Rollerski Châteaubriant

25 Apr

Spent the Easter week-end in the town of Châteaubriant in Western France. Châteaubriant’s biggest claim to fame is that the Nazis shot the young résistant Guy Mocquet from the city of Nantes there, who wrote a famously poignant letter of farewell to his family from within the town’s medieval château. So Châteaubriant could never retouch “See Naples and die” with its own name without making a particularly sinister statement.

Moreover, beyond the modest château and a few other medieval vestiges, the town doesn’t offer many sights.

However, having now been there twice, the place has made an overwhelmingly positive impression on me. First, Châteaubriant and the surrounding villages built a lovely greenway on an abandoned rail line. It offers roughly 13km of perfect asphalt winding through bucolic countryside. Road crossings are protected by car barriers and many of the bridges have been rebuilt.

In addition to this gem for rollerski use created by a truly enlightened local government, I’ve found the area residents delightful. People I met on the path were naturally curious about rollersking, particularly the numerous inline skaters. Whenever I complimented them on their fine path, their response was that they, themselves, could scarcely believe their luck when the project was announced.

Special thanks to the inline skater and biathlon fan I spoke with on Saturday. He told me he had written letters and even spoke directly to the Mayor of Châteaubriant when path maintenance fell below acceptable standards. I wish him all the best with his plans to try rollerskiing. It will be great to have some company enjoying this great resource that way.

Beyond the rollerski possibilities I also enjoyed staying and dining in a 19th century château transformed into a hotel-restaurant. Hôtel la Ferrière offers spacious and charming rooms decorated in a classic style, as well as a memorable restaurant. I ate the fish called “sandre” in beurre blanc sauce, a regional classic. Sounds less elegant with its English name, Walleye. However Midwest U.S. walleye enthusiasts have sued restaurants serving sandre as walleye for fraud, even though genetic analysis is the only way to determine whether the fish is U.S. or European. So sandre it is for me, and I’m happy about the name.

Now it’s back to Oslo with work and less peaceful rollerski routes. On the up side my hill route will now be snow free. Now I just need to get a broom to sweep up the gravel.


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