Thursday, 8 July 2010

Day 6 Honfleur to Bayeux

By now our muscles and knees were no longer in a state fit to be used to the extent that we were using them. They had started to ache constantly, and we knew that the immediate uphill and following climbs would take their toll on us. But we knew we simply had to keep going, so we simply pedalled harder, enjoying the downhills we had worked so hard to achieve. It was on one of these that we met another cyclist who was carrying a colossal amount of equipment. We later found out that he was carrying kit to last him until late September when he would finish his cycle. He had left from Dusseldorf in Germany on 23rd June and would cycle every day until he reached his final destination in Porto (Portugal). He acted as our pacemaker for a good few hours, including up some phenomenal hills and their respective downhills, where in one case we reached 72km/h. We finally arrived in Bayeux to find the town in celebration of their cultural heritage with a medieval weekend. It was fantastic to see people dressed as monks rolling barrels of wine down the street, and to experience the sights and sounds (and smells!) of Bayeux as it would have been 500 years ago. We eventually decided to go for it and have dinner right in the middle of the celebrations by the cathedral. We weren’t brave enough, however, to try the medieval menu. Stuffed pig’s trotter anyone?

Day 5 Veulettes sur Mer to Honfleur

We again set out relaxed and at ease, although we knew that the day would be arduous and long. The route we chose went inland, and towards the port of Le Havre. The countryside along the way seemed stereotypical of France: isolated farms, acres and acres of fields settled on rolling hills and the occasional picturesque village. However, the exhausting heat destroyed our interest in the surrounding pastureland and having made an error in the route, we decided to take a stretch of motorway to avoid back-tracking. This turned out to be the single worst idea we made, as conflict of varying degrees of intensity broke out between us. Eventually we arrived at the base of the Pont de Normandie, the 4th largest cable-stayed bridge in the world. By evening, with our tempers cooling, we had reached Honfleur. We dropped off our kit at our hotel, and then went to have dinner in a restaurant by the port, where there was a stunning view across to the old marketplace, just behind which were typical French seaside houses (incredibly tall and narrow). Incidentally, this was the place where the boat propeller was invented.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Day 4 : Eu To Veulettes

After a truly French baguette breakfast, we made good progress in the morning as we headed towards Dieppe, where we stopped along the way to top up our lunches with just picked peaches and nectarines. Before lunch we followed a small road along the beach and resisted the urge to have an ice cream; stopping instead at the Manoir d'Ango, the oldest Renaissance manor in France, to have our homemade pate sandwiches. We continued on our way taking a slightly larger road. However the route was littered with hills which made the going slow and difficult, as well as tiring us to the extent that we forgot to look where we were going, and ended up utterly lost. We finally arrived in Veulettes, hot, exhausted and ready for a swim in the Channel, or at least Haydn and Cyprien were. Charles and Billy welcomed the returning heroes as they returned from the icy waters, having resisted the urge to take Cyprien and Haydn’s shoes, towels and t-shirts and run off with them. Later that evening, after a heated debate, we decided to drop the idea of mini-golf, and instead we ate moules by the seashore. With time to spare we commenced a card game, of which the only rule I can tell you is this one.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Day 3 Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Eu

We started the day well refreshed and content. The day was planned to be a short one, and at only 75 km we were confident that this would be a recovery day. We left late as a result, before realising that our tyres were severely deflated given the enormous additional weight we were carrying (we had around 20 extra kilos of clothing, water and repair kits to carry, each! That is apart from Billy who had managed to pack everything into an impossible tiny backpack.). As a result, we had to locate the nearest bicycle store and check for punctures. We eventually set off, after a small excursion à la plage, down a cycle route. The roads in France are so much more cycle-friendly! They are also labelled much more clearly, making it much harder to get lost, so navigating was much simpler. We soon left the bustling urban area and entered the French countryside, which really was very pretty and for once we had the time to enjoy it. We enjoyed lunch in a typical French brasserie in the centre of Rue, a town dating from the 16th century. On our way there, we met a pair of ponies, named Gaspard et Balthazar. Despite the sun and our rapidly worsening sunburns we arrived in Eu after an exhilarating downhill, where we stopped for a well-earned rest and handpicked some redcurrants.

Day 2 Canterbury to Le Touquet

After a thoroughly good breakfast and a quick photo, we left just as the heavens opened. Our plan to hide from the rain in a gateway failed miserably and in the end we decided to brave the weather and set off. The route was quite simple (with a single slight difference of opinion) which delayed us by an hour. It led to us having to quicken our pace significantly, or risk missing our ferry to France altogether. We were the last passengers on the ferry and arrived with literally seconds to spare. In Calais we set a reasonable pace along the coast, but soon it became apparent that we would not be able to keep it up as the wind was horrifically strong. Only half way through this leg of the journey were we completely wiped out. A unanimous decision to leave the coastal road after Boulogne and head inland meant that at least we had no headwind to contend with, but the problem of overheating soon took its place. We arrived late in Le Touquet just in time to watch Spain beat Portugal and get something to eat. Another tiring day and what would turn out to be the longest, at 140 km!

Some Photos from Day 1

Day 1 Little Dean's Yard to Canterbury

A late start left us full of anticipation as we left Westminster and headed off around Parliament Square. We were both excited and a little unsure, and of course entirely unaware of the scale of the journey that lay before us. This first day was designed to be one of the shortest, but at 90 km we knew we were still going to have to put some effort in. Naive and inexperienced as we were, we simply believed that 90 km translated as 5 hours at slightly below 20 km/h, perhaps coupled with a few breaks, thereby totalling a maximum of 6 hours. We soon found out that it was going to be far longer than expected, as the terrain of southern England was making our journey absolute hell. Mile upon mile of hill after hill had left us exhausted and demoralised, and as we reached Rochester, our halfway point, we realised it was nearing 4pm. Along the way, we had experienced that bane of all cyclists; Shooters Hill. The second highest point in London, this hill had left us utterly unable to continue. Clich√© dictates that ‘the view makes up for the exertion’. It doesn’t. By 8pm, we had still only reached Faversham, a small village 20 or so kilometres from Canterbury, where we had a fish and chip dinner. To be honest, probably the best fish and chips any of us had ever had. In the end we arrived in Canterbury at around 10:00pm.