9: Seaside Resorts and Salt Marshes

The first thing I did this morning was go to the post office and mail a package to myself containing a few somewhat heavier things I don’t want to carry with me on the long stretch tomorrow, where I have to carry all my luggage. 28€ was a small price to pay for 5Kg. less weight to carry. (If only it were that easy to get rid of weight off my body… could I just mail it somewhere?)

The Friday market was full in swing, so I walked through and admired the produce and regional products and took pictures instead of buying.

The day’s riding destinations were calling, so I set out on my bike and headed towards the coastal town of La Turballe. My morning route took me once again through farmlands and fields, over rolling hills covered with sea pines and oak trees, slightly reminiscent of the California coastal area north of San Francisco.

It didn’t take me too long to reach La Turballe, a small busy fishing port, and discover that it was also in the throes of market day. I had hoped to have a cup of coffee and enjoy the view but the town was so overrun with vendors and market goers, I just sat on the harbor wall for a short while and then rode further.

Once I got out of town the next stretch took me through the salt marshes which produce the famous sel de Guérande. The narrow one-lane levee roads aren’t entirely without traffic so between that and the headwind it wasn’t exactly a leisurely ride. However, in spite of the minor handicaps and the grey skies it was an interesting ride (and at least it was flat!).

Once I arrived in Le Croisic, another tourist-filled port town, I went on the prowl for a lunch restaurant. After walking the length of the promenade I finally found a place that spoke to me. My search paid off – I ate a very tasty Moules-Frites (steamed mussels with fries), the mussels being served in a spicy saté sauce. Boy, was that tasty! With it I drank a glass (or rather a mug) of hard cider which one often finds on the menu in Normandy and Brittany.

After lunch I went in search of a “Glaces Artisanal” (hand-made ice cream) stand and found a stand offering my local favorite, caramel with salted butter and a very tasty “Fromage Blanc avec fruites rouges” (cream cheese with red fruits). I relished that while sitting at the base of at statue at the entrance to the harbor.

I rode back through the salt fields stopping to buy some more fleur de sel at one of the roadside vendors. I had thought that by this time perhaps the market in La Turballe would be over and I’d have a chance to walk through and check out the town but the market was still in full swing and the town just as crowded as 5 hours previously so I just continued up the coast road in the direction of Piriac.

On the outskirts of La Turballe I saw an older couple (well, slightly older than me, at any rate) who were in the middle of a bike repair so I stopped to offer assistance. It took a couple of seconds to determine what language we should speak - I thought they might be German so I approached them speaking German and when I heard their accents I switched to English. Turns out they were from Holland (the Dutch all speak English and would usually rather speak English than German) and when they found out I was American they said with great surprise: “what, an American on a bicycle!?” When I explained that I lived in Germany they nodded – “oh, now we understand…”. At any rate, they had found the hole in the inner tube and were repairing it so they didn’t need my help, but it was a nice contact.

By this time the sun was FINALLY coming out (haven’t seen that much of it this week) and it was getting warmer. When I arrived in Piriac I was dying for a cold beverage (one thing I really like about France as opposed to Germany is that cold drinks are COLD and not room temperature. Although I’ve gotten accustomed to the German way, I do still enjoy an ice-cold drink on a hot day. I sat at a harbor café and reveled in my cold Perrier.

I spent a good hour soaking in the atmosphere one final time in Piriac and by 6 I was back in Mesquer, in time to relax and clean the sweat off before dinner. As it was the last evening of the booked tour, I had arranged to dine with Malte and Elisabeth in the hotel restaurant.

We all ordered and enjoyed their menu of the day:

First course: Thin slices of smoked salmon wrapped around cantaloupe sitting in a pool of tasty dill sauce.

Main course: Merlu (Hake, a firm white fish) on a bed of choucroute (sauerkraut). Interesting combination of the vinegary bite of the choucroute and the sweetish firmness of the fish.

Dessert: Little buttery spongy tarte topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream accompanied by frais de bois (wild strawberries), drizzled with two sauces and with a caramel praline wafer poised atop the ice cream. Triple yum.

All of this accompanied by a lovely Muscadet from the Loire.

To cap off the evening, after dinner we walked a couple of blocks down the street and sat at outside the local bar, drinking a glass of Bordeaux and soaking in the night air.

Day 9

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