CTC Chateau 2014 – Normandy
The Chateau de Perron in Normandy has always been a favourite, so it was a naturel place to choose now that the annual family camping had morphed into an overseas trip.
12 families gathered on the Saturday with many new faces looking forward to a week of rides in the flatter part of Normandy.
Sunday took us westwards towards the coast at Pirou Plage. The sun was shining and would continue for the rest of the week, so we made good time through Periers and La Fueille to stop at Pirou Chateau. Renovated in the past 100 years, this ancient fortified house has had a chequered history and is still being rebuilt today. Hordes of children and adults climbed the narrow stairs, explored the tiny rooms and marvelled at the higgledy piggledy roof from the tower. Moving on we were quickly at Pirou Plage where the market was in full swing, so making snacking an easy option. Pirou is famed for its oyster beds and there were plenty of boats fishing the distant waters whilst several of us tried out the tidal swimming pool. We returned the same way back to get ready for an evening meal at St Aubin where we were treated to steak and potatoes followed by a perfect chocolate fondant.
Monday took us north towards Normandy’s high point at Mont Castre which has been the scene of multiple conflicts in the peninsula’s colourful history. The lanes were quiet and undulating and we stopped once to shelter from a torrential downpour in Lastelle. Mont Castre looming and we passed café de la Gare, where 4 families drank coffee and coke, whilst Fiona desperately tried to translate the various Tour De France references. Mont Castre was all of a 100 metre climb and families either walked to the top, hired pedalos or relaxed at the picnic spot before descending and taking the disused cyclepath to Lessay. Boulangerie raided, it was back to Periers and the chateau via another well-tended cyclepath.
Tuesday came and we explored the quiet lanes and moderate inclines to the north of Periers. Much of the local architecture was fractured during WW2 but some remains and we saw a little of this in Gonfreville with its Manor house and roadside arch. The memorial to the 90th infantry division had always been an elusive find in my 2 previous visits, but spurred on by requests we set out to find it. Signed?...no, well maintained….yes, even up to the green lane that led to it that the American division marched all those years ago. It was a poignant place, a small memorial next to a stream with flags and a few reminders that this year was the 70th anniversary. The German emblem (with swastika removed) pinned next to the memorial showed that in fact time does heal. Into Periers and a mass ice cream and coffee stop with the windows decorated with memorabilia celebrating the liberation of Periers 70 years and 1 day ago.
Marigny and its German Cemetery was the target for Wednesday and my daughter’s joke that I join all the hills up came to the fore as it was a lumpier day. Uphill and down dale as we headed east to Marigny. The scars of battle were still apparent and as was noted, if one side chooses to make a stand in your town, it won’t be pretty and Marigny shows the scars of WW2. Nearby is one of the largest German cemeteries with 11,172 graves was a poignant reminder and many were still in their teens, marked by simple plaques on the ground. Even the smallest French village seems to have a small bar where a few locals hang out and Lozon proved no exception, except this one had a picnic area by the river, perfect for lunch and having filled up on baguette and cheese it was westwards and mercifully flat back to the chateau and a spot of moonlit croquet.
The last day came and we cycled the lanes to Coutances which was a touch challenging for me as I do detailed route sheets in advance but it seemed better to reverse it! Never the less we arrived in Coutances with its magnificent cathedral that had miraculously escaped the British bombardment and the huge poster boards dotting the square showed the damage inflicted 70 years ago. Westwards and the last of the hills as we made fast progress to the coast at Gouville. Painted roves and blue sky greeted us as we lounged on the beach and watched the French emergency services complete with helicopter attend to a distant emergency. Back at the chateau the traditional BBQ finished the week of and I’d like to report that after 3 weeks and at the time of writing my croquet mallet toe injury is almost pain free!!