Since I was so horribly neglectful of Day 2 of our Normandy trip I’ll fill you all in with the charming details, now. Getting back on a Sunday night meant jumping straight into the work week, so I haven’t felt like I’ve had any time to sit down and write it out before now. Shame on me. Anyway:
We stayed with a French couple through the website Airbnb, so our day started off with sitting down to a traditional French breakfast: croissants, baguettes, orange juice, tea, coffee and some jams and jellies. It was lovely, although a part of me can’t ever be fully satisfied with French breakfasts. There’s always a little American voice in my mind screaming out for bacon and eggs.
But we had fun trying out our French on the couple, since they didn’t speak English, and then we packed up our backpacks (I had my Batman backpack, that’s important to note) and headed out with our maps and a stubborn desire to see the DDay beaches we were told were “too far” for us to reach.
First stop? A bike shop. It would have been a lot easier for us to take a bus or to take a taxi on this venture but a) It was Sunday so there weren’t any buses and b) The taxi would have been around 60 euro each way *choke*. So off to one of the little bike shops we went, remembering that they opened at 9am.
We arrived at 9:15am ready to get an early start on our day. But as we walked up to the shop we noticed something. It was dark. It was empty. And it was closed.
Rather than sit on the sidewalk, crying (everything in France being closed on Sundays is a HUGE struggle as Americans who are used to everything being open always), we called up another shop and asked if they could deliver bikes – which they could…30 minutes later. We were not amused.
Luckily, just as we were about to finalize the order the owners of the bike shop we were standing in front of, drove up – ready to open – 30 minutes late. France.
But we got our bikes and we headed out on the open streets. It took us a little while to get our bearings, but the advantage of French life shutting down on Sundays, is that there are hardly any cars on the roads. Once we finally found the right direction, we were good to go and we made our way across the 11 km that it would take to get to the beach (we went to Arromanches-Les-bains).
The best part about biking around in Normandy is that it isn’t Paris. Don’t get me wrong, Paris has beautiful buildings and beautiful museums, but there is something forever missing from my heart – nature. I don’t think we understand how lucky we are in Seattle to be in a city, but to be surrounded by so much natural beauty. And breathable air. That too.
Riding through the countryside was just the absolute best. Over the hills and through the woods we saw cows, horses, fields and pastures (and a bike race that had like 200 bikers randomly riding on the same road as us).
When we finally reached the beach (it took us a little under 2 hours, but we were definitely taking our time), I felt weirdly refreshed from the exersion. And it was then that I realized how much I missed my bike. Going from 6 miles, 5-6 days a week, to 0 miles 0 days per week has been rough, and honestly, really sad. Bike rides are definitely going to be happening more once I get back to Seattle.
Anyhoo. Once we got to the beach we locked up our bikes and explored the museum that was right next to the ocean. A really great tip for anyone who is planning on traveling through France is to MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE TIMES that things are open. A lot of businesses close whenever they want to, and it can be really frustrating to know you could have seen an exhibit or gone to a store, but now you have to wait two hours for it to reopen. That’s right. Lunch breaks in France are two hours long. Good luck.
Post museum we headed over to get lunch and ran into another American couple (and by “ran into” I mean the waiter made us share a four person table because they were swamped, and apparently Americans should sit together). We all ordered fish and chips and we helped them practice their French. We also warned them about their next stop, Paris. “Get ready,” was all I could say when they noted how friendly the French people at Arromanches were. And they were friendly! I didn’t want to leave. But the key was they were NOT Parisian.
After our little lunch adventure it was time for a photo shoot! Luckily I had come prepared with my camera and the American “flag” that I normally have hanging in my room. The pictures couldn’t have turned out more perfect. I love them so so so so much.
After that I grabbed a quick crepe (because I’m an addict) and we rode our bicycles back over the hills and past the cows. Once we got back to Bayeux we headed back over to the Irish-French pub we had dinner at the night before, for a bit of a dessert treat, and it was just as lovely as dinner had been before. Such a great place, if you’re ever in Bayeux I would HIGHLY suggest going there. The service and the food were sublime both times. And they had Wifi! Score.
Our return journey included two trains to get back to Paris and we both had packed Jane Austen with us, so the train ride back was about as tranquil (despite us being exhausted) as we could have asked for.
All in all, the trip was such a huge success. I was so happy to have had my first non solo travel adventure in 6 years. Crazy. I was so proud of us for fitting so much into such a relatively short amount of time. But in the end, stubbornness wins. Normandy has won my heart for my favorite French location (so far!). Stay tuned for some photos from our trip!