Monday, September 21, 2015

On to St. Malo!

Biking in Normandy - Days 5-7

Day 5 - Rural Normandy
After our rides to the beaches we had a day to take a simple ride and along the way enjoy a public market in Le Haye du Puis.

It was chilling to realize this quiet little village was one where after D-Day Germans retrenched and waited for the Americans. So 71 years ago these streets became a fierce battle site with the oncoming American troops resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.

In the public market there were things I have never seen before like some little black crabs.

Local Street Markets Offered Lots of Regional Fish and Shellfish
Dazzling Array of Local Apples Were In Season

After scoping out the public market we pedaled off to visit Alain Dauget's award winning apple farm / cider mill where we received a petite lesson in cider making (lets call it cider making 101). We were told how how the farms wonderful apples are washed pulverized and pressed into juice. Then how they go on to take some of the aples to make cider and a variety of "calvados like" liquor. In France cider always sparkles and packs an alcohol content. Also, French laws regarding calvados are similar to the laws associated with champagne. True champagne may truly only be produced in the Champagne region of Frnace (all other "champagne" produced elsewhere must be titled something else). So Mr. Dauget's "calvados" liquor, being produced outside the precise Calvados region, must legally also be titled something else.

No matter what it is called we came to realize (after a tasting) that his cider and liquor packs a real punch.
Oranges and Coffee Beans Infusing "Calvados"
Creating A Local Specialty "44"

Juice, Cider and Calvodos Tasting

Mr. Dauget only sells to local restaurants / hotels and at his farm, so we were pleased to taste the goods, buy some to take home (a small bottle of 44 is in my suitcase) and then go on to enjoy a wonderful picnic lunch.

It rained a bit while we were eating in the barn. So when we left we enjoyed that "just rained" smell and some nearly nearly perfect bicycling down narrow, lush, canopied country roads through the the Norman countryside.

 Cycling Does Not Get Better Than This

 The Village Church Near the Hotel
(We Could Hear its Bells From our Rooms)

Just before turning back into our Inn I stopped at the little village church whose bells we could hear from our rooms.

Some riders rode on a short loop down to the close by salt marshes. This region is famous for its lamb. They graze the salt marshes and go on to produce a much admired salty meat.  

Day 6 - Dinan, Saint-Suliac and on to St. Malo
Today was what the our bike tour referred to as a transfer day. That means we got up, had breakfast and climbed onto a bus headed for the Medieval city of Dinan. 

With this leg complete we officially left Normandy and entered Brittany. We learned that there are a long list of "Viva la Difference"'s between Normans and Bretons. Right down to a flag that is based somewhat on the US flag and !!quelle horreur!! Breton's salt their butter! Much to the fascinations and dismay of the the rest of the French.

Dinan has an exceptional location at the top of a hill directly above the Rance river. As a walled city there were roads from the Rance up the hill to Dinan. The main city itself dates back about 800 years and although captured throughout history, still has sections with heavy English looking timbered buildings. This French city also has many old buildings that could be in a set for a Harry Potter movie.

Our guide toured us through the city, walking along sections of its high ramparts then delivered us to its market for their local specialty sausage wrapped in a big buckwheat crepe.

Dinan is Home to Some Amazingly Well Preserved 
Medieval Heavy Timber Structures

Walking Along Dinan's Stone Ramparts

A Dinan Busker 
Plays A Hurdy Gurdy

The Dinan Aquaduct

Departing Dinan we rode down the hills past an amazingly lovely aquaduct to the Rance River. Here there is Dinan's river port. Since the river is navigable from the sea to Dinan this allowed development of the commerce that provided Dinan a reason to be.

A view Along a Section of the Rance

Along the way we stopped at St. Sulliac along the Rance. This little village was just a joy. THe little homes were ll made of granite stones and clad with fishing nets. I took an hour or so to go down to the river and sit in a cafe along the waters edge. It was a wonderful break to sip a glass of local cider whilst watching the kayaks plying the glistened river.

Today's ride was rewarded with lovely rooftop rooms in a regal beachfront spa hotel. The seawalk in front of the hotel offered wonderful views of both the parasurfers on the channel and the walls of the old city of St. Malo itself. For dinner we enjoyed a local restaurant where I enjoyed some fresh and tender pan seared scallops for dinner.

St. Malo 
(From in Front of Our Hotel)

Day 7 - The Emerald Coast and Concale
After just completing two wonderful days of biking we set out for what turned out to be the most wonderful stretch of cycling of the entire trip along Brittany's emerald coast. This is a busy and, at times, extremely rough section of the Atlantic. The shoreline is in turns sandy, rocky then marshy filled with every conceivable hazard to navigation. It also features some of the world's most extreme tidal activity.

For our last cycling day the sun was out most of the way and the seas were relatively calm. We began with a visit to the summer home of Jacques Cartier the famous / infamous French explorer.  It has been lovingly restored to its 1500 era state.

The Underside of the Rough Hewn Staircase at the Cartier Home

Then as we proceeded along the coast we encountered scenic views including islands with residences to admire from the coast.

An Island Chateau

Same Spot Posing For a Group Photo 
On Our Last Day of Riding

Pointe du Grouin Viewing Ile des Landes
Panorama of the Emerald Coast Line

Motoring into Port Off of Pointe du Grouin
(Note the Fisherman on the Point)

A Shadowy Glimpse of Mont St. Michel

Our next stop was a picnic in Concale where we sampled the oyster's so prized by the French monarchs. Many of us went shopped (I found a "Real" chocolate shop and that offered a lot of  tasting of the amazing chocolate, dried fruit and fruit gels that they make themselves.

A Vintage Citroen
Out for a Spin in Concale

After lunch we took returned to the hotel and then explored the very pretty and historic center of St. Malo. 

The biking portion of the trip now officially over it was time to crash. Tomorrow we have an early visit to Mont St. Michel and then a long coach trip back to Paris.

My heart will remember biking and (at least for awhile) so will my tush.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

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