Well, I set off on a sunny afternoon on Thursday 25th June, with my son Dominic and his friend Dani. Both 24 year old qualified osteopaths, so I was in good hands!  We carried all we needed in rucksacks, so were fortunate the weather was favourable over the trip. My first aim was not so much to keep up with them, but more to keep in touch, which I’m pleased to say I managed to do.

We were aiming to catch the 23:00 ferry crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe. The weather was glorious, so with one quick pub stop outside Crawley we covered about 100k in good order, arriving at Newhaven by about 6:30.

We were in plenty of time, so now sought urgent sustenance. Now, I’m not sure if you have ever been to Newhaven, but if you have, you will probably understand why, even with aching bottoms, we cycled 10k back towards Brighton to the Smugglers rest. Where we had fish and chips overlooking the cliff tops. Well worth the extra pain.

Now replete, we cycled back to the ferry and boarded by 22:00. After a couple of hydration intakes courtesy of Stella Artois, we all retired to our bunks for a well-earned rest ahead of an anticipated epic day of cycling on Friday.

Unfortunately for me, the person in a cabin somewhere in my vicinity felt the need to talk on the phone ALL the way, resulting in a total sleep period for me of about 20 minutes, although the boys seemed to manage the 3.5 hour crossing in deep slumber.

So, cheated on two fronts, no sleep courtesy of the phone jacker and the 05:00 arrival time was actually 04:00 because we had slipped into French time.

Still, onwards…. Well after circling Dieppe several times and cursing the cycle map guide in many languages, we did. On the upside, there didn’t seem to be much traffic about!

This day was always intended to be the one that broke the back of the ride and it didn’t disappoint. We covered 160km by the end of it (I feel certain, mostly uphill) through some stunning countryside and beautiful French villages. A few bun and coffee stops along route aided our progress.

We were shadowing the established ‘Avenue Verte’ route with the aid of a cycle Garmin so found ourselves in Beauvais feeling rather spent. Nonetheless, we made a decision to push on a further 30k to Clermont in the 33 degree heat.

On our arrival, we found a pleasant little bar, and I experienced my very own ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ moment!
Never has a beer tasted so good!

We had made a conscious decision in our planning, not to pre book any accommodation, as we did not want to be tied to reaching a specific point. This however was not looking like the wisest of decisions, as the locals informed us that most hotels were at least 5k away.

So I set the younger generation the task of finding us somewhere suitable with the aid of technology. As luck would have it, and I’m sure it was luck, we were sat about 200 meters from a beautiful chateau style hotel. We booked in to sumptuous rooms and had a meal prepared exclusively for us by the hotelier. If Carling did sleeps, this would probably end up as the best sleep I have ever had!

Saturday Morning, up for a fantastic breakfast, before setting off at about 09:00. Another 100k ride through stunning scenery in perfect weather, via l’ isle Adam arriving in St Germaine at about 17:00. Another debriefing session at a local bar to determine tonight’s accommodation. Once again, all reasonable priced hotels were situated an uncomfortable distance away from us.

Technology, once again came up trumps and we managed to book discounted rooms at the Henry IV hotel. This had spectacular views towards Paris where we could just make out the Eiffel tower in the distance.

Despite my dress mode of a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) we were made to feel very welcome.

We enjoyed a last supper in front of the castle, trying to replace the 4000 or so calories used during the day. (Think I did it justice!)

Sunday morning, was a little 20k jaunt in to Paris where we crossed the line at the Eiffel tower, conducted a whistle stop tour of Notre Dame, The Louvre and Champs Elyse.

We then boarded the Eurostar with our bikes and were back in Blighty by tea time (Close call though, due to our Garmin deciding to become completely confused on the way to Gard de Nord and we had to use Franglais to rescue the situation.)

The last leg was a tired slog of 30k from St. Pancras to Weybridge, but what an adventure!

Text by Bro. Mark Malone.