Chasing away the January blues with a weekend in Paris. We wondered through the arrondissements, along the seine, up to Montmartre and down to Notre Dame.
07.30 Huddled with coffee along the side of Trafalgar square in the pouring rain becoming rapidly aware that my waterproof wasn’t. But we braved the rain to take photos for the start of our trip and then (after Cameron’s rather late arrival!) set off through the streets of London and out to the country.
09.00 I was under the impression that London at any rate was fairly flat. This gets shot to pieces as we encounter our first hill (I point out my definition of the word hill changed dramatically over the four days) right outside Croydon. Surely suburbs should not involve hills?
12.00 All going well, cycling along chatting to the Ferg and enjoying the English countryside now the rain had stopped. Then alas I found out why Turner’s Hill is so named. One village, one huge hill but lunch was waiting at the top. Have ham and cheese sandwiches ever tasted so good.
16.00 A whole day of admirable map reading finally goes to my head. I zoom off over the bumps along the south downs and merrily follow the signs to Newhaven. Onto the motorway, or nearly. I managed to backtrack (back up the hill) and was the last person to turn up sheepishly in Newhaven. Despite Cameron’s three punctures and Paddy’s brush with death coming off his bike down a steep hill we are all pretty much in one piece.
09.00 Finally leaving the hole that is Newhaven and heading out to Dieppe on the ferry. Ate, slept, drank coffee and played cards and tried not let the legs stiffen up.
14.00 In the pretty totally un-Newhaven like town of Dieppe and after lunch setting off across the French countryside under blue skies, white clouds and bright sunshine. This surely is what it’s all about.
17.30 We arrive in the unbelievably cute little hotel in Montville where we have our own little cottage style split level rooms complete with fresh bread delivered to your door for breakfast. Found a great restaurant and four course meal for dinner – I ate so much that I hurt!
09.00 Feeling very glad of the padded shorts this morning as my bum has started to complain a bit at the relenting saddle action. We headed off through the cute French villages on the way to Rouen.
10.00 Unlike the hoards of hard core French lycred enthusiasts out on the road a few of us get tempted into a bakery for fresh pain au chocolat and a quick coffee. Didn’t we just have breakfast?
12.00 Realising just how up and down the french countryside really is, although the down hills are so much fun. A steep drop takes us into Rouen and then the rise on the other side nearly killed me. It maybe a hill but on a bike it feels like a mountain. I get half way up before finally resorting to my lowest gear and wondering if it would have ben quicker if I’d walked up.
13.00 Stop for lunch in the pouring rain and end up sheltering, all 17 of us in the van eating brie and chorizo sandwiches. After lunch we are following the Seine through the country. Kieren has a nightmare with bursting values and punctures and the tool repair kits come into their own.
17.00 We arrive on the banks of the Seine in Le Goulet for beers, food, wine, more wine, more wine. At midnight the owners wisely kick us out of the restaurant and shut up the bar. I wonder what cycling with a hangover will feel like…
07.30 It’s not that I’m hung over but possibly regretting that fourth caraf of red wine!
09.00 No worries, the legs are on fire and it’s our final day.
11.00 Cycling through the cutest of the French villages with Olly, Julie and Ferg and hit some lovely down hill runs. Confidently decide I can go faster than this and speed off into the distance.
12.00 Coming up to Evencourt I approached my cycling nemesis, an 8km climbing road. Only of course, I didn’t know there were 8 kms, and each time it looked as if the summit had been reached, it just kept on going. I gasped, I panted, I promised my immortal soul for the ending of the hill and I had to eat half my Macaroon to get me through. I arrived in Boisemount rather quiet and sat reflectively eating my baguette, slightly scarred.
14.30 Zooming down a long stretch with the palace gates of St Germain visible ahead of us. From the gardens we could see across to Paris and our destination , le Tour Eiffel.
17.00 I took a while to get into Paris, all of us, wheel to wheel as we’d left London four days before. But finally there was the Seine and soon we were over the bridge and under the huge girders of the tower, drinking champagne, eating ice cream, exhausted but triumphant.
Suffering from itchy feet and desire to improve my french, I returned from South America and soon left for a french course on the south coast of France. I spent a month doing a language course at the small but fantastic Cuneforme institute, going to the cinema, the beach, cuban bars, barbeque parties and staying with a wonderfully crazy family in the vineyards on the outskirts of town, oh and speaking lots of french of course!