After our string of 100km days we felt we deserved a restful morning so we didn’t leave the campsite until the afternoon and we used the time to sort out a few things for when we move to Cornwall in late August. Thanks to a good tailwind we manage 60km despite the late start and followed more cycle routes before camping in a lovely spot on the banks of the Loir again. We’ve been passing lots of French chateaus. They litter the countryside around here with their quintisensial round towers and many windows.
The next afternoon we reached Orleans giving ourselves enough time to visit a dentist because Paddy’s filling, which he had done in China (along with the root canal), fell out. We’ve had good weather in France but the next day was spent dodging the thunderstorms as we skirted round the bottom of Paris towards Normandy. We managed to find shelter for the majority of the downpours and just got the tent up under the shade of a great oak tree before the evening rain started -we were forced to cook our pesto and ravioli in the vestibule followed by delicious French eclaires in the tent.
This part of France has been pretty flat and we’re both starting to tire of looking at the miles and miles of golden wheat fields. They were fun to start with and we enjoyed making this video about Theresa May.
Thankfully the golden fields soon turned into forests of oak trees as we reached the Normandy border at La Luppe and cycled through the north section of Parc naturel regional du Perche. The thunderstorms made a come back that afternoon and we stop at Abbaye de la Trappe to fill our water bottles at the healing spring there dedicated to St Bernard. We have to wait in line – clearly it’s the done thing for local worshippers to fill large 5l containers with the water to take home with them! While we refill we get chatting to a nice Frenchman from Paris who invites us into the Abbey’s art gallery where his Japanese wife has an exhibition of her paintings.
Needing no excuse to stop and hide from the rain we gladly follow him in and really enjoy chatting with them and looking at her work. By the time we were ready to get back on the bike an extreme downpour had started. Resigning ourselves to another damp camping spot we prepare to mount the bike.
We end up not having to camp though. Within the hour we’re settled in the private sleeping quarters of the Abbey’s monastery instead. It’s a long story which involves some very nice French ‘Trappist’ monks who essentially took pity on us and offered us a place to stay for the night!
We’re offered the use of the kitchen and a hot shower and shown to our own room by the head monk – a cheery man of 80 years who looks a bit like Albus Dumbledore in his long white robes and matching beard.
While we’re preparing dinner we notice the cathedral service times on the wall and decide to head along to the last service of the evening. The monastery complex is very beautiful and the Cathedral itself is an amazing building. After the short service we head down to the lake and walk around the forest grounds. The skies clear and we laugh at the fact we probably could have camped after all… We will definitely miss finding ourselves in these random situations once we are back!
There are a few other people staying in the same building as us – mostly worshippers who have come for a few nights. We get chatting to a nice guy called Sebastien who is here with his son and godson for a few nights -in the morning we find a little handwritten note from him tucked into our frame bag inviting us to stay on their Christmas tree farm. We leave the abbey feeling very humbled and glad that we have found people in Western Europe just as kind, friendly and open minded as they are everywhere else we’ve been.
The next day was another rainy one but we managed to hide from the worst of it by sheltering in various farm buildings. Sometimes the farmers catch us munching our lunch next to their tractors but they don’t seem to mind, in fact they are normally very amused. We reach a town called Falaise and I decide to check the warmshowers ap to see if there might be any hosts in the area who might be able to welcome us on such short notice. Jean-Marc answered our plea almost instantly and so we end up having a lovely evening with him discussing everything from cycling to politics. We are well looked after considering we gave him just 30 minutes notice!!
The next two days we have some long days in the saddle as we head west and into the Contentin peninsular. The World War Two landings and military action which took place here are heavy in our minds as we head towards the coast where we decide to stop at one of the landing beaches – Utah beach.
It’s a stunning day and it’s hard to believe that this peaceful, sandy long beach was once a place of such atrocity and suffering. While we walked around the various monuments we also come to terms with the fact that we have finally reached the English Channel.
With only 35km left to Cherbourg and our ferry not leaving until the evening the next day we felt it was fitting to check-in to a nearby campsite and celebrate properly – we had done it! We had reached the other end of the Euro-Asian landmass!
Ireland here we come!