I left the campground in Saint-Symphorien-le-Valois later than I prefer. Heavy dew last night left the exterior of the tent soaked, and I took time to partly dry out the tent. The weather today turned towards dark clouds, with rain in the forecast in Ireland. All day the weather cycled from temperate to cool, and near the end of the day light waves of raindrops fell, hastening my final approach to Cherbourg.
The path north took me through the town of Bricquebec, displaying a castle on the horizon. I needed to arrive in Cherbourg in time for the ferry, but then again I could always catch a ferry another day. The castle ruin, while on the tourist attraction signs for the town, serves as a restaurant in one wing; the rest closed off to visitors.
Chateaux des Ravalets turned up as a castle open to tourists when searching the other night, and it fell directly in line with the path to Cherbourg, in part because Ravalets sits on EuroVelo 4, and the GPS routed me to Cherbourg on EV4. Ravalets sits on the site of an earlier fortification, but now stands more as an 18th century manor house than a castle, with a great job of restoration on the outside. The inside, on the other hand, still remains untouched, an abandoned building decayed by time. The rooms therefore unused, the local council decided to use yet another castle as the venue for a modern art display.
I arrived in Cherbourg by 3:00 pm, unsure which ferry line left on which day at which time, but ahead of time for all of them. I used a tried-and-true method to find the ferry – I cycled towards the center of town, and followed the signs for “car ferry”. Arriving, I found the line of vehicles (in front of the Stena Ferry sign, answering that question), but not the terminal to buy the ticket and confirm questions about a bicycle. I saw a cycle tourist nearby (an English cyclist on her way home), and she directed me to the terminal.
While the original explanation of the pricing confused me (given that at one point I questioned why they told me the ferry was free), I eventually had my ticket as the only cyclist for this trip, and instructions to return between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm, and go straight to the head of the line.
With some time to kill in Cherbourg, I headed to Le Redoubtable, a retired nuclear submarine, and the largest submarine in the world open to tourists. I found it on the GPS by accident; I haven’t figured out how to clear the Point of Interest (POI) markers from the GPS, so I just select “Shipwreck” and that normally clears the display. In this case I found a tourist attraction to visit. Unfortunately, the local Tourist Bureau ties visiting the submarine to visiting the aquarium and a Titanic display (the Titanic departed from Cherbourg), making the intended visit four to five hours long, and $20. With only an hour or so, and having visited several subs in the past, I decided that money would better serve elsewhere.
Upon returning to the ferry, the person checking tickets (the same that sold me the ticket) waved me through. I last boarded a car ferry in Sweden, travelling to Gotland, with the same process as this time. All of the vehicles queue up, with the motorcycles and bicycle in front. The actual boarding process begins with me at the head of a long line of vehicles wending our way through the shipyard to load into the ferry.
At sea as I type, I can confidently say I accomplished my primary goal, cycling from Istanbul to Ireland. Google originally forecast 4,200 km, with my original estimate being 6,200 km. Today crossed 1,500 km on my reset odometer, which should mean roughly 6,000 km. When I started that distance seemed a long way, now it seems only a few days ago, although digging through my memories assures me of much longer. Travelling through Eastern Europe I met many people cycling the reverse path, headed towards Istanbul. Now instead I tend to be met with stunned silence.
When I first searched my GPS for campgrounds in Ireland, only a few displayed for the whole of Ireland. Tinkering a bit, almost every site in Ireland lists as a caravan park – normally RVs only. The website of the campground near Rosslare permits tents; I’ll ask if that’s standard. While reviewing their website I learned that campground closes Sept. 30 – a good start on a baseline for what campgrounds might be open.
Forecasts call for rain in Ireland. I need a paper map; rain will make working with my phone more difficult, and risky. Repacking might be in order, and I need to relearn the habit of always packing for rain. Even with the forecast, I’m excited to be back to Ireland. Ireland also forces a change of pace; two days in Ireland of cycling 100 km east or west would have me fall into the sea.
With almost three weeks in Ireland, I’ll likely pick up a SIM for the phone, as I did for countries I visited longer than a week or so: Hungary, Romania, and France. Supermarkets sell SIMs in Ireland – how convenient.
Today reminds me of the terrorist attack on Sept. 11. I regret the loss of life from the terrorist attack. I regret more the changes in culture and law made possible by the fear those events engendered. Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserves neither liberty nor safety.” I refuse to let fear rule me; I honor those who died by not letting terrorists change how I live my life. May my country do as well.