The night-boat to St Malo

Tuesday 11th July London to somewhere between Portsmouth and St Malo

Three of us left Greenwich for Waterloo station at around 12:30, having been forced to give up waiting for Charles, the cab-driver who still had my reading glasses in his cab. Chris came along, thankfully, to make sure we (I) didn’t get lost on the way up to Waterloo Station. Q1 (Quietway 1) should be easy enough to follow but I’d managed to get lost the last time I ‘followed’ it so it was reassuring to have Chris with us given our time constraints. As it was, we arrived at the station only twenty minutes before the train was due to leave.

It was a smooth journey down to Portsmouth but raining quite heavily when we arrived so we hung out at the station for a while, waiting for it to ease off. It was a grey, dull afternoon and chilly. Our cabin on the ferry was warm and cozy. We were up on deck, shivering in the rain, as we pulled out of Portsmouth, hoping to recognise Nick’s house as we sailed past but the poor light and our ageing eyes made that impossible. It was emotional for both of us to be in Portsmouth, Nick’s home, three months after he died.

Wednesday 12th July, St Malo to Dinan, 34.3 km

St Malo, the old town.

We rode to the tourist office and waited for it to open at 9:00 am. They didn’t have any specific information about the route we were planning but we did get directions to the ferry across the river Rance. A quick ride through the old town and then we were on the little boat/bus that runs between St Malo and Dinard. Two Bostonians, riding small-wheeled Bromptons, were on board and half a dozen other passengers. The Bostonians led us through Dinard to the start of the ‘Greenway,’ a disused old railway track re-purposed as a cycling/walking route. That was very helpful. We gave them a bit of time to get some distance ahead of us and then ambled off southward.

The trail was a cream-coloured crushed and compacted gravel. It was flat and quite straight, with bordering trees that blocked any views, so not too exciting. This building along the old rail route had been a small station but now is used as a hostel. Too early for (even) us to stop, though.

Then on to narrow country lanes, more interesting, and through some nice villages. Taden, in particular, was stunning, with beautiful old stone buildings.

The route dropped down to the Rance again and a few kilometres of pleasant riding along the river brought us to Dinan. There didn’t seem to be any settlements of size for a while so we found a hotel just outside of town.

Getting there was quite an effort, pushing up an extremely(!) steep cobbled road. Then, the online directions provided by told us to turn right and go up the steps. No way. We found an alternative, and still extremely steep, route until the terrain leveled out. A bit of dicy traffic, then a lane led us to Hotel La Quebecoise.

Hotel La Quebecoise.

We haven’t done much today but are both feeling really tired. Probably, the combination of a short night prior to leaving London and another short night on the ferry was catching up with us. Hopefully, tonight will help fix that.

Thursday 13th July, Dinan

We were still sleepy at breakfast. And quickly decided that Dinan was worthy of an afternoon of sightseeing – after a bit more sleep, of course – so we arranged to stay for a second night at the hotel. What an excellent decision! The morning was happily slept away and then we called for a cab to take us to the Eglise Saint Malo.

A young woman was playing a harp beautifully outside the church entrance (there was a harp ‘festival’ taking place in the town). Inside the church, all was peaceful. Light through the stained glass windows enhanced this tranquility, at odds with the scary gargoyles adorning the church exterior.

We wandered past timbered buildings through the old town, to the Saint Saveur Basilica and its garden high above the river Rance.

It is definitely a tourist town but not obnoxiously so. And we too are tourists, if from further afield than the mainly French tourists surrounding us. We ended up down by the river for dinner. We walked back to the hotel, up the steep cobbled road (much easier than when pushing loaded cycles) and, this time, took the steps suggested the previous evening by Google Maps. Very steep and narrow – a failing grade for Google on this one (and, yes, I had specified ‘cycle’ as the means of transport). 

Too steep for us to pedal with loaded panniers.


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