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.  

Au bord de la Seine – In the footsteps of Henry V

Having landed at Tocques in 1417 and besieging and sacking Honfleur, Henry V made his way towards Paris along the banks of the Seine. It seemed only fitting therefore that we follow in his footsteps for our cycle ride today, heading out from Honfleur, we headed east along the south bank of the Seine.

Today the first great monument is the Pont de Normandie. Hanging suspended in mid-air high above our heads. Of course, for Henry and his army, crossing the Seine at this point was only a dream.

Venturing a little further inland towards Foulbec, Henry rested at the Abbey of Greetain (built 1050) whose out-house also still stands by the side of the road showing the original timbers and carvings as well as the beautifully restored brick and stonework.

From there, we crossed the rich countryside that Henry needed to feed his troops.

Even his favourite royal treat, swans. Further along, the banks become wooded and dangerous places offering shelter for ambushes and other traps.

Of course, the real advantage for Henry of following the Seine was re-supply. Boats from England could sail across and restock the soldiers with food and weapons.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

All in all, a find day was had by all. Great weather, good company and a real purpose to our ride.

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

Black Prince issues strenuous denial – We did not sack Honfleur

Late last night, the official spokesman for the Black Prince issued the following statement:

Despite what some historians may have been speculating, after winning the Battle of Poitier in 1396, the Prince’s responsibilities were clear. On leaving the battle-field of Poitiers and before making up his mind to return to England, the Black Prince concluded on the 14th March, 1357 a truce of two years with the regency ruling France during the captivity of her King. The English army, with its many prisoners and rich booty, did not venture to attack any fortress on their way to Bordeaux; it was honour enough to take back in safety the caputured King Jean of France and his son, and all the gold and silver and jewels they had won. They therefore proceeded by slow marches, as they were heavily laden. They met with no resistance. The whole country was subdued by terror, and the men-at-arms retreated into the fortresses. At no time did they turn north to lay siege on Honfleur.

Your correspondents recieved this information with some dismay and concern. The whole purpose of this section of the cycle tour was to mark the 618th anniversarty of the sacking of Honfleur. How could we continue to justify our stay if there was no anniversary to celebrate.

However, all was not lost. A chance encounter with Lord Orange of Deauville was an opportunity to learn of the celebrations held every year in Honfleur on the night of August 8th to mark the sacking of the town by King Henry V in 1417 as documented in the town charter from that year:

The mouth of the Touques is at Deauville where Henry V landed:

Lord Salisbury besieged the town for 5 days, before the walls eventually crumbled and the inhabitants surrendered. A careful observer can still see the damage left on the buidings near the harbour showing the marks of that terrible siege:

The celebrations in the town every August 8th take the form of setting light to the restauants and bars around the harbour. A beautiful sight and a fitting reminder of the courage and profligacy of the age:

Travelling and getting there

One of the inevitable costs of trying to cycle in a number of places is the need to transfer our base every few days. After two nights based in the town Waterloo and a great day cycling through the battlefield, we up-ed sticks and headed for Honfleur.

Our route took us south out of Belgium and then west along Autoroute 29 via Mons and Amiens. Made all the easier by a new little gadget stuck to the windscreen that allows the car to go straight through the tele-charge lane with no queues.

Once a small Norman fishing port accros the Siene from Le Havre, Honfleur is now a bustling rather quaint harbour town full of tourists. What a contrast after the quiet “strip” town of Waterloo. What a joy in terms of the 139 restaurants and 57 bars that now await us.

The port is no longer teaming with fishing boats however, but rather with well healed sailing yachts. Very picturesque, if not exactly authentic.

Tomorrow will be a ride down the coast to Deauville in search of a SIM card for Jay’s hungry iPad. But that’s another story for another day.

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.