This is a route I have been thinking about for ages. Anybody else thinking of doing it – I advise go book the time off work now! Then go get your bike ready!
It’s a well pedalled path and as such, easy to find info about. One of the highlights has to be the Avenue Verde – a sign posted, totally traffic free section that at present starts shortly after Dieppe and runs for the best part of 50km – following a disused railway line. If that doesn’t tempt you, this first part also follows a river, so no hills! It doesn’t get any easier!
For me this stage would be the warm up. The last day in Brighton apprehension kicked in big time. Packing, unpacking, shedding every bit of weight I could off the bike. Running about, last minute shopping, printing boat tickets and maps. Had a shot of tequila and some home made cake with my housemates then off! A friend cycled with me for the very first km.
Had been raining all day so under cliff path was flooded. Normally I would have ended up totally soaked by this and spray painted white from all the wet chalk, but luckily fitted mud guards that morning – wow! They really work! Tried a new short cut from Peacehaven to Newhaven which turned into my first fully loaded off road test. Fine when flat but downhill with wet cantilever brakes is just frightening.
Still night when I arrived in France at 3.30 local time. First time following tracks on GPS but that with my ridiculously bright Joystick light took me to the start of the Avenue Verte with out trouble. Waited until dawn on a bench as didn’t want to miss any of this path I had heard so much about. Started to snooze off when noticed lots of lights flickering in the trees, then about 15 cyclists whizzed by. Dawn quickly followed and what a perfect cycle through the atmospheric drizzle and haze of the early morning!
Very pleased I spent the time reproofing waterproofs before leaving. Bloke in Cotswold talked me into getting Nikwax Techwash / TX Direct pack which seemed to work fine – could have ended up feeling rather soggy otherwise. Also had waterproof socks so stayed very cosy. As an old mate once told me, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’.
Even after the Avenue Verde came to an end, the route followed quiet backroads through sleepy villages and rolling country side – I kind of got carried away and the km’s flew past.
Fatigue finally kicked in after about 140km when I reached Marines. Had only seen one camp site all day which concerned me a bit. Began to regret not planned first nights accommodation. Waited for the Tourist Office to open, no camping but a really helpful lady made a phone call and directed me towards the near by village of Us. Worried about leaving my GPS track for the first time, I followed the directions and eventually found it with help from some cheerful local old blokes.
A family with spectacular Manor house and garden had a Gîte they rent out (which was occupied) but also a spare room for the occasional lost cyclist such as myself. Given the short notice of my arrival, their hospitality was top notch and would put 4 star hotels to shame. Revived by a hot shower, they cooked me dinner and we had nice conversation about our travel adventures. Luckily for me they spoke English very well.
From Us to Paris – another great day of cycling. The perfect sunny spring morning. Waved goodbye to the local old blokes. Lots of French out on their bikes all saying Bonjour. Really beautiful country side through the ‘Parc Naturel régional du Vexin Français’, a few hills but then a brilliant down hill section to the Seine. I underestimated the length of the route from here into Paris and assumed it would be flat all the way once reaching the river – which it was not. Think there are easier routes but I cannot complain, chap who created this GPS route did his homework well. Soon turned off down some single track into a forest.
Route stayed very much through forest and parks, with the occasional urban traverse. A few sections where cut off for repair, and had to lug my bike and gear up and down a few steps, but apart from that – cycling into Paris! – What a buzz!
What a great city for cycling! Turned onto the Route des Tribunes which runs around the Longchamp Racecourse. Thought I had accidentally joint the Tour de France for a moment as I joined hundreds of spandex clad roadies – even over took a few. ‘Paris Respire’ – A few choice roads are closed to traffic on public holidays, Sundays and special occasions such as my arrival – who ever came up with that idea deserves free bicycle stuff for the rest of their lives!
Reaching La Tour Eiffel filled me with such a fantastic feeling of accomplishment. What a high! To make things as perfect as they could possibly be – the missus (who works as a cabin crew) had also just arrived in Paris and came to meet me.
- Day 1 – Brighton to Newhaven – 18km
- Day 2 – Dieppe to Us – 145km
- Day 3 – Us to Paris – 77km
- Total Distance – Brighton to Paris – 240km of perfect cycling!
- Top Speed – 50.2kmph – Probably that down hill to the Seine
- www.donaldhirsch.com/dieppeparis.html – Nice resource for the Dieppe to Paris route and a link to the GPX file I used
- www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11447348 – Wish I had found this before leaving! Some good links and a bit of discussion about French cycling routes being superior to British
- www.seinemaritime.net/fr/medias/File/actions/loisirs/vivez-l-avenue-verte.pdf – Leaflet (in French) including detailed maps of the Avenue Verde – adds weight to some of that discussion on the BBC link especially after trying to find something similar for the British side
- www.lebestofparis.com/for-kids/sundays-in-paris-‘paris-respire’ – More detail on this Paris Respire scheme
- en.velib.paris.fr – Paris cycle scheme
- www.voiesvertes.com – The french are really impressing me with their cycling resources today!