Once I arrived in Newhaven, I was on the evening ferry to Dieppe. I passed the very pleasant 3-hour ferry ride swapping tales of adventure with two other cycle tourists I had met (shout out to John & Karen!). When we landed in Dieppe, it was around 11pm. My plan was to cycle for 10k or so to get out of the town and find a place to camp. However, I had failed to factor in exactly how dark it would be once the streetlights turned off. My bike lights looked comically weak against the huge blackness of the night. In the end, I probably only made it 5km before crawling into a small patch of woods on the side of the road on the fringes of town. Definitely not the most remote or stealthy spot… It also turns out that my skill for finding stinging nettle and thorny bushes was alive and well, and so I found myself nestled in the embrace of raspberry bushes and stinging plants as I drifted to sleep.
Aware that I was in a rather suspect place, I was up really early the next morning for my longest day of cycling yet – approximately 130kms to get me across much of the French countryside, to the outskirts of Paris.The first section south of Dieppe is along the lovely L’Avenue Verte, which is a beautiful separated bike path that runs directly south from Dieppe. The only negative was that there was no coffee to be found! For mile after excruciating mile. I would leave the route at every sign of a small town, only to be devastated at the lack of caffeine. My brain and body were limping by the time I finally procured a magical morsel of black gold. I am pretty sure a choir of angels happened to be in the coffee shop/bar at that moment, as the world was flooded with beauty and light. I also procured some of the most decadent nectarines and cheese in the same marvelous town and proceeded to have a charming picnic in the shadow of this spectacular church. I also confirmed that I was actually in France, as people carrying bread started to pop up at every turn. As I was cycling out of town, a man in his car stops me and gestures at the road behind us. When I had stopped and taken my bike gloves off, I had set them on my bag, then immediately set off, forgetting all about them. This thoughtful person made a point to tell me, and I was reunited with my glove and left that town feeling fueled in my body and my soul.
There were some other pretty things along the way. Like this thing.
By now, my body was starting to realize that I was burning a ridiculous number of calories as I spent most of the day pedalling. Even though I have a strict routine of breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, second lunch, and dinner, with snacks interspersed, my stomach was insisting that it required more chocolate and probably some calorie-dense french fries. When I stopped at the golden arches (really the universal signal to cyclists of wifi and a place to charge your batteries), my stomach would growl angrily BETWEEN BITES. I also stopped to buy as much food as I could squeeze into my panniers at a grocery store.
There was, of course, some surprise gravel patches along the way, that were a “fun(?)” challenge on my skinny racing tires.
I spent that night in the scenic fringes of a recently harvested wheat field. At first I was a little bit hesitant at my wild camping spot, but it turned out to be completely lovely. Hidden in plain sight, I got to watch the sun go down over the golden hills, and was up again to watch it rise over the tiny bit of forest that lined the side of the field. It was actually one of the most pleasant spots, as I did not battle with any plant that wanted to hurt me.For my last day on my epic journey from London to Paris, I did not have that much distance to traverse, but I did need to battle my way from the rural fields and pastoral scenes to the heart of Paris. Which turned out to be a little bit of a gong show. There were definitely some sketchy moments of getting trapped on roads not suited for humans on bikes, and (as you would expect) some navigational issues. However, at around 2:00pm, I was here! My triumphant moment! I might have been a little bit excited…
Remember, this is all part of my “Pedalling for Mental Health” challenge, where I am hoping to raise money for mental health research. If you are able to support this great charity, please donate here!
Today’s distance: 125miles/201km
Total miles logged: 767miles/1,216km