Week 5

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The Blog

Mont St Michel to Weymouth

Days 31 and 32, 28 to 29 September 2015
Mont St Michel to Granville

We left our gite in bright sunshine and cycled across to the farmhouse to pay. The farmerís wife, whom the stoker did not warm to, kept adding small items to the bill. You never see a poor farmer.

In the meantime the management was keen to get going. We were riding anti-clockwise right around the bay. The high pressure area which has brought the good weather has also brought an easterly wind across the flat polders. The management knew that this headwind would increase in strength as the day went on.

We pedalled across the polders only stopping to scrump a couple of onions for tonightís stew. As we made our way past the entrance to Mont St Michel there was much tourist traffic but we were soon in the country lanes. And the French military put on a fine display of mass parachute drops over the Mont.

Getting around the end of the bay by Avranches always presents a bit of a problem for cyclists, requiring some careful route planning. The busiest part for us was near La Vallee and once over the bridge there it was easy. We didnít even need to go into Avranches as we found a cycle bridge over the river downstream from the town.

Once over this bridge we turned northwest to follow the edge of the bay. Hurray, we no longer had a head wind. Only cyclists with a way to go know how good this feels. Even the few hills going into Granville didnít feel so bad after the hard flat lands.

As we are now nearing Cherbourg we are only moving on every other day. In Granville we rented the most amazing house for two nights. It was built in 1905 by Georges Dior, Christian Diorís cousin, and Christian played here as a child. The art world considers that Christianís work was influenced by the large houses his affluent family lived in and this is one of them.

The house is full of what we would call Edwardian splendour. The wrought iron work at the front looks original as does the art nouveau staircase and the stained glass roof light above it. The house was occupied until recently by a member of the family who died aged over 100. The current owner Jacques, grandson of Georges who built it, has left much of the furniture and memorabilia in place. Jacquesís friend Gilbert looks after it and sadly we did not meet Jacques himself.

Sadly it needs a great deal of work to restore the house. It seems unlikely that without this work it can remain a holiday let for long. And the security issues of entrusting all the memorabilia to holiday visitors makes the mind boggle.

It was a privilege to stay in the house and we also very much enjoyed our day exploring Granville.

Days 33 to 34, 30 September to 1 October 2015
Granville to Belval

Gilbert volunteered to lead us out of Granville via a quiet route avoiding the main hill. Normally no one meddles with the managementís routes. We didnít have very far to go today and it would have been churlish to turn down this kind offer from a fellow cyclist. He is also a Warm Showers host in Granville.

It was a good way out on paths and small roads and may have avoided a big climb. We will never know, but Granville is on a rocky promontory so hills are inevitable. We were soon down to the beach and on minor roads near the sea. Yet again it was nice and sunny though cold because of the head wind.

As far as we can see 80% of the D roads here have very little traffic, go through pretty villages, and are smooth. The other 20% are roaring highways to be avoided. The difficulty is deciding from the map which are the 20% and this has proved almost impossible.

We were lucky today, the planned route on the roaring D road was easy to bypass on tiny C roads which serve the farms and hamlets near the road. This kind of navigation is really only possible by GPS with a good map installed.

The management does however sometimes get things wrong. For the first time on this trip the planned route was on a road which did not exist. He blames the Garmin map but who knows?

For these two nights we are staying in a gite in a tiny hamlet set in rolling farm land. It is modern and adjacent to a large house. We have brought in everything we need for our two night stay. We chilled out and lit a fire in the log burner, after all it is now October and this is northern France.

Days 35 and 36, 2 and 3 October 2015
Belval to Portbail

Today started as an uneventful kind of day for this tour. A nice bon voyage from our hosts and cycling off into the country lanes in the early morning sunshine and autumn chill. We did have to discourage the hostís friendly dog from coming with us.

For the whole day we only went through one small town which gave us a chance to buy French bread for lunch. Otherwise the managementís carefully planned routes avoided most traffic.

It was when we arrived at Portbail that things began to go pear shaped. We found our pleasant looking little apartment and went to the key safe so that we could get in. The key was not there. We texted, phoned and emailed the owners but no response. After waiting over an hour in the sunshine we gave up.

Fortunately Portbail has a very helpful Tourist Office in the town centre. The young lady running it was clearly appalled at this happening in her town. When she phoned them and got voicemail she booked us a nearby B and B.

This proved to be a better and cheaper option than the original booking. It is in a farmhouse complex run by a couple of expatriate Brits. The B and B area is a self contained four bedroom building complete with kitchen and living room with Channel Islands satellite TV. As we were the only occupants we had sole and complete use of the excellent facilities.

We awoke to a light mist and only hazy sunshine. After a lazy breakfast we decided to go on a short ride to properly explore Portbail and then take the small roads and cycle routes to Carteret.

Portbail is a lovely, picturesque sandy estuary full of wildlife. We lazed around and had lunch there before pedalling off across the bridge and on a wiggly way followed the coast north to Carteret.

We turned around for the return journey after investigating the ferry departure point for Jersey. It could still be a good round trip i.e. Poole, Jersey, Carteret, Cherbourg, Poole provided you can put up with the Jersey traffic.

On the return trip we enjoyed watching a CitroŽn 2CV club taking their amazing vehicles through a ford. They have great off road capabilities with the advantage over a Land Rover that if they get stuck four or five people can lift them out.

Days 37 to 39, 4 to 6 October 2015
Portbail to Cherbourg

Our last ride for this tour in France. And coincidentally it was forecast that today would be the last of the settled sunny weather we had had for the past two weeks. We saw the signs yesterday with a weak mackerel sky over Carteret. Sensible yachtsmen and ferry travellers would be better advised not to go for a few days.

The last of the settled weather meant a heavy mist and even some fog. We had a late start in the hope that it would clear. The road to Bricquebec was wide and smooth, hilly but with almost no traffic. The management didnít even need to navigate and we went straight there.

Bricquebec is a pretty place with a fine castle and church and a few shops. We have been considering it for a future CTCWD tour and inquired at the hotel. The hotel here is part of the castle, the rooms are very good and the proprietor very welcoming. It came out high on our list.

Our next stop was Brix perched high on its mini mountain. To get there we tried the TM of the Cycle West route. We told the French when they first proposed the route that without tarmac it would never be a tourist attraction and we were right. Even at the end of the summer it is looking very little used. What a shame and who would have thought a cycle friendly country could be so inept.

We winched ourselves up to Brix to investigate another hotel for a future tour but it did not exist. What they did have on was a huge show. Local roads were closed and cars were charged to enter and park. It looked rather like the Dorset County show with agriculture mixed in with lots of other things.

While we like to get involved with French life the show was just too difficult for us today. It would have involved a lengthy stop and locking the bike with luggage. We decided to go on and found a back road that rejoined the route.

By now our energy was running a little low what with all the hills and it took a while before we found a nice picnic spot in the sheltered corner of a field near a ruined building. The management soon concocted a seat which made the stoker very happy. It was still a misty day and a bit chilly but the sun did occasionally show.

It may be a record, who can tell, but on this trip, on every cycling day and most other days, we have enjoyed outdoor picnics for lunch. That is some 40 days of suitable weather. We have been very lucky.

We descended from the dizzy heights down into Tourlaville which is Cherbourgís eastern suburb. We had decided on a little comfort and convenience at the end of this tour and booked into a branch of Domityís. This is the chain of old peopleís homes and we stayed in one previously just south of Rennes.

With wet weather forecast for our stay in Cherbourg we got the bus and train to Valogne to do a reci for a future CTCWD folders tour. We visited a couple of hotels and it looks like a good venue. Apart from general lazing around we repacked for the overnight ship and the five minute cycle ride to the port.

Day 40, 7 October 2015
Cherbourg to Weymouth

It took just an hour from leaving Domityís to being ready for bed on the ship. We wondered what the old people thought of the strange British couple riding off in the night on a tandem, red light flashing. It had been a very pleasant and convenient stay and the old folk have the best broadband we have experienced in France. We could even stream TV and talk on Skype to John Surowiec in his hotel on the Black Sea.

We both slept well and were only slightly disturbed when it was a bit bumpy during the night. It seemed to take an age to get off the ship but it took just half an hour to get out of the port.

The only unpleasantness was with the passport control jobsworth. He clearly wants to lower our immigration standards to that of the USA. All we did to upset him was to cycle past the long queue of cars at passport control, something which all cyclists do at ports. This is perfectly reasonable and normal, and the drivers do not complain. After all, vehicle drivers are warm in their boxes, blocking the exits and polluting the area with exhaust fumes.

Eventually he had little choice but to let us through but not until he had done every check his tiny brain could think of on our passports. Mind you, he is probably typical of anyone working in a department run by Theresa super bore May.

We hit Poole traffic at its busiest. There are cycle lanes for much of the way to Wareham but they are almost invisible for the lack of new paint. We stopped for breakfast at a tiny and very pleasant new coffee shop a few doors up from Wareham Quay. Here we took stock and gathered our strength for the rest of the ride home.

These days in Weymouth it is hard for us to go out without meeting someone we know. It was especially nice to be welcomed back by Joy. She was cycling along Dorchester Road on her way to meet the Wednesday Wanderers at Martinstown.

We also met our friendly and helpful neighbour Barry and caught up on some of the local gossip. Now everyone will know we are back.

This is now the end of this great tour and of the blog. We now have to adjust to everyday Weymouth life.