Brittany and Normandy Cycle Tour 2007

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Monday 28 April 2014

Brittany and Normandy Cycle Tour 2007

Back in 2007, still living in Durham, we wanted to find a relatively inexpensive but still adventurous camping holiday. As a girl Esther and her parents had spent a lot of happy holidays in Northern France in their campervan, Winnie, sailing across the channel and moving from campsite to campsite for a couple of weeks. So we decided that we'd try that, but on bikes instead.

The heat takes it toll
Our journey started in Oxford where we caught the train to Portsmouth in order to pick up a night ferry to Le Havre. I'm not entirely sure how slowly the boat had to sail to take 8 hours to cross the channel, but this boat managed it. We had "seat only" tickets so we had no bed for the night, but fortunately as we'd got all of our camping gear on board with us we did get a better nights sleep than most passengers. While families all around tried to get comfy in hard backed, barely reclining seats we popped in our ear plugs and had a decent night on the floor on our airbeds in our sleeping bags!

Siesta under the trees!
Arriving in France we were greeted by roasting heat and blue skies. We had a rough plan to head cross country to Piriac-sur-mer where Esther had spent a lot of time as a child then track the coast roughly back to Le Havre 12 days later for our return boat. We set off through the French countryside but were being slowly cooked alive. After our third water stop we decided we had to siesta and fell asleep on a patch of grass in a tiny French hamlet we happened to be passing through. The locals must have though us crazy, but by the time the air had cooled enough to ride again we had just enough time to make it Caen by nightfall.

Back in Piriac-sur-mer
After that first day struggling in the heat, we quickly realised that the distance all the way to Piriac (300km) and then back around the coast was too much for our 12 day trip, so we decided to get the train to Nantes the next day and cycle from their to Piriac and spend the rest of the trip enjoying  the return journey to Le Havre. We even treated ourselves to a Pension opposite the station as our train left before 6am!
Sunset time in Piriac-sur-mer

Arriving in Piriac the next day I could see why Esther has such fond memories of this idyllic seaside town. It was beautiful and as we sat by the sea eating the first of many Moules et Frites meals we felt very relaxed. We walked on the beach and watched the sun set over the sea.

After Piriac-sur-mer our daily routine fell into a simple rhythm. Wake up, pack up the tent, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, find a camping (often in the dark!), pitch up, eat and sleep. As with our previous camping trips it was the simplicity and the physical effort and exhaustion that came with it that we found so relaxing, passing through beautiful, rolling countryside in the summer sunshine.

Megalithic Stones of Carnac
Our route back to Le Havre was planned on the go using some French road maps we'd bought when we arrived. We headed north roughly tracking the coastline passing through Vannes, Lorient, Concarneau, Quimper and Sizun, before heading cross country to Perros-Guirec and the Cote du Rose. From here we headed east through Saint Brieuc, passing Mont St. Michel before heading north east across the peninsula to the Normandy coastline at Arromanches where we saw some of the remains of the Normandy landings and visited some of the haunting war cemeteries.
Lunch by Mont Saint Micheal

On our trip we laughed a lot and ate a lot. And I mean a lot. These days we're much more health concious than we were back in 2007, but on this trip we were definitely on the pastry diet. If there was a patisserie that we passed by without sampling their delights it is only because France has so many of them. We certainly tried our fair share.

Patisseries delights again!

Our journey finished where it had begun, with a day boat this time back to Portsmouth where we managed, in the dark, to find a campsite that would take us. Coming home with us were lots of happy memories and one very smelly cheese that wasn't making us any friends on the morning train to Oxford. Oh well, perhaps the other passengers just thought that was us.

More moules and frites please!

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