Nantes – Rennes – Granville – Caen – Rouen Rive Droite – Dieppe
Today’s route was all about exploring lines that I’ve not used before. There are more direct routes from Nantes to Dieppe, and the amount of risk in some of the connections meant that nothing from this point onwards was pre-booked.
Some of the services used only ran a couple of times a day so the connections meant I had a lazy morning, late breakfast and only left Nantes just after midday. This service was another busy service. There was a small First Class area, but it was fully occupied by what looked like a school group, so I found a corner in an unusual curved seating area. By the time we left it was standing room only.
I had an hour for my connection at Rennes so went for a look outside. The town near to the station was nothing special, but the station itself certainly was. It has been built into an earth bank, and is not like anything else I’ve ever seen. I very much liked the reflected horses sculpture at the upper level.
Inside it is spacious, relaxing and has a good amount of seating. I grabbed some lunch and took it easy for a while.
When it was time to make a move, I looked first at the departure board to find the platform. This was showing a delay of 55 minutes to my service. This was really not good news at all. As I expected, it was not recoverable for my original planned route.
I started to look at alternatives, but could not come up with anything more than taking the train into Paris and hitting the coast from there. I really was not keen on that idea.
Suddenly there was an announcement, a service had been laid on and would be departing in 5 minutes, just 8 minutes late. That was fine for my connection so I jumped onto it.
This service was also busy but I’d managed to bag a window seat and was hopeful of some interesting views this time. The line runs for some time alongside the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance. I didn’t see any boats on the move, indeed I only saw a couple moored up, but did get a brief view of the Écluse Langager (lock) at Montreuil-sur-Ille.
One of the things I was hoping to capture on this section of the route was Mont St Michel. There is a station of that name (well, Pontorson Mont St Michel) but it turned out to be a fair way inland. I did catch a couple of momentary glimpses of it in the distance, but not enough to see any details. It is in the photo below if you look hard enough!
Shortly before we reached Granville an announcement was put out that if anyone wanted the connection to Caen they should stay on board as this was it. I got off anyway, so I could take a look at the station. It was only small, but like so many, it had an interesting interior mural.
Back on board, I moved to a different seat in the hope of finding a power socket, as both my phone and laptop were running low (I’d used them quite a bit in the morning and had carelessly not plugged them in after charging overnight. I did find one at the opposite end of the train, but it didn’t work. Nor did the one in the seat opposite.
Because I was leaving my phone locked as much as I could, I missed the momentary opportunity to photograph the cathedral at Bayeux, home to the famous tapestry. The station of the same name was only tiny.
The train was late into Caen, giving me just a 5 minute connection. Thankfully, this service did have working power sockets, and I could get back to snapping again. I rather liked both the Basilica of Sainte-Thérèse on the horizon and the pedestrian bridge in the foreground of this picture, taken at the station in Lisieux.
By now it was clear that I was going to make the final connection of the day, and I’d given myself two options. Dieppe was my preferred destination, but accommodation was in very short supply. However the level of risk that I might not get there meant I could not pre-book. Staying in Rouen wasn’t an option if I was going back that way as the first train of the day arrives too late to make the ferry. The alternative was a train into Paris, stay there and take either the Eurostar or a train to the coast for a ferry.
Booking.com is my preferred way of finding places to stay while I’m on the move. The handful of options they gave in Dieppe were all hideously expensive, but I decided to look directly at the Ibis (Accor) website, as I knew they had a budget hotel there. They showed one available room, which I bagged, and at a sensible price. Interestingly the same hotel showed as sold out on booking.com so I presume that this was a cancellation.
As had been the case all day, I struggled to keep an internet connection going long enough to make the booking. It took me four goes before I was able to complete, having been booted out of the process due to timeouts on both my laptop and phone. I’m really not sure why mobile connections are so poor in France. In my two days of travel I have had what I would describe as an acceptable connection on trains for maybe an hour in total, and that was mostly in or close to big city stations. Even when stationary it is often the case that there is no signal indoors. I wonder if this is the same for users who are not roaming.
The real highlight of the day was Rouen. The station is gorgeous, both inside and out. Again there are huge murals, though this time in completely contrasting styles. The outside of the station made me think of Gaudi, though is also of course reflecting an early 20th Century Parisian style. I love how these places, and quite often the hotels next to them convey the pride and excitement at the railway arriving in a place.
I’d not done any research on this city, but had an hour and a half to explore so threw my bags onto my back (no left luggage here) and set off for a wander. I’d spotted a sign that said “old town” so figured it would be worth a look.
I went first down to the river, which was at the end of a straight road from the station, thinking that I would work my way back more slowly once I knew how much time I had to play with. On the way I could see all sorts of oddities. The roads were painted in several places, using multiple colours and styles. There was a rather super arch and I could see what looked like half timbered properties down the side streets. There was evidence of a number of churches which had been partially demolished. I presume this was wartime damage.
The river is large and well used, by the look of it. A couple of huge cruise boats were moored up on one side of the bridge and some smaller private craft on the other. An oddity of the local transport system here is that the trams come over the bridge on a wooden lined section then immediately disappear underground into the centre.
Heading away from the main road as I turned back uphill, I went into the area with the timbered properties. There were lots of them, mostly turned into cafés, as well as a number of other clearly very old buildings.
I didn’t initially know what to make of this very odd dominating structure in one of the squares. It felt hugely out of place with what I’d seen before.
It was only as I read the interpretation board that I realised that this is where the trial and execution of Joan of Arc had taken place in 1431. Suddenly seeing it from the opposite side, this building made more sense, it is a church and display space.
Oddly, it is also an underground car park and has a couple of fast food units in one corner. A real oddity. I’ve not stepped inside the building or seen the exhibition, so it would perhaps be unfair to come to any conclusions, but right now I feel I have more questions than answers about this clearly hugely important place for the people of Rouen and France.
I didn’t visit the cathedral shown on the map as by now I needed to make tracks back to the station, but did walk back past the museum, and a few more interesting buildings.
This is another really interesting place, and definitely worth visiting. They are presently bidding to be a European City of Culture, and good luck to them.
The final train of the day took me down to the coast at Dieppe. By now it was dark and I didn’t take any photos on the way. This was my final rail journey on the continent and another coast to coast line on the map has been completed.
I took a wander around Dieppe after dropping my bags. It was Saturday night but at 10:30pm most of the bars were closing down for the night, other than one with a reggae band playing. I carried on walking; it’s one type of music I just don’t get.
The waterfront by night was quite attractive. The tidal range here is huge, and we must have been close to the lowest point, judging by the boats in the outer basin.
DFDS are the only ferry operator from here. Their ferry was moored in the terminal on the opposite side of the harbour as I walked past.
After wandering back through a deserted and relatively uninteresting town centre I called it a day.