Join our blogger on part two of his London to Paris bike ride. If you missed out on part one click here to read the first instalment
Crossing the Channel
Having completed Part One of our journey, we scampered to our ferry cabins as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, a combination of bad planning and the one-hour time difference meant we were rudely awoken by exasperated cabin crew after only three and a half hours. Not what I had hoped.
Five o’clock is not my favourite time for very much, least of all cycling, least of all when it feels like 4am. Nevertheless, I clambered back onto my bike in the spitting rain with the promise of breakfast ringing in my ears. Alas, it was not to be. Perhaps I was too distracted imagining the smell of fresh French pastries but, at some point, someone decided that we should get in some early miles.
With the rumbling in my stomach quelled by a couple of cereal bars (my rations for the day), and washed down with some foul-tasting isotonic whilst we mended a broken chain, we set out along a voie verte. This part of our route coincided with part of L’Avenue Verte, which runs all the way from London to Paris, and taking in the misty lakes at sunrise by La Bethune River was certainly the most picturesque moment of the trip.
More miles, more miles
After failed attempts to find some sustenance at a boulangerie and a McDonalds (both fermé), we finally stopped at Café de Dieppe in Forges-les-Eaux. Here we managed to pile on some calories and dry out, as well as catching up with our friends from Eastbourne. They had set out before us as we longingly gazed at their team car, but their five punctures to our one convinced us that we hadn’t got it so bad after all.
Although the village must be used to cyclists, the charm has yet to wear off and everyone we met was friendly: the café kindly refilled our bidons, and a lady in the boulangerie even bought my breakfast! Then followed the main bulk of the riding, through Gournay-en-Bray and on to Cergy. The road kept rolling, with my internal monologue constantly contemplating whether my legs or my saddle were the more painful. Nevertheless, I made a solid time up the climb just beyond Gisors, and so we rolled on to Paris…
Paris greeted us with a downpour. I was not grateful, but at least it took my mind off the ache in my legs. We crossed La Seine (twice), and paused to shed our extra layers as we hit the heavy centre-ville traffic. The ride in was glorious. The sun streamed down as we suddenly turned left onto La Avenue de la Grande Armée to see l’Arc de Triomphe. Needless to say, I did not feel my aches and pains as we blitzed the cobbled approach to l’Arc. For a moment, we thought we had not made our 24-hour target, but a quick reminder of the time difference cleared things up: we had done it!
A few extra kilometres to ride the Tour de France circuit were well spent, before we made our way to the hotel and out to a bistro. To say I was glad to ditch my lycra, saddle and gels for a chair and steak frites would be an understatement. But I would happily take them up again to do it all again.