Honfleur, the penultimate town on the Dixe Wills’ route. Photograph: Kiszon Pascal/Getty Images “And then cannibalism ensued.”
My guide around the mighty Château Gaillard in Normandy delivered this line with commendable insouciance. To be fair, there was so much violence in his recounting of the history of Richard the Lionheart’s castle up to that point that villagers eating each other while trapped in a dry moat during a siege came as little surprise. “The castle was strategically important,” he added, “because it blocked the main transport route between Paris and Rouen.” And we looked down from the castle’s lofty limestone promontory to the River Seine – broad and dependable, the second-longest river that flows entirely in France, and a veritable motorway in the Middle Ages.
While today there’s still plenty of river traffic sailing along the Seine, it was the opportunity of cycling alongside it that brought me here. Starting (or finishing) at Notre Dame in Paris, La Seine à Vélo (The Seine Valley by Bike) is a route that follows the river all the way to the Normandy coast, almost exclusively on minor roads, cycleways or paths shared with pedestrians. Next year should see the completion of a 25-mile (40km) greenway from Vernon to Les Andelys (home to Château Gaillard) and on to Saint-Pierre-du-Vauvray, which will make the experience even more tranquil. A medieval street in Vernon. Photograph: Dixe Wills The Seine à Vélo’s launch in October 2020 was overshadowed by Covid, so it’s only now that the route is […]
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