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Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Bike Normandy, 25/08 - 28/08

The Bank Holiday weekend saw a return to old friends Bike Normandy, this time for a WW2 sightseeing tour.

Our meeting point on Friday morning was the lovely setting of Honfleur, where I kicked off being in France with a Nutella pancake. (Well, technically I had kicked off being in France the night before with a Ricard on the Dieppe ferry.)

Only one half of Bike Normandy, John, was present, having left Jen at home to prepare the evening meal, so I was asked if I would take up my favourite position of back marker. Obviously I had no objections.

We were a group of seven riders, and one pillion, on a mixed bag of bikes: two BMW GSes, a Yamaha FJR two-up, a Moto Guzzi Griso and a Ducati Diavel, plus my Honda NC700 Integra and John leading on his Yamaha Tracer.

Our first stop was Pegasus Bridge, which was also the first stop on the very first trip I made with Bike Normandy, in 2005. We looked round the museum, where I was captivated by the single-shot weapons made for the Resistance: one shot because you used that to kill an enemy soldier and take his weapon.

Pegasus Bridge

We had lunch at Arromanches, sitting on a wall overlooking the remains of the Mulberry floating harbours, then inspected a gun battery before moving on to the American military cemetery.

It was extraordinary how peaceful such a crowded place could feel. I'd happily have spent a long time here, looking at the changing patterns made by the lines of markers as I walked past, or sitting in the little chapel with its mosaic ceiling depicting boats, planes, and an angel placing a crown on the head of a dead soldier. For some reason, I found the very American-ness of the names especially moving; they were a long way from home, these Earls and Woodrows and Homers.

We stopped in a little town for coffee or a soft drink before taking the back roads to the Bike Normandy gîte, where a three-course meal was in the late stages of preparation and Della the Bernese Mountain Dog was tremendously excited to see everyone.

On Saturday Jen joined us, so I was let off back marker duties and released into the pack. Today was more about riding than sightseeing, and none of us objected to that. The sun came out after a misty start, and the weather got better and better until we could finish our day watching kids splash at an artificial beach while we enjoyed ice creams.

Sunday was another sightseeing day, starting with the German military cemetery at La Cambe, where more than 1,000 maple trees have been planted on behalf of the families of the deceased.

German military cemetery, La Cambe

We had lunch in Sainte-Mère-Église, under the gaze of the life-size paratrooper dangling from the church roof to commemorate John Steele, who played dead for two hours to evade the Germans. Everyone else looked round the museum, but as I'd seen it before I explored the town. I bought a French army surplus top and met a friendly cat.

Church, Sainte-Mère-Église

More riding, and a final coffee stop before the return to base. I went to bed at midnight because people were talking about Brexit, then came back down in my pyjamas to ask if somebody would kindly remove the large spider from my bedroom.

On Monday morning, John drove us all to the nearby Mémorial de Montormel - girls in the front, boys and dog in the back - in the Bike Normandy van. This peaceful panorama was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war, as German troops tried to fight their way out of a rapidly diminishing pocket of land, the Falaise Pocket. The lane to Bike Normandy HQ was once part of the 'Corridor of Death', and is signposted as such; always reassuring on a motorcycle.

Falaise Pocket

After a last coffee, we went our separate ways. I followed part of the group back over the Pont de Normandie, after which they headed for Le Havre and I for Dieppe.

On the ferry home I lucked upon a bottle of the fabled export strength Gordon's, for your authentic 1950s Vesper experience.

Della and the armoured car
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Comments

We stopped in a little town for coffee or a soft drink before taking the back roads to the Bike Normandy gîte, where a three-course meal was in the late stages of preparation and Della the Bernese Mountain Dog was tremendously excited to see everyone.

Excellent. ^^ Good food and a dog's unconditional love and happiness, what more do you need in life?
Absolutely nothing!