On our way from Scandinavia to the South, we make a stop in Amsterdam. It is nice to be ´back home´, even if we stay in a camping, but this helped us to see the city from a different perspective. Most importantly we had the chance to catch up with friends, which was wonderful. In some cases we temporarily confiscate their washing machines and dryers, get treated to nice home cooking, hear all the stories from the past few months and get a chance to hit some nice cafes and restaurants. Also we are amazed to learn that the everlasting construction of the Noord-Zuid metro line is finished, and the metro works like a charm.
After we wave most of our friends and city goodbye, we reach the North of France, which is always a treat for the senses. I say that we waved goodbye most of our friends, because this time Yvonne and her dog Bam-Bam join us with their camper van for a couple of weeks. Yvonne introduces us to the beautiful town in the coast of Picardy named St. Valery sur Somme. Beautiful mix of medieval architecture, a gothic church, some early 20th century mansions and a boardwalk next to the mouth of the river Somme, with some very nice views to the river and the sea.
After eating some big pots of steamed muscles, our trip continues towards Étretat, in the Alabaster coast. We arrive in the late afternoon, when the light is getting milder, getting golden tones. It´s a great pleasure to walk the coastal route on top of the white chalk cliffs as the warm light is dimming. We meet the sunset as we get to the famous needle and arches in the cliffs. Stunning, impressive, so beautiful.
The town, the beach and the coastline are also a treat in the early morning light, at that time when the city is waking up and the tourists are still sleeping.
Iconic and magnificent is the Mont-Saint-Michel, beaconing the horizon with its distinctive silhouette from many different angles.
We approach it by foot from the little town of Beauvoir. It must be about a 5 Km walk. Most of it is a pleasant stroll along the water, while you see the details in the construction becoming clearer with every step.
Despite the multitude of people visiting, the abbey and surrounding little village are full of nice little corners adorning its steep and narrow cobbled streets. There are also tons of tacky souvenir shops, but we decide to ignore them, since the place is so extraordinary. On quiet corners, it offers extraordinarily peaceful views to the bay and the ocean. You cannot help reflecting how tough it must have been to build such an impressive wonder, on top of the little tidal island, in the middle of the bay, back then, in the 11th century, when the construction started.
Possibly the best views we enjoy from the ramparts that surround the city.
One cannot go to Normandy or Bretagne and not have some oysters, this is why we head of to Cancale, oyster town by excellence, and treat ourselves to some generous amounts of molluscs and have a stroll along the shore.
From there we head South and Yvonne also introduces us to the town of La Gacilly, which is a beautiful picturesque little town, with stone houses, cobbled streets, lots of flowers everywhere, and plenty of artists´ ateliers.
On top of that, from May to October, it transforms itself in an amazing open air photography gallery. Thousands of photos grouped in different themes occupy all the corners of the place. You can stroll along the river, while contemplating the collection of images about a reforestation project in Ethiopia, or about life along the Ganges, walk through steep cobble streets learning about Buddhist monks in the Himalayas or walk towards the market to contemplate the devastating effect of plastic in maritime birds, amongst others.