Hello again from cloudy, rainy, London England,
After two hot sunny days we have been welcomed to the UK with an overcast and dreary wet day, Odyssey has arrived!! As promised, as some would say threatened, the following is our second installment of our France saga.
St. Aubern du Cormer to Mont. Saint Michel
After a nice breakfast it was off again on a scenic ride on what has been one of our shorter days, 50km. In fact, the itinerary listed the day as a rest day. We arrived at the campgrounds in plenty of time to cycle to the Abbey for a walking tour of a very spectacular structure dating back to the 6th century. This most impressive structure is built upon a rock, which in early days, was surrounded by water at high tide. Over the years it was even pressed into service as a penitentiary. Thanks to Napoleon, this practice was abandoned and steps taken to restore it back to its original state as a religious site. Dinner was once again a plate of chicken, served at a hotel close by the campgrounds, a nice treat and an extremely efficient sit down meal was had by all.
Mont Saint Michel to Saint Auben der Sumer
This day was billed as a 170km ride to and along the Normandy coast. After looking at the route chosen, the fact the mileage would probably be wrong and in deference to the fact we had visited the coast two years earlier, we decided to do a more direct route to camp. We drew a straight line on the map and had perhaps one of our better days in this section of the trip, I guess there is something to be said about taking control of your own destiny. The route, albeit it hilly, turned out to be quiet and very enjoyable, the fine weather also helped to make for a nice day. Lunch was at a neat little hotel and if we had been self-contained would have called it quits and spent the remainder of the day and night in this small town. Arrived at the campgrounds which was a very nice and well-equipped site, hired a caravan for the night, which we ultimately shared with another tandem couple. They did not arrive in the camp grounds until 9:30PM as what was billed as 170km turned into a 195km ride and this meant for them 10 hours and 20 minutes riding time. Dinner was a walk away, but well worth the energy as the food was superb, the owner of the restaurant had originally run Sparkles in Toronto and knew the meaning of customer service. The food, service and efficiency of his operation are to be applauded. It was regrettable that a number of the riders had to forgo visiting the beaches and in particular the museums as a result of this extremely long mileage day. So much to see and no time to do it justice. It was neat while riding through some of the small towns to see the Canadian flag flying and to take time to read the plaques attesting to the feats of Canadian troops on foreign soil.
St Auben ser Sumer to Fecamp
Following an equally nice breakfast it was off to ride the Normandy coast. It was a nice ride with some climbing and coastal fog to keep us cool during the early morning hours. The fog burned off and we had a clear and partially sunny afternoon. As usual the mileage was off by a wide margin so we elected to cut off 10km at the end off the day to ensure we were at the as published 131km for the day. Arrived in Fecamp where we were to be lodged in hotel rooms vs. the campgrounds that were advertised on the itinerary. This was a nice treat but having everyone spread over the city made for an interesting time when it cam to feeding the masses. Speaking of meals, guess what we had to eat? If you guessed chicken you win the prize. The chicken population in Europe will cheer when we leave as they are being decimated in the name of feeding the Odyssey riders. I never knew the Europeans loved chicken; I guess the price per kg has something to do with it.
Fecamp to Saint Valley Sur Sonme
In light of our tired conditions and the fact my control of the tandem was seriously jeopardized we opted to ride the TK&A sag vehicle for the day along with 22 others, excluding private support vehicles. The day appeared from our vantage point to be an extremely hilly one and the comments from the riders who arrived late that evening confirmed our perspective. We cannot vouch for it, but once again the mileage was off by at least 10%. When we arrived tents were being set up in the driving range and people were coming in very late. Dinner was cold cuts (chicken as well) and salads that ran out later in the evening thus some of the late riders were somewhat disappointed at the lack of food. The weather has been holding with no rain in sight.
Saint Vallet Ser Sonne to Dover
Following breakfast it was off for a ride 145km (billed as 128km) along the coast, reasonably flat with hills as we got closer to the French port of Calais. We had a very fast and unique ride across the English Channel on a hovercraft lasting all of 35 minutes. Upon disembarking it was off again for a 6 mile ride up the White Cliff's of Dover, an at times 13% grade, to a campground where the folks camped in an area in the far reaches of the camp grounds. The grounds appeared to have excellent facilities and sunshine to spare. Dinner was a barbecue at a pub called the Ugly Duckling and everyone had a good meal. There were, however, a number of riders who never got in till quite late as a result of the mileage and channel crossing.
Dover to London,
Following an excellent breakfast at the hotel where we stayed it was off for London. We drove a car part of the way for some friends who had wanted to ride part of the way. We got the sticky end of the stick as we rode into London proper. Turned out our portion was 35 miles of more twisting and turning than we have experienced in a long time. Someone counted, and there were 139 turns in a day billed as 76 miles! This day turned into a nightmare for some as they never made it to the checkpoint until after 10:00PM (VERY DARK) and friends of ours who had tried to call the emergency number to request a sag were upset to have their numerous attempts met by no answer. Arrived at the University campus around 4:00PM where we have been staying in the dorms. Nice rooms but not designed for married persons. Meals have been at the campus food hall and generally have been quite good. The only complaint we have heard is you get one portion and one portion only. The food police even count the rolls you take, one per customer. We have enjoyed our time in London, as it is a treat to take time off and actually think and act like a tourist. The daily packing, riding, sleeping routine can become a drag day after day.
Some observations about traveling in foreign countries: If people do not speak English, speaking to them louder and slower does no good. Learn a couple of words before you venture to foreign soil as it goes a long ways. Remember we are guests in their country and act accordingly. Food stores in many countries close for a couple of hours just when you want to eat, stock up accordingly. Enjoy, the people and cultures are different, not wrong. Tomorrow we leave for a 92-mile ride to Winchester; this includes a 30 mile bit through London. Since the route takes us south from the second day's stay in Bath we are thinking we may take a more direct route and split it into to shorter halves, to end up in Bath.
We still await more specific details about our upcoming travels throughout Europe and Asia. Have not had a regular meeting with the organizers in many weeks, lots of rumors no facts. Mushroom management, keep them in the dark and feed them s%*!.
So long for now, we have 20 countries down and 25 to go. They have all been great and each has its own attributes.
Love, Dave & Mary