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London to Normandy Beaches

Old 01-02-19, 03:38 PM
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Elli
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London to Normandy Beaches

I'm looking into flying to London and biking to the ferry over to Normandy Beaches. Has anyone taken this route? Any advice on what and what not to do (or areas to skip/avoid). It will be in 2020. It will be my first time in England and France.

Thanks

Elli
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Old 01-02-19, 04:12 PM
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From my very limited experience road biking and driving in France, the D-roads in Normandy are narrow with almost no shoulder and fairly heavily traveled, although the drivers were much better behaved than in the US. But getting passed by RVs and tractors was a bit nerve-wrecking. I much preferred going on the narrower almost empty country lanes.
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Old 01-02-19, 04:17 PM
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Elli, my wife and I did this last year. We flew into Heathrow then took a bus to Portsmouth then a ferry to Cherbourg. Here is our Journal https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Roots2018
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Old 01-02-19, 05:02 PM
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From this year (1919) Irish Ferries will be operating direct from Dublin Port to Cherbourg rather than from Roslare. Rather than flying to London why not fly to Dublin and you could cycle from the airport to the ferry port in about an hour. The ferry involves an overnight journey of about 19 hours.

I have been through Normandy and to the Omaha cemetery and Bayeaux on the 71st anniversary of D-Day. The timing was more by chance than anything else. Didn't find the roads dangerous or particularly crowded. There's a network of cycle paths in Normandy so with a bit of research you could ride off-road some of the time.


Carentan to Cherbourg cycle path
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Old 01-02-19, 05:17 PM
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I did this in reverse a few years ago, visiting Normandy and then going to London. One stop I'm really glad I made was in Bayeaux to see the Bayeaux Tapestry. It was more fascinating than I honestly thought it would be. I really enjoyed the Ouistreham (near Caen) to Portsmouth ferry. In fact, one of the best meals I've ever had in Europe was on that vessel.

My father was a combat infantryman who came ashore at Omaha Beach and was heavily engaged in the Normandy fighting. Time being a luxury, I largely limited myself to only that area where he was involved. However, there are many worthwhile D-Day related sites and museums worth visiting. The problem is deciding which ones to visit and which ones to forego.
It may be worth a stop to visit the german battery at Longues-Sur-Mer. My understanding is that this is the only german battery which retains its original armament from the battle.
The American Cemetery at Colleville is a must see. Very touching and ideally placed overlooking Omaha Beach.
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Old 01-02-19, 05:27 PM
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I've Gone from London to Plymouth, took a Ferry to Roscoff in Brittany, then you ride east, back to Normandy.

(it was 30 years ago)

Ports of Poole and Portsmouth also serve the crossing https://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/ferries-france/plymouth-roscoff

Cork is a big Ferry port in Ireland .
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Old 01-02-19, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post

Cork is a big Ferry port in Ireland .
Cork is one of the ferry ports but it's quite a bit outside the city. It has sailings to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries but their ferry to Santander in Spain doesn't take bicycle passengers.
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Old 01-02-19, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Elli View Post
I'm looking into flying to London and biking to the ferry over to Normandy Beaches. Has anyone taken this route? Any advice on what and what not to do (or areas to skip/avoid). It will be in 2020. It will be my first time in England and France.

Thanks

Elli
I've toured twice in the D-Day beach area, both times around the anniversary of D-Day. That was fortuitous and I highly recommend that you time it similarly in 2020, if possible. (Note: 2019 will be the 75th anniversary and therefore there will likely be several heads of state there for commemorations. In that case, there will be severe restrictions on movement while the heads of state are present. This was the case in 2014.)

Like Caretaker, I didn't find the roads dangerous or particularly crowded. If you can read a map, you can find lots of small country roads in most of the region. There are also a few bike paths. The other advantage of a good map (from either IGN or Michelin) is that they have symbols showing the location of things like war cemeteries and the landing beaches themselves.

The great thing about being there around the anniversary is that there are many special events, decorations in towns, homes, and businesses, re-enactment camps, and other special things. This happens solely in the D-Day landing beach area and nearby inland villages. In other parts of Normandy there is little to mark D-Day. For some reason unknown to me, areas liberated by American forces were more likely to mark D-Day than areas liberated by British or Canadian forces. Many villages have monuments to their liberation, and there are also monuments in the middle of nowhere on tiny roads which commemorate a particular battle or war event. For example, not too far from Utah Beach, there is a monument to the Danish soldiers who participated in the liberation. I had no idea. Another village had a monument to the Belgian soldiers who liberated that particular town. Again, I had no idea.

There are also many, many museums in the region, mostly quite good.

Each country's cemeteries look different. American war dead were gathered together and buried in 2 large cemeteries. British war dead, on the other hand, were generally buried near to where they died. Therefore there are many small British war cemeteries. Two of the largest British cemeteries are in Bayeux and Ranville. In the Ranville cemetery my friend and I met a young British soldier who was able to answer our questions about the gravestones and symbols. We stopped at a large German cemetery and it, too, was quite different.

Ste-Mere-Eglise was liberated the night before the beach landings by paratroopers, and that small town goes all out to celebrate. There were free concerts, a parade, and the women in the tourist office were all wearing war-era dresses and and had war-era hairstyles. Big Band music was playing everywhere. The atmosphere was wonderful.

You'll see lots of surplussed WWII-era Jeeps being driven around. Many towns had little Allied flags strung up above the streets. I was really surprised to see how many private homes were displaying Allied flags.

I would suggest you ride at least between Honfleur in the east, and Utah Beach in the west. Honfleur is east of the D-Day beaches but is a very pretty, if touristy, fishing village. West from there, you'll see distinctive and beautiful brick work in the old houses, and you start to see liberation monuments. Deauville is a tourist town but it's beautiful, though riding inland from Honfleur on quiet roads was really nice, too. Beuvron-en-Auge is the prettiest Normandy village I've seen. Definitely stop in Bayeux, the prettiest city in the region. The Bayeux Tapestry is worth seeing, and the largest British war cemetery is there, as well as a war museum. The Cotentin peninsula from Ste-Mere-Eglise to Cherbourg is nice and it's easy to find quiet roads in most of it. Between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach you have to take a bigger road to get around a marshy area near the town of Carentan, but there was a good shoulder. The British & Canadian landing beaches are more built up (because they're tourist beaches today) but there were some bike paths and traffic wasn't an issue. Utah Beach is the most isolated and there was minimal traffic in that area.



Restored church in village (Colleville-sur-Mer) closest to Omaha Beach, with photo showing the church after liberation.


Honfleur


WWII re-enactment camp
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Old 01-03-19, 08:46 AM
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We overnighted in Colleville-sur-Mer! A nice little pension.
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Old 01-03-19, 10:31 AM
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London to Portsmouth looks to be Sustrans routes 4, 223, 22 and 222.

The 223 outside of Guildford:


Last edited by tcs; 01-05-19 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 01-03-19, 10:37 AM
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Curious..

Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
Cork is one of the ferry ports but it's quite a bit outside the city. It has sailings to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries but their ferry to Santander in Spain doesn't take bicycle passengers.
This a drive on-drive off vessel, for lorry (& caravan) hauling route ?
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Old 01-03-19, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
This a drive on-drive off vessel, for lorry (& caravan) hauling route ?
It takes motor-homes, cars, motorcycles, and their passengers but you can't book as a foot passenger or cyclist. That's what it says on the Brittany Ferries website.
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Old 01-03-19, 12:26 PM
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Many years ago I flew to Gatwick, put my bike back together and roe to Portsmouth and took a ferry to Cherbourg, and meandered through the Cotentin. Very interesting and the small roads were nice for biking, although there might be more traffic now.There are a number of different ports you can sail from or to along the channel.
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Old 01-03-19, 01:01 PM
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Thank you so much for all the replies. Lots of notes and great advice! I'm looking forward to this trip. I know I won't be able to get to do/see everything, but I'm going to jam as much as I can in. Catch the rest on a 2nd trip. Thanks again!
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Old 01-03-19, 08:28 PM
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Nice area, know its not flat, and I second the advice about avoiding the main road along the coast in favor of ones a bit inland. Lots of history, lots of wonderful little villages. If you don't abstain from booze, dont pass up the Calvados and Cidre signs!

Do know in France many shops/restaurants are closed on Mondays, and lunch venues generally have limited operating hours (11-130 or so) everyday. Pack a lunch if you plan on eating outside that time in a smaller village.
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Old 01-04-19, 01:46 PM
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Make new friends

Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
It takes motor-homes, cars, motorcycles, and their passengers but you can't book as a foot passenger or cyclist. That's what it says on the Brittany Ferries website.
Might work Cooperatively, with one of those other vehicle owners to become a passenger in theirs..
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Old 01-10-19, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
Cork is one of the ferry ports but it's quite a bit outside the city. It has sailings to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries but their ferry to Santander in Spain doesn't take bicycle passengers.
I took the ferry from Cork (actually Ringaskiddy about 20 miles from Cork) to Roscoff in July of 2016, it only sailed on Saturdays.
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Old 01-10-19, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
This a drive on-drive off vessel, for lorry (& caravan) hauling route ?

Yes, you wait in the parking lot lined up with traffic, they wave cyclists on, IIRC attach bicycles upright in one corner to rails that look like those in furniture moving vans, wave you off when disembarking. Many amenities on the 16hr ferry, good food, plenty of floor space and reclining chairs in the economy areas to sleep.
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Old 01-10-19, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Might work Cooperatively, with one of those other vehicle owners to become a passenger in theirs..

I forget how I booked, I don't recall cyclists were an issue at all in 2016, there were about four cyclists on board.

Last edited by Sharpshin; 01-10-19 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 01-10-19, 12:13 PM
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In 2016 my intent was to travel to Cherbourg from Cork (Cobh) and then cycle 300 miles along the Northern Coast of France to Calais, and then ferry back to Dover, white cliffs and all that.

For years I have had a national Geographic map of the British Isles on my wall, it shows a ferry from Cork to Cherbourg. I get to Cohb and the ferry actually leaves from a village called Ringaskiddy, and not to Cherbourg but to Roscoff. I just assumed Roscoff was outside of Cherbourg like Ringaskiddy was outside of Cherbourg. In a way I was right, Roscoff is like 250 miles outside of Cherbourg, like in Britanny

Only time in my life I'll ever be 250 miles away from where I thought I was. No worries, I was riding the solution. Glad I went that way, in Britanny I felt I was *really* in France, even though most folks were speaking Breton.

A huge plus en route was Mont St. Michel.
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Old 01-10-19, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Nice area, know its not flat, and I second the advice about avoiding the main road along the coast in favor of ones a bit inland. Lots of history, lots of wonderful little villages. If you don't abstain from booze, dont pass up the Calvados and Cidre signs!

Do know in France many shops/restaurants are closed on Mondays, and lunch venues generally have limited operating hours (11-130 or so) everyday. Pack a lunch if you plan on eating outside that time in a smaller village.

In Britanny the whole place was closed on Sundays outside major towns. Plus breakfast anywhere is great in France as long as you like bread, and not much else. After England, Scotland and Ireland I suffered severe morning grease withdrawal.
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Old 01-10-19, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Elli View Post
Thank you so much for all the replies. Lots of notes and great advice! I'm looking forward to this trip. I know I won't be able to get to do/see everything, but I'm going to jam as much as I can in. Catch the rest on a 2nd trip. Thanks again!
A priority for me (a 9yo British Schoolboy in 1966) was the Bayeux Tapestry in the city of that name, telling the story of the 1066 Normany Invasion of England and commissioned by William the Conqueror hisself. Incredible state of preservation. Only about 25 miles from Omaha Beach. Bayeux Cathedral is worth a look too.

Last edited by Sharpshin; 01-10-19 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 01-10-19, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Sharpshin View Post
I took the ferry from Cork (actually Ringaskiddy about 20 miles from Cork) to Roscoff in July of 2016, it only sailed on Saturdays.
I know I've used it myself. But their service to Santander in Spain which started in 2017 doesn't take foot passengers or foot passengers with bikes which is how most touring cyclists go.
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