Pay a visit to our French neighbours and you'll feel a world away from the UK; trading curries, chips and Christopher Robin for the land of de Beauvoir, berets and baguettes. At just 21 miles across the Channel from Blighty it has long made the perfect quick getaway, and has some fantastic cycling too.
Les Rosbifs (that's us, the 'roast beefs') and the Frogs are historical foes with a good recent record of collaboration...the latest being the fantastic Avenue Verte: a network of small roads and quietways linking London to Paris which opened just in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Last summer Claudia Bates and her friends put a new spin on this now well-worn path by attempting to make it from Trafalgar Square to the Arc de Triomphe in 24 hours.
The Avenue Verte between Dieppe and Forges-les-Eaux
Tarmac, mainly very flat
When to go
Anytime (but the long days of summer are best for weather and 24hr attempts)
Why is it Europe's best?
While it's possible to ride the Avenue Verte the whole way, parts of it are not particularly well paved and Claudia and her friends decided to take nearby side roads for portions of the route.
Aside from a working bike, a bit of long distance training and good weather (but you can't plan for that), the key component in a 24 hour London to Paris attempt is timing. Arrive a few minutes late for the Newhaven - Dieppe ferry and the attempt will probably be over when it's barely begun.
In preparation for the challenge, Claudia and her friends (Sam, Laura, Mike, Jenny and Sean) made sure that they had a few 60 mile+ days under their belt and packed light. Claudia took only a saddle bag with the essentials - phone, card and keys.
With a ferry booked, the group arranged to meet at Trafalgar Square at 5pm on a Thursday afternoon, giving them good time to get out of London before stopping for dinner in Lewes and to make a late evening overnight ferry. But you know what they say about the best made plans...
The ride got off to a bumpy start: two people were late, the navigator had a mad dash around London to find his navigation device in his bag, and one person went to Marble Arch.
All assembled and ready to go, they set off on their epic adventure around 5.30pm.
The first challenge is getting out of London at rush hour. The Avenue Verte here follows National Cycle Route 21 which takes in forest paths as it winds its way to the coast. With darkness falling the team stuck to busier tarmac roads, got their heads down and blasted down to Lewes as quickly as they could. At Lewes they stopped for a pub dinner before a sprint to make the ferry.
The crossing takes around 4-5 hours and got the gang to Dieppe as daylight was dawning at around 5am. The first section of the Avenue Verte from Dieppe to Forges-les-Eaux was Claudia's favourite section of the ride and offered 50 miles of cycling down empty roads by moonlight.
The group stopped at Forges-les-Eaux for breakfast. While 24 hours might seem tight, cutting sleep down to a few hours on the ferry gave them time for a couple of leisurely-ish stops for food and a quick rest for weary legs before setting back off.
Heading out of Forges-les-Eaux, the group diverged from the bumpier terrain on the Avenue Verte and followed quiet tarmac roads through countless French villages to reach Marines, their final stop before reaching the madness of the metropolis.
Fuelled up and ready to go, the group got back on their saddles for the final push. They waved 'au revoir' to their beautiful quiet country lanes and joined busier suburban roads, and took a brief and unexpected diversion to a caravan park (should have had a Beeline)!
Their efforts of the previous day were catching up with them and mental and physical exhaustion made the final few miles through Parisian traffic a tough task for wobbly legs and heads. But, finally...with twenty minutes to spare...they arrived at the Arc de Triomphe and exhaustion made way for the elation of having met their target.