Cycling out of France

Our plan for the next week or so was to cycle from Paris to London along the Avenue Verte which is a 406km long cycle route. We started cycling from our Paris apartment at about midday and it felt like we continued cycling through Paris’ suburbs for the whole afternoon. The areas we passed became cheaper-looking and more industrial as we pedalled but it never really felt like we left the city. We ended up in a campsite only 20 minutes by train from the centre of town which didn’t feel like a lot of progress. However the first day had been surprisingly challenging after a month’s break from cycling.

A sign! We’re officially on the Avenue Verte!

The sleeping mat saga continued that night as I tried out our newly-doubly-broken mat for the first time. I had a really terrible sleep and woke up determined to get a new mat. This resulted in a 5km detour to visit Decathlon on top of what was already a long and hot day. Decathlon turned out to be out of stock of everything except for the thinnest and cheapest possible foam mats. They were cheap but really didn’t look very comfortable or insulating. We left the store empty-handed.

The day had started well with French pastry shopping

The day got even worse when later in the afternoon we ran out of water. We couldn’t help thinking nostalgically back to Italy where even the tiniest towns have public drinking fountains. We dithered for quite a while about what to do (“should we just keep going? Could we buy water somewhere? Maybe we could use our expired Aquatabs to treat some non-potable water?”) Eventually we knocked on the door of a BnB that advertised that it was cycle friendly and they kindly filled up our drink bottles. Of course in the end the last 20km of the day turned out to be on a beautiful and shady cycle path and I don’t even think I drank any of my extra water.

Our campground that night was in the wonderfully named town of Dangu (literally pronounced dang-you) and had a cute little peninsular jutting out into the lake for tents. We even met another person doing the Avenue Verte, a French guy called Eric. He had chosen to walk the route which is a pretty bold move. His reasoning was that he didn’t own a bicycle. He did however own a lot of cool gear, including a TarpTent is was a single skin ultralight tent that uses trekking poles to stay up. Super interesting to check out. Plus it was cool being able to compare notes with someone doing the same trip as us. Eric even had the guidebook which we didn’t even know existed.

Andy eating from the huge jar of Nutella that Eric had been carrying for three days

The next day was pretty uneventful. The highlights basically consisted of getting delicious baguette sandwiches from the local bakery for only €3.50, passing Eric walking along the road and buying ice cream on arrival into camp that afternoon. Ice cream is the best.

On our final day’s cycling in France we were on another greenway for pretty much the entire day. It was pretty awesome. We had carefully thought about the location for our last lunch in France and eagerly (and hungrily) arrived in the small village of Saint-Vaast d’Équiqueville which is home to Le Relais de l’Avenue Verte. It was a restaurant that had our cycle route in the name! It was perfect! Except they were closed for their annual holidays.

Catastrophe.

I was soooo hungry and the cafe was literally the only place that sold food in the village. We conclusively established this be cycling through pretty much the whole village and finding nothing except an abandoned bakery. We weren’t willing to backtrack but the next places to buy food were something like 15km away. We attempted to assuage our hunger by wolfing down a whole heap of lollies, which was the only food we had, and struggled on. In addition to the low blood sugar levels we were also racing against the clock. French restaurants have very strict thoughts about what time lunch should be and some kitchens shut from about 2pm so we were crossing our fingers that we would still be able to get food when we arrived.

Andy on the greenway

After some frantic cycling we made it to a decent looking restaurant and asked if we could still eat. I was so happy when the woman said yes. It actually ended up being one of the best plats du jour in a while. It was awesome. I was definitely going to miss French food.

Dessert for our last lunch in France

We spent the night in Dieppe in a huge commercial campground with a kick ass pool complete with hydroslides but no other tenters. We celebrated our last night in France with a swim and a couple of beers. Oh, and a hell of a lot of macaroni and cheese. Om nom nom.

And that about wrapped up our time in France. The next morning it was just a short hop to the ferry terminal where we left France after about 87 days. I had no trouble exiting through immigration control even though I had been in the Schengen zone for five months so the bilateral agreement between New Zealand and France letting kiwis stay in France for up to 90 days seems to be all good.

Andy about to go through immigration

We really enjoyed our time in France, it turned out to be a great country for cycle touring since there are so many well-sealed country roads with little to no traffic as well as a substantial amount of cycle infrastructure. Of course travel was much easier because I speak a reasonable amount of French, so that helped a lot. We found lots of good campgrounds that generally weren’t too expensive. Plus we did some cool hikes. Oh and the food was fantastic. French bread, French cheese, croissants, crêpes, plats du jour, patisseries on every corner. I’m salivating just writing this. Au revoir France, we’ll be back to eat more soon.

France – home of crepe machines in supermarkets

22 September 2017 Paris to Maissons Lafitte 48km
23 September 2017 Maisons Lafitte to Dangu 78km
24 September 2017 Dangu to Forges-les-Eaux 73km
25 September 2017 Forges-les-Eaux to Dieppe 56km
Total distance cycled: 3,135km

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