Dieppe to Beauvais

26 May 2013

With the ferry leaving at 11pm and arriving at 4am local time in Dieppe, we hoped for a little sleep. And we were right, we got a little sleep: about two-and-a-half hours to be precise, thanks to the combined efforts of the shouting French people in the cabin next door, and the staff eager to wake everyone up nearly an hour before we disembarked. Still, better than nothing. I’ve ranted before about phones whose timezones that change automatically, and never has it been more confusing than last night. It turns out that, according to my phone at least, the English Channel is in GMT, not BST. Mightily confusing when you get woken up at what’s actually 3am, coming into dock in French time, only for your phone to tell you it’s 1am.

On the ferry, someone told us about a different route to Beauvais, which is part of a network of quiet roads that join London and Paris: Avenue Verte. That sounded much better than the busier roads we had planned, especially since the first third or so is a dedicated path which used to be a disused railway line. So, with the pre-programmed GPS route now useless, we sleepily rolled off the ferry just after 4 in search of an illusive sign denoting the start of Avenue Verte. Only coming to France occasionally, their “interesting” approach to road signs gets me every time for the first hour or two, as I merrily kept going right at a sign that pointed right, but meant “go straight on”. Clearly. Not to mention the fact that they find the most ingenious places to hide said signs. Fortunately, the group who told us about the route were having similar problems, but we tagged along with them for a bit and eventually got on the right route.

If you’ve ever sat in a lecture or meeting and had that nodding head thing where you can’t keep your eyes open, you’ll know how we felt this morning. Not pleasant when you’re trying to power a bicycle. We wanted to stop off for breakfast as soon as places opened but quickly realised a fatal flaw in our plan: it was Sunday. France is closed on a Sunday. Ah, except boulangeries of course! I mean, how could one possibly go without fresh bread for a day! At around 6.30, we approached a small village which was a likely candidate for having a boulangerie, and literally followed our noses to it. We were absolutely freezing by now, so ate our croissants and pain aux chocolats very slowly to try to warm up a bit.

By about 9 o’clock we were beginning to flag again, but thankfully a cafe was just opening its doors so we popped in to fuel up on caffeine. Some locals at the back were already tucking into beers, but tempting as it was, we decided to pass.

The caffeine did the trick, giving us the boost we needed to press on to Beauvais. As we meandered through the beautiful countryside, it finally began to warm up and I was able to shed 3 layers. The poor GPS didn’t know whether it was coming or going, but eventually decided that we’d be getting to Beauvais at around 1.30pm. Perfect, just in time for a nap then some lunch. If only it had been so simple. The hidden road signs decided to intervene in this plan. I’d found a bit of energy in reserve and was pelting it around the lanes just outside Beauvais, and had lost sight of Emm. I came to a stop at the top of a hill, and waited. And waited. And waited. After 10 minutes I decided something must be up. My phone decided it didn’t like rooaming for some reason, so not being able to call I started retracing the route. No sign of her. “OK, I’ll go a bit further back,” I thought, assuming she was being really slow. Still no sign. I flagged down a passing car asking if they’d seen her. “Non”, came the reply. Hmm. Afer a further 10 minutes I decided she must have gone on ahead, so I’d just go to the hotel, only about 3 miles away, and meet her there. As I approached a roundabout I spotted something I’d not seen before. A discreet sign showing the route went across the roundabout I’d previously taken a left at. Shit. I raced all the way to the hotel, only to pull up at exactly the same moment as Emm, about an hour late.

What a day. We did about 75 miles today I think, not pleasant after such little sleep. I’ve had a tactical snooze, and now it’s time for a bite to eat before an early night ahead of the final day to Paris tomorrow. This is the route we were going to take today; I’ll change it to the one we actually took when I get back to London…

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