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Uncover the cultural and historical highlights of Normandy and Brittany with VBT

France, Normandy, Normandie, Mont Saint-Michel, Abbey, Unesco World Heritage

At VBT we pride ourselves on providing active vacations that not only take you to wondrous locales throughout the world, but immerse you in the culture, cuisine and history of your destination. We have a brand new vacation in 2014 that is brimming with all three. For over a thousand years the French regions of Normandy & Brittany have impacted the course of European history. On this extraordinary VBT vacation you’ll visit historic WWII landmarks, medieval relics, an ancient island Abbey and even the home of Louis the IX’s favorite bivalves. Combined with deluxe accommodations and delectable French cuisine, it’s all for you to discover with us on our new Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany vacation.

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D-Day
The biggest historical event in the region in recent history is the famous Normandy invasion on the shores of northern France and the many remembrances that have occurred subsequently. We’ll visit the coastal town of Arromanches – aka “Gold Beach” in the invasion – which played a vital role in the battle of Normandy. For it was here that the Allies built one of their famous Mulberry harbors—a portable, temporary structure that facilitated the transfer of troops and supplies from the water to the beach—the remains of which still can be seen at low tide today.  Learn more about the harbor, and the historic June 6, 1944 landings, at the D-Day Museum.

Nearby “Omaha Beach” to the west is perhaps the best-known of the D-Day beaches. You’ll have free time for lunch here 800px-Omaha-beach-cemeterybefore we join Guillaume Marie, a World War II expert and our local guide. His passion for his subject will be evident as he leads us along these now-tranquil shores and shares with us the dramatic events that once took place here. We’ll also cycle to the American Cemetery, a 170-acre, meticulously landscaped memorial overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel. The site contains 9,387 perfectly aligned white crosses and Stars of David marking the graves of the brave American servicemen and women who perished in Europe during World War II.

Saint-Malo
800px-Saint-Malo_remparts_003Our final destination on Day 7 of our Normandy & Brittany vacation is Saint-Malo, a beautiful medieval city along the Brittany coast. Saint-Malo became notorious in the 18th century as the home of the corsairs who were privateers, authorized by the French crown to conduct raids on the ships of any nation at war with France. Saint-Malo is also the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, who sailed the St Lawrence River and is credited with discovering Canada. After exploring the ancient walled city we’ll treat ourselves with modern day amenities at our luxurious hotel located outside the Old Town, resting at the edge of the beach. It features several spa and therapy rooms, including an indoor, seawater swimming pool.

Cancale Oysters
One of our favorite stops on our journey is the tiny fishing port of Cancale, nestled along the beautifully rugged Brittany800px-Huitres_Cancale coast. The town is known for its superior huîtres –oysters – in fact, King Louis XIV was reportedly so enamored of these briny bivalves that he had fresh oysters brought daily from Cancale to Versailles! Today these oyster beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year and we’ll have the opportunity to taste these acclaimed huîtres for ourselves during a visit to an oyster market.

Mont Saint-Michel
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Our last – but certainly not least – favorite location that we’ll visit is the spectacular island commune of Mont Saint-Michel.  Accompanied by a local guide, we’ll venture across the cone-shaped islet in the Gulf of Saint-Malo, connected by a causeway with the mainland. The island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best known for the spectacular and well-preserved Benedictine abbey that sits at its peak. The abbey is surrounded by the winding streets and architecture characteristic of a medieval town. Small houses, shops and street stalls are found on its lowest level mimicking the hierarchy of the feudal society during which it was built.

These are just a few of the historical and cultural highlights we’ll visit on this awe inspiring trip to France’s northern coast. With multiple departures from May – October of 2014 there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience this incredible corner of the world with VBT. For more information about the scenic bike routes, world-class accommodations and unsurpassed value of our Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany vacation, simply click HERE

Traveler profile: A Family’s First Vacation with VBT

Sail Boat

A few weeks ago our President, Gregg Marston, received a wonderful voicemail from Dr. Warren G, who had recently returned from our Tuscany by the Sea vacation, about the amazing time he had on his first trip to Italy. We had a chance to catch up with Warren to hear more about his first VBT experience and his first trip to Europe since he spent a week in Paris in the 1980’s.

hay fields

Warren first learned of VBT while on a vacation to Acadia National Park where he noticed a tour of VBTers cruising Coast Housearound the famed Maine island park and thought to himself “what a great way to see the sights and fully experience the surroundings”.  So he looked up VBT, did some research on our pricing and all the places he could travel with us, and booked his first vacation.  With Warren’s eldest son preparing for his freshman year of college, the summer of 2013 presented itself to be a perfect time for the whole family to join in a new adventure together. So with his wife, three boys and 69 year old mother-in-law in tow, the family set out for the coast of Tuscany.

Family

Warren told us that the food and sights of the region were so amazing that “3 days into the trip I was like ‘alright, where are we going next year’? It was just so great.”  But what really made the trip so memorable for Warren and his family was Bike Route FlowersVBT Trip Leaders Marcello and Angelo, “those two guys in particular were just fantastic. We were with another couple who had been on many VBT trips and they said they had never had guides as good as those two guys.” He added, “Every morning they would teach us local expressions and some of Italy’s most used hand gestures which made interacting with the locals so much easier.”  Warren even mentioned that after every lunch break and pit stop, when the family returned to their bicycles, “all the water bottles on the bikes were refilled with fresh water and even included fresh lemon slices in the bottles.”  He went on to mentionSunflower Field with son that it was the “little things” that VBT does that he was so impressed by, such as detailed trip planning and all the small transfers that he didn’t really think about logistically before going on the trip.

After returning home to New Hampshire, and while browsing the 700+ photos he took, Sunny MeadowWarren says he’s already begun thinking about his next vacation with VBT.  At the moment he is leaning towards The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria bicycling vacation but is also contemplating a return to Italy because of the amazing experience the family had there, a sentiment echoed by Warren’s initial message to Gregg – “Thank you VBT for making my first trip to Italy so unbelievable…you have a superior product, I just loved it.”

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