Day 2: St Germain-sur-Ay to Carolles
“The ocean will be open at 6.52,” he replied, conjuring a beautifully idiomatic vision of steel gates around the sea ceremonially swinging open at high tide. His pronunciation was heavily accented but the message was clear enough: “From five o clock it will be good for the swimming.”
With a map to guide me back to the sea, I trotted out the tourist info and straight into the camping municipal opposite. It had just gone 4pm and I’d decided that after 73km I’d done enough cycling for the day. For the whole day I’d been following the coast. Even when the road ran inland I would catch sight of the inviting glimmer of turquoise as I crested a hill. For elevenses I pushed Monty up a sand dune and munched grapes and M&Ms overlooking a vast vista of sea salt, sea weed and bird-filled estuary. A lapwing flapped overhead. For lunch I pulled into the beach at Granville and ate my picnic watching the stone-walled lido slowly fill with water as the tide rolled in. I stopped to buy a baguette which I then strapped onto the top of my rear rack. I noticed as I pedalled off that the end of the baguette was poking me in the left buttock so, while still happily pedalling along, I pulled off a bit and ate it. And then another bit. And so I continued pedalling past wheat fields and poppies munching thumbfuls of fresh bread. The day gave me quiet roads, sea views, sunshine and a tailwind. The only thing that could make it better was a dip in the sea to wash off two days’ worth of sweat and suncream.
Tent pitched and valuables scattered and hidden in a variety of locations, I donned my swimming costume, packed up by wetsuit, and (literally) coasted 2km down the steep Route de la Plage. At the end of these road a strip of soft sand and the glistening Baie du Mont St Michel awaited.
There was certainly no need for a wetsuit. The water was a better temperature than many heated pools and the late afternoon sun still warmed my skin. The messy, thumpy waves were opaque – presumably because of the amount of sand caught up in it. Each stroke disappeared into the cloudy drink as if the water had amputated my arms above the elbow. I swam back and forth along the shoreline. On one side I caught my breath to look at the sun and the face of the next lemonade wave. On the other side I kept an eye on Monty, parked by a railing on the sea wall, and my stash of clothes in a pile by some rocks.
Having swum back and forth sufficiently I returned to the beach to let the cooling sun dry my skin. I could see half a dozen kite surfers speeding along the water. That looks hard. How on earth can you control a power kite with your arms while battling the waves with the board on your feet? While the others skimmed gracefully back and forth one kite surfer kindly did a demonstration – or rather several demonstrations – of just how hard it is to mount a board on a wave while also flying a kite. First sploosh: falling back off. Second sploosh: flipping overboard. Sploosh sploosh sploosh and then – almost a trick – he rolls vertically in the air before… Sploosh. Eventually the poor man relented and came into shore.
I lingered at the beach until 6.52 just to see if any gates would appear. Then, as the waves swallowed the last child’s sand castle, I pedalled back up the Route de la Plage.