Day 72: Bernieres to Cabourg - Grampies Tour de France - CycleBlaze

June 6, 2018

Day 72: Bernieres to Cabourg

When we arrived at La Luzerne last night, Christophe the manager mentioned that we would not have the place to ourselves as he was still waiting for the arrival of three Canadians. The chances are overwhelming that that would be tourists from Quebec here on vacation and making an excursion from Paris. However at breakfast the first of the three to appear, Jacquie, was wearing Canadian government insignia. She sat with her colleague, Mattienne. It turns out that these two are guides at the Canadian Vimy memorial. The third one down was John Desrosiers, who is the director of the Vimy memorial and, we think, other Canadian European memorials.

Naturally a conversation happened about Vimy, which we have visited, and also the impact of the war cemeteries, with their crosses seemingly to the horizon. We mentioned that after having been either blaze or leery of anything glorifying war, we developed a changed attitude after those crosses. John knew just what we were talking about. We also mentioned the Vimy memorial as glorifying war by citing it as the vehicle through which Canada became a "real" country. John acknowledged this, but cited that theme as only a small part of the Vimy story that in any event is accurate. We certainly all agreed that the major purpose of war memorials is to promote peace. John invited us to look him up when we finally make it to the Vimy center in about a week.

The Canadian not tourists.
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Our hostess, Malvina, advised us that there actually is a cycle way from Courcelles to Bernieres, and she gave us directions about how to get on it. We needed that because our first order of business was to return to Courcelles for the D-Day ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre.

It turned out that yesterday we had followed part of the cycle path, but now in the calm morning we were able to find some more bits of it. The way is not clear, and there is actually more than one way. None of the ways is actually completely off road, either. 

This is partially a hoax. The signs will drop and/or the route will wander way off somewhere.
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This is where we went.
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We got to the Centre on time, and found a large crowd assembled. There were "re-enactment" type people with some military vehicles parked nearby, French military dignitaries with those round "foreign legion" type hats, politicians, real 2018 soldiers on guard, people carrying regimental colours, a brass band, just all sorts of people. Most notable were three veterans, in a place of honour, and one man of about their same age, who had been a witness to the landing.

There were there opening speeches from dignitaries, very well done. The best came from the mayor of Courcelles. His main theme was to thank the veterans and the countries that had saved his town. He was extremely sincere and quite riveting, actually. While he did not explicitly welcome Canadians who might be in the crowd, his words did feel very welcoming.

The highlight of the whole event was a speech from Pat Moore, a British veteran who had trained with the Canadians and landed here at Courselles with them. Though well over 90, he was certainly all there. He proudly held up the insignia of the group he had landed with, and went on to tell this story: On day two he had been assigned to remove bodies from the beach, and to recover and material that could still be used. He found a dead Canadian doctor, and his intact medical supplies bag. It turned out the supplies were much more complete than the typical kit the British had.  Moore carried this kit and was able to use it as the days went by.

One day his group entered a destroyed town, and took a break to make some tea. Moore then observed a nun crossing the square and using a bucket to draw water from a well. She had trouble lifting it, and getting a friend to cover him, he went to give her a hand. She led him into a hole where another nun was boiling the water and caring for a number of injured seniors. Moore was able to use his kit to help some of them. As he was leaving, the nun called him back. She took off her crucifix and gave it to him. He still has it, and held it up for the audience to see.

A time came for laying wreaths at the memorial, and there certainly were a lot of them, from many related organizations and governments. One of these was the old witness to the events, M. Verdonk. He went up with what must have been his great-grandchild. Then they shook hands with the veterans. More than one of the speakers had mentioned it being gratifying to see young people at this ceremony. This seemed a very touching moment along those lines.

But then there was one more to go before the audience - Dodie. She went up and laid her Canadian flag keychain from her bike, then went over to shake hands with the veterans. That's my Dodie!

In the reception that followed, the veterans were again the stars. John Desrosiers had told us that there are 17,000 remaining veterans, but age is claiming them at the rate of 2400 per month. After next year's 75th anniversary, they will have to dig deep to find living memory of the events.

A bit of beauty on the way.
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Courselles harbour. There was a small fish market going on today as well.
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The re-enactment people added atmosphere, I guess.
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This man was actually there in 1944.
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The three veterans who came out for this event.
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A very sincere speach from the mayor of Courselles.
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Pat Moore holds up a treasured insignia
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Our three friends from breakfast laid a wreath.
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One version of "to you from failing hands we throw the torch"
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Dodie thanks the veterans
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As we were about to leave, an English man came up to us. He said that fromhi scar he had seen us yesterday on the D514. He said that he was very impressed by our determination and concentration, in the wind and rain and on that road. Having been involved in road racing, he had an idea of what it can be like.

Compliments from a D514 motorist.
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To go back through Bernieres and continue our route east we resolved to once again try to find a beach side route. We succeeded for a while, but eventually got thrown back on D514, at least for a bit. We passed through Bernieres and began the leg from there to Ouistreham. The last bit of this, from Lion sur Mer, was really the best. In that little stretch the bike way is clear and continuous, and you are riding beside the open water. On the beach there are quite a few restored houses - of that Belle Epoch beach style. There are also many blank spots or plainer new houses, but still this bit has more of what used to be than elsewhere on the beaches.

Some remaining/restored houses near Lion s/Mer
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There is an interesting sculpture along the way, made from bicycles of the period. Bicycles were important at the time for carrying messages. The plaque beside the sculpture also describes bicycles as a symbol of freedom.

Next step for these bikes- try to find a bike shop in one of these towns.
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Coincidentally Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted this photo today - showing bicycles coming ashore:

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One at Ouistreham we have reached the Orne river estuary. The Orne gives its name to a Department upstream, and also runs through Caen. To cross it we have to go perhaps 5 km upstream to what is now known at the Pegasus Bridge. On the night of June 6 British glider pilots from the 6th British Airborne Division landed in Horsa gliders and managed to capture the bridge, preventing the defenders from blowing it up.

The winged horse Pegasus was the emblem of the Division, hence the name for the bridge. The leader of the team, Major John Howard, is memorialized nearby. Near that memorial we encountered quite a few uniformed (and very natty) soldiers. We stopped one to ask why they were there. This turned out to be a parachute expert and long time British soldier who explained that it was a training thing in which young soldiers were taken to famous battle situations to analyse them for anything that might be of use in modern situations. I took the opportunity to ask him some tactics questions that I had been wondering about. For example, why did the allies not just simply continue their bombing program of the enemy homeland, rather than storm ashore here. The answer - opposition from the public about bombing civilian targets.

Here is our parachutist and some of the well turned out students:

Mark Smith, I think it was.
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Nice uniforms. Bust of Major Howard in the background.
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Once over the Pegasus Bridge we had to make our way back to the coast and then follow it to Cabourg. Cabourg was and is a city of rich people, with a large number of beautiful homes and a nice main street as well. It will be our jumping off point tomorrow as we head for where the Seine enters the sea, at Le Havre. We have a huge bridge to tackle there. More about that tomorrow.

As I am sure you expected, here are some of those homes:

We learned that Cabourg was and is a playground for rich Parisians.
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Part of the main street in Cabourg
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Our hotel is at one end of the main street.
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Today's ride: 51 km (32 miles)
Total: 4,731 km (2,938 miles)

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Tricia GrahamHave stayed twice at that hotel in Carbourg. The second time for 2 nights because of torrential rain. Such lovely people running it he of course is a very keen cyclist. Good luck with the upcoming hills.
Keep safe
Tricia
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1 year ago
Michel FleuranceYou are in Normandy just at the right time.
Green isn't it.

May be it is not too late to look for caramels d'Isigny.

https://www.caramels-isigny.com
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1 year ago