The first two days of our London to Paris trip provided no opportunities for painting. There was just no time, between cycling and getting little sleep on the overnight ferry.
We’ve discovered the Avenue Verte, a rather wonderful series of cycling routes from London to Paris in some of the most beautiful countryside. The French side of the water has far better sign posting and a marvellous cycle route along a disused railway line which is possibly the most pleasant cycling I have ever done.
Kiff and Helen are doing this trip to raise funds for Mind. So far they have raised over £2400 for the charity. Their original idea was to join a big group – one of those organised by a company that specialises in charity trips. After being pressured by the organisers to raise the funds in a very short time, they did some research and realised that if they went it alone, the charity would get substantially more of the funds. Of course, this works far better if you have people who can help you with the organising and transport – which is the point where they turned up on our doorstep and asked if we would be their support team. It didn’t take much arm twisting for us to agree. Any excuse for an adventure!
So, after months of planning, off we set on Tuesday evening. The first panic happened before we left home when we realised that our bike rack hadn’t been used since we changed cars, and didn’t fit the new car. Mad dash to Halfords to buy a new bike rack and we were sorted. Helen’s suggestion to drive out of London on Tuesday night after the rush hour was a stroke of brilliance. It meant there was only one life threatening moment with a white van man rather than having the nerve-searing experience of dodging London taxis, buses and cars in morning traffic. It then gave them a nice gentle start on Wednesday morning from the duck pond green in front of the hotel.
Wednesday was our only full day of cycling in England. I say ‘our’, when what I mean is Kiff and Helen’s full day of cycling with Marc and me dipping in and out, driving the car and organising everything along the way. We broke the day’s route into three sections and I chose to ride the middle section with them. Oh, how I wish I had looked at the elevation map before I made that decision.
I managed to drag myself up the hills and sailed serenely down the other side for about 28km – which, given the fact that I hadn’t actually been on my bike for a year, wasn’t too bad, I felt. The respect I had for Kiff and Helen has increased exponentially every day since we started. This is a trip that is made by many cyclists every year – but make no mistake, it is not for the faint hearted. And when you’re going it alone without the support of a crowd of other riders, it’s even tougher.
Aside from the miles of tarmac, the other challenge has been the weather. The rain didn’t stop. It drizzled down constantly for the entire day. English countryside is stunningly beautiful, with it’s gently rolling hills. When the misty rain sets in, it becomes almost other-worldy and provided you’re not sitting on a bicycle getting drenched, becomes even more alluring.
The pizza consumption at supper times on this trip has been prodigious, and owners of Italian restaurants along the way have been celebrating the end of the downturn, I suspect. Carbo-loading after the fact and in preparation for the next leg, has been the focus of the evening meals.
Our ferry left Newhaven at 11.30pm and we were awakened to disembark at 3.30am. After less than 4 hours of sleep we stumbled along the promenade to find our hotel just before the sun rose, fell back into bed for a few more hours sleep, and then the two intrepid cyclists hit the road again.
Despite the continued rain, Thursday was easier. The Avenue Verte’s marvellous cycle path is the best part of this leg. It goes on for about 45 km of the 77 km stretch and is a breeze in comparison to the hills on the way down to Newhaven.
The gentle upward gradient wasn’t even tough enough to make me struggle over the 35km stretch I joined in. The hill that suddenly appears at the end of the cycle path is a bit of a shock after such a chilled couple of hours, as are the potholes in the roads. But since the end isn’t too far off, it’s manageable.
So far, Kiff and Helen have ridden an impressive 185 km. Today is the final full day. The next stop is Poissy, 28km before the final destination: the Eiffel Tower. If they make it in good time, we plan to cycle the last section from Poissy into Paris all together and go for a celebratory supper (quite possibly of Pizza again).
If you fancy seeing how much they’ve raised on this marathon bike ride, here is their Just Giving page. I can tell you that they have been relentless in their efforts – not only on this trip, but in the cake baking, BBQ-ing and general fund raising efforts leading up to the event to raise funds for Mind. They have a lot to be proud of.
For those who enjoy seeing my painting posts – I managed to make a start last night in the hotel, although it’s too early to post. Photos will be posted in due course.
On y va!