Before bikepacking: touring Brittany with panniers

I blogged last week about my first bikepacking trip. I loved the freedom that bikepacking gives the touring cyclist. I wrote that it was a contrast to touring with panniers, as I did several times in the 1990s. Here are my nostalgic reflections on those pannier touring days.

Cycling off the ferry: Brittany tour, 1996

Brittany 1996

There’s something special about cycling off a ferry in the early morning. Especially when the port is Roscoff, a small town that makes a perfect landfall in France.

My friend Richard and I had enjoyed a successful 325 mile tour of England’s West Country in 1995, and decided to cross the channel the following year. Brittany was calling, and we followed a tour featured in the book of the BBC series of Fat Man in France, which recounts Tom Vernon cycling across the region.

Getting to the ferry in Plymouth was an unexpected challenge. We took the train from lovely Kemble station in Gloucestershire, changing in Gloucester. But a landslip in the wonderfully named Mutley tunnel outside Plymouth led to a long delay. One anxious passenger, late for a flight to the isles of Scilly, climbed out of the train window and ran down the embankment! Fortunately the line reopened and we had time to enjoy a meal in the historic city before boarding the overnight ferry.

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