths along the river, eating crunchy baguettes, dinner at La Cigalle, the walled city at Guerande and so many more memories that have now become a part of our lives. For me the most important thing about any such trip is not stopping to capture as many selfies as possible in front of as many tourist hot spots as you can find in the guide book. It is about the privilege of being able to be a part of another culture for a period of time. We had a unique opportunity to see a wide cross section of the real France, to see what France is like below the surface. Sometimes this is magical, at other times it can be frustrating and downright bewildering, but that is what travel should be about. Those who never leave the main A roads never see anything other than the famous sights and they really do miss out on so much. As the French would say “Quelle Domage!”.
We returned to our hotel just in time to hear the excited shouts and sounds of the riders of Group 2 completing their ride. The official record keepers could record that they had finished their ride almost 24 hours behind those in Group 1. With all the “chickens” now safely home in the coup I could really relax, knowing that all the complex arrangements had gone according to plan. It is not easy to get 25 people from around Australia to ride bikes across a foreign country without something going astray, and yet all the logistics had gone right according to the script. The only dark side was Carol’s accident in the shower, but now that they were back with us, it was beginning to seem like not such a big deal after all. It even scored her a flight upgrade on the flight home, showing that there is a silver lining to every cloud.
In the evening both groups returned to the Restaurant de L’Ocean for our combined dinner. After the unpleasant events of the previous night I was rather apprehensive. I shouldn’t have been. The staff were delightful, the food beautiful, we were given choices with food and drinks, the views were breathtaking and it was a perfect ending to an epic trip. It was also Maggie’s Birthday so they provided a lovely cake for her to celebrate while the rest of us sang quite a few choruses of “Happy Birthday to You”. France is like that.
The word adventure has been hugely devalued in recent time. I hear people talking about having an “adventure” by the pool at Port Douglas, or an “adventure” on a luxury cruise. Adventure ? Adventure ? By its very definition an adventure must involve a challenge. It has to be something that takes you away from the comfort zone and forces you to confront the unfamiliar, the tough, the challenging and then still prevail. There is no doubt that most people find these long distance cycling trips demanding and challenging. It is hard to get up each day, pack your bags and get back on the bike for another 4 or more hours riding.There are also the other challenges of coping with unfamiliar foods, not speaking the language, living from a suitcase, living in close proximity to other people, variable weather, laundry, etc, etc. They are not meant to be easy, but there are always huge rewards for facing a personal challenge and prevailing. It is hard to explain that incredible feeling of “it was tough but I did it” that everyone feels at the end. It is even harder to explain that, whenever I ask people which days they remember most, it is always the tough days that people look back on with affection in the years ahead.
We had all spent the past few weeks riding together, laughing together, eating together, chatting together and sometimes crying together. I am sure we have all grown personally as a result and the friendships we have made will be cherished in the years ahead.
Tomorrow Maggie and I leave to begin our own extended journey around France, but the next few weeks will be spent in a hire car and not on a bike. Next year the Ghostriders will be back in Europe again for our biggest ever ride. Although all spaces are currently filled, I am still taking expressions of interest in case any extra places become available.
Au Revoir and thanks for being a part of our ride…..