5th July 2016.
LE MONT SAINT MICHEL.
Getting up in good time and setting off without a hangover and in good spirits makes such a huge difference to morale. I waved off Alan as he headed off to get his train back to the UK and a quick coffee in the hostel-esque AirBnB before heading out into the slightly drizzly morning in Saint-Lo. The patisserie on the roundabout was a good stop for an croissant amande as I then headed up the small hill out of the town, heading South. With an ambitious day of 80 miles planned to get to Saint Malo, I was very glad to set out and be on the road by 8.30am.
Out on the country roads to Villedieu navigated by tattered Office de Tourisme maps the winding route eased me into the long day and it wasn’t long before the drizzle started to clear and give way to a lovely morning. The first priority today was to find somewhere to buy a camera to record my travels, so I soon was pointed in the direction of the Casino supermarche in Villedieu les Poeles. I bought a GoPro-eque action camera for €59, with a decent memory card for €30, only to find that it was the wrong size having teared the box to bits. So after getting the right SD card and with half of my €200 reserves gone, I was armed and ready to go again. Heading onwards, my French conversation soon turned to singing, at the top of my voice;
J’ai mange tous les biscuits de la ville, et j’achete un appreil-photo, j’ai un banana dans la poche, et je suis allee a Avranches!
Avranches was just beautiful. You could see the old town perched on the hill from miles off and the climb up to the centre ville was spectacular, looking out to the North over the Normandy countryside. Once up in the town, I found the Office de Tourisme where I paused to charge the new camera and to pick up the right paper maps for the next part of the journey. This was a good tactic as it saved money on buying maps and you could easily keep current stopping at these in each town. The centre was typical of the Normandy towns and possibly one of my favourite places there, with the stone walls and lovely hanging baskets and creperies galore.
Navigation three ways: when you lose your phone you suddenly start to see more, old school planning with maps from local tourist offices, lists of towns and the GPS plot (no base maps silly me) – all makes for good fun! #katnav #crapnav #onlyonewaytolearn #navigation #oldschool #katherinesgranddepart #mappophile #cartophile
The descent out of Avranches was one of the best moments of the whole tour. Not only was the riding itself great fun on the fast main road curving down the hillside, but the view, quite literally, brought a tear to my eye. The grand town of Avranches looks out to the South West over the bay of Mont Saint Michel, and although I had visited over a decade ago on a school trip, nothing quite prepares you for just how magnificent the landmark is, even though still 10 or so miles away, rising up out of the flat bay. It was an emotional moment as I was astounded by the beauty of it.
Once down by the coast, the lanes followed the bay heading west for le Mont Saint Michel. There was a bit of headwind that had picked up by this point but nothing too unpleasant. I kept the mount in my sights as I passed fertile agricultural land and many more Montbelliarde cattle. Approaching le Mont Saint Michel, I could ride all the way out on the bridge that linked it to the coastline, showing off by practicing my hands-free to in front of the hundreds of British and European tourists either heading for the spectacle or on their return journey.
Le Mont St Michel was one of the most breathtaking sights of the whole trip, turning the corner on the long descent out of Avranches and looking out across St Michel's bay was just incredible, so unusual to be heading for such a striking landmark and so fascinating inside too, despite getting told off a few times for taking Enzo in with me… #lemontstmichel #montstmichel #brittany #bretagne #cycletouring #lightweighttouring #cyclelikeagirl #livetoride
I had a little mooch around Mont Saint Michel – it was a little difficult with the bike on the very narrow, cobbled streets jam packed with tourists. I had hoped to find a bakery or somewhere to get a cheap bit of lunch but it was understandably quite expensive so I gave that a miss. On my way out I started chatting to a chap called Tom who was filling up his water bottles, and before I knew it I was riding with him, Hassan and Rishy away from the mount and heading west. The three boys were on a touring holiday too for the Grand Depart but camping not far from here, then riding out each day unladen, and just happened to be heading in the same direction today. I was so glad of the company, they were three great lads from London working with the NHS in doctor training and all decked out in Rapha. Sometimes we rode side by side, sometimes in a line battling the wind taking turns on the front, all along the bay on the coastal road. We had a stop where I bought my baguette with a sausage filling and peach for each of us and headed on, aiming for Cancale.
We could see the town of Cancale, famous for its oysters, nearing as we passed the many seafood processing plants and stalls along the bay road. We climbed up into the town square and looked out over the bay back towards Mont Saint Michel – what a way we’d come in the afternoon which hadn’t felt far at all. The guys were so excited to try some of the famous oysters, and down at the harbourside Tom soon produced a grand plate of 8 huitres from the stalls. We all had a giggle as Hassan tried his first and the others enjoyed a few oysters, and I was even convinced into trying one. My previous experience had been nothing but embarrassing when my boss had bought me some at a birthday meal and I’d struggled to swallow them! The oysters here were something else though – as we sat on the sea wall looking out into the bay where they were harvesting them there and then, it probably would have only been a small number of hours to make them onto our plate, delicious.
After a celebratory cider together, I was sad to leave the boys as they turned around to enjoy the tailwind back to their campsite and I headed on further West to reach St Malo. It was 6pm by this point and I was over the 80 miles that I had planned for the day, so the thought of reaching a century was now in my sights. Powered up by oysters and lovely local cidre, I flew on around the coast and across the peninsula to Saint Malo in the glorious evening sunshine. Again, a beautiful seaside town with so much culture and heritage, the castle, the harbour with all sorts of boats and vessels, the local French band I watched performing their traditional folk songs, rousing the crowds. It was only a short ride on South to Saint Joan de Guerets to find Marie’s house. I’d paid a little more to stay here, but boy was it worth it. I had a very warm welcome, a fabulous nautical themed little room and ensuite with a bath! After a refresh, I headed downstairs to go and find some dinner in the village and was invited to join Marie and her daughter, two Swiss girls and a Chilean guy who were all staying there for dinner, which was whole-heartedly appreciated. Some pizza, stuffed pepper and cheese and biscuits were spot on (although I felt like I could have eaten twice as much)!
What a fantastic day – spectacular scenery and wonderful company with brilliant riding and another century in the bag = epic.