Bonjour France, encore une fois!

17/6/18. The trip from Surrey to Newhaven seemed to take forever – but a lengthy stop in Epsom to run a number of “errands” plus a quick return trip to Nicky’s to pick up a shirt left behind by one of us (no names, no pack drill) was a large part, as was a wait while some trespassers were cleared from the line near Gatwick.

We camped at the same site in Seaford that we had used three years ago – a reasonably priced, clean little site conveniently positioned 5 km by pleasant off road cycle route from the ferry check in.

A 9 a.m. sailing, combined with Christine’s caution (some might say paranoia) to ensure we were checked in before the deadline, meant that the alarm went off at stupid o’clock followed by a swiftly munched breakfast and rapid striking of camp.

While waiting to board we got chatting with a fellow cyclist, an intrepid chap from Moscow who was going from London to Paris by folding bike. His main observations were the poor route out of London and the high cost of hotels in France.

The ferry crossing was unremarkable (a good thing, in our view) and we again stumbled around in Dieppe and its suburbs trying to find the start of the Avenue Verte to Paris. Once we had located it it was a lovely ride along a tarmacked old railway track although the weather did take a little of the shine off as it was spitting with rain most of the way – that really fine rain that quickly renders Christine’s glasses almost opaque.

Thankfully the rain eased as we approached the campsite at Neufchatel en Bray (another revisit from the years earlier) and we settled back into the old routine of Christine getting the bedding ready while Stephen exercises his culinary skills on pasta, tomato sauce and tinned vegetables (we only have a one ring stove).

The next day (Friday) the route continued along the old railway track for the first 20 km before joining mainly quiet roads which, to Christine’s disappointment, were quite undulating.

A tourist information office had told us about a potential campsite at a place that provided yurts but, as far as we could tell from the address we were given it was up a steep hill on the other side of the valley so we decided to purses on even though it was past 5 o’clock. We continued through Gisors and joined another old railway track to reach a lovely site by a large lake where we were told to pitch the tent on a promontory where we could watch the ducks, swans, geese, and grebes bobbing about on both sides of us.

Because we had gone between 10 and 20 km further than we had expected the previous evening we could have a lie in as our bed for the weekend at the house of some friends was that much closer. Christine was more than ready for this after an 80+km on day with no riding since we returned to the UK last August. Breakfast was croissants and half a baguette bought from the baker’s van which visits the site each morning sounding his klaxon at each of a half dozen places around the place.

Another short stretch on the disused railway was filed followed by more quiet roads through the very pleasant countryside of the Vexin (an area that was the scene of many battles in the medieval period, a lot of which involved perfidious Albion naturally, as it is the gateway to Paris –  as we have discovered from listening to The History of England podcast). These led us to the village of Longuesse, the home of our friends Marie-Claire and Christian. It was with Marie-Claire that Christine discovered her love of cycling when they rode from her home in Dorset to Southampton while they were penniless students nearly 40 years ago.

We had a lovely, relaxing time with them and two of their daughters enjoying a rest and Christian’s excellent cooking as well as long chats updating Marie-Claire about the state of the UK (she is very definitely English despite her name and living in France for the last 30 or so years!).

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