The Eye to The Eiffel
202 miles through picturesque countryside on minor roads and cycle paths
In the last few days of summer we set off on a ride from London to Paris, starting and finishing by iconic landmarks. The trip was organised by Bike Adventures and there were fourteen other cyclists in the group.
Day 1: London Eye to Lewes 60.2 miles
Having taken a few selfies in front of the London Eye – well you would wouldn’t you! – our first task was to ride out of London. The group decided to stick together at this point allowing the person at the front to guide us safely. This proved a little tricky but after a few wrong turns we reached the Wandle cycle path and were then off at our own pace. We soon crossed the M25 and met some of the less famous Surrey hills. In fact, at one point, we were quite close to home as we passed sign posts to Lingfield in the Tandridge District. We kept heading South reaching our first overnight stop at Lewes in the early evening.
Lewes is a really interesting, well preserved town with its own currency – the Lewes pound. We decided to get a stash of these for use on a future trip to the Buttercup Café, as recommended by Ruth. Our stop was in a quirky hotel with creaking floorboards and wonky walls and floors……or was that the affect of the welcome drinks?
Day 2: Lewes to Neufchatel-en-Bray 31.9 miles.
After a hearty breakfast we set off for Newhaven and the ferry to France. Some of our group were dreading the crossing but luckily the Channel was like a mill pond and the four hours at sea gave us a chance to get to know our fellow cyclists. Once off the ferry in Dieppe we had a sudden steep climb which immediately divided the group. Thanks to all our riding since joining KVG we were ahead of the pack – well almost. There was this young girl from Canada who was an amazingly strong cyclist who we only ever saw at breakfast and dinner. After a few further climbs we reached the ‘Avenue Verte’ a newly resurfaced and well sign posted cycle path. It was brilliant, we could cycle really fast along it and given that the light was fading, we certainly needed to. The slower cyclists arrived at the hotel in pitch darkness rather tired and fraught having had very few lights between them. No one had anticipated that the ferry could be delayed by several hours resulting in lack of day light.
Our hotel served the most delicious meal with a cheese platter to die for so eventually we did all retire very happy and replete.
Day 3. Neufchatel-en-Bray to La Roche Guyon 61.9 miles.
Before setting off the next morning we visited the local market which was full of wonderful fresh local produce along with caged chickens and rabbits. Neufchatel-en-Bray is a thriving small town in Normandy with its own wonderful heart shaped soft cheese but, although tempted, we decided not to squeeze some into our saddle bags for later. Back on our bikes we rejoined the Avenue Verte and then followed quiet rural roads with no pot holes and only the occasional vehicle – bliss! We cycled through wonderful Normandy countryside with rolling hills and sleepy little villages with timber framed houses and then through the Lyon Forest which was so quiet and remote. It’s the largest Beech forest in France and the tracks were in fair shape until we hit an area that was being cleared to make way for a new road – shame! Like every good cyclist we either lifted our bikes or rode round the barriers totally ignoring any danger or no entry signs – luckily it was the weekend so no workmen. Towards the end of the day we had to negotiate a couple of large hills, the last rewarded us with a wonderful decent to our hotel which was amongst the lime trees on the banks of the Seine in one of the most beautiful villages in the Val d’Oise.
With time to spare we were able to explore the medieval fortress, climbing the 250 steep steps of the keep. At the top we were afforded incredible views of the valley below with a few hot air balloons floating above. With a little energy still to spare, not sure how, we meandered through the lanes coming across a local potter. Tempted by her wares we bought a few small gifts, mindful of the fact that we would need to carry them home.
Day 4: La Roche Guyon to the Eiffel Tower 48.3 miles
The next morning we set off in autumnal mists which disguised the odd very ‘cheeky’ hill on the way. This was to be our last cycling day but it was spectacular as we made our way through picturesque villages and on to the viewing point over Paris at Saint Germain-en-Laye. Crossing the Seine we found ourselves in the middle of a large flea market which proved to be a little difficult to negotiate despite the use of a Garmin and printed sheets. We then headed to the Bois de Boulogne, our rendezvous point. The temperature by this stage was dropping so the wait for the slowest cyclists in the party was a little frustrating. The sight of the Eiffel Tower though brought big smiles to all our faces and we enjoyed posing for the obligatory photograph and of course, yet more selfies.
That evening we had our final meal with the group. By this time we had made firm friends and were able to relax and enjoy the banter. We were missing one member of the group though but later discovered that she was so exhausted by the cycling that she had fallen fast asleep still in her cycling gear.
Day 5: Paris then home
Our last day was spent taking a boat trip along the Seine and then listening to an incredibly informative and fascinating talk on Monet’s water-lilly paintings in the Musée de L’Orangerie. Rushing back through pouring rain we grabbed our bikes and luggage and headed in a taxi to Le Gare de Nord. A couple of hours later we were back in Blighty being welcomed by our husbands who were discussing, tongue in cheek, where they could jet off to. They needn’t have worried – we had already decided! Next October they’ll be joining us in a cycle from the North to the South of Portugal and if anyone else fancies doing the same please make contact, we’d love you to join us.
Sue O’Mahony and Karen Long