Inspired to cycle by the Tour de France? Find out how Alison Hamlett got on when she swapped her London commute for rural Brittany
Cycling to work every day in London sometimes feel like an extreme sport. Sure, it’s exciting and the best way to get around, but every now and then I long to leave the congested roads behind for a more serene cycling experience. So I’ve come to Brittany for a feel-good cycling break on its network of 'voies vertes' (literal translation: green ways).
To keep stress to a minimum, I’ve chosen to leave my bike at home and instead hire one from a local bike outfit. There are more than 700 kilometres of traffic-free paved trails created from disused railways to enjoy but we start with a gentle 10-mile downhill trundle to the village of Malestroit.
The voies vertes really live up to their name. The spring sunlight filters through a canopy of new shoots to create a tunnel of dappled light. Only hours after arriving, I’m already feeling refreshed by the peaceful hum of the countryside and even though the cycling isn’t challenging, it doesn’t take long to work up an appetite for Brittany’s next delight: its cuisine. Among Malestroit’s ancient granite homes and impressive half-timbered houses, we find a crêperie and refuel with the local speciality: crêpes topped with salted caramel butter.Once we’re back on the road, I’m struck by the very different attitude that drivers in France have towards cyclists, compared to their British cousins. Cycling is respected here - when we arrive at the smart spa hotel Miramar Crouesty, both us and our bikes are enthusiastically welcomed. Brittany is the birthplace of thalassotherapy (sea-water therapy). The first centre opened here more than 100 years ago and since then the curative properties of the mineral-rich seawater, marine mud and seaweed have been harnessed to create a five-star spa experience. The Hotel Miramar Crouesty is one of the most famous thalassotherapy centres in France, so we’re in good hands for the couple of treatments we have time for before dinner. I go for two of the signature therapies: a seaweed wrap and hydromassage bath, which melts away any aches and tiredness.
Great spa ideas for a wellness breakNo visit to the south of Brittany would be complete without a trip to one of the postcard-perfect islands dotted around the Gulf of Morbihan. So after checking out of the hotel we continue our two-wheeled adventure and head for the popular Île aux Moines. The island’s small enough to explore on foot so we leave our bikes on the mainland for the short boat trip from Port Blanc to the tiny island. We’re rewarded with ancient standing stones, colourful fishermen’s cottages and smart restaurants serving freshly-caught local seafood washed down with Breton cider. After just a couple of relaxing days exploring Brittany by bike, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to take on the mean streets of London all over again. Just as well, after all those crêpes…Travel factsFlybe flies to Brest and Rennes from a number of UK airports. For information on travel by train, plane, car or ferry, visit brittanytourism.com.
France too far for you? Try one of these 5 super cycling breaks in the UK
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