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.
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 before 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.
Our 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.
One of our favorite stops on our journey is the tiny fishing port of Cancale, nestled along the beautifully rugged Brittany 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.
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.