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Silent in Foggy France: Bayeux – Benouville – Houlgate

Sunday 30 August 9:10 am – Relais ‘La Roseraie’, Bayeux (Day 98 of my midlife gapyear)

I wonder when I will converse again. Will my voice go rusty, my tongue uncertain? This will be day eight without a proper conversation.

‘Sadness & Happiness’ – the last poem in Selected – one of my favourites – so much so as I think my shoulders slumped and I let out a little sigh of … there should be a word which reflects the regret of finishing a book.

Now I’ll have to finish my ‘poem’ and prepare to share it with Robert. That makes me nervous just thinking about it. But excited too. I want it to be good and I want him to like it.

Fabulous French sugar cubes - breakfast at my chambres du hote
Fabulous French sugar cubes – breakfast at my chambres du hote

7:05 pm – Camping les Hautes Coutures, Benouville

I had a little chat with a fellow cyclist this evening – a Frenchman out for a ride and a bicycle tourist – he had a little English – we spoke of my trip and his, earlier in the summer, to Scotland. He told me that in WWII a Scotsman playing the pipes led troops into battle across the bridge I’ll traverse in the morning.

It was a day of two distinct halves. The first was through very, very quiet farming country and little towns. Beautiful – fog hugged the earth pretty much all day. But in never rained. And it was mild. Freshly harvested hay bales are strewn across fields. There were cars outside churches. A few open bars. Quiet.

Breaking in my new French Aussie cap and admiring the farmers' work.
Breaking in my new French Aussie cap and admiring the farmers’ work.

Then I reached the sea.

I got a crepe in some small beach town and a Frenchman was keen to chat about my trip – but we had about the same number of words in each other’s languages. He was enthusiastic and friendly though.

From there I rode along the coast in and out of beach towns – full of French and English holiday-makers. This is Juno, a landing beach of the British and Canadians. It was interesting to see they had become English in their accoutrements: carousels and soft-serve ice creams and hot chips served from kiosks and people walking and flying kites and building sand castles and roller-blading. While the English may visit for the history they also want a fun beach holiday – the Americans back at Omaha were just there for the history – they’ll go to Florida for a beach holiday.

So I rode through these late-summer holiday-makers – an object of some interest. People looked, and watched – but none tried to speak with me. At the Brittney Ferry Terminal, I left the sea with a right-hand turn along the canal which runs to Caen.

All up I rode about 65 kms to arrive at this 4-star campground – I prefer two or three as they have all I need and nothing that I don’t (pools, playgrounds). But here I am. And I’ve paid for 3 hours of internet too.

Today I thought often about my return to Sydney – riding in from Palm Beach. Coffee in Manly. Pedalling across the Bridge. A drink in the Rocks and ‘home’ to Five Dock.

And Robert’s Selected Poems – I was thinking about them. I think the Germans have a word for the remorse felt when you’ve finished a book.

Monday 31 August – 8:40 am, Camping les Hautes Coutures, Benouville (Day 99)

Another foggy morning with some rain overnight and drizzling off and on now. I am breakfasting in the ablutions block – among the washing basins, not the toilets – on digestives with butter and tea while my computer (and hopefully my mp3 player) charges.

Last night – after some work – I sent my next e-newsletter – which I was happy with and had replies in the night from Bob M., VAL, Sabra and Debra B.

8:15 pm – Camping Municipal des Chevaliers, Houlgate

Short riding day – less than 40 km – I didn’t leave Benouville until midday. I had proceeded along in my getting ready but before I could get the tent packed it started pissing down. I took shelter in the bar – had a coffee and did some work.

When I did finally get away it was under a heavy blanket of cloud and lingering fog – breezy. And that’s what it was like all day, but for 90 seconds of sunshine while I was at the tourist office here.

The early part of the day followed the River Orne back to the Channel – partially through a wetland nature reserve where I saw a deer – second of the trip – the first near Southampton. In that millisecond of seeing its haunch I though “kangaroo!” – same colouring.

Then I was back along the sea.

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I was going to ride further than Houlgate but I realised I was knackered. They had a municipal camping ground – €8 plus free Wi-Fi (which I haven’t tried yet).

While I was pitching my tent, and unpacking my bicycle – other bicycle tourists showed up for the neighbouring pitch. They are French, but she lived in Sydney for a year and New Zealand before that. She speaks English quite well. We had a bit of a chat – but nothing of substance sadly. They seem to have gone into town now.

I showered. I made dinner. Yesterday’s wet clothes are hanging up until I go to bed.

I wish I had a chair with a back. That would make life better.

My route - click to enlarge.
My route – click to enlarge.
My route in context (Paris in the lower right, Amiens in the upper right.) Click to enlarge.
My route in context (Paris in the lower right, Amiens in the upper right.) Click to enlarge.

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