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On Planning

by Tara

Last night we stayed in one of France's wonderful municipal camp sites. It is such a relief knowing that we can find a campsite in almost any town! This particular site had just opened for the season and we were the only people there. We enjoyed having all of the facilities of a campsite, with all of the privacy of a free-camp! Upon waking up, we took turns taking showers and breaking camp. I went first and by the time I returned Tyler was almost finished packing everything!

As we headed out the plan was to bike into the nearest town to buy groceries, then bike 20 kilometers or so to Brest to get our internet situation sorted. We were very, very low on food and had nothing to make for breakfast. I reluctantly succumbed to Tyler's suggestion of waiting until we arrived in Brest to buy groceries since we were more likely to find somewhere cheap. We knew it was a bad idea to bike that far on empty stomachs but a good idea for our budget. Once we had re-supplied we could make a snack before carrying on. We attempted the ride valiantly but both caved (surprise surprise) about 10 kilometers in. We stopped and each ate half of our lunch before continuing.

Sure enough, as we approached the outskirts of Brest, I spotted a discount grocery store. This was very lucky for us as we have found food to be quite expensive here so far. We felt like kings loading up our shopping basket while keeping tally on how much we'd spent. It is always a relief being well stocked with food. Yesterday our supplies were so low that Tyler prepared a side-of-the-road snack of raw potato slices with salt, topped with a hunk of that rubbery cheese and little pieces of onion. Amazingly enough, though, it was delicious!

Our bikes now laden with food we happily navigated our way through the bustling city of Brest until we found the SFR mobile store. The people working there were much less friendly than the SFR people in Morlaix, but nevertheless I was able to purchase a "cle USB," or dongle for our internet connection. Their computer system was working that day, so everything went smoothly until the lady was showing me how to install it. The package came with a CD of software to install on our computer, except that our laptop doesn't have a CD drive. Zut.

Tyler and I started trading places watching the bikes so he could figure out the computer issue, which meant that I wasn't there to translate for him, and he wasn't there to help me with computer issues! He finally managed to point out that the installation software was on the dongle itself (Tyler's note: the dongle has a built in storage device as well as a cellular modem). With that hurdle managed we discovered their software wouldn't install properly. By that time we had convinced them to let us put our bikes in the store and were finally working together.

Tyler was annoyed but undeterred, saying he could fix it if he could get online to look up the error message. When I informed them that we needed internet access to fix their software (so we could get internet access) they weren't particularly helpful. They wouldn't provide any connection in the store even though SFR has an absolutely massive Wi-Fi network and there were several connections they could have let us use. Instead they suggested we haul our bikes up the hill to McDonalds, supposedly the only place with free Wi-Fi in the very large university city of Brest. Of course, the dongle was already registered to us and could not be returned.

We hauled our bikes several blocks to McDonalds and thankfully Tyler was able to sort the situation out after a few minutes researching the error message. PHEW! With our internet situation and Tyler's ability to work finally settled, we headed out of Brest as quickly as possible, thankful to be leaving the large city. Tyler found a quiet bridge on which to cross the L'√Člorn sound so we wouldn't have to cycle on the highway. We biked for 20 or 30 more kilometers after crossing until we were exhausted from heat and hills.

Suspension Bridge

Ready to be done for the day we started looking for a campground and sure enough, we found a sign readily, though the site was much farther away than yesterday's. We arrived safe and sound with one last push, following the signs as we went. It really is the best feeling in the world when we finally make it "home" for the night. We took showers, then I made dinner while Tyler put our internet connection to the test with a bit of work.

Blue Shutters

For supper I made little pizzas—bread with tomato sauce and melty cheese. Our camp food is always delicious, especially after being on the road all day! Even so, all I can think of lately is how I want Tyler to taste crepes and gallettes in a creperie with bowl of cider to wash them down. I want to try kouign ammann, quatre quarts, gateau breton, and all of the other delights of the region. There will never cease to be regional foods to explore! Thankfully with all of our staples sorted, we will have some room in our budget for a few days to sample the local specialties.


Sometimes I think about spending all the money we've saved on a shorter, more posh vacation. Something tells me though, that no matter how much time, energy and money we spend in a place, I will never feel that I really "know" it. We will certainly see many places, but will we really get to know them, their history and their culture, or are we only passing through? How can you get to know a place without staying there? I suppose maybe you can't and I'm honestly not sure if it matters.

I think all of my frustration stems from my lack of patience to just relax and let the trip unfold as it will. We have only been here thee or four days now, and we are going to be here for two months! Of course we haven't "seen and done" EVERYTHING. Our favorite experiences so far have all been very spontaneous. We didn't plan them, and they certainly didn't cost a lot of money. Simply being open and in tune with our surroundings has made for more enjoyable experiences than any amount of planning has thus far.

I have a compulsion to orchestrate our time in France so that we are sure not to miss anything, but by doing so, I miss out on the scenery around us and the possibilities that come from being in the moment. It seems like the planned activities (must see Shakespeare's house, must see the art museum, etc.) are the most costly and the least interesting.

In the campsite office this morning, I stumbled upon a brochure for a cider museum within biking distance! I think we'll head there tomorrow, so we can try all kinds of cider and really experience the local culture. ;) That's the plan, anyway. HA! Who knows what might happen?

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On SRF - The incompetence and total lack of customer service in the wireless industry obviously isn't limited to America. Reminds me of the day I stopped into AT&T last year to buy a new phone and they wouldn't activate the phone without our companies Tax ID number (it's our new policy) even though I was the authorized person that set up the account. They wouldn't let me use one of their 4 computers to remote connect to my office computer, I had my laptop but they wouldn't let me use their wireless...blah..blah...sent me off to a find my own wireless connection. Makes you wonder ... why does the world put up with this?
Posted by Tony on June 4th, 2009 at 12:31 PM
I just want to know why nobody in any profession in any country seems to know how anything works with the things they spend 30-40 hours every week working with.

Oh well, we got it sorted :)
Posted by Tyler on June 4th, 2009 at 1:37 PM
Amen to that brother!
Posted by Amanda on June 4th, 2009 at 7:37 PM
your camp food looks and sounds better than mine, thats for sure! heh. I can't wait to hit the road too. I just told a camp friend about your current adventure through France; she's just returned after seven months! Eat some cheese for me! :) :)
Posted by Naomi on June 5th, 2009 at 3:47 PM