The 'French Leave' - The Fridays tour 2018: Ride report

In 2018 the annual tour - "French Leave" - went for something completely different: while in past years we’ve made a journey through the landscape, this year we decided to spend a week exploring in detail one area.

 

And what an area! Lisieux in Normandy is surrounded by excellent cycling. Think smooth tarmac, empty country lanes and pretty villages.  And the weather was perfect. (Until the last day. But you can’t have everything…..)

 

It was easy to get to.  Some rode from the ferries at Caen and at Le Havre, some drove and crossed at Calais, some used Newhaven-Dieppe and trains thereafter.

Staying in one town all week meant we didn’t have to pack everything into panniers and ride all day even if it was raining. And some people could take a day or two off if they wanted. Several used lighter, faster bikes than they would if they’d had to carry luggage every day. So this is a formula to which we might return. We did it back in 2014 when we stayed in a chateau near Cherbourg and it worked well then.

 

There is usually a group of two dozen or so on the Tour, this year we were 11 women and 14 men and destinations included Livarot, St Pierre sur Dives, Pont L'Évèque, Cormeilles, Le Bec Hellouin, Pont Audemer, Orbec, Bernay and Beuvron en Auge as well as a host of other pretty villages. 

Obviously we were always going to visit the Busnel Calvados Distillery. And during the rest of the week we made regular checks on the quality of its product served in various bars in the region…… 


The roads were almost always quiet with good surfaces but no Fridays' Tour would be complete without some comedy off-roading, missed turnings, farmyards and steep descents down rough lanes.

 

One bonus was that it’s a region with river valleys cutting through a plateau so there were short hills with gradients of 7 to 10% but once we were on the top level it was fairly flat ground through a green and gold landscape of fields and forest interspersed with charming half-timbered buildings. And of course we stopped at the occasional bar for coffee…….


There will be a Tour in 2019. If you like the sound of this year’s tour, look out for details. At the moment, we might be going back to France. That perfect tarmac, excellent weather and superb food needs to be checked fairly regularly y’know…………

And it was hilarious at times – many of us will forever have fond memories of leaving Thiberville on an excellent wide, smooth-tarmac road that turned into a narrow tarmac road, then a tarmac road with grass in the middle, then a gravel path then a field of harvested wheat. We were back, after much laughter, on tarmac after 100 metres or so.