Saturday, 23 July 2011

Cycling Calais to Montepellier

I will give a more detailed blog in due course, but for now a brief outline of our journey thus far.
Day 1 - ferry from Dover to Calais. We land in Calais around 10:30am and hit the road straight away. Getting out of the town takes some doing, this becomes a familiar pattern, but once we're on our way we make good time. We used Michelin maps website to plan the route, marked it on our Michelin maps and also did some crib sheets with key turns, towns, roads and junctions which prove invaluable.
Our first day is a 75 mile ride to Arras. The town is beautiful, very Northern French in architecture, reminiscent of Belgium also.
Day 2 - the big day! 120 miles and the route is pretty complicated, lots of small roads, turnings and changes of direction. I was dreading it, in terms of navigation! But other than getting on the right road out of Arras it went pretty smoothly! Our destination was Reims, and the route was pretty tough. The first 80 miles was rolling, with a slight headwind, till we got to Laon. A note to fellow cyclists, bypass the town centre which is at the top of the hill. Very pretty but a bitch to get up to, and you will see much nicer for less effort! From Laon the scenery changes from the red brick and hardness of Northern France, to the mellow pale stone and red tiles that you associate with postcard France. The terrain becomes hilly, the roads more twisting and the headwind, well more windy! For this leg of the journey there are very few shops, as we learnt to our expense, stock up well on food and drink because when The Knock comes there's no where to get a sugar fix, until you're within 10 miles of Reims. Reims itself is a lovely city, great bike lanes and good food.
Day 3 - Reims to Troyes 85 miles.
What a joyful ride! The first 10 miles were slow, as we tried to find our way out of the city. Form thereon it was a tail wind for the next 70 miles. We averaged over 17mph with panniers! Utter joy!! The champagne region is beautiful, full of rolling hills and vines, till it eventually gives way to the Seine Valley leading to the medieval city of Troyes. Troyes is stunning, a must visit place. I will post more shortly, for now I'm looking forward to more miles!
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