We allowed a few days to enjoy Normandy and take time to consider our trip, all of its experiences and prepare our minds for home. Whilst the crossing back on the channel is just four hours from Dieppe, it takes more time than that to be ready for the return to home life, and the busy south coast of England.
We slowed down and enjoyed a few favourite stops along the way to Dieppe and the ferry home. La Mailleraye-sur-Seine is on a pretty curve of the river and within a short drive for Parisians out of the city to their delightful period second homes.
At the aire, which still costs only six euros a night, we parked Bertha on the smartly mowed riverbank and enjoyed the views of touring cruisers, fuel tankers, darkly suspicious torpedo looking carriers and frankly enormous container ships registered to Rouen, Le Havre, bizarrely Cardiff and Hong Kong.
On bikes we crossed the river via a small car ferry to have coffee outside the walls of ‘France’s greatest ruin’ Jumièges Abbey.
Always mesmerising, whatever the season, we enjoyed again the stark white tall towers, pigeon-haunted walls and ruined cloisters of this William the Conqueror abbey of celebration for his domination over England.
We cycled up a long escarpment skirting forests before sailing down a steep road to the riverside to pick up a second car ferry, further down the Seine to put us back on the right bank for the aire.
Further up on the Normandy coast and more or less opposite home we spent two days at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. This seaside town is one of our favourites in France and boasts a setting that stretches east and west along the long, impressive Côte d’Albâtre.
The sheer white walls of the alabaster cliffs tower up to an impressive height of more than 100 feet in both directions. Here, France feels like a fortress guarding Europe.
It’s always exciting to arrive and consider the miles of the continent that will gradually unfold before you, and likewise it’s always reflective to leave from here and consider the many travelling experiences that are behind you. The white cliffs of Dover can feel touchingly homely and quaint.
We’ve walked the clifftops to pretty Veules-les-Roses before, and this time we headed off on the morning that the seasonal clocks gifted an extra hour to reach the village for lunch, then return along the seashore.
The cliffs at this time of year were being ploughed by farmers and our usual route was muddily inaccessible. We took a long detour alongside the road dodging local traffic heading out for lunch. Finally in the pretty village we discovered the church to be closed to visitors, our favourite shop to be shut, and the usual seafront bistro to be locked up and packed away.
After wandering about and eventually sourcing a tasty moules frites lunch on the main street we gambled on the turning tide and set off on the couple of miles’ walk along the shoreline back to Bertha.
On the way we marched quickly over sands, clambered through rock pools, slithered across sea weed and jumped over bubbling streams of receding water. With an hour to spare we made it back onto the shingle beach of St Valery and revived in Bertha’s sunset cab with a small bottle of beer in hand and toasting the returning high tide.
Leaving early next morning to avoid an advertised road closure at 8am we climbed over the cliffs of the Côte d’Albâtre through mists to arrive in Dieppe with the commuting workforce.
The local supermarket was open early so we stocked up on goodies before finding our usual pitch at the port’s newly refurbished aire. By 11am Bertha had coffee brewing on the stove and we were planning an afternoon’s rest and later, shopping.
The sun shone in high, bright and cold blue skies all day and we enjoyed a final sunset on the continent whilst waving farewell to the valiant ferry that would return in just a few hours to take us home to a rising sun.
We had travelled almost 3,500 miles safely and without incident across Europe, discovering new places, revisiting old favourites and enjoying new friendships and experiences. It had been a wonderful and fulfilling road trip!