France - mini cycle tour of Normandy

The last weekend of September and the weather forecast is good for Brighton and northern France. We really don't want the start of winter to arrive too soon, so it's off to Dieppe for a short 4 day cycle tour of the Normandy region, taking in Rouen and the coast on the way.

Day 1 - Brighton to Forge Les Eaux (55 miles approx)

One of the great reasons for living in Brighton is that it's easy to get out again... to the north, the South Downs, to the south, France. Access to France is easy; hop (or walk, the choice is yours) onto the ferry at Newhaven and 4 hours later you're in Dieppe, a pretty little coastal town with easy access to the Avenue Vert, a disused railway line which will take you all the way to Forge Les Eaux, en route to Paris.

The weather was great, the winds were gentle and the riding was very pleasant. There are picnic spots all the way along the Avenue Vert, and it would have been rude not to stop every few miles for food. So that's what we did, arriving at Forge Les Eaux in time for tea and leaving just enough time to get the tent up before dark.

The Xtracycle on the Avenue Vert

Day 2 - Forge Les Eaux to Yvetot area (50 miles approx)

We woke up to sunshine and dew drops on the grass and all over the tent. Within an hour, this had dried and the temperature had risen nicely. We headed out of Forge Les Eaux and south west towards Rouen. The cycle lanes had disppeared and we were on the open road, but the French drivers are pretty considerate, giving you plenty of room as they pass.

A retail park somewhere near Yvetot. I've heard there's an American influence round these parts, but I couldn't see it myself...

The day progressed pleasantly and within a few hours, we'd arrived in Rouen. I'd not been here before but have to say it's a very pretty city with lots of the old architecture and little alleyways that you'd associate with a long standing city. Had a coffee and a bite to eat and then meandered off slowly towards the coast, climbing back out of Rouen and onto flatlands.

Coming out of Rouen, the traffic was a tad annoying and continued that way for a good few miles. Everything was moving at speed, apart from us and the noise started to wear on the nerves a bit. We were heading roughly towards Yvetot to look for camping when we spotted a battered old campsite sign at the side of the road, so we veered off towards it.

I expected to find the site round the next corner; as always with expections I was disappointed. 3 miles later we found it - a beautiful little site, next to field full of cows. Janyis named one of them, but I can't remember what.... It's come back to me - Colin.

Colin - on the left - with a mate

Day 3 - Yvetot to Saint Valery-En-Caux (20 miles approx)

Again the weather was great when we got up and there was no rush to dash off, because we weren't going that far. After breakfast, shower, coffee, chat, naming of the cow, we packed up the tent and set off towards the coast. Now the roads were quiet, flat and it was all pretty ideal. Regular stops made for a lazy day and we arrived in Saint Valery in plenty of time to pitch the tent and have a look around, stopping for some chips and mayonnaise in the town square. There are two sites in Saint Valery and we stayed on the two star cheapie - cost us around 3.5 euros each. Facilities are probably basic by French standards, but the showers are free and hot and the views out to sea are excellent.

The campsite at Saint Valery en Caux

Day 4 - Saint Valery-En-Caux to Dieppe (25 miles approx)

Another short ride along the cliff tops to Dieppe. There are two routes to Dieppe - the one which we took along the main road and the minor road which hugs the coastline and takes in all the villages along the way. The coast road is prettier and hillier, the major route more direct. Our ferry was leaving early evening, so we relaxed in Dieppe with croissants and coffee and reflected on what a pleasant few days we'd had.

This is great little tour if you're living on the south coast of England and fancy getting to the continent for a few days. The route is fairly flat all the way and the riding is pleasant, apart from the road from Rouen to Yvetot. If we went again, we'd find an alternative to this bit of the ride.

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