In the steps (and seats) of great physicists

The easiest way to get our bikes into central London was, as always, just to ride them. We picked a slightly longer route which followed the last little bit of the official Avenue Verte, it was actually pretty good cycling into the city on one of the ‘cycle superhighways’ (I love that phrase, I feel like I must bike at least several kilometres per hour faster when I’m on one just because of the name). Then we hit the city. Around Buckingham Palace the cycle lane somehow jumped across three lanes of traffic to go around a roundabout against the flow of the traffic. I will reserve overall judgement on cycling in London but based on our small experience I would say that there are some great cycle paths but also some high-risk, high-traffic linking sections. Happily we made it to the train station with no issues.

Bye bye London

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Cycling to London

We took it really easy cycling from Seaford to London. It wasn’t very far but we tried to delay our arrival to be closer to the weekend when we figured more of our friends would be available. Then the weather was kind of average which dissuaded us from moving quickly. We ended up taking a full day off after each day of cycling, although some of the cycling days were surprisingly difficult. The South Downs are pretty hilly and some of the tracks were quite muddy. Andy finally reaped the benefits of his mudguards while without any protection my bags and I got splattered. Mudguards: 1, Brittany: 0.

Nothing particularly exciting happened so I am going to try out a picture-based blog post. That’s a legitimate technique right?

Layering issues as we leave Seaford in average weather, jacket on or jacket off?

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The best Airbnb in the world

England! The land of our forefathers! The homeland! We had made it.

Our initial welcome consisted of the immigration officer giving me a massive grilling. How long are you going to stay? How will you support yourself? Are you planning to undertake any work, paid or unpaid?

Entering the UK with a stream of campervans and freight trucks

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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!

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Strange encounters in rural France

And we’re back! After 18 days of hiking we’ve got our laptop back in the land of wifi and can end our blogging hiatus.

The next major town we cycled through was Chalon-sur-Saône which I’m sure is a nice place but we only saw the industrial zones that the cycle signs directed us through. Then we were finally on the fabled (in my mind at least) 70-odd kilometre long voie verte (greenway) between Chalon-sur-Saône and Macon. It was certainly very pleasant cycling although I had forgotten that just because it’s an old railway line it doesn’t mean it’s completely flat so the uphill sections were a bit of a shock. We did get to pretend to be trains each time we passed an old station though. “Chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga chugga CHOO CHOO.”

The Andy-train

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The end of the Loire?

Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire will be remembered for its long name and the huge electrical storm we experienced there. We hadn’t even thought it was going to rain but during the night we got to enjoy another European-style storm. The thunder was particularly impressive, crackling and spitting like gunshots.

The calm before the storm – lovely campsite with a huge tent field

From there we rode towards Nevers (pronounced neh-vair), sparking many renditions of that old classic song as we cycled along:

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How (not) to visit a castle under construction

From Orléans our next stop was Châteauneuf-sur-Loire. The most exciting thing we did here was go to the local Super U hypermarket. Hypermarkets are the next step up from supermarkets. We bought food, pumped up our bike tyres, washed our bikes, recycled our old gas bottle and bought a new one. I was stoked to discover that my stove – the MSR Superfly – works on both standard gas bottles and strange-European-specific ‘campingaz’ bottles. Hopefully that will make it easier to buy gas in future.

We had an awesome tailwind that day

Onwards to Bonny-sur-Loire via a ‘pont canal’ (canal bridge). There was literally a bridge for a canal so that the canal could cross the Loire River. It was a very impressive structure way up above the Loire and we even got to see a boat going past. Although even walking our bikes we crossed the bridge faster than the boat.

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Oh you’ll love the Loire Valley

Oh you’ll love the Loire Valley! – Andy’s parents

[The Loire Valley] will be romantic and relaxing – Brittany’s mum

These are the quotes that were running through my head as we biked through the rain after leaving Amboise. This was actually the first proper rain that we’d had to bike in all trip so really we shouldn’t complain. However very quickly I rediscovered how much I dislike cycling in the rain. Everything gets wet and gritty and cold. I wasn’t loving the Loire Valley very much at all.

Cycling in the rain

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Châteaux, châteaux and more châteaux

It took us a long time to leave our campsite at Azay-le-Rideau. First of all it was tough getting out of bed. Then just before leaving I discovered that my front tyre was flat – our first puncture of the whole trip *knock on wood*. Then once we’d put in a new inner tube we had to linger at reception to use the wifi to work out where we were actually going. By this time it was about midday.

After this slow start we cycled all of 200m down the road before stopping at the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. We ended up deciding not to buy a ticket (we had to do some cycling today) but we peered through the gates and also took a stroll through the ‘secret garden’. I’m not sure if it still counts as secret if there’s a sign but it was very pretty and they had cute little insect houses. After a brief visit we finally set off properly.

Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau

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Cycling from French farms to French castles

The next fixed point in our journey is meeting some friends in Chamonix to go hiking at the end of August. From Lezay we had about a month to make our way by bike and maybe train to Chamonix. This plan makes our route look pretty silly. We started travelling in France in Modane which is in the east by Italy. Then we caught a train all the way west to Bordeaux on the coast. Now we’re heading back east to Chamonix which is only a couple of hundred kilometres north of Modane. If you look at a map it seems highly illogical but at least we’re getting to meet up with lots of different friends.

Guy opted to accompany us for the first couple of days cycling. We left all the planning to him and the decision was made to cycle to his brother’s house on the first day then to Azay-le-Rideau on the second. Josiane would drive to Azay-le-Rideau to meet us and pick Guy up. This had the added advantage that we could leave half of our stuff with Josiane for her to bring in the car. We could finally experience life as lightweight cycle tourists. Not as lightweight as Guy though, I’m not really sure he took anything with him except a light jacket and lunch. Oh and a sheet for his sieste of course. Everything he did bring fit into a 25L water container strapped onto the back of his bike.

And then there were three…

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Would you like a gin and tonic?

From Gensac to our destination of Lezay was about 200km so we decided to spread it over four days. It looked like we could follow the Eurovelo 3 cycle route for at least the first half.

The first day was surprisingly difficult due to the heat and hills and the fact that we’d just spent ten days eating and drinking and lying in deck chairs. We didn’t quite make it as far as our intended destination but ended up at a lovely campsite which was right on a lake. There were lakeside sun loungers and everything. Plus our tent site came with its very own private table, what luxury.

Lakeside comforts

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