Europe | France | The North | Normandy – Cycling Normandy
I’m in London now, but here’s a recap of the week before last:
I finally tore myself away from Paris, and headed north for the Normandy Coast, picking St. Leu DEsserant as a town within cycling distance from Paris. The campground there is set in a former sandstone quarry, with almost every site having its own secluded area, some with views over the surrounding countryside and neighbouring villages. Camping in France is extremely economical, and there are campgrounds almost everywhere. St. Leu DEsserant has got to be one of the prettiest little towns in France. It has classic written all over it! Classic in the sense that it has winding narrow streets climbing over hills past abbeys, taverns, or brasseries, with an occasional farmer driving a load of something from one place to another.
Rambling my way out of there the next morning, I ended up in Faux des leau Gorges, discovering that there are loads of cycling paths and greenways in France. The ambience of the Normandy region is in its attractive majestic Chateaus set amongst fields of gold and green that stretch out into the distance. From behind my polarized sunglasses, the landscape glowed under partly cloudy skies. In pockets of forests here and there, in small towns with historic churches and cemeteries, or in patisseries, the people of this quiet place smile and say, bonjour monsieur.
Going via Dieppe, pausing to visit the Musee Chateaux, I spend some hours wandering on the beach near Belleville sur la Mer, before bedding down at a campsite that actually carries a nuclear risk warning. There was a nuclear facility 2 kms away, and it was a requirement for the campsite to have you read and sign the warning before checking in.
In Quend the next evening, after a day of blustery winds and sporadic downpours, I felt like I was in the ideal trailer trash campsite. Although there are surely wonderful places nearby, it was too dangerous to continue riding with the gusts almost blowing me off the road, so early the next morning I headed for Bolougne, stopping on the way at the Etapes Commonwealth Ware Cemetery where almost 12,000 soldiers are buried. In France, the history of war is everywhere, with triumphal markers, crosses, and streets named after important dates.
Here in Bolougne, I have a sheltered campsite on the top of a ridge with a view of the sea. Sounds impossible, but its true. And looking inland, cows graze around artillery bunkers, reminding me that at least here where I am today, peace is in the land.
Tomorrow, I will explore the fortress and cathedral of Bolougne, before riding north to Calais and on to England. Canterbury, just across the sea, is calling me.
Why do some places or people remind you of friends, both current and long lost while traveling? In the French countryside, Im reminded of my friend Michael Gall upon seeing some rather Gallic noses. In Paris, Im reminded of my friend Stephane Kirkland upon seeing the Mona Lisa, and of long lost friends Jennifer Blake and Jillian Farley while wandering down the Champ DElysees. And seeing the many triumphal monuments, Im reminded of an artist Ive known and how she would think that they are all just penis markers phallic blots on the landscape.
And why are Stop signs in France in English?
Why do you have to pay more to sit down at a table in a Brasserie, than to sit at the counter? I found this out on my second day when a waiter stormed over at me and let forth with some tirade in French about having to pay .4 more Euros, so I did. The next day, he apologized.
Why are French people so friendly and helpful, when all the guidebooks say they are rude and service is poor? Is it because I try to speak French?
Which Cheese is the best?
How inexpensive can a bottle of Bordeaux be before it can be classified as bad?
Where else can you walk outside your door and have a truck pull up delivering fresh baguettes and croissants for less than one Euro?
Why do my taste buds tell me that the banquettes in Laos are actually better?
How is it that on those days where you are cycling along through the countryside, youre mind wandering to all sorts of things in life, you forget about the rain and the wind and the cold days, and the hassles that can come with traveling with a bike, reveling in the moment and believing that there is no better way to see the world?