Saturday, June 25, 2005

Carnac, France

Friends: One could spend days searching out all the menhirs and dolmans in the Carnac region. These assorted rock placements can be seen everywhere--along the road, in back yards, in the middle of corn fields, amongst grazing sheep. Some are surrounded by fences and can be viewed from stands. There are literally thousands of these rocks, some simply planted upright, standing three to nine feet tall, and others placed horizontally atop others, as if to form a table or a tomb.

Some might say, "See one and you've seen them all," but they each have a character and personality of their own. They could easily be individually named and honored. There is one batch of three thousand of them lined up in several files over a two-and-a-half mile stretch. No one is quite sure of their purpose or meaning, unlike those of Stonehenge, which foretold the seasons. They may have been the brainstorm of some Christo of five thousand years ago. They evoke holiness as well as art.

The main street into the coastal town of Carnac is Avenue of the Druids. It is intersected by the Avenue of Elves. Even though Carnac is a tourist trap of a sort, there aren't as many tacky allusions to the town's heritage as there could be. Busloads of tourists are herded from site to site. Many are off on their own clutching a map, as if they are on a scavenger hunt, sniffing out all the ancient rocks. Signs in the the parking lots warn people not to leave valuables in their cars, signs I have not seen elsewhere in France.

I've finally been granted a cooling breeze off the Atlantic, and cloud cover as well, more appropriate conditions for experiencing these formations. I feared I might have to overnight at a regulation campground here, but wild camping is easily found. I wouldn't dare to camp amongst the relics with all the tourists crawling about at all hours, but I found a place in a wooded area near enough.

Now its up to Brest, the half-way point for one of the oldest and most famed of bicycle races--Paris-Brest-Paris. It covers a distance of 750 miles and must be completed in 90 hours. There ought to be some memorial related to this event or its founder. It was first staged in 1891, twelve years before the Tour de France. Its held every four years. One must qualify to participate/compete. Its not so much a race any more as it was originally, but rather an event. Most of its participants are happy just to complete it. The size of the field is limited to 5,000.

But first I have a bicycle museum to check out in Plouay, thirty miles north of Carnac, a bonus I just learned about from the local tourist office. I always ask if there are any bicycle museums or memorials in the area. Often I am given a startled or strange look, as its evidently not a question that is often asked. Most often I am told no, but those rare occasions when I am told yes are so gratifying, that I keep asking.

Fortunately, Plouay is inland a bit. The many inlets of the coastline have added more miles to reach some destination than I've sometimes anticipated, though the in and out winding hasn't been as extreme as in the fjords of Norway or the bayous of Louisiana. I feared I would be forced to make a huge detour yesterday when I came to a mammoth bridge spanning the Loire near its mouth. It looked like a bridge that wouldn't allow bicycles. The nearest bridge was 30 miles away. Luckily there was a sliver of a bike lane, and also signs warning cyclists of the occasional gaps.

Later, George

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