This long weekend challenge links two great European cities, London and Paris, covering around 420 km in just four days. We set off through the streets of south London and cycle through undulating countryside towards the south coast, before crossing into France by ferry. Once in France we enjoy sleepy picturesque villages with some challenging hills to conquer along the way, until we reach the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Free time to explore the sights of Paris before boarding the Eurostar back to London.
Day 1 - London - Dover
Our starting point is the London borough of Bexley in south-east London. It’s an early start through the built up streets of south-east London and north Kent. There is likely to be a lot of traffic around so we’ll cycle slowly, single file and keep close together. We will regroup following this first section out of London.
After 16 miles / 26km we reach the city of Rochester with its 1000 year old Norman Castle, historic cathedral (the second oldest in Britain) and strong links to local resident Charles Dickens. From this stage of the day our surroundings start to become less built up and congested. We cycle on narrow, winding roads with high hedgerows either side. Much of the route from Rochester onwards is through small towns and villages along the edge of the North Downs, a designated “Area of Outstanding Beauty” and over the Pilgrims Way, a route used by pilgrims on their way from Winchester to Canterbury. Having cycled a large chunk of today’s distance, we stop for lunch.
After lunch we continue cycling on small roads, there will be uneven surfaces and some pot-holes. We head up to the cliff top where we take a break and enjoy the spectacular views across the seaside town of Folkestone and the English Channel, on a clear day we may even see France. We cycle along the cliff tops all the way to Dover to our overnight hotel.
Day 2 - Dover - Calais Ferry Crossing
Calais - Abbeville It’s an early start today for our 7am ferry crossing to Calais. Once we reach French soil we re-join our bikes and head out of Calais. Within a couple of miles we are into the pretty Nord Pas de Calais countryside. It is a picturesque area of green meadows, rolling hills and dense forests.
One of the busier places we encounter this morning is the lively market town of Desvres, famous for the manufacture of decorated ceramics. A few miles further on we reach the fortified town of Montreuil, once one of the wealthiest ports in northern Europe. Today it is best known as the setting of Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables”. At nearby Chausée Brunhaut we cycle on a Roman road dating from before Christ.
Our snack stop this afternoon is at Crecy en Ponthieu, site of the 1346 battle between Edward III and Philip VI. Edward III watched the battle from a windmill that stood on the site of the modern viewing point. It’s an interesting place with sign that explains order of the battle. The last stretch of the route takes us close to the vast Foret de Crecy.
Late afternoon we approach Abbeville, situated on the banks of the River Somme. Despite being badly bombed in World War II several interesting old buildings remain. Our hotels will be a welcome sight after a long day of cycling.
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Day 3 - Abbeville - Beauvais
Soon after leaving Abbeville we cross over the River Somme and into the Picardie countryside. The Somme département can be summed up in one word: water. It gushes out from the many rivers that criss-cross the area and the ponds and lakes which dot the landscape.
The scenery today is the most rural of the whole ride. We encounter long sweeping hills and green pastures. It is a very peaceful, laid back area where its people lead simple lives uncomplicated by the modern world.
En-route we pass through a succession of villages all of which seem to have at least one boulangerie and bar/tabac no matter how small. The roads are generally quiet and away from large towns. The only place of any size we ride through is Poix de Picardie which is located around halfway through the day.
Our destination is Beauvais, known for it’s enormous Cathèdrale Saint Pierre. We overnight in our hotel on the outskirts of town.
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Day 4 - Beauvais - Paris
We set off in a south-westerly direction bound for Paris. We are soon cycling on quiet roads through sleepy villages. This rural ideal doesn’t last for long and just before lunch our surroundings start to change as we approach the suburbs of Paris.
We enter a forested area known as Le Parc aux Etoiles. From there it’s a strong descent towards the River Seine. We cross the river over a bridge close to Poissy. This is a main road and there is likely to be lots of traffic. Once through Poissy we head uphill through more forest on a dedicated bike lane. The next main place we reach is St Germain-en-Laye. It is here that we cross the Seine once more, the river having swept round from where we crossed it further back. We encounter a succession of traffic lights and roundabouts before crossing the river once again. The route is mainly uphill with one very steep climb followed by a long downhill.
The next bridge we cross takes us into the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris. The designer of these woods took his inspiration from London’s Hyde Park. Today it is home to the French Open tennis tournament and two horse racing tracks – we pass both of these venues on our route through the park. We re-group inside the park for the final stretch of cycling. We exit this pretty expanse of green together at Place de la Porte de Passy. From there the excitement starts to mount as we cycle along the wide Parisian boulevards towards our final destination. We cross the Pont d’Iena and straight ahead of us is the Eiffel Tower, Paris’ most impressive and recognisable landmark. It is here that we celebrate the end of this memorable ride. It’s then a short cycle to our hotel, freshen up and enjoy a celebratory meal together to toast the end of our weekend challenge.
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Day 5 - Paris - London
This morning is free for you to explore Paris independently. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world - Notre Dame, the Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, Sacré Coeur, Musée d’Orsay - there is so much to see and do!
In the afternoon we catch the Eurostar from the centrally located Gare du Nord back to London St Pancras. On arrival at London we can collect our bikes and make our way home with memories of a great challenge.
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