Beauvais to Paris

28 May 2013

I think it’s fair to say that the third and final day of cycling wasn’t as smooth as it could’ve been. After a good night’s rest we set off at about 8.30 with surprisingly few aches. A pleasant trip through the suburbs brought us to the road we’d be following for the next 20 miles or so. So far, so good. Except for said road. Whilst not quite an Autoroute, it was a 70 km/h dual carriageway laden with trucks en route to Paris and beyond: quite a contrast to the winding country lanes of the day before. Perhaps Monday mornings are particularly bad on this road, or that’s just normal. Either way, it wasn’t for us. I’m still quite surprised that it’s a standard route cyclists take, according to both Internet sources, and the troupe of cyclist we saw heading on to it when we’d already decided to abort.

After some (much) deliberation — the lack of muscle ache was being quickly replaced by earache — and searching for alternative routes, I managed to find one that looked much more pleasant. Next problem: the route would be quite tricky to follow without being on the GPS as it was country road after country road. Sat right next to a hypermarket, I had a vague hope they’d have the right cable or adapter to connect my phone to the GPS. Only slight, mind: micro to mini USB cables aren’t the hottest selling things. Sure enough, they didn’t have one, but the wonderful people back at the hotel, 20 minutes away by bike, were happy enough for me to download the map on their computer. Phew! So, at just after 11, we finally set off. A couple of hours late, and a route that was 60 miles instead of the planned 45, it was going to be a long day. The route turned out to be exactly what we were after, though (save for the longer distance): small country lanes cutting through the beautiful countryside again. There were a couple of less-than-ideal bits: a spot of stair climbing when we couldn’t be bothered to continue to try to work out a small town’s one-way system, and some tracks through a forest where I prayed not to get a puncture or worse.

We took a steady, if not record setting, pace and as the gaps between villages started getting smaller, before we knew it we had sight of the Eiffel Tower. After an off-route detour to avoid another forest, the GPS got in a hump with me and refused to continue to navigate us to our destination. Worse still, it starting lying about how far it was to go! At about 6.30pm we joined a track along the Seine: the end was in sight! Moments later, a close encounter with a startled, galloping police horse could’ve ended badly, but passed without incident.

Navigating the streets of Paris in rush hour on a bike-mounted GPS is certainly not for the faint hearted. The river road quickly became too busy, so we headed inland to make our way to our destination. If you thought Hyde Park Corner or Elephant and Castle are busy roundabouts, try L’Arc de Triomphe at 7 in the evening. The approach was a cobbled street: a welcome treat after 55 miles in the saddle. On a closer inspection of the map as we rattled our way towards it, it became clear we needed to go straight across. Easier said than done. There were about 6 lanes of traffic, no road markings, and the occasional policeman directing traffic, seemingly randomly. “Fine, we’ll just trundle around the outside,” I thought. Oh no. It was all going well until the second junction when a stream of 3 lanes of cars was coming off at it. Walking it was, then. Back in the saddles at the other side, another cobbled street down the hill, and as the bottom approached our destination came into view, looming large over us just across the bridge. At that point, disaster struck. Nah, not really. We made it! 216 miles after the pigeon encounter at Parliament Square and here we were.

A few obligitory photos later it was time to go find the hotel for a wash followed by much food and beer. I was fine riding to the hotel but someone didn’t want to go back on the busy streets, so we needed to find another mode of transport. Neither buses or the metro allow bikes on them, so taxi it was. After 5 minutes waiting for a big one to pass by, none did, so we had no choice but to hop on the bikes and ride back. Just as we were crossing the Seinne, I spotted a couple of tuk-tuks. Pulling over, I eyed up the “boot” of one of them and decided it might just be possible to fit a couple of bikes in. Front wheels off, and sure enough we got them in. Well, one was in the passenger seat with me, but hey. Unfortunately photos are on the camera I can’t upload yet but I will definitely be posting the photographic evidence that it’s possible to fit 2 bikes and 2 passengers in the back of a tuk tuk.

Dinner and beer followed shortly thereafter before hitting the hay for one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time! Today, we’ll be doing a cycling tour of the city. Or not. A little sightseeing, perhaps, after lounging by the hotel pool before catching the Eurostar back to London this afternoon (no, we’re not riding back).

Photos and routes will be appearing here shortly after I get back to London… In the meantime, here’s the route I uploaded in advance that we were going to take on our final day until we found the much more pleasant one (sorry, the map is anchored in the wrong place, and Google maps won’t give me the right embed code from my phone, but scroll SE to Beauvais and you’ll find the starting point):

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