Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesNormandy, France 2011 - By Ren Withnell

Normandy, France 2011 - The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge

The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge

I can't believe today is our last full day in France.  It has taken me the last 4 days to adjust to the strangeness of this place called France and I'm just, just starting to relax and enjoy myself.  I'm just starting to enjoy riding on the wrong side of the road and to feel confident enough to stop panicking at every junction.  I've even managed to stay in bed long enough to not fear severe reprisals from the gf if I wake her.  I must be getting all chilled out and that never happens to me, it must be all this continental attitude rubbing off on me.

Today we're heading to the "En-Auge"s.  The gf's handy guide book, the same one that made the scruffy dump called Deauville sound like Monte Carlo, suggests we visit 3 towns inland.  They're supposed to be beautiful and tranquil and lots of other wonderful superlatives.  After the disappointment of Deauville I'm not convinced but I think it will be good to look inland, away from the tourist trails.  My memories of Spain suggest the coast is where false and fake beauty hides the places where the real people live inland.  I'm curious to see if the places inland are as scruffy and cramped as they were in Spain.

Outside it's another glorious day.  The wind that dropped yesterday is just a light breeze today and the sun is shining in a sky that has the odd fluffy cloud floating across.  Whilst I try to memorise some kind of route to where we're going, the gf makes more Brioche butties.  I check the bike over and make a tiny adjustment to the chain tension, to see if it helps when riding through those blasted 30kph zones we're sure to come across.  We load the bike up and this time we take the saddle bags with us, the plan being to put our gear in there if we wish to walk around.  I'm looking forward to today, now that I'm no longer terrified of the strange roads and I'm hoping the routes inland will move faster than the coastal ones.

horses in a luch green field seen from the studio in honfleur
In the nice weather horses frolick in the field outside of our studio.  How twee...

The road out to Pont-L'Eveque is a broad open road with only the odd car for company, perfect.  Perfect if you're not in a rush.  The general speed limit is 90kph (55mph) but if there's so much as a gentle curve in the road, or perhaps a junction, then the speed limit drops to 70kph (42mph).  Back home I'm used to making my own decisions about a corner or junction, here they're made for you.  It's not a problem today though, today is about taking in the scenery, looking around and seeing how these French folks live around here.

Pont-L'Eveque is a busy town.  We're following the main road through and it's solid with standing traffic.  As we inch through I can see it's quite a smart and clean place, large sandstone buildings line the road, all with sharp crisp edges and not a speck of dirt.  It feels completely different to Honfleur, here the buildings all fit together and the architecture feels more planned rather than ad-hoc.  Whatever the planning the road today is a car park, a hot and very sweaty car park as the heat from the engine mixes with the heat from the sun to heat my body that's wrapped in protective equipment.  If this lasts any longer I'm going to smell like Stilton cheese.

When we pop out the other end of Pont-L'Eveque it's as though there never was a traffic jam!  We're back out on open road in the countryside and riding along at a comfortable pace.  Every few miles we're slowed by another junction, or a village complete with 30kph zone and a couple of speedbumps.  Here the land rolls up and down over very gentle curves and crests, cows eat green grass in fields devoid of mud and old Frenchmen sit outside cafés in sleepy hamlets, smoking crumpled cigarettes.  Apart from the sticky sweat in my jacket I feel pleasantly calm as we ride gently through the landscape.

Dozule, there's something familiar about the word Dozule.  I repeat it inside my helmet and try to remember where or why I know the name.  Nothing concrete comes to mind, yet I find I'm still repeating the word in my head.  It feels nice, it just seems right, oh I don't know, there's something cosy and warm in the name Dozule.  There's nothing familiar about Dozule though.  I don't recognise anything other than it's another small French town, more of a village really.  It also means we're getting close to the turning for our first port of call, Putot-en-Auge.  I stop and consult my map and the gf's guide book and carry on.  Sure enough a sign takes us into Putot-en-Auge

According to the guide book we should be in a hamlet.  According to our eyes we're on a road with 3 houses on it.  Don't get me wrong, they are 3 very pretty houses in lush green countryside, very picturesque.  But really, we've already seen it as we ride through, I check the map and head for Beuvron-en-Auge instead.  Hopefully there will be a bit more to see there.

Wow.  Beuvron-en-Auge is the cutest most picture perfect little village you could hope for.  At the heart of the village there's a place to park the bike and a couple of shops and cafés.  As I shuffle the bike next to a big black Gold Wing a man with a long white beard sat outside a café gesticulates at me.  I guess he's trying to tell me it's OK to park next to the 'Wing, not that I was asking.  We get off the bike and I am so relieved to remove the clammy damp jacket and feel the air around my body.  I quickly remove my overpants too which brings a little relief to those parts most susceptible to getting sweaty...nice. 

My bike and the black gold wing parked in the beautiful town of Beuvron en auge
The black Gold Wing with my bike parked behind.  What a pretty vista

The café seems like a good idea so we head over and sit next to the bearded man and his well built female companion.  In a combination of French, broken Spanish, poor English and plenty of hand signals we figure out they're from Cataluña, Spain.  When I say "AH, Spain!" they give me a look of disgust.  I seem to recall issues with language, Basque separatism and history, I figure my saying Spain would be like saying "English!" when someone's told me they're Welsh.  Discretion being the better part of Valor I run away to order something to drink, leaving the gf looking confused and out-of-place. 

We talk, as best we can, a little more.  It's so hard to talk though when each word is like pulling teeth.  Basically they're on a longer holiday than us and covering more miles, and they've got a big black Gold Wing.  As they leave I look on jealously as he opens various cases on the 'Wing and produce all kinds of clothing, a protective outfit for each season.  I look on with envy as another 2 couples on Gold Wings arrive and remove all their gear which is then folded neatly into the bewildering array of spaces on the machines.  We decide to take a walk around so we head back to our bike.  It takes and age of playing Tetris with jackets and gloves to get our gear into the top-box and saddle bags.  This still leaves us with helmets, back protectors, boots and the tank bag full of valuables to carry.  It also leaves the valuable bike gear open to theft.

It is a lovely place.  Every building is timber framed, looks ancient and is full of history.  Flowers grow in every garden, basket, window and doorway.  It's also tiny.  It takes us 20 minutes to walk from end to end, this includes stopping to look, taking pictures, making comments and dodging the occasional car.  We sit on a bench near the café and eat some Brioche butties and drink more water.  The sun is beating down now as more Gold Wing's pass through.  Round here it seems as if the Gold Wing is king, I've seen plenty of other bikes but I've never seen as many 'Wings as there are hereabouts.  I laugh as a couple on a big cream 'Wing waft by as their radio plays some cheesy rock ballad.

The gf looking very summery in Beuvron En Auge
The gf looking very summery and happy in the warmth and beauty of Beuvron-En-Auge

I'm glad we came here today, I've really enjoyed being here.  There's life here but it's not busy and crowded like the coast, it's very beautiful, the weather's been good and even the café was affordable!  As we put on our hot bike gear we decide between us that if we are to return, we should head inland rather than stay coastal.  I could tour here, slowly, steadily. Perhaps that's why everyone rides Gold Wings and not sports bikes.  The people are friendly too.  I'd been told the French didn't like the English, especially those that don't even attempt to speak French.  I've tried my very best to speak the lingo and I've seen nothing but smiles, courtesy and warmth. 

We head back onto the road, to our third port of call, Hotot-en-Auge.  I don't find it, I suspect it may have been the nice Farmhouse and shop we passed by, not to worry.  Using Scat-Naff (compass on the fairing) I know we need to head north-west and start tacking in that general direction.  For quite some time I've no idea where we are, but as long as the compass is showing north-west we can't be far wrong.  We pass crops in broad fields, run down farmhouses with chickens running around the yard, sheep munching on grass that's just turning yellow and cyclists in full Tour-de-France get up.  It feels so French.

Purely by chance I find myself back in Pont-L'Eveque and this time the road is clear.  This time we wind through town in smart fashion and I realise we're almost back to the studio.  I get a little lost on one roundabout but soon enough I'm on the right road signposted Honfleur.  I'm tempted to open the taps on the Fazer and give it large back to the studio, then I remember the French police can fine you on the spot and even confiscate the bike, immediately.  That would make getting back home tomorrow a bit of an issue and I can't imagine the gf would be too pleased either.  I ride back just creeping over the limits.

Back at the studio we rest a while, but decide to head back into town after we've eaten.  We microwave some more rice and eat a large tin of very tasty Ravioli between us.  We kit up again and ride into town for one last look around.  There's a lot of traffic tonight but I'm riding like a seasoned pro by now, up the side, ignore the crossings, squeeze between the cars and assume I must have right of way at the roundabout as I'm the only thing moving.  When I park the bike the gf comments that I'm starting to get the hang of it now.  It's only taken 4 days and 300 miles.

It's busy in town tonight.  Bikes mingle with cars, tourists wander about whilst locals sit in windows reading books.  We treat ourselves to some more expensive ice cream and watch the world go by.  One young lad rides aggressively between pedestrians on his pizza delivery moped, his helmet is perched on top of his head.  A student perches on a window sill, 4 storeys up, which scares the gf.  I know why she's noticed him, he's young, slim, handsome and looks very casual yet sophisticated sitting there. 

cafes and building with people all around in Honfleur
Honfleur is busy and bustling tonight

I get a little cross with myself for taking so long to start enjoying myself.  I've always wanted to think of myself as world wise, a traveler and a man at home anywhere in the world.  It's a lie.  I've been to Spain and France, both times I've struggled to adjust to the minor cultural differences between our countries.  God only know what I'd be like if I went somewhere really different like the poor parts of Africa, South America or the Far East.  Here in France I'm starting to feel adjusted, I'm going home tomorrow.  Dammit.

I ride back to the studio taking in different streets like I've lived here for years.  At the studio we pack what we can and clean what we can in preparation for our departure.  Later I'm playing chess against my mobile phone and still losing badly.  I curse as the cunning little computer pulls a neat move that removes my rook without so much as a by your leave.  The gf says I should give up, instead I persuade her to play against me.  Oh dear.  She takes it very very seriously.  She doesn't even know which pieces can move in what direction yet every move is considered for what seems like an age, occasionally she asks "How does the horse thing move again?".  Considering this is her first game she plays well, if slowly.  I'm thankful when I finally get "Check Mate", if she'd beaten me I don't think I'd ever be able to look at a chess board again.

I hope she's not sulking about losing too much, it's bedtime and I'm feeling amorous.

Normandy, France 2011 - Prologue
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ride South
Normandy, France 2011 - The Ferry, French Roads and Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - A Good Walk Around Honfleur Ren and Sharon spend the day in and around Honfleur. It's a pretty and characterful town. The day has it's downs, and ups.
Normandy, France 2011 - A Bit of D-Day and Normandy Coast The Normandy beaches and the busy roads of France are on the menu today. There's a little time to relax too.
Normandy, France 2011 - Another Good Walk Around Honfleur
Normandy, France 2011 - The Beauty Of Beuvron-En-Auge
Normandy, France 2011 - Back To The Ferry and England
Normandy, France 2011 - The Trip North and More Images

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