This is part two, check out part one HERE
Day 3: Ferry day
As the sun rose over the 3rd Newhaven Scout hut (thanks for the hospitality guys!) we awoke, excited to get to France. After some swift surgery on our bikes we set off to buy food for the day. We bought simple, swift sustenance, aware that we would be cooking it after a long ferry crossing and 50km cycle late into the night.
Top Tip: have a memory bank of quick meals that you can knock up on the spot. It will save you some stress.
The rough sea buffeted the boat from side to side, inducing sickness in an unlucky few Explorers whilst others sweetly slept through it.
As we arrived in France, we forced our minds to readjust to cycling on the right (wrong but right and not left) side of the road and set off cycling what we thought would be 50km. Marlon, however, rescued us from this sorry fate, finding a picturesque campsite just around the corner by a gorgeous lake which was very appreciated by the still slightly seasick Explorers!
Top Tip: Always have a back up plan, and be prepared to use it.
As we pitched the tents, a few people cycled into the village, gathering our first French food of the trip. Marlon went to the local boulangerie (which was about to close) and saved bags full of delicious pastries from the bin. This was our first proper French food of the trip and each pastry was devoured and enjoyed by Explorers and Leaders alike.
Top tip: if it has calories; and you’re on an expedition, eat it! Don’t be fussy.
Day 4: A long day!
Having had a shorter than expected ride the day before, we knew we had a lot of distance to make up for that day. Despite some less-than satisfactory stale English pastries for breakfast (don’t be fussy!) we were soon on the road.
Top Tip: invest in a bar bag for your bike and fill it with your favourite snacks!
This was some of the flattest and fastest cycling we would have during the trip, as well as our first real taste of the Avenue Verte and of France! We enjoyed the flat riding and rolled along happily to Neufchatel-en-Bray for a snack of flan and baguettes from the local boulangerie. We were soon back on the road.
Top Tip: keep your breaks short and get miles under your belt early in the day.
Forges Les Eaux was our stop for lunch that day, where we filled up on baguettes and Cambembert by a fountain in the centre of town. At the 50km mark the flat path that we had become used to was gone, and we began to climb.
Top Tip: take turns doing the map reading. It shares the load and gives someone else a chance to be the one at the front of the group.
We really felt the heat on these hills, layers were stripped off, and we were glad of the water that we had lugged up there.
Top Tip: Layers! Have lots of different wicking layers and use them. Don’t put off stopping to change – it’s better to stay warm and dry.
Many ups and downs later we reached Gourney en Bray where we bought dinner. At this stage we were about 80km in and feeling the distance. This was longer than any of our training rides! With our food-laden paniers we began the final stretch to the campsite, involving one of the longest hills of the entire trip.
Top Tip: when you train, make sure you do days which are longer than any day you’ll do on your trip. We didn’t, and suffered for it.
Day 5: Onwards to the French Scout Centre!
Having cycled up a big hill the night before we started this day with an exhilarating downhill ride to the Epte valley cycleway. We enjoyed the scenery but kept things moving so that we would get to the campsite in daylight.
Top Tip: leave some space in your panniers for food, or have a bag to hand to stuff extra things in.
We arrived at the impressive Jambeville Scout Centre at around 4pm and went for a tour of the historical campsite. We saw the old Chateau, the follie and the chapel and spent the evening cooking up some beef burgers and chickpea patties, which we ate with paprika fried potatoes.
Top tip: bring a few spices to make meals more interesting!
After a delicious and nutritious dinner everyone participated in cleaning up quickly so that we could make it for the beautiful crimson sunset, where we all stared in awe.
Top Tip: do chores together. It’s more fun and gets it done quicker, and no one feels left out.
Later that evening Finnbar, Max, Mimi and Arno started a nice warm fire, which ended as a huge blaze, with everyone around, telling stories and having a laugh. This amazing night lasted longer than it should have and we all wandered off to sleep, tired but ready for the next day of cycling.
Top Tip: be disciplined about going to bed on time. We were far too late the next morning because we stayed up late the night before.
Day 6: Arriving in Paris
Our last morning! We awoke (finally) in Jambville ready to set off for Paris. We were excited that this was our last day and were keen to get on the road. We cycled downhill, against the bitterly cold wind, to the nearest boulangerie where we caused a panic amongst the locals by purchasing all the croissants in the shop!
Top tip: pack gloves! Even in Spring the wind is freezing cold on your knuckles!
Halfway through our last day, as we entered Paris, we cycled through a beautiful green park by the River L’Oise. At one point we broke out of the lush vegetation and smooth cycle paths briefly into an underpass full of graffiti, broken cars and flytipped waste, but before long we were back in what felt like the countryside! The juxtaposition of beauty, care and attention to dereliction was telling of what was to come in Paris – a city where poverty and luxury live side by side.
The Eiffel Tower was impressive. It’s easy to forget the fact that it’s taller than the Shard! It was a shame that the new fences have been put up and you can’t just cycle underneath it anymore. Cycling into central Paris was a shock to the system after the relative sparseness of the countryside. Despite the crowds we felt proud and took a moment to let the achievement sink in.
We arrived in the Paris campsite at about 6:30pm. It was a luxurious campsite and we camped in a small secluded section with a fantastic view of the Seine. Luckily they had warm showers which was a God send after some chillier ones earlier in the trip. We gorged ourselves on a feast at the campsite restaurant where we satisfied our calorie deficiency. The restaurant staff where very surprised when we ordered 21 pizzas and 10
bowl of chips, however they understood our impressive appetite after we explained that we had just cycled from London!
Day 7: Day in Paris
On our final day, we woke up (miraculously) at normal time and packed all of our kit up. Phil had arrived, having travelled overnight from London in the minibus and box trailer (our hero), and we loaded up. We knew we had little time left on the trip and wanted to enjoy Paris as a group.
Top tip: keep moving when cold! Do a job, help someone out, get it done quicker and you’ll warm up too.
After packing up relatively quickly we got a quick lift to the camp site entrance (Camping de Paris) and walked to le Tour Eiffel. Camping de Paris is surrounded by the Seine on one side and Bois de Boulogne (a massive park) so we had a nice walk through the greenery.
Eventually we made it to the Trocadéro Gardens and saw stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. The bridge we crossed was the Debilly Footbridge, famous for its padlocks which lovers lock to the bridge with their names on, then throw the keys into the Seine. Aware that our ferry would leave without us we walked back to Camping de Paris and on our way back across the Debilly Footbridge we bought a padlock, wrote WWESU on it and threw the three keys into the Seine.
We took a final moment to savour the victory of making it to Paris under our own steam before heading for home in the minibus that Phil had driven down the night before (thanks again Phil!). The rest for weary legs was very much appreciated.