Grandad WW2 cycle trip: full frontal assault

posted on January 2, 2015 in Cycling,Travel

Day 1

At 4:45am atmospheric music was piped into the cabin of our landing craft (a Brittany Ferry). Lew, Joe and I went down to the car deck to ready our mounts. Cycling off a ferry is a novel experience I suggest you try at least once. We rolled off the ramp at Caen ferry port, re-secured all the panniers and immediately headed to our first objective, Pegasus Bridge. A short, misty cycle along the Caen canal brought us to the famous bridge. Although the original bridge is no longer in place (it lives at a museum a stones throw away) it was quite surreal. As a member of Generation Y I’d played this level in countless games from Hidden and Dangerous to Call of Duty. And yet here it was, one of the first objectives captured by British airborne forces in the early hours of 6th June 1944.

After taking in the bridge, we rode down to the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ranville. Still before breakfast time, with the sun just rising, mist low on the flat land and no other souls in sight, it gave an incredibly peaceful aura. After paying our respects we headed back up across the bridge to pick up the Normandy coast and head West. A quick fuel stop (jam, baguette, croissant, coffee) at Luc-sur-Mer and we cruised on to Arromanches where we visited the 360° WW2 Battlefield cinema.

Next stop was the German gun battery at Longues sur Mer. The intimidating concrete bunkers and giant rifled artillery barrels giving a flavour of what the Allies faced once they made it across The Channel.

We cycled on through light drizzle to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, home to the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, both of which now infamous thanks to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. There was a lot more pomp and ceremony to this cemetery but it is hard not to be moved by the endless rows of white crosses.

After watching the daily flag ceremony, we saddled up and completed the last 10 miles to the municipal campsite in Bayeux. Having covered about 60 miles fully loaded we had built an appetite so we walked into Bayeux to sample the local cuisine. The service in our chosen restaurant was terrible, but only made us laugh. The lady who served us seemed to have her own agenda, which rarely coincided with serving us any food. Luckily the Pizza Super Souffle I chose was like a calzone on testosterone so I was happy.

After picking up a few supplies, Lew, Joe and I headed back to our 2 man tent to get some sleep in advance of our first ‘big’ ride.

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