Archive for the ‘Paris’ Tag

Paris to Chartres   1 comment

[This is my 3rd installment of my memoir of  my first cycle tour in France. This ride with 3 friends was focused on the Loire Valley and Normandy]

It was early on a Sunday morning in May that the four of us left our small hotel on Boulevard de Magenta and cycled out way out of Paris. We were headed south and our route took us down streets we wouldn’t have dreamed of cycling upon during most times of the day and week. We rolled down the Rue de Rivoli and even went part of the way around Place de la Concorde. Beyond that our route out of Paris is a blur. I do recall there were short stretches of cobblestone streets that we had to ride and that it was a very rough an challenging ride with fully loaded bikes.

Before long we were out of Paris, into the countryside and some smaller villages. We came upon this boulangerie in one of those village and the scene just screamed “FRANCE” to me:

Sunday Morning in France

– a crowd lined up outside the local bakery, a guy on a bike and older gentleman in a beret – cliches perhaps but wow, I felt like I was in the right place!

The exact route we took that day from Paris to Chartres is lost to me but I know it was something like 80K of cycling and virtually all on small, flat departmental roads. The weather was great, the riding was easy – what a great start.

Between Paris and Chartres

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos from this first cycling day in France. I guess I was just too blown away by the beauty and the magic of actually being there. Another factor might have been that since this was in the era before digital photography, every press of the shutter was precious and I was probably subconsciously saving my film for the chateaus of the Loire .

My Apollo in the Grass

The destination for the day was the town of  Chartres. The Chartres Cathedral is a marvel of 12th Century gothic architecture. We spent what was left of our afternoon exploring this structure and taking lots of photos.

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral detail

Chartres Cathedral Tower

The next day we would continue our ride south, to Orleans, the start of the prime destination of our tour – the Loire Valley.

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Posted May 11, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Touring

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Paris – a Prelude to a Tour   Leave a comment

Warning: there is not really any cycling content in this post but it is a necessary link in this series, where I am looking back to my first “tour de France”.

My earlier blog post On the Road to France covered the arrival of me and three friends in London, our cycle across southeastern England, followed by a hovercraft and train transportation to deliver us to Paris.  Before we would start our real cycling part of our tour we had three or four days to explore all of the sights of the French Capital.

The train from Calais delivered us to the Gare du Nord. Anytime I am separated from my bike on a tour I am a bit anxious (so much could go wrong). Therefore I was relieved when we got off the train found the baggage claim area and there were our bikes. I remember being struck, as we left the train station by sights and sounds and smells that all seemed so foreign. This was my first visit to Paris, in fact the first time I had been in a city of this size. Once we caught out breathes it was time to take care of business – the business of finding a place to stay. We loaded up our bikes and walked them down the Boulevard de Magenta, asked at a couple of small hotels and found one that could take us.

The next three days were pretty typical first-time-tourist-in-Paris days: lots of walking, seeing all of the must-see landmarks, language challenges, getting around on the Metro, sitting at cafes and having the world’s best croissants for breakfast (no matter which boulangerie they came from). Oh, and taking lots of photos! So I’ll let a few photos tell the story of our days in Paris.

Bridges over the Seine, from Notre Dame

Big Petanque Game in the Tuilleries

That Tower-thingy

My cycling buddies - also avid (read crazy) photographers

Bringing Home Baguettes

a Parisian Market

Beside the Seine

a Paris Night

The only downside to our days in Paris was when Frank left his camera at the restaurant where we had dinner one day – by the time we realized it was gone and got back, the camera was gone (or so they said). Our Paris adventure ended early (7-ish?) on a Sunday morning, when we loaded up our bikes and rode through the quiet and sometimes cobbled streets of the city – on to Chartres.

On the Road to France (Gatwick to Paris)   4 comments

It’s the first week of May and something in the air has got me reminiscing. I am thinking back to years ago when I set off to Europe on my first extended cycling tour – four weeks, mainly in France, from Paris, through the Loire Valley, up across Normandy and back to London where we flew in to and home from.

Frank, Chris and Chuck, near Gatwick

When we (me and three buddies from the EBTC)  left Edmonton, the landscape was in transition as is typical for this time of year. The grass had started to green-up but the trees had not yet leafed-out. Our flight took us to Gatwick, south of London and I remember as the plane landed, looking out at the luscious green landscape – lovely! The flight was an overnighter, we arrived in England in the morning and I think it was around mid-day when we had our bikes ready to hit the road and begin our adventure. The first day’s route took us from Gatwick, across the countryside of southeastern England to Dover, where we stayed overnight before catching the hovercraft to Calais in France the next day.

It was such a delight cycling through the quiet, lush English countryside. It was of course a challenge to to ride on the right side of the road (by which of course I mean the left side). Particularly difficult was navigating a roundabout – I remember it requiring considerable concentration not to just follow my instincts. On the first day we would see  castles and churches, countryside and lambs and even the famed white cliffs of Dover. The details of that first day are pretty fuzzy – blame it on jetlag and a number of years (the photos are fuzzy too – we’ll blame that on poor scans of old slides)

Adjusting the Load on an English Country Road

A Lamb Keeping an Eye on Canadian Cyclists

Riding on the Left

Stopping to Visit a Historical Site

English Town

Peaceful Countryside

White Cliffs of Dover

We spent our first night in a hostel in Dover. The next morning we made our way down to the Dover HoverPort for what I recall was a quick but rough ride (vibrations, not waves) across the Channel.

Hovercraft

On the other side I set foot in France for the first time – Calais. We explored the historic city a bit that afternoon

Bell Tower at Calais' Hotel de Ville

The next morning we loaded out bikes onto a train headed to Paris. I was so impressed with how easy it was to take bikes on the train

Arrival of SNCF Train in Calais to take us to Paris

We would spend a few days exploring the City of Light before heading out on the road for the real beginning of the cycling adventure. Stay tuned for further posts as I reminisce and retrace  our route.