AVP land in Normandy

PUBLISHED: 17:15 13 May 2009 | UPDATED: 23:29 15 June 2010

This year, the annual AVP French Foray, organised by our Foray tour rep, Deegee, took 20 intrepid cyclists to sample the countryside, cuisine, culture and history of Normandy

This year, the annual AVP French Foray, organised by our Foray tour rep, Deegee, took 20 intrepid cyclists to sample the countryside, cuisine, culture and history of Normandy.

A larger group than previous years - reflecting the increasing enthusiasm and expansion of the club, we loaded our bikes (including four tandems) onto the Portsmouth-Caen ferry for the evening crossing. Having enjoyed a meal together in Portsmouth (thank you Grinch for organising that), we re-grouped in the bar before retiring to our cabins for a pleasurably smooth crossing.

We arrived in the port of Oistreham bright and early for what turned out to be a warm and sunny day - perfect for cycling. Having done a previous reconnoitre of the route, Deegee and Madal lead the group straight onto a delightful, recently surfaced canal path, taking us to the heart of Caen.

Stopping en route at Pegasus Bridge, we had breakfast at the Café Gondrée, the first house and family liberated by the British Airborne Division on 5th/6th June 1944.

Madame Gondrée, who was four at the time of the liberation, had prepared a delicious breakfast especially for us, with lashings of coffee, chocolate, and croissants.

The café was itself a museum and Madame kindly took the time to chat to us about her family's experiences of the war and liberation.

We then cycled on to Caen where we split up into smaller groups to explore the centre, churches and old castle walls, regrouping loaded with delicious picnic supplies.

Madal then guided us out of Caen and into the Normandy countryside. Here we enjoyed small lanes across open fields contrasting with delightful green and wooded valleys and traditional old Normandy villages.

After a hugely entertaining picnic (video clip soon to be put on the AVP website), and an afternoon drink at a local bar, we arrived at Courseulles-Sur-Mer. Here we had time to relax by the sea and visit the war museum, one of many on this stretch of Normandy coast.

Having reflected on what took place here, we cycled back along the coast, finishing the last six miles, again on an off-road cycle path, this time by the sea.

We ended our 48-mile day with a long, leisurely meal at a large table prepared for us by the friendly and accommodating owners, where we sampled the delights of Normandy cuisine.

The return crossing was again calm and we arrived back in Portsmouth the following morning having had an interesting, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable Normandy experience.

By Alistair Cope

Axe Valley Pedallers


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