Another retrospective entry, covering day 4.
Thursday 20th June – campsite near Marines to Paris.
Cycling time: 04:25:30
Trip total: 412.1km
Midnight cycle into central Paris:
Cycling time: 01:27:39
Trip total: 435.6km
We had a late start on our last day of cycling, as we needed to rest after the previous day and attempt to dry everything out. We slept in quite late, and when I got up I laid everything out in the morning sunshine and managed to get it all completely dry before packing it away.
The girls got up a while later, and after they had packed away we hit the road at 12:15 for the final 80km to Paris. It turned out to be quite a stop-start kind of day, and we only cycled 10km before stopping at a cafe for breakfast/lunch.
We cycled on, and had to make up the route as we went along, as the diversion to the campsite the previous night had taken us off the route I had stored in the GPS. Luckily almost all of the new route to get us back on course followed a river, so was almost completely flat.
Unfortunately, whilst trying to get back on track, and relying on the bike routes marked on the GPS, we were forced to go through a section of deep, wet, muddy clay. The three bikes, and our shoes, got completely covered in mud, and the wheels, brakes, and mudguards all got clogged up and stopped working. We were forced to stop immediately, and we attempted to get the worst of the mud off the bikes using our hands. I went as far as to take both wheels off the bike and take them down to the river to wash them, followed by the bike frame. The girls found this quite amusing, and said that the bike and I were now closer to one another after I’d baptised it in the river. The Mud Incident was quite testing, and Megan was struggling to stay positive, but we all agreed that it couldn’t really have bed avoided and we just needed to get on with it. It delayed us for a good 45 minutes.
Not long after we had sorted the bikes and got back on some proper roads, we crossed the Seine for the first time. This was a really big moment for me, and the thought that I’d started out north of the Thames a few days earlier, and was now south of the Seine was pretty amazing. After a while we joined the forest paths leading all the way to the outskirts of Paris. It was the ideal way to approach the city, and although a little bumpy and muddy, using the forest paths was preferable to negotiating busy roads. This was another very hilly section of the route, as you can see from the route profiles above.
These trails took us all the way to our first view of Paris, which was another unforgettable moment for me. As we came over the brow of a hill we arrived at a large circular pond, and saw Tour Montparnasse framed perfectly in a gap in the trees. We stopped for some photos, and then carried on through beautiful forests and our first view of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of central Paris. From here it was a quick few kilometres to the campsite, which was located right next to the Seine on the west of the city near the hippodrome. It was a large site, mainly full of motorhomes and static caravans, and overpriced.
We had a celebratory beer at the bar, and then pitched our tents in a small, grotty, muddy corner of the site reserved for small tents. Before we knew it, it was 23:00 and we hadn’t yet eaten an evening meal, so we decided to cycle into central Paris to find food. The ride into the city was fantastic, and we passed the Arc de Triomphe at around midnight. I felt a huge sense of achievement as we got closer and closer to the centre, and to be doing so at midnight was fantastic.
We stopped for a crepe and a beer in the 5th arr. and then set off in the 10km ride back to the campsite. Typically, the heavens opened, and we rode back in torrential rain and got absolutely soaked. My saddle chose this point to work its way loose and come off, so I had to make most of the trip back standing up. We got back late, and attempted to dry off in the shower block before collapsing into our tents exhausted, but elated at having made it all the way to Paris in four pretty eventful and challenging days.