20/6/18. (Or not so young man and woman!)
Reading a cycling blog, Christine had learned of a canal leaving Paris to the east which was (sort of) the direction we wanted to head and so we made our way there next morning. It was a good choice as it had good segregated bike routes and forms part of the Eurovelo 3 route (which goes from Trondheim in Norway to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Just after we passed close to Charles de Gaulle airport the main cycle route turned north (towards Trondheim presumably). At this point there was also a sign on the towpath indicating that cycling was not allowed. We decided to be well behaved and joined the road for a while which was OK.
At the next village the road came alongside the canal again and there were more “No Cycling” signs. These ones we chose to ignore as the road appeared to veer away from the canal for quite a way and Christine had read in a blog that it was cyclable. Coming the other way we met several other bikers who had obviously read the same blog or, more likely, were locals.
Climbing over a hill on a rough track took us down into the valley of the River Marne and to the town of Meaux. Neither of us had heard of Meaux before despite its beautiful looking cathedral. Unfortunately we did not have time to look around as it was 5.30 and all we really wanted to do was head for the campsite which the tourist information office pointed us towards some 5 km beyond the town.
We passed a sign to another campsite but, as it looked tatty, we thought we would keep going to the recommended site. When we got there we were less than impressed. It was mainly static caravans, many of which looked as though they had been abandoned, and there were several piles of old bikes, furniture and goodness knows what else around.
But we were tired and there was a small reasonable looking area with two other tents so we paid our €15 and settled in for the night. We had to forego showers as the water was unbearable – not cold as you might imagine but scalding hot with no temperature control – just a button that delivered a 5 second blast. We made do with using the basins where we could at least allow the water to cool a little. All in all, it was one of the worst sites we have stayed at in all of our travels (although it does have some way to go before it plumbs the depths reached by the one in East Palatka in Florida!)
The next morning (Wednesday) we were glad to be on our way, although even that was not straightforward as we spent 5 minutes trying to operate the gate! And then we joined a reasonably major road which was a bit of a racetrack with quite narrow stretches. We were very glad to turn off it onto quiet country roads that gently undulated along the valley of the Marne.
It all became very pleasant apart from the weather – someone had taken a leaf out of the campsite shower manual and had turned up the heat while hiding the temperature control! However, we found nice shady spots to have our mid morning snack of some turnovers and lunch of filled baguettes.
As the heat approached its peak we came upon a convenient little bar where we indulged in a couple of rounds of extremely welcome cold beer and Orangina (depending on your taste) while the locals watched the World Cup (Portugal v Morocco in case you’re interested).
We had been making slow progress because of the heat and our intended destination was still quite a distance away. It was time for Plan B! Stephen spotted a small campsite on the map about 5 km further on and, as we are in no hurry, we decided to spend the night there.
The best laid plans of mice and men……!
The map might say there was a campsite but all we could find was an open field. We trudged back to the road we had been following and headed on thoroughly dispirited. We could see no more campsites on the map for a long way ahead and so agreed that we would take the first (reasonably priced) hotel we came across.
We had just entered the Champagne region and started passing numerous vineyards and caves offering the local product. We resisted temptation and as we approached the town of Chateau Thierry, an Ibis hove into view. Sorted!
After lovely, refreshing, cool showers we ventured to the nearby Aldi to buy a picnic tea to have in our room – smoked salmon salad washed down by a very nice sparkling wine from our favorite French area of Alsace (€5 compared to the cheapest champagne at €16 – we may be retired but our accountant instincts are alive and kicking!)