We awoke to a pastoral scene straight out of a holiday magazine. The house was perched on the side of a wooded valley; cattle grazed peacefully in the field next door; on the horizon, a tractor crept across the landscape. Suddenly, all the privations of the previous night seemed worth it.

We had a large house to ourselves – it could have accommodated half a dozen at least – a good view and nothing to think about for the next few days.

Apart from food of course. Fortunately, the little town of Sartilly was just a few kilometres down the road. Small it may be, but Sartilly had all the essentials as far as we were concerned – a modest supermarket, a bar and a good patisserie. Now I love English bakers, but there’s something special about the golden-brown cornucopia you find in their French equivalent. Not a cheap white sliced loaf to be seen.

Sartilly also boasted its own tourist office with a friendly, English-speaking guide. She efficiently booked a hotel for us for the trip back. Not fancying another 80-mile ride, we decided to do the return trip in two easy stages!

That left us only a handful of days in the cottage, so we pottered around locally, rather than attempting any more epic rides. Mont St Michel is the obvious place to go, but inland there are plenty of forests, hills and viewpoints. One happy day we plumped for a gentle ride down to Carolles and followed the footpath down a narrow valley to the beach.

The tourist authority seems keen to promote cycle touring in La Manche, the west coast county of Normandy. Several circular routes, all of 10-15 miles, have been signposted on quiet roads. They’re called ‘veloroutes’ and free leaflets detailing them can be picked up at tourist offices.

But we’d done enough cycling for now. Instead, we sipped strong black espressos in small cafés and explored a lot on foot. You get the impression that this part of Normandy is the French Cornwall: it’s geared to the tourist trade, and of course is a long way from the big cities, but just as parts of Cornwall stay quiet right through the summer, so it was here. We didn’t see a single English tourist during our stay, apart from on the main road through Sartilly.

All too soon, it was time to go, this time with the wind behind us and a pleasant overnight stop at a family-run guest house in Blainville.

As we rode north towards Calais, the talk turned to holiday homes. Is it better to buy in France, or rent? If you buy, there are certainly advantages, but some friends of Mark found the cost of rebuilding – not to mention the time and hassle – made it less worthwhile than you might think.

Personally, as long as a holiday home has good food and wine close by, a pleasant view and a comfy bed to rest on after a hard day’s cycling, it gets my vote every time – whoever owns it!