Tears in Dieppe, Joy in Farnham

Another nice breakfast with Tony and Helen, with more fresh croissants from town, then we were on our way again just after 10:00.
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Heading northeast we once again took our time, stopping for a bite to eat along the way and passing through the town that William the Conqueror was from.
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We arrived in Dieppe around 3:30 and walked along the promenade to a nice looking cafe where we stopped for a drink in the sun.
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After lunch we parked along the seashore and I took a little walk to look at some of the memorials.

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They love Canada here and the memorials are very moving – once again I cried like a baby before drying my tears and and taking some photos.
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We left for the ferry just as the sun was setting.
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Our ship left right on time at ten minutes to midnight, and was half empty. The food in the cafe actually looked quite good, but we each only got a small salad and a few fries. After eating we settled into the lounge chairs to try to get a bit of sleep but I knew it would be fruitless.

The chairs only reclined about two inches, and they didn’t ever turn off the lights. There also was a group of people sitting in some other chairs in the next section and they talked very loudly and excitedly the entire voyage.

We docked right on time – 4:00 UK time, which meant it was a five hour journey. As we were waiting for the door to open to the car decks I noticed a stack of forms that non-EU residents need to fill out so I quickly grabbed one so I’d be ready, and it was a good thing. The border fellow asked me a few questions, such as how long would I be in england and where did I fly into and when, but then said ok, handed my passport back and let us go.

We decided to get going right away to our next destination of Farnham, rather than get a bit of sleep first. It was a good decision as they were doing roadworks everywhere and it took us longer than expected.

We still arrived a couple of hours before our appointment so I tried to get a little sleep – I feel a bit zombie-ish. The bike shop opened at 9 but our appointment wasn’t until 10 so we still had to wait.
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Right at ten we buzzed the door and Martin showed us in and took us upstairs. Colin had done research and had already picked the bike so we asked a bunch of questions and Martin made sure they had one in stock. It’s a beautiful Cube electric bike with a Bosch motor – so I can keep up with Colin and the Mobile, ha ha! We joke that it’s my christmas present for the next ten years, but seriously it’s incredibly kind and generous of Colin and I love it already even though I haven’t ridden it yet. It looks a lot like my Cannondale in size, shape and colour, and has fenders, a rat-trap and back panier holders.

It was going to take an hour ot two to put the bike together for me so Martin gave us a map of the area and we headed out to find a place to have lunch. Mo was still being carried most of the time, although the Rescue Balm seems to be doing wonders healing her foot pads.
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Just after we finished eating the bike shop called – my new bike was ready! We hustled back to the shop and I got a little lesson on the workings of it from another young fellow, then we packed it into the campervan. We also took an empty bike box so I can pack up my beautiful Cannondale and take it home when I go back.

When we got to Worcester we were both quite tired, but we unloaded the campervan and plugged my new bike in to complete charging. Colin took a quick drive to the Bull and brought back some fish and chips for dinner. I was hungry and did enjoy the food, but was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open – early night.

Lovely Trail Ride and Mo’s Mishap

We woke in time for a nice cup of tea in the campervan before Colin walked with Mo into the town to get fresh croissants for breakfast. We took the croissants into the house and had a lovely breakfast with Tony and Helen, complete with yogurt, homemade jams and homemade bread.

Shortly after breakfast we all got into our riding and gear and prepared to go for a ride. Just as we were getting on our bikes the rain started – very fine, more like a heavy mist than rain.
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We ended up on the trail, that actually runs all the way from Caen in the north to Mont St Michele in the west, then down south to La Rochelle, all along an old rail bed. The trail is very nice to ride on – smooth and wide, unlike the bear trail in Spain. And as long as you watch out for the odd pile of horse shit it’s great.
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Poor little Mo had a mishap along the way – she somehow got under the front cover of her chariot and ended up on the trail trying to run along behind the bike. She was still tethered in so couldn’t just stop running and it was a few minutes before Tony noticed and shouted at Colin to stop. Helen and I were quite a ways behind and hadn’t seen anything until we caught up and Mo was back in her chariot with her poor feet torn and bleeding a bit.
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We kept riding on our way, generally slightly uphill, to the town of Neufbourg where we had lunch. We chose an outside table and it was a bit chilly but at least we were dry. We all got one of the daily specials – I had eggs mayonnaise as my starter, followed by a main course of roast pork with fries. It was tender and very delicious.
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The rain had stopped and the ride back was mostly downhill. Mo didn’t seem too bothered by her torn feet, although she did walk very gingerly. I put some of my Nova Scotia Fisherman’s Rescue Balm on them and it didn’t bother her at all.
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Since it was still pretty early Colin and I took a walk into the town, with Mo being carried to spare her hurt feet. There was a big boules (petanque) tournament going on – it had started in the morning and was getting down to the last few teams.
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We walked around the town a bit then sat down at an outside table at a nice little bar where we had a refreshing beverage – or two.
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Since we’d had such a large lunch we had a simple dinner back at Tony and Helen’s – carrot slices, cheese, more of Helen’s delicious homemade bread and a couple of other small things.

We didn’t stay quite so long as last evening and had a pretty early night.

North to Sourdeval

We got going at a really good time – it was just after 9:30 when we hit the road. Since we weren’t in any great rush we avoided the main roads and had a nice relaxed drive, arriving at Tony and Helen’s house in Sourdeval well before dinner.
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Since we had time Colin, Helen and I took Mo for a nice walk along the trail behind their house and into the town.
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There are lovely flower baskets and arrangements everywhere – the town is very pretty.F6965A40-C0FF-4FBA-94E0-E086CC27F6BE
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There’s an exhibit on in front of the city hall with photos from the war – the town was liberated by the Americans a couple of months after D-Day, and had suffered great damage, as did all of the towns in the area.
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Dinner was excellent – roast chicken legs with home made fries, and we stayed afterwards for hours visiting. Mo was not happy, however, because since Tony and Helen have a cat Mo had to stay in the campervan by herself – we could hear her barking as soon as we left the house.
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Organizing in Mansle

The mornings have been beautiful – sunny but not terribly hot. Colin and Neil went for a couple of bike rides while Mo and I stayed home and did yoga and several loads of laundry. We also got to work cleaning out the campervan – stripping beds, rearranging the Mobile so it’s now underneath, sweeping, etc.
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Over the days we visited both bars for coffee, etc, and enjoyed Friday night meal at the Penalty bar. The portions of steak were huge so I’m glad I had the help of three dogs or I never would have finished mine.

We watched the Vuelta each afternoon – it looks like young Roglic from Slovenia might actually pull it off.
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The local campground, run now by Cassandra’s brother Laurent, is staying open an extra two weeks since the weather is so nice and they’re still busy, both in the campground and in the restaurant/bar. We chatted for a bit with Laurent’s girlfriend, who is british, and she told us that after the campground closes they go to the Alps where she manages three chalets and Laurent runs a nightclub.

One night we had another one of Neil’s excellent bbq’s featuring burgers with cheese, mushrooms and onions, and a nice side salad – all washed down with some of our last rioja.
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One day I went in the morning to request a rotisserie chicken from the new shop on the main street but was told ‘no – they are all reserved’. Apparently if you want one on the weekend you have to ask for it at least a few days ahead of time. The place always seems to be busy and I’m very happy for them – next time we’ll plan ahead better.

Back to Mansle

We got up and going very early after a very rainy night. Little Mo, after seeming to have recovered from her tummy upset, is now scratching fleas that she picked up in the farmer’s field. The first evening here Colin got over 10 off of her, and now the count is up to about 40!
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We headed north towards the coast, most of the way in pouring rain, then east, noticing we’d crossed into France only because the road signs were different. We didn’t go very far after that, stopping at the lovely little campground just outside Souraide that we’ve stayed at a couple of times now.
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I had a very nice hot shower while the wind started to pick up, making it back to the campervan before the rain started.
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We had a really good dinner of salad with fried chicken strips, then turned in early after the long drive.
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It rained off and on during the night but we weren’t in such a hurry to get on the road as yesterday, leaving around 9:30.
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We took the motorway up to Bordeaux, managing to skirt the city right around noon without much slowing down.
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We arrived back to Mansle in the early afternoon, and it turns out that Neil Sr. had also returned from his trip. We started a couple loads of laundry and relaxed a bit, then ended up going to Tony and Joyce’s (Neil’s ex-inlaws) for bbq dinner.

I’ve met them several times already, and we’d brought back a couple of cases of Rioja for them from Spain. They’re always nice to visit with, and dinner was lovely – pork chops, sausages, fries and salad, all washed down with an excellent beaujolais. And the best part was dessert – rather than sorbet I opted for the fresh figs in amaretto – a bit sweet but totally delicious.
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La Vuelta from Casa Angel in Espinedo

Even with the duvet on top of my sleeping bag I was a bit chilly in the early morning. It hadn’t rained but everything needed a bit of drying out. Luckily we weren’t in a hurry to leave, and even watched the day’s stage on tv at the campground’s bar. There was actually a bit of a crowd watching with us – the owner was kept busy.
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Once the race on tv was over we headed out, going east a bit, then north to get on a side road. Traffic marshalls were already out controlling who could go where up the one road – we were directed to parking area 8, which is a farmer’s field several km up the mountain.

We were happy to pull in and pay the small fee, and after getting settled we walked back down the road a few hundred meters to the cafe/bar we’d passed. They had an excellent Rioja that went down very smoothly.

Scrambled eggs with bacon and onion for dinner, then an early night.
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The morning was a bit grey, but it hadn’t rained. After our morning tea and a bit of breakfast we walked down to the little village again, and someone hailed us. It was a fellow that had been at the same lovely campground we’d been at near Foz last week! It really is a small world – he and his wife live in a house right up the hill from the bar.
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We sat down at an outside table at the Casa Angel bar/restaurant and soaked in the sun and the atmosphere. As the afternoon progressed it became more and more busy, and cyclists by the dozens were going by us up the mountain.
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At some point we decided to just stay put for the race – it was so nice where we were, and the gathering crowd was great. They had the race on tv in the bar so we knew the exact progress and when they were getting near.
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There was no caravan today, as I don’t think there’s any room for them to park at the top, which is about 23 km of brutal climbing above us.
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The small breakaway reached us at 4:48, followed by another small group, then the peloton. A few stragglers passed just after 5:00.
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Once the riders had all passed the crowd moved indoors to watch the last bit on tv . The bar was extremely crowded so we checked out the restaurant, which had much more room – we even got a table.
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I must say that the bar staff was just excellent – I’m not sure they realized quite how busy they would get, but they and the kitchen staff hustled their butts off and it was great. I think that several of the locals also pitched in from time to time when things were especially hectic so it was really nice to see.

We didn’t stay too long afterwards, but went back to the now deserted farmer’s field and had hamburgers for dinner. Not wanting to drive down the narrow road at night we were the only ones left in the field until morning.

La Vuelta at La Madera, and Sick Mo (sob sob!)

Upon waking early I had to take Mo out to do some business, which was unusual since she normally just waits, but at 6:30 she indicated very strongly that she needed to go out.

I quickly got dressed and put on my shoes – no socks – and took her for a little walk. There are no lights around here so the stars were spectacular, even without my glasses on. Back at the campervan Mo settled down and we got another couple of hours of sleep.
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We had been hearing one of the cows in the field next door – it was making more than the usual mooing sounds, and just after 10:00 we saw why. One of the mama cows was being led across our parking lot and we assume she’d been separated from her calf or something and wasn’t terribly happy about it.

We got going north shortly after, and had dialed our destination into Miss GPS. However, it seems there are several little towns with very similar names and we were taken to the wrong one.
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After we picked a slightly different destination on Miss Wayz we drove about 30 km to the top of the final small climb of the day’s race, near La Madera. Upon arriving we found that Mo had been sick – discreetly on the floor beside her sometime during the drive.

We found a great place to park several hundred meters from the top, and had a nice lunch of salmon, fried potatoes and salad.
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About an hour before the race arrived the caravan/cavalcade passed. As usual it was nothing like the Tour’s is, but I still got a few things, including a Movistar bag and a packet of olives that I love. And for the first time in a long time we were able to put our flags up.
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Several team cars pulled up and had guys available to hand out bidons if needed. One of the fellows from Education First – Cdn Michael Woods’s team – stopped almost right in front of me and I promptly asked him, very politely of course, if he would please move to the other side of me so he wouldn’t get in the way of my shots and he happily complied. I then pointed out the Cdn flag flying proudly from the campervan and told him where I’m from and asked if he might have a bidon left after the race had passed and he said that if he did he would give me one.
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The race itself arrived at 5:05 with a breakaway of 5 or 6 riders, and the peloton only 1 minute behind, including current world champion Alejandro Valverde right near the front.
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I got one very interesting shot of a tv moto interviewing the Bora Directeur Sportif as they drove past. The peloton took only about four minutes to pass us and then they were gone. True to his word the EF fellow gave me a bidon as he went back down to his team car.

When we got back to the campervan, which wasn’t very far, we discovered that Mo had had another accident – this time a very bloody poop inside on the floor, and she never poops inside the campervan. We are both very concerned but are hopeful that it’s a stomach thing from her hoovering anything she can find on the ground, rather than something serious.

Once we had gotten the flags down and were on our way it was clear sailing back south to the little campground that we loved at Rio Luna.