2016-07-25 (Day 39) Honfleur – Ouistreham

Today’s photo shows Pegasus Bridge near Ouistreham which was the first bridge captured by Allied forces during the D-Day landings in 1944. The capture of the bridge was crucial to protect the troops landing on the Normandy Beaches from a German counter-attack. It was captured by about 150 British paratroopers who landed in 5 gliders beside the bridge just after midnight on June 6th 1944. They were able to hold the bridge until reinforced by troops from the Normandy landings the next morning. Whilst many mistakes were made elsewhere during the D-Day landings, the operation to secure Pegasus Bridge more or less went to plan and there are many memorials and monuments in the vicinity of the bridge commemorating it’s capture.


Travoy leaving Camping du Phare in Honfleur. The campsite was very busy as you would expect as the campsite is located less than a kilometer from Honfleur town center. The reception was closed when I arrived on Sunday evening so I simply paid (€11) the next morning when I was leaving. The campsite itself is lovely and my only criticism of  Camping du Phare is that it is badly signposted. The battery went on my smartphone as I was cycling through Honfleur on Sunday evening when I was only about 500m from the campsite. However, it took me about half an hour to find the campsite as there are no signposts on the main road. The access road is located beside the old lighthouse but there are no signs at the lighthouse for the campsite eventhough there are lots of signposts for other tourist attractions.The campsite is surrounded by a thick hedge and not visible from the main road eventhough it is right beside it. I ended up going down 2 or 3 other roads and still couldn’t find any trace of the campsite. It was only when I spotted a campervan  and decided to follow it, that I found the campsite. It was the only time on the Tour de Travoy that the power went on my phone and my back-up portable battery and eventhough I was only 500m from the campsite entrance, I still ended up hopelessly lost.


Total cycled today – 60 km. Total cycled so far – 1775 km. Apart from the climb out of Villers-sur-Mer, today was a relatively easy day’s cycling. I had an incredible view of the sea for most of the day but in places, I had to cycle further inland where you could not see the coastline.


Line of flags along the beach at Vasouy. It was nice to see an Irish flag in amongst about 50 other flags. There was very little fighting in this part of Normandy during World War 2 so the flags are more for tourists rather than as a memorial. The town of Honfleur was liberated by Belgian, British and Canadian troops on August 25th 1944. This was the same day that Paris was liberated but as German troops had already withdrawn across the Seine there was very little fighting. The coast road here has lovely views and you could see all the way across the bay to the container port of Le Havre.


Container port of Le Havre. The port of Le Havreport of Le Havre is amongst the 50 busiest ports in the world for tonnage. Last year, it handled around 80 million ton of goods which was about a fifth of Europe’s busiest port, Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Of the gross tonnage handled at Le Havre about a third was in containers and one third crude oil. The container port in Le Havre is the biggest container port in France and last year, handled over 2 million 20 foot equivalent (TEU) containers. The port here at Le Havre is one of only 11 ports in Europe that can handle the new Triple E class of container ships. Maersk’s Triple E ships are amongst the largest ships ever built. The ships are so big that no port in either North or South America can handle them. 20 were ordered by Maersk in 2011 and built by Daewoo in South Korea between 2012-13. All 20 ships have now entered service on the China – Europe shipping route via the Suez canal.

Maersk Triple E ship. Each Triple E ship is 400 m long and 59m wide and has space for 18,000 TEU’s. The first container ship, owned by American businessman Malcolm McLean in the 1950’s only had space for 58 containers. Even in 1997, the largest container ships could only hold 8,000 TEU’s. There are plans to build ships with capacity for 25,000 containers but for now, the 18,000 TEU capacity Triple E class are the largest ships afloat. Incredibly, if all those containers were to be transported by rail,  the train would need to be be about 110 km in length. If all the containers were filled with tins of beans, there would be space for 860 million cans or about 150 cans for everybody in Ireland on just one ship.


Sign for a post Tour de France criterium in Lisieux. When I seen this sign for a criterium the following evening in Liseux, I thought about making a small de-tour to see it. But I was also hoping to get a ferry on Friday from Cherbourg to Rosslare in Ireland. Had I gone to this criterium, it meant I would have to travel about 200 km from Liseaux to Cherbourg in about 2 days. This would leave little time to visit the Normandy D-Day sites. Most of the stars from the Tour de France would have been at the criterium in  As in Belgium on the same evening, so I thought that the the criterium in Liseaux probably would only feature local French riders. I was totally wrong in this assumption as most of the top French riders from the Tour de France were at this criterium.

2016 Lisieux criterium. The criterium was won by Romain Bardet who only 2 days earlier was stood beside Chris Froome on the podium on the Champs Elysee after finishing 2nd in the Tour de France.This was the 35th year a criterium has been held in Lisieux so it is the first criterium a lot of French riders attend after the Tour.There were junior races and time trials all day before the criterium which started at about 20.30. The criterium itself lasted for about 2 hours so it meant it was dark when the race ended. In hindsight, I was sorry I didn’t go and then try and get a later ferry but maybe some other year I will go and see it.

Children’s fun park opposite a crucifixion memorial near Vielerville. This seemed an unusual location for a bouncy castle and children’s fun park as it was located opposite a crucifixion scene from the Bible. The writing on the bouncy castle says “Entrez dans la jungle” or Enter the Jungle. So jungle has the same meaning in both English and French. It turns out that jungle was originally a Hindu word (jangala) to mean a place that is not inhabited i.e a desert but somehow the word has found it’s way into both the French and English languages as a description for an overgrown forest.


Irish flag on roundabout at the holiday resort of Deauville. The large town of Deauville is a famous seaside resort in France and many French people have holiday homes in the town. It is famous too for it’s horse racing and that may explain why the Irish flag was displayed alongside the Normandy flag on the main roundabout in the town. There are many Irish people involved in horse racing and some may even have holiday homes in  Deauville. But the town’s most famous Irish resident has very little to do with horse racing. Eamonn Dunphy is a sports journalist and often appears on TV in Ireland as a football pundit. For a long time, he had a holiday home in the town and it is here where he wrote his famous biography of Roy Keane, the Manchester United and Irish footballer, which was published in 2002.

Roy Keane’s first autobiography which was ghostwritten by Eamon Dunphy. Eamon had probably been working on an autobiography of Roy Keane for a few years when he would have arrived here in Deauville in July 2002 to finish the book off. The autobiography was probably first discussed in 1999 after Manchester United won the Treble of the  League, FA Cup and Champions League and it was due for publication in the autumn of 2002 after the World Cup in Japan. In April 2002, Eamon would have had most of the book wrote apart from a few minor updates depending on how Ireland did in the World Cup. Dunphy would have been contracted to RTE television for the duration of the World Cup but he probably was looking forward to his summer holidays, which would have started when the tournament finished on June the 30th. He probably anticipated spending his summer vacation at his holiday home in Deauville polishing off the book while sipping calvados in the French sunshine. But then in May 2002, all hell broke loose at the Ireland training camp in Saipan in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Saipan is a popular holiday destination for Japanese tourists and it was chosen to be Ireland’s training base a week before the FIFA World Cup started in Japan. The island was famous for a bloody battle in World War 2 but most Irish people would not have known about the island prior to 2002. But that is not the case today as nearly every Irish person knows about Saipan and still remembers what they were doing that fateful week in May 2002.

Saipan May 2002. For the benefit of foreign readers, I will now attempt to summarize what happened in Saipan but anyone who wants chapter and verse on what was probably the most divisive issue in Ireland since the Civil War in the 1920’s be sure to read Soccer Ireland’s excellent synopsis on their website. Their website is the most comprehensive account of any incident I have ever come across online and a copy of their website deserves to be in the National Archives. But in short what happened in Saipan is that Ireland’s captain Roy Keane was sent home by Ireland’s manager Mick McCarthy after a huge row a week before the World Cup in 2002. Initially most people in Ireland supported Mick McCarthy but thanks in no small part to Eamon Dunphy, public opinion in Ireland slowly began to change after he took Roy Keane’s side in the dispute. The huge row between Keane and McCarthy had occurred during a team meeting to discuss an interview Roy had given to Tom Humphries of the Irish Times. I remember reading this interview 3 times word for word trying to figure out what was in the interview that had triggered the bust up. Roy had threatened to leave Saipan 2 days earlier and is critical of the team’s facilities and preparation’s but nowhere in the article does he single out Mick McCarthy. The criticism in Tom Humphries article was relatively tame and perfectly reasonable so that is why I took Roy’s side in the dispute. Had Keane been scathing of the manger and his coaching staff, then I would have taken McCarthy’s side as you can’t have a player undermining a manager’s authority a week before a major tournament. But I repeat, at no stage in Keane’s interview does he single out McCarthy or his staff for criticism though he does blame the FAI for the poor facilities. But he is justified in this criticism as everybody agreed that the training pitch in Saipan was poor or as Roy put it “it was like training on a car park”.

Roy Keane leaving Saipan. But looking back at the whole incident again, 14 years later, there is no doubt that Roy acted the maggot during his few days in Saipan. He was in a foul mood the whole time and then had a blazing row with reserve goalkeeper Alan Kelly during a 5 a side practice match on Tuesday afternoon. Alan Kelly is regarded as one of the soundest ever Irish players and the last person you would expect to get caught up in a row with Roy. But that silly stupid row set off a chain of events which ultimately led to Keane being sent home. First, Keane went to see McCarthy that evening asking to be allowed to go home for “personal reasons” But then overnight Roy changed his mind after talking to Alex Ferguson and others and the following morning agreed to stay with the Irish team. The 23 man Irish squad had to be faxed to FIFA by 08.00 on Wednesday morning and Roy only confirmed he was staying at 07.57, 3 minutes before the deadline. There had been 2 teamsheets beside the fax machine, one with Roy’s name on it and another one with Colin Healy’s name on it (who was on standby back in Ireland). Mick McCarthy faxed the 23 man squad with Roy Keane’s name on it only to discover someone from the FAI had faxed the same teamsheet to FIFA half an hour earlier. McCarthy would have been raging inside at being undermined in such a blatant fashion as it is the manager’s job to pick the players in his team. McCarthy was probably still seething with the FAI when he got a copy of Tom Humphries interview with Roy Keane the next day on Thursday afternoon. The interview was not due to be printed until Saturday but a decision had been taken to publish it in Thursday’s edition of the Irish Times as events were moving fast in Saipan. After reading the interview, McCarthy then decided to call a team meeting for 19.30 that evening and the rest is history. Personally I believe that that McCarthy was more angry with the FAI for faxing the teamsheet than with anything Roy said in his interview. In my opinion, he may have called the team meeting knowing it would almost certainly provoke Roy and that in turn would make the FAI hierarchy look like fools in their efforts to keep Roy in the squad. Singling out Roy in such a public manner knowing his mental state would have been similar to waving a red flag at a bull. Mick would have been quite happy for Roy to have gone home (as Roy himself had requested on Tuesday) because he had been such a disruptive influence on the team and  was almost certainly opposed to the FAI efforts to keep Roy in the squad. In my opinion, there is nothing that Roy said in either the Tom Humphries interview or Paul Kimmage’s article the following Sunday  to cause a public team meeting to be called so there must have been some other agenda at play.  Mick McCarthy in his autobiography says he arrived at the hotel to find Roy Keane singing “Stand By Me” with some of the other Irish players and he had second thoughts about going through with the meeting. Mick could have pulled Roy to one side and talked to him in private as had happened 2 days earlier on the Tuesday when Roy told McCarthy he wanted to go home for “personal reasons“. It was well known that McCarthy and Keane had never got on even when they played together under Jack Charlton but Roy had agreed to stay with the squad on Wednesday morning eventhough he was very unhappy with the facilities and with life in general. Who knows if McCarthy had met with Keane that evening in private, almost certainly Keane would have gone to Japan and Ireland could have gone on to win the World Cup as most of the other teams in the competition were not that great. But McCarthy decided instead to have a public meeting which resulted in Keane going ballistic and then being sent home. It was very poor man management on Mick McCarthy’s part and ultimately it would lead to him losing the Irish manager’s job just 5 months later.

Roy Keane after being sent home from Saipan. After Roy Keane arrived home, he did an interview with Tommy Gorman on RTE, which resulted in a clamor for Roy to be flown back to Japan for the World Cup. Apparently, one of Ireland’s richest men, JP McManus had a private jet on standby should a deal be reached between Keane and McCarthy. But all these efforts came to naught and Keane spent the World Cup walking his dog Triggs outside his home in Cheshire not even watching the Irish games. Ireland actually did quite well in the 2002 World Cup and qualified for the knockout stage only to be beaten by Spain on penalties. Shortly afterwards when the World Cup was over,  Eamon would have arrived here in Deauville in July 2002, with the realization that large parts of his book would have to be re-written.  I can just imagine the scenes here in Deauville as Dunphy struggled to re-write his draft and put into words just what had just happened the last month or 2 in Roy Keane’s life.


Deauville harbour. Somehow I don’t think that Dunphy would have done much sight-seeing or gone to many horse races that summer in Deauville as he struggled to re-write his book about Keane before the publisher’s deadline. The effort though certainly paid off as Roy Keane’s autobiography would go on to sell the most copies of any sports book in Ireland. I don’t think there isn’t a house in the country that doesn’t have a copy of Roy Keane’s first autobiography. If Saipan had never happened, his book would have been just another run of the mill autobiography about a footballer nearing the end of his career. But at times during that summer in Deauville,  I am sure that Dunphy must have felt like the cat that got the cream as he must have anticipated that his book would sell by the truckload, all because of Saipan.

Source : The Irish Times

Roddy Doyle and Roy Keane at the lauch of Keane’s 2nd autobiography in 2014. Saipan is rarely discussed nowadays as the whole incident is just so embarrassing for everyone involved. Most people would agree that the only person to benefit from the shambolic mess in Saipan was Eamon Dunphy. For a time in the aftermath of Keane being sent home, he was the only one in the Irish media to argue on Roy’s side and he eventually swayed Irish public opinion in Roy’s favor. The general consensus in Ireland nowadays regarding Saipan is that Roy was more sinned against than sinning  but that his behavior also put Mick McCarthy in an almost impossible situation as to how to best deal with him. Since 2014, Roy has been head coach under Martin O’Neill with the Irish team, a role he seems to relish. He has mellowed with age and rarely displays the “red mist”that was ever present in  Saipan and so often clouded his playing career. As a player, he was forever arguing with referees and journalists but now seems to get on with the press and is always good for a quote or 2. Incredibly though, despite the fact that Eamon Dunphy was the only journalist to support him during Saipan, Keane would later fall out with him partly as a result of Dunphy’s testimony during a Premier League disciplinary hearing into Roy’s tackle which broke Alf Inge Haaland’s leg. Because of this, Roy got another famous Irish author Roddy Doyle to write his second autobiography in 2014 called “The Second Half“. But while most people would agree that it is a much better book than his first autobiography, it didn’t sell as half as many copies as his first. The British journalist, Claire Hollingworth, was once described as getting the “Scoop of the Century” when she came across German tanks and troops massing on the Polish border near Katowice a few days before World War 2 started in 1939. But back in 2002 here in Deauville, I am sure Eamon Dunphy must have thought that he too had got the book publishing equivalent of the Scoop of the Century as he worked on his final draft of Roy Keane’s autobiography just a few weeks after Saipan.

Exhibits and a sign promoting the Paleoscope museum in Villers sur Mer. The Paleoscope Odyssey museum has exhibits showing dinosaurs that have been discovered in Normandy. The French take great pride in decorating their roundabouts and this floral display showing a Brontosaurus mother with her calf was one of the best I have come across in all of France.


Tourist train in Cabourg. These tourist trains are common in France and there was no shortage of tourists in this part of Normandy. I had come across similar trains in Lourdes and La Ferte Gaucher but how the train driver manages to navigate narrow streets and 90 degree bends with such a long train I have no idea.


Pegasus bridge. Up until 1944, Pegasus bridge was known as the Benouville bridge. It’s name was changed soon after WW2 in hour of the British 6th Airborne Division, whose symbol is Pegasus, the mythical winged horse. The original bridge from 1944 was replaced by a similar but slightly bigger and wider bridge in 1994.

Museum dedicated to the capture of Pegasus bridge during D-Day. Right beside Pegasus bridge is a museum dedicated to the capture of the bridge on June 6th 1944. The Memorial museum was opened in 2000 by Prince Charles and it replaced a smaller museum in Benoiville whose lease had run out in 1997. On 6th June 1944, 5 Horsa gliders landed beside Pegasus bridge and there is a replica  Horsa glider in the grounds of the museum. The grounds also contain the original bridge from 1944 which was bought by the museum for a symbolic franc in 1999.

Pegasus bridge. Pegasus bridge was the first bridge captured by Allied forces during Operation Deadstick overnight on D-Day.It was captured by 181 men in 6 Horsa gliders though only 5 gliders landed beside the bridge. The sixth glider landed 10 km away at a different bridge and it took a day for those troops to make their way to Pegasus bridge. The bridge was only lightly guarded by the Germans and the 2nd Airborne Division only suffered 2 casualties capturing the bridge.


Height limit on Pegasus bridge. There is a height limit of 4.7m on the Pegasus bridge and some loads inched across the bridge at a very slow pace including this boat which was being transported on a low loader.

The first house liberated in France was cafe Gondree beside Pegasus bridge. On D-Day, Georges Gondrée and his wife were woken up at about midnight by the landing of the gliders. Georges looked out of a window and saw black ‘masked’ troops running over the bridge, which he later learned were British paratroopers. In celebration he dug up some 99 bottles of champagne which he had hidden in the garden and in the morning of June 6 toasted his liberation with some of the men from the gliders. The Gondrées had three daughters and one of them, Arlette, who was only a young child during D-Day, later took over the cafe from her parents and she has maintained it to this day.


Pegasus bridge in 1944. Notice the gliders in the background of this photo from 1944. The nearest glider landed less than 50m from the bridge.The attack on Pegasus Bridge featured in the 1962 Hollywood film “The Longest Day” and another film is due for release in the summer of 2017 called “Pegasus Bridge“. Filming was taking place in the summer of 2016 in England and France for that film but apparently, no scenes were due to be filmed at Pegasus bridge itself as it has changed so much since 1944.


Greenway between Ouistreham and Pegasus Bridge. The greenway runs alongside the Canal de Caen a la Mer which is 14 km long and connects Caen with the sea at Ouistreham. The greenway was very wide but I was surprised there was no barrier at all along the length of the greenway. If you were to lose your balance on the greenway, you could easily end up falling into the canal.


Ouistreham port and lighthouse. Ouistre is the French word for oyster and ham means village. The lighthouse here in Ouistreham dates from 1905 and celebrated it’s centenary 11 years ago. The lighthouse was captured by British troops during D-Day and was the first lighthouse to be liberated in France.


Ouistreham ferry terminal. Brittany Ferries operate up to 3 sailings a day between here and Portsmouth. The crossing takes about 7 hours or twice as long as their high speed crossing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth. Last year, I traveled across the English Channel to Dover from Dunkirk and remembered the port at Dunkirk being surrounded with a huge razor wire fence. The ferry port here at Ouistreham was much smaller than Dunkirk and there was a lot less security and fencing here as well.

Circus in Ouistreham. Last year on the Tour de Travoy, I came across a circus in Pamiers in the Midi Pyrenees. That circus had many tigers and also the biggest hippo in Europe. This circus was much more low key and I didn’t spot any wild cats though there was a few camels and horned yaks grazing outside the marquee. The circus was right beside my campsite for the night at Camping les Salines.


Camping les Salines near Ouistreham. The campsite was the biggest I had ever stayed at in the whole of France. You can see from this photo that it is twice the size of a nearby shopping centre which has 2 supermarkets in it. There must be about 300 mobile homes in the campsite but there was very little space for anyone in a tent. I had to follow the campsite manager for about 5 minutes on his bike before he found me a spot where I could pitch my tent. Most campsites are not too bothered where you pitch but some mark the best place on a map while others insist on showing you where to pitch. But Camping les Salines was the only campsite where someone had to get on their bike to show me where to pitch for the night. I have no idea where about I ended up on the above satellite photo but it may have been in the south west corner of the campsite beside the Rue de la Mer.



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