Nantes to Lucon 120kms (76m)
After a long day yesterday, today had to be shorter, and I could tell I was incubating a headcold (probably picked up in the Youth Hostel at Jordans…..the likely culprit prepared the salad for the BBQ).
Landscape. It was changing as I forged south. Brittany was what would be termed in the cycling world as “lumpy”. Now into the Loire et Atlantique, followed by a traverse of the Vendee, the contours were much gentler, fresian cows were much in evidence, and now I am cycling through extensive vineyards, the buds of the new growth just beginning to show, heralding the autumn al harvest.
Auberge de Jeunesse, Nantes. When I proffered by membership card to the lady warden, her eyebrows lifted and she said in that beautiful gallic way: “You must be a very important person”. When I enquired why, she said “Because you ‘ave a gold card”. So I expected to be presented with a bottle of the best champagne, but didn’t want to burst the ‘bubble’ of her surprise by telling her that becoming a life-member of the YHA back in the 80’s only cost me 25 pounds!
As I was settling down to sleep last night, two late check-ins came to disturb my early slumbers, followed by a din of ‘teenage-hood’. I recognised the sounds of sweet merriment of teenage girls on a school trip abroad! Their German leader was profusely apologetic, but I told him over breakfast he
had nothing to worry about, they had settled very quickly and I wasn’t phased by teenagers on holiday. “Been there, done that, but didn’t have the tee-shirt with me to prove it”! We shared a lot of chat about things educational and international, and he bemoaned the gradual demise of French in German education (everyone wants to learn English) and was mildly astonished at the growth of Spanish (yes, I said to myself!)
Nantes. The cathedral had a side altar dedicated to the forthcoming World Youth Day, to be held in Madrid in the
summer. And I noticed the logo of Santiago had been inserted into the publicity. The altar was brightly decorated with the Spanish flag and colours. But a question that’s been nagging me as I approached Nantes, and it’s still unresolved. If Nantes and its surrounds are in the Loire
region, why do so many towns and villages have “….en Bretagne” as part of their name. And why do many places have their names written in Breton as well. Perhaps some expert can post me a reply.
A word about cemeteries. My several visits to cemeteries along the way have not been for morbid reasons. Any long distance traveller across France should know that cemeteries are a reliable source of fresh water and, carefully calculated, you should never need to buy the bottled stuff.
To be a pilgrim. What is to be a pilgrim. This thought has been occupying my thinking for years. If the authorites
in Santiago and Rome are to be heeded, walking, cycling or horse-riding the distance are the only qualifying criteria. But the debate amongst Confraternities of Pilgrims is still an unresolved one. In the modern age, travelling under our own steam is a refreshing, invigorating escape from modern means of transport. For medieval people, it was their only means of transport, and if they could have found an easier way of getting to their destination, they would have used it. Unlike today, they didn’t walk for the sheer pleasure and the freedom of the countryside. If Ryanair had existed then, they would have bought their cheap tickets and gone. So, why should we make such an issue of methods of transportation today.
I’ll remember that question the next time I arrive at a pilgrim bunkhouse and find its filled with car-transported “pilgrims”.