The Fridays in Normandy – Wednesday ride report

To St-Vaast-la-Hogue (elevenses), Barfleur (lunch) and the Phare-de-Gatteville

The eagle-eyed and sharp-witted will see that elevenses and lunch were swopped around from Sunday’s ride.  But we took quite a different route (and, of course, different eateries) for this ride around the north-east coast of the Cotentin peninsula.

We gîtists pedalled over to the château to meet up with the big group – and, before one or two members left early, a group photo at the front of the chateau.IMGP6233The sun was bright, the lanes were lovely and traffic-free.  A stop in St-Vaast for coffee and bakeries and then two stops in Barfleur, the first for a light beer and cider aperitif; the second for moules crême with more cider.IMGP6239Then we went to the lighthouse at Gatteville – the second highest lighthouse in Europe.  Unlike the white Stevenson lighthouses for the Northern Lights, French lighthouses turn out to be grey.  It’s a popular outing for the locals and they, and all the drivers on the little lane to the lighthouse, were astonishingly polite.IMGP6240We then went up a corker of hill (the coastline is difficult and bumpy at this point), decided we needn’t do any shopping in Cherbourg and looked for a quiet way back to Brix.   Tiny lanes, huge bulldozers and a little girl on a pink tricycle – who overtook us shortly after we had overtaken her!

My room-mate Charlie was on cooking duty this evening and made a lovely spicy Moroccan vegetarian dish based on chick-peas.  More beer, cider and wine were drunk.  A wonderful day!

Route here.  Mileage for the day = 55.  Cumulative mileage = 284.

The Fridays in Normandy – Monday ride report

To Carteret (elevenses), Briquebec (lunch) and Brix (aperatif)

We left the gîte nice and early to meet the main group in the Place Robert Bruce in Brix.  It turns out that an ancestor of Robert the Bruce was from Brix and had crossed with the Conqueror; Robert de Brix had become Robert the Bruce.IMGP6175

Martin’s CycleChat account of the day is a classic:

“Another absolutely stonking day.  Thanks to the Weather God that overlooks and protects all outings by The Fridays there was no need to don waterproofs at all.  A tailwind blew us to the coast and we turned left, across the traffic, with no real problem apart from a nice lady in a campervan needing to be told to stop, and whizzed southwards.

The coast cannot be far!

The coast cannot be far!

An excellent coffee stop saw lots of hot blooded chaps queuing in the boulangerie in the hope that all such places are staffed by beauties such as we see in the Brix version. Alas we just had to buy cakes and walk away disappointed, albeit only slightly.

For some, the boulangerie is not enough!

For some, the boulangerie is not enough!

A quick 12k saw us in Briquebec for lunch, where someone riding a Brompton was seen at a trailer that was selling chips. Someone else cast a covetous eye on a kebab house and some of us made sure Gordon was supervised as he took his ladylove out for her birthday lunch.  As he had already celebrated her birthday with a Calvados at the coffee stop we worried he might become slightly overcelebratory and we’re not here for that malarky.

The birthday girl outside the chosen restaurant

The birthday girl outside the chosen restaurant

At lunch I learned that an unnamed Friday peep not only knows all about Lenin’s Linoleum but has also spoken to John Lennon and Mick Jagger.  However I managed to recover a small bit of self-confidence by working out a route back to the château that avoids a bit of the Brix hill. I shall name this the Enigmatic Variation because while it removes some climbing it also removes a chance to stop in the bar in Brix.  And I am ashamed and shocked – SHOCKED – I tell you to reveal that the entire membership of this trip seems to have stopped there and is probably drinking Calvados as we speak.  If Greg was here this would not have happened I can tell you.  However it is not all bad news as it allowed me to raid the secret store of cider without anyone knowing. An ver’ niysch it ish, too.”

Sahar, Simon and Giorgos are among those sampling calvados, beer and cider

Sahar, Simon and Giorgos are among those sampling calvados, beer and cider

And the menu at lunch?  Assiette viandes, andouillettes, cheese, cider and coffee!

The route is here.  Today’s mileage = 43.  Cumulative mileage = 152.

The Fridays in Normandy – Sunday Ride Report

To Barfleur (elevenses), St-Vaast-la-Hogue (lunch), and Valognes (aperatif)

There was damp in the air but this made no difference to the Fridays riders on their first full day in Normandy.  And what a way to begin!  Gordon led me to the boulangerie in Brix so that we could obtain breakfast supplies from the legend that is Madame.

But the real business of the day started when he led the gîtists back to the château for the gathering that was to become the ride to Barfleur.

I can do no better than borrow from Martin’s CycleChat thoughts recorded on the day itself: “Great day. A few spots of rain but not enough to get the gear on for. Coffee in Barfleur. Fish and chips in st huge le vaaast (other spellings are available); some had fresh oysters to boot. Others had crêpes. Return was through idyllic lanes. As you do. The Splittist Tendency of The Fridays International Brigade went off in search of Calvados on the return. The Orthodox Front returned direct to Le Chateau.”

Fish & chips, and cider, and oysters in St Vaast

Fish & chips, and cider, and oysters in St Vaast

Yep, I had the fish & chips – accompanied by cider (a first) and preceded by half-a-dozen fresh oysters (another first).  Our fellow gîtists, Andy and Jo, got stranded on the far side of the harbour when the bridge opened; my, how we laughed!

Andy can just be seen, with his back to the camera, starting his long walk around the harbour

Andy can just be seen, with his back to the camera, starting his long walk around the harbour

Jo - none the worse for her adventure

Jo – none the worse for her adventure

And yes, I was a member of The Splittist Tndency – a small select group who  lingered in Valognes for calvados and cider.  Valognes is pretty quiet on a Sunday afternoon and we had difficulty finding a bar.   I resorted to asking people on the pavement.  The first family were Dutch and also looking for a bar – an ice cream bar – to satisfy their young son.  No mistake with the second group; one gentleman looked quite drunk already.  Oh yes, he replied, there are two bars open; the one at the station is always open; but, nearer, you will find La Civette.  I learned that you do not ask for “un calvados” but rather “un calva”!

Le Tendence Splittiste enjoy "un calve"

Le Tendence Splittiste enjoy “un calva”

Back eventually to the gîte and a marvellous chilli pasta, cooked by Jo and Andy.

Andy cooks his chilli special

Andy cooks his chilli special

Route for the day here.  Today’s mileage = 60.  Cumulative mileage = 109.

The Fridays go to Normandy – The Prologue


After the epic that was LonJoG (see the report in “Cycle”, Dec 2012), this year The Fridays expedition was to Normandy.

Prologue Day 1 – Friday 14th June – Northampton to Portsmouth

I felt very organised in the morning.  My Dawes Galaxy touring bike was prepared with four panniers (two front and two rear) and a rack pack.  I knew where every item was and everything was waterproof.  The bike had been very recently serviced and was as sweet as a nut.  Pedalling to Northampton station was easy.

The 1250 train to Euston was very crowded but I got the bike into a good space and found a seat opposite.  London was busy (busier than I’m used to – because I’m normally pedalling in London on Saturdays and Sundays) but the journey from Euston to Victoria was straightforward.

Once in Victoria station I quickly met Gordon and Lonica.  Gordon had been on the recce trip and he and his wife were staying at the same gîte as me.  We got our bikes onto the Portsmouth-bound train and travelled comfortably to Portsmouth & Southsea station.  The three of us were staying at the Travelodge hotel opposite the ferry terminal and, after a short walk through the pedestrianized city centre and then pedalling along some quiet back streets, we were soon there.

We met Pam (Anything But Vanilla) and Dan at the hotel and the five of us went out for an evening meal, pedalling over to the new harbour developments at Gunwharf Quays and a branch of Café Rouge.  Scampi, lamb, and treacle pudding – accompanied by Hoegarten and Merlot.

We returned to our hotel and I was waiting for my room-mate Charlie.  The pub next door – The Sovereigns – had last orders just before eleven o’clock on a Friday evening, which struck me as very old-fashioned.  But Charlie soon arrived and, as I knew he would be, he was good company as a room-mate throughout the entire tour.

Mileage for the day = 16.

Prologue Day 2 – Saturday 15th June – (a) Tour de Portsmouth (b) A high-speed ferry crossing (c) Cherbourg to Brix

(a) After breakfast in The Sovereigns, six of us pedalled to StuAff’s house in Portsmouth for a guided tour.  We went out of the city to an elevated vantage point at Portsdown Hill where we had a view of the whole city.  Stuart pointed out that, properly speaking, Portsmouth is an island.

On Portsdown Hill - (l to r) Charlie, Gordon, Lonica, Stuart

On Portsdown Hill – (l to r) Charlie, Gordon, Lonica, Stuart

We then swept down to the historical dockyard where HMS Warrior, one of the first “Ironclads” is moored – accompanied today by a statue commemorating the “mudlarks” – before moving on to elevenses at Southsea Castle.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior

We went then back near StuAff’s house to meet up with Claudine, Sonia and the others at The Star & Garter for lunch.

Portsmouth route here.

(b) And so to the ferry terminal for the high-speed catamaran crossing to Cherbourg.  I sat next to (mmm)Martin – who is always good value; met Andy and Jo who had arranged the gîte and managed to get to sleep while almost all the others were seasick.

(c) With that organisation for which he is famed, Simon (DZ) had arranged for luggage to be carried from Cherbourg to Brix and so my bike was relieved of its panniers for the eleven miles or so to the château.  Energetic cooks had already been working and, amongst other, Jim, Steve and Rachel had prepared a meal of pasta, cider and wine – what’s not to like?  And the gîtists were quickly onto our final destination.

Our gîte

Our gîte

Route from ferry terminal to château here.

Mileage for the day = 33.  Cumulative mileage = 49.