Start Bayeux. A group transfer has been arranged to pick up the group from the train station at 18.15. If you arrive earlier than this Bayeux is a fascinating town to explore. Miraculously the town escaped bombing during World War II so its old streets still feel full of history. It is well worth taking a look around the Notre Dame Cathedral inaugurated by William the Conqueror in 1077, it is a fantastic piece of gothic architecture and the spires characterise the skyline of the town. Also of architectural note is the Benedictine Monastery, the Ursuline Convent and the Hotel Dieu. Of course there is also the Bayeux Tapestry. This masterpiece is 70m long and 50cm wide, commissioned at the end of the 11th Century by Bishop Odon to decorate the Cathedral. It tells the story of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, including the famous scene of the battle of Hastings. We will begin our first full day of cycling tomorrow so if you want to have a really good explore of Bayeux then today is the best day to do it. In the evening we will have a short briefing about the week to come and enjoy our first French meal together.
Today we will set off on our first full day of riding, a circular ride that will take in some of the most significant sites of World War II. The Seulles River will be our guide for the first part of our ride as we cycle out to its estuary and the town of Courseulles on Juno Beach. The cycling is gentle and the setting extremely pleasant for our first day of riding. We will pass numerous pretty churches and chateaux, including the Chateau de Creully, which has been adapted over time. The town of Courseulles is known for the quality of its seafood and will be an ideal spot for lunch. Juno Beach was one of the beaches used during the 6th June 1944 landings where Canadian troops landed to provide flanking support to the British. From Courseulles we will continue our ride to Arromaches along the coast and Gold Beach. Here you can really get a sense of the scale of the landings. There is a museum now in the exact spot where one of the artificial harbours used to stand, which we will take some time to look around. The museum is dedicated to the landings so it will explain how each beach was used by the Allied forces and put this section of our ride into historical context. More of this will feature in tomorrow's ride. We will then continue our ride, led by the Aure River, back to Bayeux. Ride Approx. 52km.
This morning we will ride along the Drome Vallee to Port en Bessin. This port is one of the biggest and dedicated fishing ports in Normandy, we will stop for a coffee giving us the opportunity to soak in some of the atmosphere of this traditional port. Like with so many towns along this stretch of coastline it also featured in the Allied landings. With the imposing cliffs that rise to either side of the town you will be able to image the scale of the task which was faced by the green berets of 47 Royal Marine Commando. From here we will ride west to Omaha Beach, one of the more famous of the landing beaches where the first American troops landed. Here, at Colleville sur Mer there is large American Cemetery. Four miles down the coast we will reach Pointe du Hoc, the 100ft tall cliffs that stand aloft the sea, here a battery of German guns were stationed to attack the landing Allied troops. From here we will head south on a quiet road, passing a German cemetery at La Cambe before entering the Natural Park that covers much of this area. Our ride will finish in the small rural town of Carentan, a strategic goal for the Allied troops during the landings. Accommodation is limited in the town and depending on availability we may be split across two very close hotels. Ride Approx. 61km.
Our ride today takes us through an area of marsh land and meadows which are used to graze cattle and race horses. The rivers Douve, Taute and Seves all weave their way through this area on their way to the estury of Baie des Veys. This area of wetland is a favoured landscape of many migratory birds which stop to feed on the rich habitat, so it is worth taking your binoculars out with you today. Our ride will take us to Utah Beach and after visiting the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise where the story of paratrooper John Steele will be told, we will make our way back to Carentan. This region around Carentan is also famous for its cider production and for Camembert Cheese so we will be in for a chance to indulge when we return for the evening. Ride Approx. 52km.
Before we start cycling we will begin the day with a short transfer. We will then hop back on the bikes for a ride through beautiful rolling countryside, before following the coast to Granville. This bustling seaside town is built on a rocky headland on the far eastern point of the Mont-Saint-Michel bay. It has a long military and religious history and traces of this can be seen in the Old Town. It is now a busy fishing port, but the towns sea fairing history is long lived, from times when ships would regularly set sail in search of the New World, a long, arduous and dangerous journey. Now the town is also well known for the couturior, Christian Dior, who was born in Granville. If you find time it is worth a visit to his house and gardens which have magnificent sea views. The house is also now a fashion museum, for those that are interested. Alternatively, if you want a dip in the sea the town has a lovely beach. Ride Approx. 45km.
After breakfast we will begin cycling inland to the well preserved Abbey of La Lucerne situated in the forests of the Thar Valley. We will then cycle south until we reach the bay of Saint-Jean-le-Thomas. We follow it south until we reach the headland of Grouin, a rocky outcrop that protects the entrance to the Mont-Saint-Michel bay. The cycling along this coastline is spectacular. Our journey will end in Avranches which holds the precious manuscripts of the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. We will be staying in a traditional 400 year old building that has recently been renovated. It has a beautiful garden and offers a warm welcome. Ride Approx. 48km.
Today is dedicated to visiting the magnificent Mont-Saint-Michel, the highlight of the trip for many. It is a magical architectural masterpiece and an international place of pilgrimage, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Set in a large bay, its position is as breathtaking as the building itself. It is good to get an early start; we will set off from the hotel with a great downhill from Avranches to the bay. The approach to the Abbey is along a narrow stretch which fills you with excitement and expectation. We will then have plenty of time to look around and take in the magnificent views. We will then cycle inland through the surrounding countryside before returning to Avranches for our final evening together. Ride Approx. 50km.