Our Goodbye Ride for Agincourt 

After a day’s rain it doesn’t take much to declare the sunshine, no matter how obscure, as sufficient for a ride. So off we went at the crack of dawn ( 9:30) off to the west, following the Somme River. 

V-30 is the name of the bicycle path that goes from the Atlantic Ocean, through Amiens, and on to Paris. 

It’s well marked, compacted if not paved, and a beautiful ride. 

At times you are riding by a precision cut canal, and at other times the path accompanies a rambling river.

Fishermen abound, along with other cyclists and others just enjoying a beautiful day by the river.

The cows ignored us, but a goose took great exception to my presence and truly ran at me in the attacking mode.  I had never been in such fear of a severe goosing as today. 

A few ducks joined in the chase, while a complaisant heron just gave me a “you should have known better ” stare.

We cycled finally into the little town of Corbie, just off the V-30,

 but we had tickets for tonight and so we skipped lunch, just had a beer and cycled back to Amiens.

As for the tickets, we rounded off the culture portion of the trip with a gentle movie, 

which has a nice opera scene.  Where 3 people die violently.  Perfect ending for a beautiful day. 

Best Wishes,

Jay

A Rainy Day in Amiens

You know the feeling. You’re looking at your weather apps and you get one of these things: ☔️ So you turn on another app and you get a couple of these:⚡️⚡️.  Then you start believing that it truly will be a crummy day.  At least the heavy stuff was not due until noon.  No bicycling in lightning by our rules, but there’ll be things to do here in Amiens. 

Yes, there’s shopping. I owed a few gifts to those who made this trip possible; and now it’s payback time. 

The Gallaria isn’t like Paris,

 but it’s close. 

Ok, done shopping. At 11:00 is the English language tour of the Cathedral. Off we go, this sounds like fun. 

Whoops, it’s an orange weather alert. That means they cannot  take us up the towers of the cathedral in fear of lightning, and so the entire tour is canceled. Curses!

A self tour with the guidebook may work; but it doesn’t. According to the Guide Book, The cathedral was first built in the third century around a saint called Fermin, actually two of them: Fermin the Martyr and his successor, Fermin the Confessor. 



Ok, the story is a little dull. Basically he was persecuted and martyred. Paint on the statues is nice, however, especially for being 16th century, about 500 years old.


Lunch came, and an oppressive heat wave, but no rain. 


Back at the hotel we tried to work, but the hotel for all its grandeur has no A/C. We just couldn’t write or research. Then we thought of John’s little Philips pocket projector. 

We watched Henry V, by Shakespeare, and two sciencey shorts on Agincourt and the English longbows and wiled away the afternoon. The gin and tonic helped with the heat. 

And it never did rain until after dinner.

Tomorrow is our last day to cycle, and you can be sure that we will. 

Best wishes,

Jay

Viewing a Reinactment of the Battle of Agincourt

Due to impending bad weather tomorrow, John and I spent today, Wednesday, touring the highlight of our trip, the scene of the Battle of Agincourt, which took place 600 years ago, on October 25, 1415. On that fateful day, about 4,000 English knights and archers under King Henry V (played by Kenneth Branagh or Lawrence Olivier in the movies) beat FIVE TIMES that number of French knights and Cavalry on the open field that we walked, and around which we cycled and cycled. The French lost the battle, many, many lives, the right to rule Western France, but retained the road below, calling it Rue de Charles VI, ironically. 

Hereinafter the story became somewhat amazing. Today happened to be the rehearsal day for a Reinactment to be held in October. I was able to convince one of the Observer Pilots to take us up in his biplane for a few minutes as the action was taking place. 

King Henry’s line of Knights was across the field you see above, Knights in the center, and thousands of archers on each flank. The French, with many Cavalrymen,  formed an opposing line. 

Henry had moved his line up to halfway across the field when the French attacked. The archers stood their ground and fired, according to reports, at 50,000 arrows a minute. Sorry about the picture; the plane was bumping. 

The knights were brave, but the armor of the day could not protect them. Wave after wave was repulsed, and the fighters, turning in that muddy field, ran into the next wave coming in. 

The fighting was close and fierce.  From the air, even with the telephoto lenses we could not tell knights of one army from the other. 

But finally it became clear that the French, despite their higher numbers, were too crowded to effectively fight, and also were being bogged down in the mud.  Henry ‘s men were giving chase.  The English won an astonishing and complete victory. 



Also interestingly, as we were landing, we noticed some of the participants using what seemed to look like cannons.  Were they really available in 1415?

Some day, if we go back again to see the marvelous Information Center, the movies,  and the cool miniature exhibition of the battle, we’ll have to ask.

The plane landed safely, and then we went cycling.  

Best Wishes,

Jay

What A Difference Color Makes 

Today we traveled by car from Honfleur to our new, and last, Base City, Amiens. The drive was cool, as we traced all the towns that King Henry V took with his army, trying and failing to get north across the Somme River to complete his campaign.  Some day we’ll tell you all about it, but I’m so excited about something that we saw tonight here in Amiens that I’m just bursting to show you. 

Amiens sports one hell of a great cathedral. We didn’t have a chance to enter it yet, as we just got into the city around 5 o’clock this evening. But from the outside I can tell you it is something spectacular.

It kinda springs itself on you as you turn a corner. All of the flying buttresses and chapels are fascinating, but the thing that takes your breadth away is the front facade.

There were hundreds of statues on the façade; all were in good condition, and each was remarkable for its detailed carving. It was a moving sight; each statue was worth a good stare, and I certainly will be buying a book identifying who each is.  

But then we moved on and had dinner, which I found much less inspirational.  It dragged on until almost 10:00 PM, at which point we had heard a light show was going on at the cathedral. We got our seats on the curb, the lights dimmed, and the lasers lit up our façade. 

Then POW.  The lasers burst out their colors.

What detail!  What vivid colors! The statues almost came alive. 

Even the little statues and the borders were illuminated and colored.

I’m told that this is how the cathedrals were originally built, with the statuary painted in great detail. Why did they stop? Decay of the paints over the centuries. Why not restore them now in their colors? 

Expense. 

On the way back to the hotel I saw a doorway on the cathedral’s other side. 

I just looked away depressed.  I had seen the light.  

Jay

A Day of Beautiful Biking 

Ok, time to get down to it. We love Honfleur, it’s a great town. But Henry V really first attacked  Harfleur across the Seine River, so to be honest, we had to travel there.  Since getting there meant crossing that giant bridge we’ve been showing you, in a narrow unprotected bike path, with giant crosswinds, and big trucks,  we chose discretion and drove. 

Harfleur is a nice little suburb of the busy port of LeHavre. It’s sweet, but only 3 blocks long.

It used to have giant walls that withstood the viscous siege of Henry’s army. Now it has nice flowers, watered daily, and a sign extolling Victor Hugo. 

Ok, so much for Harfleur. We knew from our studies that Henry next took his army up the coast to Fecamp. We decided to start our riding for the day from that port city.  Back we went into the car.

Fecamp. Nice town. Nice church.  Nice restaurants near the church. And by now it was lunch time. 

The Normandy Restaurant had good food, especially the loaded baked potato that we ordered, with cheese, ham and salad. (Ok Ann, you asked for food shots.). 

But even better, underneath was a place mat with a great map that even I could understand. 

There we were in Fecamp, and we noticed that if we were to continue up the coast we would be riding over some substantial hills.  But, there was this beautiful Abbey in Valmont that we could follow along the river road and explore. And everyone knows that rivers are flat.  Ok, the path and goal were set- the Abbey for Nuns at Valmont, a Monastery. 

It was a gorgeous ride.  After the harbor area, the road opened up into the countryside. 

After a few hours we rode into Valmont,  and 

Straight into a beautiful Abbey of Valmont, still in business after 600 years, from Henry’s time.The Abbey of Notre Dame de Pré.

The chapel there on the right was inspirational. 

We even saw some honest relics, the bones of a saint:

The ride home was fun, even against the wind. And a great meal, our last in Honfleur, awaited us..

Apple tart. 

Best wishes,,

Jay

Tech Corner

SO, you ask, how are all those Gizmos that Jay and John carry coming along?  Not badly, we answer. Some better than others.  

The Apple watches we both coincidentally happen to own are doing well. Besides the communications, which are enhanced being on the wrists (“Ready yet?” …”Coming”), we use the built-in cycling app to measure our distances, time and heartbeat.  For example, on one hill my heart got up 152 beats per minute.  ( Hear that,  Dr Zimmet?). I must add, though, that the cycling app, if inadvertently left on during lunch, will drain down the battery by about three or 4 PM.  Hopefully we will be back at the hotel by then. 

My pathetic little bike computer (top) is totally outclassed by John’s navigation array. Paper maps are totally passé. John mounts his iPhone Plus using Iphigenie, the French mapping program, electrically connected to the Cannondale computer system controlling his e-bike. Thus the blue dot indicating us is overlaid on a street map that shows bicycle routes. So far we have had only one wrong turn, an amazing improvement over the old paper map days. 

We are now both using wide tires, I’m up to 700×32.  These are proving essential as the roads here by the coast are industrial- very rocky and rough. My original road bike would not make it. 

Swan picture, no reason. 

Even my pedals have changed. They have cleats on one side, but the other side is flat for regular shoes. I’m using the regular shoes more and more, as I’m nervous about getting my feet down should the bike slip over the rocks on these rough roads.  

My American made leather Selle Anatomica seat is very comfortable, and required no break in. Hear that, Brooks Saddle Co. of olde England? 

But tech aside, merrily we roll along.  

The Perdition of AT&T

Up and down the coastal hills between Honfleur and Deauville is some of the most picturesque countryside we have had the pleasure of cycling.   The mixture of ocean, French beaches, and wooded greenery captures the spirit, as the 20 miles go by, pedalstroke by pedalstroke, around and around. 

And the “up-eating cow”.

But it was not for beauty we undertook this diversion.  Here is the reason, the far more subtle and dark reason, that we ventured south of our home base. Here is the hero of our story, Kevin:

AT&T sells “packages” of foreign data to its far ranging customers. My package lasted less than 1 day, as my $30 300MBs melted into the ether, carrying only one day’s pictures to you, and the safety of the clouds. Who would have thought, considering the budget busting hotel reservations secured by my colleague, that data would be the expense that broke the bank. 

But John came through: let’s buy a European chip for use here. They’re cheap. The only problem was … 

beautiful Honfleur is a tourist town, selling everything you want but nothing you need. No phone stores here.

The closest cell phone store was in Beauville, a good 20 mile trip from Honfleur. Hence the sojourn; 

Hence the visit to Beauville, and hence our commerce with Kevin at the Orange phone store. 

 

It was a happy ending. I bought the chip from Kevin, I have the data, and I have today’s blog, all-in-one.

Be well,

Jay

TRANSITION: Waterloo to Honfleur

Today was a Travel Day.  It started in Waterloo with our final visit to Field Marshal Wellington’s Headquarters, right on the Main Street of the town.



It’s a museum now, and though well over 200 years old, is remarkably well preserved. On entering the mandatory gift shop and cashiers first welcome you.

But later on, up the stairs, are some real surprises.  The rooms are guarded, but the the guards are discreet, and a little tipsy.

  Rooms of medical equipment display the surgeon’s art of 1815, including a prosthetic led worn by a Cavalry Captain.  Indeed, in this particular case, the specific leg in question was buried out back in the garden, with its own little grave marker.  John and I posed beside a commemorative wall, nearby, in which the writing was in live fern. 

The highlight of the museum was a visit with the Iron Duke himself. As we walked in, Wellington was just writing some correspondence.  Each guest was permitted just a few minutes with him, so I asked him if it was worth 25,000 deaths just to preserve the corrupt kingships of the era.  He didn’t see it that way.

He looked back to his Brittanic Kingdom, a Constitutional Monarchy. He believed that that was the superior way of government, with the greatest good for the greatest numbers.  We thanked him for his time and went out to test his theory by visiting a town of the greatest good.  The beautiful seaside village of Honfleur. 

Honfleur is across the Seine River from Harfleur, our first stop in Henry V’s Agicourt Campaign. But we’ll get to that later.

Best Wishes,

Jay 

SCENES OF WATERLOO 

John and I, and some of you, have now immersed our and yourselves in those 3 days in June 1815, the 16th, the 17th and the 18th, to a point of knowing the individual battles and the main characters by heart.

It would be impossible to relate the whole story in a single post.  Suffice it to say that on the 16th Napoleon took on Wellington and the English coalition at Quatre Bras, and Boucher and the Austrian army at Ligné. Napolion won, but not decisively.  On the 17th Wellington pulled back a bit but did not retreat. The Prussians also retreated, but only to the nearby town, Wavre, not back to Germany, as Napolean supposed and hoped. For Napoleon to win he had to keep the two opposing armies separated, and conquer first the Prussians, and then Wellington. On the 18th he failed to do this, and Wellington, with the help of the Prussians, in a close battle, finally and fully beat Napolean. 

In all, about 10,000 died and 30,000 were wounded (and may have died later) to restore the royal king- ships of Europe, roll back Napolion’s social reforms, and establish peace on the Continent until 

WW I, about 100 years later. 

The preserved Battlefield presents some amazing sights:

   

Prominent from every direction is the Lion Mound. John and I mounted the Mound, at a cost of much huffing and puffing.  Beside it is the cylindrical building housing the old but gorgeously painted Panorama. 

Buried under the field to the left of the old building is the very modern and technologically and historically moving 3-D movie theater and museum.  

The picture above, and many more, actually moved as we stared.

The 3D theater requiring 3-D glasses was not photographable, but an astounding experience, very moving. 

We later cycled around the grounds gaining a better understanding of the role of rolling hills in the battle, and an appreciation of how many pubs were closed in August, as we grew hungrier and the mileage mounted. 

That’s the farm, La Belle Alliance up yonder. Note the loose gravel road; difficult but no falls. Not a place for thin tires ( lesson learned ). 

But yes, many monuments later, John successfully found us a tavern (named after Josephine) and we enjoyed a restorative delicious meal, and then cycled back to town. Was a wonderful day. 

Prep Day in Waterloo

A DAY OF TECHNICAL PREPARATIONS before WATERLOO
 
 On June 15, 1815 Lord Wellington was caught unawares by the wily Napoleon, and while Wellington attended a ball of the Duchess of Richmond up at Brussels, Napoleon moved his considerable army north to Charlois, just south of Waterloo. “He has outfoxed me”, exclaimed the Iron Duke. John and I could not let the same fate befall us.
 
 
 Jay had flown to Holland to meet John in preparation for the Battlefields touring. Below is a candid shot taken as Jay is entering the airplane for the flight from Washington DC to Amsterdam, helped by a beautiful blonde stewardess, where he was met by John.
 
 


Jay’s bicycle, a specially constructed Giant Envy with bigger tires and gears to better keep up with John, had been carefully packed in its luggage container, and was reconstructed in John’s house in Leiden, Netherlands. Note also the disc brakes and other features designed to battle the fields that our paths often traversed.
 
 


John’s bicycle was also due for some upgrades; here we have ace technician Jay installing a new camera bag on the handlebars of the Cannondale steed chosen by John for the trip.
 
 
 


We made it to Waterloo, well ahead of Wellington, and found the town to be a “location vacation spot” filled with quaint shops, a plentitude of restaurants, inattentive waiters, avid tourists with bored teenage children and a nice hotel for us called the Cote Vert, the green shore.
 
 


Deciding not to overdo it on the first day, we simply visited the brochure-laden Tourist Office, located in the town center, and …
 
 


then we watched a movie on Waterloo with John’s amazing new video projector, so tiny it fits in your hand, but powerful enough to project the movie on the wall of John’s room.
 
 
 


That was good, but dinner beckoned, so we
 called it a day well spent.
 
 


Best wishes,
 
 Jay
 
 
 
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Location:Waterloo, Belgium