Being a bit of a history buff, we decided while in France we’d go to the beaches of Normandy to see where the Canadians had landed on Juno beach. The closest town we could find that had accommodation was Bayeux, where we stayed in a nice little bed and breakfast inside town. One of the ladies at the reception had mentioned a nice way to get to the beaches was to rent a bike and go out for the day.
We woke up on Sunday morning to a beautiful bright sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky. Looking like the perfect day for a short ride we had a late breakfast and went into town to rent 4 bikes for a beautiful ride in the countryside. We told the shopkeeper where we planned to go, and armed with his map and some directions we were off just before noon.
The French countryside really is beautiful, with long flat patches and long rolling hills. It turned out to be a pretty hot day for a cycle with the temperature reaching just over 30 degrees. After two hours of constant cycle we were starting to get tired and looked forward to hitting the next town on the map to refill our empty water and stomachs.
Funny thing about the French is that they like their breaks and days off. We had expected most stores to be closed between 12:00 and 3:00, but what we didn’t know is that on Sundays they shut down everything except their churches in the small towns. We noticed a man doing some gardening, and seeing the water being poured into the ground we decided to ask him to refill our water bottles. Steve’s French came in handy and out came some water with ice in it, as well as some ginger ale.
Refreshed with some distance still ahead of us we continued riding through the countryside wondering if we were ever going to make it to the beach. Another hour of cycling passed by and our bottles were empty again as we rode through another small town. As we were on the side of the road trying to figure out what to do, we saw a family having a picnic that kindly offered us a bottle of water! Refreshed once again we headed out on the most epic bike ride ever.
Around 4pm we finally arrived at the beach feeling exhausted and starved. We refueled ourselves at a small café with some crepes and beer before heading into the Juno beach museum. Inside was a nice display about Canada’s war effort, life in the UK for the troops and the landings on the beach. An interesting fact I never knew is that Canada sent 1 million troops overseas, when the country only had a population of 11 million. 1 in 11 went to war, and many didn’t return.
The museum closed shortly after we got there, and we went out to the beach to have a picnic of wine, cheese and breads we had brought with us. While we enjoyed our picnic we felt very thankful for the generations of men and women before us who sacrificed themselves so that we could have the freedom to be here.
As it started to get dark we weren’t looking forward to our bike ride home, but what could we do? Being stranded out here with the bikes we unlocked them and tried to get the front lights working. It turns out that when the wires are cut, bulbs are missing and they don’t attach to wheels the front lights on cycles don’t work. Luckily Dee and I carry flashlights in our day bags and we tried our best to make it work. It sure does get dark in the French countryside with no lights and a sliver of a moon in the sky; we carefully made our way back to Bayeux. There were many moments of not seeing the road, almost going into ditches and nearly getting hit by cars, but somehow we made the 3 hours journey without killing ourselves or each other.
If you find yourself in Bayeux going to one of the Normandy beaches, I’ll give you a hint everyone forgot to mention to us. Don’t ride a bloody bike unless you’re used to being on one for such long distances! Instead, rent a scooter if you can find one. It would be much more enjoyable and your ass won’t feel as if it belonged to an East Van hooker for the next couple of days.
Oh, and don’t let Steve hold the flashlight. 😉