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DAY 164

Saint-Aubin du Cormier to Le Mont-St. Michel 

What a great day!. It was short, 47 km., not too hilly, it didnít rain, and there was no wind! To top it off there were spectacular cows along the way to admire and photograph. My favorites were enormous animals colored with black, white, and brown patches. I have never seen this breed of cow anywhere else. Wildflowers grew along the roadsides; the purple foxgloves were the most plentiful and beautiful.

It was fun to have a short day because I could relax and dawdle if I wanted and stop to photograph cows without feeling rushed. I missed a turn and rode 5 km. out of my way but even with that I reached the campsite before noon and before the gear trucks. That is a first. Everyone was more than ready for an easy day after 4 consecutive days of more than 100 miles each. Tomorrow will be another long hard day.

Everyone is thrilled about this campground, which is flat, grassy, and within walking distance of Le Mont-St. Michel. Not only does it have fine tenting areas, the big treat is that there are seats on the toilets and there IS toilet paper! To top it off, the water in the showers is actually warm! Such a treat for us!

Dinner was nice too. Just a couple of days ago we were crowded into a tent during a rainstorm, no place to sit, and no place to go. Tonight we were all seated and served and while it was chicken and pasta again there was gravy that made it special. The salad was plentiful and good and there was a cream puff filled with pudding for dessert. Iím stuffed, the sun is still shining and it isnít even bedtime yet!  Happiness is...

Au Revoir! Alice  

DAY 165

Le Mont-St. Michel to St. Aubin-s-Mer 

The route today was fun, with uphills and downhills, with narrow winding roads which were sometimes rough and potholed and sometimes slippery with gravel, and the scenery was beautiful, making the ride a bit of a challenge and interesting. Roads which go on and on as straight as an arrow with acres and acres of the same vegetation on either side are boring to ride. (Thatís my opinion but Elizabeth, for one, likes it that way.) But it was too long, well over 100 miles, impossible for me and plenty of others to finish because of the many steep hills. We knew it would be long and got up earlier than ever to give it our best shot, but there were just too many hills. Joan Irwin rode with me and we decided from the first just to do the best we could and be satisfied with that. We rode through the Normandy region which is very different than the Loire River region. It is hilly, there are forests, and frequent tiny villages. Each village has a huge stone church, a really enormous church compared to the size of the village. It is usually right in the center of the town. Some of the houses have thatched roofs, picturesque with irises and grass growing the length of the ridgepole. All the houses have steeply pitched roofs, many have complex roofs, clearly the roof in Normandy is appreciated as more than just a lid for a house. Many roofs, just for the fun of it, sported large ornaments, cats and birds were popular but nothing was off limits, even a dolphin was among the unusual choices.  Some houses had only one or a few ornaments, but others had dozens. I thought them to be delightful but hard to see while bent over the handlebars of a bike. I think Iíll put some on the roof of my house someday along with a Gaudi chimney. 

It was the middle of the afternoon by the time Joan and I had climbed all the hills to Checkpoint, too late to make the many miles still before us, so we sagged. The second half of the ride would have been easier because it had fewer hills, and more interesting because of the World War II historical sites. Unfortunately for us, being in the sag van took away our freedom to see all that we wanted to see, but our driver did take us to Omaha Beach where we could see the memorial there to the soldiers who landed and fought there on June 6, 1944. I couldnít believe my eyes when I saw the very wide beach without any cover, not even a stick of driftwood, and the steeply sloping grass and brush covered cliffs the soldiers had to surmount while under machine gun fire from the Germans at the top. I cannot believe that anyone who had seen that location could have suggested and planned that battle. It is a miracle any of the soldiers lived.

The campground, Camping de la Cote de Nacre, was good - grass enough to go around - and hot water in the showers. The dinner was outstanding, certainly one of the very best weíve had. It was served in two restaurants owned by a Canadian couple. I ate in the Lighthouse, the other restaurant was the Le Clos Normand, both were on the boardwalk, right on the beach. I am making a note of those restaurants in the event I ever again get to St. Aubin-s-Mer. We went there for breakfast too which was also outstanding. The muesli was to die for so I asked how to prepare it. It is so simple! Put the dry muesli to soak overnight in milk and cream, covered in the refrigerator. In the morning add chopped fresh fruit of your choice and nuts too just before serving. Chopped apples, raisins and sliced bananas were in the museli we had. It will be all soft and creamy and delicious!

Au Revoir! Alice 

DAY 166 

St. Aubin-s-Mer to Fecamp 

This was another beautiful ride in France, perhaps even the best day of all. The scenery was gorgeous, sometimes on the seacoast, sometimes among the fields, and always through one charming village after another. The French people have great pride in their homes and villages; the homes are well kept and the yards and gardens are a riot of color, wherever there is soil there are flower beds, wherever there is no soil there are flower pots and hanging baskets. Roses are the favorite flower and they grow with great abandon, obviously this is the perfect climate for them. Pansies, petunias and geraniums are popular choices too.

One highpoint of the day was the seaside town of Honfleur. The flowers were bountiful and beautiful and the Old Harbor was a delightful, charming area. Colorful sailboats were moored there and the harbor was surrounded by a wide walk suitable for strolling and outdoor cafes. There were appealing shops and restaurants on the ground floor of very old, colorful, picturesque six and eight story buildings. Artists were busy with watercolors and paints recreating the scene before them and of course hoping to sell their paintings. We had coffee at an outdoor cafe and picked out favorite things in a shop or two. Of course we came away with only postcards but Joan did buy some delightful gifts and had them shipped home.

Another high point, literally as well as figuratively, was the Normandy Bridge over the Seine River. It is spectacular, all of white steel and cables, rising up to a high arch over the Seine, supported by a slender very tall wishbone shaped pillar at each bank of the river. From the top of each wishbone scores of white cables which shimmered in the sunlight were attached to the bridge so that from a distance the pillars and cables resembled two gigantic white diaphanous sails. This is the most beautiful bridge I have seen. Back on the road again after the bridge, I spotted two storks at the first stork nest I had seen in France.

Late in the afternoon we stopped at the beach near Bordeaux-St. Clair to have a look at the white cliffs. The beach is covered with large, smooth stones, the sort found along rivers, the cliffs are high, perpendicular and not quite white. There are a couple of large holes in them, making them irresistibly photogenic. We took pictures but the sun shone the wrong way for good photos. We sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the view, quenching our thirst with glasses of peach flavored iced tea.

Then we rode to Fecamp where we had a treat, an unscheduled night in hotel rooms. No one knew why, but later I learned that the campground we were to use was too small and inadequate. We stood in line for the end of day check-in and stood in line again to get our hotel assignments. Joan and I had arrived in Fecamp just twenty minutes before the dinner at seven, so after stashing our bikes in Hotel Dí Angleterreís garage we went as we were across the street to the Bellevue Restaurant to stand in line for dinner. There was nothing noteworthy about that dinner and the snailís pace at which it was served was maddening to every tired and dirty cyclist. Finally we were out of there and on a bus for the Etap Hotel on the outskirts of town. My roommates were Joan and Lynn, Lynn had arrived before us and graciously had chosen the high bunk bed. The Etap Hotels are all similar, this one was like the one in Paris, except this time the toilet and shower were in the same plastic cubicle, conserving even more space. There is nothing plush about an Etap Hotel but they are clean, far better than the hostels we have seen, and very inexpensive.

Au Revoir! Alice

France     Le Mont-St. Michel



Low Tide at Le Mont-Saint-Michel

It took more than 500 years to build Le Mont-Saint-Michel, one of Franceís greatest medieval monuments. Completed in 1521, the abbey lies on an island just off the coast of Normandie. The tower and spire were added in the 19th century. At low tide, the bay separating the island from the mainland becomes dry, making it possible to reach Le Mont-Saint-Michel on foot. As the tide comes in, however, the rush of water surrounds the abbey with as much as 13.7 meters (44.9 feet) of turbulent sea. The furious tides made the abbey impregnable to attack by medieval armies. Today, armies of tourists visit it each year      





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