The shuttle over the Saint-Nazaire bridge runs every hour and since we’re up pretty early, we’ll try to catch the first one at nine thirty. We do an efficient run on the breakfast buffet, pack all our stuff back in the bike bags and are ready to leave before nine. I must admit my packing was a bit more haphazard than usual. Normally I approach it as you would a tangram puzzle, you have a volume with preset dimensions, then packages of different shapes and the trick is to find the best stacking method. Since I pack the same bags every morning, I have the method sorted out and all that’s left to do is the careful Tetris exercise, but this morning it just doesn’t matter. Tonight we’ll be back at the car with its small valise of clean, nice-smelling clothes and most of what I pack now I won’t touch again until it goes into the laundry machine at home.
We follow the same route as yesterday (but then in the opposite direction, obviously) to get the bridge. We already know where the shuttle leaves, as we saw the sign and trekkers waiting for it yesterday. It’s nine fifteen, we’re fifteen minutes early and take the opportunity to make some calls home and generally catch up. When the shuttle seems to be a bit late, Arne uses the live location QR code and sees it already driving away and indeed, a minute later we can see it start the ascent on the bridge. After some calling around (neither the tourist office or the shuttle organizer know what’s going on), we explore a bit on our own, ask the construction workers if they’ve seen it and finally locate the temporary stop. It takes a while for the shuttle to return, so by the time the other bikers start arriving, also looking a bit lost, we’ve found our zen again and are up for a friendly chat.
When the shuttle arrives, we load the bikes on a small, custom made trailer, the packs in the back, the people in the van and we set off at ten thirty. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get to the bus stop at the other side, with great views of the port activity at Saint-Nazaire from the bridge itself. From the bus stop we follow the signposts Vélocéan or bicycle route 45, it should take us most of the way today. We discover why we saw such a huge plane taking off yesterday (we suppose it’s carrying parts from the Airbus factory here, to the assembly line in Toulouse, what the structure of a cruise ship looks like (we see bits of one, then a mostly finished one and a few minutes later another, less finished one) and a German WWII submarine base. We’ll be in this area for another few days, so we might come back here by car to visit the museum.
The beachside here is very much urbanized, with a raised promenade and a string of apartment buildings of different decades of the 20th century. We eat a sandwich in a bakery and continue on north, over pretty steep hills, towards the medieval town of Guérande, on top of the (local) world at sixty meters above sea level. The route looks pretty jagged on the map, but manages to follow mostly voies vertes: roads and paths reserved for slow traffic like pedestrians, cyclists and sometimes horses. Some weird routing decisions are explained when we encounter a landmark or monument, like the Tumulus de Dissignac, which is obviously the reason for the detour. We approach Guérande through its boring small industry zone and then suddenly bump into the medieval ramparts. We follow these for a while, just to admire them, and then turn into the center itself, looking for a dessert. It’s obviously a popular place for tourists, there’s mostly stores selling jewelry, arts and souvenirs. Also a lot of places to eat pancakes, for some reason. Pancakes it is then, for dessert: I have one with caramel, made with the salt this town is famous for. We have all the time in the word, only ten kilometers or so to go to arrive back at the hotel where we started two weeks ago.
The final stretch is through the salt marshes, where we can see the salt pans created to produce salt. It’s a charming road, a bit otherworldly, but pretty busy with cars. Guided visits are organized, as we can see from the groups of people standing around.
We arrive back at the hotel around four, ten days after we left it, 650 kilometers or so of cycling behind us. It’s not an emotional moment or anything, perhaps because we’ve done a few long trips in the past and it doesn’t feel like a great achievement? Or because we have fun stuff planned in the next days and the holiday is not over? In any case, the usual routine follows: blog, bath, relax. I still don’t have a book, can you believe it, I’ve been reading non-fiction in my downtime. Must spend some time on that search, soon. Still need to make a dinner reservation, too. And check if there’s any cool megalithic monuments around.