Saturday, 30 August 2014

Vive la Velorution !

We spent a week with a whole bunch of velo associations in the southwest corner of Brittany. The seeds have been sprouting here for a while and there is more cyclists and better cycling to come. It's like a Breton Bermuda triangle where cars disappear by the minute.

First up we went to Concarneau and met up with Remi and Guillaume at C.R.A.D.E


The council have provided them with a little workshop in the town centre. There is a drop in bicycle repair shop here once or twice a week. We popped in for tea and no one came to fix their bike. There isn't many cyclists here in Concarneau yet. It's a very weird small town based around a massive city centre carpark for the touristic medieval walled town, cruise ships and a derilict industrial fishing harbour. But there is aswell a very beautiful cycle path on the old train line which takes you a km or two out of town.  

The main workshop, which is out of town, is much bigger and far from anyone. But while we were there, quite a few people came. One young man got an amazing deal on a french postie bike with racks and bags and everything. He was well chuffed with his new 'beach-picnic-party-bike'.
Kevin couldn't resist a little ride on the tallbike. 
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We had done our show in the 'Bio Marche' which was a bit of a tough one. Lots of noise from the buses and people wondering in and out from the show. So we felt like we had to do something else to regain our spirits.
So we went to the housing estate where Remi and Guillaume used to do a Dr.Bike. It only took a couple of minutes of us cycling around with the tallbike and the music on and we had all the boys from the estate cycling with us. We stopped in the park, all the bikes got a bit of air in theire tyres, a little oil and a few tweaks with the breaks. We set up the pedal power and everyone had a go. It was fun.

The French like their plays on words and 'manifes a velo' so the workshop was full with placards.

Quimper is just up the road from Concarneau and home to 'Quimper en Roue Libre', something like Freewheeling Quimper, another game on words. It's a bit of a one woman power house. Claire has arrived in Quimper about ten years ago and didn't cycle here for a long time, because it is pretty dire. In the end her urge to cycle won and she is campaigning real hard now to make Quimper a better place to cycle in. She organises bike rides in and around the city and makes sure the press is there every single time.We were interviewed about our first impressions arriving in the city and then again to give the full story about our journey and travelling theatre.

We did a little 'Velorution' to the 'Bio Marche' where we played our show to an appreciative audience.

Here is 'Super Claire' on her bike and Mark a real breton who likes to laugh.

The next day it was market day, where Claire has a stall to raise awareness about her campaign and cycling. So we went with her and set up the pedal power. It is a very busy market. People here in Quimper are generally quite grumpy, so it was nice to see them smile.

But not everyone is grumpy! We had the pleasure to meet Zorro and his trusty stead Tornado. Wow!


And then it was down the road to Plobannalec. Once we found the cycle route it was a very lovely ride. But we had left quite late, chatting to Zorro for ages.... and so we arrived ina bit of a rush. Find the house, cycle to the cafe, find the Zumba is setting up, hide behind the nautical centre by the beach to do the show out of reach of Zumba noise... phew. And then we had time to arrive, actually say hello to Clement and his housemates and friends. What a beautiful bunch of people! They live in a little house in the country side. Clement is setting up some kind of Velo Association, not sure yet how and what exactly it will be. What ever it will be we are sure it will be fun! This little corner of Brittany, the pays Bigouden is great for cycling. For a change it is flat and there is lots and lots of little quiet roads to explore. This is what we did.

We met in Pont'l'Abbe and went for a bike ride to the beach somewhere around Treguennec.  


There we did our show in the most beautiful setting one could whish for and had a pic nic afterwards.
Here we are setting up. Lots more people came from the beach to watch.


Claire cycled all the way from Quimper with a friend and Leo was prepareing flags all day.

And Victor was also staying at the house. He's a very funny Romanian guy, cycling around the world really really slowly with a big flag on his bike and no money in his pockets. If you speak romanian here's his blog If he writes his stories as funny as he tells them it should be a good read.

DSCN3770 We had so much fun. We went to a real Festnoz and did some traditional trance dancing, cycled through the darkest night with no lights, did three shows in the end, went to the little market and had an absolutely great time. We could have easily stayed here for a while, but we had a gig to play in Plougastel and we wanted to see the most beautiful squat in France on the way, so we had to say good bye. If we'll come back to Britanny for sure we'll come back here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Faites de Velo dans la Rue de le Petit Train

We were invited back to Camping Minihy in Pleneuf-Val-Andre and spent a lovely week in the Funky Van, preparing a few little things for the first ever Faites de Velo, bicycle festival in the Rue de la Petit Train the road where the neighbours got together to make an association against the 'camping cars' because instead of a carpark for mobile homes they'd rather have a nice quiet road with space for the children to play, a cycle route and a community garden. We totally agree!

Alain gave us a bicycle to play with, so we took it apart and made a 'pub sign' and a 'cyclotrope'.


If you want to go on holiday in a relaxed campsite in Brittany find them here:
And check out the facebook page for their upcoming musical events. There might even be a 'Cycle to the Music Festival' next year...

The road cloasure signs are in place and we're setting up the buvette (bar and sausage counter) in the field.


The pedal power music system is in full swing, the wine is flowing already, the sun is shining, it can only be the beginning of a great day.


The wishing bicycle is ready and waiting to be filled with wishes.


The wishes started flowing in and soon...

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.... the bicycle is covered in them.

We tried to take a picture of each cyclist who came (but sure quite a few escaped us) so here is a selection of bicycle portraits from the day.

And here the happy team of the association, president, treasurer et al - spot the pub sign for ' Le Velo Cygne Blanc'

And the rear wheel?

We had a little fun and made some cyclotropes, here's one in action:

And of course we did our show to round of a truly great day and we discovered the meaning of the french word déjanté.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Le Petit Grain, Yakafaucon, Bordeaux and other Cafes and Bars

In Bordeaux we discovered Le Petit Grain a little membership cafe which has grown out of the neighbours need for a non commercial place to meet each other, cook meals together, hold meetings, run workshops, a nice place to hang out…
It  was originally started by the neighbours and run by the neighbours. Now it has two part time staff who look after the administrative things and the community comes in to help with the cafe and keeps it alive. 
While we were there many things were going on: cookery classes, a childrens puppet theatre club, concerts, meetings of the gardening group, petanque….
Le Petit Grain is a great example of a ‘cafe associative’ of which there are many here in France.
We were welcomed warmly and we had a great time in Bordeaux. Marie from the cafe even gave us the key to her mums flat which was empty at the moment and we stayed there for nearly three weeks.
So we visited the cafe frequently with our bikes (Bordeaux is a very bicycle and pedestrian friendly city) and there was always something going on. There is even a group who is trying to create an alternative twinning with Bristol.
We spent an afternoon in the cafe, making our first poster with the childrens art material and played our show on a hot evening to a colourful audience of adults and children, on the square outside the cafe.
le petit grain
Here is a link to the association Yakafaucon, which is the neighbourhood association which runs the cafe.
“Small is beautiful” thinks Sylvia, while she is posing outside the cafe one last time before it’s time to say bye bye.
We fell in love with the idea of a cafe associative and we hope to visit many more. Here’s a facebook page where some of them gather…
Les bars associatifs sont souvent super sympa, lieux de socialisation et de convivialité appréciés mais peu connus et peu fédérés.
And then in St.Nazaire Manuel told us about a cafe in Augan, Le Champ Commun which is a co-op cafe bar, epicerie and brewery all at the same time. What a place!
The epicerie is the best shop we’ve found in France. It has everything you would ever need, the prices are great and it is open on Monday and even Sunday mornings – Wow! 
We stayed in the rooms above the bar for a couple of nights for exchange of doing our show.
It’s a beautiful, lovely place with very friendly people.
“This reminds me of Sesame Street” says Kevin “…these are the people in your neighbourhood….” and these are the people that are changing the world, making it a better place to live in, little by little.
Le Champ Commune carries the label ‘Cafe de Pays’ which puts little cafes that sell local produce like this one under one wing. We picked up a flyer with all the Cafe de Pays in Britanny and got in touch with all the ones on our route to see if we could play at them.
Alors, we visited Le Contretemps in Moncontour where we met Patrice, the proprietor, Julies Cousin and rugby buddy with Alain from the Camping Minihy and then we met Gaston who invited us to stay with him and his wife Colette and baby Charlie Olga and lo and behold  we where immediately part of one big family and made a date to return for the Tuesday Bio Marche to play our show.
And Gaston runs a D.I.Y bicycle repair workshop next doors to Le Contre Temps every Tuesday during the market. And the council of Moncontour is working on getting Moncontour onto the V8 one of the cycle routes of Europe. Couldn’t be better!

We returned for the market and because every Tuesday it is another association who organises the entertainment for the evening we performed outside the Theiere Verte, a small teashop run by an english couple and earned ourselves a hotdog a beer and some cake


It wasn’t far to the next Cafe de Pays, only 20km to Ploeuc-sur-Lie where we played at Le Mariala.

There was a wonderful atmosphere in town, we did a little tour with the music playing to announce our show, chatted to many local residents and met the local reporter and a couple of dogs…
Merci Le Mariala for your generosity and the yummy yummy pizza!

If you are in France and see a cafe with one of these signs, don’t think twice, go straight in and enjoy!

Now that we have acquired a taste for little cafes, we know how to find them everywhere, associative or not, Cafe de Pays or not.
Next we played at La Creperie Bosmeleac at the beautiful Camping Bosmeleac, a hidden jewel somewhere in the middle of Brittany at the top of le rigole d’Hilvern. We stayed here last year for one night and liked it so much that we knew we wanted to come and play here.
Isabelle and Ronan who run the Creperie and look after the camping municipal, greeted us warmly. We played to a group of teenagers who came dressed up as bearded ladies! How did they know!? But we still managed to out-stupid them and earned ourselves cider and galettes and crepes.

And then a quick blat down the Blavet to Lorient and the amazing Bar Hop Hop Hop. This is more like an english pub and Eric brews his own beer, called Hop and cooks amazing fishpie.
We performed outside the bar, audience on the pavement us half in the parking space, half on the road and it was really really good fun! We met irish Bretons that aren’t really irish and they was prepairing for an Intergalactic Festival.
Here is Sylvia having a Hop, after drinking a Hop at the Hop Hop Hop.
In Concarneau we didn’t play at the Cafe Portrait de Famille because they already had a band playing. Their friend who saw us in Lorient told them about us and so they were very gutted that we couldn’t play and gave us a free drink to compensate their loss.
And finally for this blog to get us up to date, we played outside the bar La Descente de Marins in Lesconil last Monday.
We are now heading for Brest and hopefully we’ll have some more beautiful, independent cafes to play at.