Sunday, 21 June 2015

Where is that bloody tapestry? And what's with all those bloody Americans? Rouen to Bayeux

The mirror in the morning disappoints me.  I'm supposed to be on holiday but I look exhausted.  After some pondering, I realize why.  Everyone has heard how exhausting these Europe in 7 days bus tours can be,  A different city and a different bed every night.  Now consider:  I don't even have a bus !!!

I'm not too unhappy to leave Rouen. It's a pretty city but also apparently has its share of social/economic problems.

With homeless people living in the city's streets, there must be people paying $220 for this CRAP.

Rouen's Notre Dame cathedral (not to be confused with the one in Paris, even though they look similar) opens at 8 am today, according to Google. Apparently it's worth a visit and I hope they don't object to visitors in shorts and sandals, but then this ain't Spain and what the heck was Jesus wearing in his days anyway,  a tuxedo?

Rouen cathedral. 
Coincidentally, the cathedral doesn't only contain the remains of Duke William I of Normandy (No, not William the Conqueror, that might have been William I of England but he was William II of Normandy) but also the heart of Richard the Lionheart, who was killed by an arrow close to here.  There is no body of Jean d'Arc, who was burned at the stake here, because they made sure that there would be nothing left of her.
The cathedral is supposed to be open at 8 am on Sunday (says Google), but the doors are closed at 8:15 am. Good thing it's just around the corner from the hotel.

At 9:30 am I head back to the cathedral and it is open.  The ratio of worshippers to camera-wielding tourists (some in shorts) is about 1;10.

Just seeing that organ, I wish I would have been exposed to music at a young age.  My only wish would have been to play that organ one day !

France still seems to be cautious after the Charlie attacks, heavily armed police is standing in the cathedral square.

Checking out at 10:30 gives me lots of time to kill until my train leaves at 12:04.  I now know how to get to the train station, something made even easier since I’m riding a bicycle.  I pass a mid-50s pan-handler who might have a drinking problem, judging by the shape and colour of his nose.  I stop a block past him and check my wallet. 70 cents.  That’s exactly what they charge at the train station for peeing.  I consider for a moment.  I haven’t used a single taxi cab on this trip and I will not have to buy any gasoline.  When I cycle back to him, he mumbles something in French when I hand him the blue Euro note and instantly starts checking it for being counterfeit.   What is the precise amount of cash in your wallet right now? If you don’t know, consider yourself very fortunate.  Since you don’t know anyway, it is highly unlikely that your life could be negatively affected if you had one bill less in there.  But that one bill sure could make a difference to a person who knows exactly how much money they have in their wallet.  Get my point?
While buying my train ticket I learn something new.  I’ve been managing to pronounce Rouen. Something like Ru-ahn.  But I just could not distort my palate sufficiently to pronounce Caen in the way that I thought it should be, something like Ca-ahn. Turns out it’s pronounced something like Conh.

The train ride to Caen is 1 hour 40 minutes.  There are some youngish people on the platform, very tight jeans on longish legs and both girl and boy have a kind of Samurai top-of-the-head-ponytail going. I'm SO out of touch, I don’t even know what that particular lifestyle look is called.  Anyhoo, it’s not about their look, it’s about the fact that the two are smoking right next to the No-Smoking sign.  And no one cares, least of all the French Rail employees.  Do I light a cigarette myself?  No. I want one; why don’t I light one?  A good question.  I've lived in Canada for too long seems to be the answer.

Lisieux Basilica out of the train window
The train only takes 15 minutes from Caen to Bayeux.
When arriving at the Bayeux train station, the centre of town is not hard to find.  Just head for the highest church towers.
Bayeux Cathedral 
I arrive in Bayeux, hoping for a nice quiet civilized town (after all, what kind of tourist comes here to see a tapestry?) and am utterly confused by the vast numbers of tour buses full of American tourists here. OH. I forgot about the WWII Normandy beaches that are only around 10-15 kms from here. I find my hotel reasonably quickly and am told that my room won't be ready until 3:30 pm.  My booking confirmation says something like 2 pm. GRRRR!

Despite advertising a check-in time of 2 pm, my room isn't ready at 3 pm and I'm told it would be another hour.  HATE that!  Since I wanted to include a quick bike ride to the coast anyway, I leave my luggage in the hotel and head to Avranches.

Avranches is a PRIME example of what distinguishes tourists from travellers.  The reason I cycled to this town was the hope of seeing yet another one of those pristine beaches or rough deserted coast lines that made my trip through Brittany 2 years ago so special.

The first thing I notice when entering the town is a strange smell and many many tour buses.
I re-classify the stench as probably ocean and interpret the many tour buses as a sign that it must be worth coming here.  SO WRONG on both accounts!

100s or even thousands of Americans eating ice cream and walking around looking at the least inspiring beach of my trip so far,
some old US military hardware,

some old German bunkers
and some remaining half-sunk pontoons of the harbour quays that the Americans installed here right after D-Day.  I take a few looks at this, and quickly abandon the idea of even eating in this town.  Need to get out of here.
As I look over some cliffs at the edge of town I correct my guess as to the nature of the stench in town.
It looks and smells EXACTLY as if the farmers of the surrounding areas have been dumping cow manure in straw into the ocean. I've never seen anything like it.

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