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NORMANDY I CYCLE TOURS


turned out to be a real treat, too – simple and flavoursome French cuisine.


A LONG DAY OF CONTRASTS Setting off in the semi-dark of a misty morning makes for excitement. Yet the knowledge that we had a long day ahead played on minds all day. The first objective was the Souleuvre Viaduct. Built by Gustav Eiffel and now derelict, the view is only from the base, unless one wished to bungee jump. The ride there was pleasant enough and excitingly mysterious. Then a long descent to the base of the piers took us to the closed café and the adrenaline-fired slogans. The tops of the piers were just visible in the murk. Had a jumper plunged towards us it could hardly have been more spectacular.


The section from Souleuvre to Pont


Farcy, via Campeaux, was “Devonish”. Take advantage of the baker’s shop in Campeaux to bolster energy levels would be our advice. We walked some of the hills, which would have been dispiriting had we not noted that the route would change dramatically at Pont Farcy.


Coffee and snacks in a café-tabac in peaceful Pont Farcy was well-earned. The taciturn patron and his peaceful dog demonstrated that the old adage about dogs and owners went well beyond physical resemblance. A good place to stop. Had this been a lunch stop Le Coq Hardi is renowned for its workers menu. Build in time for a siesta.


Pont Farcy was once a port, though 100km from the sea. It benefitted no doubt from the building of various cuts to allow navigation along the Vire. The cyclist now benefits from the tow path that ran alongside river and cut, alternating between the two, passing derelict locks and some attractive riverside towns and villages.


The scenery around remains hilly, with magnificent wooded outcrops and caves to explore; we were grateful to be avoiding the climbs. This was a tremendously enjoyable section. The scenery changed rapidly, the winding river revealed wildlife and scenery at one. Groups of canoeists occasionally thronged the water and time rolled by. Stopping at St. Lo for lunch – another magnificent plat de jour at O Commerce - between the river and the citadel, we once again regretted our tight schedule. This would have been a great place to spend the night and explore. Like other strategic towns in the area this had been devastated during the war, but the flags and flowers and the friendly people made for a lively atmosphere. Eventually the towpath gives out, or rather comes to an abrupt end at Pont Hebert. At present the route now winds, in a long-winded effort to avoid the main road – through charming villages all the way to the St. Hilaire Petitville, just south of Carentan. The final section gives a taste of the Marais Carentan that will accompany much of the ride to Briquebec. With the help of a local garage-owner and google earth we found our chambre d’hote at La Ferme de Romagny. A comfortable night and another huge breakfast prepared us for the last day.


It had been suggested that if there was one section to miss out that this was it. Whilst not cycling the whole route goes against my grain, it is true to say that much of the voie verte that links Carentan to Briquebec was shrouded by trees and that, once the views across the marsh ran out, it was really a question of pushing on. Having said that, the bucolic scenery of the early part of the route, the café in St. Saveur Le Vicomte, and the charming town of Briquebec complete with castle, would have been missed had we taken the train form


22 www.cyclingworldmag.com


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