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April 30th 2018
Published: May 2nd 2018
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Tuesday 17th April

The sun is out. I might have to consider shaving my legs!

We are camped just outside a small village called Etreham half way between the coast and Bayeux. Today we cycled towards the coast and Port-en-Bessin-Huppain, a charming little fishing harbour. Climbing back up the steep hill from the town, we followed the coast road around to Colleville-sur-Mer and enjoyed lunch on the easterly tip of Omaha beach, one of the beaches where allied troops landed on 6th June 1944 as part of the D-day landings. The landing at Omaha beach is considered one of the bloodiest in terms of the difficulty landing on the beach and the resistance the American soldiers encountered. The Normandy American Cemetery just back from the beach is the largest American war cemetery in Europe and the resting place for 9,385 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. The visitor centre was very informative with films focusing on the stories of a select few, all very moving. The cemetery stared in the opening scenes to the Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan.

The tide had gone out by the time we left the cemetery so we cycled along the 7km’s of beach passing Saint Laurent-sur-Mer and the Les Braves sculpture to Vierville-sur-mer and the site of a huge artificial (Mulberry) bridge built by troops in June 1944 to enable the unloading of the larger battle ships.

Wednesday 18th April

We cycled to Bayeux today. The sun was out again and the grassy banks of the country lanes sparkled golden with celandine, dandelion and primrose. The lush green of the first flush of crops and the bright yellow of the rapeseed flower in the fields made is feel like summer was on its way.

I was ambivalent about going to see the Bayeux tapestry, I think this was because I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to expectation. It certainly did though and I thought it was absolutely amazing. We had an audio guide which took us through the story panel by panel - I loved it. Whilst it is technically embroidery rather than tapestry, it has inspired me to pick up my tapestry craft project that I have brought with me. It also helps that the sun makes the light ideal for seeing the stitches given my aging eyesight….

Bayeux itself is beautiful and based around a huge gothic cathedral. Along with Honfleur, it is the only Normandy town to remain unscathed during the Second World War. It was here that on 14th June 1944 General de Gaulle arrived from London and re-established Republican law on national soil. He set himself up in a local hotel and until the liberation of Paris in the August; Bayeux was the administrative capital of France.

Friday 20th April

We are camped at Beauvoir. Just a couple of kilometres down a cycle path that runs alongside the Couesnon river is a huge car park and the start of a sweeping bridge that takes thousands of visitors by free shuttle bus to the small island of Mont St-Michel. The island is very photogenic as evidenced by the number of photo’s John and I took on the 20 minute walk across the bridge (heaven forbid we would have taken the bus!!). The whole set up gives a distinct theme park feel. Once on the island, a narrow medieval street gently circles upwards towards the abbey at the summit. It is lined with shops selling colourful tourist tat. Our aim to get there early didn’t really pan out so we followed the flow of fellow visitors up to the Abbey itself. Once inside the Abbey though the crowds seem to disappear and we spent a good while wandering through the church (originally built in the early decades of the year 1000 on the summit of the rock, eighty metres above sea level), the cloister, refectory, guest’s hall and great pillared crypt. We saw the huge wheel that was used to pull a wooden sledge laden with provisions up the outside of the huge buttressed walls. The history of the Mont dates back to 708 when a sanctuary was built to honour the Archangel Michael. It soon became a place of pilgrimage and was inhabited by the Benedictines in the 10th century. The abbey and the quick sands around the Mont are depicted in the Bayeux tapestry. Following the dissolution of the religious community during the french revolution it was used as a prison until the mid-1800’s. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sunday 22nd April

We have moved along the coast a little and into Brittaney about 6 km’s south of St Malo. The campsite is in the grounds of an old chateau. Today we cycled along the estuary of the River Rance. We had stopped to admire the views at one of the small bays when a very elegant french lady passed us walking her little Pekinese dog who was sporting a tiny pair of sun glassed – trés chic!

St Malo is beautiful. Intra Muros is the walled city, once an island, it is now linked to the mainland. It is hard to believe that over 80%!o(MISSING)f the city was destroyed in August 1944 in the battle to drive out the German. The city has been lovingly restored, even the cobbled streets. We walked around the 17th century ramparts and wandered through the streets busy with tourists enjoying le weekend (as we say in France!!).

After lunch, we left St Malo and cycled east along the coast to Cancale, a small fishing port famed for its off shore oyster beds. The town is split in two, the main bit being up on the cliff top and the touristy bit being down by the seashore. We admired the seashore from the cliff top and decided we wouldn’t bother cycling down the very steep hill to the bottom, knowing we would only have to cycle back up again. Unfortunately it ended up that we had no choice as the road we wanted back to the campsite did just that.

Monday 23rd April

Another cycle ride today but this time we are heading south to the town of Dinan. We cycled along small country roads linking pretty villages. Just before Dinan, we picked up a cycle path along the River Rance that brought us to Port Dinan. We had lunch overlooking the river next to the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) before climbing the steep hill up to the town. The crocked half-timbered buildings and cobbled streets are all very charming.

On the way back, we followed an old railway track, now a green way. It ended just outside the town of Dinard on the other side of the estuary from St Malo. We then took our lives in our hands as we cycled down the busy dual carriageway across Le Barrage, the road over a dam that links one side of the estuary with the other. Luckily we survived and made it back to the campsite in one piece.

Wednesday 25th April

We have decamped and headed west to the Côtes D’Armor and a small village called Lanloupe. The plan is to walk some of the Breton coast path. The GR 34 is 1200 kms long but I don’t think we will be doing all of it this trip…..

The campsite is about 3 kms from the coast path and the little port of St Bréhec. We did a short walk yesterday down to the port through woodland. The bluebells along with all the spring flowers are out and look stunning. Port Bréhec has a hotel, a few houses and was full of Brit’s wearing hard hats. Our best guess was a University group studying the geology along the coast. They all disappeared on a coach shortly after we arrived.

Today’s walk took us south to the Pointe de Plouha. We passes Bonaparte beach, the scene of many a rescue by the British Navy of British airmen shot down over France and aided by the French resistance to escape capture. As is typical of a coastal path, there were plenty of steep descents and ascents as the cliffs gave way to small sandy bays, all very picturesque. We didn’t seem to walk very far but it took us a long time and was hard work. The Pointe de Plouha is Brittany’s highest cliff at 104 metres. On the way back, we took an inland path through pretty villages for a while before eventually returning to the coast path.

Thursday 26th April

John promised we wouldn’t have as far to walk today. We headed north to Pointe de Bilfot where we had amazing views up and down the coast and of the many small islands dotted in the bay around the town of Paimpol. A lot of the path was following the coast road but we still enjoyed very steep ups and downs. Again we tried to pick up an inland route back to Lanloupe but without a proper map, we soon ended back on the coast path and didn’t avoid the ups and downs as we had hoped.

The weather has been mainly sunny for the last two days with the occasional black cloud threatening rain. The wind though is bitterly cold – feels like winter.

Monday 30th April

We have spent the weekend at a campsite a few miles north from the last one at Port Lazo. The site is perched on the cliff top and the views of the sea and the many small islands from our pitch are beautiful. When the tide goes out, the miles of oyster beds are uncovered and we can see the oysters being collected and stacked onto large floating pontoons before they are towed back to shore.

We thought it was going to be a bank holiday weekend here in France but we have since found out that they take the 1st May as a holiday irrespective of what day it falls on.

We have spent the last few days exploring the area including a restored windmill and a ruined abbey, walking along the coast, dodging the rain and generally wrapping up warm against the very cold wind. We had a lovely cycle ride today up to Paimpol and its very pretty harbour. We carried on to the most northerly point of the peninsular to L’Arcouest where you can get a small ferry to the Ile de Bréhat, a small car free island with Mediterranean plants thanks to its micro-climate influenced by the gulf stream. If the ferry carpark was anything to go by, the island would have been packed. We elected not to visit but instead cycled back to the campsite.

Tomorrow we head to the Côtes De Granit Rose…..


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