Posts Tagged ‘France’

A Tour de Paris

19 August 2011

Yesterday, I got up early for a ride into Paris. I had my route taking me along the Champs Elysees so I could experience the road used for the sprint finish in the Tour de France. Anything outside of that would have me by myself and without use of the Garmin GPS.

I had my lights on for the first time and it was quite cool. The roads were relatively quiet so early in the morning. I recognised a small section of the road as I had gone down it for the ride to Versailles the day before. I had come from a road on the right as I was facing but I could recognise it as I had sat at the red light for a couple of minutes. Where I had turned off to the left the day before had me going straight today.

I passed the palace at Versailles to the south and saw a beautiful small lake opposite. There were two swans swimming and it seemed as if the lake was just for them. After passing the palace, the road kind of stayed urban as I slipped into the outskirts of Paris and then into Paris itself. Traffic was not that bad – I had expected worse.

Crossing the River Seine

I crossed over the river Seine and was soon at a section on the route where the circular began. I remember planning the route so that I would head up the Champs Elysees towards L’Arc de Triumphe but the route was telling me a certain exit on the roundabout that I felt was wrong. Sure enough, the Arc de Triumphe appeared ahead and I was not even on the Champs Elysees. Doh! I passed around the monument and started heading down the Champs Elysees.

Arc de Triumphe

When I got to the Place de la Concorde, I went all the way around and headed up the Champs Elysees to get the true #TDF feeling. The television pictures do not even prepare you for the road surface. I remember hearing the commentators say that some of the riders keep tight to the edge of the road as it was smooth. Yeah right! Riding that close to the pavement would have me worried that my pedal was going to hit the kerb and I would be off. The cobbles are not the big ones but sized about a couple of inches wide and spread out like fans. I would not fancy sprinting on them but I guess if I had a whole support crew with spare bikes and such, it would not be a big deal. Still, respect given to all the sprinters.

The "smooth area" on the Champs Elysees

Cobbles on Champs Elysees

After coming back down the Champs Elysees again (yes, twice), I made my way over the river Seine and then on to the Eiffel Tower. I missed the turning for it and had to go through an underpass (dedicated bike path for that) and then cross the road and come back the other side. There were scores of people already lined up waiting to catch an elevator which had not even started operating for the day. There was a queue at each leg of the tower. Crazy! I took a self-picture directly under the tower which looked neat.

Underneath the Eiffel Tower

After that, I went to find some breakfast. I am not too sure which monument I was at but the breakfast, Le Petite Dejeunner Angalise, was very nice. A cup of espresso, freshly squeezed orange juice, a small carafe of water, a croissant and jam, and two sunny side up eggs on top of ham. Delicious!! That sat nicely in my stomach.

Le Petite Dejeunner Anglaise

I looked for the route to Sacre Coeur and decided to head down to the river and then head North just after Notre Dame. That plan would have worked except I didn’t identify Notre Dame as I think it is under going repairs and was shrouded in protective sheets. Once I realised I had gone too far, I had to look at the paper map again to get my bearings. As I was doing that, a French tourist asked me where the Champs Elysees was and so it was relatively easy to direct him towards that. So my plan was to make for the Bastille and then straight upwards.

I got to some other monument and again I was lost. After the photo I put on facebook, it turned out I was at the Bastille after all. So when they say they stormed the Bastille, I was thinking of some much bigger place. After that, I turned northwards-ish and made my way past Place de la Republic and then on to Gare du Nord (train station). Then, I was kind of by myself again and kept taking the roads which seemed to be heading physically upwards. Soon there were signs for the cathedral and after that it was easy. Well, the route was easy. This was all on cobbles and it was a beast of a climb. MaymyRide gave it a category 5! Tour de France does not give out category 5s as I guess they just seem too insignificant to be given a grading. Category 1 is the steepest category. I regard HC as being uncategorised. After riding around the cathedral, I descended back through Montmatre. This is my favourite place in Paris. I just love the area with all the oil painters and little cafes.

I headed south towards the river hoping that I would catch my route back to St Quentin en Yvelines. As luck would have it, I ended up at the Place de la Concorde and from there it was easily back.

I found getting around Paris on bicycle a lot easier than walking. It is easier to get lost but you don’t have to deal with getting taxis or figuring out le Metro. It is definitely the way to do it. The only drawback is that you can’t leave the bicycle and being by myself meant I couldn’t use one of the public toilets. I was out for six hours and had to hold it all in. 😛

First French ride

17 August 2011

Today I went for my first French ride but not before picking up the rental car. I drove around town looking for a parking once place once I had learned that parking is free for the month of August. I found one close to the hotel and the car is staying there. I went back to the hotel and knocked up a quick route around Versailles. I went downstairs and finished setting up the bike. I had a close call with the dynamo light as I couldn’t get it to go on. Fortunately, it seemed to be just the way I set up the wires as after switching terminals, the light worked.

I set off heading North, not as if I was heading for the centre of Paris, that would have been North East. The first traffic light I stopped reaffirmed the notion I had that I like the traffic lights. They have lights that are at eye level and pointing diagonally out towards the driver; in my case, the cyclist. Saves getting neck ache staring up at the lights. I then came to some designated cycling lane which basically just a striped line painted on the side of the road. Another cycling lane I came to diverted me on to the pavement (sidewalk). What was interesting about the the cycle path was that it also accommodated for cyclists coming in the other direction. I saw an oncoming cyclist and he was in my lane!! As he got nearer, he moved over to his lane (on the other side of the trees) and after we had passed, he moved back to mine. Most strange.

For the first few miles, it was predominantly downhill. That worried me for the way back! The road signs seemed quite straight forward. There was one that was puzzling me when I had picked up the rental. No right turn for a 10t. What did 10t mean? Before 10pm? I finally figured it out when I saw some other signs with the “t” on it. Ten tonnes!! Vehicles over 10 tonnes in weight, no right turn! Good to know but not applicable in either case.

I came to my first cobbled road. I had been using one of these designated cycling areas when it led on to a cobbled street. I continued up it. The cobble stones are not as small as the ones I know in England but it does make for some interesting riding. I flashed a look to my left and saw that there was a cycling lane on the road itself. At the next opportunity, I veered left and on to the road. Much smoother. It was not long before I was back on the cobbles. This time there was no escaping them as the bike lane went over the cobbles itself!

Then came Versailles. Wow, much bigger than I had imagined. And very gold. I walked the bike up to the golden gates. I checked to see if it was really gold but it was just painted. Not that they would have been gold. If they had proposed melting all the metal down for cannon balls, I doubt they would have left any gold fence standing. I continued with the ride and sure enough, what comes down must surely go up!! It wasn’t a bad climb but I was passed by some older gent. I made a couple of wrong turns as the map didn’t have the roundabouts that well but it was easily noticed. As I had been doing best route, the map was a bit funny on some of the turns but zoomed out, I could see the correct way to go.

It was only 16 miles but it was good practice on the French roads and it keeps my legs ticking over. Tomorrow, the centre of Paris and the Champs Élysées. Wish me well.

Weather watching France

6 August 2011

    Saturday 6th August

Paris: rain, temp 63F
Brest: rain and shine, temp 63
Loudeac: rain and shine, temp 63