Mont-St.-Michel to Granville
Once again the early morning was cloudy, even overcast, on this day as we began biking south along the causeway. The route should be easy at the beginning, since we only had to head east on the main road along the bay. Somehow, however, we missed the intersection. I still don't know what happened, but we biked for five miles before we gave up looking for the road that would take us eastwards. By the side of the road we considered our options. We could retrace our path, but we hated doing that -- miles wasted and the same view. We decided to take a small road that led northeast, which with several more turns could lead us back to the bay.
The small road led along farms and over small hills. In the distance to the north we could see the abbey of Mont-St.-Michel serving as a compass beacon. For the first (and only) time on our trip we felt a few drops of rain. It was also a little cold and windy, and we donned our rain gear, more for warmth than for protection against the rain.
Along the detour with the abbey in the distance
Eventually we crossed the main road and took some small roads north to the bay and east to the corner that ended the bay, where we were able to take a small bridge across the inlet. The town of Avranches lay in front of us here, perched on a hill at the east corner of the bay. I had studied the maps beforehand for ways around this town, since the obvious ways through Avranches were either to climb the big hill to the center of town or to bike on major highways that bypassed the town, neither of which sounded appealing. The detailed map showed a possible alternative -- a small road that paralleled the divided highway bypassing the town. We headed for this road, but it was a little tricky. We went through two roundabouts (never fun on a bike), then had to go back through one of these, but did find the little road. It turned out to be a disused highway that had apparently been abandoned when the divided highway was constructed. We were the only ones on the road, and we congratulated ourselves on our good navigation. I had imagined that I would see views of Avranches with the ancient church perched high on the hill, but I never saw anthing of Avranches at all. The guidebooks didn't think much of it anyway.
Our self-congratulations were a little premature, because the disused road ended abruptly before we were able to cross the bridge to the north shore indicated on the detailed map. The little bridge was above us. How were we supposed to get there? Len climbed up stairs to the bridge, and came back saying that it was an abandoned railroad bridge, now a pedestrian walkway. For his troubles he had also brushed against stinging nettle in getting to the bridge. It wasn't obvious how we could get up there, except possibly by lugging our bikes and panniers up the iron vertical steps. We procrastinated by having some lunch while we stared at the bridge. I had saved a croissant from breakfast, and that had to do for now.
How do we get up to the little bridge?
After a while we retraced our way back and took a fork that, to our joy, led to the little bridge. Success! Here is Len, celebrating our discovery.
We cross the little bridge to the north shore of the bay
Now we biked back west on the opposite shore of the bay. This was a road with heavy traffic and with little room on the side, and we took the first opportunity to dive off the highway onto a small road closer to the shore. We could see the abbey off in the distance now on the other side of the bay.
The abbey of Mont-St.-Michel now on the other side of the bay
As we biked along this farm country, the clouds rapidly dissipated, and the day turned beautiful. Here is a typical scene on this deserted road.
Biking along cornfields
There was a little turnoff with a park bench where we could stop for a drink while enjoying the view across the bay. I was thinking that these sheep probably didn't appreciate how good they had it.
A serene rest stop
The road apparently ended right here at this turnoff, turning into a dirt road and then evaporating into weeds. We were undecided what to do. There was a house here with sounds of a party on the porch. I wasn't sure whether it was a private home or some kind of small cafe. While we stood undecided with our bikes, a woman came down from the porch and approached us. In good English she told us that we could get through on the dirt road, but we would have to walk our bikes a little way through the weeds. That was what we did, and shortly we were back on some unknown small road, but heading generally north towards our destination of Granville further up the coast.
We regained the main highway, and once again the biking was rather difficult. We spent more time watching for cars than enjoying any scenery, which was strictly highway fare in any event. Now also the road began to be quite hilly. There was a succession of long uphill slogs. This is a scene on top of one of those hills.
The road turns hilly with occasional panoramic views
After another of these climbs, we stopped at an observation turnoff to take pictures of the view. This picture shows the road leading ahead, and is typical of this portion of our trip.
Typical view of the highway towards Granville
Now we could see Granville, or at least what we imagined was Granville, far ahead along the sea. We came down from another climb into the seaside town of Joulouville, where there was a long main street with traffic lights. There were signs to the beach off to our left, and we decided to take a peek. One block off the main street we came onto the beach, where we saw quite a few colorful windsails. We walked a ways down an asphalt walkway that paralleled the beach. It reminded me of some of the south New Jersey beach towns.
The beach at Joulouville
At the next street we pushed our bikes back to the main street. Right in front of me was an outdoor cafe that advertised American hot dogs. Heaven! I couldn't resist, and I ordered a hot dog and coke.
Enjoying a hot dog in Joulouville
Even though the sign said "American" hot dogs, it was French -- two hot dogs laid out on a baguette, which was wonderful. I hated to leave some of it uneaten, but as good as it was, it was too much for me. Reluctantly, we got back on our bikes to face the hills between us and Granville.
By the last hill before Granville I was tired. At the entrance to the town we stopped at a roadside map showing the layout of Granville. However, we had no idea where our hotel was. Len asked a passer-by, and he gave long, complicated intructions on how to get there. He reiterated these incomprehensible directions several times before we shook our heads in pretended understanding. The town center was only a short hill and roundabout away, and there we asked someone else, who pointed us up yet another hill. This was quite a steep hill, with the sea immediately behind. Halfway up the hill there was a sign for our hotel, and I puffed my way that far, only to discover that the sign indicated that the hotel was around the top of the hill. By unspoken agreement, Len and I pushed our bikes the last block up the hill, and around to the entrance to our hotel, the Grand Large.
My room was spectacular. From my balcony I looked out on a vista that seemed more like Monte Carlo than France.
View from my balcony at Granville
As I unpacked my panniers on my bed a shadow cut across my room, and when I looked out I found that I was staring at someone suspended in space in front of my balcony. It was a hang glider caught motionless on some themal gradient -- a spooky sight.
We hurried out to enjoy the town, which was surprisingly stunning. Whereas I had been disappointed in some places that were rated as great tourist attractions, I had anticipated little in Granville, and here was this spectacular place. We walked down the hill from our hotel. At the bottom was a casino and a boardwalk crowded with pedestrians.
The boardwalk at Granville
The waves were crashing over the boardwalk in some places, and for a while we watched two young girls who were sitting where they would be periodically innundated. Across from us were some of those little rental cabanas that were mostly occupied by older people like these.
Cabanas on the Granville boardwalk
The casino was at the south end of the boardwalk, and beyond that was a steep hill surmounted by an old fort. Len and I walked up the long steps to the top of the fort and took panoramic pictures of Granville.
View of Granville from the old fort
For a while we walked in the business part of the town and browsed unsuccessfully in a book store looking for a detailed map for the next day's trip. Then we walked to the old port area, which was lined with fish restaurants. We mulled the choices, and finally settled one called Restaurant du Port. I had a delicious sole meuneure and floating island desert at an outdoor table. It was a little cool at this time of day, and we were protected from the wind (and unfortunately the view) by plastic sheets.
Walking back to the hotel we could see that the tide had receded a long way. Much like we saw at St. Malo, the shore was transformed by an exposed, ugly sea bottom.
Proceed to next day's biking, Granville to Carentan