Leigh-on-Sea to Paris

Over the years various members of the Southend Wheelers have ridden from London-Paris, usually taking part in one of the charity rides. This year, four Lady Wheelers, Carol Cartwright, Jane Harris, Emma Curtis & Julie Kane, are riding from Leigh-on-Sea to Paris for a holiday, with Carol's husband Adrian providing back-up in the car. They chose to cross the channel from Newhaven to Dieppe to take advantage of well-used route from Dieppe.

Julie Kane, Emma Curtis, Carol Cartwright & Jane Harris under the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Day 1: Leigh-on-Sea to Newhaven (via Gravesend, 80 miles)
This was the longest day in the saddle. An early start allowed a straightforward exit from Leigh via the A13 London Road and Saddlers Farm, before using quieter roads through Pitsea, Vange, Stanford-le-Hope and Linford to reach Tilbury to catch the ferry to Gravesend. Also on board were a group of cyclists on their way to Dover for the more traditional route to Paris via Calais.
Leaving Gravesend, we followed a CTC route to Newhaven. Heading South from Gravesend, the route followed the A227 to Meopham and Wrotham before leaving the main road for much quieter roads. The rest of the journey ran roughly parallel to and slightly west of the A26. A very well deserved stop at the top of Black Hill, where our Soigneur Adrian was waiting with our lunch.  A pleasant last few miles to Newhaven, mostly because it was flat!  The B&B (The Newhaven Lodge) is an ideal first night stop.  By the time we returned from our evening meal there was another group of cyclists also heading for Paris.  The breakfast room was full of bikes, all kindly put outside for us the next morning by the owner.

Day 2: Newhaven to Forges-les-Eaux (via Dieppe Ferry, 35 miles)
The bikes were loaded onto the car to simplify getting on and off after the 4 hour ferry to Dieppe.  The route is a popular cycle route, with same group of cyclists from the B&B also on the ferry. After disembarkation it was time for cycling again.  The majority of the route to Forges-les-Eaux was along the bed of a disused railway line, making for a flat and traffic free afternoon ride, much welcomed after the previous day's efforts over the North and South Downs. We arrived at our hotel in Forges, a typical French Village. Staying at the same hotel were 2 other groups of English Cyclists following the same route.

Day 3: Forges-les-Eaux to Villennes-sur-Seine (65 miles)
The big day in France.  Unfortunately we woke up to dull weather and by the time we were on our way, the rain was becoming heavier. The instructions describe this day as 'gently rolling' hills.  Northern France is not flat!  The scenery was beautiful and would have been even better if the sun was shining.  There was very little traffic and very little open in the villages - where do the French go? Plenty of pretty villages, one being St Germer de Fly, which had a spectacular Abbey, unfortunately as it was Monday, nothing was open.  A stop for lunch at La Houssoye was very welcome, where yet again our trusty Soigneur was waiting with the traditional French lunch of baguettes, cheese and ham.  Followed by some 'grand cafes' in the one and only cafe in the village. This was also a chance to warm up before the afternoon stint and head towards the outskirts of Paris. The highlight of the afternoon was without doubt the 2000 metre descent down to Triel-Sur-Seine.  A lot of traffic to dodge on the way down and some traffic lights at the bottom which brought us to a very sudden stop!  Traffic started to increase once we left Triel and headed towards our hotel at Villennes-Sur-Seine.  A pleasant ride along the bank of the Seine took us to our hotel, a very comfortable Campanile and a welcome meal. Yet again the same 2 groups of cyclists from the previous hotel were staying at the Campanile.

Day 4: Villennes-sur-Seine to Paris (35 miles).
The last day of cycling and dry weather.  A virtually traffic free ride to Paris.  The morning started with an interesting tour around a French suburban housing estate, however once we were out of this area, it was into the Royal Forests and Parks.  These were all the royal hunting forests of days gone by. Quite a lot of uphill too.  Once out of the forests, we were on our way towards Versailles and our final destination.  The cycle path to Versailles was closed, however we managed to negotiate our way back on to it, despite the construction work taking place.  We then had a chance to cycle through the magnificent grounds of Versailles and stop for lunch in the park with a magnificent view of the Chateau.  Out of Versailles, we headed towards the wealthy suburb of St Cloud and a ride through the Parc St Cloud with plenty of speed bumps to look out for.  Once out of St Cloud it was in to the Paris traffic for a short while, before hitting the Avenue de l'Hippodrome, there is a popular horse race track nearby, however the cycle circuit at the Hippodrome is the practice ground for the local Parisian Cycle Clubs, going past us a phenomenal speed.  Once out of the Hippodrome, it was on to the cycle path at the Bois de Boulogne for a mile or so, before getting back in to the main stream of traffic for the final half a mile through Boulevard Delessert and the Eiffel Tower.

Day 5: In Paris
0 miles, but plenty of time for shopping and sight-seeing! 

Day 6: Paris to Leigh-on-Sea
Adrian and Carol returned by car along with the bikes and luggage. Emma, Jane and Julie after final morning shopping, caught the Eurostar back home.

Photo Gallery

We followed the Donald Hirsch ride: www.donaldhirsch.com



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