Even on the downhills sweat oozes out of your pores when cycling in 32 degree heat. Beneath blazing skies we perspired our way through a hinterland of golden hops and wheat fields, waving to farmers as they readied combine harvesters for summertime cultivation.
On the outskirts of Paris we rested at Norgent-sur-Seine, soaking up a weekend of street festivals while finding shade below towering nuclear stacks that offered an unorthodox amphitheatre, throwing 70s rock back onto party-goers.
After an enjoyable 2 day break, we returned to the saddle and pushed past the french capital before slipping into the land of soft cheese and wines. By day sweeping through dramatic roller-coaster valleys of the historic Brie and Champagne regions, by evening marvelling at the mounting columns of nimbo-stratus as they teased our better judgement on when to strike camp; or ride out the impending storm from the safety of a farmer’s barn.
Reaching Carlepont we followed the Great War’s Western Front, cycling between German memorials on the right and Allied burials on the left. A poignant yet apt time to read Kippling, Sassoon, McCRae and other 1914-18 war poets.
Approaching the North, the current refugee crisis in Calais played our hand in opting for an alternative route to cross the channel. Frequently Dieppe to Newhaven was recommended by locals and so it was that we steered our handlebars west towards Normandy.
Having arrived into Europe’s 3rd largest country via the Pyrenees two months ago it’s now time to move on. In our best french accents we bid: “au revoir” to what’s been an incredible continental experience characterised by supportive locals, amazing cycling -along canals and rivers, daring feats of gastronomy and an almost daily awareness of the changing landscapes of summer – une grande voyage de culture.
As the white cliffs of country number four loom large from the transmanche ferry, we substitute Borbonnaise snails for chips and mushy peas, swap the right verge for the left and return to our native tongue after an 8 month hiatus..
It’s goodbye to La belle France.
England, here we come.