After our two days of wet, windy wending our way eastwards, we had the luxury of spending Sunday with our hosts Pierre and Bea at their lovely farmhouse and gite. It had rained much of the night but the morning dawned dry and clear. After a leisurely breakfast Pierre drove us into Caen to visit the Memorial Museum of WWII, an impressive and well thought out presentation as to how 1914/18 set the stage for WWII. No heroics, but just sober assessment of not just the fighting, but more difficult issues such as the business of collaboration with the enemy, resistance movements, etc. No glorification. And it didn’t end there, as there was a gallery devoted to the Normandy Landings, as one might expect, and also about what happened after 1945. It rang so true especially considering our apparent headlong plunge into war once again, this time with Syria. “When will they ever learn?” as the song goes….
Pierre picked us up and brought us back for a late lunch of lovely homemade soup, bread and cheese. Then we hosed down our bikes with a jetwash to remove the mud. dried them and oiled them ready for the road tomorrow. A rest followed, then supper and bed – tomorrow, back on the road!
The picture below is the sodden welcome at Tavistock after Hugh (on the right) and I had hurtled down the hill from Mary Tavy into the town centre to meet friends from the West Devon Greens. I had to pour water out of my shoes and was pretty fogged as to how I could manage to carry on to Plymouth. So I waddled down into the market and found a launderette. Took my chance, having politely asked the ladies there if they minded – yup, they giggled a bit – only one person in there at the time and she giggled a bit too. So I stripped to my undies and everything went in, shoes, gloves, rucksack an’ all – for a good 20 minutes – while I attempted to warm my feet up on the glass of the drier. I s’pose it was quite funny – a bit like that 11 o’clock ‘coke’ ad – but customers didn’t really seem to have a fit …….. and to be honest, I couldn’t care! Mind you, if I’d been 30 years younger, there might have been some action.
Message to all cyclists: the new route from Tavy to Plymouth is just fantastic – even the haul up to Yelverton through the woods – stunning. Has to be done. But this is offset by the confusing options around Lydford – which still seem all wrong. No worries – made it!
You can tell we are having a day of touristy relaxation, with this plethora of items from your trusty riders. So at least this Blog page is ACTIVE!
This is what I had intended to add on the first day – what a fantastic send off from Barnstaple Square. Thanks to Val, the Mayor, Julie her deputy, Des, NDC leader and Dick his environment portfolio holder. Thanks to Seth from ITV, to Tony from the Gazette and Fran from the Journal. Thanks to supporters Steve, Dick, John, Mike – and others I’ve forgotten (I hope someone has the photos so I can check later); and of course to my intrepid fellow cyclists who actually managed to get further than the end of the Long Bridge! To L’Anne, to Claire and her partner all the way from Crediton, Andy (BLESS ‘im – cos he did for my bike! – apart from which he insisted on being my wind break for the first hour – and I needed it!)), to Paul, Ollie (from the SU at Petroc), Michelle, to my fellow Bikeability trainer Jo (I just managed to keep up with her). Photos are ‘dribbling’ in from various sources – here I am the following day at Plymbridge – the smile is genuine enough, cos I ‘m nearly there – only rush-hour on the A38 to Saltash to contend with …….
Saturday dawns a nice bright day…until 09.00 when the rain-gods turn the tap on again. Ah-ha! We fooled them! We didn’t leave until 09.30, by which time the rain-gods had got fed-up with waiting for us to get under way and turned the tap off – for the moment! Hurtled downhill out of Avranches and turned off alongside a river to trace our way over minor roads in an easterly direction. Roger’s magical deflating tyre trick was getting to wear by this time – poor lad, he seems to have drawn the short (puncture straw)! Pleasant amble along river valley to village of Brecey, where it clouded over, wind picked up and occasional rain fell (horizontally). As we progressed onto higher ground, our hands, feet, and faces got wetter and colder, but pushed on to Vire, the halfway point where we stopped for lunch of omelette and chips at 14.00. Another hard push, albeit with the rain abating, across elevated granite plateau before an impressive 3.5km drop down into the town of Aunay-sur-Odon, where we stopped for a life-reviving coffee and shared (squashed) snack bars excavated from the bottom of my handlebar bag. The descent into Aunay was rendered slightly more dramatic by a gendarme car hurtling past us on an emergency call (probably that his dinner was ready). The last stretch in the gathering gloom necessitated cycle lamps. We must have been 5km form our host’s place when we saw a cyclist coming the other way – what other mad individual was out on a bike at this time of night? It was our host, come to meet us and guide us in to his residence! Thus we arrived at Ricky’s friends, Pierre and Bea, place, at 19.00, tired, wet, cold, but relieved to have made it – just over 90km! Hot showers, hot supper, warm friendship, warm bed – what more could four weary cyclists want? Merci beaucoups, Bea et Pierre!
This trip is proving to be a meteorological experience…Canon Lynda Barley’s blessing seemed to only work as far as Plymouth as the weather from Truro to Plymouth more or less good, compared to what the rest of Cornwall was getting at the time. We cycled off the ferry at St Malo into a driving drizzle first thing Friday morning and rode east along the coast, more or less, to the little village of Le Vivier-sur-Mer where, as it was noon and we we wet, we’d break for lunch. Two hours and three courses later, we were warm, dry, fed and watered and ready to get wet again. Setting off down the road, and stopping as we do at each junction to check direction, we found we were missing one of the four – Roger. No amount of texts and phonecalls could raise him, so the three of us pressed on to the town of Pontorson. Phoning and texting still failed to raise him, so decided that, after half an hour, we would continue to Avranches, our final destination for the day and, jus as we started out, Roger appeared! He’d had a puncture, which he’d mended, and his phone had been disconnected by his provider, hence the lack of communication. Ah, the wonders of technology, only to be scuppered by the phone providers! The rest of the ride took us within sight of Mont St Michel, then on to the ancient hill city of Avranche, where the final ride up the hill into the city was a real challenge. Then to our AirBnB where Luci welcomed us to the apartment right in the centre. Nearby launderette provided tumble driers for us to dry out our clothing, with a handy bar where we could drink in comfort and watch our clothes tumbling. Then to S Marco’s Pizza Place for, well, you guessed it, pizza! And so to bed….zzzzzz.
Yesterday we discovered some hills that I did not know Normandy boasted – and all varieties of Norman French weather, except snow.
Breakfast hail ceased, with Roger and I having fitted new inner-tubes, les quatre cyclistes d’apocalypse were foolishly enjoying the sunshine as we rode up la vallée de la Sée towards Brécey. Climbing out of Saint Pois, we discovered the first real hill of the day, and storm Barney’s north wind throwing rain into our faces. The descent towards Vire, and omellettes, frites was epic, as was the later descent towards a 5 pm espresso stop in Aunay-sur-odon – that one enlivened by the local fuzz flying downhill even faster, sirens ablaze.
Days like this call to mind warmer climes, and Madonna del Ghisallo, the Italian patroness of cyclists. 500 metres above Bellagio and Lake Como sits a chapel dedicated to the Madonna – atop a climb that has often featured as a stage finish on both the Giro di Lombardia and Giro d’Italia.
Inside, the chapel walls are hung with cycling memorabilia – including poignantly the twisted bike of Fabio Casartelli, the Lombardi cyclist who died in a crash on the 1995 Tour de France, and a jersey of gifted Italian climber Marco Pantani, who overdosed on harder drugs after testing positive for EPO.
In the evening sunshine outside the chapel, I met an Italian cyclist – still riding in lycra into his seventies, on an afternoon jaunt from Milan. I still remember the swooping descent to my evening port of Lecco.
Last night, espresso revived, we climbed out of Auney in the dark. Ricky’s friend Pierre’s light met us at the top of the hill, and guided us back to his Calvados farmhouse in Vacogues-Neuilly. Our patron has entertained us royally on our rest day.
Well if yesterday was my second worst ever days cycling (Jane will remember the worst) then today started out by making a bid for the top spot. No rain when we awoke, but whilst packing up it started with a hailburst followed by persistent cold rain. However after a nasty ride out of town it cleared and we set off down a lane alongside a small river valley in sunshine. Continue reading Rain, Hail, Freezing headwinds…and Sunshine→
Possibly three of the most painful days cycling of my life. Les quatre cyclistes d’apocalypse we might well be but I have encountered les trois elements d’apocalypse at the same time, three days in a row – lashing rain, 1:3 inclines (with my bike laden with several kitchen sinks) and hurricane winds in my fizzog (I exaggerate ‘just slightly’ to gain the sympathy vote). It has been torture – but like torture (so I am told) the pain goes away when it stops – and I’m just off to sleepies now – perchance to wake up in time for the next leg. It has been/is being ‘interesting’. Character building?