A Photographic Record Of Cycling In Normandy.

Highlights from a lovely collection of photographs

 

I’m delighted to be able to share another fabulous gallery of photographs from Patrick Hudgell. These photos are from the Chain Gang Normandy tour. The full gallery is available here on our Flickr account, but I’ve chosen 8 photos that for me best illustrate what I love about Normandy. Click on any of these photos to enlarge them – it’s worth it.

A Norman cow

A Norman cow

1. The Norman cow, and Camembert cheese.
It’s surprising just how much the Normans are into their cheese, especially Camembert. It’s also surprising what they think is improved by adding camembert to it, and how wrong they usually are.

But this special cow is very much part of Normandy culture. A Norman cow always has patches round its eys, which Normans call spectacles, and produces milk with a high fat content that gets used in all sorts of Normandy cuisine. We see them grazing in beautiful orchards with half-timbered barns and apple trees.

Camembert at the Graindorge dairy in Livarot

Camembert at the Graindorge dairy in Livarot

We also visit a cheese factory in Livarot, where they make all the well-known Norman cheeses, Camembert, Livarot, Pont L’Eveque and Neufchâtel. Camembert, the best-selling cheese in France, really is part of Normandy cuulture – it would be perfectly normal for a Normandy family to eat some camembert every single day. So here it is, just for you.

 

 

A picnic near Falaise in Normandy

A picnic near Falaise in Normandy

2. A group picnic.
Picnics have become such a feature of Chain Gang tours that I couldn’t resist including this one. Note the camembert on the right of the table, but even more prominent is ‘The Colonel’, a Livarot cheese, and my favourite.

You can get such a wonderful variety of cheese, cured meats, fresh fruit and salad vegetables. You could eat all day for about 6 euro each. And on occasion we’ve done almost exactly that.

As they say in Alsace "Say Riesling"

As they say in Alsace “Say Riesling”

I’ve chosen the photo of the group at the end of our week because Patrick went to the trouble of finding a slightly different viewpoint, he’s upstairs at the Lion D’Or in Bayeux.

This hotel was General Eisenhower’s base in Bayeux, and if you’re visiting ask for Room 8 – Ike’s bedroom – and grab yourself a little bit of history.

 

 

 

The Distillerie Boulard in Coquainvillier

The Distillerie Boulard in Coquainvillier

3. Calvados distillery in Coquainvilliers.
Another important part of the Normamndy food & drink story is apples. This is the main region of cider production, and cheese and apples often go together because the Norman cows graze in the apple orchards that proliferate in the Pays d’Auge region of Calvados.

Normans make a spirit from apples, Calvados. Just like cognac and whisky, the best calvados are made meticulously, can be aged for decades, and sell for mind-boggling prices. We visit one of the best distillers, the Distillerie Boulard in Coquainvilliers. Here’s a photo of a group of happy campers at the end of a visit, enjoying themselves in the tasting room.

 

4. The British and Commonwealth cemetery at Rainville, and Omaha Beach.

David and Jill at the British and Commonwealth war cemetery at Hermanville

David and Jill at the British and Commonwealth war cemetery at Hermanville

The second half of our week in Normandy is spent exploring the landing beaches and events around Operation Overlord in June 1944, the Normandy landings.

We start by crossing Pegasus Bridge, the first target of Operation Overlord, on our way to Benouville. There are some wonderful museums about the Normandy landings, but what lingers with me are the cemeteries.

Each country dealt with their war-dead differently. British and Commonwealth soldiers were buried in small cemeteries throughout Normandy. American next-of-kin were offered the chance to repatriate their loved ones, or allow them to be be buried in Normandy, and the bodies of those who stayed in Normandy are buried at the American Cemetery at Colville-sur-Mer.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

The Canada centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer, Juno Beach, isn’t a cemetery. It’s the result of a visit to Normandy by Canadian veterans who realised there was no memorial dedicated to Canadians.

The French dead were disinterred and returned to their towns and villages throughout France, and the German dead (the largest group, of course) were buried in half-a-dozen cemeteries, the largest of which are La Cambes and Orglandes.

We visit British cemeteries in Ranville and Hermanville, we visit The Canada Centre and the Amercian Cemetery, and on our last day we visit the German cemetery in La Cambes. At Colville-sur-Mer we get the chance to walk down to Omaha Beach itself.

5. Classic building in the Calvados style.

Typical Normandy building in Beaumont-en-Auge

Typical Normandy building in Beaumont-en-Auge

One of the surprising things you’ll find on a week of cycling around Normandy, especially around the Pays d’Auge, is just how pretty it is. Cider apples may not taste very nice, but the orchards look gorgeous in their meadows and their Norman cows. And the buildings are in this classic half-timbered style.

The best examples are in the villages of Beaumont-en-Auge (where this photo was taken) and Beuvron-en-Auge, which is even prettier.

Where’s the full collection?
Don’t forget you can see the whole collection of photographs here.

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