My friend James and I decided that we were going to cycle to Paris... Wasting little time um-ming and ah-hing, we decided to plan for the fastest route (London-Newhaven-Dieppe-Forges-Les-Eaux-Pontiose-Paris) and a couple of weeks later we were off. A quick run down below with some few black and white shots taken en-route ...
London to Newhaven (approx. 70 miles)
From my front door in Dalston, we took off south through central London giving the Monday morning suits a smug smirk as we cruised past them. Passing through Croydon, Turners Hill and Lewes we arrived in Newhaven about 8 hours after departure. Although we took it slow en-route, stopping for a lazy pub lunch halfway, this leg of the trip was probably the hardest. The hills at the southern end can be difficult, but the effort was well worth it... Rolling into the Newhaven harbour towards the local bar was an incredible feeling.
Newhaven to Dieppe (ferry)
We took the overnight ferry (11pm to 4am) dropping us into Dieppe in the cold, dark night - and unfortunately dumping down with rain! With no where to stay, we ended up sleeping on a downtown bench to avoid the storm... Let this be a warning to anyone following this route.
Dieppe to Forges-Les-Euax (approx. 40 miles)
Bouncing out of Dieppe at 6am we took the beautiful green route toward Fores-Les-Euax. Once an old railway line, we passed through beautiful villages and converted railway stations. This part of the trip is flat, green and car-free... Amazing!
Forges-Les-Eaux to Pontiose (approx. 60 miles)
Be careful of Google Maps! ... What we thought would be a relatively simple journey had us walking through fields and feeling slightly vulnerable in exurban ghettos... For anyone cycling this route ensure you plan ahead with a map to ensure you find the most simple cycling route (which also avoid the busy motorways).
None-the-less this section of the journey was probably my favourite. The landscape was incredibly varied... Beautiful hillsides, eccentric small villages and flat corn fields stretching as far as the eye could see. We also met a couple of eccentric characters along the way... As far as I could tell, rural French artists must love a bit of weed.
Riding into Pontiose was strange... We entered through what I presume was a 1980s housing estate: mdernist buildings with a twinge of post-modernism in the form of strange sticky-out shapes and exterior stairwells. The university included a combination of contemporary pre-fabricated structures mixed with large brutalist and modernist designs. I can't quite figure out the demographic of this town... industrial, educational, IT/Tech and residential, it had a very eclectic mix of people on its streets. With a lot of new-builds popping up, I wonder how it will evolve over the next decade or so.
Pontiose to The Eiffel Tower (approx. 20 miles)
This short leg on the final day of the cycle was super rewarding... the sunshine was out, and the towers of La Defense were in out sights... Paris-bound! But, of course, before things get good, they always get bad again! The Google Maps cycle route once again through us off course and at one point we found ourselves in a seriously sketchy caravan park, receiving plenty of dirty looks from the locals. Least to say, we didn't hang out there for too long. Once at the Eiffel Tower lawn we had a beer in hand and were ready to check out the Parisian night life.
Paris has very noticeably upped it's game to become a much more cycle friendly city. Although still far from Amsterdam or Copenhagen, it was nice to see so many people in regular clothes on their bikes, as well as plenty of separated cycle paths lining the beautiful boulevards.
All in all, an amazing trip with a good friend of mine. I can't wait to push it further next year... maybe Amsterdam?