Forest Row Bike Club

FRBC tour of Normandy June 2008


A full size version of this map can be found here.


This is the intended itinerary Hotels are booked so that bit is fixed, small diversions are possible and lunch stops depend on riding speed and availability of cafés

Thursday 12 June:

LD Lines Ferry from Newhaven to Le Havre Depart. 12.00 Arrive. 18.00 Cycle for 7 miles from dockside to Gonfreville, accommodation at the Campanile, rue du Chateau d'Eau.

Friday 13 June:

Pont de Normandie Cycle for 43 miles to Troarn. Starting over the 856m long Pont de Normandie built in 1995 over the Seine estuary. Then going along the coast, passing Honfleur Honfleur with its medieval skyscrapers (tall houses beside the inner harbour), then along the Norman Riviera including Trouville (probably stopping for lunch). Here Napoleon III held his summer court and across the river where there was previously only marshland one of his dukes built a racecourse around which chic Deauville grew. Then through Dives-sur-Mer (no longer by the sea) where William the Conqueror first set sail for England in 1066. We now leave the coast and ride south through Varaville to Troarn. The village of Troarn, with its abbey and on the Cheese & Le Clos NormandCider Trails, is about 6 miles from Caen. The abbey was founded by one of Williams companions, Sir Roger II de Montgomery, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury between 1050 and 1059. We are staying at the Logis hotel Le Clos Normand, rue Pasteur.

Saturday 14 June:

Chateau remains at Thury-HarcourtThe Keep Falaise CastleCycle for 43 miles to Falaise. Meander south west on small roads to Thury-Harcourt (northern part of Suisse Normande region) on the Orne river for lunch. Thury took the name 'Harcourt' in 1700, when it became the seat of the old Norman family whose castle now lies in ruins beside the Orne river. However, its beautiful park and gardens are still there. From Thury we follow the Orne for a short way before turning east for Falaise. Here William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard as he is known in Normandy) was born as a result of Duke Robert's liaison with Arlette a laundress in the town. The whole of Falaise was so devastated L'Eglise Ste Trinitein 1944 that by the time the Canadians arrived there were no recognisable roads and they had to bulldoze a 4 metre strip straight through the middle. The castle dominates a panoramic landscape. The Dukes of Normandy, the Angevin Kings and (from 1204) Hotel de la Poste - Falaisethe Kings of France fortified the castle though many turbulent years. The ruins at Falaise were recently restored to enable easier access for visitors. This has been controversial locally because of the modern materials used, including steel and glass. The long restoration of (WW2) Ste Trinite Gothic church is almost completed, with unusual 15C triangular porch. We are staying at the Logis Hotel de la Poste, rue Georges Clemenceau.

Sunday 15 June:

LivarotCycle for 47 miles to Bernay. Eastwards through quiet countryside, small towns and villages for lunch at Livarot on the Cheese route, home of the eponymous cheese, considered to be one of the best in the world by some cheese lovers. From Livarot we continue eastwards to Bernay, a French commune in the Eure river region of French Normandy that developed around an abbey founded by Richard II and his wife, Judith of Brittany. It is one of the most untouched (by war) towns in Normandy, because of dense fog when raids were Bernayplanned there was no bombing and the half-timbered medieval town survived. Ancient streets with numerous antique shops, renaissance houses, and quiet waterways. The minster commissioned in 1013 by William of Volpiano, Abbot of Fecamp, is a wonderful example of primitive Romanesque architecture. It was taken back from the State which had been using it as a store and underwent wide-ranging renovation. Le Lion d'OrThe Abbot's lodgings dating from the 16th century now house a museum and the monks' living quarters dating from the 17th century are now the Town Hall. Built in the 15th century in another district of the town, indeed in an area that is almost a totally different from Bernay altogether, is Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture. This church has timber vaulting and superb stained-glass windows. It was raised to the status of basilica in 1950. We stay in Le Lion d'Or, rue du General de Gaulle.

Monday 16 June, with rest day on Tuesday 17 June:

Place du Chateau - Le Neubourg Rouen CathedralCycle for 45 miles to Rouen. Lunch in the pleasant old town of Le Neubourg, with a large main square dominated by the unfinished, but imposing, 15C Eglise St-Paul. A castle was built near the town in 1000, ownership tossed between Normandy, England and France. 3 miles away is 17C Chateau du Champ-de-Bataille restored lovingly in the 1990s with lovely gardens. Continue northwards to Rouen, via Elbeuf, criss-crossing the loops of the Seine, and trying not to get lost in the busy suburbs of Rouen. Finally cross the Seine on Pont Boieldieu towards the centre of Rouen and find the nearby B&B Hotel de Paris, rue de la Champmesle, not far from the Theatre des Arts.

On the Rest Day, it is possible to get a train and bus from Rouen down to Monet's Garden at the pretty village of Giverny upstream on the Seine. Although expensive, it is well worth a visit. Monet's garden GivernayHowever, there is a lot to explore in the medieval city of Rouen itself with its beautiful half-timbered buildings and narrow streets. During the 13C it was the second largest city in France, and has a long connection with royalty. William the Conqueror died here, Kings Richard and John of England were crowned Dukes of Normandy in the Cathedral. Joan of Arc (La Pucelle – the Maiden) is undoubtedly Rouen's most notable 'death', burned at the stake in the Place du Vieux Marche. At the age of 14, sure that she had been entrusted with saving France during the 100 Years War against the English, she went to French king Charles VII St Ouen's Abbeyand persuaded him to let her inspire and lead 4000 French troops to victory at Orleans against the English. In 1429 at the age of 18, she was beside Charles VII when he was triumphantly crowned in Reims Cathedral. In five years she went from being the illiterate daughter of a ploughman to sitting beside a king at his coronation. Her attack on Paris though was a disaster, The old market square - Rouenand she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English who attributed her victories to witchcraft. She appealed to Charles but he was silent. In 1430 she was imprisoned in Rouen on Christmas Eve, tried for witchcraft and sentenced to death. It is little known that 20 years later a papal commission proclaimed Joan's innocence. Her greatness was in forging a sense of nationhood in France, and she still serves as a national heroine.

Wednesday 18 June:

Chapel Oak - Allouville BellefosseCycle for 55 miles to Etretat. Leaving through the suburbs of north west Rouen, wending through the Pays de Caux towards Allouville Bellefosse where we stop for lunch, here can be seen the most famous tree of France, the Chapel-Oak. In fact it is more than a tree: it is a religious monument and an object of pilgrimage. The oak itself is one of the biggest and oldest trees of France, and in it are built two small chapels above each other. Together with the large wooden staircase leading up to the chapels the whole is one of the most curious Roman Catholic sanctuaries all over Europe. In 1669 the priest of Allouville , Abbot Du Détroit and father Du Cerceau decided to build a chapel in the already big and hollow oak, with a small altar and an image of the Virgin Mary. The chapel was dedicated to " Our Lady of Peace ". Later on a second chapel was arranged above the first and a staircase built. Dormy house hotel and cliffs at EtretatIn it a hermit seems to have lived for some time. We then continue on to the beautiful Alabaster Coast at Etretat. The dramatic arches in the luminous white cliffs were favourites with artists Monet, Boudin, Corot and Courbet, the writer Maupassant and the composer Offenbach. Falaise d'Aval (Manneporte arch and l'Aiguille-needle) is to the west of the town and the smaller, but perhaps more famous, arch is to the east on Falaise d'Amont. The hotel is a Logis, the Dormy House on route du Havre with a panoramic restaurant.

Thursday 19 June:

Palais Benedictine - FecampThe beach - St Pierre-en-PortHotel de l'Huitriere QuibervilleCycle 47 miles to Quiberville. We follow the coastline eastwards, passing through Fecamp with its famous Palais Benedictine (home of the famous liqueur), and continue past small fishing towns, and delightful villages like Veules-les-Roses on the 'smallest river in France', only 1 kilometre long. We will probably stop for lunch at St Pierre-en-Port one of the many small fishing villages along the coast. We stay at the Hotel de l'Huitriere Quiberville with most rooms overlooking the sea.

Friday 20 June:

Cycle a mere 10 miles into Dieppe to catch the ferry to Newhaven. Dep 13.30 arr16.30

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