St Malo to Nice (almost)

St Malo to Nice (almost)

It is always special meeting a new group, Longer trips are extra special as there is a real chance getting to know each other.

This trip was no exception and with two northerners as part of our riding group, Will and Andrew it was bound to be a winning combination (partners in crime)…
If only politics could be as easy as riding bikes !?
Skedaddle St Malo to Nice trip brought together, Vera from Brazil; room shared with Sharon living in London, from Australia, Brian from Ireland, James from Scotland and Fabio from Italy who lives in Switzerland, and seemed to radiate sun shine.

My first introduction to the group was in the hotel reception…
I don’t know what it is about cyclists but even in our ‘sivies’, we stand out! Our handsome boys of the trip did just that… I

Our handsome Boys and Gals of the trip did just that… I was greeted with big smiles and excited anticipation of the trip a head.

Off to get to know each other…
Hannah Reynolds joint Author of FRANCE EN VELO, and the lead guide on the trip had booked a table at a favourite restaurant in St Malo. the restaurant set the tone for the rest of the trip, with its good service and tasty food. the restaurant La Table d’ Henri has perfectly place on the shoreside, a short walk from our hotel, and close to the town centre, for those who wanted to take up the opportunity of a late walk around the city.

Day one and we’re off! St Malo – Chateaubourg

Always slightly confusing first riding day of the trip but day two on the Garmin, and obviously Garmin is boss for the next few weeks we will be following a purple line and turning our legs in our own preferred rhythm … Some faster than others.This St Malo to Nice trip was different to others that I have guided, not just because it was my first St Malo to Nice but because the riders (the customers) were all pretty super fit! For Andrew and Will every day was treated like a sportive, enjoying the stats, making Strava segments and although never racing enjoying the challenges that Strava can bring for some social riders.

This St Malo to Nice trip was different to others that I have guided, not just because it was my first St Malo to Nice but because the riders (the customers) were all pretty super fit! For Andrew and Will every day was treated like a sportive, enjoying the stats, making Strava segments and although never racing enjoying the challenges that Strava can bring for some social riders.

Fabio loved hitting the hills hard, in a mountain goat sort of way.

Fabio never really understood the term ‘Tortoise and Hare’, but Brian did and from the day one he was our passer always surprising the young whipper snappers with his Diesel engine!

Sharon is part of the same club as Will and Andrew back home in Surrey, (great to have a super strong woman on the trip ), having friends on the trip added a great dynamic to the riding.

Vera although she had only been riding a bike for 9 months, If Skedaddle did prizes of pure Awesomeness on a bike Vera would win the prize… No stopping this girl. I really related to her personal journey in cycling as it emulates some of my own… Maybe a Skedaddle guide in the making here?

I lead the first day out of St Malo …and what a privilege that was!
As usual, I’d been for my usual calming run and Yoga ( I’m way too giddy without it ) in the morning to recce the first mile or two of the route… It’s a hang up from been a very new guide and my own personal ( made-up) theory that if you can get out of the town and /or be very calm and clear about your first turn then the rest of the day is easy ! Common sense!!! …

Easy navigation out of St Malo just followed signed for Pau, just had to remember to go round the roundabouts the right way! There are plenty of them on the way out! For many of the group it was their first time riding on the Wrong/Right side of the road, and fortunately only funny moments were had when realising the mistake of riding on the left… Phew!

The group worked well from the start, other than the required `Garmin faff  which set a president for the rest of the trip, and fun and games for Hannah and I who seemed to be be hit with a plague of Garmin fairies along the trip or an inability to count as they seemed to disappear and reappear with great frequency…
My school teacher tone of voice got resurrected, when explaining to the group to “stop prodding it” and ‘playing with it’ Andrew with his equally dry humour and his very funny one liners was chief prodder !!!

First coffee stop of our trip.
Different to U.K trips where my Barriesta skills are often tested with my trusty Aero press. In France, we are treated to coffee stops in actual cafes.
I’d like to thank our group of riders for always including me in the round and buying my coffees, as a full-time Product Design student I very much appreciated it!
Thank you!
At the coffee stops the van is always close by for those wanting snacks out the van or cold drinks, very helpful for those who need different dietary requirements and are Banna mad like me and Will.

Stopping over in a sculpture park wow!

Day two Chaeauboourg – Brissac-Quince

Day two Chaeauboourg – Brissac-Quince

Where would we be without the Romans, long straight roads on this day and chasing church spires…

Van day for me so I got to enjoy looking after everyone in a slightly different way to riding a bike… one of my favourites ‘feeding folk’. Skedaddle picnics not quite cooking but I do love catering,

I think my first one for the group was received well…

Although the salad became a battle for the rest of the trip! These guys are cheese and meat lovers!!! I tried everything, I empathised with mothers who hide greens in food by the end of my trip.

Fantastic driving on familiar roads and memories flooding back of my previous touring holidays in France. driving into the agricultural water sprays along the route to keep me cool…
and ice cream by the Loire river …. Happy birthday Will!

I personally recommend birthdays to be spent experiencing, you never forget something like ice cream in the sun with new and old friends… Well done Andrew for dragging him on the trip!

Our evening was spent in the sleepy town of Brissac-Quince, a small contingent went up the extra 2 Zig-Zags from our hotel for the evening to enjoy a beer in the only, but very nice bar that looked over the Château de Brissac … The tallest Château on the Loir… thanks to the original owner who apparently was very arrogant and wanted to be the seen to all around!

This town comes alive one day of the year in July with a hot air festival.

Day three Brissac-Quince – Saint-Loup-Lamairé

We left the Château behind us, the hot air from the town of Brissac-Quince followed us for the rest of the day.

Day three was hot and sunny, with a tail wind, along with flat roads hugging the Loire river.
The colours all around us seemed to pop! and beg to be photographed! Even calming the keenest speedy riders to look up and enjoy the views and cooling air.

Lunch was in Martaize, a shady spot picked for its trees and picnic tables.

A perfect spot for a bike fettle and to prepare for the straight as a die roads a head… Chasing the Romans again.

Brian looked the part on day three wearing his Skedaddle jersey. Honoury guide for the day… not really but I thought we looked super cool in our matching Kit!

Our job as a guide is made extra special and a hell of a lot easier when the hotels etc respect how hard the guides work and do their best to take over, and look after our riders and us. You have no idea how beautiful the words are “I’ll do you picnic washing up are” at the end of a hot day in either the Van or the Bike.

The accommodation at the end of day three is at a château… Honestly, it’s the most amazing place, made even better by our hosts.

The rooms in this Chateau are out of this world! I could have moved in, and been very happy indeed. With a bar in the town on its door step, a very nice restaurant, and large gardens with Mote to run round.

And !!! we had a bat in our room very apt as the rooms name was ‘ Room of the Dark night’ obviously a translation from French.Day 4 Saint-Loup-Port de Salles.

Day 4 Saint-Loup-Port de Salles.

Leaving Saint-Loup and fantastic hosts.I think the Château made such a lasting impression on me because the rest of the day is a bit of a blur… We filled up with coffee in Jazeneuil at a very quirky petrol station in which we all enjoyed being silly at….

I think the Château made such a lasting impression on me because the rest of the day is a bit of a blur… We filled up with coffee in Jazeneuil at a very quirky petrol station in which we all enjoyed being silly at….

and that is my lasting memory of day 4 van day.


Day 5 Port de Salles – Brantôme

Back on the bike and off to the very picturesque town of Brantôme.

I live to ride my bike and so I’m very lucky that I get to do it as a guide for Skedaddle. Guiding others is very different to riding for yourself but when I am riding, just for me it’s like I’m riding on an island of my own thoughts… It’s a very creative experience!

I read a book “Einstein & the art of Mindful Cycling” a few years ago while studying to be a teacher… Life changing book and I’d recommend the short easy read to anyone balancing a busy life.
So with my island state of mind … very fitting that we visited the town of Brantôme which is a small town built on an island, created by the river Dordogne.
An old Pilgrimage route runs through this picture perfect town.
We didn’t see the Otter, but apparently one nest in the clean fish abundant waters under the restaurant walls.

I really enjoyed the hotel at Brantôme Hostellerie du Périgord Vert, with its friendly host, and out door pool.

Day 6 Brantôme – Soulliac (Van Day)

I’ve been lucky to tour fairly extensively through out France and Italy on my bicycle on personal trips, but this day was Particularly fresh in my mind from the holiday in the Dordogne the previous summer with one of my favourite people Dr Paul Rowe, who is some what of an expert on riding in France.
It was van day for me… However, to be travelling on roads I knew well! What an absolute pleasure… It felt like I was riding with the group… Up through shaded tree line climbs and down fast fun descents. WEEEE!
Lunch- was laid on opposite the caves at Les Eyzies de Tayac, a very bizarre experience in a good way! having your lunch in the shade of the trees whilst listening to the recordings of the neanderthal man coming from the park on the opposite side of the road.

This place also brought back fond memories for James the Scotsman as he had brought his family there on previous holidays.

A fun a 10km stretch of a cycle path that deposits you into Grolèjac. The with well-earned shade and steady down hill, with the wind on your back, created a split in the group.
I was waiting in Grolèjac with cold water but not the tipple on Andrew and Will’s thoughts they had their focus on a rewarding cooling beer,

So with that Hanna and I had some van logistics to work out, as ideally, the van gets to the hotel before customers to check in and deposit bags… So the obvious solution was a snack box laid on in the tree for Vera and guide Hannah

The town folk even laid on a school disco… Te He

Day 7 Soulliac – Entraygues

Always time to have fun and fool around… The kings of the mountains (on Strava) strut their stuff at the accommodation showing their winning smiles. all set for the first proper day of hills.

Strong cyclist Vera, but new to riding, decided to take the pressure off of keeping up with the paces and I set off riding a bit earlier for the hills.
I love riding with Vera, we are about the same age, and with loads of other commonalities… We got to talk about all girl stuff… I call guiding work ;-). one of my favourite aspects of guiding is supporting riders, and this morning was no exception.

The roads that we rode that morning were really familiar because of a previous holiday in France.
I really enjoyed talking with ease about our surroundings and what was coming up just around the corner, even down to where the lay-bys were for photo opportunities …

local knowledge makes our jobs as a guide so much more enjoyable because of the added value to holidays that we can give.

The penny finally dropped that she was a very strong rider and with that knowledge and newly found confidence Vera was off!!! this girl can climb :-).
Fun for me as I set off early I got to enjoy the switch back decent and do the climb again just for fun.

Day 8 Entraygues – Mende

Skedaddle guides are the ‘Hobo’s’ of the cycling world. All the guides love cycling, the outdoors and are guides because we love helping others reach their personal goals. So when I saw the cutest young couple with full panniers looking a bit confused and pulling out a light blue book from their panniers I stopped the van and ran over to point them in the right direction… They were over the moon to learn that their journey carried on down the hill and not up to the 16% climb… We saw them a few more times on our journey towards Nice… Ahhh ! warm fuzzy feelings… later in the trip at Sault, we had a gathering around the van our riders thought was quite amusing !!!! Hannah was doing a great job of directing lost cyclists and the both of us topping up water bottles and giving lots of morsel support! fun times! #lovepeople

Bagging the Col’s

The climb up to Col du Goudard was tough but so worth it for the views at the top.
I’m repeating the trip in September with guide Tom Owen, I hope I get to do the climb on that trip? Please Tom….

Hotel de France was in the town of Mende not much going on but well worth a walk out into the town to look at the cathedral, I first spotted its dominating presence on the way in, and took a special trip out after dinner to take a closer look. I’m not normally into churches but the Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Privat has earned its right to be a national monument.

After a hot day in the van the cooling winding streets of the town with the gentle chatter of town folk, and couples holding hands was very romantic…The evening was breath taking and one never to be forgotten.

Day 9 Mende – Vallon Pont d’Arc

Leaving Mende straight up the first climb of the day, and I was back on my bike again.
Enjoying a day of catch and fetch with the riders. The gradient of the climbs were perfect for me, and I felt confident powering up at ease to play catch up after needing to stop a few times to chat with Hannah.
The group of riders were really starting to bond, partly I think because the capabilities of riding were levelling out.
It was super fun to get some nice group shots.

For logistical reasons, we had a restaurant lunch… And found out that our group does like salad… Just not our salads Te he…

From this day on balsamic dressing was amply on the leaves! Such a simple thing! Not sure whats wrong with my pesto dressing though? I’ll try not to take offence 😉

Ater lunch it was up again! but we had Pont d’Arc to spur us on and the refreshing thought of swimming under the natural arch carved out by the Ardèche.

The Gauge was as expected breath taking !!!! and my personal favourite bit of the day was a splash and dash with Hannah down to the river for a well-earned drink and swim. Special guiding times… It was extra special in the morning when Brian followed us down for a un guided swim.

If any of you readers do the trip plllleeeaaase take advantage of all these extra opportunities along the way as Vera rightly reminded us it’s the journey, not just the destination.

Day 10 Vallon Pont d’Arc – Monteux

Well, you don’t do St Malo to Nice to get rained on but this day wasn’t just rain !!!!

The group of riders showed what they were made of on this day! The temperature was warm but very wet. I was in the van and was handing out waterproofs left right and centre.
Well done team!

The day did clear up though and so we enjoyed an easy day of sweeping descents into Monteux.

My last evening with the group of riders was by the pool, and I showed that I could sit down for at least a few minutes.

Listening to stories and tails has to be one of my favourite bits of guiding so special times relaxing with Andrew, Fabio, Will and Vera ( James and Brian were in the shade on the terrace).

Day 11 Monteux – Sault

Bonus day for me! and last day of this trip…

I’m not sure if all guides are like me, ( it’s been suggested) may be because I’m still relatively new, to guiding, or just a big softy… But leaving a trip particularly before it’s finished was a bit of a tough one!

We all had a bit of a joke that as soon as I was in the van every one would be forgotten!?

I think I’d have to be made of stone not to make lasting friendships with our riders, after all, we are all there because we love cycling and adventure.

Riding the Gorge de la Nesque was just gorgeous! And at a steady pace to give the riders who wanted the challenge of Mont Ventoux the best chance.

The Gorge is a steady up hill and if you’re in the area and wanted to really go for it! I think some major fun could be had …

My last afternoon at the foot of Mont Ventoux with James, Brian and Fabs was just spectacular! The sun was warm, the market at Sault was bussing, and the atmosphere created by the hundreds if not thousands of riders coming through the town to ride the iconic mountain was buzz inducing.

I laid on a picnic for James, Brain and Fabs to enjoy at leisure and we even had a splash of wine to wash down the selection of meats cheese and fennel and grapefruit salad ( we cracked the salad by day 11) in waiting for anticipation for the riders coming back of Mont Ventoux…

Thanks to Penny from Trek for the loan of chain oil, my afternoon was productive cleaning Jame’s bike, and my own hire bike from Skedaddle in preparation for its return.

The four of us welcomed the tired riders, and I got to fuss over( for the last time), and give them platted up picnics not even Andrew fought the fuss (who normally resisted been looked after).

After been feed and watered I got to finish my trip how I’d started it riding the group out….It was a short ride to the hotel… and good buys or me.

Thanks, to Hannah and our lovely Skedaddlers for sharing a drop of wine and a toast.

You are all unforgettable! Thank you for my first of what I hope are many St Malo to Nice trips as a guide working for Saddle Skedaddle and in my opinion the best cycling holiday company.

Thank you to the coach driver at Manosque for leaving late! and so making my journey to the airport easy, Paul for always been there when I need you, Brad and Dan, from the office. And the conductor on the train from Kings cross you made my return journey to Leeds and my evening smash out with NBSCC possible and a great end to my day

Hannah you’re wealth of experience as a guide and cycling profession is astounding thank you x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s