The Avenue Verte is a cycle route that will take you from London's Eye to the Notre Dame. Beeliner Tom and his colleagues took on the French side of it last weekend with a three-day, 210 mile ride, from Dieppe to Paris. As the name suggests, it is a very cycle friendly, green route. It was established in 2012 as an alternative to busier roads between the two cities, and there are large stretches with no traffic at all. Here's how they found it.
Here they are! Four designers from a firm in Croydon and their first fan (centre). From left to right, they are: Thomas, Tom, enthusiastic fan, Mark and Andrea.
The plan was for a four day trip: driving to Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe and cycling on to Gornay-en-Bray on Friday, cycling to Chantilly on Saturday, arriving in Paris on Sunday, and then jumping on the train back to Dieppe on Monday. One mammoth 110 mile day sandwiched between two 50 mile days.
Just a short trip across the channel and you arrive in beautiful Normandie. Dieppe is often bypassed as just a ferry terminal but it's worth a visit in its own right. Tom's highlight was a trip up to see the castle on the team's return.
Arriving in Dieppe slightly later than planned, the guys had to jump on their bikes and make quick work of the first section of the Avenue Verte to arrive in Gornay-en-Bray before nightfall. Luckily, this section was very flat and was mostly on tarmac roads so they could bash out the miles, stopping only for a couple of photos of beautiful chateaus, and made it to Gornay in time for steak frites at Sophie's. Pas mal!
The big day! The team had planned to tackle over half of the route on this day, so they loaded their paniers with bags of brioche and haribo and set off early.
The plan was to ride around 110 miles to arrive in a town near Chantilly for the night. And it nearly went to plan. It was a great day of cycling and there was plenty more beautiful French countryside to enjoy, and chateaus to take photos of.
The main point of note was that it was a very undulating section of the route. What went up came down and then went, very steeply, back up again. One stretch had the whole team pushing their bikes up the road! Of course, most hard climbs are rewarded with speedy descents, and there were a good few opportunities for the guys to get the adrenaline going.
Tom's only regret on this day was not covering the miles over two days. There are plenty of interesting places to stop along the way so taking it slower would be his main adaptation to this trip's plan for any future ones.
Unfortunately day two also ended in a crash as Tom's rear wheel locked and sent him over the handlebars. Unscathed but with a broken bike, Tom and the others walked the final five miles of the day into Chantilly where they had a very well deserved steak frites.
If you've heard of Chantilly before, it is probably due to either the cream or the horse race. Chantilly's castle and grounds make a great place to stop for a bit of culture (historical and culinary). Grab a hot chocolate with chantilly cream, or there is a famous riding school and it is often possible to poke your nose in on some training. If horse racing is your thing you could also try to coincide your ride with a day at the races.
Waking up in Chantilly with a rear wheel that was still locked, Tom jumped on a train to Paris, leaving Thomas, Andrea and Mark to cycle the final 50 miles to the Notre Dame. Tom doesn't know too much about how they got on but that they did make it to Paris and saw people barbecuing corn on the cob on shopping trolleys along the way.
Reunited at Notre Dame for a triumphant group photo with their new fan, the group had made it. 210 miles in three days. Then they headed to their AirBnB up around the Sacre Coeur.
They out for a drink and a meal at Le Potager du Père Thierry. What they ate is unconfirmed, but we suspect that it might have been steak frites. Otherwise, we were told that Le Potager serves great French fare and was worth the jellied-legs hobble up the steps.
All in all, Tom would highly recommend this ride. The only thing that he would have changed would be to have let some of the air out of his tyres on the first day (the off-road sections were pretty bumpy) and to have taken four days to do it. Oh, and probably not to have had a crash! C'est la vie...