Before I get back to business and dive into day three of our ride there are a couple of things I wanted to address. The first being, the unfortunate incident of starting my period at the end of the first day of riding. I mean, I feel like I brought it on through worrying about it because I wasn’t due (according to my app) until the Monday / Tuesday, some 3-4 days later. Shit happens. What was I to do?! But basically, riding kept my mind off of it whilst stopping for breaks brought on discomfort and mild cramps. Thankful to myself for having packed some paracetamol.
Secondly, I felt like this trip turned me into some sort of feminist (which surely I was anyway just for being a woman?! I dunno). The fact of the matter is, I grew up without my father around which has meant that I’m more than capable of looking after myself and doing things that are typically seen as a mans “role”… you know, like directions. So although we had Mollies husband James along for our ride, I never for one second expected to rely on him for directions. I personally created all the routes on Strava for our three days from start to hotels to finish and I also purchased a Garmin to make sure I could follow the routes safely. Part of the challenge of this trip was planning the routes and making the smaller, finite decisions ourselves as well as being self sufficient rather than paying for a guided, supported ride from start to finish and I didn’t want James to feel obliged to take this role nor did I want to be blindly following someone else for three days. I guess it’s all part and parcel of group trips, eh?!
Day three. Wake up dog tired. Go down to check out hotel breakfast. Decide I’d rather not have breakfast than eat what they had. Instead I snacked on some of the mini cakes from breakfast the day before along with some banana soreen and a scoop of Tailwind (a carbohydrate and electrolyte drink that Mollie and Sophie had brought along).
Day three was on paper, our shortest and least challenging day. And of course our last day. Surely that’s enough motivation to get to the end?? With no planned stops I think we decided to play it by ear. We set off at 930am (was originally 9am but after minimal sleep we gave ourselves an extra half hour) and started the journey of our final 80km to the Eiffel Tower.
I remember having looked at the route with Sophie and knew that once we got through the first 20km with all the climbing we’d be good. So I kept an eye on the road signs to a town called Mèru which was about 25-30km from the start and knew that once we’d made it there we could power through. Just before the halfway mark (40km) we agreed to find a town to stop in to top up our water and buy some food but being a Sunday afternoon it seemed that most places we passed were either closed or just didn’t have shops anyway. Plan B; rest under a willow tree eating whatever snacks we had and hope for the best.
Once we got back on the road we came across a bustling town with shops and a market just a short ride from where we quit looking for all that. Typical, eh?! …what’s also typical is that everytime we stopped, we seemed to start back on a climb. I think it must just have been one of those days when it feels like the entire world is against you! Our next stop was then at McDonalds. I know. I’ve not been for years. But hot fries and a cold coke light (which actually cost me over £4 …WTF) seemed like the perfect remedy to make it through the final 20km of what turned out to be a really hot day. Mollie lifted our spirits on this stop with some songs that we just couldn’t help but singalong to (lucky you if you witnessed that on my Instagram stories!).
My memory is a little hazy from here on in to be honest. I just know that from McDonalds we were definitely in the suburbs again and it kinda felt like when we arrived in Brighton a couple weeks earlier; looking for signs of nearing our destination. The roads got busier, the sun got hotter and the drivers got less accommodating. But there she was – the Eiffel Tower – over there in the distance somewhere. Somewhere beyond the closed roads on our preplanned route, wrong turns, low energy and difference of directional opinion (lol). By the time we reached the actual tower and battled through the crowds to find a spot to take our photographs somehow I think the novelty had worn off. Like a big anti climax. You want to feel excited and proud and revel in the moment but honestly, you’ve just ridden hundreds of kilometres to get there, you wanna shower and you wanna eat. Plus knowing that we still needed to drop our bikes off at Gare du Nord in order to make sure they got back to london around the same time we would be returning.
By the time we did get to our hotel, relief had set in and we were ready to pat ourselves on the back in the form of a cold beer before heading to our rooms to freshen up for dinner. Even finishing my story feels like I just can’t do it justice. Literally laying in bed, having returned three days ago and honestly, I’m not sure it’s really sunk it. Bar the far that I’m tired beyond belief, I feel kinda okay. So okay in fact that I can hear a tiny voice in the back of my head asking “what’s next?!”…
Quote of the day: …sorry peeps but none of us can remember the one we chose we just know that it came from Mollie…
Tips for the day:
– the Eiffel Tower was soooo busy. It’s worth speaking to friends who know the area well to figure out the best spot to get that coveted finish photo
– Traffic is Paris is horrendous. Like, worse than London. Making our way from the Eiffel Tower to Gare du Nord station took forever even though it was just 4 miles away. Don’t forget to plan this part of your route too!
– Choose a place to head for dinner so you have a plan which reduces time to decide when everyone is tired, hungry and emotional (aka “hanger”)
– Drop your bike off asap at Gare du Nord. It cost us €29 to send our bikes back on Eurostar ready to collect at St.Pancras (they’ll hold it for up to two weeks). You can book your bike onto your same train but there is limited space and they sell out months in advance.
– Our hotel was recommended to me by my friend Anneleen who stayed there after her own ride to Paris. We didn’t have our bikes with us so I can’t verify the fact they are bike friendly but they certainly seemed so!
…will finish this post as I started the first half of the story.
DONE. DID IT.