Adventure

Cycling Into Paris

It seems timely…

Here’s the route being taken by today’s cyclists in the Tour de France compared to my own cycle into Paris in 2015 en route to Nordkapp:

Somewhat different although the two routes do coalesce somewhere near the Champs Elysées. Here’s how I described the journey in the book, Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie:

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 16.03.12Having attempted to cycle several times along the Thames Valley into central London following the National Cycle Network route 4 and, on every occasion, having lost my way (usually around Chertsey), I didn’t rate my chances of cycling uninterrupted along the valley of the Seine into central Paris. It was time to call California and see what Google Maps had to say.

The suggested route worked out just fine and, until I was close to the orbital périphérique motorway – only about 5 km from the centre – I followed Google’s every twist and turn. I crossed the Seine for the first time at Bois-le-Roi, cycled through the centre of Melun, stumbled over a block of stone in Lieusaint used to define the metre in pre-revolutionary France, dodged joggers in the Sénart forest and then hit Paris itself… Well, not so much Paris as a Japanese tourist who was far too eager to cross the road, but let’s not dwell upon that inglorious moment of this adventure.

Once over the périphérique, the landscape was increasingly familiar: along the banks of the Seine, past the cathedral of Notre-Dame, over the multi-padlocked Pont des Arts, beside the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuileries, over the cobbles of the Place de la Concorde and finally along the length of the Avenue des Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Who needed an open-top bus when you could do the whole thing for free on a bicycle?

I parked Reggie near the middle of what must surely be the world’s most prestigious traffic island and sat for a few minutes to admire the view down the busy thoroughfare along which I had cycled. You couldn’t have wished for a more pleasant spring day, with the sun high in the blue sky and a light breeze – sufficient to breathe life into the oversized French tricolour dangling from the triumphal arch behind me but insufficient to take the edge off the warm afternoon. Having just achieved the feat of cycling from the southern tip of Europe to one of the continent’s pre-eminent capitals, I was triumphant, and where better to be than an arch dedicated to that very emotion?

Congratulations to Geraint Thomas on his victory.

Remember: you still have time to win a set of 5 Cicerone cycling guides to France – more information here.

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