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London to Auschwitz: Day 6, Évreux to Paris, 105km today, 650km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 6, Évreux to Paris, 105km today, 650km total

Today I had to make Paris by 1400PM to meet my Mum who had taken the Eurostar to met me there. This meant, if I wanted to visit the Palace of Versailles on the way into Paris, I needed to start early. At 0630 I was out the door, cycling the dark country roads of northern France with nothing more than a dim front light to illuminate the numerous potholes that I inevitably hit. A magnificent sky was my view or several hours; reminding me how great it is to be up early and out the door.

Morning Sky
Morning Sky

After about 85km of pretty much non-stop riding with an occasional headwind and steep hill, I finally made it to Versailles. The queue went all the way out to the gates, and folded back on itself three times. Fortunately because I’m under 26 and from the EU I got in for free – but I still had to wait a good hour to get in!

Queue to enter the Palace of Versailles
Queue to enter the Palace of Versailles

Waiting in the queue, a Chinese family ahead of me wouldn’t stop taking photos; pictures of the queue, of each other, of the palace, of the floor. You name it, they had a photo of it from several angles. They all spoke Mandarin, but after about 50 minutes of waiting in the queue silently, one of them turned to me and said “where did you get the map from?”. Turns out the whole family live down the road from me in Islington, London. They used to live opposite my flat in Camden. What a small world!

Finally we entered the magnificent building where we were given free audio tours. They were free for a reason and said nothing interesting. Eventually, after several strange rooms of busts of people that I had never heard of, I found the War Room: the Hall of Mirrors. This magnificent room was where the treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 after World War 1. Many large chandeliers hung from the distant ceiling; accompanied with large floor length mirrors. Like every room in the Palace, the ceilings were decorated with incredible art-work. You could feel the importance of the room by standing in it. I stood there for a while, reflecting. Perhaps the treaty signed in that room caused the second world war. I felt shivers thinking about this.

Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of the First World War was signed
Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of the First World War was signed

I bumped into my Chinese friends again (both of the men were named “Gary”); I mentioned that I had cycled 650km from London over 6 days and I was continuing to Poland to complete a liberation path tour of Europe from the Second World War. all in all cycling 2000 km (1300 miles) within a month. Normally the response is “Wow!” or at least “I wish you good luck!”, “Bon courage!” as the French have told me. This time I only received an “OK” back. Nothing more; just an acknowledgement that they understood. Perhaps the challenge isn’t that unusual to the Chinese? Or they aren’t impressed easily!

The road at the end of the Palace led directly to the centre of Paris without any turns. After about 40 minutes of cycling I was at bottom of the Eiffel Tower. A policeman yelled at me not to roll through the red light whilst I gazed up at the landmark. Both of us couldn’t be bothered to do anything about this though, so I slowly moved past as he sat in his car.

Lifting the Bike in front of the Eiffel Tower
Lifting the Bike in front of the Eiffel Tower

Finally I reached the Trocadero for a showoff photo lifting the bike with one hand (without pannier bags); I was relieved to have a rest day tomorrow but proud to have made it this far in good shape. I have travelled a fair distance so far; but I also have a long way to go. Keeping in mind that the liberation of France was no where near the end of the war. The allies still needed to make it into the far reaches of Poland; approximately 1000 miles away.

This evening I walked around town with my Mum for a while; I spotted a small plaque on a wall which commemorated 700 children of the 18th District of Paris that were killed during the Nazi occupation.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the Musée de l’Armée to discover more about La Resistance in Paris. But first I plan to lie in and rest my lactic acid filled legs.

DAY 7: REST DAY IN PARIS >>

Cycle from London to Paris within 24 hours (June 2013)

Cycle from London to Paris within 24 hours (June 2013)

Dan and I were very excited on Saturday to set off, but having decided that we wanted to complete the ride within 24 hours, as it has a better ring to it, we needed to set off later in the day. We decided 1400 was a good time to allow us a casual ride to Newhaven via Ditchling Beacon and Brighton to have fish and chips on the beach.

We could barely contain our excitement but managed to meet at Westminster bridge at 1345 and waited impatiently to take a picture with Big Ben at 1400.

Ready to go at 2pm
Ready to go at 2pm

The ride to Brighton was quite a relaxed pace without many stops. We did plan to stop at turners hill for some late lunch but found the kitchen closed at 1500 when we arrived at 1605.

At the top of Turners Hill half way to Brighton
At the top of Turners Hill half way to Brighton

You always get to meet interesting other people and cyclists on the way; we bumped into some guys doing London to Paris (Marble Arch to the Arc de Triamphe), but taking 4 days instead of 1 to do it.

We continued all the way to Brighton only stopping for a short rest just before the “green beast” or “devil’s dyke” that is Ditchling Beacon. Whilst waiting, having a chat on a bench, about 40 other cyclists also doing London to Brighton showed up. This was fantastic timing as it allowed us to overtake most of them on the way up and it gave us people to chase.

I also managed to see a one armed cyclist make it to the top which was a new one! Very, very impressive.

(Ditchling Beacon climb video to come!)

Without stopping at the top for a breather we continued to Brighton for the obligatory photo next to the pier! 55 miles in 3 hours 45 elapsed cycling and just over 4 hours in total.

Reaching Brighton Pier ready for fish and chips!
Reaching Brighton Pier ready for fish and chips!

After a fish and chips, cheeky couple of beers and a 99 Flake we took the unnecessarily undulating road to Newhaven slowly. Just under 10 miles away, it was one of the windiest conditions I have ever cycled in.

Finally making it to the ferry stop an hour and a half early we took a quick nap until we boarded to sleep in the wonderful luxury accommodation for the 4 hour ferry.

Sleeping in the ferry waiting room
Sleeping in the ferry waiting room
Daniel asleep on the ferry with cushions on the floor - smart move!
Daniel asleep on the ferry with cushions on the floor – smart move!

We met another cyclist on the ferry who was a doctor and documentary maker who was delivering a sentimental DVD of a family he worked with on a documentary about triplets in Geneva. He was cycling there and back in just two weeks! Incredible.

Getting into the bitter cold with not much sleep at 4 am is a little painful, especially with no street lights and not knowing which side of the road you are meant to be one, but you can push on with the cycling and get a lot of miles knocked off before most people even contemplate waking up on a Sunday!

It's cold at 4am!
It’s cold at 4am!

After a beautiful ride along the Avenue Verte (40 miles of a paved over railway line that is brilliantly flat and incredibly smooth) where we took turns to take the headwind, we stopped for a breather at 615 with 40 miles under our belt. Just 65/70 odd to go.

With energy levels starting to drop we ate all the food we had: haribo, snickers, flapjacks, trackers and energy bars as well as a full bottle of Lucozade. We were like ravenous children consuming all sugar sources available.

With a new found burst of energy we continued for an hour until we saw a patisserie where we filled up on the water we desperately needed, as well as some pain au chocolats and croissants.

Slightly tired and confused having done close to 50 miles before breakfast
Slightly tired and confused having done close to 50 miles before breakfast

Again pressing on for another hour and a half we took shelter when the rain started in a small cafe for a coffee, then back onto the undulating hills to grab a quick breather in a bus stop another 20 miles down the road.

From here on in we knew we would be too excited to stop before reaching Paris just 40 kilometres away. Using Google maps with the route pre-loaded we could track our progress without needing to use the data.

Unfortunately just going past Pontoise, Daniel hit an odd pot hole or something and somehow managed to snap one of his spokes, immediately buckling the wheel. He tried to loosen the brake as much as possible but the bike was wobbling from side to side. It was like trying to run straight down a path whilst being pulled violently to one side every couple of seconds.

Snapped spoke
Snapped spoke
Unhappy speedy
Unhappy speedy

We decided to hit the train station conveniently next to us and see if we could get a train in. However feeling like it was cheating and with one working bike remaining I ruthlessly took the opportunity to get back on and meet Daniel at Paris Gare du Nord where this station had a train that also conveniently went directly to for just 5 euros. We could then check the bikes in for the Eurostar and have lunch around the corner at Montmartre. Perfect. And I could still complete the last 20km before the 24 hours was up (23 if you stay on English time).

I met another cyclist on the way into Paris who was taking part in a ride around Alpe d’Huez for the 5th year. It’s a 5000m ascent in just one day which he completes in about 10 hours; but the pros do in just 5 hours! This is a serious ride. Ridiculous.

We met at the station and completed the ride (albeit Daniel skipping the last little bit) in just over 22 hours door to door.

Shattered, but we made it before 24 hours!
Shattered, but we made it before 24 hours!

Checking the bikes into the Eurostar and grabbing a big meal we felt a weird sense of confusion as just a day ago we were setting off on a ride from home in London. Now we were in Paris. Soon to head back as well! A strange dream that leaves us exhausted.

Wandering round we found a discount clothing store where we got 2 sets of novelty tee shirts and jumpers for €20 (since all our other stuff was soaking from the rain) and grabbed a shower in a local gym after making a shady deal with the duty manager.

Heading back on the 1913 train to kings cross we were shattered, but still buzzing from the excitement of it all.

I hope to do this ride again with more people at some point, perhaps a little slower (so let me know if you are interested). But for now I want to get off the bike and regrow my gentleman parts.

Cycling to Paris within 24 hours: Preparation

Cycling to Paris within 24 hours: Preparation

A friend of mine (Daniel Speed) and I are planning a bike ride from London to Paris this coming weekend (8/9th June 2013). We are attempting to complete the ride in less than 24 hours. I have done the ride to Paris twice, but spent a really casual day down to the south coast of England both times.

Paris on my bike
Getting to Paris when I cycled to Barcelona

We are going to complete London to Newhaven on Saturday – leaving from Westminster Bridge at about 1400. Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe at 2230, getting in at about 0430 Sunday morning. It will be very cold there in the middle of northern France at that time, even in the summer, so we will be taking tracksuit bottoms and a hoody to keep warm. Fortunately the sun will be up before 0600 which makes for less dark riding with head torches.

There are about 45 miles of perfectly paved over railway line (called the Avenue Verte) from just a few miles after getting off the ferry. We will then stop at about 0700 for some breakfast once it is light enough, warm enough and cafe’s are open! Then onward for another 70 odd miles until we reach the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Hopefully, since there are only two of us which shouldn’t slow us down too much and we can benefit from drafting each other, we will be there by about midday/1300 on Sunday for a nice lunch at a local cafe in Paris. We are then taking the Eurostar back that evening. All good fun to complete London to Paris within 24 hours!

All in all about 180 miles (65 miles for London to Newhaven, then 115 miles for Dieppe to Paris). Easily do-able!

Reaching Brighton with Dan Speed (middle) and Dan Sherry (left) a couple of years ago
Reaching Brighton with Dan Speed (middle) and Dan Sherry (left) a couple of years ago

Normally I load up Google maps on my iPhone whilst in wifi range (or within the UK on data) and look at the whole route at a sensible zoom level to be able to tell all the turnings I would need to do. They then get cached so you can still track your position (as GPS runs off a separate system) and look at the map without having to incur ridiculous costs of data roaming. Also it is a lot cheaper than a Garmin that a few friends have needlessly bought!

I used the Cycle Meter app on the South of France ride where you could pre-load a GPS map, but again you would have to load the maps over data to see the exact turnings. This app was very good if you pre-load your route on it – which I am going to attempt to do this trip…if I get time!

Below is a picture of some of the things we need to take:

  • Water bottle
  • Multi-tool
  • Spare inner tube(s)
  • Tyre levers
  • Gloves
  • Bandana (to keep you cool during the day and warm in the early hours of the morning)
  • Helmet
  • GoPro (attached to the helmet)
  • Phone charger
  • Converter to charge phone on ferry
  • Lights (front and back)
  • Speedometer
  • New batteries to put in my lights and speedometer
  • Deoderant, toothpaste and moisturiser
  • Phone case for handlebars
  • Passport

 

Preparation
A few things to make sure I have

 

There are some obvious things like making sure you have enough tread on your tires, pumped up tires, a well lubricated chain, enough brake pads and general decent standard of your bike.

I will let you know how we get on – now to charge everything up!

Route we will take in detail:

Saturday:

London to Brighton along the normal route I take to Brighton, then an extra 10 miles on to Newhaven where we will take the ferry at 2230 and arrive at Dieppe at 0430.

Westminster bridge, Brixton, Purley, Turners Hill, Haywards Heath, Brighton, Newhaven. I hope to upload a GPS map too but here is a Google Maps version as I find that nice and easy to use.

Sunday:

Early start and head south from Dieppe, along the Avenue Verte for about 45 miles, Neufchatel-en-Bray, Forges-les-Eaux, Gournay-en-Bray, Gisors, Pontoise, Trocadero. Google Map