I am somewhat negligent for not thanking Alastair and Sarah for hosting me in London, a feat truly appreciated. Sharing a flat, which are really small mind you, with a cyclist and all his gear means basically giving up a whole room of their life. They also gave me a taste of a true London life with a Jerked Chicken dinner and another night spent at a quiz night at an English pub. ‘Twas lots of fun I hope to cycle properly through the English countryside someday.
Leaving London on a cloudless day was the omen I needed, Alastair escorted me to the rail station (he convinced me that cycling out of town was a bad idea and it isn’t too expensive to get out of town, nor hard to do on a cycle.) I commented that it would be nice if he could ride as well and he agreed that it would be a nice but it wasn’t meant to be.
I left last Sunday from Paris to Rouen with little more target than to be back in Paris 7 days later when Gina was free to play host. It’s a relatively loose idea I came to enjoy, each day I set off with little more direction than to cycle, leaving the path ahead open to the moment. I ended up following the river Siene to where it let out to the ocean and decided to follow the coast down instead of crossing any one of the 3 bridges I came too. They all looked fairly daunting and wasn’t sure it was advisable to try and cross them.
I typically got on the bike by 7 and 8 in the morning and rode until dusk where I would find a bunch of trees and jump into the forest to camp the night. Setting up the tent first and enjoying some bread and cheese typically with a bottle of cidre that I bought at the farmhouse door.
I met my first tourers, they were from Canada and were headed in the opposite direction as me and on recumbent trikes. We had a nice chat about how pleasant it is to cycle in France as the drivers give all kinds of room to cyclists, even those with souped up cars wait until there is room to pass by to go around us. They did the Netherlands last year and gave me lots of places to try and visit on my trip up there. Thanks to Lesley Thomas and Thomas Quinn for advice and the chat.
Continuing on the coast I knew that the Normandy invasion happened somewhere in Normandy but wasn’t quite sure were. When I looked one map further than where I was it was clearly marked where Omaha beach was so I decided since I was that close it would be worthwhile to visit the museum there. It ended up being a really amazing place, the museum is really well done and I got a one on one tour with a guide since the weather wasn’t the greatest. I found out there are 5 guys from Hawaii buried there (note: Hawai’i was yet to be a state at that time.) One father, son pair and a bunch of brothers. The film “Saving Private Ryan” is based off some truth, 2 brothers were lost within a day of each other on the invasion and a third brother was thought lost somewhere in the Pacific so the fourth brother was repatriated. I ended up spending 3 hours there and could have easily spent a few more but it was closing time and I had to find somewhere to camp for the night. I spent the morning before that in Bayuex looking at a really old tapestry and ended up visiting the graveyard of the British soldiers lost in the invasion, the epitaphs on the gravestones there are soul rending.
Rolling along Normandy I found that it’s a popular area for cidre and that most are really keen to sell a bottle for a euro or two so most nights I couldn’t help but pick up a bottle for dinner. That is when I remember Gregg telling me about his trip through France samping ciders and taking pruning that he could add to his trees back in New Zealand.
I found the Normandy area to be a lot more interesting than the route from Calais to Paris. The houses were a lot more old fashioned and very well maintained, even going so far as to have roofs re-thatched. Most of the towns by my guess are summer resort towns so at the moment they are fairly well deserted with only a baker, butcher and a bar to keep the town going. Most people stare at me as I cycle by but I have been approached a few times as I’m enjoying some crossionts to inquire what I’m up to.
A day or so before getting back into Paris I finally found my rhythm coming back to my on the cycle, much like the Pacific coast it came to me after a week of riding.
Pictures from London and France added.