Biking

Beauty amid the smoke and soot in Rouen, France

Black smoke from chemical explosion in Rouen

Some of you may remember a major European news story from September 26, 2019. An explosion at a chemical plant in Rouen, France spewed massive quantities of smoke and soot over the capital city of Normandy and beyond. We just happened to be there at the time. Our short visit to Rouen— the last stop on our Brittany and Normandy cycle trip—was made even shorter by this catastrophe. This post is a collection of photos taken over a couple of hours before we came to our senses and hightailed it to the train bound for Paris.

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Honfleur and Étretat: Gems between a nasty cycle

The cliffs of Étretat

The towns of Honfleur and Étretat are highlights on our cycling trip along France’s Normandy coast. Honfleur is charming old port town and Étretat is small resort town bounded by dramatic white cliffs. They’re only about 50 km (31 mi) apart, but our bike ride between the two was a stressful mess of crappy signage, big trucks, an enormous bridge and poor planning. I guess that only one “off” day in nearly three weeks of cycling is pretty good, and we can say that we conquered one of the world’s largest cable-stayed bridges on bike.

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Travels along the beaches on this 76th anniversary of D-Day

Memorial above Gold Beach in Arromanches, Normandy

Our visit to Normandy’s D-Day Beaches was emotional, fascinating, overwhelming and a little complicated on bicycle. At times, I was stressed—by the magnitude of what happened there, by the size of the area, by how much there was to see, by how much I didn’t know. At other times, I was delighted by the peaceful coastline, pretty towns and fun festivals that we happened upon. Today, June 6, is the 76th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history. Let me take you to the famous beaches of then and now.

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The grand cycling approach to Normandy’s Mont-Saint-Michel

Cycling approach to Mont-Saint-Michel

I can barely contain my excitement as Mont-Saint-Michel gets closer with every pedal rotation. Much has been written about France’s iconic abbey, but this post is as much about the approach as it is about the final destination. Those who follow my blog will know that Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the star attractions along the V4 cycling route and it marks the end of our time in Brittany and the start of our onward journey in Normandy.

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20 views from our bikes on Brittany’s V4 cycling route

The V4 near Pointe de Primel

The V4 cycling route that we rode from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel, in northern France, has its share of A-list attractions, but we quickly found out that the “stuff” in-between is pretty special too: charming towns, impressive cathedrals, historical sites, locals-only beaches… This post pays homage to the journey— roadside views and unexpected treasures depicted in 20 photos taken directly on Brittany’s V4 cycle route.

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Oyster extravaganza and medieval splendours in Brittany

Dinan, Brittany

On our cycling journey along the North Brittany coast we don’t detour too far off the V4 cycling route. We make exceptions for the towns of Dinan and Cancale. Dinan is one of the best preserved medieval period towns in Brittany, and Cancale is the oyster capital of the region. For those with a car and limited time, both towns can be easily visited as day trips from Saint-Malo. Even on a bike, this is doable, but spending a night in each of romantic Dinan and delicious Cancale is a real treat.

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Saint-Malo: My most anticipated stop in Brittany

Saint-Malo in Brittany, France

I became obsessed with visiting Saint-Malo, a seaside city in northern France, after reading Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See. It tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in Saint-Malo during WWII. The story is riveting, but it’s the author’s description of the ancient walled city, perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the English Channel (la Manche) that totally captivated me. Saint-Malo was my most anticipated stop on our cycling trip in northern Brittany and it did not disappoint.

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Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , | 28 Comments

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