- Honfleur – Étretat
- Étretat – Quiberville
- Quiberville – Saint Valery sur Somme
- Saint Valery sur Somme – Saint Pol sur Ternoise
- Saint Pol sur Ternoise – Lille
Cycling across France let me experience the landscape, its colors and architecture changing as well as the air that smelled differently. Even cows looked different!
I can not say they were funnier than “Carolina”, the one I met along La Mayenne, who really wanted to eat her neighbors grass, but with all their strange spots, cows in Normandy are quite unique. But Carolina won the gold medal, sorry.
When I arrived in Honfleur I set up the tent and went out visiting this fascinating town on the sea and eat mussels. Well, here they cook mussels in so many ways that I admire the people who spent so much time thinking how to eat them. I mean, it is like pork for Germans, or bacalhau for Portugueses or pasta for Italians (not sure, we love too much food). But mussels? really?
Anyway, it tastes good, so, no fear. Good taste for a reasonable price.
The day after I decided last minute to visit Étretat. I got used to take quick decisions, to change my mind all of a sudden, trusting that spontaneous choice and path without feeling lost. I never “got lost” in the end. We never get lost the way we mean “getting lost”. I was where I wanted to be all the times I “got lost”.
All those moments and places, I wanted to be there, for plenty of reasons.
Even on the Pont de Normandie. Super scary bridge to cycle through. Huge and noisy.
I finally let go a nonsense timeline I did not need. I was riding with the flow. And trusted the flow. I merged with the wind which brought the world to me (not the other way around) as long as I kept moving.
And so, I decided to point Étretat, a magic place on the sea, surrounded by impressive cliffs.
I spent the rest of the day on the beach looking at the waves hugging the rocky shore and the sun turning me, the sky and the seagulls orange. We were one with the sun.
Despite the real poetry, which I could touch, see and listen you have to be careful because these birds try to still you everything. My supermarket dinner was in danger more than once.
Eating chili on a bench in front of the sunset is worth a million fancy restaurants.
Normandy is unique and fascinating. You have to ride up and down because of the cliffs but the view is spectacular. Even with the fog coming in. It was just dreamlike.
As it was Saint Valery sur Somme, a blooming village on the river Somme, where once upon a time Great Britain was attached to. Here the light shined differently, it was shy and silent, a light I have seen in so many paintings. I got finally inside one of them.
When I reached Lille, after a a couple of rainy days spent riding through the French Flanders I felt nostalgic. I knew that the south was almost over. The north was coming.
But here I experienced one of the best southern hospitality. Alessandra, a rebel Brazilian who moved to Lille many many years ago welcomed me at her home with food, mate tea and great talks.
When you are on the road it gets more clear that friends and best friends are those you meet everyday, those who smile at you when they are riding to work, the ones who help you finding the route, the ones who offer you food, shelter or just few words in the morning, the ones you share sunsets and sunrises with. They are my best friends, during that moment, on that day, and so, they will be forever.
I felt home in Lille like everywhere else during my trip, and like old friends we said goodbye before riding forward to Belgium.