5 Countries, 500 miles with 3 generations of Team Davies

Once again Team Davies have dusted off the touring bikes and on the road again, a little older and wiser, well supposedly so, but this didn’t prevent the first hiccup of the trip. We had decided to spend three weeks of the summer holidays travelling from Dunkirk into Belgium and possibly heading down to Luxembourg. We planned to catch the ferry from Dover, unfortunately a short stop at the service station just before Dover turned into a mini disaster! The height restriction barrier went totally unnoticed as we looked for a space resulting in all the bikes, roof rack and roof bars being removed from the top of the car!! We couldn’t believe it! What a start to the trip, a pile of crumpled bikes in a service station with no way to attach them back on the car. But sometimes luck shows up in a funny way, ours was a taxi van driver. Having finished his shift he was just stopping for a coffee but kindly took our bikes to the ferry! We had missed our original ferry but luckily we were able to use our tickets for the next one!

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Unbelievably on the ferry! Russ’ and my bikes luckily had only suffered a few dents but Grampy Malc’s was not looking so good, a broken handle bar and buckled back wheel.

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Pondering what to do with the bike! In the end due to public holidays and closed bike shops we temporarily fixed the handle bar with a few hazel sticks and duck tape and the buckled wheel wobbled its way into Belgium! Unbelievable the bike stayed like this for the rest of the trip.

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Impressed by the graffiti!

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Belgium! At last on our way and on our first of many canal paths. The cycle paths in Belgium are brilliant, at first it felt like there was almost too many. We couldn’t work out which one we were meant to be on and the numbers were always changing, then we realised that the junctions are numbered not the routes. In fact it is a giant dot to dot across the whole country, you just cycle from one point to the next!

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Taking over the town square of Veurne, which lived up to its reputation of being one of the prettiest towns and most persevered squares in Belgium.

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Canal bike!

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What a difference a year makes, Mia was so much more confident on her bike, last year she took a bit of persuading to ride on her own this year she was constantly asking too.

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The all important  rewards, and a good chance for Pippi to burn off her energy!

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Pippi Willow.

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Powerful Beach art, part of the Beaufort Sculpture park spanning the Belgium coast. This piece by Kader Attia, Holy Land, symbolise the struggle of refugees trying to reach a better place and the promise of a better life but sadly so many losing their lives at sea.

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A windy coast but luckily a tail wind for us!

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Beautiful Bruges, very touristy but you can see why, Ornate buildings…

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cobbled streets..

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canals…

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chocolates…

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 and windmills.

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We had a really good time, whizzing along the streets and cycle paths until..

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More sculptures. A huge whale highlighting the pollution of our oceans…

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Made completely of plastic waste!

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We took the canal paths all the way from Bruges to Ghent, perfect for family cycling through a mixture of lovely countryside and…

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…also along the more industrial side.

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Ghent.

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Werregarenstraatje or Graffiti Alley!

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Along with great cycle paths it’s easy to find a place to park your bike in Belgium especially in these underground bike parks. Free and with air to pump up your tyres!

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Camplife. Although we had a few mishaps the weather was definitely on our side with only one day of rain!

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Tent life!

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Antwerp.

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and the biggest belgium waffle!

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Back onto the canals this time the Albert canal, probably our least favourite one, impressive in its size but relatively boring to cycle along and we soon learnt the meaning of  ‘fietsen omleiding’  – diversion for bikes! With lots of detours from the cycle path where the path was being dug up or bridges repaired. Making a long day even longer!

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Picnic spot on the Albert canal.

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and a bit of horse riding!

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The reward to a long day on the canal beautiful lakeside camping by Laambeek lake near Bolderberg.

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Last day on the Albert canal…

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and into Holland! Peaceful camping just outside of Maastricht. Although there are no physical borders to cross it is funny how you know you are in a different country, even going to the supermarket is fun finding different things!

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We weren’t in Holland for long before we crossed into Germany and onto Aachen the start of the Vennbahn. We had been told about this cycle track in a campsite, the Vennbahn an old railway first opened on the 30th of June 1885 to carry coal and it is now one of Europe’s longest converted bike trails. 125km starting in Germany through Belgium and into Luxembourg.

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It is a perfect cycle route for families, easy riding and lovely scenery.

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Perfect  picnic spots

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and the Ritz of bug hotels!

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Monschau, hidden in the hills of the North Eifel, a definite highlight just off of the Vennbahn and well worth the 3km climb back up to the cycle track!

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Picture postcard views of houses little changed in 300 years, with narrow streets leading away from the river and up to the castle which dates back to the 13th century.

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Lovely hiker biker camping by Monschau.

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Dam building!

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Team Davies!

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Heading towards St. Vith the trail leaves the forest and rolls through farm land and little villages.

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Luxembourg! Although we had left the peace and quiet of the Vennbahn the cycling in Luxembourg was great, smooth roads with lovely descents through the forests into little towns like…

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Esch-sur Sure.

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Lovely roads through the hills and forests..

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and alongside beautiful clear lakes.

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Luxembourg city. We ended up taking a day off the bikes and caught the train into the city.  It was well worth it, a beautiful capital city with its huge rock fortifications, churches, palaces and cathedral.

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Luxembourg City,

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“do I have to walk any further?” !

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We missed the sign on the way into Luxembourg but a chance for a picture on the way out!

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Originally when we looked at cycling to Luxembourg I thought we would mainly follow the Euro Velo 5 route in fact this was the only time we were on it and here we were just crossing over it!

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Not the most scenic of picnic spots the Belgium/Luxembourg border, but a rare picture of all of us! (photo credit Paul from New Zealand who we met with and his wife Jeanette along the Vennbahn )

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Holidays are hard work!! With ours nearly over we caught the train back up to northern Belgium, to Ypers and spent a couple of days cycling back to the coast to catch the ferry.

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The Menin gate. British war memorial, inscribed with 54,896 names of missing soldiers  it is hard to understand the huge loss of life during the 1st World War and seeing this certainly reminded us how lucky we are. Every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played under this huge archway and it is definitely moving to listen to.

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Sobering sights, one of so many cemeteries. Tyne Cot Cemetery 11,965 graves of which 8,369 are unnamed and a memorial wall engraved with a further 35 000 names of missing soldiers that could not fit on the Menin gate.

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We left Ypres in pouring rain but luckily not everyones spirits were dampened!

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The pirate has lost her ship!

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Sheltering!

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And back to the coast and luckily the sunshine.

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This little super star impressed us so much 532 miles, and when she wasn’t pedalling on her own she was helping to power me up the hills or chatting away and keeping me company! .

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This one was brilliant as well, although this will probably be her last trip in the trailer she still napped and sang and kept us entertained from her back seat!

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A bit of well deserved beach time…

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Beach huts..

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mermaids…

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and sunsets…

Once again the superstars that made the trip…

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Mia Molly…

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and Pippi Willow.

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Homeward bound! But we are already thinking of where next….

 

Cycle touring with Team Davies!

So finally after talking about it for five years we are off on our bikes again, but this time with Mia and Pippi in tow and Gampy (Russ’s Dad) couldn’t resist coming too! For our first trip with the girls we decided to choose an area and country we are familiar with and it was a good way to include a visit to my Mum, so France here we come!

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Bags packed, already for the ferry From Portsmouth to St Malo

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Holiday time!

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We took the night ferry across to St Malo the girls were really excited about sleeping on a boat, although not sure if Pippi could work it all out!

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As soon as we arrived we caught another boat, a short 15 minutes across to Dinard, a popular ferry for cyclists but we managed to squeeze the bikes on and it was nice to find out where other cyclists were heading.

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France is perfectly set up for cyclists. Brittany is full of different cycle routes, we were straight on to Route 2, a cycle path all along to Canal d’Ille et Rance, from St Malo to Rennes. It was easy riding with the girls as there was no worry of any traffic.

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First stop, the cobbled streets of Dinan.  A steep climb up through warrens of narrow streets (we left the bikes at the bottom!) leads to the main square, which is full of craft shops, galleries, cafes and tourists, but it is really pretty and well worth stopping!

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At the first campsite, there has to be some reward for cycling 35miles!

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Canal d’Ille et Rance

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The canal, although very peaceful and traffic free we did find often bypassed the villages and towns and we missed cycling through little french villages and finding ourselves by the boulangeries and tabac, so we ended up mixing the canal with routes on little roads which were relatively traffic free.

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Bedtime story!

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A bit of a wet start but Mia’s spirit wasn’t dampened….

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..especially with blackberries to keep us going. Before we left I was worried how Mia would be, but she really was amazing, uncomplaining just chatting and pedalling away as long as we kept her well fuelled with pain au chocolat and nougat!

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I had also worried how this little one would be for hours in a trailer. But she was great, Pippi really just spent her time singing or….

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…sleeping!

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Unfortunately unlike last time we didn’t have unlimited time, and we had promised my Mum a visit so we left the canal at Redon and caught the train to Nantes, the start of the cycle route along the Loire. Catching the train was not as easy as we thought, buying the tickets was no problem with all the bikes, we didn’t have to pay any extra, which we thought was great until the train arrived and it was too full for us to get on. We were told to wait for the next one 3 hours later! We then discovered that trailers are not even allowed on the trains! Luckily we had three hours to spare so packed the trailer right down and then discover the train standing empty on another platform was in fact the next one to Nantes! So it was possible to get us all on in the end but it does seem to be bit of a lottery whether or not you will.

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As we knew from before the Loire is cycling paradise especially with a young family, easy quiet roads, beautiful scenery, plenty of place to camps.

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Old fishing boats.

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Beaches of the Loire! The water seemed much lower than normal and although there are often beaches along the river they seemed so much bigger.

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 The Pirates of the Loire were happy!

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Picnic time.

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The cheeky one!

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Debating a swim!

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With the long summer evenings it was great for the girls who still had plenty of playtime after a day cycling!

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Mighty Mia the last one to sleep  every night…

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…and the last to wake up!

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Finally awake!

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The Loire is busy with cyclists but you can easily see why, and there are lots of side routes to take as well, through vine yards…..

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…over draw bridges…

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..and off the beaten track.

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And the Chateaux never cease to amaze.

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A steep climb but always worth it for a good view! The Loire at Saumur.

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The Chateau at Montsoreau.

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Cycling up through the troglodyte villages is like stepping back in time.

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For the girls it was like being in a fairytale, Castles, kings, queens, and little windows and doors carved into the cliff!

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Chasing dragons in Chinon…

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..and dressing up as princesses!

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 Chinon, a bit of a detour from the Loire on the banks of the Vienne  but really worth doing, with a lovely hiker/biker section in the campsite!

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The view from the top of the clock tower is amazing!

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Happy days.

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Breakfast time! we quickly got into the routine of touring life, and porridge and nuts for breakfast is always a good start!

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Cosy nights!

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And suddenly a lot more bedding when there is four of you!

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Really its not about the views but the food! Perfect summer supper for hungry cyclists!

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Sisters!

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The Chateau at Langeais.

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Exploring castles!

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Treehouse at Langeais.

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Unfortunately we cycled past the Chateau d’ Usse before opening time, but still a photo opportunity!

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We made it! A few days off at my Mums, which was lovely.

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Mad Scientists!

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Beautiful gardens at the Chateau du Clos Luce, definitely one of my favourite places to visit.

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Impressive trees at the Clos Luce and a nice memory of other cycle rides!

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Although Mia spent most of the time attached to my bike, she was happy to ride on her own while we stayed at my Mum’s and it has given her a lot more confidence about being on the road.

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I really found the Follow me Tandem a good way to cycle with Mia. Even on the off road parts it felt really stable and is so simple to connect and disconnect Mia’s bike. It is a bit heavy but Mia’s pedalling definitely kept us rolling along!

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With only three days left before our ferry home, we had planned to take the train to Rennes, but not wanting to risk the lottery of whether or not we could get our bikes on, my super star of a mum offered to drive our bikes while we took the train and we were back on the road north.

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To the Seaside! We took a lovely route along the coast roads back to St Malo.

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The most important thing to have in your panniers!

Camplife.

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Our trusty shelter! The Nallo 4 Gt really lived up to our expectations.

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Dancing in the street.

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Hot days, a moment of quiet in the busy Dol de Bretagne.

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Dol de Bretagne.

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Old windmills and big blue skies.

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The Pip Squeak in her trailer! Think all the castles has given her the idea of behaving like royalty!

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Trying to avoid the main road to the sea, a few fields…

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…and a dead end…

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…but we made it in the end! Cancale.

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It always feels nice to reach the sea.

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Misty morning ride into St Malo….

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and early morning on the beach.

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St Malo.

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Through the old town.

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Inside St Malo’s walled city.

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On the way to our last campsite.

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Then some well deserved time on the beach.

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Just a few stones to add to the weight!

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The impressive old town of St Malo.

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The superstars who made this trip…

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Mia Molly…

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…and Pippi Willow!

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Hometime, but we are already planning the next one!