Pedal Through History in France & Italy
Delve into French & Italian history on a Softies holiday, from the beaches of Normandy and the lavender fields of Provence to the ancient Roman Via Flaminia highway in Tuscany.Read more
Often described as the Devon of northern France, Normandy and the Calvados Coast is home to lush countryside, quaint villages and serene sand dune beaches. There's lots to love about cycling Normandy, from the gentle terrain to the fine cider, regional cuisine and historical sites. Temperatures are more comfortable than in the south and on the coast you'll find the chic resorts of Cabourg and Deauville. Read on to find out more about our Normandy cycle routes.
Your first destination is Bayeux. Its name instantly brings to mind visions of the intricate, 11th century tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of 1066. Stop off to view the 70-metre-long masterpiece as you stroll around the medieval town. During the summer, the huge Gothic cathedral is often lit by night with a vibrant light show, showing off the stunning architecture.
From Bayeux, immerse yourself in World War 2 history by cycling north west to Omaha beach, one of the famous sites of the D-Day landings. Delve deeper with a visit to the museum, which houses a collection of weapons, vehicles, uniforms and personal items. Take in the American war cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer and its serene, white semi-circular memorial perched on the cliff overlooking the beach. The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc are an impressive natural phenomenon, but also poignant when you imagine soldiers bravely scaling them in treacherous conditions.
Wherever you stop in Normandy you’ll be able to taste the local Calvados, made with the area’s renowned apples. Try Calvados with apple ice-cream as a refreshing dessert. Or do as the locals do and drink a little Calvados between courses (Trou Normand) to clear the palate. Pear liquor and cider also feature high on the list of regional tipples. Cheese is another speciality, notably Camembert but also Neufchâtel, Pont-l'Évêque and Livarot.
On day three, take time to stop and appreciate the pretty seaside town of Courseulles-sur-Mer. La Crémaillère Hotel has a well-known restaurant right on the seafront. Sample the local oysters, fish soup or treat yourself to a grilled meat platter. At your final stop, Honfleur, finish the night with an exquisite dining experience at Le Bréard. It has an internal courtyard garden and a contemporary approach to French cooking. This unassuming eatery is tucked in a narrow street near the wooden St Catherine church. Try the delicate portions of poached oysters followed by passion-fruit soufflé.
Fontaine-Henry is an almost-invisible village surrounded by fields of wheat, with just its church tower peeping on the horizon. After lunch on day three you’ll wend your way here through the glorious Mue valley. If you have time, pause to admire the flower-filled gardens of its château. It's a glorious Renaissance building and certainly worth a photo – and there’s bike parking if you choose to stay longer.
Your journey then takes you to Bénouville and the Pegasus Bridge, named after the British 5th Parachute Brigade who retook the bridge in World War 2. Take time here to explore the Orne estuary, a protected natural area home to much wildlife including rare species. It's peppered with walking trails for exploring the swathes of sand intermingling with rich green, arching around rich blue pools. On the way to Honfleur you ride through the Saint-Gâtien forest, the largest in the area, enjoying the dappled shade of the trees and the rich variety of flora.
To discover the full tour click here. Alternatively, call our cycle experts to find out more about Normandy cycling.
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