Elevation.

And here they are! These profiles hopefully give some idea of the ridiculously hilly nature of the route I took from London to Paris. I’ve added notes to they can be put into context along with the blog entries for each day, with key places and moments indicated. 

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Spam.

Maps backwards is spam. This amused us on the ferry, and for the rest of the trip maps were spam. Here is some spam for each day of the trip, to give you a better idea of the distances involved. I’m trying to sort out the elevation profiles too, but it’s proving a bit problematic at the moment.

Day 1: Central London to Newhaven

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Day 2: Dieppe to Neufchatel en Bray 

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Day 3: Neufchatel en Bray – campsite near Marines

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Day 4: Campsite near Marines to central Paris

(Before anyone points out how wiggly the route is, that’s the point. It could have been a lot more direct, but this was the beautiful, traffic free approach into Paris through the forests.)

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Broken.

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I’m finally home, and pleased to be back. Though I have no milk, and have yet to make a cup of tea. That needs to change. 

I’ve just come inside from cleaning the bike, as it was upsetting me greatly seeing it in such a dirty, oily, muddy state. It’s now back to its shiny, gleaming self, but I’ve found out why the back wheel wasn’t running true… There’s one spoke which has snapped, and a really serious crack in the rim, on both sides of the wheel. I think the hub is fine, but I’ll need a new rim and spokes. I’ll take it to see the doctor tomorrow and ask them to fix the battle scars. Apart from the ruined rear wheel, everything else seems fine, other than all four brake pads, which due to the weight on the bike, and The Mud Incident, have all worn down almost completely and will need replacing. I’ve stripped all the oil off the chain and rear cassette, and will re-oil it when it’s had a chance to dry off. 

The final stats for the trip were as follows…

Distance: 484.7km

Cycling time: 25:16:02

Maximum speed: 54km/h

Also, as mentioned in a previous blog entry before I left, one of my uncles was interested to see the difference between the weight of the bike, luggage and rider before and after the trip. Well, the only difference in the weight of the luggage is a bit of food and three bottles of water, the bike obviously stayed the same, and the rider gained a very small amount. I was 73.9kg before I set off, and according to the scales I’m now 74.1kg. Too much cheese, clearly…

I’ll upload some maps and elevation profiles later tonight. They’re quite interesting to look at. Well, I think they are.

And finally, I must mention the instant effect my participation in Luke’s English Podcast has had on the numbers of people looking at the blog. And they’re all over the world! So I’ll take this opportunity to say hello to the people from Poland, Russia, USA, Cambodia, Brazil, Germany, Vietnam, Canada, Uruguay, South Korea, Morocco, and Italy who have all clicked on the link on Luke’s website and visited my blog. I hope you’ve found it interesting! Who would have thought that my own little London to Paris adventure would come to the attention of all those people around the world?

Podcast.

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I’m back in London, having caught a late Eurostar from Paris last night, and now I just have the final leg of my journey back to Lincoln to make later today.

Whilst in Paris, my sister and I met up with her friends Luke and Krystelle, and the latter suggested that the former might like to record an episode of his English language podcast with me. And so we did! We sat down at the table in a flat with a more perfect view of the Paris rooftops than I thought possible, got out my map and useless book of statistics, and chatted for an hour about my trip. You can listen to the result here…

http://teacherluke.podomatic.com/entry/2013-06-23T13_57_59-07_00

Luke also runs a WordPress blog linked to his podcast, and you can check that out here…

http://teacherluke.wordpress.com/

Mud.

Another retrospective entry, covering day 4.

Thursday 20th June – campsite near Marines to Paris.

Departed 12:15
Arrived 20:15

Distance: 79.99km
Average: 18.4km/h
Max: 44.7km/h
Cycling time: 04:25:30

Trip total: 412.1km

Midnight cycle into central Paris:

Distance: 22.53km
Average: 16.1km/h
Max: 30.3km/h
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.

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Challenges.

Retrospective blog update:

Wednesday 18th June

Neufchâtel en Bray to Marines, then a further 20km to a campsite.

Distance: 129.71km
Average speed: 20.5km/h
Max speed: 53.8km/h
Cycling time: 06:18:26

Departed: 11:00
Arrived: 23:00

Trip total: 332.1km

This was an absolutely huge day, and probably the most challenging of the whole trip. It made such a difference having the two girls for company, and we were able to help each other through the tough bits and keep our spirits high. It would have been difficult alone.

The day began with a huge thunderstorm at 05:30, which lasted for a good couple of hours. It was right over the campsite for quite a while, with constant claps of thunder and flashes of lightning. It eventually passed, but it continued to rain for a while, so we were delayed and didn’t set off from the campsite until 11:00.

We rejoined the Avenue Verte immediately, and were treated to more of the same perfect, flat, traffic free Tarmac that we’d been enjoying the day before between Dieppe and Neufchâtel. After 15km or so we just made it to a tunnel underneath a road as the heavens opened. The rain was absolutely torrential, so we decided to wait until it started to ease. At one point I knocked my helmet off my bike and it started floating off along the road as the water was so deep. We’d passed a couple of English cyclists in their 60s a short time earlier, and wondered where they had got to as they didn’t join us I the tunnel. They appeared as the storm was finishing and it turned out they’d been attempting to shelter under a tree just round the corner, unaware of the tunnel we were in. They were absolutely drenched.

After 20 minutes or so the rain stopped, and it started to get sunny. It would stay this way until the late afternoon/early evening. We set off along the Avenue again, and it finished a short time later. The route then took us along tiny, rural lanes, and the countryside began to get more and more hilly. There were some really long, hard climbs, but we were rewarded with some fantastic winding descents.

30km or so into the day we suffered the first puncture of the trip. Alice suddenly realised her rear tyre was completely flat, and we stopped outside a farm while she fixed it, taking on food and water while we waited.

We then pushed on to the next major town, Gournay en Bray, having cycled a total of about 50km. We had a huge lunch of bread, cheese, olives and fruit, and rested for a good hour, stopping at a cafe for coffee as well.

The next stage of the ride, from Gournay to Marines, was extremely challenging. We too the D129 out of Gournay, and climbed almost constantly for what seemed like an eternity. By this time it was 28 degrees in the sunshine. We finally reached a plateau and cloud see storms clouds ahead of us, with the occasional flash of lightning. This was directly in line with our route…

The road began to drop down off the plateau, and then the rain began. I can’t remember where we stopped, but at some point the rain became too heavy to cycle in, and the roads were like rivers, so we stopped and took shelter in a bus stop.

We weren’t sure what to do, as there was no sign of the rain easing at all, and the prospect of pushing on and putting up our tents in such heavy rain was slightly worrying. After 45 minutes or so the rain did start to lessen, and we decided that the only option was to push on and try to make it to Marines, where we would reassess the situation and work out what to do.

We cycled the remaining 25km or so to Marines in the rain, and thankfully it was mostly down hill, so we kept up a really high pace. Unfortunately there was one major climb on this section, and of course half-way up the hill was the time my bike chose to get its first puncture. The only positive was that by this point the rain had pretty much stopped. We pulled into a lay-by and I replaced the inner tube as quickly as I could. It could have been a soul-destroying situation to be in, but we all kept our spirits high and were laughing by the time we were back on the road.

We eventually got to Marines at around 20:00 (I can’t remember exactly when – the time wasn’t important!), and were all starving. The only place that was open, apart from an expensive restaurant, was a pizzeria, so we bought a couple of pizzas and ate them in the takeaway. Mine was absolutely huge, and I really needed it.

After we’d eaten, I had a look at where the next campsite was. The PDF route guide that I’d brought along had an arrow pointing to the east of Marines, and said the campsite was 4 miles away, so this is what we’d planned for. To my horror, the GPS showed it was actually going to be a further 20km, and we’d already done over 100km. I decided it would be best to keep the whole truth from the girls, and said it was only about 12km or so… I confessed to this the following day, and they agreed that ignorance was possibly the best option under the circumstances…!

Fortunately, after an initial hilly section, most of the route to the campsite was downhill, and included a breathtaking steep descent of perhaps 1km in length (I’ve checked this on the GPS data since, and this descent was an awesome 4km in length! Probably the most enjoyable and quick descent of the trip). 

When we were 7km from the site we passed through a village and saw a sign for a municipal campsite 700m down the road, so went to have a look for it. All we found was a bizarre, abandoned, derelict site, full of run down looking camping huts. It was really eerie, especially at dusk, and we got out as quickly as we could! It was like something you’d expect to find in an exclusion zone 30 years after a nuclear meltdown. Bizarre.

We set off again, and eventually made it to our campsite at 23:00, after a gruelling 12 hour day which had given us one challenge after another. We put the tents up straight away, and all fell asleep pretty much immediately.

Update for the next day, the last stage of the ride into Paris, will follow. That was so tedious to type out on an iPhone! I can be bothered to check for any mistakes, Andrew, so don’t point them out!!!

No photos from this day. It should be obvious why.

Arrival.

Day 4:

Campsite near(ish!) Marines to Paris.

Departed: 12:15 (due to a rainy morning delaying us)
Arrived: 20:15

Total cycling time: 04:25:30
Distance: 79.99km
Average: 18.4km/h
Max: 44.7km/h
Trip total: 412.1km

And so it ends. I’ve arrived in Paris, and have set up camp at a site right next to the Seine, on the west side of the city.

It’s been a pretty gruelling four days, and I’ve cycled an average of 103km each day, through some ridiculously hilly countryside, 28 degree sunshine, and torrential rain.

Each day has been brilliant in a different way, and I’ve had so much fun along the way. Yesterday and today involved some big challenges, and required determination and will power, and to have pushed on and made it feels great.

I’ve proved a lot to myself, and shown how fit I’ve managed to get over the last 12-18 months, with all my cycling and swimming. I’m already thinking about the next tour, and definitely have the bug. Next year I’d like to cycle from the English Channel to the Mediterranean.

The full account of today, and yesterday, will have to wait, I’ll do it tomorrow probably, as Kate doesn’t arrive until late in the evening.

The two girls stayed with me again for today’s ride, and have camped here. We’re all starving, so are heading into the city (on unloaded bikes!) to find food and get a well earned beer or three.

So, so pleased to have done what I’ve done.

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