Thursday, August 18th- Day two – Rouen to St Malo by car and bike to Dinan under the black cloud

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07.00 Oh dear – In my worst dreams I hadn’t expected this!

Having gone to bed in the searing heat after a glorious day it was a nasty surprise to wake to the sound of raindrops thundering on the roof!

I had planned to go for a run before our early start to drive from Rouen to the walled city port of St Malo from where we start the cycle adventure – not in this!

We set off in drizzle and took it in turns driving through the increasingly dense mist towards the coast of Brittany. At one point the cloud was so thick the tops of the windfarm-mills seemed totally obscured in white foam  – this wouldn’t have been so unusual on a mountain top – but these were by the side of the autoroute!

I have often wondered whether Husband carries an Eeyore like rain- cloud with him on his travels – today he managed to buck the trend and just as we started to get into Brittany, under his orders, the small patch of blue sky – which I designated just enough  make the infamous sailor a pair of trousers – had stretched to make him a whole suit!

The black clouds lingered but the rain stopped – Bravo!!

St Malo used to be a haunt for Corsairs & Pirates, seaman who made their money from privateering, but its main income these days is through tourism. I haven’t been there since the early 70’s when I camped just outside town and was shocked by the ” hole in the ground ” toilet facilities but I remember the city itself as interesting and pretty.

I was pretty certain that such toiletry curiosities were of the past but we stopped at an Aire on our way along the D16 – and guess what we found?  ( I will spare you the photo!)

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It is hard to believe that the beautiful city of San Malo was almost totally destroyed In World War II, by American shelling and bombing as well as British naval gunfire in late August and early September 1944.

Ironically all the damage shown below could have been avoided if the Allies had believed the two citizens, who had escaped from the city to tell them, that there were only seventy Germans left behind to guard the thousands of French people imprisoned within the city walls.

Hitler didn’t countenance capitulation, but if those Nazis had surrendered immediately, St-Malo could have escaped damage. Instead the Americans poured incendiary and high explosive bombs into the town believing that they were fighting thousands of soldiers.

The small Nazi force finally gave up on August 17 1944 – so we arrived just after a day of celebration!

Nearly a million tons of rubble were cleared after the bombing and fires had left hardly a building still standing – The spire of the Cathedral of St Vincent having been one of the first targets and it collapsed inwards taking much of the structure of the Cathedral with it.

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Saint-Malo was rebuilt, as much as possible to its original state, the ramparts are still there all around the old City. The work was completed over a 12-year period from 1948-1960.

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From near St Malo I drive and John cycled to Dinan – and this is where the fun really started.

The bike, in several pieces,  has to be got out of the back of the car and the front wheel re-attached, the seat twisted into place and screwed back on – all relatively simple procedures.

But, next all the contact appliances have to be charged and re-established with the appropriate French connections  – this was exhausting,  largely because John hates technology, so each part of the  frustrating process led to an increasingly loud Baaaaa! The final part of the jigsaw was the Bluetooth, carefully bought by John Willmore to make our connections simpler – not so today – somehow overnight it had lost all its charge and refused to switch on……. Luckily this part of the journey was pretty straightforward to Dinan where we are staying so it wasn’t called to duty!

John goes  ahead and I stay in the Car Park reading my Book 2 of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan saga – I restricted myself to two chapters so I can catch up and check he is okay, amazingly we arrived at the appointed picnique place simultaneously …!

Then on to Dinan!

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Dinan, with a population of fewer than 11,000, is another walled Breton town, strategically overlooking the river Rance.
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Not enough to have overlaid most of my school-girl French with Italian over the past few years, to add to my confusion, I will also have to listen out for locals speaking Breton.

It looks beautiful and we are staying in Chambres d’Hote Priory View which looks homely & had good reviews as a B&B.

The performance getting our luggage out of the car seemed endless – first because the limited car parking space restricted access to the left side door, then we get out John’s huge bag from the boot, argue about whether we need to take the designated laundry bag in too, agree that we should,  find my one squashy bag has already grown to two small squashy bags because the smaller one now refuses to fit inside the larger one ( search me Gov – I tried Honest! ) This makes everything difficult to carry! Then we have the key saga , I have the hotel keys , John needs the house keys for the bike chain which naturally can’t be reached without crawling across the right side seat, during that performance the car keys get inperceptively dropped, so we then panic that we have locked them in the boot, once we have found them we drop the Bluetooth that we were taking into the hotel to be charged and have to find that under the car. By now the infamous Husband Baaaaas are flying thick and fast!

Finally we check that we have the appropriate chargers for all the appliances and struggle towards our bedroom looking, I imagine, somewhat like refugees who have mislaid  their cart.

And the bedroom is something else – Outré is the word that comes to my mind! This thin plastic lampshade covered in feathers actually surrounds a light bulb – where is EU health and safety when you actually need it?

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Buon nuit!

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