2010.05 Ride to France
Le peleton: PT,FL, ZA, MA, DS, GD, KBS, JR.
LSV: Monsieur Andy Mead avec le beret rouge.
Wednesday 12th May 2010
PT, FL, JR, MA, AM, KBS, ZA DS and GD met at JRs house Findon for final briefing and transport to Portsmouth. PT and DS drove and the rest of us fitted in where we could.
1st stop was a pub along the way where the nine of us were seeking a hearty meal but sadly the landlady announced they were not doing food that evening so we had the obligatory pint and enjoyed a Wagamama feast in Portsmouth.
The wait for the ferry was painful, no other way to put it actually, a four hour delay and we eventually set sail at 4 am. Thank goodness we were booked into beds for the night, it was worth every penny!
Thursday 13th May Arrival at Le Harve.
There was plenty of time for an on board brek before we disembarked at 10.40 am into the port Le Harve, PT had a route planned that followed a rambling trail through the town to the bridge at Tancarville. The route was not that easy to follow and without the use of PTs satellite navigation system it would have been a disaster. Even with this PT became more and more frustrated with the want of the peleton to go where they assumed the route led rather than following the satnav.
After several needless climbs back up hills following the perceived route rather than than the actual route we finally learnt to trust in our leader at the back.
Over the bridge at Tancarville we followed the south bank of the Seine east inland. The first stop was for lunch at the bar Le Telemaque in Quillebeuf-sur-Seine. Like the Pub we stopped at on the way to Portsmouth the lady owner stated food was not being served but unlike the British pub our French hostess rolled her sleeves up ordered a customer to go and fetch baguettes and set to work to make us probably the best ham omelette and chips we had ever tasted. This was washed down with red wine or lagers or water or coffee depending on the individual’s constitution. It was excellent and hats off to our hostess for her effort.
Our journey then took us across country to our fist night’s accommodation, PT joined AM in LSV 2, and after dropping off the bags at our B&B both rode back out to meet us. The route was amazing taking in some beautiful countryside, sticking to small tracks, bridleways and quiet minor roads, we were far from any traffic and we even made a five mile detour to include some woods to negotiate to keep KBS happy.
The first night’s accommodation was an idillic French home in Barneville-sur-Seine where our landlady made everything herself, we were treated to calvados aperitifs, a scrummy four course meal with wine that was followed by PTs obligatory port wine. After dinner we all hit the sack and it was not until 8.45 am that the first of us woke. Having said that, poor JR was not the brightest bunny in the warren at a delicious continental breakfast, having spent the night in a bed half his size and next to the loudest snorer in the world! (Not quite JRs words.)
Friday 14th May 2010.
Today was without doubt the best cycling I have ever had. After taking in a panoramic view of the river from a viewpoint at Barneville,
we crossed back to the north side of the Seine by ferry at Clos-St-Paul and took coffee and pastis at a roadside cafe. The route PT chose took in stunning Normandy countryside with testing uphill climbs, furious cycling through woods and a lazy lunch in Villers-Ecalles.
It was a tiring morning and on the final climb to Villers-Ecalles FL stated that he knew the area well and declared the intended climb to the town was needless as the path wound its way along the bottom of the valley to Villers-Ecalles and a well earned break and lunch. PT decided to take the climb and was followed by the peleton (mostly from in front) but DS, seduced by the thought of a less taxing route, foolishly followed FL.
The main peleton reached lunch a full half hour before FL and DS, apparently their route did take in a climb and it crossed private land and fences!!! DS lost his glasses and FL lost a little street cred! ( Not for long though)
AM bought the perfect amount of pate, cheese, wine baguettes apple juice and white asparagus, why does it always have that effect? Spreading a cloth on a handy municipal table-tennis installation, we relaxed into lunch and refreshed our tired limbs for a good hour.
After leaving the town just as we found it we had an equally brilliant afternoon’s cycling, through Pavilly, Ste-Austreberthe and Butot. We stopped in the late afternoon to top up our fluid levels with a few, or perhaps several, “pressions” in Cleres. Refreshed, FL had words with our waiter Rene for suspected overcharging but to be honest we were not too sure how many we did have! The consensus was that the staff just guessed anyway as they had as many as we did.
Our second night’s accommodation at Le Clos de Nani in Epinay was as lovely but a completely different style from the first. More swish and less traditional but we could have all slept soundly on a bed of nails we were so exhausted.
Saturday 15th May 2010 PTs birthday ride.
Ride to Caudebec-en-Caux
Saturday’s choice of route, which took us to Saussay, Limesy, and Motteville, was equal to the first two days cycling with tiny tracks, beautiful countryside. Coffee and pastis was taken at Limesy, and provisions were obtained in the adjoining shop for another splended AM rustic lunch in the churchyard at Ecalles-Alix.
The afternoon’s cycling through Betteville was as demanding as our previous routes but the woods above Caudebec-en-Caux provided stunning cycling. We spotted all sorts of wildlife there including a family of wild boar running across our path.
Immediately above the town was a custom made dirt track laid in the natural contours of the woods. Several junior cyclists were flying about on their bikes akin to circus acrobats, it was amazing to watch, of course KBS and DS held up the British end and performed some more than modest jumps.
When the show was over we descended into the town and booked into our hotel. After showering and a quick power nap a few ventured out to top up vital fluid levels before dinner.
We ate dinner in the hotel that evening and the food was excellent, Champagne, of course, to toast PTs birthday and wish him well, that was followed by various gastronomic delights lovingly prepared by an army of chefs. PT decided there and then that from this birthday forth only Champagne would pass his lips in celebration of the day. Somehow we all found our way to bed and slept another uninterrupted night of deep blissful sleep.
Sunday 16th May. Return to Le Havre
Breakfast in the hotel was a quiet affair, some heavy heads nodded greetings to fellow members while others were smiling and refreshingly alert, how do they do that? We faced a 40 mile ride into a brisk head wind and time was not on our side. Our aim was to leave the hotel by 9.00 am and we were in the saddle and on the move by 10 past; not too bad.
The initial part of the day was as good as it gets again, we made the long climb out of Caudebec-en-Caux and found our way north west on minor roads and bridleways. Near Les Ruaux, DS took a major tumble on one track trying to avoid overhanging bramble. On road tyres and being stuck in a tractor rut he stood no chance and crashed to the ground suffering a gash to his knee. MA was on hand with his spray on plaster to save the day.
Eventually we left the delights of the Brittany countryside, KBS making his final solo off road descent towards Tancarville and we all then took on the final 20 mile trek from Tancarville to Le Havre, mostly through the unfashionable industrial area on the river’s edge. The wind was strengthening and fatigue was setting in, the final ride to Le Harve was testing mentally and physically but it was such a joy and a relief to reach AM and LSV 2 at the port with over two hours to spare. After Francis had made sure there was a ferry available, we took full advantage of the time in hand and with local advice we headed for Le Havre beach area and at Cafe Georges we treated ourselves to a good meal and some more liquid refreshment. Thankfully no G&Ts!
Once full the peleton set forth for the final part of the journey back to the port and home to England. As Dorothy said, Theres no place like home.
It was a fantastic break and we are forever indebted to Paul and Francis for the time they invested researching, booking, and organising the event. For FLs translation and PTs ability to navigate the group from A to B on such amazing routes. To Andy for commanding LSV 2 and providing the best lunches possible and finally to all members of the peleton for for supporting each other in difficult times. 160 miles in total and the IOW now looms on the horizon.