Monday, February 13, 2012

France - Along the Seine River

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Photo credit: Port of Le Havre

15 miles, Saturday, July 30

The English Channel crossing took six hours. Oddly enough, the fee of 70 pounds for the two of us on a round-trip ticket was cheaper than two one-way fares.

We docked in La Havre, France under hazy, sweltering heat. I wiped my brow several times as we cued up on the hot tarmac, waiting to show our passports to the authorities. And then we were on our way.

With a large scale map of Normandy we headed around the busy mouth of the Seine River. The map was rife with a road network much like the United Kingdom.The immediate goal was to get to Paris by broadly following the Seine’s path; the lure of that city’s museums beckon us onward.

Along the way the purchase of dinner and breakfast was an uncomfortable introduction to French shopping. Dealing with the language added a new twist, calculating the exchange rate of 5.4 Francs to the U.S. dollar, pricing in kilograms, and trying to keep near our 30.00 per day budget was a cranky ordeal for two hungry cyclists. We put food back on the shelf only to return and place it back in our basket. By day’s end 66 Francs bought 3 meals—not bad in reality.

50 miles, Sunday, July 31

Oh the lovely delightful roads of France! Pedaling from Brionne toward Le Neubourg and Louviers a plethora of cyclists cruised by, their greetings equally divided between “Bonjour” and “Hi”. French cyclists do not wear helmets; our headwear and baggage immediately identify us as foreigners. The drivers in their compact Peugeots and Renaults waited patiently at blind curves, allowing ample room when they pass. It was obvious that cyclists are respected. Bike lanes and marked routes helped us navigate from village to village. Despite our inability to speak the language, it was a welcome introduction to France.

Normandy cattle.  Photo Credit: Kimball Stock
An unusual spotted cow grazes the fields. With many brown and black splotches, individual patterns resemble a Dalmatian; a herd in the distance is like a toss of white dice. Andy thought they’re a cross between a Holstein and Jersey. I yell “moo!” and smile.

At Les Andelys we crossed the Seine River again, this time on a narrow suspension bridge. A picturesque castle stares down on us and we take a break to admire the view. Later we got sidetracked cruising through farmland, thick with wheat. The crops were doubly fragrant after the passing rain shower. But then we discovered the single tracked road and corrected ourselves for the ride up and over the green basin.

Les Andelys suspension bridge. For more info. click here.
By day’s end we pull into Bouafles at a campground and negotiate the accommodation with simple words and hand signals. We were exhausted after a full day’s miles in a new land. In the tent Andy and I go over the French dictionary. While I don’t expect to speak fluently, we must learn enough to get by and understand simple directions. Practice will fill the long hours on the road.

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