Breathtakingly beautiful cycling doesn’t quite do it justice. However, if you are lucky enough to be cycling through Normandy or Brittany at the right time you might just get lucky and hit ‘pay dirt’ – as we did! The Normandy peninsula can be a capricious mistress and has a fierce temper if you are cycling at the wrong time (specifically Winter) but our early summer sojourn left nothing to be desired. Riding along near-perfect surfaces in the warmth of a July afternoon against a backdrop of golden fields scored a perfect ten with our team.
We landed at Cherbourg around lunchtime, handed over our bags to the support vehicle and set sail for the first leg. It was to be a brisk 70 mile-ish clip along the coast and in again taking in some great scenery along the way. The gently undulating route took us through the coastal towns of Les Pieux, Barneville-Carteret and onto to Lessay whilst in the background Guernsey, Jersey and Sark were ever-present. It was both warm – 28-ish - and breezy and the wind at our backs were very welcome. We carried on at a decent 15mph for most of the way onto Perriers, Hebecrevon and Dangy where we stopped for well-deserved refreshments and a BBQ. It was a quick little ride for our group of intermediate cyclists who kept up a decent pace and we swept in about seven to luxuriate in a balmy summer sunset. Parfait!
Next day we had a little more time to travel with the luxury of having about 60 miles to do in whole day as the group travelled ‘down’ to Ardevon in the shadow of Le Mont St. Michel.
A small detour via Granville or the Norman Riviera as it is sometimes known to Parisians (but only at the height of summer) provided us with a decent calorie rich lunch at midday. The journey to Granville is reached by a few long straight roads that are relatively undemanding and the group tucked in and swept away 30-odd miles to be rewarded by a nice little decline on the edge of town that bore us into the centre at some speed. We then left town along the coastal route toward Mont St Michel taking in the picturesque ‘villes’ of St. Pair-sur-Mer, Julloville and Carolles. The road here is deceptively hilly as riders need to go up and down some sharp little gradients culminating in a big climb to Avranches.
Avranches sits on top of a big hill and once we had reached its peak the group were relieved to learn that the rest of the stage was all down-hill. We were rewarded by a cool breeze as we raced down the other side of the hill. A nice winding path took us to our destination in Ardevon – the comfortable little Auberge de la Baie. In was only on stopping that riders realised how hot it was (about 35 degrees) which was amply remedied with a few cold
beers. It was more than warm enough to have dinner outside and watch the nightly evacuation of the sheep from the marshes. However, the highly clement weather brought more than a few annoying flies to distract diners. This was more than compensated by the distant beauty of 'Le Mont'. This Gothic Benedictine abbey rises hundreds of feet above a rocky islet amidst vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides and is surrounded by a medieval village. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, Mont St Michel is a testament to the ingenuity of man fuelled by celestial inspiration. It simply takes your breath away.
Our third and final day’s cycling was an altogether more leisurely affair taking us on a relatively brief jaunt from to Normandy into Britanny and St. Malo. To get there the riders were taken along the coast through a variety of small towns 'en route'. There was plenty of activities, sights and sounds from land sailing, oyster farming and the very impressive round fortified houses to be seen along this part of the coast – and all from the saddle.
Then we arrived at the glittering destination of St. Malo and to the Hotel d’Universe in the main square of the fortified town. This part of town can be a bit touristy for some tastes but there are plenty of great restaurants and watering holes in some of the more secluded areas. But the real treat of the day was the sunset to be inhaled from the seaward side ramparts as a reddish sun slipped into the see. It was pure magic and a fitting end to a wonderful trip. Magnifique!