Le Grand Tour: Day 14 – Alençon To Domfront (73km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Au Bar Normand, Domfront

If yesterday was a spinning class of a ride, today was a spinning class with that knob below the handlebars cranked up several notches. If your route passes the ‘highest point in north-west France’ you can probably guess you’re in for an up and down day and, at gradients that a train could cope with when they plodded up and down these valleys many decades ago, that’s what happened. More disused railways – the area must once have been a maze of lines – with a handful of pencil-straight-Roman roads. More satisfying that yesterday and a much more welcoming end at a municipal campsite that breaks records. Keep reading… 

There were several times today when I struggled to believe that I was indeed in northern France. The Provençal market under the blue sky of Alençon, the Alpinesque spa resort at Bagnoles de l’Orne, the dense forests straight from the Ardennes and the hill top fort town of Domfront that wouldn’t look out of place in the Pyrenees. Basically I’ve done my ‘grand tour’ in one day so I’m tempted to just head home and have a nice rest. If update number 15 never appears, you know what’s happened. It is difficult to believe that I am within a day’s ride of the World War Two cemeteries of the north coast with their tank-dotted coastal towns and union flags flying high beside the French tricolours. This is not just France this is deep France. Peter Mayle could have written a book about it had he not taken a drive down the autoroute de soleil instead.

The other thing of note today was the wildlife; I encountered a red squirrel yesterday and today it was a wild boar scuttling across the cycle path in panic, a large bird of prey in the sky, dragonflies following me more adeptly than my attempts to get the drone to do the same thing and an abundance of ‘vermisaux’ (as De La Fontaine referred to them but which we mere mortals just call the ‘green stuff flying around) and a less hostile array of birds that you might expect but perhaps not in such great numbers. 

Yet the best was yet to come. I’ve been bemoaning the decline in the French municipal campsite in recent days but today my faith has been restored, and then some. The Camping Municipal Domfront is not just a gem but one that cost me a mere €4. I have spend more than double that on beer whilst writing this post. The world has gone mad.

Tomorrow: Mont-Saint-Michel… 


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